James Stavridis. New York: Penguin Press, 2019. 290 pp. Biblio. Index. $28.
Reviewed by Rear Admiral Fred W. Kacher, U.S. Navy
In his excellent book, Sailing True North, Admiral James Stavridis examines the lives of some of history’s great leaders at sea and what their personal journeys can teach us about character. Similar to his previous book, the much-needed Sea Power (Penguin Press, 2017), in which he helped educate the public about the geopolitical and historical importance of our oceans, he uses the stories of “ten admirals and the voyage of character” to explore the concepts of leadership and human excellence.
In each chapter, Stavridis introduces one of history’s naval giants. Each account is compelling and well-written, with some subjects readers would expect, such as Lord Nelson, Chester Nimitz, and Elmo Zumwalt; and others, perhaps less so, such as Grace Hopper and China’s Zheng He.
Yet these chapters are not one-dimensional hagiographies that blindly focus on the positive. The author brings these admirals to life, creating a flesh-and-blood portrayal of each and calling things as he sees them in terms of both their strengths and their flaws. Occasionally, as in the case of Sir Francis Drake’s cruelty to his sailors and innocent civilians or the irascibility of Hyman Rickover, we also learn about what not to do, despite the undeniable impact of both men.
Along the way, readers also are treated to the personal insights of the author, one of the most successful maritime leaders of our time. True to form, for those who have read some of his previous books, Stavridis shares not only what worked for him, but also the times he fell short. In these accounts, the reader will recognize the easy, natural voice of someone who has been leading and teaching others for a long time, both at sea and later as dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
In all candor, there is not much to quibble with in this book. As one would imagine in a work that focuses on ten admirals throughout history, there are some worthy candidates who are not included. For example, I would have appreciated reading Stavridis’s insights on Admirals James Stockdale or Arleigh Burke, but given the fair amount written on both men, historical figures less familiar to younger readers such as Themistocles or Drake provide new insights in two of the most memorable chapters in the book.
Stavridis begins to close his fine book with shorter profiles on Admirals Michelle Howard and Bill McRaven, two contemporaries who both overcame challenges in their historic careers in the Navy. In his final chapter, Stavridis speaks directly to the reader about his own beliefs on character, what he learned in a life at sea, and his observations on living a life of service and purpose. In a particularly powerful passage, he writes of his daily habit at sea of looking out on the ocean and the horizon that sailors have looked on for eternity, and concludes, “Character is knowing that we are decidedly not eternal, and we should live our lives the best way we can.”
For readers who learn history through personal stories, this book will resonate as both a superb popular history and a nautical exploration of leadership virtues reminiscent of David Brooks’ The Road to Character. As someone who also believes there is much to learn from our seagoing history, I’m grateful for this book, particularly one written by a skilled writer whose own leadership journey likely still has a number of its own chapters yet to be written.
■ Rear Admiral Kacher serves as Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Seven, the U.S. Navy’s only permanently forward-deployed expeditionary strike group. Author of the Newly Commissioned Naval Officer’s Guide and coauthor of the Naval Officer’s Guide to the Pentagon (both Naval Institute Press titles), he previously commanded the USS Stockdale (DDG-106) and Destroyer Squadron Seven.
James P. Delgado. London, UK: Oxford University Press, 2019. 432 pp. Illus. Maps. Biblio. Index. Glossary. $34.95.
Reviewed by Captain Don Walsh, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Dr. James Delgado is one of the world’s leading marine archaeologists and a prolific communicator about his profession. He has helped shape the face and substance of modern marine archaeology, holding influential senior positions in government, academic, and private sectors. He also has been a leader in global efforts to prevent theft and damage at historic sites as salvors and treasure hunters develop technologies to work in greater ocean depths.
Over four decades he has authored more than 33 books, book chapters, lay articles, and scientific papers. In addition to the printed word, he has lectured widely and appeared in many television documentary programs, hosting several of them. This is an explorer who knows how to tell a great story, whether his audience is a lay group or his peers in the global marine archaeology community.
In War at Sea, Delgado provides the reader with an engaging trip through the history of mankind’s uses of the sea. While the main theme is marine archaeology related to war at sea, the stories also include seagoing exploration and commercial activities.
And the book is not just about Western seagoing. Delgado’s scope is global, supported by superb case studies of archaeological investigations. They begin with ancient times in Asia, South Asia, Europe, and the Americas, where he theorizes that the earliest vessels may have been developed 36,000 years ago. In many cases the stories and locations of historical sites were initially guided by myths—myths that were later decoded by field work at the seafloor. From this distant past, Delgado brings the reader forward to today, including field sites where he is actively working. A set of six maps in the book locate all the wreck sites discussed in the text. An excellent assortment of images will help the reader to visualize some of the work discussed.
This is a unique view of mankind’s history as seen through the lens of seafloor artifacts that range from entire vessels to small bits of them. It is history frozen in time, where the wrecks’ remains are mostly undisturbed by nature and mankind.
From the 18th century to the present, historical accounts of what led to loss of vessels become increasingly accurate. Here marine archaeology provides important detail updates to the known records. In many cases, that work has helped to resolve historical mysteries or even introduce additional uncertainties.
Delgado’s special thematic emphasis on the archaeology of naval battlefields provides seafloor evidence of unknown aspects of naval combats. Two examples presented are the seafloor remnants of the World War I Battle of Jutland and the World War II Battle of Midway. For the post–World War II era, Delgado writes about his personal archaeological work on the fleet of 95 target ships used for the postwar atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.
Quite a bit of the archaeological work cited here was done by the author himself. But much to his credit, Delgado generously and frequently cites the work of the many marine archaeologists who have found and explored significant seafloor sites. Numerous references in the text and an extensive bibliography will permit curious readers to expand their knowledge through further reading.
James Delgado has produced in 400 pages an entertaining account of the evolution of worldwide maritime history from several thousands of years ago to the present. This is not a stuffy academic tome, but a book that even the most landbound lay reader can read and enjoy.
■ Dr. Walsh, a marine consultant, is a retired naval officer and oceanographer. During his naval career, he served at sea in submarines and ashore in ocean-related research-and-development assignments.
Larry Loftis. New York: Gallery Books, 2019. 385 pp. Appx. Notes. Biblio. Index. $27.
Reviewed by Captain Diana Moga, U.S. Marine Corps
Larry Loftis depicts the subject of his new biography, Code Name: Lise, as a woman made from different stuff. Born in Amiens, France, in 1912, Odette Sansom Hallowes spent her early life in France until meeting her husband, Roy Sansom, and moving with him to Great Britain in 1931. Eleven years later, Odette would find herself among the ranks of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Its single purpose: to conduct espionage, sabotage, and reconnaissance in Nazi-occupied territory.
Mr. Loftis’s biography sets out to shed new light on the woman who was awarded the George Cross for her actions while imprisoned by the Nazis. She was, indeed, the most highly decorated spy of World War II.
Odette’s unbending sense of duty was forged at a young age, when her father perished at the Battle of Verdun after turning back in search of two men from his platoon. As a child, she contracted polio and later rheumatic fever, which left her bedridden for months and blind for three years. Odette later would say it was these early childhood illnesses that tempered her spirit for the physical hardship she would endure as a Nazi prisoner of war.
Odette’s story is one of tenacity, perseverance, and strong will. When she and her three daughters escaped to the safety of the British countryside, she felt guilty at the thought of others fighting while she waited out the war. When she learned her brother had been wounded and her mother forced from her home in Paris by the Nazis, Odette was compelled to act. After discussing it with her husband, who was deployed with the British army, she accepted a position as courier in the France Section of the SOE, leaving her children behind with relatives.
But the question lingers throughout the book: How could Odette leave her three daughters for a dangerous post as a spy in France? Loftis pushes past this point, explaining that primary sources reveal scant details concerning how either Odette or her husband felt about the possibility of orphaning their children in the war.
As a courier within the SPINDLE circuit—a special operations network based in Cannes—Odette worked under the direction of the “extremely handsome” Captain Peter Churchill. The pair spent several months working together and developed a deep affection for one another. When the SPINDLE network was infiltrated by a double agent, Odette invented the story that Peter Churchill was a distant relation of Winston Churchill and that she was Peter’s wife. Peter and Odette maintain this cover throughout their two years in captivity. The cover story deflected attention from Peter, while Odette bore the brunt of attention from their captors.
She was interrogated 14 times and had her toenails ripped out. Despite this, she never betrayed the locations of the other SOE operatives still in the field. In the end, it was this cover that saved her and Peter’s lives. After the war, Odette reunited with her three daughters, divorced her husband, and married Peter, and divorced him nine years later.
Loftis’s narrative touches on the themes of Odette’s life, but the reader is left to fill in some holes. Even by today’s standards, Odette exercised a great deal of independence and autonomy. She would later pay a price for this, as some would attempt to strip her of her George Cross. But in follow-on interviews, Odette does not apologize or defend her choices, however controversial they might have been.
And perhaps it’s in this way that Odette was made of different stuff, a woman far ahead of her time. She did not hesitate to act on her strong sense of right and wrong, whether it was answering the call to duty, standing up to the Nazis, or calling it quits on a cooled marriage. She did what she thought was right and did not waste time explaining herself to others.
■ Captain Moga is a Marine Corps civil affairs officer with a degree in international relations from the U.S. Naval Academy.
Monica Kim. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019. 452 pp. Notes. Biblio. Index. Illus. $35.
Reviewed by Lieutenant Brian Hayes, U.S. Navy Reserve
Despite its title, this is not primarily a book about interrogation, and readers expecting taut accounts of battles of will between interrogator and prisoner will be disappointed. Instead, Professor Monica Kim has produced a scholarly work on the intersection of race, language, and political identity among Korean War prisoners and detainees. Although the book focuses on the war years, it also briefly addresses pre-1950 U.S. involvement in Korean affairs, as well as aspects of the Japanese–American experience.
Kim, a historian at New York University, crafts the book around the U.S. proposal for “voluntary repatriation” as part of negotiations to end the Korean War. This offered prisoners of war (POWs) the choice to return “home” at war’s end or to join their captors or a neutral power. This policy represented a sharp departure from the traditional law-of-war principle by which prisoners automatically are repatriated to their countries of citizenship.
Kim views the conflict through the lens of the individual prisoner’s choice, framing the Korean War as a struggle for the “most intimate corner of humanity—the individual human subject.” Her book studies the task of assessing and influencing prisoners’ loyalty and identity in connection with detention and repatriation. This included the repatriation not only of communist POWs held by United Nations forces, but also of Americans held as prisoners by the communists.
Students of military history and intelligence likely will be confused by Kim’s use of the word “interrogation.” In military and intelligence usage, it typically refers to questioning a prisoner to obtain intelligence information. Kim, however, uses the term to encompass not only questioning of captured enemies, but also almost any verbal exchange relating to detention operations. At one point, she even refers to the interview by U.S. investigators of a U.S. Army general (who had been held hostage inside the Koje-Do POW camp) as an “interrogation transcript.” Such sweeping references to interrogation are puzzling and depart from both the doctrinal and common usages of the term.
The post-9/11 era has produced a number of memoirs describing how interrogators worked to extract intelligence information from detainees. This is not that kind of book. Kim shows little interest in interrogation as a means of collecting intelligence to support military operations; instead, she focuses on the process of screening Korean War prisoners for potential repatriation and the political and personal consequences of this process. As a result, professional interrogators or intelligence analysts will find little of practical use here. Kim also shares the modern academy’s fascination with race and identity, and her discussion of these sometimes seems to stray into the realm of sociology more than of history. Korean War “buffs” or students of battle-piece military history are unlikely to finish this book.
Nevertheless, this is a useful read for serious students of the Korean War. Readers who are familiar with the violence and unrest in the Koje-Do POW camp will appreciate Kim’s work to understand the prisoners’ perspectives and to place those events in broader context. Kim also discusses the U.S. role in Korea between World War II and 1950, particularly the work of the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps to maintain order and develop its South Korean counterpart. Finally, Kim adds to the historical literature in her treatment of the role of Japanese-Americans—many themselves former prisoners of the United States under the Roosevelt administration’s internment policy—in U.S. Army interrogation operations. This is a fascinating story, and Kim tells it well.
The Interrogation Rooms of the Korean War is not for the general or casual reader, but it is a valuable addition to the serious scholar’s study of the conflict and its human dimension.
■ Lieutenant Hayes is a Navy Reserve judge advocate, currently serving on active duty with the Office of Military Commissions. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton University, a law degree from William and Mary, and a master’s degree in security studies from Georgetown University. He has published on military history, foreign policy, and legal topics in Proceedings and elsewhere.
New & Noteworthy
By Lieutenant Commander Nicholas Hoffmann, U.S. Navy
Andrew S. Erickson and Ryan D. Martinson, eds. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2019. 324 pp. Notes. Index. $50.
In China’s Maritime Gray Zone Operations, editors Andrew S. Erickson and Ryan D. Martinson bring together a variety of perspectives on the challenges posed by Chinese paramilitary forces operating in contested areas in the western Pacific. The book clarifies that these operations are not to be considered a form of hybrid warfare-—since a war is not actually being waged—but still are a way to exploit seams in international law and maritime practice. Essays explore the origins of China’s coast guard and maritime militia, specific operations featuring these paramilitary forces, and recommended responses from both military and political-legal points of view.
This book will appeal to a variety of audiences, ranging from naval professionals to scholars of maritime law. Naval leaders who will deploy to or operate in the western Pacific should take a look at this work—it will certainly increase understanding of this challenging environment.
Jon R. Lindsay and Erik Gartzke, eds. London, UK: Oxford University Press, 2019. 397 pp. $35.
Offering an interesting look at how the theory of deterrence applies in today’s multidomain world, Cross-Domain Deterrence presents thought-provoking essays on the topics of deterrence and compellance. Avoiding semantic discussions about what constitutes a domain, the essays cover a wide range of topics, both historical and looking forward. Historical perspectives include a look at cross-domain (sea vs. land) deterrence in ancient Greece as well as more recent examples during the Cold War. With an eye toward future deterrence concerns, several essays discuss deterrence in the cyber domain as well as space-—specifically, with the advent of antisatellite weapons. The collection also features an essay on how managed population migrations can be used as a coercive or deterrent tool.
This collection of essays will be appreciated by a broad audience. Academics will find value in some of the historical and theoretical essays, while military leaders will be able to increase their strategic knowledge. The essays on incorporating the cyber and space domains into deterrence will be of specific value to operational planners and information warfare professionals.
Ryan D. Wadle. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2019. 298 pp. Illus. Notes. Biblio. Index. $34.95.
In Selling Sea Power, author Ryan Wadle looks at the advent of Navy public relations in the crucial interwar years. Up to the early 1920s, Navy organizational culture was publicity-shy by nature. New challenges, from treaty limitations on fleet size to the challenges posed by air power, led the Navy to adopt then-novel methods of publicity to fuel recruiting and gain resources. The book profiles how the Navy used the media of the day—including interfacing with the emerging movie industry—to increase the Navy’s visibility among the American public and to keep the service in the public eye in the face of economic downturns and shifting priorities.
Selling Sea Power is an interesting look at two often-overlooked topics—the origins of Navy public relations and the history of the Navy during the interwar years. This book fills a historical gap and is recommended reading for anyone interested in the Navy, as well as Navy public affairs specialists at all levels.
James L. Haley. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019. 407 pp. $28.
James Haley’s Age-of-Sail hero Captain Bliven Putnam is back in The Devil in Paradise. Following distinguished service in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812, Captain Putnam now is in command of the sloop Rappahannock with a Pacific Ocean mission to the Kingdom of Hawaii and beyond. Not wanting to be separated for years once more, his wife parallels his voyage to Hawaii as part of a New England missionary society voyage to the islands. Their adventures in the Pacific—both together and separately—form the basis of this new novel, the third in the Bliven Putnam series.
Haley’s sense of the culture and life of early 19th-century sailors is evocative of Patrick O’Brian or C. S. Forester. This book also reflects his research into the history of the Kingdom of Hawaii and its early settlement by Westerners—many fascinating details about Hawaiian culture and royal politics play a role in this story. While not as action-packed as some novels covering this period, The Devil in Paradise is an entertaining read and a recommended book for fans of maritime fiction.
■ Lieutenant Commander Hoffmann is a career surface warfare officer. He has served in several ships and afloat staffs and currently serves as the damage control assistant in the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).