Thursday, November 09, 2006

The new Annapolis Commandant: a giant speaks

A reader sends along a link from the Annapolis rah-rah page that includes a letter from a giant. CAPT Allan P. Slaff, USN (ret). The horse is way out of the barn on women at Annapolis, so the real discussion is how to best do it. As Skippy would tell you, there are places that seem to be doing it better. We can do better. I do know that more of what we have been doing the last few years is not the answer. To do that is just to admit insanity and cowardice. Personally, I have hope for the new Commandant. But I am an optimist at heart...

That being said, out of respect for CAPT Slaff I will let his letter speak for itself. Agree or disagree, you owe it to yourself to listen to this man - a giant IMAO. In a different culture and a different time, men such as CAPT Slaff would be the first person you would go to for advice. Now, some dismiss him as some old goat who is stuck in the past. Shame. Worth a read.
Subject: USNA '45 Grad Speaks Out

What Has Become of Our Academy?

I've had enough! I have restrained myself from commenting publicly on the disastrous course that the Naval Academy has taken but the appointment of a female Commandant and the asinine comments of those who have leaped to defend the appointment have made it imperative that I express my deep disapprobation. I abhor not only this unwise genuflecting to the feminists but this arrogant demand that we who do not agree with the calamity that is engulfing the Academy "get over it". I shall not "get over it" I am devoted to the Naval Academy too much to remain silent and docile.

It's true that I am elderly. I was a midshipman when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Our class was graduated a year early and I joined the Battleship Massachusetts, a unit of the famed carrier task force, as a 16 inch gunner. We saw action at Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Japanese Home Islands. I was the first naval officer ordered to the Korean War and I commanded all the naval advisors in Vietnam in 1967-68. I had the unique honor of commanding four of the Navy's best combatant ships. Since I was number one on the major command list for our year group, I selected and recommissioned the modernized Heavy Guided Missile Cruiser Albany (CG 10) as my capital ship command. Admiral Whitey Taylor selected me to be his aide when he was Commander Destroyer Force Atlantic Fleet and Admiral Arleigh Burke withdrew me from the Naval War College to be his personal aide for his last two years as our CNO. Mr. Paul Nitze selected me to serve in his immediate office while he was Secretary of the Navy.

I left the Navy early because Admiral Zumwalt had started the movement of the Navy towards a populist organization. I believed and still do in discipline, military smartness and cleanliness, shined bright work, military bands and all the other influences that generate pride in serving. I was and still am convinced that pride is the one competitive advantage the Navy has in the U.S. manpower market and to systematically destroy those objects of pride was an anathema to me. I just wasn't buying what he was selling and when that happens in the Navy you have one recourse. You leave.

The Harvard Business School learned that I was leaving the Navy and offered me a position as a Dean and Member of the Faculty which I proudly accepted and served at that distinguished school for ten years. Because they didn't want me to leave at the end of ten years they hired me as a consultant at my full professor's pay for an additional 3 years. I subsequently served as Chairman of two small but very successful corporations.

My concern with the Naval Academy is not new. At Secretary Nitze's direction I analyzed the curriculum of the Naval Academy in 1965. That was over 40 years ago. For even then it was moving away from its strengths as an Academy that trained, educated and indoctrinated young men in the greatness and traditions of the Service and a deep desire to devote their lives to serving their country as officers of the Navy. I wrote a letter about my findings -- Bill Smedberg's distinguished Dad directed that it be published in "Shipmate". As a matter of tact, he asked that it be addressed to the then Commandant Sheldon Kenney. In that letter I expressed my concerns. I stated;

"The Naval Academy has served the Navy and the country magnificently during its long history. Its only reason for existing has been that it trained fine naval officers; not fine engineers, not fine mathematicians, not fine scientists but fine naval officers."

I went on to observe;

"In my view, the most precious and unique contribution that the Naval Academy has been able to make in the development of young naval officers is instilling in them a desire to serve.... While it is impossible to isolate precisely this indefinable quality of Naval Academy life which engenders this desire to serve, I would suspect that it is the professional naval atmosphere, the professional indoctrination and the professional training gained in a tough military environment - an environment that is seeped in the traditions of the Navy that contribute greatly to this element. I would look with infinite care at any change in the Naval Academy environment which might upset this important quality."

"It seems to me that the prestige throughout the country that the Naval Academy enjoys and thus one of its great attractions has been founded upon its reputation as an institution possessing extremely high standards, which requires a real man to face its challenges and to succeed. If this challenge is removed, I am afraid that the great prestige that the Naval Academy enjoys will be seriously derogated and so will our ability to attract the kind of men we so desperately need. The Naval Academy must remain a symbol of pride throughout the country and I believe that we must resist any action which would tend to tarnish the elements that comprise this symbol."

Instead of accusing me of being a meddlesome and troublemaking outsider who was interfering with his command prerogatives, the then Superintendent, Draper Kaufman wrote a letter which was published under mine which I partially quote;

"I have read Allan Slaff's letter to Sheldon Kenney and agree with it completely."

Imagine "Shipmate" publishing a letter such as this or imagine the present Superintendent responding publicly in such a manner as did Admiral Kaufman?

My worst fears which I expressed in my letter over 40 years ago have come to pass. The entire raison d'etre of the Academy is being systematically undermined and destroyed by egregious cowardice and mediocrity.

The politically forced introduction of women into the Academy was and is a disaster that is accelerating the destruction of the very essence of the Academy. Why are they there? Are they there because of the needs of the service? I think not. The Academy primary mission is to supply officers to the Fleet. That means that women are there to be prepared for service in the Fleet. Are they bright enough? Certainly they are. Are they motivated? Certainly they are. I am confident that I could take a bright young woman graduate and train her to be a good officer of the deck. That's not the issue. The primary truth that is driving this disastrous policy is that it is absolutely impossible to repeal sexuality. Sexual and psychological tensions are bound to grow intense in the impossibly tight environment on board a ship of the Navy undergoing months of deployed service.

And what is this artificially stated need of the service doing to the Academy? It is feminizing it. It is forcing it to exquisite efforts to keep the sexual lid on. They are not even trying to ameliorate the terrible situation where these young men and women live cheek by jowl to each other in Bancroft Hall. Assigning women to a separate wing and forming a separate women's battalion would help but would not eliminate an unsolvable problem. The Superintendent is pretending that sexual tensions do not exist except for the egregious incidents that receive national attention. Baloney, they are there and can not be expunged from the explosive social situation which they engender.

The tragic Owens affair and how it has been handled is just one tiny manifestation of the problem. The entire affair is sickening to me. The Superintendent has effectively ruined the career and possibly the life of a promising young man and seems to have done nothing about the drunken slut that was the primary cause of the problem. I have expressed this view to the Superintendent directly.

A few weeks ago there appeared, as a post to USNA-At-Large, a copy of a letter written by Peter Optekar which he had sent to the Superintendent. He reminded the Superintendent of the conversation that he had with him at a dinner at his home. I quote part of his letter;

"While you were at my home, I asked you why you took this (the Owens case) to General Court Martial. You said, "Peter, I had no choice. If I didn't, we'd have every feminist group and the ACLU after us."

I was shocked. I just could not believe that a Vice Admiral in the United States Navy would allow such crass political fears to interfere with his important judicial responsibilities. I felt so strongly that I addressed a letter to the Chief of Naval Operations. I quote part of my letter;

"I am incredulous and dismayed that he would allow his political cowardice to interfere with his sacred responsibilities to be scrupulously fair in the application of his naval justice responsibilities. I am absolutely confident that this disgraceful performance under Admiral Burke would have earned him a new billet as Commander Alaska Sea Frontier or worse."

I have had no reply to my letter. If Admiral Burke got such a letter he would have most assuredly responded. I know because I would have had to have drafted a response for his signature as I did more than a thousand times when I served with that great officer .

I have subsequently been reliably informed that the Superintendent's decisions in these matters are really made in Washington. If that is the case we are in even worse trouble.

And the hell of it is that we who are concerned have no way to effectively express our concerns. The Alumni Association should be such a conduit from us to the Academy but it is adamant in it refusal to act as such. In effect, the Alumni Association has become nothing more than a claque for the Superintendent. The high priced sycophants who run the Association seem to be sending a message, "Send us your money and shut up." How sad!

And now we come to the appointment of a female commandant. I can think of nothing worse for the Academy. The midshipmen will continue to be begged to behave sexually in an explosive sexual atmosphere. They will continue to beg the midshipmen not to drink. They will continue to add effort on effort, program on program to try to solve an insolvable problem and to try to satisfy their feminist masters. The Naval Academy will continue to move further and further away from its primary raison d'etre which I warned about over 40 years ago.

Do I hate the Academy? Of course not! My grandson is a graduate in '99. His great grandfather was an early aviation Admiral in '19 and there are several of our family in between. I have been active in alumni affairs. I was the first president of our class association. I was asked to be a consultant in organizing the recently concluded capital fund drive and Mary Lee and I have established a substantial endowment at the Academy. No I don't hate the Academy. I just hate what it is becoming.

And now as to you who have leaped to the ramparts in defense of this disastrous deterioration you undoubtedly have not liked what I have written. In your case know and know well that I will not "get over it" and, if you don't like my thoughts and concerns, you can stick it in your collective ear.

Allan P. Slaff '45
Speaking of worth a read, he put out a book in '04 titled A Sailor's Life. Check it out. Oh, and do me a favor. If you have major issues with CAPT Slaff's letter - please attack the ideas and not the man.

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