There is a house in New Orleans. . .
Just kidding, I always wanted to start a blogpost like that. And it is especially funny (or not) considering how infrequently I’ve been blogging recently. I can point to long hours, but the truth is my job requires me in front of a computer and then in my off-time, I don’t particularly want to sit in front of another screen. Strange that a shipboard job is so pc-centric, but that is how it is in the modern Navy. Those among you who have done military staffwork surely understand.
Okay, so let’s talk title. Yes, I was propositioned (can you use that word with alcohol?) by the Admiral to go get hammered with him. It was all the more hilarious because my boss, the Captain, walked in during our pre-brief right when the Admiral said: Lieutenant, you and I are going to have to get hammered together.
Before I get into the bulldozing, and then the laying of iron rebar, and than the pouring cement, and then the framing of our little story here, perhaps we should do a historical stroll with modern major admirals to see who among them might have tippled a grog or three with their younger staff?
This naval forum had a list of the top ten admirals of all time. Sort of a Navy Hall of Fame:
1. Yi Sun Shin – Korea: Arguably one of the greatest admirals of all time; drove the Japanese out of their collective minds. Of the at least 23 major battles during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598), Admiral Yi gained victories in all of them; he never lost a single engagement and is the national hero of Korea.
2. Horatio Nelson – Britain: If you do not know who he is you have no business in these forums; I recommend that you try knitting sweaters instead.
3. Frank Jack Fletcher – United States: Admiral Fletcher was the operational commander at the pivotal Battles of Coral Sea and of Midway.
4. Gaius Duilius – Rome: He won a major naval victory over the Carthaginians during the battle of Mylae thus setting the stage for the decline of Carthage as as the per-eminent naval power of antiquity.
6. François Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse – France: Fought the British fleet to a standstill at the Battle of the Capes, and forced the British to retire without supplying Yorktown, thus forcing George III to give up his American colonies.
7. Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter – Holland: One of the most famous admirals in Dutch history. De Ruyter is most famous for his role in the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century. He fought the English and French in these wars and scored several major victories, the best known probably being the Raid on the Medway.
8. Heihachiro Togo – Japan: The winner of the Battle of Tsushima Straits; historian Edmund Morris calls it the greatest naval battle since Trafalgar. It was the largest naval engagement of the pre-dreadnought battleship era and the only sea battle in history in which steel battleships fought a decisive fleet action.
9. David Glasgow Farragut – United States: On August 5, 1864, Farragut won a great victory in the Battle of Mobile Bay. Mobile was then the Confederacy’s last major port open on the Gulf of Mexico; when it was captured, it helped to set the stage for the final defeat of the Confederacy just as surely as the Battle of Gettysburg.
10. Isoroku Yamamoto – Japan: Planned the daring attack on Pearl Harbor thus bringing the United States into the Second World War.
Interesting, the poster goes on to say he did not place them in order of greatness. But he does take some heat. And a new forum member goes on to post this list (bear with me on the booze and el-tee thing, we are getting there, albeit in an Italian taxi cab kind of way.) New list:
1. Ray Spruance – TF-16 at Midway, TF-58 at Marianas Turkey Shoot.
2. Marc Mitscher – Ran TF-58’s carriers. Turned on TF-58’s lights so the Hellcat, Helldiver and Avenger aviators could find their way home.
3. William “Bull” Halsey – Aggresive patrolling after Pearl Harbor was immeasurably valuable experience for our inexperienced naval aviators. Ran TF-38 (same ships as TF-58). Halsey and Spruance rotated command…One admiral and his staff would run an Op while the other and his staff planned the next Op.
4. Tamon Yamaguchi – If he had been in Nagumo’s place at Pearl Harbor and Midway…1942 and 1943 would have been bad years for the US Navy.
5. Raizō Tanaka – If he had been in Kurita’s place off Samar…the Leyte Gulf beach head would’ve been clobbered.
6. Edward Preble – Technically a Commodore…the phrase “Preble’s Boys” says it all.
7. Alfred Thayer Mahan – Father of the modern US Navy.
8. Isoroku Yamamoto – One of the most brilliant naval strategists and a great leader. He truly was irreplaceable.
9. Heihachiro Togo – Tsushima…’nuff said.
10. John Henry Towers – Father of US Naval Aviation.
Should I go admiral by admiral and conjecture about whether these towering giants were on drunk terms with their staff? Probably more than half of them were. It was a different time, on different seas. Technology has changed business on the world’s oceans. So has culture. Now, 16 year-olds girls stateside are tattoo’d like Sailors of yore and us modern Navy-folk are less rough around the edges.
Okay, so I owe you a story. It is the afternoon and my boss grabs me in the p-way (short for passageway of the ship.) Hey, go up to the quarterdeck and greet the Admiral and get him back to our space for the brief.
I jam up to the quarterdeck without going back to my office. Good call. The Admiral is ten minutes early. He gets gonged (ringing the bell thingy) on. And I take him back to our space. I had spoken to him once before, right when I checked into the command. And he and I share an alma mater. (Or in this case, considering our football team, the Cal Bears, perhaps I should be calling it the alma whatsa matter?)
Tough year for Cal football, eh, sir?
Hell of a year. We’ve gotten killed in every game. What are we, 1 and 9?
Something like that sir. I lost track.
USC put up 62 on us! More than a point a minute.
It is rough.
My boss, the newly-arrived-to-the-space-Captain, looks around the room at me first and then the other folks with a double-whisky-on-the-rocks-tango-foxtrot look. I tell him later what we were discussing. I figured it was something like that, he tells me.