04 Feb 2011
Ethical Challenges in Contemporary Conflict – part 3

From LtGen James Mattis' talk at the Naval Academy in March of 2006 ... "Your moral crisis will hit you when you least expect it. If you don't have your moral code firmly established – it will probably be too late."

I am not sure all the time that I have been as good as that lance corporal. I'll tell you that right up front. Your moral crisis will come to you, not when you're rested, not after a good day of athletics out on the field. You are going to have the flu, be dead-tired, and surprised when your moral crisis comes.

In my case, [my moral crisis came in 1991]. I came this close to murdering two people - this close. I had not slept for three days. I had wandered off as my Marines were cleaning over a battlefield we had just taken over, knocked out an artillery unit and I noticed a Marine down on all fours vomiting and two other Marines digging with their e-tools. I walked over, and a young Marine was puking his guts out. There was a lady in pieces, nude, chopped into pieces, and they were trying to bury her. And my point to you is, at that moment, I felt so murderous about what I was seeing, I could hardly see straight.

I grabbed an e-tool, helped them bury the poor girl, the innocent lady, and then got them on their way. I went over, and I sat down on the edge of a trench line where there is a ready bunker. Out of the ready bunker probably 10 minutes after I sat down, just cooling it, came two officers wearing their epaulets, obviously from that battery position. Neither one had a weapon on them, but I could have shot them easily. My Marines probably would have been quite impressed that their battalion commander had shot a couple people, and for a moment, I thought, "That girl was murdered and chopped into pieces in their battery position. I am going to kill them," and I came this close to doing it. The only thing that stopped me was I don't like living life with any regrets, and somehow my training kicked in, and they right away threw their hands up when they saw me, and so I took them prisoner. I came that close to doing it.

So whether you are ordered to do things with your 25,000-man division going into Fallujah as a major general or as a lieutenant colonel or as a lance corporal, I promise you the day will come when you are put into that situation, and it's best you go through the mental gyrations now. Know what you are going to do and, more importantly, what you are not going to do so that you never end up in a situation where you regret what you have done, because it's very hard to live with yourself for what you have done if you don't stick with your moral code. By the way, it turns out later these two officers had fled into that battery position ahead of the Marines. They had nothing to do with this girl's death. So you have got to think your way through these sorts of things, my fine young folks, because at the time you actually get there, you had better have the process in place to keep yourself morally strong. If you don't, it will probably be too late.

04 Feb 2011
Ethical Challenges in Contemporary Conflict – part 4

From LtGen James Mattis' talk at the Naval Academy in March of 2006 ... "Mentally and physically, the Academy provides a very rigorous program. But your spiritual path is much more of your own choosing. Just make real sure you don't dismiss this."

One other thing that I would tell you is that we expect you to come out of here at the top of your game. Now, physically, you know what that means. We want you in good shape. You know how to do it. Just get on with it, put in the miles, put in the time in the weight room, that sort of thing. Mentally, you are going through a very rigorous program. We are very happy with what we get out of the Academy, and intellectually, we are not in the least bit concerned. But your spiritual path is much more of your own choosing. Just make real sure that you don't dismiss this as something of idle interest or not that important, because with the physical and the mental, you can aspire and kick ass. You can sometimes put things on the spiritual level behind you, and the problem is then that we endanger our very country.

I'll give you an example. I was the senior U.S. negotiator when I was ordered to pull out of Fallujah and start negotiations. I was negotiating with people I'd rather have been shooting, to put it bluntly, because they were the enemy. I was reminded each morning there about this Abu Ghraib prison scandal, where we had some people who - some toy soldiers - who brought disgrace on the U.S. Army and the U.S. armed forces. They did not represent the U.S. military, but because of today's media focus, the story was constantly in the papers. Every day, I was confronted with this by their negotiators. Now, believe me, when you come out as a Navy or Marine officer, you have plenty of toughness to handle some punk who tries that. In the negotiations, we would go right back after them. But it shows the damage that can be done to our country if one small unit, one NCO or petty officer, incorrectly guided by his coach, by his junior officer, is allowed to run rampant.

De Tocqueville, a Frenchman who wandered around America in the 1830s, wrote a very telling story about our country. In there, he said that America is going to become a great country, because America is a good country, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.

There is no one harsher about what those soldiers did in Abu Ghraib than your fellow sailors, Marines, and soldiers on the ground in Iraq right now. No one. There was no call for it. It was a bunch of punks is all it was, but a lack of moral fortitude cost our country greatly.

04 Feb 2011
Ethical Challenges in Contemporary Conflict – part 5

I remember talking to my Marines as they were getting ready to go into a town called Tikrit, which was Saddam's hometown. I said, "You guys ready to go?" They said, "Oh, yeah, no sweat, General. You go on, go back to sleep, whatever you generals do. We'll take care of it." I said, "Okay," and they said, "We've got this all taken care of." I said, "Okay. Why are you so confident?" They said, "Oh, this is going to be a perfect war, General, because we just heard that the officers are up there talking to them about surrendering. They don't want to surrender. They said they want to die, so it is going to be a perfect war. They want to die. We want to kill them. Let's have at it. It will be a good fight." I thought, "Hey, that's a good way to look at it, you know." So they were on their way, and they're going to go nail them. That was the bottom line.

04 Feb 2011
Ethical Challenges in Contemporary Conflict – part 6

From LtGen James Mattis' talk at the Naval Academy in March of 2006

There are units to me as a general, as I look across my division, where I have got a platoon that is worth a company. Now why is one lieutenant so different that his platoon of 40 Marines and sailors is worth 160 to me? What happened there? I looked across the division and saw one company that could lose its beloved company commander, Captain Rich Gannon - some of you may know who I am talking about - could lose him in the middle of a fight as he goes down swinging, trying to save a corporal's life, and both of them are machine-gunned. How could that company eventually lose over 65 men killed and wounded and still continue to fight as if they were undismayed by it? A company losing 65 men out of 160. How could they do that?

It comes down to the social energy of the lieutenants who are in that company. That's what it comes down to, the social energy that they infused in that company, and let me tell you what happened. Let me tell you how Rich Gannon started his way home after he was killed. That night, the company that had been knocked back, fought their way back in, collected up what prisoners they had, and loaded them up in a vehicle with their hands tied. Since they couldn't afford to send many guards, there was one Marine in the back of the truck, a lance corporal.

Remember, this was a company commander who, when I went down to see them, I would say, "How are you guys doing?" They would say, "Oh, great, sir. We have the best company commander in the division." And one of these lance corporals on a dark night now gets in the back of that Humvee with three guys with their hands tied and the dead company commander lying on the floor of the vehicle. When that vehicle showed up at the battalion command post, there were still three live prisoners. Now that's a Marine who understands that when it's time to kill, I can kill them, and when it's time not to kill, I don't kill them. Had the officers not set that tone properly, you can end up with a tragedy.

04 Feb 2011
Ethical Challenges in Contemporary Conflict – part 7

Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the most articulate associate justices that our Supreme Court has ever had, could not articulate war. Yet he had been an infantry officer in the Civil War, and he would say to his fellow veterans, "You and I have shared the incommunicable experience of war." My fine young midshipmen, I cannot tell you in all sorts of detail what you are going to go into, but I can assure you of this. If you have the strong character that you can develop through study, through time on the athletic field, at times by going out, once you are over 21, and having a good toot with your buddies - Admiral, I won't glamorize alcohol any further. But if you can enjoy the challenges that are coming your way, if you can make certain that you know, no matter what comes your way in an uncertain world, you are sure of yourself and your moral standards, then bring it on.

You know, there is nothing better, my fine young folks, than getting shot at and missed. It's really great. It's more fun than you can imagine. You know, it really feels good. So don't let the grimness of this world get you down. Okay, it's not a perfect world, but America is worth fighting for on its worst day. So if you have got the guts to step across that line, as each of you have, then just go out and enjoy the brawl. Just have a damn good time. Train your men well. Go beat the crap out of people who deserve it, and when they throw down their gun, then you have won. Don't apologize to anybody for it, because your moral standards are so high, and you will have been places that maybe Oliver Wendell Holmes cannot define, and maybe I cannot discuss. Maybe you won't be able to discuss it very well either, but the bottom line is you will have gone there and come back with your honor intact, and this experiment will move on one more generation, thanks to you.

04 Feb 2011
Ethical Challenges in Contemporary Conflict – part 8

From LtGen James Mattis' talk at the Naval Academy in March of 2006

Question ... Sir, you mentioned journalism a few times and gave us your opinions on the reporters that you have come in contact with. The media is playing a new and probably permanent role in day- to-day combat operations in Iraq. Just this morning, within an hour of the invasion of Fallujah, it was on CNN.com. How do you see embedded reporters and live war coverage changing ethical war fighting for the next couple of days, for the next year, and for the years to come, sir?

LtGen Mattis ... When it came to the media, I said [to my sailors and Marines], "My only guidance to you is: do not speculate about upcoming ops, in other words, [preserve operational security]. Secondly, share your courage with the American people, because what you say, my fine young lance corporals, is going to go all around the world, and you are going to be speaking to the world. So if you are getting all nervous in the service, let one of your tougher buddies do it." Of course, you say that to a Marine, and they all get macho and say, "I won't act like a wimp on there." So if you taught your troops well, they can stand up and represent you. I'll give you an example. When we were pulling the division out of Fallujah, my Marines were madder than hornets. I'll tell you, they were not happy campers, and a newsman from CNN shoved a microphone like this in front of a young man and basically led the Marine right down the primrose path. He said, "The enemy is going to dig in. They're going to have a chance to resupply. They're going to get ready for you. They will be tougher. Are you worried about that?" And the Marine, a slow-talking young man from down South somewhere, thought about it for a minute. He looked around. He said, referring to the enemy, "It doesn't matter. They're all going to die anyway."


22 Feb 2011
An oligarchic bureaucracy?

The Navy is a system designed by geniuses to be executed by idiots. If you find yourself in the Navy and you are not an idiot, you can only function well by pretending to be one.
--  "The Caine Mutiny"


Have you seen "The Caine Mutiny"? ... Humphrey Bogart is the ship's captain (LtCdr Queeg) during WWII. He is portrayed as tyrannical and paranoid. Eventually there is a crisis resulting from rough seas, and the XO (Executive Officer) assumes command. Afterward, the XO is charged with mutiny. A Navy lawyer wins an acquittal by aggressively questioning Captain Queeg on the witness stand until his paranoia is exposed. At the subsequent celebration, the lawyer "attacks the officers of the Caine for not appreciating the years of danger and hardship endured by Queeg, a career naval man, whereas the rest of them have only joined up due to the war. He then lambastes Maryk, Keith, and finally Keefer, for not supporting their captain when he most needed it and gets Maryk and Keith to admit that if they had given Queeg the support he had asked for he might not have frozen during the typhoon."

I typed "the navy is a system designed by geniuses" into Google and found a discussion about economic recovery, a more educated work force, more college graduates, white collar vs blue collar jobs, the notion of analytical skills. Someone volunteered, "Most jobs - even many mid-level white collar jobs - don't require much in the way of analytical skills. They require people who can understand and follow directions and use a bit of common sense. Remember how Herman Wouk described the U.S. Navy in The Caine Mutiny - 'a system designed by geniuses to be run by idiots'? Most big companies and other organizations are like that as well."

I think Herman Wouk was on target ... about every large organization or bureaucracy. What he is talking about is why Dilbert is so popular: people are human, and large groups of people too easily devolve into inhumanity. The letter of the law replaces the spirit of the law. Endless attempts are made to legislate morality. Fragmentation of conscience, dilution of responsibility, centralization of decision-making, standardization of thinking. A recent editorial described two opposing economic models that highlight the life-draining qualities of elites, apparatchiks, and the fruits of their labors: the private sector's animal spirit and dynamism, versus the dead hand of government bureaucrats and their unions.

22 Feb 2011
Peace vs violence, morality vs religion

Questions:   Are "fight" and "happy" mutually exclusive?   Should a Christian soldier take pleasure in killing people?   If the adjective "Christian" offends, can "moral" be meaningfully substituted?   Are faith, spirituality, religion, God, prayer, sin, holy, and sacred appropriate subjects in the secular arena?

A World Magazine editorial [26 February 2005] offered the following interpretation of a Martin Luther essay ... God has appointed earthly rulers to restrain sin and has given them the authority to "bear the sword". The soldier, acting under a lawful chain of command under the authority of the state, therefore has a legitimate calling from God, who himself acts through human vocations. The Christian soldier, living out his faith in his vocation, loves and serves his neighbors by defending and protecting them. When eternal standards of morality remain intact, those who answer the call to the Christian vocation of soldier may fight "in good conscience". Before God, soldiers should be humble and repentant. But before the enemy, they should "smite them with a confident and untroubled spirit". Soldiers, Luther says, should go "forward with joy!" As in other vocations, so too in the military, there is nothing wrong with enjoying one's work.

Charles Krauthammer wrote recently about the secular side of "sacred". He was discussing the Ground Zero Mosque, and asserted a place is made sacred:

"When we speak of Ground Zero as hallowed ground, what we mean is that it belongs to those who suffered and died there – and that such ownership obliges us, the living, to preserve the dignity and memory of the place, never allowing it to be forgotten, trivialized or misappropriated."

Paul Greenberg wrote,

There are certain places in this country that are hallowed ground, where a haunting presence stills us, humbles us, and makes us think of something besides ourselves and our own rights. The Lincoln Memorial at midnight. Gettysburg as the day lengthens and yellows in the last rays of a setting sun. That field outside Shanksville, Pa., where United Flight 93 finally went down after its passengers refused to be passive victims of terror that fateful day, September 11, 2001. Another such site is Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers once stood. It, too, is holy ground. And it makes certain demands of us. Those demands aren't easy to spell out, [perhaps they are incapable of being expressed in words,] but all of us know that we must tread carefully at such places. And even around them.
The mission of the Naval Academy is, "To develop Midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically ..."  Here are miscellaneous quotes that suggest a healthy relationship (maybe even an inextricable coupling) between "church and state".

The "moral" part of The Midshipman Prayer ...

Almighty Father, whose way is in the sea, whose paths are in the great waters, whose command is over all and whose love never faileth; let me be aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and in deed, and helping me so to live that I can stand unashamed and unafraid before my shipmates, my loved ones, and Thee. Protect those in whose love I live. Give me the will to do my best and to accept my share of responsibilities with a strong heart and a cheerful mind. Make me considerate of those entrusted to my leadership and faithful to the duties my country has entrusted in me. Let my uniform remind me daily of the traditions of the service of which I am a part. If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again. Guide me with the light of truth ...
Prayer of LtCol Hal Moore in the movie "We Were Soldiers" ...

Our Father in Heaven, before we go into battle, every soldier among us will approach you each in his own way. Our enemies too, according to their own understanding, will ask for protection and for victory. And so, we bow before your infinite wisdom. We offer our prayers as best we can. Use me as your instrument in this awful hell of war to watch over the men I lead into battle. Especially if they're men like this one beside me, deserving of a future in your blessing and goodwill. Amen.
Prayer of North Vietnamese LtCol Nguyen Huu An in the movie "We Were Soldiers" ...

For the courage of those who have died. For those who are about to die. I am grateful.

Prayer from the movie "Patton" ...

Oh mighty and most merciful father. We humbly beseech thee of thy great goodness to restrain this immoderate weather with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously harken to us as solders who call upon thee that armed with thy power we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish thy justice among men and nations. Amen
From President Lincoln's letter to Mrs. Bixby ...

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
From President Washington's first Inaugural Address ...

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being, who rules over the universe, who presides in the council of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States ... No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency ... We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of heaven cannot be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which heaven itself has ordained.
From President Washington's farewell address ...

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports ... And let us indulge with caution the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion ... Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail to the exclusion of religious principle.
Prayer from the "Navy Hymn" ...   Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
And those who on the ocean ply;
Be with our soldiers on the land,
And all who for their country stand:
Protect these guardians day and night
And may their trust be in Thy might.

    Eternal Father, grant, we pray
To all Marines, both night and day,
The courage, honor, strength, and skill
Their land to serve, thy law fulfill;
Be thou the shield forevermore
From every peril to the Corps.
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. -- John Adams

22 Feb 2011
The pride and power of hearth and home

Bill Millin, Scottish D-Day Piper, Dies at 88
by John F. Burns, New York Times, 19 Aug 2010  [

LONDON - Bill Millin, a Scottish bagpiper who played highland tunes as his fellow commandos landed on a Normandy beach on D-Day and lived to see his bravado immortalized in the 1962 film "The Longest Day," died on Wednesday in a hospital in the western England county of Devon. He was 88.

The cause was complications from a stroke, his family said.

Mr. Millin was a 21-year-old private in Britain's First Special Service Brigade when his unit landed on the strip of coast the Allies code-named Sword Beach, near the French city of Caen at the eastern end of the invasion front chosen by the Allies for the landings on June 6, 1944.

By one estimate, about 4,400 Allied troops died in the first 24 hours of the landings, about two-thirds of them Americans.

The young piper was approached shortly before the landings by the brigade's commanding officer, Brig. Simon Fraser, who as the 15th Lord Lovat was the hereditary chief of the Clan Fraser and one of Scotland's most celebrated aristocrats. Against orders from World War I that forbade playing bagpipes on the battlefield because of the high risk of attracting enemy fire, Lord Lovat, then 32, asked Private Millin to play on the beachhead to raise morale.

When Private Millin demurred, citing the regulations, he recalled later, Lord Lovat replied: "Ah, but that's the English War Office. You and I are both Scottish, and that doesn't apply."

After wading ashore in waist-high water that he said caused his kilt to float, Private Millin reached the beach, then marched up and down, unarmed, playing the tunes Lord Lovat had requested, including "Highland Laddie" and "Road to the Isles."

With German troops raking the beach with artillery and machine-gun fire, the young piper played on as his fellow soldiers advanced through smoke and flame on the German positions, or fell on the beach. The scene provided an emotional high point in "The Longest Day."

In later years Mr. Millin told the BBC he did not regard what he had done as heroic. When Lord Lovat insisted that he play, he said, "I just said 'O.K.,' and got on with it." He added: "I didn't notice I was being shot at. When you're young, you do things you wouldn't dream of doing when you're older."

He said he found out later, after meeting Germans who had manned guns above the beach, that they didn't shoot him "because they thought I was crazy."

Other British commandos cheered and waved, Mr. Millin recalled, though he said he felt bad as he marched among ranks of wounded soldiers needing medical help. But those who survived the landings offered no reproach.

"I shall never forget hearing the skirl of Bill Millin's pipes," one of the commandos, Tom Duncan, said years later. "As well as the pride we felt, it reminded us of home, and why we were fighting there for our lives and those of our loved ones."

From the beach, Private Millin moved inland with the commandos to relieve British paratroopers who had seized a bridge near the village of Ouistreham that was vital to German attempts to move reinforcements toward the beaches. As the commandos crossed the bridge under German fire, Lord Lovat again asked Private Millin to play his pipes.

... After the war, he worked on Lord Lovat's estate near Inverness, but found the life too quiet and took a job as a piper with a traveling theater company. In the late 1950s, he trained in Glasgow as a psychiatric nurse and eventually settled in Devon, retiring in 1988. He visited the United States several times, lecturing on his D-Day experiences.

09 Feb 2011
The Yard in winter

09 Feb 2011
The Dark Ages

With apologies to Sir Winston Churchill ...

"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of [hardshp]. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage [growth], [in mind], [body] and [spirit], with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage [perseverance] against a monstrous [schedule], never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human [development]. That is our policy."

"You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory. Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all [adversity], victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realised; no survival for the [individual], no survival for all that the [Academy] has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, 'come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.'"

06 Feb 2011
The Patton Prayer

Do you remember the scene from the movie "Patton" where the German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge is being aided by bad weather, and the General calls for his chaplain to produce a "weather prayer"? In real life, that was Third Army chaplain James H. O'Neill. Monsignor O'Neill has written an inspiring account at link   Here is a summary.

A telephone call to the Third Army Chaplain on the morning of December 8, 1944 – "This is General Patton; do you have a good prayer for weather? We must do something about those rains if we are to win the war." My reply was that I know where to look for such a prayer, that I would locate one, and report within the hour ... The few prayer books at hand contained no formal prayer on weather that might prove acceptable to the Army Commander. Keeping his immediate objective in mind, I typed an original on a 5" x 3" filing card:
Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.
[I] crossed the quadrangle of the old French military barracks, and reported to General Patton. He read the prayer copy, returned it to me with a very casual directive, "Have 250,000 copies printed and see to it that every man in the Third Army gets one."

"Chaplain, how much praying is being done in the Third Army?" [asked the General. I responded,] "Does the General mean by chaplains, or by the men?" "By everybody," he replied. To this I countered: "I am afraid to admit it, but I do not believe that much praying is going on. When there Is fighting, everyone prays, but now with this constant rain – when things are quiet, dangerously quiet, men just sit and wait for things to happen. Prayer out here is difficult. Both chaplains and men are removed from a special building with a steeple. Prayer to most of them is a formal, ritualized affair, involving special posture and a liturgical setting. I do not believe that much praying is being done."

The General, seated at his desk, leaned back in his swivel chair, toying with a long lead pencil between his index fingers.

"Chaplain, I am a strong believer in Prayer. There are three ways that men get what they want; by planning, by working, and by Praying. Any great military operation takes careful planning, or thinking. Then you must have well-trained troops to carry it out: that's working. But between the plan and the operation there is always an unknown. That unknown spells defeat or victory, success or failure. It is the reaction of the actors to the ordeal when it actually comes. Some people call that getting the breaks; I call it God. God has His part, or margin in everything, That's where prayer comes in. Up to now, in the Third Army, God has been very good to us. We have never retreated; we have suffered no defeats, no famine, no epidemics. This is because a lot of people back home are praying for us. We were lucky in Africa, in Sicily, and in Italy. Simply because people prayed. But we have to pray for ourselves, too. A good soldier is not made merely by making him think and work. There is something in every soldier that goes deeper than thinking or working – it's his "guts." It is something that he has built in there: it is a world of truth and power that is higher than himself. Great living is not all output of thought and work. A man has to have intake as well. I don't know what you call it, but I call it Religion, Prayer, or God."

"I wish you would put out a Training Letter on this subject of Prayer to all the chaplains; write about nothing else, just the importance of prayer. Let me see it before you send it. We've got to get not only the chaplains but every man in the Third Army to pray. We must ask God to stop these rains. These rains are that margin that hold defeat or victory. If we all pray, it will be like what Dr. Carrel said [the allusion was to a press quote some days previously when Dr. Alexis Carrel, one of the foremost scientists, described prayer 'as one of the most powerful forms of energy man can generate'], it will be like plugging in on a current whose source is in Heaven. I believe that prayer completes that circuit. It is power."

With that the General arose from his chair, a sign that the interview was ended. I returned to my field desk, typed Training Letter No. 5 while the "copy" was "hot," touching on some or all of the General's reverie on Prayer, and after staff processing, presented it to General Patton on the next day. The General read it and without change directed that it be circulated not only to the 486 chaplains, but to every organization commander down to and including the regimental level. Three thousand two hundred copies were distributed to every unit in the Third Army over my signature as Third Army Chaplain.

Excerpts ... "Those who pray do more for the world than those who fight; and if the world goes from bad to worse, it is because there are more battles than prayers. 'Hands lifted up,' said Bosuet, 'smash more battalions than hands that strike.' Gideon of Bible fame was least in his father's house. He came from Israel's smallest tribe. But he was a mighty man of valor. His strength lay not in his military might, but in his recognition of God's proper claims upon his life. He reduced his Army from thirty-two thousand to three hundred men lest the people of Israel would think that their valor had saved them. We have no intention to reduce our vast striking force. But we must urge, instruct, and indoctrinate every fighting man to pray as well as fight. In Gideon's day, and in our own, spiritually alert minorities carry the burdens and bring the victories."

"Urge all of your men to pray, not alone in church, but everywhere. Pray when driving. Pray when fighting. Pray alone. Pray with others. Pray by night and pray by day. Pray for the cessation of immoderate rains, for good weather for Battle. Pray for the defeat of our wicked enemy whose banner is injustice and whose good is oppression. Pray for victory. Pray for our Army, and Pray for Peace."

My "Prayer Conference" with General Patton was 8 December. The 250,000 copies of the Prayer Card and Training Letter No. 5 reached the troops 12-14 December. On the 19th of December, the Third Army turned from East to North to meet the attack. As General Patton rushed his divisions north from the Saar Valley to the relief of the beleaguered Bastogne, the prayer was answered. On December 20, to the consternation of the Germans and the delight of the American forecasters who were equally surprised at the turn-about, the rains and the fogs ceased. For the better part of a week came bright clear skies and perfect flying weather. Our planes came over by tens, hundreds, and thousands. They knocked out hundreds of tanks, killed thousands of enemy troops in the Bastogne salient, and harried the enemy as he valiantly tried to bring up reinforcements. The 101st Airborne, with the 4th, 9th, and 10th Armored Divisions, which saved Bastogne, and other divisions which assisted so valiantly in driving the Germans home, will testify to the great support rendered by our air forces. General Patton prayed for fair weather for battle. He got it.

It was late in January of 1945 when I saw the Army Commander again. This was in the city of Luxembourg. He stood directly in front of me, smiled: "Well, Padre, our prayers worked. I knew they would." Then he cracked me on the side of my steel helmet with his riding crop. That was his way of saying, "Well done."

06 Feb 2011
Alumni House – jib door

Ogle Hall (aka Alumni House) is a block away from the main gate of the Naval Academy (across from the east corner of St Johns). This picture of the front of the house belies a remarkable architectural element from the early 1700s. The first floor has 4 windows and one door (not including the wing on the left) – correct?


  The 1907 room houses 3 of the 4 windows.

And the 1923 room houses the other 2 windows.

No wait ... 3 plus 2 does not equal 4!

As Elmer Fudd would say, "There's something sqwuey goin' on wound here."


That something sqwuey is called a "jib door". I learned from an Alumni Association person that doors were taxed in the early 1700s. And as the saying goes, "You get more of what you subsidize, and less of what you tax." The colonists studied the letter of the law, and invented the jib door – looks like a traditional door from the outside, is decorated like a window on the inside, and represents a structural hybrid of a bifurcated half dutch door and a window.

Here is a jib door in the Blue Room of the White House. For more Blue Room pictures see:  here  there  yonder


    06 Feb 2011
This Old B-Hut video

A wonderful take-off on "This Old House" is here   ...  "When you've got a contract with the government, the two places where they don't mind if you cut costs: soldier safety, and soldier comfort."

04 Feb 2011
How far can a carrier list?




The USS Reagan conducting rudder control checks.


The USS Nimitz in a vigorous turn to port.

The USS Coral Sea was operating in the western Pacific in 1980. After a recovery cycle, the aircraft were being respotted from the bow to the stern. One of our F-4s was being backed into the aft-most starboard parking place. The ship went into a standard turn to port, it listed to starboard, and the F-4 and tractor slid over the side. The tractor driver and the plane captain riding the brakes were rescued by the alert helicopter.

      04 Feb 2011
Speak softly and carry a big stick

From navy.mil several years ago.

04 Feb 2011
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance

04 Feb 2011
What's up?


Sir!  Fidelity is up and Obedience is down on our bayonet belt buckles, sir!

04 Feb 2011
A brave arm makes a short sword long

06 Feb 2011
Bloom where you are planted

Sometimes the only difference between
a budding genius and a blooming idiot
is where they choose to take a stand

[from a despair.com poster contest]


09 Feb 2011
Things I wish they told me at the Naval Academy

This is from the November issue of The LOG. It was written by Dave Boodakian '05 and posted on his blog.

  1. Service selection is less about the job and more about the people you'll be around. Instead of asking what it's like to fly a jet or drive a ship, ask yourself what it's like to work with pilots and ship drivers.
  2. Don't let anyone know you are getting out until you drop the letter, no matter how much you want to talk about it.
  3. Picking Norfolk over San Diego is like turning down a date with Jessica Alba, don't be silly.
  4. If you choose Japan, be prepared to spend most of your tour out to sea.
  5. Be extremely generous with your Navy cash card. The sodas and snacks you buy for your people will go a long way.
  6. Once a week, pull one of your Sailors/Marines aside and talk with the sole intention of telling him/her how much appreciate what he/she does. This one act, done with consistency and sincerity will have a profound effect on the people you lead.
  7. As a rule (and there are always exceptions) amphibs (LPD, LHD, LSD, LHA) are more laid back than cru/des (DDG, CG, FFG). Choose wisely.
  8. Never underestimate quality of life.
  9. The biggest factor that keeps people in the Navy is fear of moving on. Don't wait until a year out to decide what you want to do after you get out (if you decide to), it's a bug life change and you need to be VERY well prepared.
  10. The happiest officers are well-rounded. Make your outside interests a priority and don't feel that your job has to define who you are.
  11. Your mission as an officer can be broken down into one simple phrase: right the wrongs.
  12. When it comes to being smart with money there are two kinds of people, those who spend their 2/c loan and those who don't.
  13. At any given command there are a handful of financially savvy Sailors who can teach you how to maximize your income, find them and you will save thousands of dollars over your career (hint: they are usually enlisted and have been in for 10+ years).
  14. Just because the Navy encourages you to take leave during stand down doesn't mean you should. Save up your leave and vacation when YOU want to.
  15. Never underestimate quality of life!
  16. When a junior officer gets promoted, grab his/her shoulder boards for when you'll need them, that stuff is expensive!
  17. The thrift shop on base can save you a lot of money, but 98% of people don't use it.
  18. Hire a good tax professional your FIRST year as an officer and the knowledge you will learn about how to get the most out of your taxes will be worth thousands of dollars over your career and life.
  19. Encourage the people who work for you to pursue their degree while they work through Tuition Assistance. The Navy and Marine Corps offers a lot of money for classes, but only for those who ask for it.
  20. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him." Even the youngest Sailor or Marine can teach you something. The ability to recognize potential will always be the mark of a great leader.
  21. If you get stationed in San Diego, take your division/platoon to LA and go to the Price is Right. Tickets are free and they love when Sailors and Marines show up in uniform (i.e. one of you will get picked to bid on the items).
  22. Clothes were meant to be tailored, accept the fact that you're not as small as you were Plebe year and stop torturing yourself.
  23. As an officer you have a golden opportunity to save money. I was able to accrue $100k in my back account at the end of 5 years, and I could have easily had more. Use the allotment system that mypay (DFAS) offers. For example, if I were to start over again as an Ensign, I would live off O-1 pay and set up allotments to save the extra money you make as your pay increases. By doing that alone you can save $50k in 5 years. By saving during deployments and investing your money wisely you can have even more.
  24. When you see your division or platoon out at a bar, buy them a round of drinks then move on, don't linger.
  25. Don't cut chow lines just because you can.
  26. Medical is not the enemy anymore. If you have a problem, get it looked at. Down the road when you get out or retire, the problems you document add up to compensation for disability, but only if you document them.
  27. Never accept the answer "that's the way it's always done." There are a lot of bad habits out there and it's your job to fix them. Right the wrongs.
  28. Don't be afraid to be that JO who makes connections with higher ups, especially admirals. It's lonely at the top and they will appreciate your honesty and courage to engage them in meaningful conversation.
  29. Buy a stack of thank you notes and use them often.
  30. Be yourself. Having a different personality at work [than at home] may seem natural, but it's harmful in the long run (no matter how much it may please your current boss). The only way to have a truly happy and fulfilling career, be it 5 years or 30 years is to BE YOURSELF, and never apologize for it. It's possibly the most difficult thing to accomplih and you'll get a lot of flak from cowards who want you to fit in, but keep the faith, all great leaders develop this quality through determination and a hunger to break the status quo.
  31. The Naval Academy has high standards of physical fitness, the fleet has very low standards. Take time to work out everyday and encourage your people to do the same, even if it doesn't seem like the normal thing to do.
  32. Chances are wherever you get stationed you'll have classmates and friends close by (on the same base). Take some time out of the workday and just go visit them, sometimes they'll even be just across the pier.
  33. Maintaining relationships is important.
  34. Not being a group one major isn't a crime, don't be fooled into thinking you should be an engineer. Study what you're interested in.
  35. Don't forget why you signed up. It's different for everyone, but it's easy to forget your purpose in a sea of paperwork and office politics. I joined for the chance to lead and inspire others, and at the end of the day, no qualification, pin, FITREP or award was ever worthgiving that up for.

06 Feb 2011
The LOG – Halloween picts

I just received the November and December issues of The LOG in the mail Thursday. I pored over both looking for stuff to rip off for the Poop Deck, and this collage was the only thing that looked interesting so far. As usual, it was practically impossible for an outsider to understand anything, because the contents are dripping in sarcasm, attitude, and enigmatic insider references. I think the following editor's comment is the only attempt at describing this collage ... "I'd like to thank everyone whose pictures I, um, borrowed off of Facebook. Truly, it is becoming The LOG's photographic department."