A Global Force for Good

“It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious.”

General George Washington

237 Years ago a great tradition started. As always, it started with men. Men like :Dudley Saltonstall, Abraham Whipple, Nicholas Biddle and John Burrows Hopkins, the first captains in the service. Men like First Lieutenant John Paul Jones whom Catherine the Great would later call the “Greatest Admiral of the Russian Navy“. Men like Stephan Decatur, who won praise from no less than Lord Nelson. Men like Farragut, Dewey, Sims, Byrd, Halsey, Nimitz and many others not as well known.

Then there are the firsts:

  • First attack by a submerged submarine in 1776
  • First successful attack by a submerged submarine
  • First major amphibious opposed landing in modern history
  • First battle between Ironclad ships firing rifled guns.
  • First overflight of the North Pole
  • First overflight of the South Pole
  • First naval combat where the ships never sighted each other
  • First nuclear propelled ship
  • First submerged circumnavigation of the world.

Then there are the battle honors

  • Bonhommie Richard v Serapis
  • Constitution v HMS GuerriereJavaPictouCyane and Levant.
  • Monitor v Merrimack (or Virginia)
  • Valcour Island
  • Mobile Bay
  • Manila Bay
  • Santiago
  • Pearl Harbor
  • Coral Sea
  • Midway
  • Marianas
  • Operation Neptune
  • Battle of the Atlantic (1917-18 and 1941-45)
  • Operation Torch
  • Vietnam
  • Iraq (twice)
  • And many, many more.

It’s a story written in heroism and blood for 237 years. But you know I want to talk about something else for a bit. We know they are always out there protecting America, and our trade. I’ve talked about it here and here as well as here. That’s all well and good, and it’s the mission as well.

But let’s talk about the real world for a minute here. Let’s say your an Indonesian villager or a Haitian, or a hundred other nationalities, who makes almost enough to feed your family. It’s hard for us to realize how common that is in our world still. Now an earthquake, flood, tsunami, or some other disaster strikes, and you lose effectively everything, maybe your family survives but all you have left is the shirt on your back. You’re obviously sitting around in shock, but maybe you can see the ocean, and you notice some bumps on the horizon. “Now what?” you’d undoubtedly think. What comes over that horizon is one of the greatest battle fleets in the history of the world, able to defeat almost any country all by themselves. What calamity is this you think, as you watch those ships drop anchor and all of a sudden helicopters and landing craft start issuing from that fleet. Think you’d be scared? I sure would be.

So the landing party lands, and you stand around gawking, as American sailors and Marines start giving away food, taking care of the injured, helping to find the missing, setting up tents, hauling in clean water, and everything else you could dream of. Yep, those imperialistic, war mongering Americans sent a whole battle fleet, halfway around the world to help your village get through your troubles, all of it courtesy of the US Taxpayers, who whine as we might about our taxes, never complain about this, because deep down this is who we are.

We do this mission because its who we are, we want to help, but in truth, it’s also good global politics. You think there might be legends in some of those countries about the way the Americans showed up, often even before their own government, to help in time of disaster, I do, and I’m very proud that we do it without thinking about that. We do it because it’s the right thing to do.

So, for the 237th time: Happy Birthday, Navy

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5 Responses to A Global Force for Good

  1. Mr. V. says:

    I’m reminded of a story I’ve read, and no doubt you’ve read it several times at least in the last few years:

    “There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American. During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying, “Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intend to do, bomb them?”

    A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: “Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?”

    You could have heard a pin drop.

    • neenergyobserver says:

      Yep, I have, it was in the back of my mind as I was writing this, it’s a good story, possibly true, and a wonderful statement of what we are.

  2. Thanks for the post. I’m always proud of the job we do in helping people around the world and even when must fight it is always for the same reason; to help those who are being oppressed or in defense of our own citizens. My dad fought in the Coral Sea, Midway and the Marianas as a member of the Little Beaver Squadron under the great leadership of Admiral Arleigh A. (31 knot) Burke. They tracked down the Japanese fleet and engaged them in a number of battles that are still used in war colleges to this day to teach naval fighting strategies. My dad rarely talked about his time in the war. I had to learn about what he did from naval history books. They were a brave bunch and never thought themselves any more special than anybody else.

    • neenergyobserver says:

      Yup, agreed. I always liked Burke’s nickname as well, he was a destroyerman from way back, of course, and the ships would only go 30 knots, except when he was in command. Thus 31 knot Burke, fast ships to go in harm’s way, as the man said.

  3. Pingback: The 237th Birthday of the United States Navy « Command Performance Leadership

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