Streetwise Professor

August 1, 2021

Navy Blues–A Coda

Filed under: Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 4:00 pm

A few follow on thoughts.

The Navy had huge race problems especially in the late-Vietnam era. One of Elmo Zumwalt’s biggest challenges was dealing with that issue. He did so, fairly successfully.

Related to the post-Vietnam attempts to address racial tensions,I was a subject (victim?) of what I would characterize as CRT 1.0 when at the Naval Academy. Mids were subjected to various race- and gender-related struggle sessions. During Plebe Summer these were both brigade-wide and at the company level. The latter were rather embarrassing, given that they were led by the company officers who were clearly reading off a script and had instructions to crack down on Wrongthink.

My main memory of that is when a hapless (and remember, 18 year-old) company mate made the mistake of saying something about “Amazons” in reference to women (I groaned as soon as he said it knowing it would not end well), at which the company officer (a bubblehead who later became president of Electric Boat) jumped all over him: “You are a sexist AND a racist!” Why racist my befuddled classmate asked. Because people in the Amazon are dark skinned! (Apparently the lieutenant needed to brush up on Herodotus.)

I can only imagine that things are infinitely worse, and infinitely more cringeworthy and infinitely more Orwellian and oppressive, given the that the leftist march through the institution of the military hadn’t really even begun when I was at Navy, and is all but complete now.

Zumwalt’s reforms had pretty well tamped down the racial tensions by the time I was at Navy. I am convinced that what is going on now will ramp them up.

By way of trying to see the glass as not completely empty, one of the reasons I left the Academy was my experience during Youngster cruise. Seeing the dysfunctions aboard an active USN ship–low morale, heavy drug use (I remember smelling reefer wafting from the crew spaces when I was standing watch on the quarterdeck, and multiple E3’s and E4’s being put on report at morning quarters for having been busted for possession by Norfolk cops), borderline insubordination, and officers that held little sway over the crew–really served to concentrate my mind.

But I can hear you say–hey, I thought you were going to say something optimistic! Well, the optimistic statement is that things turned around dramatically (from what I understand, not from first-hand experience) in the 80s and early 90s. The Reagan defense spending boom and the rebound from post-Vietnam malaise led to considerable improvement on both the hardware and meatware side.

So it is at least possible that current trends can be reversed. That’s my optimistic take. But in order for that to happen, things must change soon. I am not so optimistic about that. The nation has changed dramatically in 30-40 years. But I hope I am wrong.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Someone with a naughty sense of humour might suggest that the recruitment tests include a test of the ability to swim.

    Comment by dearieme — August 3, 2021 @ 5:23 am

  2. I know you guys + gals aren’t really into TikTok, for understandable reasons, but it’s worth checking out the shorts of various American forces recruits in which they are asked why they signed up. Sure, you get occasional, boringly predictable ”to serve my country” and “to shoot people and blow sh*t up” (said apparently without irony – I kid you not), but the other responses are hugely informative if one wants to understand why morale is such a problem. On the upside, I’d wager this issue is endemic in militaries across the globe, but of course their recruits are somewhat reticent about going public.

    Comment by David Mercer — August 3, 2021 @ 10:17 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress