The Stumpf Affair
The Changing Culture of the U.S. Navy ©
RADM Clarence A. ‘Mark’ Hill Jr. USN (Ret.)
Copyright 1 April 2003
In one scene of the nationally acclaimed Twentieth Century-Fox Film “The Sound of Music” about the Von Trapp family, the preteen fourth child and second son of Captain Von Trapp, when chided by his older sister of being afraid of women, tartly replies “No! Only grown men are afraid of women.” Nowhere in life was that more evident than in the combination of certain male members of the U.S. Senate along with the secretarial level appointees and their minions in the Pentagon during the eight years of the Clinton Administration in numerous actions taken involving the military services.
Many years too late, an outstanding Naval Officer who had been illegally denied his promotion to Captain in the regular navy during the Clinton years has been restored to that grade on the retired list at the direction of the current administration. The Washington Times announced this laudable action on July 31, 2002, in a front page story headlined “Tailhook Scandal ‘Injustice’ Righted.” But for those who look upon their naval service as a calling its termination without just cause can never be truly righted regardless of the award of compensatory damages.
For Robert Elmer Stumpf, USNA Class 1974, as a Captain on the retired list, there is no way to restore his assured assignment as a carrier air wing commander in his chosen specialty as a Naval Aviator with every chance to prove himself “best fitted” for advancement to “Flag” rank. His attorney, Charles Gittins, USNA Class 1979, ex Marine and a man of bulldog tenacity, who won the appeal for Captain Stumpf, is well aware of the illegality of the part played by the then Navy Secretary Dalton in concert with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on both sides of the aisle.
I would go so far as to characterize it as an American “Dreyfus Affair,” the French officer wrongly convicted of treason which had a profound effect on the military, political and social life in France during the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century. Its similarity is so close that a more detailed account is indicated.
To begin with, although the charge against Alfred Dreyfus was treason falsely based on a forged letter introduced as evidence, the case against Robert Stumpf in the U.S. Senate was based on his mere attendance at a meeting during or following the 1991 annual convention of the “Tailhook” Association attended by a host of active duty and retired naval aviators, including flag and general officers.
By the simple act of attendance at “Tailhook” Stumpf was considered guilty of “conduct unbecoming a gentleman,” (a court-martial offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or Section 5947 of Title 10, U.S. Code) even though he had not been involved in any of the disreputable activities that had occurred and had been so cleared of any such by a Board of Inquiry that had certified his innocence.
As Commander Stumpf had already been cleared by this inquiry, the Secretary of the Navy had reviewed his case and supported the decision of the selection board that he be promoted to the grade of Captain. Thus his name was on the list forwarded to the Senate for confirmation as the Constitution requires and, in due course, the Senate confirmed those on the list by a voice vote on the floor.
Unfortunately, due to a technicality, the Navy Secretary had failed to notify the Senate that Commander Stumpf had been physically present at some time during the “Tailhook” 1991 convention as the Senate had required. When, tipped off later anonymously, this omission proved to be the excuse for the subsequent action taken by the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Secretary of the Navy to remove Commander Stumpf’s name from the promotion list which, in my opinion as well as that of the current Board for Correction of Naval Records, was “unjust.” Thus begins the military comparison.
The political and social life of the times have their similarities too. Alfred Dreyfus, of Jewish parentage, a soldier of France, had progressed with credit and distinction from sous-lieutenant, through the Ecole de Guerre and thence to the French General Staff. Unknown to the public until the charge of treason was leveled against him for selling military secrets he was tried, convicted and sent to the Devil’s Island prison in French Guiana.
The French politicians of that day and the military leadership as well, were infected with the virulent anti-semitism that had swept across Europe, finally peaking in France despite that country’s republican form of government. The famous Britannica 11th edition (published in 1910 when the events were still current news and before revisionist historians emerged in force) points out, “-- monarchical states -- (used) the power of the crown and the political activity of the aristocracy, which carried with them a very real restraining influence in the matter of political honour and morality -- (in overriding the clamor of the masses for what would be regarded today as ‘politically correct causes’). In France these restraining influences were driven out of public life by their republic” -- which unlike ours had no equivalent to the U.S. Constitution -- “and politics were abandoned for the most part to professional adventurers, while the bourgeoisie assumed the form of an omnipotent plutocracy.”
By the 1870’s the proportion of Jews to the total population in France was only 0.14% but through their intellectual activity they eventually became dominant in the professions. As the fields of endeavor for science and industry as well as the arts were concentrated in the cities the percentage of Jews in urban areas was much greater. By the 1890’s this higher profile incited “resentment and jealousy” amongst the overwhelming non-Jewish segment. However the Britannica goes on to say, “The competition was a fair one. The Jews might be more successful than their Christian fellow-citizens, but it was in virtue of qualities which complied with the national standards of conduct. They were as law-abiding and patriotic as they were intelligent.” This describes Alfred Dreyfus at the time of his first trial.
Turning next to the political and social issues that were foremost in 1991 and brought to a head during the U.S. Presidential election of 1992 one must focus on the turmoil resulting from “Tailhook” ’91 and the efforts made by politicians on both sides of the aisle to accommodate the radical feminist agenda. The outrage of the female members of Congress over “tailhook” was orchestrated by former member of the House Patricia Schroeder and picked-up over time by the leader of the “shrill sisters” in the Senate led by Barbara Boxer. Adapting to their demands was considered important enough for then President George H. W. Bush to be televised in the White House with Lieutenant Paula Coughlin listening while she related her grievances over the physical abuse she had suffered at the hands of a few male naval aviators during after hours at Tailhook ’91.
This was only the beginning. George H.W. Bush did not receive the feminist vote he might have hoped for as a result of his “cameo” appearance with Lt. Coughlin and due to an inept campaign he lost in 1992 to Bill Clinton who very soon made it obvious that his defense team would be dominated by non-traditional officers and liberal minded civilians. In an effort to assuage the rising tide of criticism against the Navy, Naval Aviators and carrier pilots above all, the resulting Clinton leadership (both civilian and military) quickly found a way to remove a series of flag officers, as well as officers more junior, that had been present during Tailhook ’91. This was accomplished by a Defense Department Inspector General investigation that was so one-sided and biased in an effort to please the administration that all those tainted by it who insisted on a court martial were cleared. But the mere fact of attendance at Tailhook ’91 was sufficient evidence in the majority of cases for ending their careers through non-judicial means.
Although many fine officers were unjustly hurt by having their reputations and careers destroyed by an indelible stain placed on their records without due process, it was Commander Bob Stumpf that became the target of the radical feminists despite his having been cleared by a Board of Inquiry of any misconduct at Tailhook ’91.
Robert Stumpf is the epitome of Naval Aviation’s elite. That very small minority of the total population that combine courage, physical skill and coordination along with intelligence upon which the nation most depends for military leadership when the chips are down. They are, more often than not, the “point of the spear.”
[Here I must digress to discuss in more detail how the military services made their selection for officer training in various specialties. In the midst of WWII flight training was not even available to Naval Academy Midshipmen graduating in 1943 until eighteen months of service on surface ships had been completed. The best opportunity available for junior officers to be part of the forward based combat forces soonest was to request and be accepted for submarine training. I was.
The entering class at the Submarine School in September of 1943 of some 226 junior officers were subjected to rigorous physical and mental exams, the latter including a battery of tests that took two days to complete, ended by a private interview for each individual with the “submarine psychiatrist.” The two navy medical officers assigned to do the interviews had the same routine of starting with a pleasant chat and then followed suddenly by a comment or question about a personal trait that one was asked to explain. The student being interviewed, caught off balance, would answer as best he could but with the question in his mind of “how did he know that?” Later comparing notes with fellow students we quickly learned that those key questions varied considerably with the different persons being interviewed.
Long after I learned the answer. Sent by the Navy to Rensselaer (RPI) for a course of instruction in Management Engineering which required a detailed knowledge of statistics along with motivational techniques used in industry, the professor as a teaching device had his students take the same “forced choice” questionnaire that I had taken at the submarine base thirteen years before. Only one answer was allowed out of four choices to each question of a personal nature with an occasional question stated in reverse to trap the respondent should he be untruthful in attempting to beat the test. Upon completion and using the key he had us plot our psychological profile. In my case it peaked at “independent, interested more in science & technology than in people.” This is what prompted the submarine psychiatrist’s sudden accusation to me of “not liking people” – certainly a consideration for assignment to a weapon system where people would be crowded together for weeks on end under hazardous conditions, but not disqualifying based on my answer at the time.
Wishing to know more about psychological testing for military assignment I was pointed toward the New York City Public Library, the repository of many volumes on the subject published by the Army Air Corps during and directly after WWII. Learning from a review of the Army’s (read Air Force’s) record that traits appearing dubious for submarine service were highly acceptable for tactical pilots, the logical conclusion is that the gray area in personality types is sufficiently broad in officer assignment to be breached by the one thing that is not subject to exact measurement and may be changed rapidly over time - - i.e. motivation. Fighter pilots came in all sizes and shapes from outward appearances but it was the ephemeral quality of motivation that made the difference when led by men in whom they had complete confidence. No better example can be found than Admiral Marc Mitscher who, in speaking of his pilots, said: (Note 1)
“We got the best Goddamned men in the world. - - with their eyes wide open
and their chins up, these kids go into places their pioneer grandparents would
be too dumb to be scared of. They have nothing but guts. I tell you, training
and selection have given us the best - -.”
And in recognition of the individual desire of each pilot to be a leader he stated
“Each of these boys is captain of his own ship. What he thinks, his confidence
in what he is doing, how hard he presses home the attack is exactly how
effective we are. Such pilots are not cheap.”
But Mitscher also knew that motivation was a two way street and that such men required his support when in trouble. That is why he put great emphasis on insuring their recovery. As his Chief of Staff Arleigh Burke recounts it took a day’s work to make certain that all ships in his force, that had operated without lights for months in combat, could respond (when target range required an after sunset return at dusk) to Mitscher’s famous command of “turn on the lights!”
Admiral Mitscher’s description of the ideal carrier pilot, although spoken many years before his time, fits Robert Stumpf to a tee. It was this combination of pilot skills coupled with military leadership that established mutual trust between juniors and seniors alike, that made the victory at sea possible.]
Note 1. In his biography, “The Magnificent Mitscher,” Theodore Taylor writes , “If Marc Mitscher hadn’t been around during World War II, then the Navy would have found it necessary to manufacture a reasonable facsimile of him.” What makes that statement doubly remarkable is Mitscher’s early failures and poor performance at the beginning. Entering the U.S. Naval Academy in 1904 with the Class of 1908 he was expelled in March of 1906 for failures in academics and discipline. Through parental influence with a Congressman, Mitscher was reappointed and ultimately graduated with the Class of 1910, standing 108 out of 131 Midshipmen. In those days he had no stripes and no stars.
It was the old hands at this game who were quick to realize that the attempt to deny Commander Stumpf his well deserved fourth stripe through unjust means was, in fact, part of a much broader cultural attack on this “unit cohesion” so necessary for success in battle. As stated by Colin Gray in his book ‘Modern Strategy’ “At the end of the day military operations is the dimension of strategy that poses the brutally direct question, ‘How good are the belligerents at actual fighting?’” Failure to rise in defense of a warrior who had done no wrong, by those who had tread that road before, would have been unconscionable.
Had the oversight of the Navy Department’s failure to tag Bob Stumpf’s record just been considered and then waived by the Senate Armed Services Committee based on the Navy Secretary’s initial support for the investigative board clearance, his promotion to Captain would have come in due course and the matter ended. The full Senate had already confirmed Commander Stumpf’s promotion to Captain and it was a matter of record.
However the committee’s problem was the feminist outcry that was to be feared on the floor of the Senate should they, as a body, demonstrate the same male courage that we expect and demand of the men we recruit, train and send out as leaders to meet the enemy. Instead when the SASC informed John H. Dalton, the Navy Secretary at the time, of this oversight, he personally, reviewed all the material relevant to the Navy Board’s investigation of Commander Stumpf’s case, submitting it with a covering letter supporting his qualifications for promotion.
It was at that point in the contention between the SASC and the Navy Secretary and before any final decision had been made, when several other naval persons who had played in this same arena saw fit to intervene. As outlined in the paragraphs above great leaders have one characteristic in common, that being the willingness to support their men when they know they are right and when they need their help in troubled times. It is as true in times of peace as it is in war.
In addition it was apparent that very few senior officers on active duty were either willing or in a position to help in Commander Stumpf’s case. A previous Secretary of the Navy who had attended Tailhook ’91 had seen fit to resign while a former Chief of Naval Operations who had also attended left shortly thereafter. A Vice Chief of Naval Operations with an outstanding combat command record that could have helped was forced into retirement as opposed to being named Commander-in-Chief, Pacific, as a result of a “hold” put on his nomination by a senator who was, himself, subsequently indicted for other offenses, tried and now a convicted felon. Further, by mere attendance at Tailhook ’91 the Inspector General’s investigation put every flag officer who had attended in any capacity and other officers in authority on the defensive to such a degree that they were hard put to defend themselves.
This urge to intercede in support of an outstanding officer whose career, reputation and livelihood were under threat by lack of due process, brought together many senior retired officers in an effort to “right the wrong” (as they saw it) of what the system was doing to Bob Stumpf. They ranged, inter alia, from two former Sixth Fleet Commanders; a former Deputy CNO for Air; a former Staff Director of the SASC and other flag officers too numerous to list here – but they all needed a leader whose voice would be heard at the highest level of government. That leader was found in the person of a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Turning back to the parallel of the Stumpf affair with the Dreyfus affair a review of the origins of European anti-semitism is germane. Despite the more than thousand year history of Jewish residence in all the western countries during which time they adopted the manners and customs of their host nations, they were largely confined to the ghettos in the countries of Europe until the middle of the nineteenth century when finally liberated (or emancipated as the Britannica, Eleventh Edition, puts it) by the revolutions of 1848.
As a result of their years of enforced isolation they developed a shrewd knowledge of “urban economics” with “their wits preternaturally sharpened, partly by the stress of (their) struggle for life.” The end result was to emerge, initially, as different in appearance through “more rigid exclusiveness in the matter of marriages” but excelling in academic pursuits as “their activity was almost exclusively intellectual.” Having served as the “commercial middlemen” to the nobles who had ruled society they were already far advanced as “practiced dealers in money” in the developing industrial middle class. Excluded from the army since time immemorial their rapid advancement due to their perspicacity, imagination and desire to excel frequently inspired resentment among the more pedestrian of their associates.
Note 2. Written in 1910 the eleventh Britannica in a sense portends the situation faced by Western nations almost a century later when it states, “— the Jew who emerged from the ghetto was no longer a pastoral Semite, but an essentially modern European --.” Simply put it is the clash in the Middle East between those who have risen to the top in western thought and technology as opposed to those who have been denied such enlightenment through autocratic control keeping them steeped in ignorance and poverty despite the rich bounty that their land provides. It is a clash having its roots in jealousy, envy and prejudice, which are also factors that combine to form a common thread between the account of Dreyfus, Stumpf and the outcome for each.
Returning to Alfred Dreyfus, now an inmate of the infamous Devil’s Island prison with little hope for redemption from within the French Government or the French Army, it is important to note that in 19th century France, its army had an emotional image for French citizens equal to France itself, to wit: France was the Army and the Army was France. While there was, in fact, evidence linking an officer with treasonable conduct in transmitting military information to a foreign power, it was not Dreyfus. His conviction, however was obtained based upon forged documents that were withheld from defense counsel convincing one Colonel Picquart that there had been a “gross miscarriage of justice.” When the colonel reported his findings to higher authority he was hastily transferred out of the country to an area and duty endangering his life.
With no officer or official willing to plead his case in the Army or the Government, a brother of Alfred Dreyfus wrote to the Minister of War denouncing a Major Esterhazy as the real culprit. With the support of Parliament the government officials, in turn, took action to cover their tracks by allowing the army to convene a court-martial on Esterhazy which, held in secret, resulted in his acquittal. It was at this point that the Dreyfus family had nowhere to turn except to the press.
As a result of the strong Jewish family ties as well as a sufficiency of wealth based on their background as outlined above, they were able to gain the support of Emile Zola, the foremost novelist of his day. Through Zola’s prominence and ability he gained the attention of the entire country by an open letter to the President of the Republic entitled “J’accuse,” laying out the facts to censure all those who had unjustly convicted Alfred Dreyfus. This eventually reopened the Dreyfus case when published in the newspaper “L’Aurore” by Georges Clemenceau – but not before Zola had been prosecuted for libel by those he accused, was condemned and forced to flee the country to avoid incarceration himself.
Keeping the Stumpf/Dreyfus time line comparison even, it was only after an informal task force was set up by Vice Admiral Bill Houser, USN(Ret), a former Deputy CNO for Air and with Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, USN(Ret) – a former Chief of Naval Operations and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – acting as the leading spokesman for the group, that an appointment with the Secretary of the Navy was obtained by Admiral Moorer. The purpose was to ascertain the facts known about Commander Stumpf’s conduct and the Navy’s official position in view of the action taken by the Chairman of the SASC and the delay in the promotion of Commander Stumpf to his confirmed grade of Captain.
Spending a better part of an hour with Secretary Dalton, Admiral Moorer learned that the Secretary had examined every document pertaining to Commander Stumpf and his attendance at Tailhook ’91, which included the report of a Board of Inquiry, the conclusion of which cleared Commander Stumpf of any misconduct at that time. The Secretary also expressed his admiration for Bob Stumpf’s entire record of service noting his accomplishments during both peace and war.
This face-to-face conference between a former CNO and Chairman, JCS and the Navy Secretary at the time is a key step in understanding what occurred thereafter and the official documents that pertain to the Stumpf affair from the Board for Correction of Naval Records and the current Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower & Reserve Affairs); which are appended. The facts are:
(a) Navy Secretary Dalton supported CDR Stumpf’s selection for the grade of Captain by the FY ‘95 Selection Board after
reviewing all the material available to the Navy on August 22, 1994. There is no hard evidence (i.e., a letter or
memo written by him with his signature) that he ever changed his mind.
(b) The administrative error in not forwarding the required certification regarding CDR Stumpf’s participation in Tailhook
’91 to the Senate prior to his confirmation was the fault of the Navy – not CDR Stumpf’s. As he had already
been investigated and cleared of any misconduct by a Board of Senior Officers (in accordance with the law) – which
record was also made available to the Line Captain Selection Board and which must include the record of any
official investigation – it may be assumed that there was no derogatory information excluded that the Board would
have had to consider under existing regulations or law.
(c) The confirmation process by voice vote on the floor of the Senate was in accordance with the Senate’s own rules
and Commander Stumpf’s confirmation was a matter of record.
Despite the foregoing, Navy Secretary Dalton had seen fit to acquiesce to the implication contained in the letter to him from the SASC Chairman and ranking Minority Member, that a failure on his part as Secretary to remove Commander Stumpf’s name from the list of those to be promoted to Captain, even though confirmed by the full Senate, would be viewed with their disfavor, then and in the future.
Rationalizing his acquiescence under the cover of maintaining “the integrity of the promotion process” Secretary Dalton removed Commander Stumpf’s name from the list. Quite the contrary, in the opinion of many others, in so doing he undercut both the letter and spirit of the law, quoted in part (Note 3) as follows:
Note 3. Title 10, U.S. Code: (a)(1) When the report of a selection board convened under section 611(a) of this title is approved by the President, the Secretary of the military department concerned shall place the names of all officers approved for promotion within a competitive category on a single list for that competitive category, to be known as a promotion list, in the order of the seniority of such officers on the active-duty list. And : (b)(2)(c)Appointments under this section shall be made by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate --. And: (d)(1) Under regulations prescribed by the Secretary concerned, the appointment of an officer under this section may be delayed if—
(A) sworn charges against the officer have been received by an officer exercising general court-martial jurisdiction over the officer
and such charges have not been disposed of;
(B) an investigation is being conducted to determine whether disciplinary action of any kind should be brought against the officer;
(C) a board of officers has been convened under chapter 60 of this title to review the record of the officer, or
(D) a criminal proceeding in a Federal or State court is pending against the officer.
[All the foregoing having been satisfied in Commander Stumpf’s favor, the following provision is germane.]
If no disciplinary action is taken against the officer, if the charges against the officer are withdrawn or dismissed, if the officer is not ordered removed from active duty by the Secretary concerned under chapter 60 of this title, or if the officer is acquitted of the charges brought against him, as the case may be, then unless action to delay an appointment has also been taken under subsection (d)(2) the officer shall be retained on the promotion list and shall, upon promotion to the next higher grade, have the same date of rank, the same effective date for pay and allowances of the grade to which promoted, and the same position on the active-duty list as he would have if no delay had intervened, unless the Secretary concerned determines that the officer was unqualified for promotion for any part of the delay. –
The final fall back for delay or removal is found in sub-section (d)(2) : Under regulations prescribed by the Secretary concerned, the appointment of an officer under this section may also be delayed in any case in which there is cause to believe that the officer is mentally, physically, morally, or professionally unqualified to perform the duties of the grade for which he was selected for promotion.
[Suffice to say that the Secretary himself had already gone on record with the SASC in attesting to Commander Stumpf’s superior qualifications in all four categories.]
Already active in assisting Commander Stumpf and armed with the information obtained by Admiral Moorer from Secretary Dalton following their private meeting, former staff director of the SASC Carl Smith, now a practicing attorney, used his influence and connections that were available to him from his previous service with the committee to set up an appointment with Senator Thurmond, (the SASC Chairman at the time) for Admiral Moorer.
Carl Smith, himself a former Naval Aviator, had been Robert Stumpf’s instructor in the Replacement Air-wing which had been commanded at that time by John McCain, now the Senator from Arizona and a member of the SASC. Both Carl Smith and John McCain thought well of Commander Stumpf, both as a naval officer of the highest integrity with unmatched professional ability and unblemished personal conduct. Throughout the Stumpf affair both Carl Smith and John McCain were gritty fighters in Commander Stumpf’s defense.
Carl Smith had kept an accurate record of his activities regarding Bob Stumpf and, according to his diary, had spent the entire day of February 9, 1996, at the committee reviewing the Stumpf record and found “not one thing” that would justify preventing his promotion. It was during this period that he gained the support of Senator John Warner by pointing out to him that what the committee was doing to Stumpf in its “rump” session in combination with the Secretary of the Navy was, in effect “Star Chamber” justice.
Note 4. In a sense it is ironic that this “15th, 16th and 17th century English court of justice derived its name in part (according to the Britannica, 11th Ed.) from a Hebrew word “shetar or sh’tar” meaning a “bond” as it was the room where legal documents were kept regarding the Jews from the 12th century. Until 1641 it was the only remaining court where the “crown never parted with its supreme jurisdiction” and, as the Britannica points out, it was the “Star Chamber” that became the “great engine of the royal tyranny” under the early Stuarts leading in part to the English Revolution. Suffice to say that many of the early colonists were forced to these shores to escape its despotism.
According to Carl Smith he accompanied admiral Moorer to his meeting with certain members of the SASC on 22 February, 1996, and after an exchange of views between the Chairman and others the session became highly contentious.
Thomas Moorer has, by nature, a remarkable ability to remain restrained under the most trying circumstances and with a sense of humor that can make light of almost any tense situation. In this regard, inter alia, he is very much in the mold of Chester Nimitz. But after having his points regarding the lack of evidence of any misconduct on Bob Stumpf’s part constantly rebuffed by the committee staff he admitted to having lost his temper when one aide sarcastically remarked that the Navy was just trying to save one of its “white scarf boys.” After that, Carl Smith said, it became a “shouting match.”
Note 5. Less than a month after this meeting (March 13, 1996) the SASC published for the record its decision concerning the nomination of Commander Stumpf to the grade of Captain and which had forced the hand of the Navy Secretary to remove Commander Stumpf’s name. The significant points are as follows:
(1) On March 11, 1994, the President submitted various nominations for promotion in the Navy for the grade of Captain, which list contained the name of Commander Stumpf.
(2) That list was accompanied by a letter required by the SASC from the Secretary of Defense advising that none of the officers had been identified as “potentially implicated on matters related to Tailhook.”
(3) The list was reported favorably to the Senate with all nominations on the list confirmed by the Senate on May 24, 1994.
(4) Subsequent to the Senate’s confirmation , but prior to the appointment by the President of Commander Stumpf to the grade of Captain, the SASC was informed by the Defense Department that the letter had been in error by failing to list Commander Stumpf’s name as being potentially implicated in Tailhook.
(5) On June 30, 1994, the SASC requested the Navy to withhold action on the Stumpf promotion until the SASC could review the information that had not been available prior to the Senate’s confirmation.
(6) After reviewing the report of the investigation and all related information provided by the Navy the SASC met in closed session on October 25, 1995 and directed the Chairman and Ranking Member to advise the Navy that “had the information regarding Commander Stumpf’s activities surrounding Tailhook ’91 been available to the committee, as required, at the time of the nomination, the committee would not have recommended that the Senate confirm his nomination to the grade of Captain.”
(7) The SASC also directed that the letter advise the Navy Secretary that, “in the light of the Senate having earlier given its advice and consent to Commander Stumpf’s nomination, the decision to promote him rests solely with the Executive Branch.” (emphasis added)
It is here that an understanding of the laws that govern officer promotion is so critical.
The SASC was correct in passing the buck to the Navy Secretary in view of the Senate’s recorded confirmation
of Commander Stumpf’s promotion to the grade of Captain.
The SASC was correct in pointing out that the Executive Branch had the legal right to “promote or not promote”
regardless of the administrative oversight of not alerting the SASC of Commander Stumpf’s physical presence at
It may also be assumed that the legal counsel for the SASC would have recognized that despite the lack of previous
information regarding Commander Stumpf’s presence at Tailhook the letter of the law had been met by the Navy in
clearing Commander Stumpf by a Board of Investigation that determined he had done nothing that would have
“brought disciplinary action of any kind against him.”
Those who have devoted countless hours in working with the Congress, both on active duty and following retirement, must learn the rules of the game that the members play to be effective. Benignly put, it generally requires a quid pro quo between one or more groups to obtain legislation to satisfy the objectives of the whole. However, when it becomes coercive – or as the attorney for Commander Stumpf put it more delicately in his petition for redress in saying that the Navy Secretary “acted in response to ex parte pressures and implicit and explicit threats of reprisal against Navy legislative and confirmation requests unrelated to Petitioner’s (i.e., CDR Stumpf’s) promotion” – it is referred to in the “trade” as simply “blackmail.”
The SASC members knew that under the law and their own rules that denying Commander Stumpf his Captain stripes was beyond them. Further the last thing they wanted was to go back on the floor of the Senate against, not just the female senators themselves, but the host of others of like mind to the “shrill sisters” that were serving in the congress and the administration at the time as well.
However the SASC members also had taken the measure of the man that was their “mark.” They were, no doubt, confident that he would fold under pressure and accomplish what they could not, without exposing themselves to undesirable political consequences. The record shows that this is what happened and all the sanctimony to the contrary of “(his) duty to maintain the integrity of the promotion process,” Secretary Dalton did just the opposite by ignoring and undermining the intent of the law.
At the heart of all legislation regarding promotion of military officers is the provision explicit in the language that selection for advancement to grades up to and including O8 (Two Stars) is to be made by a board of senior officers drawn from within the professional category of those under consideration. It is true that under current law and judicial decisions the Secretary may remove the name of an officer from the promotion list below the grade of O7 (navy captain) even after confirmation by the Senate. But, it is submitted here, that it should not be at the whim of jealous congressional aides pushing their own agenda or merely for the sake of saving some senators from jeopardizing their seats when the Secretary knows that taking such action against an innocent person would be unjust! That is clearly what the Board for Correction of Naval Records concluded.
It is also clear that in the light of Secretary Dalton’s own views in support of Commander Stumpf both before and after his action to remove his name from the FY96 selection, that such removal action was illegal in the strictest sense of the word. (A perusal of the appended record of the deliberations by the Board for Correction of Naval Records is sufficient in itself to justify terming the Secretary’s action illegal). (Note 6)
Note 6. The first paragraph under the heading “CONCLUSION” of subject Board’s report states in part: “- - the Board finds the existence of an injustice warranting corrective action. While they find no error was committed in this case, they do find it was unjust for the Secretary of the Navy not to effect Petitioner’s (Stumpf’s) promotion on the scheduled date, when he himself considered Petitioner qualified for promotion. They particularly note that both the delay and removal actions cite problems relating to Petitioner’s Senate confirmation, rather than any misconduct on his part. Further, they object to the language, in the removal letter of 22 December 1995, to the Secretary’s “duty to maintain the integrity of the promotion process.” Still further they considered it “unfair that the Secretary allowed his concern for the sanctity of the system to override his determination that Petitioner (Stumpf) deserved promotion.”
Referring back to Note 3, which assumes in every case that an officer has been confirmed, there is no provision for removal beyond six months if all other disqualifying concerns have been satisfied. As they had been satisfied the delay to wait for the second board to select CDR Stumpf was illegal in the strictest interpretation of the law.
Following the removal of Commander Stumpf’s name from the FY96 selection list the officers that had gathered together to help him (during what we may refer to as his first trial) turned to their best alternatives which were the internet, the media and, like Emile Zola, the pen.
As mentioned previously Zola had been instrumental in opening the Dreyfus case and despite the adamant opposition of the politicians that controlled the French Army at the time, a second court-martial was finally held at Rennes which again found Dreyfus guilty, but with extenuating circumstances. The second verdict reduced his sentence to ten years followed by a recommendation for clemency and pardon by the President. This had the intended effect of a compromise with the politicians on the one hand and the officials ruling the army, while on the other hand of freeing Dreyfus to go on his way, albeit with a cloud on his name for the remainder of his life. As the Britannica puts it, “This lame conclusion did not satisfy the accused (as) his innocence had been so clearly proved.”
Although the authors of letters, OpEd pieces, editorials and the like in support of Commander Stumpf would not come up to the level of world renown that characterized Emile Zola in his day, they did cover the spectrum from conservative to liberal and from military to civilian. Further, they focused largely on the injustice done an individual as opposed to the convoluted legal arguments put forth by counsels on the Senate side as well as those speaking for the Navy Secretary.
Note 7. Carl Smith’s records indicate that Senator John McCain met on March 14, 1996, with Commander Stumpf and after going over the record stated his willingness to help in words as recorded by Carl Smith, “it is going to be hard but we will fight all the way.”
One of the most astute naval officers with regard to knowledge of the law and its application to day-to-day operations with the fleet was Vice Admiral Gerald E. Miller, USNA Class 1942. While serving as Commander of the Sixth Fleet he frequently relied on the provisions of Section 5947, Title 10, U.S.Code (“Requirement of Exemplary Conduct”) and Section 5949, Title 10, USC (“Policy as to Leave and Liberty”) in arriving at his decisions regarding disciplinary actions taken before the mast.
Section 5947 was written initially by John Adams and made a part of naval law beginning with the Second Continental Congress. Codified in virtually its original language from then until the present, it enjoins all “commanding officers and others in authority -- to show in themselves a good example of virtue -- and – to guard against and suppress all dissolute and immoral practices.” Section 5949, which dates from 1855, simply states that commanding officers – shall favor the faithful and obedient in granting leave or liberty.
Note 8. What happened at Tailhook ’91 would not have occurred when such officers as RADM James D. Ramage, USNA Class 1939, a founder of “Tailhook” and VADM Jerry Miller or his USNA classmate VADM William D. Houser were still on active duty. Quite the contrary those three were largely responsible for turning what had started as just a massive “ship’s party” on an annual basis for carrier pilots into a formal professional symposium. It was the basis for an exchange of information between the more junior officers in the fleet and the more senior officers at the seat of the government that were tasked with the planning for Naval Aviation at the time and for its future. By the same token had the Chief of Naval Operations been Admiral Moorer at the time, any such conduct would have been speedily punished with fair trials under Naval jurisdiction.
Returning to the law (Title 10, USC), neither section makes any distinction with regard to whether or not the officers or enlisted personnel are male or female since it was put into law prior to the time when anyone could foresee the combination of men and women in combat units. Even handed justice requires that the law be administered without regard to differences in sex if females are to serve in positions formerly established for male only. To put it succinctly, why should the Congress be willing to accept a double standard in behavior?
This query was posed to Senator Thurmond in one letter (Feb. 28, 1996) in support of Commander Stumpf (to which there was no response) since there were women officers involved also and there was no retribution dispensed against them. To put it another way, if male officers are expected to be gentlemen why should women officers not be expected to be ladies?
Commander Stumpf had done no wrong while countless females who had willingly participated in the rowdy misconduct on the third deck of the Las Vegas Hilton that same Saturday night were portrayed and accepted as victims with no adverse consequences. At the same time there were many junior officers who behaved properly but were still tarred by the “Tailhook” brush as a result of a thoroughly corrupt investigation undertaken by the Defense Department Inspector General’s office.
Commander Stumpf’s case is the classic example of this double standard. It also highlights the more subtle, and in a sense unique, way of how the Senate was able to attack the “icon” of navy combat leadership and model officer and gentleman that would satisfy the radical feminists, while concomitantly modifying military law to extend the original Navy and Marine provisions to apply to the other services as well.
One of the interesting aspects of this case is the degree to which the Senate reacted to the criticism from this host of Stumpf supporters by quietly taking action after the fact when advised by letters, letters-to-the-editor and media articles. One learns when charged with the responsibility of administering the law how few members of the Congress know the law themselves. Aside from the committee chairmen and their counsels most of them don’t know much about the background of the laws that have been on the books for years.
This is the case here with regard to John Adams and his “First Principles” for the U.S Navy regarding “Virtue, Honor and Patriotism.” In Senate Report 105-29 of June 18, 1997, the Senate recommended, and the House receded to, an amendment that would apply those principles that had been part of Navy and Marine law since 1775 to the Army and Air Force as well. (A copy of the report with the changes to the code is appended.) While this action was fully justified and indeed long overdue, one cannot avoid recognizing the irony and cynicism of this reaction when an officer whose conduct had always been exemplary is cast out to appease the feminist wolves, while many members wash their hands of their oversight responsibilities to protect their seats.
No one saw this more clearly than Vice Admiral Bill Houser. As mentioned previously Bill Houser had played a key role in placing “Tailhook” meetings on a professional basis. Equally important in this case, it was Bill Houser that organized the group of concerned “old pros” and gave direction to the effort in support of Commander Stumpf. Having served on active duty as the senior Naval Aviator in the position of Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air prior to his retirement, Admiral Houser had testified at length before both Houses of the Congress. From this position he still had many friends in the membership on both sides of the aisle and he used his contacts as effectively as the situation would permit. But Bill Houser soon learned that protection of their seats took precedence over righting a wrong to an individual in the view of most members – particularly if a constituent was not involved.
When senior officers on active duty are called upon to testify before the Congress they are well advised to abide by the
advice and instruction given by a former Chief of Naval Chief of Naval Personnel who had perhaps the best rapport with
the membership on both sides of the aisle in his day of anyone. He was Admiral James L. Holloway, Jr., USNA Class 1919,
and one was fortunate to have studied under him at a time when we still had giants as chairmen of the Armed Service
Committees in both Houses of the Congress. Prior to going over to Capitol Hill to testify he would admonish all those in his
team to maintain a professional demeanor, be respectful and courteous, avoid familiarity and not laugh at their jokes,
but above all “eschew gratuitous commentary.”
Admiral Jerry Miller had been one of those who had benefited by this early training and while on active duty he was one
of the very best in his ability to “carry the ball” for Naval Aviation before the Congress. When under tense questioning by a
senator attempting to extract the answer that he wanted as opposed to what he was getting from the Executive Department’s
witness, he sat in tight-lipped silence while the senator implied that he was being less than honest while under oath. To the
Senate’s credit a more senior senator apologized to him on behalf of the committee upon his return to the Pentagon.
However, once retired from active duty Admiral Miller was quick to follow in the footsteps of Admiral Tom Moorer
who, in testimony before the SASC in support of Naval Aviation programs following his retirement as Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, prefaced his remarks in one instance with the statement that he “was not running for office, nor bucking for
promotion, nor looking for a job – but that he had discovered the First Amendment.”
In light of the foregoing Jerry Miller, now retired, was incensed when he received an answer from Senator Sam Nunn, then the ranking minority member of the SASC, in reply to one that he had written requesting the Senator’s help in the case of Bob Stumpf. The answer he had received was like so many that the congressional offices turn out to straddle the issue and appeal to both sides. But the central issue with which the SASC had to deal in the Stumpf case was dichotomous – i.e. either “just” or “unjust” – in which there is no in between. (A blind copy of the subject letter from Admiral Miller to Senator Nunn is appended and speaks for itself.)
Still another former Commander of the Sixth Fleet and one who had been in the thickest of the fighting during WWII when our backs were to the wall during the Solomons Campaign, lent his support to Bob Stumpf. Vice Admiral David C. Richardson, USNA Class 1936, was credited with shooting down four enemy aircraft and was himself shot down and survived to become one of the ablest practitioners in the application of real time intelligence to fleet operations.
Dave Richardson’s interest in the case took a somewhat different tack as he was being followed in the naval profession by his son, also a Naval Aviator and fighter pilot, so the injustice being done to Commander Stumpf was closer to home. In his letter to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (a member of the SASC on the Personnel Subcommittee and known to be opposed to Commander Stumpf), Admiral Richardson pointed out the damage being done to the wives and families of all those on active duty in addition to the distrust engendered between men and women serving together under difficult and hazardous conditions. (His letter of March 31, 1996, is appended.)
The foregoing are but examples of the thoughts that a multitude of people expressed during the interregnum between the first selection of Commander Stumpf to the grade of Captain, his removal by the Navy Secretary and his second selection by another Board of Admirals.
Having duty or responsibilities that entail constant contact with the Congress requires an understanding of how the system
works to be effective. One of the more interesting ways the sitting members support each other might be termed the
“incumbency protection act.” Simply put, if a member or group of members want support (or protection) from the voters for
what they have done or want to do, they may wish to have one of their colleagues (from either side of the aisle) who has an
established reputation for objectivity and/or probity join them on the floor in a staged debate, or speak singly on the subject
to an empty senate. This then is made part of the Congressional Record and/or shown after hours on TV so that it may be
used to give the appearance of a real debate when actually it is little more than a charade.
An example of the foregoing is the speech made on the floor of the Senate on March 13, 1996, by Senator Grassley of Iowa. The Senator put himself on record as condemning Commander Stumpf while speaking in support of the extra-legal process used by the SASC in its attempt to undo the action that had already been taken by the full Senate to confirm him in the grade of Captain. In this speech he raised five points that needed to be answered by a peer on the Senate floor who would speak in support of Bob Stumpf. Unfortunately what Senator Grassley got was support for those attacks from Senators Coats, Nunn, Byrd and Exon which gave an appearance of unanimity on the unacceptability of Commander Stumpf’s moral character, while no one present rose to his defense.
But the points raised by Senator Grassley simply cried out for an answer --- (a copy of his speech as received is appended. Although not being a constituent, but aware of how someone who is not a lawyer (in Senator Grassley’s case his profession is listed in the Congressional Directory as “farmer’) and who has never served in the military, can be deceived by a clever counsel into supporting a position that could never be sustained before an impartial jury of peers, I prepared a rebuttal.
My digression here has a two-fold purpose: (a) to indicate first why, in addition to holding similar conservative views,
I would be inclined to support Senator Grassley under normal circumstances and (b) second, why I felt qualified to rebut
a senator by substituting my thoughts for one who could have done so at the time.
First, having always lived in a coastal state my first contact with one in the interior occurred in the midst of WWII when
traveling under orders by rail from the Submarine School in New London to San Francisco, port of embarkation for my
destination of Perth, West Australia, Headquarters of Submarines, Seventh Fleet.
Passenger trains during those days were all virtually “troop trains” and when the Union Pacific’s Overland Limited
made its first stop in Iowa on a bright winter morning we disembarked for its scheduled half hour stay. Unlike any other
stop, there we were greeted by rows and rows of tables on the station platform loaded down with every good thing to eat
imaginable that came from the kitchens of the lovely ladies of Iowa that were standing behind them. One never forgets the
sight of those smiling faces nor the pleasant words of cheer at a time when we were still a long way from victory in either
Europe or the Pacific.
Second, years later, having been charged with the responsibility for securing passage of a law that was to have a major
effect on all naval officers I was directed by committee counsel to prepare a half dozen speeches to be used by the members
in support of the bill, some of which were delivered on the floor verbatim. In this sense, working with the Congress while on
active duty was training for the declining years when the GI generation no longer had a hand on the throttle or owned
a quarter deck.
In any event it so happened that one other naval officer from the retired ranks who was himself a native of Iowa also saw fit to write to Senator Grassley although he no longer lived in that state. Rear Admiral James D. Ramage, USNA Class 1939, (known throughout the fleet by the pseudonym “Jig Dog”) and a leading Naval Aviation proponent throughout his life, a winner of the Navy Cross during WWII and the complete officer in every respect, answered Senator Grassley in a letter that said everything in one page.
[Both the rebuttal that was sent to Senator Grassley and the brief letter by Admiral Ramage are appended.]
It should be remembered that the loud outcry from many sources at this point in the essay’s track of events comes after the Secretary of the Navy had removed Commander Stumpf’s name following his first selection and all concerned parties were working to insure that he would be selected and confirmed for the second time – in effect after his second trial.
In addition to the naval officers listed above a host of other notables added their voices or literary efforts to the cause on Commander Stumpf’s behalf. Among them were Paul Akers, Scripps Howard News Service Editorial writer; Philip Gold, Discovery Institute Defense Director and lecturer at Georgetown University; Paul Craig Roberts, nationally syndicated Washington Times columnist and Robert Caldwell, San Diego Union-Tribune editor, And though all the foregoing may be categorized as being in the conservative camp, there were liberals represented too, such as Richard Cohen of the Washington Post; Morton Kondracke and Clarence Page, both of whom are featured in the major news media and on TV talk shows.
In a singular departure from the above, an April 1, 1996, Washington Times column by one Lawrence Di Rita, was written as a dissent, headlined as “Stop beating the drums for Cmdr. Stumpf.” His column was answered by others who pointed, inter alia, to his failure to treat with the central issue of lack of due process in Stumpf’s case. But in his attempt to classify any tailhook “after hours” party as wholesale debauchery, while simultaneously ridiculing the officer-and-gentleman code as outmoded tradition, he inadvertently raises an issue that must be faced. That is the degree to which the bulk of officers of the U.S. Navy that have faced the enemy in active combat on a “kill or be killed” basis, has declined since WWII, through Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf (now twice) and Afghanistan, to largely just our carrier pilots and crew.
That was not the way of it in the late “great war.” If you were a destroyer man as part of Arleigh Burke’s “Little Beavers” you had already faced some of the bitterest fighting in the Solomons Campaign. You were good and you knew it. When ashore and at any of the established recreation spots where there was a bar, their willingness to fight at the drop of a hat in support of another “little beaver” was well known.
In submarines it was no different. No better depiction of that may be found than the night before sailing sequence in the first reel of the uncut German film “Das Boot.” The dialogue makes clear what is on the mind of a highly decorated captain the night prior to sailing. Dead drunk he was then, but the following day, prior to putting to sea, he is cold sober, immaculately uniformed, in complete command and ready to face the odds of survival which were three to one against him. For us it was three to one in our favor. Where our losses were twenty five percent theirs were seventy five percent.
One submarine party in WWII that has never before “surfaced” (to use an appropriate submarine term) occurred
during a period when Submarine Squadron Sixteen’s tender, USS ORION (AS18) had moved north from Fremantle to an
anchorage in a lagoon off of Mios Woendi, a small atoll sheltered by the island of Biak on the north coast of New Guinea.
It was safe enough to harbor the tender and its boats under repair as the Japanese were being pushed back, but there was
nothing around as far as the eye could see except jungle.
A navy tender can build or repair almost anything. So as the officers and crew contemplated their isolation and the
restrictions of Navy General Order Number One which prohibited the use of alcoholic beverages on board U.S. Navy
commissioned ships, they came up with an adequate solution. They constructed a large floating raft, complete with a club,
a well stocked bar (in part thanks to the Australians) but, since the crew was all male, no “head” facilities were considered
Now a Navy hospital ship headed to a more forward area was ordered to anchor in the lagoon for safety one night
while en route and the officers of the tender and submarines under repair issued a gracious invitation for the hospital ship’s
officers to join them for drinks at their club. It was accepted and, of course, included the nurses who were naval officers
Australian beer (Swan Lager or Emu Bitters) had twice the alcoholic content of American brew and by the time much of
it had been consumed some of the women officers felt the need to “powder their noses.” Not wishing to leave the party and
informed that there were no female accommodations they had their choice of “skinny dipping” and taking the chance of
being nipped by a crocodile or asking one of the host officers to hold their hands while they relieved themselves over the
side. This, I was told, most of them did.
My submarine, USS RAY(SS271), missed this party since it occurred at a time when on patrol and when we had been
driven down by a night flying Japanese “Zero,” off Manila Bay, flooded our conning tower when the hatch jammed and
came within a whisker of losing the boat. Ordered back to Mios Woendi and the ORION for repairs we were given a graphic
account of the festivities that we had missed shortly before.
Like the English music hall comedian who in recounting a fable about his service in the Boer War ends by saying “and
I helped relieve Lady Smith” with emphasis on the “Smith,” there still may be some around who can say the same.
But the point here is that they all behaved like ladies and gentlemen regardless of their inebriation, they were all there
because they wanted to be, they parted company happier for the experience and there were no complaints to higher
Former Navy Secretary John Lehman was another astute observer of the gap that had grown between the carrier aviators and those on the outside of their discipline. Writing in the Wall Street Journal (May 21, 1996) he points to their “very high profile in the Reagan years – as the movie “Top Gun” illustrated – their bonuses, their glamour and their publicity and (many outsiders) were glad to see “Tailhook” cut them down --.” He gets to the heart of the matter in reference to former President Clinton’s statement of “loathing the military” in his younger days and staffing his administration with people who felt the same way.
As a reserve Naval Flight Officer qualified in the A-6 “Intruder,” John Lehman delighted in pulling his rank as Secretary to get a hop as often as his time would permit. The insight thus gained, along with his experience as a former “Naval Person” in dealing with the Congress and the other services, makes creditable his observation that “The Senate Armed Services Committee and especially its staff (was) full of Navy grudges and (with) personal scores to settle.” Nor does Mr. Lehman miss the cultural aspect of the issue when he cites the enmity of the “feminist and gay movements,” noting that “they piled on because this Navy (to them) epitomized – the macho culture of the military” that they wished to bring down.
All the foregoing was having an effect in support of Bob Stumpf’s confirmation after his second selection, even to the extent that it was being supported publicly and before the Congress in testimony by Navy Secretary Dalton and Admiral Boorda, the Chief of Naval Operations. Then, as the chronology included with the Board for Correction of Naval Records letter to the Secretary shows (Note 9) another review of Commander Stumpf’s conduct was ordered by Mr. Dalton in May of 1996. This is the last step in the sequence of events until the October 1, 1996, date when Bob Stumpf’s exasperation with the harassment he was undergoing from the Secretary’s attorney resulted in his request for retirement, then in the grade of Commander.
Note 9. The part of the chronology referred to here extends from 28 Feb.’96 to 1 Oct.’96 as follows:
28 Feb 96: SECNAV letter – to Petitioner’s counsel, explaining the removal decision – denied that “political pressure and threats
to Navy programs and flag [admiral] selections by certain [SASC] members require the removal (of Stumpf). He stated he “supported
[Petitioner] and recommended his promotion,” but he “ – could not in good faith uphold [his] responsibilities if he allowed [Petitioner]
to become a Captain on the basis of a Senate vote that was premised on mistaken information provided by the Navy.”
12 Mar 96: SECNAV and the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) appeared before the SASC and provided testimony supportive
May 96: SECNAV directed the Assistant General Counsel (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) to conduct a “fresh” investigation
into Petitioner’s conduct at Tailhook.
1 Oct 96: Petitioner voluntarily retired, despite his FY 97 selection, as he felt his name would not be resubmitted to the Senate.
Referring to the chronology and the 28 February ’96 letter to Bob Stumpf’s counsel from Secretary Dalton, he makes two points that need further amplification. First is the statement of denial that he was reacting to threats from the SASC (either overt or implied) that programs or flag selections would be held hostage unless the Secretary struck Stumpf’s name from the list of those already confirmed as a result of the first selection in FY95.
While there is little doubt that Secretary Dalton was feeling the pressure from certain members of the SASC and other members of the Senate to help them off the hook, the practical fact is that that game never works in the long run and they all know it. Any attempt to hold up programs that involve other states and other senators over one man would create a fire storm and would be quickly abandoned since he had already been confirmed.
Second, the Secretary’s statement that “he could not in good faith uphold (his) responsibilities if he allowed (Bob Stumpf) to become a Captain on the basis of a Senate vote – premised on mistaken information – “ may be challenged as simply a lame excuse to cover his real motive. The SASC had already told him that he had the right to promote based on the actual record of the Senate’s confirmation and the Navy had already fulfilled the requirements as set forth in the law to clear Bob Stumpf’s name, i.e., that he was “mentally, physically, morally and professionally qualified,” despite the failure to alert the Senate initially. [Title 10, USCA, Sec. 624(d)(2)]
Secretary Dalton needed only to send a letter back to the SASC citing the foregoing and taking the responsibility so to do. Why didn’t he?
To explain my theory requires that I go back to a period when we had a courageous Secretary in Thomas S. Gates, Jr. and tough personnel problems to solve that required new laws.
If merely accepting as a “done deal” the first selection of Commander Stumpf (one single individual) already confirmed, was looked at as too tough to handle by the Senate because of the threat to a senators reelection, consider what those senators would have had to face in passing a law that would alter the life (and income) of almost every senior officer in the Navy following WWII. That is exactly what Navy Secretary Thomas Gates and CNO Admiral Arleigh Burke were asking the Congress to do in early 1958.
Either new legislation or application of a law already on the books was required to eliminate a substantial number of high ranking regular officers, concentrated in just a dozen years by first date of commission. It was needed to provide an orderly flow through grades and jobs to keep the Navy and Marine Corps vigorous, adaptable in pursuit of changing technologies and advances in tactical employment.
Tom Gates had served as an Air Intelligence officer on the staff of Admiral Calvin Durgin, USNA Class of 1916, commanding a carrier division in the Pacific during WWII. With his wartime service as background and his quality of speaking directly to the point with no equivocation, he was serving the Navy at just the right time. Through previous testimony when Admiral Burke was the featured witness before the SASC, with Senator Stennis presiding, the Senate had indicated their acceptance of new legislation on the assumption that it would begin in the House. This was H.R.4413, referred to as the “Hump” Bill and since it included money as part of the problem’s solution, by law it had to pass the House first.
The House was moving too slowly to suit Secretary Gates so he called a meeting in his office of those in the chain that were involved. With the Secretary at his desk and his Aide Captain Noel Gayler, USNA Class 1935, at his side, others present were Admiral Arleigh Burke, USNA Class 1923, Chief of Naval Operations; Vice Admiral Page Smith, USNA Class 1924, Chief of Naval Personnel; Rear Admiral John Sidney McCain, Jr., USNA Class 1931, (known fleet-wide as “Junior”), Legislative Liaison; Richard Jackson, Asst. SecNav, (Manpower & Reserve Affairs) and his Aide Commander Elmo R. Zumwalt, USNA Class 1943 (“Bud”); and the writer, as Officer Promotion Plans and action officer for the legislation, who presented the status of the legislation and the options.
The House Armed Services Committee was knowledgeable as to what was needed but was not convinced that it had to be done in the present session. One option, in view of House reluctance to proceed, was to invoke Sec. 6406 of Title 10, USC, a long forgotten provision of the law not used much, if any, since the early 19th century. It was known as the “furlough” provision. It permitted the Secretary of the Navy to furlough any Regular Navy officer at half his base pay. While it would provide the vacancies needed for jobs, it had the disadvantage of keeping them on the lineal list so that they would continue to accrue retired pay until completing time in grade for that purpose.
Among the many comments from those assembled was one from Admiral McCain, in his gravelly voice, pointing out that it wouldn’t please the Congress. Secretary Gates’ retort was that “you can’t please the Congress no matter what you do – if it is legal it is worth a try.” To his credit Tom Gates then acceded to the next suggestion from Admiral McCain that he seek a date with the House Armed Services Committee Chairman, Carl Vinson, to discuss it privately.
Accompanied by Page Smith, Tom Gates met with Carl Vinson at a private lunch where he outlined in a very positive way, his plan to use the “furlough” provision in lieu of a new law. When he finished Carl Vinson simply said “Don’t you do that Mr. Secretary. We will give you the legislation that you want.” That was enough to guarantee passage.
Shortly after, when called upon to accompany Secretary Gates to the Capitol on another issue, we stopped first at the office of then Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy where Secretary Gates had been granted time for a brief meeting. Emerging after about ten minutes Secretary Gates said almost jubilantly, “Neil said your policies are rough but right” followed by “lets go!”
In a nutshell the foregoing demonstrates that the only check to exercising the power a Secretary of the Navy has, once there is a law on the books or one is passed by the Congress, is through the Secretary of Defense to the President. SecDef approval may be overturned by the President, of course, but, except in rare cases, it is enough for the Secretary of Defense to ascertain the President’s will in advance if necessary and then speak for him. This is, I believe, what happened.
According to Carl Smith, when Secretary Dalton had the legal right to promote Commander Stumpf to the grade of Captain after he was confirmed following his first selection but instead removed his name from the FY95 Captain promotion list, Senator John McCain was furious. As Carl Smith remembers it, John McCain called Secretary Dalton, saying that he had heard what he had done to Bob Stumpf. Reminding Secretary Dalton that he (McCain) had been the one that had gone to bat for him to secure his confirmation as Secretary of the Navy (which had been in doubt at the time) and that he could never expect help from him again.
If Secretary Dalton was truthful in his statement of support for Bob Stumpf and, with Stumpf already confirmed, he was aware that there were enough senators on the SASC to allay any outcry on the floor as evinced by John McCain’s outrage at his failure to promote, then, I submit, he may well have been following the instructions of the Secretary of Defense and/or the President.
Looking at an alternative course of action that might have been the Secretary’s choice regarding the FY95 list, it is conceivable that his decision was to wait for the second selection which would have had the advantage, in his mind, of chastising Bob Stumpf for any transgression (since he would lose seniority in rank) while allowing the storm to subside. But that is belied by the action he took after the second selection which, once again, was calculated to deny Bob Stumpf his fourth stripe.
Enter now Admiral Jeremy Boorda, (“Mike”), Chief of Naval Operations. Already being severely criticized for losing the Pacific Command for Admiral Arthur and folding under pressure on virtually every controversial feminist issue faced by the Navy, “Mike” Boorda had staked his four stars on getting Bob Stumpf finally promoted following his second selection.
At a major affair at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, on Friday, May 10, 1996, with distinguished guests present in great numbers including former President George H.W. Bush, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, USNA Class 1933, retired CNO and former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, remembers asking Admiral Boorda at some time during the seminar the key question on Bob Stumpf. Would he support Commander Stumpf's promotion to Captain now that he had been selected for the grade a second time? His answer was an unequivocal "yes!" Only six days after that Jeremy Boorda committed suicide. (Note 10)
Note 10. Commander Paul Galanti, USN(Ret), recalls the details of Admiral Tom Moorer's appearance at one event during this seminar when he rose to comment on the position taken by a flag panel in lauding the results of "political correctness" as applied to current manpower selection, training and performance in the fleet. Commander Galanti's remembrance of that moment, in part in his own words, follows:
"I was at a Navy Air Museum incident involving Admiral Moorer, one of my
all-time favorite people - here's what transpired: It was the flag panel - four
Navy Admirals and a Marine General - the highest aviator flags - who were
introduced in the classic salute to diversity. The Navy flags heaped lavish
praise on their charges, lauding particularly and disproportionately how well
the women were working out in the fleet and how fortunate we were to have
them there - and how their presence brought a modicum of class and decorum
to the wardrooms.
When it came time for Q&A, Admiral Moorer, seated in the front row - stood
up, took the wireless mike and blasted out, "I don't have a question but I
do have a statement about what I've just heard and it saddens me to have to
say it. I'm accusing you right now, right here, of moral cowardice. You
know what you are saying isn't true and you are saying it simply to reduce
the heat. That is wrong." He looked like he might want to say something else
but, apparently, thought better of it. He handed the mike back to the usher
and sat down, folded his arms and sat back in his chair.
There was an instant, huge standing ovation from the 50% WWII, 25% Korean
and 20% or so Vietnam Naval Aviators in attendance. The active duty folks
looked very uncomfortable - especially the Marines - and I got the feeling
most agreed and were embarrassed that they couldn't applaud or say what they
(The foregoing has been checked with Admiral Moorer and he agrees in general with this account).
The day Mike Boorda shot himself he was scheduled to meet that afternoon with the Deputy Secretary of Defense, followed by a meeting with the President later. As the Goldwater-Nichols Act makes the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the spokesman for all the services the individual service chiefs are granted time with the President under only the most extraordinary circumstances. It is possible that he was going to see the President in an effort to get his support for Bob Stumpf based on the knowledge that the President was opposed and had so informed the Navy Secretary. If that were the case, in view of Secretary Dalton’s support before the Senate on 12 March, 1996, it would explain why he had ordered his Assistant General Counsel to conduct another investigation of Bob Stumpf in May of that year.
There are any number of theories about why Mike Boorda ended his life – the latest one in the book, “No One Left Behind” by Amy Waters Yarsinske, about LCDR Scott Speicher, the F/A-18 pilot that was shot down oner Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.
The determination that Scott Speicher had been killed in action was made hastily by Admiral Mike Boorda in conjunction with Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney when Boorda was Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP). According to author Yarsinske, when supposedly incontrovertible evidence was presented to “Mike” on May 14, 1996, that LCDR Speicher had at least survived the ejection from his F/A-18, “Boorda was completely taken aback.” Further description focuses on his dismay and reluctance to accept this turn of events, particularly when it is conveyed to him by the man who had married Scott Speicher’s supposed widow.
There is a connection with Bob Stumpf here as well. As executive officer of VFA-83 Stumpf was leading his squadron pilots in the air over Iraq that first night of the first Gulf War, while Speicher was part of the VFA-81 flight led by Commander Spock Anderson. Both Anderson and Stumpf were convinced from their in-flight observations and subsequent debrief analysis that Speicher’s F/A-18 had been hit by an air-to-air missle from a Mig-25, or a “Mig sweeper” unintentionally, in which case it would be friendly fire. The airborne controller that night was an Air Force AWACS that had refused permission to fire at a Mig when requested by Anderson until the “bogey” could be declared a “bandit.” When it was so identified it was too late for Anderson to shoot him down.
Stumpf was close enough to see the explosion that probably took Speicher’s Hornet down and the assumption remains that it was a Mig-25 – possibly with a Russian pilot that had been training the Iraqi pilots. But Stumpf along with other VFA pilots airborne that night were distressed to learn that Speicher had been declared “killed in action” (KIA) as opposed to “missing in action” (MIA) so soon without any serious attempt at rescue.
Stumpf was convinced that Scott Speicher had survived by ejecting and was either waiting to be picked up or was already a prisoner. By Mike Boorda hastily declaring him dead in his effort to support Defense Secretary Cheney’s offhand statement to the press that he was, Stumpf and the other SARATOGA pilots who thought differently, knew that any search and rescue attempt had been abandoned. Unfortunately Stumpf, Anderson and the other pilots that were airborne that night were not senior enough to get through to higher command. Even though SARATOGA’s Air Wing Commander has assumed that he had been brought down by a surface-to-air missle with little chance of survival and this information had been relayed by the Fleet Commander to Mike Boorda as Chief of Naval Personnel at the time, his statement to Cheney that he was certainly dead at a time when he was just listed as “missing” was unnecessarily premature.
Although the subject of this essay is Robert Stumpf, now a Captain, USN(Ret), the actions taken by Admiral Jeremy Boorda in connection with the Stumpf promotion and Boorda’s eventual suicide are inextricably linked. Not long after Mike Boorda’s demise a call was received from Peter Boyer, an author working for The New Yorker, asking for an interview that would provide him with background information on the Navy and focusing on both Stumpf and Boorda’s suicide. We spent several hours together and his article entitled “What Killed Admiral Boorda” appeared in the New Yorker’s September 16, 1996 issue.
A few weeks after the first interview with Peter Boyer a call was received from Nick Kotz, writing for The Washingtonian and also interested in getting background information for his essay on Boorda’s death, published in that magazine in the December 1996 issue under the title “Breaking Point.” Both Peter Boyer and Nick Kotz had the same curiosity about the importance of Boorda’s affectation in awarding himself the combat distinguishing “V” on the ribbons of two medals that he had routinely displayed. Their questions were the same about what was the most important initiator in Boorda’s suicide – i.e., the expose on his personal upgrade of military awards sans written justification or his failure to ensure the promotion to Captain of Bob Stumpf. My answer was “both taken together could have been sufficient.
[One must understand the origin of the “combat V.” Official Army and Navy WWII publications on authorized decorations and campaign medals, such as J.A.N. #1, show nothing available for valor below the Silver Star since it was not until close to the war’s end that the Bronze Star and the Service’s individual Commendation “Ribbon” came into being. Awarded one of the latter first as an ensign for service during RAY’s fourth war patrol in 1944, the citation was temporary and classified, referred only to a ribbon with no combat “V” specified as the citation wording made it superfluous at that time and no medal had as yet been designed. There was good reason then to delay instruction on how to differentiate between the award given for “valor” as opposed to just “good and faithful” service. The country was fast running out of vitally needed copper for war material resulting in desperate appeals on the home front for contributions of that metal in scrap drives, while also replacing steel for copper in the minting of pennies and no one was going to draw down the copper stockpile just to produce bronze medals.
It was the wisdom of the military leadership at that time to appreciate how quickly decorations for valor to be awarded to largely junior officers and enlisted personnel would be degraded by their proliferation throughout the support tail and the shore establishment. So the “combat V” became virtually a separate decoration in itself. Everyone knew that! There is no way that a Chief of Naval Operations could “tell the truth” about what he had done without admitting that he knowingly decorated himself.]
It is Colin Walters’ book review on “The Suicidal Mind” by Edwin S. Shneidman in the Washington Times of June 2, 1996, that neatly ties together the medals, the failure to carry through on his pledge to see Bob Stumpf promoted and Jeremy Boorda’s feelings of insecurity that Walters attributes to the “tension between wanting autonomy and needing to belong.” Future historians need only read Peter Boyer’s insightful New Yorker article to marvel at Boorda’s devotion to trivia in his support of women manifestly unqualified to participate in the combat arms, while joining with the politicians in their attempts to emasculate the last vestige of a warrior culture to the applause of those who never could themselves compete.
In the brief description previously drawn of the meeting in the Secretary of the Navy’s office when the incumbent was Thomas Gates and the Chief of Naval Operations was Arleigh Burke, it was noted that Secretary Gates routinely looked to Admiral Burke for agreement on many of his points during the discussion which was met with a nod of the head. There was one rather far out point, however, where the Secretary turned to him and met the cold, blue eyes and level gaze that accompanied the statement, “I don’t think that is a good idea” and the Secretary turned away dropping it immediately. One could see the valiant destroyer man, chief of staff to the fast carrier task force commander and a leader in the “revolt of the admirals” in the twinkling of an eye. Admiral Burke dominated the room with his presence without any reference to the ribbons on his chest.
In this sense Arleigh Burke was following in the footsteps of a long line of CNO’s who understood their job was to protect the interests of “their” Navy and to be the spokesman for all of its uniformed personnel. Certainly that was true of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King as recorded in the diaries of Field-Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, as a witness to the way King would fight for “his Navy” often to England’s displeasure during their wartime conferences, but with grudging respect for him as a result. He was the one man at the elbow of President Roosevelt who was unbending in his support, not just for the Navy, but for America’s interests as well.
Admiral Thomas H. Moorer may be viewed as another who had carried on that tradition, having served as a younger officer under the personal direction of Admiral King following his heroic efforts to save his men after his aircraft was shot down in the Pacific and in escaping with them to Australia. While serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff it was he who convinced the President, then Richard Nixon, to use the full force of the Nation’s air power against North Vietnam in the Christmas bombing of 1972 to free our prisoners despite the opposition of politicians in both the Senate and Department of Defense. In the latter case when Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird complained of being bypassed Admiral Moorer was quick to point out that he, Laird, had not been bypassed but overruled.
When Colin Walters speaks of “needing to belong” as perhaps Jeremy Boorda’s problem without specificity, a major point is missed, it is submitted here, that may be the key. Jeremy Boorda was trying to belong to the wrong team when he had been placed at the head of an organization that by its very nature is most often the antithesis of the political hierarchy constituted by the civilians in the Pentagon and those in the Congress and the Administration.
Turning again to Colin Gray and his book on Modern Strategy he puts the matter bluntly in writing, first “The culture, ethos, and skills most typical respectively of politicians and generals (admirals) work systemically to impair genuine communication between them.” Then he becomes brutally frank in stating “Words are the stock-in-trade of the politician. In addition, political leaders, especially war leaders, are likely to lean on the side of undeniable eloquence - - but eloquence per se is not highly regarded in the military profession. Generals (admirals) are liable to find their political masters to be glib wind bags - - (while) politicians are liable to find generals (admirals) both inarticulate and hence presumably intellectually limited and therefore to be despised or patronized.” Later he says “Above all else, the professional military person must be viewed by politicians – and military subordinates – as a repository of sound military advice.”
Boorda’s eagerness to accede to SecDef Cheney’s implied desire that Scott Speicher be declared “KIA” as opposed to “MIA” is a classic example. Cheney, the consummate politician with no military experience and largely incapable of visualizing the circumstances in which a downed pilot might find himself, looked to the Chief of Naval Personnel for “sound military advice” which he failed to get. Boorda’s duty was to keep every option open for one of his officers to be rescued or accurately accounted for and a press briefing by a politician is no excuse for abdicating that responsibility.
[To many who have not themselves been exposed to the exigencies of rescue efforts in a combat environment, the idea that a possible failure in accomplishment could lead to thoughts of suicide, as author Amy Yarsinske speculated, may be seen as stretching a point. The fact of the matter is that rescue and/or recovery of wounded is part and parcel of what U.S. military people are trained for. Two examples are cited.
On 15 May, 1945, USS RAY (SS271), on her 7th war patrol en route to her assigned area in the Yellow Sea, was proceeding submerged headed northeast off the west coast of Kyushu. Surfacing just after dark, and quite by chance as RAY’s Communication & Gunnery officer, I had stepped into the radio-shack prior to taking the watch on the bridge as scheduled. A new VHF frequency had been established for aircraft in distress to use when well within enemy waters in an attempt to contact a friendly submarine, but submarines were not required to guard it on a continuous basis. Upon tuning it in a faint call for help was heard from a Martin PBM “Mariner” patrol bomber. Establishing verbal contact the lead patrol plane commander reported that one of their squadron aircraft that had been downed by Japanese fighters, had survivors in the water clinging to their life rafts in heavy seas and appealed for help. Reported this to the bridge then in the process of being cleared, diving again to avoid a fast closing aircraft contact subsequently identified as friendly by IFF and the PBM with whom I had made contact.
RAY’s captain, Commander William T. Kinsella, USNA Class 1934, ordered his communicator to maintain contact with the lead PBM and relay instructions as he surfaced RAY and took the conn on the bridge. Survivors were 25 miles southwest of RAY’s position, in mountainous seas, with a wind force of 20 knots. The lead PBM elected to remain over RAY while directing the second PBM to remain over survivors dropping flares as necessary to provide an aim point in the black night. With RAY making turns for 15 knots but recording only 8 knots over the ground with solid water coming over the bridge, with survivors drifting rapidly towards the rocks and with a reef between our position and the life rafts, Bill Kinsella knew that he had a tough job ahead. This was not helped when the defenses of Nagasaki were alerted by RAY’s near approach some three hours after making initial contact and its coastal area lighted up with sweeping searchlights accompanied by warning flares.
Using their landing lights the two PBM’s lighted the area of the rafts while RAY focused her searchlight on the survivors so that in his approach with the heavy sea running the Captain would not run them down while making a lee for their recovery by our rescue crew on deck. It was midnight and the survivors had been in the water at a temperature of 58 degrees since noon of that day. Already exhausted fighting wind and water coated with oil, much of which they had swallowed, none were in a condition to climb aboard RAY with the heavy seas sweeping over the deck without the help of our sailors, two of whom were swept overboard themselves but were quickly recovered. One survivor so exhausted he was almost lost but pulled up by the hands of the crew as Bill Kinsella closed on him with RAY then just 3,000 yards from the rocks.
We recovered ten men. Three were lost shortly after their aircraft had been ditched, ending in a trough successfully only because the enemy attack had damaged both engine and control surfaces precluding a landing into the wind where the 30-40 foot high waves would have destroyed it upon impact. As their tactics were to patrol in pairs for mutual support their sister PBM had already been lost with no survivors in the first enemy attack. It remained for their squadron’s evening patrol to conduct the search but with the sea conditions encountered there was no way that a PBM, even though a seaworthy flying boat, could have made a successful recovery.
Bill Kinsella’s courage, perseverance and ship handling skill made the rescue possible while risking his ship and men in so doing, but that was no different than the even greater risk taken during an attack on enemy ships. One can hardly argue that saving our own is less important than killing the enemy under those circumstances. That was recognized through the endorsements to RAY’s Seventh War Patrol Report all the way up the chain of command to Commander, Submarines Pacific Fleet; as well as the message of appreciation received from Patrol Bombing Squadron Eighteen. The survivors were transferred to the USS POMPON (SS267) for safe return so that RAY could continue on patrol.
The second example is unique and thus little known. It was carried out by (then) Lieutenant Commander Thomas H. Moorer under the personal direction of General Douglas MacArthur.
After General MacArthur had been taken from Corregidor to Mindanao by John Bulkley’s motor torpedo boat he was flown by a Navy patrol plane (PBY) “Catalina” to Australia where he set up his headquarters initially in Canberra. The U.S. Navy PBY’s were based in Darwin at the time and Tom Moorer was a member of that squadron. As such he was assigned as the pilot to conduct a highly classified rescue mission for a dozen or more Australian special forces troops that had become isolated on the island of Timor in an unsuccessful effort allied with the Dutch against the Japanese takeover of that island. The survivors and wounded had escaped to east Timor, which territory then was a possession of Portugal and a neutral country in the time of WWII.
Reporting to General MacArthur for instructions and briefing, Lieutenant Commander Moorer learned the reason for the sensitivity and secret classification of his assignment which he never revealed until many years later when the Australians themselves broadcast the story on their TV.
Meeting as directed one-on-one with the General, Tom Moorer outlined his plan of approach. The survivors were on the beach which the Japanese patrolled off shore in motor torpedo boats. With the “reliable and accurate radio direction finding system” Japan had setup in the Pacific he knew that his approach would have to be without noise or radio communication of any sort. His plan was to come in at a very high altitude allowing him to cut his engines when sixty miles out from his touch-down point and glide to a water landing as noiselessly as possible. To do so he needed to have the beach marked with two bond fires close together where the survivors would be waiting and another fire set fifty yards downwind from that for use as a landing point.
Aware, also, that he would have a full load of very hungry men Tom Moorer suggested the need for enough food to feed them including one roasted turkey and one baked ham ready to eat. To every requirement or suggestion the General reacted by pressing one of several buttons on his desk, each one in turn calling a different colonel into his office to be tasked, each of which then left immediately to carry out his orders.
In summing up his plan to the General, Tom Moorer gave him his estimated time to fly the 360 nautical mile route that he had plotted to Timor, his estimated time of departure so that the survivors could be ready to be picked up and, based upon that ETD, his estimated time of arrival (ETA) back at his base in Darwin so that they could be whisked away with a minimum of visibility. The only people who had a conceptual knowledge of the rescue operation were Douglas MacArthur and Tom Moorer, which is what the General intended.
Taking off from Darwin the flight went as planed, the bonfires were set, the landing made even though the water was very rough. Tom Moorer’s crew, in rubber boats, were able to get the survivors from shore to aircraft and inside in safety. When all were taken aboard (one of the wounded missing his lower jaw) the PBY was so crowded that Tom Moorer could not get through it requiring him to walk along the top of the fuselage to drop into the pilot seat through the escape hatch located above it. The return flight to Darwin went without incident with Tom Moorer missing his ETA by just one minute.
No account of this successful rescue operation was ever made public by Admiral Moorer until the Australians themselves, whom he had carried from Timor to Darwin, told the story as part of a WWII documentary on their television which, by chance, Tom Moorer saw and heard many years after he had retired. As a result he contacted the producer of the show and asked and received the name and address of the survivor that told the story on TV. With that in hand he wrote to him, saying that if he would send the name and address of all those who were still living he would personally write to each and everyone. He did. Tom Moorer was as good as his word in writing and a lively correspondence resulted between them all, particularly since none of them had any idea of who their rescue pilot was and that he had risen to be the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Then one day while living in his retirement home he received a call from a young man who requested a moment of his time for a brief interview which he willingly granted. The young man was visiting in this country from his native Australia and merely wished to shake the hand and thank the man who had rescued his grandfather, saying that had he not done so ”he would not be living today.”
And so it was with those rescued from almost certain death by the RAY, many of whom have joined with the officers and men of that submarine in their reunions since the end of WWII. Patrol Bombing Squadron Eighteen’s detailed report of their losses and the recovery was received some years ago from one of their officers with a covering letter that stated in part “- - many prayers must have guided your submarine to the crash site off Nagasaki (and) a life saving nightmare seems almost unreal, but with your guidance and the seamanship of your captain and crew it was a great and successful feat.”
Can anyone doubt that the inner satisfaction felt by those who made a future life possible for others as recounted above transcends any award represented by a mere medal?]
In Peter Boyer’s New Yorker article he attributes to Charles Gittins (Bob Stumpf’s attorney) the belief that Boorda “was driven to despair by Navy Secretary Dalton’s ordering another investigation of the Stumpf case” as opposed to the expose in Newsweek over awarding himself the combat ‘V’s. But Tom Moorer is quoted immediately after as thinking that a “full-court press” on the medals “would be interpreted as a failure on his part, a weakness in the area of honor- -’’and thus ending his own life was thought to be atonement for disgracing the high office of CNO.
Colin Walters, in his book review of “The Suicidal Mind,” probes even deeper in his implication that Admiral Jeremy Boorda ultimately succumbed to “the feeling that he was an imposter” as the Navy’s leader. Perhaps his failure to match the forthright stand taken by the long line of his predecessors, who were truly combat veterans, in defending the Navy’s cultural traditions had finally been found out. No one can discern with certainty the mental trigger that leads one to end his life so abruptly, but for those who follow the sea the similarity to Joseph Conrad’s great story of “Lord Jim” may provide a partial answer.
In any event when “Mike” Boorda chose to “bow-out” in such impetuous fashion the last chance for any reversal of Secretary Dalton’s opposition to Bob Stumpf’s second selection to the grade of Captain vanished. In the light of the Secretary’s recorded personal support for Bob Stumpf up to the demand for a second investigation the question remains as to who was responsible for the ultimate decision. Bear in mind that, under the law, the removal of an officer’s name from a selection list, however administratively delegated, remains a prerogative of the President. In view of the high visibility attained by the circumstances surrounding Commander Robert Stumpf it is highly unlikely that any such decicion could be made other than at the direction of the President.
Under U.S. law a civilian appointee of the President serving in an executive position requiring confirmation by the Senate cannot act contrary to the President’s wishes when those are made known to him. (An exception is made for military witnesses testifying under oath before the Congress when asked for their personal opinion which, again, is consistent with the need the members must have for “sound military advice.”) It strains the credulity of reasonable people to think that William Jefferson Clinton would be willing to step up in support of Robert Stumpf while he was, himself, under investigation by a federal prosecutor for words and deeds far more abominable than anything that occurred at “Tailhook.”
A perusal of the documentation included in the body of the Board for Correction of Naval Records report and recommendation letter to Secretary of the Navy, dated 23 May 2002, in the case of CDR Robert E. Stumpf, supports the theory that the chain of command below the President were reacting to Clinton’s verbal wishes. Every step in the chronology has a specific date with the exception of the SECNAV direction to “conduct a ‘fresh’ investigation into Petitioner’s conduct at Tailhook.” (See Note 9 above.) It is listed only as occurring in May 1996, There is no way to tell whether it occurred before “Mike” Boorda’s suicide or after. There seems to be no written documentation of the directive itself from the Navy Secretary to Legal Counsel and sub-paragraph (c) below it acknowledges “that the findings of that investigation were not recorded in a formal memorandum.”
Note 11. Although the investigation ordered by SECNAV in May was listed as being still another on “Petitioner’s” conduct, that is not the way it turned out. Instead CDR Stumpf’s use of his aircraft for travel to and from the west coast took a form of harassment designed to force his retirement request. By an exchange of e-mail letters between the writer and CDR Stumpf’s attorney the pertinent facts of that investigation are revealed. Those letters are reprinted as follows:
(a) Hill to Gittins: What I have learned from conversations with people who would normally be favorable to Bob Stumpf when I have
informed them of what I am doing (in this essay), is the question that they have regarding his use of naval aircraft to attend Tailhook
’91. Very few know of the reason for his so doing or that he had official permission to do same. I think it important to have accurate
notes in the essay on that issue.
I know that he had a tight schedule to meet, that he had an award to get that his chain of command wanted him to receive and that
he had been given authority by higher command to use his aircraft in a training mode. However I don’t know by whose authority. In all
that has been written about the incident I have never seen those details, which I think the essay should be able to relate.
I do know that had I been his senior and in a position to grant him that authority, I would have lost no time in announcing publicly
for the record that he had done nothing wrong and that I had given him that authority. Why did this not occur?
As I understand it, those were questions posed to him by Dalton’s attorney during that last so-called investigation, so would
appreciate what facts you can give to me.
(b) Gittins to Hill: You are exactly right about the F-18 flight to George AFB – they even flew (flight of two aircraft – Cdr Stumpf and Lt
Lang Sias) farther west so as not to have F-18’s parked on the ramp at Nellis.
The Monday following Tailhook, Bob’s squadron was undergoing some sort of pre-deployment evaluation from outside the
Airwing. The specifics now escape me. But Bob planned to go on the C-9 because it was scheduled to return on Sunday night. At the
last minute the C-9 schedule changed and it would not be back for the Monday start of the evaluation of VFA-83. Accordingly, Bob
went to the Commodore at NAS Cecil Field, told him of the problem. The Commodore specifically approved the use of the aircraft and
for Bob to take the aircraft on a cross-country to George AFB, from where Bob drove to LV with Lang Sias. If Bob would have not
taken the aircraft, he would not have been present to receive the award on behalf of his squadron, which had received the award for the
period that incorporated Desert Storm!!!
While his nomination was being held up, the Navy was asked this specific question by the SASC. Admiral Bob Natter responded
in writing; he told the SASC that the trip was approved. There is specific documentation directed to the SASC in which the whole thing
is laid out. At the Board of Inquiry, this issue came up and was resolved through flag officer testimony (I think it was Maslowski) and
the testimony of Bob’s Executive Officer, CDR George “Rico” Mayer, who was privy to the issues and the decision.
What was really mind-numbingly curious about the “Fresh Look Inquiry” ordered by Dalton is that the Navy staff had fully
investigated this issue and provided a written response to the SASC. Hard to believe that anything Bob would have said could have
changed the facts, which were well-established and fully documented two years before the fresh-look inquiry ever was ordered.
Natter’s paper was an exhibit to the Application for Correction of Naval Records.
The foregoing, together with the reputation that the Clinton “team” had established of seeking to leave no footprints when faced with accepting responsibility for things that went wrong, lends further credibility to the theory. It is an enigma that requires an explanation from former Secretary Dalton as to why he changed his mind in some two months from his support of Commander Stumpf before the Senate Committee and his withdrawal of that support and subsequent “third degree” type harassment by his legal counsel designed to force Bob Stumpf to submit his request for retirement in the grade of commander that occurred on 1 October 1996.
Had it not been for the detailed, deliberate and patient work of attorney Charles W. Gittins the story might have ended here for Robert E. Stumpf as Commander, USN (Ret). Certainly the Board for Correction of Naval Records and Assistant Secretary of the Navy William A. Navas, Jr. also deserve much credit for their sense of justice and the courage to do what was required to right a great wrong. Their joint decision to restore Bob Stumpf’s rank as Captain, U.S. Navy dating from what would have been his date of rank on the active list following his first selection and confirmation by the Senate was commendable. But, it is submitted here, that the Administration could and should have done more.
To support that last statement requires a return to the Dreyfus Affair and completion of that story. It was left at the conclusion of the second trial with no clear-cut vindication of Alfred Dreyfus and with Emile Zola in exile. But what Georges Clemenceau and Emile Zola had started eventually resulted in a prolonged contest between the supporters of Dreyfus and “the reactionaries, anxious to secure the support of the army.” As the Britannica puts it, “in this critical situation France, to her eternal honor, found men with sufficient courage to do the right (thing).” There was a suicide involved here too when a Colonel Henry, an intelligence officer, confessed to having forged a document used to convict Dreyfus. When placed under arrest he cut his own throat.
Although it took ten years to correct the illegality and injustice to which Alfred Dreyfus had been subjected, a special commission and court of cassation “declared unanimously that the whole accusation against Dreyfus had been disproved and quashed the judgment of the (second) court-martial.” This was followed by the government restoring Dreyfus to active duty, promoting him to the rank of major and creating him a knight of the Legion of Honour with a public ceremony held in the “artillery pavilion of the military school.” Beyond the 1911 Britannica, history records that Alfred Dreyfus served through the 1914-18 war, rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and honorably retired in 1918.
Of the men most responsible for righting the wrong Georges Clemenceau became premier of France, first in 1906, just three months before Dreyfus was restored to duty. Among his first acts in that capacity was to bring Colonel Picquart – the officer banished to North Africa in punishment for his strong defense of Dreyfus at the outset – back to France to be his minister of war. It was during his second service as premier in 1917 that Clemenceau rejuvenated the people of France to hold the line long enough for the Americans to provide the margin of victory in the first great war.
Emile Zola’s accidental death precluded his living long enough to witness his vindication as a crusader for truth and justice. But the key role that he had played in support of Alfred Dreyfus, in addition to his literary ability, led the French Chamber of Deputies to authorize the Pantheon as his final resting place “among that nation’s illustrious dead.”
Had the next step been taken in the case of Robert E. Stumpf, now a Captain, USN (Ret), I submit that it should have been to restore him to active duty and to be placed on the lineal list, positioned to allow his name to be considered for flag rank. He deserved no less than a Legion of Merit for withstanding, with dignity and respect, the full might of the U.S. Government that was unjustly brought against him.
In the Nelsonian “band of brothers” tradition no greater accolade can be accorded between one officer and another than a request to serve at sea with him. It works both ways between juniors and seniors alike. I am one who would have been honored to have Robert Stumpf serve with me under the most arduous conditions - - and I am not alone in this regard.
Throughout this essay the reference to the Naval Academy class of individual officers has had the larger purpose of illustrating the value of this institution to the nation based on the contributions of those graduates who have repaid the investment, made in them by their countrymen, through a lifetime of service. Although only a handful of the Navy’s great ones have been listed here they are exemplary of what the Academy was designed to produce.
Readers may well question, if Robert Stumpf was such an outstanding product of the Navy’s education and training from initial entry through maturation to be considered for the Navy’s top positions, why was he rejected for so long in such summary fashion? A comparison to the Dreyfus parallel is germane. By the time of his second court-martial the Britannica, in two short sentences provides the answer in writing, “By this time the question of guilt or innocence of Dreyfus had become an altogether subsidiary issue (as) it had passed into the hands of the political parties.” And so it was with Robert Stumpf.
Simply put, Stumpf became the victim of a double standard foisted on the military to meet a politicized agenda designed to transform the services. Therein lies the rub. It was not enough just to see the “GI” generation fade from the scene. The movers and shakers in the civilian side of the Pentagon (and many in the Congress) realized that changing the military to fit a preconceived design required their control of officer development and promotion from the junior grades through flag and general officer rank. To accomplish this required first firing the admirals and generals who were in opposition to be replaced by those willing “to go along to get along.” In so doing those provisions of the law are effectively usurped that had been designed to limit selection from grade to grade to just the uniformed professionals who knew, from education, training and experience, the art of war. The entire “Tailhook” episode fits the foregoing mold.
Admittedly the viewpoint of those who served through a period when all services, all units, all specialties and all men were involved in actual combat, is going to be focused on what it takes to defeat a determined enemy and survive – as was the case in WWII. One can hardly find fault with the demonstrated effectiveness of today’s elite units equipped with ultimate state of the art weapon systems when used against smaller adversaries. But the day may come when once again this nation will be face to face with an enemy worthy of its steel, as was the case with Germany and/or Japan. Then the outcome will not be so certain as to permit victory celebrations before the first shot is fired. And, once again, the nation will turn to the true professionals for leadership as occurred after December 7, 1941. As Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, USNA Class 1901, demonstrated, that role cannot be filled successfully by men willing to accept a “hat-in-hand” status in dealing with civilians.
Having had the opportunity to hear and question two of those great leaders at the Naval War College in 1962 an exchange of question and answer between them has never been forgotten. Dwight D. Eisenhower, USMA Class 1915, had left the Presidency shortly before and his five stars had been restored by an act of the Congress. He had the platform. Chester W. Nimitz, USNA Class 1905, was seated in the front row. When General of the Army Eisenhower concluded his address Fleet Admiral Nimitz rose to pose his question, saying “Ike, we hear a lot today in criticism of military leadership, often summed up with the statement that war is too important to be left to just the admirals and generals. How do you answer that?” With a smile General Eisenhower replied, “Chester, when I hear that I agree, but quickly retort, ‘yes, but the peace is too precious to be entrusted to just the civilians’”
Regarding the case of Bob Stumpf, the one person who, under the law, had the final say on his promotion -- up or down -- following confirmation by the Senate, was the President. And striking Stumpf’s name from the second selection list, however accomplished, required his agreement also. In the last analysis, I submit, that only Bill Clinton can be held ultimately responsible for the injustice done to Robert Stumpf; while Navy Secretary Dalton, who knew the facts and knew that Bob Stumpf was innocent of any of the charges brought against him, acted for Clinton, in my opinion, by accepting his role -- once described by Winston Churchill-- as the “merest utensil of his master’s will.”
But there is a deeper moral issue involved here than the injustice to just one individual. The foregoing narrative devotes many lines to the relationship between Jeremy Boorda and the civilian establishment in both the administration and the congress and his subservience to their wishes. Although he was not a graduate of the Naval Academy, Mike Boorda, in speaking publicly invariably emphasized that it was the example set by Naval Academy officers as he came up through the ranks that became the foundation of his beliefs, his conduct and his code. He was proud of being the product by transfer of what the Naval Academy’s indoctrination of class after class, year after year, had accomplished by inculcating in the minds of each of its graduates, the broader meaning of the term “officer and gentleman” as defined by John Paul Jones. As Admiral Lovette put it, “an officer corps attains its highest distinction when the two words are inseparable.”
Suicide can often be the result of depression stemming from feelings of failure, shame, or both. In the hours before he shot himself Jeremy Boorda faced the failure to secure Bob Stumpf’s promotion upon which he had publicly wagered his stars and the shame of having national publicity regarding the unauthorized upgrading his medals. Failure may be faced alone but when shame is involved it takes a man with a sense of honor to recognize it. In this respect it is my opinion that Jeremy Boorda demonstrated a higher order of honor-as-virtue by his death than many of the powerful men placed above him have showed in life.