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A Vietnam-Era Marine on “Social Engineering” at the U.S. Naval Academy

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Midshipmen on Stribling Walk at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

U.S. Marines have never been shy when it comes to calling it how they see it. And in conversations with many current and no-longer serving Marines (they dislike being called “former”), it’s clear the corps is the service most opposed to having women deployed in close ground combat.

Retired Marine lieutenant colonel Bill Hemingway, a member of the U.S. Naval Academy’s class of 1958, heard Vice Admiral Michael Miller, the academy superintendent, speak last month in Annapolis. When Hemingway got back home to Oregon, he sat down and wrote Miller a letter. Excerpts:

There have been too many bad things happening in the military of late, and unfortunately, the Academy mirrors this. I am concerned about the message that the present over-emphasis on military social engineering sends to the public, and how the Naval Academy is perceived as the result. Many individuals and families find these policies inconsistent with their values, and consequently would not encourage their family or acquaintances to join today’s Brigade of Midshipmen.

The cult of diversity has undermined the proper focus on mission accomplishment. Most of us who have actually fought “in the trenches” in wartime don’t really care what race, creed or color our comrades-in-arms are. When we call for support in a “danger close” situation we simply want the best qualified decision-makers in place to be dropping the bombs, firing the missiles or lobbing artillery our way. I don’t see how relaxed admissions and retention standards for minorities (or anyone else) at the premier officer training university in the country, does anything to foster confidence that we will have that first team in place when faced with life and death situations.

Women are wonderful human beings, however, no matter what laws, executive orders or directives are passed, the sexes will never be “equal.” (No man is capable of birthing a child.) Let us not forget that there is a natural phenomenon between men and women that cannot be ignored. The introduction of women into close, intimate, stressful and dangerous situations for extended periods of time has a price. Not infrequently there are battlefield conditions that require extraordinary physical strength and exertion. It is an incontrovertible physiological fact that very few women measure up to their male counterparts in this important combat requirement. Women are as capable as men in performing many military support functions. It is in these non-combat areas where we should utilize their irrefutable capabilities.

Last but not least, the reality of an openly gay Naval Academy is mind-boggling. My friend, John Ripley, is probably rolling over in his grave. Again, there are many environments where gays can function effectively and with minimal impact on the social fabric around them. But, the military is not one of them. A submarine or battlefield is not IBM or Wal-Mart or the NBA. War-fighting is serious business. The military can ill-afford the extra burden and tensions of accommodating the openly gay lifestyle.

Trying to force these changes is already costing the military billions of extra dollars annually. Maintenance of good order and discipline is challenged. The impact on unit readiness is already being felt. As these social engineering efforts are more fully implemented, the concomitant costs will only escalate. Our politicians are either incredibly naïve, willing to buy votes at any cost, or are purposely taking actions to degrade the finest military force the world has ever seen. The ineffective resistance to these ill-conceived policies by our top military leadership has also been disappointing.

The naval service is not about looking sharp, shuffling papers or making people feel good. It is primarily about accomplishing the mission and winning wars. If we don’t get our national priorities straight and our military doesn’t get re-focused, our armed forces may score high in political correctness, but will continue to get their butts kicked in far off places. It is going to take courageous, intelligent and ethical leadership to right this ship.

Admiral, I realize you are saddled with the dictates of your superiors. We have all had to hold our tongues and say, “aye, aye sir.” However, there are times when the very integrity and future viability of the institution are threatened, that the situation merits reasoned, but firm push-back. I am taking the time to tell you how a lot of us alumni feel about what is going on in the military and at the Academy. It is getting increasingly difficult to enthusiastically support even a revered establishment we believe is implementing wrong policies. My hope is that, even if you don’t agree with everything I have said, at least it will provide some useful insight and pause for reflection.

Hemingway is 77, and hung up his Marine dress blues and sword nearly 35 years ago. Younger Marines – those still working, either in or out of uniform – are less likely than Hemingway to rock the boat. And there are some — mostly younger — Marines who believe whatever compromises are made to build a more inclusive fighting force ultimately will yield a better military.

But Hemingway, who launched and ran an electronics company after 20 years in the corps, isn’t one of them. “There are some facts that just can’t be altered [and] no decree from any clueless, self-serving politician can change that,” he says. “In the serious business of war fighting, people die when you don’t have the best making the decisions and leading the troops.”

Hemingway says he has garnered widespread support from academy alumni, but that he’s still waiting for a response from Admiral Miller.

36 comments
Thundercloud59
Thundercloud59

I wonder if any of these people who advocate all kinds of change in the military ever take into consideration that many of these changes make our enemies hate us even more?  The changes that some say make us stronger and better actually make us appear weak and corrupt to our enemies.  They fear that if they lay down their arms we will force the same changes on them.  They seem to think that the only way to prevent this is to conquer us. Myself I believe that in the future they may just do that. I'm old  and I will probably be gone by then. I won't have to worry about it but I don't want future generations of Americans to have to face it.

veruus
veruus

Those "darn gays" have always been in.  I guarantee you that Hemingway shared a fighting position, shower and sat across from him on a toilet with no door while doing his business on numerous occasions during his career.

JoeBlowski
JoeBlowski

at any rate, the naval academy is considered enormously overrated. they produce mediocre engineers. 

JoeBlowski
JoeBlowski

the marines totally excluded blacks before 1947, and all throughout the 1950s were by far the most resistant to the 'social engineering' of desegregation. no doubt this benefited hemingway enormously. 

old white guys are scared of not having everything handed to them because of the color of their skin.  

GeorgeHilbert
GeorgeHilbert

"... but that he’s still waiting for a response from Admiral Miller."

The good admiral can't even muster the fortitude to direct one of his staff to write a response.

joerockbottom
joerockbottom

The general staff of the "finest military the world has ever seen" was pretty much incompetent in our recent wars. Maybe we should give someone else the chance to do better. 

Bolsterde
Bolsterde

As is Lt. Col. Hemingway,  I am very concerned about the "Progressives In-Charge" using the most powerful and highly efficient military in world history, to be used for experimenting with social engineering, political correctness, reducing the importance of worshiping our Creator and, as a result, risking the safety of our nation and it's citizens -- and this is exactly the risk! We are already in a heap of trouble! Our Lord is still in control, but we must NOT sit silently without making a lot of noise! Good job brother and when are our military leaders going to stand up to the "Progressive Leadership" and to do what is right for our nation founded by the writers of the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution and Bill of Rights, plus those brave military veterans who fought to preserve our rights and freedoms to speak publically, worship our Lord publically and to practice in a  free market economy? I fear they want to preserve their jobs and retirement benefits more than to continue fighting the enemies of America in DC!

bhemingway58
bhemingway58

It is pretty obvious that benbona and 9799 are "people without portfolio." They are only capable of regurgitating the progressive talking points, but have no relevant experience or expertise to back up their uninformed assertations. Been there, done that? Spew any further garbage you desire... I won't further respond. Don't have time to consort (even electronically) with fools.

benbona75
benbona75

What a jerk!!  Why didn't he stay in the Marines.  The current (and past) assaults, rapes and bigotry at the military academies has gone on since they began so why blame the politicians.  As far as I know they are places that are average schools with a little close order drilling thrown in.

9799
9799

All men are created equal...and why shouldn't this apply to women also?  They are only trying to protect that which they love, in any capacity.  Shouldn't this apply to homosexuals, too?

The problem with this letter is that he's lumping everyone together and indirectly comparing gays to women and vice versa.  By doing this it's kind of a generalization, and demeaning one:  Gay's are like women, lower on the chain, etc.  Women are weaker, like gay people...etc.  It's a typical comparison and not a very positive one. 


DennisCopson
DennisCopson

This guy knows what it's all about. Yet, he's criticized as being too old to have any legitimate opinion. My bet is that those doing the criticizing have never served a single day in our nation's armed services, and especially not in wartime. Yet the 'lefties' are all about making the military an equal opportunity employer as if it was a civilian job. That may work for the Air Force, but it will never work for the Army, Marines, or Navy. Social engineering is liberal crap being forced on the military by the cowardly, vote-gathering politicians and unknowing Congressional lackeys.

Neither the president nor an overwhelming preponderance of those in Congress has served a single day in our country's military. For them now to pander to a vocal and ultra-liberal minority seeking a liberal interpretation of society´s established mores is disturbing and quite revealing as to the total lack of any consideration of the residual effects of their actions. To politicize our military in a time of war is as incredibly contemptible as it is indisputably ignorant of the military as an institution, a separate and distinct body burdened with the most crucial tasks of defending our nation in a time of war.

Now, at a time when our military is as heavily engaged as it has been for more than forty years, at a time when individual troops are ordered to repeated deployments to the war zones, now in a time of military uncertainty and maximum commitment, is the wrong time for our politicians to advocate for a social engineering experiment by having endorsed an end to the current “don´t ask, don´t tell” policy.

To our politicians I say: Tinker with the civilian world if you must; do not impose your liberal agenda on America´s military for the purpose of vote gathering.

RWBolster
RWBolster

77 years old. Pretty much says it all. If there existed a shred of data showing that the inclusion of women, gays or any other minority had cost a mission, battle, or a life, it would have made its way into the abundance of hearings on these issues. Of course it didn't, because the data doesn't exist. And the notion that gays serving in the military is detrimental to military capability is belied by the obvious reality that they have been serving for centuries. Enough with the pitiful hand wringing already. There is no turning back progressive change, so hit the slopes old timer and leave military policy to those with a vision to the future. Oh, and I love the other random comments about how we won WWII and now can't win in the middle east. Best not to bring up failures in between that can't be attributed to gays or women. Sheesh.

bhemingway58
bhemingway58

Will, sure am glad I missed all those PC lobotomies that were performed on military careerists.  I hear they may have been good for promotions, but cause a loss of common sense and rationality.  People can be forced into virtually any slot.  But, there is a price to pay.  In the business of war-fighting, readiness and capability have to trump making people feel good.  I am all for change -- when it improves the force and makes a more effective organization.  As to your insinuation that I was/am some kind of bigot, you are not only wrong, you are also presumptuously uninformed.  I have always been a champion of the best qualified, regardless of creed, color, race, etc., and have the record to prove it.  Regarding "old," I'll challenge you on any black diamond slope in the world.

BigWill325
BigWill325

Another old man who doesn't think change can happen. This guy should be ignored in the biggest way. He hung up his uniform 35 years ago, so has little knowledge of anything concerning the modern armed forces - not to discount his obvious honorable service (I would love to hear his stories from his years of service) - but in this he is wrong. The service is a different place from when I joined 25 years ago (I retired 18 months ago) and is a different world entirely since he was in, like it or not women are in and doing jobs he couldn't have imagined 35 years ago - and doing them well. I'd bet hundred dollars that this same gentleman didn't think Blacks or Hispanics could serve in every capacity in the Marines - or should even be in the Marines - when he was in. As far as gays in the military, they were there when he was in, he just didn't know it, so my guess is they will serve just fine now that they don't have to lie about their private life. Another old man who isn't ready for change.  

vstillwell
vstillwell

Well, except for Dessert Storm, we really haven't won a war since WWII, so I don't know how these changes could make anything worse. Frankly, the military brass has been awful for quite some time. I don't see how having a few gays running around the Naval Academy will make it any worse. 

dogpilot747
dogpilot747

While serving in the first Navy Squadron to have sexual diversity forced upon it.  We had to endure several female pilots who ruined it for all subsequent female pilots.  The only standards that seemed to have been applied to them was the ability to climb a flight of stairs to get to the recruiting office.  They had legions of political protectors forming a protective cloud around them.  The first female to qualify on an aircraft carrier, a feat she was only able to do once, and never again.  She went through flight school accumulating 22 downs, a male would be separated with only three.  She never managed to pass an instrument check or a NATOPS check.  Politicos insisted she be moved along the program.  Ultimately, our Flight Surgeon came to the rescue.  She physically disqualified her.  Even though she was female, political pressure was borough to bear on her.  Luckily, doctors opinions are inviolate in the service.

The second one I'll mention, was the first female graduate of the Naval Academy.  She actually was a fine pilot, but suffered from a condition know in the service as "Flathatting."  Essentially showing off in an aircraft.  It is considered incurable, and is cause for immediate loss of your wings.  She had been cited three times for this, but each time one of her legion of protectors would come to the rescue and get it quashed.  Finally, the fourth incident resulted in the death of 23 crew and passengers.  She was involved in a mid-air collision with her boyfriend in the other aircraft (who had no history of this behavior).  The story was never really reported to the press, odd.  SInce it happened over the ocean, the press didn't have any witnesses to grill.  All the protectors faded away.  However, the rest of us had to deal with the loss of friends and family.

It is odd that the loud voices in this argument will always clamor for the best doctor to remove a brain tumor, not the diversity doctor, the one that received the pair of binoculars upon graduation. American politicos like to tinker with the service, but rarely do their children serve.  Not since Roosevelt's generation has their been a tradition for their kids to serve.  American Royalty (second and third generation politicos) could take a page from the British Royal Family, their kids serve on the battlefront.  No, it seems our royalty all  have their "precious larva" go to Ivy League universities, but never serve.  Perhaps they might not push their special agenda upon the service, if their larva had to fly with a diversity pilot at the controls who's only qualification might be sexual in nature. While women that "sleep their way to the top," are social pariahs, this other form, which is essentially the same thing, is pushed upon the military.  Who is expected to take it, without comment.

mary.waterton
mary.waterton

The US Military of the 1940's won WW2 and in about 5 years. Today's feminized homosexualized US Military can't beat a handful of terrorists in Afghanistan in 10+ years, even with TRILLIONS of dollars and high tech equipment. What does that tell you? It tells me that a young person would be foolish to join the US Military because Washington is more interested in social engineering than winning wars (just like Bill Hemingway said) and that's a recipe for getting young recruits killed.

RekkaRiley
RekkaRiley

@9799 The problem is that people with privilege, whether real or perceived, see rights as a zero-sum game.  They see the inclusion of previously non-privileged groups as a threat to their own position of being "special," and act accordingly.

There's also the issue of perceived competition.  Similar to why poor whites would be willing to defend the rights of rich whites to own slaves during the Civil War:

"I may be the poorest, stupidest, trashiest white person in the entire world, but at least I can be superior to someone else (blacks), I don't have to even work for it!"

Freeing the black slaves meant those poor white trash folks actually had to EARN their position as "still better than the other guy."  This attitude continues today, and it extends to every division out there.

"I may be a complete loser, but I can still get this job by virtue of not being a woman."

"I may be completely unqualified, but I still have a better chance at that job because I'm not black."

It's a really sad fact of human nature. :/

bhemingway58
bhemingway58

And, what is your expertise in this area, RW? You ever spent time on patrol or in a firefight or carrying a seriously wounded Marine for hours? "Hearings," populated and presided over by arrogant political hacks and PC careerists, without a clue -- sure to get to the crux. Unfortunately, we have left "military policy to those with a vision to the future." Doesn't seem to be all that wonderful. And, things would be a lot worse if the progressives in charge weren't killing the economy and stifling civilian job options. Our problem is not gays or women or minorities -- it is the "progressive change" artists who are bent on pursuing ill-conceived social engineering by exploiting gender and racial factions, and degrading our military.

bhemingway58
bhemingway58

And, what is your expertise in this area, RW? You ever spent time on patrol or in a firefight or carrying a seriously wounded Marine for hours? "Hearings," populated and presided over by arrogant political hacks and PC careerists, without a clue -- sure to get to the crux. Unfortunately, we have left "military policy to those with a vision to the future." Doesn't seem to be all that wonderful. And, things would be a lot worse if the progressives in charge weren't killing the economy and stifling civilian job options. Our problem is not gays or women or minorities -- it is the "progressive change" artists who are bent on pursuing ill-conceived social engineering by exploiting gender and racial factions, and degrading our military.

redeemed626
redeemed626

@BigWill325 Thanks. You saved me the trouble of saying something very similar. While I intend no disrespect toward the Lt. Colonel or my experienced neighbor across the street, whose opinions should be valued, the idea that they somehow have superior knowledge on these subjects because they were in the trenches those many decades ago is probably the silliest part of the whole argument. The ability to serve should be based on ability, not which parts the service members use to exercise their bodily functions.

Also, the notion that gays or women will somehow prove disruptive to the "normal" guys does not say much about the discipline, character, or honest sexual proclivities of the normal guys.  Why in heaven's  name would a group of two or more young men, smart and talented enough to receive an appointment to a service academy, think that is was OK to violate the bodily integrity of a female counterpart in tag team fashion, just because they experienced a physical or emotional desire to do so?  How can they say "she behaved so provocatively just before she passed out that I just couldn't help myself."  With all due respect, the Lt. Colonel has effectively proved his absolute uselessness on these particular issues, and the message he sent to the impressionable young people who listen to him was one hundred percent wrong.

Living in the South among family and friends who still act like the Civil Rights movement was a bad thing, I've concluded that only death or dementia will end some of the stereotypes and unsupported beliefs.  The natural progression of ideas is complicated, however, by conservative news organizations and other for-profit media, which generate ad space by promoting talking points about the "culture wars," "liberals," "political correctness," and "social engineering." Most rational people realize that these Foxnews buzz words represent the defense of antiquated and dying sociological, scientific, and religious ideas that refuse to go down without a fight.  The best we can do is continue to speak the truth and hope that the children and grandchildren of these iconophiles won't be cursed by the depth and breadth of their irrationality. Some of the comments about your remarks demonstrate just how profoundly the curse still affects the faithful.

jwayfifty
jwayfifty

@BigWill325

 You are one that is wrong.  Trying to convince liberals is a lost cause. They do not listen to the voice of reason. Metrosexuals hide behind their keyboards advocating that women die and be maimed for them. Feminists hide behind their keyboards promulgating how tough/brutal they are for direct combat.  However, when the stuff hits the fan, see how many run. Been there seen that. 

I will challenge any woman to fill a backpack with 70lbs of sand - and I'll take 80lbs; lets hike 10 miles uphill in 80 degree heat., and when we get to the top (if she gets makes it), try to take me out. All will fail.  

 Majority men are not threatened by women. Put any woman in a direct combat or a penitentiary full of men, and see where she will be on the pecking order and how long she will last. Her survival will be based on what she can give up. This happened in WW2 when then Nazis took over parts of Europe. For women to survive, they prostituted themselves. 

 As was stated in the movie "Band of Brothers" by Cpt. Speirs, "The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function: without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it." Women will never understand this quote because they are givers and nurturers of life -- not takers.

BigWill325
BigWill325

@dogpilot747 I'm sure you aren't lying, but you do know that time has passed and there are a lot of female pilots now who probably do just fine and have earned their place. As a paratrooper I always thought pilots were physically weak anyway, so I don't see why a women couldn't do the job better than the men anyway, it's not like a lot of upper body strength was needed and since you made it through the standards couldn't be very high, so mentally they should be more than prepared. Go women!  

bhemingway58
bhemingway58

Gyrene65to69 - could not see your post on the nation.time website regarding my article. It indicates there was a post by you, but no message shows up. Could you try again? Thanks...

DennisCopson
DennisCopson

@JoeBlowski @DennisCopson  You are, by reading your comments here, a lefty of the first order. I don't know if you're white or black, and it shouldn't matter, but you have no standing to point out I'm white and therefore unqualified to comment on the situation. If you are white, come on back to the center just a bit before you fall off the leftie cliff. If you are black, I pity you for falling for the "victim" politics of the likes of "Shakedown" Sharpton and other race-baiters. .

guswfla1
guswfla1

@BigWill325 @dogpilot747 Pilots need strength when the hydraulics that power the controls fail.  BUT, you're correct that there are many fine female pilots.  One of them was an Aunt who learned to fly as a teenager in the 1920s.  Among other things, she was a bomber ferry pilot in WWII.  She had every license you could have and accomplished a lot of firsts.  One of them was being the first helicopter pilot in South America.  For a time, she was an airline Captain---for American, I think.  Her name was Pat Grant, nee Werder.

dogpilot747
dogpilot747

@BigWill325 @dogpilot747 

I think you missed the gist of what I was saying.  It is the 'Animal Farm' standards that where used to force unqualified women upon the system.  That was a disservice to all subsequent qualified women, who had to  endure the poor image the first groups hung upon them.  It was the politicos that forced the issue and not allow the women who where naturally excellent at their jobs to shine.  The ones that couldn't perform should have been separated, naturally, the way the system normally worked. Unfortunately you always had to step lightly, much like 'Indiana Jones,' on the false floor to see if it could actually support the weight. Much like the diaper astronaut.  She had problems all through her career, but they where swept under the carpet.  That was until her epic cross country drive to do harm to her jilted lover.  She was basically unstable, and it was pointed out over her entire career, but again, political correctness kept her in the system.  This is not to say that males, who had notable family ties, politically, where not afford the same treatment. The last president's reserve duty, or lack of attendance, comes to mind.

After I left the service I started my own air operation company.  I had about 1/3 of my pilots, female.  Never had any issues with any of them, of course they all had to pass check flights, just like the males. Nobody looked over the check pilots shoulder and threatened his career if he didn't pass them, regardless of how they performed.  We worked in Africa doing relief work for both the UN and the EU in Somalia and Sudan.  I never had a female pilot chicken out on a flight.  I wish I could say that for a few of my male pilots.

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