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tv   The Civil War Civil War Naval Leadership  CSPAN  December 22, 2021 12:22pm-1:28pm EST

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documentary that answer the question, how does the federal government impact your life? >> be passionate about what you're discussing, discuss your view, no matter how large or small you think the audience will receive it to be. and know that in the greatest country in the history of the earth, your view does matter. >> remember, that content is king and just remember to be as neutral and impartial as possible in your portrayal of both sides oaf an issue. >> c-span awards $100,000 in total cash prizes and you have a shot at winning the grand prize of $5,000. entries must be received before january 20th, 2022. for rules or how to get started, visited our website at student cam.org. >> i am honored and privileged to introduce our closing
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speaker. after lunch we will do the panel discussion but next up we have dr. craig i'm honored and privl lked to introduce our speaker. next up we have dr. craig l. simons, a professor of history amaritous at the united states naval academy where he taught for 30 year pmzs. he served as the earnest j. king professor at the u.s. naval war college. he is author, editor of 29 books, earning him numerous prestigious awards, including the lincoln, the roosevelt, the morrison, and the prizes and the dugly knox meddel for lifetime achievement. his most recent books are world war ii at sea a global history,
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operation neptune and the battle of midway. let's give him a warm welcome. mr. craig simons. >> thank you, colin. and let me just say i'm glad he introduced the staff. that was great. but i have been so impressed with dez and his team and the way they've put on this wonderful symposium. so great to be back and see old friends, new friends in this venue in particular. so, i'm grateful to dez for that. i'm also very impressed, by the way, with all the people that have stood at this podium before me and the way they have taken on questions, not just of what happened but questions of how do we know what happened? and the most important question of all, the one i often get or got from my students, when i was still actively teaching a that naval academy and that's this one. so what? i mean, there's this stuff that
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happened but what does that mean? and i really want to congratulate, again, the people who stood here at this podium before me for takeong that hard question. and it matters. because history is not just stuff that happened. history is what defined the world in which we live and failing to understand it can have a devastating impact on that world. so, i think the people in this room all know that, understand that. certainly my predecessors here. have helped all of us try to figure out what those things are. i would call that applied history. i think what i tried to do with my students at the nival academy and the war college as well is to say you need to understand history because it will help you understand the world in which you live.
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it's a study in decision making and leadership. as well as knowledge. i know this is a civil war group. i have spent 40 years of my life exploring civil war stuff. but i've spent the last 15 or so years doing world war ii topics. i have friends in the civil war community still mad at me about that. but i can live with that angry. and what i'm going to try to do this morning is talk about, with a foot in each camp, if you would, about a naval leader from the civil war and a naval leader from the second world war and see if we can't find some aspects of their experience, of their temperament that will help us understand leadership. i often told my students that studying leaders of the past
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would make them better leaders. i hope that's true. i'm not sure that leadership is something that can be taught. but if it can, then surely history studied in depth, over a long period of time, not quickly reading a book or list of preceps but studied over time and considered, is the best possible laboratory. for improving yourself as a leader. i doubt if any of my former students confronted something in afghanistan would say i know what to do here because of what grant did in the wilderness. that's not how it works. the ancient historian once wrote, you never step in the same stream twice. by the time you step it in the second time, the water is
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different, the pebbles have shifted under your feet, the branchs floating past are different. the stream may be frozen this time. still, having crossed that stream once or witnessed other people causing the stream can prepare you for the kinds of problems. some of them familiar. some entirely new. that confront you when you try to cross it again. and that is, i think, what mark twain meant when he said history does not repeat itself but does often rhyme. a lot of people are quoting that these days. i'm not sure they know what they are saying. but that's okay. so, let's take a look at these two individuals. i was going to tease john and ask him to identify the confederate on the right wearing gray. er i don't think he would vagot that last night. let's see.
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this is my only slide. here it is, folks. so, get used to it. that is pete. so, you'll know, that is david glasgow fair gt and that is chester w. nimmets. note their grim expressions. right away you know something about them as leaders, just from looking at those steely eyed stairs. and the similarity and body language. do you note a particular difference here? well, yes, there is the sword. that's true. naval officers do still carry swords but only on formal occasions. that's a candid shot of nimitz on the right. on a carrier.
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in those days you had to stand very still while matthew brady or somebody took your photo. no. something else. yeah. right over left, left over right. and i thought about this. what could explain -- left hand? no. neither one is left handed. what it is, i'm pretty sure. chester nimitz, he was explaining an engineering problem in a diesel engine he helped perfect in the 1930s and was pointing something out to a group of visitors. he had a glove on his left hand and said this gear right here and that gear grabbed the tip of the glove and pulled his hand if to the gear and took off his ring finger. all the way down to his naval academy class ring, which saved his hand. there you go. so, he had a mangled left hand and i suspect that's why he has
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that left hand tucked inside his right elbow. but other than that, there are a lot of similarities in the photograph. more about nimitz later but let me focus on faraget. in many ways david glasgow faraget is iconic 19th century america. number one, he's the son of an immigrant. and therefore, a first-generation american, as were many in the 19th century. he was a western pioneer, born in tennessee in 1801, only five years after tennessee became a state. still very much frontier area when he was born in 1801. tennessee, of course, southern state. he was essentially a self-made
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man, as we'll see in a few minutes. and a dedicated champion of the national union. as many immigrants are. and given that, he was pretty close to being, as i suggest, the kind of every man in the 19th century. his father, jorge, immigrated from manorca. the british seized it in 19 -- but it was spanish when jorge left it. then he married another immigrant, a woman from scotland, which is where the glasgow comes from. his middle name. one particularly arresting thing about their son is he started his naval career very young. i'm obligated to my friend, john
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kausky, for explaining a lute about the naval academy. founded in 1845 but of course, it also existed as a naval school. you could pull people out, we had would serve many years already, eethberfore the mast or on the quarter deck and send them back to school for a year. because in the middle of the 19th century, steam engineering was coming into play. not enough to know how to be steely eyed in your expression. you actually had to know some stuff. and that explains why the naval academy came to be. but it was a process between 1840 and 1845. when i began teaching there, my students, years ago, my students were mostly 18/19 year old, when they arrived. i had some as young as 17, a few in their early 20s.
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you cannot have reached your 23rd birthday when you start at the naval academy. according to statute. so, those who were 22 or about to turn 23, usually had several years in the enlisted ranks. i remember a particular case that amused me because the way the naval academy set up now, those who are rising junior take charge of the incoming pleebs and they're terrified. they have all their haircut off, they're marched around and stand square lined and keep your eyes in the box and all this business. they're guided around by the second classman, who are sort of aping all the movies they've seen about drill instructors. so, they're doing a lot of yelling and that's unsatisfactory and so on. well, there was one guy that would not be intimidated in this particular group. he stood there, calm, stoic.
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eyes in the box. knew the answer to every question and the 19/20-year-old yelling at him, couldn't figure out why he couldn't rattle this young kid and one of the requirements was a dress inspection. so, they had to fall out wearing what they call their whites. sailer suit with a dixie cap. they had to fall back into their rooms, change into their dress uniform and come out in five minutes and we're going to have an inspection. they got on the square and this would-be drill instructor approaches this man and looked at him and oh, my god, he had four rows of combat ribbons on his uniform, including two purple hearts and a bronze star with combat v. not going to imitate that guy and he just didn't say a word, walked on down the line. they either come because they have prior enlisted service or because they have prior college. a lot of people apply to the
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naval academy don't get in and go somewhere else. apply again, don't get in. continue where they are. we have hood, i have had students who came to me already with a bachelor's degree in hand. i had a pleeb with a bachelor 's degree in history in my class. she got a b, by the way. so, i tell you all of that to ask you this question. how old do you think faraget was when he became a lead shipman? he was nine. i heard somebody say 11. he had his first command at 11. on board a ship in the caribbean and they captured a pirate vessel. so, midshipman was assigned to be her commander at 11. anyway. in the first half of the 19th century, as john explained
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there, wasn't a naval academy. west point, founded in 1802. naval academy, 1845. and as i say, i think the reasons for that are because it was perceived in the early 19th century that the way to learn to be a naval officer was on the job. but with the application of steam engineering and more complex stuff, they decided maybe going to school was a good job afterall. some were sent for a year and then maybe two. hunter davidson, i think spent one year there. by 1856, they had a full four-year traditional collegiate education. even though it's founded in 1845, you don't have people with four-year education experienced by the bay, four years by the sevn are, as the midshipman say, until just prior to the civil war. the way it worked was you got an
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appointment because you knew somebody. you'd apply to your senator, your congressman. you had to pass a test, be literate, read and write, have computational skills. hopefully algebra. but by and large, you were apprenticed to a captain. these young gentleman learn the ropes, literally. learned the ropes until they were ready to take a test, both written and oral. and if they passed the test, they became what is known as a passed midshipman. that made them eligible for a commission as lieutenant when there was an opening. so, somebody had to die or resign. so, how did he become a midshipman at nine?
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>> flag faraget would earn his first victory. by now, jorge, the immigrant is a widower. his wife died. a civilian employeeality the naval yard and he was shipping when a canoe came with nobody in it. he road over and looked inside and there was a man lying prone in the bottom of the canoe unconscious. an elderly man, couldn't wake him up, couldn't identify him. so, he brought him home, nursed him, fed him. never regained consciousness. two weeks later, he died. and it was, as fate would have it, 84-year-old father of the commander of the navy yard, david porter. when porter learned about this, he was so grateful to jorge, he
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said i don't know how i could possibly repay you but i will make this offer. i'm willing to take one of your sons, there were two, into service as a midshipman. quite a generous offer, actually because then, as now, appointments as midshipman were pretty valuable, much treasured. so, jorge accepted the offer and sent off his nine-year-old son, james. wait a minute? i thought his name was david? well, that's a story too. as young faraget grew to manhood, he decided to change his name from james to david and that got complicated two years later when captain porter's wife gave birth to a son, whom they named david. and this, of course is david dixon porter, who is often referred to as faraget's foster
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brother. they grew up in the same household, served the same father figure, david faraget now, as he's commonly known. so, these two, not blood relations in any way, but foster brothers by adoption, if you would. and. >> the next 40 years david was promoted along with his peers, indeed ahead of most and eventually reaching captain, which was the highest rank you could achieve in the navy up to the civil war. how come there were generals in the army but no admirals in the navy? the answer reaches back to the englgsz civil war in the 17th century when generals fought for parliament against the king and therefore called the british army. but the navy fought for the king against parliament and therefore
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was then and still is today the royal navy. and the perception was that navies then are instruments of empire and autocracy. so, we don't want any of those admirals in our united states of america. generals represent the people and the militia but the nievy, that's too suspicious. so, no admirals in the united states navy early on. and they came up with a rank, flag officer. but the first person ever to bear the title, admiral in the united states navy is this guy, late in 1862, in part for his performance at new orleans, he was made america's first rear admiral. in 1860, as we all know, lincoln was elected president and the protests about that led to the susession crisis. and at the time, captain faraget was living in norfolk, virginia,
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not only because, then as now, it's a good navy town but because he married a norfolk woman. his first wife, susan, died 20 years before. in 1840. and the next wife was even named virginia. so, here's a man born in tennessee, raised in louisiana, living in virginia, married to a southern woman, whose family owned slaves. you know, brian talked the other day about george thomas and the dilemma he faced as a virginian we had stay would the union, the consequences he paid both personally and professionally. here, i think is a moment that reveals a lot about him. when he learned in 1861 that the state of virginia had voted to seseed from the union, after the clash at fort sumpter and
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particularly lincoln's call for volunteers to restore to put down the rebellion. faraget went straight home and announced that he would not live in a disloyal state for one more hour. he told his wife he was leaving. now. this act of mine may cause years of separation from your family. so, you must decide quickly whether you will go north with me or remain here. he packed what he could carry, headed for new york that afternoon. she went with him. you might want to compare the episode, particularly with robert e. lee's reactions when he heard of virginia's decision. one of the more poignant factors
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in the biography. freeman describes how they underwent an agonizing trial, when he had to choose between the state and the country. according to freeman, he stayed up all night, pacing back and forth in an upstairs bedroom, racked by doubt, unable to decide where his doughty lay, his wife down stairs listening to the foot steps back and forth across the hard wood floor. prrsz and in the morning, he came to tell her he decided to resign his commission and seek service with virginia. freeman's chapter on this episode is entitled the decision he was born to make. faraget's decision is the one he was born to make too. but for him, there was no agonizing, no midnight pacing back and forth, no uncertainty. the moment he heard virginia was
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being disloyal, he knew he was an american first. the moment virginia abandoned the union, he abandoned virginia. and yet, despite that, there was some uncertainty in washington about his loyalty and, frankly, about his age. 1860 -- he's 60 years old. now, today of course we know that's the springtime of your life. but in the middle of the 19th century, that was considered pretty long in the tooth. and the union was planning an assault on the city of new orleans in the spring. secretary of the navy, giddian wells, the assistant secretary fox fought faraget, one of the most senior and accomplished officers in the navy list. they wondered if he was up to the task. so, they asked a man they thought would surely know. they asked his foster brother,
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david dixon porter. porter's reply is interesting. letter started out well enough. he said i see no reason why he should not be competent to do all that is expected of him. so far so good. then he added that while his foster brother was likable and personally brave, quote, he has no administrative qualities. he wants stability and loses too much time in talking. well, at least he didn't say he drools at the moulgt. very likely porter made these comments because he was angling for the command himself. he didn't get it. if you think mail is slow today t was even slower then and by the time porter's letter arrived in washington, faraget had already captured new orleans.
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a century later, charles dufour with the title, the night the war was lost. well, that may be a slight exaggeration but it does acknowledge the strategic impact of his accomplishment. another characteristic of faraget's character, besides his steadfast loyalty and boldness of action was that he was politically savvy. two years later, during lincoln's second presidential campaign in 1864, faraget was in new york, where the hartford was undergoing a refit and while there, went someone called for him to come up and give us some words, admiral faraget. the crowd rose to its feet. speech, speech.
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resplendant in his navy uniform, he bowed and smiled and waved but replied in words that would not have been more welcome to abraham lincoln than if he had written them himself. i was invited here this evening, not as a politician, but as a naval officer. to see the unanimity and the union feeling which prevails here, i must leave politics to you, my fellow citizens. i medal not with politics, nor give speeches. i will endeavor to do my duty on the sea while you do yours here. imagine lincoln reading that in "the new york harold" the next day, given the troubles he had with ambitious cabinet officers, the team of rivals and political generals, no doubt a relief to hear, here was an officer we had
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stayed above the fray and untempted by the adulation of the crowd or fruit of political office. and later that year, he did do his duty on the sea when he charged into the bay at mobile, alabama. mobile, alabama. most of you know the story, the hartford was halfway into the bay when there was a muffled thump and the ship immediately too his right, the tecumseh reared up out of the water, fell back in and shot down like an arrow, taking most of its crew with it. sunk by a confederate torpedo. when that happened, the ship directly in front of farragut, the brooklyn, stopped and then it began to back down. well, the ships are in a line ahead formation.
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when the lead ships begin backing down, you can imagine the chaos likely to ensue and this is when farragut took matters in hand, in order avoid have his whole column collapse like an accordion, he ordered them to veer out of line, steam past the brooklyn directly into the marked mine field. easy he passed the brooklyn, the captain told him that there were torpedos in the water dead ahead, to which farragut replied -- [ laughter ] >> give me a minute. here's the thing to remember about that moment. this was not an act of unthinking bluster, a kind of forlorn charge like the light brigade. it was a practical response to a
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swiftly unraveling circumstance and it was absolutely the right decision. any other decision would have led to chaos. stop, try to turn around, back down, collide, collide, crash, crash, fort morgan immediately to your right under the guns of those 42 pounders. disaster. so once through the mind field without any casualties, farragut's squadron defeated the smaller confederate fleet and seized demand of mobile bay. the series of mobile bay helped secure lincoln's re-election and i have always believed that is the single most strategically impactful event of the civil war. lincoln's re-election in 1864. it's easy for me to hold up farragut as an example of good
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leadership for my midshipmen and my students at the war college as well, commanders and captains, mostly. for his faithfulness to his mentor. for his instinctive and unblinking loyalty to his country and his quick thinking in a crisis. so what about this guy? i wanted to talk about nimitz this morning partly because i think he fits the point i'm trying to make about the application of history to leadership but also to be honest because i've just finished writing a wartime biography of chester nimitz, due out in the spring, great father's day president, nimitz at war, just about his years in demand in the pacific. now interestingly, nimitz too is the son of immigrants. first generation american. in this case german immigrants
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who lived in the hill country of north texas near where lbj grew up. the town where he was born, fredericksburg was named from prince frederick and still has a german flavor to it. on main street, there's german restaurants and beer halls. you would think you were in munich. there's also wonderful museum there which i will shamelessly promote, the national museum of the pacific war, served on the board of directors there for six years. people often are perplexed as to why the national museum of the pacific war is in the hill country of texas. and the answer, of course, is because that is where chester nimitz was born. there was a small nimitz museum that grew enormously. if you haven't been in the last ten years, it's a completely different place these days. and like farragut, nimitz also was raised by a surrogate
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parent. his father, nimitz' father died of a heart attack at 29, four months before chester nimitz was born. he was raised by his mother and by his german-speaking grandfather who taught him not to obsess about things over which you have no control. a calm patience is more valuable than panicked activity. nimitz did not go sea at 9. young boys did not go to sea to become midshipmen. they went to school. in fact, chester nimitz had no plans to go to sea at all. a turning point in his life occurred when he was watching an artillery demonstration at a county fair supervised by a
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group of recent army officers from west point. chester nimitz was very impressed by their uniforms. they looked sharp. and he asked them about this place called west point. whatever they said convinced him that's what he wanted. so he had his grandfather approach his congressman and ask about attending west point only to be told that all the appointments were filled for that year and the congressman said, what about the naval academy? well, nimitz had never heard of the naval academy. but it sounded okay. and so he took the test and passed it and went off to annapolis at 17. now nimitz never had to choose between his state and his country as farragut did. but here's an interesting story about his loyalties that i found in the letters of his wife. she wrote this down several years later. like memory and history, we can
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take it with perhaps a grain of salt. but here's the story she related. when he left for annapolis, his aunts and uncles were worried that he might come back stripped of his texas character and imbued with all shorts of yankee notions. of course, they were horrified when he came home five years later with a young wife in tow. the beautiful 20-year-old kathryn vance freeman who was from brooklyn. [ laughter ] during that visit, some of chester's relatives wanted to make sure she knew what was what down here in texas. as members of the family sat around together over coffee, one of them pointedly asked chester, what would he do now that he was an officer if texas, again, seceded from the union.
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would he fight for texas or for that federal government in washington? kathryn remembered the woman looking directly at her when she asked this question as if to say, now you'll see where things stand, yankee girl. chester smiled graciously and answered quietly, why of course i would fight for the united states against any rebellion. kathryn said, the woman dropped her teacup. now this is not quite the same as deciding to leave home on an hour's notice and it's hypothetical in any case. but chester made his loyalty clear. one central aspect of chester nimitz's life and of his command temperament as well was his calm and deliberate demeanor. he smiled readily but it was usually this smile, a tight-lipped, almost skeptical-looking smile.
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almost as if to say, i'm waiting to take the measure of you before i commit to you. some believed that it -- to show that he had a reserve about people. and there may be some of that. but the real reason is that having been raised in the hill country of texas he had never seen a dentist until he got to the naval academy. got his 1941 dental records sent to me by his grandson and it's fascinating to look at. it says the following teeth are missing, one, two, three, four, five, seven, eight, nine, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24. five left. all of them gold. he didn't want anybody to see that. and that's why all of his photographs he has this expression in his face. like farragut, nimitz could make bold decision, at least as bold
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as farragut's dash into mobile bay. in june of 1942, as many of you know, forewarned of a japanese approach to the small atole of midway, he decided to confront that assault, even though on paper he was badly overmatched, aware that his strategic mission as pacific commander was to hold on the defensive in the pacific until germany was defeated. he might easily have said, oh, i'm going to let the japanese have midway at tole because they won't be able to sustain it. it's $3,000 miles from tokyo. they'll be sorry they ever went there. arguably, that would have been a smart, strategic move. instead, nimitz decided to send everything he had, all the ships, all the planes, out to meet the threat. like farragut's decision at mobile bay, it was not simple audacity. it was not brash or impetuous.
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he carefully assessed the circumstances, measured the strengths of each side and employed what he called calculated risk. it's a phrase he used often with himself and with his subordinates. i expect you to apply calculated risk. and just as an aside, i'm going to stop there for a minute to say, how do you learn calculated risk but by reading history. the japanese had more carriers, he had the -- he had the airstrip on midway, plus three carriers. that kind of evened the odds and thanks to the codebreakers he knew they were coming. and they didn't know he knew. here's another example that's less well known. a year and a half after that, during the beginning of the central pacific drive, all the way to iwo jima and okinawa, in
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the aftermath of the costly american victory where 1,000 marines were killed and 3,000 more wounded fighting for an island less than one square mile in size, there was a lot of second guessing about the plan to invade the next island, much stronger, much larger. all three of nimitz' subordinate commanders, the fleet commander and the commander of the marines who would make the assault, holland m. smith, known as howling mad smith, all decided that attacking it was too ambitious. it would be wiser, they said, to focus on two smaller outer islands. take those first as kind of a warm-up and then attack the other island at some future date. nimitz explained his rational. capturing the two outer islands would not break the japanese
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control in the marshalls and it would have to eventually be taken any. if the island fell, those outer islands would all become strategically impotent. besides, we have learned lessons from what happened that we can apply to this new invasion. his operational commanders were not convinced. always willing to hear advice, nimitz invited everyone in the room to share their views and he went around the room, person to person. every single one said we should attack the outer islands first. nimitz waited until everyone had spoken and he waited another long, pregnant moment and said, well, thank you. we'll attack quad ja lain. that should have ended it, but i didn't. they continued to argue. kelly turner was especially confrontational, telling nimitz,
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your plan is reckless and dangerous. and finally nimitz said, that's it. if you don't want to do it, i can find people who will. do you want to do this or not. well, yes, sir, we do. well, i guess saying that's fine, we'll hit it have quite the same ring, but it was the same sentiment. and like the decision at mobile bay, it was carefully calculated. nimitz was convinced the japanese did not intend to go all in to defend kwajalein and he was confident that the adjustments he made to the invasion protocols would make it successful. nevertheless he risked a great deal here. by going ahead, despite the unanimous opposition of all of his subordinates, if that attack
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had failed or if it had succeeded with very heavy casualties, that might have been the end of his command. but he carefully considered the risks and ordered the attack. it went off like clockwork. the americans in the entire campaign lost 300 killed. the japanese lost 8,000 killed. it was the beginning of the end for them and they knew it. here's another aspect of nimitz command tentment that i feel compelled to mission because it's fun, and that is that he had a sense of humor. he didn't tell jokes, a fellow officer explained. he told stories that had a humorous side. many of them were shaggy dog stories, with a long and interminable build up. which is something he shared with another civil war figure
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you may have heard of, abraham lincoln did this too. i think for the same reason. it was a way to deflect visitors or subdue emerging arguments. lincoln or nimitz would be in the midst of one of these conversations and he would interrupt to say, that reminds me of a story. and everybody shut up for a minute while he told the story. one of nimitz' favorite was about a young doctor who arrived at the home of an expectant -- nervous father to be and expectant mother. don't worry at all, said the doctor, everything is going to be fine. the doctor went into the backroom with the expectant mother, leaving the father to pace the hallway outside. after a minute, he came out and asked for a butter knife which the father provided. doctor goes back in the room. two more minutes pass, and i'm doing it deliberately, this is the way nimitz did it.
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he would pause, he would wait. few minutes later, doctor came out and said, i need a screwdriver. the father brings him a screwdriver. goes back in the room. more time passes. he came out and asked for a pair of a pliers which the father provided. i could do this all day. but i'm going to stop here. nimitz did carry on with this and finally the father and probably his audience by now said, well, come on, what's going on here. doctor, is everything all right? it's fine, i just can't get my bag open. [ laughter ] some of nimitz's stories were risque in the 1940s. pretty tame these days. kathryn, his wife, would sometimes stop him when he started one of these in mixed company. out in pearl harbor at the
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all-male dinners they were a staple. as his guests moved from the dinner table to the card table, nimitz might they will a story of the aspiring woman bridge player who was invited to a bridge party of the local reigning champion. alas, the woman's husband who was not great at cards was partnered with the local champion and he was hopeless. he forgot what suit they were in, he trumped his partner's ace. he didn't know how to bid to signal what he was holding. it was a disaster. when he excused himself to go to the bathroom, she apologized for her husband. she said, don't worry about it for a minute. this is true that this is the first time all evening when i was pretty sure what he was holding in his hand. [ laughter ]
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it might be possible -- let me get my -- here we go. it might be possible to make a list of the characteristics shared by these two men for a leadership manual. i'm not a fan of lists. i hope there's no political scientists in here for me to make fun of. political scientists love lists. they'll cherry-pick a few characteristics and they'll say, here are the five things you can do to be successful or the seven secrets of effective people or whatever it might be. i'm of the school that reading and understanding history provides you with an artificial experience that will inform your judgment and decision-making rather than consulting a list. if we did have a list, he gave us what is a good one. he wrote his wife margaret during the war about his boss,
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spruence said, nimitz is a tolerance of the opinions of others, wise judgment after he has listened and determination to carry things through. tolerance, judgment, determination. spruence knew what he was talking about. we can see the characteristics in both of these guys. that he encouraged the views of others. they went out of their way to solicit ideas, not just from peers and seniors, but from junior officers as well that were closer to the gun smoke and to take those ideas seriously. listen carefully. in evaluating those ideas, they calculated all possible factors, the plans, of course, but the circumstances, who was involved, the likely outcome and even if
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they had to make a quick decision, farragut at mobile bay, perhaps nimitz deciding to attack kwajalein, they did not make rash decisions. they applied a quiet but firm judgment. and once that decision was made, they demonstrated a powerful determination to carry it through, not to change course in midstream because as we all know you can never step in the same stream twice. thank you. i look forward to your questions. [ applause ] >> here's one up here. this is the pregnant pause before the question comes. here we go. >> i was just curious whether anyone has gone through the
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naval academy receiving any demerits as lee did at west point? >> what a great question. i don't know the answer to your question. but demerits were handled differently at the two institutions. west point being west point. really into this. each cadet had a page and on the page, every transgression was listed and there's this blank page for robert e. lee. lee was not the only one in those circumstances. there was no such book at the naval academy. a lot of those -- there was no specific demerit system. if you transgressed in some way, you would have to march, just as one of the punishments at west point was to spend "x" number of hours marching back and fourth, and that was a punishment occasionally applied. but i don't think they had the same system whereby you can look in the book and count their demerits. it's hard to know. a follow-up?
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[ inaudible question ] >> not now at all. there are two sorts of things. one is bad behavior. your shoes aren't shined at formation, you're late to class, you were absent without leave. these are transgressions that are handled by nonjudicial punishment, as it's called. it can result in a retraction of liberty, confinement to the yard. we don't have a campus, by the way. we have a yard. it's a navy yard. those kinds of things. the other one is, of course, honor. anything that touches upon your honor, that's not handled by the adults, by the commissioned officers. it's handled by the honor council of the brigade of midshipmen. they meet, they interview, they talk, they gather evidence and they decide if one of their own has, in fact, compromised his or her honor and they apply whatever punishment, including expulsion, is allowed.
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okay. >> thank you. are you saying that in spite of being a west point army dropout or reject, nimitz had a better museum than farragut? [ laughter ] >> first of all, he's not a -- rejected or dropped out. the way young men and in the 19th century, all men were appointed to the economies depended heavily on congressmen and senators. they really had the choice of this. and the individual candidate had to be, you know, literate, had to have all four arms -- two arms, two legs. both eyes. apparently not teeth. but beyond that, it's really the gift of the congressman. of course, this is great for, you know, currying favor if you
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need to. that does not happen anymore. nowadays, students, young high school students, mostly, apply like you would apply to any other college. very thick packet of forms. you have to pass a physical exam. you have to have certain scores on your a.c.t.s or s.a.t.s. that may be phasing out. i have a grandson who is a college applicant this year. apparently people aren't requiring those anymore. i don't know. but i did serve on the admissions board at the naval academy for many years and i tell you the people we had to turn down are wonderful. as for the relationship between army and navy and the quality of the museum, i'm hesitant to say, except to say that i think the museum in fredericksburg is worth a visit and as is the one in new orleans, which is, of course, absolutely wonderful and even larger. i'll advocate for both of those
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museums. here's a question here. >> thank you. was farragut fully aware of what porter was doing in the background to try to usurp authority and how did he handle that and -- >> yeah, he was mostly aware, yes. because it's a small officer corps prior to the civil war. like the army, it expands normally. there were 42 commissions in ship in 1860 and the size of the officer corp. expanded. everybody knew everybody and they all talked. so there's some of that going on. he knows that david dixon porter is not his strongest champion. and part of that is fraternal. the big brother who always got -- he's promoted ahead of me and there's -- so whatever psycho historical analysis you
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want to apply to that may be appropriate. but he was aware of it. david dixon porter had other problems as well. he was -- he worked on the edge a lot. in the red river campaign, he was known as picking up a lot of that cotton along the banks and seeing if he could take monetary advantage of those circumstances. so, yes, i think generally he was aware but he was tolerant of that too. he also knew that david dixon porter had great skills and helped grant critically at vicksburg and, therefore, there was no falling out as a sequence of that. john? >> i love the comparison between the two and you're the person to do it. but i want to ask an open-ended question. since you've mastered civil war history and world war ii history and labored in both fields for so long and so well, as you
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work, any other comparisons either of people or of episodes that come to mind, any other -- as you're working world war ii, anything that come to mind from your years of working in civil war history that you find notable? >> that's a great question. first of all, it's important to recall, these are the two existential wars of american history. these are the two wars that had to be fought. a lot of wars are -- we choose them. we went to vietnam. we went to afghanistan. who knows where we'll go next. those are wars of choice. spanish american war. these wars were existential. there was no way in my opinion that slavery could have been eradicated from the american culture absent a war like this. it had to be fought. in world war ii, the enemy was genuinely evil. we tend to think world war ii as
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a template for american wars. this is the way wars are fought. you declare it, you go all out, everybody pulls on the same rope, you utterly win with unconditional surrender, you get rid of the bad guy who hopefully kills himself before we hang him and that -- and then you return to peace and everybody is prosperous ever after. no other war is like that. this is a unique confrontation of world war ii, but it had to be fought because the enemy really was evil, really did have to be eradicated. we had to win unconditionally. those were necessary things. so what these two wars have in common is that they are the wars america had to fight and had to win. now, because of that, there's a tendency within the two cultures -- obviously america is fighting a civil war in the first example. within the north, copperheads notwithstanding, it felt a little bit like world war ii,
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people pretty much pulling on the same -- they both had to resort to a draft, they both had to build up internal industrial production that had never previously existed, not just for the ironclads, but for lots of things. canned ham, armour, began canning meats in order to feed the troops at the front. the expansion of railroads even in the midst of war. the civil war is an industrialized -- pro toe industrialized war. and world war ii was a fully industrialized war. so these two wars had a transformational impact on american culture. and individuals like these were the ones who brought it to success and i think -- it doesn't mean that their generations were greater. i'm not going to demean the greatest generation. some of you are here. but i am going to say that
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generations -- each generation has its opportunity and some generations have greater opportunities. their generation did. i had a colleague at the naval academy who said the thing that determines whether you're going to make flag rank has already been decided. it's not your fitness reports. it's not your performance at sea. it's not your grade in this class. it's your birthday. if when you're about 30, 35, we go to war, you're probably going to make it. the great class of 1846 at west point, why did they all become generals? because there was a civil war. absent the civil war, none of them made general. same thing is true of the naval academy class of about the same time. so i don't know if that's responsive or not, john. the opportunity to pontificate is great. here's one. [ laughter ] >> is there a parallel between the both of them in their
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postwar career? did farragut achieve a high position afterwards as nimitz did? >> the short answer is yes. farragut was not only the first rear admiral, he's the first full admiral which remained the highest rank in the united states navy until 1945 when congress passed an act saying we will allow the existence of four admirals, each to wear five stars, one of which, of course, was chester nimitz. this is a great trivia contest for another trivia test. who are the other three? leahy, very good, king, and halsey. there was a big argument about whether it was going to be halsey or spruence. halsey was the damn everybody, let's charge. and spruence was more, let's apply calculated risk.
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halsey got it because he was supported by the chairman of the naval affairs committee. that's why he got it. there's a group active now trying to get spruence a posthumous fifth star. they each got that promotion to the highest rank. there was no chief of naval operations in the 19th century. farragut did not have that. he was older and, therefore, kind of went into retirement with four stars, became a much-beloved veteran of the war. nimitz did become chief of naval operations for two years. then he worked for a while for the united nations and then went into retirement and he hated retirement. unlike me, i love retirement. but nimitz hated it. he wanted to get up in the morning every day with something important to do. and once that was no longer the case, he went into a kind of decline, died in 1966. anybody else?
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alex has got one back there. >> you mentioned a book titled the night the war was lost and you said it might be a bit of hyperbole. in the last year or two, another book came out called immortal below to the kweft si. >> as to the importance of new orleans, new orleans, not richmond, not atlanta, new orleans is the largest city in the south. it is, of course, the cork on the outlet from the mississippi river valley. what made it so important commercially is not only the products of the south, but the products of the midwest all came down to new orleans for trance shipment. plugging that up was an important element of the blockade. it was a near mortal below to the confederacy.
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so that is important. and could farragut have lost it? i think the easiest way for him to lose it is to say it looks too difficult to me. it was protected by two substantial masonry forts. some of the forts in the river systems, of course, were thrown up, fort donaldson, fort henry. fort jackson was substantial. there was a barrier there and a confederate navy. so i think the easiest way to lose it is for him to say, i don't think i can do this. here's an interesting tidbit. one of his subordinates in that was david dixon porter who commanded the gun -- not the gun boats, the mortar rafts. his idea is, oh, no, we need to
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stay below the city and fire long-range mortars into their forts until they evacuate. but farragut said, no, no, we're going to breakthrough that thing, go crashing by and just pull up in front of new orleans which had been stripped of most of its local defenders because they were concentrating for the battle of shiloh. and he's right there by the jackson statue along the front of new orleans. you've all seen the photographs with his guns pointing into the city and said, gotcha. so the way not to do it is not to try it. of course, that was not his option. are we done? lunchtime. thank you, everybody. [ applause ] c-spanshop.org is c-span's online store. browse through our latest
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