Tributes & Stories


Welcome Aboard Sixteen!
Salty Language
Tennessee Patriot, the Naval Career of Vice Admiral William P. Lawrence, U.S. Navy 

Welcome Aboard Sixteen!

You have a great cruise ahead.

by Sam Ginder '51 (Draft 10 May 2012)

It’s incredible! It hardly seems possible! I’m blown away!

One hundred years ago my father reported to the Naval Academy with the rest of the Great Class of 1916 for Plebe Summer. June 1912 was the beginning of tumultuously historic times for the Class of 1916. They graduated to serve in World War I and matured to take senior leadership in World War II, a conflict that saw the death of over 8 Million people and the destruction of many of the world’s great cities.

For the Class of 1916, aviation was still a novelty. Airplanes didn’t fly over 150 miles per hour and flight safety was primitive. Pioneer aviation was a dicey game.

Our submariners commissioned the Navy’s first diesel submarine in Groton, Connecticut when the Class of 1916 were Plebes. Prior submarines were gasoline powered submarine torpedo boats. (Now that was a hair-raising ride!) Pre-World War I diesel boats opened the way for our submarine force to move beyond early innovation to be a serious tactical weapon in World War II. With the arrival of nuclear power our submarines became a geopolitical strategic player as well as a fearsome tactical weapon.

And our Marines … they were doing what they do best. They invaded Honduras, Nicaragua and Cuba just to maintain good order and discipline in our neck of the woods.

On the domestic scene, America was still forming. New Mexico and Arizona became the 47th and 48th states. In politics, Woodrow Wilson defeated Teddy Roosevelt and Howard Taft for the presidency. And most noteworthy, 15 young women were fired by Curtiss publishing in New York City for dancing the Turkey Trot during their lunch break. Harrumpf.

And on the international scene, in a story that has become legend and the stuff of Hollywood movie-making, RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and sank with a loss of life over 1,000.

Just as those long ago times were orders of magnitude different from our world today, so was the Naval Academy a far different place from the Naval Academy of today. Time marches on and brings far reaching changes beyond what we can imagine. By the time the Class of 2016 finishes its cruise, who can forsee what the world will look like?

Navy scientists are experimenting with directed energy weapons that will bring game changing technology to the next generation of weapon systems the Class of 2016 will operate. New technology is freeing us from volatile, high explosive guns and projectiles that destroy by converting chemical energy into the kinetic energy of concentrated heat and pressure. The world of laser guns will be here before the Class of 2016 is streaked with gray. High energy electromagnetic beams will streak towards their targets at speeds near the speed of light and destroy by destroying the target’s molecular structure. “Sheer fantasy,” you say. Such weapons will likely be deployed as shipboard anti missile defense for our carrier battle groups before the Class of 2016 finishes its first tour of sea duty.

They will surely see nuclear powered aircraft or some other form of propulsion to replace internal combustion, jet powered aircraft. Who knows, they might even give us the next Hyman Rickover to produce a true spacecraft to transform naval aviation into something far from what it is today. “Beam me up Scotty.”

The Class of 2016 will see and be an important part of profound change. But with all that is new, what can the Class of 2016 learn from The Great Class of 1916? How do you in turn become The Great Class of 2016?

I hesitate to speak for my father’s class, but I grew up observing them. I saw them enjoying themselves at wardroom and squadron parties. I saw them fight the biggest, most deadly, most destructive of all wars. Without fear of being too far wrong, I believe The Great Class of 1916 would offer three bits of avuncular, sea daddy advice to the Class of 2016.

First, strive to be the best officer you can be. That will demand your commitment to hard work, your dedication to learn your craft, your persistence to become beyond professionally competent. Your shipmates and the Sailors and Marines who serve under you will entrust you with their well-being and indeed their lives. You owe them nothing less than your best.

Second, have fun. Enjoy yourself. Take delight in all that you do. Certainly, life is not always a bowl of cherries, but don’t let the aggravations destroy the wonders and pleasures of your cruise. Have a happy face … nobody likes a sourpuss.

Third, never forget the heritage of tradition and values you will learn at the Academy. They are the tie that binds you to those who went before and to those yet to come. They will make you the fine officers you will become and serve you well throughout your lives. The Great Class of 1916 recognized this heritage in their Lucky Bag with a poem at the beginning of the story of their four years at Navy. They are all gone now, but you can still hear their voices.

An Heritage

From the gilded triremes of the Cæsers,
From the battle scarred craft of the Dane,
From the slave driven galleys of Venice,
From the high castled galleons of Spain,

From the frail caravels of Columbus,
From the low, rakish corsairs of Drake,
From the towering carracks of Phillip,
With disaster a-lurk in their wake,

From the pirate lateens of Morocco,
And the frigates that saw them o’erthrown,
From the spice laden fleets of the Indies,
And the free-riding ships of Paul Jones,

Came the spirit that peopled our Navy
With Farragut, Cushing and Dale,
Came Decatur and Porter and Dewey,
And a host whose fame ne’er shall pale.

And we have an heritage brothers,
From those sea dogs who vanquished the brine;
Pitting spirit and strength to its ragings,
The blue vault of heaven their shrine.

Full many shall steam with the Dreadnaughts,
‘Gainst mine, torpedo and shell;
But the present and future must learn from the past
The story its prowess can tell.

The world that 2016 will see is beyond imagination. Who knows what awaits? Yet some things of great value endure. We have an heritage brothers.


Salty Language

by Col James W. Hammond Jr. '51, USMC (Ret)

In the (not so) old Corps, the first time a "boot" referred to a vertical partition as a "wall" or said that he had spilled something on the "floor," he incurred the unmitigated wrath of the nearest drill instructor. To gain the attention of the miscreant, the DI would smash his swagger stick on the top of the boot's pith helmet accompanied by a very loud bit of enduring advice, "That's "bulkhead' [or 'deck']. If you draw the pay, you speak the language!"

Marines are "Soldiers of the Sea," and it is right and proper that conversation be sprinkled with nautical expressions. In "The Leatherneck," his introduction to "Fix Bayonets," the late Colonel John W. Thompson Jr., USMC (Ret) described the many men making up the 4th Marine Brigade about to see action at Belleau Wood in June 1918: "And there were also a number of diverse people who ran curiously to type, with drilled shoulders and a bone-deep sunburn, a tolerant scorn of nearly everything on earth.Their speech was flavored with Navy words, and words culled from all the folk who live on the seas and ports where our war-ships go." He was describing Marine professionals who, like all professionals, have a language peculiar unto themselves.

A language is a living and evolving thing. As we go to more strange and distant climes, some foreign words creep in. Some are transitory and don't survive. Marines still go to the "head" to pump bilges," although there was a generation or two who went to the benjo for the same thing. I've always liked the story of the world-traveler Marine sitting in a bar in Athens who politely summoned the waiter and ordered a beer with "Garcon, iddy-wa, una botella de cerveza bitte." But over the years I have detected not just a lessening of the use of nautical terms among the naval services, but almost a complete lack of them.

This is more than 25 years ago when my son came home from the United States Naval Academy his Plebe Christmas. He had been raised on "deck," "bulkhead," "overhead," "ladder," "galley," etc. He called his Boy Scout equipment "782 gear," but he was no longer using those descriptive terms because they weren't in use at the Academy. After he graduated, I spent a dozen years in Annapolis on the staff of the Alumni Association of my alma mater. I was appalled at the lubberly-ness of the staff, faculty and midshipmen at the Academy. Fortunately, the Marines on duty there kept the tradition of nautical language alive. It must be paying off because every year the allotted "boat spaces" for Marines on graduation are oversubscribed.

But I am not concerned with Navy per se, but rather our Corps of Marines. I equate it to the reply an old gunnery sergeant gave to the lady who upon hearing the legend that the quatrefoil on the cover of Marine Officers' frame caps stems from days of sail when Marines in the "fighting tops" could identify their officers on deck by the chalked cross on their caps and not fire on them, asked,

"What about the Navy Officers?"

"Who cared?" snapped the gunny."

Language is both spoken and written. "The Marines' Hymn" says, "We are proud to claim the title of United States Marines." There are Army officers and soldiers, Navy officers and sailors, Air Force officers and airmen, but we are all Marines. That is why Marine is always written with a capital "M." We must be careful not to allow our own professional culture to be corrupted by the words of other services. The Army says 1600 (sixteen hundred) hours.

We say 1600 (sixteen hundred). It is a small but subtle difference. Many years ago at a large East Coast Marine base, an over zealous "police sergeant" neatly painted on the "deck" in front of a regimental headquarters building:


The commanding general, or "CG," came by and saw the offending sign. He dashed into headquarters, burst in the office of the commanding officer, or "CO," and began holding "school-of-the-boat" (the most basic instruction one can give to the landlubber) on the colonel.

He said, "In the Army, it's 1600 hours; in the Navy, it's 8 bells; in the Air Force, I think it is 'when Mickey's big hand is on 12 and his little hand is on 4,' but in the Corps, it is 1600. Get that abomination corrected immediately!"

Most Marines knew the motto of our Corps before they went to boot camp, or they probably wouldn't have gone. It is "Semper Fidelis" - always faithful.

Shortened to "Semper Fi," it is a bond of respectful recognition between and among Marines. One Marine greets another with it. When they part company, each says to the other, "Semper Fi." Informal memos or e-mails between Marines usually are signed "Semper Fi" or just S/F. But there used to be a darker side. Used by Marines to members of the other services or civilians, "Semper Fi, Mac," said with a sneer, had a sinister connotation. It could mean anything from "I got mine; the hell with you!" to "I did fine; how did you do?"

An old "China Hand" once told me that on payday night in Shanghai cabarets, it meant, "You buy the fifth; my girl is drunk already!" I much prefer the version denoting mutual respect among a "band of brothers" than the cynical version.

Some words and phrases have found their way into common American usage through the Marine Corps. Some are of foreign origin. "We have fought in every clime and place." Others were Marine-coined.

The best example of a Marine-coined word in widespread use is "gizmo." "Gung-ho" is of Chinese origin, via Col. Evans F. Carlson of the World War II Carlson's Raiders. Going back several campaigns, we find that "boondocks" comes from the Tagalog "bundok" or mountain jungles of the Philippines.

"Honcho" came back from Korea and Japan. Another word that is sacred to our Corps is "Doc" - the corpsman who wear our uniform, joins with and cares for us in combat. Many years ago I had a "Stateside" battalion during the time that doctors were drafted for two years of service. My battalion surgeon (billet title since he wasn't really a "cutter") came to me with a complaint. The young Marines were addressing him as "Doc." Since he was a professional man, he felt he deserved the respect of being addressed as "Doctor." I told him that evidently he was not ready to be addressed as "Doc" inasmuch as that is the highest honor that a Marine can bestow upon a "squid." The language door swings both ways. We have allowed civilian language to corrupt our pure nautical expression. While a landlubber may refer to a ship as "it," a true "soldier of the sea" knows that a ship is a "she."

Likewise, it is a real nautical bust, both orally and in writing, to precede the name of a ship with a definite article. A ship is a distinct personality, and referring to the Lexington is as improper as referring to me as the Hammond. She is Lexington. Many readers will argue that the definite article is used in professional naval publications, and I invite their attention to the fact that those journals have professional editors and writers, not naval professionals. Finally, one serves in not on a ship.

If it is the latter, you are in deep trouble. To a precise reader or listener it conjures up the vision of your sitting on the keel of a capsized vessel. How did this departure from salty language occur? I alluded to the traumatic change to the nautical nature of the Naval Academy, at least in my observation. Emphasis was more on turning out graduates who could go on for advanced degrees. "Techies" and their bastardization of English for computer talk followed. This was compounded by flooding the faculty with academics holding advanced degrees from campuses of the '60s. This sizeable group of civilians avoided being part of the naval culture. Over the past quarter century, the leadership of half the naval service has eroded much of the base of salty-language usage. If those at the top don't lead the way, it is a military axiom that those below won't follow.

But how did the decline of the use of salty language creep into our Corps? Drill instructors still drill into recruits the use of "deck," "bulkhead," "ladder," etc., although perhaps with a less emphatic way of getting their attention then in the (not so) old Corps. For one thing, more Marines are married these days, and many live ashore among the civilian community. These Marines try to blend into the civilian community rather than flaunt their pride of being a Marine. Their use of salty language becomes one of the first casualties. Even today it is a matter of pride to sport a regulation haircut, spit-shined shoes, proper civilian attire and, of course, salty language. It is gratifying when some stranger at a cocktail party says, "You sound like you're a Marine."

Another reason for the decline of salty language is that many young Marines are "cool." Nautical talk is not cool, computer talk and jive talk are. Unlike the Navy with its many technicians, "every Marine is a rifleman" and has the privilege of displaying pride in the language of his profession. It is a privilege not available to others.

How can we restore this eroding tradition? Like everything else in the Corps, it begins at the top. Senior officers should use salty language at every opportunity and hold school-of-the-boat on their subordinates who don't. Top staff noncommissioned officers should do likewise.

Tradition is not something that can be ordered. It must have solid roots to survive. Marines should want to show that they are a different breed and be wlling to demonstrate their uniqueness at every opportunity whether among other Marines or among civilians. That's what it is about personal pride in being a Marine.

More than 50 years ago, during the Cherry Blossom Pageant in Washington, DC, 10 junior officers from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps were detailed as escorts for princesses from 48 states and the territories of Alaska and Hawaii. Most of the Marines were strangers to each other.

At the end of the ceremonies a musical tribute to the gallant escorts of the lovely princesses was announced. The band struck up a medley of "The Caisson Song," "The Air Force Song," "Anchors Aweigh" and "Semper Paratus." At the first note of "The Marines' Hymn," 10 Marine lieutenantsscattered among the audience were on their feet as 20 heels clicked as one. An officer from another service paid them a high compliment. In a stage whisper audible to all, he said, "Those s.o.b.s!"

That's what it is all about - exhibiting your pride in your Corps every time you can.

About 30 years ago there was the tale of an old sergeant major who retired and had a nice job, although he was putting in long hours. He had another problem as well, or at least his boss and co-workers thought so. He still said "deck," "bulkhead," "overhead," etc. The boss made him an appointment with the company psychiatrist. The sergeant major arrived, and the doctor, who was of the Freudian school, directed him to lie on the couch.

Doctor: "Do you lead an active sex life?"
SgtMaj: "Sure!"
Doctor: "Tel me about it."
SgtMaj: " What do you want to know?"
Doctor: "Your last affair, when was it?"
SgtMaj: "About 1950?"
Doctor: "You call that active?"
SgtMaj: looking at his watch: "It's only 2115 now!"
Draw the pay; speak the language. Semper Fi.

[Col Hammond enlisted in the Corps in 1946, was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1947 and was commissioned as an infantry officer in 1951. He commanded an infantry platoon and company, an artillery battery and battalion, an infantry battalion (2/4) in combat (RVN). He was wounded in action during the Korean War and twice wounded in the Vietnam War. He is the author of more than 50 professional articles in a wide variety of professional publications, including Marine Corps Gazette, Naval Institute Proceedings, The Hook and others. He was managing editor and then editor-publisher for Gazette from 1964 to 1966 and in retirement was editor of the U. S. Naval Academy Alumni Association's monthly magazine, Shipmate. He has written two books: "Poison Gas - The Myths Versus Reality" and "The Treaty Navy - The Story of the U. S. Naval Service Between the World Wars".

Colonel Hammond passed away 14 January 2009.]


Tennessee Patriot, the Naval Career of Vice Admiral William P. Lawrence, U.S. Navy

By William P. Lawrence and Rosario Rausa

Reviewed by Commander Paul E. Galanti ’62, USN (Ret.)

After lavishing laudatory praises upon Vice Admiral William P. Lawrence, his friend from Naval Academy days, Ross Perot in his foreword to Tennessee Patriot, states that “I am honored to have been associated with Bill Lawrence, the embodiment of an American Hero of Heroes.”
Me, too.

It’s tough to review an autobiography of a man who has had such a great influence on my life. He was a personal role model and inspiration to me right up to the day he died. It’s my opinion that Bill Lawrence is as close as the Naval Academy has ever come to graduating a MacArthur. General Douglas MacArthur, Class of 1902 at West Point, excelled at nearly every endeavor at our sister academy – including being first captain and valedictorian. In the 20s, he was Superintendent at West Point and, later, made major contributions to our country.

Admiral Lawrence stood very high in the Class of ’51 academically, was the Brigade Commander militarily, was elected by his classmates as class president and by his football teammates as their captain. He also spearheaded the effort that revamped the Honor Code into its present form. But, unlike MacArthur, Bill Lawrence suffered through personal suffering and tragedy his West Point leader counterpart could never begin to imagine.

That “Billy” Lawrence would be so successful was almost pre-ordained. Rosario Rausa, helping Admiral Lawrence summarize his life in a too-short book had a daunting task, well-performed. Trying to capture an incredibly complicated, competent, successful man who derived his greatest pleasure out of seeing others succeed was a very difficult task. And I suspect Rausa had trouble keeping Lawrence on the topic of the book – himself – when Lawrence probably wanted to talk of others.

Lawrence had been programmed to succeed since his earliest days in Nashville and thrived on competition. Throughout his life, he met men who influenced him and made such an impression that, later when he was in positions of responsibility his personal influence on those around him was truly remarkable. Rausa captures this well. Throughout the book Lawrence takes as much pride in the stellar performance of those he trained as in his downplaying of his own considerable achievements.

Lawrence’s earliest years are filled with the testosterone-laden atmosphere that successful men of his generation learned from teachers, coaches, fathers and various role models others overlooked. He states that “everything seemed to come easy to me” without revealing that his extraordinary work ethic probably played a big part.  He graduated eighth in his class at the Naval Academy, did well in flight training, was relegated to shore duty for a short while then became a Navy test pilot. While stationed at NAS Patuxent River, he flew – among many others – the F8U-3 and became the first Navy pilot to exceed Mach 2.0 (twice the speed of sound) in that airplane.

Several of his associates at Pax applied for and became the first group of astronauts. Bill was kept from competing for the astronaut opening by a miniscule heart murmur that was only discovered by the meticulous examination required of all contenders for these highly coveted “slots.” Characteristically, he stoically accepted the findings and pressed on to command a Navy F-4 squadron in combat in Vietnam.

Throughout the book Admiral Lawrence discusses the long separations from his family that routine Navy cruises and assignments required. He never complains about the separations but analyzes the problem with the detached, objective viewpoint often seen among test pilots. Shot down and captured in June 1967. Lawrence was to find that those separations paled in comparison to what he was about to endure.

Then-Commander Lawrence’s time as a prisoner of war was a continuation of his “never waste time” philosophy. When the Communists tried to play with his mind, Bill would replay football games; relive his many interesting flights as a test pilot and in combat; design and build things in his mind. But he never forgot his wife and children. He agonized over being separated from them, but knew that the experiences of earlier separations would help them survive it.

Despite the brutal torture, continual harassment and solitary confinement, he never wavered. Try as they might, the vicious North Vietnamese interrogators were never able to break Lawrence. Finally, after President Nixon got fed up with North Vietnamese perfidy and using the “peace talks” as an instrument of their propaganda, he took steps that the Joint Chiefs had been recommending since 1965 – eight years earlier. Mine North Vietnamese harbors and shut down the railroad and other strategic targets using internal bombing with our B-52s. Within 60 days of the start of the “Christmas Bombing,” the first group of POWs was on its way home to the United States with C-141 fueling stops in the Philippines, Hawaii and Travis AFB in Sacramento.

The most poignant episode in the book occurs when then-Captain Bill Lawrence is told at Clark AFB that his wife had divorced him (under grounds of desertion) and married a man who became a bishop in the Episcopal Church. Lawrence didn’t take it well. It was a very rough time for him but he ended up with custody of his younger daughter, Wendy.

While a student at the National War College, Lawrence met Diane Rauch –a beautiful, confident, successful physical therapist – through the graces of one of her patients, John McCain. They met and married very shortly afterward. Diane, beautiful in all ways, was made an honorary member of several classes of midshipmen who considered her a second “mom.”

After several good assignments but, lamentably, no aircraft carrier command, Captain Lawrence became an admiral and a good one. He had several nice tours in the Navy’s HQ in Washington including being in charge of all Naval Air Forces. And the “MacArthur of Annapolis” became Superintendent of the Naval Academy during a very difficult time. Women at the academies were not well-accepted and there was much Alumni pressure to abolish the presidential directive. In the middle of the very acrimonious debate, Admiral Lawrence’s daughter, Wendy, was a midshipman at Navy in the class of 1981, the second USNA class to admit women.

Admiral Lawrence supported the changes in the system but felt constrained that anything he decided could be jaded by the fact that Wendy was a midshipman. As it turned out, Wendy became a midshipman student leader, successful Navy helicopter pilot and an astronaut who made three flights before retiring as a Navy captain in 2006.

Lawrence had a very serious stroke when he was the Chief of Naval Personnel. Although his mind was as sharp as ever, his superb, athletic body refused to comply with the commands issued by his brain. The admiral who routinely beat Navy varsity midshipmen tennis players was unable to even move around on his own. It was very frustrating for him for the last few years of his life. However, almost up to the last day of his life, Lawrence would pick up the phone and call friends inviting them to his class luncheon at Annapolis. Or to join him at the Navy football game. Or to tell them jokes, many of which can’t be repeated here.

He died while napping on December 2, 2005 the day before he was to journey to Philadelphia to watch his beloved Navy football team in its annual clash with arch-rival, Army. His funeral at the Naval Academy Chapel was attended by thousands. Seated in special seating up front near his widow, Diane, were many former POWs and several rows of his USNA classmates. Bill was eulogized by fellow POW Senator John McCain’58 and his friend and protégé from midshipmen days, H. Ross Perot ’53. The burial, on a cold, drizzly day followed a long walking procession by his many friends and military comrades. As the last shot from the volley of three sounded, a flight of four FA-18s broke into the missing man formation over the gravesite.

As the sun came out as the single F-18 was streaking toward it, I couldn’t help thinking that Lawrence was riding that bird skyward. It was indeed a fitting ending and tribute to one of the finest men this great country has ever produced.

Commander Paul Galanti ’62, USN (Ret.), was shot down and captured in June 1966. He served with Admiral Lawrence twice – once in Hanoi as a prisoner of war and later at USNA while the Admiral was Superintendent.