How did the US military degenerate?

How did the US military degenerate? Good question. I think I know the answer – we were on the winning side of WWII.

Before the WWII, when an officer was picked to possibly command a cruiser as I was in 1975, he was subjected to about 7 days of oral and written examinations on every aspect of the ship whether it was gunnery, propulsion, seamanship, navigation, operations, feeding, supplies, replenishment, safety or whatever. Flunk one aspect and you were not given the job. There were correspondence courses to complete for each promotion to a higher rank. In short, you had to be a professional in every respect in order to advance and gain command.

In 1935, the US Navy had a total of 332 ships. In 1945, 6768. It was not unusual for an officer to be promoted twice in a year. Did we have time during WWII for correspondence courses or selection exams for commanding officers? Hell no, but the written requirements for all these remained in force.

After the war, everyone ignored the written requirements. They were good enough to be advanced or take a CO job without them during the war, so why weren’t they good enough after the war?

I joined the fleet in 1957 and started working on the correspondence courses for my first promotion. We were in port when an officer a rank senior to me said “let’s go ashore and have some fun”. I told him I was working on the required correspondence courses and he tried to convince me that no one did that. I did them, and later found out he was right. In fact, in 1962 the Navy formally did away with them.

Promotions and selection for command became a function of knowing the right people and being a hail fellow well met, not a professional. When I became eligible or promotion to Admiral and knew many of those eligible, I learned that most of those promoted had perfectly clean records – they had never done anything controversial, had never had any challenging jobs, and had always “gone along to get along”.

Besides the influence of winning WWII, there is the political realm. The War Department started when the country started, but after the establishment of the Department of the Navy in 1798, the War Department was only responsible for the Army with a very small staff. The Secretary of War during WWII was basically just an advisor to the President. In 1943 the Pentagon was built and everyone moved into it. But the power structure was not changed until the Army and Navy were merged by law in 1947 into the National Military Establishment and then the Department of Defense was created in 1949 so that civilians could get control of the military. Winning WWII must have proven that we needed civilians telling the military what to do, a responsibility left to the Congress by the Constitution.

DOD did not become all powerful until McNamara took over as SecDef and hugely increased control through the whiz kids who used operational analysis to figure out exactly how many guns and munitions were required meaning we went from full magazines at sea and 6-8 stored ashore to back us up, to not enough to load out more than 50% of at sea magazines and only the same number ashore. That is when in the late 1970s the four star in charge of all forces in Europe, General Haig (later Secretary of State), said that he would run out of munitions in the first week if the Russians attacked. DOD now has over 600K civilian employees by which to control the generals and admirals. So after WWII, politics became a very big consideration for officers trying to “go along to get along”.

Not sure the reader can understand our current situation knowing those facts, but having lived it I can tell you it does not surprise me that senior officers can take an oath to protect the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic and then turn around and violate that oath to “go along to get along”. Not much different from our Congress, Executive Branch, and Judiciary, the Judiciary being the worst offender. It is our nation’s culture as indoctrinated in us by our society. The only way to escape is to have parents, the Marine Corps, or some other group teaching us honor and true Christian principles. Unfortunately, the churches and our schools fail at this.

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commented 2014-07-10 16:09:36 -0400 · Flag
Ed writes:

I think you are right that “Obama is merely a symptom”. Well said. Every year around the July 4th Holiday I read about American Military History and the brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice. This year I read about the Battle of Long Island (aka Battle of Brooklyn) and the Marylanders who were tasked to repel the British during the retreat and disaster that faced the Continental Army that August in 1776. Only 59 of the 250 men made it back to Manhattan. All others where killed, captured or wounded. A good account is in a book titled 1776 which is a good read. Brave young men that were fighting for each other, for adventure and for the concept of independence. Thanks to men like Ben I feel we still have a lot to be optimistic about. This country was based on rising to the challenge, and these problems have solutions. We need to start with term limits on congress, that will allow for less concentration of power.
commented 2014-07-10 16:08:24 -0400 · Flag
A.A. writes:

This is not only profoundly absorbing but extremely educational. I second Jim’s gratitude and wish there were more men like you still handling the levers of power in the USA…alas what exists today is the curse of Mediocrity and Careerism…and thus the USA is basically finished. Over. The bureaucrats and the government drones and the careerist, self-serving opportunists have taken over and overrun the good people the way weed overpowers and degrades grass in a field. Obama is merely a symptom…the manifest end-product of a century of Centralized Collectivism posing as “Progressivism”.
commented 2014-07-10 16:07:23 -0400 · Flag
Jim writes:

Thanks for sharing all your wisdom on such things.
commented 2014-07-10 16:06:46 -0400 · Flag
Chris writes:

How the hell, IN 2 SCANT DECADES, did the US military degenerate from operating as a giant-slaying fighting force that saved the free world (ex-russia, which hasn’t ever been free or anything but a czarist/serf dehumanizing black hole since the 16th century), into a politicized exercise in self-defeat operated by pigmie fatasses without an iota of military credentials making injunctions 10,000 miles from where the shit is happening? How did the US military get from an astonishing ‘there’ to the current despiriting ‘here’?