CWO4 Exum !!
Today, at 83 years young, Wallace Louis Exum remains the embodiment of true Navy leadership. He is a man who lives his life richly in our Navy’s history, has performed bravely in battle, written lovingly about our Navy’s past and has prepared so many young men and women to lead our Navy’s future.
The Navy brought onto its rolls an improbable leader and a truly remarkable individual in an underaged 16 year old Seaman Recruit named Wallace Louis Exum in September 1943. Born in
Seaman Exum had not been in the Navy long before he strayed from his true course. More than once, he ran afoul of the Navy’s rules and regulations. Somewhere early-on he earned the nickname “Bigtime” for his easy-going manner, his extra thick Navy mattress and his home-of-record --
17 February 1945 marked one of the many milestones in his life when he was wounded in battle as his Landing Craft Infantry (LCI-457) came under fire during the battle for
Having won the war on both sides of the world, the military released many young men from the service. Wally Exum was among those men. But, somehow, he always found his way back to the Navy. He served in the Navy during the Korean War and Vietnam.
Over his career he found himself at sea for 18 years and gave the Navy and the nation 42 years of selfless service. His service took him around the world. He continues to serve the Navy in retirement today as a “Goodwill Ambassador”; his wonderful books tell the Navy’s story – and a wonderful story it is.
In 1981 at 55 years old, he was the first (and only) Chief Warrant Officer assigned as an instructor to the Navy’s Officer Candidate School (OCS) in
VADM Zech was certain that CWO3 Exum was the right man to develop these young men and women into professional Naval officers. VADM Zech sent exactly the right man. By all reports CWO3 Exum was an excellent navigation instructor.
With few (if any) exceptions, the officer candidates loved their instructor. Frequently he would spend many extra hours in the evenings with the officer candidates, teaching them the finer points of using a sextant to “shoot the stars” – absolutely essential to celestial navigation.
His evening lectures always ended with the same admonition to the young people trusted to his care. “Remember, ladies and gentlemen”, he would always say, “you can shoot the stars but we never shoot the moon.” The groans from the officer candidates would follow him all the way back to the parking lot where he parked a beautiful convertible Cadillac that his “even more beautiful” Joyce (one of the two loves in his life – the other being his daughter Marilyn) had given to him.
Without their realizing it at the time, Warrant Officer Exum was teaching these young people how to navigate their lives – not just celestial navigation. He taught them good manners, courtesy, honesty, patience, teamwork, integrity and so much more. He taught hundreds of young men and women to be good Naval officers. Those officers went on to lead thousands of Chief Petty Officers and Sailors in our great Navy. It is reasonable to say that CWO Exum impacted the lives of tens of thousands of Sailors through his good work and leadership in
Following duty as an instructor and Company Officer at
And that is what his life is all about. You’ll find him teaching celestial navigation in the middle and high schools in Washington State from time to time. I am sure those students haven’t figured it out yet but ‘ol mister Exum is teaching them how to navigate life. Those kids are still getting lessons in courtesy, teamwork, honesty and so much more. Count on CWO4 Exum to make sure all the charts are current, we’re steering by the stars, we’re taking the whole crew and everyone is steering “one true course”.
Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a lesson in manliness.