Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Renaissance Naval Officer

Admiral Ernest J. King


A Naval officer should have a firm handle on not just one or two, but every aspect of his humanity, working to strengthen himself in every way possible. If he is blessed with the gift of intelligence, his academic pursuits should not be chased to the expense of his physical health. Similarly, a creative personality should not lead an officer to isolate himself professionally and ignore the social aspect of his being a Naval officer. Excellence in one of these areas does not take attention away from the pursuit of the others but rather serves only to increase competence in complimentary areas, giving the Naval officer a greater understanding of himself, the Navy and the world around him.

Adapted from "The Art of Manliness"

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

If memory serves, ADM King played a not-insignificant, controversial role in the court-martialing of USS Indianapolis skipper CAPT McVay. I'm not suggesting one bad decision defines a career, but King's decision to have McVay courtmartialed in what was arguably an attempt to cover-up shortcomings on the part of the Navy, certainly gives one cause question just how great a leader King actually was.

Captain - Special Duty Cryptology said...

Anon 10:13

Fair enough. King was a well-known womanizer and borderline alcoholic also. Wartime leadership and peacetime leadership are very different. We can only view these men from what has been written about them or what they have written about themselves. He helped defeat the German U-Boat threat. Does that make him a great leader? Lots to consider. We can all educate ourselves better about these men who have gone before us by reading more.

Sailor Scholar said...

Captain McVay had two grown sons (Charles IV and Kimo) who recall their grandfather, Admiral McVay (Captain McVay's father) say that Admiral King, the person who had ordered their father's court-martial, “never forgot a grudge.” King had been a junior officer under Admiral McVay's command when he and other officers sneaked some women aboard a ship. Admiral McVay had a letter of reprimand placed in King's record. King used the court-martialing of Captain McVay to get back at Admiral McVay, or so the story goes

Anonymous said...

His family had considerable political ties throughout his career. That's why he got away with so much BS. That would include McVay's GCM as well. Strange how both charges against McVay held no water and contained almost no substance at all. King was a Political Jackass who should have retired as a Captain after WWI.

Steve said...

For a “warts and all” account of FADM Ernest J. King’s combative life and work, the late CDR Tom Buell’s Master of Sea Power” has to vie as a Gold Standard candidate.
A captivating, longish read, this biography of an unquestionably powerful wartime advisor, – if arguably ‘great’ more due to time and circumstance than character or personal appeal - Buell’s treatise shows an irascible, stubborn, arrogant man who understood the levers of international power and grand strategy when war’s high councils demanded such a person.

By temperament and drive, King was a sort of naval version of the Army’s George Patton or Curtis Le May; by cerebral potential, he was not a deployed warrior – rather a sailor’s George Marshall, both who were on a short leash to FDR throughout the Second World War. King, mercurial and driven, was feared by others – and, apparently, enjoyed it.
Who was he NOT among peers and professional colleagues? Chester Nimitz first comes to mind as King’s direct Opposite – likewise, Omar Bradley from Army and Jimmy Doolittle, of the nascent USAF. Those three general/flag officers, unlike King, were as much “People Persons” as warriors.

Ernie King may have “Shaved with a blowtorch” and drove subordinates with fear as his whip, but he was the “SOB” Roosevelt needed when the POTUS called for a high naval planner. As such, FADM King effected critical naval planning during very dark hours of world history.
When war disappeared. E J King had nothing to do. He made the dinner-speech rounds for a while – but died a superseded man whose international repute rapidly was overtaken by consumer habits and a wish to not think about the late WWII. Such was the woof and warp of Ernie King’s experience – one that increasingly would grow unacceptably reactionary as America headed toward other adventures of arms in which King’s particular brilliance could have been employed again. It is intriguing to consider how King’s acid personality would have fared in times of social change in an All-Volunteer Military.
Tom Buell had the last word on this topic – and he uttered it with a fine work on a man if his own brilliance…and his own demons.

Steve said...

For a “warts and all” account of FADM Ernest J. King’s combative life and work, the late CDR Tom Buell’s Master of Sea Power” has to vie as a Gold Standard candidate.
A captivating, longish read, this biography of an unquestionably powerful wartime advisor, – if arguably ‘great’ more due to time and circumstance than character or personal appeal - Buell’s treatise shows an irascible, stubborn, arrogant man who understood the levers of international power and grand strategy when war’s high councils demanded such a person.

By temperament and drive, King was a sort of naval version of the Army’s George Patton or Curtis Le May; by cerebral potential, he was not a deployed warrior – rather a sailor’s George Marshall, both who were on a short leash to FDR throughout the Second World War. King, mercurial and driven, was feared by others – and, apparently, enjoyed it.
Who was he NOT among peers and professional colleagues? Chester Nimitz first comes to mind as King’s direct Opposite – likewise, Omar Bradley from Army and Jimmy Doolittle, of the nascent USAF. Those three general/flag officers, unlike King, were as much “People Persons” as warriors.

Ernie King may have “Shaved with a blowtorch” and drove subordinates with fear as his whip, but he was the “SOB” Roosevelt needed when the POTUS called for a high naval planner. As such, FADM King effected critical naval planning during very dark hours of world history.
When war disappeared. E J King had nothing to do. He made the dinner-speech rounds for a while – but died a superseded man whose international repute rapidly was overtaken by consumer habits and a wish to not think about the late WWII. Such was the woof and warp of Ernie King’s experience – one that increasingly would grow unacceptably reactionary as America headed toward other adventures of arms in which King’s particular brilliance could have been employed again. It is intriguing to consider how King’s acid personality would have fared in times of social change in an All-Volunteer Military.
Tom Buell had the last word on this topic – and he uttered it with a fine work on a man if his own brilliance…and his own demons.

Anonymous said...

Another interesting Admiral King anecdote involves the capture of U-Boat U-505 by CAPT (later RADM) Daniel Gallery.

King was reportedly furious with Gallery and threatened to court-martial him because if the Germans learned U-505 had been captured rather than sunk, they would conclude that the (already broken) Ultra code had been compromised and switched to a new unbroken coding technique.