Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Blast from the past. Vice Admiral Thomas Connolly...moral courage under a dictatorial SecDef.

Thanks to RC for the link!

via New York Times.
By then Admiral Connolly was on a four-star track, having distinguished himself as a crack test pilot, established the Navy's elite test pilot training center at Patuxent River, Md., commanded two carriers, a carrier division and the entire Pacific air wing, and had spent so much time in high-level Pentagon posts that it was hardly surprising when he was elevated to Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for air in 1966.

It was the time in which Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and the Whiz Kids he had brought to the Pentagon from the Ford Motor Company were pressing to save money by building a common plane, with slight variations, for both the Air Force and the Navy.

In theory it was a brilliant idea, but to the Navy, the execution was weighted dangerously in favor of Air Force needs. Indeed, to a man, Navy aviators and naval aviation specialists argued that the plane, the F-111, was unstable and too heavy for its thrust to take off from carriers.

In the political climate of the Johnson Administration, however, the Navy's concerns were swept aside, and like the loyal officers they were, the Navy's admirals kept their objections quiet in public.

Then came the day Vice Admiral Connolly joined a team headed by the Secretary of the Navy at a Senate hearing conducted by John C. Stennis, the chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee.

Gerald E. Miller, a retired admiral who was present as an aide to Admiral Connolly, recalled that Mr. was sympathetic to the Navy's position. But with Secretary Paul R. Ignatius of the Navy fielding every question, no matter how technical, and following the Pentagon line to the letter, Mr. Stennis despaired of getting the explicit criticism he needed.

Finally, in desperation, he singled out Admiral Connolly, noted his renowned expertise in naval aeronautics, and asked him pointedly to give his personal, not his official, opinion. Admiral Miller remembers vividly that Admiral Connolly swallowed hard, then declared, "There isn't enough thrust in Christendom to fix this plane."

With his answer, Admiral Miller noted, the Navy version of the F-111 died aborning and Admiral Connolly's dream of promotion to full admiral died along with it.

Having rescued the Navy from what he considered an aviation disaster, Admiral Connolly threw himself into the design and development of the F-14, becoming virtually the day-today project manager.

He retired in 1971, a star short of his dream, but his work on the F-14 and its name provided a measure of consolation. It is a tribute to his vision that two decades after it was introduced as the technological marvel of military aviation, modified versions of the F-14 are still regarded as the primary defenders of the nation's fleets.

And they still call it the Tomcat.
The article is here and unfortunately its notification of his passing, but the lesson for today's leaders is clear.  Country before self.  Integrity instead of blind obedience.  Personal sacrifice for the greater good.  But like I always say...physical courage is easy, moral courage is hard.

The difference between military leadership exhibited by the past greats and the clowns we now have is that they had the moral courage and intestinal fortitude to state the truth no matter what the consequences.  Admiral Connolly would have easily picked up his fourth star IF he played the game....IF he chose to roll over and hide behind statements like "its too big to fail" or "we must maintain the course".

Instead he did the hard thing.  And because he did, he saved the Navy from an unsuitable airplane and cemented his name as one of the greats of his generation.

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