May 27

A Letter From a Captain to His Son

Friday, May 27, 2016 12:01 AM


Today, 27 May 2016, the Class of 2016 will be graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. The Naval Institute shares the words of a commanding officer to his son on the occasion of his son’s graduation from the Naval Academy in June, 1955.

As today’s graduates enter commissioned service, these words of sixty years ago ring true.

To the Class of 2016, the Naval Institute extends heartfelt congratulations.

Letter to My Son

By Captain——, U. S. Navy

21 May 1955

Dear Son,

A little over a quarter of a century ago I was on the verge, as you are today, of being graduated from the Naval Academy. No doubt your thoughts now, as mine were then, are occupied largely with the imminent release from a rigid routine of studies, drills, classes and a restriction of liberties that few people undergo for such an extended period. It is right and proper that you should anticipate this release, because it, together with the honor that comes with graduation, is a reward for which you can well be proud.

It is only natural that on this occasion I should reflect upon the years that have passed since I stood in your present position, and recall some of the lessons that they have brought. Also, it is perhaps only natural that I should want to pass those lessons along to you with the hope that they will be of some benefit to you in your career. For, in order that man progress, isn’t it necessary that each generation build upon the experiences of those that have gone before?

In reality these thoughts that I pass along for your consideration are not new but, rather, are well proven truths that are brought more sharply into focus with the passing of time. They are frequently either forgotten or disregarded by many who would readily recognize their worth, but who find the press of everyday living too exacting to give them the attention they deserve.

The naval profession has no superior in honor and service to its country. It has played a major role in the establishment and maintenance of virtually all great nations, and particularly our own. It is a profession that is respected, trusted, and depended upon by the civilian populace. It could not have reached its present stature and survived so long had it not yielded returns commensurate with the country’s investment and faith in it. Therefore, the uniform is one we wear with a pride that raises it above any act of dishonor.

Naval Academy Class of 1955. Naval Institute photo archive

Naval Academy Class of 1955. Naval Institute photo archive

Periodically there are those who maintain that the Navy is outmoded, and that wars can be fought and won more quickly and cheaply without a major naval effort. One of the greatest mistakes that the United States could make would be to succumb to such a philosophy. To do so would be to voluntarily sacrifice one of the major elements of a strategical and tactical combination of air force, army, and naval forces that, when employed in concert, are far stronger than the sum of their separate strengths. Periods of naval ultra-conservatism have been left far behind. The Navy of today, and of recent decades, has incorporated the use of the most modern weapons and equipments. Virtually the entire range of modern technological advancements has multiplied the Navy’s striking power manyfold, and we are well embarked upon further strides forward. I am not alone in forecasting naval developments in the near future that will dwarf anything that we have seen in the past. Nuclear power, nuclear weapons, electronics, and guided missiles are present day realities, but still in their infancy. You are most fortunate in entering the Navy at a time when you can participate in such development and growth.

Modern technology and its adaptation to military uses receive much publicity, attention, and stress. They are rightfully sources of pride. Regardless, however, of the importance of scientific achievement the prime ingredient of our profession is the human being, the individual. We call many of our weapons and equipment automatic. They are not automatic. Somewhere along the line their input and, consequently, their output are products of the human mind.

Naval Institute photo archive

Naval Institute photo archive

We must never lose sight of the importance of the individual in our profession, regardless of any apparently humble part he plays. Our weapons become progressively more destructive, and our equipments more efficient, but at the same time they both become more complicated. The time required for training the operating and maintenance personnel is likewise becoming progressively longer. The chances for error on the part of some individual in the chain of control become progressively greater. Every man of every rate must be constantly alert to do the right thing at the right time, and he must know of his importance and the heavy responsibility that he carries. I have found that a man’s sentiments, emotions, and personal feelings are not dependent upon his rate or rank. The basic superiority of democracy lies in its emphasis upon recognition of the individual human being. . . .

The rest of the letter may be viewed here.