Sunday, May 13, 2007

Great Men

Hi mom. Happy Mother's Day.
This year none of your boys are serving in harms way, but a lot of other mom's kids are. I hope they have good luck and good commanders. Here's a story about two good commanders.

On June 20th, 1944, Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher was commanding Task Force 58: 7 fleet carriers, 8 light fleet carriers, 7 battleships, 8 heavy cruisers, 12 light cruisers, 67 destroyers. An awesome fleet, an awesome responsibility. 98,000 lives in his hands.

One of the fleet's Task Groups had to send out 216 aircrew very late in the afternoon. They knew the planes would be coming back to the carriers in the dark, at the very end of their fuel supplies. Here's how Time Magazine tells the story of the Admiral's beacon for his boys to come home to:

"...Within hours, many of these same aviators owed their lives to the high humanity of their chief, "Pete" Mitscher. On June 20, having dispatched a late afternoon raid of his own on the still-stubborn Ozawa, Mitscher knew his planes would not make it back till after the quick tropical twilight. It was a pitch-black 8:45 p.m. before the first returning planes began circling the decks of TF 58. "Pete" Mitscher then made a decision that endeared him to carrier pilots forever. Heedless of enemy planes and submarines, he ordered the lights turned on. For two hours, in a crazy quilt of light that reminded one homing flyer of "a Hollywood premiere, Chinese New Year's and Fourth of July rolled into one," the planes landed. Eighty pilots, weary and out of gas, splashed into the sea, but relatively few lives were lost." Time June 29, 1953.

Another account of the Admiral's agonizing decision (the Japanese submariners were skillful, brave and deadly) quotes one of the pilots "scared, low on fuel and a little bit lost" when he saw starshells from those 67 destroyers on submarine picket and every searchlight in the fleet criss-crossing the night sky. Talk about leaving the porchlight on!

Why is this story in a blog about climate and investments?

Because another commander who cared deeply about his troops (and his country) had this to say:
(first, the part you know) "...In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. "

And the part you may not know:
"...Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite."

Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation
January 17, 1961