Admiral Jerauld Wright: Warrior among Diplomats

Article excerpt

Key, David M., Jr., Admiral Jerauld Wright: Warrior among Diplomats. Manhattan, Kans.: Sunflower Univ. Press, 2001. 438pp. $22.95

For more than two-thirds of a century, a host of diplomats, military officers, and statesmen have been entertained in their wardrooms, clubs, and drawing rooms from London to Manila by Jerry Wright's stories and vignettes drawn from his remarkable career. After every session, the inevitable reaction would be, "Jerry, you've got to write a book."

Now that book has been written by David M. Key, Jr., a nephew of the admiral. Key, making good use of his Harvard A.B. in English, does an excellent job in letting his uncle and his contemporaries tell the story, while himself providing the historical context, one that is unusually rich in drama and import. Fortunately, Key had much to draw on, and he has done a thorough and discriminating job in his research. Wright wrote copiously-leaving journals, memos, articles, and letters-all flavored with the special brand of low-key, wry wit that was characteristic of him. Wright had plenty to write about. His career was replete with one-of-a-kind assignments, from being in charge of President Calvin Coolidge's yacht to commanding a British submarine in World War II (though he was neither British nor a submarine officer).

Born in 1898 into an Army family, Wright adored his father, and clearly the feeling was mutual. "Pop" took his son on hunting and fishing trips around the world, and the young boy relished the experience. When Wright was only thirteen, then-Major William Wright, stationed in Luzon as commander of the Philippine Scouts, took the youngster, armed with his own shotgun, on a military expedition to Mindanao to suppress an uprising by the rebellious Moros, Philippine Muslims. It was an adventure from America's brief colonial period, more Kipling than Hemingway.

In 1914 Wright entered the Naval Academy (at sixteen) because there was no appointment available at West Point. He graduated in only three years, because of World War I. He was sent to Europe on blockade duty, which also provided the opportunity to visit his father, now Major General Wright, commanding the 89th Infantry Division on the Western Front. However, the trip became more than just a visit with "Pop" at his tented headquarters when Ensign Wright was caught in a German artillery barrage.

It did not take the young naval officer long to realize that the U.S. Navy was the right place for him. He derived personal as well as professional satisfaction from his assignment as naval aide to Coolidge and from his subsequent deployment to the China Station as executive officer of a four-pipe destroyer. …