Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Fall from Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Fall from Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy

Article excerpt

Fall from Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy by Gregory L. Vistica. Touchstone, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York City 10020, 1995, 478 pages, $14.00 (paperback).

Many readers remember the zenith in the early 1980s from whence the author claims the Navy has fallen: Tom Clancy established the technothriller genre with The Hunt for Red October Navy Tomcats struck the first blow against Libya by shooting down two of Gadhafi's jets after American ships crossed the "Line of Death," and Tom Cruise achieved megastardom portraying an F-14 jock in Top Gun.

Most will also have noted the precipitous decline of the Navy, which began shortly thereafter. The Vincennes mistakenly shot down an Iranian airliner, Navy ships served primarily as Tomahawk launchers during the Gulf War, and the Tailhook Association's annual gathering became the Mother of All Public Relations Debacles. After a host of other equally disturbing incidents plagued the Navy, the chief of Naval Operations, Adm Jeremy "Mike" Boorda, took his own life in 1996. How could the service go from triumph to tragedy so quickly?

Newsweek reporter Gregory L. Vistica proposes one answer: a catastrophic failure in leadership among the men charged with keeping the Navy on course. Vistica is a respected journalist with special expertise in reporting on the Navy-it was he who broke the Tailhook story for the national media.

The author has done his homework in Fall from Glory. His well-documented indictment of Navy leadership is damning enough that the book is rumored to be noxious to the careers of those Navy officers caught reading it.

And with good cause. The portrait Vistica paints is one of constant struggle within the Pentagon between ambitious bureaucrats like Navy secretary John Lehman and an old boys' network of ringknocking admirals like Adm Tom Hayward, whose internecine clashes were fought without regard to the best interests of the Navy, the taxpayer, or the nation. The result of this struggle was a bloated Navy struggling to attain Lehman's unsupportable six-hundred-ship goal and utterly lacking in moral leadership. The subsequent decline in discipline and effectiveness should not be surprising.

Vistica's documentation is generally impeccable. He conducted extensive interviews with the key players in the Navy's rise and fall. …

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