35 Years of Sea Classics!
Schnepf, Ed, Sea Classics
It's amazing how a simple idea can take on a life of its own.
Thirty-five years ago - the Spring of 1968 to be exact - a group of Challenge editors were at lunch lamenting about the Vietnam War, the disturbing political scene, and changing trends in the reading habits of America's culturally-mixed society. Munching corned beef sandwiches, we debated if America's diverse rank and file was really interested in a political conflict 7000 miles from our shores? Never a popular conflict, or even a war at all in the public view, Vietnam was nevertheless fast turning into a major military operation with ever increasing American participation. The Tonkin Gulf Resolution emphasized the naval aspects of the Vietnam situation as well as adding focus to the irrefutable fact that the Cold War against the Soviets was largely being waged at sea. Like it or not, Vietnam was an American involvement journalists could ill afford to ignore. Just what role would the US Navy, Marine Corps, Merchant Marine, and Coast Guard play in this explosive scenario?
Writer Joe Mizrahi, lately a Captain in the USAF and then Managing Editor of Air Classics, observed that it was a shame there did not exist a nationally distributed magazine which paid homage to America's naval and marine sea heritage in the same manner that had proved so successful with Air Classics. Coronet Editor Jim Sheetz, a former Navy yeoman fresh out of uniform after several years on the carrier Oriskany, chimed in with the comment that the Navy's long and colorful history could certainly fill volumes of magazines. Next Street Rod Action Editor Jerry von Aspe joined the chorus reminding me about America's fabulous maritime history; our great rivers, the Great Lakes, the role that international shipping played in the development of our national commerce. Bob O'Hara, a Korean War USAF vet like myself, claimed it was time naval buffs had a magazine to serve their interest in ships. That did it. Their views were most persuasive. That simple luncheon inspired the creation of Sea Classics magazine which, with this December issue, now celebrates 35 years of continuous publication.
Quite by accident the birth of Sea Classics coincided with the arrival of the famed ocean liner RMS Queen Mary at its new home in Long Beach, California. What a fine way to kick off a title with so momentous an event, we happily speculated. To get the story firsthand we chartered a plane to take Jerry von Aspe to Mexico so he could rendezvous with the Queen Mary and write a piece about riding it home to Long Beach. Meanwhile, using what little political clout we could muster, we arranged to have photographer Elmer Batters aboard one of the harbor tugs that would greet the great lady. As the hopeful publisher of this new opus I went aboard the tug Long Beach to also snap pictures of its never to be forgotten arrival.
That story of Queen Mary's last voyage became the lead feature of Sea Classics premier issue. And it was a sellout. Our luncheon prognostications about interest in a salty seaflavored national magazine proved valid. True to our desired format, we included an interesting mix of stories, features and yarns about people and ships exploring every aspect of the naval and maritime experience. Like brewing a tasty stew,
we sought to create a recipe not only tangy in flavor but rich with nourishment in the form of entertaining, informative articles by some of the finest marine authors. We delved deep into history and exploration of the sea. We examined the why and how of tragic shipwrecks; the classic voyages of discovery, famed sea battles, and the evolution of ships from steam to nuclear propulsion.
As our circulation grew we began to attract large numbers of WWII Navy and Merchant Marine veterans eager to read about the sea exploits of the greatest nava war in the history of mankind. …