Is Naval Aviation Culture Dead? / Ben English

Thanks to all who serve and who have served!!!


Contributed by: Dan Sorkin

…The Great Santini is catapulted off the deck of the aircraft carrier, Sicily. His Black Sheep squadron is the first to reach the Korean Theater and American ground troops had been getting torn up by North Korean regulars.Let me do it in his voice:

“We didn’t even have a map of Korea. Not zip. We just headed toward the sound of artillery firing along the Naktong River. They told us to keep the North Koreans on their side of the Naktong. Air power hadn’t been a factor until we got there that day. I radioed to Bill Lundin. I was his wingman.’There they are. Let’s go get ‘em.’ So we did.”

I was interviewing Dad so I asked, “How do you know you got them?””Easy,” The Great Santini said. “They were running-it’s a good sign when you see the enemy running. There was another good sign.”

“What was that, Dad?”

“They were on fire”…

“Beware the lessons of a fighter pilot who would rather fly a slide rule than kick your ass!”

– Commander Ron ‘Mugs’ McKeown, USN, Commander of the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School

     John Stuart Mill once lamented that the ugliness of war is not the worst thing that can happen to a country; it is far worse for a nation to believe there is nothing worth fighting a war over.   I would humbly add to that list the ugliness and mind boggling waste of fighting any war and then losing.

Wars are won by organizations and nations which recognize and propagate the warrior ethos.  My old alma mater, the United States Marine Corps, understands this concept well and has put it to good use through generations of highly disciplined, highly trained and highly motivated men who have kept the wolf away from the front door throughout our nation’s history.  Certain groups among the other Armed Forces of the United States of America have done the same, and naval aviators certainly fall into this category.

The United States Navy itself has a rich background to form a warrior culture from.  From the days of “wooden ships and iron men”, our Navy made up for early disparities in numbers with heaping portions of courage, verve, and a never-say-die attitude which permeated from the highest echelons of rank down to the basic seaman.  These endearing attributes of the seagoing warrior saved many a day for both flag and country upon the high seas.

But with the advent of naval aviation during the early 20th Century, a new class of fighting man was created within the Navy.  Like their predecessors before them, their fewness in number was more than mitigated by their sheer audacity and fearlessness.  By the end of World War II they, along with their brethren both on and under the oceans, had produced the mightiest and most adept navy the world had ever known.

From that time frame forward, the mission of the United States Navy changed.  It was now a world-wide force projection organization which served as a constant and potent deterrent against the Communist aggression mainly presented by the Soviet Union.  Everyone did their part in ways which most Americans to this day never realized.  For example; operations are now being declassified which illustrate how the Navy’s submarine force was a silent service in more ways than one.

But the tip of the spear, and the largest concentration of the warrior ethos, continued to be the aviation arm.  Because when the Cold War went hot like in places such as Korea and Vietnam, they were by design and necessity the guys who got shot at and shot back.  They were the ones who flew into the mouth of the cat time and again; often coming back in planes which were more junk than flying machine and sometimes not coming back at all.  Even during the rigors of a typical training schedule, far from the sound of shots fired in anger, their operational losses both in men and equipment far exceeded the other branches of the Naval Service.

Thus the peculiarity of the culture of Naval Aviation continued to grow.  Even after the fall of the Soviet Union they, along with the Navy Special Ops groups, were the ones who actually took the fight to the enemy.  They were the ones who proved their warrior spirit at any given opportunity, and paid the price in so faithfully doing so.

The United States Navy today is a completely different organization than it was even 10 years ago.  There are many who say this change has not been for the better.  In an era where political correctness has run amok, it is said that our Navy has suffered the most of all and that Naval Aviation was the first casualty.  Many former and retired Navy officers and chiefs are voicing the worried opinion that it has been so long since their beloved Navy has been in a real fight that it has forgotten what is needed to win, and the type of individual and leadership needed to secure that victory.

Recently I heard from a young sailor stationed halfway around the world.  Her unit, serving diligently on the border of Iraq, was visited by the now outgoing CNO Admiral Roughead.  Whatever she and her other sailors were expecting from the Chief of Naval Operations, it was not hearing him only talk about how proud he was of the present Navy culture of “diversity”, and how personally pleased he was with the repeal of DADT.   To say that she and her fellow sailors were less than overwhelmed with the Admiral’s sense of priorities would be putting it mildly.  They expected more; they deserved far more.

The following article, written by former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, addresses the current state of the Navy and the attendant death of the Naval Aviation culture.  I have taken the liberty of adding some photographs in an attempt to help illustrate the time line involved.  I can not give credit to any one person for passing this article along to me, as I received it from at least a dozen individuals who had proudly worn the Navy uniform or who still serve in that capacity.

I would like to take this time to thank each of them for their selfless and faithful service to both the Navy and our country.  Fair winds and following seas to all of you.


Ben H. English

Ozona, Texas

Forwarded by
Dan Sorkin
Chief Stump


Here is a test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished:

If you’re alive, it isn’t.

…richard bach

Is Naval Aviation Culture Dead?

By John Lehman

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