at the funeral service of
Rear Admiral JACK DARBY
who died of a heart attack on 1 January, 1987
while COMMANDER SUBMARINES PACIFIC
I’m here to talk for a few minutes about our good friend and shipmate Jack Darby.
I · have to say that I had a tough time collecting my thoughts for this day. My mind became a kaleidoscope — filled with multiple images of our association and shared experiences. I found it difficult to put some order to the matter.
I first met Lieutenant Jack Darby when he was Weapons Officer in USS DACE. I was a new commanding officer looking for a way to get off to a good start. Jack helped make that possible -he had a big part in establishing the reputation that the submarine already enjoyed, and he helped set the tone for later, because of what he did, and what he left behind.
The next time he was Commander Jack Darby. I had just set up shop in the Mediterranean when who appeared but Jack, in command of THOMAS JEFFERSON. Jack spent five years in command of two missile submarines — with over four years of submerged operational And, most of us heard him say that he’d really like to do it all again.
To put that in perspective, think about the fact that submarines represent well over a third of our Navy’s combatant strength, but are manned by only a handful of young officers like Jack Darby — less than 10% of the Navy’s Officer Corps. Few outside of our community recognize the contribution made by these men, and nobody else fully understands the terrible personal responsibility borne by those who command the missile submarines. Jack knew — and he sought it. One SSBN command is far more time in the tiger’s mouth than most officers can handle — yet Jack went for two.
A few years later it was Captain Jack Darby Commandant of Midshipmen, USNA. Not unexpectedly, Jack showed his midshipmen a remarkable blend of professional competence, integrity, toughness and sensitivity. He had each of those fundamental characteristics of leadership in full neasure, but there was more. He had a unique sense of the worth of an individual, and the ability to see not only what he was, but also what he or she could become.
Jack had a tough act to follow as Commandant coming in behind Jim Winnefeld. But he was up tc it. He quickly became an eloquent example or the right guy in the right place at the right time.
Then it was Admiral Jack Darby — a highly regarded member of the Joint Staff; then COMMANDER, SUBMARINES PACIFIC. Again, the right guy in the right place at a critical time in the lives of our young submarine officers and enlisted men.
Throughout his career, Jack Darby demonstrated great skill as an operator, a diplomat, and as a military commander. And he commanded. He did not manage, he did not petition or manipulate. He commanded.
He did many things well, but most or all, he was a submarine officer — the kind of guy who revels in the challenge of the deep ocean and in the company or brave and skillful men who would share it. He sought the direct personal responsibility of command — what he called the “inescapable responsibility” — and he encouraged others to do the same. In fact, his principal legacy is the young people whose lives he touched and who still serve in the same tradition of commitment — officers, enlisted men, and midshipmen who experienced his special sense of the right thing to do, and his singular ability to handle the toughest job with balance and lots of good humor. He made each of them reach deep inside for their own personal understanding of their chosen profession.
Jack also left us a legacy of commitment. I don’t think he ever had a job that wasn’t the most important thing in his professional life. Jack Darby never saw a job he couldn’t do or didn’t like. Even so, he was somewhat taken aback at the prospect of being the Commandant of Midshipmen without any undergraduate experience at the Naval Academy. But in the long run, it strengthened his commitment — and the Academy was better for it.
John Adams is supposed to haYe said; “There are only two creatures of value on the race of this earth, those who have a commitment, and those who demand the commitment of others.” Jack did both. He was, he is, truly a “creature of value.”
I shall not forget Jack Darby. He touched my life in many ways — just as he touched many of yours. There are a thousand ways to think of him. I like to remember that keg of beer he won from Commodore Mike Moore when DACE hit five of five in our first fleet exercise. But one of my best recollections comes from a submarine birthday ball several years ago. Jack and a bunch of former submarine CO’s got together to put on the floor show. I’m not sure whether they thought of themselves as a rock group or a country band that’s not important — what’s to remember is how they brought down the house with a raucous rendition or Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again.” But this time the name of the song was “On Patrol Again.” Jack sang “Oh how I wish I was on patrol again . . . . making music with my friends . . . . ”
There was a big crowd, and we all laughed a lot, but we also knew he meant it. So as we leave this chapel today, let’s think about him as he would have it. Jack’s not really gone — he’s just on -patrol again.
Now it’s time for his decoration. Jack liked to say “that the rewards of real service come in the knowledge that one’s work represents a lasting contribution to the welfare of individuals and the mission of the Navy.” We recognize such service with a medal and a citation to express the nation’s thanks for service that is at once beyond the simple call of duty, yet absolutely vital to our survival as a free people.
So now for the American people and on behalf of the President, it is my great pleasure to award the Distinguished Service Medal to Rear Admiral Jack Darby.