Reflection of a Submariner
The American public knows Edward L. Beach as a premier submariner storyteller, his Navy colleagues know him as a consummate professional who led a highly distinguished career and his shipmates know him as a tactician, an excellent ship handler, a teacher, and most particularly as a friend who dearly loves the Navy. In Salt and Steel, his telling of the twentieth century Navy story in terms of his own experiences, Ned has produced, not a memoir, but a very personalized illustration of that unique deep relationship to the service, to the ships, and especially to the people who share that feeling which every sailor knows.
This is a book that will appeal to all who already know the general story; the history buffs, the WW II types, those who fought all the unification battles of the ’40s and the ’50s, the Cold Warriors, and the people who are now responsible for building the Navy of the future. It should be read also by young naval officers, and those who aspire to be one, as they seek to find their own way and set their own standards in the naval profession. It is the general public, however those who know Ned as the author of Run Silent, Run Deep, Around the World Submeq~ed and many other books and articles (remember Beachly Edwards writing in the Saturday EyeninK Post?)-who, along with the U.S. Navy itself, will benefit most from a wide reading of this very personal set of reflections on the service from one who spent an entire lifetime experiencing the best of it.
One source of Ned’s reflections is from his family. The way his mother and father met is a very navy story and Ned’s childhood memories of life in the Mare Island Naval Shipyard are tied to his own desire for a naval career. Naturally, the main source for his reflections is his long and eventful sea duty. After eleven successful war patrols, some purely spectacular, Ned even had command of a boat during the war, only six years out of the Naval Academy. In all Ned, Beach commanded five ships and each and every one of those commands was special and a standout in the memory of all the others involved. PIPER’s patrol at the end of the war, AMBERJACK’s high angles, the new TRIGGER’s shakedown cruise, SALOMONIE’s need for preservation (which earned him the Red Lead Ned nickname), and of course the submerged circumnavigation in TRITON are all mentioned by Ned as illustrious of the history and purpose of the Navy.
His shore duty stations also figure prominently in forming Ned’s reflections. It would be safe to say that he was in a unique position to view the naval scene in the post-War II/early Cold War period because his assignments were well above the usual Washing-ton postings: Aide to the Chief of Naval Personnel, the Atomic Defense Section of the OpNav staff (and an early involvement with then-Captain Rickover), the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when General Omar Bradley held that position, and Naval Aide to President Dwight D . Eisenhower.
Ned Beach even offers a bit of a mystery in his story about a “Joe Blunt”. Using the name of a character from his novel Run Silent, Run Deep, he tells of a senior officer who asked Ned to use his position as Naval Aide to the President to help the senior’s chances for selection to Flag rank. When Ned refused to do so he felt that his own subsequent promotion selections were adversely impacted by “Joe Blunt”. The full identity of “Joe Blunt” is not revealed in the book, but there are probably enough clues sprinkled around in the story to help his submarine contemporaries solve the mystery without too much trouble. I know that rm curious and I hope one of them tells me.
The last chapter in the book is titled Ideas for Our Navy’s Future Years. Coming from one with such long and distinguished active service, followed by many years of thinking and writing about the Navy, the several ideas about personnel are well worth consideration by all involved with internal Navy policy. The real meat of the book, however, is in a section headed simply as the Influence of the Submarine Upon Sea Power and it is not just about internal Navy matters but it concerns the future of our national security efforts. It is, therefore; of importance to the American public and the top-level decision-makers they send to Washington to oversee those national security efforts.