Admiral Robert Lyman John Long, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Bob to most, is honored, pleased, and probably marveling that so many of his beloved shipmates and friends have come to remember him with gratitude and to say farewell.
He doesn’t want a day of grieving and sorrow. He wants us to take advantage of the fellowship the day offers.
Bob loved this chapel, this Academy, and his Navy-all of it-every aspect, including appropriate pomp and ceremony. He left this world very proud of his contributions to Navy, country, and the free world-rightly so! Today, with appropriate pomp and ceremony, we will provide the recognition he deserves, and he will enjoy it.
Never doubt his presence! Events given in his honor were his cup of tea and he certainly would not miss this one with all its trappings. Never an egoist, yet humble he is not, God bless him.
Every sailor has a particular branch of the Navy which is special to him. Bob was no exception. Submariners and their submarines were extra special to him.
When Admiral Jim Holloway selected Bob to be the Vice Chief, he reminded him he was to be Vice Chief of the whole Navy. Bob, agreeing laughingly, assured him he would be no more parochial toward submarines than he, Admiral Holloway, was toward his Naval Air.
Those two became a terrific team, deftly restoring tradition and balance to a Navy in turnoil.
Admiral Long, a practical visionary, became an extremely well rounded, complete Naval officer. He had just that bit of parochialism and advocacy for submarines that he maintained was needed from the leaders of each of the unique branches in order for each branch to become the best it could be for the common good of the whole Navy. But, Bob never lost sight of the nation’s need for a balanced Navy of high quality and allies to facilitate its worldwide use.
He had strong opinions about how the Navy should be structured and the missions it should undertake. He worked vigorously for acceptance of his concepts and in pursuit of acceptance, became, in time, astute in the art of compromise and persuasion. Always considering time to be of the essence-he was always in a hurry-he learned to occasionally accept half-loaf if not estopped from coming back for the other half. He was very pleased when he could walk around a barrier instead of having to crash it. He was happiest when he could succeed in getting an adversary to hoist himself on his own petard and he tailored his approach to the personality of the person with whom he was dealing. In his good ol’ Southern Boy persona, he said to Senator Stennis, “Senator, I know better than to try to tell an old dog how to suck eggs, but I’m not afraid to tell him which eggs are rotten and which are good for sucking.” A laughing Stennis gave him what he wanted.
He could be a hard line, table thumping ogre if need be, but he could also be an old smoothie. I’m sure some of the losers, on reflecting what had happened to them in negotiations, concluded they had been had by a slick operator. Never! They just couldn’t discern the difference in ultra-smooth and slick.
Bob was adept at selecting the right time to strike. It took him only 15 minutes to get an Army Colonel, whom he found puzzling over how best to reduce maintenance costs of Army base, to sign over to the Navy a worthless, snake infested, never used, costly to maintain NATO ammunition facility in Georgia. It is now the location of our magnificent Kings Bay Submarine Base.
Bob was actively involved in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. He was a major player during the long, tense forty-plus years of the Cold War, and in more worldwide crisis events than one can imagine. Regarding such, he had a knack for cutting to the core of a problem, making a decision as to the solution, and getting on with it. I estimate his batting average for success was over .800. If he realized he had taken a wrong turn, he would quickly and unabashedly about-fact and march off in another direction, never blaming others for his mistake.
In the course of his career, he served as a battleship Division Officer, Department Head on various diesel submarines and a Commander of one. He oversaw construction and had operational command of two nuclear powered Polaris submarines, was Branch Head in the Special Projects organization, and was Executive Assistant to Under Secretary of the Navy Bob Baldwin. He told the Secretary he did not want the job because he had orders to the billet of Deputy Director Special Projects Office which was producing the Navy’s Polaris Missile System. Mr. Baldwin said, “Would you not like to aim higher than that?” Bob did choose to “aim higher”.
As a Rear Admiral, he commanded the Service Force in Sasebo, Japan in support of the forces engaged in Vietnam and then took over responsibility as Deputy NA VSEA for Navy-wide maintenance.
As a Vice Admiral, he commanded the Submarine Force Atlantic Fleet and NATO, before becoming Deputy CNO for submarines under Admiral Holloway. After promotion to Admiral, he moved up to be Vice Chief of the whole Navy and then to Commander in Chief Pacific, from which after a distinguished tour he retired to civilian life, keeping his thumb well stuck in every worthwhile pie he found being baked by the Navy or DoD.
In every assignment, he had worked very hard to become the best, most professional officer ever to serve in that billet. He expertly gave his all.
During his career, the technological advances were mind-boggling. He was not an inventor, designer or hard-core engineer, but he well understood the scientific and engineering aspects of each advance. More importantly, Bob knew how to make operational use of new technology and provide it the required logistic support.
A great leader, Admiral Long inspired fierce loyalty in subordinates and great respect from peers and seniors. He was a great teacher. Two of his more apt students, both former aides, are here today-Admiral Tom Fargo, now CINCPAC, and Vice Admiral John Grossenbacher, now COMNAVSUBFORCES.
He gained wide recognition as a wise counselor and statesman in the halls of the Pentagon, Congress, White House, NATO, and the governments of countries in the Pacific area he commanded.
Bob believed and forcefully expressed his conviction that great leaders were first and foremost imbued with honesty, integrity, a sense of morality, an understanding of right and wrong, and a strong, strong work ethic.
He had great contempt for cheaters, slackers, and the immoral. He ruthlessly tossed away any rotten apples in barrels under his control.
He did not change when in retirement he joined the Board of Directors of such as GTE, Kaman, Morgan Stanley, and Northrop. He was never a rubber stamp for any CEO. He left his mark on every corporation for which he served.
As for rotten apples, suspecting financial mismanagement at Northrop he led an investigation team of outside Directors with one of the end results being the departure of the CEO. Would we had more like him out there today!
Bob was devoted to his first and only love, the very intelligent and cultured Sarah Helms, and the feeling was mutual. She is a great lady with a flair for home making and proper rearing of children. She possesses the savoir-faire which enabled her to gracefully and effectively team with Bob in the milieu in which they moved.
Together, they raised Charlie, Bill, and Rob to be fine young men-good responsible citizens all. Using a lot of guidance, and just the right blend of carrot and stick, they brought to fruition the intellectual growth and maturity presaged by the splendid genetic endowment they provided their children.
Like attributes can be seen in the ladies who chose their sons for husbands, and in their grandchildren.
It is not an exaggeration to say Sarah Long has always been revered by those in her immediate and extended family. Bob can rest assured such reverence will endure, and his beloved Sarah will receive continuing loving care and attention from their progeny.
We will miss him; however, we can all be grateful he came our way.