Annapolis, Maryland The Naval Institute Press, 2007, 479 pages,
Jerry Holland is a frequent contributor to THE SUBMARINE REVIEW and the NAVAL INSTITUTE PROCEEDINGS.
While it may not be apparent from the title why this book would appeal to submariners and their related aficionados and supporters, Admiral Holloway’ s reflections provide a view from the other community that thinks it operates the capital ship of the Navy. Better than Flight of the Intruder or The Bridges at Toko Ri, arguably the two best fictional works about naval aviation, Admiral Holloway’s first person narrative transports one into the exciting feel of flying from an aircraft carrier, on missions over enemy territory, pressing home an attack through heavy anti-aircraft fire. His descriptions reflect a professionalism that all operators can understand and admire. Additionally, Admiral Holloway’s descriptions provide those who have not had the opportunity to serve in or visit carriers at sea an opportunity to relate to and an appreciation of the complexity of flight deck operations and the importance of the individuals’ skills to the safe execution of those operations.
Three unique aspects recommend the book to a wide variety of readers who are not aviators. The excitement and danger of flying high performance aircraft in a dangerous environment provides every reader with a sense of why fighter/attack pilots see themselves as the closest modem replicas of medieval knights. The eleven-month deployment of USS ESSEX (CV-9) in the Korean War or the 241 days out of port of USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71) in the Indian Ocean serve as markers for those who consider strategic missile patrols the ultimate in prolonged deployment. And his exploits during repeated tours in the Pentagon demonstrate how important matters are handled there; most by mid-grade officers sometimes with and sometimes without their seniors knowledge or approval. For all readers, this relaxed discussion of the Navy from 1945 through 1990 is akin to having an informal friendly conversation with a wise and experienced senior who lived through it all and relates it interestingly.
In regards to naval aviation, Admiral Holloway was a principal in nearly all the major naval aviation decisions after the Korean War and he relates clearly the background and execution of the various actions taken. Rarely does one get such an intimate and accurate glimpse of how and why decisions are made. Submariners, often accused of by-the-bookitis by the ignorant or ill-informed, will appreciate Fighter Squadron Commander Holloway’s innovation in creating the Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures (NA TOPS); arguably his most significant contribution to the safety and effectiveness of naval aviation. The perseverance of the naval aviation community in its commitment to nuclear power through the abject rejection of both carriers and nuclear power in the McNamara and Carter years is evident. Admiral Rickover’s ability to seize the moment and his on-the-spot machination with Secretary of Defense McNamara in winning approval to build the carrier NIMITZ is a classic story not related elsewhere.
Admiral Holloway is an admirer of Admiral Rickover. As the OPNA V sponsor for the ENTERPRISE (CVN-65) and her second commanding officer, Admiral Holloway had many direct dealings with the Kindly Old Gentleman. Later as Carrier Program Manager for the NIMITZ class on the OPNAV Staff he interacted directly with Admiral Rickover. His relations with Admiral Rickover then and later as Vice Chief and Chief of Naval Operations are described admiringly with good humor though in one episode he does characterize Admiral Rickover as cantankerous. He openly admits to the nuclear power program’s influence when he, as CNO, established the PCO Ships Engineering Course in Idaho for all officers going to command at sea who had not had a tour in an engineering department or were not nuclear trained. Admiral Holloway poignantly describes the need for such a course by quoting an otherwise respected officer, rejecting the need for such a course saying about the propulsion plant of his hoped for carrier command, “I don’t care .. .if its rubber bands”.
Admiral Holloway’s book contains a strong dose of humility for submariners who consider themselves then and now as at the point of the spear. There is no mention of attack submarines or their activities. This may be because of classification but even fleet ballistic missile submarines rate a scant few sentences. In a larger sense however his descriptions reminds us that, as Halsey said, “the fleet is like a poker hand”. Every component provides a capability and even nuclear carriers are effective for only a short period without the logistic ships that provide their aviation fuel, ammunition and stores. Not everyone gets a front page; those who are on the front page need to remember what they are there for and who keeps them there; and all officers need a grasp of what the other parts of the fleet do.