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BOY SCOUTS DON'T WIN WARS

Published in San Diego Union, Bernardo News, and other publications

BY

ALAN POLK HEMPHILL

There has always been a wide chasm between the ideals of civilization, and the actions of men on whom the civilized must depend to protect them from the Huns.

War is fought on the lowest common denominator. Any combatant who obeys the Marquis of Queensberry Rules will inevitably lose a fight to a combatant who follows the rules of the Marquis of Sade. Boy Scouts cannot win wars, and civilization cannot afford to lose, even once, to the forces of darkness.

The uncivilized forces of the world can afford to lose each war without any lasting penalty - the civilized forces will often help rebuild them. But one victory of the fanatics, would spell doom for the losers. As an example a victory by the extremist Arab nations over Israel, would be the end of Israel. Israel can win every war, without ever effecting a final victory. The extremist Arab states only need to win once to destroy Israel. Should the forces of darkness prevail, it will again be centuries of the Moors.

Civilization does not have a large number of individuals who can regale a cocktail party with an analysis of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor during peacetime, and then crawl through 200 feet of slime to cut the throat of a mortal enemy during wartime. More is the pity, because these men would be ideal. But the brunt of the fighting is always done by the men that civilized people despise so much during peacetime.

I vividly recall being the Engineering officer of a diesel submarine whose Engineman Chief was not dissimilar to the Sgt. Highway character played by Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge. He missed about every morning muster during our deployment to the Pacific in the late 60's. I dragged him out of almost every bar and house of ill repute in Yokosuka, sometimes physically. I could have made a career out of answering his debt letters, and he must have been years in arrears on his child support payment.

But once when one of our diesel engines failed while on a 60 day submerged patrol in the South China Sea - doing work in territorial waters in a manner that did not always exactly comply with international law, this Chief made all the overlooking of the normal civilized rules pay off. After almost 30 hours of non-stop work on the engine by rotating crews, I entered the engine room to see the working crew of men asleep, and the Chief kneeling before the engine and actually beating on the engine with blood running down his forearms, while he cursed the engine for not working. He had supervised five consecutive teams, and he would not sleep until the seventh team finally got the engine to cough, sputter, and start.

If the part the Chief needed to repair the engine was a quarter inch gold washer, the Commanding Officer had better not go to sleep with his wedding ring showing. Once while on a secret "peacetime" mission, our submarine was forced to withdraw a few miles from shore and surface to repair a broken valve. I needed a volunteer to go overboard with me to repair the valve, and I explained that the CO would submerge the submarine instantly without stopping to get us back aboard upon the sighting of any boat or aircraft, or even upon intercepting any radar signal. The CO could only promise to return for us when the safety of the entire crew and submarine permitted. Assuming he could find us in a dark sea without using radar for navigation or lights for finding us. The Chief's would not let anyone take his place. Fortunately, we made it without incident.

When we returned to the US, and I was relieved as Engineering Officer to assume duties as Operations Officer, my relief put the Chief on report for every niggling sin of omission and commission, a substantial list. Within a ten month period the Chief was reduced, one grade at a time, to Seaman, and finally cashiered out of the Navy. I hope someone kept his telephone number.

If the balloon goes up we will need the likes of the Chief, and Ollie North, and the fictional Sgt. Tom Highway. With men like this, a small team can go into Hell and put out the fires. These are men with whom to "ride the river" as the expression went in frontier Texas to describe men of fighting skills and loyalty.

When you call Ollie North, you had better hope he forgives you. Knowing his kind, he will.

Lucky for you. You don't deserve it.

 

 

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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Allen Hemphill
Last modified: August 13, 2012