Ethics at the Naval Academy: A Summary of the Debate


The State-Mandated Religion at the Academy by Default: Secular Humanism©


Gerald L. Atkinson

4 July 2001

About a year ago, a former chaplain (who essentially ‘resigned his commission’ by retiring as a result of what he saw being developed in the ‘ethics’ program) at the Naval Academy told me that the military chaplains there are expressly forbidden to participate in the Character Development Seminars, which are touted as the centroid of the new ‘ethics’ program. Navy O-5s and O-6s are eligible to lead and ‘facilitate’ Midshipmen, that is, be the New Age ‘priests’ and ‘pastors’ in the new ‘ethics’ seminars, but ordained military chaplains are not allowed to participate. So, what is going on here? This means that chaplains, who traditionally tended to the moral development and ethical practices of our nation’s military personnel are now expressly forbidden from participating in the central activity of their craft in the new ‘ethics’ program. Meanwhile, uninitiated, ill-prepared, and over-worked Naval officers are forced to take on the task of ‘informing’ the ethical character of the Academy’s midshipmen. And the Mids under their charge are forced to complete a mandatory ‘ethics’ program. That, folks, is secular humanism – the New Age, enforced, state religion in which America’s young are being indoctrinated at the Naval Academy.

How did this surprising state of affairs arise at the nation’s premiere military officer education institution? How did this New Age ‘religion’ become mandatory at the U.S. Naval Academy? Why is it now the essence of the new ‘ethics’ program, a required program there? How can secular humanism become the foundational ‘religion’ for our nation’s future core combat naval leadership — one in which builds TRUST and which America can depend upon to WIN our future wars at sea. A summary set of answers is presented below.

General Charles C. Krulak, the now-retired former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, spoke to the Greater Washington Chapter of the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association on 21 April 1999. During his inspirational talk, he revealed evidence of a new ‘political correctness’ in the Academy’s new leadership and ethics program.

GEN Krulak spoke of the aura of respect accorded the USNA class ring. Did it just symbolize the impending escape from Mother Bancroft? “Or was it something more...something that epitomized the naval heritage of a great Nation...the selfless commitment of some of the great leaders in the history of the world...Nimitz ... Lejeune ... Halsey ... Leftwich ... Stockdale? What value do you place on that ring today? And far more importantly, what value is placed on that ring by our fellow Americans? What was the impact on the standards represented by the ring when a star athlete -- for the sake of my speech I will call him "Midshipman W. T. Door"-was not only commissioned, but awarded the NAAA trophy for leadership excellence after being involved in a sexual relationship, while UA, with a plebe?”

Gen Krulak went on to explain. “Let me share a short story with you. A few months ago, my Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, Policies, and Operations, Lieutenant General Marty Steele, went down to Pensacola, where his son was going through flight training. He took his son and one of his flight school classmates to dinner. During the course of the meal, Marty asked his son's friend how he obtained his commission. When the young officer responded that he was a Naval Academy graduate, Marty then asked him why he wasn't wearing his ring. The young man's reply was shocking. He said, "General, I'm a member of the Class of 1998 ... the class of W. T. Door ... and as long as he's wearing the uniform of a commissioned officer, I don't intend to wear my class ring!"

As a result of a subsequent personal visit to Annapolis to talk to midshipmen there (as opposed to a formal ‘command guided’ tour), GEN Krulak observed the following atmosphere at his alma mater. “They [the Midshipmen] have noticed the increase in emphasis on their leadership and ethics instruction. But both they … and I … question the form. The atmosphere for moral and professional development is full of theoretical classes and seminars … mumbo jumbo about Freud, Kant, and utilitarianism … but short on straight talk, responsibility, accountability, and example. More significantly, they are still somewhat demoralized … and very cynical.”

GEN Krulak was given a standing ovation by the assembled Academy alumni. A month after that speech, I came upon some startling information while conducting research into the history, personalities and techniques of ‘sensitivity training,’ a behavior modification tool (some call it mind control) that has been sweeping the country over the past thirty years – especially in our public schools, universities, and other institutions over the land. During a briefing for ADM Thomas H. Moorer, USN (Ret.), former Chief of Naval Operations and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and RADM C.A. Hill, Jr., former manpower specialist and former commanding officer of the USS Independence, a two-page memorandum was circulated from the then-Superintendent, ADM Charles Larson, to ‘Blue and Gold’ (an Academy booster organization) officers around the country. It was signed by ADM Larson but was not dated. It was believed to have been circulated shortly after the time that Dr. Nancy Sherman, the radical feminist ‘change agent,’ was appointed to the First Distinguished Chair for Ethics at the Academy. It was Ms. Sherman who designed the new ‘ethics’ curriculum at the Academy and brought in civilian faculty to implement it.

As I reported in the public press (‘Fellow travelers at the Naval Academy,’ FORUM, Wash. Times, 7/25/01), ADM Larson’s memorandum provided convincing evidence that the U.S. Naval Academy has been indoctrinating a future generation of naval officers in a political correctness (actually a ‘cultural Marxism’ if one reads the applicable mainstream reference material) that has a long and dark history, and portends a dangerous future. I pointed out that this revolutionary movement has been entrenched in our major colleges and universities over the past 30 years (speech codes, sexual harassment guidelines, racial and ethnically segregated clubs and dormitories, etc.). More importantly, I explained that ADM Larson’s memo had announced the implementation of this ‘cultural Marxism’ at the Academy under the ‘cover’ of a ‘leadership and ethics’ program that had the blessing of Navy flag-rank officers and other honorable and well-intentioned Naval officers, active duty and retired.

Part of the evidence of the politically correct (‘cultural Marxist’) emphasis of the new ‘ethics’ program at the Academy was an award-winning essay by a 3/C midshipman which I pointed out contained a technique right out of the catalog of the Frankfurt School intellectuals who developed it – Critical Theory. This technique has been implemented across the land in our universities as a tool for carrying out a counter-culture revolution. Critical Law, Critical Race, Critical Gender, Critical ‘You-Name-It’ studies have been and are being used to tear down the foundational fabric of our American civilization. It is no surprise that the ‘foot soldiers’ of the Frankfurt School gurus, who introduced it to America in the 1930s, are now attempting to infuse it into our military institutions. These ‘foot soldiers’ are the elites of the Boomer generation who took power in every institution in the land during the 1990s, including the Presidency. Dr. Nancy Sherman, her successor, and her civilian cohorts at the Academy are such ‘foot soldiers.’

GEN Krulak and my initiatives in this matter, completely independently arrived at, carried out on two different planes of thought, and without a single interactive correspondence sparked an eruption of red-hot debate on the issue of the New Age ‘ethics’ program at the Academy. ADM Leon Edney, USN (Ret.), holder of the First Distinguished Chair of Leadership at the Academy responded (‘What mumbo jumbo at the Academy,’ FORUM, Wash. Times, 8/15/99) with a withering frontal attack on both GEN Krulak and me. This is the same ADM Edney who was the Vice-Chief of Naval Operations at the time of the Navy’s high-level coverup of the cause of the explosion aboard the USS Iowa, blaming it on an enlisted man who was falsely labeled homosexual (see ‘A Glimpse of Hell,’ Charles C. Thompson II, 1999). ADM Edney personally directed that coverup (a source of ‘ethical’ analysis if there ever was one). ADM Edney’s defense of the new ‘ethics’ program actually provided more evidence of our charges. He listed parts of the curriculum at the Academy, which proved its Critical Theory nature. He attempted to defend post-Enlightenment philosophers without first-hand knowledge of their works and/or the periods of history in which they flourished. He failed to understand the connections between their contradictory philosophies and the historical record of the result of human beings who acted on those philosophies. Rousseau, the intellecual/emotional foundation of the destructive, anarchic, socialist French Revolution and Immanuel Kant, the father of the ‘dialectic movement’ that led to Hegel, which led to Marx are defended and treated as models of ‘ethical’ practice’ and ‘moral’ thought.

This public debate included fourteen articles in the FORUM section of The Washington Times over the following year. Seven by Gerald L. Atkinson and one by RADM Ned Hogan, USN (Ret.). It was clear that there was something occurring at the Academy on which many patriotic Americans wished to comment. All of these articles are posted on this Web Site at the link, Newspaper Articles.

Having failed in the attempt to stifle the public debate by letting ADM Edney urge the Washington Times to censor the critics while carrying out ad hominem attacks against us and encouraging other alumni sycophants to attempt to discredit our research in the public press, it became crystal clear that they were only giving away the emptiness of their defense of the New Age ‘ethics’ program at the Academy. They could not and did not coherently address any of the facts or issues of the critics’ analysis. Consequently, the Navy decided that they couldn’t afford to stall the public conversation any longer. They had to communicate an official public defense. Why? Because the critics arguments were beginning to make sense to a large number of USNA alumni. These alumni were downloading essays on the subject on my Web Site, reading the background research materials, and communicating the authenticity of the research being revealed there (from mainstream texts available at major book stores) to other USNA alumni via e-mails and private conversations.

One such alumnus was John Howland who was the President of the Greater Chicago Area USNA Alumni Association and a member of the Board of Trustees. On 3 December 1999, at the annual Trustees meeting, Howland offered a written critique of the new ‘ethics’ program. Within months of this submission, Howland resigned as President – citing pressing private business commitments.

Another prominent USNA alumnus, RADM Ned Hogan, USN (Ret.), published an article (‘Ethics and the next century’s navy,’ FORUM, Wash. Times, 12/28/99) charged that, “The feminists are winning the battle in partnership with the Navy’s leadership and have gained their near-term objectives. They have created an environment ripe for disaster should a war at sea occur … Whose ethics and values currently provide the moral motivation at the Naval Academy? Bill Clinton’s, of course.”

RADM C.A. ‘Mark’ Hill, Jr. USN (Ret.) published an article, ‘How the War at Sea Is Being Lost on Land,’ stating that the U.S. Naval Academy, foundering in a sea of ‘new age’ ethics, desperately needs the rudder of morality to stay on course. This article is now resident on my Web Site. RADM Hill sought and received the concurrence of ADM Thomas H. Moorer in publishing this article. Both agreed that VADM Ryan, the superintendent of the Academy should receive a copy so that he would not be ‘blind sided’ by its public dissemination.

Subsequently, ADM Moorer handed a copy of RADM Hill’s article to VADM Ryan at a private meeting during September 1999 after being honored as the first recipient of the USNA Alumni Association’s prestigious Distinguished Graduate award. VADM Ryan purportedly replied that the ethics, leadership and moral development at the Academy is not as good as it was when Moorer was a midshipman – IT WAS BETTER.

You have it right. The current active duty Navy leadership believes that the Academy (in spite of serial cheating scandals, serial rape charges, a car-theft ring, and even a charge of a midshipman sexually abusing a baby) has leadership, ethics, and morality training BETTER than that which produced Nimitz, Burke, Moorer, Sam Dealey – and other WWII heroes who won the battle of the Pacific in WWII. At this point, the arrogance of the current day Navy flag-rank leadership became monumental. Not only were they in denial, they were becoming preposterously paranoid.

Recognizing their weak position, the Navy leadership carried out a coordinated strategy of defense. First, they used selected active duty Academy officials to intercede with the critics. CAPT CAPT Lee J. Geanuleas, Director of Professional Development, e-mailed Dr. Atkinson on 29 August 1999, suggesting that we talk. In a subsequent phone conversation, CAPT Geanuleas tried to convince Dr. Atkinson that relativistic ethics were not being taught at the Academy. He also attempted to defend Dr. Sherman and her work there. He claimed that she was a steadfast admirer of the Academy as an institution and of the Midshipmen in particular. He did not know of Dr. Sherman’s public defense on national TV (‘Religion & Ethics News,’ WNET-TV, 5/29/98) of the New York ‘domestic partners’ legislation, which treated homosexual partners the same as traditional marriages. Nor did he know of Dr. Sherman’s article in the Baltimore Sun and Boston Globe (‘In wake of scandals, Naval Academy splices ethics into lessons: Morality joins marches as part of a plebe’s life,’ Neal Thompson, Boston Globe, 8/22/99) in which she identified the Navy’s ‘traditional approach’ to ethics as the cause of the myriad scandals before her arrival there and how her new ‘ethics’ program would solve the Academy’s ‘moral problems.’ CAPT Geanuleas was less than convincing in his knowledge of Ms. Sherman’s contribution and his defense of it.

Second, they used alumni sycophants in an attempt to urge critics who were Academy alumni to refuse to cooperate in any way with Dr. Atkinson’s expose of the nature of the new ‘ethics’ program. For example, RADM Jack Barrett USN (Ret.) of the class of 1943 wrote to both RADM Hogan and RADM Hill, urging them to disassociate themselves from Dr. Atkinson’s critical reviews. RADM Barrett’s signal contribution to the battle cry that the Academy’s new ‘ethics’ program was better than that of his day was the observation that, “While visiting the Uniform Shop in a wing of Bancroft Hall, I noticed three brightly colored, large Coke machines – Printed in large 6-inch letters were HONOR, COURAGE, COMMITMENT.” Barrrett urged both RADM Hill and RADM Hogan to follow the Navy’s leadership in “keeping our criticisms or disagreements of any details [of the ethics program] within our Naval Academy and Alumni circles (letter, Barrett to Hogan, dated 26 April 2000). Barrett continued this line of supplication in a letter to RADM Hill (26 May 2000), “…As proud members of the ‘band-of-brothers’ who have graduated from [the USNA], we should be very judicious in how we criticize … This is particularly true of those of us …who were given the special privilege of serving our nation and our Navy as Flag Officers. This is not to say that we should mute our criticism. I strongly believe we should keep it within channels and not go public in either the media or the Internet.”

This paranoid view of fear of public disclosure of the problems with the new ‘ethics’ program at the Academy is consistent with the view promulgated by ADM Leighton Smith, Chairman of the Board, who informed Alumni via e-mail (20 July 2000) that they had an obligation to support Superintendent Ryan, keep their mouths shut, and ‘follow orders.’ In line with this initiative, RADM Barrett’s sycophantic submission was accepted for publication in Shipmate, the Alumni Association’s official magazine (‘Teaching Ethics,’ pp.44, October 2000). He lauded Bernie Maguire’s (President of USNA Class ’64) article in the Jul-Aug 2000 issue of Shipmate (‘Evaluation OF NE-203: Third Class Ethics Course,’ 5/11/00), which essentially whitewashed the new ‘ethics’ program. The contradictions in both of these whitewash articles are too numerous to even list here, much less analyze. A detailed analysis of their sycophantic praise of the new ‘ethics’ program is, however, posted on Dr. Atkinson’s Web Site and is available here (see pp. 16). It is clear, however, that both Maguire and Barrett are essentially ‘headline readers’ and conditioned to receiving information from formal ‘briefings’ by toadies selected by the Academy to proselytize their position. Neither took the time to read any of my material, posted on my Web Site, or read any texts that had not been previously prepared by Academy officials. Their reading list was entirely in-house. They were ignorant of the subject of philosophy, had read no outside texts on the philosophers and their beliefs, and were spoon-fed self-serving materials which they were unable to see contained numerous contradictions and false premises. Consequently, the same positions ended up in Maguire and Barrett’s reporting on the new ‘ethics’ program. The Academy found sycophants and they willingly spouted the party line. In fact, RADM Barrett’s ‘suck up’ letter (dated 8/28/99) to ADM H.G. Chiles, Jr., the current occupant of the Distinguished Chair for Leadership at the Academy is almost too sickening to read. “…Congratulations … to your already very distinguished career … is awesome … I am a strong supporter and admirer of ADM Chuck Lawson’s vision … I have been an equally strong supporter and admirer of the superb contribution [made by] ADM Bud Edney … thank the Shipmate Editor-in-Chief for the most stimulating issue … I have no objection to this letter being printed in Shipmate.”

Indeed, a fundamental problem with Maguire's and Barrett’s analyses and the 'ethics' program itself at the Academy is that the philosophers and their thoughts are taught without the perspective of history. Will Durant, in his second volume of an epic eleven volume series of books on 'The Story of Civilization,' reminds us of the importance of the study of history in attempting to understand our civilization and problems of our day – including the philosophical underpinnings of our heritage. In the preface to this second volume [1], he states, “We shall learn more of the nature of man by watching his behavior through sixty centuries than by reading Plato and Aristotle, Spinoza and Kant…”

Maguire's and Barrett’s analyses of the Academy's new 'ethics' program shows no evidence that they know anything at all about 'cultural Marxism' and its intellectual foundation in the Frankfurt School. They both claim that 'the course material does not bring 'cultural Marxism' into the...classroom.' But they don't seem to understand that this term is simply an accurate description of the term 'political correctness' based on the historical record. We are now obliged to use the latter term in this politically correct age instead of its more historically accurate description -- 'cultural Marxism.' It is that simple!

RADM Hill defended Dr. Atkinson’s criticism of the ‘ethics’ program at the Academy and challenged RADM Barrett to argue the issues raised by Atkinson. RADM Barrett responded (letter Barrett to Hill, dated 20 July 2000), “With regard to your ‘no one seems to be willing to take him on nose to nose or toe to toe on a point by point basis,’ I would be eager to do so provided it did not give him an opportunity to publicly promote his demonizing tactics.” Thus, the message from the flag-rank leadership (active and retired) is, ‘…No public discussion of the issues and deny the obvious – the New Age ‘ethics’ program is a failure – while at the same time dividing the critics and find sycophants who will carry out ad hominem attacks on those who have been most effective in exposing the corruption of morality and ‘ethics’ training at the Academy.’ Those are the tactics of a coverup. It is reminiscent of the tactics used when the Navy covered up the cause of the explosion on the USS Iowa in the late 1980s which resulted in the deaths of 47 sailors and tried to blame it on an innocent young sailor (whom they falsely characterized as a suicidal mass-murderer).

At the same time, a presentation was made on the new Leadership and Ethics program made to the USNA class of 1953 on 5 October 1999 by CAPT Lee J. Geanuleas ('71), the Director of the Professional Development Department and Dr. Doug McLean, a civilian 'ethics' professor at the Academy. This was the beginning of a coordinated attempt to sell the program to the Academy alumni. But there was a problem. The presentation to the class of 1953 was met with vigorous questioning and considerable consternation at the evasive answers given. Many members of the class were not satisfied with the information provided. For example, they were shown the NE-203 textbook but were not allowed to have a copy. They were not provided the 'required reading' list for the course and the Character Development Seminars. It was clear that one would not be able to penetrate the cloak of shadow, which covered the details of the program. One would see only what the Superintendent wanted them to see. The uproar this caused on the Internet only increased the official paranoia. This generated a third effort to defend the ‘ethics’ program from its alumni critics.

Alumni pressure became so great for a ‘soul cleansing’ of what was going on with the new ‘ethics’ program that a formal attempt was made to defend the new program. CAPT Mark Clemente of the Department of English, Law, and Ethics authored an article in the U.S. Naval Institute ‘Proceedings’ (‘Why We Teach Leadership and Ethics at the Naval Academy,’ pp.86, February 2000). The essence of this defense was two-pronged. First, that ADM James Stockdale, the Vietnam War hero had been briefed on the program and vouched for its authenticity. He claimed that it is the same program that he had implemented at the Naval War College and which was very popular with mid-level naval officers attending that course of instruction. Second, Dr. Nancy Sherman, the radical feminist ‘change agent’ who held the Academy’s first Distinguished Chair of Ethics was defended as a paragon of virtue in providing the academic leadership in the program.

The defense referred to an article in the April 1999 issue of the ‘Proceedings’ (‘Ethics for Those Who Go Down to the Sea in Ships, pp.87-88). This article is analyzed by Dr. Atkinson in an essay available on this Web Site. For those who are conversant with the subject, this article is a damning indictment of Dr. Sherman as a ‘foot soldier’ of the Frankfurt School gurus who became the intellectual foundation of the counter-culture revolution of the mid-1960s. Bill and Hillary Clinton are the icons of the power elites of the Boomer generation who dictated the policies that placed Ms. Sherman in a position of power at the Academy.

The defense hid behind ADM Stockdale’s heroism and brought front and center several articles by ADM Stockdale who defended his brand of ‘religion,’ that of the Ancient Greeks and Romans – in particular, Stoicism as the guiding foundation for defining duty, an essential ingredient in a military officer’s code of ethics. Stockdale then published two extensive articles in the Shipmate (‘A Driving Force of Character,’ pp.12, July-August 2000 and ‘Why Moral Philosophy,’ pp.22, October 2000) in support of the new ‘ethics’ program. The first article was an excellent case study of leadership which began with the sentence, “There has been occasional criticism of the ethics program at the U.S. Naval Academy during the past year. Unfortunately, much of the criticism has been based on imperfect knowledge of the purpose, scope, and method of teaching ethics.” Fine. But his case studies have nothing to do with ethics. LTGEN Hal Moore, USA (Ret.) who led his 7th Cavalry Battalion against two North Vietnamese Regiments in the battle of the Ia Drang valley in November of 1965 is exemplified as a great leader of men in combat. Captain Bobby Dunlap, a U.S. marine Corps Company Commander fought at Iwo Jima and exhibited outstanding leadership under heavy fire. And, of course, Stockdale’s leadership of POWs in the Hanoi Hilton was the third case study. But, interestingly enough, there was absolutely no philosophy in these stories of leadership. No Stoicism. No Epictetus. Only straightforward courage, bravery, and leadership – the kind that GEN Charles Krulak suggested that the Academy inculcate with straight talk, no nonsense, and responsibility. It is clear from these stories that not one of those leaders, except maybe ADM Stockdale, ever invoked the ethos of the classical philosophers or their more recent brethren either during the time of their display of leadership or their training leading up to it. A strange way to attempt to sell the New Age ‘ethics’ program at the Academy.

And it turns out that ADM Stockdale may have been the only one in the Hanoi Hilton to treasure the Stoics, or Epictetus, or Oriental Fatalism as a foundation for their survival with honor from the terrible torture invoked on them during their lengthy imprisonment by the North Vietnamese. Nevertheless, in the October 2000 issue of Shipmate, ADM Stockdale gives a strong pitch for the value of studying Stoicism through the lens of Epictetus, the Roman slave/philosopher and presumably Immanuel Kant (through his lauding of Kant in Stockdale’s address to the USMA Class 1983 at West Point entitled, “A Vietnam Experience, Duty). The fallacy of this kind of reasoning is self-evident. ADM Stockdale makes the same mistake that many other students of philosophy make – its study absent an historical perspective of the age in which it flourished is without merit, especially for providing a foundation for our nation’s core combat leadership. The ethical foundation for the kind of leadership that wins wars is NOT Stoicism, nor Kant, nor any of the other philosophers that are studied in the Academy’s new ‘ethics’ program. To understand this fact, one can read Dr. Atkinson’s extended essay on the subject (see pp. 16).

It turns out that Stoicism and Kant’s categorical imperative have been used by heroes and villains. If one compares the writings of Epictetus (himself a slave, a prisoner, one with little hope of escaping his fate) and the poetry that Timothy McVeigh issued as his last public statement, one sees an exact parallel. They are essentially the same. One who is a slave and finds himself completely under the power of his master and one who is a prisoner who is also completely under the physical power of his captors/jailers can each just as well invoke the Stoic philosophy to control his fate and each can answer the call to duty as prescribed by Kant (if one is convinced that one has found the categorical imperative, one came become a god). For McVeigh, it was described thus (Murrya, Frank J., ‘Terrorist looks at viewers of death,’ The Washington Times, 6/12/01) , “Witnesses to Timothy McVeigh’s execution were transfixed by his unblinking stoicism as death approached. He took the time to make eye contact with us…I did not even see him blink…[He] died with his eyes open…McVeigh’s glare mesmerized most witnesses.” The Washington Times tells us (Murray, Frank J., ‘Bomber selects poem ‘Invictus’ for last words,’ 6/12/01) that, “…instead of speaking his last words, the usually talkative McVeigh relied on a handwritten copy of ‘Invictus,’ to portray himself as the unconquered and unafraid ‘master of my fate.’ ‘My head is bloodied, but unbowed,’ was the oft-used line from the 1875 British poem whose title is Latin for unconquered. Author William Ernest Henley died in 1903 after a lifetime battling near-disabling birth defects. That image seemed ironic for a man who long ago lost control of his circumstances and was now strapped down in an execution chamber and intubated to receive fatal injections by the government he portrayed as his enemy.”

The Stoic poem, Invictus, is an ode to strength in the face of suffering. “Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I think whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance, My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find, me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” This poem is perfectly aligned with the Stoic nature of Epictetus, the slave. It illustrates that a philosophy is not enough to determine the good, the moral. And duty is only a word unless undertaken for moral purposes.

And that is why the teaching of philosophy without the context of the historical record of the times in which it was invoked is useless and even possibly misdirected. That is the state of affairs at the U.S. Naval Academy.

One final point on ADM Stockdale’s version of the teaching of ethics. And the point is made over and over again, even in articles in the ‘Proceedings [2].’ “During 1967, five Navy carrier pilots, all members of the Class of 1951, formed the ’51 Hanoi Group, the largest Naval Academy class organization in the USNA Alumni Association’s North Vietnam Chapter … We made Chuck Gillespie … the Fourth Allied POW Wing’s honorary chaplain. Chuck inspired us with his tremendous effort to instill spiritual values in us all and to organize church services throughout the camp. He was a great patriot, a brave pilot and a devout Christian.” Indeed, the moral and ethical foundation for most of those who survived those terrible years was Christianity. Not Stoicism. Not Kant. Not any of the world’s intellectual philosophers. But Christianity.

Another example, taken from the same issue of Shipmate (Nassr, Mike, “Air Force ‘Boat School Boy: George Hall ’53 – Voodoo Pilot,” pp. 14) reveals the same spiritual basis for their survival with honor in the Hanoi Hilton – good old fashioned Christianity. “I have not seen a book yet that adequately describes the mental anguish we suffered during those years (1965-1969) … When they [the POWs] began to hold church services, the Vietnamese promptly threw seven top ranking officers into solitary confinement.”

This is backed up by General Robbie Risner, USAF (Ret.) who was a senior ranking officer at the Hanoi Hilton. Risner describes how he survived imprisonment and came back with his pride and honor intact [3]. “Someone asked me why I was writing this book and my honest answer is this: I want to show that the smartest and the bravest rely on their faith in God and our way of life. I hope to show how that faith has been tried by fire – and never failed. I would like to say, ‘Don’t ever be ashamed of your faith, nor of your wonderful heritage.” When Mary McCarthy, a liberal American journalist visited North Vietnam, Risner was forced to undergo an interview with her. “She wanted to know what I missed most. I told her a Bible. She asked, ‘Don’t they give you Bibles?’ I said no.” Risner’s captors would not agree to provide Bibles for the prisoners.

When Risner formulated a set of policies that were to guide those who were in his charge as SRO, he states that “But as important as all of these were, none was more important than the fourth – faith in God. Before imprisonment many of us had been too busy to put God first in our lives. A North Vietnamese prison cell changed that. We learned to feel at ease in talking about God, and we shared our doubts and faith. We prayed for one another and spent time praying together for all kinds of things. Our faith in God was an essential without which I for one could not have made it.”

Just think of this powerful testimony. No Stoicism here. No Epictetus here. No Kant, no Rousseau, no Bentham, no Mill, no Rawls here. No mumbo jumbo here. Risner speaks for most of those who survived the Hanoi Hilton with honor. They found and nurtured a faith in God – in Christianity.

And it is true that not once during those long years of torture did anyone, except possible ADM Stockdale, turn to Stoicism for their spiritual sustenance. They turned to God.

I have several fellow Vietnam War veteran friends, some of whom were ‘residents’ in the Hanoi Hilton with ADM Stockdale. I queried them on their experience in both combat and as POWs. They all had the same answer. The purpose of all of our education and training is to build TRUST. One War POW friend explains it well in answering the following query,


>It is also my belief, after reading the books written by Robbie Risner, Jerry Coffee, Jeremiah Denton et al that most of you >guys were guided by your own moral ethic – Christianity.


His answer was, "Yes. That and our intense desire not to let the others down. We were a team and would without hesitation do anything to help another POW."

Yes, indeed, TRUST is the glue that bound us together whether over the skies of North Vietnam or in the Hanoi Hilton or in our squadron ready rooms. TRUST. And the building of that TRUST is completely absent from the new 'ethics' curriculum at the U.S. Naval Academy.

The Roman slave and philosopher, Epictetus, did not guide us. Nor did any of the other philosophers resident in the New Age 'ethics' curriculum at the Academy. In fact, when a loyal fellow and friend of ADM Stockdale was queried with the following,

>It is my hunch that this 'philosophy craze' surfaced only after you guys returned home and Stockdale's subsequent

>recognition as having studied and put into practice the teachings of the ancient philosophers, that this stuff became popular,

> with the Navy, that is.

Regarding ADM James Stockdale's teaching of the Stoic philosophy, that which guided his own personal heroism in the Hanoi Hilton, several former POWs responded in the following vein,

“[The] first time I ever heard about Epictetus was when I read a copy of [Stockdale's] New Yorker article. I subsequently heard [him] refer to Epictetus and the stoics during a talk at the Armed Forces Staff College when Jerry Denton was the Commandant there."

Indeed, the New Age ‘ethics’ program at the U.S. Naval Academy has sown, by default, the seeds of a state-sponsored New Age religion there — secular humanism. Whereas, young men and women from all over America who come there with Christian values imbued in their homes and/or their churches are allowed to voluntarily attended chapel at a religious service of their choice, ALL midshipmen are required to attend the mandatory New Age ‘ethics’ program at the Academy. This indoctrination program requires the study of the new ‘prophets’ of philosophical thought (and substitutes for Christian theology) from Rousseau to Kant through Bentham and Mill, ending up with John Rawls — all of the self-contradictory philosophies that led to and continue the Franco-German way, a path that stems from the devastating, anarchic French Revolution and produced the bloody socialist political movements that spawned the bloodiest century in mankind’s history (Hitler’s National Socialism and Stalin’s Bolshevik Socialism).

And military chaplains are forbidden to participate in this New Age ‘ethics’ program. Secular humanism has been instituted by default at the Academy.

It is clear to me and to many other Navy combat veterans that the old-fashioned, traditional Navy way of building TRUST and maintaining it, whether it is at the U.S. Naval Academy or other educational programs, is the only proven way to instill a warrior ethos that will assure that our future core naval combat leadership is capable of winning our nation's wars. The new 'ethics' program at the Academy only degrades this core ingredient -- the building of TRUST. Secular humanism is NOT the answer. It is the problem at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Please read the accompanying essays on this Web Site to gain an in-depth understanding of what is going on at the U.S. Naval Academy — and by implication at all of our nation’s premiere military education institutions.



1) Durant, Will, “The Story of Civilization, Volume II, Caesar and Christ,” pp. vii-viii, Simon & Schuster, 1944-1972.

2) Mehl, James P., “Hanoi Chapter: 1967-1973,” Proceedings, pp. 20, September 2000.

3) Risner, Robbie, “The Passing of the Night,” Ballantine Books, 1973.


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