• U.S.

ARMED FORCES: Brazen Prejudice

2 minute read

The Navy’s gallantry and efficiency put it close to the U.S. public’s heart. It would be closer except for another Navy quality: brassbound rigidity.

A sample is the case of Captain Hyman George Rickover, an Annapolis graduate (1922) and an electrical engineer. Six years ago Rickover sparked planning for an atomic submarine. Last June, when Harry Truman laid the keel of the first atomic-powered submarine, Rickover was publicly praised as the man chiefly responsible for its existence. Later, Navy Secretary Dan Kimball pinned the Legion of Merit on Rickover, said he had done “the most important piece of development work … in the history of the Navy.” Two weeks ago a isman Navy selection board met in Washington to choose 30 new rear admirals. Rickover’s name was passed over. Selection boards work in secrecy and never give reasons for such actions. In Rickover’s case, people who know how the Navy mind operates believe that the Navy was expressing a deep-seated prejudice against technical specialists. Both the Army and the Air Force have partially broken down similar prejudices. The well-rounded officer in those services is still regarded as the ideal, but they recognize that in a technological age specialization is so valuable and so unavoidable that specialists cannot be barred from high rank.

The Navy’s failure to recognize this in Rickover’s case promises to cost it a brilliant officer who developed the most important new weapon since World War II. Rickover has now been passed over twice, and has completed 30 years’ service. This means that, barring unlikely special action, he must retire—at age 52.

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