April 12, 2019
In modern times, the most serious challenge to civilian direction of the U.S. military was that posed during the Korean War by General Douglas MacArthur who willfully undercut the foreign policy and grand strategy of President Harry S. Truman. In the Vietnam War, many admirals and generals came to disdain the leadership of presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and the latter’s so-called “Whiz Kid” civilian advisers. This talk will explore how four naval leaders who operated at the highest levels of the U.S. national security establishment managed the relationship with their civilian superiors in times of great stress. Admirals Harry D. Felt and Ulysses S.G. Sharp commanded all U.S. military forces in the Pacific Command from 1958 to 1968. Admirals Thomas H. Moorer and Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr. led the U.S. Navy as Chief of Naval Operations and Moorer went on to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The questions to be explored in this presentation: how did these flag officers register their disapproval of civilian decision-making during the Vietnam War; and did it rise to the level of the Truman-MacArthur confrontation?
Edward J. Marolda, before his retirement from federal service, served as the Director of Naval History (Acting) and Senior Historian of the Navy at the Naval Historical Center (now Naval History and Heritage Command), Washington, D.C. He graduated from Pennsylvania Military College with a BA in History (1967), completed an MA in European Diplomatic History at Georgetown University (1971), and a Ph.D in American history at George Washington University (1990). Marolda has taught courses on the United States and China as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown. He served as a U.S. Army officer in the Republic of Vietnam during 1969 and 1970.
Marolda has authored, coauthored, or edited seventeen publications. The works related to the Vietnam War include Combat at Close Quarters: An Illustrated History of the U.S. Navy and the Vietnam War; From Military Assistance to Combat, 1959-1965; By Sea, Air, and Land: An Illustrated History of the United States Navy and the War in Southeast Asia; Carrier Operations; and Ready Seapower: A History of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. He also coauthored Shield and Sword: The U.S. Navy and the Persian Gulf War, recipient of the Navy League’s Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Naval History Prize. Marolda has recently made presentations at the Pritzker Library and Museum and the Gerald R. Ford Library. In 2017, the Naval Historical Foundation selected Marolda to receive the Commodore Dudley W. Knox Naval History Lifetime Achievement Award.