Authors Note preceding the Opening Chapter of GTMO REVISITED: NOTES FROM A NAVAL OFFICERS LOG by Rod Haynes, All Rights Reserved, Copyright 2009
My earliest memory in life goes back to when I was a toddler sitting comfortably on my Grandfather Day’s lap sharing butterscotch-flavored hard candies with him. Captain Edwin T. Day, United States Naval Reserves, was battling emphysema, the product of smoking four packs of Chesterfield cigarettes each day for forty years. The disease quickly took him from us.
Grandfather spent twenty-six years as a naval architect—a restricted line officer—including active duty service in World War II and the Korean conflict, never having commanded a naval unit at sea. Today, like in Grandfather’s time, only a select few unrestricted officers of the line are chosen by the Navy to command destroyers or submarines or fighter jet squadrons. Mom kept pictures of her father in his service dress blue uniform around our house as a reminder of Grandfather’s leadership role in designing the hull of USS Massachusetts, a World War II warship permanently docked in Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts today.
In January 1979 when Shah Mohammed Reva Pahlavi fled Iran the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini returned home a hero to his people. America’s tepid relations with Khomeini collapsed when President Carter permitted the Shah cancer treatments in the United States, ignoring Khomeni’s insistence that the Shah be returned to Iran for a public show trial, and likely execution. In November, 52 American employees and military personnel at the American embassy in Tehran were taken hostage by so-called, “radical students.”
Four months after the embassy takeover negotiations for the hostages’ release were going nowhere. A rescue mission by U.S. Special Forces failed in spectacular fashion in the desert outside Iran when eight U.S. servicemen died as a result of two aircraft crashing in a raging sand storm. The nation’s dissatisfaction with President Carter intensified in the months following the tragedy, setting the stage for the conservatives’ victory in the 1980 presidential elections.
A former Annapolis graduate, Carter was sympathetic to the hard times sailors and soldiers were facing within the ranks of America’s military following the Vietnam War. The compensation was low and manning problems on Navy warships rendered them unable to perform routine missions at sea. All branches of the military, including the Navy, suffered from poor material readiness and plummeting moral as the 1970s ended.
Everything changed with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
In the early 1980s the United States Navy’s new Maritime Strategy allocated billions of tax dollars towards building new naval weapon systems, including refurbishing four World War II IOWA-class battleships. Thousands of new enlisted sailors to operate these units were now necessary, which in turn called for large numbers of new naval officers to oversee these new sailors arriving in American fleets around the world. New opportunities opened up for females within both the enlisted and officer ranks. In 1979 there were 62,000 officers and 457,000 enlisted sailors serving on active duty in the United States Navy. In 1985 the Navy had 71,000 officers and 495,000 enlisted in uniform, eventually peaking at 72,000 and 516,000 respectively in 1988.
On a sweltering July afternoon in 1980 with Grandfather Day’s ceremonial sword strapped to my side, I joined 200 fellow shipmates at Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island in being sworn into the United States Navy as Ensigns, U. S. Navy Reserve. I felt a strong attachment to Grandfather that day, but my subsequent life in the Navy could not have been more different than his was. I saw a good part of the world during my ten years of service and, for the most part, enjoyed it immensely. Still, if given the chance I probably would do a few things differently the second time around.