Jimmy Thach Takes a Walk
John "Jimmy" Thach (1905-1981) was a noted naval
aviator. Graduating from Annapolis in 1927, he
spent two years in surface warships before taking flight training and
qualifying as a naval aviator in 1929. An outstanding airman, Thach was variously a test
pilot, instructor, and tactical
innovator, developing the famous “Thach Weave” which enabled the Navy’s sturdy,
but relatively slow and less agile F4F Wildcat outfight the faster, very agile,
but relatively fragile Mitsubishi A6M Zero.
During the Second World War Thach commanded a fighter squadron
with great success at Midway, helped improve the training of new fighter
pilots, developed valuable tactics against kamikaze,
and by V-J Day was a commander and Operations Officer of the Fast Carrier
Task Force. During the Korean War he
commanded an escort carrier, and later the Franklin
D. Roosevelt (CVA-42), before rising to admiral. By the time he retired, in 1967, Thach had
served as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air and Commander-in-Chief, U.S.
Naval Forces, Europe.
Thach was amazingly comfortable in the air, as illustrated
by an incident that occurred in 1931.
Assigned to VF-1B, a fighter squadron operating from the USS Saratoga (CV-3), he was flying as
wingman for the squadron leader, Lt. Cdr. Arthur Radford, who would later
become the first naval officer to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff (1953-1957). Before taking off,
Thach had felt the call of nature, but dismissed the impulse. Alas, once airborne in his two-seat Curtiss F8C
Helldiver biplane fighter-bomber, Thach realized that he urgently needed to perform
a certain bodily function.
Thach calmly told his rear seater to take over the
controls. The man protested that he
wasn’t a pilot, but Thach just told him to keep the plane level, and climbed
out on to the wing. While Thach piddled
off the wing, the rear seater managed to keep the plane reasonably level,
though it fell out of formation.
Naturally, Radford soon noticed that Thach’s airplane was
behaving erratically. And then he
realized that its pilot was out on the wing.
All ended well. And later,
Radford heartily endorsed Thach’s application to transfer to duty as a test
Who are the Greater Warriors?
The city-states (poleis)
of Sparta, in Laconia, a part of the
Peloponnesus, and Athens, in Attica, were the leading military powers in Greece
for much of the period known as “The Golden Age” (c. 500 BC-350 B.C.). Occasionally allied, as against the Persians
from roughly 499 BC off and on until 460 BC, but more often rivals and even
enemies, notably during the two Athenian-named “Peloponnesian Wars” (460 BC-445
BC and 431 BC-404 BC), the two differed in that Sparta was a garrison-state,
with a professional citizen-army drawing strength from a complex system of serf-
and slave-run agriculture, while Athens had a citizen-militia, with a powerful
fleet, drawn its strength from cultivation of the olive and grape and a rich
mercantile economy .
Naturally, the citizens of each polis thought their city superior to the other.
One day, we are told, an Athenian boasted about his city’s
greatness to a Spartan.
The Athenian ran through a litany of distinctions that
proclaimed his city’s glory, its artistic and cultural treasures, its famous
statesmen, its great wealth, and so forth.
Finally he began bragging about
the military prowess of his fellow-citizens, noting that "Athenians are no
mean warriors. Many Spartans have been
slain around Athens."
To which the laconic Laconian replied, "And so few
Athenians have died anywhere near Sparta," reminding him that in the war
between the two cities, the Spartans had repeatedly invaded and ravaged Athenian
territory, while the Athenians had never reached Sparta.