Admiral Thomas Moorer Admiral Thomas Moorer

A graduate of the Naval Academy and former naval aviator, Moorer was a highly decorated veteran of WWII and served as commander of the Pacific Fleet, Chief of Naval Operations and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Moorer is a representative of the Navy's 'old guard', a group of politically powerful retired officers who uphold the old codes and traditions of the Navy. Moorer was outraged by the way Admiral Boorda handled the Rebecca Hansen case. He counseled Boorda on the controversy over Commander Robert Stumpf's nomination to captain. Moorer said that Boorda, before his suicide, had been prepared to put his job on the line to defend Stumpf's promotion.

Q: Admiral, we hear this phrase all the time. What's your definition of the phrase, "an officer and a gentleman"?

MOORER: Well, my definition of "an officer and a gentleman" is more or less like John Paul Jones described, you know. That if an individual who is honest, not deceitful, who carries out his duty, who is extremely courteous to seniors and juniors alike, and to civilians as well. Of course, I would hope everyone would be a gentleman. I still think that the idea of opening doors for the ladies is being a gentleman. But now ladies want to bull in and get in there first. And you're lucky to get through the door yourself. They can work like the devil, but they're never going to make the men and the women the same individuals. People do things to women today, I see it downtown, that would almost result in them being killed in situations in the days when I was young. Nobody in my town had a lock on the door. They never locked their house. They never thought that anybody would come in and steal things out of their house, or that anyone would assault a woman or something like that. And they always step back. The women in a line at the grocery store, they let them get up in front, and so on. So maybe that's extreme.

But I think women ought to quit while they were ahead. And now, they are working themselves into a position where they, in the long run, are not going to be able to compete. And this is particularly true in the military. I think that If we have another war, and actually put women in combat, the public's going to rise up in horror.

Q: Because?

MOORER: Because when you bring the women back in large numbers in body bags, and they see them with their face shot up and their arms shot off and hobbling around on crutches and so on, like you see some men right after war, the people are not going to stand for it. The Russians tried it. The Israelis tried it. I've talked to them. They were so horrified by seeing a woman with her stomach cut open, with an artillery shell or something, they had to stop it. And so, it's great. In peace time, you can do all these things, and you can run the exercises and whatever. But you just wait till the bullets start flying. I've seen them, and I can tell you, it's no fun. And you asked me if I was scared. I was scared to death.

Q: What did you make of Tailhook?

MOORER: I think Tailhook was certainly way off track. We set up Tailhook back in the sixties. And the idea was to have a meeting by all pilots that were available, both from the west coast and the east coast, so that we would invite in all of the engineers and technicians from Lockheed and Grumman and all the big aircraft companies. And they could give talks, tell the young pilots what's next on the horizon, ask them questions of what is wrong with the airplane you're flying, and it was an exchange of information back and forth. That was the purpose of it.

And of course, it got out of hand... the people that were guilty should have been disciplined immediately, and it'd been over in 4-5 days. I don't think that they took action fast enough. And now it's become just a burden.

And you look what happened to Commander Stumpf, which I think is an absolute crime. Because to get a man as combat-capable as he is, that did nothing whatever wrong, in my opinion, and to have something like Teddy Kennedy passing judgment on a sexual issue about Commander Stumpf absolutely boggles my mind. And of course, he got mad and quit. And I don't blame him.

Q: Former Secretary Webb's speech at Annapolis last year, where he said, "Wait a minute. I think what Tailhook did was open this all up to the political forces, who wanted to do some changes in the Navy." Do you agree with that?

MOORER: Absolutely. And some very, very fine officers have been cashiered for nothing. The insidious part of this is there were plenty of women there whose conduct was quite questionable. No one ever asked them a single question. The men were asked questions without the benefit of counsel. And they asked them some of the most insulting questions. I know one young man who had just gotten married, and these investigators, the first they asked him is, "How many times do you have sex with your wife? And who else do you have sex with, besides your wife?" And that's none of their damn business. If they'd asked me that, I would have floored them. That was the tenor, though, the type of questions they were asking. And there's one young man that was going to be inducted in the regular Navy. And they stopped it, and stopped his promotion. He wasn't even there. He was in San Diego. But they didn't even check on that.

And then as that was not enough, then the Senate gets into it. And I had the Chairman of the Personnel Subcommittee, tell me that this is not a military problem. This business of having a list and having the Senate review what these individuals did in Tailhook, five years after it's over, he said, "It's a political problem. It's not a military problem." Now, when we're going to start using politics to select our best combat forces, something is wrong. They should be selected on capability.

Q: Tell me about Commander Stumpf.

MOORER: Well, Commander Stump was absolutely if not the top aviator in the Navy, awful close to it. And he was head of the Blue Angels. His squadron was selected the best squadron in the Navy. He had a fantastic record in Desert Storm. Shot down I don't know how many Arab planes. He's been selected not once but twice. And so he was just a natural. He was going to be an aviation admiral. There wasn't any question about it. It's just criminal, in my opinion.

Q: Criminal, in what sense?

MOORER: Well, in the sense that here was a man who has been charged by hearsay, without ever having an opportunity to state what actually happened from his viewpoint.

Q: You've been around Washington politics a long, long time. You know every one of the twists and turns of what goes on between the Pentagon and the Congress.

MOORER: I think it's actually a spill-over from Tailhook, this concern that the Senate has about their dealing with the females in the Congress. For instance, when Kelso was retiring, they all ganged up and walked up as a group to the meeting of the Retirement Board to try to get him retired as two stars. And that included Republican Senators and female Senators and Democrat. They are non-partisan when you get into something associated with the female side of the picture. They all lump together like that.

Q: Tell me Kelso's story. What happened to him, by your lights?

MOORER: Well, he was caught right in the middle of the Tailhook. And then, the way it was played up, everybody got in the act. By "everybody" I mean the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Navy. The Secretary of the Navy lost his job. He was a fine Secretary of the Navy. Kelso's main problem, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It may have happened to anyone. I feel the same way about that Admiral in Pearl Harbor. I don't care who you had there. You could have had Nelson or the greatest naval commander in the world. He would have been caught, because they denied him information from Washington.

Q: Why was Tailhook such a big deal?

MOORER: We're having a sexual revolution here. And I think that the United States really made a mess of the sex angle of humanity. And this was the beginning. Look what's happening in the military now, where you have cases where now they've put women on ships. And the pregnancy rate is very high. It's the same way in Bosnia now. The Army is finally publicizing that many in Bosnia are getting pregnant, and so on. And military life is such that if some of the members are going to have morning sickness or have to stop at the end of 6 months and have three months where they're not themselves, and so on, it's very difficult to handle that, if you're a commanding officer.

And then you throw in the homosexuals that they're trying to push into the services. I have a different view about sexuality in the service and the public at large. If these people want to conduct themselves in such a way that they catch AIDS and so on let them go ahead and do it. That's not my business. But to impose on the military a lifestyle which is the ordinary one you find in other parts of the United States is wrong, because the military is not a democracy.

And that's the way that the pressure has been put on the military, in terms of acceptance. First, the women in military. Finally, women in combat. And then women aboard ship, and so on. And it's just one thing after another. And no one thinks about combat readiness. And the poor commanding officers spend so much time trying to nurse pregnant women .....

Now for instance, you lower the standards. In the Marine Corps, the men have to carry a much bigger weight than the women. They have to run much greater distance than the women. They have to carry their rifle with them. But the women don't. And if you get in a battle, I ... tell you what's going to happen if you have let's say, a Stonewall Jackson move. They're going to run off and leave the women. Or if they're retreating, they're going to run off and leave the women, or have to stand when they shouldn't be standing.

Q: Talk about pilots. Kara Hultgreen, for example-- Is there any reason why she couldn't be as good a pilot as anybody else?

MOORER: I don't think so. It's not a matter of whether she can be as good a pilot as not. I think she was pressured into showing-- making that point. And once that happens, she's apt to take risks herself that she wouldn't take ordinarily. But it isn't what she does in peace time, out in a beautiful day. It's what happens when you get into a battle. Well, you got to send out every plane you've got, as fast as you can. And 5 or 6 of your pilots wake up the next morning with morning sickness. Then somebody's going to have to go twice, to take their place. And so that's what worries me. I think I made the point at the outset that I think always in term of wartime.

And it's the same way with... organization. Every time a new administration comes in, and they assign these people to different jobs, whatever executive department they happen to be in, if they can't eat it or make love to it, they want to reorganize it. And the point is that it's not the organization that counts. It's who you've got in the outfit. I've said many times, that's what counts. Who are the people, and how qualified they are, that are in the organization. ... the organization take care of itself. We go through all these changes here, changes there. And people are going to show that they are improving things. "They found out that the guy before me didn't know what the hell he was doing. I'm going to show you how good I am." And they should let well enough alone.


continued

pilots, jets, & the enterprise | tailhook '91 | old navy/new navy | what ails the navy? | readings | reactions | tapes & transcripts | admiral boorda's in basket | chronology of women in the navy | explore frontline | pbs online | wgbh

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation pbs online

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

RECENT STORIES

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS