History Lesson

If you are a history and/or football buff I think you might find this post interesting..and appropriate for Army/ Navy week!

I am currently reading Ian Toll’s book, Twilight of the Gods, the third in his Pacific War trilogy… Highly recommend BTW…

In his prologue, Toll goes into great detail  explaining the nature and history of the relationship between the press and Naval leadership during WWII.

Ernest King was Commander in Chief of the US Naval Fleet during WWII. 

According to Toll, when President Roosevelt asked him to serve in that capacity he took the job on the condition that he would not be required to appear at press conferences.  King said that his concern was to protect wartime secrets but the Washington journalists rightly suspected that Admiral King’s hostility ran deeper … according to one, King seemed to rank them “somewhat above bubonic plague as something to be avoided at all costs”.

His distrust of the press was rooted in an embarrassing Naval controversy during the Spanish American War which aired in the press, and left a lasting impression on the midshipman that passed through the Naval Academy during subsequent years. Those midshipmen included most of the Naval command during WWII…Admirals Chester Nimitz, Raymond Spruance, William Leahy, Bill Halsey in addition to Ernest King.

Adm. Chester W. Nimitz (rear, C) giving a press conference regarding US Navy’s first year in the war as Capt. L. J. Wiltse (rear, R) listens. (Photo by Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

Press conferences by Naval Command at the beginning of the war typically offered only information previously  released. Chester Nimitz was considered “the despair of his public relations men; it simply was not in him to make sweeping statements or to give out colorful interviews”

King was no different… it was observed that King’s idea of a press policy was to tell the public nothing until the end of the war, and then to issue a two-word communique stating – “We won”

So how is all of this connected to football?

When reading this, I immediately thought of a certain current, very successful Head Coach in the NFL, his press conferences, and his apparent disdain of the media… and how similar the attitudes toward the press appeared to be.

That coach… you probably thought of as well…

“We’re on to Cincinnati” … Bill Belichick

Now the really interesting part.

Do you know where Belichick grew up… Annapolis, Maryland.

His father Steve Belichick (who Coach Bill Belichick cites as his chief early influence) was a long time Coach and Scout for the US Naval Academy football team.

His father served in the Navy during WWII…. In the Pacific and undoubtedly under the command of and influenced by the aforementioned Naval leadership… Admirals Ernest King, Chester Nimitz, Raymond Spruance, William Leahy, Bill Halsey, etc.

After the war, from 1956-86 Belichick joined the Naval Academy staff…

So it comes as no surprise that Coach Bill Belichick has a guarded, cautious, adversarial, relationship with the media…It was learned and imprinted at a young age…from a father and institution (US Navy) steeped in history.

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