Cover image for A glimpse of hell : the explosion on the USS Iowa and its cover-up
A glimpse of hell : the explosion on the USS Iowa and its cover-up
Thompson, Charles C.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Norton, [1999]

Physical Description:
430 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
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VA65.I59 T46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
VA65.I59 T46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Probes the explosion of the center gun on the USS Iowa, a disaster that instantly killed several sailors on board, and the fouled investigation that followed, resulting in a large-scale cover-up.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Ten years ago a ghastly naval gun accident killed four dozen men. The author, then a 60 Minutes producer, didn't believe the conclusion of the official investigation that a sailor instigated the disaster to commit suicide. Furthermore, the navy implied that said sailor did so because he was a homosexual despondent over unrequited love. Thompson's TV segment disputed all that, and his book elaborates his criticisms in tremendous detail, accumulated from bio sketches of, and testimony from, more than 100 people and technical descriptions of every piece of equipment necessary to fire 16-inch naval artillery. The linking narrative begins with the refurbishment of the battleship Iowa and proceeds to the personality of Fred Moosally, the captain on the fateful day. He emerges as the villain of Thompson's piece. The brass on the beach supported him, yet the theory of the suicidal sailor stubbornly refused to convince the press (except an NBC reporter). Thompson's diggings are intended to illustrate the ways bureaucratic self-interest can warp an investigation and to vindicate the supposed suicide's reputation. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

The U.S. Navy received a barrage of bad publicity after the infamous 1989 explosion that killed 47 sailors and the even more disgraceful coverup that followed. If even half of what Thompson alleges is true, the coverup was the end of a long line of blunders and lies involving the Iowa, which Thompson calls "a 59,000-ton accident looking for a place to happen." Though Thompson makes it clear that lax safety and poor training most likely caused the explosion, the navy chose to pin the blame on second-class gunner's mate Clayton Hartwig. For starters, he was rumored to be gayÄthough the navy never proved that. Also, his family tried to go after the $50,000 life insurance policy that he'd left to a shipmate. But mostly, it seems, it was easier for the navy to blame an enlisted man than to admit that the accident could have been avoided altogether were it not for a deadly combination of arrogance, ignorance and carelessness both aboard the ship and among navy higher-ups in Washington and Norfolk, Va. A former naval officer who produced several stories about the explosion and coverup for 60 Minutes, Thompson has no ax to grind against the navy as an institution. In fact, he clearly loves the navy at its best. He writes with careful attention to detail (and a familiarity with sometimes dizzying military acronyms) and a slow, burning rage at how investigators willfully distorted the truth, misled the public and set out to destroy the reputation of a sailorÄseemingly all so that the navy could cover its own brass. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One "Mr. Secretary, That Ship Is Unsafe!" The Iowa had been anything but an accident waiting to happen when Captain Larry Seaquist had been her skipper. Things started to change the day Seaquist left the ship. That day, Seaquist had stood on the forecastle on the teak-covered main deck of the Iowa , facing the muzzles of Turret One's three guns, and felt a wave of melancholy wash over him. The Iowa was moored bow-first at the main pier at the Norfolk naval base. In his two years as the Iowa 's commanding officer, the fifty-one-year-old Seaquist had transformed the battleship into a well-honed fighting machine.     In his twenty-six years in the Navy, Seaquist, who had commanded three other warships--a gunboat, a frigate, and a destroyer--had earned a service-wide reputation as a natural and gifted ship handler. "The sea is always in session," he said. "You point your ship in the wrong direction, and you kill somebody. A warship at sea is extremely powerful and can do a lot of damage. You have an absolute responsibility to ensure that damage is not inflicted upon your own crew."     At work on the bridge, Seaquist resembled a maestro frenetically directing a symphony orchestra. He barked out multiple orders and had the ability to solve simultaneously up to fifteen tactical solutions in his head without breaking into a sweat. He enjoyed steering his colossal craft, which had two rudders and four propellers, in and out of packed formations at twenty-five knots. The Iowa could generate 212,000 horsepower, giving her a top cruising speed of thirty-three knots (or about forty miles per hour). This made her as fast or faster than a modern guided-missile cruiser or aircraft carrier, but not so fast that it overly strained her engines.     Seaquist's penchant for fast steaming, coupled with his daredevil shiphandling habits, earned him the nickname "25-Knot Larry." Even though the Iowa could turn on a dime in deep water, she was sluggish and tricky to handle in shallow water. Almost every other battleship skipper employed tugs when docking his ship or getting her underway in port. Not Seaquist. He usually docked his ship without assistance and left the harbor the same way. But the Iowa had some serious problems that Seaquist had inherited when he took over command of the battleship. Secretary of the Navy John Lehman had shaved nearly a year off the time the Iowa was supposed to spend in the Ingalls Shipyard being refitted before she was to be returned to active duty. This accelerated overhaul had two consequences: (1) The $450 million price tag went up an additional $50 million, due to excessive overtime; (2) many badly needed repairs, especially to the engineering plant and the guns, were never made, because there was no time. To meet Secretary Lehman's schedule, the ship's commanding officer, Captain G.E. Gneckow, simply skipped the final contractor's trials. These trials, required by law, are administered by the Naval Board of Inspection and Survey (InSurv). Since 1964, the board had been headed by Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley. A Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Bulkeley had been the captain of the PT-boat that had ferried General Douglas MacArthur in March 1942 from the doomed fortress of Corregidor more than five hundred miles through a Japanese air/sea blockade to the Philippine island of Mindanao. The seventy-five-year-old Bulkeley, known as "the Sea Wolf," was rough as a cob. His inspections had ruined many promising naval careers, and any officer who deliberately avoided his team of InSurv inspectors did so at his own peril.     It was nearly two years after the ship had been recommissioned that Admiral Bulkeley and his staff arrived on the Iowa for an inspection. Despite Navy regulations requiring the commanding officer to document in detail any of his ship's deficiencies on cards, Captain Gneckow had very few cards to give Bulkeley's InSurv team, which met the ship in Port Everglades, Florida, on March 17, 1986. The lack of documentation was enough to flunk the InSurv.     The Iowa's guns were hemorrhaging hydraulic fluid (averaging about fifty-five gallons per turret per week). All the Cosmoline (an anticorrosion lubricant smeared on metal) had not been removed from the guns. Clots of Cosmoline sometimes caused the sixteen-inch barrels to oscillate uncontrollably. Turret Three leaked oil, hydraulic fluid, and water so badly that it was known as "the rain forest." All three five-inch gun mounts on the port side were frozen and could not be fired. Down below the waterline in the engineering spaces, the bilge piping had deteriorated; the electrical system regularly shorted out; pumps failed; the engineers worried that a boiler might explode and scald the sailors tending it; soft patches went unrepaired on high-pressure lines; and some valves to the ship's firefighting system remained frozen shut.      Bulkeley "was really pissed," witnesses say. He told Gneckow to take the battleship-which had just returned from a goodwill tour of Central America--out of the harbor, past the hundred-fathom (600-foot) mark, and then attempt a full-power run. The jittery captain jumped the gun and began increasing the power to the engines before he reached deep water. About the time the ship sped up to twenty-five knots, a huge rooster tail (much like the wake of a fast-moving ski boat) reared up behind the fantail, soaking the after portion of the ship. Bulkeley instructed Gneckow to slow down and not to speed up again until he reached deep water. When his fathometer indicated that he was in sufficiently deep water, the captain told the engineers to throttle up to maximum speed. But the power plant failed to respond. The engineering plant was in such disrepair that it was incapable of generating thirty-three knots.     Bulkeley and his staff wrote page after page of notes concerning the Iowa 's failures. Not only did the admiral flunk the ship, he also wrote up the captain and many of his officers for dereliction of duty. When he arrived back in Washington, Bulkeley plopped a copy of his report on the desk of the Chief of Naval Operations. Then, the cantankerous InSurv chief marched down the hall to the Navy Secretary's "E-Ring" office on the fourth floor of the Pentagon, where he told John Lehman, "Mr. Secretary, that ship is unsafe! I demand that you take her out of service!" Lehman refused to take such a drastic step, but he did tell the top admirals of the Atlantic Fleet to ensure that the Iowa 's problems were remedied.     By this point, Gneckow, who had already been selected to be a rear admiral, knew he was in trouble. Then things got even worse. In addition to dodging Admiral Bulkeley's InSurv for almost two years, Gneekow had also neglected to have his ship undergo another mandatory test, known as the Operation Propulsion Program Evaluation (OPPE). Within the Navy, the OPPE was called "the world series of exams." The Iowa 's OPPE took place in Norfolk about a month after the ship had failed the InSurv. The test went on for three punishing days, and the ship again performed miserably.     Larry Seaquist had already been designated to take over the Iowa when he was summoned to a meeting with Vice Admiral William F. McCauley, commander of Surface Forces Atlantic. "I don't know what's going to happen, whether I leave Gneckow onboard until he can fix the mess or send you onboard to clean it up," McCauley said. The admiral said he wanted to see the Iowa shoot a lot more when Seaquist took over, informing the prospective captain that he would not be held to a strict ammunition training allowance. "You do the shooting, and I'll do the counting," McCauley added.     The Iowa was given a second OPPE and just managed to pass it. But even with the OPPE out of the way, the Iowa was still not out of the woods. She was also long overdue for a requalification on the Navy's gunnery range at Vieques, Puerto Rico. Seaquist took a helicopter out to the ship, which was sailing off the Virginia Capes, and rode her down to the Caribbean.     The ship shot miserably during her first day at Vieques, and if she couldn't improve her score on the second day, then Seaquist would be unable to relieve Gneckow. It was touch and go, but she finally managed to hit a target.     The change-of-command ceremony took place on April 25, 1986, an hour before sunset. The formalities were conducted on top of Turret Three. One gun in Turret Three was fully loaded and primed to fire when the ceremony began. The weapons officer told the turret captain to swivel his weapons to the centerline and lock them in place. Turret Three's loaded center gun was now aimed directly at the crewmen standing in a packed formation on the fantail for the change of command. If the gun had discharged, the concussion would have blown Captains Gneckow and Seaquist, three admirals, the Undersecretary of the Navy, and the U.S. Marines detachment off the turret and probably into the Caribbean, and it would have inflicted horrendous casualties on the crew. After assuming command, Seaquist spent countless hours roaming through the ship looking for things that didn't work. It didn't take him long to realize that he was doomed to failure unless he was able to obtain some topflight help. He desperately needed a dependable weapons officer (preferably somebody who had extensive mechanical training). And he also required the services of an experienced chief engineer, a magician who could patch up the ship's rotting power plant. He didn't know it at that time, but a weapons officer with the credentials and temperament he desired was already on his way to the Iowa .     The new weapons officer assigned to the Iowa was Gene Kocmich, who had served as damage-control assistant, main propulsion assistant, weapons officer, and chief engineer on various ships. He also had been Admiral Bulkeley's aide for two and a half years and knew how to fix things. Kocmich arrived a week after Larry Seaquist took command. Seaquist told his new weapons officer, "If anything is on my ship, it will work or be jettisoned!"     As Gene Kocmich made his way through the turrets, magazines, and fire-control spaces with Master Chief Chuck Hill, the ship's gunner, he began to realize the seriousness of the situation he had inherited. But he felt lucky that he had the services of a tough chief petty officer like Chuck Hill, who was no stranger to adversity. The fifty-three-year-old Hill had participated in shore-fire bombardment in the waters off Korea while aboard the heavy cruiser USS St. Paul . Turret One of that ship blew up on April 21, 1952, while she was shelling enemy installations. Thirty men died from suffocation and burns. The accident was traced to the left gun, which was loaded but had the breech open. The gun captain thought the weapon had fired and told the rammerman to shove another projectile into the gun. The gun blew up, setting off the other two powder bags that were in the hoist. Chuck Hill, then a deckhand, had gone to boot camp with fifteen of the dead men. He helped sew up the canvas shrouds in which they were buried at sea. Hill informed Kocmich that when the Navy recommissioned the Iowa , overage sailors who had battleship experience dating back to World War II, Korea, and Vietnam were allowed to return to active duty. Kocmich had very little use for over-the-hill gunner's mates of this sort: "They were all a lick and a promise. They could talk the talk, but they couldn't walk the walk. They were good storytellers, but they didn't have the physical stamina to keep up with the young sailors." The weapons officer quickly figured out that each turret had its own unique way of loading and firing. There was little or no continuity. And when he questioned somebody about why something was done in a particular way, he always got the same answer: "That's the way we've always done it." The men were accustomed to shooting their projectiles into the sea rather than at fixed targets. This was meaningless.     Kocmich began relighting and rewiring the turrets. He also established a way to filter impurities from the hydraulic fluid to keep the equipment from freezing up. Then he replaced the piping. Priorities were set, and by the time Larry Seaquist's time as skipper was up, the work in the forward two turrets had been completed. Turret Three still was a wreck. Since it was the rearmost turret, hidden behind the superstructure, it was fired much less often than the other two. "Out of sight, out of mind" was the outlook adopted by the officers and chiefs who served back there. Turret Three sailors still used twenty-five-watt light bulbs, because seventy-five-watt bulbs would blow fuses. If a hatch cover fell off its hinges, it was seldom reattached. The gunner's mates in Turret Three employed bent and shaved-down coat hangers to jury-rig their receiver regulators (devices used to accept train and elevation orders to the guns from the fire-control computers).     In addition to the wiring, the leaks, and inadequate training, another concern in the weapons department begged for a solution. When the ship had been overhauled between 1982 and 1984, she had been equipped with state-of-the-art electronic devices, which could either be shattered or knocked out of registration whenever the ship fired a broadside. The weapons officers solved this problem. Every time a turret fired a three-gun salvo, the shots from the left and center guns were staggered ten milliseconds, and the right gun eighty milliseconds, thereby lowering the shock waves that reverberated off the superstructure. Short after his arrival aboard the Iowa , Gene Kocmich was introduced to the most controversial character in the ship's company, Master Chief Fire Controlman Stephen Skelley. A physically fit, small, wiry-haired, self-educated "battleship nut" from Decatur, Illinois, the forty-year-old Skelley had joined the Iowa in the fall of 1983, during her recommissioning in Mississippi. He had devoted almost his entire life to studying the minutiae of battleships and their armament.     When discussing battleships, Skelley's eyes became pinwheels. His dialogue harked back to the glory days of the 1930s, when the "gun club" ran the U.S. Navy. This was a clique of admirals opposed to naval aviation except to provide long-range aerial spotting for naval gunfire and scouting for the surface fleet. Skelley had enlisted in the Navy in 1965. He went to the aircraft carrier USS Ranger as a fire controlman. Three years of that was enough for Skelley, and he quit the Navy and returned to civilian life. For the next fifteen years, his only steady employment was a job selling pots and pans door to door. He conceded that he wasn't very successful peddling kitchenware, because he devoted almost every waking hour to researching little-known facts about battleship gunnery. While he was a civilian, Skelley had remained in the reserves and took numerous correspondence courses. Even though he had very little experience at sea, he was promoted to master chief (the highest rank a Navy enlisted person can hold), returning to active duty at that level.     Unlike most of the Iowa 's other chief petty officers, Skelley had no home other than the ship. He'd also never learned how to operate a car, never held a driver's license, and hardly ever bothered to cash his paychecks. He just stuffed the checks in his locker inside a battleship publication. He didn't know how to type, so he hand-printed his reports in block letters. "He was a total squirrel, who should have been locked up in a cage and only let out when he was needed," said Chuck Hill. "He was like a hand grenade with the pin pulled. He could go off in your face at any time."     Hill made the turrets and magazines strictly off limits to Skelley and refused Skelley's requests to fire certain powder lots or to conduct experiments. "Skelley wanted to go to my turrets to tell my guys what to do-- what to fire. I said, `Skelley, you stay the fuck out of my magazines and stay out of my turrets. If you want to find out something you ask me. If you go in them again, I'll break your fucking neck!'" Skelley contended that he had a right to visit the turrets, arguing, "I'm the master fire-control chief; I've got to know what's going on."     Shortly after becoming commanding officer, Larry Seaquist heard Chief Hill's grievances against Skelley. Seaquist watched Skelley closely for several months, and then said, "I decided that Skelley was brilliant, but was also a very weird little fellow who required a very tight leash.... He could be dangerous if left to his own devices, because he was totally fixated with getting more accuracy and range out of the guns, even if that entailed cutting corners and compromising safety." Gene Kocmich respected Skelley's impressive knowledge: "Skelley opened a window and let fresh air blow in. He would give you a different way of looking at things. If you asked him a question, he could always come up with an answer. But you absolutely couldn't let him supervise anybody, because he couldn't communicate with sailors." In addition to fixing the guns and repairing the engineering plant, Seaquist was given another priority assignment, this one by the Secretary of the Navy. John Lehman was committed to having remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) operate off a battleship. An RPV is an overgrown model airplane controlled by an electronic linkup. It carries a television camera and infrared sensors and can transmit images of the target back to ship. The Pentagon had spent ten years and $2.8 billion attempting to develop its own RPV, the "Aquilla." When that system proved a bust, Lehman contracted to buy the Israeli-made "Pioneer." Lehman also personally selected the officer to make this brand of RPV work on the Iowa . He was Lieutenant Commander Dana Griffin, a dark-haired naval flight officer.     Griffin had flown Army helicopters and then switched over to the Navy flight program in 1973. He reported to the Iowa in the fall of 1986. The RPVs proved troublesome at first. Griffin launched four of the drones, and three promptly crashed. After recovering the wrecked RPVs, Griffin and his men dissected them and discovered that they had all experienced vapor locks in their carburetors. The Israelis had designed the drones for a type of fuel not used by the U.S. Navy. Tinkering with the engines and employing low-lead, 100-octane aviation fuel, Griffin's men managed to get optimum performance from their RPVs. Even after a year on the Iowa , Larry Seaquist hadn't been able to make the same progress on upgrading the ship's power plant as he had with the sixteen-inch turrets. He needed a new chief engineer, and the man sent to do that job was Commander Jerry Ware, a short, sincere North Carolinian and an experienced engineer. Before his assignment to the Iowa , Ware was called to the office of Admiral McCauley. Ware was kept standing at attention before the admiral's desk for a considerable period of time. Finally, McCauley looked Ware squarely in the eye and said, "The Iowa 's engineering plant is fucked up. I want you to unfuck it. If you don't unfuck it, I'm going to fuck you!" End of interview.     Ware's first inspection tour of the Iowa 's engineering spaces confirmed his worst forebodings. "It was obvious that there was very little training. Records were almost nonexistent. I couldn't see how the plant had ever passed the 1987 OPPE." Terming the plant "a chamber of horrors," he said the chiefs and junior officers informed him that they were "petrified because they were working on a system which would not be legal in engineering school." Flammable liquid flowed everywhere, especially from boiler number three.     Insulation was missing from much of the piping, which had been repaired at some time or other with temporary soft patches. The metal was in an advanced stage of deterioration, and a number of eight-inch valves had been frozen open since the early 1940s. Ware feared that the engineering plant might blow up. He went to Seaquist and informed him that the engine rooms were "ticking time bombs." The chief engineer requested permission to take the whole system down and begin emergency maintenance on it. Seaquist said that was impossible, as they were facing an upcoming foreign deployment. Seaquist did consent to taking individual portions of the plant off-line to begin repairs, even if that caused a drop in the ship's speed.     Seaquist unlocked his safe and handed Ware a copy of Admiral Bulkeley's 1986 InSurv report. Ware read the report and said, "Admiral Bulkeley is right. This ship is unsafe to steam." Seaquist also showed Ware a thick sheaf of letters from three- and four-star admirals referring to the Bulkeley report. "If Congress ever got their hands on this file, it would be extremely incriminating. We put this ship back in commission, and it is a floating disaster. It's very clear a lot of high-ranking officers are trying to cover this up," Ware said. The chief engineer and his men didn't waste any time beginning the repairs. They began removing large portions of corroded pipe and replacing them. They made other at-sea quick fixes, but Ware had serious doubts that this was any way to "unfuck this mess" as Admiral McCauley had ordered. Larry Seaquist ousted his original executive officer and named Gene Kocmich his acting second-in-command. The captain admired Kocmich's laidback way of getting things done and attempted to make the job permanent. But after four months, the Norfolk group commander, Rear Admiral Jeremy "Mike" Boorda, told him that was impossible. Boorda, a rising star in the Navy, told Seaquist that Commander Mike Fahey was on his way to the Iowa to become executive officer. Boorda told Seaquist he had no say in the matter, emphasizing the fact that Fahey "was politically well connected in the Navy." "You have to swallow Fahey," he said. Kocmich reverted to his original job as weapons officer.     Fahey was lean and rugged, standing six feet two inches tall. Shortly after he came to the ship, relations between Seaquist and his executive officer ruptured and never mended. A Chicago native, Fahey was a practicing believer in the bare-knuckles school of leadership. He manhandled at least three officers during his time on the Iowa . As he jogged his daily ten miles in circuits around the Iowa, Fahey carried a hand squeezer to strengthen his grip. When he was irate, he rapidly squeezed the device.     He was proud of his nickname, "Iron Mike," and soon Jerry Ware became one of "Iron Mike's" favorite scapegoats. Fahey had never served on a ship with a power plant as old as the Iowa 's. According to Gene Kocmich and Larry Seaquist, Fahey had no comprehension about how the engines worked and was disinclined to make any allowances for the difficulties Ware was experiencing in his attempts to make major repairs at sea. While the Iowa was on a six-month deployment in the Eastern Mediterranean, the two men clashed openly. Not far from the Suez Canal, waves buffeted the ship and salt water cascaded over the bow, seeping into some of the electrical equipment. The seepage shorted out a major electrical switchboard. All the electrical power to the ship was knocked off-line.     The executive officer dashed from the bridge to the main engineering control room, brandishing a flashlight like a club in one hand and his grip squeezer in his other. "We're dead in the water! We're dead in the water!" he howled. "You're going to get us all killed! We're in a war zone!"     Ware scornfully aimed the beam of his own flashlight at the engine revolution indicator and calmly replied, "I've got four engines doing 120 revolutions per minute. The engines are still functioning. We're still moving through the water. We're doing sixteen knots. This is a battleship, not an aircraft carrier. She's built to take hits. Just because you lose electrical power doesn't mean you lose propulsion on a battleship." Just then, the electrical generators kicked in and the lights went back on. Fahey stormed off in a funk.     Another time, when Larry Seaquist was off the ship during the Mediterranean cruise, Ware and Fahey exchanged insults, and Fahey informed Ware that he was fired for insubordination. When Seaquist returned, Fahey told the captain that he had dismissed the chief engineer for cause. Seaquist shouted, "Don't compromise my engineer anymore!" Fahey rushed off the bridge, tracked down Ware, and told him that Seaquist had saved his job. The executive officer then shook a balled fist in Ware's face and said Seaquist wouldn't be there forever, and he would get even.     From then on, Fahey openly exhibited his intense hatred of Seaquist. On Christmas Eve, Seaquist was again off the ship, attending a Bob Hope show with Rear Admiral Dennis M. Brooks, commander of the Joint Task Force Middle East, on the nearby carrier USS Midway . After the show ended and Seaquist and the admiral were headed back to the battleship, their forty-foot utility boat developed engine troubles. The coxswain radioed the Iowa for help. The officer of the deck (OOD) asked Fahey what to do. "Train a sixteen-inch battery out and blow the mother fuckers out of the water. I hope Seaquist drowns," Fahey snapped. Everyone on the bridge--the three junior officers on watch, the navigator, the helmsman, the boatswain's mate of the watch--overheard this and was shocked. The OOD had a rescue boat dispatched to pick up Seaquist and Brooks. Seaquist heard about what had happened and wanted Fahey off his ship. The captain also didn't appreciate Fahey's open declaration about the sixteen-inch guns: "If those fuckers never fire again, it will be too soon for me!" But Seaquist knew that he would never get away with sacking somebody so wired to some of the Navy's top officers. Most battleship captains were promoted to rear admiral after successfully completing their tours. When he relinquished command of the USS Bradley in 1970, Joseph Metcalf, who became a vice admiral, quoted from Joseph Conrad's essay The Captain : "In each ship there is one man who in the hour of emergency or peril at sea, can turn to no other man. There is one who alone is ultimately responsible for the safe navigation, engineering performance, accurate gunfiring and the morale of his ship. He is the commanding officer. He is the ship." When asked why his protégé, Larry Seaquist, wasn't selected to become a rear admiral, Admiral Metcalf sighed and called Seaquist an "iconoclast." "The admirals didn't quite understand Larry. He never paid attention to the flag officers' [admirals'] community. Not many flag officers went aboard his ship. It takes politics to become an admiral in the United States Navy. That's a sad commentary, but true, and Larry wasn't a very good politician." Copyright © 1999 Charles C. Thompson II. All rights reserved.