Zumwalt: The Life and Times of Admiral Elmo Russell “Bud” Zimwalt Jr.
Larry Berman. Harper, $27.99 (528p) ISBN 978-0-06-169130-0
Berman, professor emeritus at UC-Davis (Lyndon Johnson’s War), addresses one of the Vietnam War’s central figures. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt (1920–2000) commanded Navy forces in Vietnam from 1970 to 1974 and served as the youngest chief of naval operations in history. Both appointments were demanding in challenging times; Berman describes Zumwalt as rising to the situation. He understood that the Navy could no longer remain “oblivious to the needs of civilian society and the dignity of its personnel.” Zumwalt also understood the necessity for restoring the Navy after the wear and tear of Vietnam, and meeting an increasingly formidable Soviet maritime challenge. Berman’s solid command of archival and published sources underpins his analysis of a career that began during WWII and continued during the cold war. Berman establishes Zumwalt’s controversial efforts to reduce racism and sexism, and adjust the Navy to the changing lifestyles and attitudes of its sailors. He recognizes Zumwalt’s acumen in defense politics, especially issues of budgeting and ship construction. His underlying theme, however, is Zumwalt’s position as the conscience of an institution undergoing fundamental, comprehensive transformation. Zumwalt showed that “the navy’s not as great as it thinks it is.” His tombstone bears a fitting word: “reformer.” 16 pages of b&w photos. Agent: John Wright, John W. Wright Literary Agency. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/30/2012