US Senator John W. Warner
Award Year: 2010
NMHS Distinguished Service Award
The NMHS Distinguished Service Award has been presented each year since 1993 to recognize individuals who, through their personal effort and creativity, have made outstanding contributions to the maritime field.
In 2010, US Senator John W. Warner was awarded with the NMHS Distinguished Service Award. We recognized his many accomplishments in the evening’s awards dinner journal:
Retired US Senator John W. Warner will receive the NMHS Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his illustrious career as sailor, marine, Chair of the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, Under-Secretary and Secretary of the Navy, United States Senator, and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Society is honoring Senator Warner for an incredible career that includes serving as a sailor in World War II, a marine in the Korean War, and a long-time US Senator, well-respected on both sides of the aisle.
Senator Warner served five terms in the US Senate from 1979 to 2008 and rose to be Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. While serving as Under-Secretary of the Navy, 1969–1972, and Secretary of the Navy, 1972–1974, he represented the Department of Defense in the Laws of the Seas talks in Geneva during 1971–1973, and negotiated the Incidents at Sea Executive Agreement with the Soviet Union between 1970–1972.
During the final year of World War II, Warner enlisted in the US Navy, was trained in electronics, and honorably discharged as a Petty Officer 3rd Class. Subsequently, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, and in October 1950, at the outbreak of the Korean War, he reported for active duty and served as a first lieutenant, ground officer, with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Korea. He remained in the Reserves for eight years and then was honorably discharged with the rank of Captain.
Throughout his long Senate career, he often, in floor speeches, acknowledged how much he benefitted from his modest service in uniform and how he worked as a member of Congress to “pay back” this debt of gratitude by improving benefits for the current generations in uniform and their families. During his last year, he was a part of the “team of Senators” who wrote the new expanded G I. Bill.
“One of our Navy’s greatest strengths is its strong tradition of “Sea Daddies,” the obligation felt by our greatest leaders to spend inordinate time and attention teaching and mentoring younger aspiring sailors. I am personally deeply obligated to a few Sea Daddies who made all the difference in my naval and personal life. John Warner is indeed one.
When I was a young horse-holder for Henry Kissinger, one of my assignments was to monitor the bold initiative by the young Secretary of the Navy John Warner to negotiate a formal treaty with the Soviet Union on avoiding dangerous confrontations between our navies. This of course was the height of the Cold War, and Kissinger trusted no one and certainly not someone from Defense to deal with The Soviets. Warner very deftly handled both the Soviets and the even greater threat from the Washington establishment and succeeded in forging the Incidents at Sea Treaty which ended dangerous encounters at sea and is in force to this day. I learned a great deal from watching his dual diplomacy.
Late, in the Carter years, when the administration was heedless of the dire plight of our service people with pay frozen for years during double digit inflation, I had the privilege of helping the new Senator Warner as he forged a brilliant set of legislative initiatives to raise pay and improve quality of life for service families; initiatives fought by the administration. I watched him work across the aisles to get bi-partisan support for this legislative success, and with some frustration I watched him let others take the credit for what was his creation. Once again behind the scenes I watched as he crafted in concert with John Tower and Scoop Jackson a successful effort to get a new nuclear carrier, now the Theodore Roosevelt, authorized and appropriated against the concerted efforts of an administration that believed carriers were obsolete and needlessly upsetting to the Soviet Union.
When I was later nominated by President Reagan to be Secretary of the Navy, it soon became apparent that I was not universally admired. In fact there were several determined attempts to prevent my nomination, and some did not play by the rules I learned on the playing fields of Cambridge. In the depths of these attacks it was John Warner, who like his hero General Jackson, stood like a stone wall between my enemies and me, deflecting one fatal blow after another. Finally appointed and confirmed, I had the privilege to serve the Navy in partnership with John and his comrades, Tower and Jackson, to build the 600 ship Navy and to support the sailors and marines who were the secret weapon of Cold War Victory. His personal counsel during those years was invaluable to me.
The Nation owes a great debt to John Warner for his service, example and his leadership.”
—The Honorable John F. Lehman
Categories: US Government Leadership, US Navy