Tenacity comes in many forms. In my case, it manifests itself in my reluctance to take on assignments discussing popular, yet noteworthy, historic figures. As my final paper on a “great captain” of history, I readily accepted my professor’s challenge to prove whether Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood was as comparable figure as Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz. My resulting grade of 100% was secondary to the commentary provided by the professor: “…one of the best original subject papers I have read at APUS in 16 years.”
The term “Great Captain” has been used to describe men of the past whom commanded immense groups of men on the land, on the sea, in the air, and into immortal renown. Throughout human history, however, leaders of equal prominence have existed as key individuals responsible for shaping the conflict in which they served and creating a proud legacy to be studied, modeled, and admired for generations. One of these subtle, yet important, figures is Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood (May 6, 1890 – June 7, 1967) – Commander, Submarines, Pacific Fleet – during the Second World War, and the man responsible for leading a small portion of the United States Navy in submarine warfare against the entire Imperial Japanese Navy and merchant fleet.
Born May 6, 1890, in Midland, Va., Charles Lockwood’s formative years and early development are noteworthy only for the fact that very little information supports anything other than an unremarkable childhood. The beginnings of his naval career are even contrary indicators as to the type of leader he would later become. Graduating 123rd of 156 from the United States Naval Academy, Lockwood lead only in the number of demerits received – 203. Order of merit in areas such as “efficiency” and “conduct” likewise showed no discernible innate proficiency or skill as he was ranked 115th and 161st, respectively in these areas. However, in 1912 he received his commission and within two years, while assigned to the harbor tug USS Mohician, he received his first exposure and subsequent instruction with the most technologically advanced vessel of the day, the submarine.
Prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, Lockwood broadened his leadership skills in assignments such as Commander, First Submarine Division, Asiatic Fleet, assistant naval attaché in the US Embassy in Tokyo, and witnessed the effects of the attempted naval blockade of Great Britain in the early stages of what would soon become the Second World War while assigned as the U.S. Naval attaché, London, England. A submariner at heart, Lockwood had prior experience with the more advanced German U-boats, and in fact, had commanded the newly captured UC-97 in 1919 through the St. Lawrence Seaway and into the Great Lakes on a publicity drive for Victory Bonds. More importantly, though, this exposure to the potential submarines possessed in waging war across oceans lead a series of recommendations he submitted in 1938. Lockwood sought to increase operating depth to 250 feet, add two aft torpedo tubes, reduce overall diving time to less than 40 seconds, and improve overall crew habitability – all of which foreshadowed operational needs which would turn out to be crucially important three years later.
After 18 years of service, Lockwood was assigned as Commander Submarines Southwest Pacific, based in Albany, Western Australia in May 1942. It was there where he began to understand the importance of maintaining the morale of his submariners as they attempted to maintain what viable defensive and offensive operations against an enemy with substantial logistical, tactical, and numerical advantages. Adding to the multitude of considerations and concerns U.S. forces were faced with, issues with the Mark 14 torpedo – the submarine’s primary weapon – began to become more and more frequent. Reports of misses, premature detonations, and duds prompted Lockwood to begin an informal, yet determined series of tests and official inquiries in mid-1942 and continued as rose to the rank of Rear Admiral and assumed his responsibilities for all U.S. submarines assigned to the Pacific. Upon determining that not only did the torpedoes run deeper than was set prior to firing, the magnetic influence detonators and the mechanical firing pins were defective, Lockwood was quick to disseminate instructions to his command.Along with this, though, Lockwood directly challenged the designer of the weapon, the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) in defending the submarine commanders against accusations that the fault lie not in the torpedo, but in the inability for the commanders to properly employ the weapon. Characteristic of his ferocity in addressing such bureaucratic pettiness, Lockwood addressed those present at the Submarine Officer’s Conference in Washington D.C. with the biting recommendation to fit the torpedoes with “a boat hook with which we can rip the plates off a target’s side.”
Ongoing struggles to maintain the effectiveness of his fleet did not cease with the identification and rectification of the issues with the torpedoes. Relentless pursuit of the Japanese merchant routes resulted in the need to areas which were accurately suspected to be sown with naval mines. Because of this, Lockwood became very involved in the development, testing, trials, and incorporation of frequency modulated sonar equipment for his fleet. Logistic and support problems which arose due to the long transit distances to and from patrol areas limited the effectiveness of his fleet not just in fuel consumption, but from the natural environmental toll placed on the boats. Seeking to establish submarine-capable bases closer to the shrinking Empire, Lockwood personally scouted possible locations and effectively campaigned to dredging equipment and other construction assets to be diverted accordingly in places like Midway.
Lockwood established himself well as the head of the “Silent Service”, as the submarine forces were called. As a result of his leadership and efforts as the youngest Rear Admiral in the Navy, he was subsequently awarded several Navy Distinguished Service Medals, citing his “sound judgement and professional skill” in establishing operational planning, “tactical execution of submarine operations”, and “unwavering devotion to duty”. His dedication and commitment to the quickest resolution to the war with Japan earned him the highest respect of those whom served with him, and it was because of the contributions of his leadership that Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz appropriately ensured that Lockwood was direct witness to the surrender of the Japanese onboard the USS Missouri. In ensuring that the heroism of the men he led lived on after his retirement in 1947, Lockwood spent the last 13 years of his life writing memoirs, historical accounts of his experiences, and providing his services as technical adviser for some of the most accurate cinematic portrayals of what he knew best – submarines , the men, and their stories.
Determining the leadership style effectively utilized by Lockwood proves to be difficult in that he displayed both “transactional” and “transformational” leadership in an inconsistent, yet extremely effective manner. “Transactional” leadership – that which establishes the internal roles, personal rewards, and desired outcome for those within an organization is best shown in the frequent and ready praise Lockwood publicly extolled of those within his command. Even when faced with problematic engines on their first patrol, Lockwood congratulated the officers and the crew of the Gunnel for a “highly aggressive and successful war patrol”.
“Transformational” leadership exhibited by Lockwood, however, is more evident while being subtle at the same time. Along with the great distances involved between the operating areas of submarines on patrol and Pearl Harbor, operational requirements prohibited frequent radio communications. The empowerment entrusted to his subordinates for relative “freedom to maneuver” in their patrols was only possible with one shared vision and goal – to sink enemy ships. Lockwood strongly personified Taylor’s idea of “creating a mental picture by use of a language from shared experiences”. Lockwood spoke the jargon of his subordinates to the point of engaging in debate with his peers over the use of slang in patrol reports, and was capable of deciphering vital information “between the lines” of official patrol reports and listening to what was discussed off-duty at officer’s clubs. With this information, he was able to comfortably discuss intention, entertain alternatives, and officially endorse subordinates’ recommended proposals; greatly endearing himself and gaining their steadfast loyalty.
Emotional intelligence, a combination of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills, was best described by Lockwood in a postwar memoir concerning submariners:
They must be alert without being brittle, . . . interested in their shipmates without being nosy; they must appreciate food without being gluttons; they must respect privacy without being seclusive; they must be talkers without being gabby; and they must be friendly without being tail-waggers. . . . The wrong kind of a man aboard a sub, on a long cruise, can become an insufferable thorn in the sides of shipmates. He can, emotionally, cause almost as much damage as an enemy depth bomb.
In identifying these characteristics, Lockwood offered a reflection of the exact traits he possessed and led by. Given that there are no absolutes in human behavior, therefore no guarantee as to a solid and singular leadership style which is most effective all the time, emotional intelligence such as what manifested in Lockwood’s leadership, negates any simple attempt at categorization.
Aggression and action were of the utmost importance from America’s entry into the war, and one of the realities Lockwood had to specifically reinforce for his submariners was his inability to accept and condone hesitation and timidity in their conduct of operations. While not initially prepared for the scope of naval warfare required due to prewar deficiencies in training or doctrine, Lockwood had little choice but to relieve those commanders slow to adapt to the needs and challenges before them. Ultimately, Lockwood rose to the challenge set before him of overcoming obstacles and expected those in his command to do likewise, and the transition from peace to war complimented nicely his ascent in the ranks to affect the needed changes.
Part of what distinguishes Lockwood as a great leader from other well-known examples is the fact that he gave his commanders the much needed voice at the time they needed it the most. He was their advocate for their reputation, their promoter of deed, their supplier of comfort and necessity, and their champion of efficiency. He stood behind his men in everything – from construction programs incorporating the operational lessons learned into improved submarine designs, to true “rest and recuperation” in the form of sponsored and informal arrangements for musicians, entertainers, sports figures, and food while not on patrol, to insisting independent operation while at sea – Lockwood favored his men and was obligated to reciprocate their loyalty. This is not to imply that Lockwood was above administering justified reprimand or without error, though. When the USS Queenfish attacked and sunk the Awa Maru – a Japanese hospital ship – on April 1st, 1945, Lockwood was swift in relieving the commander, although he also ensured that the commander retained the best legal defense for the subsequent proceedings.
Always seeking relevance and firsthand experience as to the conditions his men experienced, Lockwood fought unsuccessfully to go out on patrol with his submariners, and while denied, routinely travelled as a passenger on boats transiting between Pearl Harbor and Midway and on these trips could be found sitting on a bucket in a torpedo room, engaged in casual conversation with the torpedomen. Seeking a swift conclusion to the war and resumption of normal life, Lockwood understood the fact that the best way to bring about such a result was to use submarines to bolster the improving morale of his men and impart a strategic and psychological blow to the Japanese by directing his assets to strike shipping in the Sea of Japan. Of course, this was not an attempt to micromanage the efforts of the submariners; other than establishing target priority in 1943, placing carriers, battleships and tankers at the top, Lockwood remained relatively hands off when it came to operational matters – freeing himself up for administrative issues to tackle.
The legacy left behind by Lockwood’s leadership, while understated, is significant. Towards the end of the war, he began to add photographers to the crews to document and commit to history the exploits of his submariners. His contributions to the development and integration of hard-learned lessons of war and his resistance to that what he viewed as “rule-book thinking and hidebound conformity” created a generation of men who followed in his example. Over four decades after the end of the Second World War, the U.S. Navy established the “The Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood Award for Submarine Professional Excellence” to recognize individual officers and enlisted personnel for “achievement, contribution, specific action or consistent performance, which best exemplifies the traditional spirit embodied in the Submarine Force.”
Lockwood’s leadership style of the past offers an idea of how to better shape future military leaders and mold the next “great captains” in several ways. By prioritizing the men along with the needs of the mission, he demonstrated a solid grasp that one complimented the other. By establishing a rotational tour of duty which sent commanders ashore after five consecutive patrols, he ensured fewer operational losses and improved the overall welfare of the crews. He also challenged officers to instill aggressiveness and initiative, borrowing the spirit of Brigadier General Lincoln C. Andrews’ philosophy that a leader who is ignorant and/or lazy is, “next to a coward, the most dangerous man”. Similarly, Lockwood’s approach to a unified understanding of the ideas behind training and relevant use of the knowledge imparted from effective doctrine lends credit to Marechal De Saxe’s disdain for apathetic adherence to following “blindly adopted maxims”. Lastly, empathy allowed Lockwood to offer sage guidance when approached for clarification on the extent to which he wished commanders to execute warfare against the enemy by appealing to their own conscience in determining the proper course of action.
Rear Admiral Charles A. Lockwood was a “great captain” in that he possessed high emotional intelligence and empathy as he led the “Silent Service” against the naval combatants and merchant of the Japanese Empire during the Second World War. He has charismatic in the conduct of his duties and the manner in which he contested problems within his own Navy which hampered the performance of his command. Most importantly, though, he was ethical in the application of his own personal strengths and abilities in order to lead effectively and accomplish a mission of the utmost importance to the overall victory in the Pacific. Therefore, regardless of inauspicious beginnings, Charles Lockwood emerged as a prominent leader and key individual responsible for shaping the conflict in which he served and created a proud legacy to be studied, modeled, and admired for generations.
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Zimmerman, Dwight J. The Mark 14 Torpedo Scandal. DefenseMedia Network.com. March 4, 2013. http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/torpedo-scandal-rear-adm-charles-lockwood-the-mark-14-and-the-bureau-of-ordnance/.