By Rear Admiral Paul Becker
Director for Intelligence
Joint Chiefs of Staff
Monday marked the U.S. Navy’s 239th birthday. From its humble beginning with just six frigates, it’s become the most dominant and influential naval force ever to sail the world’s oceans. Our Navy ensures freedom of the seas, projects power in support of national interests, supports allies and partners around the world, and is compassionate when reaching out to others in need. The Navy has a rich tradition within New York City. Most prominently via the Brooklyn Navy Yard which was established in 1806, and is replete today with reminders that link our past with the present through such venues as the USS Intrepid museum and an annual renewal with “Fleet Week” celebrations every spring.
I am a proud son of New York City and proud member of the Navy. My family’s story is not one of seafarers; all four grandparents were forced from their shtetls in Eastern Europe about a hundred years ago and crossed the Atlantic with nothing but hopes and dreams for a better family future. The first body of water I ever saw was the Jerome Park Reservoir in the
Bronx, but it made an indelible impression on me, as did a statue to honor Civil War hero Admiral Farragut at Madison Square and the USS Maine memorial at the Merchant’s Gate entrance to Central Park. I even grew up on Bainbridge Avenue, named in honor of the Commodore who fought heroically on the Great Lakes and in the Mediterranean during the early 19th Century. And I am particularly proud of a seldom told chapter in our USN-NYC history that occurred during World War II when Naval Intelligence Officers from our 3rd Naval District Headquarters in the city partnered with NYPD and other like-minded patriots and public defenders to prevent spies and saboteurs from interrupting the flow of troops and material from our docks and warehouses to combat theaters in Africa, Europe and the Pacific.
I serve in the Navy for many of the same reasons as NYPD, FDNY, other law enforcement and public defenders do; a call to something higher than self-interest, even at the risk of long hours, high stress and danger. We in the Navy – and New York’s public defenders – see the world through a prism of good vs. evil. The only way evil wins is if we lose our will to serve and fight for good. We need the USN and NYC’s public defenders to give it our all when faced with evil-doers giving it their all. USN Sailors and NYC public defenders have certain limits; rightful limits on the way we patrol and fight. Limits on target sets, collateral damage, rules of engagement, protecting rights of the accused, etc. But there must not be, there cannot be limits on our obligation to protect our citizens, protect our seas and protect our soil today and in the future. So, to all those in NYC who protect the public from those that would do us harm: Godspeed, safety and strength while serving the good and fighting evil in this greatest city on earth. And to all those serving in our Navy today, who served in the past, or will serve in the future. Happy 239th birthday.