He was not a tall man, yet he towered above every man I had ever known.
By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
March 13, 2007
Admiral Joseph Metcalf III, U.S. Navy, allowed his subordinates room to learn; he demanded their growth. Never dictating performance he always demanded quality and innovative thought.
He got the most from the men under his command repeatedly. He inspired, provided leadership and brought the best out of men.
He was Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf III, United States Navy.
He will mostly be remembered for a relatively small military invasion by U.S. forces upon Grenada, which was under the control of Fidel Castro’s Cuba. This was the first U.S. military operation following the Vietnam War.
During the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, Admiral Joe Metcalf was one of the special ones. But to know him one can say: he was always remarkable.
Joe Metcalf honored America, all of America’s values, and especially the American Sailor.
I first met him while I was the commissioning Combat Systems Officer aboard USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), a new breed of U.S. Navy cruiser.
Bunker Hill was the first ship to incorporate together, designed from the keel up, three innovative Navy combat capabilities: the AEGIS Weapon System, the Vertical Launch Missile System (VLS), and the Tomahawk long range cruise missile.
AEGIS was the brainchild of Admiral Wayne Meyer — whom Metcalf dubbed, “The Father of AEGIS” and ultimately, simply, “The Father.”
Metcalf relished the opportunity to poke American technology and greatness at sea into the nose of our Soviet adversaries.
When USS Bunker Hill entered service, in Boston, Massachusetts, at the foot of Bunker Hill and nearby USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), Metcalf said to a large pier-side audience, “Another pin goes into that strategic map held in the Kremlin that keeps track of America’s most potent and important warships at sea!”
Admiral Metcalf fully embraced the computer driven U.S. Navy. He wanted integration and total information sharing. He wanted targets immediately detected, identified and engaged by multiple assets using multiple, integrated sensors and weapons. He wanted his ships “paperless,” devoid of heavy and bulky repair manuals and books.
Today’s U.S. Navy and other allied Navys are the reflection of Admiral Metcalf’s vision.
Admial Metcalf showed me the very first email in the Pentagon — the first perhaps in the Department of Defense.
In USS Bunker Hill Metcalf could see the future of American Naval power for generations to come.
He had a marvelous flair for everything.
Metcalf honored American history. He brought one of the last remaining U.S. Naval railroad guns from World War I from a deserted, overgrown rail siding in Dahlgren, Virginia, to join the U.S. Naval Museum at the historic Washington Navy Yard.
He paid special attention to his predecessors in Naval history: men like Admiral Arleigh Burke, Admiral Jerauld Wright, Admiral Lawson P. “Red” Ramage, Vice Admiral John D. Bulkeley: all heroes of World War II. And there were others too, not the least among them was Admiral Grace Hopper.
Admiral Burke had been commander of the famous “Little Beavers” of Destroyer Squadron 23.
Leading Destroyer Division 43, Destroyer Division 44, Destroyer Squadron 12, and finally Destroyer Squadron 23, Admiral Burke would rise after the war to become Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). The latter squadron, known as the “Little Beavers,” covered the initial landings inBougainville in November 1943, and fought in 22 separate engagements during the next four months. During this time, the “Little Beavers” were credited with destroying one Japanese cruiser, nine destroyers, one submarine, several smaller ships and more than 30 aircraft.
The most modern destroyers of the United States Navy today are called the Arleigh Burke class.
Admiral Jerauld Wright was a junior Lieutenant aboard a gunboat on anti-submarine duty in the Mediterranean during World War I. In World War II, he was Captain of the battleship Mississippi in the Atlantic, held senior staff positions in Europe and participated in clandestine missions in the Mediterranean.
He landed from a submarine with General Mark Clark in Algeria, using a rubber raft to row ashore to discuss U.S. war plans with French commanders.
He then participated in many of the great battles of the Pacific, where he rose to command a cruiser division with fast carriers. Along the way, he became an authority in the joint operations of naval, ground and air forces in amphibious operations.
He was awarded the Navy Cross.
Admiral Ramage held the Medal of Honor. His citation reads, in short, “as Commanding Officer of U.S.S. Parche in a predawn attack on a Japanese convoy, 31 July 1944. Boldly penetrating the screen of a heavily escorted convoy, CDR Ramage launched a perilous surface attack by delivering a crippling stern shot into a freighter and quickly following up with a series of bow and stern torpedoes to sink the leading tanker and damage the second one.
Exposed by the light of bursting flares and bravely defiant of terrific shellfire passing close overhead, he struck again, sinking a transport by two forward reloads. In the mounting fury of fire from the damaged and sinking tanker, he calmly ordered his men below, remaining on the bridge to fight it out with an enemy now disorganized and confused. Swift to act as a fast transport closed in to ram, CDR Ramage daringly swung the stern of the speeding Parche as she crossed the bow of the onrushing ship, clearing by less than 50 feet but placing his submarine in a deadly crossfire from escorts on all sides and with the transport dead ahead. Undaunted, he sent 3 smashing “down the throat” bow shots to stop the target, then scored a killing hit as a climax to 46 minutes of violent action with the Parche and her valiant fighting company retiring victorious and unscathed.”
Another Medal of Honor holder, Vice Admiral John Bulkeley. Bulkeley’s distinguished career began when he graduated from the Naval Academy in 1933. He was decorated with the Congressional Medal of Honor for his many actions, which included the rescue of General Douglas MacArthur, his family and staff from Corregidor in 1942, by way of motor torpedo boat commandeded by then Lieutennt Bulkeley.After he retired the first time he was recalled to active duty and retired again in 1988 at the age of 78! Admiral Metcalf introduced me and others to these great men. He instructed me that “it is my responsibility to see to any needs of these fine ladies and gentlemen and the many others who are the heroes of the sea service. Commander Carey, You Will Be My Instrument of Care.”Admiral Metcalf called me the “Aide on Additional Assignment.”He once “loaned” me to Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, one of the very first software engineers and a real “futurist” in the world of computing. There is now a U.S. Navy AEGIS destroyer bearing her name — and a park here in Arlington, Virginia also honors her memory.
When I did not know what “Trafalger” was, Admiral Metcalf banished me to the Pentagon library; telling me not to return until, “You know the scope of all Naval History.”
When I told him by phone I had witnessed a hurricane that felled many “Old Oak” trees, he gave me an assignment. “Get them to Boston, Man, USS Consititution will be refurbished in a few years and we’ll need that oak.”
He knew: “Seabees, lad, and rail cars! Get me that OAK, Man!”
In my house I still have relics from USS Constitution care of Admiral Joe Metcalf and Commander David Cashman, 62nd in Command of USS Constitution!
On the 200th Anniversary of the Constitution we gathered for a wonderful event in Boston. But we were late.
Admiral Metcalf was not worried. “We’re senior!” he proclaimed.
“Oh, no, sir, ‘we’ are NOT!” I said. “SecDef is there.”
“Cap?” Said Admiral Metcalf, incredulous.
“Cap, Boss. Indeed.”
Joseph Metcalf, Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy: This was not a man of half measures and those of us lucky enough to serve close to him were better men for the adventure.
Admiral Metcalf was not politically correct. He admitted that he was a “warrior.” He admitted that his “boys” brought Russian built AK-47s home from war (illegally). He lived in an era dominated by the Cold War. He was flambouyant and proud. But when challenged to put forces into the fight, he rose to the occasion brilliantly and magnificently and quickly. He never waivered.
He said to me once, “Dear God, Man! When you are in Command, COMMAND!”
He did Command.
And he was always alacrity personified.
He asked us all in the Navy to think in terms of “Up, Out and Down;” a kind of three dimentional warfighting that is second nature today.
Admiral Metcalf was my personal hero and a man any other man would be proud to call “friend.”
Joseph Metcalf III Dies at 79; Led Invasion of Grenada
Vice Adm. Joseph Metcalf III, who in October 1983 was given less than two days to plan and start the controversial invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada after President Ronald Reagan issued orders to overturn a Marxist coup, died on March 2 at his home in Washington. He was 79.
The cause was progressive neurological degeneration and two strokes, his wife, Ruth, said.
The invasion of the island, which is 25 miles long and lies north of Trinidad and Tobago, started before dawn on Oct. 25, 1983. Six days earlier, a Marxist faction had toppled the government and executed the prime minister, Maurice Bishop. But even before the coup, Fidel Castro had sent more than 600 Cuban military personnel and construction workers to Grenada to build a 10,000-foot airport runway outside St. George’s, the capital.
Admiral Metcalf, commander of the Atlantic Second Fleet at the time, was placed in charge of what was code named Operation Urgent Fury. It took him 39 hours to deploy a force of 1,800 marines, 700 Army Rangers, 1,600 Army paratroopers and several dozen Navy Seal commandos. His deputy commander was Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who seven years later led the first American attack on Iraq.
Within three days, American forces took control of Grenada and captured the coup leader, Bernard Coard, who had been the island’s deputy prime minister; Mr. Coard remains in prison on the island. Nineteen Americans and 45 Grenadians were killed during the invasion, including 19 patients at a mental hospital that was accidentally bombed.
The operation caused considerable controversy, particularly after journalists were barred from going ashore to cover the story. Critics charged that the administration had made misleading statements to bolster President Reagan’s assertion that the invasion was necessary to prevent a Cuban takeover.
The administration was accused of having inflated the number of Cubans on the island and exaggerating evidence that Americans in Grenada were in danger. There were approximately 1,000 Americans on the island at the time, including about 400 medical students. None were harmed.
In 2002, in an oral history for the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, Caspar W. Weinberger, the secretary of defense at the time, defended the invasion, saying there was great concern “that Cuba had been allowed to go too far and had become a threat.”
“This construction was going on in Grenada,” Mr. Weinberger said, “and the government there was in complete anarchy. The American medical students were going to be an obvious target.”
Admitting that there was faulty planning, Mr. Weinberger also said: “We didn’t have enough maps, and we didn’t have this and that, and we didn’t have very good communications between the various units. But it was very hastily put together, and we won.”
Initial intelligence reports had indicated that there were 1,200 Grenadian regulars and 600 Cubans on the island. As the first helicopters swooped in, the only opposition came from a few snipers. But when resistance stiffened, the estimate of Grenadian forces was raised to 2,000 and the Cuban forces to 1,100. An additional 3,500 American paratroopers were rushed in.
When Navy Seal teams came under heavy attack from Fort Frederick, outside the capital, they requested an air strike. An A-7 jet roared in. Soon after, much of the fort lay in ruins, including a wing of a 180-bed mental hospital.
Admiral Metcalf was born in Holyoke, Mass., on Dec. 20, 1927, a son of Alice Conrad and Joseph Metcalf II. His father was a partner in a wool factory. In 1946, he enlisted in the Navy and a year later was admitted to the Naval Academy. He graduated in 1951, the same year that he married Ruth Daniels. Besides his wife, surviving are a brother, Conrad, of Westminster, N.C.; a daughter, Elizabeth Miller of Reston, Va.; 2 sons, David, of Wellington, Fla., and Joseph IV, of Knoxville, Tenn.; and 11 grandchildren.
After the Grenada operation, Admiral Metcalf was named a vice chief of staff for naval operations.
In 1985, it became public that Customs officials had stopped him and a staff member from bringing 24 Soviet AK-47 automatic rifles back from Grenada to distribute as souvenirs. The guns were surrendered, and Admiral Metcalf received a nonpunitive warning after saying he had not known that importing automatic rifles violated federal law.
But nine lower-ranking servicemen were court-martialed and sentenced to hard labor for similar offenses. The secretary of the Navy, John F. Lehman Jr., later pointed out that some of the enlisted men had not only brought in the weapons, but also sold them.
Admiral Metcalf rarely spoke about his Grenada experiences, his wife said, except to say that “he thought it was a success, and it was.”
Joseph Metcalf III, U.S. Navy
By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 11, 2007; Page C07Joseph Metcalf III, the Navy vice admiral who led the U.S. invasion of the Caribbean nation of Grenada in 1983, which produced lasting lessons for military preparation and media relations, died March 2 at his home in Washington after a series of strokes. He was 79 and also had a progressive neurological disorder.Adm. Metcalf, described by The Washington Post as a “colorful and pugnacious commander,” was given the assignment to lead the invasion only 39 hours before it was to take place, Oct. 25, 1983. Six days earlier, a Marxist faction had seized control of Grenada’s government and executed Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and 15 of his supporters.
The United States and several Caribbean nations feared that Grenada could take a sudden turn toward violent revolution, fueled by the presence of several hundred Cuban advisers. About 650 Americans attended medical school in Grenada at the time, and there was concern for their safety.
Adm. Metcalf, who was commander of the Atlantic 2nd Fleet, led an invasion force of about 6,000 troops from all four branches of the military in the attack, code-named Operation Urgent Fury, which began at 5 a.m. It was the first U.S. combat operation since the Vietnam War. His deputy commander was Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded the Desert Storm operation in 1990-91.
Supplemented by about 300 troops from several Caribbean countries, U.S. forces took control of the 133-square-mile island nation within three days and captured the leader of the rebellion, Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, who remains in prison. In the sporadic fighting, 19 Americans and at least 45 Grenadans were killed. All of the American medical students were unharmed.
“Given the short time that we had to plan the operation,” Adm. Metcalf said in 1986, “I’m satisfied.”
At first, little could be learned about the invasion because Adm. Metcalf enforced a strict media blackout, which ignited an intense battle over the freedom of the press. Several reporters in a chartered fishing boat were turned back by the threatening maneuvers of U.S. military jets.
Other reporters managed to reach the island and wander through the mostly peaceful capital, St. George’s. Still, they were prevented from sending their dispatches — or communicating with their offices or families — for two days. Only after intervention from the White House and the Pentagon were the correspondents allowed to file their reports.
Adm. Metcalf said the orders to restrict the media came from above him. But in 2002, Margaret H. Belknap, an Army lieutenant colonel and faculty member at the U.S. Military Academy, wrote in Parameters, the U.S. Army War College Quarterly, that “President [Ronald] Reagan left the decision for media access to the military, and ultimately it rested with . . . Metcalf.”
According to Belknap, “Admiral Metcalf personally ordered shots fired across the bow of the media’s vessel, forcing them to return to Barbados.”
When a reporter later asked the admiral what he would have done if the boat had not turned around, Adm. Metcalf replied, according to Schwarzkopf’s autobiography, “I’d have blown your ass right out of the water!”
On the third day of the operation, Army Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ordered Adm. Metcalf to allow the reporters to do their jobs. Vessey described the dispute between the military and the media as a “huge mistake at the national level.” As a result, the military later eased its media restrictions and adopted Adm. Metcalf’s idea of a small “media pool,” in which reporters accompany military units on a rotating basis.
Considered a successful military engagement on the whole, the Grenada operation did expose communication and coordination problems among the military branches, prompting the Pentagon to streamline its planning of multi-force operations.
In 1985, Adm. Metcalf landed in more hot water when it was discovered that he and his staff attempted to bring back 24 AK-47 automatic rifles from Grenada as souvenirs. U.S. Customs agents seized the weapons as a violation of federal gun laws, and Adm. Metcalf received an official “caution.”
At the same time, seven Marines and soldiers were court-martialed and sentenced to jail for smuggling weapons from Grenada, prompting criticism of what some saw as lenient treatment of Adm. Metcalf. The House and Senate launched inquiries, but it was later revealed that 300 other service members in the Grenada action had been granted amnesty for turning in weapons seized as spoils of war.
“Admiral Metcalf didn’t try to hide or smuggle any weapons — he requisitioned them,” said Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. in 1985. “The enlisted people who did what Metcalf did were given amnesty. I’ve never seen so much bounce from so little substance.”
Adm. Metcalf was born in Holyoke, Mass., and joined the Navy in 1946 as an enlisted man. A year later, he enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1951.
He commanded one of the Navy’s first ships equipped with cruise missiles and in 1966 commanded a ship in the first amphibious landing of the Vietnam War. As the United States withdrew from Vietnam in 1975, Adm. Metcalf was in charge of evacuating all surface ships.
After Grenada, he became deputy chief of staff of Naval Operations for Surface Warfare. Not long before his retirement in 1987, he devised the concept of “revolution at sea,” in which he recommended that Navy ships be made of composite materials and designed to conceal communications equipment and weapons.
Adm. Metcalf’s decorations included four awards of the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, three awards of the Legion of Merit and two Bronze Stars.
Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Ruth Metcalf of Washington; three children, Dr. Joseph Metcalf IV of Knoxville, Tenn., David Daniels Metcalf of Wellington, Fla., and Elizabeth Metcalf Miller of Reston; one brother; and 11 grandchildren.
Reflecting on his Grenada experience in 1986, Adm. Metcalf said: “Of course there were problems; that’s war. I think it was a highly successful military operation that was accomplished with a minimum loss of life. But that gets lost in the haze of what went on.”
The anniversary of the invasion he led, Oct. 25, is now celebrated as Grenada’s Thanksgiving Day.
Eulogy by Admiral Mike Mullen, USN, Chief of Naval Operations
Surface Navy Association tribute to Admiral Metcalf: