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With These Voices From the Past, We'll Avoid the "Next" Pearl Harbor

It was March 8, 1941 - a Saturday - and U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Robert "Bobb" Stickel was penning a letter to his wife, Anna, who lived in San Diego with their 14-year-old son, Robert.

The elder Stickel was a career Navy officer who'd celebrated his 50th birthday just four days before. Stickel's birthday, in fact, was the focus of this note - for he was effusively grateful for the celebratory notes he'd received from his family.

"Your lovely letter of the 20th of Feb. and the birthday greeting card and also the letter from the little boy dated the 22nd came this morning and I was very happy to get them," Stickel's letter begins. "It was quite an event to receive so much mail at one time, and all so pleasing. Thank you."

This was the old U.S. Navy - the Depression-era Navy - and, like all the U.S. military branches, it was forced to deal with tight budgets. Although U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former assistant secretary of the Navy, always favored the seagoing U.S. military branch, referring to it as "us" and the U.S. Army as "them"... until Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall formally protested.

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