Spotlight Sailor – LT Benjamin C. Bradlee

October 29, 2014
Navy Reserve Centennial
LT Benjamin C. Bradlee

Navy Reserve Spotlight Sailor


Benjamin C. Bradlee


Lieutenant, Officer of the Volunteer Reserve appointed to the line for general service in deck duties (1942-45)

Civilian Job

Former Executive Editor of the Washington Post


Boston, Massachusetts

LT Benjamin C. Bradlee

LT Benjamin C. Bradlee

Navy Reserve Centennial
Spotlight Highlight

Benjamin C. Bradlee, presided over The Washington Post newsroom for 26 years and guided The Post’s transformation into one of the world’s leading newspapers. The most compelling story of Mr. Bradlee’s tenure, almost certainly the one of greatest consequence, was Watergate, a political scandal touched off by The Post’s reporting that ended in the only resignation of a president in U.S. history. Bradlee arrived at Harvard Yard just as war in Europe was beginning and decided to join the Naval ROTC to improve his initial posting in the war he and his contemporaries knew they would soon be fighting. He graduated in August 1942 with majors in Greek and English. On the same day he received his diploma, his naval commission and got married. Mr. Bradlee’s three years in the wartime Navy had a lasting influence on him. As a young officer, he learned empathy for the enlisted men and developed a style of leadership that he relied on throughout his professional life. As recounted in his memoirs, it combined an easy authority with tolerance for the irrepressible enthusiasm of those under his command. Even as a young officer, he never enjoyed a confrontation and preferred accommodation to the aggressive use of authority.

Ben Bradlee, legendary Washington Post editor, dies at 93. (Washington Post Article)

How have you benefited from your service in the Navy Reserve?

“You grow up quickly when you’re at war. You mature rapidly — not just emotionally, but in a whole range of ways. You learn how to put things into perspective. Serving in the Navy was my first brush with public service; it was something I would continue — in journalism — long after I put away my blues. It strengthened my sense of decency and honesty. And it taught me something about leadership, and about being part of a team. Whatever job you held in the Navy, you were the one responsible for getting it done. I remembered that later on.”

– Answering the Call: Benjamin C. Bradlee ( Article)

“The fact of the matter is that the war, and the Navy in particular, played such important roles in my life. I was on active duty for more than three years, not counting ROTC, which started for me in 1939.  It was a terrific experience. I was 20 years old, for God’s sake, and I made officer of the deck in about eight months. When I was 21, I was driving a ship around the Pacific Ocean. That was a wonderful chance for a kid to grow up fast. Where else do you get that kind of responsibility?”

– Ben Bradlee’s Life in the Navy (USNI Article)

Why did you choose to join the Navy Reserve?

“The captain who ran ROTC at Harvard made a fantastic deal with BuPers [Bureau of Personnel]. He said, “If you can guarantee me that these reserve officers will be assigned to destroyers or cruisers, I’ll get you the best in the college.” And they made him that deal. We all went to destroyers or cruisers. And I think we all went to the Pacific, but I’m not sure of that.”

– Ben Bradlee’s Life in the Navy (USNI Article)

In my Navy… 

“In the Pacific, we were part of the destroyer screen for the carrier Enterprise (CV-6), trying to fool the Japanese into thinking we had more than one carrier. We would recover planes late in the afternoon, steam in the opposite direction all night, and launch planes early the next morning, 200 miles away. Hardly dangerous. But exciting as hell. The task force of which the USS Philip (DD-498) was a part was led by two of the great admirals of World War II — Raymond A. Spruance and William F. Halsey Jr. — who took turns serving as its commander. Some of us, me included, thought Spruance was the more important figure — less sexy and publicity-oriented than Halsey.”

– Answering the Call: Benjamin C. Bradlee ( Article)

LT Benjamin C. Bradlee

LT Benjamin C. Bradlee

Navy Reserve Centennial

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