He Stood for Things Too Important for the World to Lose
When I firsr mer Sam Morison, he was ensconced wirh his grear friend Lincoln Colcord in rhe cabin of his 45-foor kerch Mary Otis.
Anchored in a cove on rhe coasr of Maine, rhis was a part of rhe world he loved and celebrared for irs deep rides,
Samuel Eliot Morison: whi ch produced a bounry in clams and a diurnal change in scenery.
The Maine coast contrasted sharply wirh anorher shore he knew well, rhe Medirerranean coast, with its tideless, unchanging scene.
That was a scene he prized for other reasons, stemming from his vital interest in the ideas and progress of Western civilization.
The year was 1941 , and World War II was raging across the Atlantic, a war America was not yet engaged in,
but in which we all knew our country had a viral stake.
At age fo urteen, I was enthralled by the stories Sam and Linc exchanged with my father,
Samuel Eliot Morison: who had rowed over from our cutter Vision to board Mary Otis.
I was struck by Sam’s srraightforward way of speaking and by his penerraring glance and equally charmed by Linc’s rwinkling eye and roguish look.
I had no idea then that Colcord had been born in the after cabin of a Down.
Easter off Cape Horn in rhe height of a raging gale or that Morison revered him as ”rhe Sage of Searsport.”
I was in awe of Morison because I had read, nay devoured, his Maritime History of Massachusetts.
I had no idea that his Mary Otis had played rhe role of Columbus’s Nina in an expedition organized by Morison just rwo years earlier.
That voyage retraced, under sail, the courses Columbus sailed in opening rhe Americas to the world,
a voyage that led to Admiral of the Ocean Sea-rhe definitive life of Columbus.
Six months after that memorable visir in the snug cabin of Mary Otis,
America entered the war. Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor,
Morison wrote to President Roosevelt and suggesred rhat the Navy support the preparation of its official history in the war, as it was happening.
Naturally, he volunteered his services and both Roosevelt and the Secretary of the Navy agreed .
A few months later, (May 1942) Morison found himself a Lieutenant Commander in the US Naval Reserve,
with access to all official records and permission to go anywhere, provided he safeguard matters of national securiry.
Morison’s reputation as an experienced sailor preceded him,
and he was welcomed on almost a dozen ships by the end of the war.
As the official historian of the US Navy in World War II, he fulfilled this task in fifceen volumes,
each full of the indefinable, but very real, feeling of “being there.”
This stemmed from his resolve to be in the front line of things he wrote about and to report them in true and lively detail.
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