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75 years ago…

Philip McCutchen, December, 1941, Age 18
Philip McCutchen, 1941, Age 17.

December 7, 1941.

The young man who turned 17 in April of 1941 had joined the Navy while still a Junior in High School. He was now gathered with his shipmates aboard the brand-new aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet, to hear some kind of special announcement.

The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor!

There was a whirlwind of emotions in the young man. Anger, curiosity, fear. What did all of this mean? Europe was already engulfed in war, and every day there were news reports of Japanese hostile actions in the Pacific. Within days, as news of the death and devastation in Pearl Harbor grew in detail and depth, and formal war was declared, he found out.

The Hornet was done with its training now, and had its first mission. One that would make a statement of U.S. resolve against an enemy far, far away.

By the time the Hornet arrived in California in March of 1942, the young man was well-settled in to the routine of sea duty. He had been trained to work on the warplanes the ship carried, and had also proven adept at managing parts and supplies. During the near-constant battle station drills, he manned one of the ships’ five-inch guns as a pointer.

Imagine his surprise, as well as that of the rest of the crew, as they watched 16 B-25 bombers loaded aboard the flight deck on the first of April. No one would say why. Only that secrecy was tantamount. But the Doolittle Raid of Tokyo by those bombers on April 18th was a morale-boosting success. But it was not without its consequences, as the Japanese took out their anger and frustration over the attack on the Chinese, some of whom helped the men of the raiding bombers when they landed, crashed, or bailed-out.

More critical and desperate battles came in the months that followed. The young man had to grow up fast. The battles of Midway and the Solomon islands led to the battle of Santa Cruz on October 26, 1942. There the Hornet was attacked ferociously and was eventually sunk. The young man, like the rest of the crew, abandoned the ship to the sea. The last US fleet carrier lost to enemy action during the war, the Hornet had only been commissioned one year and seven days.

The young man, now just 18 years old and without a ship, spent months on the muddy hell-holes of New Caledonia and Guadalcanal, servicing the warplanes flying and fighting from the airfields on those islands. Eventually, as the war turned and victory became assured, he was shipped back to the states for recuperation and training, to Pensacola, Florida. That’s where he would meet the woman who would be my mother, herself a Navy Wave.

The young man grew up. Made the Navy his career. Married and raised a family. Retired. He passed away in 2008.

Thanks for all you did, Dad.

Opportunities —
and a little career advice

Opportunity-CactusEvery day brings its challenges—demanding tests of your abilities, resources, will, and character. These may be simple or seemingly insurmountable. Challenges will try you at school or work, or perhaps personally or emotionally. Challenges are nearly always opportunities to learn and grow if you look at them with open eyes and mind. Sometimes the opportunity of taking on a challenge is deeply hidden, or in the distant future—or will take effort and a level of grit and determination that you’ve never attempted before. Look for the opportunity in every challenge, success is there.

I read this article on career advice from Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and wanted to share a few excerpts from it along with my own paraphrasing of its central tenants. You can read/view the entire piece from the link.

Three keys to getting the most out of whatever career you want to have.


Competition: A lot of people will want YOUR dream job. You need a competitive advantage, so you have to figure out and apply:

  • Assets: What do you have going for you? brains, money (or access to it), network connections, education, experience, grit and perseverance?
  • Aspirations: Where you MIGHT like to go in the future.
  • Market Realities: What are people actually willing to pay you for?

Pursue worthy aspirations with your assets while navigating market realities.

How do you make a positive difference? Your assets (skills and connections) have value to those who don’t have them. Ask: “How can I help?” You’ll begin to understand other people’s needs. Fulfill those needs. Solve problems. Be willing to start at the bottom. Change the world.


Learn to proactively build networks to others. Every job requires interacting with people. People who control resources, opportunities, and information. Opportunities are attached to people. Seek out people who have the resources, opportunities, and information you want.

The people you spend time with will shape who are and who you will become. Hang out with those who are already the way you want to be. Yes, some of these people may be older than you. Don’t hold that against them. Experience has taught them the things that can help you navigate the hard market realities of the world.

Meet new people via those you already know. Your network is bigger than you think. Use it.


The education system penalizes you for making mistakes. But in reality, you don’t know what the best plan is until you try. Making mistakes is part of the learning process. You learn by doing. Look for opportunities to TRY. Ask: “How can I help?” Whatever the situation, actions, not plans, generate useful lessons.

Actions help you discover where you want to go and how to get there.

In school, the most successful students make the fewest mistakes. But the most successful professionals learn to take intelligent risks. In the real world, playing it safe is not stability, it is one of the riskiest things you can do.

Prioritize plans that offer the best chance at learning about yourself and the world. Do not dismiss a career path just because you’ve heard how risky it is.

If the worst case means getting fired, losing a little bit of time or money, or experiencing some discomfort, it is a risk you should be willing to take. If the worst case means tarnishing your reputation, loss of all of your economic assets, or something career-ending, don’t accept that risk.

There will always be uncertainty. The best opportunities often have the most question marks. Taking intelligent risks will help you find opportunities that others miss.

Develop your competitive advantage. Build your network. Take intelligent risks.

Start where you are. Distant fields always look greener, but opportunity lies right where you are. Take advantage of every opportunity of service.

—    Robert Collier


Apollo 11 – Missed the recovery by >that< much...

Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small step for Neil, but that’s a long one for me.”

— Charles Conrad, Jr. (first on the moon from Apollo 12)

There were millions of words being said around the world that marked the fortieth anniversary in 2009 of man’s first setting foot on the moon in 1969. A lot of those revolve around “Where were you when…? And I might have been there with a front-row seat for the astronauts return to earth, as I was stationed at the time aboard the U.S.S. Hornet, the designated recovery ship for Apollo 11.

Apollo 12 hanging beneath its parachute as it floats down to my ship, the U.S.S. Hornet
Apollo 12 hanging beneath its parachute as it floats down to my ship, the U.S.S. Hornet

Instead, I was at the Seal Beach, California, Naval Weapons Station, so I missed being there by >that< much.

The Hornet didn’t need a full complement of ships’ personnel to take care of the recovery — especially not weapons specialist petty officers like myself. So many of us were sent to training classes or other temporary duty stations. I got the Seal Beach Weapons Station, where I brushed up on my skills and took it easy for the period of time that it took for the Hornet to take care of its business recovering Apollo 11.

I recall that the Marine detachment — tasked with guarding the station — cooked up a special meal for all of us and we crowded around TV’s to watch and cheer as Neil took that first step. It was a truly incredible accomplishment, reflective of what can be accomplished when vision and commitment come together, especially in light of the turmoil going on both domestically and in Viet Nam at the time.

This Apollo 12 patch is one of many patches on a denim jacket I wore while motorcycling for many years.

When the Hornet got back with its prize, I re-joined it and was aboard for the flight recovery of Apollo 12 later that year.

It was only the second time men had left Earth to land on the moon, and that the mission almost ended prematurely with an aborted launch after lightning struck the Saturn V launch vehicle on launch is now nearly forgotten. Fortunately, no serious damage was done and they completed their lunar mission and return successfully (interestingly, NASA would never dare launch the Space Shuttle in weather such as Apollo 12 flew through).

It is hard to describe the impression that it made upon me to be there for the recovery of their capsule in the Pacific. Perhaps just being a member of the enthralled world-wide audience was enough. It is certainly something I’ll never forget.

Welcoming the Apollo 12 astronauts back aboard the U.S.S. Hornet
Welcoming the Apollo 12 astronauts back aboard the U.S.S. Hornet

Astronaut Alan Bean, the Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 12 and the fourth man to set foot on the moon (and a very good artist as well), has said that the biggest message he drew from the Apollo experience in general, and from “In the Shadow of the Moon” in particular, was that people could achieve impossible dreams under the right conditions: “That is something,” Bean said, “a message that needs to be said on a daily basis to kids. … The 400,000 people that worked on Apollo … are the luckiest people around, because they got a chance in their lifetime to work on an impossible dream. Most people never get the chance.”

I agree.

Nothing happens unless first a dream.”

— Carl Sandburg