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Archive for July 10th, 2014

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This is an interesting biography of a naval war hero during the American War of Independence.  Being in the military I have heard his name thrown around but know next to nothing about him.  I imagine I’m not the only one.  So I thought I give this book a read and since I didn’t know what to expect from his rather interesting life there were moments in the book I was left in suspense since I didn’t know what the outcome would be!  One doesn’t get such thrills often with historical biography.  John Paul Jones is indeed an interesting figure and I’m struck by some of the parallel between him and another contemporary (in) famous military figure: Benedict Arnold.  Like Arnold, John Paul Jones was militarily ambitious and climbs the ranks from the bottom not through nobility but by proven service.  Both men’s daringness brought them military victories and both were driven by fame—and set them up for disappointments when Congress or other officials didn’t appreciate their deeds.  Both men also led American forces against the British outside the boundaries of the colonies—and in the case of Jones, he struck fear off the coast of the United Kingdom.  Whereas Arnold later betrayed his country, Jones stayed the course with the Continental Navy.  The most interesting chapter in Jones’ life was when he later joined the Russian Navy.  It was interesting to read of an American Naval war hero in the court of Catherine II.  Eventually the jealousy, language barrier and the difference of naval warfare led to disagreement and conflict between Jones and those in the Russian Navy.  Jones left Russia a bitter man.  Personally, after reading the book there were lessons for life that I took away from reading this book that capture the human condition (which is the same then as now):  First, ambition for success don’t always succeed.  Second, even if there is success, it might not turn out to be the way one planned it.  Thirdly, the end of John Paul Jones’ life made me realized how fleeting it is to pursue human glory and praises of others—because one can’t control what others think of us, or even acknowledging one’s success.  John Paul Jones would have been a forgotten American hero in later generation if it wasn’t for Teddy Roosevelt who many decades later was searching for a Naval War hero to develop a Naval tradition to pitch his strategic vision of a large Navy to the American people.  Overall this is a great book in capturing the good, the bad and the ugly but ultimately the very human side of a famous naval hero.

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