The Mother of All Hooks: The Story of the U.S. Navy's Tailhook Scandal

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Transaction Publishers, 1997 - History - 377 pages
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The Mother of All Hooks is a richly detailed description of the United States government's attempts to punish naval officers for sexual misconduct committed at the 1991 Tailhook Association convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. Journalist William H. McMichael describes the institutionalized mind-set that led to that misconduct and, in the face of an oppressive, politically charged investigation, to a large-scale failure to cooperate with government agents. This failure led to further investigative and prosecutorial excesses that ultimately doomed the effort to bring the guilty to justice; many of the guiltiest, hi fact, were given immunity to testify, and escaped severe punishment. At the same time, McMichael makes clear that Tailhook misconduct had been largely condoned for decades, but that senior officials failed to take responsibility for allowing such an atmosphere to flourish. This powerful expose is a shocking, eye-opening read for psychologists, criminologists, criminal justice professionals, and members of the U.S. military.

The Tailhook Association convention had become infamous in naval circles for heavy drinking, hard partying, and sexual promiscuity. The most notable such ac-tivity was the "gauntlet"--a hallway lined by men through which selected women were forced to pass, only to be fondled. McMichael provides a rich narrative ac-count of how the United States Navy and the Pentagon mishandled investigation of events at the 1991 convention and subsequent hearings. In addition to exposing that approach's dramatic shortcomings, McMichael also provides insight into the Navy's history of open sexuality by its members while overseas, the fighter pilot psyche, and the larger issue of whether the Navy should be permitted to investigate its own transgressions. While more than thirty admirals eventually received what amounted to a hand slap, more than twenty junior officers received career-killing punitive letters of reprimand in closed-door administrative hearings. The Mother of All Hooks provides absorbing new details for all who think they "know" what hap-pened because of Tailhook--and why.

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About the author (1997)

William McMichael is a senior reporter for the Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia, a Tribune Company newspaper. As an award-winning former Army journalist and photographer, McMichael has covered military affairs for many years; his articles on the Tailhook incident were carried in newspapers nationwide.

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