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Posted on Jul 31, 2002 Print this Article

CMR Salutes Belated Promotion of Capt. Robert E. Stumpf, Former Blue Angels Comm

The Center for Military Readiness is pleased by the news, as reported by Rowan Scarborough in the July 31 Washington Times, that Navy officials have approved the belated but well-deserved promotion of Robert E. Stumpf to the rank of Captain. Former Commander Stumpf commanded the Navy’s elite Blue Angels demonstration team and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism in Desert Storm. He ran into a political firestorm, however, when he attended the 1991 Tailhook Convention in Las Vegas, NV, to accept an Award for Excellence earned by the squadron he led. Stumpf quickly became a high-profile target for feminists during the post-Tailhook scandal witch-hunt, which was exploited by ultra-liberal Representative Patricia Schoeder (D-CO) to fuel her campaign for women in combat. Then-Cmdr. Stumpf was thoroughly investigated and cleared of wrongdoing at the Tailhook convention. A bureacratic error made by the Department of the Navy, however, caused some senators to question confirmation of his promotion to Captain, which had already been approved by the full Senate. CMR President Elaine Donnelly produced many articles and news releases at the time, and a storm of nationwide publicity ensued for many months in prominent newspapers, commentaries, and editorial columns all over the country. The story troubled many because Cmdr. Bob Stumpf, one of the Navy’s most respected and accomplished aviators, was found innocent but treated by some senators as if he were guilty. There was disorderly conduct at the notorious Las Vegas convention, but Stumpf and many other officers were unjustly punished for the misconduct of others, including female aviators who were not disciplined at all. After several disappointing years of relentless, politically motivated inquisition, Bob felt compelled to resign in 1996. The unfair treatment Stumpf received during the Clinton Administration demoralized scores of naval aviators, and caused many of the best to resign. Shortages of experienced pilots became a serious problem in the Air Force as well as the Navy. Were it not for the injustice done to him years ago, Capt. Stumpf would probably be a distinguished admiral today, playing a key role in the War on Terrorism. His forced resignation was a loss to the Navy as an institution, which cannot be recouped. Still, the Bush Administration's approval of deserved corrections in Capt. Stumpf's service record is sure to boost morale in naval aviation. This long-delayed but welcome action will also help to restore trust in the system of military justice that governs all of the services. For more information on what really happened during and after Tailhook '91, see "The Tailhook Scandals," a National Review article by Elaine Donnelly posted on, under Issues/Social Policies. A search of key words "Stumpf" or "Tailhook" also provides many links to detailed articles in the archives of CMR Notes. SP073102
Posted on Jul 31, 2002 Print this Article