Making a grand salute

Local military hero will talk about his life as a naval officer and his work with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

May 29, 2010|By Joyce Rudolph

Former Secretary of the Navy Paul R. Ignatius will talk about his experiences working with President John F. Kennedy and his military service when he is the featured speaker at two Memorial Day events in Glendale.

Ignatius grew up in Glendale and graduated from Hoover High School in 1938. He graduated with honors and Phi Beta Kappa membership from USC in 1942.

"I went into the Navy for four years, and most of my service was on an aircraft carrier," he said.

He achieved the rank of lieutenant and also performed assignments in Washington, D.C.

Following his military service, he received a master's degree in business administration from Harvard Business School in 1947.

A co-founder of Harbridge House Inc., he directed several projects in procurement and logistics for the Department of Defense and the individual military branches.


He later served for eight years in the administrations of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. He was appointed the first assistant secretary of the Army in 1961 and was named undersecretary in 1964.

Ignatius was then appointed assistant secretary of defense in 1965 and named secretary of the Navy in 1967, serving in that capacity until 1969.

Ignatius said President Kennedy was an outstanding person, and it was a thrill to be in his administration.

"I value it above all else," he said.

Kennedy's finest hour, Ignatius said, was his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the nuclear crisis between the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States during the Cold War.

"We managed to work our way into something that could have had extremely devastating consequences," he said. "He was a war hero . . . and was able to prevail in an enormously challenging situation. Beyond that, he had charm, and people believed in him. Washington changed a lot with both Kennedys here."

Ignatius has written a book "On Board: My Life in the Navy, Government and Business." He will talk about his life and sign copies of his book during a special event presented by the Friends of the Glendale Public Library on Sunday, said Leon Mayer, chairman of the Author Arts and Friends series.

"We thought it would be appropriate to have him speak on Memorial Day weekend because he is a veteran of World War II, and he and his aircraft personnel received awards for the battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines," Mayer said. "This was one of the most important naval battles in the South Pacific during World War II."

Ignatius will also be the keynote speaker during the Memorial Day ceremonies presented by the city of Glendale and the Citizenship and Patriotism Committee of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce on Monday.

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