Franklin Uhlig Jr.

Obituary of Franklin Reinhardt Uhlig Jr.

Franklin Reinhardt Uhlig, Jr. June 15, 1927–August 27, 2020 Esteemed Naval Editor, Author, and Tactical Thinker, dies aged 93.

When Mr. Uhlig was just four years old, and not Mr. Uhlig at all but simply Frank, a momentous event occurred in his family. In the spring of 1931, his mother’s brother, “Uncle Alec,” graduated from West Point. Young Frank was thrilled to visit West Point, and to attend the graduation. Throughout, he was awed, but not quite swayed, by the grandeur of this martial celebration. Thus, when his uncle, a veritable Viking of a man, strode over to receive the well wishes of his family, young Frank suddenly, but stoutly, declaimed, “The Navy is better than the Army.” According to family lore, Uncle Alec did not care for this sentiment, and immediately descended into a sharp crouch, to glare fiercely at his nephew. But it did not matter. Frank Uhlig, Jr. had made up his mind. The Navy was better than the army... and anything else, too.

Throughout his life, Mr. Uhlig cared strongly, and thought deeply, about the U.S. Navy, its ships, aircraft, and attendant vessels, and their vital importance to the protection and the supremacy of American interests. In the mid 1950s, Mr. Uhlig began his near forty-year career in naval publishing in New York, as editor of a now defunct magazine called Our Navy. His big break came in 1960, when he was invited to join the Naval Institute in Annapolis, Maryland. He started in the book department. Eventually, he became the senior editor of the Naval Institute.

While working at the Naval Institute, Mr. Uhlig began to venture into the field. He was always interested in what the U.S. Navy was doing in the current moment, and periodically traveled with the fleet during military exercises. In 1963, he visited Antarctica, and toured the bases of the South Pole, as a member of Task Force 43. In 1966, and again in 1967, Mr. Uhlig traveled to Vietnam to cover the ongoing war, from a specifically naval perspective.

The Vietnam trip spurred several fine articles, a few written by Mr. Uhlig, but the bulk written by others, at Mr. Uhlig’s request. In recognition of these achievements, in May of 1970, The Navy League of the United States presented Mr. Uhlig with the prestigious Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement. This award was given in recognition of Mr. Uhlig’s “constant search for relevant truths [which] has resulted in a new dimension of recorded naval and maritime history and thought [and allowed us] to better understand, and thus to constructively foster, the sea power of the United States.”

The heart of Mr. Uhlig’s work at the Naval Institute was a publication he founded called The Naval Review. As Mr. Uhlig conceived it, this annual volume sought to expound upon prevailing issues affecting the U.S. Navy. To that end, Mr. Uhlig commissioned a series of incisive essays that examined government policy, new technologies, and the ever-changing risks and challenges facing the U.S. Navy. As Mr. Uhlig wrote in the preface of the 1964 edition of The Naval Review, “As long as the nation depends to any considerable degree upon its Navy, it depends on its naval officers concerning themselves with, and debating, such matters as these.” Substance was paired with beauty. The early editions were hard bound, printed on high quality stock, and studded with powerful black and white naval photography.

The first issue of The Naval Review came out as a joint 1962/1963 edition; it was published as a stand-alone book up through 1969. After that, it became the May issue of the Naval Institute publication Proceedings. A John Adams quote, which appeared in the introductory pages of every edition Mr. Uhlig edited, remained a constant. It read: “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.” In a nutshell, this was what Mr. Uhlig believed. The Naval Institute continues to use an abbreviated version of this sentiment as part of its mission statement today.

In 1981, Mr. Uhlig left the Naval Institute for the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. There, Mr. Uhlig participated in the tactical thinking, naval symposia, research, and annual war games that make up the life of the War College. His primary occupation was his role as editor of the Naval War College Review. Until that point, the Naval War College Review had been an internal publication with a discrete readership. With a new mandate, and under Mr. Uhlig’s leadership, the Review became a journal, renowned for its trenchant naval essays, and its national and international military following.

Mr. Uhlig retired from the War College in 1993. In the autumn issue of the Review, Rear Admiral Joseph C. Strasser, then President of the Naval War College, wrote, “In his editorial leadership, Frank [Uhlig] has reflected deeply, probed incessantly, and written clearly about the nature of sea power and the role of naval forces...he has encouraged promising ideas, challenged sloppy thinking, and stimulated concise and precise writing.”

Upon his retirement, Mr. Uhlig was awarded the title of Editor Emeritus by the acting Secretary of the Navy, Admiral Frank B. Kelso II. Mr. Uhlig continued to maintain an office at the Naval War College, from where he sustained a lively correspondence with a range of officers, historians, policy makers, and naval thinkers. In 1994, he published his highly regarded book, How Navies Fight. Unique among salty tomes, How Navies Fight argues, through a comprehensive analysis of U.S. Naval history, that a strong American Navy’s first imperative is to protect friendly shipping, and conversely, to disrupt hostile shipping.

Franklin R. Uhlig, Jr. was born on June 15, 1927 to Franklin R. Uhlig and Elizabeth S. Uhlig in Flushing, New York. The family moved to Williston Park, New York shortly thereafter, and two younger brothers followed in quick succession. In 1945, when Mr. Uhlig was seventeen, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served from 1945 to 1946, first on a coastal minesweeper, the USS Heath Hen, and later onboard the aircraft carriers, the USS Randolf and the USS Leyte. After the war, Mr. Uhlig attended Kenyon College, graduating in 1951 with a BA in History. In 1957, Mr. Uhlig married Inna Winocour (Inna W. Uhlig, February 24, 1930–June 22, 2019). In 1981, the Naval War College gave Mr. Uhlig the honorary title of Professor.

Sometimes fierce, but more often jovial, Mr. Uhlig could be found surrounded by the reams of paper he referred to as his “flat filing system” that landscaped his desk. Otherwise, he was out, and about, and engaged in spirited conversation. The tools of his trade, a pack of mechanical #2 pencils, and a yellow legal pad, were always near to hand. Often, Mr. Uhlig would ask strangers “What do you do?” And then he would tell them, “The trick in life is to do what you like...and then get paid for it!”

Mr. Frank Uhlig, Jr. is survived by his daughters, Valerie M. Uhlig and Melissa U. Wright; his son-in-law, Wesley Wright III; his grandsons, Wesley Wright IV and Alistair Franklin Wright; and his two younger brothers, Johnston Sutherland Uhlig and Robert Adrian Uhlig. He is deeply missed.

Services were private.

 

Services were private.

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