Now hear this:
There is a vision abroad - just a vision, not a plan - that could give the Navy of John Paul Jones and Bull Halsey the rudest shock in its history.
It is a vision of a sleek, bristling destroyer manned by an all-woman crew.
"I'm perfectly willing to take a shot at it," says the new Navy secretary, W. Graham Claytor.
"There is absolutely no reason to continue to deprive women of a chance to make full contribution to the national defense of our country, he said, in elaborating on a speech he will deliver today in Orlando.
Claytor cautioned, however, that the Navy must go "step by step" in putting more women on ships. 'We've got to get the women to sea first, in order to know what the problems will be."
For openers, the secretary is saying in his Orlando speech, the Navy has asked Congress to change the law so women can serve aboard a wide variety of noncombat support ships - including submarine tenders, salvage and cargo vessels, seagoing tugs - and go abroad combat ships on a temporary basis.
These changes in the law, Claytor said, would open up an additional 6,000 Navy jobs to enlisted women and an extra 244 slots to female officers. He said he was hopeful about Congress changing the law this year.
As for assigning women permanently to combat ships, Claytor said in an interview just published in the Navy magazine "All Hands" that "if you want an experiment, and were to get enough qualified women for all-female destroyer, I'm perfectly willing to take a shot at that no reservations about the abilities of women."
For the moment, however, Claytor said he favored working up to such an experiment by seeing how women do at running noncombat ships and working abroad combat ships on a temporary basis.
A mixed crew of men and women running a destroyer or other combat ship on a permanent basis, the secretary said in today's Orlando speech, does not look like a good idea. "My own experiences in the pressure cooker environment of long periods of combat confinement," said the former World War II skipper of a destroyer escort, "tell me that this would not work."
Currently, 2.5 per cent of the Navy's officers, excluding nurses, and 4.2 per cent of its enlisted people are women. Claytor said with changes in the law these percentages would increased to 4.5 per cent and 6.4 per cent.
Defense Secretary Harold Brown right after taking office ordered a study of how many women the Navy and other services could use. The study released this week, concludes that "there are more high quality women willing to enlist" in the services "than are now accepted."
If the services took in more women between now and 1982, the Pentagon study states, the Pentagon could save more than $1 billion a year in enlistment bonuses and related manpower costs.
A Brookings Institution study entitled "Women and the Military" by Martin Binkin and Shirely Back estimates that by 1982 it would cost as much as $6 billion a year more than projected if the Pentagon tries to raise pay scales to keep attracting 225,000 male high school graduates every year.
The recruiters will be up against an improving civilian economy and a declining young population, Brookings said.
Much of this extra cost, Binkin said yesterday in discussing the study, could be saved if the services take in more women in the future than they currently plan to do.
Although Binkin stressed his study does not recommend how many women the services should take in, it does estimate how many jobs women could fill without any change in current laws.
The following chart shows how many enlisted women each service actually had on active duty in fiscal 1976; what the planned number is for fiscal 1982, and how many the Brookings study said could be employed in 1982 with no change in current laws: