The academy should be embarrassed:

Former senator Jim Webb declined Tuesday to accept an award as a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, citing pressure from a “small but vociferous group” of female alumni who are angry about past statements he made that women aren’t suited for combat and shouldn’t attend the academy.

Webb, who was a Democratic senator from Virginia from 2007 to 2013 and was secretary of the Navy from May 1986 to Feb. 1987, was expected to receive a Distinguished Graduate Award along with four other alumni Friday in a ceremony in Annapolis. The recognition is the most prestigious awarded by the Naval Academy Alumni Association and Foundation, and it goes to living alumni whose character, service and stature “draw wholesome comparison to the qualities that the U.S. Naval Academy strives for in keeping with its ideals of duty, honor, loyalty and integrity,” according to criteria published by the association.

But critics said the selection of Webb a highly decorated Marine veteran, 1968 academy graduate and recent presidential candidate was unacceptable because of his history of disrespecting women. They pointed primarily to an article published in Washingtonian magazine in 1979 in which he criticized women attending the academy and said that a dormitory there was a “horny woman’s dream.” The article, headlined “Women Can’t Fight,” was written by Webb after he left the military and while he was a popular academy professor.”

Just when you thought academia couldn’t disgrace itself anymore, along comes the United States Naval Academy, rolling up its sleeves to take the top slot in the Most Embarrassing Moments in Higher Education award. This entire affair should have everyone who has ever attended the Academy looking downwards in shame.

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to name a living service Academy graduate who has accomplished more across a wide range of disciplines in his decorated career than Jim Webb. Growing up a military brat, Webb attended  over a dozen different schools before finally graduating from high school and attending the University of Southern California on a ROTC scholarship. After one year at USC, he accepted an appointment to the Naval Academy in 1964. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Graduating first in his class at the USMC Officer Basic School, he was soon to find himself leading patrols in the harrowing jungles of Vietnam, where he fought the enemy with valor. Webb not only was awarded the Navy Cross, he was also decorated with a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. Below is his Navy Cross citation: 

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to James H. Webb, Jr. (106180), First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as a Platoon Commander with Company D, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, FIRST Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force, in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On 10 July 1969, while participating in a company-sized search and destroy operation deep in hostile territory, First Lieutenant Webb’s platoon discovered a well-camouflaged bunker complex which appeared to be unoccupied. Deploying his men into defensive positions, First Lieutenant Webb was advancing to the first bunker when three enemy soldiers armed with hand grenades jumped out. Reacting instantly, he grabbed the closest man and, brandishing his .45 caliber pistol at the others, apprehended all three of the soldiers. Accompanied by one of his men, he then approached the second bunker and called for the enemy to surrender. When the hostile soldiers failed to answer him and threw a grenade which detonated dangerously close to him, First Lieutenant Webb detonated a claymore mine in the bunker aperture, accounting for two enemy casualties and disclosing the entrance to a tunnel. Despite the smoke and debris from the explosion and the possibility of enemy soldiers hiding in the tunnel, he then conducted a thorough search which yielded several items of equipment and numerous documents containing valuable intelligence data. Continuing the assault, he approached a third bunker and was preparing to fire into it when the enemy threw another grenade. Observing the grenade land dangerously close to his companion, First Lieutenant Webb simultaneously fired his weapon at the enemy, pushed the Marine away from the grenade, and shielded him from the explosion with his own body. Although sustaining painful fragmentation wounds from the explosion, he managed to throw a grenade into the aperture and completely destroy the remaining bunker. By his courage, aggressive leadership, and selfless devotion to duty, First Lieutenant Webb upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.”

As if his heroism in combat wasn’t enough for one lifetime, Jim Webb was far from finished. Following his medical retirement from the Marines, he attended Georgetown Law School in Washington D.C., graduating with his J.D. in 1975. Somehow, he managed to find the time while in the middle of law school to write his first book, “Micronesia and U.S. Pacific Strategy.” Seriously, while most of us struggle through college as it is, Webb was writing books while still completing his studies. Then, following his graduation from Georgetown, Webb worked on the staff House Congressional committee for Veteran’s Affairs, while representing Veterans in legal matters for no charge. It was at this time, teaching part-time at the Naval Academy, that he wrote the 1979 article.