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The Namesake of the United States Navy’s Newest Destroyer REALLY Liked to Party

Brian “BK” Kimber


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In covering the US Navy’s ongoing “Fat Leonard” trial in San Diego federal court, I was reminded of another prostitute/stripper scandal that rocked the service. The annual Naval aviator Tailhook convention soon became infamous for the drunken debauchery of the attendees, the incredible fallout that affected dozens of careers, and had far-reaching implications for the Navy, most notably, the lifting of the Combat Exclusion Policy that had prevented female Navy members from competing for aviation positions in combat aircraft. 

But this is not a post about Tailhook, although I strongly encourage you to go read up on the lurid details for yourself. And it was plenty lurid, with, among other intoxicated activities, a gauntlet of banged-up pilots on the 3rd floor of the convention hotel forming a drunken, groping gauntlet and molesting every woman who walked by. Including female helicopter pilots and Admiral aides, which shows you how many fucks the 1990s-era military gave about sexual assault and harassment. No, this is to talk about one man in particular, former Secretary of the Navy and enthusiastic Tailhook attendee John Lehman.

Source: NYTimes

A US Navy Aviation officer at the 1991 Talihook convention wears a T-Shirt printed with the phrase “Women are Property” in the VF-124 squadron suite.

Lehman was an interesting guy. In fact, while he was acting Secretary, he was also still serving as a commander in the Navy Reserves as an A-6 Intruder pilot at the rank of commander.

Therefore, during his one week a month/two weeks a year on duty, he was reporting to senior Naval officers that he was actually held rank over, which must have resulted in many awkward meetings with leadership. And to clarify: It is unclear whether Lehman was physically present at the 1991 convention, which was really the event that ruined the careers of dozens of officers. But once the assault and harassment claims from ’91 became public, the Navy’s Inspector General started researching all of the recent past conventions as well to establish a pattern of behavior. And what a pattern it was! 



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There have been much published about Tailhook, but one book in particular had some of the dirt on Lehman. Fall From Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy, written by Gregory Vistica, detailed an incident at the 1986 convention in which Lehman, while in his position as SecNav under President Ronald Reagan, performed a sexual act in front of a hundred or more people.

Specifically, Lehman decided to fill some stripper’s genitals with whipped cream and then eat it out in front of the attendees. Then apparently, he had to pay for it, so he then proceeded to stick dollar bills in his mouth and have them removed by the stripper’s crotch. Sadly, it is unknown whether the young lady used her upper thighs or actually used her multi-talented genitalia to capture the currency by itself. Further, the IG also went on to note that Lehman had been seen “cavorting” (one of my favorite vague words) with assorted strippers, again as acting secretary. I must point out that while Lehman never denied his actions, his only comment was, “I have to say that the description was far more lurid than the fact.” Which must be one of the all-time great non-denial denials. 

Many current Navy aviators are probably muttering “when the military was FUN” at this point, but while it was it was only a small number of inebriated pilots that engaged in what one would call sexual assaults, acts like these were considered poor form even back in the Good Old Boy Navy of 1986. Even the lib media admitted that the gropers and molesters were only a tiny part of the actual convention, and many of the prostitutes and strippers were quite vigorous in their willing participation but grabbing a female service member has always been and will always be a gigantic no-go.  Lehman, while never accused of taking part in the infamous 3rd floor gauntlet, was still expected to conduct himself as befitting his appointment as head of the United States Navy. After all, there are certain things one must give up when accepting an important government position, and publicly rimming a stripper is sadly one of those things. No doubt subjected to a bit of a talking-to by his boss, would tender his resignation in 1987. 

Lehman hardly suffered for his drunken boorishness. He went on to be an investment banker with Paine Weber and other companies, and, as of 2020, was chairman of the private investment firm J.F. Lehman and Company. He served on the 9/11 commission and was named as a possible Secretary of Defense if 2008 Presidential candidate in the event that Republican John McCain was victorious, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the media.  Additionally, he is a member of the boards of various foundations and involved in both high school and college academia, overseeing boards at the University of Pennsylvania and La Salle College high school. 

But perhaps his greatest achievement was somehow, in a post #MeToo world, getting the incredible honor of having a Navy ship of war named after him. On October 13, 2020, the then-SecNav Kenneth J. Braithwaite announced that a brand-new guided missile destroyer would be named the USS John F. Lehman, thus cementing the legend of  “Lapdance” Lehman forever in Naval lore. What a country.

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Justin Szerletich

Chief Marketing Officer, VET Tv

Justin Szerletich an award-winning creative strategist, marketer, and U.S. Marine Corps Veteran. He is a former infantryman that deployed to Ramadi, Iraq and again on the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit serving throughout the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Upon returning home from war, Justin worked for the government through 2017 when he began his own marketing agency. His company was acquired in 2020 and he now serves as VET Tv’s Chief Marketing Officer.

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