The new book, written by former NHHC historian Joel Hebert, examines the U.S. Navy’s retention crisis of the 1970s that led to reforms prioritizing Navy spouses and family members.

The U.S. Navy faced a crisis in the 1970s as long separations and relatively low pay drove sailors to leave the service to avoid family hardships. One spouse all too familiar with such hardships was Mouza Zumwalt, wife of then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt Jr., who had endured over 10 years apart from her husband during his Navy career.

Inspired and informed by his wife, Adm. Zumwalt understood that retention rates would continue to decline if he did not address the needs of Navy spouses. He prioritized wives’ opinions in his reforming agenda by visiting Navy wives’ clubs, inviting Navy wives to share their feedback in retention study groups, and listening to Mouza Zumwalt, who organized her own meetings with other Navy wives.

With the release of Z-Gram #24 on Sept. 14, 1970, Admiral Zumwalt established the U.S. Navy Ombudsman program and sought to empower Navy spouses by giving them a platform to express their views to commanding officers and base commanders.

The efforts of Mouza Zumwalt, CNO Zumwalt, and Navy spouses in the 1970s resulted in enduring programs that, today, ensure spouses’ voices are heard and keep Navy families together.

To download a PDF version of the book, visit:  

To download other publications produced by Naval History and Heritage Command, visit:  

Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for preserving, analyzing, and disseminating U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy's unique and enduring contributions through our nation's history and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities, including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility, and the historic ship Nautilus.