My sympathies go out to Navy Lt. Kathleen Mazure, the officer who has run afoul of the Navy's medieval class and caste system by having sexual relations with and later marrying, egad, a lowly enlisted man of, say again?, the Marine Corps ("She Marries a Corporal--Now Faces Court-Martial," Part I, May 13).
When the Navy was founded in 1775 at the outset of the Revolutionary War, it adopted almost intact the customs and traditions of its enemy, the aristocratic British Royal Navy. Since then it has been fighting a stubborn rear-guard action against any relaxation of the rigid barriers that separate officers and gentlemen (now including gentlewomen) from bluejackets, swabbies, gobs.
Back in 1850, it took a novel by Herman Melville ("White Jacket") to convince Congress that the brutal practice of flogging should be abolished. In 1940, when I joined the Navy, an enlisted man could get 20 years at hard labor for "fraternizing" with an officer's wife. Believing Rudyard Kipling ("For the Colonel's Lady an' Judy O'Grady/Are sisters under their skins!"), some intrepid sailors did it anyway.
As an indication of the progress which has been made in dragging the Navy reluctantly into the 20th Century, Lt. Mazure faces only two years in prison and a dishonorable discharge, if convicted.