Feb. 1, 2008

For Short-Reach Airlift

Your editorial on “The Last Tactical Mile[December, p. 2] is right on target. Which military service is the most competent in air transport, the aerodynamics of STOL, and maintenance-mission readiness of aircraft, the Army or Air Force? Of course, it is the Air Force. Which military service should utilize air transport to get supplies to Army troops for that “last tactical mile”? The Air Force.

Why then is there any discussion about this subject at all? I believe it is because the Air Force has concentrated on the “long reach” air transport mission and neglected the “short reach” air transport mission. The “long reach” air transport issue is solved by the C-17s and C-130s. Yes, I know they can land and takeoff on shorter, unprepared airfields, but the reality is that they fly into regular paved air bases.

What the Air Force should have been doing, and should do now, is focus on the “short reach” intratheater air transport problem (short distances, short airfields, small defended perimeters). The C-27 is one step in that direction, but the Air Force should be taking other even smaller steps. Sure, the C-27 can land on a shorter air strip than a C-17, but can it go the “last tactical mile”? I don’t think so. The Air Force needs a stable of “short reach” air transports, such as the C-7 and Pilatus Porter.

This is more than a turf war between the Army and the Air Force. This is a vital issue on irregular warfare, one type of warfare that we will undoubtedly see more of.

William Thayer

San Diego, Calif.

Act Like We’re at War

If we need lots of new tankers, a split buy may sound tempting to some, but it would be more economical and logistically feasible to do what they did in World War II. Select the best design and pay more than one company to build the aircraft. The more production lines, the faster the aircraft get flying [“Crunch Time for Air Mobility,” December 2007, p. 28].

We are at war, so we should act like it.

Capt. Glenn C. Tuley,

USAF (Ret.)

West Melbourne, Fla.

Pearl Harbor

I just read the opening paragraph of John T. Correll’s article, “Caught on the Ground” in the December issue, p. 62. I am dismayed to see the Japanese attack described yet again as a “surprise” attack. Come on! For most of our lives, it has been appropriately called the “sneak” attack and for good reason. I bear absolutely no animosity towards the Japanese, but to go the “PC” route lest we offend the country that bombed Pearl Harbor is pathetic.

Lt. Col. Robert G. Dwyer,

USAF (Ret.)

Tucson, Ariz.

Caught on the Ground” by John T. Correll recently came to my attention. I am a former naval officer, the eldest grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, and Naval Academy student of Admiral Kimmel’s successor, Adm. Chester Nimitz.

Mr. Correll wrote, “The Martin-Bellinger report and other analyses said the greatest vulnerability for air attack was from the north and northwest.” Please read the Martin-Bellinger report so that this outrageous misrepresentation can be corrected. Adm. Carlisle Trost, Chief of Naval Operations, wrote in October 1994: “The Martin-Bellinger estimate of March 1941 … nowhere states that the most dangerous sectors were the north and northwest. The words ‘north’ and ‘northwest’ do not appear in the text, nor does any equivalent nautical or numerical terms.”

Correll’s article states, “Air attack was not equally probable from every direction. Japan was not likely to strike from the east, the California side of the island.” However, Admiral Nimitz wrote to Admiral King on Jan. 7, 1942: “It cannot be assumed that any direction of approach may safely be left unguarded.”

The article states, “The United States had broken the Japanese diplomatic code and had been intercepting and reading the message traffic since the summer of 1940.” These decoded messages gave indications of the time, place, reason, and deceit plan to cover the attack. The article does not mention that Kimmel and Short received none of this information.

A Naval Court of Inquiry approved of all of Admiral Kimmel’s force dispositions, found he committed no errors of judgment, and opined that he had done everything possible under the circumstances. In fact, Admiral Nimitz, who succeeded Kimmel, reissued the same readiness directive that Kimmel had in place on Dec. 7.

Thomas K. Kimmel Jr.

Cocoa Beach, Fla.

John T. Correll replies—Mr. Kimmel says that the Martin-Bellinger report does not identify north and northwest as the most dangerous sectors. The text of the report bears him out. My source for this statement was Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History, by Gordon W. Prange et al, published by McGraw Hill in 1986. It states on p. 441: “A 360-degree search was not needed. Carefully reasoned estimates, such as the Martin-Bellinger and Farthing reports, … postulat[ed] that the most dangerous sectors were the north and northwest.” It appears that Prange, though a recognized authority on Pearl Harbor, was wrong on this.

Kimmel’s point is offset, substantially if not wholly, by evidence of something else: That there was a widespread contemporaneous view that the primary threat was from the north and northwest. If Kimmel did not know it, he should have.

The “Farthing report” citation (Verdict) refers to an extensive report by Col. William E. Farthing, commander of the 5th Bomb Group. It said the enemy “will not have unlimited avenues of approach for his attack” and “it seems that [the] most probable avenue of approach is the hemisphere from 0° counterclockwise to 180° around Oahu.” (At Dawn We Slept, Gordon Prange, p. 186)

Martin, in an Aug. 20, 1941 request for 180 B-17s, said the most probable direction for air attack would be from western quadrants, either northwest or southwest. (Defenseless: Command Failure at Pearl Harbor, John Lambert and Norman Polmar, p. 108)

Capt. Ellis M. Zacharias, longtime naval intelligence officer, testified to Congress that the most probable threat had been from the north. (Verdict, p. 441) Indeed, Zacharias testified that in March 1941 he briefed Kimmel “that the most probable method of attack would be by aircraft carriers” and “that such an attack would come in undoubtedly from the northern” sector. (Dawn, p. 712)

Navy Capt. Logan C. Ramsey, who had been Bellinger’s operations officer, testified that “we decided the northwest sector was the most likely line of approach.” (Verdict, p. 441) Bellinger testified that he was “in agreement with Admiral Davis [Arthur C. Davis, who in December 1941 was a commander and Pacific Fleet aviation officer] that the greatest possibility of a successful air attack lay in an attack coming in from the sector of the north.” (Verdict, p. 438)

Adm. Ernest J. King, the then-CNO, responding to findings of the 1944 Naval Court of Inquiry, said that Kimmel “was not on entirely sound ground in making no attempt at long-range reconnaissance” and that certain sectors were “more dangerous than others.” (Verdict, p. 440)

James V. Forrestal, undersecretary of the Navy at the time of Pearl Harbor and later Secretary of the Navy, faulted Kimmel for “his failure to conduct long-range air reconnaissance in the more dangerous sectors.” (Verdict, p. 440)

One needs to correct the myth that [Gen. Douglas] MacArthur refused a request by Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, the new commander of the Far East Air Force, to hit the enemy on Formosa before she could bomb the Philippines.

Instructions from Washington were very specific to wait until the Japanese made the first “overt” move. On Nov. 28, 1941, MacArthur received an “alert” warning from the War Department: “Negotiations with Japan appear to be terminated. … Japanese future action unpredictable but hostile action possible at any moment. If hostilities cannot be avoided, the United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act.” (Emphasis added.)

Nonetheless, even without the directive, it would have been suicidal and pointless for MacArthur’s meager and inadequate air force (Washington delayed sending spare parts for most of the 72 P-40s, none for the 35 bombers, and not a single extra airplane engine) to attack the enemy’s fields on Formosa. Postwar examination of Japanese records and interrogation proved that any such daylight attack on Formosa at the time would have been met by overwhelming enemy interception. None of the US planes could have reached their targets, much less returned to their Philippine bases.

After the war, Rear Admiral Tomioka stated: “If MacArthur had an air force of 500 planes (vs. 150 combat-ready, not 300 cited by Correll), we would not have ventured to strike the Philippines. Long experience had taught us that a three-to-one ratio was necessary to attain air supremacy.” The Japanese provided for this figure: 307 first-line Army planes and 444 Navy planes—a total of 751 first-class aircraft of the same quality that had hit Pearl Harbor.

Further, MacArthur had ordered all 35 B-17s sent south to the island of Mindanao, out of range of the Japanese planes. Some were sent south, but the air commander did not carry out immediately MacArthur’s clear directive. Curiously, on that fateful day, Brereton ordered his B-17 bombers to return to base around lunch hour when they had enough fuel to stay in the safety of the air for another 10 hours. Japanese planes suddenly struck around this time, catching all 17 bombers on the ground.

Finally, contrary to another myth, the general had always defended his air force commander when criticisms of Brereton were called to his attention. An example was in Australia in 1943 when he said: “General Brereton had in the Philippines only a token force of bombers and fighters. He was greatly handicapped by the lack of airdromes. At this time, and during succeeding days, a number of our planes were destroyed on the ground while landing for gas, or while down for essential maintenance … but never as a result of negligence.” (Emphasis added.)

As Far East Air Force commander, Brereton had overall responsibility for tactical air security.

Mo Ludan

Camano Island, Wash.

Not Clouds, Sand

As one who has flown over White Sands Missile Range many times, allow me to inform you that the four birds in the photo on p. 17 of your December 2007 issue are flying over the White Sands, not a cloud bank.

Lt. Col. Harv Segrest,

USAF (Ret.)

Albuquerque, N.M.

Jolly Green Heroes

I enjoyed Walt Boyne’s homage to one of the truly great aircraft in USAF history (“Airpower Classics: HH-3 Jolly Green Giant,” December 2007, p. 88). The article mentioned one Medal of Honor recipient and six who earned the Air Force Cross in the “Jolly Green.” However, 18 additional H-3 crewmen also received the nation’s second highest combat decoration and deserve similar recognition. They are: Majors Philip J. Conron, Joe B. Green, Jerry M. Griggs, Herb Kalen, Don P. Olsen, Travis Wofford, Patrick H. Wood, and Glen P. York; Captains Gregory A.M. Etzel, John A. Firse, John B. McTasney, Oliver E. O’Mara, and Travis H. Scott; TSgt. Leroy M. Wright; Sergeants Thomas A. Newman and Dennis M. Richardson; and Airmen Charles D. King and Joel E. Talley—heroes all.

In addition, Jolly Green crewmen earned the following aviation awards in the course of their rescue work: the 1979 and 1981 Mackay Trophies for the most meritorious USAF mission of the year; the ’79, ’80, ’85, ’86, ’87, and ’94 Kight Awards; the ’67, ’68, and ’70 Cheney Awards; the ’75 and ’78 Aviator’s Valor Awards and the ’71 Pitsenbarger, ’80 Schilling, ’81 Jabara, ’85 Kolligian, ’86 President’s, ’86 Tunner, and ’90 Ricks, to name the major ones.

In the “Jolly Green Giant,” with its armor plating, defensive firepower, and air refueling capability, the Air Force finally had a vehicle that could go anywhere, fight its way in, and make a pickup in any terrain. The brave crews of these magnificent machines accomplished that task no less than 567 times during the Vietnam War, providing perhaps the greatest human interest stories in the annals of Air Force history. To paraphrase the Rescue Creed: “Those things they did, that others might live.”

Col. Ron Thurlow,

USAF (Ret.)

Beavercreek, Ohio

Reader to Reader

As an old Provider driver, I read with interest retired Lt. Col. Rolland Freeman’s letter on “COIN Airlift Redux” [“Letters,” December 2007, p. 4]. While I agree with his observations about the C-123, I believe that he is in error in talking about A and G models. My research and experience indicate that other than very limited experimental and prototype models, the bulk of the aircraft were designated as B models prior to the addition of the jets, and K models after.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force here in Dayton is currently in the process of restoring and polishing aircraft #64362, affectionately known as “Patches” due to the 500-plus holes acquired during its Ranch Hand spraying operations. This type of aircraft has also been featured in at least three Hollywood movies: “Air America,” “Operation Dumbo Drop,” and “Con Air”—living testimony to the longevity of the design!

Lt. Col. Paul J. Reinman,

USAF (Ret.)

Dayton, Ohio

In response to Dan Rinaldo’s letter in the December 2007 edition of Air Force Magazine, the answer is yes, the US could’ve been first in space if in fact that was the nation’s (Eisenhower’s) true priority at the time [“Letters: Sputnik,” December, 2007, p. 6].

The US Navy’s Vanguard program and the US Army’s Redstone program were both competing for the right of placing the world’s first satellite into orbit. If the US had consolidated its efforts, instead of dedicating its resources to multiple programs, it is likely that the US would have beaten the Soviets into space by approximately a year, had Wernher von Braun been permitted to work towards that goal. In fact on Sept. 20, 1956, his team successfully launched a Redstone rocket with Sergeant upper stages catapulting an 84-pound payload over 3,300 miles. Had the rocket been fired at the appropriate trajectory, the US would have beat the Soviets that day. The launching of Sputnik, although a tremendous blow to the US political system, was exactly what the doctor ordered. That event compelled the US to focus its efforts towards a common goal. It appeared that this moment finally flipped the right switch.

The primary reason the US was beaten into space by the Soviets was due to a lack of unity of effort. Multiple programs were simultaneously in motion to meet different objectives—the first to establish freedom of space, the other to develop a dependable ICBM. Despite the fact that the US was forced to congratulate the Soviets on their spectacular feat, its goals were actually met: Freedom of space had been established, and the US Atlas ICBM program was on track, although slightly behind the Soviets’ R-7 success. The political blow was far more damaging than expected.

[As Roger Launius explained in his book NASA: A History of the US Civil Space Program:] “The event created an illusion of a technological gap and provided the impetus for increased spending for aerospace endeavors, technical and scientific educational programs, and the chartering of new federal agencies to manage air and space research and development.”

Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, only two weeks after the successful launch of Sputnik, addressed Congress, calling for all Americans to work together on this new technology. This eventually led to the formation of the Special Committee on Space and Aeronautics by the Senate on Feb. 6, 1958, chartered to work on the establishment of a permanent space management agency. If the US were to be successful in the race against the Soviets, it needed to consolidate its efforts. After all, the result of too many separate efforts led to the second place finish.

Capt. Joseph J. Hammes,

Camp S.D. Butler, Japan

Do you have a comment about a current article in the magazine? Write to “Letters,” Air Force Magazine, 1501 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22209-1198. (E-mail: letters@afa.org.) Letters should be concise and timely. We cannot acknowledge receipt of letters. We reserve the right to condense letters. Letters without name and city/base and state are not acceptable. Photographs can­­not be used or returned.—the editors