Feb. 1, 2012

Undiplomatic Bombers

Rebecca Grant paints an exciting picture of “bomber diplomacy” (December 2011, p. 30). She declares: “Call it also bomber diplomacy—a method for a lean force to reassure allies and deter potential adversaries.”

Does anyone really believe that a “lean force”—a dozen or even two dozen strategic bombers—flying from Guam will deter China’s leaders from their objectives? Let’s see: Guam is how far from Chinese territory, and how many tankers are needed, and will jammers and fighters be required to permit those bombers to reach targets in China? China has more than 1,000 fighter-type aircraft supported by AWACS aircraft and an extensive network of ground radar and control installations, plus surface-to-air missile batteries around important locations.

And would a US President sanction conventional air attacks against Chinese territory? Perhaps the supporters of “bomber diplomacy” believe that these aircraft could deter a Chinese naval force in the South China Sea. Using what weapons? Harpoon anti-ship missiles or mines? How many bomber crews are qualified, and how many weapons are available, especially mines, in the US inventory? Are any on or near Guam?

More important is finding and recognizing the naval targets. The article delves into “history” to justify the concept. Several US and Australian warships were attacked by US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War. And no other nation but those two had destroyer-sized warships in the Gulf of Tonkin during that conflict. Or, how useful were the B-47s that SAC used for overwater reconnaissance during the Cuban Missile Crisis

And should Guam be used as a base for strikes against Chinese territory or naval forces, one wonders how long it would take for the Chinese to employ land- or submarine-launched missiles with conventional warheads to destroy the US airfield.

There is a definite and useful role for manned bombers. Believing that they can undertake a diplomatic role is both misleading and potentially very dangerous.

Norman Polmar

Alexandria, Va.

Accidental Sabotage

You probably aren’t going to believe this, but back about 1953, in North Syracuse, N.Y., I knocked out the Pinetree Line [“Pinetree Line,” December, p. 44]. I was 13 years old. My father was a captain in the old Civil Defense System. Because of his job with the school district in North Syracuse, he had to be a member.

My father’s favorite thing to do was to penetrate what they called secure areas and prove them wrong. This time, he sent me in to penetrate. My objective was Grove Street in North Syracuse. On Grove Street there was this big frame thing that had big string cords like a harp, and you could hear it sing, sometimes.

I was almost there when I realized I had two adult men on my tail, so I took off at a dead run for that big harp. Luckily, the snow was deep and it was easier for me to get through the snow than them. When I reached the harp, I went through an open space right near the middle. When I did, I must have moved or broken something. I kept moving out until I got to where my father was waiting for me with the car. Next day at school I found out that the Pinetree Line went down.

Roy Clement Jr.

Hondo, Tex.

The Beat Goes On

I was surprised that the author did not include the continuing evolution of the loadmaster job [“Loadmaster Evolution,” December, p. 60]. Since the first flight of the KB-50 to the future of the KC-46, there was no mention of the boom operators who accomplish the loadmaster duties. During the past half-century, boom operators have loaded millions of tons of cargo and delivered it to war zones all over the world. In the late ’80s the KC-135s started hauling cargo as part of a primary mission called the Channel from the West Coast to Yokota AB, Japan. KC-10 aircraft haul most of the supplies for a fighter wing deployment when they deploy. So the evolution is ongoing and the boom operators are an important part of this evolution.

SMSgt. Tim Wical,

USAF (Ret.)

Rapid City, S.D.

Hate to do this, but that RCAF helo on p. 50 was a Bell 47, not an H-47, which is today’s Chinook used by the US Army, among others [The Pinetree Line,” December, p. 44]. And on p. 60, that photo was not taken in 1941, but sometime after the fall of 1943 when the white rectangles were added to the sides of the star and surrounded by a blue border [“Loadmaster Evolution”].

MSgt. David Menard,

USAF (Ret.)

Dayton, Ohio

A Crime in Other Ways, Too

Ms. Mulrine’s article “An Air Force War on Sexual Assault” [January, p. 42] provides excellent background on the issue. As a nurse researcher providing care for veterans, I offer additional considerations. Besides the obvious amoral and illegal aspects of sexual assault, it is also one of those stressful events that can result in post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. The hallmarks of PTSD are (1) reliving the traumatic event, (2) avoidance of family, friends, and activities, and (3) hypervigilance. Military members with PTSD often have a difficult, if not impossible, time when attempting to perform their duties.

Another point to consider is that a military member who sexually traumatizes another military member without repercussions is hurting unit readiness and the mission. Ms. Mulrine’s quote from assistant deputy Charlene Bradley, “Proactive leadership is absolutely the key to attacking this,” is on target.

Col. John M. Starzyk,

USAFR (Ret.)

Riverside, Calif.

Digging Up Dirt

I would like to comment on the letter you published in the December 2011 issue on p. 7, entitled “It Happened in Vietnam, Too,” by Michael W. Rea.

The “legend” of a MAC C-133 carrying an F-105 from Udorn RTAB, Thailand, with battle damage back to the States for repair is true. I was the navigator on the crew of a MAC C-133B that picked up a battle-damaged F-105 Thud from Udorn on Dec. 20, 1968. The gear either would not come down or it collapsed upon landing, and the Thud skidded off the runway. Apparently none of the damage was so severe to indicate that the plane should be scrapped. Rather, they took the wings and vertical stabilizer off, built a wooden skid around the fuselage, and loaded it all onto our plane for repair back in the States. We were only on the ground for 3+45. Although the load was bulky, it was not particularly heavy.

But the trip turned out to be interesting for other reasons, also. Our normal route home was Kadena, Midway, Travis. However, because the load was lighter than normal, when we took off from Kadena for Midway, we climbed to higher altitudes and encountered very favorable jet-stream tail winds, and decided rather than stop at Midway, we would fly on to Hickam in Hawaii. It took 13+20 which was the second longest flight for me ever in a C-133B.

But the story continues. When we landed in Hawaii, as usual, we were met by both a customs official and an official from the agriculture department. Customs was no problem; however, the ag man got very upset. It turns out that when the Thud had run off the runway, the lower skin had ruptured and acted like a scoop. We had about a wheelbarrow full of dirt and vegetation from Southeast Asia in the body of the Thud. The ag people and maintenance personnel worked all night to clean out the Thud so that we could continue on next day.

Col. Ludvik Z. Svoboda,

USAF (Ret.)

Aurora, Colo.

Who Knew

Well, I am now sure that the old adage, “All history is warped by the passage of time,” is true.

Here I’ve been thinking over the years, being an enlisted air combat crewman (staff sergeant, left waist aerial gunner), that the Eighth US Army Air Force was mostly relieved of its duties after the surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945. The December 2011 Air Force Magazine article by an apparent Eurocentric author with high scholastic credentials, makes mockery of our efforts in the Twentieth US Army Air Force under General Curtis E. LeMay [“How Bombers Defeated Japan,” p. 56].

Participating in 26 aerial missions of bombing, both night and day, over mainland Japan in the spring and summer of 1945, and having been awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and several Air Medals, I am appalled at not even an honorable mention for the “very heavy” campaign as was waged by our 20th USAAF.

My deceased (KIA) comrades, commissioned and enlisted, aboard downed B-29 Superfortresses would hardly recognize this skewed article.

Lt. Col. Richard B. Vogenitz,

USAF (Ret.)

Oceanside, Calif.

The author noted LeMay’s approach with Twentieth Air Force “was risky, but it worked … and the results were devastating to the Japanese economy and its military capability” even before Eighth Air Force arrived on scene.—the editors