June 1, 2012

Yeah? No.

I take exception to Lieutenant Colonel Piowaty’s critique of John Correll’s article, “The Man From Thud Ridge” [“Letters: Lie, Cheat, Steal,” May, p. 8]. I flew a tour in Thuds from Takhli and knew both Broughton and Piowaty. Jack did good work and took care of his people. Piowaty makes a big deal about finding errors in the article, but his scorecard on accuracy is not impressive as he tries to correct factual “errors” that were in fact not wrong.

The first error cited is the statement that pilot Ted Tolman “may have hit a ship” and says in refutation that “the Thud was a superior strafing platform, and Tolman was a highly experienced strafer. If he was aiming at something, he hit it. If he was not, he didn’t.”

In fact: Ted Tolman told Broughton that there was a lot going on, lots of flak, and he did not know if he had hit the ship or not. Experience does not guarantee direct hits by good gunners under all conditions. The report I know of, that is based on evidence from the ship itself, is that noted in the article, indicating that the hits on the ship were friendly fire from the North Vietnamese shore batteries. It would have been nice for all concerned to have had that information at the time of the incident.

Next supposed error: “diverted to refuel at Ubon.” Piowaty says, “I heard it was Da Nang, but wherever they went for gas they missed their tanker because Tolman broke formation discipline and separated from his flight lead.”

Way off base. Court records verify Ubon. Tolman did not separate from his flight. The flight leader had aborted on takeoff, and No. 2 had aborted before entering the combat area. Ted and his wingman, Lonnie Ferguson, were the complete flight, and Ted was the leader. There was no aerial refueling as they were ordered to divert and recover at Ubon when all operations were shut down due to bad weather and Takhli was closed.

Supposed error: “Shaken, Tolman denied firing his cannon.” Piowaty asks, “Why deny [it] if he strafed a legitimate target? Whatever happened to the code “I will not lie, cheat, or steal”?

Not sure what the question is, since it is clearly stated in the article that Tolman made a false official statement, which is a court-martial offense.

Supposed error: “Had the sergeant open the containers (sic), pull out the film, and expose it in the headlights (sic) of the truck (sic).” Piowaty comments: “I watched Colonel Broughton himself turn on the headlights of his jeep, open the film magazine, and strip out the film across the left headlight of the jeep, thinking to myself, ‘You dummy, you can’t see anything on the film; you’re just exposing it.’”

In fact: Broughton did not have a jeep. He had a staff car and it was parked back at his quarters. The vehicle was the film sergeant’s truck, which he drove up with his headlights already on because it was nighttime. Common sense indicates that Broughton was not expecting to see anything on film that had not been processed.

Lt. Col. Harold W. Bingaman,

USAF (Ret.)

Ashland, Ore.

Do More. Now.

First of all, let me thank AFA for bringing to the fore what will be the biggest moral battle of the future, that being the total elimination of sexual assault and rape (against men and women) from USAF and our other armed forces [“An Air Force War on Sexual Assault,” January, p. 42]. There really isn’t a larger long-term moral challenge to the US military.

It is ludicrous that there should be a higher probability of rape for a female service member at her Stateside base from fellow service members than there would be from enemy combatants at a battlefield outpost, but we know this is the case.

While I am in emotional sympathy with retired Brig. Gen. Gerald E. McIlmoyle’s call [“Letters: Fix It Now,” April, p. 7] for punishment—and greater punishment is both required and long in coming—I would like to point out another imperative that calls for this effort.

Until President Harry Truman desegregated the US armed forces, they were as rife with bigotry and prejudice as was American society in general in the 1940s. Types of conduct in the force that would be considered topics for fictional legends now were as common then as separate latrines, drinking fountains, command structures, and base housing—if any—and that was the “better” part of the life of any black service member. Similar and not-so-subtle separations also followed Jewish service members, Asians, Latinos, and anyone else who was “not white enough.”

Then came a directive from President Harry Truman: in a few words, “Stop that. Now.”

It has never been properly credited, but that directive in many ways set in motion what would later be called the Civil Rights Era. And I am saying that when—not if—the US armed forces (hopefully led by USAF) take it upon themselves to eliminate sexual harassment, assault, and rape from their midst, a message can and will be sent that will reverberate throughout American society. That message will be: “We acted to stop this human crime. Let our fellow citizens follow our example.” And my question is, can USAF afford to be less than the exemplars in human dignity than they are in our tech-heavy armed forces? The time to act is passing, but the benefits to USAF and to America would be monumental. To do less would and will tarnish every accomplishment achieved by our men and women in uniform. The idea is: Do more. Now.

Norman E. Gaines Jr.

Hartsdale, N.Y.

How Many More Times

In reading the article “The Scourge of the Zeppelins” in the Febuary issue, I could not help but notice that you had to be a die-hard “Zeppelin” fan to get the irony of the captions used for the pictures in the article [p. 88]. They are all titles of songs from the super rock group Led Zeppelin.

SMSgt. Phillip Peterman,

USAF (Ret.)

Bowdle, S.D.

Plenty of Insanity To Go Around

In your mention of Army SSgt. Robert Bales, who killed the Afghan civilians, you called him a lone “psychopath” [“Editorial: Exiting Afghanistan,” April, p. 4]. I read that Sergeant Bales had been subjected to a head injury in one of his many past deployments. Does his killing of women and children [and] attempting to burn the bodies indicate that he is a one-time “lone psychopath”? I find this not to be a rational act, but possibly the action of one that has gone temporarily insane.

Somehow I failed to read your editorial where you addressed the killing of 13, wounding of 29, by Army Maj. Nidal Hasan as [the work of] a lone “psychopath.”

Sergeant Bales, as determined by fellow soldiers, did not premeditate his actions. But Major Hasan planned his killings in advance.

Does the liberal bias press-media have some input in this magazine

SMSgt. Allan Pochop,

USAFR (Ret.)

Vacaville, Calif.

Elf Was On the Shelf

I enjoyed John Correll’s account of the “Air Strike at Osirak” in the April issue [p. 58], especially the details on the planning and conduct of the strike. There is one minor error on p. 61 where Correll describes the evasive routing the IAF used to avoid early detection. He states the E-3 AWACS airborne at the time over Saudi Arabia was a Royal Saudi Air Force AWACS, when in fact it was a USAF AWACS. The RSAF didn’t receive its first AWACS until 1986. In September 1980, at the outset of the Iran-Iraq War, Saudi King Khalid requested US assistance in protecting the oil fields of eastern Saudi Arabia from possible Iranian air attack. USAF deployed AWACS and KC-135 tankers to Riyadh Air Base and began continuous aircraft operations that lasted 24/7 for eight-and-a-half years. This was known as European Liaison Force 1, or ELF-1, and US crews controlled RSAF F-15 and F-5 fighters, including two F-15s that shot down two Iranian F-4Es in June 1984 over the Persian Gulf. Little did we know when we redeployed in April 1989 that we would be back in Saudi in 16 months for Operation Desert Shield/Storm.

Kirk Warburton

Huntington Beach, Calif.

Tossing Dirt Clods

Authors John A. Tirpak (“A 10-Year Plan,” p. 22) and Amy McCullough (“Seeking a Total Force Balance,” p. 28), in the April issue, have two traits in common: First, they are both excellent writers. Second, they both report about Air Force capabilities with emphasis on hardware needs as perceived by Air Force leaders, but not once indicate exactly what future enemies the United States may be facing that requires such sophisticated hardware.

This has long been a weakness in military planning with four military services individually vying for scarce dollars without any apparent joint planning to meet realistic perceived threats. Certainly I am wrong, but public information, such as the cited articles and many similar ones, lead to this conclusion. Perhaps the Joint Chiefs consider their threat analysis too sensitive to release publicly, but the military service Chiefs do not seem reluctant to make a public case for hardware to enhance their parochial interests without stating publicly the threat they are tasked to meet.

Lt. Col. C. W. Getz,

USAF (Ret.)

Fairfield, Calif.

Hot-and-Cold Pit

I like your magazine and look forward to it monthly. Having been an F-15 maintainer for about 30 years now, I want to point out a very minor malfunction. On p. 14 [April], the bottom right picture caption reads, “The aircraft is fueled while the engines are still running.” During hot pit ops, the left engine is shut down and the right engine is running. No big deal, just thought I’d mention it.

Art Dunn

Wichita Falls, Tex.

Whither Airman Archer

I got the 2012 “USAF Almanac,” dated May 2012, last week. Today, I was listening to the History Channel and watching the show called “Dogfights.” This particular show was about the Tuskegee Airmen. They, of course, were the African-American pilots stationed in Europe in World War II as the 332nd Fighter Group.

In the show, they mentioned that Lt. Col. Lee A. Archer, USAF [Ret.], was the only black ace in the war. Well, I looked at p. 124 through 130 of the USAF Almanac entitled “Air Force Aces” and Lt. Col. Lee A. Archer’s name was not listed. Take note, I looked on the Internet and in the Jan. 29, 2010, edition of the New York Daily News is an article entitled “Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Lee A. Archer, Lone Ace Tuskegee Airmen, dies at 90.” It says: “Retired Lt. Col. Lee A. Archer, a Tuskegee Airmen considered to be the only black ace pilot who also broke racial barriers as an executive at a major US company and founder of a venture capital firm, died Wednesday in New York City. He was 90.”

In the show “Dogfights” on the History Channel it clearly listed Archer as an ace. We know for sure that he did shoot down at least five enemy aircraft in combat. Therefore, his name should be listed in the USAF Almanac—Air Force Aces department. He should also be listed in the area “Some Famous Firsts,” because he was the first and only Tuskegee Airmen ace. I just thought I would bring this to your attention. If we are going to stay updated in our magazine, then we should make sure that everybody who is entitled to be in one of these special areas should be.

MSgt. Joe M. Gardner,

USAF (Ret.)

Deming, N.M.

This is not the first query about the victory credits of Tuskegee Airman Lee Archer. Air Force Magazine uses official USAF sources to compile the list of aces. According to the Air Force Historical Research Agency, Archer has four official kills. We reconfirm our list each year because AFHRA does sometimes find new documentation that alters the counts for individual airmen.—the editors