Nov. 1, 2012

A Shell Game

I am replying to the editorial in September [“Five Months To Heal a Rift,” p. 6]. The Editor in Chief uses the economic woes of Michigan to show the impact of closing a Guard unit. He uses the Guard A-10 unit at Selfridge as an example and calls their circumstances unique. He later states that the Defense Department is not a “jobs program.” As a fellow Michigander, Michigan’s economic future will rise or fall regardless of what happens at Selfridge. Using Selfridge’s 95-year fighter history as justification doesn’t hold water; the Active Duty Air Force left in ’71.

I’ll provide an example of wasting money through “clueless” planning. I was at Grissom Air Force Base, in north central Indiana, in the first AFRES squadron to receive the A-10 in 1981. Baltimore received the first Guard A-10s at the same time. In BRAC ’94, we returned from combat patrols over Bosnia to a squadron that was closed the following month. Grissom Air Force Base became a Reserve base after eliminating a Reserve unit. Does anybody see the problem? In this geographic area after we lost our A-10s, Battle Creek converted to the A-10 then eventually lost them to Selfridge. Fort Wayne has since converted to the A-10 and is now on the chopping block with Selfridge. This “shell game” has all taken place in reasonable proximity to the original A-10 base at Grissom.

Does anybody care about the tremendous waste of money the “protecting jobs” campaign causes? The taxpayer is stuck with the bill again when national security isn’t even part of the equation. The Baltimore Guard continues to fly the A-10 after more than 30 years.

Dan Hamill

Dowagiac, Mich.

Can’t USAF Learn

Why does the Air Force have to reinvent the wheel? Reading “What’s Next for the AEF” [in the] September Air Force Magazine [p. 58] the debate goes on as to how the Air Force deploys units and the frequency. Over the course of our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve watched the Army National Guard and Army Reserve units from my state get called up. They are called up usually for about 13 months, two of which seem to be for training, and then an 11-month deployment. They train and deploy as an entire unit.

The Air Force, Air National Guard, and Reserve, over my 27 years of service, trained as a unit and trained to deploy as a unit within weeks if not days of being tasked/called up. From reading Air Force Magazine, the Air Force seems to be tasking parts of different units to make up one air expeditionary force. Then it is for 90 days or 180 days or more. Can the Air Force learn from a sister branch instead of reinventing the wheel

Col. Don Hengesh,

USAF (Ret.)

Petoskey, Mich.

Traynor and Harp

The September magazine profiled the C-5 as the “Airpower Classic”—a good choice [p. 140]. However, the list of “Notables” under “Famous Fliers” is missing the two people I consider the most notable. Captains Dennis Traynor and Tilford Harp were awarded the Air Force Cross for their performance in the controlled crash of the C-5 involved in Operation Baby Lift at the end of the Vietnam War. Their airmanship saved many lives and this feat justified their inclusion in the list. It should be noted that Harp was also awarded the Airman’s Medal for repeatedly going into the burning aircraft to bring additional survivors to safety.

CMSgt. David Matthews,

USAF (Ret.)

Fairborn, Ohio

Thank you and other readers for bringing this omission to our attention. Traynor and Harp will be added to the online version of the “Airpower Classics: C-5.”—the editors

Not Exactly. Not Even Close.

I was assigned to the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing for 23 years, including the day that Maj. Willard Palm and his crew were shot down over the Barents Sea. As a navigator in RB-47s and RC-135s, I flew similar surveillance missions for nearly 14 years. In all that time and since, I am well-versed in the history of the 55th SRW.

I have known Bruce Olmstead and John McKone for over 50 years and have heard their personal detailed versions of the fateful incident numerous times. The information has been available and unclassified for many years.

Col. (Ret.) R. J. Black Schultz is unknown to me in any capacity, nor have I ever heard of him. But I cannot fathom his motives for writing the letter in the September issue [“Poking the Hornet’s Nest,” p. 8]. His missive is loaded with misinformation (and I’m being restrained with that comment) regarding the Palm shootdown.

Item by item: Palm’s mission was the first operational sortie of their deployment to the UK. It was a single-ship flight, not three. No other US aircraft were in the area.

One Soviet fighter (not two) intercepted the RB-47H and made an unprovoked attack in international airspace. Although fire was returned from Palm’s RB, no MiG was shot down.

There was no search and rescue by any US or allied forces since none was within range of the area. Russian trawlers recovered the body of Major Palm (who perished from hypothermia, not a gunshot wound) and picked up Olmstead and McKone after about six hours in the water in their survival rafts.

Lastly, there were no flight surgeon crew members on RB-47s. Any number of 55th veterans from that era could have written this rebuttal and maybe many will. Why Colonel Schultz elected to embellish and tarnish that tragic and historic incident is beyond reason.

Lt. Col. Max R. Moore,

USAF (Ret.)

Bellevue, Neb.

Yalta Did Too Matter

John Correllstates that Roosevelt disliked “spheres of influence” [“The Muddled Legend of Yalta,” September, p. 107]. Really, he only opposed British and French spheres of influence, and thus promoted decolonization and free trade in order to undermine them. In contrast, he declared an American sphere of influence in 1939—the “Pan American Security Zone”—and he was instrumental in creating Soviet spheres of influence in Eastern Europe and the Far East in 1944-45.

Correll believes the Soviets only revealed their demand for a “friendly government” in Poland in April 1945. In fact, Stalin informed Roosevelt’s emissary Joseph Davies of this demand in May 1942. Therefore Soviet actions in Poland in 1945 were no surprise.

Correll contends that Soviet operations had no effect on the outcome of the war with Japan. On the contrary, the Soviet blitzkrieg in Manchuria had a large role in Japan’s decision to surrender.

Correll insists that Yalta “did not make that much difference.” Stalin obviously thought that official British and American recognition of his ill-gotten gains in Eastern Europe “made a difference,” or he wouldn’t have pressured them for this from 1941 onward. Yalta perhaps “confirmed the inevitable” in Europe, but did not do so in Asia. At Yalta, the Americans agreed to transfer one million tons of supplies to the Soviet Far East. Without these supplies, the Soviets would not have been able to enter the Pacific War at all—Japan would have surrendered long before the Soviets could attack. Soviet conquest of Manchuria, Korea, and Sakhalin was thus by no means inevitable. At Yalta, Roosevelt agreed to force Chiang to accept Soviet control of Manchuria; this was not inevitable or necessary and had vast consequences for the future of Asia.

Correll considers that Stalin got everything he wanted at Yalta “at a bargain price.” But Stalin only got what he wanted at Yalta because he spent millions of lives to defeat the Germans.

I was surprised that this article did not discuss airpower. At Yalta, the Allies agreed to continue strategic bombing, emphasizing oil targets, and consequently 20 percent of the total tonnage dropped on Germany fell in the last few months of the war. The Soviets requested air attacks on German communications to prevent them from shifting troops to the East—and this led to the firebombing of Dresden shortly after the conference. Finally, the bombing of Hiroshima represented Truman’s unsuccessful effort to end the war before the Soviets could seize the territories that Roosevelt promised them at Yalta.

James Perry

Reston, Va.

In the early years of the 20th century, US foreign policy was fundamentally opposed to spheres of influence as a matter of principle. That policy was moderated as a matter of expediency during World War II and was eventually reversed because of Cold War realities. Stalin’s intentions for Poland had been known since 1939. At the Big Three conference at Teheran in 1943, the United States and Britain agreed to Soviet control of eastern Europe, including a substantial part of Poland. Nevertheless, at Yalta Roosevelt and Churchill persuaded themselves to believe Stalin’s assurances of a representative Polish government. They were outraged when he defaulted on the promise. The Far Eastern concessions to the USSR were a side deal made by Roosevelt without participation by Britain or China and from which the United States ultimately gained nothing of value. The weight of evidence refutes the claim, often heard, that the Soviets were a significant factor in the Japanese surrender. Truman did not use the bomb in an attempt to get ahead of the Soviets. At the time of the Hiroshima mission, he still welcomed Soviet military action in Asia as a hedge in case the atomic bomb did not end the war and an invasion of Japan became necessary.—John T. Correll