April 1, 2014

Give Peace a Chance

Prediction: The letter by retired USAF Col. Robert J. Sallee in the February issue of Air Force Magazine [“Imagine All the People,” p. 6] will generate more responses than any single letter (or article for that matter) in recent memory. Some will attack his suppositions paragraph by paragraph. I will concede there are readers who agree with Colonel Sallee. Possibly, the last commander in chief of Strategic Air Command (SAC), Gen. Lee Butler, among them.

Here is my view: What begins as a thoughtful and coherent thesis devolves into a hyperbole-laced piece seemingly opined by a sandal-wearing, pony-tailed, sign-waving, aging hippie/peacenik left over from the 1960s.

I would point to just two (of many) of his more ludicrous statements: his inference of a pre-emptive nuclear strike on an enemy country by the United States. Never, repeat, never, in its history has this nation, its government or military, ever espoused a such policy or strategy beyond a theoretical discussion.

Secondly, Sallee apparently believes that the success of the nuclear deterrence provided by SAC during its existence is not borne out by history. A clear rebuttal to that inane position is that a nuclear Armageddon never happened. In the words of President George H. W. Bush, “The Cold War didn’t just ‘end.’ It was won.”

What other overriding evidence is needed

Lt. Col. Max R. Moore,

USAF (Ret.)

Bellevue, Neb.

Colonel Sallee made some interesting comments in his article, especially when he advocates the elimination of all nuclear weapons. It would be a great move in the right direction if all countries that have nuclear weapons would take positive action to eliminate their nuclear weapons and stockpiles of plutonium. It will never happen, and I would venture to say that no nation is going to give up its nuclear deterrent capabilities.

Russia has the largest underground city and storage of plutonium, and Russia maintains more ICBM missiles, etc., to include submarines with nuclear weapons. China has just put into operation its new nuclear submarines with such weapons. It is apparent that world leaders want this type of weapon as a deterrent, and I suspect this has been so since the introduction of nuclear weapons. Iran will soon have its nuclear weapons—they believe they have the right to join the nuclear teams around the world. President Obama has declared that the United States needs to eliminate its nuclear weapons program altogether.

Don’t think for one minute that such countries like North Korea, Iran, China, or Russia would even consider doing such with their nuclear programs.

Yes, it is a horrible weapon, but if it were not nuclear, countries would then come up with deadly chemical weapons, just like the one Chemical Ali in Iraq used to kill 5,000 people—and all living creatures—in the small town where he used them. No, Colonel Sallee, I don’t believe giving up nuclear weapons is the answer. Getting world leaders to work in harmony just doesn’t seem to stop the madness that is always ongoing in the world. There will always be wars and rumors of wars. It will never change!

Lt. Col. Donald E. Evett,

USAF (Ret.)

Bountiful, Utah

I’m old and grumpy enough to know when to shut up and keep quiet; hence, I do not write (or email) my opinions frequently, if at all—no social networker am I. But there are just some times when I read something so outrageous and unbelievable that I have to grump out loud.

I am referring to the letter from Col. Robert J. Sallee, who earned his “BS in SAC-ology.” First, let me just state that I served in SAC from 1958 to1966, and with all due respect, must submit that “BS” must stand for some type of bovine excrement, not the SAC I knew.

[Sallee asks:] “Would we [the US] really ever employ nuclear forces to annihilate a sovereign nation we see as our enemy?” Ans: I sure as hell hope so!! SAC was ready to do just that, and that threat did keep the peace. We should remember that.

“Our national propensity to attack other foreign powers … communicated to the world that the US is a dangerous aggressor.” Aw, c’mon, Colonel Sallee, that sounds like worn-out Soviet propaganda. I hope you didn’t mean that, but you did say it.

“Nuclear weapons had no role in deterring the Soviets during the Cuban missile crisis; they were deterred by the presence of US naval forces.” Well, the Navy will love you for that, Colonel, but a lot of historians do not agree.

I think the good colonel needs to read more—or read closer—the “history” books on his shelves. Nuclear weapons are here to stay and have served us well, from the cities of World War II Japan through the not-so-Cold War. We should be thankful for that.

Peter M. Hansen

Torrance, Calif.

My five years working at the State Department in arms control treaties certainly brought home the insanity of nuclear Armageddon, but it also engrained the reality that the State Department, if allowed, would “give away the farm” in military power—that’s why GIs were detailed to State, to preclude such folly.

No major wars since nukes.

Colonel Sallee is dead wrong about the “12 Days of October” Cuban missile crisis. It had everything to do with nukes, because it was the Soviet response to our stationing nukes in Turkey and Italy, and it was indeed a MAD standoff! Khrushchev’s Oct. 24, 1962, communiqué to President Kennedy stated that [he considered] the US blockade of “international waters and air space to constitute an act of aggression propelling humankind into the abyss of a world nuclear-missile war.”

The next reality Colonel Sallee ignores: As tragic as it was to kill over 100,000 noncombatants [in Hiroshima], there is also the reality he ignores that projected casualties of protracting the war a year or two longer were at least another 250,000 US casualties and a much greater number of Japanese casualties; that’s exactly why the President authorized a nuclear attack! I could go on, but there are so many holes in Colonel Sallee’s letter, I suddenly have a craving for Swiss cheese.

Yes, the nature of warfare has significantly changed after the turn of the century, but the realities of the US unilaterally “going to zero” portend nuclear blackmail in a number of scenarios.

I would, however, posit a half measure short of zero. We might now, just as with our aircraft and submarines, “de-alert” at least a portion of the fleet—maybe even “rotate” full alert status with one base while the other two temporarily stand down. Just like, for example, aircraft carriers, the crews stand down for a while (most of the time) back in port and the assets/systems are refitted/modernized as necessary. Applying this concept to missile bases, two of them could relax, train, refit in a more casual, appropriate for the times atmosphere, and still maintain a viable triad against all threats and technology surprises/bolt-out-of-the-blue (this is the enduring justification for the triad). If we had reduced to 50 Peacekeepers with 10 warheads, this would have freed up a few billion dollars for the global counterterrorism fight, especially against the WMD threat. However, even the partial de-alert mode will free up a modicum of funding. And there’s always going back to multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), since the Russians just announced a new MIRV missile. We could restack three warheads at one existing Minuteman base and shut down the other two. (Malmstrom is the best base.)

I’ll shut up now and get off the stage. But I felt compelled to respond when yet another in a long line of misguided, jaundiced, twisted, half-truth histories is presented (once again) as bearing truth about a lack of justice in the American way. So many times I’ve wished folks would get their facts straight and tell the whole, true story; but that’s why I abhor politics.

Lt. Col. Bob Stevens,

USAF (Ret.)

Fairfax Station, Va.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

I take exception to the premise of your editorial [“Compensation Controversies,” February, p. 4] that our government must honor and totally fulfill any and all so-called “promises” made or imagined by previous Administrations or by previous senior government officials. Our current government, and future governments that we elect, should not be bound by the so-called “promises” of previous Administrations. Circumstances change, and to be of the opinion that a current Administration must be shackled by what may have proven to be the excessive largess of predecessors is not in the best interests of our democracy. I have always believed that our government, with different Administrations, has treated military personnel and military retirees in a fair and equitable manner. I do agree that any reductions and givebacks should and must include all government civilians and all branches of government.

One area of greatly growing expense significantly disturbs me, and that is because over 60 percent of our personnel returning from duty in the Middle East are applying or have applied for service-connected disability payment. This includes Air Force and Navy personnel, whose duty requirements for the most part do not require road patrols and the hazards of IEDs. These applications are being made for multiple causes, i.e., headaches, backaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, sleep disorder, hearing loss, depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. I believe one buddy tells another buddy, “Hey, man, you need to apply, it’s free money for life, and the more things you list, the more likely it will be approved.” As a comparison, only 20 percent of those returning from Vietnam applied for disability. The huge and mounting costs of this out-of-control program will not affect me, but our children and grandchildren will have to bear this excessive financial burden for many years to come.

Col. Lee R. Pitzer,

USAF (Ret.)

O’Fallon, Ill.

As a retention tool in the early 1980s, our leaders sent us statements once a year that advertised the “true” value of our compensation as Air Force members. It always included some amusing assumptions and exaggerations, such as the value of the Aero Club memberships, which few of us had at the time. Our leaders today and, sadly, now with Air Force Association editorial endorsement, are using a similar approach. This time their campaign is to attack the pay and benefits of military members (current, retired, and future) to spend those dollars elsewhere.

This campaign’s assumptions are far from amusing. Its false premise is that the current structure of military compensation, especially for retirees, is “unsustainable” and even unfair. The leaders in this campaign are relying on fallacies to convince others and perhaps even themselves.

They use derogatory and insulting terminology to portray members as burdensome and greedy.

They mislead with errors and distortions. Their estimate for the percentage share of personnel costs went from 33 percent of the DOD budget to 50 percent in just nine months. How? Creative accounting—adding questionable costs to the ledger to artificially exaggerate the appearance of a crisis. They make obscure comparisons to faulty baselines and create shady statistics when the facts don’t support them, such as their made-up numbers for Tricare premium increases, even as they try to redirect health care funds to spend on other priorities.

They [look to] foolish and destructive solutions to their problems, such as civilianizing the military retirement system. They are desperate to believe that the sacrifices of military service can be made equivalent to private industries whose purpose is to produce financial gains for shareholders.

The stakes in this campaign are significant, not only for individual members, but also the future effectiveness of our armed forces and for national security. Caring for those “who shall have borne the battle” is a necessary and altogether worthy expense that everyone in America owes its defenders. It’s time for our leaders to begin rebuilding some credibility as principled stewards of a strong defense. That includes standing up for their people, not sacrificing them for financial convenience.

Lt. Col. Timothy M. Cook,

USAF (Ret.)

Dayton, Ohio

Our politicians, from the Commander in Chief on down to our newest congressman/senators, never get a cut in their annual pay or retirements—which they vote on for themselves. Why is it the first ones they want to sacrifice [are] the military retirees

I am retired (’76) and served in the Navy and Air Force. My son was lost at sea while serving in the Navy (Jan. 23, 1985). My grandson is now serving in the Army (two tours in Afghanistan). I am proud to say my family is proud to serve our country.

Ronald Miller,

USAF and USN (Ret.)

Las Vegas

Total Total Force, Please

In the February 2014 article, “Sharpening the Raptor’s Talons” [p. 26], I’m surprised nothing was said about the contribution of the Total Force (Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve) to the combat readiness of the Raptor. Since our move from Richmond IAP to Langley AFB in 2007, the 192nd Fighter Wing (Virginia ANG) has been a critical partner with the 1st FW in every aspect. I know the same can be said of the AFRC and ANG partners at Elmendorf, Holloman, Nellis, Tyndall, and Hickam. My point is not to lessen our Active Duty brethren, but given how much USAF is in a Total Force structure—as pointed out in the report on the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force—I’m suggesting articles printed about today’s Air Force tell the whole TFI story!

Col. Jay Pearsall,

USAF (Ret.)

Williamsburg, Va.

I know that I’m not alone in the numbers of readers who are probably also wondering how our Raptor pilots’ monthly flying hours stack up against the flying hours flown by our allies and our intel on how many flying hours are actually being flown monthly by our potential adversaries (Iran, China, North Korea, etc.)? As Colonel Huyck pointed out, under severe budget constraints, his Raptor jocks are limited to a maximum of eight sorties and two simulator sessions per month (newer pilots have 10 sorties and three sim sessions per month)! The Raptor is considered to be a “complex weapons system platform.” And regardless of state-of-the-art and innovative technologies to enhance a pilot’s ability to fly and fight in the Raptor, a fighter pilot needs all the hours he/she can get to maintain proficiency at the highest levels possible. Back in the day, if I wasn’t flying at least three to five times per week (commercial, multi-engine, instrument ratings—in a much slower bird), I would notice a slight denigration in proficiency and the ability to remain ahead of the power curve for a short period of time until I again felt totally proficient. It varies, of course, from individual to individual. And, it appears that Colonel Huyck is doing everything humanly possible, under the circumstances, to maintain maximum proficiency for himself and his respective pilots. But it still begs the question: How do our flying hours to maintain proficiency stack up against those of nations we may have to confront in the future?

MSgt. Randolph E. Whitmire,

USAF (Ret.)

Rochester Hills, Mich.

On p. 28 of the February edition of Air Force Magazine an Australian pilot is designated with the rank of major. There is no such rank in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The equivalent rank would be squadron leader.

I always enjoy your magazine, especially the articles about events in World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. When I am finished reading it I give it to a school library where the boys are usually eagerly awaiting the next edition. Keep up the good work.

Tibor Pietzsch

Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Beetle Bailey, You’re Not

The picture of Air Force retirees on p.18 was as disrespectful as the Beetle Bailey cartoon in the newspaper [“Air Force World,” February]. If your editors believe that picture is an accurate description of an Air Force retiree, they have smoked far too much weed! I would like to meet the person who thought that picture was appropriate. To say I was offended would be a vast understatement! I’m available any time, any place.

CMSgt. Robert Sully,

USAF (Ret.)

Sacramento, Calif.

Tell the Good News

When I received my [February] Air Force Magazine yesterday, I was concerned about two significant pieces of deliberately eye-catching information during my quick review of the content.

On p. 21: “By the Numbers” [“Air Force World”] talking of the 34 missile officers assigned to the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., initially implicated in a cheating incident during a nuclear proficiency test. Making this “announcement” in such an eye-catching way in the magazine is not consistent with the Air Force Asssociation’s mission to honor airmen and Air Force heritage. I think it would reflect the mission of AFA better had it listed the total number of Air Force missile officers and deduct the 34 that are implicated. Better to honor airmen and our Air Force heritage by telling your readers what small percentage of the missile crew force is involved.

Additionally, on p. 22, the retelling of the Major General Carey drunk-in-Russia story is another inconsistency. This has been reported broadly in the news and in this information era, I’m sure the majority of the readership of Air Force Magazine has heard this story. It doesn’t reflect well on the hundreds of thousands of Total Force airmen who uphold the core values daily and execute the mission in tough financial times to put these two stories at the front of your magazine.

Air Force Magazine is likely the only contact some members of the American public get with the United States Air Force and it is important that the full story be told in a way that matches the Air Force Association mission “to promote a dominant United States Air Force and a strong national defense and to honor airmen and our Air Force heritage.”

The magazine continues to improve, and I hope there is no effort to make it compete with Air Force Times. That is where stories such as Major General Carey’s failure to represent the Air Force in Moscow and the failures of these missile launch officers to uphold their core values are front-page news. And that is why Air Force Times is frequently found in the same retail position as The National Enquirer.

Thanks for telling the Air Force story in your magazine—I look forward to every issue.

Lt. Col. Thomas Cooper,


Alexandria, Va.

It would be interesting to know how many, if any, of the officers implicated in the recent cheating scandal involving missile crews were also involved in the cheating on a calculus exam at the Air Force Academy a couple of years ago. Back in the day, as they say, cheating on an exam would have been grounds for immediate dismissal from any one of the service academies. However, those cadets were allowed to remain at the Air Force Academy. Sometimes what you see is what you get. On a SAC combat crew in the ’50s and ’60s we were constantly tested on special weapons procedures, positive control, aircraft emergency procedures, etc. I was never offered a crib sheet for any of those exams and never provided one to anyone else. You knew the people you flew with and might have to go to war with were competent professionals. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get back to that

Lt. Col. Neil V. Mesler,

USAF (Ret.)

Canton, Ga.

Hail and Farewell.

It was with both a deep sense of pride and sadness that I read the story of the last of the World War II Doolittle Raiders’ reunions [“Mission Accomplished,” February, p. 40]. In the closing moments of the 1954 classic film “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” Fredric March’s character, RADM George Tarrant, mutters to himself, “Where do we get such men?” Where, indeed.

In the summer of 2001 I attended the two-day Joplin Air Fest at Joplin, Mo., as a member of the Oklahoma Wing of the CAF. A Sunday show is traditionally slow in generating crowds until after church services, and on this Sunday morning a friend from the Kansas Jayhawk Wing asked me if I would like to take a trip into Joplin and meet a real war hero. He said that because of his advanced age we would only stay a brief while, and only my friend, myself, and two others would be going. On the way into town they told me that the war hero was retired Air Force Col. Travis Hoover. Col. Hoover flew the second B-25 off USS Hornet on that April 18th morning.

At the house we were let in by a very gracious lady named Ellen Lawson. Ellen was the widow of Capt. Ted Lawson, author of the World War II best-seller book Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.

Ted and Travis had been friends since their cadet days, and the couples remained close over the years. With the death of Travis’ wife in 1990 and Ted in 1992, both he and Ellen stayed in touch and in a great stroke of good fortune she was visiting this very weekend.

In 1944 MGM released the film “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.” It starred Hollywood’s perennial World War II boy-next-door heartthrob Van Johnson as Ted Lawson and Phyllis Thaxter as Ellen. The film was highly praised and considered to be one of the most genuine films to come out of the war. At one point I was able to ask Ellen what she thought of the movie version of Ted’s book.

She smiled and told me that she was so embarrassed because Phyllis Thaxter was so much prettier than she was. She said Ms. Thaxter was gracious as well, and over the months of shooting a friendship grew between them. When I asked her what she thought of Van Johnson’s portrayal of Ted Lawson she smiled again and said he was a perfect gentleman and a wonderful actor but added, “He is not nearly as handsome as my Ted!”

Sadly, Travis Hoover passed away on Jan. 17, 2004. Ellen Lawson died on Feb. 5, 2009. She and Ted are together at the Chico Cemetery, Butte County, Calif.

SMSgt. Rich Lindsey,

ANG (Ret.)

Mustang, Okla.

Nice article by Peter Grier entitled “Mission Accomplished,” concerning the Doolittle Raiders’ final toast ceremony.

I would like to make one small correction concerning an omission.

The commemorative wooden presentation cases containing custom labeled bottles of Hennessy cognac were presented to the Doolittle Survivors by the Liberty Aviation Museum on behalf of the remaining operators of flying B-25 Mitchell bombers in honor of the raiders. (The Liberty Aviation Museum’s B-25 Georgie’s Gal was also one of the B-25s that participated in the commemorative flyover that weekend.)

Of note concerning the design is that the boxes were entirely handmade using American black walnut. The boxes are held together with 16 Japanese cherrywood bowties.

The bowties represent the 16 B-25s used in the mission. The predominance of the use of American walnut over the Japanese cherry represents the United States’ swift response to the Pearl Harbor attack and eventual overwhelming defeat of Japanese forces culminating with the end of World War II.

I would like to commend the Hennessy Corp. for their past and continuing support of the Doolittle Raiders, especially since they downplay their substantial role of support and do not utilize their association with the raiders for profit or gain.

The Liberty Aviation Museum was very proud, but also very humbled, to be invited to this most solemn event to honor some of the greatest Americans who ever lived.

Edward G. Patrick Jr.

Port Clinton, Ohio

The Fog of History

I read with interest the histories of the Doolittle raid and the sad ending of the crew of the B-24 bomber, Lady Be Good [p. 70] as told in the February issue of Air Force Magazine. It rekindled a nagging personal struggle I (and possibly four other Air Force officers) have had over the past 40+ years and that also involves history.

I had returned to Southeast Asia in 1972 for my third tour there, having already flown 100 missions over North Vietnam in EB-66s during Rolling Thunder. Now I was back when the F-111s of the 474th TFW were deployed there in the latter half of ’72. Since 7th AF had no experience with the Aardvark, four of us were seconded temporarily to Saigon to educate the staff on how to use this great (and still probably the best) attack aircraft. I went into target intelligence to help select suitable targets for the 111s and briefed General Vogt, 7th AF/CC, every afternoon on the targets.

I was soon appointed to the MiG Kill Board as one of its five members. We met to evaluate the claims of enemy kills by our airmen. The head of the board was a two-star general, whom I will not name as it appears he might still be living at an old age. Our five were composed of captains and majors, to include F-111 and F-105 crew members, with combat experience over North Vietnam and Laos, and intelligence officers.

We were really conscious of our obligation to history and to fairness, and to award a kill, we thought that the claim had to be irrefutable—a witness other than the claimant had to confirm that the enemy plane had been really destroyed, or its pilot had ejected, or it had been seen to have crashed, or if its destruction could be confirmed by gun camera film, etc. There were claims we denied with reticence, such as if a descending and smoking MiG were not actually confirmed destroyed as it went into heavy clouds and its end was not actually seen or filmed, etc. Then along came Linebacker II, the B-52 component of which had us all open-mouthed in astonishment of its sheer lunacy, reminding me of the British saying of their soldiers in World War I, that they were lions led by donkeys (their generals). Here we had the most lethal air defenses in history, and SAC was sending their slow, unmaneuverable bombers into them in single-ship attacks. In the EB-66 at least we could split-S down and evade the SAMs, but not so the B-52s, in which I had some experience in four years in the old B model.

After Linebacker II we began to get claims of MiG kills by B-52 gunners. We were sympathetic to the SAC crews, as their courage was outstanding and we recognized it, and they deserved any rewards they received, but we did not understand the claims of the gunners, and the evidence offered was unverifiable. Most of their attacks were at night, there were no other witnesses, and their sole claim was that after firing their guns, their scopes “bloomed.” That was it.

After much discussion as to how to award these “kills,” we knew we would have to break the rules of evidence, and we thought that the “blooms” of the gun radars might even have been the returns of their own shells going out, as their radar frequencies would have had to be of a high order. We finally denied the claims.

On reading our report, the general walked into the room and personally ordered us to change our vote. His reason was simple: SAC was hurting, their morale was low, and they needed a boost to their spirits, so with a single order, we manufactured some history for SAC’s morale and for future historians. Medals were handed out to gunners, MiG Killer badges were made, etc., and given their courage in just flying those missions, I have no problem with all that.

I really do not know if any MiGs were shot down by B-52 gunners—the claims may well have been true, we just did not think we had enough evidence to award them. But I am pretty sure that the Air Force Security Service, which monitored enemy radio transmissions, would know, and only they could really verify these claims. The British Y Service monitored enemy air, sea, and land transmissions in World War II, so there is no secret in thinking that we had not discarded this technique 30 years later.

My only concern is in reading official histories now. I wonder how much has been written to make us all feel good.

Col. Peter M. Dunn,

USAF (Ret.)

Columbia, Mo.

Thank you so much for your excellent article on Lady Be Good in the February issue. My cousin, Bob LaMotte, was a 24-year-old radio operator on the B-24 and he bailed out with the rest of the crew before it crash-landed in the Sahara Desert in 1943. His mother was my dad’s sister.

Bob was the sixth child in his family of eight, born in Lake Linden, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. His mother, Alvina, and father, John, both lived to see their son’s body found in 1960 and brought back home for burial. On the day of the burial (about the first week of May) there was an unexpected blizzard and all the guests wore borrowed cold weather gear. Bob’s youngest brother, George, is the last of Bob’s immediate family and still lives in nearby Houghton with his wife, Henrietta.

In 1970, a propeller from Lady was brought to Lake Linden and mounted above an honor roll in front of the Lake Linden city hall.

Mary E. Breault Thornton

Millstadt, Ill.

Dragon Lady

In your February 2014 issue, it was great to see the U-2 Dragon Lady in the “Airpower Classics” section [p. 80]. There are a few corrections/clarifications I’d like to make:

“Because it takes so long to descend from its very high flights (70,000+ feet), a pilot must wear a ‘space suit’ at all times.” The length of the descent has nothing to do with our wearing of the pressure suit. It has to do with the fact that, in the event of cabin pressure loss, the suit is required so you don’t “boil” and die. Remember “Armstrong’s Line” from high school science?

104 were built, not 90.

Endurance: in excess of 14 hours.

Max Range: in excess of 7,000 miles.

Cruise speed: 475 mph.

Wingspan: 104 ft. Easy to remember: 104 were built, and the F-104 was used as a template for a lot of the jet.

Max gross weight we can ever take off with is 40,000 pounds.

Test pilots: Keep in mind that Darryl Greenamyer and Skip Holm, while legendary test pilots, only flew the U-2 one time each. I spoke to Mr. Holm a few years ago, and he doesn’t remember too much about it, other than someone gave him the opportunity to do a flight in it. In any case, they were not involved with U-2 development, as best as I can tell. Now you know.

Lt. Col. Jon Huggins,

USAF, U-2 instructor pilot Beale AFB, Calif.