Air Force MSgt. Mandy Mueller, 39th Medical Operations Squadron medical services flight chief, reads a holiday letter on Dec. 11, 2019, at Incirlik AB, Turkey. SSgt. Joshua Magbanua
Photo Caption & Credits


Short End of the Stick

Of note, in addition to the apparent negligence by [Gen. Douglas] MacArthur and his staff resulting in the Dec. 8, 1941, destruction of FEAF [“Disaster in the Philippines,” November, p. 46], there is at least one other instance of similar bungling by the “Bataan Gang”.

MacArthur and staff were convinced that guerrilla operations could not be conducted in the Philippines in World War II. They held this contention despite the evidence that Lt. Col. Wendell Fertig was successfully conducting extensive operations against the Japanese. Recognition and support from MacArthur’s headquarters were both late arriving and limited.

It is an irony of history that Adm. [Husband E.] Kimmel and Gen. [Walter C.] Short were both blamed for the disaster at Pearl Harbor while MacArthur was awarded the Medal of Honor for his own disaster.

Patric Baumgartner
Mount Airy, Md.

One factor which John Correll does not mention in his article about the Philippines is that, in order to control the air over the central Philippines, on Dec. 12, 1941, a force of less than 1,000 Japanese troops landed at Legaspi in southeastern Luzon and began flight operations at the airfield there. The Japanese aircraft carrier Ryūjō, accompanying the landing fleet into Legaspi Bay, provided air cover for the unopposed landing and ferried aircraft to the airfield.

I was a teenager, living near Legaspi with missionary parents at that time. We hurriedly left home and headed into the backcountry to avoid capture. From a vantage point on a hill, we looked back over the bay to see the Japanese ships, including the carrier, unloading troops and supplies into small boats that carried them to the shore. I noticed that the carrier had no superstructure rising above the flight deck, which was unusual. About 10 years ago, after an Internet search, I found that it was the carrier Ryūjō, the only operational carrier in either Navy with a flush deck. According to the report, it had remained about 100 miles out to sea to launch its planes, but I know that was in error.

Maj. John W. MacDonald,
USAF (Ret.)
Missoula, Mont.

Tanker Travails

Reading the “New Tanker Still Years from First Deployment” article [“World,” November, p. 16], I think, “we did it to ourselves.” My recollection of the bidding process is initially the Air Force awarded the tanker contract to the maker of Airbus. This created considerable outrage in Congress, most notably the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). How could we have our tanker produced by a foreign entity, even though manufacturing would be in the US? The Air Force reneged on the contract, requested new bids, and hurray, Boeing was awarded the contract. Fast forward to 2019 and what do we have? The KC-46 cannot carry passengers or cargo and is probably three to four years from becoming operational; the flawed-designed 737 Max is still grounded, and there are quality problems with the 787. To paraphrase an old saying, when it comes to Boeing, you don’t get what you pay for.

Col. Thom Weddle,
USAF (Ret.)

The seemingly intractable problems with the KC-46 infuriate me as a veteran and taxpayer; I can only imagine what those directly involved in the Air Force must think. In what universe is Boeing’s performance even close to being marginally acceptable?

Remember, right after Sept. 11, 2001, it was proposed to buy off-the-shelf tankers. That project died. Then we had a bid system won by Airbus with their tanker—Boeing protested and it was killed. Next, Boeing won the new contract by underbidding on price, according to reports. Does it look to anyone else that they skimped on quality and management to make up for the underbid?

Now, we’re told it’s still three to four years before these jets are deployed. There has got to be some accountability.

MSgt. Bill Brockman,
USAF (Ret.)

Personally, I agree with Colonel Romero on his perspective on the issues with the remote vision system in the KC-46 (December, “Letters,” p. 5). How is it the Japanese remote system works and their KC-767J reached IOC in 2009, and here we are 10 years later and cannot seem to get it right? What was wrong with putting the boomer back where he/she can directly view the receivers? It has worked so well since the KC-97 through the KC-10. Some modernization is good, but if it ain’t broke don’t waste tax dollars trying to do what ain’t necessary.

Col. Frank Alfter
USAF (Ret.)
Beavercreek, Ohio

Not People Friendly

[Regarding] caption five in “Combat Heavies,” November, p. 36, the leaders of Air Mobility Command have not read the history of the C-5. We tried pretty much the same thing April 4, 1974, with #68-0218. The crash killed all of the children in the cargo compartment because the aircraft collapsed down on it. The plane was not, and is not, stressed to withstand such a crash.

I loved the aircraft, having delivered the first one to Travis in 1970 and flying it until I retired in 1978. It just is not made to carry people in the cargo compartment. Please do not try this stupidity again.

Maj. Ernest O. Brown,
USAF (Ret.)
Sonora, Calif.

Trophy Culture

Any organization, especially ones as big as the military branches, need to have reviews, bottom to top, concerning personnel issues and programs. These reviews should frankly and honestly look for policies that are no longer rational in a changing world.

Some of the medals/awards/ribbons seem a little odd. For example, the Air Force Special Duty Ribbon. The criteria addresses only special duty within the Air Force. Why? To me, special duty by an Air Force member should include, or be limited to, duty by an Air Force member outside the Air Force—like NATO or a joint assignment within the DOD. And to make things more rebellious, why have this ribbon at all?

Then there is the issue with time frames. Take the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal. The guidelines state:

“The medal is authorized for airmen who directly impacted the Nuclear Enterprise. The NDOSM may be awarded retroactively to Dec. 27, 1991, to fully qualified airmen.”

What about Air Force members that met the criteria, but in a time period before Dec. 27, 1991? Having time periods for awards like this have never made sense to me.

These type of criteria remind me of the umbrella policy. I grew up in the Air Force and, of course, no one was allowed to use an umbrella. Better to get wet than look like a civilian. I was on the IG at MAC when the policy was changed. I used an umbrella, but many of the colonels were upset at the change. Again, why?

These reviews of nonoperational areas need to be taken seriously and not used as a whitewash to maintain the status quo. ”The SECAF approved this” is not a valid reason for not seriously consider changing things. I was assigned to DEOMI [Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute], and as result of that, I am authorized to wear the Office of the SECDEF badge. The Navy members were only authorized to wear the badge while assigned. Shouldn’t the wear criteria be the same, across the board?

H. T. Whitehurst
Prescott Valley, Ariz.

I do not have any problem with the many ribbons one can earn as long the policy is “fairly” applied to all potential personnel. Whenever possible, exceptions should be made to be inclusive of all personnel who directly or indirectly participated or supported a mission or war. Drone participants, global air missions, or production of specific mission aids and functions are a few examples of such exceptions. Specific statements regarding the individual unit’s mission and statements in performance reports should be sufficient qualifiers. Special devices can be attached to ribbons as required.

I am also considerate of awarding personnel who contribute significantly to the accomplishment of another command’s mission.

A common reason to disapprove an award or decoration in the past was that the personnel did not “complete a full tour of duty.” When a supervisor submits a recommendation and it is approved by one or two commanders up the chain of command, in my humble opinion, it should be awarded and not arbitrarily downgraded or outright disapproved.

Among all joint commands, there should be a policy that allows any recommendation to be approved rather than rejected because of use of a “wrong form,” “wrong format,” or “wrong process.” Why should anyone be denied an award for outstanding performance because of administrative miscues? I hope to see any nominee for an award get the benefit of the doubt.

When a person has a formal “two-hat” job in another command, command center, or joint function as a staff officer or adviser, a separate award should be allowed by the other command for a completely unique function or service. The military personnel center used to disapprove one award because the awards overlapped in time.

Lt. Col, Russel Noguchi,
USAF (Ret.)
Pearl City, Hawaii

Preservice Check

Regarding the article “DOD Releases Military Family Suicide Statistics:”[World, November, p. 23]. Maybe the military recruitment system needs to put more focus on the mental health of those who want to serve in the military. There already is a strong enlistment emphasis on physical health. Those of us who have served know that there are many pressures very unique to military life. Unfortunately, there are many individuals who cannot tolerate the pressures of military life, which can lead to depression and often suicide.

Col. Raymond G. Schwartz,
USAF (Ret.)
Pinetown, N.C.

Threat Assessment

The editorial “Matching Up Against the Threat”, in the October 2019 issue of the Air Force Magazine [p. 2] provides a very revealing and concise assessment of the threat posed by China (and Russia, plus others) to both our national security and economic future. I concur with the article’s assessment of how vulnerable we are now, let alone in the future, as a result of the current Air Force being too small, inflexible, and our equipment too old and worn-out from Middle East wars and lingering conflicts, as well as the “threats” and technical advancements we face, which are evolving and getting stronger. We have not been investing enough in our Air Force to keep pace, let alone maintain a dominate force to deter serious aggression. Our Air Force equipment, personnel, strategies, tactics, policies, funding, and even some technologies are generally in a “ketch-up” situation to the changing times.

Our overall national defense capabilities face similar weaknesses and increasing threats. This weakened position lessens our options to deter aggression and to counter direct threats through conventional means, leaving us little choice but to “go nuclear”—when pushed! These very real “enemies” know this, and will likely become even more bold and aggressive, increasing the risk of armed conflict, perhaps challenging and mistakenly perceiving our nuclear deterrence strategy protecting many areas of the world as a potential “bluff.”

This situation is a very real “war,” involving political and economic dominance, as well as very dangerous military posturing. There is no “easy fix,” nor any foreseeable peaceful end to this growing danger. Seventy-five years after World War II, we face very similar evil threats to peace and freedom, and we must respond accordingly. Our new Secretary of the Air Force faces these many challenges, and we wish her well.

Lt. Col. Stephen P. Pedone,
USAF (Ret.)
Naples, Fla.

MiGs in Vietnam

The article “Against the MiGs in Vietnam” [October, p. 53] is a superb account of the Russian and Chinese-trained North Vietnamese pilots going up against USAF and US Navy aircraft over North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. For me, it cleared up a lot of questions as to why the NVAF pilots could accomplish so much in the early days of the War. John Correll is to be commended for the excellent research and extensive detail that went into this article making it a “keeper” in my Vietnam War library.

However, this article, good though it may be, lacks one other detail: the role the Chinese Air Force played in the downing of several US aircraft, the loss of American pilots/crew members and the incarceration of the surviving pilots/crew members until their release in 1973.

Halfway through the eight-month 1967 combat cruise of Attach Squadron VA-196 aboard the USS Constellation, CVA-64, the “Main Battery” had thus far not lost a single aircraft to the formidable North Vietnamese defenses. Their luck ran out on Aug. 21, 1967, when only one A-6 Intruder of a flight of four returned to the “Connie” from a midday Alpha Strike. The target was the Duc Noi Railway Yard, five miles northeast of Hanoi. The commanding officer of VA-196, Leo Profilet, was the strike lead and ironically the first to go down when a SA-2 SAM blew one wing off their Intruder. Commander Profilet and his bombardier/navigator Lt. Cmdr. Bill Hardman safely ejected and spent the next five years in POW prisons. Profilet’s wingman, Lt. Phil Bloomer, piloted the only Intruder to return to the Connie from this Alpha Strike that fateful day.

On Aug. 21, 1967, the weather over North Vietnam was not good. While the target area was marginal, there were thunder storms covering much of “the backdoor,” a mostly uninhabited egress route northeast of Hanoi and a relatively safe route from Hanoi back to the Gulf of Tonkin. Shortly after pulling off the target, the second section of A-6s were jumped by a pair of MiG aircraft identified by one of the crewmen of these two Intruders with the radio transmission “… MiGs, MiGs, … Farmers, Farmers … !” The Russian MiG 19 had been given the NATO code name “Farmer,” so it is assumed at this point that the MiGs in pursuit of the ill-fated pair of “Milestones” (radio call sign of VA-196) were Chinese (the MiG-19 or Chinese J-6 was not introduced to the NVAF until 1969).

The two Intruders were shot down 11 miles inside China. Of the four crew members, only one, Lt. Bob Flynn, the B/N of the section lead aircraft, safely ejected and spent the next five years in a Chinese prison. Flynn’s pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Jimmy Buckley, and the crew of their wingman aircraft were all killed.

Flynn was released to the American authorities in Hong Kong together with Maj. Philip E. Smith of the USAF, who had been imprisoned by the Chinese since his F-104 Starfighter was downed over the Hainan Island in September 1965. After the war, Flynn held command positions and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington. He retired with the rank of commander in 1985 and died of a heart attack in 2013 at age 76.

On Feb. 14, 1968, Cmdr. Joseph Dunn flew his propeller-driven A-1 Skyraider from the Philippines to the USS Coral Sea aircraft carrier. As Dunn neared Hainan, MiG aircraft, probably MiG-17s, attacked and shot down the pilot. His body was never recovered. These are two instances of Chinese shooting down three US aircraft during the Vietnam War. There may be more.

Lt. Phil Waters,
USN (Ret.)
Arvada, Colo.

The article by John T. Correll has missed an important event that took place during the MiG engagement on April 4, 1964, during the F-105s second attack in as many days on the “Dragon Jaws “ bridge at Thanh Hoa.

As noted in the article, two Thuds and crews were lost that day as the result of MiG-17s coming in through a thick layer of haze, eluding a flight of F-100s from the 416TFS flying out of Da Nang as MiGCap. In the No. 2 slot was Capt. Don Kilgus, who with the rest of the F-100 element heard the radio chatter of the engagement of the MiGs attacking the F- 105s. He talks about gazing through the coffee brown haze for bogies.

Then-Captain Kilgus and his flight lead spot TWO MiGs clearing the haze. The MiGs split with one overshooting Kilgus and locking on the six o’clock of his flight lead. Kilgus closed in on that MiG and fired a short burst just enough for the MiG to see the 20 mms winking. The MiG instantaneously pulled off the lead and Kilgus followed in chase in full afterburner.

After a few short bursts and moving in a near-vertical dive from 20,000 feet at approximately 580 knots, he came down on the trigger. Just as he was pulling up at 6,500 feet, Kilgus saw puffs and sparks and debris falling off on the vertical tail of the MiG—this action was also observed by other flight members. The MIG was back in the haze, and Kilgus saw nothing more of the MiG. Although Kilgus was convinced the MiG pilot could not have returned to base, Kilgus was only awarded a probable kill because no ejection was observed.

However, Tran Hanh was the only survivor of his flight of four on April 4, 1964. His other flight members, Le Minh Haun, Pham Giay, and Tran Nguyen Nam were all killed that day. Tran Hanh himself had to crash-land his fuel starved MiG-17. Hanh attributed the three losses to US fighters, nominally F-105Ds (although no claims were ever made by the 355th TFW), and he may have mistaken the two F-100Ds that attacked him for F-105s. It is also possible the North Vietnamese gunners were unused to seeing MiGs in the vicinity of their usual American aircraft targets and may have hit “friendly” aircraft, resulting in fratricide.

Regardless, Don Kilgus in F-100D #55-2894 was the only F-100 to engage in aerial combat during the Vietnam War. Soon after, F-4s were in country and bagged two MiG-17s in July 1964. F-100s were reassigned to bases in South Vietnam where they proved to be the perfect platform for ground attack and aiding troops in contact. F-100s flew 360,283 sorties during the war, more than any other aircraft in the Vietnam War. Clearly, a real workhorse.

Mike Dean
Gordonville, Pa.

Polar Opposites

I want to correct John A. Tirpak’s article in the September 2019 issue, “PACAF Chief Concerned by China-Russian Cooperation, Antarctic Competition” [p. 22].

The South Pole is located deep in the interior of Antarctica, and the Chinese ice breaker probably only assisted to McMurdo Station, not the Pole. That is a common error by people who are not familiar with Antarctica.

And the Antarctic Treaty DOESN’T expire in 2048.

Lt. Col. Peter J. Anderson,
USAFR (Ret.)
Columbus, Ohio

  • You are correct; the treaty does not expire in 2048. Rather, at that time any party to the treaty may call for a conference to review and discuss amendments to the protocol; changes must be ratified and approved by three-fourths of the parties to take effect.—THE EDITORS

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