On Unrest, Race, and USAF
I don’t know what it is truly like to be an African American in our Air Force. But, I do know what it’s like to be an Air Force commander who thinks that racism is not one of our main challenges.
I recently watched Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.’s video as he candidly described his thoughts on racism in our country. I listened, really listened, to what he was saying. His “thoughts” were a punch in my gut. I am a White, male American who proudly wore the blue Air Force uniform for over 38 years. Before watching General Brown’s video, I was engaged in a virtual dialogue with members of my family about the current racial crisis gripping our nation. My family has views from the far right to the far left, and while all of us have been disturbed about the current state of affairs, we have different perceptions on the root cause.
In the dialogue, I told my family about Gen. C.Q. Brown, who I have personally known for almost 30 years. I told them about my certainty that this amazing fighter pilot, officer, and leader was the absolute best choice to be the next Chief of Staff of the Air Force. I also mentioned that while some might think his selection, at this point in time, was racially motivated, I personally knew his nomination process had started well before the current crisis. I must admit, I was a bit proud that our “system” had selected C.Q. based on his merits and his incredible ability to lead our Airmen. I hadn’t talked to C.Q. in a few months since he was going through the confirmation process, and I wondered what he was thinking about regarding the George Floyd inspired demonstrations. Then, I saw his powerful, brutally honest video … talk about a reality check.
With just a quick look at General Brown’s career, one can see that he was “tested early and often,” and he consistently excelled. Graduating at the top of his pilot training class, he was chosen to fly one of the USAF’s premier fighters, the F-16. He quickly advanced to instructor pilot and was selected to attend the elite Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nev. I was one of C.Q.’s instructors and was immediately impressed by his talent, drive, and attitude to be the best F-16 weapons and tactics instructor. Subsequently, our paths crossed many more times in our careers. I was his squadron commander when he was a flight commander and an F-16 Weapons School instructor pilot. I was his wing commander when he was a fighter squadron commander. And I was his wing commander again when he was serving his group command tour as the Commandant of the USAF Weapons School.
I have long believed that whatever success I had in the military was due, in large part, to the amazing commanders like C.Q. that I was fortunate enough to have working for me.
Being raised in a military family, I believed that if you applied yourself and worked hard enough, particularly in the military, you could achieve anything you dream. I believed that the military was a relatively pure meritocracy—a “system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.” My career as a single-seat fighter pilot taught me, very quickly, that if I wasn’t competent enough to fly, kill, and survive in a high-performance aircraft, I could not only cause the mission to fail, but I put my life and the lives of my teammates at risk. In a fighter formation, the flight lead and wingmen work as a team—everyone relying on each other to do their job to execute the tactic. In all my years of flying, I really didn’t care a bit about the race or sex or background of who was in my formation, all that mattered was could they fly the jet and do their job. Whether I was writing his Weapons School grade sheet when he was a captain or his OPR (Officer Performance Report) or PRF (Promotion Recommendation Form) as a colonel, I always rated officer Brown on his demonstrated abilities—to fly a fighter, command his unit, or lead his Airmen. He was such an intelligent, thoughtful, and competent officer and leader. It never surprised me as he rose through the ranks. It reinforced my belief that the Air Force was a fair meritocracy, and we were turning the corner on racism. I naively thought that every Airmen starts with the equal opportunity to do their job well, gets promoted, and then is given increased responsibility to lead and motivate others to do the same—regardless of the Airman’s race.
I was wrong! A meritocracy assumes everyone is on a relatively level playing field. If one works hard to grow and maximize their talents and abilities, and performs exceptionally, they are rewarded. But what if, in sports terms, you’re a runner who feels like, in every race, you’re carrying a 20-pound rucksack that no one else has? How many times was C.Q. the one of very few African American aircrew members in a packed Red Flag briefing room with some questioning his comments not on their tactical merit, but, because of the color of his skin? How many people questioned his ability to command, before they heard him utter a single word? In the past several decades, the Air Force has made great progress in reducing the crushing effects of racism from our past, but we have a long way to go before we truly get to a “level playing field.”
As a commander, I tried to act swiftly and decisively when I became aware of acts of racism in my unit. I had zero tolerance for such acts, but I now realize those behaviors I acted on were just the overt ones—the tip of the iceberg. Much of what General Brown describes in his video were the more subtle actions, comments, perceptions, and expectations that he lived with every day in uniform. He lived with the constant pressure of trying to perform error-free for supervisors who expected less of him as an African American. I was one of his supervisors who couldn’t comprehend this toll of existing racism, because it didn’t happen to me—I didn’t live it. As an F-16 fighter pilot, the early part of General Brown’s career was similar to mine. But, he started every flight briefing, every sortie, every job, every assignment, every command with a burden of doubt that others put on him solely due to his skin color. In the Air Force system, I was a fairly successful commander, but in this area of leadership, I was blind and deaf. As I was reminded by Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright in a recent article, as a White Airman, I truly didn’t have a clue of the challenges of being an African American in our Air Force. When I was his commander, C.Q. never shared his thoughts on racism in our service with me—because I never asked him. I didn’t comprehend, because I couldn’t see what was right in front of me. I didn’t hear, because I didn’t ask the right questions of the African American Airmen under my command. Bottom line—I didn’t act to make our Air Force better.
I am a White, male American who proudly wore the blue Air Force uniform for over 38 years, but now I’m just an old retired dude living on a farm in South Carolina. For me, there won’t be another opportunity to command and lead the best Airmen in the world. But for you supervisors, from the newest staff sergeant to our most experienced general officer, you can make a difference starting today. Our nation is in turmoil because we are not where we should be, with every American being afforded a fair and just opportunity to succeed and make our country great. Don’t think your Airmen aren’t experiencing some of the same frustrations that are being highlighted by the protests across our country. Listen, and heed your next Chief of Staff. Strive for “the wisdom and knowledge to lead, participate in, and listen to necessary conversations on racism, diversity, and inclusion …and stay committed to sustain action to make our Air Force better.”
Our Air Force is the smallest it has ever been in our history, and you are tasked with the enormous challenge to be ready to fight and win against a peer competitor. We need you supervisors and commanders to establish that level playing field and create an environment to get the absolute best out of every one of your Airmen … period! I was extremely privileged to be Gen. C.Q. Brown’s commander, and for a the first half of his career, one of his mentors. Now, he’s mentoring me, and more importantly, all of you. Ask … hear … act!
Lt. Gen. William J. Rew,
[I was] on Active duty in the ’60s/’70s and retired in the ’90s. All of the military went through class after class of military training concerning race relations. What we are going through now is what we went through a generation ago. There is no difference. This generation hasn’t been taught the lessons of yesterday and we (the older) have to take the blame for not teaching our children the fundamentals of love and respect for everyone.
CMSgt. Dwight L. Graupman,
The tragedy of George Floyd should never have happened. An arrest should not have resulted in a death. What concerns me is that the Air Force seems to feel a responsibility for this. I was in the military for 24 years and learned to work with people of various backgrounds and races, and to look after each other, regardless. It is for that reason, as well as others, that I do encourage people to join the military.
I have studied military aviation history for many years, and, if anything, the Air Force has lead the nation in providing opportunities for African Americans. An excellent example are the Tuskegee Airmen. Thanks to the Army Air Force, these men were given an opportunity to prove themselves and made an invaluable contribution to our victory in World War II. The Air Force was a leading institution in combating racism. It should be viewed as such, not a racist organization.
TSgt. Joe Domhan,
N.Y. ANG (Ret.)
West Babylon, N.Y.
After reading the current edition of Air Force Magazine, my experience with the promotions system and race relations came roaring back. I served between 1968-1989 in civil engineering. I rose to the rank of master sergeant (E-7) with a short break in service in 1977 that put me behind my peers when I lost all my time in service points. I retired in August 1989, with three college degrees. USAF was very good to me.
Throughout the ’70s, I attended race- relations classes and experienced the quota system as the Air Force began to promote Black Airmen to make up for past promotion discrimination practices. There were many promotion cycles where only Black Airmen were promoted. There is no doubt in my mind that these Airmen deserved to be promoted, but it was clear to those who did not get promoted what the AF was doing.
Let’s fast forward to today. What was shocking to me was the fact that, in 2020, the U.S. Air Force still has a promotion problem with Black Airmen and women. I am appalled that the problem still exists today. But it does not surprise me. Racism still exists in all the service branches.
Having looked over the Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) 3E7X1 Fire Protection regulation, I would like to have read more about the missed opportunities E-6 Miles Starr was referring to in the article. It is a shame that USAF missed the opportunity to have her as the first Black woman fire chief.
Let’s hope that in another 10 years USAF makes more progress. At least the Air Force admits there is a problem. Now, do something about it.
MSgt. Robert J. Wiebel,
I started in on the latest Air Force Magazine, and right off the bat you talk about combating systemic racism, as though it’s a given that it’s a real thing.
It is not a real thing in my opinion. Think about what you’re saying [with] “systemic.” I do not, I will not, believe that my country is infested with systemic racism. Is there racism, individually? Of course, but it does NOT permeate the country, or the Air Force.
You do a disservice to our country and our military to buy into that lie.
MSgt. Ken Selking,
Race relations were an issue in the ’60s and ’70s, while my dad was Active duty, and we as dependents saw this living off base; yet living on base and attending base schools it was something you never [saw].
In a world where parents are friends rather than being parents—holding their children accountable—they are allowed to be spoiled brats. I did supervise many young Airmen and NCOs and was a part of their lives. We came from many different backgrounds, colors, and creed nation origins. The late Martin Luther King Jr. said it best in his “I have a Dream Speech,” that a man should be judged on his integrity not the color of his skin.
This is the 21st century and the world has gone south because of a few bad apples. The Air Force led the way as the first branch to integrate our Airmen, NCOs, and officers, under President Harry S. Truman. Lets continue to lead the way, but manners, respect—all of this begins at home when you are a young child. As former A1C, now actor, Morgan Freeman said, if your child is disrespectful, its not society’s fault, video games’, music’s fault, but yours. Clean up the mess in your own front yard before you tell someone how to clean their backyard.
Dean R. Martinez,
Litchfield Park, Ariz.
I served from 1966 to 1989. I am forever grateful for the opportunity the Air Force gave me to serve my country. I write this letter because I still believe in our mission. And I want our Air Force to be “the best of the best.”
In the early ’70s our Air Force mirrored what was happening in our nation. Protests against the war in Vietnam; racial conflict erupting in cities and spilling on to our bases; drugs showing up in our barracks and in urine tests. Officers and enlisted having alcohol-abuse incidents and going to rehabilitation—or out the door. USAF’s response was to organize, train, and deploy a small career field of volunteer enlisted and officers who developed a social actions program to help leaders deal with the racial and substance abuse problems in the force. It was controversial from the start.
In 1977, I volunteered to work in the field. I served for 13 years at wing, major air command, and Air Staff levels. My last social actions assignment was as the Air Force Assistant for Equal Opportunity and Treatment at Hq. AFMPC (Air Force Military Personnel Center) from 1984-87. The program was unpopular. We told people what they did not want to hear. Shortly after I arrived at AFMPC, I heard rumors that the social actions program was to be discontinued. Some senior officers believed “the race problem” had been solved.
Not so. Although far fewer in number, racial conflict incidents and discrimination complaints were still happening. Sexual harassment issues were increasing. Moreover, there was evidence that the Ku Klux Klan and other White supremacist groups were showing up in our ranks and recruiting Airmen. We contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center’s intelligence unit for more information. They confirmed the reports. I presented this information to Air Staff personnel with a recommendation to continue the program. The Air Force Assistant for Equal Opportunity and Treatment position was downgraded to a lower organizational level at AFMPC and no longer reported directly to the commander. To me, the message was clear. Top-level support for equal opportunity and treatment had eroded. People at the top no longer felt the need to devote men/women and money significantly to confronting our institutional racial and gender prejudices and discrimination. I resigned in 1987 and was replaced by a major. The Air Force today, as it was 30 years ago, is a reflection of American culture. We should remember that the social issues of the day won’t disappear with wishful thinking.
If, as CMSAF Gerald R. Murray, USAF (Ret.) stated, this is a time for a “critical reckoning,” whatever we do, whatever we call it, we must sustain the effort to identify and eradicate systemic prejudice and bigotry.
I believe that what CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright had to say was also on target. The number of African-American officers in the force (6.16 percent) speaks loud and clear to me. Our new Chief of Staff has an opportunity to change the culture. I hope he will consider this lesson of history.
Lt. Col. Paul D. Raino,
I just viewed the dialogue between the CSAF and the CMSAF discussing the latest tragic death of a Black person. I didn’t really hear a defined measurable, step-by-step plan. The problem is cultural. The two Chiefs can’t change that. It is a White problem. Bigots raise bigots. As a first sergeant and enlisted adviser, I didn’t have any Black, brown, or White Airmen in my units. The uniform is the great equalizer. Our military culture is already more equitable in its treatment of all races. I’ve talked with lots of young people that feel that the Air Force provides an opportunity for them to control their own destiny. I say to the leadership, start on Day One at basic or the Academy identifying the folks that bring that culture of poison into the Air Force. Give them the standard. Let them make the choice.
Just received my July/August issue of Air Force Mag. Wanted to voice my displeasure and disappointment with the cover. Not the fact there is a Black aircrew member shown, who I am sure is just as proud to be a part of the greatest Air Force on the planet as I was from ’82-’92, but to use this forum, as so many other entities are doing today, to make political statements is wrong.
Enough already! The person responsible for the death of one of God’s creations is being held accountable, as are his coworkers. And, it has started a very much needed review of law enforcement circles, in the hopes of weeding out even more bad apples! ‘Bout time! But, we are being force- fed daily, on every news channel, at every broadcast, now in almost every commercial, etc. ALL DAY LONG! This is being taken way too far. It needs to stop. As I see it, this constant bombardment being placed front and center in everyone’s faces, in my opinion, is causing even further divide in our country today. The more this is shown and pushed, the more the anger grows on both sides!
Because of this issue and the cover, I may be forced to not renew my membership when it comes due.
I was distressed to read of the apparent bias against Black members of the Air Force. As I read the words I couldn’t help but take note of the photos of Gen. Charles Q. Brown, the incoming USAF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, Air Force chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark, the deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence, and retired Gen. Larry O. Spencer, former AF Vice Chief of Staff, all of whom [except Kelly] are Black. The promotion rate charts indicate inconsistent differences, noting that in the upper NCO ranks Blacks were promoted faster than Whites. The lower rates in the officer ranks certainly can be explained by the comment that “fewer Blacks pursue flying careers.” I do not believe the article makes a strong case that racial bias is rampant in today’s Air Force.
I served from 1959-1962 in the Strategic Air Command, 310th Bomb Wing, Schilling Air Force Base, Kan., as an aircraft maintenance officer, and can attest there was no racial bias in that organization. My NCOIC, Chief Master Sgt. Albert Harris, was Black and one of the most highly respected and capable member of the squadron, and there were several other Black Airmen who were promoted as fast as was possible because they were such capable and dedicated individuals. Also in the wing was one of the leading standardization team navigators, Maj. Nicolas Washington, a Black man, a great person, and fellow officer. Perhaps SAC was atypical, but I can say the color of a person’s skin was not a determinate for advancement, only performance, capability, and dedication to USAF mattered.
Capt. James O. Gundlach,
The July/August 2020 magazine article “Black and Air Force Blue” electrifies the need to resurrect a previously established Air Force wing administrative office: Social Actions. Irrespective of the U.S. Army Air Force’s forthright and historical establishment of the policy that established the famous Tuskegee Airmen, episodes of racist and sexist attitudes were scattered through Air Force ranks from the 1940s. A case in point is a situation that occurred during the early 1970s at the 94th Airlift Wing, Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga.
There is a glorious sign above the 94th’s main gate that reads, “Premiere Airlift Wing.” It developed when the wing won in competition the award as being the best airlift wing in the free world. But there was racial unrest among C-130 crews before this award.
Thus the wing established a vigorous training program to dismiss disparities in USAF life, culture, and race relations on base. This was given to the Social Actions Office; I was chief of Social Actions at that time.
Apparently the Social Actions career field has been eradicated. It is not mentioned in the latest Air Force Almanac 2020. Perhaps, it should be reestablished to contend with race relations.
Lt. Col. Walter R. Jacobs Jr.,
Thanks for advancing the conversation on race relations in the July/August edition; this is long overdue. In the same edition, I noted that all nominees for [Air Force Association] National Office and Board of Directors share three characteristics: old, White, and male.
Lt. Col. Dennis W. Butler,
I’m both encouraged and impressed by the superb credentials identified for each of the candidates for National Office and the Board of Directors. I can’t help but wonder, though, what a lot of others of us might be thinking: How can AFA get more former Air Force pilots involved at the highest levels of the AFA? It appears that only one of the 13 nominees ever piloted Air Force jets. Our AFA founder, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, might have wondered the same thing.
Col. David R. Haulman,
My parents raised us to judge people “by the content of their character,” not the color of their skin. Having tried to live my life by the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr., I find much of today’s racial unrest very disturbing. But it was reading the June 2020 edition of Air Force Magazine that finally compelled me to speak out.
A short clip of actor Morgan Freeman being interviewed on “60 Minutes” by Mike Wallace is making the rounds on Facebook. It displays the revealing exchange when Wallace asked Freeman his thoughts on Black History Month (BHM). In short, Freeman responds that he does not support BHM and believes the answer to the question of how to go about healing the racial divide in America is to simply stop talking about race. He challenges Wallace to stop thinking of Freeman as a “Black man” and Freeman will stop thinking of Wallace as “White.” They should think of each other simply as “Mike Wallace” and “Morgan Freeman.”
Martin Luther King Jr. and Morgan Freeman are true heroes; they had the courage to speak truth to power, and we should all learn from their wisdom. George Floyd, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin were not heroes and are not martyrs either. At best they were thugs and bullies who reacted violently to the lawful actions of the police (Floyd and Brown) or, in the case of Martin, reacted angrily to being questioned by George Zimmerman and was justifiably killed when he attacked Zimmerman, knocked him to the ground, and was in the process of pounding Zimmerman’s head into the pavement when Zimmerman unexpectedly produced the unseen weapon and shot him. Surely, a tragic and avoidable death, but Martin initiated the violence.
Even mentioning George Floyd’s name in Air Force Magazine as justification for pursuing further racial healing on behalf of those holding up Floyd as a martyr is an insult to all “decent, honest, and hard-working people” (my father’s words) who have tried to live honorable, loving, and prosperous lives within the freedoms of America.
I do not believe the United States Air Force has a “systemic” or “institutional” racial problem simply because only 6.16 percent of the officer corps is African American or even because a disproportionate number of the 16.78 percent of the USAF enlisted force—which is African American—experiences a higher rate of judicial punishment than the remaining 83.22 percent. Indeed, the disproportionately high incidents of judicial punishment against Black members seems to indicate a problem, but I offer the opinion below as its true explanation.
Even General Goldfein’s experience with the standard box of bandages being labeled as “flesh-colored” is not sufficient justification to turn the Air Force upside-down in search of the racial boogie man. Grown men and women who allow an experience like an innocuous product label to disrupt their day are seriously underchallenged and their leaders should be removed from their positions of responsibility preparing them to wage war and defend America.
My father was largely responsible for guiding me to my career in the Air Force. His strong leadership of our family, love of America, and determination to defend her as an officer in the local Guard unit provided me a vision of how I could live a similarly honorable life. Without my father’s love and guidance, I do not know where I would have landed.
Here are several more numbers for [Tobias] Naegele to consider: 70 percent and 65 percent. The first is the approximate percentage of the total number of Black children born in America who are born into a single-parent family and the second is the percentage of Black children who grow up without a father’s love and guidance. I submit my life experiences with my loving, guiding father offer a better explanation why “only” 6.16 percent of the USAF officer corps is Black and why a disproportionate percentage of the Black enlisted members experience judicial punishment. I have no idea what the Air Force can do to replace a fatherless childhood, no matter the person’s color.
Like Morgan Freeman, I believe we are not solving anything by continuing to talk about race as we are now; only the race-baiters are profiting. Rather, we should turn the conversation to the accomplishments of Gen. Chappie James, Gen. Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Dr. Ben Carson, Dr. Thomas Sowell, Dr. Shelby Steele, Frederick Douglass, Herman Cain, Harriet Tubman, Candace Owens, and the millions of others who have experienced the true American dream and wish it to continue. Their examples should be the center of this discussion, not those of thugs, bullies, and criminals.
Maj. Patrick J. Hoy,
It’s disappointing to me that decades after my own service, Blacks still feel the resistance of racial intolerance. There is no room in USAF, or any military branch, for racial intolerance or animosity.
Still, you open the article with a quote from Lt. Gen. Anthony J. Cotton, who alludes to three Black individuals who experienced untimely deaths at the hands of police, and another who died at the hands of White civilians.
In the case of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks, while there was questionable policing involved, an obvious lack of professionalism, there is no evidence of racial bias, intolerance, or hostility. One can blame “implicit bias” but that’s no more persuasive than blaming it on pixies.
In the case of Ahmad Aubrey, General Cotton has a valid point. Here was a young Black man minding his own business, killed by three White civilians for no apparent reason other than racial hostility. In addition, it took 74 days to charge the three perpetrators. Here, General Cotton has a reasonable fear, an out-of-control situation tinged with racial animosity.
I bring this up only in the interest of finding a way to a place where the American republic can unite as individuals committed to the same values—including racial equality, tolerance, and comity. It is important to not overreact. It is important to understand the details of each of these errors and mistakes. They do not all point to racial animus, and the distinction must be kept alive if we are to avoid turning Blacks into cynics about the entire American project. And there is little room in my own heart for [Black Lives Matter], which appears to be a Marxist group using Blacks as pawns in a game of collectivizing the U.S.A.
The focus on discrimination in August’s Air Force Magazine prompts me to review the development of my experience with Blacks. I grew up in a small eastern Oregon town, Lakeview, where there were no Blacks. In later years, I joked that discrimination there was between the Methodists and the Irish Catholics. The first time I heard the term “racial discrimination” was when I was nine and my parents took us to see the 1949 movie “Pinky” and my mother said that was the focus of the film.
My first contact with any Blacks was at the 1955 Civil Air Patrol summer encampment at Portland Air Force Base. I became friends with Don Pedro Colley, from Klamath Falls, Ore., and I’m sure there were other Blacks. I recall no specific racial reference to any of them. The only such comments that there might have been in the late 40s would more likely have been about the difficulties that members of the Klamath tribe had when the reservation was dissolved.
Blacks were similarly “invisible” during my college years at Oregon and Oregon State. I’m sure there were Black students but I recall none, even in the AFROTC program. It was not until the summer of 1962 that I was sharply made aware of racial issues. When I debarked from the train in Waco, Texas, to attend ROTC summer camp, there was a drinking fountain in front of me with the sign “Blacks Only.” Welcome to the new world! Even so, those issues faded to the background. When I returned to Waco a year later to begin undergraduate navigation training (UNT), those signs had disappeared under the strictures of the Civil Rights Act.
At UNT, I had my first extended social interaction with Blacks. My john mate, Rich, in billeting, was Black and I spent lots of time sharing study hours with several Blacks. My consciousness had become sufficiently elevated that I at least thought about the possibilities in the situation when Rich and I went one evening to a club mostly for Spanish-speaking customers. Fortunately, it was a pleasant evening.
During my flying career in bombers and transports, there were few Blacks. In that period, I recall one moment in 1965 at Castle Air Force Base, Calif., where I was crewed with a Black copilot. During flight planning, there was a comment about “Watts bomb plot.” The copilot let it roll off his back, but I’m sure that he did not feel at all casual about the remark.
In my subsequent assignments to flying squadrons, there was a few Blacks. Most were NCOs, though the operations officer of the 345th [Tactical Airlift Squadron] at Yokota Air Base, Japan, was for a while a Black officer. There was never in my recollection racial issues in any of those units. The most specific racial references were, on one hand, in the equal opportunity classes that were standard in the early 1970s. They usually opened with the admonition, “You are all racists and sexists.” On the other hand, there were the writings on walls across Pacific bases that were crudely specific about racial issues and were never effectively addressed. Those issues reflected the tensions that led to race riots May 21-25 at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. Interestingly, though I was not off station on a Military Airlift Command trip, I have absolutely no recollection of that event.
For me, my Air Force career in retrospect was operating in a nearly all-White world. There was only a few Blacks in any of my squadrons or during some years as an intelligence officer. My perspective was that there weren’t any significant issues, though I did not actually spend much mental energy on the subject. That is pretty much how things were from 1963 to 1989. At this point, I have been retired for 31 years and the world has changed a lot. I suspect that these issues will be with us still in 2050 and beyond. I can only wish for improvements.
Lt. Col. Cal Taylor,
Hood River, Ore.
I have rarely been more disappointed in Air Force Magazine than I was after reading the two articles from the July/August 2020 issue regarding presumed discrimination within the Air Force against Black personnel. The article was singular in its point of view and lacked in necessary investigation. The mission of the Air Force is to fly and fight. Naturally, more senior leadership opportunities, and therefore promotions, will materialize from the rated officer category. Do we really want someone without flying experience commanding a flying wing, or a numbered Air Force? Because of the Air Force mission, that has to be where the majority of senior leadership billets reside.
Moreover, the bar charts showed a vastly more nuanced reality. The single greatest disparity was that Asian officers earned a vastly lower promotion rate to O-6. Yet, the article only wanted to specify allegations of systemic racism against Black personnel. Also, the overall rates for promotion to SNCO were actually better for Black NCOs than for any other race. We should presume that those advantages were due to merit.
All one can really do is comment upon his or hers own experiences. In my nearly 30 years in the Air Force, I never once personally encountered, nor witnessed, a racist action carried out by anyone against anyone. That’s a remarkable truth, and one that I feel reflects far more about the reality of the U.S. Air Force.
Recruiters have long made special efforts to attract minorities to flying billets. But the truth is, no one can be forced into an all-volunteer military, which the Air Force has been throughout its history. If the percentage of rated officers in the Air Force is skewed, then one should not expect promotion rates to deviate from that skew. The Air Force cannot promote people who are not in the ranks, with the experiences to excel in the senior leadership billets being competed for. Therefore, a far more valuable analysis would have been to look at promotion rates within rated categories. I suspect that one will find that the promotion percentages of Black officers who are rated is at least as high as for officers in other races, if not higher. And as we saw in the bar charts, the rates of promotion for Blacks to SNCO billets was better than for other races.
One final point, the Air Force has sometimes tried so hard to provide increased opportunities for minorities and women that it enforced actions that were later sanctioned in federal court. One example was the successful lawsuit brought by officers who were selected for involuntary reduction in force in 1992. The selection board was given instructions to assign preferential treatment to the records of women and minorities, and was specifically told to do this due to reduced opportunities for these officers. There was no effort made to justify this discrimination. A federal appeals court ruled that the plaintiffs in that suit had merit, and this forced the Air Force to settle.
The lesson is that the Air Force cannot use unfair methods to discriminate against any group of officers or NCOs. The Air Force has to promote based solely upon talent and experience, and let the results fall wherever they fall. The military needs to keep itself above the political frays that often engulf society. The Air Force has a vital mission, and needs to remain focused on that success, above all else.
Maj. Ken Stallings,
John T. Correll’s article, “Japan’s Last Ditch Force” (June, p. 154), counters revisionist fables concerning the fall of Japan in 1945. He also obliquely highlights a persistent problem in overselling air power.
“On a visit to Guam in June 1945, Gen. Hap Arnold, commander of the Army Air Forces, expressed his belief that the B-29 campaign would ‘enable our infantry to walk ashore on Japan with their rifles slung.’”
Demonstrating Army Air Forces hubris is the dismal results from bombing in Normandy that same month. “The U.S. Army Air Corps had made wildly optimistic claims about their ‘precision bombing.’ [But] in the 30 minutes preceding H-hour, the Liberators and Fortresses of the 8th Air Force dropped 13,000 bombs; none fell on Omaha Beach. ‘That’s a fat lot of use,’ [Royal Navy Captain] Scott-Bowden said. ‘All that’s done is wake them up. The Air Corps might as well have stayed home in bed for all the good that their bombing concentration did,’ one officer of the 1st Division observed angrily later.” (D-Day: The Battle for Normandy by Antony Beevor, p. 91)
Airstrikes are increasingly vital and effective, but we need to stay real. If only to maintain our credibility.
Col. Ron Andrea,
John T. Correll responds: The comment from Beevor does not say how many of the bombs were supposed to fall on Omaha Beach and how many were aimed at German defenses and fortifications inland. Leading up to D-Day, nearly all of the U.S. bomber strikes were against airfields and other targets in the vicinity of the coast, which forced the Luftwaffe to withdraw from these forward positions. German air power was already severely weakened by Allied strikes earlier in 1944 and was unable to put any significant force over the invasion beaches. On D-Day, the Allied soldiers and ships strung out for 50 miles along the coastline were not endangered by German air attack.
The 1970’s Thames TV series, “The World at War,” put deaths in Japanese occupied countries at something like 15 million, mostly by starvation, which would make it likely that over 100,000 a month were dying by starvation when Japan surrendered.
Even if it was just half that number, additional starvation deaths would have been several times those from the nuclear bombs had they not been used.
SSgt. Donald S. Schmick,
Johns Creek, Ga.
By way of introduction, I am one of the many volunteer docents at the Seattle Museum of Flight, sometimes (although falsely) associated with the Boeing Aircraft Company. I am a satellite propulsion engineer of German origin.
Another docent in our museum and subscriber to your Air Force Magazine has provided us with a copy of the magazine article “Hitler’s Buzz Bombs” in the March 2020 edition.
The article describes the technology and the design and deployment history of the V-1/Fi 103 quite well. It explains how this aircraft came about, and what its shortcomings were. It is not without reason that the V-1 is sometimes called the first “Cruise Missile,” or should I write “Crude Missile?”
A couple of aspects from the article raised my attention, though. In some places, the author, John T. Correll, simplifies the engine to be of “jet engine” design, although fortunately he explains the operational principle of the engine to rather be a “pulsed jet.” A small, but significant difference. The pulsed jet has very few moving parts, especially no rotating parts, and thus, lends itself to mass production by unskilled labor.
The article, however, conveys one myth that can be found frequently. It states that the V-1 “air log” (the little propeller in its nose cone) would count the propeller’s rotation (i.e., a counter, not a timer!), and if the respective number of rotations have elapsed, it would interrupt the flow of propellant, terminating the flight. That is not correct.
The air log would actually sever the lines of pressurized air that control the elevator to keep the aircraft at a constant altitude, and in doing so, the spring-loaded elevator would provide a full nose-down elevator input to let the aircraft dive for the ground. This high negative-G maneuver would sometimes—unintentionally—interrupt the flow of propellant, and it is this observation that was interpreted as the reason for the flight termination. There were, however, frequent reports that the V-1 engine continued to function through the terminal dive.
The article also somewhat simplifies the organizational structure of the test center in Peenemuende. There were always “Peenemuende East” and “Peenemuende West.” P. East was the Army’s site, where [Wernher von] Braun and [Walter] Dornberger worked on the A-4 / V-2 ballistic missile since the second half of the 1930s. P. West was the Luftwaffe’s site, with its large airfield. A wide range of development projects were worked on on both sides of the airfield. The two sides were cooperating and sharing resources, but were always independent of each other.
The article, and this is my main criticism, neglects to mention one aspect of the German Vengeance weapons V-1 and V-2. As much as we engineers may be fascinated by their advanced technology, we must never forget that these were terror weapons of a political regime for which there was no human price too high to achieve its goal. Both V-1 and V-2 were built by slave labor in some of the most appalling concentration camps that Germany had during WW II, amongst them the Camp Dora in an underground tunnel system in the Harz Mountains in Central Germany. The final tally is that more people (> 24,000 by conservative, i.e., low estimates) were killed in the process of building these weapons than as a result of their military use against Germany’s enemies.
It is that legacy that we must remember in these days when we commemorate—and rightfully celebrate!—the end of WW II in Europe. Germany spent more money on the Vengeance weapons than the U.S.A. spent on the Manhattan Project. Which is rather significant, if one considers that the German economy even in peacetime was smaller than the American economy. I for one am glad that Germany squandered its resources on these weapons of questionable efficiency and did not build more Messerschmitts or U-Boats or Tiger Tanks.
Dr. Dieter M. Zube
Everything Old is New Again
I always look forward to the annual Almanac issue and this year’s, while more complex with the addition of USSF, is even better than previous years! However, search as I did, I could not find the description of any bases located in the state of NEW Mexico (p. 103). I did discover several that I recognized (Cannon, Holloman, & Kirtland) had moved to the state of “Mexico.”
To quote an old New Mexico Magazine regular, “One of our 50 states is missing!”
Otherwise, really appreciate this issue!
Maj. Alan D. Resnicke,
Silver City, N.M.
Several sharp-eyed readers caught the gaffe, which was caused by a software printing error. We apologize to the state of New Mexico, thank our readers for the (mostly) light-hearted ribbing we’ve received, and have corrected it online.—The Editors