The “Real Fight,” Reconsidered …
I have had enough of the pompous comments from armchair strategists [saying] that the Air Force is superfluous in the war on terror because all the country needs is more “boots on the ground”—and, by inference, the Navy is also unnecessary (except for the Marines). [“Editorial: The Real Fight, Reconsidered,” July, p. 2.]
Such a shortsighted view of military requirements, now and in the future, ignores the existence of a bellicose North Korea, a rearming, re-equipping, and modernizing Russian military, and a China that is spending huge sums to improve its military capability so as to possibly establish hegemony in East Asia and the Western Pacific.
Those who currently denigrate the Air Force mission and needs seem to believe that all our threats for the foreseeable future will consist of insurgents and terrorists. Such an obscure view of current and future threats smacks of only recognizing the current problem and “let’s ignore the other possibilities out there.”
Col. Lee R. Pitzer,
The New Air Force Program
I enjoyed John Tirpak’s excellent article entitled “The New Air Force Program” [July, p. 30] and offer one brief clarification. The article implied that all of the tanker fleet’s KC-135s were built in the 1960s. Though some were, I flew tankers out of Barksdale Air Force Base (in the ’70s) whose tail numbers revealed that they were acquired in the 1950s. Many of our tankers are approaching 50 years old and it’s time to acquire new ones. The fighters and bombers that they refuel deserve it.
Col. David R. Haulman,
[Regarding the statement on] p. 34, in the third column: “The F-22 … now can hit a heavily defended target with two 2,000-pound satellite guided bombs.” While the F-117 can carry two 2,000-pound PGMs, I believe the F-22 is limited to two 1,000-pound GBU-32 JDAMs. I know it’s confusing that 2,000-pound JDAMs are GBU-31s, and 1,000-pound JDAMs are GBU-32s, but that’s a rant for a different day.
Lexington Park, Md.
*The reader is correct.—the editors
A Loggie as Chief
Your article “A Changing of the Guard” [July, p. 60] was an excellent review of the struggle to control USAF in some very trying years. But I think the article misses the real point beyond bomber general vs. fighter general, which is: Why hasn’t a navigator, logistician, civil engineer, maintenance, etc., general been chosen to head USAF? Just because you are capable of flying an aircraft does not automatically qualify you for top command, nor should your nonselection to fly exclude you from top command. If you look at your typical captain fighter pilot today, he commands a crew of one—himself—while a transporter, civil engineer, or maintenance captain can have up to 200 folks under him. So who would know better about leadership, management, and dealing with the “system”?
USAF needs to look at its ranks closer to find the best managers instead of automatically picking ones with pilot wings.
Lt. Col. Bill Heisel,
A big thank you to Air Force Magazine for publishing the excellent article “A Changing of the Guard,” by Maj. Gen. R. Mike Worden.
I would like to think there are still several of us retired SAC members out here who can relate to that article 100 percent. I know I can, even though the general mentioned some things that I was not aware of with my 20-plus years in SAC.
One of the most interesting aspects of the article was reading the names of some of the best colonels and general officers in the Air Force and their accomplishments again. Men like Gen. Curtis LeMay (the best general who ever wore the blue uniform), Col. Russell E. Dougherty, later to be a four-star general, Gen. Thomas S. Power, Lt. Gen. Alvan C. Gillem II, Gen. John D. Ryan, Gen. Joseph J. Nazzaro, Gen. John P. McConnell, Gen. Bruce K. Holloway, just to name a few. One general he did not mention, though, was Lt. Gen. Richard M. Hoban, who commanded the 410th Bomb Wing at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base as a colonel. He was another outstanding SAC officer.
Even in the late ’50s and ’60s, it was a bomber generals’ Air Force.
As I read the article, I was reminded of how the SAC maintenance people (I was on the maintenance side) operated and how the flight line was managed. When the flight schedule (60-9) was signed off on and published, that was what you did. We went by it and made sure every airplane scheduled was OR (operational ready).
SAC flight crews and maintenance people were the best. Most of my SAC career was spent on the tankers—KC-97E, F, and G models and KC-135A and Q. But I got very acquainted with the B-52D, G, and H models too.
Again, thank you, General Worden, for writing the excellent article and bringing back some great memories to us retired SAC people.
CMSgt. Donald W. Grannan,
“Airpower in a Fragmented Battlespace” [July, p. 68] by Rebecca Grant begins with an interesting premise. This premise states that the classic lines on the battlefield are going the way of the horse cavalry and the sailing ship. While interesting, Ms. Grant’s premise is indicative of the current crop of think-tank doctrinarians who inhabit such places as Rand. It is at its heart and core dead wrong.
To be sure, these lines need some major re-evaluation to understand their applicability on the nonlinear, fragmented battlefield, but they are as alive and well today as they were when Ogg the caveman first took his war club across the valley to smash in his neighbor’s head. There is nothing new under the sun, battle lines are battle lines, and whether the conflict is between street gangs or massed armies, battle lines have always existed and will continue to exist as long as armed conflict exists. They are essential to the way in which a soldier views his world.
While Ms. Grant is correct in her statements that these lines were essential for controlling the movements and fire of massed armies in the field, she would have us believe that this may no longer be the case. This betrays not only an essential misunderstanding of the true nature of battle lines, it also shows a lack of understanding of the movements and fire of massed armies in the field.
When a soldier first takes to the field, the first thing he does is define his personal battlespace. It is an instinctive reaction based on his sense of personal survival and self-preservation. Good guys this way, bad guys that way. He notes threat zones and considers potential fields of fire. In short, he draws lines in the sand that define his personal battlespace. He draws battle lines.
Although he may not call them such, each individual soldier will establish in his mind something akin to a forward line of troops, a fire support control line, and a bomb control line. These lines will roughly correlate to the soldier’s threat zones and stress levels in the heat of battle. They may or may not be consciously defined, but they provide the soldier with some semblance of control in an otherwise uncontrollable environment, even if that semblance of control is an illusion.
The soldier’s first reactions are personal in nature, but combat is the ultimate in team activities, so the second thing the soldier does is link his personal battlespace to that of his neighbors. It begins with the individual linking to his closest squad mates. Then full squads link their personal battlespaces and coordinate management of that battlespace. Larger battle lines are drawn. Larger and larger organizations link and coordinate until we have the readily identifiable battle lines classically used to control the movements and fires of massed armies in the field.
In the classic model of the linear battlefield, these lines are easily identifiable. They can be seen, moved, and manipulated by the battlefield planner to achieve the objectives of the moment. Strong points can be identified or avoided, weak points reinforced or exploited, supply routes established, disrupted, or protected.
In the nonlinear, noncontiguous, fragmented battlespace, the classic model breaks down. The lines are still there but not as readily identifiable. They exist, but are exceedingly hard to find or to figure out what to do with them once they are identified. They are not always intuitively obvious from the perspective of the battlefield planner. They are, however, still readily visible from the perspective of the individual soldier and the small unit.
Since the times of Alexander and Sun Tzu, all massed army maneuvers can be deconstructed into a series of coordinated small unit operations. To use two of Ms. Grant’s examples, the action of the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment at Little Round Top is a classic small unit action upon which the fate of massed armies hinged.
Guderian’s panzer thrust into the Low Countries was predicated on the concept of a small unit attacking on a narrow front in overwhelming force at the point of impact. The attacking unit punches a small hole, covers to the flank, consolidates its gains, and makes way for the next unit to exploit the hole and widen it. This is the essence of blitzkrieg. While the whole army moves as a single entity, the point of the spear is always a series of alternating coordinated small unit attacks against shifting, very narrowly defined targets. Thrust, cover, consolidate; thrust, cover, consolidate, etc. Before you know it, you’re in Paris.
In the contiguous linear battlespace the actions of the small unit are often masked or overshadowed by the actions of the armies massed around them. In the fragmented battlespace model, the massed armies may not exist and small unit operations are paramount. In the fragmented battlespace, where the deep insertion of troops is possible at any time and any place within the battlespace, all operations either are or act like small unit operations. There is no front. There is no rear. There is no flank. The modern warfighter must maintain the flexibility to adapt to the developing conditions within the battlespace.
So here is the crux of General Moseley’s question, “How do you then support land component activities in nonlinear distributed battlespace?”: The trick is to recognize the lines established by the troops who draw them and depend on them for survival, not to establish arbitrary lines or non-lines for the benefit of mission planners a world away. The real question is: How do we provide the troops who define them the ability to communicate to the planners where those lines are
It is a daunting task but not unsolvable. The technology exists today to identify, locate, and track every soldier within the battlespace. The technology exists today to automatically monitor resource usage at the individual soldier level and automatically transmit logistic requirements to just-in-time delivery systems that could conceivably deliver a new supply of ammunition to a soldier as his last round leaves the chamber. In short, the technology exists to monitor and evaluate the combat status of every soldier within the battlespace. Current delivery packages may not yet be robust enough to be sustainable under real-time combat conditions, but the technology does exist. It is relatively low tech, inexpensive, lightweight, and commercially available off the shelf. All that is currently required is hardening and practical implementation.
The bottom line here is that if you are able to accurately position and evaluate the status of resources within the battlespace, you can identify and locate where the battle lines must be. The battlespace becomes visible, and if the battlespace is visible, it can be defined, manipulated, and controlled.
Lest you think I find no merit with Ms. Grant’s article, her last two paragraphs contain two very important points. The first is that “nonlinear war zones increase joint force reliance on the air component and create unique stresses.” This may seem intuitively obvious to those of us who have at some time been involved with the air component, but it is impossible to overstate it. It never fails to amaze me how often this simple concept has been overlooked by our colleagues in the land and sea components.
The second point, as so eloquently stated by General Moseley is that “you have to get control of the airspace first,” and American air forces have been uniquely adept at doing just that almost from the beginning. Thank you, Billy Mitchell.
But it doesn’t stop there, because the airspace defining today’s high ground includes not only the traditional physical air through which our aircraft fly, but also airwaves over which the cyber-warrior plies his trade. Today, control of the high ground implies not only control of the airspace, but also control of cyberspace, and, as has been proven time and time again in the history of armed conflict, whosoever controls the high ground wins. It’s just that simple.
Maj. William J. Leeper,
Fish in a Barrel
While the article [“Sinking Ships,” July, p. 78] fills in a number of gaps in the information relative to the interdiction of enemy cargo ships and naval vessels by land-based aircraft in World War II, it unsurprisingly leaves an important page blank. A comparatively recent (1995) book by Carroll V. Glines, entitled Chennault’s Forgotten Warriors, has helped to fill in that page, and some very valorous Army Air Forces aircrews have finally received the recognition they earned over 60 years ago.
Glines’ Chapter 7: “The Year of Victory” quotes Gen. Charles B. Stone, commander of the Fourteenth Air Force on V-J Day, in General Order No. 114, commending the 308th Bombardment Group (H) on the latter part of its service in China, as follows:
“Between 24 May 1944 and 28 April 1945, this group preyed relentlessly on the Japanese sea shipping lanes between the Japanese homeland and her conquests throughout southern Asia and adjacent insular territories.
“During most of this period, this group was the only organization among all the Allied forces in a position to conduct interdiction operations against this vital supply line.
“Operating from bases in China, the group swept the East and South China Seas, the Straits of Formosa, and the Gulf of Tonkin through all kinds of weather, sinking and damaging nearly three-quarters of a million tons of vital Japanese shipping. They sank 107 merchant vessels and sank 12 enemy naval vessels, including three cruisers and seven destroyers. They probably sank 29 vessels and damaged 48 for a total of 427,252 tons of shipping sunk, 102,765 tons probably sunk, and 187,045 tons damaged.”
General Stone goes on to tell of the 308th’s crews attacks on ships, with their B-24 bombers at altitudes of 400 feet and flights over the “Hump” for gasoline and bombs to supply its operations in China. Sea search missions originated at bases in East China behind enemy lines for several months.
General Chennault is quoted, from his memoirs, as saying: “They took the heaviest combat losses of any group in China and … when the Army Air Forces headquarters in Washington tallied the bombing accuracy of every bomb group in combat, I was astonished to find that the 308th led them all.”
There is a good deal more to be said about the 308th, but there are still aspects of its sea search operations which may or may not be in the public realm. Lt. Col. William D. Hopson was the linchpin of the low-altitude radar bombardment system’s successful sea search operations by the 308th and the acknowledged expert in its use. I was trained in the maintenance, some modification, and preflighting of the specialized equipment used and have an abiding respect for the crews that placed their confidence in it. And that leads me to the aspect of the article that surprised me. On the final page of the major’s article, in the last column, an exercise in November 2004, called Resultant Fury, is said to have “demonstrated the ability of fighters and bombers to hit moving ships, with precision weapons, in all weather conditions. … Resultant Fury was judged a resounding success, demonstrating that Air Force aircraft can sink moving targets.”
Perhaps I’m being naive or do not have all the facts needed to draw the following conclusion. If the 308th could do what it did in China over 60 years ago—with the “prehistoric” conditions of that time—it looks to me like an expensive shoot-the-fish-in-the-barrel project for the “modern” Navy and Air Force.
Robert C. Dick
As a retired Navy person who is also a member of AFA because I am also an airplane nut, I enjoy getting my monthly issue of Air Force Magazine. However, I cannot let Major Spinetta’s article, “Sinking Ships,” go without comment. His article was a well-written collection of historical facts, and no one will argue that land-based airplanes can lift more than carrier-based airplanes.
His implied message that naval aviation is irrelevant would probably echo a similar article that could have been written in 1948. In 1948, the newly minted USAF was the darling of the newly established Defense Department; with the B-36 and the “A” bomb there was no need for naval aviation or the USMC. USAF, with its ability to reach any part of the globe, would ensure US superiority in any area. So effective was this message that in the spring of 1948 the new super carrier CV-58, to be named United States, was scrapped shortly after construction had begun.
At this time, the Navy had but one amphibious group left in the Pacific and one carrier in the Far East. Then, in June of 1950, the North Koreans invaded South Korea. They pushed the UN forces back toward the Pusan perimeter. An amphibious landing in July of 1950 in the Pohang-dong area by the USMC and Army forces with tactical air support provided by carrier aircraft allowed the US to hold the line in Korea. The lack of joint tactical air doctrine, in addition to the limited range and payload of the tactical jets, would not allow USAF to provide the close air support needed for the assault. The Navy carrier-based prop driven F4-Us and AD-1s provided the support. An amphibious landing, supported by Navy and USMC tactical air, had preserved an Allied foothold on the Korean peninsula. The next year, Congress approved the building of the first four modern aircraft carriers of the Forrestal class, CVA-59 through CVA-62. In a world that would face conflict below the level of nuclear exchange, the need for naval aviation had been firmly established.
Capt. Ralph A. Hotton,
Weighing in on the Plain Blue Suit
The US Air Force has had difficulties with the service uniform continuously. Your excellent article [“Whatever Happened to the Plain Blue Suit?” July, p. 84] on this subject revived my thoughts about this problem. Serving in SAC from 1956 to 1962 had me in the new blues with phaseouts and introductions of uniforms that were pure mistakes. Out with the comfortable summer gabardine “silver tans,” and in with the ugly cotton jungle jacket/shorts is one early example. That was one very expensive “What were they thinking?” fiasco.
It is 2006, and USAF service uniforms remain unresolved. This USAF redecoration process never ends. Whimsical uniform changes give manufacturers windfalls and burden all airmen.
My belief is that all this uniform uncertainty comes from a service that has never settled on what it wants to be. The service is muddled by a lack of distinct purpose. During my USAF service time, the idea was that we were a technical force that provided a fighter-bomber-missile defense. Now, USAF has begun a slow return to being a branch of the Army in practice. Airmen can be often seen commingled with Army and Marine personnel quite alike in BDUs and duties.
Indeed, USAF today is training its personnel in hard-core combat skills. The notion of a service uniform that wants to be a business suit is erased. We have airmen wearing ribbons of battle-won honors in abundance. It is time for USAF to admit and embrace its full military nature.
No American military uniform can claim more instant recognition and respect than the full kit of the US Marines. It is time-honored, little-changed, and sharply proud in its simplicity. The pride a Marine demonstrates in uniform comes from relentless training and drill, not incrementally more pin-ons and incessant redesigns. USAF has had over 50 years to get it right and has completely failed. My chosen branch was a job and never more. I was a techie never trained to be more. I always felt militarily outclassed in the presence of uniformed Marines.
The two concluding photos in your article, showing yet more possibilities in vain, got me to write to you. In summary, rather than detail, none of the problems were addressed and more problems were added in these prototypes. For example, a general fighting fat would look absurd in a stand-up collar and belt squeezing his girth. Plus, the Brits would howl to see us using their belt once again. The tricked-up service uniforms airmen now wear are looking shiny carnival enough.
As much as we hated the Soviets, they got their uniforms right. They lost the top pockets so that all their ribbons or medals were in full display by extending downward as they collected them. Instead of fussing with staggered ribbons at the top of the rack, they simply centered the short row at the bottom. Wings and other distinctive badges moved to their right side. Every ribbon and badge got full display, not hidden under lapels. Generals got double-breasted coats to accommodate their increasing bulk and display. The Soviets had a glorious time of pride on parade. Could we learn from them about uniform design
“Plain Blue Suit”? I visit Peterson Air Force Base several days a week—the uniform I see worn is the flight suit and some BDUs.
It is rare to see anyone in the Air Force blue uniform. And off base, the flight suit is worn in stores all across the city and in restaurants. Occasionally I also see the BDUs worn in town.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Please tell me the uniforms depicted on p. 88 are some kind of a late April Fools’ joke. Having been in USAF from 1955 to 1981, I went through more combinations of uniforms than I can remember. Bush jackets come to mind when I look at the belting of both uniforms, the Billy Mitchell heritage coat, and the Hap Arnold heritage coat. What nonsense. We redesigned the Air Force insignia and updated to something modern; now we want to dress our troops as something from a World War II [movie] central casting wardrobe. Living next to Pensacola [Naval] Air Station since 1992, I have the greatest respect for naval uniforms, from the everyday work uniform to their dashing mess dress. Their dress whites have the high collar, but it has been around for a hundred years. Please, oh please, leave well enough alone.
Lt. Col. Ray Cwikowski,
I read with great interest the variety of articles in each issue of Air Force. In the July issue, “What Ever Happened to the Plain Blue Suit?” was of particular interest, since I have always felt there was something in the Air Force psyche as the “new” branch of the military that we could not settle down to a relatively long-term uniform. I loved the “silver tan” uniform and many other types that are now history. How about the pith helmets, bush jackets, shorts, and knee socks uniform items, so we could look like the Brits? Maybe the Navy and Marine Corps would be better examples of having uniforms that are tried, true, and imply a sense of honor and pride as they are worn.
Col. Ronald E. Nelson,
I would like to offer my opinion as a longtime student of the military uniform and not as a member of any particular service. The US Air Force has, since its inception, tried to balance its traditions with its identity as a separate and distinct military service. Nowhere is this more evident than in its uniforms. As part of establishing and maintaining its own identity, the Air Force successively adopted a variety of colors for its service dress uniform. However, it retained the Army “cut” with only minor changes (such as in the lapel) until General McPeak’s revisions of the early 1990s. Many saw this not as moving away from the Army model and creating a new Air Force style, but as simply swapping the Army style for a Navy one. The backlash that ensued resulted in a compromise design that is still in use.
I think Mr. Callander’s article is very well-researched and informative. I would, however, like to comment on the proposals shown in his article. I don’t think the sew-in belt or the buttoned pockets are a good idea. While these may harken back to high points in Air Force history, they also do not sufficiently delineate the Air Force from the Army and are too gaudy for today’s environment. Additionally, the complexity of the female form will make it difficult to use the belt without crumpling the uniform as seen in the picture. The Air Force might want to consider using shoulder boards on the officers’ uniforms. Shoulder boards were used on the Air Force whites and other formal uniforms and are still required for the mess dress. Why not get some additional use out of something you already need to get and that has always separated the Air Force from the Army? I do have to admit that I am partial to the high-collar design because it is distinctly military.
I wish the Air Force success in developing a distinctly military uniform that is not ostentatious but effectively balances its heritage with its unique identity.
Al D. Daniels
On p. 86, the caption by the picture of Gen. George Kenney states: “Note the … longevity hash marks on the sleeves.”
What is actually shown are overseas service bars, commonly called “Hershey Bars,” one for each six months overseas during wartime service.
Officers were not awarded “hash marks” for longevity. The three “V” insignia below the “Hershey Bars” are for service overseas during World War I.
CMSgt. James D. Rodgers,
Callander’s article on the evolution of the uniform was interesting but missed other significant uniform highlights.
In the early 1950s, the summer “silver tan” uniforms had been implemented.The gabardine officer’s uniform with matching long sleeve shirt was a classic. This summer uniform was also authorized in cotton in both long and short sleeve versions. In fact, this same authorization included silver tan cotton Bermuda-length shorts and calf-length tan socks for extreme heat regions. The long sleeve version of this shirt was of a poplin fabric. Also, I believe that the early ’50s also saw the introduction of the blue Eisenhower jacket for winter wear.
Col. J. Robert Nolley Jr.,
Tragedy at Khobar Towers
Once again, Rebecca Grant gives us a timely article about the Khobar Towers tragedy and travesty [“Death in the Desert,” June, p. 48]. My son was TDY to the area and lived in these buildings during the time the attack was being planned. There is no acceptable explanation for the death and destruction. The article shows we must be vigilant and proactive in fighting the worldwide terrorists who threaten our way of life. Enemies and “allies” alike must understand we will not succumb or change our culture. Also, the article demonstrates that elected officials and senior civilian leaders should share accountability with senior military personnel when failure leads to unnecessary death and injury of US military personnel. Thanks and please continue to keep us informed, as Air Force Magazine does so well.
Lt. Col. James Beach,
Ride of the Valkyrie
I imagine you do not get many letters from a retired “Coastie,” but the article in June 2006, “The Ride of the Valkyrie” [p. 76], brought back a special day in my life. I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and remember that I was in eighth grade when my father said we are going to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. What a deal—a day out of school and going to the Air Force base. We were sitting along the highway with many others, when the B-70 did a flyby of the runway—a sight I can still picture quite vividly. An added bonus was the B-58 Hustler that accompanied the Valkyrie. On our yearly trips to see my folks in the Dayton area, we make it to the National Museum of the US Air Force to see the plane that almost 40 years ago I saw fly its last time. Somewhere in my parents’ home is a Super 8 movie reel with that flight on it.
An Aviation Giant
As a former employee and admirer of Donald Douglas, I feel the urge to paint in the corners to some of Walter J. Boyne’s picture, “The Rise and Fall of Donald Douglas,” in the March 2006 issue of Air Force Magazine [p. 76].
Douglas was a paternal leader. I recall that he personally hired a paraplegic veteran just after the Korean War, when there were no jobs available in the postwar aviation community. He also hired a young man who badly needed work to support his pregnant wife even though he lacked any pertinent experience. Both rose rapidly and became outstanding employees in their groups. To keep the engineering pool vibrant, he hired young engineering graduates every year, good times or bad.
When the Douglas Flying Club was told by an insurance company—which was a major insurer of Douglas Aircraft—that flying club operations would no longer be covered, Don stepped in and said to cover the club or lose the account.
Mr. Douglas, according to my sources who were high up in the company, made some financial mistakes, mostly based upon principle. He refused to ask for money from the government to build manufacturing facilities when his competitors were enjoying that advantage. He declined an offer to use money carried over from the World War II excess profits tax to develop the DC-8, as a competitor later did. Before the company was acquired by McDonnell, Mr. Douglas decided not to build the DC-10 because, according to my informant from the executive staff, he did not want to be associated with an aircraft that carries 400 passengers. He didn’t want to see his company’s logo on the tail of the first aircraft that had many bodies around it on some distant hillside. He said, “I have released over 30 aircraft for production, and I don’t care if I release another.” After acquiring Douglas, McDonnell made the decision to build the DC-10. The ironies are many: The first major crash of a widebody was a DC-10, out of Paris on March 3, 1974, with 346 persons on board killed. His decision resonates today, as there are serious questions about Airbus’ decision to build a monster carrier instead of several smaller planes.
Donald Douglas was one of a small group of well-educated aviation engineering giants, most of whom were named in the article, who made great contributions to our airpower while preserving their ideals in the workplace.