The Magnificent Memorial
On Oct. 22, while on an RV trip to our nation’s capital, I visited our Air Force Memorial. Wow, what an awe-inspiring, motivational, provocative, thoughtful, and downright beautiful and meaningful monument to all our Air Force members. I was very moved. I feel the Air Force Association performed outstandingly on this project and every penny was well spent! I am proud to say I am a member of the finest Air Force in the world—and of an outstanding association representing that Air Force.
Lt. Col. Mark Schaffler,
On p. 44-55 of the November 2006 issue is a beautiful depiction of the dedication of the Air Force Memorial. Prominently in it are displayed the names of Air Force Medal of Honor recipients Young, Jackson, Jones, Fleming, Levitow, Bennett, Day, and Sijan. Their acts of valor exemplified the best in man and in the Air Force. Turn the page and you find the worst in man and officer. The expose on General Lavelle proved his conduct was unbecoming of an officer. General Ryan’s failure to court-martial him proves his own lack of backbone and integrity. Generals Gabriel and O’Malley joined with General Lavelle in violating a direct legal order. I personally knew and highly respected Generals Ryan, Gabriel, and O’Malley all these years. Now I find they were unworthy. They clearly violated their oath of office and their command responsibility by illegally ordering pilots under them into “harm’s way” and then compounding that act by ordering the falsification of mission reports. I feel betrayed!
Brig. Gen. Gerald E. McIlmoyle,
I am the son of General Lavelle and read with great interest the article by John T. Correll in the November issue. It was an excellent review of a complicated and for us a still very painful incident. My father was heartbroken, and I saw him physically and mentally broken by the ordeal. He fought back with the help of my mother and recovered his strength, confidence, and pride before he died of a heart attack five years later. In the end, I think he found comfort in knowing that what he did saved some airmen’s lives, and that was worth more to him than four stars.
I would appreciate it if you could pass on my comments to Mr. Correll.
John D. Lavelle Jr.
Foreign Service Officer
US Embassy, New Delhi
I’m still shaking after reading the article about Gen. John D. Lavelle’s ouster as 7th Air Force commander and his subsequently being busted down to major general and getting booted out of the Air Force.
After I reported for duty with the 345th Tactical Airlift Squadron as a C-130E aircraft commander and started flying missions in SEA (October 1971 to November 1972) under 7th Air Force, I learned that our “in-country” boss was a four-star named Lavelle. So I’ve trod the same ground as General Lavelle, at the same time.
I didn’t know much about him at the time, or the politics over at MACV, but I learned soon that he had quietly disappeared and was replaced by a General Vogt. I didn’t think much about it at the time as I was trying to take care of my C-130E crew and complete our missions, too. So General Lavelle and I had the same priorities, at the same time also—“taking care of our crews.”
We used expressions like “The Puzzle Palace” and “Pentagon East” half jokingly when referring to MACV; we grunts had no way of knowing just how right, apparently, we were.
But it seems political correctness reared its ugly head, even back then, before it was ever defined as such. Political correctness—rules of engagement—won out over leadership, efficiency, and victory. Robbed again! We live, burdened by this vicious specter, this hideous apparition, even today.
General Lavelle was also apparently a warrior who wanted to do his best job of taking the war to the enemy, the North Vietnamese. At the same time, he wanted to give his fighter pilots their best chance of mission success and of survival. For being a warrior and a leader of men, General Lavelle’s character is assassinated by his own people, and by us all collectively who give in to political correctness for personal advancement.
I would like to see all the senior officers who took part in this destruction of a man’s reputation—and who might have turned the knife that was stuck in General Lavelle’s back by Melvin Laird (then Secretary of Defense) even a little bit—make a pledge and a life’s mission to resurrect his reputation and his stature as a warrior and a leader of men. Shame on you all!
And shame on you, Air Force Association, for not printing a portrait of General Lavelle in his four-star uniform for the article. PC wins again!
Michael W. Rea
Reading John Correll’s piece on Gen. John Lavelle brought forth wisps of memories of that time. First, I will claim that General Lavelle disrupted North Vietnamese plans to stage “Tet ’72;” for doing that, he was fired.
It is impossible for me to believe that everyone in the chain of command did not know what the North Vietnamese were up to, given the information that had to be available to them. Whether or not [their] level of detailed information extended into the civilian leadership I have no way of knowing, but I will guess that it did.
Was there some political reason not to nip an incipient North Vietnamese offensive in the bud? I don’t know. Certainly there was no military reason not to, and I can only imagine the grand time the mainstream media of the day would have had if the North had launched its offensive on February 15th rather than 45 days later. It’s hard for me to believe that our senior military leaders were content to stand idly by while the North Vietnamese were preparing for an attack that would have been as much political as it was military. If the North Vietnamese had planned on a Tet Offensive for 1972, General Lavelle certainly put a big crimp in their plans.
Reading Mr. Correll’s account of events, clinical as it was, convinces me even more that Gen. John Lavelle was made a scapegoat after some buck sergeant from Udorn wrote his Senator and the plan to spike the North Vietnamese buildup was unraveled.
Lt. Col. Gerald P. Hanner,
John Correll’s “Lavelle” brings back memories. In March 1972, when General Lavelle was relieved of command, I was a captain in the 7th AF staff judge advocate’s office. Col. Donald W. Brewer was deputy SJA. Following his DEROS in July 1972, Colonel Brewer was legal counsel to General Lavelle as he prepared to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September.
After General Lavelle’s death in July 1979, Colonel Brewer spent nearly 20 years researching and writing about the Lavelle case. His goal was to clear the name of his former commander and client. I spoke with Colonel Brewer one last time before he passed away in September 2005. He knew that death would prevent him from reaching his goal and he died deeply disappointed.
Colonel Brewer would be pleased with Mr. Correll’s article. It gives General Lavelle a fair shake. Air Force Magazine, with “Lavelle,” provides vital information not previously publicized.
Over those years, as Colonel Brewer researched and wrote, he and I had many “Lavelle conversations.” Having studied Colonel Brewer’s manuscript, I have a firm grasp on the points of contention. The Correll article is an accurate and fair representation of both sides of the Lavelle case and is an excellent historical analysis.
I have Colonel Brewer’s research materials. Those materials answer the central question posed in the caption accompanying the photo of then Lt. Gen. John W. Vogt Jr.—“What did [General Vogt] really say at the January 1972 Pacific Command meeting in Honolulu?” General Vogt’s statements were critical. He presided at the conference, directly representing Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Vogt Conference (referred to as the “Arc Light Conference,” the correct dates of which are Dec. 4-5, 1971) came as a result of CINCSAC Gen. Bruce K. Holloway’s unilateral decision, in late November 1971, to order a stand-down of B-52 missions engaged in Operation Arc Light over Laos in response to a growing MiG threat—a threat to aircrews for which the rules of engagement permitted no adequate response. No minutes were kept—or other record made—of Arc Light Conference proceedings. However, Maj. Gen. Winton W. Marshall, 7th AF vice commander, who attended the conference as General Lavelle’s representative, prepared a memorandum for the record of General Vogt’s remarks for General Lavelle.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Maj. Gen. Alton D. Slay, 7th AF deputy chief of staff, operations, confirmed the existence of the Marshall Memorandum: “General Marshall came back [from the Arc Light Conference] and wrote a little memo for the record.”
[In an oral history, Lavelle said he] tried to get a copy of the Marshall Memorandum with no success. By the time he tried to get a copy of it, General Vogt was the commander of the 7th Air Force having been promoted to four-star grade and having replaced General Lavelle, and General Lavelle couldn’t get it released. He was not sure 7th Air Force even had it by then, because HQ Air Force was grabbing all of the files pertinent to this and controlling them.
After testifying for two days, Sept. 11 and 12, 1972, General Lavelle followed up with a Sept. 26, 1972 letter to the committee in which he detailed General Vogt’s Arc Light Conference remarks. General Lavelle’s letter contained his recollection of the contents of the Marshall Memorandum.
The Marshall Memorandum must be released by those who have that authority so that the question—“What did General Vogt really say at the Arc Light Conference in Honolulu?”—can be answered once and for all.
Brig. Gen. Edward F. Rodriguez Jr.,
Flying Hours Down, Simulators Up
It was very interesting to read the article “Flying Hours Cut at ACC” and to see that Air Combat Command and USAF are finally giving high-fidelity simulators the credit they deserve [“Washington Watch,” November 2006, p. 12]. Not only do they enhance flying training, but they prolong the life of the aircraft.
As a former aircrew training device superintendent, I worked in the career field for 20 years, of which eight years were on the Hq. TAC/ACC Directorate of Requirements staff. So I feel I am qualified to speak on the subject.
The USAF “leading edge” can be directly attributed to the quality of the aircrew training devices and services they provide. The [article] stated, “Pilots of the F-15C are already using simulators ‘to reduce live-fly training requirements’ [according to an ACC spokeswoman], and ‘similar initiatives are expected in other weapons systems once high-fidelity simulation is available.'” The high-fidelity simulation is available today for all weapon systems.
The problem in the past has been how simulators were supported by the flying commands. ACC never wanted simulators to compete with their training flying hours. ACC has long stated they wanted simulators that will enhance the flying program, but not replace any training flying hours, until General Hawley came on line with his support for Distributed Mission Training (DMT). He agreed to pay for DMT with the flying hours he would save by utilizing the high-fidelity simulators, and the F-15C was the first to reap the rewards of this effort.
In 1990, the average amount spent on training devices for any given ACC platform was about two to three percent of the overall aircraft program. We found as we requested higher fidelity simulators the cost would increase to approximately four to five percent of the overall aircraft program; however, ACC would not support the increased cost.
High-fidelity simulators are available today. Air Mobility Command has procured or is procuring FAA Level D equivalent training devices for all of its aircraft programs. AMC is transferring training tasks from the aircraft into these high-fidelity simulators. ACC too can procure high-fidelity simulators today; all ACC has to do is support their need in the budget.
SMSgt. Gary R. Lewis,
Thanks for the Pictures
I am a life member of AFA and enjoy reading each issue. I see where many excellent aircraft are used in the calendar, including my last aircraft, the B-52, which is still serving so well.
I think that one of the workhorses of SEA is often not given its due. The F-100 was the workhorse I, a forward air controller with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment from 1967 to 1968, used whenever we had troops in contact. I saw many superb fighter pilots engage with accuracy targets in close contact with our forces. It is something to see when a “Hun” is in an extreme dive, with tracers going over the cockpit as he engages with 20 mm. There were other fighters that did not generate the confidence of the F-100 when we required close attack, with our guys going nose to nose with the [Viet Cong] and NVN [North Vietnamese] forces. I would be remiss if I did not recognize the A-1E and A-37 crews who were as brave and accurate in their delivery, but the F-100, with its larger number of resources served USAF well during the period I was in country.
Thanks for the recognition of the Bird Dog in the November edition. [“Airpower Classics: O-1 Bird Dog,” p. 104.]
George R. Hyatt III
More on the Astronauts
I sincerely regret that I made two important omissions among Air Force astronauts, and would like to make amends with this letter [“Air Force Astronauts,” October 2006, p. 72] .
Despite my attempts to locate all Air Force astronauts, I overlooked two very important people, Dr. Ronald M. Sega, undersecretary of the Air Force, and Mr. Gary E. Payton, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs.
Dr. Sega was an instructor pilot in the Air Force and accumulated 420 hours of time in space on two shuttle missions. He retired from the Air Force Reserve as a major general in 2005.
Mr. Payton is a retired colonel, an Air Force pilot, and flew as a payload specialist on the first military shuttle mission.
Obviously, I wish that I could have included this information in the article.
Walter J. Boyne
Thanks for your October ’06 article recognizing the Air Force’s contribution to the NASA astronaut corps, but some corrections are in order to set the record straight. You listed Rusty Schweickart as “the first non-test pilot astronaut.” Rusty (MIT/Physics) was a civilian from the Massachusetts Air National Guard. He was selected in 1963 in the third (“Apollo”) group of astronauts along with five other non-test pilots: USN lieutenants Eugene Cernan (Purdue/Aero) and Roger Chaffee (Purdue/Aero); USMCR Capt. Walter Cunningham (UCLA/Physics); Buzz Aldrin; and me, USAF Capt. William Anders (AFIT/Nuclear Engineering). Cernan flew first in the Gemini program and later on Apollos 10 and 17; Chaffee was killed in the Apollo 1 ground testing fire; Cunningham flew on Apollo 7 (first manned test of the Apollo command and service modules in Earth orbit); I flew on Apollo 8 (first manned test of the Saturn V booster and first flight to the Moon); and Rusty flew last on Apollo 9 (first manned test of the lunar module in Earth orbit). Though not test pilot school grads, all of us had fighter backgrounds as well as advanced technical degrees.
Maj. Gen. William Anders,
Deer Harbor, Wash.
The $120 Billion Cut
Mr. John A. Tirpak’s article “The $120 Billion Cut,” as well-written and informative as it is, failed to fully describe the current and future state of the United States Air Force [November 2006, p. 28]. Mr. Tirpak could write an entire book on the subject and fail to get it all in.
Cutbacks have been happening for over 15 years now.
Base closures have been affecting all of the military branches. The US has been at war in two different regions of the world. And threats from North Korea and Iran, among others, have increased many times over.
Has anyone realized that our government is doing the one thing the USSR could not do? Our own government is dismantling itself. Even the newest fighters, the F-22 and F-35, can’t fight a war without people and all the resources to support it.
Warner Robbins, Ga.