March 1, 2007

Billy Mitchell

Dr. Rebecca Grant is a jewel for our Air Force and the Air Force Association. She is a superbly credentialed observer of our institution, articulate, with a keen sense of history. She has written extensively. Her piece entitled “The Billy Mitchell Syndrome” in the December issue [p. 52], for these and other reasons, got my attention. In it, she expresses views on airpower advocacy which are blissful, nostalgic, … and wrong.

Dr. Grant’s treatment of Mitchell’s past is no doubt historically accurate. Her other vignettes may be equally accurate, but they lack context. Mike Dugan remains an icon for many of us. He had no small role in propelling my tenure over the years. But what Grant doesn’t relate in her account of General Dugan’s relief is the undeniable fact that Goldwater-Nichols (GN) was very much in its youth at that moment. It is easy to conclude Secretary Cheney’s decision was taken because of General Dugan’s advocacy of airpower. I don’t think so. At least not to the degree Grant suggests. Had Gen. Dugan’s points been offered in a more academic setting, I’m inclined to believe the outcome would have been different. Instead, they were made while our national policy vis-à-vis Iraq was still solidifying, when sensitive negotiations with key allies were still under way, including an effort to secure the theater beddown of hundreds of coalition aircraft. And I would not be surprised if the comments were perceived as contrary to the letter and intent of GN, a change all the services and the Department of Defense resisted at the time. But in the end, GN became the law of the land and it emphasized not independent service action, but that of a cohesive joint team. Grant may see this as the “iron law of jointness.” I don’t.

Dr. Grant then provides commentary on Maj. Gen. Chuck Link’s formulation that America’s ground forces were too eager to engage the enemy … to seek contact. This was a heady time for airpower advocacy, one that Grant celebrates. And there are few airmen at any rank, now or since, who can match Link’s passion or clarity. Link’s underlying argument that the Army and Marine Corps preferred contact to less costly, in blood and treasure, applications of force from the air certainly resonated at the time. May I suggest, however, it is one thing to stake out such a position in peacetime. In this case, circa 1996. But does anyone believe that the United States Army or the United States Marine Corps actually encourages such a notion today … in Iraq or Afghanistan? We as an Air Force have had our own painful experience with eagerness for contact. Some have suggested, for example, the shootdown of two UH-60 helos in Northern Iraq in 1994 as a case in point.

Grant reflects on the takedown of Zarqawi. She laments the “secular religion” of jointness that induced the Air Force to “downplay” its role in that mission. Of course it was an occasion for pride in what airmen can do. But think of this: That command sergeant major on the ground who could have demonstrated his eagerness for contact by assaulting the farmhouse chose instead, contrary to his natural instincts, to rely on airpower to assure ultimate success in the mission. Think of that. If that is the “secular religion” of jointness to which Grant refers, I want more of it.

And now to Dr. Grant’s real point: that “too much modesty for too long” can place the air and space and cyberspace power of our Air Force at risk. This is no doubt true. For me, the question is: Are we at our best when we focus on contribution more than attribution? I think so. Certainly, if the Army and Marine Corps are to grow by 90K personnel, it’s clear that those AF assets that align with that growth should also increase: airlift liaison officers that I count on every day, FACPs that Ron Keys relies on every day, and countless other assets assigned to other Air Force major commanders. But in the end, our ultimate focus must recognize that jointness isn’t a pejorative term, nor is it a notion that diminishes our Air Force. Instead, we have arrived in an era when the Air Force has air, space, and cyberspace missions to perform, though none are like to be “The Mission” in its entirety … that is the Joint Force mission.

Are we diminished if others depend on us? Are we diminished if others take us for granted? Are we diminished if our earlier effective advocacy for effects-based thinking has taken us beyond the traditional focus on how and by whom the results are obtained? Dr. Grant is right in encouraging us to speak crisply and without hesitation about the purposes and relevance of airpower. My only point is that it must be done in full recognition that the Joint Force is more sophisticated, interdependent, and capable than any single service, agency, or discipline. In short, we must in our advocacy emphasize contribution over attribution.

Gen. Norton A. Schwartz


Scott AFB, Ill.

Wow! It’s rare to see a four-star in such a lather. My point was that powerful advocacy of airpower options is actually essential to joint campaign effectiveness. Somewhere, Billy Mitchell is smiling sadly.—Grant Grant

The two recent articles by Rebecca Grant are as absolutely fantastic as they are diverse. We need to see more from her.

Since she wrote the article on the Hellcat [“Cat Against the Sun,” January, p. 74.], I would like to see her write a like article on other WWII aircraft like the P-40. This aircraft was maligned by history, but the facts of its performance in WWII don’t support this record. The P-40 really held its own against all comers when flown properly using the tactics developed by Chennault and other fighter pioneers. Supporting the role of airpower is the P-40 interdiction of the Japanese Army attempt to invade India, potentially kicking the Allies out of China. Flying Tigers were solely responsible for turning back this invasion by strafing and bombing the Japanese on the Burma Road.

Her article on “The Billy Mitchell Syndrome” is a direct hit (shack). Air Force senior leadership would do well to read this article and take it to heart. The recent issue with USAF integrity and the failure of leadership to defend the USAF mission is causing us to lose ground both politically and technically. Ms. Grant’s assessments are excellent and her articles are superb.

William R. Taylor

Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

[Rebecca Grant’s “The Billy Mitchell Syndrome”] was really interesting. But the Serbian conflict wasn’t mentioned at all. Given the Army’s attempt to get in the conflict and miserable, total failure, was that too sensitive for even AFA to mention? Airpower won that one singlehandedly!

There was a question in the article about whether we need a separate Air Force. Aside from the strategic situation, we need a separate Air Force to think airpower and not be distracted by ground force issues. Superb capabilities come from focused attention.

As an aside, my dad was a career Army officer. During WWII he was the point man signing American equipment over to the Russians in Tehran for the Persian Gulf Command. I get excited about USAF capabilities and pointed out what airpower did during the first Gulf War. He curtly informed me you still need “boots on the ground”! I kept my enthusiasm to myself after that. You need boots on the ground some of the time and joint operations, but you need airpower all the time.

Maj. Peter C. Laudieri,

USAF (Ret.)

Fairborn, Ohio

More on Grant

I very much enjoyed Rebecca Grant’s article “Cat Against the Sun” and was in fact a bit pleasantly surprised to see an aircraft never flown officially by the USAAF discussed in Air Force Magazine.

I really do hate to nitpick at a nice piece of work, but it does repeat the old myth that evaluation of Koga’s Zero influenced the development of the Hellcat. According to the article: “Grumman made a test flight with the new engine on July 30 [1942].”

Actually, though Koga’s Zero was discovered on 10 July, it wasn’t delivered to San Diego and brought back up to airworthiness for trials until late September—at which time the first production Hellcats were in the process of being assembled.

Of course, the Navy was perfectly aware that the Zero was faster than a Wildcat and that the Hellcat would need R2800 power to deal with the Zeke—but the admirals didn’t need to capture a Zero to figure that out.

Greg Goebel

Loveland, Colo.

I really enjoyed the excellent article on the F6F Hellcat by Rebecca Grant. The only addition to the Hellcat story that I would like to have included would be mention of Cmdr. Hamilton McWhorter III, USN (Ret.), who was the first F6F ace. In October and November 1943, then Lieutenant Junior Grade McWhorter shot down five Japanese planes, making him the first to destroy five enemy planes while flying the Hellcat. He was also the first to shoot down 10 planes while operating from a carrier.

I had the good fortune to serve as an exchange officer with the Navy in VF-12, the Navy fighter squadron that Mac commanded in 1953. We are still friends and correspond regularly.

Col. Edward J. Mason,

USAF (Ret.)

Alexandria, Va.

Editorial: Second Opinion

You complain that the force structure needs to be increased (a point I agree with) [“Editorial: Second Opinion,” January 2007, p. 2]. However, you then go on and blame the Democrats for not wanting to go along with the CDR report. The reason we cannot painlessly fund a $130 billion defense increase is because the Republicans took us into the war in Iraq. If we had stayed focused on the actual Global War on Terror (radical Islam) instead of the Bush Administration’s fantasy of transforming Iraq into our image, there would be more than enough funding for all of the services.

Sean M. Mallory

Edinboro, Pa.

America’s Airmen

The Air Force Magazine article “America’s Airmen: An Air Force Enlisted Hall of Fame” [January, p. 22] has one significant omission: Cpl. Frank S. Scott, the first Army enlisted man to die in an aviation accident. Corporal Scott was killed on Sept. 28, 1912, along with pilot Lt. Lewis C. Rockwell, when the Wright B aircraft he was flying in suddenly plummeted to the ground at the Signal Corps Army Aviation School, College Park, Md. Scott Air Force Base in Illinois is named after Corporal Scott, the only enlisted airman I am aware of to be so honored.

Charles Downs

Glenelg, Md.

The director of the National Museum of the US Air Force, Maj. Gen. Charles D. Metcalf, USAF (Ret.), wanted us to bring an item to your attention that appears to be misleading in the January 2007 issue of Air Force Magazine.

The item in question is on p. 36 and says that Pitsenbarger’s Air Force Cross, “awarded in 1966, was not rescinded.” This indicates that Pitsenbarger then would have both the Air Force Cross and the Medal of Honor for the same event—which is misleading. While it’s true that the AF Cross was not rescinded, what is not said is that it was upgraded. The AF Cross was upgraded to a Medal of Honor. Therefore, Pitsenbarger does not have both an AF Cross and the MoH— his AF Cross became a Medal of Honor. (This was recently verified by one of our historians at the museum as well as the Air Force Personnel Center.)

Rob Bardua

Public Affairs Division

National Museum of the US Air Force

Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

Thank you for your feature article “America’s Airmen: An Air Force Enlisted Hall of Fame.” These men [and women], and so many others like them who have never been recognized, were and are the strong backbone of our service. Thank God for their bravery, dedication, and integrity. So many of their stories have never been told before and are so long overdue.

I have some problems, however, with what was written about those designated as the earliest recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross (p. 38). According to my source [American Decorations: A List of Awards of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Distinguished Service Medal Awarded Under the Authority of the Congress of the United States, 1862-1926], Sgt.1st Class Harold O. Nicholls, a balloonist, was the first enlisted member of the Balloon Service to receive this award. He was cited in General Order 26, War Department 1919. Sgt. 1st Class Fred C. Graveline, an aerial observer and gunner, received his in General Order 37, War Department 1919. Both of these men stepped into what had been officer positions because there were no officers available. They both are due every honor but I never met a good top sergeant who did not want the facts to be right.

Lt. Col. Richard M. Rupley,

USAF (Ret.)

Chassell, Mich.

The New Aggressors

Your beautiful cover story pictorial of the new aggressor squadrons was a fitting, posthumous tribute to one of the organization’s founding fathers. Lt. Col. Lloyd W. Boothby coordinated the study that pointed to the need for live adversaries and served as the first aggressor squadron commander [“The New Aggressors,” January, p. 52].

In justifying the need for realistic air-to-air training, “Boots” said, “I’d hate to see an epitaph on a fighter pilot’s tombstone that says, ‘I told you I needed training’… How do you train for the most dangerous game in the world by being as safe as possible? When you don’t let a guy train because it’s dangerous, you’re saying, ‘Go fight those lions with your bare hands in that arena, because we can’t teach you to learn how to use a spear. If we do, you might cut your finger while you’re learning.’ And that’s just about the same as murder.”

Boots succumbed to cancer on Nov. 26, 2006. Following a memorial service at Nellis AFB [Nev.], his immediate family and I, his Southeast Asia GIB, were honored to attend the current aggressor’s “Friday night roll call.” That moving experience clearly demonstrated that current squadron members honor their heritage and that the mission of the United States Air Force, “to fly and fight,” will never be forgotten.

Thanks, guys.

Lt. Col. George McKinney,

USAF (Ret.)

Pace, Fla.

Leave It to the Guard

Thanks for the fine article “Leave it to the Guard” in the January 2007 issue of Air Force Magazine. We are appreciative of your continued coverage of the Air National Guard and, specifically, the 116th Air Control Wing at Robins AFB, Ga.

However, I am compelled to correct one part of your report. The article stated, “The ANG crews of the 116th ACW flew missions over Iraq averaging 13 hours in duration.” Actually, our Joint STARS crew members are a unique mix of active-duty Air Force, Guardsmen, and active duty Army members. The 116th ACW was the first-ever blended wing in the Air Force, a point of great pride for our unit and our base. Rarely will you ever encounter such a display of teamwork—men and women from three separate cultures working side by side to accomplish our vital national defense mission.

Again, we appreciate the positive coverage and the quality product you publish monthly for the Air Force audience. However, I would like to see credit given where credit is due. Joint STARS teams earn their successes in the field of battle together. It is our wish to be recognized that way.

Col. James Jones

Commander, 116th Air Control Wing

Robins AFB, Ga.

Eagle Flag

Not a big deal, but I noticed a small error in the “Eagle Flag” article [January, p. 68]. I am quoted on p. 70 of the printed version of the magazine. The quote is accurate, but my duty title is not. I am actually the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, not a “communications airman.” Just thought you’d want to know. Otherwise, great article! Thanks.

Lt. Col. Brian G. May


5th Civil Engineer Squadron

Minot AFB, N.D.

That First Look

Walter Boyne’s superb article on the historical unfolding of airborne early warning, “That First Look” [January, p. 80], notes some examples of contributions of NATO E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, e.g. in Operation Deliberate Force against Bosnian Serb military targets in 1995 and in Operation Eagle Assist in the United States after the Sept.11, 2001, attacks.

NATO AWACS has contributed in other important ways as well, such as continuous operations in support of UN resolutions around the former Republic of Yugoslavia, responding to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait by monitoring air and sea traffic in the eastern Mediterranean and providing continuous airborne surveillance along the Turkey-Iraq border, and, of course, strengthening NATO deterrence in the first instance.

The NATO AWACS program has been unique, and its development was the result of much hard, coordinated work among NATO members. After several years of deliberations, on Dec. 6, 1978, the defense ministers of participating NATO nations signed a Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding for the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) Program. An unprecedented feature of the program was that NATO acquired its own collectively operated and maintained aircraft fleet. This acquisition comprised 18 NATO AWACS aircraft. The AEW&C program also included wide-ranging modification and upgrading of 40 existing NATO Air Defense Ground Environment (NADGE) sites to enable the sites to work effectively with the AWACS.

Fourteen of NATO’s nations contribute to the AEW&C program. NATO states that the aircraft component “is the world’s only integrated, multinational flying unit, providing rapid deployability, airborne surveillance, command, control, and communication for NATO operations.”

A NATO E-3 crashed after an aborted takeoff in Greece on July 14, 1996 (no fatalities), which reduced NATO’s inventory from its original level of 18 to its current level of 17.

NATO initially pledged five NATO AWACS for Operation Eagle Assist in the United States in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, but that number was soon increased to seven. NATO E-3 aircrews from 12 nations, based at Tinker AFB, Okla., participated. They completed their mission in the United States in May 2002. Referring to those aircrews, President Bush stated on May 16, 2002: “On behalf of the American people, I thank them for their important contribution to the defense of this nation.”

Richard Boverie

West Palm Beach, Fla.

Where’s the Outrage

“Eighty-Six Combat Wings” [December 2006, p. 24] gave us an interesting factoid. Between 1996-2000 (the last four years of the Clinton Administration), the Air Force lost three wings. During 2000-2006 (the Bush Administration), the Air Force lost 13 wings. Which period of time featured the loudest howling on the part of Air Force Magazine about how force cuts mean the end of the world as we know it? Well, it wasn’t 2000-2006.

But that’s consistent. When Mr. Rumsfeld decided to dump the decades-old two-MTW sizing yardstick for our force levels because of … well, because he just didn’t like it, I really don’t remember Air Force Magazine screaming about weak-on-defense Republicans. Certainly not the way it did when the Clinton Defense Secretaries did just about anything.

Where was your outrage when President Bush cut large chunks out of the VA budget, while generating hundreds of thousands of new veterans? I can imagine what you’d have said if a Democrat tried to get away with that.

So thank you for finally clearing this up. I now know exactly how much stock to put in your editorial line.

Lance Charnes

Los Angeles

*Small point No. 1: Much, though certainly not all, of what has happened to US force structure in recent years is the result of actions and decisions made in the 1990s. Small point No. 2: Rumsfeld did not dump the two-Major Theater War standard, he increased, in relative terms, US emphasis on irregular warfare.—the editors

Reader Exchange

My thanks to George Hyatt III for his letter about the F-100 in your last issue [“Letters: Thanks for the Pictures,” January p. 6]. I was one of those 1968 “Hun drivers,” having come to Vietnam directly from pilot training and FTU at Cannon AFB, N.M. Our class arrived in-country just in time to cut our battle teeth during the Tet Offensive, and I don’t think we slowed down for the entire year! I believe there were about 20 squadrons spaced from top to bottom in South Vietnam, and we did it all, day after day, night after night, providing close air support to the troops, escort to the spray planes, cover for rescue missions. There was nothing the F-100 pilots weren’t asked to do—and do well. I clearly remember the missions in the delta, at the Seven Sisters, the scary deep night missions around Pleiku as if they were yesterday. The pilots, the plane, and the mission clearly earned any recognition coming their way.

Col. Rich Buickerood,

USAF (Ret.)

Lucas, Tex.

Where IS Tuzla, Anyway

[The December article, “The Night They Saved Vega 31,” p. 71, carried the following statement:]

“To reduce reaction time, several of the helicopters had been ordered to Tuzla, Croatia, and were on alert there.”

Great article, except that the last time I was in Tuzla, I’m pretty sure I was in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Tim Kregel

Mackenbach, Germany

Fresh Air

I have been a member of AFA continuously for more than 30 years. I’ve also enjoyed reading Air Force Magazine each month. Up until approximately one year ago, I could always expect to see mostly the same mundane subjects and feature articles. And, although they were interesting to a point, they never really excited me nor were most very thought provoking. And when I read “Letters to the Editor” it would be a rare day to be able to read critical comments from anyone writing in—again only mundane “yes man” comments that really didn’t address reality or much of anything important happening on Capitol Hill that would critically affect Air Force men and women or our country as a whole.

In other words, Air Force Magazine has never been known for its critical objective analysis or critique of key political issues that DO very much affect the conduct and condition of the United States Air Force and certainly those who currently serve in our military or civilian federal service—or have honorably served.

But I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that Air Force Magazine has been able to evolve and has begun to unashamedly publish and express the opinions and comments of its members and editorial staff on a variety of sensitive political issues, Iraq included, that back in the day most military people, retired or otherwise, would have considered off limits. I applaud AFA for now telling it like it is instead of continuing to publish only innocuous, mundane, or myopic views of the Air Force and military where only good news is the order of the day. If you want that, get Stars and Stripes or the Air Force Times. Keep up the good work.

MSgt. Randolph E. Whitmire,

USAF (Ret.)

Rochester Hills, Mich.

Do you have a comment about a current article in the magazine? Write to “Letters,” Air Force Magazine, 1501 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22209-1198. (E-mail: letters@afa.org.) Letters should be concise and timely. We cannot acknowledge receipt of letters. We reserve the right to condense letters. Letters without name and city/base and state are not acceptable. Photographs can­­not be used or returned.—the editors