March 1, 2011

Word for Word

[John T. Correll’s] article “The Real Twelve O’Clock High” was fascinating, informative, and entertaining as only he can write. I’ve read it twice [January, p. 70].

When I retired in 1979, I talked leadership at USAA for 16 years until 1995. I had a nine-hour workshop (three hours per day, three days), and I used the film as a training aid. I averaged eight workshops per year for 12 years—I’ve seen the film well over 100 times: I know all the lines.

The film portrays different leader styles most accurately. The insights about the film and actors vs. real crew members gave me information I’ve always wanted to know. Thank you, thank you.

CMSAF Robert D. Gaylor,

USAF (Ret.)

San Antonio

It was with a great deal of interest that I read the article “The Real Twelve O’Clock High.” I remember going through Officer Training School at Lackland AFB, Tex., during the fall of 1962 and watching that movie as part of leadership training. The movie made a great impression on me as it solidified leadership concepts that previously had been somewhat vague.

I am now (and have been for seven years) a member of the Political Science Department faculty at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. Our department conducts a master’s degree program in public administration, and I teach a graduate level course in leadership and organizational behavior. I use “Twelve O’Clock High” in the early part of the course as a means to demonstrate effective and ineffective leadership styles.

In the early 1950s, Ohio State University and the University of Michigan conducted separate studies related to leadership. Both universities arrived at the same conclusion: that effective leaders have a great deal of concern for their people, and a great deal of concern for accomplishing the mission.

In the movie, Colonel Davenport demonstrated a great deal of concern for his people, but very little concern for accomplishing the mission. As a result, the 918th Bomb Group was beset with problems which resulted in operational screw ups and high casualties.

When General Savage becomes the group commander, his focus shifts dramatically to mission accomplishment, even going back to basics, including practicing formation flying. Over a period of time, the group’s combat losses diminish, morale begins to increase, and the group’s aircrews begin to develop a sense of pride in what they are accomplishing.

Concurrently, General Savage’s leadership style shifts from extreme focus on mission accomplishment to a style with a great deal of emphasis on both mission accomplishment, as well as concern for his people. The dramatic moment of the story occurs when Savage has his mental breakdown. The lesson here is that many times, most especially in a combat environment, a leader’s concern for both mission accomplishment and concern for his people are not always compatible. When faced with this dilemma, a leader must place mission before people.

I am sure that there are many readers who have been in that situation, knowing full well that a combat mission may result in having aircrews killed or wounded. This dilemma is probably more prevalent in the Army and in the Marines.

I am very sorry to see that the Air Force no longer uses “Twelve O’Clock High” as a leadership training device. With a few minutes spent telling young audiences about the background of the movie, as well as leadership dilemmas and what leadership is all about, the movie could easily be brought back for use in the many leadership teaching environments that the Air Force conducts.

Lt. Col. Ramon E. de Arrigunaga,

USAF (Ret.)

Coral Gables, Fla.

I am sending you a heads-up about the character Maj. Harvey Stovall in “Twelve O’Clock High.” Mr. John Correll writes that the real-life counterpart did not exist or the character was probably named after Stoval Field in Ariz. This is not true.

My grandfather, Col. William Howard “Hank” Stovall, deputy chief of staff, Eighth Air Force, was the person on whom that character was based. Lt. William H. Stovall, Yale class of 1916, flew in World War I with the 13th Pursuit Squadron, 2nd Fighter Group, with Maj. Carl Spaatz. He also knew Monk Hunter in World War I, as he and Hunter took the boat over to France together. My grandfather was one of the original founding officers of the Eighth, as he had re-enlisted on Dec 10th, 1941, and had gotten back in touch with both Spaatz and Hunter following the outbreak of our country getting into World War II. He and Sy Bartlett and Beirne Lay knew each other through his association with General Spaatz.

My grandfather served with Hunter, Kepner, and Spaatz in World War II. Even though he was in Fighter Command, and not Bomber Command, Sy Bartlett told him that the character of Maj. Harvey Stovall was a character portrayal of him. He was involved in the “Bolero Movement” from the beginning, as he helped to gather the first 180 aircraft to send over to England in 1942. I hope this clears up the missing information about Maj. Harvey Stovall.

Michael Gavin Carter Webster

Horn Lake, Miss.

The Vets Were There

Once again a great article about Desert Storm in your January issue. I do have to take issue with the author’s statement, “Only a few senior commanders had combat experience” [“Desert Storm,” January, p. 40].

When my squadron (706th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Air Force Reserve) of A-10s landed, we had seven Vietnam Veterans (five OV-10, one A-37, and one F-100), plus our wing commander (F-105). We were tasked to speak to the other six squadrons on the “fog” of war. The average pilot’s age in our unit was 42 years old. We all stayed in the Reserve because we all wanted another shot at combat. We also managed to bring all our planes and people back safely.

Col. Craig Mays,

USAFR (Ret.)

Mandeville, La.

Think About Base Security

Since it wasn’t mentioned in the article, I hope that the Air Force’s most recent technology vision paper has not ignored the growing vulnerability of our air bases [“Over the Horizons,” January, p. 34]. The importance of examining technologies that could make future air bases less vulnerable is apparent in the recent report of a wargame conducted by Australian analysts which showed the US losing because airfields on Taiwan were taken out on the first day. Instead of concentrating only on technologies that enhance our ability to operate from our current air bases with their long, hard runways and concentrated support facilities, as has generally been the case in the past, it would be wise for airmen to consider how land forces adapted to advances in the firepower’s lethality by abandoning their use of forts. In this case we would emphasize STOVL and STOL technologies that would make possible air base concepts using dispersal, mobility, and deception to reduce the vulnerability of our aircraft when they are on the ground.

Lt. Col. Price T. Bingham,

USAF (Ret.)

Melbourne, Fla.

The People, Not the Government

Seventeen members of China National Aviation Corporation Association recently spent two weeks in China visiting some of the haunts of Hump pilots. Your article “Pacific Push” indicates an increasing hostility on the part of [China’s] military toward the US military, and the move to Guam a signal of US determination to keep a presence in the Western Pacific [January, p. 46]. While that is certainly a viewpoint determined by significant intelligence and knowledge, our visit indicated a genuine respect and gratitude by Chinese citizens for the US help during World War II. In Hong Kong, Kunming, Lushio, Pianma, Dali, and Nanjing, our members were honored with repeated ceremonies. We were told that the Chinese public is now aware of US sacrifices during the war. Two new museums have been recently dedicated to honor the Flying Tigers and CNAC, as well as the American military. In Nanjing, a beautiful monument lists the names of more than 2,200 Americans lost fighting for China against Japanese invasion. An addition was added in 2009 to display documents and memorabilia of US fliers while Glenn Miller music plays as background. It was comforting to know that there is recognition of our role by the public if not the government.

Robert L. Willett

Merritt Island, Fla.

Bye-Bye Blackbird

Thanks for the walk down memory lane (“Going Nowhere Fast” by Jeffrey T. Richelson) [p. 56]. The SR-71 was an awesome asset, one I was proud to be associated with, and presented a capability that wasn’t adequately replaced for years. I’d forgotten how hard the Air Force tried, unsuccessfully, for years to kill it. Its demise was ultimately used to successfully argue the appropriations case for the new stealth assets then being rolled out, but happened well ahead of the end of its operational value.

Lt. Col. Scott A. Wilhelm,

USAF (Ret.)

Kansas City, Mo.

On behalf of the men and women who worked with the SR-71 Blackbird program over many years, I would like to thank Jeffrey T. Richelson for his story, “Going Nowhere Fast” (p. 56, January), informing the readers about the demise of the aircraft. There have been many stories about who was in favor of keeping the SR-71s and who was not. Richelson’s article was well-balanced and right on target.

The SR-71 is the only platform I know of that could penetrate hostile territory, accomplish wide-area synoptic coverage, and still survive. Its ability to simultaneously gather radar, optical, and Elint intelligence in one pass over a high-threat area is unsurpassed.

Col. Richard Graham,

USAF (Ret.)

Plano, Tex.

“Going Nowhere Fast” raised disturbing questions about past leadership of the US Air Force, and it has worrisome implications for today. It is apparent from your article and other open-source trade press that for a decade the Chiefs and their staffs engaged in bureaucratic obstructionism and creative foot-dragging in order to prevent the return of the SR-71s to operational service. It is troubling that these actions were taken while disregarding valid and urgent operational requests. But senior generals are charged with juggling requirements and allocating limited funding. Hard, unpopular decisions are often required that are in hindsight sometimes found to be suboptimal.

A far more serious problem is the obvious and successful attempt to subvert the will of Congress. Our democracy is built on the bedrock concept of overall civilian control of the military. What does the future hold if senior officers can act, albeit in good faith, in what they feel are the best interests of the service when such actions are contrary to the expressed instructions of our elected representatives? Congress saw the need for the Blackbirds to fly again and allocated funding to do so. The USAF leadership wanted to keep the aircraft retired; they refused to spend the money, and they ignored congressional orders. Is this the way we want our military personnel to respond, putting their plans for the operation of the Air Force ahead of the will of the people, as voiced by Congress

Lt. Col. Ed Cobleigh,

USAF (Ret.)

Paso Robles, Calif.

Welcome Back, ROTC

Mr. Hebert’s editorial, “Replanting ROTC,” captures succinctly the issue of returning ROTC to the Ivys [February, p. 4]. At the peak of the anti-Vietnam protests, a regent at a prestigious Mid-western university said it best: ROTC does not exist to bring the military to the campus; it exists to bring core American values into the military. It is the principal function of our armed forces to stand as a line between America and those who seek to destroy America. There is a direct link between our ability to remain a free nation and the intellect nurtured by our university system. Denying ROTC as a matter of university policy rather than making it a matter of intellectual choice smacks of snobbery and a Pollyanna vision of true learning. My Ivy, Georgetown University, has long recognized its critical role in developing leaders for the broadest spectrum of American society, including the armed forces.

Truly, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was never the issue but the guise by which certain Ivys deny ROTC. Doing so curtails a university role in shaping American policy, thereby affecting critical outcomes. The Harvard School of Government, catering to midcareer and senior military officers, produces excellent managers, but that is not enough. Many times, the clearest thinking and best ideas on critical issues come from the junior officer ranks. When certain Ivys prohibit ROTC, they tacitly surrender academic and leadership high ground.

Our adversaries around the world are defeated first and most certainly by intellect developed through the American university system. In fact there is no crisis, national security or otherwise, facing America that cannot be solved by the brain power and leadership being developed in our university classroom.

The Ivys denying an ROTC presence is akin to a sausage factory denying components of a successful recipe; the product is not quite right. Even worse in the case of a university, no matter its storied history, it is a down payment on irrelevance. Get back in the game Ivy, America deserves it. There is more at stake than sausage.

Lt. Col. Tom Brannon,

USMC (Ret.)

Ridgecrest, Calif.


My comments regarding “Flashback,” p. 79 of the January 2011, Air Force Magazine: Colonel Stapp was a medical doctor and also a mechanical engineer. One reason he did these tests was, he could not as a medical doctor request or place someone other than himself in harm’s way.

Murphy’s Law also spread like wildfire throughout the R & D community because of a comment made by Capt.Edward A. Murphy to Colonel Stapp following a test, when no data was collected. At the time of the incident, I heard that Murphy’s statement to Stapp was, “The wires were crossed; no data.”

Colonel Stapp was given formal recognition by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for the work he did at the deceleration track in New Mexico.

Maj. Paul L. Landry,

USAF (Ret.)

San Antonio


As far as the “Leadership Lacking” comment on the article “Etchberger, Medal of Honor” is concerned, my question is what kind of leader/leaders would direct individual actions in direct violation of Geneva Convention rules [Letters: Leadership Lacking?” January, p. 6] Should we expect others to “play by the rules” when we don’t

I found the letter subtitled “Cost-cutting Recommendations” quite interesting. I don’t know why the recommendation wasn’t also to eliminate Naval Aviation—if the Marines can get close air support from the Air Force, why can’t the Navy get theirs as well? The Marines do fight quite well, so maybe we should increase their end strength and totally eliminate the Army—think of those cost savings. I think one reason the Marines have been so successful is because they have ready access to all needed assets. I think anyone who has been in a command position will agree that to truly control your destiny, you need to have the assets when needed, and that doesn’t mean request them from a sister service or unit.

Col. Thom Weddle,

USAF (Ret.)