Sept. 1, 2011

Where’s the Beef

I read with a great deal of interest the article about UFOs in the June issue of the Air Force Magazine [“USAF and the UFOs,” p. 68]. I drew a conclusion: “When are we going to quit wasting paper on stories with absolutely no scientific evidence?”

I have flown in Air Force cockpits for over 69 years, in every country in the world and including Area 51 and Tonopah. I have never seen anything in the air that I [couldn’t identify].

You can get wild stories from anyone who is interested in getting published including a few beardy people who camp around Site 51 and Tonopah.

Brig. Gen. Charles E. Yeager,

USAF (Ret.)

Penn Valley, Calif.

Back in the 1930s

In your Pollyanna-ish June editorial entitled “Into the Rat Holes and Safe Houses” [p. 4], you state unequivocally that “the radical Islam advanced by al Qaeda and the Taliban is being rejected throughout the Arab world.” This is a breathtaking inversion of reality. The “radical” part of Islam is the political part, the part that wages a war of enslavement against humanity, the part that bin Laden and his like-minded compatriots and imitators were fighting for. When a government declares itself to be an Islamic state, or puts Islam front and center in its constitution, it is declaring war against free men. It has rejected the concept of Islam as a mere religion, and is instead embracing Islam the totalitarian political cult. The so-called Arab Spring is the rise of political Islam in the Middle East. The only freedom being sought there is the freedom to “purify” society by expunging all non-Islamic influence from it, including specifically Western influence. We are back to the 1930s, witnessing the rise of a virulent global fascism. Only this time, the fascists will be armed with nuclear weapons and wedded to Islamic apocalyptic beliefs.

Maj. Robert D. Klimek,

USAF (Ret.)

Fort Smith, Ark.


In response to Adam Hebert’s editorial, “Lies, Damn Lies, and the Trillion-Dollar F-35” [July, p. 4], I would like to acquaint him with the other half of my article—the part that presents the other side of the story. Here is [where you can find] the other half in full: [http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2011/06/06/357560/f-35-strikes-trillion-dollar-mark-for-maintenance-bills.html].

Stephen Trimble


Sutton, Surrey, UK

Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye

While looking over a list of the attendees at a reserve general officer conference in the Pentagon in the late 1980s, I recognized the name John Alison [“Alison,” August, p. 34]. On the second day of the conference, I brought with me my treasured 1951 copy of Back to Mandalay by Lowell Thomas. The book, now long out of print, is a wonderful overview on the role of airpower in Burma and the history of air commando operations. All the key players, Phil Cochran, John Alison, Orde Wingate, Louis Mountbatten, and Joe Stilwell are wonderfully portrayed. Each chapter is entitled with a short Rudyard Kipling quote and illustrated with a small Milt Caniff cartoon.

I approached the good general a bit hesitatingly and said something to the effect, “Sir, I just want to tell you what your father and the others did in Burma was a remarkable achievement considering the tenacity of the enemy, the logistics chain, and the brutal climate.” A little bemused smile crossed his face, but I continued. “Sir, I was in high school in the mid-50s when I bought this book. It made a singular impression and it is what really motivated me to join the Air Force and to try to find a way to get into air commando operations. I volunteered for Vietnam and in 1965 finally succeeded in getting assigned to the wing in Nha Trang. In other words, your father is in a very real way responsible for where I am today.”

With that wonderful grin of his, he looked up at me and said, “Sonny, what the heck do you mean my father? That was me.” I will always treasure that moment and our subsequent friendship. We will not see his like again.

It was an honor to know him. He exemplified everything that airpower is and means.

Maj. Gen. Jacques P. Klein,

USAF (Ret.)

McLean, Va.

What a jolt I received as I read General Alison’s story, when I realized that he was “that captain” who was the ranking pilot at Abadan, Iran, who, along with several second lieutenants test-hopped the A-20s that Lockheed techs, along with a few NCOs, were reassembling (if arriving by sea) or inspecting and repairing (if they flew in from the US). I had long since forgotten his name until I read the article, followed by some Internet research. He gave me my first flight (in the nose of an A-20), a thrilling experience for a young corporal. When we landed I told him that was my first time in the air, and he replied, “You should have told me and I would have done some [aerobatics].” I am glad I hadn’t done so, as it was scary enough anyway with low-level passes over the airfield. He used to come into the Quonset hut where five NCOs, myself included, had established the first military manned point-to-point “high speed CW comm station” in Africa or the Middle East. He was always moaning about not being in combat. I remember when he left, leaving the flight checks to the young lieutenants. Of course, they were old-timers compared to the pilots who came down from Russia to accept and fly the aircraft north.

CWO4 Arthur W. Elkins,

USAF (Ret.)

Belton, Mo.

Seven Years To Drop a Bridge?

As a nav-bomb type, I have to ask one question: Did anyone ever think of sending a three-ship B-52 cell against the bridge [“Breaking the Dragon’s Jaw,” August, p. 58]? Trained as a bombardier, I then flew in the backseat of the F-4 Phantom. Believe me, no amount of derring-do on the part of fighter pilots will ever match the awesome power of a B-52 strike.

History shows that we won World War II in less than four years. Your story shows that it took us seven years during the Vietnam War to drop one bridge.

Maj. Vern Pall,

USAF (Ret.)

Tucson, Ariz.

The US Navy possessed an asset that could have destroyed the Thanh Hoa Bridge and the air defenses around it in one afternoon. It was the World War II battleship USS New Jersey. The New Jersey was reactivated and served on the gun line 1968-69 off the coast of Vietnam. Its main armament—nine 16-inch guns—could fire a shell the size of a Volkswagen to a range of over 21 miles.

With the bridge about 11 miles inland from the coast, the New Jersey could have stood eight to nine miles off the coast and destroyed the bridge as well as decimated the surrounding air defenses without risk to any Air Force or Navy planes or pilots except for a spotter plane.

Why was this not done? The big brass with their multimillion-dollar modern weapons systems, did not want to admit that an obsolete 25-year-old World War II battlewagon could destroy a target that modern weapons systems could not, and at the cost of about $1,200 per shell. Instead, they expended and risked multimillion dollar airplanes and irreplaceable pilots over a several-year period.

None of the brass who conducted the Thanh Hoa Bridge campaign have given adequate answers as to why the USS New Jersey was not used to do this. Sadly, the author also decided to ignore this controversy.

The New Jersey was eventually taken off the gun line because the enemy complained that its belligerence was interfering with peace talks.

This is what we got from the idiots in the State Department during the period: “Impress the enemy by negotiating from a position of weakness.”

Eugene Bokor


Chrome Dome

What a great issue of my favorite magazine! I especially enjoyed the Chrome Dome article as I was stationed at Columbus AFB, Miss., from 1959 to1965 and flew many of these flights carrying nuclear weapons [“The Perils of Chrome Dome,” August, p. 54]. Our unit had been selected to fly 24-hour missions to evaluate the concept of Chrome Dome, which we did for nine months. We started with two flights a day and transitioned to four a day, which was quite a task for aircrews and maintenance. We flew these “training” missions in 1959-60 and on one of these flights we had a collision between a -52 and a -135 over the Kentucky-Tennessee border. This occurred at night during the first air refueling. I was in the lead -52 and we had connected with the tanker when the pilot of the other -52 said over the air that he had overshot and was going to slide out to the right and come in again.

There was an explosion. The tanker went straight down and the B-52 came apart. Four people escaped from the B-52 and no one from the tanker. We reported the accident to 2nd Air Force command post and continued our flight. After the nine months were up, we went back to normal training routine until the actual Chrome Dome missions began later in earnest. I firmly believe that these missions played a major role during the height of the Cold War.

Col. Ollie H. Edwards,

USAF (Ret.)

Auburn, Ala.

As a retired boom operator of 33 years’ service, I believe Ms. Grant’s choice of words—”The KC-l35’s boom struck the B-52’s longeron, and the left wing of the bomber snapped off”—to be misleading.

Using a verb to describe action by the KC-l35 boom in downing a B-52 does not seem accurate. To me it infers possible inappropriate action by the boom operator.

A more accurate description might be that the bomber overran the tanker due to not following airspeed approach procedures and reporting “stabilized” in the “precontact” position as required.

Air Force boom operators have done, and continue to do, a great job since the late 1940s. It was an honor to serve as such for 30 years.

CMSgt. Richard P. Hoff,

USAF (Ret.)

Omaha, Neb.

The story, “The Perils of Chrome Dome,” was interesting reading. I participated in Chrome Dome as an electronic warfare officer on a B-52D while stationed at Glasgow AFB, Mont., in the 91st Bomb Wing, 322nd Bomb Squadron. We primarily flew the “North Country” route which was the “big box around Canada” mentioned on p. 55. There were two air refuelings, each one 100,000-plus pounds of fuel being unloaded. One refueling took place off the New England coast and the second was over Alaska. Each Chrome Dome flight was made by pairs of B-52s. Each aircraft had a third pilot and, sometimes, a third navigator on board.

One of the electronic warfare officer’s duties was to monitor the high-frequency radio for important traffic addressed to Sky King. In doing this there were lots of interesting things to hear over the HF radio. One was a series of sounds identical to the Kabuki theater. It made for somewhat boring flying and listening to the radio helped to relieve the boredom.

Lt. Col. James E. Bradley,

USAF (Ret.)

Westmoreland, Kan.

Remembering Fallen Heros

Thank you for the article “To the Top of Takur Gar” [July, p. 52]. It brought back memories, but of a different kind. Our son, a lieutenant commander in the US Navy SEALs (now commander), swam the English Channel in 2004 in memory of Neil Roberts—12 hours and 24 minutes, 38,600 strokes. He raised over $20,000 for the Naval Special Warfare Foundation, which helped Neil’s family.

There is a small church in Galway, Ireland, the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, built in 1320, which today serves both Catholics and Episcopalians. In the very back is a WWI life-size brass statue of a tired soldier. At the bottom of this statue is the following engraving. I believe it says it all about soldiers like Chapman, Cunningham, and Roberts: “Pass not this shrine in sorrow, but in pride and may you live as nobly as they died.”

Col. John Doolittle,

USAFR (Ret.)

Bodega Bay, Calif.

Radioactive Return

I suspect your mailbox is on overload since publication of your article on the Nagasaki mission [“Near Failure at Nagasaki,” July, p. 60]. Here goes one more piece. Forgive me.

Two stories relating to the Nagasaki mission came back to me. They are of some amusement but they probably weren’t at the time.

Fred Olivi, as part of his memories of the mission, told the story about landing on Okinawa. As they were getting out of the plane at Okinawa, Sweeney warned every one of the crew not to say anything about the mission. It was around lunch time so they got in the chow line to get something to eat. As they were going down the line, one of the KP guys said to Fred, “Did you hear about the big explosion up north? It was a new bomb. It was the size of a golf ball.”

The other fellow I came to know was on the Enola Gay mission. After the surrender they got to go up to Japan to see the damage. They were not allowed to go to Hiroshima, but they were permitted to visit Nagasaki. The fellow I’m writing about was Catholic. You know that Catholic missionaries got as far as Nagasaki many years ago. They built a church there. When the Tibbets crew was touring Nagasaki, they passed by the ruins of the Catholic church. My guy picked up a piece of rubble as a souvenir. He took it home with him and had it around the house using it as a door stop or some such unimportant household use. A priest was visiting him at the house in south Chicago and my friend pointed out the piece of rock to him. The priest inquired if it was radioactive. No one had thought of such a thing before. Sometime thereafter, my friend found a way to have it checked for radioactivity. It was radioactive. Another priest who was a missionary in Japan visited his family sometime later and he agreed to take the piece back to Japan and return it to Nagasaki. Probably one of the few times a souvenir ever got back to its place of origin.

Your piece will be the principal topic of discussion at the next WWII Roundtable we will be holding. This has been going on for more than 25 years.

William A. Rooney

Schaumburg, Ill.

Please thank John Correll for another great Air Force Magazine article.

“Majestic” does not express how inspiringly he told the Nagasaki story—another “keeper” for our family library.

David Chigos

San Diego

No, Please, Continue

Robert S. Dudney’s title to President Carter’s statement in “Verbatim” [Oh, Please Shut Up,” June, p. 28] is unprofessional, discourteous, unnecessary, and childish. Whether I agree with our current and former Presidents or not, I was taught to respect them. This is the worst insult in Air Force Magazine that I have seen in over 40 years of reading it.

Lt. Col. Wayne R. Mathis,

USAF (Ret.)

Fairfax, Va.

I was surprised and disappointed while reading “Verbatim” in the June 2011 issue to see the heading “Oh, Please Shut Up,” referring to comments by former President and Commander in Chief Jimmy Carter. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, I do not think it is appropriate to tell a former President to “shut up.” I hope this was a temporary oversight by Robert Dudney.

Col. Bob Kinsella,

USAF (Ret.)

Chatsworth, Calif.

Coming In From the Cold War

Perhaps this has already been pointed out, but in the August 2011 magazine under “Cold War Scrapbook, p. 69, in the photo of Lt. Gen. Curtis LeMay attending his daughter’s birthday party, the General has his hands in his pockets. I realize that this was an informal setting, but when I was in the active Air Force from 1959–1963, we were instructed with absolute conviction, never to put our hands in our pockets when wearing the uniform. It could lead to an Article 15 depending on the TI. Perhaps it is a bit overzealous, but it caught my eye!

SMSgt. Bernie Pfenning,

USAF (Ret.)

South Burlington, Vt.

Photographs only capture an instant in time.—the editors

I really enjoyed the pictures from the “Cold War Scrapbook” in the August issue. You should do that more often, like have bases in England, Japan, or Germany through the years, etc. Thanks.

MSgt. Aaron Sikes,

USAF (Ret.)

Alamogordo, N.M.

My sincere congratulations for the feature “Cold War Scrapbook,” compiled by Frances McKenney. Excellent recap in capturing the places and mood of such a pivotal period in our nation’s history.

Lt. Col. Frederick B. Wynn,

USAF (Ret.)

Basye, Va.

Two problems—first, excellent editorial, right down to the last sentence. “Airpower isn’t going anywhere [“Editorial: The False Death of Airpower,” August, p. 4]. With all my heart I hope it’s going everywhere, stronger, modernized, and ever skyward.

Second, as a former Minot missle man and chief of missile and nuclear safety for 15th AF, I must strongly object to the almost total lack of recognition of the missile force in your truly captivating “Cold War Scrapbook.” C’mon guys, you can do better than one picture!

Lt. Col. David B. Bates,

USAF (Ret.)

Duncanville, Tex.

Eight former missileers submitted photos. Three appeared in print. The other five photos appear in “Cold War Scrapbook II” on our website at http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2011/August%202011/0811scrapbook.aspx.—the editors

Dueling Historians Come To A Draw

Historian Walter Boyne was quite correct when he stated that the British use of Vulcan bombers during the 1982 Falkland Islands war “proved highly effective” [“Airpower Classics,” June, p. 80]. The war in the Falkland Islands (known as the Malvinas War in Argentina) again illustrated the vital importance of air superiority.

Although both the US Navy official report and historian Norman Polmar rightly concluded that the material damage caused by the Vulcan strikes was small [“Letters: Dueling Historians,” August, p. 8], the strategic effect of the long-range Vulcan missions was profound.

Because British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher demonstrated the will to commit long-range strategic bombers to the fight, the Argentine dictator, Lt. Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, was convinced that the “Iron Lady” also had the will to use that airpower against his junta (although later the British secretary of state for defense announced no such attacks would occur). This resulted in what Air Vice Marshal Tony Mason described as “a defensive redeployment” by Mirage fighters to the mainland (Mason, Air Power: A Centennial Appraisal, London: Brassey’s, 2000, p. 65). Overruling the chief of the Argentine Air Force, General Galtieri ordered that air superiority fighters defend Buenos Aires.

By all accounts, the Argentine Air Force acquitted itself admirably during the campaign, sinking several British vessels with the Exocet missile. Were the Argentine fighters able to operate out of Port Stanley airfield and establish air superiority over the Falklands, the outcome may have been quite different.

Without Argentine air superiority, the Royal Navy effectively employed sea power as the dominant arm in this campaign. The Vulcan strikes demonstrated that one must never underestimate the impact of employing long-range strategic airpower.

Dr. Chuck Dusch

Assistant Professor, Department of History

US Air Force Academy

Colorado Springs, Colo.

I would like to offer a correction to the letter entitled “Tanker,Tanker,Tanker” by Mr. George Keeler in your June 2011 issue [“Letters, p. 9]. Prior to the KB-50 which first flew in December 1955 and accepted by the Air Force in January 1956, Boeing was in the tanker business since the KB-29P. My father flew these as an aircraft commander (tail fin No. 4484120) assigned to Biggs Air Force Base, El Paso, Tex., in 1950 to 1952 with the 97th Air Refueling Squadron of the 97 Bombardment Wing of SAC. I still have the original instruction manual.

Doug Thornley

Orland Park, Ill.

I look forward to and enjoy the “Airpower Classics” feature in each month’s issue. The feature is always interesting and enlightening, although the choice of subjects is probably surprising to some readers. However, the In Brief portion of the MiG-23 Flogger feature (August issue) erroneously included the AA-10 and AA-12 air-to-air missiles among the MiG-23’s armament. No operational MiG-23 ever carried them, although a proposed upgrade to late model MiG-23s had the AA-12 as an option. If the armament listed was specific to the MiG-23MF, it should have omitted the AA-11, which was only employed by the MiG-23MLD, the final interceptor version of the series.

Lt. Col. Barry A. Miller,

USAF (Ret)

Poquoson, Va.

The Last Casualty

I was the gunnery officer on the USN LSMR 409 which had the mission of protecting Cho-Do and the other islands from land invasion [“April 15, 1953,” June, p. 54]. We were visited nightly by “Bed Check Charlie” who dropped grenades but caused no damage but loss of sleep.

Our five-inch, 40 mms and 20 mms were not effective. We did mount a .50-caliber machine gun from our landing force gear and this seemed to make him leery of us.

Our closest call to serious damage occurred when the radar control guns on Cho-Do picked us as the target instead of the low flying plane. They were close but no hits before we got them to cease fire. Thanks for the memories.

Capt. Charles Fox,

USNR (Ret.)


The “no US ground troop has been killed in an enemy aircraft attack since the Korean War” article in the June magazine brought back some memories. Fourteen months before that 15 April 1953 attack, I was a member of a four man radar maintenance team that installed a radar system on the North Korean island (Cho-Do) where that attack by a “Bed Check Charlie” occurred.

After turning down an electronics technician job offer from Hughes Aircraft Corp. in July 1951 because of a pending Korean War involuntary one-year extension of my initial three-year USAF enlistment, I instead elected, as a USAF buck sergeant to re-enlist for another three years (with a whopping $180 re-enlistment bonus). I was subsequently assigned to Japan and was TDY out of Tachikawa Air Base to Korea in early February 1952 to install a World War II-vintage radar system that had been refurbished at Tachikawa.

We were briefed in Seoul and then took off in a C-47 for a landing on the northern beach of the island of Cho-Do. It is located about 35 miles north of the 38th parallel about four miles off the west coast of North Korea (about seven miles southwest of another island of about the same size in the mouth of the Taedong (aka Chinampo) River leading up to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. The C-47 was piloted by Brig. Gen. Ernest K. Warburton who informed us in a preflight briefing that the beach was about 8,000 feet long, but failed to mention that there was a large rocky area extending into the water near the middle of the beach. We first saw the obstacle as he headed for it and made a tight fighter-like left turn to land on the eastern half of the beach. A satellite view of that beach today, with protruding land mass near the center, still shows it as a relatively desolate area.

The Navy shuttled us to the installation site on the eastern side of the island where the radar system truck and antenna trailer that they had delivered earlier were located, where we installed the World War II-vintage Signal Corps SCR-270 search radar system, with water cooled triode transmitter and “bedspring-type” stacked 32-element 106 MHz dipole antenna system.

The same type of radar system, with two stacked antenna systems (64 elements to narrow the antenna beam width and concentrate the power), was used to bounce the first radar signal off the moon from Fort Monmouth, N.J., on 10 January 1946 under Project Diana. And an earlier version of the SCR-270 was the radar system that detected aircraft of unknown origin approaching Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

The Cho-Do system was used to extend the range and improve the detection capability (wide antenna beam and resulting large image on the PPI-scope) for the 502nd Tactical Control Group (TCG) Aircraft Control and Warning (AC&W) coverage of MiG Alley to the Yalu River MiG staging area about 85 miles north of the island. The Russian built MiG-15 aircraft of that era were flown by Chinese and North Korean pilots. The later version MiG-21s were flown during the Vietnam War. The SCR-270 system performed as expected and added significantly to our capability to intercept the MiGs.

I also have some not-so-fond memories of North Korean “Bed Check Charlies,” with, thankfully, their not-so-accurate crude bombing capabilities, that provided some nighttime harassment during the radar installation period.

Col. Gene Fenstermacher,

USAF (Ret.)

Sierra Vista, Ariz.