Nov. 1, 2011

Look Out for Falling Yankee Dollars

Your editorial “Britain’s Warning” lamented possible future budget cuts [September, p. 6]. Hey, get used to it. This country is in deep financial trouble, really deep. If you think it’s tight now, wait till the Yankee dollar plummets further on world markets. The country needs to do something meaningful and major—and fast. We have at least a $1.5 trillion annual deficit while Congress and the Administration are killing each other over $150 [billion] cuts over 10 years.

As the third biggest dollar burner after Social Security and Medicare, defense needs to and is going to take its share [of cuts]. Time we stopped defending the world and let others help defend themselves, anyway.

Bill Barry

Huntsville, Ala.

Editor in Chief Hebert’s editorial in the September issue was both informational and frightening. The frightening part I am referring to are the passages concerning debt reduction and the 12-person congressional “supercommittee” that is supposed to present a magic bullet solution to our national debt problem before the country is required to swallow the poison pill of automatic across-the-board spending cuts, and probably a large dose of new and increased taxes. The creation of the supercommittee strikes me as nothing more than their way of not having any individual members be responsible for unpopular cuts in any part of the budget. There is precedent for such an outcome, notably the BRAC process and the way Congress as a whole avoids having to vote for their annual pay raises. During my 30 years of active duty, as well as the 22 years since my retirement, I have yet to see Congress really make tough choices when they can figure a way around it.

CMSgt. Michael Pfender,

USAF (Ret.)

Topeka, Kan.

Where Were You on That Fateful Day

Congratulations. [September] is, by far, the best issue you have ever published. I talked to my friends about the articles (in particular learning new facts of the 9/11 attack from the interviews contained in the Sept. 11 [article], as we work on restoring a World War II CG-4 glider for the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover AFB, Del. All were surprised, as no one was aware that the crash into the Pentagon was made on the second pass!

Lt. Col. Richard S. Marks,

USAF (Ret.)

Milton, Del.

This statement [about retired SMSgt. Noel Sepulveda] is inaccurate: “On April 15, 2002, Gen. John P. Jumper, the Air Force Chief of Staff, awarded him the Airman’s Medal, the highest decoration for valor outside of actual combat, and the Purple Heart.”

The better and more accurate statement is: The Airman’s Medal, unlike the Air Force Commendation Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross, is the only decoration, outside of actual combat decoration, that is awarded for acts of heroism involving voluntary risk of life that clearly place individuals above his or her peers.

Valor is a device indicating an award for heroism. The Valor Device is pertinent to those medals that can be awarded for reasons other than heroism.

There is also heroism and extraordinary heroism, and also heroism with acts of courage, and heroism without acts of courage. [For a full explanation, see] reference AFI 36-2803.

MSgt. John F. Cassidy,

USAF (Ret.)

Anchorage, Alaska

In common usage, valor also means courage or bravery.—the editors.

Showdown In Berlin

I read with interest the article “Showdown in Berlin” in the September issue [p. 92]. Mr. Correll’s highlighting the contributions of the Air National Guard caught my attention and brought back positive memories of my working with Air Guard units in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

I was assigned to the 7100th Combat Support Wing, Lindsey AS, West Germany, from 1987 to 1993 and to the 100th Regional Support Group, RAF Mildenhall, UK, from 1991 to 1993. In both of those assignments I worked closely with ANG, AFRES, and active duty units in wartime bed down planning and NATO and joint exercise planning for deploying US-based units to bed down at collocated operating bases (COBs). COBs were allied bases to which US units deployed. As one might expect, there were often differences in facilities, equipment, procedures, and menus (diet) when comparing USAF bases with those of our allies (Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, etc).

Some of these differences presented challenges when writing and coordinating exercise plans in particular. This is where the troops in my unit, including me, observed a difference in the approach to these challenges. As a general rule, the reserve component units (particularly the Air National Guard) approached these differences as challenges that could be overcome. Their attitude was “what do we need to do to accomplish the mission objectives safely while taking care of our troops within the COB’s unique constraints?” Their attitude and approach to overcoming these challenges resulted in outstanding relationships between the deploying unit, host COB, and our unit, the 7100th CSW/DO and later the 100th RSG. It was always a pleasure to work with Air National Guard units.

Reading John Correll’s article brought home the point that what my troops and I experienced was the continuation of a legacy in the Air National Guard—a legacy that by all I have read continues today.

Lt. Col. George F. Moore,

USAF (Ret.)

Amarillo, Tex.

Your research department did a great job on the article “Showdown in Berlin.” As far as I can remember it is accurate. I was stationed at Tempelhof at the time, but I was transferred Stateside in April 1963; therefore, I missed President Kennedy’s famous speech, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

MSgt. Donald Casillo,

USAF (Ret.)

Moore, Okla.

Ah, Now It Makes Sense

Regarding the photo of the President and Col. Mark Camerer on p. 20, September 2011 issue of Air Force Magazine, and “Letters: But if LeMay Can Do It …” in the October issue [p. 10] regarding the same subject:

Here’s a good example where a photo is not worth a thousand words.

As the President deplaned Marine One, he slipped Colonel Camerer his Presidential challenge coin with his right hand at the same time he was shaking Camerer’s hand. As they were walking off ramp toward the President’s limousine, Colonel Camerer placed the coin in his left hand and put it into his left pocket. (The photo that was published was taken at that split second and does not tell the whole story.)

Hopefully this will clear up any misconceptions that it’s now OK for any Air Force member to walk around with his hands in his pockets.

Lt. Col. Harry E. Heist,

USAF (Ret.)

Dover AFB, Del.

Chang Was Robbed

Regarding [John Correll’s] fine story “The Astrochimps,” I quote: “Inside, cool as a cucumber and performing his duties perfectly, was a 37-pound chimpanzee known previously as Chop Chop Chang or simply Number 65. On this mission, he would earn his new name, Ham, derived from an acronym of his home unit, the Holloman Aeromedical Laboratory in New Mexico” [September, p. 134]. This is somewhat correct. There was a chimp named Chang and a chimp named Ham and both, along with several more, were being groomed for the shot, but Ham became too heavy and Chang was substituted. His name was changed to Ham and Chang was never given credit until I pointed it out. I could never understand why the Air Force didn’t give credit to Chang in the first place, instead of the ruse of Ham the first chimp in space. In my opinion, Chang was slighted. If two different people were being trained for the first space shot, would there have been a name change to advertise a laboratory

My credentials: Technical Report AFMDC-61-15, “A Zoometric Study to Determine the Optimum Manual Performance Areas for the Chimpanzee,” May 1961, by Lester M. Zinser, William J. Farley, Frederick H. Rohles, Jr.

Lester M. Zinser

Thornton, Colo.

Why Don’t We All Just Shut Up

Retired Colonel Kinsella and retired Lieutenant Colonel Mathis are out of line. They should not defend Jimmy Carter for trying to blame the United States for starvation in North Korea [“Letters: No, Please, Continue,” September, p. 12].

When anyone becomes a propaganda mouthpiece for the enemy (did they forget that North Korea abrogated the 1953 cease-fire?) there is no duty to show respect to the individual, regardless of his former rank.

I support “Oh, please shut up.” All collaborators should shut up!

Capt. Glenn C. Tuley,

USAF (Ret.)

West Melbourne, Fla.

Actually, It Was a Failure

The article on the study of the bombing campaign was flawed for not pointing out that the campaign represented a massive failure that did not achieve the promised results [“The USSBS’ Eye on Europe,” October, p. 74].

Only the productivity of a mobilized American economy and the bravery of crews thrown into the slaughter kept the effort going. Prewar exercises which should have clearly identified the folly of unescorted bomber missions were ignored and even when the evidence mounted in early operations, Army Air Forces’ leaders were slow to push for escort fighters. The bombing campaign was essentially a diversion to placate the Russians who were losing millions on the Eastern Front while the US built up forces for the cross-channel invasion. The most important result of the bombing campaign was the destruction of the Luftwaffe, which was not one of the central objectives. One might also consider that the wanton bombing of cities bordered on a war crime. A more balanced analysis of the campaign would better serve those who will be called upon to plan future military operations in a dangerous world and with far more limited resources.

Col. Michael R. Gallagher,

USAF (Ret.)

Hillsboro, Ore.

Know Thyself

Reading Peter Dunn’s critique of tactics in general and the ECM tactics of 1966 in particular, I have to say that whatever was going on in 1966 improved by the time I got to the 42nd TEWS, then flying EB-66s at Korat in 1971-72 [“Letters: Lessons Not Learned,” October, p. 8].

I wish I had kept a diary. Forty years have passed so I don’t recall the details, but I do recall that our EWOs didn’t bother jamming long-range surveillance/GCI radars; they were too far away for jamming to be effective. Instead, the focus was on short-range and terminal threats: SA-2 guidance, gun laying radars (when they were a threat), height finding radars, fighter attack/intercept (AI) radars, and some communications. Jamming was selective, so I doubt that any friendly GCI site ever saw any jamming, unless by accident.

Mainly we supported B-52 Arc Light strikes in Laos and South Vietnam (until the 1972 Easter Offensive was launched). We also supported RF-4Cs in the lower Route Packs on occasion. Most B-52 strikes were in Steel Tiger, along the Laos/North Vietnam border from Mu Gia Pass down to the DMZ and into Quang Tri province of South Vietnam. During the winter months we also were tasked to support B-52s attacking Pathet Lao positions in the Plaine des Jarres (PDJ). ECM was tailored to the most likely threat. Attacks in Steel Tiger and the DMZ area gave precedence to defense against SAM and gun radar threats, although MiG attacks were also considered possible. In the the PDJ the threat of MiG attack was deemed more likely, and the ECM package was altered to jam AI and gun radars. No SA-2s were anywhere near the PDJ.

While we didn’t test our jamming capabilities against friendly radars, we did conduct some chaff-laying tests in Steel Tiger, near the DMZ, in the late winter/early spring of 1972. I recall reports from observing GCI sites, along with scope pictures, that illustrated the effectiveness of the chaff clouds we laid out. As far as ECM effectiveness goes, it seemed to be pretty good, although the jamming technique had a lot to do with effectiveness. Simple barrage jamming against a SAM site didn’t do much, unless it was directed against the uplink/downlink communications between an airborne missile and the launch site. If the launch site could not receive the beacon mounted in the aft section of the SA-2 it couldn’t guide the missile. Jamming against gun radars could also be relatively ineffective, depending on weather conditions. I can recall one sortie over the PDJ when a gun radar locked onto us. The EWO jammed and dropped chaff, but the radar stayed on us. Since it was daylight and the weather was clear, it is quite possible that the gun crew was guiding the radar optically.

ECM and ECCM always have an element of uncertainty. You usually never really know the capabilities of the systems you are facing, nor do you know the skill level of the system operators. Your own side can constrain your activities as well. Until the North Vietnamese clearly demonstrated that they had an integrated air defense system, GCI radars were not subject to attack. After North Vietnamese demonstrated the increased threat that their integrated air defense posed, attacking their GCI sites was permitted

I personally know a Wild Weasel pilot who scored a kill on a North Vietnamese GCI site in the November/December 1971 time frame.

In any case, ECM effectiveness comes down to knowing your enemy and knowing your own capabilities, plus knowing how to use what you know effectively.

Lt. Col. Gerald P. Hanner,

USAF (Ret.)

Papillion, Neb.

In Some Ways, He Soared

Walter Boyne’s article about Gen. T. R. Milton brought back fond memories of my days as a military history major at the Air Force Academy in the late 70s [“Milton’s Climb,” October, p. 79]. Upperclassmen who majored in history often had the honor and privilege of meeting, escorting, and hearing the lectures of Air Force giants such as Gen. Curtis LeMay and Gen. Jimmy Doolittle. However, the one who stands out in my mind was General Milton, who on more than one occasion was a guest lecturer in Lt. Col. David MacIsaac’s class on the Vietnam War. General Milton may have wished he were a better student at West Point, but to the cadets in MacIsaac’s class, he was a superb teacher and lecturer.

Col. John R. Pardo Jr.,

USAF (Ret.)

DuPont, Wash.

Rising Sun in a Shark’s Mouth

Just a quick note to tell you how much I enjoyed Peter Grier’s article on Johnny Alison [“Alison,” August, p. 34]. Being familiar with Alison’s exploits through a lifelong interest in the Second World War, it was great to become familiar with the pre- and postwar aspects of his career. He most assuredly deserves the knowledge and respect you’ve provided him, and I’m sure those who were privileged to know him as a friend have suffered a great loss.

The lower photo on p. 35 of your article piqued my interest, as it shows a P-40 (possibly an E model) with the shark’s mouth on the nose, but with pre-May 1942 USAAF insignia (red center circle or “dot”). The other aircraft in the photo have what appear to be post-May markings, as the red center appears to be painted over with white. These photos are usually interesting and valuable in showing the transitions that occur in the history of an air force, and this one is no exception. All AVG aircraft were usually painted with the shark’s mouth, but with Chinese markings until July 1942, when the organization was absorbed by the USAAF. That would mean this photograph was taken in July 1942 or later, but it would have been unusual to retain the red center for that long a period of time as it was felt too easily confused with the Japanese insignia. All of this is to note the photo dovetails nicely with Johnny Alison’s arrival in India mid-July 1942 on his way to China and the 75th Fighter Squadron.

It is also interesting to note that later studies conducted in 1942 and 1943 showed the shape of the aircraft’s markings rather than the colors contributed more to misidentification of an aircraft, and led to the addition of the bars (with variations) now so familiar today on our aircraft.

Robert Taylor

Ventura, Calif.