April 1, 2012

Bean Counters Win, Again

“The Last Raptor” article shows not only the continuing historical disregard of reality but the disregard also of those who in the future must pay for it, possibly with their blood [February, p. 36].

I cannot speak for other former fighter pilots, but I do speak for myself as one. The Cadillac of World War II fighters was the P-51. The fact that it, or something comparable, was not developed and fielded earlier was the [result] of political decisions taking precedence over reality.

The last-Raptor decision was made without any honest allocation of possible missions. [It was] an effort to paint the picture as the mission assigners [wanted it to be], rather than reality.

Should the US need more Raptors, they will not be available, and again, [the US] will pay for this intentional avoidance of reality with the lives of Americans called on to pay the bill.

Too bad we do not now have any generals such as Ronald R. Fogleman (Chief of Staff, 1994-1997) to stand up for reality.

The bean counters always seem to win the decisions, but never admit to their mistakes, even though these bring on the deaths of other Americans later.

Lt. Col. Wallace H. Little,

USAF (Ret.)

Marshall, Tex.

A World Full of Kooks

I just received my February Air Force Magazine and felt I must comment on “Washington Watch” [p. 8] and the “Editorial” [“Beyond the Ground Wars,” p. 4].

My summary of the second paragraph [in “Washington Watch”] is as follows: Wars are winding down, we have a financial crisis, so decimate the ground forces as there will be no more wars of this type until 2015. Throughout this article, which states our ground forces will be shrunk by tens of thousands, are the following comments:

Must be able to fight more than one war at a time.

US military will not become a hollow force—readiness will be protected.

Pace and timing of changes will be organized so that they can surge, regenerate, and mobilize capabilities as needed for any contingency.

Hallmarks of the strategy and its implementation will be reversibility and ability to quickly mobilize.

I would like someone to show me how ground forces can be significantly reduced and support the above tasks.

The editorial gives a more balanced evaluation of this new strategy; however, in my opinion, both articles favor [it] without considering the historical truths. Remember, we didn’t anticipate the current wars or their lengths, either.

Sizing our ground forces based on the country’s financial mess (self-inflicted) and not on our national objectives is the wrong approach. What this strategy is saying is, “Here’s your budget, size your force accordingly, and by the way, assume there will be no more ground wars.”

After reading these two articles, I’m glad I’m 78 and won’t be around to see this strategy fail.

The world is full of kooks like those in [North] Korea, Syria, and Iran, to name a few places, but not to worry; let’s just cut our ground forces, be nice to the rest of the world, and hope for the best. Who knows? Someday maybe China and Russia [will] vote with us on the Security Council.

Col. Constantine Evgenides,

USAF (Ret.)

O’Fallon, Ill.

The Long Haul

The article by Mr. Correll was a welcome sight [“The Scourge of the Zeppelins,” February, p. 88].

The Graf Zeppelin did make 590 flights. One was a 7,000-mile leg from Berlin to Tokyo during her around-the-world trip [which also] was the first passenger flight across the Pacific from Tokyo to the US. In total, the Graf Zeppelin logged 17,178 hours in the air and over one million miles, crossing the Atlantic Ocean 144 times, carrying 16,000 passengers, accident free—a pretty good record for the 1930s.

Today USAF and the Army are building new airships, and Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Aeros, and Northrop Grumman all have new airships either flying or under construction. Not to be left out, the Zeppelin Corp. has been flying passengers for the past several years in their new Zeppelin NT airships.

Goodyear has ordered three Zeppelin NTs to replace their fleet of blimps, to be assembled in an Akron, Ohio, hangar. The Zeppelin NT is a semirigid airship with an internal frame, therefore not a blimp.

Roy P. Gibbens

Meridian, Miss.

Flying the Commander in Chief

I am an Army retiree but I spent nineteen-and-a-half years of my career in Army aviation, so I enjoy reading about aviation—especially helicopters—no matter what the service publication [“The Saga of Marine One,” February, p. 70].

I noticed one omission from the article. Under the heading, “An Eisenhower-Era Practice,” there was no mention that the United States Army provided the very first helicopter service to the President of the United States. I was stationed at Fort Belvoir, Va., 1957-1958, and I worked at Davison Army Airfield. That is where the Presidential Flight Detachment was located. The aircraft were H-34s. The detachment commander and Presidential helicopter pilot was Army Lieutenant Colonel Howell. He had been the company commander of the 4th Transportation Company (light helicopter), a company of H-34s, at Lawson Army Airfield, Fort Benning, Ga. One of the detachment’s H-34s is now in the Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Ala., and it has Colonel Howell’s name stenciled below the right side cockpit window.

Lawrence Cutting

New London, Ohio

Fix It Now

I believe the statistics used in this [article] are bogus [“An Air Force War on Sexual Assault,” January, p. 42]. Even if the statistics are 50 percent correct, they are an indictment of our Air Force leadership.

I am so incensed about this, I don’t know what to do. Maybe castration is the punishment that should be meted out. I know there will be a hue and cry over that suggested punishment, but in my mind it is appropriate. We should take the gloves off and fix this problem now and immediately!

During my career I was wing commander, base commander, director of operations, squadron commander, and flight commander. Never in my Air Force officer career did I hear about a rape or sexual assault, and I informed my commands on a weekly basis that I had zero tolerance for any act of prejudice or sexual harassment or assault. Once, I had a deputy who was arrested for flashing. He lost his security clearance that day, was court-martialed, and found guilty. I had a lieutenant reported by his girlfriend for having vandalized her car after an argument. Again, he lost his security clearance and was referred to the SJA for appropriate action.

I had a grandmother, mother, four aunts, four sisters, four daughters, five granddaughters, and numerous nieces and women friends. I believe all have suffered from gender discrimination, but not rape (one was assaulted).

These statistics say we have a war on women in our Air Force. For a fact, this report says our Air Force women have a greater chance of being raped or sexually assaulted than were the chances of a B-52 being lost over Hanoi in December 1973—think about that! Unacceptable! Fix it now.

Brig. Gen. Gerald E. McIlmoyle,

USAF (Ret.)

Venice, Fla.

It’s a Secret, Son!

I thoroughly enjoyed Walter Boyne’s article on the trials and tribulations of the B-29 in 1943-1944 [“The B-29’s Battle of Kansas,” February, p. 94]. It brought back memories of when my father, Col. Carlisle L. “Lisle” Ferris, commanded the B-24 transition school at what later became Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. We were the only family on the base, and at 14 my favorite pastime was watching the endless stream of B-24s practicing touch and goes.

One day a much larger aircraft entered the pattern, smoking heavily from its No. 3 engine. I biked down to the flight line just as this huge airplane rolled to a stop. The crew told me it was a B-29.

I paced off the aircraft wingspan and length while studying it thoroughly. Then I bicycled back to our quarters to draw 1/72nd plans for the bird. Forgetting a few details, I rode back to the now heavily guarded B-29, circled it, and returned to finish the drawings. I built that B-29 model in late 1943 and painted it olive drab. It had to have been one of the few flyable XB-29s. When I showed it to my dad, he exploded, grabbed it from my hands, took it to his office, and locked it in his safe! I had built a secret aircraft.

Measuring it today, I find that I am one-quarter inch off in 1/72nd scale for the 142-foot wingspan I had paced off almost 70 years ago.

The photo below shows the pine XB-29 model and three other examples I built at that time.

Keith Ferris

Morris Plains, N.J.

Behind the Mirror

Richard Halloran’s article “Return to Vietnam” [January, p. 60], regarding US-Vietnam relations, was extremely interesting and well-written. Sadly, it was incomplete, as it does not address the dark and sinister treatment of Vietnam’s own people, especially the Montagnards, who live mostly in the highlands. The Montagnards were our friends and allies during the Vietnam conflict, a relationship that continues today.

Vietnam’s appalling human rights record blatantly ignores agreements it signed at the end of the Southeast Asia conflict. In spite of Vietnam’s documented disregard for human rights, as evidenced by religious persecution, destruction of churches and villages, beatings, false imprisonment, confiscation of property, torture, and executions, the US “normalized” relations and supported Vietnam’s entry into the World Trade Organization. Approximately 90 percent of Montagnards are Christians, a fact that does not put them in good standing with the government. Vietnam’s subsequent behavior has been confirmed as slow genocide aimed toward the eradication of the Montagnard people, their culture, and religion.

The present Montagnard population in Vietnam is estimated to be 600,000, with another 10,000 in the US, primarily in North Carolina. They have suffered the brunt of prolonged persecution by the government of Vietnam. The approximate time remaining for the survival of the Montagnard people in Vietnam is 17 years.

Our organization, Save the Montagnard People, Inc. (STMP), is a 501-3(C) advocacy and relief group consisting of civilian, active duty, and retired military members. We have continuously monitored Vietnam’s treatment of the Montagnards for several decades. We attempt to promote public awareness and appropriate actions to save the Montagnards. We have shared information and discussed Vietnam’s atrocious human rights record with members of the US Senate and House of Representatives, US State Department, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, [and many more organizations].

Behind the “one-way mirror” of Vietnam is a cruel and sinister world. To quote some of the statements contained in the article: “The US has been cultivating allies and friends, including Vietnam” and “US relations with Vietnam are growing.”

But should these relations be paid for by abandonment and suffering of the Montagnards? Encourage the Vietnam government to observe human rights equally for all its citizens.

Sam Todaro

Greensboro, N.C.

B-52 Tail Gunners’ Guns

Mr. Gary L. Holtman’s letter, March 2012 issue, is confusing the A3A Fire Control System with the MD5 Fire Control System [“Letters,” p. 9]. The A3A had quad .50-caliber machine guns, while the MD5 system had the two 20 mm cannons. The MD5 was a two radar equipped, single electrically powered General Electric turret from the single radar, B-36 and B-47 tail turrets. It had left and right radar antennas, which were labeled No. 1 and No. 2 radar systems. The A3A, MD9, and ASG15 systems all used the hydraulically driven Arma Bosch turret.

I was an AFSC 32350G fire control systems mechanic in the 95th Armament and Electronics Maintenance Squadron at Biggs AFB, Tex., and worked on B-52Bs in the early 60s. We had eight MD5 and eight A3A equipped aircraft. Like Mr. Holtman, I also became an aircrewman, but as a loadmaster on C-130As and Es, retiring in 1994.

MSgt. Carrol A. Steffen,

USAF (Ret.)


I have been retired from USAF for over 30 years, yet I hold a fond place in my memories for the gunners I flew with in SAC. We were the defensive team, gunner, and EWO. There are stories about gunners that should be told.

My introduction to combat crew status was my first encounter with a gunner. He was formerly an enlisted electronic warfare crew member. At the time of his conversion there was an uproar about whether to give these electronic warfare crew members a commission or to make them flight officers. The Air Force wanted it to be one way and SAC the other. MSgt. Gerry Gray remained enlisted and became a gunner. Another was MSgt. George Stropek who had been a ball turret gunner on a B-17G. Staff Sergeant Stropek’s airplane was shot down on Feb. 22, 1944, near Wesel, Germany, while on a mission to bomb an Me-109 plant. He survived bailout and spent some time as a POW before WWII ended.

There are more stories, all worthy of telling. One gunner penciled this in the B-52D tail compartment: “2,400 hours as a B-52D gunner equals 100 days in solitary confinement.” They served honorably.

James Bradley

Westmoreland, Kan.

Send in the Band

I was somewhat (though not totally) surprised by the subtitle “Huh?” in the “Verbatim” section of your February magazine [p. 28], regarding US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dwaine Whitham’s assertion that military bands are a soft power projection.

Whitham is absolutely correct! [The author], like so many others, fails to recognize the vital role that our military bands play in our national defense. No, they do not carry the power of a F-22, but as Whitham astutely pointed out, they are a soft power projection to the world—i.e., many countries struggle to field a strong military [yet] the United States has ample resources to not only field a vast array of lethal weapons systems, they also have the resources to field world-class bands. As the former group superintendent for the Air Force Band I can assure you that does not go unnoticed by other countries.

CMSgt. John J. Pavey Jr.,

USAF (Ret.)

Sylva, N.C.