May 1, 2012

Not Everyone’s Home Yet

Great article by Amy McCullough! I was particularly pleased that she mentioned the 157 military personnel who still remain in Baghdad serving in the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, where my son (Col. Mark Foringer) is on a one-year deployment [“The Last Days in Iraq,” March, p. 24].

McCullough’s coverage was most welcome because most other news claims that “all” military have departed the country as of late December. We must not forget these 157 folks in their challenging mission. Thanks!

Col. Tad Foringer,

USAF (Ret.)

Hampton, Va.

BRAC to the Future

Adam Hebert absolutely nailed his commentary on BRAC (March, p. 4), and it’s refreshing to once again hear the Air Force think in terms of excess infrastructure [“Editorial: Bringing Closure”]. [I was on] a team of capable HAF planners for BRAC 2005. We were collectively disappointed when, after bipartisan engagement of the BRAC Commission and departmental acquiescence to “emerging missions,” Big Air Force netted a big goose egg for significant closures. In fact, many of the BRAC 2005 “combat force enhancements” have already been usurped by the routine programmatic ebb and flow of force structure, manpower, and organizational changes—few of which carry the same statutory and legal weight of a BRAC base closure. The BRAC 2005 recommendations converged with other stovepiped programmatic staff activities (e.g., PBD 720, Future Total Force, legacy aircraft retirements), all of which bridled together would have compelled the department’s argument before the commission. This is a lesson for the future.

BRAC is that infrequent legislative pass to actually close (big) bases that meet certain civilian employment thresholds, thus by its nature reducing excess infrastructure. In 2005, caught up in Secretary Rumsfeld’s transformational dictate, the department took its eye off the infrastructure ball and the BRAC Commission quickly exposed the Air Force’s interrelated force enhancement recommendations for the house of cards that they were. With few notable exceptions, most Air Force missions are fungible, as shown by previous BRAC rounds and 21 years of expeditionary operations. And while painful, the most instant and enduring way to achieve return on investment savings in the FYDP and beyond is for stand-alone closure recommendations of a couple major bases rather than to nickel and dime unrealistic savings via noninfrastructure-based force structure moves.

If Congress does authorize another BRAC round, I hope the Air Force will look to past foibles, and sitting leadership gives this BRAC authority its due importance as the centerpiece Air Force staff action. I also hope Air Force leaders will have the moral courage to make hard choices for the betterment of the institution, not because of external pressures. Our mantra in 2005 still sadly holds true today: “The Air Force doesn’t have any bad bases; it just has too many of them.”

Lt. Col. H. L. Cork III,

USAF (Ret.)

Colorado Springs, Colo.

Lie, Cheat, Steal

I just finished “The Man From Thud Ridge” in the March 2012 issue [p. 64], which I felt was an exceptionally well-written article. Being a civilian, Air Force Magazine is my “eyes and ears” into the world of the Air Force. As a longtime aviation and military history buff, I look forward each month to the historical articles. As an American, I am humbled and awed to read of the sacrifice and heroism of today’s heroes, as well as insight into the current state of affairs. God bless our airmen, as well as all of the courageous men and women who serve our still-great country in all branches of the military.

Charles King

Hebron, Ky.

Your article leaves much to question. In order:

“May have hit a ship”: The Thud was a superior strafing platform, and Tolman was a highly experienced strafer. If he was aiming at something, he hit it. If he was not, he didn’t.

“As Tolman hosed the gun emplacements”: “Don’t get in a pissing contest with a bigger gun” is a standing mantra, but strafing a Russian ship might be appealing.

“Diverted to refuel at Ubon”: I heard it was Da Nang, but wherever they went for gas they missed their tanker because Tolman broke formation discipline and separated from his flight lead.

“Shaken, Tolman denied firing his cannon”: Why deny [it] if he strafed a legitimate target? Whatever happened to the code “I will not lie, cheat, or steal”? If he decided to leave his flight lead and the planned egress route to fly down to Cam Pha to take on a bunch of bigger guns, he could easily have bragged about his exploit.

“Had the sergeant open the containers (sic), pull out the film, and expose it in the headlights (sic) of the truck (sic)”: I watched Colonel Broughton himself turn on the headlights of his jeep, open the film magazine, and strip out the film across the left headlight of the jeep, thinking to myself, “You dummy, you can’t see anything on the film; you’re just exposing it.”

“The Navy showed no interest in prosecuting its pilots for violating the ROE” (in strafing another Soviet ship); “the Air Force, however, decided to throw the book at Broughton”: The difference goes back to that old “lie, cheat, steal.” Had Broughton slapped Tolman with a simple Article 15 for leaving formation, strafing a neutral ship, and unnecessarily hazarding his element’s aircraft and his wingman by a significant off-course trolling, the entire episode could have ended with as little as a verbal reprimand. Or if he had done as the Navy did, and told the truth, the matter would have been quickly over.

I will never take away anything from Colonel Broughton’s record over his three decades of service, but what he did himself in front of his jeep on that June evening did.

Lt. Col. John F. Piowaty,

USAF (Ret.)

Titusville, Fla.

I thoroughly enjoyed the March issue. I always read each magazine cover to cover—even the advertisements. Gives me a chance to see how “the other side” is doing or what it is thinking. I particularly appreciated John Correll’s article on Col. Jack Broughton, an icon for the Air Force as well as for the entire US military. Who of us who has spent time, even briefly, in the service hasn’t needed at least once a senior’s support, whether for a project or while negotiating a transgression real or imagined, large or small? I’ve needed a couple of such older, more highly placed helpers in my time, and no doubt, his two pilots needed their vice wing commander’s help at a very “dangerous” time for them all.

Having known Colonel Broughton for several years, I had heard the story once or twice, but this telling is the clearest and most direct I have yet seen. Jack is one of those true warriors who led from the head of the formation. His immediate willingness to act and then speak up for his men on a matter of military necessity and squadron morale and operational perception, at great cost to his career—there is no doubt in my mind that he would have achieved general’s rank—is something all subordinates hope for from their leaders. They don’t always get it.

Cmdr. Peter B. Mersky,

USNR (Ret.)

Alexandria, Va.

In Case You Were Wondering …

Phillip Meilinger’s article on the trials and tribulations of those first tentative steps to a nuclear weapon delivery capability was an interesting read [“Early Atomic Air,” March, p. 74]. Early in his piece, Meilinger mentions “vast amounts of silver to produce the required electrical coils” but is vague as to why silver was needed. There were two competing paths to getting enough fissionable uranium to produce a nuclear weapon: centrifuges and electromagnetic separation. Centrifuges were a relatively new and promising concept, but the engineering requirements were formidable and the process looked like it might not be doable from a practical viewpoint. Electromagnetic separation was better known, but was inefficient and tremendously expensive in terms of materials; and the copper needed for the electrical coils was a scarce war material. Silver, however, is a better electrical conductor than copper and was held in large quantities by the US Treasury. Silver was used to make the coils for the “calutrons” that separated and collected the fissionable uranium needed for a weapon. Some 14,700 tons of silver were eventually used to construct the calutrons.

Gerald P. Hanner

Papillion, Neb.

I believe the caption for the lead photo on “Early Atomic Air” is incorrect. The caption states the photo was taken “before its bombing mission to Hiroshima.”

Anecdotal reports indicate that “Enola Gay” was painted on the aircraft about midnight the night of the mission, at the direction of Colonel Tibbets. The photo appears to have been taken around noon local given the shape and locations of shadows. So the earliest the photo could have been taken was noon-ish the day after the mission not before.

The tail marking has been returned to the “arrow” of the 509th. The mission was flown with the “R” of the 6th BG. Changing a tail marking would not be a huge task but would have to have been completed well before the mission or well after. Given the anecdotal reports, it would seem that “Enola Gay” was applied after the “R” was already in place. So “Enola Gay” and “arrow” would have been on the aircraft at the same time, days after the mission, not before.

The red vertical stabilizer flash was a postwar marking. Contemporaneous pictures of the aircraft on and after the mission do not show the tail flash.

Gary Connor

Chantilly, Va.

Someone Noticed

In reference to John T. Correll’s “The Scourge of the Zeppelins” in your February issue, how many more times must it be emphasized that hydrogen was not the cause of the tragedy in the evening at Lakehurst, N.J. [p. 88].Regardless, the history of the military Zeppelins is fascinating yet seemingly over hills and far away from us today. However, over the past decade there has been a significant resurgence of interest in lighter than air capability. As we ramble on toward operations in near space believing there to be an easy stairway to heaven that will allow for us to operate in regimes above our highest air breathers, such as the Global Hawk and the U-2R, but below orbital altitude, is in a word, a heartbreaker. It’s very difficult to carry useful payloads into this regime using helium as the lifting gas. The song remains the same with hydrogen as the argument. It will continue to rage on between people who think what is and what should never be. We do know that hydrogen is a plentiful resource that has yet to be exploited to its fullest potential. Be patient, hydrogen, your time is gonna come.

Jim Muccio

Fairfax, Va.

“The Scourge of the Zeppelins” repeats typical misconceptions about Zeppelins in general and hydrogen in particular. Despite an intense [UK] defensive effort which lost many lives to airplane crashes, in fact only five Zeps were brought down in the UK. One of those fell from 11,000 feet, yet there were three survivors; another was riddled with incendiaries but landed intact, was scuttled, and the crew marched off to surrender. Used in desperation as bombers, most World War I Zeppelin flights were for reconnaissance. More than 95 years ago Zep L-59 flew 4,000 miles nonstop carrying 39,000 pounds of relief supplies for beleaguered troops, lifting off and landing in its own length. The largest helicopter ever built could not approach that feat today.

Helium’s adoption insisted on larger displacements and their greater gasoline loads, leading to a slight increase in airship fire rates. Hydrogen pure enough to provide lift cannot be ignited. It was not that a “spark of unknown origin ignited one of the hydrogen cells” but that, as retired NASA engineer Dr. [Addison] Bain has shown, and has been duplicated five times in four labs in two countries, Hindenburg’s nitrate-doped outer cover was ignited by corona discharge seeking the grounded framework.

Richard G. Van Treuren

Edgewater, Fla.

We’re Blushing

The March 2012 issue of Air Force Magazine is without doubt the finest issue you have ever produced. Everything from [“The Highest Ranking”], “The Red Baron,” “Early Atomic Air,” [to] exceptional Korean War photography, Colonel Broughton’s saga, the battle of Anaconda, and “The Last Days of Iraq” were engrossing and inspiring. I am saving this issue for my grandchildren in hopes that it will inspire some of them to follow our family tradition of military service. Thank you for creating something very, very special.

Sharon E. Hockensmith

McKinney, Tex.

Pretty Is as Pretty Does

Your story about the jet fighters over Korea was good, except it did not mention or talk about the F-84G that flew out of K-2 and K-8.

I flew that fighter for 18 months and accumulated many missions over North Korea. Our job was to go after railroad yards, bridges, troop buildups, dams, and anything else the high command desired.

Bernard A. Houle

Burien, Wash.

Harder on Who

In the April “Washington Watch” [p. 10] General Schwartz, when talking about cuts to the Guard and Reserve, said that as a result, the nonstop operating tempo of the last 10 to 20 years has been harder on the Active Duty than on the Air Reserve Component.

When Active Duty deploy they leave behind their family with a full military base to support them. They do not take a pay cut and many get a pay raise. When on Active Duty the Air Force was the source of my airmen’s livelihood. As an Air Guard commander most of my airmen had civilian jobs that paid much better than their Air Force jobs. When called up, they lose out big time financially. Yet when the call comes, they answer and stand proud to serve their country at whatever cost.

It has been equally hard on the Air Reserve Component, as the general called it.

Col. Don Hengesh,

ANG (Ret.)

Petoskey, Mich.