Air Force MSgt. Mandy Mueller, 39th Medical Operations Squadron medical services flight chief, reads a holiday letter on Dec. 11, 2019, at Incirlik AB, Turkey. SSgt. Joshua Magbanua
Photo Caption & Credits


Oct. 7, 2021

We love letters! Write to us at To be published, letters should be timely, relevant and concise. Include your name and location. Letters may be edited for space and the editors have final say on which are published.

Hack Attack

Relative to the recent article titled “Hacking the Space Force” [August, p. 42], I’m continually baffled that the U.S. hasn’t identified and met the increasing challenge of cyber warfare with a dedicated arm of the military. If the formidable threat this poses to our country and all of its infrastructure isn’t enough, I don’t know what is.

Tim C. King
Reno, Nev.

Lowering the Bar

I just saw the ludicrous new PT Standards for the Air Force [“The New PT Test,” September, p. 50].
What are they thinking?

Air Force physical fitness standards always lagged those of the Marines and the Army, but we at least tried to be able to function in a field environment in case of necessity.

I know many functions have changed since I retired, but it seems the new Air Force leadership is now lowering the bar even further to make Airmen (including women and all those new alphabetic genders) laughable military ‘snowflakes’ of the world—fit only for indoor office assignments.
I’m appalled!

Col. Ken Smith

He Never Apologized

Major Stallings takes issues with the facts regarding Charles Lindberg, his Nazi medal and his antisemitism [“Letters: Lindbergh Defended,” August, p, 5]. The facts are these: Lindberg accepted “Verdienstorden vom Deutschen Adler,” (Service Cross of the Order of the German Eagle) from Nazi Air Minister Hermann Goering on Oct. 18, 1938, at a party for him held at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. Days later, Nov. 9, 1938, was Kristallnacht, making clear to anyone the Nazi’s intentions toward Jews.

Lindberg did consider moving to Germany, which by then was synonymous with Adolph Hitler. Lindberg forwarded his assessment of the Luftwaffe to General [Henry H. “Hap”] Arnold. Lindberg was so impressed by the Nazi propaganda show that his reports contributed to defeatism by greatly overestimated German capabilities, who were actually behind the British and French in aircraft, tanks, and mechanization (see James Holland’s, “The War in the West: Germany Ascendant 1939-1941,” 2015).

The medal, a Maltese Cross surrounded by swastikas, was awarded to foreigners who were considered sympathetic to the Third Reich. Two other Americans who received the award were: Henry Ford, a notorious anti-Semite (publishing The International Jew and being the only American favorably mentioned in Mein Kampf), and Thomas Watson, the head of IBM, whose role in the Holocaust would only become clear later (see Edwin Black’s “IBM and the Holocaust,” 2001). Watson would later protest Germany’s action against the Jews and returned his medal in June 1940. Henry Ford would also repent in February 1942 and returned his medal.

Charles Lindberg kept his medal and never apologized for his role in the America First Movement Committee, publicly proclaiming both pro-German and anti-Semitic sentiments right up to Dec. 7, 1941. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson said in 1941, just before Pearl Harbor, “When I read Lindbergh’s speech I felt that it could not have been better put if it had been written by Goebbels himself.”

Lindberg never publicly or privately changed his views. He never apologized. His medals remained on display in the St. Louis Lambert Field terminal until 2012. Those are the facts. My opinion is that Lindberg was a terrific pilot, but not a person to admire.

Lt. Col. Allen Parmet,
USAF (Ret.)
Kansas City, Mo.

Dragon Lady Down (But Why?)

Harvard professor Plokhy’s article on the Cuban Missile Crisis titled Dragon Lady Down [August, p. 50] was viewed with mixed reactions by SAC U-2 vets and history buffs like me who have nothing but admiration for the eleven 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing pilots who served our nation during the most perilous 13 days in our modern history. There is no questioning of his assertion the shoot down of Maj. Rudolph Anderson Jr.’s U-2 on Oct. 27, aka Black Saturday, was the turning point of the crisis that threatened to turn the Cold War red hot. In fact, it led to the famous agreement between JFK and Khrushchev to end the crisis just 24 hours later.

The article focused on what happened from the Soviet side, beginning with what the author saw as a nefarious decision by two mid-rank generals to shoot down the unarmed U-2 in violation of Kremlin orders. Surprisingly, the author claimed “they got away with murder,” a view that is at odds with military culture that factors in operational necessity when leaders are faced with making time-sensitive critical decisions affecting their mission or survival of combatant forces. The story behind the story presented by the professor was initially detailed by renowned journalist-historian Michael Dobbs in “One Minute to Midnight” back in 2008. Inexplicably, he failed to mention why the shoot down order was given, a secret discovered by Dobbs some 40 years after the crisis.

Turns out as Anderson’s U-2 had overflown the Guantanamo area, the generals realized his cameras would likely capture images of FKR-1 Meteor cruise missiles on their launchers in the open at a firing position 15 miles from the huge U.S. naval base. They had been moved there overnight to respond to an anticipated U.S. air attack. The FKR missiles carried a “tactical” nuclear warhead equivalent in yield to the Hiroshima atomic bomb and had a range of over 100 miles. The undiscovered FKRs were the Soviets ace in the hole for defending themselves and Cuba against an invasion that seemed imminent.

At that point, they could have been launched on order of the Soviet commander, who no doubt would have been urged to do so by the Castro brothers, who personally assisted in locating a secure FKR support base in the nearby mountains. Needless to say, their employment against an unsuspecting invasion force likely would have resulted in a U.S. retaliation against the Soviet Union as JFK had warned.

Ironically, key questions remain unanswered on our side and some of the readers may have insight into them. Why was Anderson’s mission not canceled, as SAC and NSA independently had actionable intelligence nine hours before he took off that the Soviet air defense system in Cuba was activated for the first time? As fate would have it, his mission was to probe the lethal envelopes of eight SAM sites, including the one at Banes that shot him down, but why, given it had been photographed by an RF-101 the day before?  Worse, the crew of a SAC RB-47H ELINT aircraft intercepted the radar tracking his U-2 and radioed a warning to SAC HQ, so why was it not on a frequency monitored by Anderson? Minutes later, he was downed by a S-75 Desna SAM, the same version used to shoot down Capt. Francis Powers’ CIA U-2 over Russia two years before. 

 Anderson volunteered for what was his sixth mission over Cuba, and as the only combat casualty of the crisis, he deservedly was posthumously awarded the first Air Force Cross, especially as I noted in my book, “Without a Warning—The Avoidable Shootdown of a U-2 Spyplane During the Cuban Missile Crisis,” when “no one had his back!” 

Col. H. Wayne Whitten,
USMC (Ret.)
Lutz, Fla.

Professor Plokhy’s report evoked vivid memories from six decades ago. I was a graduate journalism student at Northwestern University during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Tensions ran high on campus and I worried about having a future in journalism, or any future at all, if nuclear war erupted. I later learned that a journalist played a key role in preventing an apocalypse. ABC News Washington correspondent John A. Scali served as a contact between the KGB’s Soviet Embassy station chief, Col. Alexsandr Fomin [cover name at the time], and President [John F.] Kennedy’s Executive Committee, relaying critical messages to both parties. Scali responded to tougher Soviet bargaining conditions by warning Fomin that a U.S. invasion of Cuba was just hours away. This prompted the Soviets to settle quickly.

Scali’s vital role was not publicly revealed until 1964. He joined President [Richard M.] Nixon’s staff as an adviser in 1971 and was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. in 1973.

By acting as a messenger between two superpowers on the brink of nuclear war, Scali broke a basic rule of journalism: Reporters should not become part of a story they cover. But his breach of professional protocol helped save the world from disaster.

Richard Reif
Flushing, N.Y.

Smart Artificial Intelligence

The latest AI vs MAN efforts brought to mind the McAir manned domed simulator in the mid-80s [“The Classroom On Your Head,” August, p. 38].

With an F-15 functional cockpit and an almost complete visual projection globe for maneuvering and air-to-air fighting, it was a popular PR stop as well as valuable development tool for many programs.

One feature of the PR presentation was the opportunity to fly against a maneuvering, visual opponent starting from a five mile head-on aspect and achieve a gun kill. The record was around 90 seconds and each pilot would have a go at trying to beat the time using their favorite secret tactic.

In one group there was a WSO [Weapon Systems Officer] and after all the pilots, he was jokingly offered a chance. He accepted and in 37 seconds, he executed a head on gun pass and shot down the MiG. SCORE!!

The pilots went nuts yelling you can’t do that. He answered, “Why not? It worked!”

Lt. Col. Charlie McCormack,
USAF (Ret.)
Danville, Calif.

Leadership Lost

General [Mark A.] Milley states we should have “situational understanding” and be open minded and widely read [“Verbatim, August, p. 9]. Considering the debacle in Kabul, it is quite apparent that General Milley has read very little about the fall of Saigon, or how the Taliban ousted the British from Afghanistan, or how a few years later the Taliban ousted the Russians from Afghanistan. Despite the heroic efforts our troops on the ground, we have lost a leadership role in world affairs. Perhaps General Milley should have spent more time gaining “situational understanding” of warfighting and less on “critical race theory.”

Col. Peter W. Gissing,
USAF (Ret)
Roseville, Calif.


I piloted KC-135A models in the early 1980s and found your photograph of the cockpit of the current version very interesting [“Airframes,” August, p. 18]. I recognized the throttles, the throttle friction lever, the speed brake handle, the elevator trim wheel, and a that was about it. Even the whiskey compass seems to have disappeared. Or perhaps it was blurred out of the photo for classification reasons. Ha! I am amazed at how that cockpit has changed, now for the better.

Capt. Robert Benzon
Winter Park, Fla.

Two Engines are Better

Captain Rea, “Letters: Hold My Beer,” [August, p. 7] must not know that the F-4 with its two GE J-79 engines was no less vulnerable to the defenses of Route Pak VI over North Vietnam than my F-105 with its one robust P & W J-75.

The F-35, like the F-16, if hit by flak or missile or cannon fire, is no more likely to fall from the sky than a fighter with two engines. These are not the B-17s or B-24s that made it back to Jolly Olde with “… one motor gone we can still carry on, coming in on a wing and a prayer.”

Our legacy single-engine fighter, the F-16, is vulnerable to enemy stealth and long-range radar and missiles, but once the fight devolves to close-in visual, many enemy twins—and even our own F-15—will often come out ahead. (Fighter pilots know what that means.)

Lt. Col. John F. Piowaty,
USAF (Ret.)
Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Afghan Cover

Top photo: U.S. Air Force F-16 over Southwest Asia, Dec. 15, 2020. Lower photo: An Afghan child on the floor of a C-17 as it leaves the chaos in Kabul, Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Taylor Harrison; CMSAF JoAnne Bass Facebook

With all due respect to Air Force Association—I have been a member of since the 1970s, and a life member since the 1980s—the cover headline that read, “Turning the Page on Afghanistan,” was a blunt shock to the system. I realize that AFA has to toe a politically neutral stance, and for many valid reasons.  But, frankly, we did not “turn the page” in Afghanistan.  Instead, we came to the last page of the 20-year book and then decided to burn the book! After 20 years of blood, sweat, toil and treasure, the exact same gang of thugs and terrorists who were in charge of Afghanistan in 2001 are in charge again, but this time with vastly more power, support, and $89 billion in advanced American military hardware in hand. 

It seems whomever decided that cover should have strongly reconsidered.

Maj. Ken Stallings,
USAF (Ret.)
Douglasville, Ga.