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18.1. Introduction. The Statue of Liberty stands atop Fort Wood on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. In June 1907, this piece of land was still called Bedloes Island, and Fort Wood was an active military installation. Corporal (Cpl) Edward Ward, a former railroad signal man assigned to the US Army Signal Corps post on the island, was told by his commanding officer that he and Private Joseph E. Barrett were going to learn how to repair and inflate balloons (Figure 18.1). Thus began the journey. From a fragile and uncertain curiosity a century ago, the airplane has evolved into the most devastating weapon system in the history of humankind. This chapter examines the development of ground-based air power. Figure 18.2 outlines the United States Air Force development from the Army Aeronautical Division to the US Air Force.
Figure 18.2. The US Air Arm (1907 – Present).
- Aeronautical Division, US Army Signal Corps (1 August 1907 - 18 July 1914)
- Aviation Section, US Army Signal Corps (18 July 1914 - 20 May 1918)
- Division of Military Aeronautics, Secretary of War (20 May 1918 - 24 May 1918)
- Army Air Service (24 May 1918 - 2 July 1926)
- *Army Air Corps (2 July 1926 -17 September 1947) - General HQ Air Force (1 March 1935 - 1 March 1939)
- *US Army Air Forces (20 June 1941 - 17 September 1947)
- US Air Force (18 September 1947 - Present)
- *The Army Air Corps became subordinate to the Army Air Forces 20 June 1941. Since its establishment came via statues, its disestablishment also required an act of Congress, which did not take place until 1947. Therefore, personnel of the Army Air Forces were still technically assigned to the Army Air Corps.
18.2. Before the Airplane—Military Ballooning: 18.2.1. To the extent that the US military had been interested in aviation, it had been interested in balloons—and a balloon detachment of one sort or the other has been part of the US Army since the Civil War (Figures 18.3 and 18.4). The army had purchased new balloons because of a “rebirth” of interest in aeronautics in the United States stimulated by Lt Frank P. Lahm’s winning of the 1906 Gordon Bennett race in St. Louis. There was also an enthusiasm in general about things aeronautical, at least among the public, ever since the Wright brothers flew their heavier-than-air contraption at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.
On 31 July 1861, John La Mountain rose to 1,400 feet and, commanding a view 30 miles in radius, informed Maj Gen Benjamin Butler that Confederate strength around Hampton VA was weaker than originally thought. It was La Mountain, a freelance civilian who recorded the first successful and useful balloon reconnaissance mission for the Army. While La Mountain was enjoying initial success, Thaddeus Lowe, an old rival, entered the balloon service. President Abraham Lincoln interviewed Lowe, and the War Department provided Lowe $250 for balloon demonstrations, including the transmission of a telegraph message from aloft. President Lincoln escorted Lowe to Gen Winfeld Scott’s headquarters and the general promised to officially establish a balloon corps. In August 1861, a Confederate battery fired upon Lowe and his craft. Lowe and the craft escaped unharmed and went on to demonstrate how a balloon could effectively direct artillery fire by telegraph. In 1896, William Ivy Baldwin and his wife built a 14,000 cubic foot silk balloon. Baldwin enlisted in 1897 and was tasked to ready the balloon for Signal Corps service. The balloon Santiago was used during the Spanish-American War at the battle of San Juan Hill. Some historians believe that the use of the balloon was a determining factor in the victory of this critical battle.
18.2.2. With the army in possession of several balloons, it required trained enlisted men to conduct balloon inflations and effect necessary repairs. Effective 2 July 1907, Ward and Barrett left the island under orders from the War Department to report to the Leo Stevens balloon factory in New York City. They would become the first enlisted men assigned to the Signal Corps’ small Aeronautical Division, which in time evolved into the United States Air Force. 18.2.3. When Ward and Barrett reported, the division did not officially exist. The Army had disbanded the minuscule Civil War-balloon service in 1863, and the corps’ attempts to revive military aviation had met with little success. At the balloon factory, the two men were schooled in the rudiments of fabric handling, folding, and stitching; in the manufacturing of buoyant gases; and in the inflation and control of the Army’s “aircraft.” 18.2.4. On 13 August 1907, Ward and Barrett were ordered to Camp John Smith outside Norfolk, Virginia, to participate in the Jamestown Exposition celebrating the 300th anniversary of the first settlement of Virginia. Over the next few years, the detachment would participate in numerous air shows and be moved from location to location. Barrett deserted the Army to complete a career in the Navy, but the enlisted detachment was soon expanded to include eight others. These nine men were the nucleus from which America’s air arm grew. They were the first of a small band of enlisted Airmen who,
during the decade before World War I, shared in the experimental and halting first steps to establish military aviation as a permanent part of the Nation’s defense. Never numbering more than a few hundred individuals, the enlisted crews of the Signal Corps’ Aeronautical Division provided day-to-day support for a handful of officer pilots, learned the entirely new skills of airplane “mechanician”—and later, mechanic, rigger, and fitter—met daunting transportation and logistical challenges, and contributed mightily to the era’s seat-of-the-pants technological advances.
18.2.5. A few enlisted men, against official and semi-official military prejudice, learned to fly. The majority of enlisted men were absorbed in the tasks of getting the fragile balloons and even flimsier planes of the day into the air and keeping them there. Of necessity flexible and innovative, early crews often had to rebuild aircraft from the ground up after every crash—and, in those early days of flight, crashes were the rule rather than the exception. Enlisted crews not only repaired the planes, they labored to make some of the more ill-designed craft airworthy in the first place. 18.3. Aeronautical Division, US Army Signal Corps (1907 - 1914): 18.3.1. In August 1907, the newly created, three-person-strong Aeronautical Division of the US Army Signal Corps took “charge of all matters pertaining to military ballooning, air machines, and all kindred subjects.” Captain Charles Chandler headed the new division, assisted by Corporal Edward Ward and Private Joseph Barrett. Ward and Barrett initially trained in the fundamentals of balloon fabric, manufacture of buoyant gases, and inflation and control of the balloons. When the enlisted detachment grew to include eight others, it included Private First Class Vernon Burge. Five years later (1912), Burge would become the Army’s first enlisted pilot. 18.3.2. In August 1908, Ward, Burge, and the others were at Fort Myers when the Wright brothers arrived with the US Army’s first airplane. That the US Government managed to purchase an airplane was a minor miracle. For more than 4 years after the Wright brothers’ successful flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Government refused to accept the fact that man had flown in a heavier-than-air machine. 18.3.3. The new airplane—designated as Aeroplane No. 1 by the Army—was repaired and flown a number of times over the next few weeks. While the Wright brothers themselves, along with their own civilian mechanics, tinkered with the airplane during the trial and training period, Ward and his crew mostly worked on Dirigible No. 1 (the first Army balloon). On 17 September 1908, Orville Wright and Lt Thomas E. Selfridge crashed. Orville was badly hurt and Selfridge died. Flying was suspended until the plane could be repaired and Orville could recover. It was not until the summer of 1909 that aircraft testing resumed. The Signal Corps formally accepted Aeroplane No. 1 on 2 August 1909. 18.3.4. In the fall of 1909, Lt Benjamin D. Foulois was in charge of the one airplane when part of the division was transferred to Ft Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. The United States “air force” that arrived at San Antonio in February 1910, according to Foulois, consisted of one beat-up and much-patched airplane; a partially trained pilot who has never taken off, landed, or soloed; a civilian aircraft mechanic; and 10 budding enlisted mechanics. Foulois taught himself to fly at Ft Sam Houston, and the results of his rough landings and crashes often put the airplane in the shop for weeks at a time. Lack of adequate funding often compelled Foulois to spend his own salary to keep the Aeronautical Division’s lone plane aloft. A dedicated contingent of enlisted mechanics supported Foulois in his efforts. In one instance, Privates Glenn Madole and Vernon Burge (Figure 18.5), along with a civilian mechanic, built a wheeled landing system to ease takeoff and relieve the strain of landing on the fragile aircraft. 18.3.5. Increased appropriations over the ensuing 2 years allowed the Army to purchase more aircraft. By October 1912, the Aeronautical Division had 11 aircraft, 14 flying officers, and 39 enlisted mechanics. On 28 September 1912, one of these mechanics, Corporal Frank Scott, became Figure 18.5. Vernon Burge.
the first enlisted person to die in an accident in a military aircraft. A crew chief, Scott was flying as a passenger when the aircraft’s pilot lost control and the aircraft dived to earth. Scott Field, now Scott AFB, in Illinois, was named in his honor. On 5 March 1913, the 1st Aero Squadron (Provisional) was activated becoming the oldest Air Force squadron.
18.4. Aviation Section, US Army Signal Corps (1914 - 1918): 18.4.1. After years of testing, improvising, and operating on little more than dedication and a shoestring, Army aviation finally received official status by the passage of US House Resolution 5304 on 18 July 1914, which authorized the Signal Corps to establish an aviation section consisting of 60 officers and 260 enlisted men. The bill created the military rating of aviation mechanician, which called for a 50 percent pay increase for enlisted men “instructed in the art of flying” while they were on flying status. The number of such personnel was limited to 40, and the law specified that no more than a dozen enlisted men could be trained as aviators. Figure 18.6. Enlisted Fighting off Pancho Villa’s Men.
18.4.2. In March 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the 1st Aero Squadron (the oldest Air Force squadron) to accompany a force he was organizing to protect the border and to apprehend Pancho Villa (Figure 18.6). Mustering 11 pilot officers, 82 enlisted men, and 1 civilian mechanic, the squadron departed from San Antonio with 8 Cutriss JN-3 “Jennies,” 10 trucks, and 6 motorcycles. On the train, Foulois picked up two enlisted hospital corpsmen. An officer and 14 enlisted men of the engineering section joined them. In spite of the 1st Aero Squadron’s reconnaissance flights and several deliveries of mail and dispatches, it was readily apparent the squadron’s JN type aeroplane was not powerful enough to operate at the 5,000-foot elevations of the Casa Grande. By 19 April, only two of the eight planes were in working condition. The rest had fallen victim to landing accidents and forced landings, and all had suffered from the heat and sand.
18.4.3. Army brass persisted in discouraging the training of enlisted men and had it not been for officers such as Billy Mitchell and Hap Arnold, who had developed a deep and abiding respect for enlisted personnel in military aviation, there probably would have been even fewer enlisted aviators than the law allowed. Largely through the efforts of Mitchell, the National Defense Act of 3 June 1916 gave the Signal Corps authority to train more enlisted men— though, at the time of America’s entry into World War I, no more than a dozen nonofficers were qualified as pilots. 18.4.4. After 11 months of fruitless campaigning, the so-called Punitive Expedition was recalled in February 1917, and Villa continued to lead rebels in northern Mexico until 1920. Yet, poorly equipped as it was, the 1st Aero Squadron had acquitted itself admirably. In his final report on the mission, Maj Foulois praised his pilots, who because of poor climbing characteristics of the aircraft, could not carry sufficient food or even adequate clothing. Foulois also commended the willingness of his pilots to fly clearly dangerous aircraft. Nor did the major neglect the enlisted personnel, whom he praised for their dedication and willingness to work day and night to keep the aircraft flying. If the performance was admirable, the fact remains that the results of this first demonstration of American air power was deeply disappointing. Yet Foulois and the others learned valuable lessons about the realities of aviation under field conditions. Adequate maintenance was essential, as were plenty of backup aircraft, which could be rotated into service while other airplanes were removed from the line and repaired. Enlisted and civilian mechanics faced a myriad of problems. In particular, the laminated wood propellers pulled apart. In response, the mechanics developed a humidor facility to maximize the life of the props. 18.5. World War I (1917 - 1918): 18.5.1. When the first shots of the Great War were fired in Europe in August 1914, the 1st Aero Squadron mustered a dozen officers, 54 enlisted men, and 6 aircraft. By the end of 1915, the squadron counted 44 officers, 224 enlisted men, and 23 airplanes. This constituted the entire air arm of the United States of America. 18.5.2. By 1916, a second aero squadron, on duty in the Philippine Islands, had been added to the first. New training facilities were added to the one already in operation at North Island. In October 1916, plans had been laid for a total of 24 squadrons—7 to serve with the regular army, 12 with the National Guard, 5 for coastal defense, and balloon units for the field and coast artillery. Each squadron was to muster a dozen aircraft. Although the 7 regular army squadrons were either organized or in the process of being organized by the end of 1916 and all 24 squadrons had been formed
by early 1917, only the 1st Aero Squadron was fully equipped, manned, and organized when the United States declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917.
18.5.3. As of April 1917, the US Army Aviation Section consisted of 131 officers—virtually all pilots or pilots-intraining— and 1,087 enlisted men. The Aviation Section’s complement of airplanes numbered fewer than 250. Even as the war began in Europe and ground in, the US Congress refused to appropriate significant funds for Army aeronautics. Yet the blame for the Army’s poor state of preparedness cannot be laid entirely on Congress. The Army formulated no plan for building an air force and had not even sent trained observers to Europe. General Staff officers were so out of touch with the requirements of modern aerial warfare that their chief complaint about air personnel was the disrespectful manner in which flying officers flouted regulations by refusing to wear their cavalry spurs while flying airplanes. 18.5.4. Tradition dictated that pilots be drawn from the ranks of commissioned officers, but the Aviation Section soon realized the pressing need for trained enlisted personnel to perform duties in supply and construction and to serve specialized functions in the emerging aviation-related fields of photo reconnaissance and radio. Most of all, the Aviation Section needed mechanics. The war demanded engine mechanics, armament specialists, welders, riggers, sail makers, etc. The Army first pressed into service factories as training sites, but by the end of 1917, the Aviation Section began training mechanics and others at a number of special schools and technical institutions—the two largest of these were located in St Paul, Minnesota, and at Kelly Field, Texas. Later, mechanics and other enlisted specialists were also trained at fields and factories in Great Britain and France. 18.5.5. Despite the authorization given by the Figure 18.7. William C. Ocker. National Defense Act of 1916 to train enlisted aviators, an institutional bias against them limited the number of enlisted pilots on the rolls before the United States entered into the war. And most of these, to include Sergeant Vernon Burge, the service’s first enlisted pilot, received commissions after the United States formally declared war on the Axis Powers. Another enlisted pilot, Sergeant William C. Ocker (Figure 18.7), inspired to fly by watching Vernon Burge, received his commission in January 1917 and commanded a flight school in Pennsylvania. Before this, however, his flying skills made Ocker a valuable commodity in the Aviation Section. Known as the “Father of Blind Flight,” Ocker flight-tested modified aircraft, served as a flight instructor, and was hand-picked by General Billy Mitchell to scout various parcels for future airfields near the Potomac River. One of the tracts he selected became Bolling Field, Washington DC. 18.5.6. As early as 1915, Americans had been flying in the European war, both with the French and the British— though it was the American-manned Lafayette Escadrille of France that earned the greatest and most enduring fame. A little-acknowledged fact about the much-celebrated Lafayette Escadrille is that its roster of aviators included an enlisted man who was also an African-American—one of the very few enlisted Americans to fly in the war and the only black man of any nationality to serve as a pilot. Cpl Eugene Bullard (Figure 18.8) was the son of a Georgia former slave. As a member first of the French Foreign Legion, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre (one of 15 decorations from the French government) and was wounded four times before the legion gave him a disability discharge. During his convalescence in Paris, he bet an American $2,000 that he could learn to fly and become a combat aviator. Cpl Bullard won the bet by completing training and joining the Lafayette Escadrille. Styling himself the “Black Swallow of Death,” he claimed two victories. Despite his record of daring and dedication, he was grounded at the request of American officers attached to the escadrille. When the escadrille pilots were reorganized and incorporated into the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), Bullard was denied the officer’s commission accorded to other escadrille aviators and to most of the handful of white enlisted men who had earned their wings in regular US Army outfits.
18.5.7. Enlisted men flew before, during, and after World War I (WWI)—but their status remained vague. On 22 January 1919, the commanding officer (CO) of the Air Mechanics School at Kelly Field sought to clarify the situation by asking the Office of Military Aeronautics for a definition of “enlisted aviator” and “aerial flier.” The Kelly CO wanted to know who, exactly, was entitled to wear the enlisted aviator insignia on the upper-right shoulder of his tunic. The reply came on 31 January, “…you are advised that although uniform regulations and specifications provide for an insignia to be worn by enlisted aviators, the grade itself has never been created and consequently there is no one in the service entitled to wear the insignia provided for such grade.” In other words, enlisted aviators, who had served as instructors, ferry pilots, test pilots, and mechanical flight-check pilots, did not exist—at least not officially.
18.5.8. Vernon Burge and the handful of WWI enlisted aviators who immediately followed him were the first of some 3,000 enlisted personnel who would fly between the wars and into the early months of World War II (WWII). The military withheld official flying status from these men until Congress enacted Public Law 99 in 1941, which provided for training enlisted “aviation students,” who were “awarded the rating of pilot and warranted as a staff sergeant.” Late in 1942, however, Congress passed the Flight Officer Act (Public Law 658), which automatically promoted sergeant pilots produced by the Staff Sergeant Pilot Program to flight officers. Thus, the cockpit was effectively reserved “for the commissioned.” 18.5.9. In addition to the specialized roles directly associated with flying, Air Service enlisted personnel performed a wide variety of general support functions in administration, mess, transport, and the medical corps. Construction personnel, who built the airfields, hangars, barracks, and other buildings, were often the first enlisted men to be stationed at various overseas locations. 18.5.10. WWI airmen were not combat soldiers as such, but enlisted men stood guard and operated base defense. Given the static nature of the war, there was relatively little danger of a base being overrun by ground troops. Air attacks, however, happened frequently. Aerial bombardment and strafing techniques improved later in the war, and enlisted men received training in the operation of antiaircraft machine guns. 18.5.11. Enlisted personnel also served as observers for both the aircraft and balloon corps. It was in this capacity that Sergeant Fred C. Graveline (Figure 18.9) of the 20th Aero Squadron received the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of only four enlisted personnel so honored. Graveline served as an observer and aerial gunner from 30 September to 5 November 1918 on 15 missions in the back seat of a DH-4. In one 35-minute battle in which Graveline remarked he “aged 10 years,” he helped drive off nearly two dozen German planes, shooting down two. 18.6. Division of Military Aeronautics and the Air Service (1918 - 1926): 18.6.1. On 20 May 1918, President Woodrow Wilson issued an Executive Order that transferred Army aviation from under the Signal Corps control to the Secretary of War. Later that same month, the Army officially recognized the Bureau of Aircraft Production and the Division of Military Aeronautics as the air service. WWI showed the difficulty of coordinating air activities under the existing organization, thus the Army Reorganization Act of 1920 made the air service an official combat arm of the Army. 18.6.2. When the armistice was signed on 11 November 1918, more than 190,000 men were serving in the air service, 74,000 of them overseas with the AEF. On the same day, the air service halted all inductions of enlisted recruits and began the process of dissolving its forces. Combat groups and wings in Europe were disbanded immediately, but squadrons remained intact to serve initially as the basic demobilization unit structures. Since the air service had no clear idea of the authorized final strength for the postwar peacetime, it cut loose men in wholesale batches.
Figure 18.9. Fred C. Graveline. 18.6.3. The Army, in general, and the air service, in particular, took considerable pains to help discharged enlisted men find jobs after leaving the service. The Army worked closely with Federal officials to aid veterans and even allowed some men to remain in the service temporarily beyond their discharge if they had no prospects for work. Air service commanding officers provided special letters of recommendation to former mechanics and technically trained enlisted men in an effort to help them find employment.
18.6.4. By the end of WWI, both the Navy and the Army planned to experiment with bombing enemy ships from the air. General Mitchell contended his airplanes could take on the Navy’s battleships and challenged the Navy to a test. On 13 July 1921, Mitchell directed an attack on a former German destroyer in which the air service sank the vessel after two direct hits. Five days later, the air service sank a German cruiser and then on 21 July 1921, the aircrews of a Handley-Page and several Martin bombers each dropped a 2,000-pound bomb close enough to sink the German battleship Ostfriesland in little more than 20 minutes. 18.6.5. Despite previous air service successes, the Navy remained unconvinced about its vulnerability from the air. Officials eventually turned over two WWI battleships, the USS New Jersey (BB-16) and the USS Virginia, for further testing. A young bombardier, Sergeant Ulysses “Sam” Nero (Figure 18.10), earned a slot among the 12 aircrews selected by General Mitchell to try to sink the battleships. 18.6.6. On 5 September 1923, 11 aircraft reached the targets just off the North Carolina coast—the 12th returned to base because of engine trouble. Ten of the aircraft dropped their ordnance far from the New Jersey. Nero, using different tactics than General Mitchell instructed, scored two hits. General Mitchell disqualified Nero and his pilot from further competition. But General Mitchell reconsidered when the remainder of the crews failed to hit the Virginia until they dropped down to 1,500 feet.
18.6.7. Sergeant Nero and the Martin-Curtiss NBS-1 pilot approached the New Jersey at 85 miles per hour at an altitude of 6,900 feet, from about 15 degrees off the port beam. Using an open wire site, Nero dropped his first 600pound bomb right down the ship’s smokestack. A delayed explosion lent suspense to the result, but a billowing black cloud signaled the New Jersey’s demise, which went down in just over 3 minutes. Having one bomb left and no New Jersey to drop it on, Nero’s aircraft proceeded to the floundering Virginia, where Nero proceeded to administer the coup de grace on the stricken craft—his bomb landed directly on the Virginia’s deck. General Mitchell promoted Sergeant Nero during the next cycle. 18.6.8. Congress settled the question of the size of the air service with the passage of the National Defense Act of 1920. However, the manpower authorization in the new law bore little relationship to eventual reality. In addition to establishing the basic grade structure the Air Force uses to this day, the act called for a full strength in the air service of 16,000 enlisted men, divided among all grades and specialties. Yet the air service and its successor organizations did not reach this figure until almost two decades later. 18.6.9. In 1919, while Congress debated the size of the postwar establishment, the air service mounted shows for all occasions. Scarcely a county fair or patriotic gathering within flying distance of a military airfield operated without an air service demonstration. Enlisted mechanics, for example, lectured on how to repair the Liberty engine, while pilots flew acrobatics overhead. The traveling air shows, known as circuses, coincided with Victory Loan rallies and in later years provided entertainment at Armistice Day or Washington’s birthday celebrations.
18.6.10. Enlisted pilots also took part in the shows, including a trio of intrepid flying sergeants in 1923 who put together an act that involved flying a tight “V” formation while their planes were tied together with cords. Other enlisted pilots offered more routine skills; for example, dropping demonstration smoke bombs.
18.6.11. Air activities through the mid-1920s were relatively limited and generally focused on establishing records, testing equipment, and garnering headlines. Master electrician Jack Harding and Sergeant First Class Jerry Dobias served aboard a Martin bomber that flew “around the rim” of the country, starting at Bolling Field on 24 July 1919. Totaling 100 flights and 9,823 miles, Dobias kept the effort from ending almost before it began. Almost immediately after taking off from Bolling, he crawled out on the aircraft’s left wing, without a parachute, to repair a leaky engine. In 1920, the Air Corps flew a round-trip flight of four DH-4Bs from Mitchell Field on Long Island to Nome, Alaska. The flight took 3 months and covered 9,000 miles. Its safety record was largely attributable to MSgt Albert Vierra. In 1924, SSgts Alva Harvey and Henry Ogden were mechanics on the air service’s around-the-world flight. 18.6.12. After the separate air corps was established in 1926, the airshow activity slackened, probably because officials felt less a need to keep a high profile; and, with the onset of the Great Depression, funds for such activities became scarce. The Air Corps still provided demonstrations when it could, but the emphasis turned toward more serious maneuvers that combined air spectaculars with large-scale training. One such demonstration occurred in 1931, when nearly the entire air corps was mustered for a series of large-scale reviews that traveled to several large cities. Although these activities showcased the air corps’ capabilities, they put great stress on the enlisted ground crews who had to keep hundreds of planes flying throughout the grand tour. The following year, budget restrictions brought about a ban on airshows and public maneuvers.
18.7. Army Air Corps (1926 - 1947): 18.7.1. The Lassiter Board, a group of General Staff officers, recommended to the Secretary of War in 1923 that a force of bombardment and pursuit units be created to carry out independent missions under the command of an Army general headquarters in time of war. The Lampert Committee of the House of Representatives went far beyond this modest proposal in its report to the House in December 1925. After 11 months of extensive hearings, the committee proposed a unified air force independent of the Army and Navy, plus a department of defense to coordinate the three armed services. 18.7.2. Another board, headed by Dwight D. Morrow, had already reached an opposite conclusion in only 2 1/2 months. Appointed in September 1925 by President Coolidge to study the “best means of developing and applying aircraft in national defense,” the Morrow Board issued its report 2 weeks before the Lampert Committee’s. It rejected the idea of a department of defense and a separate department of air, but it recommended that the air arm be renamed the Air Corps to allow it more prestige, that it be given special representation on the General Staff, and that an assistant secretary of war for air affairs be appointed. 18.7.3. Congress accepted the Morrow Board proposal, and the Air Corps Act was enacted on 2 July 1926. The legislation changed the name of the Air Service to the Air Corps “thereby strengthening the conception of military aviation as an offensive, striking arm rather than an auxiliary service.” The act created an additional assistant secretary of war to help foster military aeronautics and it established an air section in each division of the General Staff for a period of 3 years. Other provisions required that all flying units be commanded by rated personnel and that flight pay
be continued. The position of the air arm within the Department of War remained essentially the same as before, and once more the hopes of air force officers to have an independent air force had to be deferred.
18.7.4. Perhaps the most promising aspect of the act for the Air Corps was the authorization to carry out a 5-year expansion program. However, the lack of funding caused the beginning of the 5-year expansion program to be delayed until 1 July 1927. The goal eventually adopted was 1,800 airplanes with 1,650 officers and 15,000 enlisted men to be reached in regular increments over a 5-year period. But even this modest increase never came about as planned because adequate funds were never appropriated in the budget. 18.7.5. The 20 years between the world wars marked a long, slow transition for enlisted Airmen. While their commanders struggled over the status of air power, enlisted personnel went about their business in relative quiet. From a mere handful of support troops before WWI, the enlisted corps emerged on the eve of the great global conflict of the 1940s as a nucleus of an increasingly important part of the Nation’s defense. 18.7.6. General histories of America’s air branch usually characterize the 1920s and 1930s as a time of stagnation and frustration, which is accurate if one looks only at the rarefied issues of reorganization, appropriations, and interservice rivalry. From the viewpoint of the enlisted soldier serving in the air branch, however, the assessment is more positive: both the size and sophistication of the enlisted portion of the air service grew between the wars. 18.7.7. Enlisted men began to assume specialized roles in the air service before WWI, but the process of selection and training during the pioneer days paled compared to the sophisticated developments of the 1920s and 1930s. Over the course of the years between the wars, enlisted men took on more and more responsibility and eventually came to perform a wide variety of indispensable functions on the ground and in the air. 18.7.8. In truth, however, between the wars it was the evolution of military aviation technology that most affected the roles of enlisted men. While major leaps rarely occurred, the overall changes were staggering—the air branch moved from planes only slightly advanced over the first Wright brothers’ Flyer in 1919 to modern, multiengine heavy bombers, capable of carrying their large crews on flights of thousands of miles by 1939. As the hardware of aviation changed, so too did the functions of the enlisted men in the air force. 18.7.9. Enlisted men participated in a range of experimental work, including altitude flights, blind flying, aerial photography, and cosmic ray research and the development of the parachute. Whether they were selected as guinea pigs or because they were just interested, enlisted men served as the first to try out new parachute designs, and they eventually took over most of the testing and training. The most prominent enlisted parachutist was Sergeant Ralph Bottriell (Figure 18.11), who tested the first backpack-style, freefall parachute on 19 May 1919. Bottriell eventually became chief parachute instructor at Kelly Field TX and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1933 for service as an experimental parachute tester. Figure 18.11. Ralph W. Bottriell.
18.7.10. Enlisted pilots were anomalies in the army air branch between the wars as they tended to be during most of their history. Throughout the interwar period, most enlisted pilots served as NCOs but held commissions in the Reserves. Some of the men could not qualify for Regular Army commissions because they lacked the required education. Others took enlisted status simply because they were desperate to fly and there were few officer slots in the peacetime air service. In 1928, for example, all 42 enlisted pilots, serving in ranks ranging from Cpl to MSgt, held Reserve commissions. The legislation passed in 1926 specifically directed the corps to train enlisted pilots and set a goal that 20 percent of all air corps pilots should be enlisted. From the viewpoint of air corps commanders, it was too expensive to train enlisted pilots because they could not be moved into officer administrative jobs after their active flying careers. The Great Depression complicated the situation. In 1933, blaming a shortage of funds, the air corps called a halt to enlisted pilot training.
18.7.11. With the threat of WWII, the now-established General Headquarters (GHQ) Air Force viewed enlisted pilots in a more positive light. The Army Air Forces decided to revitalize the tradition of the flying sergeant and launched a massive program of enlisted pilot training. The pressures of war broke down some of the prejudices and eroded even more rapidly the old “standard” of who qualified as a suitable flyer.
18.7.12. Throughout WWII, enlisted pilots flew fighters, transports, medium bombers, and medical evacuation and photo-reconnaissance aircraft into combat. The aerobatics team called “Three Men on a Flying Trapeze,” which predated today’s Air Force Thunderbirds, consisted of sergeant pilots William McDonald, John Williamson, and Ray Clifton (Figure 18.12). Figure 18.12. Three Men on a Flying Trapeze.
During the decades following WWI, the Army Air Corps participated in a series of national races to arouse interest in aviation and to promote favorable public support of military aeronautics. These events often featured trios of Army, Navy, and Marine Corps pilots who competed against each other in exhibitions of aero acrobatics and precision flying. This competition essentially ended at the 1934 Cleveland National Air Races when a team of stunt fliers from Maxwell Field AL put on a dazzling display of acrobatic flying that stole the show. Known as the “Three Men on a Flying Trapeze,” the group, including two enlisted men, would continue to dominate the skies until they were disbanded in 1936. The third member, then Capt Claire Chennault, never attempted to re-establish his team but later went on to form the famous “Flying Tigers.”
18.7.13. MSgt George Holmes (Figure 18.13) was the last of about 2,500 men who graduated from enlisted pilot training. He became a pilot in 1921 and was eventually promoted to lieutenant colonel during WWII. When the war ended, he chose to revert to his enlisted rank of MSgt. He was the last enlisted pilot to serve and retired in 1957. 18.8. GHQ Air Force (1935 -1939): 18.8.1. In 1935, another reorganization established a GHQ Air Force (a measure that set up a tactical air force under the direct control of the Army GHQ but left the day-to-day organization of the Air Corps mostly intact—a confusing half-step toward an independent air force) and recognized that technological advances in aircraft would eventually make air power a significant military force apart from its early role of solely supporting ground troops. The appearance of the B-17 bomber and the threat of global war ushered in an era of greater expenditure, manpower expansion, and more specialized and more sophisticated training. 18.8.2. The GHQ Air Force resumed the practice of sending demonstration teams to fairs and expositions and expanded the scope and scale of publicity flights to include large gestures such as goodwill missions to South America. These expeditions also provided opportunities to test the new long-range big bombers. In February 1938, the air force flew six B-17s with full crews, including enlisted men to Buenos Aires to mark the inauguration of the new Argentine president. 18.8.3. Air commanders throughout the interwar years placed little stock in offering much beyond the minimum and reasonably loose basic training requirements and wanted technical training for their elite enlisted force rather than training associated with the infantry. De-emphasizing military skills in favor of specialization, they asked only that new enlisted personnel be able to move from place to place in a military formation and not embarrass themselves during inspections. There was no standardized length for basic training, and the fundamental courses were designed and supervised at the unit level. Recruits took their basic training at their first assigned station and might have even combined basic training along with their first advanced technical courses. 18.8.4. Perhaps the key to the success of the technical school was the air service system of trade testing. While other branches of the Army returned to the apprentice system of assignment and training, the Army Air Corps continued to use and develop a combination of the Army Alpha Test, aptitude tests, and counseling. Enlisted men who wanted to apply for technical training had to qualify as high school graduates, or the equivalent, and pass a mathematics proficiency test in addition to the alpha test. Finally, a trade test specialist familiar with the actual work personally interviewed each enlisted man.
Figure 18.13. George Holmes. File:George-Holmes.png
18.8.5. Classes at the technical school started in the fall and usually continued until the following spring when the school shut down for summer repairs. Students had to pay their own transportation to Illinois and, during some periods, lived in relatively crude conditions. Still, the training grew in popularity. By 1938, the technical school had outgrown Chanute and new branches opened at Lowry Field near Denver, Colorado, and at Scott Field in downstate Illinois.
18.9. WWII (1939 - 1945): Even before the actual outbreak of hostilities in Europe in the fall of 1939, the GHQ Air Force had begun the massive expansion program that would blossom during the following years into the largest air organization in the Nation’s history. In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked for an appropriation of $300 million for military aviation. The Air Corps planned for 24 operational combat-ready groups by 1941, which called for greatly enhanced manpower, training, and equipment.
18.9.1. The Air Corps Prepares for War: 126.96.36.199. In 1938, when the United States first took seriously the signs of war in Europe, the army’s air arm was still split into two cumbersome command organizations, the Army Air Corps and GHQ Air Force. The total force included less than 20,000 enlisted Airmen. In 1940, Congress passed the first peacetime conscription law in US history. By March 1944 when the air force manpower reached its high point, 2,104,405 enlisted men and women were serving in a virtually independent branch of the armed services. Moreover, they operated a sophisticated machine of air war that covered nearly the entire globe. 188.8.131.52. Meanwhile, the official status of the Army’s air arm had undergone a significant series of changes brought on by the extreme pressures of the expansion program, pressures that accomplished in practice what decades of air power advocates had failed to do. The aerial branch of the US Army was split between the Army Air Corps, which handled all the day-to-day administrative, support, and training matters, and the GHQ Air Force, which was responsible for combat operations in the event of war. When pressed to the limit by expansion, the system was gradually revamped in a startlingly personal way. General H.H. “Hap” Arnold became the chief of air corps in 1938. In 1941, Arnold was designated the new Army deputy chief of staff for air, thereby combining in one man the authority over both of the older organizations. In June 1941, the Army Air Forces was created with Arnold as chief. Even though Arnold was technically not in complete command of the Army Air Forces and technically it was not a separate branch of the service, during the war, no one acted as if Arnold was anything but in complete control of a distinct air force. He sat with the chiefs of staff as an equal member, and the Army Air Forces operated from 1941 until 1945 as a nearly autonomous branch of the service. 184.108.40.206. From 1939 until 1941, the concept of training did not change drastically, but the scale did. Training centers expanded and multiplied. Ever larger numbers of new Airmen passed through advanced training as the overall goals for assembling combat-ready groups increased. The air corps simply could not build housing fast enough or find qualified instructors in sufficient numbers to keep up with the pace. Army officials turned to private schools to help meet the demand, and many mechanics, for example, received training in one of the 15 civilian schools.
18.9.2. WWII—The Great Central, Cataclysmic 20th Century Event: 220.127.116.11. More than 2 million enlisted Airmen served in the Army Air Forces during the largest war ever. Most of them—aside from a small number of pre-war soldiers—were not professional warriors. Some carried out routine duties in safe, if unfamiliar, surroundings while others endured extreme conditions in faraway places for years (Figure 18.14). Tens of thousands died, in combat, and scarcely any of them remained unchanged by the war. Figure 18.14. John D. Foley.
Not many fliers have had a popular song written about them, but an exception was a soft-spoken USAAF enlisted man, John D. Foley. Although he had never received aerial gunnery training, he volunteered as a gunner and was assigned to a B-26 crew. On his first mission, Foley shot down at least one Japanese enemy aircraft. Other 19th Bomb Squadron members confirmed his victory and he was nicknamed “Johnny Zero” by a war correspondent. Cpl Foley became a hero and the subject of a popular song, “Johnny Got a Zero.” Commercial firms capitalized on his fame and produced such items as “Johnny Zero” watches and boots. During his 31 other Pacific combat missions, Foley shared in the destruction of at least 6 more enemy aircraft and survived 3 crashes. Malaria forced his return to the United States in 1943 where he toured factories promoting war production. He volunteered to fly again and completed 31 missions over Europe. He returned to the
an Army Air Force legend by being decorated a total of eight times for heroism including personal recognition by Generals MacArthur, Eisenhower, and Doolittle.
United States again and was preparing for a third overseas tour when WWII ended. But before the war ended, Foley became 18.104.22.168. Before the United States could engage the enemy, it needed more personnel, training, and equipment. Thus, the year 1942 was largely one of buildup and training; these processes continued throughout the war. In the words of a former 8th Air Force gunner, “It took an average of about 30 men to support a bomber—I’m talking about a four-engine bomber, whether it be a B-24 or a B-17, it’s about the same thing—yet you had to have somebody riding a gasoline truck, oil trucks, you had to have a carburetor specialist and armaments and so forth, sheet metal work; if you got shot up, they had to patch the holes. These people were very important . . . and they worked 18 to 20 hours a day when you came back.” 22.214.171.124. If anything, the gunner underestimated the number of “guys on the ground” required to keep planes in the air. No one has come up with an accurate figure across the board for WWII; but if all the support personnel in the entire Army Air Corps are taken into account, the ratio was probably closer to 70 men to 1 airplane. During the war, the great majority of the more than 2 million enlisted Airmen served in roles that never took them into the air, but without their efforts, even the most mundane or menial, no bombs would have dropped and no war would have been waged. 126.96.36.199. Women served with distinction in the Army Air Force, replacing men who could then be reassigned to combat and other vital duties. The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was created in May 1942 (Figure 18.15). Top priority for assignment of WAACs was to serve at aircraft warning service stations. In the spring of 1943, the WAAC became the Women’s Army Corps (WAC); almost one-half of their peak strength served with the Army Air Force, with many assigned to clerical and administrative duties, while others worked as topographers, medical specialists, chemists, and even aircraft mechanics. Some commanders were reluctant to accept women into their units; but by mid-1943, the demand for them far exceeded the numbers available. 188.8.131.52. Enlisted personnel served with honor throughout WWII. For example, a raid against the last operational Nazi oil refinery on 15 March 1945 was successful, but cost the life of one of the enlisted force’s most decorated Airmen. TSgt Sandy Sanchez flew 44 missions as a gunner with the 95th Bomb Group, 19 more than required to complete his tour. After returning home for a brief period, rather than accept an assignment as a gunnery instructor, he returned to Europe. Flying with the 353d Bombardment Squadron in Italy, Sanchez’s aircraft was hit by ground fire. Nine of the 10-member crew bailed out successfully, but Sanchez never made it from the stricken aircraft. Sanchez’s honors include the Silver Star, Soldier’s Medal, and Distinguished Flying Cross.
Figure 18.15. Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps File:WAAC.png
184.108.40.206. The 25th Liaison Squadron was one of the
(WAAC) and the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) . more celebrated liaison units. One of its members, SSgt James Nichols, earned the Air Medal and Silver Star for separate exploits in early 1944. For the Air Medal, Nichols landed his L-5 on an empty beach where earlier in the day he notice the words “US Ranger” scrawled in the sand. Twenty rangers, several of whom were seriously wounded, had been trapped behind enemy lines for weeks and were running low on ammunition and supplies. Two at a time, Nichols and accompanying L-5s picked up the soldiers and whisked them to safety. Nichols earned the Silver Star for his role in the rescue of a P-40 pilot in New Guinea. Nichols landed his L-5 on a rough strip in an effort to pick up the pilot and two other former rescuers. One of the former rescuers crashed his L-5 a week before in an attempt to rescue the pilot. Unfortunately, Nichols’ aircraft was also damaged beyond repair and the only remaining option was to walk out. With only a 2-day supply of food, the group hiked for 17 days before an Australian patrol caught up with the men. Each person had lost 25 to 30 pounds and had contracted malaria, but all recovered.
220.127.116.11. At the age of 20, on a mission to bomb the oil refineries outside Vienna, TSgt Paul Airey (Figure 18.16) and his fellow crewmen were shot down on their 28th mission. He was held as a prisoner of war (POW) for 10 months, surviving a 90-day march from the Baltic Sea to Berlin before being liberated by the British Army in 1945. Promoted to CMSgt in 1962, Airey became the first Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force in 1967. In 1988, he received the first Air Force POW medal. 18.104.22.168. Before 1942, the air wing of the Army had barred blacks from service and only began accepting black officers and enlisted men when forced by Congress and the wartime emergency. Blacks during WWII were admitted to the Army Air Forces, but on a strictly segregated basis. Training and service for black enlisted Airmen and officers were mostly confined to a single, separate base at Tuskegee, Alabama. All- black combat fighter units formed the famous “Tuskegee Airmen,” with enlisted black mechanics and support troops (Figure 18.17). A few black enlisted men eventually trained as aerial gunners, flight engineers, and radio operators when the AAF formed an all-black bomber group, but the unit never saw action. 22.214.171.124. When the air force became a distinct service in 1947, the segregation policies were transferred, but the new organization confronted special difficulties in maintaining the separation, especially in the case of enlisted Airmen. The official restrictions of forcing black Airmen to serve either in all-black units or in segregated service squads robbed the air force of a major talent pool. On 11 May 1949, Air Force Letter 35.3 was published, mandating that black Airmen be screened for reassignment to formerly all-white units according to qualifications. Astoundingly, within a year, virtually the entire air force was integrated, almost without incident. 126.96.36.199. In the spring of 1945, after 3 1/2 years of carnage, the end of the war seemed inevitable. The invasion of Europe the previous year and the Allied ground forces’ grinding advance toward Berlin finally destroyed Germany. The Third Reich surrendered in May 1945. With Europe calmed, the American forces turned their full power against the Japanese. The American high command expected the final struggle in the Pacific would require relentless attacks against a fanatical foe. Despite the widespread destruction of Japanese cities by low-level B-29 fire bombings throughout the spring and summer of 1945, Japan’s continued resistance made US commanders realize that only an American invasion of the home islands and the subjugation of the entire Japanese population would force the empire’s leadership to surrender unconditionally as the Allies demanded.
Figure 18.16. Paul Airey. File:Paul-Airey.png
Figure 18.19. Enlisted Men of the Bock’s Car Flight Crew.
188.8.131.52. Army Air Force’s enlisted crews flew thousands of combat missions during WWII, but two missions over Japan in August 1945 changed the world: the flight of the Enola Gay (Figure 18.18), 6 August 1945, to drop the world’s first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, and the flight of Bock’s Car (Figure 18.19) dropping the second bomb 3 days later on the city of Nagasaki, Japan.
18.9.3. Medal of Honor. Four enlisted aircrewmen received the United States’ highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, between May 1943 and April 1945. NOTE: A total of six enlisted members have been awarded the Medal of Honor (Figure 18.20).
Figure 18.20. Enlisted Medal of Honor Recipients.
Smith, Maynard Harrison “Snuffy” – 1943 Erwin, Henry Eugene “Red” – 1945 Vosler, Forrest Lee – 1943 Pitsenbarger, William H. – 1966 Mathies, Archibald – 1944 Levitow, John - 1969
184.108.40.206. Sergeant Maynard H. Smith (Figure 18.21). Serving as a B-17 tail gunner, Smith of Cairo, Michigan, earned the first Medal of Honor awarded to an enlisted man. Flying his very first mission on 1 May 1943, Smith’s aircraft was one of several 306th Bomber Group planes assigned to attack the heavily defended submarine pens at St Nazaire, France. Smith’s aircraft bore the brunt of intense anti-aircraft and enemy fighter attacks. Three of the crew bailed out and two more were seriously wounded during the continuous attacks. While the stricken aircraft’s oxygen supply system could not supply oxygen to the crew, it did feed the many fires raging on the plane. Smith grabbed fire extinguishers and water bottles to battle the flames. After exhausting these, he wrapped himself in extra layers of clothing to beat out with his hands fires so intense they melted radio equipment cameras, and caused ammunition to explode. At the same time, he administered first-aid to his wounded crewmates and manned guns to fight off enemy fighter attacks. Secretary of War Henry Stimson presented Smith the Medal of Honor in July 1943. 220.127.116.11. Technical Sergeant Forrest L. Vosler (Figure 18.22). Almost 8 months later, on 20 December 1943, radio operator Vosler of Lyndonville, New York, became the second enlisted man to receive the Medal of Honor. During an attack against a submarine base at Bremen, Germany, by the 303d Bomber Group, the B-17 aircraft to which Vosler was assigned lost two engines to anti-aircraft fire and fell out of formation— attracting swarms of enemy fighter aircraft. Early attacks wounded Vosler in the legs; when he worked his way to the rear of the aircraft to take over for the injured tail gunner, he was struck in the chest and face, impeding his vision. Vosler continued to fire at approaching enemy aircraft despite offers of first-aid. Lapsing in and out of consciousness after the attacks ceased, he managed to repair the damaged radio by touch alone and send out a distress call. Virtually sightless by the time the crippled aircraft was forced to ditch in the North Sea, Vosler continued to aid the tail gunner until they could be rescued. President Roosevelt presented Vosler the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony in September 1944. Figure 18.21. Maynard H. Smith. Figure 18.22. Forrest L.Vosler.
18.104.22.168. Staff Sergeant Archibald Mathies (Figure 18.23). The final Medal of Honor earned by an enlisted man in the European Theater was awarded posthumously to Scotland native Mathies of the 351st Bomber Group. On 20 February 1944, serving as engineer and ball turret gunner, Mathies’ aircraft was severely damaged in a frontal attack by enemy fighters over Leipzig, Germany. The attack killed the copilot and wounded the pilot, rendering him unconscious. Sergeant Carl Moore, the plane’s top turret gunner, managed to pull the aircraft from its spin, and he and Mathies managed to fly the aircraft back to England. Surviving crewmembers were ordered to parachute to safety. All but Mathies and the navigator, Lieutenant Walter Truemper, complied; the pair refused to abandon the injured pilot. On his fourth attempt to land, Mathies crashed the aircraft, killing all aboard. 22.214.171.124. Staff Sergeant Henry E. Erwin (Figure 18.24). On 12 April 1945, Erwin of the 29th Bombardment Group earned the USAAF enlisted corps’ final Medal of Honor. The 23-year old Adamsville, Alabama, native served as a radio operator aboard a B-29 attacking a chemical plant at Koriyama, Japan. As the aircraft began its bomb run, the flare Erwin prepared to release ignited prematurely and began to burn through the floor of the aircraft. Already badly injured by the flare, he cradled the 1300-degree Fahrenheit flare and hurled it through the copilot’s window. Badly burned and not expected to survive, Erwin received the Medal of Honor from General Curtis LeMay just over a week after the Koriyama mission. However, Erwin did survive the incident, as well as dozens of subsequent operations. He then went on to serve more than 30 years in the Veterans Administration. Figure 18.23. Archibald Mathies. Figure 18.24. Henry E. Erwin.
18.10. Creation of an Independent Air Force (1943 - 1947): 18.10.1. The massive WWII-era USAAF demobilized in only a few months. From an all-time high of slightly more than 2.2 million men in 1945 at the time of the Japanese surrender, USAAF numbers fell to 485,000 in the spring of 1945 and to a mere 33,000 only a year later. Few USAAF men had been in the pipeline for immediate discharge after the German surrender because US officials feared a long struggle to defeat the Japanese and perceived an ongoing need for technicians. When the detonation of atomic bombs created an abrupt end to the conflict, the USAAF was
nearly at full wartime strength. After the German surrender in September 1945, the USAAF moved swiftly to return almost 2 million men to civilian life.
18.10.2. This left a core of prewar career Airmen and a smattering of others who, for various reasons, wanted to be part of the postwar air arm. The official policy in 1946 called for 50 air groups with 500,000 officers and enlisted men. Despite stepping up recruiting efforts, changing enlistments to longer terms (3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-year hitches instead of 12 and 18 months), and raising education requirements for enlistment, the Air Force barely reached 400,000 men by 1949. 18.10.3. Between 1945 and 1947, the USAAF was reorganized by the War Department into three basic commands that reflected postwar anxieties about global defense. The new Strategic Air Command (SAC), designed to deliver air power to distant lands, became the focus of most attention. The continental Air Defense Command (ADC) rated second as the defender of the US homeland. The Tactical Air Command (TAC) existed for a while only as a staff with no planes or operational units. 18.10.4. On 26 July 1947, the National Security Act (NSA) established the Department of the Air Force and the United States Air Force. James V. Forrestal took the oath of office as Secretary of Defense on 17 September 1947 and on 18 September 1947, W. Stuart Symington became the first Secretary of the Air Force and General Carl A. Spaatz the first Air Force chief of staff. 18.10.5. The new US Air Force in theory was a coequal part of the national military establishment. It had a Chief of Staff (General Carl Spaatz) and a Secretary of the Air Force (Stuart Symington) serving under the newly organized Department of Defense. The old US Army Air Force and Army Air Corps ceased to exist and were absorbed into the new organization. 18.10.6. For the average enlisted Airman, the immediate change was scarcely noticeable (Figure 18.25). In many areas, the establishment of the Air Force had little impact on the lives of enlisted personnel until months or even years had passed. What were designated as “organic” service units were taken over as newly designated air force units. Units that provided a common service to both the Army and the Air Force were left intact. Until 1950, for example, if an enlisted Airman became seriously ill, he was likely treated by Army doctors in an Army hospital. Figure 18.25. Esther Blake.
Esther Blake was the “first woman in the Air Force.” She enlisted on the first minute of the first hour of the first day regular Air Force duty was authorized for women on 8 July 1948. Blake’s active military career began in 1944 when she, a widow, joined her sons in uniform for the Army Air Forces. She closed her desk as a civilian employee at Miami Air Depot and joined the WAC when she was notified that her oldest son, a B-17 pilot, had been shot down over Belgium and was reported missing.
Her younger son was quoted as saying that her reason for joining was the hope of helping free a soldier from clerical work to fight, thus speeding the end of the war. During the months and years that followed, Blake saw both of her sons return home from combat with only minor wounds and many decorations.
She remained active with the Air Force until 1954 when she separated due to disability and went to work with the civil service at the Veterans Regional Headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama, until her death in 1979.
18.10.7. There was also, at first, no change in appearance. The distinctive blue uniforms of the US Air Force were introduced only after large stocks of Army clothing were used up. Familiar terms slowly gave way to new labels. By 1959, enlisted Airmen ate in “dining halls” rather than “mess halls,” were eyed warily by “air police” instead of “military police,” and bought necessities at the “base exchange” instead of the “post exchange.” 18.10.8. Initially, the rank system remained as it had been in the USAAF. Corporal was removed from NCO status in 1950. Then, in 1952, the Air Force officially changed the names of the lower four ranks from private to Airman basic; private first class to Airman, third class; corporal to Airman, second class; and sergeant to Airman, first class. These changes were in response to a development that surfaced during WWII. The enlisted ranks of the Air Force were packed with highly skilled technicians who sought and received NCO ranks as a reflection of their training and value to the service. Eventually, a relative abundance of sergeants, many of whom did not play the traditional lower management role of sergeants in the Army, permeated the Air Force. The establishment of a separate Air Force and the multiplying sophistication of air force hardware put emphasis on specialists who were rated as staff sergeants or technical sergeants. 18.10.9. Promotion and specialization went hand in hand with training in the new Air Force. When the new organization established Air Force specialty codes (AFSC) as standard designations for functional and technical specialties, qualification for an advanced AFSC became part of the criteria for promotion. During the late 1940s, the Air Force also began an Airman Career Program that attempted to encourage long-term careers for enlisted specialists. 18.11. The Cold War (1948 - 1989): 18.11.1. Although the United States and its Western allies had counted on the Soviet Union as a heroic nation struggling with them against Hitler, it was apparent even before WWII ended that the alliance between West and East would not survive the ideological gulf that separated the capitalist democracies from the Communist giant. In 1945, the Big Three—British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt—met to discuss the postwar division of Europe. The meeting did not go well, but it did result in laying the foundation of what became the United Nations (UN). 18.11.2. In 1946, the fledgling UN took up the issue of controlling nuclear weapons. By June 1946, the commission completed a plan for the elimination of nuclear weaponry based on inspectors who would travel the globe to ensure no country was making atomic bombs and to supervise the dismantling of existing weapons. Unfortunately, the plan was vetoed by the Soviet Union, resulting in almost five decades of cold war, in which the atomic superpowers played a potentially lethal game of chess, using the face of the world as their gameboard. 18.11.3. The Berlin Airlift (1948 - 1949): 126.96.36.199. In June 1948, the Soviet Union exploited the arrangements under which the United States, Great Britain, and France had occupied Germany by closing off all surface access to the city of Berlin. If left unchallenged, the provocative actions of the communists may not only have won them an important psychological victory, but may also have given them permanent control over all of Berlin. Worried that an attempt to force the blockade on the ground may precipitate World War III, the allies instead “built” a Luftbrücke—an air bridge—into Berlin. 188.8.131.52. For their part, the Soviets did not believe resupply of the city by air was even feasible, let alone practical. The Air Force turned to Major General William Tunner, who had led the Hump airlift over the Himalayan mountains to supply China during WWII. As the Nation’s leading military air cargo expert, he thoroughly analyzed US airlift capabilities and requirements and set in motion an airlift operation that would save a city. For 15 months, the 2.2 million inhabitants of the Western sectors of Berlin were sustained by air power alone as the operation flew in 2.33 million tons of supplies on 277,569 flights (Figure 18.26). Airlift had previously come of age during WWII, but it is questionable whether its potential had Figure 18.26. C-47s in Berlin. been fully realized by commanders who predominantly defined “strategic” in terms of bombs on targets. The Berlin airlift was arguably air power’s single most decisive contribution to the cold war, and it unquestionably achieved a profound strategic effect.
184.108.40.206. Enlisted personnel served as cargo managers and loaders (with a major assist from German civilians), air traffic controllers, communications specialists, and weather and navigation specialists. Of all the enlisted functions, perhaps the most critical to the success of the airlift was maintenance. The Soviets’ eventual capitulation and dismantling of the surface blockade represented one of the great Western victories of the cold war—without a bomb having been dropped—and laid the foundation for the NATO. 18.11.4. The Korean War (1950 - 1953): 220.127.116.11. The surprise invasion of South Korea by North Korean armed forces on 25 June 1950 caught the US Air Force ill-prepared to deal with a conventional war in a remote corner of the world. The resulting confusion and makeshift responses fell short of requirements during the active course of the war, conditions made even more difficult by the drastic swings of military fortune during 1950 and 1951 on the Korean peninsula. The conflict imposed acute difficulties on enlisted Airmen, and throughout the Korean War, Airmen were called on to serve under the most dangerous and frustrating conditions. 18.104.22.168. While the Air Force struggled to find its organizational underpinnings as a separate service, it also faced severe appropriation shortages. Most Americans saw the nuclear threat from the USSR as a major challenge of the postwar period. Consequently, the Air Force put most of its resources into preparations for a global conflict that planners assumed would be over in a few days or weeks. At the same time, the hardware of the air war changed with the introduction of fast jet fighters and massive, long-range bombers. Officials believed that prop planes and close-combat support techniques of WWII were obsolete. Key conventional- war functions, such as photo reconnaissance, were allowed to decline, and large numbers of enlisted technicians in all areas were lost to the lure of higher salaries in the commercial world. 22.214.171.124. By 1950, most US ground and air strength in the Pacific was in Japan. Although the Far East Air Forces (FEAF), led by General George Stratemeyer, claimed more than 400 aircraft in Japan, Guam, Korea, and the Philippines, its strength was illusive. The force consisted largely of F-80 jets, which did not have the range necessary to intercede in Korea from Japan. The first aerial combat between the United States and North Korea took place over Kimpo on 27 June 1950. On 29 June, B-26 gunner Staff Sergeant Nyle S. Mickley shot down a North Korean YaK-3, the first such victory recorded during the war. Enlisted personnel served as gunners aboard the B-26 for the first several months of the conflict and on B-29 aircraft throughout the war. 126.96.36.199. Despite the application of US naval and air power against enemy targets and forces in both North and South Korea, the North Korean Army continued its relentless advance southward through the end of August 1950. The 2 months following the invasion marked an increase in Air Force activity, to include B-29 strikes and the introduction of F-51 aircraft. By mid-September, the North Korean offensive had clearly failed; the UN forces had survived savage blows and grown steadily stronger. Fighting the North Koreans to a standstill required the combined efforts of the air, land, and sea forces of several nations. Although air power did not prevail, it did help to stop the enemy’s drive: the burned-out hulks of hundreds of tanks destroyed by air strikes marked the invasion route and B-29s damaged the North Korean transportation network and destroyed whatever industry the nation possessed. 188.8.131.52. On 15 September 1950, US forces spearheaded by the First Marine Division successfully landed at Inchon, near Seoul, South Korea, effectively cutting supply lines to the North Korean Army deep in the south and threatening its rear. The US Eighth Army launched its own offensive from Pusan a day later, and what once was a stalled North Korean offensive became a disorganized retreat. So complete was the rout that less than one-third of the 100,000 strong North Korean Army escaped back to the north. On 27 September 1950, President Harry Truman authorized US forces to pursue the beaten army north of the 38th parallel. 184.108.40.206. Air power played a significant role in the Allied offensive. Airlift actions ranged from the spectacular, to include the drop of the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team to cut off retreating North Korean troops, to the more mundane but critical airlift of personnel and supplies. Foreshadowing a versatility shown by the B-52 in later decades, FEAF B-29s performed a number of missions not even considered before the war, to include interdiction, battlefield support, and air superiority (counter airfield). On 9 November 1950, Corporal Harry LaVene of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, serving as gunner, scored the first B-29 victory over a jet by downing a MiG-15. LaVene’s victory was the first of 27 MiGs shot down by B-29 gunners during the course of the war. Sgt Billie Beach, a tail gunner on an Okinawa-based
B-29, shot down two MiGs on 12 April 1951, a feat unmatched by any other gunner. His own plane was so shot up, however, that it and the crew barely survived an emergency landing with collapsed gear at an advanced fighter strip. Enlisted members served in many other ways as well (Figure 18.27).
Figure 18.27. Enlisted Contributions.
Throughout the whipsaw series of events, Airmen performed crucial roles, some of them familiar from the days of WWII, but many entirely new. Enlisted aerial gunners, flight engineers, and radio operators flew thousands of sorties on B-29s and B-26s. Enlisted radio operators served on the front lines as part of tactical air control teams. Ground technicians, mechanics, and armorers served both jets and prop fighters, sometimes switching back and forth with little notice. When air force hardware proved inadequate, enlisted Airmen fabricated new devices on the spot to fill the need.
220.127.116.11. The helicopter, essentially a novelty in WWII, became an important player in war. Rescue squadrons greatly improved the chances of a pilot being recovered from behind enemy lines and, if wounded, receiving adequate medical attention more quickly. On 10 October 1950, an H-5 crew administered plasma to an injured pilot in flight—a first. Operating everything from helicopters to amphibious planes to even its own mini-Navy, the exploits of the 3d Air Rescue Squadron made it the most decorated unit of the Korean war. 18.104.22.168. The success of the United Figure 18.28. Combat Command Personnel and States-led counteroffensive ended Supplies. abruptly in late November with the full- scale entrance of China into the war. Over the course of the next 2 months, the Chinese, together with the remnants of the routed North Korean Army, advanced 40 miles south of the South Korean capital of Seoul but were halted by stiffening ground resistance, US Air Force close air support and air interdiction, and its own stretched supply lines (Figure 18.28). Limited allied offensives in the ensuing months brought US, UN, and South Korean forces back near the 38th parallel by February 1951. After 2 1/2 more years of war, including 2 years of truce negotiations, the war ended on 27 July 1953 near that demarcation line.
22.214.171.124. On a variety of levels, the Korean war represented a change in US participation in war. Two were of particular note. First, the realities of the cold war redefined the term “victory.” In quasi-proxy conflicts such as the Korean war, victory could mean something less than destroying the enemy’s armed forces or replacing governments. “Containment” (of communism), the US-stated position of the cold war since 1947, became reality. 126.96.36.199. Second, the US Armed Forces and the United States Air Force, in particular, fought the war in the midst of a technological evolution, an evolution that saw the talent and skill of its enlisted force used significantly (Figure 18.29). Propellers gave way to jets; bombsights that were state of the art in WWII gave way to much more effective electronic versions. During this technological evolution, Master Sergeant LeRoy Henderson received recognition when he earned the Legion of Merit for inventing a new technique to replace hinge pins on the F-84 aircraft. A two-man, 20-hour job could now be accomplished in 2 hours by one mechanic.
Figure 18.29. Electronic Warfare Officers.
In 1956, the Strategic Air Command experienced a shortage of electronic warfare officers (EWO) for assignment to newly forming B-52 wings. To fill the slots, 75 enlisted radio and electronic countermeasures operators were selected to staff the 99th Bomb Wing at Westover, MA. These personnel served until commissioned replacements were available in late 1964. Some even trained, checked, and certified their own replacements. During the years between 1956 and 1964, several other requirements led to the certification of enlisted EWOs. In all, 132 enlisted personnel were qualified and assigned duties as B-52 EWOs.
18.11.5. Cuban Missile Crisis (1962): 188.8.131.52. In 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew the dictator of Cuba, initially promising free elections, but instead instituted a socialist dictatorship. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled their island, many coming to the United States. From his rhetoric and actions, Castro proved he was a Communist. In late 1960, President Eisenhower authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to plan an invasion of Cuba using Cuban exiles as troops. President Eisenhower hoped that, in conjunction with the invasion, the Cuban people would overthrow Castro and install a pro-US government. The President’s second term ended before the plan could be implemented. President John F. Kennedy ordered the invasion to proceed. In mid-April 1961, the Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs and suffered a crushing defeat. 184.108.40.206. Following failure of the US-Figure 18.30. U-2 Aircraft. supported Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles in April 1961, the Soviet Union increased economic and military aid to Cuba. In August 1962, the Soviets and Cubans started constructing intermediate- and medium-range ballistic missile complexes on the island. Suspicious, the US intelligence community called for photographic investigation and verification of the activity. In October, SAC U-2 aircraft (Figure 18.30) deployed to McCoy AFB FL and began flying high-altitude reconnaissance flights over Cuba. On 15 October, photographs obtained on flights the previous day confirmed the construction of launch pads that, when completed, could be used to employ nuclear-armed missiles with a range up to 5,000 miles. Eleven days later, RF-101s and RB-66s began conducting low-level reconnaissance flights, verifying data gathered by the U-2s and gathering prestrike intelligence.
220.127.116.11. In the event an invasion of Cuba became necessary, TAC deployed F-84, F-100, F-105, RB-66, and KB-50 aircraft to numerous bases in Florida. Meanwhile, SAC prepared for general war by dispersing nuclear-capable B-47 aircraft to approximately 40 airfields in the United States and keeping numerous B-52 heavy bombers in the air ready to strike. 18.104.22.168. Meanwhile, President Kennedy and his advisors on the national security team debated the most effective course of action. Many on the JCS favored invasion, but President Kennedy took the somewhat less drastic step of imposing a naval blockade of the island, which was designed to prevent any more materiel from reaching Cuba. Still technically an act of war, the blockade nevertheless had the advantage of not turning the cold war into a hot one.
22.214.171.124. Confronted with the photographic evidence of missiles, the Soviet Union initially responded belligerently. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev accused the United States of degenerate imperialism and declared that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) would not observe the illegal blockade. In the ensuing days, Khrushchev softened, then hardened, his position and demands. Tensions increased on 27 October when Cuban air defenses shot down a U-2 piloted by Major Rudolf Anderson. 126.96.36.199. The JCS recommended an immediate air strike against Cuba, but President Kennedy decided to wait. The increasing tempo in the military, however, continued unabated. While US military preparations continued, the United States agreed to not invade Cuba in exchange for removal of Soviet missiles from the island. Secretly, the United States also agreed to remove American missiles from Turkey. The Soviets turned their Cuban-bound ships around, packed up the missiles in Cuba, and dismantled the launch pads. As the work progressed, the Air Force started to deploy aircraft back to home bases and lower the alert status. 188.8.131.52. The Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world dangerously close to nuclear war; the world breathed a sigh of relief when it ended. The strategic and tactical power of the US Air Force, coupled with the will and ability to use it, provided the synergy to deter nuclear war with the USSR and convince the Soviet leaders to remove the nuclear weapons from Cuba. 18.11.6. The War in Southeast Asia (1950 -1975). The Truman Administration did not pursue total victory in Korea in part to maintain US defensive emphasis on Western Europe. The next major conflict for the US Armed Forces, however, once again took place in Asia.
184.108.40.206. The Early Years (1950 - 1964): 220.127.116.11.1. In the 1950s, the United States’ involvement in Vietnam began as a cold war operation. Vietnam was essentially a French battle. However, the post WWII policy of containment of communism prompted President Harry S. Truman to intervene. On 7 February 1950, the United States recognized the legitimacy of the French-backed ruler of Vietnam, the former Emperor Bao Dai. The French then requested US economic and military aid, stating they would leave the nation to Ho Chi Minh and communism if they did not receive the assistance. The United States appropriated $75 million. On 25 June 1950, Communist forces from North Korea invaded South Korea and President Truman increased aid. He also ordered eight C-47 transports directly to Saigon, the first air force presence in Vietnam. On 3 August 1950, the first contingent of the US Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) arrived in Saigon. 18.104.22.168.2. By 1952, the United States supplied one-third of the cost of the French military effort in Vietnam, yet it was becoming apparent that the French were losing heart. On 4 January 1953, the United States deployed the first sizable contingent of Air Force personnel (other than those attached to the MAAG). This group included a complement of enlisted technicians (Figure 18.31) to primarily handle supply and aircraft maintenance. 22.214.171.124.3. In April 1953, the Viet Minh (under Ho Chi Minh’s direction) staged a major offensive, advancing into Laos and menacing Thailand. President Eisenhower authorized C-119 transports (aircraft only, not crews) to the area and loaned additional cargo planes to the French in the fall of 1954. Because French air units were seriously undermanned, US officials made the fateful decision on 31 January 1954 to dispatch 300 Airmen to service aircraft at Tourane and at Do Son Airfield near Haiphong. Figure 18.31. Enlisted Technicians.
126.96.36.199.4. On 7 April 1954, President Eisenhower presented to the American press a rationale for fighting communism in Vietnam. “You have a row of dominoes set up,” he explained, “you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty it will go over very quickly.” 188.8.131.52.5. As Air Force presence increased in the early 1960s, so did the need for support personnel. Construction of airfields, barracks, and intelligence- gathering were among the priorities. In addition, Operation Ranch Hand kicked off in January 1962. Using modified transports, Operation Ranch Hand crews sprayed herbicides on jungles and undergrowth to kill the foliage and deny cover to the enemy. On 2 February 1962, a C-123 on a training flight for Operation Ranch Hand crashed in South Vietnam, probably the result of ground fire or sabotage. Staff Sergeant Milo B. Coghill, the aircraft’s flight engineer, became the first Air Force enlisted member to die in South Vietnam as a result of this crash.
184.108.40.206. The Air War Expands (1965 - 1968): 220.127.116.11.1. On 7 February 1965, the Viet Cong attacked Camp Holloway near Pleiku, killing eight Americans. The President responded with Operation Flaming Dart, a series of strikes against military barracks near Dong Hoi in North Vietnam, as well as other targets. Increased air strikes against targets in the northern half of the country, code name Rolling Thunder, began less than a month later on 2 March. Rolling Thunder was the first sustained bombing campaign of the war against North Vietnam and lasted through 1968. 18.104.22.168.2. As offensive air operations increased, Air Force presence in Southeast Asia also increased. For example, about 10,000 Air Force personnel served in Vietnam in May 1965. This number doubled by the end of the year, and as 1968 drew to a close, 58,000 Airmen served in the country. Airmen performed a variety of duties, ranging from support to combat to rescue (Figure 18.32). Prime BEEF personnel, for example, built revetments, barracks, and other facilities. Rapid engineering and heavy operational repair squadron, engineering (Red Horse) teams provided more long-range civil engineer services. In the realm of combat operations, Air Force gunners flew aboard gunships as well as B-57s and B-52s. In December 1972, B-52 tail gunner Staff Sergeant Samuel Turner shot down an enemy MiG, the first of only two confirmed shoot downs by enlisted Airmen during the war—both victories from gunners belonging to the 307th Strategic Wing at U-Tapao, Thailand. Credit for the fifth overall MiG-21 kill during Linebacker II also went to an enlisted Airman, A1C Albert E. Moore (Figure 18.33). Figure 18.32. Medical Evacuation System. Figure 18.33. Albert E. Moore.
22.214.171.124.3. Enlisted personnel also served on gunships during the war as both aerial gunners and as loadmasters. With the Gatling-style guns actually aimed by the pilot through speed, bank, and altitude, the responsibility of the aerial gunners was to keep the quick-firing guns reloaded. Crewmembers occupying this position were particularly vulnerable to ground fire. Meanwhile, loadmasters released flare canisters over target areas during night missions—another hazardous undertaking. On 18 December 1966, a flare on board an AC-47 gunship exploded prematurely, deploying its parachute in the aircraft. With only seconds before the 4,000-degree Fahrenheit flare ignited, Staff Sergeant Parnell Fisher of the 4th Air Commando Squadron searched the darkened cabin and threw the flare out just as it ignited. The parachute, however, caught under the cargo door, and the flare burned next to the fuselage. Fisher cut the lines while leaning outside the aircraft, probably saving the crew and plane. These efforts earned him the Silver Star.
126.96.36.199.4. Three years later, another loadmaster earned the Medal of Honor. On 24 February 1969, an enemy shell exploded on the right wing of “Spooky 71,” an AC-47 on a night illumination mission near Long Binh, South Vietnam. The explosion resulted in injury to all four enlisted personnel in the aircraft’s cargo bay, including Airman First Class John Levitow (Figure 18.34), as well as an armed Mark 24 flare rolled about the cabin floor. Suffering 40 shrapnel wounds, Levitow fell on the flare, dragged it to the cargo door, and heaved it outside. It ignited almost immediately. President Richard Nixon presented him with the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony on 14 May 1970. Figure 18.34. John Levitow.
188.8.131.52.5. Combat came not only in the air for Air Force enlisted members. With the continuing threat of guerilla attack throughout the country, air base defense became a monumental undertaking performed almost exclusively by Air Force security police squadrons. In one instance, Staff Sergeant William Piazza of the 3d Security Police Squadron earned the Silver Star (Figure 18.35) for helping defend Bien Hoa during the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive of 1968. Figure 18.35. Silver Star Citation for William Piazza.
184.108.40.206.6. The Air Force used helicopters for everything—personnel and supply transport, infiltration and exfiltration of special operations troops, and search and rescue. Pararescue personnel were among the most decorated individuals in the war. Some of the honors received included the Medal of Honor, Air Force Cross, and the Silver Star. While assigned as a pararescue crewmember in Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Airman First Class William Pitsenbarger (Figure 18.36) distinguished himself by extreme valor on 11 April 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam. On this date, Pitsenbarger was aboard an HH-43 rescue helicopter responding to a Figure 18.36. William Pitsenbarger.
call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an ongoing firefight between Company C of the United States Army’s 1st Infantry Division and a sizeable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than 100 feet through the jungle to the ground because Army personnel were having trouble loading casualties onto the Stokes litter. On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and ensured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day was recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get more wounded soldiers to safety. After several pickups, Pitsenbarger’s rescue helicopter was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Pitsenbarger waved off evacuation and voluntarily stayed behind on the ground to perform medical duties. Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During the subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched an assault, the evacuation was called off, and Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible. In the vicious fighting that followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and Pitsenbarger was fatally wounded. Pitsenbarger’s bravery and determination stand as a prime example of the highest professional standards and traditions of military service. His family was initially awarded his Air Force Cross in a Pentagon ceremony in 1966. Thirty-four years later, after survivors of the battle came forward with proof of Pitsenbarger’s valor, and with the signing of the 2001 National Defense Authorization Act, Pitsenbarger’s Air Force Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor making him the sixth enlisted member to be awarded the country’s highest award.
220.127.116.11.7. Of the 19 Air Force Cross recipients from the Vietnam conflict, 10 were pararescuemen. Of note, Sergeant Steve Northern earned two Silver Stars and a Purple Heart during his tours in Vietnam. Northern was credited with 51 combat rescues—the most in Air Force history. 18.104.22.168.8. CMSgt Richard Etchberger was serving in Laos when the enemy overran his radar site in March 1968. Under heavy fire, he continued to defend his comrades, call in air strikes, and direct an air evacuation. When a rescue helicopter arrived, the chief put himself in the line of fire while placing three other Airmen in rescue slings. He was fatally wounded by enemy ground fire as he was finally being rescued. The chief’s widow and sons received the posthumous Air Force Cross in a secret Pentagon ceremony in 1969. The entire case remained classified for some 17 years. 22.214.171.124. Vietnamization and Withdrawal (1969 - 1973): 126.96.36.199.1. Since the Eisenhower years, American presidents had wanted the Vietnam conflict to be fought and resolved by the Vietnamese. Through 1963 and much of 1964, American forces operated under restrictive rules of engagement in a forlorned effort to maintain the definition of the US role as “advisory” only. On 22 November 1963, in the midst of the deteriorating situation in Vietnam, President Kennedy was assassinated, and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson took office. After the Gulf of Tonkin incident and Senate resolution in 1964, the advisory role, both in appearance and fact, rapidly became the primary responsibility for combat operations. Yet the Air Force never stopped working with the Vietnamese Air Force to develop its capability to prosecute the war itself. In January 1969, shortly after taking office, President Nixon announced an end to US combat in Southeast Asia as one of the primary goals of his administration. He charged the SecDef with making Vietnamization of the war a top priority.
188.8.131.52.2. Enlisted Airmen played key roles in Vietnamization, especially in training Vietnamese operational and training crews. As the Vietnamese took over air operations, the Nation’s air force grew to become the fourth largest air force in the world. In May 1969, the withdrawal of US Army ground units from Vietnam began in earnest, while air support units lingered. In 1972, taking advantage of the reduced American ground presence, Communist forces of the National Liberation Front crossed the DMZ. President Nixon ordered harbors mined. Peace talks broke down completely. 184.108.40.206.3. President Nixon ordered 11 days of intensive bombing of Vietnamese cites. B-52s from Anderson AFB, Guam, carried out the mission called “Linebacker II.” Linebacker II succeeded in breaking the deadlock. The North Vietnamese resumed negotiations and a cease-fire agreement was hammered out by 28 January 1973. 220.127.116.11.4. While this final Air Force mission was a success, Vietnam was no ordinary war. The cease-fire did not bring an end to the fighting, and the punishment aircrews delivered did not bring victory. Nevertheless, the United States was committed to withdrawing from Vietnam. On 27 January 1973, the military draft ended; on 29 March, the last US troop left the country (Figure 18.37); and even though another cease-fire agreement was drawn up to end previous cease-fire violations, fighting continued until April 22 when the president of South Vietnam resigned. North and South Vietnam were officially unified under a Communist regime on July 2, 1976. Figure 18.37. Wayne Fisk.
CMSgt Fisk was directly involved in the famed Son Tay POW camp raid and the rescue of the crew of the USS Mayaquez. When the USS Mayaquez was highjacked by Cambodian Communist forces in May 1975, Fisk was a member of the assault force that successfully recovered the ship, the crew, and the entrapped United States Marines. For his actions, he was presented with his second Silver Star. Concluding the Mayaquez mission, he was recognized as the last American serviceman to engage Communist forces in ground combat in Southeast Asia.
In 1979, he was the first Air Force enlisted recipient of the US Jaycees Ten Outstanding Young Men of America. In 1986, he became the first director of the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Hall on Maxwell AFB-Gunter Annex.
18.12. Humanitarian Airlift: 18.12.1. The history of humanitarian airlift by US Armed Forces is almost as old as the history of flight itself. Army aircraft flying out of Kelly Field in Texas, for example, dropped food to victims of a Rio Grande flood in 1919, one of the first known uses of an aircraft to render assistance. Many early domestic humanitarian flights were flown in response to winter emergencies. In March 1923, Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland sent airplanes to bomb an ice jam on the Delaware River, and an aircraft from Chanute Field in Illinois dropped food to stranded people on South Fox Island in Lake Michigan. From blizzards and floods, to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, Army Air Corps personnel and aircraft provided relief. 18.12.2. Army aircraft also flew humanitarian missions to foreign nations before the establishment of the United States Air Force as an independent service. In February 1939, the 2d Bombardment Wing delivered medical supplies to earthquake victims in Chile. Four years later, in the midst of WWII, a B-24 from a base in Guatemala dropped a liferaft with the diphtheria vaccine to a destroyer escorting a British aircraft carrier. The destroyer delivered the vaccine to the carrier, preventing a shipboard epidemic. In September 1944, Army Air Force planes dropped food to starving French citizens; in May 1945, B-17s delivered food to hungry people in the Netherlands in Operation Chowhound. 18.12.3. Humanitarian efforts continued after the Air Force became a separate service and through the ensuing decades. In Operation Safe Haven I and II in 1956 and 1957, Military Air Transport Service’s (MATS) 1608th Air Transport Wing from Charleston AFB SC and 1611th Air Transport Wing from McGuire AFB NJ airlifted over 10,000 Hungarian refugees to the United States. President Eisenhower approved asylum for the refugees who fled
Hungary after Soviet forces crushed an anticommunist uprising there. In May 1960, earthquakes followed by volcanic eruptions, avalanches, and tidal waves ripped through southern Chile, leaving nearly 10,000 people dead and a quarter of a million homeless. The US Departments of Defense and State agreed to provide assistance. During the month-long “Amigos Airlift,” the 63d Troop Carrier Wing from Donaldson AFB SC and the 1607th, 1608th, and 1611th Air Transport Wings airlifted over 1,000 tons of material to the stricken area.
18.12.4. America’s commitment to South Vietnam led to many relief flights to that country during the 1960s and 1970s. In November 1964, three typhoons dropped over 40 inches of rain on the country’s central highlands. Seven thousand people died as a result of the subsequent flooding and 50,000 homes were destroyed. HH-43F helicopters from Detachment 5, Pacific Air Rescue Center, plucked 80 Vietnamese from rooftops and high ground in the immediate aftermath of the storms; over the next 2 months, various Air Force units moved more than 2,000 tons of food, fuel, boats, and medicine to the ravaged area. Less than a year later, in August 1965, escalated fighting in Da Nang displaced 400 children orphaned by the floods once again. To move them out of harm’s way, the 315th Air Division C-130s airlifted the orphans to Saigon. In 1975, following the fall of Cambodia and South Vietnam to Communist forces, transports from 11 Air Force wings and other units airlifted over 50,000 refugees to the United States. This airlift, encompassed in Operations Babylift, New Life, Frequent Wind, and New Arrivals, constituted the largest aerial evacuation in history. Besides the refugees, Air Force units also moved 5,000 relief workers and more than 8,500 tons of supplies. 18.12.5. Aside from the Vietnamese evacuation of the 1970s and the Berlin airlift in the late 1940s, however, the most significant humanitarian airlift operations took place in the 1990s. In 1991, following the Persian Gulf War, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein attacked the Kurdish population in northern Iraq. In response to the unfolding human tragedy, Air Force transports in support of Operation Provide Comfort provided more than 7,000 tons of blankets, tents, food, and more to the displaced Kurds and airlifted thousands of refugees and medical personnel. Operation Sea Angel, in which the Air Force airlifted 3,000 tons of supplies to Bangladesh, followed a 1991 typhoon. Operation Provide Hope in 1992 and 1993 provided 6,000 tons of food, medicine, and other cargo to republics of the former Soviet Union. In 1994, the Air Force carried 3,600 tons of relief supplies to Rwandan refugees in war-torn central Africa. 18.13. Post-Vietnam Conflicts: 18.13.1. Operation Urgent Fury—Grenada (1983): 18.104.22.168. In October 1983, a military coup on the tiny Caribbean island nation of Grenada aroused US attention. Coup leaders arrested and then assassinated Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, imposed a 24-hour shoot-on-sight curfew, and closed the airport at Pearls on the east coast, about 12 miles from the capital, St. George’s, located on the opposite side of the island. President Ronald W. Reagan, who did not want a repetition of the Iranian hostage crisis a few years earlier, considered military intervention to rescue hundreds of US citizens attending medical school on the island. 22.214.171.124. Twenty-six Air Force wings, groups, and squadrons supported the invasion by 1,900 US Marines and Army Rangers. Airlift and special operations units from the Military Airlift Command (MAC) comprised the bulk of the Air Force fighting force. AC-130 gunships in particular proved their worth repeatedly, showing more versatility and accuracy than naval bombardment and land artillery. Several Air Force enlisted personnel received special praise for their efforts. Among them, TSgt Charles Tisby (Figure 18.38) saved the life of a paratrooper in his aircraft. Figure 18.38. Charles H. Tisby.
Enlisted personnel were among 10 Air Force Grenada veterans cited for special achievement. TSgt Tisby, a loadmaster, saved the life of an unidentified paratrooper. When his C-130 banked sharply to avoid antiaircraft fire, one paratrooper’s static line fouled and left the trooper still attached to the aircraft. Tisby, with the help of paratroopers still on board, managed—at significant personal risk—to haul the man back in.
18.13.2. El Dorado Canyon—Libya (1986): 126.96.36.199. In 1969, a group of junior military officers led by Muammar Qadhafi overthrew the pro-Western Libyan Arab monarchy. By the mid-1980s, Libya was one of the leading sponsors of worldwide terrorism. In addition to subversion or direct military intervention against other African nations and global assassinations of anti-Qadhafi Libyan exiles and other “state enemies,” Qadhafi sponsored terrorist training camps within Libya and supplied funds, weapons, logistical support, and safe havens for numerous terrorist groups.
188.8.131.52. Between January 1981 and April 1986, terrorists worldwide killed over 300 Americans and injured hundreds more. With National Security Decision Directive 138 signed on 3 April 1984, President Reagan established in principle a US policy of preemptive and retaliatory strikes against terrorists. On 27 December 1985, terrorists attacked passengers in the Rome and Vienna airports. Despite the strong evidence that connected Libya to the incident, the US administration determined that it did not have sufficient proof to order retaliatory strikes against Libya. President Reagan imposed sanctions against Libya, publicly denounced Qadhafi for sponsoring the operation, and sent the 6th Fleet to exercise off the coast of Libya. 184.108.40.206. In Berlin on 5 April 1986, a large bomb gutted a discotheque popular with US service members. This time President Reagan had the evidence he sought. On 9 April, he authorized an air strike against Libya and attempted to obtain support from European allies. Great Britain gave permission for the United States Air Force to use British bases; however, the governments of France and Spain denied permission to fly over their countries, thereby increasing the Air Force’s round trip to almost 6,000 miles. By 14 April 1986, all Air Force forces were gathered and ready. 220.127.116.11. Politically, the raid against the terrorist state was extremely popular in the United States and almost universally condemned or “regretted” by the United States’ European allies, who feared that the raid would spawn more violence. The operation spurred Western European governments to increase their defenses against terrorism and their intelligence agencies began to share information. The Air Force was saddened by the loss of a F-111F crew, but the loss of 1 out of over a 100 aircraft used in the raid statistically was not a high toll. Despite the high abort rate, collateral damage, and loss of innocent lives, the Air Force could be proud that it successfully bombed three targets seen beforehand only in photographs, after a flight of over 6 hours, and in the face of strong enemy opposition. 18.13.3. Operation Just Cause—Panama (1989): 18.104.22.168. Since Panama’s declaration of independence from Columbia in 1904, the United States has maintained a special interest in the small Central American country. The United States controlled and occupied the Panama Canal Zone, through which it built a 40-mile long canal to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. President Woodrow Wilson formally opened the canal on 12 July 1915. Political and domestic conditions in Panama remained fairly stable until 1968, when a military ruler deposed the country’s president. A new treaty took effect on 1 October 1979, granting Panama complete control of the canal and withdrawal of US military forces by 1 January 2000. 22.214.171.124. In 1981, a struggle for leadership ensued; and, in 1983, Manuel Noriega prevailed. Noriega maintained ties with the US intelligence community, furnishing information on Latin American drug trafficking and money laundering, while at the same time engaged in such activities. By 1987, brutal repression of his people was enough for the US Senate to issue a resolution calling for the Panamanians to oust him. Noriega in turn ordered an attack on the US Embassy, causing an end to US military and economic aid. In 1988, a Miami Federal grand jury indicted Noriega on drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges. Noriega intensified his harassment against his own people and all Americans. By 1989, President George H. W. Bush decided to invade Panama. 126.96.36.199. All four branches of the US Armed Forces played a role in Operation Just Cause. For the Air Force, elements of 18 wings and 9 groups used 17 types of aircraft. On the first night of the operation, 84 aircraft flying 500 feet above the ground dropped nearly 5,000 troops, the largest nighttime airborne operation since WWII. The airdrop also featured the first use of night vision goggles by Air Force personnel during a contingency. 188.8.131.52. Operation Just Cause was the largest and most complex air operation since Vietnam. It involved over 250 aircraft. American forces eliminated organized resistance in just 6 days. Manuel Noriega surrendered on 3 January 1990 and was flown to Miami, Florida, to face trial. Less than a year later, many of the same Airmen that made Operation Just Cause a resounding success would build and travel through another, larger air bridge during Operation Desert Shield. 18.14. Gulf War I (1990): 18.14.1. Persian Gulf War and Subsequent Operations: 184.108.40.206. The Gulf War came as no surprise to anyone except perhaps Saddam Hussein. After prevailing in an 8-year war against Iran so costly that it nearly led to a military coup in Iraq, Saddam Hussein had invaded and attempted to annex the small, oil-rich nation of Kuwait on 2 August 1990. During his occupation of the country, he plundered it and brutalized the population. The invasion of Kuwait put Iraq—with the fourth
largest army on the world and an extensive program to develop nuclear weapons—at the doorstep of Saudi Arabia and its vast petroleum reserves. If the Saudis also fell to Iraq, the Iraq dictator would control 50 percent of the world’s oil.
220.127.116.11. The United States sought and received a UN sanction to act against Iraq and joined 27 other nations to launch Operation Desert Shield, a massive military buildup in Saudi Arabia near the border with Iraq, aimed first at deterring Saddam Hussein from aggression against the Saudis and then to prepare the way for a counterinvasion if necessary. US President George Bush demanded the immediate withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Saddam, privately persuaded that since Vietnam the American public lacked the stomach for war, responded in the course of nearly 6 months of back-and-forth diplomacy, his defiance alternating with vague promises of compliance. 18.14.2. Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm—Kuwait and Iraq (1990 - 1991): 18.104.22.168. By the time President Bush launched Operation Desert Shield, the US Air Force and its sister services had moved a considerable distance toward a unified conventional war-fighting capability. The defensive deployment in itself was an impressive accomplishment. On 8 August 1990, 24 F-15Cs landed in Saudi Arabia after roaring aloft 15 hours earlier from Langley AFB VA, some 8,000 miles away. Within 5 days, C-5 and C-141 airlifters had flown in 5 fighter squadrons, an AWACS contingent, and an airborne brigade, 301 planes altogether. On 21 August, SecDef Richard Cheney announced that there was sufficient force to defend Saudi Arabia in place. A month into the crisis, 1,220 Allied aircraft were in theater and combat ready. When Saddam Hussein missed the final deadline for withdrawing his troops from Kuwait on 15 January 1991, Operation Desert Storm began. 22.214.171.124. Within the first 24 hours of Desert Storm, the air war was essentially won. The Iraqi air force hardly showed its face in the war. Meanwhile, having established dominance in the air, the coalition air forces then turned to pounding Saddam’s entrenched ground forces into a mass of frightened humanity, ready to surrender to the first allied troops they saw. In the final stages of the air war, the Air Force took to “tank plinking,” that is, to destroying Iraqi tanks on the ground one at a time (Figure 18.39). Figure 18.39. Loading Up an A-10. 126.96.36.199. Maintenance was a key to the success of the air campaign. Air Force historian, Dr Richard Hallion stated, “From the suppliers to the line crews sweating under the desert sun, the coalitions maintainers worked miracles, enabling ever-higher sortie rates as the war progressed—essentially, a constant surge.” Not all the enlisted Airmen worked on maintenance crews, of course. In addition to those jobs traditionally associated with enlisted personnel, there were new kinds of duties, some quite high tech. Two less known jobs were the collection and analysis of electronic emissions undertaken with EWOs and airborne intelligence technicians. Electronic intelligence was characterized by long hours of work on station and meticulous, patient review of enemy transmissions, shot through with brief but urgently explosive moments when life or death information was quickly transmitted to the right people. 188.8.131.52. On 28 February 1991, scarcely 48 hours after the air war ended, and the land invasion took center stage, Iraq surrendered to the coalition. In the 43-day war, the Air Force was, for the first time in modern combat, the equal partner of land and sea power. The Air Force went into the Gulf talking in cold war terms about air superiority and sustainable casualties; it came out trumpeting air supremacy and minimum or no casualties at all. Scarcely 6 months after Desert Storm, on 27 September 1991, strategic bomber crews were ordered to stand down from their decades-long round-the-clock readiness for nuclear war. The cold war was officially over, a new world had arrived, and the role of the enlisted Airmen was changing as well. 18.14.3. Operations Provide Comfort and Northern Watch—Iraq (1991 - Present): 184.108.40.206. When the American-led international coalition bombed Iraq and drove the forces of Iraq from Kuwait in 1991, it weakened Saddam Hussein’s power. Rebellious Kurds in northern Iraq, whom Hussein
had brutally suppressed with chemical weapons 3 years earlier, launched an uprising in early March 1991. When Iraqi government troops defeated the rebellion a month later, threatening to repeat the massacres of the past, more than a million Kurds fled to Iran and Turkey. Hundreds of thousands more gathered on cold mountain slopes on the Iraqi-Turkish border. Lacking food, clean water, clothing, blankets, medical supplies, and shelter, the refugees suffered enormous mortality rates.
220.127.116.11. On 3 April 1991, the UN Security Council authorized a humanitarian relief effort for the Iraqi Kurds. During the first week in April, the United States organized a combined task force for Operation Provide Comfort. About 600 pallets of relief supplies were delivered per day. But airdrops alone proved to be inadequate. Moreover, the operation failed to address the root of the problem. The refugees could not stay where they were, and Turkey, faced with a restless Kurdish population of its own, refused to admit them in large numbers. Operation Provide Comfort, therefore, evolved into a larger phased operation for American ground troops. 18.104.22.168. In August 1992, the United States established another no-fly zone, this time in southern Iraq to discourage renewed Iraqi military activity near Kuwait—Operation Southern Watch. Iraqi forces tested the no-fly zones in both the south and north by sending fighters into them in December 1992 and January 1993. On both occasions, F-16 pilots shot down Iraqi aircraft. 22.214.171.124. After 1993, Saddam Hussein did not often challenge coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones, but US units remained wary. On 14 April 1994, two American F-15s patrolling the northern no-fly zone accidentally shot down two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, killing 26 people, including 15 Americans. Misidentifying the helicopters as hostile, the F-15 pilots failed to receive contrary information from either the helicopters or an orbiting E-3 aircraft. The “friendly fire” incident aroused negative public opinion and a demand for changes to prevent such accidents in the future. 126.96.36.199. Phase II of Operation Provide Comfort came to an end in December 1996, thanks largely to infighting among Kurdish factions vying for power. When one Kurdish group accepted Iraqi backing to drive another from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, US transports participating in Operations Quick Transit I, II, and III airlifted many displaced Kurds to safe areas in Turkey. Some 7,000 of the refugees proceeded onto Guam in Operation Pacific Haven for settlement in the United States. 188.8.131.52. Operation Northern Watch was the successor to Operation Provide Comfort, which officially ended in December 1996. Operation Northern Watch began 1 January 1997, with an initial mandate of 6 months. The Turkish parliament reviews and renews the Operation Northern Watch mandate semiannually in June and December. 18.14.4. Operation Southern Watch—Iraq (1992 - Present): 184.108.40.206. On 26 August 1992, President George H. W. Bush announced a no-fly zone over southern Iraq in support of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688. The resolution protected Shiite Muslims under aerial attack from the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm and enforced other UN sanctions against Iraq. 220.127.116.11. The Iraqi regime complied with the restrictions of the no-fly zone until 27 December 1992. F-16s shot down one Iraqi MiG-25 and chased a second aircraft back across the border. Less than a month later, Air Force aircraft attacked surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites threatening coalition aircraft. In June, the United States launched cruise missile strikes against the Iraq Intelligence Service Headquarters in Baghdad as retaliation for the planned assassination of former US President George Bush during an April 1993 visit to Kuwait. 18.104.22.168. In October 1994, Iraqi troops, to include elite Republican Guard units, massed at the Kuwaiti border. The United States responded with Operation Vigilant Warrior, the introduction of thousands of additional US Armed Forces personnel into the theater. Operation Southern Watch became the United States Air Force test for the AEF concept in October 1995 when a composite unit, designed to temporarily replace a United States Navy carrier air wing leaving the gulf area, arrived to support flying operations. The AEF arrived fully armed and began flying within 12 hours of landing. The AEF concept proved sound. Additional AEFs have since deployed to support Operation Southern Watch. 22.214.171.124. In 1997, in response to Iraqi aggression against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, President William Clinton expanded the Southern Watch no-fly zone to the 33d parallel, just south of Baghdad. The expansion meant that most of Iraqi airspace fell into no-fly zones.
126.96.36.199. One of the most important improvements in both flying operations and the quality of life for members resulted directly from the 1996 bombing at Khobar Towers, Dhahran AB. In the aftermath, the Air Force reviewed its entire security police, law enforcement, and force protection programs. In 1998, the Air Force reorganized existing security police units into new security forces groups and squadrons that trained and specialized in all aspects of force protection, including terrorist activity and deployed force security. 18.14.5. Operations Provide Relief, Impressive Lift, and Restore Hope—Somalia (1992 - 1994): 188.8.131.52. Civil unrest in the wake of a 2-year civil war contributed to a famine in Somalia that killed up to 350,000 people in 1992. As many as 800,000 refugees fled the stricken country. A UN-led relief effort began in July 1992. To relieve the suffering of refugees near the Kenya-Somalia border and then Somalia itself, the United States initiated Operation Provide Relief in August 1992. By December, the United States had airlifted 38 million pounds of food into the region, sometimes under the hail of small arms fire. Continued civil war and clan fighting within Somalia, however, prevented much of the relief supplies from getting into the hands of those who most desperately needed them. 184.108.40.206. First the UN, then the United States, attempted to alleviate the problem. In September, the United States initiated Operation Impressive Lift to airlift hundreds of Pakistani soldiers under the UN banner to Somalia. Despite the increased security from the UN forces, the problems continued. On 4 December, President George Bush authorized Operation Restore Hope to establish order in the country so that food could reach those in need. Marines landed and assumed control of the airport, allowing flights in and out of Mogadishu, Somalia, to resume. C-5 Galaxies, C-141 Starlifters, C-130 Hercules, and even KC-10 tankers rushed supplies into the country. Further, the Operation Restore Hope airlift brought 32,000 US troops into Somalia. In March 1993, the UN once again assumed control of the mission, and Operation Restore Hope officially ended 4 May 1993. Fewer than 5,000 of the 25,000 US troops originally deployed remained in Somalia. Unfortunately, factional fighting within the country caused the relief effort to unravel yet again. On 3 October 1993, US special forces troops, in an effort to capture members of one clan, lost 18 personnel and suffered 84 wounded. 220.127.116.11. In the late afternoon of 3 October 1993, TSgt Timothy A. Wilkinson (Figure 18.40), a pararescueman with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, responded with his crew to the downing of a US UH-60 helicopter in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. Wilkinson repeatedly exposed himself to intense enemy small arms fire while extracting the wounded and dead crewmembers from the crashed helicopter. Despite his own wounds, he provided life-saving medical treatment to the wounded crewmembers. With the helicopter crew taken care of, he turned to aid the casualties of a Ranger security element engaged in an intense firefight across an open four-way intersection from his position where he began immediate medical treatment. His decisive actions, personal courage, and bravery under heavy enemy fire were integral to the success of all casualty treatment and evacuation efforts conducted in the intense 18hour combat engagement. Wilkinson was awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions. To date, 23 enlisted members have been awarded the Air Force Cross (Figure 18.41). 18.104.22.168. The losses sustained on 3 and 4 October prompted Operation Restore Hope II, the airlifting of 1,700 US troops and 3,100 tons of cargo into Mogadishu between 5 and 13 October 1993. The troops and equipment were tasked with only stabilizing the situation: President Clinton refused to commit the United States to “nation building” and promised to remove US forces by March 1994. Operation Restore Hope II officially ended 25 March 1994 when the last C-5 carrying US troops departed Mogadishu. While Operation Restore Hope II allowed US forces to get out of the country without further casualties, anarchy ruled in Somalia, and the threat of famine remained. Figure 18.40. Timothy A. Wilkinson.
Figure 18.41. Enlisted Air Force Cross Recipients. 18.14.6. Operation Uphold Democracy—Haiti (1994):
22.214.171.124. The United States decided to intervene in Haiti Black, Arthur N. - 1965 Adams, Victor R. – 1968
on 8 September. The US Atlantic Command developed Chapman, John A. - 2002
Operation Uphold Democracy in two different plans, one Clay, Eugene L. - 1967
a forcible-entry and the other a passive-entry plan. United Cunningham, Jason D. -2002
States Air Force planners worked through evolving Etchberger, Richard L. - 1968
variations, not knowing which of the two plans would be Fish, Michael E. - 1969
chosen. At nearly the last minute, a diplomatic proposal Gamlin, Theodore R. -1969
that former President James (Jimmy) E. Carter offered Hackney, Duane D. - 1967
persuaded the military leader in Haiti to relinquish his Harston, John D. - 1975
control. The unexpected decision caused a mission change Hunt, Russell M. -1967
from invasion to insertion of a multinational Kent, Jr., Nacey -1968
peacekeeping force. On 19 September 1994, the JCS King, Charles D. - 1968
directed execution of the passive-entry plan. For the Air Maysey, Larry W. - 1967
Force, this meant swinging into action an aerial force of McGrath, Charles D. -1972
over 200 aircraft, transports, special operations, and Newman, Thomas A. - 1968
surveillance planes. Pitsenbarger, William H. - 1966
126.96.36.199. United States Air Force participation Robinson, William A. - 1965
effectively ended 12 October 1994 when resupply of US
Shaub, Charles L. -1972
forces became routinely scheduled airlift missions, and
Smith, Donald G. - 1969
deployed aircraft and crews returned home. On 15
Talley, Joel - 1968
October 1994, the Haitian president returned to his
Wright, Leroy M. -1970
country, the beneficiary of a strong US response to an
Wilkinson, Timothy A. - 1993
oppressive dictator. As in Panama, the Air Force brought to bear an overwhelming force of fighters, command and control aircraft, gunships and other special operations aircraft, reconnaissance airplanes, aerial refueling tankers, and thousands of troops aboard the airlift fleet of strategic and tactical aircraft. The successful adaptation to the last-minute change in mission, from military invasion force to airlifting peacekeeping troops, was a major indicator of the flexibility air power offers US military and political leaders in fulfilling foreign policy objectives.
18.14.7. Operation Provide Promise—Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992 - 1996): 188.8.131.52. By 1991, the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, coupled with the disintegration of the Soviet Union itself, dissolved the political cement that bound ethnically diverse Yugoslavia into a single nation. Freed from the threat of external domination, Roman Catholic Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence from the Yugoslav federation dominated by Eastern Orthodox Serbia. In early 1992, predominantly Muslim Bosnia-Herzegovina (Bosnia) also severed its ties to the Federation. Fearing their minority status, armed Serbs within Bosnia began forming their own ethnic state by seizing territory and, in the spring, besieging the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. 184.108.40.206. In April 1992, the United States recognized Bosnia’s independence and began airlifting relief supplies to Sarajevo. On 3 July 1992, the United States designated operations in support of the UN airlift Operation Provide Promise and USAFE C-130s began delivering food and medical supplies. 220.127.116.11. Most United States Air Force missions flew out of Rhein-Main AB in Frankfurt, Germany. C-130s from the 435th and 317th Airlift Wings flew the initial Operation Provide Promise missions, but over the course of the operation, AFR, ANG, and active duty units rotated from the United States on 3-week deployments. The United States was only one of at least 15 countries airlifting relief supplies to Sarajevo, but by the end of 1992, US airplanes had delivered more than 5,400 tons of food and medical supplies. 18.104.22.168. Inaugurated during the Bush Administration, Operation Provide Promise expanded significantly after President Clinton took office. The new President’s actions were in response to the continued attacks by Bosnian Serbs on Sarajevo, and sometimes on the relief aircraft themselves. A secondary mission, Operation Provide Santa, took place in December 1993 when C-130s dropped 50 tons of toys and children’s clothes and shoes over Sarajevo. A month later, an Operation Provide Promise C-130 suffered the first United States Air Force damage from the operation when it was struck by an artillery shell at the Sarajevo airport. Despite the fact that there were no injuries and the damage was minor, the UN suspended flights for a week.
22.214.171.124. On 14 December 1995, warring factions signed peace accords at Wright-Patterson AFB OH. The last humanitarian air-land delivery into Sarajevo took place on 4 January 1996. During the 3 1/2-year operation, aircraft supporting the UN relief operation withstood 279 incidents of ground fire. 18.14.8. Operation Deny Flight—Bosnia (1993 - 1995): 126.96.36.199. NATO Operation Deny Flight was an effort to limit the war in Bosnia through imposition of a no- fly zone over the country. There was only one non-American in the NATO Deny Flight command chain, although many other nations including the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and Turkey participated. 188.8.131.52. Over the first year and a half of Deny Flight, the operation’s mission expanded and its aircraft engaged violators of the UN resolutions. On 28 February 1994, NATO aircraft scored the first aerial combat victories in its 45-year history. Two United States Air Force F-16s from the 526th Fighter Squadron intercepted six Bosnian Serb jets and shot down four. 184.108.40.206. Despite its actions, Deny Flight did not stop the Bosnian Serb attacks or effectively limit the war. Bosnian Serbs often took members of lightly armed UN forces hostage to compel NATO to discontinue its air strikes. In May 1995, Deny Flight aircraft struck a munitions depot, an event followed by the Bosnian Serbs taking 370 UN soldiers hostage. The UN vetoed further strikes. In June, Bosnian Serbs shot down a United States Air Force F-16 patrolling over Bosnia. 220.127.116.11. Operation Deliberate Force served notice to Bosnian Serb forces that they would be held accountable for their actions. Air strikes came not only against targets around Sarajevo, but also against Bosnian Serb targets throughout the country. The results were dramatic. Operation Deliberate Force marked the first campaign in aerial warfare where precision munitions outweighed conventional bombs. The incessant air campaign, with only a few days respite in early September, as well as ground advances by Croatian and other forces against the Serbs, garnered the desired results. On 14 September, the Serbs agreed to NATO terms and the bombing stopped. Deliberate Force officially ended 21 September 1995. 18.104.22.168. With the signing of peace accords among the warring parties in Paris in December, Operation Deny Flight ended. Operation Joint Endeavor, whose mission was to implement the agreements, replaced it in 1996. 18.14.9. Operation Allied Force—Kosovo (1999): 22.214.171.124. The conclusion of Operations Deliberate Force and Deny Flight did not mean the end to strife in the region. After revoking the province of Kosovo’s autonomy in 1989, the Serbian government slowly began to oppress its ethnic Albanian population. That oppression eventually turned to violence and mass killings, and the international community began to negotiate with Serbian leaders in the spring of 1998 for a solution acceptable to all parties. The Serbs, led by President Slobodan Milosevic, considered the matter an internal one. A last-ditch effort to negotiate a settlement began in January 1999 at Rambouillet, France; but, following a large offensive against Albanian civilians in March, talks broke down. 126.96.36.199. Wanting to prevent a repeat of the “ethnic cleansing” that took place in Bosnia, NATO forces began flying operations on 24 March 1999 to force Serbia to accept NATO terms for ending the conflict in Kosovo. Given the name Operation Allied Force, NATO leaders hoped Milosevic would capitulate after just a few days of air strikes that demonstrated NATO’s resolve. That was not the case. It would take 78 days and over 38,000 sorties in the air war over Serbia for NATO to secure its objective. 188.8.131.52. The fundamental factor in the conclusion of Allied Force was NATO’s unity and resolve. NATO acted in a way that was tough and progressively tougher throughout the campaign. This lesson was clear to Milosevic, who had hoped he could outwait NATO. Secondly, both the precision and the persistence of the air campaign were fundamental factors in convincing Milosevic that it was time to end the fight. The air campaign, which started slowly but gathered momentum as it went on, became systematically damaging to his entire military infrastructure, not just the forces in the field in Kosovo, but throughout the entire country. 18.15. Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom: 18.15.1. Four unprecedented acts of violence in three locations spreading from New York City to western Pennsylvania to Washington DC, on 11 September 2001 left thousands dead, thousands more grieving, and a nation wondering what would happen next. This fanatical hatred carried out by a hidden handful manifested and exploded, causing two of the world’s tallest buildings to crumble, scarring the nation’s military nerve center, and forcing the President of the United States flying aboard Air Force One to seek safe haven. As the clock ticked away following the
attacks on the World Trade Center, the Air Force community realized the depth and scope of the hatred. This day and in the days that followed came the stories of service members and civilians pulling comrades from burning buildings, fighting fires, providing medical attention, and volunteering to do whatever they could.
18.15.2. The Air Force responded quickly. Fighter aircraft began to fly combat air patrols over the skies of America in support of Operation Noble Eagle the same day as the attack. Six months later, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) continued to have more than 100 ANG, AFR, and active duty fighters from 26 locations monitoring the skies over the United States. More than 80 percent of the pilots flying Noble Eagle missions belonged to the ANG. Nearly as many AFR, ANG, and active duty members (more than 11,000) deployed to support Noble Eagle, (Figure 18.42) as for the other thrust of the US response to the attack, Operation Enduring Freedom. 18.15.3. Enduring Freedom looked to take the fight to the Nation’s enemies overseas, most notably Afghanistan. In this impoverished country, the US effort was twofold: to provide humanitarian airlift to the oppressed people of Afghanistan and to conduct military action to root out terrorists and their supporters. When the ruling Figure 18.43. C-17 in Afghanistan. government in Afghanistan, the Taliban, refused President George W. Bush’s demand that the suspected terrorists be turned over and all terrorist training camps closed, the President ordered US forces to the region. Over the next few weeks, approximately 350 US aircraft, including B-1 and B-52 bombers, F-15 and F-16 fighters, special operations aircraft, RQ-1B and RQ-4A unmanned aerial vehicles, and Navy fighters, deployed to bases near Afghanistan, including some in the former Soviet Union. On 7 October 2001, following continued Taliban refusal to hand over the suspected terrorists, US, British, and French aircraft began a sustained campaign against terrorist targets in Afghanistan (Figure 18.43) . 18.15.4. Working closely with US special operations troops and Afghan opposition forces, air power employed precision weapons to break the Taliban’s will and capacity to resist. Organized resistance began to collapse in mid- November, and the Taliban abandoned the last major town under its control, Kandahar, early in December 2001. In addition to strike operations, the Air Force flew humanitarian relief, dropping nearly 2.5 million humanitarian rations. 18.16. Operation Anaconda: 18.16.1. The Pentagon called it Operation Anaconda and the press referred to it as the battle at Shah-I-Kot Mountain, but the men who fought there called it the battle of Robert’s Ridge. In the early morning hours of 4 March 2002, on a mountaintop called Takur Ghar in southeastern Afghanistan, al Qaeda soldiers fired on an MH-47E helicopter causing a Navy SEAL to fall to the ground, and a chain of events ensued culminating in one of the most intense small-unit firefights of the war against terrorism, the death of all the al Qaeda terrorists defending the mountaintop, and the death of seven US servicemen. Despite these losses, the US forces involved in this fight distinguished themselves by conspicuous bravery. Their countless acts of heroism demonstrated the best of America’s Special Operations Forces as Air Force, Army, and Navy special operators fought side by side to save one of their own and each other, and in the process secured the mountaintop and inflicted serious loss on the al Qaeda.
Figure 18.42. Noble Eagle Memorial.
18.16.2. SrA Jason D. Cunningham was one of the seven killed. The Air Force Cross was awarded to SrA Cunningham who lost his life in Afghanistan while on a rescue mission. Despite being mortally wounded, he saved 10 lives and made it possible for 7 others who were killed to come home. The citation accompanying the Air Force Cross reads, “Despite effective enemy fire, and at great risk to his own life, Cunningham remained in the burning fuselage of the aircraft in order to treat the wounds. As he moved his patients to a more secure location, mortar rounds began to impact within 50 feet of his position. Disregarding this extreme danger, he continued the movement and exposed himself to enemy fire on seven separate occasions. When the second casualty collection point was also compromised, in a display of uncommon valor and gallantry, Cunningham braved an intense small arms and rocket-propelled grenade attack while repositioning the critically wounded to a third collection point. Even after he was mortally wounded and quickly deteriorating, he continued to direct patient movement and transferred care to another medic.” Cunningham was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery on 11 March 2002. 18.16.3. On 10 January 2003, Secretary of the Air Force posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross to TSgt John A. Chapman (Figure 18.44). It was only the third time since the end of the Vietnam conflict that an enlisted Airman received the Air Force Cross and the second time that it went to one of the enlisted Airman who died in what became a 17-hour ordeal on top of Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan. Chapman’s helicopter came under enemy fire, causing a Navy SEAL to fall out of a MH-47 helicopter during an insertion under fire. The helicopter landed 4.5 miles away from where the SEAL was killed. Once on the ground, Chapman provided directions to another helicopter to pick them up. After being rescued, Chapman and the team volunteered to rescue their mission team member from the enemy stronghold. After landing, Chapman killed two enemy soldiers and, without regard for his own life, kept advancing toward a dug-in machinegun nest. The team came under fire from three directions. Chapman exchanged fire from minimum personal cover and succumbed to multiple wounds. His 18.17. Operation Iraqi Freedom: 18.17.1. Much like the Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom came as no surprise to anyone besides Saddam Hussein. On 17 March 2003, President George W. Bush (Figure 18.45) announced a 48- hour ultimatum for Saddam and his sons to leave Iraq or face conflict. Saddam rejected President Bush’s ultimatum to flee and on 20 March a salvo of missiles and laser-guided bombs hit targets where coalition forces believed Saddam and his sons and other leaders gathered. Thus the war began. 18.17.2. More than 300,000 troops were deployed to the Gulf region to form a coalition of multinational troops. Combat operations took longer than the 24-hour war of Operation Desert Storm. Operation Iraqi Freedom officially began on 20 March 2003 and ended on 1 May 2003. The Pentagon unleashed air strikes so devastating they would leave Saddam’s soldiers unable or unwilling to fight. Between 300 and 400 cruise missiles were Figure 18.44. John A. Chapman. engagement and destruction of the first enemy position and advancement to the second enabled his team to move to cover and break enemy contact. He is credited with saving the lives of the entire rescue team. Figure 18.45. President George W. Bush Addressing the Airmen.
Figure 18.46. Scott Sather.
fired at targets, more than the number launched during the entire first Gulf War. On the second day, the plan called for launching another 300 to 400 missiles. The battle plan was based on a concept developed at the National Defense University. Called “Shock and Awe,” it focused on the psychological destruction of the enemy’s will to fight rather than the physical destruction of the opposing military force. The concept relies on a large number of precision-guided weapons hitting the enemy simultaneously, much like a nuclear weapon strike that takes minutes instead of days or weeks to work.
18.17.3. Heavy sand storms slowed the coalition advance, but soldiers reached within 50 miles of Baghdad by 24 March. Missile attacks hit military facilities in Baghdad on 30 March, and by 2 April, the Baghdad and Medina divisions of Iraq’s Republican Guard were defeated. US soldiers seized bridges over the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and then advanced within 25 miles of Baghdad. The next day, US Army units along with Air Force special tactics combat controllers, pararescuemen, and combat weathermen attacked Saddam International Airport, 10 miles southwest of the capital. Two days later American armored vehicles drove through Baghdad after smashing through Republican Guard units. On 7 April, US tanks rumbled through downtown Baghdad and a B-1B bomber attack hit buildings thought to hold Saddam and other leaders. On 8 April 2003, SSgt Scott Sather (Figure 18.46), a combat controller, became the first Airman killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 29-year-old Michigan native earned seven medals, including the bronze star, during his Air Force career. The citation accompanying his Bronze Star Medal with Valor reads, “He led this reconnaissance task force on combat operations into Iraq on the first day of the ground war, breeching enemy fortifications during the Iraqi border crossing. During the next several days Sergeant Sather covered countless miles conducting specialized reconnaissance in the Southwestern Iraqi desert supporting classified missions. With only minimal sleep he assumed a leadership role in the reconnaissance of an enemy airfield opening up the first of five airheads used by a joint task force to conduct critical resupply of fielded troops, and provide attack helicopter rearming facilities enabling deep battlefield offensive operations. Sergeant Sather was then employed to an area of heavy enemy concentration tasked to provide critical reconnaissance and intelligence on enemy movement supporting direct action missions against enemy forces. Exposed to direct enemy fire on numerous occasions he continued to provide vital information to higher headquarters in direct support of ongoing combat operations. His magnificent skills in the control of close air support aircraft and keen leadership under great pressure were instrumental in the overwhelming success of these dangerous missions. Sergeant Sather’s phenomenal leadership and bravery on the battlefield throughout his deployment were instrumental in the resounding successes of numerous combat missions performing a significant role in the success of the war and complete overthrow of the Iraqi regime.” 18.17.4. Meanwhile British forces took Bashra, control of which was key to delivering humanitarian aid. American commanders declared Saddam’s regime was no longer in control of Baghdad on 9 April. Before the city fell, jubilant crowds toppled a 40-foot statue of Saddam. Iraq’s science advisor surrendered to US forces, the first on the 55 most wanted leaders list issued by the coalition. 18.17.5. In a speech delivered on 2 May 2003, on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush announced victory in Iraq. The President’s announcement was based on an assessment given to him 3 days earlier by Gen Tommy Franks, the top US military commander in the Gulf. Meanwhile, in a speech delivered by SecAF James G. Roche on 25 April 2003 to attendees of the Command Chief Master Sergeant Conference in Gunter Annex, Maxwell AFB AL, Secretary Roche assessed how US combat air forces performed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Secretary Roche mentioned that in the past month in Iraq, coalition forces liberated an oppressed people and began the process of rebuilding a very different tribal and political climate. He went on to say:
Our Air Force has been a major reason for these successes. The enlisted force has done a wonderful job in the war on terrorism as a true total force working seamlessly in the joint environment—at home and abroad. This is a new age of warfare—and you can be justifiably proud of the role you and your fellow Airmen played in making it possible.
18.18. Conclusion. From the skies over the Rio Grande to those over Iraq and Afghanistan nearly 100 years later, air power has evolved from an ineffective oddity to the dominant form of military might in the world. Its applications and effectiveness have increased with each succeeding conflict; in WWI air power played a minor role, in Kosovo it played the only role. This chapter looked at the development of air power through the Nation’s many conflicts, and just a few of the many contributions of enlisted personnel.
ROGER BRADY, Lt General, USAF Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel
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