For Want of a Wrench

The U.S. federal government is lathered up and hell-bent on spending money to

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

safeguard the nuclear weapons stockpile. I hope so. The nuclear weapons stockpile is a politically benign way to discuss the U.S.’ pile of nuclear weapons. Of necessity it includes the people and infrastructure needed to maintain and deliver them. Secretary of Defense Hagel employs the phrase ‘nuclear deterrence system’ to describe the same stuff; nukes and what it takes to deploy them. I am happy the listen to the lip service being given to safeguarding the nukes by SecDef and the President, but I will believe it when I see it. So far, so good, but all that’s visible to date is Missileers falling on their swords and lip service to problems well-known to military management and policy makers since at least the 1980s. Everyone living in the U.S. as well as all of its neighbors should be worried about political follow-through, because one little rogue nuke can ruin your day.

It was the middle of September in 1980 when famers and residents of Damascus,

Faulkner County Arkansas and the site of  Titan II Launch Complex 374-7

Faulkner County Arkansas and the site of Titan II Launch Complex 374-7

Arkansas woke up to every Americans’ worst nightmare and most never knew it was happening until the injured began to roll in. It wasn’t the first or last incident, but it is a documented incident that went before the President, SecDef, and Congress. They knew. A simple dropped socket wrench on a routine service call at the Titan II Launch Complex 374-7 just north of Damascus triggered a series of events that should frighten the collective daylights out of U.S. citizens:

“…On September 18, 1980, at about 6:30 p.m., an airman conducting maintenance on the Titan II missile dropped a wrench socket, which fell about eighty feet before hitting and piercing the skin on the rocket’s first-stage fuel tank, causing it to leak. The commander of the 308th Strategic Missile Wing quickly formed a potential-hazard team, and by 9:00 p.m., the Air Force personnel manning the site were evacuated. About one hour later, Air Force security police began evacuating nearby civilian residents as efforts continued to determine the status of the missile and the fuel leak.

Senior Airman David Livingston and Sergeant Jeff K. Kennedy entered the launch

Image of the Damascus explosion

Image of the Damascus explosion

complex early on the morning of September 19 to get readings of airborne fuel concentrations, which they found to be at their maximum. At about 3:00 a.m., the two men returned to the surface to await further instructions. Just as they sat down on the concrete edge of the access portal, the missile exploded, blowing the 740-ton launch duct closure door 200 feet into the air and some 600 feet northeast of the launch complex. The W-53 nuclear warhead landed about 100 feet from the launch complex’s entry gate; its safety features operated correctly and prevented any loss of radioactive material. Kennedy, his leg broken, was blown 150 feet from the silo. Livingston lay amid the rubble of the launch duct for some time before security personnel located and evacuated him. Livingston died of his injuries that day. Twenty-one people were injured by the explosion or during rescue efforts….”[1] Continue reading

To All Veterans of All Wars, Thank You

Today, November 11th, is Veterans’ Day in the U.S. It is the day, when we honor and

A WWI battlefield. The battlefields and soldiers differ over time, but the sacrifice remains.

A WWI battlefield. The battlefields and soldiers differ over time, but the sacrifice remains.

pay homage to the 7 percent of the population who donned a military uniform at some point in their lives and took care of business. Without the service and sacrifice of that seven percent, the other 93 percent of the population would likely be toast of some description or another. This day is celebrated throughout the country in many different ways. In President Obama’s 2012 Veterans’ Day remarks, he acknowledged that “…Today, a proud nation expresses our gratitude.  But we do so mindful that no ceremony or parade, no hug or handshake is enough to truly honor that service.  For that, we must do more.  For that, we must commit –- this day and every day -– to serving you as well as you’ve served us….” I agree and wait for that process to begin. It saddens me that the U.S. President chooses to speak in China rather than at Arlington National Cemetery this morning.

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities.  This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities. This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect

A temporary cease fire agreed to on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 dropped a veil of relief on the WWI battlefields of Europe and kick-started the process that is now Veteran’s Day. The peace accords weren’t signed until the next year, but the quiet of 11/11/1918 marked the end of the ‘War to end all wars’[1]. “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” These words were spoken by President Wilson on November 11, 1919 during the first commemoration of Armistice Day.

In 1938, Armistice Day became a nationally sanctioned U.S. holiday. “…An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I….”[2]

By the 1950s it became clear that war was not going away anytime soon. World War II had begun and ended and the Cold War was off and running in Korea. Tens of thousands of American soldiers had died and millions were wounded. In the 1950s Eisenhower, an old, seasoned warrior was in the Whitehouse. And, soldiers who had seen service in the Civil War and children from soldiers who fought in the War of 1812 were stark reminders that peace was a fleeting dream. Continue reading

The November Assassinations That Rocked The World

Part II – John F. Kennedy: Sinner or Saint?

Author: John Malch

John F. Kennedy: Sinner or Saint?

John F. Kennedy: Sinner or Saint?

Way back in 1960, when Nixon faced off with Kennedy for the U.S. presidency, I asked my father who he would be voting for.  He answered: “While in confession last Sunday, my penance was I must vote for Kennedy or suffer mortal sin.”[1] I thought he was joking because after becoming an American citizen in 1914, he had always voted Republican. Dad gave me a brief history lesson about the Kennedy dynasty.[2] It began with Joseph P. Kennedy’s premeditated agreements with Distillers to become the sole American importer of three of its most valuable brands of liquor one month prior to the repeal of the 36th amendment which ended Prohibition. This transaction may be the reason he was infamously called ‘Joe-

Joseph A. Malch & son, John, circa 1960

Joseph A. Malch & son, John, circa 1960

the-bootlegger’.  I remembered my dad calling senior Kennedy, ‘Joe-the-bootlegger’ because he was supplying spiritual wine to Catholic parishes, which was legal during Probation via government bonded warehouses.  Surely, some of those spirits spilled over to old Joe’s cronies although no hard evidence has ever proved Joe was a rum-runner during Prohibition.[3]  Also, Joe Kennedy’s ‘nefarious escapades’ during the ‘Roaring Twenties’ are well documented. His business ventures included banking, manipulation of the stock market through insider trading and some slick ‘selling short’ moves when he got out of the stock market before the crash of 1929.[4]

In early 1938, Joseph P. Kennedy was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James in London.  His fierce

In 1938, Joseph P. Kennedy appointed Ambassador to Great Britain

In 1938, Joseph P. Kennedy appointed Ambassador to Great Britain

anti-Communist and anti-Semitic position are well documented and well known.  Not as widely known is that he favored Adolph Hitler’s solution to both these ideologies as “world problems”.[5]

Joe Kennedy’s dream was to see his first born son, Joseph Jr., inaugurated as the first Roman Catholic President of The United States, but Joe Jr. was killed in World War II.  The dream did not vanish with Joe Jr.’s death and Joseph Sr. was not deterred: he

 Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.

wanted a Kennedy in the Whitehouse. The second son, Jack, picked up the baton, ran the races and grabbed the brass ring for the Kennedy family-John F. Kennedy (Jack) became the 35th President of the United States on January 20, 1961.

The 1960 Democratic National Convention was held in Los Angeles and I remembered two new challengers, Adlai Stevenson II and Lyndon B. Johnson, tossed their hats in the ring just one week before the convention opened. Continue reading

The November Assassinations That Rocked The World

Author: John Malch

Editor’s Note: Jealousy, political or religious ideology, contract killing, revenge, geopolitical manipulation and nation building are all motives for assassination: the murder of an individual who is usually a famous celebrity, politician, religious figure or royal. John Malch’s post addresses the brutal assassinations of South Vietnam’s Ngô Ðình Diem and his brother on November 2, 1963. The assassinations haunted U.S. President Kennedy, but by November 22, 1963, less than three weeks later Kennedy, himself, would die from an assassin’s bullet(s).

Part I Friendly Dictators

The United States has a dark history of poor choices for ‘Puppets of State’. Especially in

Prime Minister Ngô Ðình Diem casting his ballot in 1955 State of Vietnam referendum (Cuoc trung cau dân ý mien Nam Viet Nam 1955)  https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=osu1091210764&disposition=inline

Prime Minister Ngô Ðình Diem casting his ballot in 1955 State of Vietnam referendum (Cuoc trung cau dân ý mien Nam Viet Nam 1955)
https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=osu1091210764&disposition=inline

Latin America, South East Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. One of the most controversial and disturbing choices the United States’ made was in 1956, when, backed by the “American Plan”, Ngô Ðình Diem proclaimed the formation of the Republic of Vietnam, naming himself President.

I have often wondered whether Diem was ever vetted for this position. Ngô Ðình Diem was born in Phú Cam, Quong Binh Province,‘North Vietnam’. Diem was christened Jean-Baptiste in the Roman Catholic cathedral in Hue in 1907. His primary education started at a French Catholic school. He later entered a private school started by his father. At the end of his secondary schooling, his examination results were sufficiently impressive at the French lycée in Hue, he was offered a scholarship to Paris. Diem declined. Instead, He moved to Hanoi to study at the School of Public Administration and Law, a French school that trained Vietnamese bureaucrats. It was there that he had the only romantic relationship of his life when he fell in love with one of his teacher’s daughters. After she persisted with her vocation, entering a convent, he remained celibate.

Why would the United States select a Roman Catholic, with a formal French education

Buddhism in Vietnam

Buddhism in Vietnam

and very little knowledge of Anman and especially Cochin-china where the population in 1956 was over 92% non-Christian, i.e., Animism, Buddhism (70% of the population), Cao Dai, Confucianism, Hinduism, Hinduism, Hoa Hao, and Islam, as president of newly formed Republic of Vietnam?

Vietnamese elders I know, claimed it may have been necessary for the United States to appease France in softening the blow for their loss of their Colony, French Indo-China. Tongue-in-cheek they said it was better for the new president to speak fluent French rather than English.

The United States had rushed headlong into supporting Diem, seemingly without consideration of the culture. South Vietnam was a U.S. government construct, a nation-building exercise illuminated by the Pentagon Papers.

“The United States moved quickly to prevent the unification and to establish South Vietnam as an American sphere. It set up in Saigon as head of the government a former Vietnamese official named Ngo Dinh Diem, who had recently been living in New Jersey, and encouraged him not to hold the scheduled elections for unification. A memo in early 1954 of the joint Chiefs of Staff said that intelligence estimates showed “a settlement based on free elections would be attended by almost certain loss of the Associated States [Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam-the three parts of Indochina created by the Geneva Conference] to Communist control.” Diem again and again blocked the elections requested by the Vietminh, and with American money and arms his government became more and more firmly established. As the Pentagon Papers put it: “South Viet Nam was essentially the creation of the United States.”[1] Continue reading

Transcend Dance

The U.S. needs a new dance. It is time to go beyond the rhetoric of politicians, rise above

Veterans come together across the pages of history.

Veterans come together across the pages of history.

petty, inane social arguments and give veterans the medical and psychiatric care they need, when they need it. While written for U.S. veterans, the same can be said for veterans in Great Britain, the Philippines and Australia. I know because I lived immersed in these cultures for years.

Nine days ago, I received an email that simply inquired “Doing alright?”.   A simple query, the result of my obvious internet absence over the past several months, was from a vet I admire. Like most living Americans, veterans and soldiers are integral parts of each of our souls: they are wives and

Mother and Father, Mary and Frank Moore before deployment in 1942

Mother and Father, Mary and Frank Moore before deployment in 1942

husbands, brothers and sisters, colleagues, parents, grandparents and friends. They were there for me with words of encouragement when I took my first unsteady steps on the blog scene, provided real life experience when I was sorting out who my audience was, bolstered my first gulp as I dared post my opinion, and each for his or her own reason was there when our country wanted and needed soldiers.

Across the courtyard and down the way lives Tony, a Marine who lost his legs in the first Gulf War. Over the past three months, I’ve grown to love and admire his spirit as well as the tenacity and iron will of his physical therapist. Tony drives a souped-up wheel chair that frequently flies past me at Mach 3, swims every day and possesses the upper body strength of a gorilla. He’s earned and vitally needs but has not received the support of the Veteran’s Administration (VA) for years. And he is only one of thousands. Encouraged by the $16. 3 billion VA makeover signed into reality by President Obama in early August, I eagerly inquired as to its effect on Tony as he is awaiting some surgery to alleviate pain in his back. Nothing. He was told he had to wait another year in an endless queue. Continue reading

Legends

The title coupled with a barrage of advertising became a shaped charge and penetrated my psyche. I just had to watch TNT’s Legends. The Cold War birthed many legends and awoke others from deep sleep. Legends are an intentionally bland component of the

Legends are part of the landscape of life.

Legends are part of the landscape of life.

espionage landscape. They have wives, husbands, families, and careers. Legends pass easily through security background investigations because their cover is so deep they are what they appear to be. Sometimes couples are sent to the U.S. to raise their children as legends. China has that kind of patience and the cover is as deep and as good as it gets. Legends steal processes like volumes of research leading to the development of laser technologies rather than discrete things or bytes of data. Once the objective is acquired legends go home and never reappear. The East German Stasi made good use of legends as did the Russians, Israelis, Indians, English, and Chinese. The U.S. probably uses legends too, but the attention deficit disorder associated with American culture renders their effectiveness questionable.

Initiation of any ‘new guy’ at the Nevada Test Site included tales of legends at the

Before he started working for the U.S. government, investigators believe CIA Analyst Larry Wu-Tai Chin was a trained Chinese Intelligence Agent. Photo from Department of Energy, Hanford Dossier 74.

Before he started working for the U.S. government, investigators believe CIA Analyst Larry Wu-Tai Chin was a trained Chinese Intelligence Agent. Photo from Department of Energy, Hanford Dossier 74.

Livermore and Los Alamos National Labs. One such tale from the 1970s intrigued me. A brilliant, young engineer and a natural born citizen of Chinese immigrants working in Livermore leaves the physics lab with drawings in tow one Friday night never to return. The theft isn’t discovered for months. How could that happen? Pretty easily.

The 1970s were a busy time in the nuclear bomb development business. Laser triggers and neutron bombs were coming into their own and testing the products proceeded non-stop. President Jimmy Carter liked the idea of neutron bombs so his administration proposed modernizing the US nuclear arsenal by installing neutron warheads on missiles and artillery shells planned for deployment in Europe. Neutron devices are smaller, minimize physical damage and maximize number of people killed as a result of radiation; ugly realities.

Definition of a Neutron Bomb

“Also called ENHANCED RADIATION WARHEAD, specialized type of small thermonuclear weapon that produces minimal blast and heat but which releases large amounts of lethal radiation. The neutron bomb delivers blast and heat effects that are confined to an area of only a few hundred yards in radius. But within a somewhat larger area it throws off a massive wave of neutron and gamma radiation, which can penetrate armor or several feet of earth. This radiation is extremely destructive to living tissue. Because of its short-range destructiveness and the absence of long-range effect, the neutron bomb would be highly effective against tank and infantry formations on the battlefield but would not endanger cities or other population centers only a few miles away. It can be carried in a Lance missile or delivered by an 8-inch (200-millimetre) howitzer, or possibly by attack aircraft. In

Neutron shell fired from a cannon.

Neutron shell fired from a cannon.

strategic terms, the neutron bomb has a theoretical deterrent effect: discouraging an armored ground assault by arousing the fear of neutron bomb counterattack. The bomb would disable enemy tank crews in minutes, and those exposed would die within days. U.S. production of the bomb was postponed in 1978 and resumed in 1981.”-Source: http://www.britannica.com/seo/n/neutron-bomb/

The legend in the Livermore Lab had planned and executed his escapade well. The timing was excellent. Did it really happen? The 900-page Cox Report[1] prepared by the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China released in May 1999 appears to confirm the test site gossip. Concurrent with the release of the redacted Cox Report to the public President Clinton announced he had already implemented a couple of dozen of the recommendations designed to stop the leaks.[2] They didn’t work. China’s rapid rise from no scientists of nuclear note to major nuclear power pretty much says it all.

Spiegel’s Gunther Latsch and Udo Ludwig uncovered the Stasi’s legends in a report released in 2011. Even holy men could not be trusted.[3]

“Josef Frindt took his secret to the grave. When he passed away at the age of 81, the pastor in the western German town of Dorsten left a congregation mourning a pious man of God. But what the congregation didn’t know was that their pastor had also worked for East Germany’s notorious secret police, the Stasi.

ANZEIGE

Under the code name “Erich Neu,” the pastor is believed to have submitted 95 informant’s reports, including ones on a colleague who even at the time showed a

Pope Benedict XVI (R) poses with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov during their meeting at his private library on May 22, 2009 in Vatican City, Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI (R) poses with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov during their meeting at his private library on May 22, 2009 in Vatican City, Vatican.

great deal of potential: Joseph Ratzinger, better known today as Pope Benedict XVI. Frindt, who studied and later taught in the city of Münster, delivered information on up-and-coming theologians and future church dignitaries there, including the future pope, who was working at the time as a professor….”

Legends are a peculiar cut of the espionage cloth. I rubbed shoulders with at least one and never guessed until I was questioned. They are the people next door, the friends with whom you share a party or a joke. Legends do their thing and then they are gone. They still operate in industry, the military/industrial complex, and the political field of play. Why is another question. Gunther Latsch and Udo Ludwig offered an insight.

Some former West German collaborators remain proud of the work they did for their brothers in the East. Peter Wolter is one of them. As a student of sociology and philosophy at Münster University in the 1970s, he joined a Marxist student group called Spartakus, which was secretly financed by East Germany. Wolter visited East Berlin frequently, and came into contact with the HVA there.

He established a successful career as a journalist, working for the German Press Agency (DPA) and holding a senior position at Reuters news service. The Stasi was

Photo of hand signal from wired.com "Liberty is the right to choose, freedom is the result of that choice." .... for not having worked more efficiently", states former Stasi spy Peter Wolter.

Photo of hand signal from wired.com “Liberty is the right to choose, freedom is the result of that choice.” …. for not having worked more efficiently”, states former Stasi spy Peter Wolter.

particularly interested in a relative of Wolter’s who worked in Cologne for the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Peter Wolter sent reports to East Berlin over a period of 12 years.

Wolter was arrested soon after German reunification. He admitted to having worked for the Stasi, but insisted he had not been a spy or an agent, rather describing himself as a “scout.” A court in Düsseldorf sentenced Wolter, who had founded the homeless newspaper “Draussen!” (“Outside!”), to two years on probation.

To this day, he defends his time as a West German Stasi collaborator. He “helped Europe to have half a century of peace,” he says.

hqdefaultLegends the TNT series is not about legends. It is about a guy who has no business being anywhere near a covert op that requires a cover. And my world of excitement and secrets is long gone. The government reports and studies from the Cold War time shine a bit of light into the dark, dank corners of the past but the government has its own secrets to keep. The legends continue their work. As with physics, reality is relative.

[1] The Cox Report; http://www.house.gov/coxreport/cont/gncont.html

[2] Lodi News-Sentinel – May 26, 1999; Panel: China nuclear spying serious, continuing; http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2245&dat=19990526&id=L9g_AAAAIBAJ&sjid=MiEGAAAAIBAJ&pg=6783,3501345

[3] Spiegel Online International; November 24, 2011; Gunther Latsch and Udo Ludwig; Shocking New Research: Stasi Had Thousands of Spies in West Germany; http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/shocking-new-research-stasi-had-thousands-of-spies-in-west-germany-a-799335.html

 

 

Memorial Day – A Time to Remember

Standing GuardToday is a day to remember the price paid by so many in wars and conflicts. “Regardless of the exact date or location of its origins, one thing is clear – Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.”

To all who gave their lives in wars and conflicts around the globe, SALUTE!

Click Here for the history of Memorial Day. It is an interesting read.

U.S. Embassies, Consulates, Missions and Their Attackers

At the end of a hectic day, I was fighting through the various posts on Facebook, catching941222_162977380537331_429606287_n up as it were, wondering why I engaged in such self-destructive behavior. I stopped abruptly to stare at a Benghazi post that pointed out ten embassy attacks resulting in sixty deaths during the Bush administration and questioning why there was no Republican outrage. Was this a ‘good point’ or more of the nasty, divisive politics that keeps people from actual dialog? A quick check verified the claim, as far as it went.

Benghazi has become a battle cry akin to ‘Remember the Alamo’ and well it should be. imagesThe horrific murders, the denial of support and the State Department’s lying and manipulation under this administration is shameful. But that is the way it has always been done under all administrations. In the case of Benghazi, a brutal reality was shoved in the face of every American, indeed every world citizen, and the fat is in the fire as it should have been for over a century. The Internet and non-mainstream media have shown light on several appalling foreign policy behaviors. The Benghazi battle cry should seek to bring the U.S. State Department and CIA to accountability, because how the U.S. conducts its foreign policy is the problem.

On September 11, 2012, the day the Benghazi Consulate was attacked, there was also a

A view of the damage to the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983

A view of the damage to the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983

mob attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo although no one died in that attack. Since Benghazi, there have been three U.S. embassy attacks and one U.S. Consulate attack, two in 2012 in which seven attackers died and two in 2013 in which three local security employees were killed and one attacker met his fate. We discussed G.W. Bush’s record in the first paragraph, but remember the coordinated African embassy attacks under Bill Clinton in 1998? The U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed; in Kenya 213 people lost their lives, including ten U.S. personnel and two U.S. security personnel and in Tanzania eleven died. During the Cold War there were over forty attacks on U.S. Embassies, Consulates and Mission facilities including the 1983 embassy attack in Beirut in which sixty-three died; seventeen were Americans. Not a single presidential administration escapes the spotlight of U.S. embassy attacks. And those are just the ones we know about over the last 80 years. Therein lays the problem-the secrets. Continue reading

Cold War Reality

“People don’t really understand and know that the Cold War was a real war with real casualties. Real people died.”- Lorna Bourg, sister of a 1958 KIA, Fort Myers, Va.,Military Post Chapel, April 2, 1997

In a graveyard in the Texas town of Corsicana lies a simple flat granite marker to

Major John M. Davis

Major John M. Davis

commemorate the life and death of Major John MacArthur Davis. His mother, Mrs. C.J. Davis, made application for the stone for an unmarked veteran’s grave on August 19th 1953 and on November 2nd 1953 the request was approved by the government. Corsicana makes no mention of Major Davis as one of their notables, but he is. The official Corsicana list of notables includes rappers, artists, saxophonists, writers, historians, and even a former governor, Beaufort Jester (how appropriate is that name?), but no military men or women. Yet in their midst lies a man who died on April 24, 1953 testing technology that might have saved their bacon had the Cold War gone hot.

John M. Davis was not just a pilot he was a son, husband and father. That was the man who was and is mourned after six decades. What Major Davis the pilot did provides him with simple, short passages in a couple of books about the accident that killed him. In those books he is little more that another instrument in the cockpit but there is so much beyond that. Major Davis was a Cold War Warrior and a WWII warrior. His adult life was about those callings. Continue reading

A Warrior’s Footprints

Ralph “Scott” Camburn died in March 2013. His soul may have crossed the rainbow

Ralph “Scott” Camburn's 90th birthday party.

Ralph “Scott” Camburn’s 90th birthday party.

bridge, but we, as a nation, should mourn the loss of yet another veteran who spent his life in service to the country he loved. Lt. Col. (Ret) Camburn’s 91 year old weathered, tired body housed memories of flying a B-24 Liberator on 35 bombing missions over Germany with the 8th U.S. Air Corps during WWII and memories of conflicts in Korea, Laos and Vietnam. When he retired his uniform in 1965, service was in his DNA and he kept on serving with Air America where he was assigned to Binh Thuy Air Force Base, IV Corps Tactical Zone of South Vietnam, as an ’AA’ Flight coordinator. And yet, I cannot find a single obituary for this soldier. Is there no one to weep for him save a single friend and comrade?

A Consolidated B-24 Liberator emerges from "Flak Alley" over Vienna, Austria with its No. 2 engine smoking

A Consolidated B-24 Liberator emerges from “Flak Alley” over Vienna, Austria with its No. 2 engine smoking

The B-24 Liberators were the key to achieving the third objective of the war against Germany.  That objective was to conduct an intensive strategic bombardment of Germany in order to destroy its military, industrial, and economic system. Bomb they did and Scott was in the thick of it with his 35 missions between August 1944 and March 1945. “The B-24 Liberators flew 400 bombing missions over Europe during WWII, losing some 10,000 airmen and 1,000 aircraft between 1942 and 1945.”[1]

The average life expectancy of Eighth Air Force crews’ mission completion rate in

448-Bomb Group, 714th Squadron: Scott is in the Front Row Left

448-Bomb Group, 714th Squadron: Scott is in the Front Row Left

1943/1944, was only 11 missions, so Scott beat the averages. Why was the life expectancy so very low? The B-24 Liberator was not as able to take as much punishment as the B-17 because its complex construction, in particular, the wing, was relatively weak. If the wing was hit just right it gave way completely. Photographic records of WW II show B-24’s plummeting from the sky with two wings folded upward like those of a butterfly. In contrast, the sturdiness of the B-17 was almost unbelievable, sometimes returning to base with major components, tail-sections, engines, even wings, very badly damaged, and even on occasion partly missing. The Liberator became the bomber of choice because it could deliver a larger payload.

EDELWEILER, Germany – U.S. Air Force Col. Mark Wells reads names of service members killed during a mid-air collision of two C-119 Flying Boxcar transport aircraft in 1955 while Army Chap. (Col.) James Hoke, Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Bohannon and others look on, Aug. 11, 2006. (Department of Defense photo by Air Force Maj. Pamela A.Q. Cook)

EDELWEILER, Germany – U.S. Air Force Col. Mark Wells reads names of service members killed during a mid-air collision of two C-119 Flying Boxcar transport aircraft in 1955 while Army Chap. (Col.) James Hoke, Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Bohannon and others look on, Aug. 11, 2006. (Department of Defense photo by Air Force Maj. Pamela A.Q. Cook)

Flying in close formation with other transport planes near Chungju on Jan. 24, 1951, a C-119 Flying Boxcar of the Far East Air Force?s combat cargo command spews out its of rations and gasoline to fighting U.N. ground troops anxiously waiting on a snow-covered battlefield a few hundred feet below. More than 300 tons of supplies were airdropped. (AP Photo) (Courtesy of U.S. Military Photo Store

Flying in close formation with other transport planes near Chungju on Jan. 24, 1951, a C-119 Flying Boxcar of the Far East Air Force?s combat cargo command spews out its of rations and gasoline to fighting U.N. ground troops anxiously waiting on a snow-covered battlefield a few hundred feet below. More than 300 tons of supplies were airdropped. (AP Photo) (Courtesy of U.S. Military Photo Store

Scott’s number did not come up in WWII and he survived the Korean conflict as well, although he had a close call. He was a member of the Crew 66 of the “Boxcars”. While it was never clear exactly what that reference meant, a troll through newspapers turned up an August 11, 1955 Ocala Star Banner Article, about the crash of two Flying Boxcars, C-119, into the Black Forest; 66 soldiers were killed.[2] Nine Flying Boxcars took off in formation, two collided. The survivors formed Crew 66.

The Flying Boxcar is one of those aircraft that owes its success to its ability to do a lot of different jobs. It was purpose built as a military freighter, yet it could take as many as seventy five passengers in a seated arrangement, on litters or as paratroopers according to John Refett. It was built with the ability to deliver over ten metric tons of freight to very short airstrips designed for small aircraft but also had the range and equipment to fly to anyplace in the world on its own. In the Korean War, the C-119 was important in transport and airdrop roles; dropping both supplies and airborne troops. During the Vietnam war C-119s were used as third generation “gunships” (these are sideways firing ground attack airplanes that orbit a target). They are workhorses! The military operated them with a maximum takeoff weight up to 100.000 pounds for as long as the engines held together.

As Korea drew to close, Laos and Vietnam

Air America Logo

Air America Logo

were hotting up. Scott, not one to cover his Alpha Sierra Sierra, headed out to help and ended up in the thick of it once again. The Vietnam war in 1964 was the backdrop of Scott’s last tour of duty in uniform. Following his retirement in 1965, Scott joined the Air America team in Viet Nam and was assigned to Binh Thuy Air Force Base, IV Corps Tactical Zone of South Vietnam, as an ’AA’ Flight coordinator.

What Scott did in Laos is not clear. The Cold War was filled with secrets and this is one of them. Connecting the dots, however, perhaps he was involved with the CIA and the Secret War. Continue reading