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Letters From Readers—September 2014 Aviation History

Originally published by Aviation History magazine. Published Online: July 11, 2014 
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Bethpage Memories

Your cover story in the July issue ["The Goldilocks Fighter," by Stephan Wilkinson] evoked some long-ago memories. On December 7, 1941, Grumman held an open house at their Bethpage facility on Long Island, N.Y., that mom, dad and I attended. I was 8 years old, and my father had started working for Grumman earlier that year. I was treated to sitting in the cockpits of a TBF Avenger and an F4F Wildcat under construction. After the tour, we drove back to Westhampton Beach, N.Y., and turned on the radio in time to hear President Roosevelt addressing the nation about the devastation at Pearl Harbor. That was the end to a great day.

Our lives changed. My dad rented a room at Bethpage for the duration of the war. We would see him on the occasional weekend. My father had an inherent ability to build or fix almost any problem. He could design and fabricate any special part. He (along with other talented workers) became one of Jake Swirbul's "go-to guys."

It is amazing what Grumman accomplished during the war; they were awarded several Es for Excellence from the Navy. Your article brought back a special time of my youth. Thanks for a great magazine.

Ralph W. Kirby
Wilmington, N.C.

Badass Pilots

I was delighted to read Colonel Walter J. Boyne's piece ["Badass Pilots"] in the July issue, on what amounts to political correctness in our military. There are many examples that I believe have a negative effect, from recruitment to promotions, of what serves to stifle that "can-do" attitude Americans seem to thrive on. Boyne chose some prime examples of pioneers who had to buck the establishment to achieve great things for our country, at no little cost to themselves.

This is something that more Americans need to know about, and I am pleased to see your magazine is bold enough to point out a troubling political issue in our military today.

Jeffrey Gilman
Frederick, Md.

 

I always enjoy reading Walter Boyne's articles and books. His July article was spot on. As a retired Air Force officer, I am glad my time in the force occurred when it did because conversations with active-duty officers convince me that political correctness and maintaining a low but productive profile is more important than getting the job done. When one looks into the truly great combat leaders of the past, many of them were nonconformists.

Colonel Orin Knutson
U.S. Air Force (ret.)
Schertz, Texas

 

Retired Colonel Walter Boyne's work as an airpower historian is unsurpassed. I have many of his books and thoroughly enjoyed the TV shows he has narrated. However, he should stick with history instead of making unsubstantiated claims about recent practices as he did in "Badass Pilots."

In his article, Boyne wrote "…we know that any budding badass pilot will be dismissed from service at the first sign of non-conformance to the current hypercritical standards of contact." I'm not sure how he "knows" this, but during several retention recommendation reviews I took part in as recently as 18 months ago, the officers who ranked the lowest had done things such as failing aviation training courses, threatening suicide and being convicted of DUIs. Expecting pilots to be tactically competent, mentally stable and trustworthy enough not to endanger themselves and others by driving drunk does not strike me as "hypercritical."

Colonel Boyne also asserts "it seems almost certain the rigorous contemporary standards that so quickly dismiss badass pilots from the service are harmful," without offering proof as to how the service has been harmed. What is "almost certain" is that the time a squadron commander has to expend dealing with the misconduct of one or two seriously detracts from the time available to keep an entire squadron focused on combat operations.

Lt. Col. Andrew Dembosky
U.S. Air Force (ret.)
Las Vegas, Nev.

Walter J. Boyne responds: Thanks for your compliments and incisive—and probably much more relevant—view of the article. Your experience is fresher than mine, and I give you full credit for it, and am more than willing to amend my views, at least partially. My article was based on many conversations with individuals concerned about the recent series of dismissals of senior leaders in all the services, and about the widespread problems of morale. Only a few of these people are currently in service, so that's why I am more susceptible to suspecting that you have a closer insight than I do. But the weight of the material seems to support the thesis that a single lapse can blot a career, and that was the message I was attempting to convey. I hope you will believe me when I say that I wrote it with the intent of strengthening the Air Force rather than maligning it.

 

Link to Link Trainers

A friend brought me your May 2014 issue because he knew I had been a Link Trainer instructor. I thoroughly enjoyed the article on Ed Link and his trainers, especially the photo on P. 51. I'm sure this is the room where I began my Link Trainer career in April 1949, Hangar E at Randolph Air Force Base. I remember the far wall, as I had to paint it during my two years there. In this room we had 18 newer C-3 Link Trainers. Our instructors included at least six master sergeants, seven tech sergeants, six staff sergeants, four sergeants (two were WAFS), six corporals and seven privates first class, of which I was one.

We taught aviation cadets and student officers to fly by instruments and radio navigation. At least three were sons of important Air Force officers. The station identification of the Randolph Radio Range still echoes in my mind, I heard it so often: dot-dah-dot, dah-dot, dah-dot-dot.

Tech. Sgt. David C. Stone
U.S. Air Force (ret.)
Wichita, Kan.

Send letters to Aviation History Editor, Weider History Group, 19300 Promenade Drive, Leesburg, VA 20176-6500, or e-mail to aviationhistory@weiderhistorygroup.com.

 



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