Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Dr. Lin Bothwell, Harvard ‘77


1LinProfPic.jpg I was born in 1942 and grew up in Ogden, Utah, which was at that time the largest railroad junction between Omaha and the West Coast. My dad worked for the Union Pacific Railroad and because of his free travel pass I got to see most of the U.S. during my growing up years, “from New York's island to the redwood forests.” My father died of cancer in 1955, when I was twelve. My mother had six children, but they all died at birth except for my brother Bruce, two years younger, and me. Bruce lives in Iowa, is a retired alternative school teacher, and the author of several books (

I attended Ogden High School at that time the largest high school in the state and then listed as one of the ten most beautiful high school buildings in the United States. Ogden High School student-wise was about the size of the Air Force Academy at that time. I was in student government and several clubs. I played on the varsity football team as a wide receiver (I weighed 145 pounds) my sophomore year, and our team won the State Football Championship. I ran track for three years as a quarter miler and member of the mile relay team. Our senior year we broke the state record in the quarter mile. 2trackphoto.jpg

During that senior high school year the Dean of Men called me into his office and asked me what I was planning to do after high school. I had no idea because no one in my family had ever been to college. He asked me if there was anything I really liked and I said “Airplanes.” He asked me if I was interested in attending the U.S. Air Force Academy and I responded with: “What is a U.S. Air Force Academy?” (Note: USAFA had only had two graduating classes at that time.) When I told him that I knew what West Point and Annapolis were, he said USAFA was the “West Point” of the Air Force. I said that sounded interesting and asked him “Where do I sign up?” He said I needed to get a Congressional appointment, which definitely sounded harder…but I did.

I went to Denver in June of 1960 on the train with my one small suitcase and after staying overnight in a Denver hotel took the bus to USAFA.

The Wonder Years—USAFA 1960-1964

At in-processing a beautiful young thing told me my Air Force Academy serial number was 2183K. She told me not to forget it and then said, “Good luck.” I smiled and said “See you later,” and stepped through the curtained doors into hell.

Every night of Basic Cadet Summer, after what seemed like 100 hours of drill, push-ups, sit ups, uniform formations, shower formations and memorizing and regurgitating 229 pages of “Mao's Little Blue Book,” I laid in bed and vowed to quit the first thing the next morning. I did not do that as 132 of our classmates did. I was a member of Brophy's famous “Lost Element” during survival training, and also at Lowry during the infamous “Sir I cleared my canopy!” incident.

I went from the 45th Provisional Squadron to the 17th C.S. eventually ending up in the 24th Squadron, “Last in the Wing in Everything.” I had some memorable AOC's and roommates. My fourth class year I ran cross country and track for the Academy. When we had a dual meet with the University of Utah and I found out my old OHS class mate Robert “Road Runner” Hunter was now running 47 second quarters, I figured it was time to hang up the old spikes. I was one of those who did NOT make it out of the dorms during Hell Week the final night before Recognition and got to be yelled at over and over the next morning that “we smacks would NEVER be recognized!”…but we were. For my ZI field trip, I got to spend a week at sea on the U.S.S. Lexington, a great experience. I was involved in the barf bag incident on our C-130 flight, the harassing of the DI's at Ft. Benning…and I had the dubious distinction of being first runner-up in every ghoul pool we ran at the dances where they brought the girls in in cattle trucks.

3Lin24BullBoard.jpg Twenty Fourth was one of the squadrons that got to spend our JFK Inaugural Parade experience in an enlisted man's barracks at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and got to watch USAFA march in the inaugural parade from our Air Power Room at USAFA. Sigh!

For my overseas field trip I went to Northern Europe. I flew RB-66's out of Alconbury AFB along the border with East Germany (maybe over it!!!) and along the north coast of Africa. I went to plays in Piccadilly Circus in London. Along with another '64 troop (no name mentioned) I got onto a Soviet submarine in Stockholm, Sweden. I got to go to the wall in Berlin during the height of the Check-point Charlie tensions and got to tour behind the wall in East Germany. I rented a car, and then later hitch-hiked, with three other '64 troops all over southern Europe: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, along the Mediterranean and into France. It was a very memorable summer.

1961 through fall of 1964 I spent most of my time lettering on the Dean's “Other List” varsity team, especially in E.E. I was a humor editor for Talon and Dodo, along with squadron mate Joe Redden (USAFA Commandant 1989-1992); played on almost every intramural team, and coached our squadron soccer team fall of '63 to a one-loss season against the eventual Wing Champions from 20th Squadron.

During the fall of 1963 I was in attendance at the meeting of the bottom 30 USAFA '64 first classmen with Brigadier General Robert Strong. He vowed he was going to end academic complacency among first classman and gave us his guarantee that if any one of us so much as failed one class or let our GPA go under 2.0 he would see that we very quickly became a civilian. He was a man of his word.

Christmas break of 1963 I returned early to USAFA to marshall my officer and cadet supporters for my inevitable Academic Board and turn-back to the class of 1965. I was resigned to this and had many good friends among 24th's silver tags.

When on the first day of classes Monday, January 6, 1964 I had heard nothing of an Academic Board and had just attended all of my morning classes, I was assured by my AOC that I had “graduation made.” I returned to my room just before noon meal formation to find a blue Air Force form lying on my desk informing me that “an Academic Board had met and found me academically unfit for higher education, that I had been turned out and that I would be out-processed at 1300 hours that afternoon.”

At the out-processing the nameless Airman 2nd who handled my paperwork informed me that I was “the first First Classman to ever be turned out academically from the Academy.” He said this as he threw my pilot training orders into his waste basket.

And so after 1292 days as a cadet, having successfully completed over 140 semester hours of classes in subjects like chemistry, physics, calculus, differential equations, mechanical engineering, and astronautics, I officially became a civilian severed from the class and my best friends. That experience was to change my life.

The Professional Years Beyond USAFA

I returned to school, completed my Bachelor's with a 3.4 GPA, and then got a Master's Degree in Sociology and Psychology (with a 3.8 GPA). I served in the Air Force Reserve at March Air Force Base in Riverside, California, in the Reserve Unit from Hollywood. I worked along side Pat Wayne, John Wayne's son, and Tommy Sands, who was at that time married to Nancy Sinatra and performing at the Sands in Las Vegas.

After seven years of professional work as CEO of my own company I was accepted into the doctoral program at Harvard University in 1974. I completed a six year doctoral program in Organizational Behavior in three years with a 3.6 GPA, graduating with my doctorate in June of 1977. I felt this was some small vindication for the kid who USAFA certified as “academically unfit for higher education.”

During my subsequent professional career I was CEO of a management training corporation that had 40 Fortune 500 firms as our clients. I was often interviewed on radio and television. I was also a Dean of a business school and a tenured MBA professor. I helped establish and run one of the Internet's first on-line language training programs.

I worked at Thiokol Corporation for five years, where I ran into my old buddy and former squadron mate Astronaut John Blaha ('65). I was a business partner with Dr. Stephen R. Covey and the first person to have him in a video-taped management training program, prior to the publication of his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Even though Susan and I have many children and grandchildren for the last decade we have provided service world wide. They are accepting of their “over-seas grandparents.”

Susan and I both taught at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China (2000-2005). She was in the Foreign Language Department (i.e. English) and I taught in the Tsinghua Business School and the Business School at Peking University. Tsinghua and Peking are the top two universities in China and the top two business schools.

4LinandSusanGreatWall.jpg While in China we had opportunities to travel all over China from Dalian in the north to Kunming in the south (visiting the Mekong River where it flows into Viet Nam) and Lijiang (known as “Shangri La”) in the south-east, at the foot of the Himalayas. We also traveled to Japan, England and Scotland and made several visits to Hong Kong.

We were in Beijing during the Hainan Island Incident in the South China Sea where a collision between a U.S. EP-3 flying out of Japan and a PRC Shenyang J-8 sent the J-8 into the sea killing the pilot. We experienced serious anti-U.S. sentiment in Beijing and had to be very careful about going out into public for several weeks. Susan who went out shopping once when I was not with her was spit on and shoved by an angry Chinese man. (This incident was close to home for us because Hainan Island was one of our favorite places to visit for R&R when we were in Southern China. During one visit to Hainan, they were hosting a conference of business and world leaders and we got to lounge on the beach watching the PRC gun boats patrolling off shore.)

We had just returned to Tsinghua in Beijing in September 2001 when the terrorist attacks occurred on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon. We suffered through the PRC's 48 hour news blackout of the incident. We had to make calls to family in the U.S. in order to learn what had happened there and what was going on.

We were in Beijing during the government's crackdown on the Fulong Gong and witnessed an incident between the PSB and Fulong Gong demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. We were also in China during the SARS epidemic (2002-2003) and were the last U.S. couple of foreign teachers (numbering several hundred) who were evacuated from the country. Our leaving was announced in the U.S. on NBC Nightly News.

Mainland China was an interesting place to live during those notable historic events. One of my most memorable experiences while living in Beijing was being the cultural media consultant for CCTV-4 (the HBO of China) and working on all of the live broadcasts in China of the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and the Emmys.

I also had my “near death experience” while in Beijing. I was in the large western hospital when my heart stopped and I stopped breathing. I was resuscitated by eight doctors including the CMO (who became a good friend). I spent three months recuperating and ran up a hospital bill of thousands of U.S. dollars.

Since our time in China, Susan and I have also lived and worked in Fiji (2008-2010). We worked with the education programs and with families in poverty (70% of the country). We were living on the west side of Viti Levu during the “100 year flood” in 2009 when it rained 24 hours a day for two weeks, putting several cities completely under water. Susan and I were asked by the leaders to head the flood relief efforts on that side of the island and worked with the Fijian Army delivering food, water and clothing to those who had lost everything. We were told that the only reason this major tragedy did not receive more international news was because “there were not enough deaths,” (7); the media ignoring the 1434 families who lost their homes and everything they owned.

5FijiFloodReliefWithArmy.jpg Since returning home from Fiji we have been working with Burmese refugees who have been brought by the United Nations and the U.S. State Department from the Thailand Refugee Camps to relocation in the U.S. We meet with the families and teach them about all things pertaining to U.S. culture. Many of these people have been living in the camps in the jungle (or hiding in caves) for as much as twenty years. They know nothing about how to ride a bus, how to get money from an ATM, how to place a call on a cell phone, how to communicate with a government office or how to pay their U. S. taxes. Susan works with the women teaching them how to cook American food and how to use things like can openers and microwave ovens. I help the men with job hunting and work related skills. These are wonderful people and we find the work with them very satisfying.

The Word Processor is Mightier than the F-104

I have been a prolific writer all of my adult life. I am the published author of several books, training programs and articles. My most successful book, The Art of Leadership, was in print for 13 years with Simon & Schuster, one of America's largest publishers. This book is listed on the Internet as one of the 25 most important business books of the last quarter century. It was used as a textbook at USAFA. I authored a Business Communications Textbook published by Higher Education Press the largest academic publisher in Mainland China. While I have written many award winning short stories, articles, a play, movie reviews and song lyrics, I have never tackled a novel.

Several years ago I began work on a novel entitled Three Down that focuses on 1964's First Class year at USAFA and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. During this work I have received encouragement and support from best-selling authors and friends Chris Stewart, Gus Lee, Brian Haig and Nelson DeMille.

After going through the “author's process” of endless rejections by agents and publishers (including my own Simon & Schuster), I finally contracted with an editor fall of 2010. Three Down, a very large novel, will be published spring of 2011 and will be listed with and Barnes and Noble. I have dedicated the book to my band of brothers at USAFA, the Classes of 1961-1967, those who shaped my life for the 47 years since “that fateful January 1964 day.”

I have been a member of the AOG for years and rooted for the Falcons in every MWC sport. I have been able to attend only two reunions of the Class of 1964, the 20th (1984) and the 30th (1994). At the 30th reunion I was able to tell part of my story at the luncheon and was warmly received by all my blue tag brothers. I had an article printed in the Fall 1990 issue of Checkpoints, that the editors told me received more responses than any article they had ever printed up to that date. One of the USAFA senior staff said that my article “should be required reading for every fourth class cadet at USAFA.”

In Tribute

6MyFavoriteClass.jpg I consider my class mates in the USAFA Class of 1964 to be the finest people this country and the Air Force Academy have ever produced. No class at USAFA or any other military academy paid a dearer price for service to the United States. I grieve over every classmate that we have lost, both in time of conflict, and in their careers beyond the Air Force. We have lost brothers to many tragic circumstances including: combat, aircraft accidents, car crashes, heart attacks, and cancer. To me, these classmates and friends will always be the young, handsome, strong, and courageous brothers that I was separated from on that January day in 1964. I salute you all.

Lin Bothwell 2183K

Postscript 2014

With significant assistance from Al Larson and Doug Jenkins, I was able to create and post my history and the attached pictures when the Class of 1964 site was first up and running. It has been viewed by many family, friends and associates in the intervening years.

I talked in the section “The Word Processor is Mightier than the F-104” about the years I spent working on the manuscript entitled “Three Down” an auto-biographical novel about the U.S. Air Force Academy 1960-64, basically our class story intermingled with my own. While it is a novel, 80% of what is in the book really happened—to me and to us. In 2010 I was finally able to persuade a talented editor to work with me, and we spent two years paring down the unwieldy manuscript to a more manageable and readable, and more significantly, publishable novel.

CoverSm.jpg In the final stages of the editing and formatting process my editor convinced me that the title “Three Down” no longer fit the content of the book. After much thought and considering many options the title “Lessons In Honor” was chosen. The novel was published on July 4, 2012. Subsequent to the glowing endorsements I received from my ARC readers, many of them USAFA grads, when the book appeared on, my Author's Central page received a great number of five star reviews from more USAFA troops, but also from business men and women, housewives, grandmothers and many others who had no military backgrounds.

My current efforts are directed toward getting “Lessons In Honor” made into a feature length film. The process is exhausting, but I persevere. We need to honor “The Greatest Class Ever” and pay tribute to all of our fallen comrades. This would be a great way to do so!

I look forward to the Class of 64's 50th Reunion, September of 2014, and continued involvement with AOG events.

P.S. My “Deep Thoughts” now appear daily on Facebook and on my webpage: If we're not “connected” there, let's remedy that! Cheers!

Lin Bothwell—Forever Sixty-Four
[ Photos From My History ]

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