Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

The Air Force Academy and My Career

My Early Years

I was born on June 23, 1942 and named Donald Morse Kingsley III, after my father and grandfather. We lived in a small house outside Washington, DC in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Growing up, I became aware of WW II and its terrible consequences. My uncle lost both his legs during the Battle of the Bulge. He and his wife were never able to have children because of this. When I was 4 and 5, I visited Walter Reed and saw the soldiers in their beds. I was too young to react to their conditions. I just remember how nice they were to me and happy to see me. As I grew older I began to realize what I had seen and the terrible impact on my uncle and his wife.

I also learned about the Nazis and their terrible treatment of the Jews. We lived near several people whose families had been wiped out by the Nazis. At one point our family lived near a man who had been with Patton's Army when they liberated a concentration camp. He showed me pictures of what he had seen.

About 12 I became very interested in science fiction and space travel. I was an amateur astronomer, and built several telescopes. I was what kids today would call a nerd. I was also a JV and Varsity soccer player on my school teams. I also had girl friends. So, I guess, I was a “well rounded” nerd.

I began to think about what I wanted to do with my life. I was very interested in flying airplanes and the military. I read about the establishment of the Air Force Academy. I asked my father about it. He said that if I wanted to fly, the Air Force Academy would be a great place to be able to learn to do that.

I also had read several science fiction books that were predicated on a post-atomic war. To me the idea of an apocalyptic war was unthinkable. To in some way contribute to preventing it might be a good career. I arrived at the conclusion that being in the military would be a good way. I wanted to make sure that nothing like Nazi Germany could ever happen again. I wanted to do something, if only in a small way, that could ensure that the Soviets could not attack us or precipitate something like another world war. Remember, this was the 50s. Every day there was news about what the Soviet Union was doing and its threat to world peace.

I had been a Boy Scout, but I had grown tired of it. It seemed too juvenile. I read in the newspaper about an organization called the Civil Air Patrol. I looked into it, and it seemed to be more adult in its activities. I joined it and attended summer encampments (they were a two week boot camp). We learned to march and keep a room neat for inspection and how to wear a uniform. I thought this would help me if I were able to get into the Academy.

As high school years passed by, I began to focus on what I would have to do to get into the Academy. I wanted to be in an organization that did space things. I wanted to fly fighter jets. The Air Force seemed to be the place for me. I watched every show I could on TV about the Air Force. It seemed that the Air Force had changed the way war was fought, and made a significant difference in our winning the war. I studied how the Air Force was used in the war and read histories of the war. The atomic bombing of Japan was especially interesting because of how it ended the war with Japan. I realized the consequences to the civilian population and what it would mean if such a horror happened to the US. It made me ever more determined to look for a career where I could help to prevent such a catastrophe.

I was accepted into the Academy: Class of 1964. I was excited and apprehensive. I expected the upper class cadets to be gods. I thought that they would be such examples of leadership and vision, that I would be lucky to be able to eat at the same table with them. I was very idealistic about what I expected from the Academy.

I spent the last month before I had to be in Colorado lifting weights, doing calisthenics and running a mile a day. I lost five pounds. I thought I was in really good shape. I was ready for whatever came.

My Academy Experience

I remember the bus ride down from Denver clearly and the first day. It was a blur, but memorable. It wasn't particularly different than much of what I had experienced at Civil Air Patrol encampments.

As the weeks went on though, I became aware that I was losing weight – a lot of weight. I went from a healthy 156 to 135 pounds. I was 5 feet 8 inches.

I learned the Contrails knowledge as we were required to. Memorization was never difficult for me. The thing that began to upset me was the arbitrary manner we were made to “sit up” at meals. Sometimes we would be told to “sit up” at the beginning of the meal, and dismissed without eating anything. I began to wonder what the purpose of this was. At the Civil Air Patrol encampments we had been allowed to eat as much as we wanted. I always came home in better shape from them.

One Sunday towards the end of the summer, I was at a table with an upperclassman with whom we had been arbitrarily seated with. He somehow sensed my unhappiness with the situation. He had made one of my classmates “sit up” because he had taken too much food. He asked me, “Mr. Kingsley, you have a problem?” I said, “No Sir”. He persisted, “Seriously, Mr. Kingsley you seem to have a problem with something. Go ahead, you can speak frankly. I won't be offended.” Being completely naïve, I told him, “Sir, I don't agree with the way we are not allowed to eat.” He said, “It sounds to me like you aren't with the program. What exactly is your problem?” I told him, “Sir, I have lost twenty pounds since I entered. I didn't have that to lose.” He answered, “You are a failure. I have my doubts that you will make it through your doolie year. You are in no position to critique what happens to you. I am disgusted with you.” He then told me to “sit up”. And I did until the meal was over.

I think that this experience typified my reaction to doolie year. I never felt that anyone had any idea of what they were trying to teach us. It was mostly harassment. In fact one upperclassman explained to me that the fourth class year was there to let us experience what being a prisoner of war might be like and to show us how to survive. I wasn't motivated by this. I felt we should be training for success, not failure. In fact I never experienced much that I could call positive leadership. The only people I remember as being inspirational, were those I met on the two varsity teams I was on: soccer and wrestling.

The wrestling coach, Karl Kitt, was an old friend of my family. They had lived on the same street as we did in Annapolis when he was a coach at Navy. Mrs. Kitt was my kindergarten teacher. We had stayed in contact for many years, and occasionally visited with each other. My father came through on a business trip at the end of the summer, and the Kitt's invited us for dinner. During dinner Coach Kitt asked me if I had made the soccer team. I said that I thought that I had. He said that was good. He was very critical of the way meals were conducted. He said that a meal was no place for the type of harassment that went on. He told me that I should go out for the wrestling team. I told him that I had not wrestled. He suggested that I could be a manager. I told him I would consider that. He told me that the less time I spent on squadron tables, the better it would be for me.

I made the soccer team. We were made to sit at attention as all Doolies were, but we were allowed to eat. We were occasionally queried on knowledge, but I am sure not as aggressively as those on squadron tables. One of the most inspirational individuals I ever met was Dave Roe, Class of 1962, and a soccer player. He would interact with all of the Doolies, but in a positive way. He would question us and discuss world events. Dave went on to a very distinguished career. He was what I expected as a cadet leader.

I stayed away from squadron life as much as possible. I did not respect our AOC. He had confided in me that he was a fighter pilot. He had applied to be an astronaut. The medics had found a funny brain wave, and he was grounded. He was very bitter about this. He did not inspire a lot of confidence in the potential for an Air Force career.

I was on the Dean's list my first semester. One of the third classmen came up to me in ranks and asked me if I were a “grind”. I said no sir, but he continued to mock me about my grades each time I saw him in the halls. I thought that getting good grades was something that one should do. As the years went by, my motivation decreased. I didn't see much in the way of inspirational leadership. Everyone just seemed to be trying to get through the experience. Most were interested in flying just to fly. There was no sense of mission.

As the years progressed, I basically survived. I liked academics. The Academy instruction was excellent and I was usually in one of the higher sections. I didn't realize it at the time, but I had taken a very difficult track. I was trying to get a major in physics while playing varsity sports. At times my academic load was over 25 hours.

My final year at the Academy was very difficult. As the final fall semester started, I quickly got over my head in one subject: Nuclear Physics. In the spring I had gotten through Atomic Physics with a low B, but Nuclear Physics was killing me. We had a quiz each week; I was getting Cs and Ds and an F for the first time in my life. I went to the instructor, and he basically told me to study harder. The rest of his classes were doing fine. When the first grades came out, I was at the bottom. My GPA had been over 3.0 up to this point; now I was below that. At mid-term with a great deal of effort and study, I got a C on the Nuclear Physics test, but afterward I continued to downslide. I was facing an F. I realized that I had to do nothing but study for the next two months leading to finals before Christmas. If I flunked the course, I would be turned back a class. I was not allowed to drop the course either.

Leading up to this, I had made another decision; I quit the soccer team. The coach was extremely upset. He told me that I would not get my letter. I explained to him that I was flunking and could not devote the time to soccer. He even offered me a coaching job of the freshman team. He said that I was one of the leaders of the team and my loss would be a very bad thing. I was so discouraged by potentially failing Physics that I told him I just needed to concentrate on my academics. I was flailing around with my other classes. I had lost confidence in my ability to even do academics.

Three nights before the final for the Nuclear Physics final, I went down the hall to a Third Classman who was also in the same class. He was a real brain, and I had not known that he was also taking the class. I explained my situation and asked him if he could help. He looked at me in bewilderment. “Don't you have all the tests?” he asked. I looked at him and said no. Where would I have gotten them? Besides it was an honor violation to have tests before hand. He replied that all the previous tests, weekly quizzes and finals, were in a notebook handed down from class to class. The instructors never changed the tests.

Every one knew; everyone but me. I was astounded. I asked our honor representative about the situation, and he told me that if it was available to everyone, then it was not a violation. As I took copious notes, studied the course book, and struggled with each weekly quiz and the mid-term, everyone else was studying the actual quiz. No wonder the instructor thought I was a dunce. Everyone else was floating through. The third classman gave me copies of the two finals that were used. He said that they usually took the questions from either of the two. I studied them for the next three days. I took the final. I got a B+; the instructor called me in and asked me how I was able to do that. I told him that I had a lot of help from one of the other students. I passed the course with a D.

I would like to insert a comment on one of the most important aspects of the Academy that impacted my life: the Honor Code. At the time I was there the Code stated that: “We do not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those among us who do.” I lived this code my entire life. When I came into the Academy, it seemed like a normal set of values to follow. Once, just before the end of my final year, a second classman asked me, “If you knew your roommate cheated on an exam, would you turn him in?” I looked at him in disbelief. I could not imagine even considering not reporting someone who cheated, even my roommate. In fact, if my roommate cheated and somehow I learned it, I would have asked him about it. If he admitted he had, I would have expected him to report himself. I believed that anyone who cheated betrayed all of us.

I had been having trouble with my eyes on and off from the time I was a Doolie. I would experience a form of tunnel vision. I finally went to the clinic to see what a doctor would think. The doctor, a flight surgeon, asked me if I was sure I wanted to tell him about this. I didn't understand what he was asking, and I assured him that I did because I was concerned. He examined me and said that it might be a form of migraine. The problem was by telling him this; it excluded me from flight training. I didn't realize what I had done until I was called in by the clinic in the fall of 1963 and told that because of this problem I was ineligible for flight training. They said that they could put me on probationary list, but I would have to come in for evaluation when the problem occurred. I was effectively out of flight training. I had pinned my hopes on an Air Force career as a flyer. I had wanted to be an astronaut. I now had to figure out what I was going to do in the Air Force as a non-flyer (akin to being a one-armed basketball player).

I was so ashamed about not being able to fly that I told my classmates that I did not want to fly. I felt I was stupid for telling the flight surgeon about the problem. I began to look for what I could do in the Air Force. I could not go to graduate school because my GPA was below 3.0.

The last semester we had a course in Military Science. A new topic was introduced COIN: Counter-Insurgency Warfare. The United States was beginning to be deeply involved in Viet Nam. President Kennedy had authorized the wearing of the Green Beret by the Army Special Forces. The Army had made a big deal of this and the creation of this new mission for them. Our instructor had been a pilot in Korea and told us that we should really begin to look at what was going on in Viet Nam. He told us that in order to progress in a military career, you needed a war. The only one that looked like it might develop into anything was Viet Nam. This was before the Gulf of Tonkin incident or any real fighting (although history has since shown that the US was fighting a low visibility war there ever since the French had abandoned Viet Nam). His statement was shocking to me in its cynicism. I had always thought that soldiers did not want war, even though they were the ones who fought them. Wishing for one was a new concept, and I was not sure I liked it.

I found out that I could just go into the Air Force at graduation and let the Air Force chose, or I could apply for a Technical School and a career path. I went through the list of Tech Schools and found one for Air Intelligence Officer in Denver at Lowry AFB. An instructor who had been in intelligence offered to talk to me about what intelligence officers did. He was imprecise and roundabout, but he made me think that this would be a really exciting thing to do. Assignments were mostly overseas in Europe or the Orient – travel and adventure! I applied and was accepted.

Looking back at the Academy many years after graduation, I have tried to figure out what was going on with its program. I believe that because the Academy was so new, the Air Force was not sure what it wanted from us. Most of the process seemed to be based on West Point since many of the Air Force general officers and the officers assigned to the Academy had graduated from there. A great deal that we experienced was derived from West Point traditions, although everyone went to great lengths to explain that we were better and different.

For the longest time I felt that I had failed at the Academy; I had not been able to accomplish what I wanted. As I have read and re-read what I have written I have realized that the Academy failed me. I was often criticized by upperclassmen in my squadron because I “wasn't with the system”. In retrospect, I don't think there was a system. Many of my classmates were able to graduate and move on to distinguished careers in the Air Force. I was never able to put the Academy behind me because of my negative feelings about it. This should never have happened. There should be a method for discerning cadets like myself and helping them rather than harassing them into some notion of conformity.

I have kept up with the Academy over the years, and have been dismayed to see some of the unfortunate things that have occurred. I was especially non-plussed to read about the incidents regarding evangelical interference and harassment in cadet's beliefs. The introduction of women and their initial treatment also caused me a lot of concern. It appears that the Air Force has yet to determine what it wants out of the Academy and how to get that product. The concept of “Warriors” does not appeal to me. The Academy graduates should leave with a sense of purpose and mission to make the Air Force a better organization by what they have learned and the example they have seen while at the Academy. The military should understand that the potential for war is always there, but they should not welcome it. They should also ensure that the military is prepared for any war that should come.

My Air Force Experience

Intelligence School was not what I had been led understand. Many of the other students were from the US Military Academy, West Point. As the classes progressed the West Pointers became more and more disgruntled with what they had gotten into. None of us understood what Air Force Intelligence was.

The first day we walked into class there was a small fiberglass suitcase sitting on each student's desk. The instructor told us that we should inventory the contents and then sign for the case. He called it a PI Kit. None of us knew what a PI Kit was. We all were thinking that it might hold a Beretta pistol or a trench coat. We thought we were going to be spies. It turned out that the school we were going to would train us to be Photo-Interpreters and Air Intelligence Officers. We would receive a dual Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) that would determine our career. We were going to be trained to look at aerial photographs so we could report to pilot crews and senior officers what was going on in enemy territory and develop targets. We were going to study ground forces, air forces, industrial facilities, and any other thing that we might encounter on a photograph taken from the air. We would learn how to measure and calculate the size of objects using trigonometry. We were all stunned; this was not what we thought we were getting into.

I got married after I graduated from Intelligence School. We were transferred to SAC Headquarters, the 544th Aerospace Reconnaissance Technical Wing. I was going to be a photographic interpreter. This looked like an interesting assignment. We arrived at Offutt in March 1965, and after a month of waiting for my Top Secret clearance, I was assigned to the Research Center (the photographic interpretation center). My initial assignment was on U-2 photography, but as the Vietnam War notched up, I was moved to a separate branch in June of 1965. I relate the following experience because it had a very traumatic effect on me at the time. Only recently did I obtain the following excerpt which explains what exactly happened.

An older officer, a senior Major, was the chief of a new branch, the Contingency Branch. Several of us were assigned to a special project to evaluate the B-52 raids on South Viet Nam. SAC had begun to arm the B-52s with iron bombs: fifty-one 500 pound high explosive bombs. It was explained to us that SAC had no procedures for dropping iron bombs, particularly from formation. SAC had been trained and dedicated to nuclear war. The training and procedures of flying large formations similar to WWII B-17 raids had been lost. Interestingly, the CINC SAC General Ryan and his second in command General Nazarro had both flown in the 8th Air Force during WWII as B-17 pilots.

The B-52s would launch out of Guam and go into a “race track” oval orbit over the South China Sea where they would refuel. Entering into the race track required good flight skills that had to be learned because this was all new. In fact the SAC Director of Operations, General Compton, was lost in a mid-air collision while flying as an observer. Once refueled, the bombers would break off and fly over South Viet Nam to their target area. Targets were designated by a jeep-mounted radar beacon used as the Initial Point (IP - the point at which the bomber would begin its run to the target area). The target areas were an invisible rectangle laid out over the jungle in South Viet Nam. This rectangle was about 1 x 2.5 miles, and about 10 aircraft were in each mission. A bomb bay camera took pictures as the bombs were released; additionally, U-2s would take pictures of the area for bomb damage assessment (BDA). This was a skill we learned at PI school.

A briefing chart with a photomontage of each target area was created. The chart was approximately 3x4 feet. The target area was outlined with red tape. Our job was to find each crater from either the bomb bay or U-2 photographs and place a red tape dot on the photomontage. There was great interest in how accurate the raids could be. We would count the bomb craters inside the target area and outside. From this number a percentage could be determined. We did this with a high priority. We never knew exactly when new mission photography would arrive, and we would be called upon to do the count. We worked night and day when the photography came in.

A laughable event occurred when, after 16 hours of placing dots, we ran out of red dots. We could not find any more anywhere on the base or off it. Our chief panicked. He went to the senior officer who would be briefing this to the CINC in the morning. No one knew what to do. We had blue dots and yellow dots, but no one wanted to use them. Finally, the decision was made to take red tape and a hole punch and make new dots. Even though the dots were slightly smaller than the other ones, the decision was that this would be better than confusing the CINC with multiple colors on the chart. We fell into hysterical laughter, brought on probably by exhaustion, about the “Red Dot Gap”.

The effort went on for several weeks. Finally, a new briefing was being prepared. Photographs of Hanoi and Haiphong, the major transshipment points for military goods into North Viet Nam, were shown on two large 4x5 briefing boards. These boards were basically thick, white cardboard. Overlaid on the cities were target areas similar in size to the ones we had been working on. Annotations pointed out the targets that would be destroyed. We were told that this briefing was part of a larger briefing to be brought up the chain of command to possibly give to the Secretary of Defense, McNamara, and ultimately, President Johnson.

The concept of this briefing was that with one massive series of B-52 raids, the war capability of North Viet Nam could be eradicated. Part of the strategy in the briefing included mining their harbors, destroying their two airfields, and cutting off the only Vietnamese train line coming from China. This was exciting stuff. I had been troubled by the incremental pace of what was supposed to be a war. This operation would serve notice to the North Vietnamese that they were risking complete destruction of their homeland. Several weeks went by and we heard that the briefing had been sent to Washington with the CINC SAC. More weeks went by, but we heard nothing.

Finally, I asked our branch chief what happened to it. He said that was a good question, and he pursued the answer. After a few days he came back and said that it had been given to President Johnson. The President had responded to it by saying he did not want to escalate the war to that level, and that he did not want to start a major war in Viet Nam. At that time all of the North's shipping came into Hanoi and Haiphong. And the only rail line came from China. Johnson's concern was that we might antagonize China to the point of entering the war. Additionally, England, France, and other “allies” of ours were bringing in goods to these ports. We might sink a friendly ship.

I was completely bewildered by this turn of events. Everything I had learned about fighting a war was being turned on its head. I had to trust that there were factors I didn't understand, but I felt that something was really wrong.
The following is the INTRODUCTION to the book, Cheers and Tears by Lt. Gen. Charles Cooper, USMC (Ret., now deceased). General Cooper's widow agreed that I could use it for whatever purpose I wished.


The Day It Became the Longest War

"The President will see you at two o'clock." It was a beautiful fall day in November of 1965; early in the Vietnam War-too beautiful a day to be what many of us, anticipating it, had been calling "the day of reckoning." We didn't know how accurate that label would be. The Pentagon is a busy place. Its workday starts early-especially if, as the expression goes, "there's a war on." By seven o'clock, the staff of Admiral David L. McDonald, the Navy's senior admiral and Chief of Naval Operations, had started to work. Shortly after seven, Admiral McDonald arrived and began making final preparations for a meeting with President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The Vietnam War was in its first year, and its uncertain direction troubled Admiral McDonald and the other service chiefs. They'd had a number of disagreements with Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara about strategy, and had finally requested a private meeting with the Commander in Chief-a perfectly legitimate procedure. Now, after many delays, the Joint Chiefs were finally to have that meeting. They hoped it would determine whether the US military would continue its seemingly directionless buildup to fight a protracted ground war, or take bold measures that would bring the war to an early and victorious end.

The bold measures they would propose were to apply massive air power to the head of the enemy, Hanoi, and to close North Vietnam's harbors by mining them. The situation was not a simple one, and for several reasons. The most important reason was that North Vietnam's neighbor to the north was communist China. Only 12 years had passed since the Korean War had ended in stalemate. The aggressors in that war had been the North Koreans. When the North Koreans' defeat had appeared to be inevitable, communist China had sent hundreds of thousands of its Peoples' Liberation Army "volunteers" to the rescue. Now, in this new war, the North Vietnamese aggressor had the logistic support of the Soviet Union and, more to the point, of neighboring communist China.

Although we had the air and naval forces with which to paralyze North Vietnam, we had to consider the possible reactions of the Chinese and the Russians. Both China and the Soviet Union had pledged to support North Vietnam in the "war of national liberation" it was fighting to reunite the divided country, and both had the wherewithal to cause major problems. An important unknown was what the Russians would do if prevented from delivering goods to their communist protégé in Hanoi. A more important question concerned communist China, next-door neighbor to North Vietnam. How would the Chinese react to a massive pummeling of their ally? More specifically, would they enter the war as they had done in North Korea? Or would they let the Vietnamese, for centuries a traditional enemy, fend for themselves?

The service chiefs had considered these and similar questions, and had also asked the Central Intelligence Agency for answers and estimates. The CIA was of little help, though it produced reams of text, executive summaries of the texts, and briefs of the executive summaries-all top secret, all extremely sensitive, and all of little use. The principal conclusion was that it was impossible to predict with any accuracy what the Chinese or Russians might do.

Despite the lack of a clear-cut intelligence estimate, Admiral McDonald and the other Joint Chiefs did what they were paid to do and reached a conclusion. They decided unanimously that the risk of the Chinese or Soviets reacting to massive US measures taken in North Vietnam was acceptably low, but only if we acted without delay. Unfortunately, the Secretary of Defense and his coterie of civilian "whiz kids" did not agree with the Joint Chiefs, and McNamara and his people were the ones who were actually steering military strategy. In the view of the Joint Chiefs, the United States was piling on forces in Vietnam without understanding the consequences.

In the view of McNamara and his civilian team, we were doing the right thing. This was the fundamental dispute that had caused the Chiefs to request the seldom-used private audience with the Commander in Chief in order to present their military recommendations directly to him. McNamara had finally granted their request. The 1965 Joint Chiefs of Staff had ample combat experience. Each was serving in his third war. The Chairman was General Earle Wheeler, US Army, highly regarded by the other members. General Harold Johnson was the Army Chief of Staff. A World War II prisoner of the Japanese, he was a soft-spoken, even-tempered, deeply religious man. General John P. McConnell, Air Force Chief of Staff, was a native of Arkansas and a 1932 graduate of West Point. The Commandant of the Marine Corps was General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., a slim, short, all-business Marine. General Greene was a Naval Academy graduate and a zealous protector of the Marine Corps concept of controlling its own air resources as part of an integrated air-ground team. Last and by no means least was Admiral McDonald, a Georgia minister's son, also a Naval Academy graduate, and a naval aviator. While Admiral McDonald was a most capable leader, he was also a reluctant warrior. He did not like what he saw emerging as a national commitment. He did not really want the US to get involved with land warfare, believing as he did that the Navy could apply sea power against North Vietnam very effectively by mining, blockading, and assisting in a bombing campaign and in this way help to bring the war to a swift and satisfactory conclusion.

The Joint Chiefs intended that the prime topics of the meeting with the President would be naval matters-the mining and blockading of the port of Haiphong and naval support of a bombing campaign aimed at Hanoi. For that reason, the Navy was to furnish a briefing map, and that became my responsibility. We mounted a suitable map on a large piece of plywood, then coated it with clear acetate so that the chiefs could mark on it with grease pencils during the discussion. The whole thing weighed about 30 pounds.

The Military Office at the White House agreed to set up an easel in the Oval Office to hold the map. I would accompany Admiral McDonald to the White House with the map; put the map in place when the meeting started, then get out. There would be no strap-hangers at the military summit meeting with Lyndon Johnson. The map and I joined Admiral McDonald in his staff car for the short drive to the White House, a drive that was memorable only because of the silence. My admiral was totally preoccupied. The chiefs' appointment with the President was for two o'clock, and Admiral McDonald and I arrived about 20 minutes early.

The chiefs were ushered into a fairly large room across the hall from the Oval Office. I propped the map board on the arms of a fancy chair where all could view it, left two of the grease pencils in the tray attached to the bottom of the board, and stepped out into the corridor. One of the chiefs shut the door, and they conferred in private until someone on the White House staff interrupted them about fifteen minutes later. As they came out, I retrieved the map, and then joined them in the corridor outside the President's office. Precisely at two o'clock President Johnson emerged from the Oval Office and greeted the chiefs.

He was all charm. He was also big: at three or more inches over six feet tall and something on the order of 250 pounds, he was bigger than any of the chiefs. He personally ushered them into his office, all the while delivering gracious and solicitous comments with a Texas accent far more pronounced than the one that came through when he spoke on television. Holding the map board as the chiefs entered, I peered between them, trying to find the easel. There was none. The President looked at me, grasped the situation at once, and invited me in, adding, "You can stand right over here." I had become an easel-one with eyes and ears. To the right of the door, not far inside the office, large windows framed evergreen bushes growing in a nearby garden. The President's desk and several chairs were farther in, diagonally across the room from the windows. The President positioned me near the windows, and then arranged the chiefs in a semicircle in front of the map and its human easel.

He did not offer them seats: they stood, with those who were to speak-Wheeler, McDonald, and McConnell-standing nearest the President. Paradoxically, the two whose services were most affected by a continuation of the ground buildup in Vietnam-Generals Johnson and Greene-stood farthest from the President. President Johnson stood nearest the door, about five feet from the map. In retrospect, the setup-the failure to have an easel in place, the positioning of the chiefs on the outer fringe of the office, the lack of seating-did not augur well.

The chiefs had expected the meeting to be a short one, and it met that expectation. They also expected it to be of momentous import, and it met that expectation, too. Unfortunately, it also proved to be a meeting that was critical to the proper pursuit of what was to become the longest, most divisive, and least conclusive war in our nation's history-a war that almost tore the nation apart.

As General Wheeler started talking, President Johnson peered at the map. In five minutes or so, the general summarized our entry into Vietnam, the current status of forces, and the purpose of the meeting. Then he thanked the President for having given his senior military advisers the opportunity to present their opinions and recommendations. Finally, he noted that although Secretary McNamara did not subscribe to their views, he did agree that a presidential-level decision was required.

President Johnson, arms crossed, seemed to be listening carefully. The essence of General Wheeler's presentation was that we had come to an early moment of truth in our ever-increasing Vietnam involvement. We had to start using our principal strengths-air and naval power-to punish the North Vietnamese, or we would risk becoming involved in another protracted Asian ground war with no prospects of a satisfactory solution. Speaking for the chiefs, General Wheeler offered a bold course of action that would avoid protracted land warfare. He proposed that we isolate the major port of Haiphong through naval mining, blockade the rest of the North Vietnamese coastline, and simultaneously start bombing Hanoi with B-52's. General Wheeler then asked Admiral McDonald to describe how the Navy and Air Force would combine forces to mine the waters off Haiphong and establish a naval blockade. When Admiral McDonald finished, General McConnell added that speed of execution would be essential, and that we would have to make the North Vietnamese believe that we would increase the level of punishment if they did not sue for peace.

Normally, time dims our memories-but it hasn't dimmed this one. My memory of Lyndon Johnson on that day remains crystal clear. While General Wheeler, Admiral McDonald, and General McConnell spoke, he seemed to be listening closely, communicating only with an occasional nod. When General McConnell finished, General Wheeler asked the President if he had any questions. Johnson waited a moment or so, and then turned to Generals Johnson and Greene, who had remained silent during the briefing, and asked, "Do you fully support these ideas?" He followed with the thought that it was they who were providing the ground troops, in effect acknowledging that the Army and the Marines were the services that had most to gain or lose as a result of this discussion. Both generals indicated their agreement with the proposal.

Seemingly deep in thought, President Johnson turned his back on them for a minute or so, then suddenly discarding the calm, patient demeanor he had maintained throughout the meeting, whirled to face them and exploded. I almost dropped the map. He screamed obscenities, he cursed them personally, he ridiculed them for coming to his office with their "military advice." Noting that it was he who was carrying the weight of the free world on his shoulders, he called them filthy names-shitheads, dumb shits, pompous assholes-and used "the F-word" as an adjective more freely than a Marine in boot camp would use it. He then accused them of trying to pass the buck for World War III to him. It was unnerving, degrading.

After the tantrum, he resumed the calm, relaxed manner he had displayed earlier and again folded his arms. It was as though he had punished them, cowed them, and would now control them. Using soft-spoken profanities, he said something to the effect that they all knew now that he did not care about their military advice. After disparaging their abilities, he added that he did expect their help. He suggested that each one of them change places with him and assume that five incompetents had just made these "military recommendations." He told them that he was going to let them go through what he had to go through when idiots gave him stupid advice, adding that he had the whole damn world to worry about, and it was time to "see what kind of guts you have."

He paused, as if to let it sink in. The silence was like a palpable solid, the tension like that in a drumhead. After thirty or forty seconds of this, he turned to General Wheeler and demanded that Wheeler say what he would do if he were the President of the United States. General Wheeler took a deep breath before answering. He was not an easy man to shake: his calm response set the tone for the others. He had known coming in, as had the others that Lyndon Johnson was an exceptionally strong personality and a venal and vindictive man as well. He had known that the stakes were high and now realized that McNamara had prepared Johnson carefully for this meeting, which had been a charade.

Looking President Johnson squarely in the eye, General Wheeler told him that he understood the tremendous pressure and sense of responsibility Johnson felt. He added that probably no other President in history had had to make a decision of this importance, and further cushioned his remarks by saying that no matter how much about the presidency he did understand, there were many things about it that only one human being could ever understand. General Wheeler closed his remarks by saying something very close to this: "You, Mr. President, are that one human being. I cannot take your place, think your thoughts, know all you know, and tell you what I would do if I were you. I can't do it, Mr. President. No man can honestly do it. Respectfully, sir, it is your decision and yours alone." Apparently unmoved, Johnson asked each of the other Chiefs the same question. One at a time, they supported General Wheeler and his rationale. By now, my arms felt as though they were about to break. The map seemed to weigh a ton, but the end appeared to be near. General Greene was the last to speak.

When General Greene finished, President Johnson, who was nothing if not a skilled actor, looked sad for a moment, then suddenly erupted again, yelling and cursing, again using language that even a Marine seldom hears. He told them he was disgusted with their naive approach, and that he was not going to let some military idiots talk him into World War III. He ended the conference by shouting "Get the hell out of my office!"

The Joint Chiefs of Staff had done their duty. They knew that the nation was making a strategic military error, and despite the rebuffs of their civilian masters in the Pentagon, they had insisted on presenting the problem as they saw it to the highest authority and recommending solutions. They had done so, and they had been rebuffed. That authority had not only rejected their solutions, but had also insulted and demeaned them. As Admiral McDonald and I drove back to the Pentagon, he turned to me and said that he had known tough days in his life, and sad ones as well, but ". . . this has got to have been the worst experience I could ever imagine."

The US involvement in Vietnam lasted another ten years. The irony is that it began to end only when President Richard Nixon, after some backstage maneuvering on the international scene, did precisely what the Joint Chiefs of Staff had recommended to President Johnson in 1965. Why had Johnson not only dismissed their recommendations, but also ridiculed them? It must have been that Johnson had lacked something. Maybe it was foresight or boldness. Maybe it was the sophistication and understanding it took to deal with complex international issues. Or, since he was clearly a bully, maybe what he lacked was courage. We will never know. But had General Wheeler and the others received a fair hearing, and had their recommendations received serious study, the United States may well have saved the lives of most of its more than 55,000 sons who died in a war that its major architect, Robert Strange McNamara, now considers to have been a tragic mistake.

End of Introduction

I include this because it reflects much of my beliefs about the use of the military. I believe that too often senior civilians have little appreciation for what happens when they order soldiers into combat: I use the word soldiers to cover all our people in uniform. The President sends young people into situations where they can be killed. I believe that the reason they are sent into these situations should be a clear, direct threat to the United States survival, safety of US citizens, or US interests. The force should be overwhelming and the aftermath should be thought out and planned.

I have seen very little of this thought process over the years as our children and grandchildren have been sent into harm's way. I believe we have the best, most patriotic and motivated soldiers in the world. They are better trained and led than any other country's soldiers. I do not denigrate their sacrifices. They are soldiers. They follow their orders and accomplish the mission the best they can. I feel that often the civilian leadership of this country has failed them. It is very upsetting and disappointing. When we eliminated the draft, we cut out an experience that is very valuable to young people. We eliminated the understanding of what it means to sacrifice your life, your time, and your personal desires for your country.

While being stationed at Offutt, I received a phone call from a Lieutenant Colonel who was serving in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force for Space Systems. He asked me if I would be interested in going to graduate school. I said that I had been considering it. He explained that there was a program that would get me a master's degree in Photographic Science and included a year of Education With Industry at Eastman Kodak. I told him I was interested. He told me to apply, and I did and was accepted. I entered the school in the summer of 1968, and began a career working for the National Reconnaissance Office. I spent four years after I graduated from RIT in the Air Force Office of Special Projects in El Segundo, California a part of the NRO.

My Civilian Career

I left the Air Force in the summer of 1974 and joined the Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Development and Engineering, another part of the NRO in Washington, DC. I had a very successful career working on every aspect of acquiring, operating, and exploiting overhead reconnaissance intelligence. I believe I actually accomplished my life goal to support in the defeat of the Soviet Union. I also helped to save the lives of our soldiers during the first Gulf War. I retired as a member of the Senior Intelligence Service, Level Three.

A humorous aspect to my entry into the Agency occurred when I was required to take a battery of tests. One of them was a several hundred question exam which was supposed to determine what sort of career you were best suited for. A week later I was shown the results. There was a list of specialties on the left. To the right were numbers indicating your aptitude for the specialty. There was only one that was over 95 per cent – Army General. The rest were all under 40 per cent or less. I never knew what to make of that.

Following my retirement at age 50 from the Agency, I worked for two companies in industry in the DC area: as a Vice President of Operations and as a Division General Manager.

#2Looking Back I ended up with a view of war though: You do not send your children or grandchildren in harm's way without a very clear major threat to the UnitedStates' existence; a clear understanding of the risks; a well-thought out plan for waging the conflict; a good understanding of the enemy and its motivations. Everyone must be involved: everyone's children, the nation must sacrifice; a war cannot be only the province of the military. And finally, you must be clear that the goal is to win it, and be prepared for the costs: financial and personal.

Trying to evaluate how my Academy experience helped me in my career, I have gone over what I learned there and how I applied it to my career. Mostly I tried not to do what I had been exposed to. I looked at the individuals that inspired me and examined what they did to do that. I also was given the opportunity by the CIA to go to leadership courses. I tried to put my career experiences into a set of principles. Often my subordinates asked me about career success. I came up with some ideas that I gave to those who asked me what I thought. I was never in combat, but I believe that many of the observations I acquired are true no matter what environment you are in. In no particular order are some of my thoughts.

? Read extensively; not just popular novels, but history and current events. Knowing how your job fits into the overall mission allows you to have a better understanding of how you fit in and what the leaders are trying to accomplish.

? Understand the job your subordinates have in front of them. If possible, during your junior years, get as much experience in what “workers” do. It will help you better understand what resources they need. Don't be too ambitious to move upward. Having some actual experience improves your ability to understand what the overall job requires. It will also help you to know when you are being misled by specious requirements from subordinates and also to support them when they need help.

? Be willing to do what it takes to accomplish the mission. I once had to vacuum and get my team to clean a messy briefing room before briefing the Secretary of the Air Force because the previous briefers had left it a mess. This may seem like a trivial example, but being willing to get your hands dirty is part of a leader's job. You also demonstrate to your subordinates your level of commitment.

? Create an atmosphere of bonding. We are all in this together. Everyone is important in what they are doing. Make sure they understand how they fit in and their importance. Compliment your subordinates by walking around. You should be able to let them know you understand what they are doing technically. They may be more expert, but you have some level of comprehension of what their efforts entail. The mission is accomplished by everyone, not the leader.

? Insist on quality and professionalism in all products. The environment that you work in indicates your approach to accomplishing the job. Your work space should look professional. Your products should show quality. Your relationships should be professional.

? As you rise in rank, your decisions and actions have more and more impact. You are tested daily regarding your character and commitment. There may be times when you are told to do something that you know is wrong and even dangerous. Do you have the courage to opt out of the organization at that point? I used to suggest that once an officer reached the GS-15 or Colonel level, they should be considering what they are willing to go along with. At those levels you are not part of the problem, you are the problem. You have sufficient authority to improve the organization in many ways. You should be thinking of how to do that as you move upward.

? Subordinates often asked me how to become a senior officer. They wanted to “be” a member of the Senior Intelligence Service. I would tell them I did not care about people who wanted to “be” something; I wanted to know what they wanted to “do”. What would be the value added by their bottom sitting in a senior chair versus anyone else's? How did they want to improve the organization? Raise the level of performance? Create new capabilities? Everyone wants to move upward, but what will you contribute that no one else can?

What did the Academy do for me? I find it hard to give specifics. I got an excellent education. I continued my focus on serving my country. I lasted. I am part of a band of brothers who experienced something unique. I learned about the sacrifices that military people go through. I learned about loss of friends and the terrible situations that people in combat can go through. I saw classmates become national leaders, war heroes, POWs, and die in combat.

I believe that our Academies provide the nation with a cadre of leaders who can extend into many parts of our culture. Not all make a career of the military, but go on to do outstanding things in many areas: a commercial pilot who saves lives; graduates create new businesses; they serve their communities; they are doctors, congressmen, and astronauts. I am proud to be among their ranks, and am intimidated by their accomplishments. Every graduate has gone on to do something important because of our desire for achievement and success, coupled with a commitment to service and honorable conduct.

On a personal note; my marriage to my first wife, Tammy, whom I met while a first classman, ended in the summer of 1980. We had two children: Donald and Scott. Tammy and Don were killed in an automobile accident when she was driving. Scott survived with major head trauma. He is marginally able to support himself.

I remarried shortly after the accident and had a daughter, Jennifer. Jennifer is a graduate Doctor of Veterinary Science and is married to a medical doctor. My marriage to her mother did not last.

I have been married to my wife, Mary Jo, for over twenty years. She has one daughter and two grand children.

As Kurt Vonnegut so eloquently said, “So it goes.”
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