Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Herb's History

West Point or AFA?

hl0.jpg I was born in Buffalo, New York, but after 4th grade, we moved from city life to country life between two outskirts town. Our school, Big Tree School, was the original four-room wood school with a bell tower and a newer brick addition. It was small, but we had good teachers. Since all my classmates and friends lived several miles apart and my Schwin bicycle frequently had flat tires, I developed the habit of running several miles to get places quickly. This was a habit I continued through the Academy days and to the present. My feet were my transportation.

Then, the largest high school that New York would allow was built one mile from our house. So I went from an historic four-room school to a large new high school with four gyms and the best facilities available. But the best thing was I had the outstanding high school teachers in every subject. I was always self-motivated with academics and did well, especially in all the sciences and math. This was in the days when scholarships were based, not on financial need, but on how well you did academically. I wanted to be able to go to the best university and minimize any financial load on my Mom and Dad as I had a brother and two sisters to follow behind me.

On an early family vacation, my dad took me to West Point. It is on a beautiful bend on the Hudson River and my dad make a comment that I should go there. I do not know if that was a serious comment or not, but it stuck in my mind. In high school I lettered in track and was captain of the cross-country team all four years. I started to think seriously about West Point. I was in good shape, but to make sure I would meet all the physical fitness testing, I started doing push-ups every day until I could do 120 and then did chin-up until I could do 60. Thought that would be enough!

There was an endless series of testing to get an appointment to West Point. I did not feel any pressure and enjoyed the different types of testing and was surprised on advancing to each new step. Then the last testing came. Two hundred potential appointees for all the academies were taking a whole day test in Buffalo, New York. At the lunch break, I was surprised that almost 95% of them were listing the Air Force Academy as their choice because it was new and because of its academic programs. I had never thought about the AFA, but during the afternoon testing, I switched my check mark from West Point to the Air Force Academy.

There was only one hurdle remaining. I had to go to Rome AFB for an interview with an AF colonel. During the interview, the colonel asked if I wanted to be a pilot. When I said "no", he dropped his pencil (truthful but wrong answer)! Then I said that missiles and electronic systems would become more important in the future and the Air Force should have some officers expert in those fields. He picked up his pencil and said "good point".

Doolie summer

So as a lanky 18 year old, I started the adventure to USAFA with my first ride on an airplane (a prop DC3) and sitting next to a Las Vegas showgirl.

Basic training was a complete shock and a daze. The only good aspect of basic was the pace was so hectic from before sunrise to the twilight hours that you did not have enough time to comprehend how tough and miserable it was.

On thing I did look forward to was the surprise pre-sunrise runs with combat boots and rifles. The first classmen would run us up and down hill and all over the place and then ask if we wanted more. With the mandatory "yes sir" response, we would continue. After which they would ask again, expecting tongues to be hanging out and to get no responses. I would instead respond, "Sir, could we do more.” I would be taken aside and would run another half mile or so with the athletic shoed first classmen. This sequence was repeated until the upper classmen could take no more. I could outlast them all and this was my greatest enjoyment and revenge. Of course, they got their revenge at the dinning hall and other locations.


Things improved with academics and each passing year. It was hard work and never easy. I was from an engineering family. My dad, my grandfather, and all my uncles were either engineers or in finance. My heritage and focus was to concentrate on taking as many engineering courses as possible in the four years. Having had a basement lab with several hundred chemicals in high school and being very familiar with chemistry, I especially liked the chemistry courses. But then, I found the electrical engineering courses ever better, and then I found aero and astro engineering still better.

Then, a game changer happened. On the first day of my first engineering mechanics course, Major Erdle gave us the assignment to figure out the stresses and deflections of a loaded beam. What did he want? My roommate, Johnnie Golden, had just taken the course the previous semester. Over the weekend, he showed me how to make moment and shear diagrams and calculate deflections, tensile and shear stresses and strains, etc. He was an excellent tutor! The next Monday when I handed in the assignment, Major Erdle said that the assignment was meant to take only a few minutes and only to think about how the beam would bend and what the stresses might be. He said that I had done the whole course in one weekend. This made me feel so good and motivated me so much that I could not disappoint Major Erdle.

From then on, I had to get as near perfect scores as possible. With overloads, I took every engineering mechanics course listed, even ones that had not been taught before. When I had taken every one listed, I requested new mechanics courses not on the books. The department agreed to these if with we could get a minimum of eight cadets to register for them. I know of no other college or university that would do this. The Academy is truly outstanding in this and many other respects.

Cross -country and track

I was on track and cross-country the first year and a half and enjoyed it. But then, I and many others of my teammates succumbed to a new coach who emphasized treadmill type workouts around the track, rather than the hard but scenic practice runs through the hills and around the base golf course.

Runs to top of Academy overlook mountain

Because of the demands of the academics and the military aspects (formations, parades, room inspections, etc.), I tried to get a change of pace for a few hours, at least on Sundays. With few off base privileges, no car, and limited funds in those days, I developed a number of diversions. Sunday afternoons, there were no inspections and no room signouts. With only a few hours leeway, I could run to the top of the mountain overlooking the Academy, sit at its peak for half an hour enjoying the fantastic view, and then run back down the mountain before the late Sunday formations. Risky, but an adventure and great fun and views. Also, I knew I would not run into any AOCs up there! So it became a regular event for me when weather allowed.

Steam tunnels

In our third class year, I discovered the vast maze of steam tunnels connecting every building at the Academy and also running to the steam plant a distance away. I used to explore these tunnels, some times on the weekends and sometimes at 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning, for adventure. I could always find a remote access to them and never ran into another person, except once. At 2 in the morning, I found an electronics lab and machine shop under Fairchild Hall. Someone was there and I thought I better retreat quietly, but it turned out it was a civilian technician. I got to know him and he let me use the facilities there. Having gotten many circuit diagrams from the "Fightin' Fourth" electronic wizard, Al Larson, I ended up building more electronic gadgets in this lab in the wee hours.

Rally and "night train" to Commandant's house

On one occasion before a big football game, everyone went out to the terrazzo for a late night pep rally. The rallying mob decided to send the rally to the Commandant's house. How could anyone, let alone hundreds of cadets, get to the Commandants house? But, I knew there was a construction project at the Cadet Gym with a lot of equipment. I ran down all the ramps and found a tractor that was easy to start and then rounded up and hooked together eight flight line trailers and drove them up to the terrazzo area.

Loading anyone who wanted on board, I started driving down the Academy roads towards the Commandant's house. I say this with a grain of salt as I had never been to the Commandant's house and actually had no idea where it was! After going a few miles, I noticed an AP car approaching in the distance. I quickly pulled this rally train over to the side of the road and told everyone to not mention their names to each other so everyone could not reveal that identity of others, if we were caught. I then told all fifty or so to follow me cross-country up the hill. Getting everyone to the next ridge, I noticed that the Air Police had gotten a four-wheel drive vehicle and were heading cross-country up the hill. No problem, I knew there was a secluded hatch that had a ladder that led forty feet down to a steam tunnel that led to the Academy steam plant and then to Vandenberg hall. We never made it to the Commandant's house, but everyone got back undetected and undiscovered.

I admired the "Midnight Skulker" and the "64 Flag" groups and their creative escapades. As essential, they were anonymous and it was great to learn their identities and details of their feats recently, via the latest "Check Points" and the '64 class history.

Mid -winter swimming in the Academy reservoir

One of my greatest adventures was in the middle of winter of our first class year. "Fightin' Fourth" squadron had the honor of having the only marine AOC, Capt Mathews. He was the consummate martinet and an extremely strict disciplinarian. (But to his credit, he did not expect anything of others that he did not exemplify himself.) Anyway, in the middle of our first class year, he decided he had not been strict enough on the first classmen. So he proceeded to have a surprise room inspection and manage to put all the "Fightin' Forth" first classmen on restriction for a week or so.

Relishing a break in this confinement and knowing that there were no room inspections after 2 in the morning, I headed via the steam tunnels to the cadet gym and then through some passages to the room where scuba equipment was stored. I charged up a tank, put on a wet suit, and headed cross-country to the Academy reservoir for a mid-winter swim. There was snow on the ground, but no ice on the reservoir. After a while, I took off the air tank and floated in the reservoir. Without the air tanks, the wet suits caused your arm and legs to spread eagle and I floated like a cork, gazing skyward. On a clear winter night, the stars in the Colorado sky are beautiful. For quite some time I relaxed and enjoyed the sight, that is until I noticed some brightening on the eastern horizon. The sun was about to come up! Even with all the equipment, I ran the fastest miles I had ever run, put back all the scuba equipment so no one would detect it gone, and finally made it back to Vandenberg Hall minutes before the first room inspection.

Like all, I made it to June week and its traditional snowfalls. I remember telling my parents, who had come for June week, that the graduation paraded is particularly impressive. But, it turned out that the fog during the parade was so heavy that no one could see any of the squadrons marching. You only heard the sound of thousands marching on the parade grounds and present arms commands.

Oops ! Last meeting with our Marine AOC

After the graduation hat tossing at the stadium and each firsty being thrown into the air gardens pools and saying good byes to all your classmates and roommates over the last four years, I packed everything into my large wide-track Pontiac. Heading east toward the Great Plains, I soon realized that I had not turned in my Academy class blanket. I turned around, parked by Vandenberg hall, and ran up the stairs to turn in the blanket, when who should I run into as a new second lieutenant but the "Fightin'Fourth" marine, Captain Mathews. He informed me that turning in blankets was an official duty and I was out of uniform! So I went back to my parked car, changed into a uniform, turned in the blankets, changed back to civvies, then headed off to the eastern horizon.

On to graduate school

My first assignment was graduate school in engineering mechanics at the University of Michigan. The engineering mechanics department there was a small department and had world-class instructors and small (20 student) classes. However, the math classes, like differential equations, were in classical marble buildings with nice exteriors, but with crammed auditorium classrooms with one to two hundred students. One class in Fourier transforms I had to drop and take later because I could not understand the speech of the foreign instructor or read his writing. This made me appreciate the courses and instructors at the Academy even more. Eventually I received an MS in engineering mechanics from the University of Michigan and was only six hours short of a second MS in mechanical engineering.

Assignment to DOD Contract Management, the Boeing Company

My next assignment was at DOD Contract Management at the Boeing Company in Seattle. In this division, I was program officer for the Minuteman Seattle Test Program. It was a complete Minuteman missile site in Seattle, but with the missile being a steel and concrete structural equivalent. Evidently, downtown Seattle was not an appropriate launch site for a fueled missile! The testing was mostly dynamics, electro-magnetic shock waves, and operational testing of the missile systems. This was most rewarding as it involved very advanced engineering and the state of the art manufacturing processes at Boeing's Developmental Center.

Later I was responsible for contract negotiation of Minuteman mechanical development and systems testing. This involved manpower and budget negotiations between the DOD and Boeing and other contractors. As a captain, I was responsible for over 1.6 billion dollars of contracts in a two-year period. Hard to fathom those numbers, especially when base pay then was about $100 per week!

I took the job seriously and would allow any needed and justified manpower, but weeded out anything that I could find extraneous based on history or based on surprise visits and observations I made to existing test sites.

An experienced government negotiator told me that it helps to use various psychological techniques when negotiating, like always looking at the oppositions left ear when negotiating. This was interesting, but not my style. I liked to rely solely on facts and logic. However, I had a distracting accident just before flying from Seattle to Norton AFB for the negotiations. Karla, my fiancée and later my wife, drove me to the Seattle airport. As I closed the door to her car, I noticed that my thumb was jammed between her car doors now was now only 1/4 inch thick. The pain came seconds later! Arriving at Norton AFB with a mushroomed thumb, the flight surgeon did various cures, which involved red-hot needles and Bunsen burners and told me I must soak my thumb in the hottest water possible for 24 hours.

The contract negotiations began with introductions and everyone getting the customary coffees and teas. As I presented and argued my part of the government's case, I held a cup of the hottest tea with my thumb clearly stuck in the cup. And I got a new cup with my thumb in it every time Boeing argued their points. All went well for the Air Force and the chief Boeing negotiator later asked me what I had been doing. He said they had never seen the "teacup distraction method" before and it had thrown their team off.

How I met my wife

In Seattle, I noticed that two new girls had moved into our apartment complex that day. While playing tennis with my roommates, the tennis ball landed on Karla's balcony. That night I went to get the ball and get her name. She was a biology teacher and a horse rider, skier, hiker, great cook, and always had more ideas of things to do on dates. We were married six months later and 43 years later it is still the best of times and adventures with her.

Aircraft Testing and Edwards

After five years at Boeing, I applied for an opening at Laurence Livermore Labs. A colonel at our office said he would give me a good recommendation and do all he could to get me the opening. But he said that it would aim me to a very technical and limited area and I should be sure that is what I wanted. I took his wise counsel and avoided this channeled specialization. The result was I was able to advance to much broader and more rewarding and satisfying assignments in the future. I was very thankful for the sincere and good advice I got from senior officers in my years in the Air Force.

I then was assigned to Edwards AFB for testing of the A7D aircraft. It was an older Navy aircraft that was modified and upgraded to the latest avionics being developed. I was responsible for structure, hydraulic, and aircraft performance, stability, and control. This was an interesting assignment as it involved working with highly skilled and experienced test pilots and airmen with PhDs from Cal Tech. Later, I was involved in testing vertical takeoff Harrier aircraft, emergency landing systems, high-speed analysis of helicopter blades, and the newly discovered dangerous vortices generated by 747s.

Environment wise, Edwards was radical change. We had been used to the greenery and two-hundred foot Douglas firs of Washington State. Crossing the last mountain ridge, we got our first glimpse of the Mohave Desert. We saw only vast shades of tan and nothing growing! The Mohave was a shock. We had been warned about this, but had also been told that we would get use to the desert. It did not seem so initially, but eventually we grew to like the desert and would drive motorcycles around chasing jackrabbits, hiking, and even camping in Death Valley with ground temperatures at 135 deg F.

Karla got a job teaching biology and math at Edwards schools. The school there had consumed their entire budget and they had no money for science equipment. So Karla asked any kids whose families had babies, to bring in baby food bottles. We modified them into alcohol burners and then we donated $100 and bought hundreds of test tubes, Petri dishes, culture nutrients, and we bent coat hangers into test tube holders. Now every student could grow cultures of microorganism and do all the biology experiments Karla had in mind. This experience showed us that large sums of money could often be wasted and small sums, well spent, could be much more effective. Later I would use this experience as a member of local education foundations.

hl1.jpg Edwards had the distinction of being the only military base having a Model A Ford club and several Model A's could be seen used as transportation on the base. We ended up buying an old Model A from El Centro. I knew nothing about cars then, but in the late evenings I disassembled every single part and rebuilt and restored the entire car. In the process, I could be seen driving around base on a Model A Ford chassis without any body, but with a stool clamped to the frame as a driver seat and a post with a one-gallon gas tank. It was a real hot rod. I am not sure how street legal it was, but I avoided AP detection and it was a real experience. I was elected head of the Edward AFB Model A Club.

On To The Automotive Industry

After two years at Edwards, I decided I needed to, not just test others hardware and systems, but to conceive and control development of new products myself. I have the overpowering drive and ability to look at any product or system and see a better way to make it and improve its performance. When an opportunity came up to work at the R&D center in Michigan of one of the largest automotive systems companies, I resigned my commission and we moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

At that time, the government had mandated that all heavy trucks would need to have anti-lock brakes systems within three years. No such systems existed, but I had experience with aircraft anti-lock systems and was in demand.

Before the cross-country move, we had to first get our 1931 Model A Ford restoration ready for the long cross-country trip. We traveled from southern California to Seattle then across the Rockies to New York State and back to Michigan. I drove the antique Model A and Karla drove our new yellow Dodge Charger. I carried an extra motor and extra generators, starters, carburetors, water pumps, etc for the Model A, just in case. The 1931 car worked fine even at 75 mph through Montana and at 10,500 ft on Bear Tooth pass. But in North Dakota, the new Dodge Charger would not start and I had to tow it with the Model A. This attracted a lot of attention. After a mile, several mechanics stopped us, crawled under the car, and fixed the Charger for free. We had many other interesting experiences and met many nice people along the way.

R &D And Many Patents to Follow

My first job was to set up and run a test track at a mothballed Naval air station in the sleepy town of Green Cove Spring, Florida. For six months it was a seventy-hour per week job testing every kind of vehicle from large loaded cement trucks to high performance sports cars, all at 80 mph on simulated wet ice surfaces. After six months in Florida, we returned to Michigan and I told the vice president of the company that their anti-lock system was the best in the world, but it was not as good as it should be. I had better designs that would give far better performance and profit potential. These ended up giving us 90% of the US market and tripling company profits.

Initially I worked for Kelsey-Hayes Co.(a large automotive systems supplier) which merged with Fruehauf the largest trailer manufacturer) which merged with Varety (the largest tractor manufacture) which merged with Lucas (the large European automotive systems manufacturer) which merged with TRW (the aerospace and other conglomerate) which merged with Northrop-Grumman (the third largest aerospace firm), which was then partially bought out by the conglomerate Blackstone.

Most R&D organizations (or at least those I was involved with) use matrix organization. Which meant you identify those with the skills you need and those individuals were assigned to work with you. Thus you avoid administrative impediments and have a team that can efficiently and creatively invent and develop new products and systems and bring them to profitable commercial production. I have been fortunate to always been in R&D organizations.

Our R&D centers were in Michigan; Shirley, England; and Koblenz, Germany. Karla and I spent much time at them and I enjoyed working with the English, Germans, and French. Our R&D center in Shirley, England was staffed with top PhDs from Cambridge and Oxford and had the best magnetic analysis people in the world. We worked extremely well together, as they were the tops in analysis and I had the ability to transform their analysis into commercial automotive products and system. It was a good match. Also, I had contacts with some key company executives and when I had a new idea or concept, I could get them accepted and lead their development.

This started a string of new products and automotive control systems for me in the next thirty years in which I had 80 patents applied for and received 41 patents that are in high volume production worldwide. These patents resulted in over 400 million components and systems that are used on almost half the vehicle in the world. This was my niche!

Free Time Travel

hl2.jpg hl3.jpg In our free time, we are fortunate to have traveled a lot of remote places. Two of our friends are noted anthropologists and we traveled with them to Vindiija cave in Croatia and have held 35,000-year-old Neanderthal skulls in our hands. It was interesting that none of their teeth had cavities (cavities are a modern occurrence from the introduction of sugar).

Four years ago, we traveled to the site of the original Olympics in Greece and we ran three miles on the original Olympic track. The original Olympians ran naked, but our guide was relieved when she saw that we had running shorts!

Both Karla and I run five miles a day and have done so since the Academy days. We run a couple of races a year. Karla is usually at the top of her class and I still am at the top ten percent (although it now takes me the first mile to warm-up).

Two years ago, we traveled up the Nile toward the Sudan. At Aswan we hired two Nubian guides and camels and rode as far into the Sahara as we could in one day. Karla is an excellent horse rider and we were surprised how fast and long camels can run.


Last summer we went to Marrakesh and the mazes of the Kasbah in Fez, Morocco. This summer we have our visas to travel to Russia.

And now to retirement (and not enough hours in the day to do everything)!

Two years ago, when the read tape of an eleven billion dollar company became too ponderous to overcome, I retired. Since them, it seems that there are not enough hours in the day to do everything.

I designed and we built our own four-story redwood house in the country outside Ann Arbor. (That is the active verb built: meaning hammer and nails, wiring, plumbing, siding, cabinet building, etc.) I found out that it is easier to draw a four-story building than to work on it four stories above the ground; but the view from the fourth story is fabulous.

My French from the Academy days has long since eroded, but I studied German myself and have become reasonable proficient.

Two years ago, Karla and I started ballroom dancing. I have no skill in this area, but with perseverance and one of the best dance floors in the country and with top teachers, we have become fairly proficient in waltz, foxtrot, rumba, salsa, swing, tango, and many other dances. We continue with several lessons weekly and go dancing twice a week.

Karla took up horse jumping and clears three-foot fences and obstacles. This qualifies her for foxhunts, which she is so far reluctant to do, but give her time! And I serve as judge on horse jumping events at the stable complex down our road. (I call out, "no. 465 cleared jump 17", or "second refusal, DQ, you're off the course!")

Karla is also a founder of the 85 member Dexter Community Band and has been its president for all thirty years. She says that no one else will do all the work! She is also in the Ann Arbor Concert Band and an orchestra and four chamber music groups. I, unfortunately, do not play and instruments, but am volunteered for stage and performance setups, which I enjoy.

hl6.jpg Our two sons graduated from the University of Michigan. Todd is a graphics designer and computer programmer with his own business in Providence, Rhode Island and also works out of Manhattan, Portland, and California. He does corporate and business identity, large websites, and iPad and iPhone applications working for Apple, Disney, HP, Xerox, Rockefeller Brothers, and others. He and his wife, Becky, have an 1870 house in the historic district of Providence. Since I am a fan or architecture and building, we often make trip there to help in the restoration. Becky is a science magazine editor and she and her parent are avid sailors. She crewed on a four-master, in six months sailing from India, around Africa to South American and up to Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. We have sailed with her parents off of Marblehead (Boston).

Our second son, Robbie, is a research engineer at Toyota R&D in Ann Arbor and now is doing research projects at the Univ. of Mich. architecture school.

In the decades since graduating, I have thought often about the Academy and what it has meant to me.

. I am indebted to the first dean of faculty, General McDermott for the academic curriculum he established with its through, yet broad based engineering emphasis and also with extensive English and humanities. No matter what your field, you are not truly educated unless you also include the humanities.

· The fourth-class system and four-years military rigors, while very tough, gave you the discipline and attitude that, no matter what else happened along the road, you could survive and accomplish good things.

· The honor system, which meant that yours and others grades were honestly earned. You could leave money or any valuables, even in plain sight in your room with the doors open all the day, and know nothing would be taken. And you could rely on the word of others.

· The mandatory participation and training in over twenty serious athletic sports, hopefully encouraged all to continue physical fitness well after leaving the Academy

One last parting thanks, to "Fightin' Fourth" classmate, Bill Sieg. Before the fortieth reunion, Bill telephoned me to urge me to go to the reunion (which I attended and it was a most memorable time). I had not seen Bill in the intervening forty years, yet, when I picked up the phone, I immediately recognized his voice and said "Bill Sieg". It is amazing how distant memories, experiences, and classmates from the Academy are indelible.

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