Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

JD's History


I was born at Fort Jay on Governors Island in New York harbor on September 15, 1942. Fort Jay was the headquarters of the 1st U.S. Army, to which my father was assigned. My parents would take the ferry from the island to the south side of Manhattan to go into the city. When my father was overseas in Europe during WW II, my mother and I lived with her relatives in Worcester, Massachusetts, the birthplace of both of my parents.

My father started his military career in the Massachusetts National Guard. When the Guard was federalized, he served in the 518th Military Police Battalion. He left the Army when he returned from Europe in 1945 but soon rejoined and served until 1962. My schooling before USAFA reflected his military service: Massachusetts, New Jersey, Georgia, West Germany, and California, totaling 12 different schools prior to graduation from George Washington High School, San Francisco.

As the first of five children in my family, I spent most of my childhood and most of my adult life trying to please my father and live up to what I thought were his expectations. My parents were typical Depression kids, fortunate to graduate from high school before going to work.

I read lots of books as a kid, some involving West Point. One book was a simple children's story about Ulysses S. Grant, a poor Illinois boy whose father got him enrolled in West Point. I decided at age 8 to go to West Point, because there was no tuition and I knew our family had no money for college. I graduated from high school at 16, too young to enter the Zoo, so I went to San Francisco State College as a day student, riding the bus and trolley car each day with my brown bag lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and living at home with my parents in their military quarters on Fort Winfield Scott on the Presidio of San Francisco.

I applied to my local Congressman, William S. Maillard, Republican for the 4th Congressional District, for a slot to West Point. After passing the Civil Service exam, I was told the Congressman's appointment to West Point was filled and did I want to compete for the Air Force Academy? This was late 1959 and I almost asked "what was that?". I quickly went home and asked my father what he thought. He said something to the effect that sleeping in clean sheets and drinking Scotch was better than living in a foxhole, so I competed for a slot at our Academy. I believe I was ranked #2 of 10 on the Congressman's list, but in late May (I think), I got a telegram saying I was accepted.

I flew (alone for the first time) into Colorado Springs the day before we reported and stayed at a hotel on E. Colorado between Nevada and Tejon. It's no longer there. The next morning I walked to the Greyhound bus station on Pikes Peak and boarded one of the first buses. I sat next to Jim Spangler.

I went through Basic Cadet Training in Guts Squadron, 19th Flight. In the room next to mine during Beast, I had a classmate from Chicago named Max Michael Manning. At first, it was confusing when the upperclassmen would yell down the hall to get us out of our rooms. When they said, "Manning", both Max and I would respond. Since they were not about to call us by first names, they eventually would yell, "Manning, JD" or "Manning, MM". I had been called Jim (or Jimmy) by my family and friends before the Academy, but my classmates, during our few "at ease" opportunities in BCT, started called me JD. That nickname stuck throughout my active career.

When we got to our permanent squadrons at the end of BCT, we in 19th Squadron were assigned to rooms (5G/H, north side) that had never been used. 17th thorugh 20th Squadrons were activated as '64 entered, just as 13th through 16th were started as '63 entered and 21st through 24th were activated as '65 entered. I got through BCT and Doolie year by telling myself every day, "I ain't going to quit." I felt that I would not be welcomed home if I quit. During the first week of Fall academics, I was late to two classes and spent three months serving confinements. During my Doolie year, I read every book in the Academy library that related to POWs.

I think the Academy was the very first time I encountered true peers, men whose intellect and physical capability posed a serious challenge to me. The privilege of living for four years in the same squadron with the same classmates was a treasure that subsequent classes who shuffled were not able to experience. Though I am Protestant, I have often compared the Academy to a Jesuit high school. I mean that in the most favorable way, with undisputed authority figures as instructors, high standards, daily recitation, and small classes, frequently adjusted based on merit performance. The publishing of grades from Graded Reviews and final tests for all to see was benefical; every cadet could see explicitly how he stacked up to his classmates.

When we entered one of the large lecture halls (D1?) in early 1964 to choose, by order of merit, pilot training classes and bases, I realized I would be hard pressed to compete well with higher-ranked classmates who picked Williams and Reese; I chose Moody AFB (Class 66-A) in southern Georgia. It also happened to be the nearest base to my parents' home in Clearwater, FL, so I got home for holidays and some weekends.

Jon Prenez and I had been in Playboy 19th together and were roommates in the Moody BOQ. Both of us took washout rides the same day in the Contact phase of T-37s. I barely passed despite over-Ging my airplane, and Jon went to Mather to become a Navigator. The Academy graduates learned very quickly that the ROTC graduates, with their FIP experience, had a decided advantage. While we were starting to learn the names of the airplane parts, they were pushing toward solo. When we chose our UPT graduation assignments, I knew I was not good enough for a single seat fighter and I wasn't about to get in the back seat of an F4 where my survival would depend on somebody else piloting in the front seat. I chose T-37 IP, which turned out to be the very best choice I could have made. I married Doris Joann Beckman (Colorado College '66) at south Lake Tahoe 10 days after graduating from UPT.

After instructor training at James Connelly AFB in Waco, TX, I was assigned to Laredo AFB in late 1965. In early 1967, Randolph AFB in San Antonio opened as a UPT base and I was reassigned. In 1968, After three years and nearly 2000 hours of T-37 IP time, I was anticipating a new assignment. I had volunteered for SEA and wanted an F-105. One of the older Captains in my flight was Anthony J. "Bud" Farrington, fairly new to T-37s after flying 100 missions over NVN as a Thud pilot. He had heard me talking repeatedly about wanting a Thud, so he asked if I was serious or just talking to hear myself. When I said I really wanted an F-105, he called across the base to the Military Personnel Center where a colleague from F-105s was an assignment officer. I got the Thud.

Our F-105 upgrade class at McConnell AFB in early 1969 was composed of 1st Lieutenants from back seat F4 combat tours, Captains who had been ATC IPs, and Majors who were coming from Air Defense Command. Later, some of us were detailed to Wild Weasel training at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas. Bob Venkus '63, Leo Thomas '63 and Vern Handel '64 were some of my training classmates and combat squadron mates. I flew in the 333rd TFS (355th TFW) at Takhli. My first combat mission was Christmas Day, 1969. When I returned from that mission, I opened my Christmas presents from my family. I had additional ground duties as a Wing Frag Briefing Officer and the Wing Flying Safety Officer.

When President Nixon closed the 355th Wing in mid-1970, the Weasel pilots and Bears (EWOs) were transfered to Korat to continue the combat mission. I flew my last combat mission on Thanksgiving Day, 1970.

Following leave, my family (now including two girls, Kerry Johanna and Diana Lynn) and I reported to the Academy for duty as a military training officer in the Airmanship Department. I taught T-41 academics and flew as an IP. I volunteered to be an Air Officer Commanding and became the 8th Squadron AOC in mid-1972. I thought I was doing well and was selected one year BTZ to Major. Then I got fired in early 1974 by the Commandant, BG Hoyt S. Vandenberg, for failure to follow orders. Whoa, my world effectively came to a halt. I slinked over to Harmon Hall and took refuge as a staff officer for one of my former T-37 flight commanders, Colonel Bob Hess, a former ATO. I thought about resigning my commission but a Chief Master Sergeant I knew told me "don't think with your ass, sir". So I put my pride aside and got back to work. While I was at Harmon Hall in the Operations Division, I helped prepare testimony for the Superintendent, Lt. General A.P. Clark, and the Secretary of the Air Force before Mr. O.C. Fisher's subcommittee of the House Armed Forces Committee on the admission of women to the military academies.

It was the first time I had been to the Pentagon (other than with Keith Luchtel '64, my squadronmate and the Catholic Cadet Choir), and I learned a lot in that short TDY. Naive me, I thought the public testimony before Congress was part of the decision process. Truth be told, the testimony was part of a predetermined script that allowed the services to plead that women should not attend before Congress then told the DoD what was really going to happen. At the end of the 1974 testimony, the services were told publicly that there would be additional hearings the next year and told privately that next year's decision would be to admit women in the summer of 1976 for the Class of 1980. The Academy's Pink Plan (so named because the cover sheets were pink) to admit women was updated in anticipation.

In August 1974 we were assigned to Vance AFB, OK in the 25th FTS, the T-38 UPT Squadron. My younger brother, Bob Manning USAFA '71 was a Class Commander in the Student Squadron and attached to the 25th FTS as a T-38 IP. When I returned to Vance from the IP upgrade program at Randolph, Bob was my IP for a night checkout sortie. When we went to the signout desk at the squadron to get our plane number, the Supervisor of Flying said, "you're bothers; you can't fly together." At that time, there was no such restriction in the regulations. So I replied, "that's alright, neither of us is the sole surviving son. We have other brothers at home." The answer had nothing to do with the SOF's challenge, but it was an answer that made him feel better, so we went off to fly.

At Vance, I was the Squadron Check Section chief and a Section Commander. I was promoted to Major. Near the end of my 3-year tour, I went to the Operations Division for the Deputy Wing Commander for Operations.

In mid-1977, I went to the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. The College had Americans from the five uniformed services and State Department as well as officers from allied nations. At one barbeque party, I was talking to the wife of a German naval officer. She and her husband were stationed in Wilhelmshaven in northern Germany. I said that I had lived in Bremerhaven as a teenager from 1955 to 1958 when my father was the Provost Marshal there. She grew up in Bremerhaven and said she knew where I had lived in Bremerhaven. We had never met before so I was surprised when she correctly said Walter Delius Strasse. When I asked how she knew, she said that's where all the American officers lived. For one year (1955-56), before the final peace treaty and the building of the American apartment units called "the stairwells"), higher ranking American officers lived on Walter Delius Strasse behind the Hauptbanhof in requisitioned German civilian housing. So the German teenagers were watching the American teenagers. Very small world.

My assignment after the Armed Forces Staff College was to the United States Military Training Mission in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. For first half of the 2-year assignment, I was a J-3 staff officer; for the second half, I was the Chief of Staff to the Commanding General. My family was with me and we lived in 1950's vintage housing on base. Wives could drive onbase but not offbase. There was one Army medical doctor at the clinic but more serious medical issues required medevac to Germany. My kids attended the international elementary school at the nearby U.S. consulate. High school dependents attended school in Italy and came home twice each year. Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, subsequently the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, was a Major in the Royal Saudi Air Force Lightning Squadron at Dhahran. When the Iranians captured the U.S. Embassy in November 1978, the Royal Saudi National Guard suddenly established checkpoints everywhere in Saudi Arabia and began protecting the American military personnel and their families stationed there. Most of the National Guardsmen were very young, uneducated Saudis with big weapons. None spoke English; very few of us could say much more than hello in Arabic. There were some tense misunderstandings for awhile.

In December 1979,my wife Doris flew to Germany on the medevac for a routine mammogram followup. Since it was "routine" and since I was the critical Chief of Staff for the Mission and since it would have been disruptive to pull the kids out of school or board them with neighbors for three days, Doris went alone. This was not unusual; wives often traveled to and from Germany by themselves. Turns out to have been a bad decision for my family. I got a call from the Air Force surgeon in Germany who said my wife Doris had a malignant lump in her breast; she had cancer.

My wife and I cried as we talked. She had to make the flight back to Saudi and her family all by herself. I cried when I called my mother in Florida to tell her. Cancer changed our world. I had a scheduled reassignment to Honduras to be an advisor to the Honduran Air Force. I called Special Assignments in MPC and said I needed a change of assignment to a big military hospital in the States. I was sent to the Naval War College in Newport, RI as a faculty member in the Naval Strategy Department. Mike Robbins '64, my classmate and 4-year 19th Cadet Squadron mate, was assigned to Honduras in my place. That's why he speaks Spanish and flew MiGs.

Twy Wiliams '61 was the Chief of the Air Force contingent at Newport when I arrived. He and all the families on the faculty treated my family with great respect and support. Doris died on February 22, 1981, 14 months after she was diagnosed. She had never smoked and did not deserve the nightmare that consumed her.

For at least six months following her death, I was a sleepwalking zombie. My colleagues in the Naval Strategy Department took over most of my responsibilities. I had two young girls (12 and 13 1/2) to take care of. If I had been in an operational flying squadron with supervisory responsibilities, I would have had to ask to be relieved.

While assigned with the Navy, I was part of Air Training Command. In 1982, I was selected to command the 557th Flying Training Squadron, the T-41 squadron at the Academy. Then, the 557th was an ATC squadron attached to the Academy. Shortly before leaving Rhode Island, I married Beverly Ann Machowski, a native Rhode Islander with two young children, Michael, 6 and Amy, 4. Beverly started Air Force life as a wife of a Squadron Commander. Smart woman - she mastered all the nuances of Air Force life and Air Force Officers Wives Club life in a few months.

One morning, after we had been in Colorado for slightly less than a year, I had a seizure and collapsed. Bev, an RN, called the ambulance and I initially ended up in the Cardiac Intensive Care unit of the Academy hospital. The first thought of doctors when presented with a white male over 40 is cardiac. We subsequently went to the School of Aerospace Medicine in San Antonio for a week-long battery of tests. No definitive cause for the seizure was determined and there were no heart issues, but the Air Force said they don't need Lt Colonel pilots on waivers, so I was medically grounded.

Since I was no longer qualified to fly, I had to be relieved as squadron commander. Buddy Sams '67 and I switched jobs; he took command, and I went up to the cadet area to become assistant to the Deputy Commandant for the Cadet Wing (the Wing AOC). About the time I changed jobs, I was selected for O-6. Throughout a reorganization of the Commandant of Cadets organization that I authored, I became the Deputy Commandant for Support, effectively corraling a number of divisions and sections that had previously reported directly to the Commandant. I was responsible for the cadet social center at Arnold Hall, cooking and eating at Mitchell Hall, cadet supply, cadet transportation, budget, tailor shop, and cadet furniture repair, all the cats and dogs that help make the Cadet Wing go.

Approaching the summer of 1986, I expected reassignment and thought I might go to the Pentagon. However, I got a phone call from Colonels Assignments, asking if I wanted to be nominated for the Base Commander slot at RAF Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire, England. My predecessor had been relieved for cause, and a replacement was needed quickly. We arrived in August for what turned out to be a 3-year assignment as 20th Combat Support Group commander in the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing, whose commander upon my arrival was Graham Edward (Fast Eddie) Shirley '66. In 1988, the new Wing Commander was Lee Downer '64, my classmate and UPT classmate. It was the best assignment of our career.

In August 1989, we returned to the States. Bev and I sailed to New York on the Queen Elizabeth II. The Air Force said I would not be reimbursed for the sea travel since air travel was standard and available, but I didn't care. When I was a 15 year old teenager, my family returned from Germany on the S.S. United States, a favorite memory from childhood, and I wanted to do it again.

We went to Mather AFB, Sacramento CA as the Deputy Wing Commander for Resources. Odd assignment: nearly all of the commanders were navigators, since Mather was the Undergraduate Navigator Training site for the Air Force, and I was a grounded Command Pilot. The mission was training, and the atmosphere was that of peacetime; I had just been involved in an intensely serious wartime mission overseas. Mostly, I realized that I was approaching 26 years of commissioned service, and it was time to step aside and let the younger tigers move up.

Bev and I retired October 1, 1990. We returned to Colorado, albeit to a smaller city (Fort Collins) than the bustling Colorado Springs. The schools were good for our two youngest. All four kids are married, scattered throughout the country, and we have eight grandchildren. Our youngest child, Amy, lives here in Fort Collins with her husband and two children. We spoil the grandbabies at every opportunity.
























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