Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

History of Our Times

by Al Larson

It is said that one studies history to learn what mistakes not to repeat. It is also true that when one looks at the history of a group of men, such as the USAFA Class of 1964, one should study the history of the times in which they lived. This class was born in turbulent times. It grew up in turbulent times. It attended the Academy in turbulent times. And it served in turbulent times. Here are a few of the events that shaped the lives of these men.

1940 -1949

Members of the USAFA class of 1964 were born within a few years of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. World War II raged in Europe. The Nazis were killing millions of Jews.

The atomic bomb was invented.

In 1941 the Eniac computer was built.

As members of the class were toddlers, both Japan and Germany were defeated.

The United Nations was born.

Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier.

As the class entered grade school, the Cold War had begun. Airlift broke the Berlin blockade. NATO was formed to guard against a rising Soviet threat.

Television was invented.

The transistor was invented in 1947.

The Army Air Corps became the Air Force in 1947.

1950 -1959

By about 6th grade, the Korean War had broken out. In the next few years, the Rosenbergs were sentenced to death for passing atomic secrets to the Russians, Mt. Everest was first climbed, and The US Supreme Court banned segregation.

The hydrogen bomb was invented.

While the Class of 1964 was finishing grade school, Saberjets battled MiGs in Korea, Russia crushed the Polish and Hungarian revolutions, and Nikita Khrushchev announced at the UN, "We will bury you!"

The Korean War ended in a truce, and a French military outpost in Vietnam fell to the Viet Minh army.

Most of the Class of 1964 entered high school.

On October 4, 1957 Russia launched Sputnik, and the Space Age began.

The integrated circuit was invented in 1959.

1960 -1969

The Class of 1964 finished high school and entered the Academy.

As cadets, the Class of 1964 saw an American U2 spy plane shot down over Russian, Russia put the first man into orbit, and John Glenn become the first American in orbit.

The class saw John Kennedy elected president, the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

By the end of 1961, there are 2,000 U.S. military advisers in South Vietnam.

Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream speech."

President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Jim Ingram announced it to the cadet wing.

Members of the Class of 1964 marched in Kennedy's Inauguration parade, hearing first hand his call , "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." They also marched in his funeral parade. They then graduated right into the teeth of the rapidly escalating war in Vietnam.

In 1964, the computer mouse and the windows user interface were invented.

In the remainder of the 1960's, the war in Vietnam grew, anti-war protests raged at home, and the civil rights movement swept the country.

Martin Luther King was assassinated.

Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.

The North Koreans seized the USS Pueblo.

US astronauts walked on the Moon.

Many in the Class of 1964 saw combat in Vietnam.

Israel won a 6 day war.

1970 -1979

In the early 1970's came the shooting of students at Kent State, mass anti-war demonstrations in Washington, and the admission of Communist China to the UN.

In 1971 the first microprocessor was invented.

Eleven Israeli athletes were killed by Arab terrorists in Munich.

Nixon made the first ever visit by a US President to China. The Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign.

The Vietnam war ended in a peace accord. Our brave POW's finally returned home with honor.

In 1974 the first personal computers appeared.

By the end of the decade, the Shah of Iran had been overthrown, the Cambodian regime of Pol Pot had fallen, and the US and Russia signed the SALT II nuclear non-proliferation agreement.

The Iranian hostage affair began, the IRA waged war in Ireland, and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

1980 -1989

In 1981, IBM entered and legitimized the personal computer market.

In 1985, Microsoft created the Windows operating system.

Iran and Iraq engaged in an 8 year war. The US hostages were finally freed by Iran.

President Reagan was wounded but survived.

Pope Paul II was wounded but survived.

Britain defeated Argentina in the Falklands war.

The first artificial heart transplant was made.

The US space shuttle began service.

The Soviets shot down a Korean airliner. A terrorist explosion killed 237 Marines in Beirut. Terrorists attacked the Achille Lauro Italian cruise ship, captured a TWA airliner with 133 aboard, and captured an Egyptian Boeing 737 airliner.

The shuttle Challenger exploded, killing 7.

US planes attacked Lybian terrorist centers.

Iraqi missiles killed 37 on USS Stark in the Persian Gulf. A U.S. Navy ship shot down an Iranian airliner, mistaking it for jet fighter, killing 290.

A Pan-Am 747 was destroyed by a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland. U.S. planes shot down two Libyan fighters over international waters.

China killed thousands in crushing the Tiananmen Square uprising.

US troops invaded Panama to capture Gen. Manuel Noriega.

Army general Colin R. Powell became the first black chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Berlin Wall fell.

1990 -1999

The 1990s saw the birth of the Internet, launch of the Hubble telescope, and the end of the Cold War. Iraq invaded Kuwait. The European Union was formed.

UN forces were victorious in Gulf War I.

The Soviet Union collapsed.

US and Russia signed the nuclear START treaty.

U.S. began airlift of supplies to besieged Bosnian towns. Serb heavy weapons pounded Sarajevo. The IRA declared a cease fire in Ireland.

A nerve gas attack in Tokyo subway killed eight and injured thousands.

Scores were killed as a terrorist's car bomb blew up the Oklahoma City federal building.

The war in Bosnia ended.

A truck bomb killed 19 at a U.S. base in Saudi Arabia.

A bomb marred the Summer Olympic games in Atlanta.

Taliban Muslim fundamentalists captured the Afghan capital.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule.

Three men were convicted in New York World Trade Center bombing.

A peace accord was reached in Ireland.

U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed.

NATO launched air strikes on Serbia to end attacks against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The Serbs signed an agreement to pull troops out of Kosovo after 11 weeks of air attacks.

Two students killed 13 and themselves at Columbine High School in Colorado.

World population reached six billion.

2000 -2009

In the first decade of the new millennium, Vladimir V. Putin became Russian president, the human genome was deciphered, and the US presidential race had to be settled by the Supreme Court, with George Bush winning over Al Gore.

A U.S. spy plane and Chinese jet collided. The 24 crew members of the U.S. plane were detained for 11 days, and were released when the U.S. issued a formal statement of regret.

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed.

Terrorists attacked the United States. Hijackers rammed jetliners into New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A fourth hijacked plane crashed outside of Pittsburgh. Toll of dead was more than 3,000.

Within days, Islamic militant Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist network were identified as the parties behind the attacks. They were headquartered in Afghanistan, where they were protected by the Taliban.

The Taliban regime collapsed after two months of bombing by American warplanes and fighting by Northern Alliance ground troops.

North Korea admitted to developing nuclear arms in defiance of treaty obligations.

Chechen rebels took 763 hostages in Moscow theater.

The space shuttle Columbia exploded, killing all seven astronauts.

The United States and Britain launched Gulf War II against Iraq.

A.Q. Khan, founder of Pakistan's nuclear program, admitted he sold nuclear-weapons designs to other countries, including North Korea, Iran, and Libya.

The U.S. handed over power to an interim Iraqi government.

Chechen terrorists killed 340 people.

An enormous tsunami devastated Asia, killing at least 225,000.

Fifty eight percent of eligible Iraqis voted in elections to select a National Assembly. Sectarian violence intensified in Iraq.

More than 200 people died and hundreds more were wounded by bombs on commuter trains in Mumbai, India.

Saddam Hussein was hanged in Baghdad.

A male student killed 32 at Virginia Tech.

The US surge turned the tide in Iraq.

Dozens died in suicide attacks in Afghanistan.

China cracked down on protests by monks in Tibet.

World wide financial markets nearly collapsed.

Terrorists killed more than 170 people and wounded 300 in Mumbai, India. Suicide bombers killed 39 in Russian subway station.

The Taliban increased attacks in Afghanistan. US and allies responded with another troop surge.

2010 -present

Russia and the US signed the New Start treaty.

An Islamic insurgent group from Somalia claimed responsibility for bombings that killed 70 soccer fans in Uganda.

Two terrorist bombing attempts by Yemen terrorists against US targets were thwarted.

A North Korean sub sank a South Korean warship. North Korea shelled South Korea, killing 4.

Violent protests erupted in several Arab states. The uprisings toppled the governments of Tunisia and Egypt. Uprisings were suppressed in Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria. A NATO led coalition established a no-fly zone in Libya.

An 8.1 earthquake damaged nuclear reactors in Japan.

On May 1, 2011 US Special Forces found and killed Osama Bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the US. His death came almost exactly 66 years after that of Adolph Hitler.

Looking Back

During the nearly five decades since graduation of the Class of 1964, members of the class have been involved in many if not most of the conflicts of our times, and have served every President from Kennedy to Obama. This has truly been a challenging and historic time for our country, and for the world.

From this quick review of the history of our times, two thing are obvious. First, the responsibilities and duties of the US military and the US Air Force have continued to be critical to the cause of freedom. Second, the concept that men should live as free men, free from tyranny and oppression, has never been stronger.

The Class of 1964 of the US Air Force Academy is proud of our part in this long battle for freedom. Proudly we served.

May 2, 2011
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