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"I never made a plan that relied on the courage of my own troops. You hope that -- and they generally will -- fight bravely. Your plan ought to be predicated on more realistic assumptions."
-- USAF Chief of Staff General Merrill McPeak on the courage of American troops.
General McPeak in Vietnam - from his official bio:
USAF Chief of Staff General Merrill McPeak, 1994, models the uniform that didn't last beyond his tenure. Among other McPeakisms: people didn't have to wear any or all of their medals, if they didn't want to. (And he led by example.)
9. December 1968 - January 1969, F-100D fighter pilot, 612th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Phu Cat Air Base, Republic of VietnamAnd from his wikipedia entry:
10. January 1969 - August 1969, operations officer, later commander, Operation Commando Sabre (Misty Fast FACs), Phu Cat Air Base, Republic of Vietnam
11. August 1969 - December 1969, chief, standardization and evaluation division, 31st Tactical Fighter Wing, Tuy Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam
Upon completion of his tour with the Thunderbirds he was assigned as an F-100 pilot with the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing at Phu Cat Air Base in the Republic of Vietnam. In the early months of 1969, he was reassigned to the "Misty" squadron, a special group of high speed forward air controllers trying to stop traffic down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. He ended up commanding this unit and moved with it when it was transferred to the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Tuy Hoa Air Base. Rotating out of his command, he served as chief of standardization and evaluation for 31st Wing. McPeak completed a total of 269 combat missions while in Vietnam, remaining in-country until 1970, after which he attended the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia.Seems absolutely respectable to me. Lots of squares filled in little time (not uncommon among the designated fast burners), and completing that many combat sorties while assigned primarily to various staff positions demonstrates an aggressiveness and determination not uncommon (and highly desirable) among the fighter pilot breed.
And while McPeak may never have made a plan that relied on their courage, the Misty's were an impressive unit. Here's their web site. And here's a book (Bury Us Upside Down: The Misty Pilots and the Secret Battle for the Ho Chi Minh Trail) about the unit with a forward written by none other than (drumroll...) John McCain. (I wonder if those pages in McPeak's copy are intact...)
McCain wasn't part of the Misty's - but his Hanoi Hilton roomate was the unit's first commander.
Misty began with 16 pilots and four aircraft as Detachment 1, 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Phu Cat Air Base, Vietnam on 15 June 1967. Its official name was, "The Commado Sabre Operation." Major George "Bud" Day was the first commander, and the first Ops Officer was Major Bill Douglas.Among military members, Bud Day needs no introduction. For others:
George "Bud" Day was seventeen in late 1942 when he badgered his parents into allowing him to volunteer for the Marine Corps. He spent nearly three years in the South Pacific during World War II, then returned home, went to college, and got a law degree. In 1950, he joined the Air National Guard. When he was called up for active duty a year later, he applied for pilot training and flew fighter jets during the Korean War. After being promoted to captain in 1955, he decided to become a "lifer" in the Air Force.Here's a video of Bud telling the rest of the story (once again - you'll recognize the name of his Hanoi Hilton "roomate"). More here and here (including his Medal of Honor citation).
In 1967, Day, now a major, was put in command of a squadron of F-100s in Vietnam involved in a top-secret program. Nicknamed the Misty Super Facs, their mission was to fly over North Vietnam and Laos as "forward air controllers," selecting military targets and calling in air strikes on them. On August 26, ground fire hit Day's plane, destroying its hydraulic controls and forcing it into a steep dive.
In February, 1971 several American prisoners at the Hoa Loa camp gathered for a forbidden religious service. Suddenly they were interrupted by the enraged enemy guards. As the guards burst into the meeting room with rifles pointed at the prisoners, one of the Americans stood to his feet. Ragged, battered but unbroken, it was George Day. Looking into the muzzles of the enemy rifles he began to sing. The song was "The Star Spangled Banner", our National Anthem. Next to him another prisoner stood. Commander James Bond Stockdale was the ranking American in the prison and he lended his voice to Day's anthem of freedom. Soon the other prisoners joined the refrain, and then from throughout the entire prison camp, came the sounds of others. Stockdale, who would join "Bud" Day in receiving Medals of Honor five years later wrote that, although he was punished for the episode, it was exhilarating: "Our minds were now free and we knew it."
John Donovan, writing in a different context:
For those of you who aren't familiar with Once an Eagle, Anton Myrer's story of an Army that no longer exists, Courtney Massengale is the officer who is the consumate Organization Man in a Suit. Always playing the game the right way, angling for the right jobs, etc. Sam Damon is... a warrior.Bud Day defines warrior:
All armies have their share of both. Successful armies find enough Damons to counteract the Massengales. The Massengales, while happy to use the Damons, also tend to drive them out, because a Damon makes a Massengale uncomfortable, and isn't as skilled at "the game" as the Corporation Man.
He is often cited as being the most decorated U.S. service member since General Douglas MacArthur, having received some seventy decorations, a majority for actions in combat. Day is a recipient of the Medal of Honor.Without ever once citing the fairness doctrine he went on to make the Massengales of this world extremely uncomfortable. More on that later.
After being passed over for nomination to brigadier general, Day retired from active duty in 1977...... At his retirement he had nearly 8,000 total flying hours, and 4,900 in single engine jets, and had flown the F-80 Shooting Star, F-84 Thunderjet, F-100 Super Sabre, F-101 Voodoo, F-104 Starfighter, F-105 Thunderchief, F-106 Delta Dart, F-4 Phantom II, A-4 Skyhawk, A-7 Corsair II, CF-5 Tiger, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and CF-18 Hornet jet fighters.
Update: Bad links to Salamandar's place have been fixed (that's what I get for posting late at night. Sloppy on my part...) Hopefully now this post will make sense, at least the part about the pictures and THE FAIRNESS and all...
Get ready - here comes National War College Class of 1973-74 Graduates for Truth. First revelation: McCain's butt looks kinda fat in those pants. The next shocker, over at Salamandar's
Gen. McPeak also said Mr. McCain received special favors when he returned to the U.S.As I mentioned in my comment over there, I think that reveals more about McPeak than McCain.
"McCain was always kind of an exception," Gen. McPeak said.
But anyone who's ever been in any position of authority in the military and never dealt with a subordinate whining about the fairness doctrine regarding another troop please raise your hand.
Didn't think so. How about parents of more than one child?
While always listening for any underlying basis of truth (or personal grudge) in the complaint, I have a sliding scale of response based on age and experience level of the offender (and my mood). If he (or she) is under 20 I'm a bit more understanding. Thirtyish? Zero tolerance.
More: Lex has this one, too. Along with another Air Force-centric quote (suspiciously timed, if you're up on your Pentagon infighting) from the same column.
And these two (unrelated to this story) headlines (Lex and Slamandar, respectively) go in the "wish I'd thought of that one" file:
And I'd link this, but Mrs Greyhawk would have a fit if she saw that picture, even though I explained it was actually about the story.
Also, that would mean one more link for Salamandar than for Lex, and I'd have to find another Lex post to link to keep it fair.
Still more: Fairness established - and once again, I link the post, not the picture. (Whatever you do, don't click the small one for the high-res version - it has no text.)
And still more: Regarding that (supposedly from a Taliban intercept) quote at Lex's I referenced: “Tanks and armor are not a big deal. The fighters are the killers. I can handle everything but the jet fighters.”
I just can't help myself - but it reminds me of a Merrill McPeak quote from 2003!
For all but the resolutely sightless, it is now obvious that air combat determines the outcome in modern war. In the early hours of March 20, the salvo aimed at [Saddam Hussein] himself was preceded by nearly a month of air attacks in and around Baghdad -- to say nothing of a decade or so of bombing in connection with enforcing the no-fly zones. <...> Because of this aerial preparation, Iraq's air defenses stayed mostly silent and our aircraft were able to begin reducing opposing ground forces immediately. Army and Marine Corps formations, judged by "experts" to be much too small for the job, captured Baghdad in just 22 days, and with comparatively light casualties. Not only did coalition air power systematically disorganize Iraq's ground forces, it did so at small cost.When it come to Iraq quotes, McPeak is a goldmine.