SP-4106 Aiming At Targets

 

Chapter Three

The Air Force Years

 

[153] By March 1968, I had a joint appointment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the Sloan School of Management and the engineering school. The family continued living in Washington, and I commuted to Cambridge to give seminars and so on. In May we bought a house in Cambridge, and in the summer we came north to live in our house at Beverly Farms while the new house was renovated.

By fall I had a more formal appointment at MIT, as Hunsaker Visiting Professor for the academic year 1968-1969. The only requirement of the Hunsaker professorship is that one deliver what is known as the Minta Martin lecture. The recipient is also invited to participate on thesis committees, to give seminars, and so on, which I did and enjoyed. We lived in the third-floor apartment of the house while massive reconstruction went on in the basement and on the first and second floors. As a result of all the old plaster in the air, an asthmatic condition that had bothered Gene in Washington intensified. Over Christmas she had to be hospitalized for a short time. She wasn't allowed to go back into the house until all the work was completed, so we moved temporarily into an apartment hotel. After the extensive renovations, our house was comfortable, sunny, and spacious without being too big. Gene even had a little greenhouse. The house's location was very convenient, and it answered our needs perfectly. We were a bit sad when we finally gave the key as a donation to MIT on April 1, 1992. The proceeds from the institute's sale of the house provided nearly 50 percent of the funds required to fund MIT's newly created Apollo Chair in Astronautics.

We found a buyer for our Washington house in December 1968, [154] just when we realized we might be moving back. I was at MIT the week before Christmas, when my secretary told me that newly appointed Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird was on the line. He introduced himself and asked if I would be in Washington soon. I was planning to be there the following day, en route to Cape Kennedy, where I was going to watch the launching of Apollo 8, the first circumlunar flight.

Laird said, "I'd like very much to have lunch with you at the Carlton." We had lunch in his private suite at a table for two. One whole wall was covered with a detailed organization chart of the Pentagon. As we began eating, he asked me questions about technical people. I figured he only wanted information, but by the time we got to the raspberry sherbet, he shifted and said, "Dave Packard [co-founder of Hewlett-Packard] is going to come and join with me as my deputy. I want to have three service secretaries with different backgrounds. I'm hoping Stan Resor, secretary of the Army, will stay on from the Johnson administration. Goldwater thinks a lot of John Chafee from Rhode Island [who had recently lost his reelection bid for governor]. I want to get him down here for secretary of the Navy." Then he said, "And you're going to come down here as secretary of the Air Force."

"You've got to be kidding! I just got out of the government and moved back to New England. I've just begun a new job at MIT, and my wife is sick." Laird absolutely would not take no for an answer. In fact, he upped his offer, saying that Dave Packard could not stay more than two years and that after Dave left, he wanted me to step in as deputy because, like Dave, I had a technical background.

"Why don't we get together again on Monday?," he said.

I didn't have the courage to call Gene until I had reached the Cape. When I finally did call, her initial reaction was: "We can't do that!"

"Don't worry," I assured her, "I'm not going to accept."

I saw Laird again on Monday, and we had a further conversation, but I still didn't agree to take the job. "Mel," I said, "if you don't mind, I'd really like to take until the day after Christmas. I'll call you on the twenty-sixth of December."

I went to see MIT president Howard Johnson during Christmas week. "Well," he said, "when the President knocks on your door, it's pretty hard to turn him away."

[155] "They'd like me to start on the twentieth of January. How do you feel about the Minta Martin lecture?"

"It's the custom to deliver that lecture." I was still on the hook, but fortunately I already had done some work on the lecture.

Waiting until after Christmas to give Laird an answer gave me a chance to talk to our four older children separately. I asked them what they thought I ought to do. They said they didn't think much of the Department of Defense because of the ongoing Vietnam War but that if anyone had to help run it, they would just as soon it were me. On December 26, after a final consultation with Gene, I called Laird and accepted.1

We passed papers on our Washington house on the very same day. We could have stopped the sale, paying some kind of penalty, but by then the thought of moving back into that house didn't have much appeal. It would have meant moving back all the furniture that we had recently lugged north to Cambridge. Also, by then parts of Georgetown had changed, with mobs of people and drugs galore. Instead, Gene suggested renting a furnished house, which we did. We stayed in a rented house for two years. When it became apparent that we were going to stay in Washington longer, we bought another house and moved our furniture from Cambridge back down to Washington.

On January 8, 1969, the three new service secretaries-Stanley Resor (Army), John Chafee (Navy), and Seamans (Air Force)-were trotted out for public view. I wasn't sworn in until February 15, having received an extension from Laird in order to finish the Minta Martin lecture for MIT-though I did meet with Harold Brown, outgoing secretary of the Air Force, several times before then. The swearing-in occurred on a Saturday morning at the Pentagon.

 

[156] Forming the Team

 

By February 15th I was well along in my selections for the Air Force secretariat, but none of the key jobs had yet been filled. The presidential appointees reporting to the secretary were the under secretary and four assistant secretaries (Research and Development, Installations and Logistics, Financial Management, and Manpower and Reserves). I was most grateful to Harold Brown for staying in his position until February 15th and assisting in the transition. The morning I was sworn in, Harold departed to take over the presidency of the California Institute of Technology.

On one of my Washington visits in January, I met Glen P. Lipsomb who was a Republican congressman from California and a great friend of Mel Laird. He had a long list of individuals who had been suggested for presidential consideration. The list had been screened by him and the White House. I recognized some real dogs and wanted to be certain I didn't have to take time to interview them. But one person on the list was Grant Hansen. Grant had served as project director of the Centaur launch vehicle, the first hydrogen-fueled second stage, designed to mate with the Atlas booster. When he took over, the project was in disarray and NASA was about to cancel General Dynamics' contract. He saved the project, and the Centaur is still in use today. I found he was about to leave California to take an advanced management course at Harvard. I convinced him to come to Washington instead.

Harold Brown had a generalist named Tim Hoopes as his under secretary, which placed a heavy load on Al Flax, his research and development (R&D) assistant secretary. Al was responsible for all R&D, including the C-5 and the F-111 aircraft, and in addition was responsible for the highly classified National Reconnaissance Organization (NRO), which operated the nation's observation satellites jointly with the CIA. I elected to transfer the NRO to the under secretary and hence was looking for a second technically oriented individual. Harold Brown had given me a list of fifteen names he felt were qualified for the R&D function. One of them was Dr. John McLucas, president of MITRE, a nonprofit corporation located near Hanscom Air Force Base outside of Boston.

Back in Massachusetts, I went to see James R. Killian, Jr., chairman of MITRE's board and former chairman [157] and president of MIT. I said I wanted to talk to him about Dr. McLucas since there was a possibility of his coming to Washington. As I watched the color drain from his face, I realized that I was considering an excellent candidate, which I really knew anyway. But he properly questioned whether, with all of Dr. McLucas's experience, it would be appropriate for him to come down to be the assistant secretary. So I said, "Well, what would you think of him as the under secretary?" He said, "I would think that would be a very appropriate job for him, but understand, I hope he doesn't accept. But you'll have to speak to him about it." So on one of my trips via Hanscom Air Force Base, I asked for an office, and Dr. McLucas and I met. I made my proposition that he become the under secretary of the Air Force and head up the classified programs. He accepted almost on the spot but said he wanted to talk to his family prior to making an absolute commitment.

Grant Hansen and John McLucas provided great strength in research and development. The secretariat also needed capability in administration, finance, and personnel. Although Philip Whittaker and I had not overlapped at NASA, I knew he was highly regarded both there and at IBM where he had worked previously. In addition, he had been most helpful obtaining information for my Minta Martin lecture at MIT. So I cast my net and fortunately landed him.

Spencer J. Schedler did have some political experience. He was an advance man, as it turns out, for Spiro Agnew. That's how the name came to me, but it had nothing to do with why I picked him. I selected him because he liked the Air Force and was still flying in the Air National Guard. Some people were amazed when I made clear that "I want somebody who knows something about finances, how to keep books and how to run audits." He was a graduate of the Harvard Business School and came highly recommended. He was the youngest of the group.

Finally, there was Curtis W. Tarr who was the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Tarr had been president of Lawrence University located in Appleton, Wisconsin, and had also worked as a junior member of the Hoover Commission on the re-organization of the Department of Defense. His doctoral thesis at Stanford was written on the subject. I was really looking for somebody who had both organizational as well as a personnel background. Now [158] he wasn't really a personnel man as such, but he had certainly grappled with organizations large and small and on personnel problems during a troublesome period for universities.

I found in my first six months that we were taking a shellacking in the political environment of the Department of Defense. We didn't have to go up to the Hill to run into politics. There are vested interests in the OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) staff, and in the military services as well. We weren't always coming out very well in this tug of war.

So there was something missing in our secretariat. Jack L. Stempler had been a Marine in World War II, a civilian lawyer in OSD, and most recently the head of OSD's legislative affairs office. Mel Laird suggested that he become our general counsel. He had probably served his usefulness as legislative liaison at the OSD level-that's a job that no human being can possibly take on for many years because he's using up his chits, all the time. We had a good general counsel named John M. Steadman, whom I liked and who was the only holdover that we had incidentally. But Jack Stempler obviously had a background that would be extremely helpful because of his political savvy on the Hill and, really more important, his understanding of the Department of Defense. He was the missing link, if you will, that I had been looking for in rounding out the secretariat. He was what Dr. Brown would have called the "generalist." I had learned from NASA that if you get the right kind of a lawyer to work with you, not on legal matters-though obviously he has got to get involved in legal matters-but on matters that are quasi-legal, judgmental matters that involve people and situations, that you're well off. So his transfer really rounded out the secretariat, and later I found his advice absolutely invaluable.

We were forced to make one change in the secretariat prior to the end of President Nixon's first term in office. General Hershey was about to retire as director of the Selective Service System, and the White House had its eye on Curtis Tarr for his replacement. Curtis asked me how to decline. When a member of an administration, the argument that the present job is more important won't fly, nor will personal preference. I suggested he explain his distaste for selective service. Several days later he proceeded to the White House with great foreboding. After an interminable wait, the President burst out of the Oval Office, grabbed Curtis's hand and amid the handshaking [159] thanked him profusely for accepting the job. Curtis ended up serving as the selective service director until 1972.

His replacement for reserve affairs, Richard J. Borda, was the perfect individual for the job, and we were lucky to get him. He had been vice president of personnel for the Wells Fargo Bank on the west coast. He came with strong recommendations from the business school at Stanford. He was a very well-rounded person with a lot of savoir faire.

Each assistant secretary had a counterpart on Mr. Laird's staff as well as on the Air Staff. There were deputy chiefs of the Air Staff for research and development, installation and logistics, and manpower. The only awkwardness was financial management. General Duward L. (Pete) Crow was the comptroller for the Air Force who worked directly with Bob Moot, the Department of Defense comptroller. The assistant secretary for Financial Management oversaw management systems, but had no direct control of the purse strings. On budget matters Pete Crow was Spence Schedler's boss. General Ryan and I encouraged counterparts to work closely together, and to resolve issues directly whenever possible, before they needed to come to our attention.

When I became secretary, General J.P. McConnell's four-year tour as chief of staff was about over. He accepted my appointment graciously. However, he made it clear that he was the military boss. There was one time when I wanted to become familiar with the general officers in the Air Force, particularly the three- and four-star generals, and so I asked for a book with their biographies. Word came back: "If Dr. Seamans wants to know about my senior officers, he can come and see me."

Because of McConnell's impending retirement, one of the key decisions that had to be made within a few months of my arrival was the naming of the next chief of staff. Mr. Laird was putting the bite on me for this decision, and he made it clear he wanted a younger person. An obvious candidate was George Brown, a great leader in World War II with many difficult B-17 sorties deep into Germany, McNamara's executive officer, and currently the Air Force commander in Southeast Asia. However, I felt he was still young enough to take command of system acquisition when he left Vietnam and then become Air Force chief, and even ultimately to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Fortunately for the country, this is what happened.

Harold Brown and J.P. McConnell advised me prior to February 15th that General John Ryan was their choice for the next chief of [160] staff and that his selection would be welcomed by the senior staff. I had a lengthy conversation with General Ryan, former commander of the Strategic Air Command (SAC). I liked him, but felt I should meet with General Bruce Holloway, the present commander of SAC, before making a final determination. I went to his headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, telling him in advance why I was coming. At the meeting I told him he was, along with one or two others, a contender for the job, so I wanted him to bear this in mind in our conversation. Then I asked him a bunch of questions about his views on Air Force matters. I got a very nice letter back saying that he appreciated being considered and the way I discussed matters with him and, of course, was sorry he wasn't selected but wanted me to know that it meant a lot to him to realize that he was considered.

General Ryan was my final choice, and I've never worked with anybody I respected more. He was direct, open, and pragmatic. No matter what the assignment, his reaction would be: "Let's not agonize, let's get on with it, let's do it." Today, looking back on my days in the Air Force, I'm proud of the team I helped put together, not only those I've discussed but the many others that space does not permit mentioning.

 

NASA and DOD

 

There were major differences between NASA and DOD. Of course DOD was still government, and a lot of its business was conducted the same way as NASA. But NASA is an independent agency and, hence, in an administrative role at NASA, I tended to work closely with many departments, directly with the Bureau of the Budget and attended meetings with the President a fair number of times. In the Department of Defense, most of my activities were within the department itself, working with the different offices of the secretary of defense and horizontally with the other services. At the Air Force, not much time was spent with departments and agencies outside DOD.

NASA had a fairly substantial international program, so I had done some traveling. But in the Department of Defense, the disposition of our forces in this country and overseas and the relationships with many foreign countries on a large scale were extremely important. In particular, Southeast Asia was front and center at that time. I enjoyed [161] the extensive traveling, as I got to see people such as Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan, President Chung Hee Park in Korea, and other foreign leaders. I was also privileged to stay at a U.S. residence when visiting foreign capitals and had a chance to meet many of our ambassadors.

There was a rhythm to life in the Pentagon. Upon arriving at 7:30 a.m. I was given another cup of black coffee before receiving a briefing on critical news events. I had already "read" the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the New York Times in the car prior to entering the building, but the defense issues were not always completely or adequately portrayed. My executive officer would be present and bring me up to date on the day's events.

I would then receive a military briefing that was similar to the one received by the chief of staff one-half hour earlier. Maps of Vietnam would show USAF activity in Vietnam and along supply routes in Laos. It was common knowledge and accepted that we were attacking the supply lines used by the North Vietnamese in Laos, but bombing of Cambodia was verboten. Hence a secret procedure was developed using the high-altitude B-52s flying toward Cambodia. The bombs were released using radio signals from the ground. The pilots could suspect but couldn't be certain whether the bombs landed in South Vietnam or Cambodia. The charts used in my briefing never showed the bombs landing in Cambodia. In my naiveté, I didn't realize until after I left the Pentagon the existence of this bombing.2

On Mondays, the secretary of defense held a large meeting in his conference room. Laird sat at one end of the conference table and Packard at the other with the service secretaries and the joint chiefs in between. The key staff and assistant secretary of defense observed the meeting from chairs around the perimeter of the room. On Wednesdays, I had an hour each week scheduled with Mel Laird. Dave Packard and John McLucas would also attend. These meetings were more informal, much like the sessions I had at NASA with Hugh Dryden and Jim Webb.

[162] The development programs of NASA and DOD certainly had a common thread, but that was just part of the job in the Air Force. The procurement and maintenance of large numbers of operational aircraft and armaments provided a whole new dimension. In addition, at NASA there is no division between civilians and the military. The division creates a problem in the services because both are needed, but how do the two tie together, particularly in scientific and technical areas? It's hard to get top-grade civilian people in key positions because of the rotation of military officers in senior positions, and yet military officers must rotate in and out of nonoperational assignments. Finally, the biggest difference was the scale of the activity, measured then in financial terms $25 billion versus $6 billion at NASA (about $85 billion vs. $20 billion in today's dollars), or in personnel terms 1.3 million compared with 33,000.

However, system acquisition had much in common. The various steps included project definition, procurement planning, contractor (source) selection, contract administration, development, and operations. Each step required leadership and, during the development and operation phases, a dedicated team headed by a strong project manager.

 

Source Selection3

 

The Air Force weapon systems source selection process changed during my tenure. I felt that the source selection authority should review and approve the source selection plan, and then should stay away until the source evaluation board had completed its work and presented its findings and recommendations. At that point, a crisp decision usually could and should be made. It may take several weeks for clarification or to obtain additional information, but the decision should be made quickly and documented properly. In every procurement where I was the selection authority, I signed a 20- to 30-page report on the specific process, the important issues, and the rationale for the decision. But I didn't tell anybody in the building what the decision was going to be until the last day when I filled in the name of the recipient, signed it, informed the executive branch, the Congress, the contractors, and issued a press release. Up until that time, [163] if a contractor or a congressman or senator wanted to tell me about the wonders of a company in contention, I could and would listen.

I found that previously there was a secretary's Selection Advisory Council composed of about ten members, all at about his level in the secretariat. If the F-15 aircraft source evaluation was in progress, for example, they would have gone out to Wright Field, reviewed the process, and reported back to me on the quality of the effort and the possible outcome. There would be the temptation for the advisory group to give the evaluation team advice, and certainly there was a strong likelihood for leaks and lobbying. The abolition of this committee removed another delicate area, the extent to which I kept Laird and Packard informed. Since I didn't know anything about tentative findings until the review was complete, there was no problem. I could only tell them about the plan, that the process was under way, and the probable completion date.

Many people outside the Pentagon believed that the whole evaluation process was bunkum since no matter what the Air Force determined, there would have to be a look by higher authority, and there might be political pressure for a reversal. That was never stated explicitly, and I wanted to make sure that it never happened. I felt the integrity of the process had been jeopardized in the previous administration by the award of the TFX to General Dynamics. There was no point in asking the evaluation team to do a careful job if the team members felt the decision would ultimately be based on politics.

As soon as I had reviewed the findings of the source evaluation group but before I had made a final determination in my own mind, I met with Laird and Packard alone to acquaint them with the important factors in the decision. I could discuss with them the pros and cons of the leading contractors and the probable outcome. Neither Laird nor Packard ever questioned the outcome from a political standpoint. As a matter of fact, they agreed to hold up the announcement of one award until after an election so that it couldn't be construed as assistance to a Republican senatorial candidate in whose state the award was going to be made.

 

Contracting

 

The C-5 contract was conceived by the Air Force with the best of intentions. The contract provided Lockheed with specific performance [164] objectives measured in terms of payload, range, speed, and short field capability. The plane also required many special features, including the capability of "kneeling" to take loads on and off. Kneeling involved developing special rugged hydraulics for the landing gear to lift the plane up and down so that the floor of a truck or a loading platform would be the same height as the floor of the airplane's cargo bay. Thus a truck could back straight up to the C-5 to move its cargo easily, or the C-5 could squat, lower its ramp, and move cargo directly onto the ground.

But the contract tied many of these requirements to corporate profit and loss in such a way that the priority for these capabilities was no longer in Air Force hands. In addition, the contract attempted to price the production runs and the spare parts prior to the first development flights. McNamara and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Robert H. Charles introduced the concept of a total procurement package to increase contractor cost-effectiveness. Military contractors had often submitted intentionally low bids for a research and development contract, reasoning that they could recoup financial losses by padding the production contract. Under the total procurement package concept, the Air Force awarded a contract for a complete weapon system, including research and development, test, and production of the system. The package included specific schedules, cost ceilings, and financial incentives. The C-5 program was the first to use this complicated arrangement. The impact of these and other contractual arrangements is discussed in the subsequent section "Galaxy and the Company Books."

Funds are authorized and appropriated for spending by the Congress for specific purposes and given amounts. No form of contracting can abrogate this responsibility; it can only be assumed by the specified government agency, in this case the Air Force. For this reason I believe in hands-on contract administration by a competent government team with appropriate oversight by the general management of the agency. The contract should state the objectives clearly and offer rewards for excellent performance and penalties when objectives are not achieved. The "carrot and stick" approach may be based simply on cost when the development is essentially complete, but when design uncertainties still exist, an award fee may be preferable. In this way, corporate managers will feel it in their self-interest to assign top-quality personnel to the undertaking.

 

[165] Project Manager

 

It is sometimes said that legal documents don't determine the outcome of a procurement, people do. I believe both are important. The project team must operate within an understandable, helpful framework. Team members must be competent and nobody more so than the project manager. The Air Force conducted a study in 1969 of how long project managers were serving before reassignment. The more senior members were serving less than three years. The data was a little biased because some of the members included in the survey were still on the job and hadn't completed their tour of duty. But we definitely needed to extend the time spent by the project team before reassignment. As a result of this study, the Air Force made a conscious effort to keep senior people on these projects long enough that they felt responsible. Avoidance of mistakes, an early transfer, and a clean record should not be the modus operandi. I don't really believe many officers had that point of view. However, large projects require a real commitment from the project leadership. A real commitment requires staying on the job long enough so that the fruits of the effort become apparent.

There had been sufficient difficulty with both the C-5 and the F-111 aircraft that General Ryan and the Air Staff recognized that changes had to be made in the acquisition process. They fully supported the need for experienced project managers on extended assignments.

 

Project Reviews

 

Prior to becoming secretary of the Air Force, I had been pretty thoroughly exposed to the ballistic missile program since these missiles had also served NASA as launch vehicles. I also had worked with the Air Force on the development of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory4 (MOL) since this project made use of the Gemini manned space capsule. Since Mel Laird told me I was selected for the job because of my [166] technical background, I was particularly anxious to attend a project status review to look at these and other programs. My predecessor had scheduled these reviews on a quarterly basis, and so at the appointed time I left my office and crossed the long Pentagon corridor to the designated conference room. Imagine my surprise when just inside the door a colonel saluted me, clicked his heels, and announced in a loud voice, "The secretary of the Air Force." Everybody jumped to attention and stood at attention until I sat in my designated position at the end of a large conference table.

Now NASA people are no slouches at putting on presentations but what unfolded was obviously polished and rehearsed to the nth degree. One of the questions I remember asking that first day was: "To what extent has this material been reviewed prior to the time that it is being presented here?" The answer was nineteen times. Nineteen levels in the organization had taken a crack at it! You can imagine that there wasn't much left that was controversial. That was the last quarterly review and the last review that was massaged nineteen times during my watch.

I believe a month is the right period of time to review important programs. That's what I knew worked in NASA. That's how financial books are kept and how corporate directors run their business. After the reordering of status reviews, the assistant secretaries and the deputy chiefs became the board of directors, with either the secretary, under secretary, chief, or vice chief presiding. The status of the twelve to fifteen most critical projects was presented monthly, and actions were taken on the spot as appropriate. If the decision impacted on a particular field commander, he would be given the opportunity to participate. The project manager couldn't be expected to be present monthly because of his busy schedule, but he was required to attend at least quarterly and more frequently during critical periods. His deputy or someone from the Air Staff would represent the project at interim meetings.

The following eight projects were either so important to the future of the Air Force or so much in the public that they along with seven others were on the critical list for the secretary's monthly reviews. Another twenty-five or so were reviewed by Grant Hansen and his counterpart, Lt. Gen. Otto Glasser. Hundreds of others were delegated to elements of the Systems and Logistics Commands in different parts of the country.

 

[167] Galaxy and the Company Books

 

I had worked with Raymond L. Bisplinghoff at MIT, and he later directed NASA's aeronautical and space research and was a member of the Air Force's Scientific Advisory Board. So he was a natural person to call on when we were in technical trouble with the C-5 aircraft. We knew we had electronic and landing gear problems, but we also knew the most serious issues related to the wing structure, and that was Bisplinghoff's specialty.

He and his committee reported that the overall performance was very close to the specifications. The only real deviation from specifications was one caused by structural fatigue, leading to a reduction in life expectancy. The plane could fly at the maximum gross weight specified and could take off from the prescribed runways. However, every heavy load lessened the aircraft's life expectancy. The full load could only be carried when it was really important, as, for example, in the 1973 airlift to Israel.5 In that mission the aircraft were each carrying a couple of tanks, each weighing over 100,000 pounds. That was pretty close to design. Most of the time when the flying was to keep up crew proficiency and the like, the plane was not fully loaded and life expectancy loss was minimized.

By keeping track of the load and the turbulence of the air on each flight as well as careful frequent inspection of the wing structure, 20,000 hours of flying rather than the 30,000 specified could be obtained. So the Air Force ended up nursing its 80 heavy load cargo planes along by tail number6 prior to eventually redesigning and rebuilding the wings. It wasn't cheap, or easy, but the Air Force did it.

The Galaxy (C-5) contract not only had profit incentives for a variety of performance factors, but also had the production prices tied to cost. In the original plan, there were five aircraft for development followed by fifty-seven in Run A and a comparable number in Run B. In January 1969, during the remaining weeks of the Johnson [168] administration, the contract called for procurement of long lead items for Run B. This was agreed to, but at a later time, Lockheed claimed that the Air Force had triggered the procurement of the entire Run B. The Air Force ultimately procured eighty aircraft, not the originally planned 120, so that this number became still another item for future negotiation.

By the summer of 1970, the Air Force estimated that Lockheed was in arrears by $200 to $400 million. Of course, Lockheed didn't agree, but to continue, there needed to be an understanding with them, including a renegotiation of the contract. But what was Lockheed's financial capability? I've always felt that the Air Force shouldn't have to take responsibility for the solvency of a contractor. This is what I mean by looking at the corporate books: What degree of liquidity does the contractor have? What degree of flexibility? Is the company having difficulty borrowing from the banks? These kinds of questions should not be the government's responsibility.

The difficulty was that at Mr. Packard's level, the government was no longer looking just at Lockheed's work on the C-5, but also on the Navy's Polaris missile, the National Reconnaissance Office's classified satellite projects, and an advanced helicopter for the Army. Packard had to look at the totality of Lockheed's defense business. But the only other major business they had was the commercial L-1011 airplane, with its engines coming from the then-bankrupt Rolls Royce, and a good production run of C-130 transports. So when Dave Packard met with Dan Houghton, the CEO of Lockheed, I'm certain all the cards were on the table. From the Air Force's standpoint, Dave negotiated a cost contract for the C-5 with a loss to Lockheed of $200 million. The Air Force was finally back in control of the Galaxy, and the resulting fleet of aircraft has been invaluable.

 

From TFX to a Successful F-111

 

The experimental fighter designated the TFX (Tactical Fighter, Experimental) was in trouble almost before it started in the early 1960s. Under the rubric of cost saving, McNamara decreed that the Air Force and the Navy would develop a new fighter in concert. The Air Force, as the lead service, conducted a source selection clearly favoring the Boeing Aircraft Company. Gene Zuckert, the Air Force [169] secretary, spent several hours reviewing this finding with McNamara and returned to announce that General Dynamics was the winner. A series of congressional committees reviewed the decision; the most acrimonious occurred when McNamara appeared before Senator John McClellan from Arkansas. The battle lines were drawn and continued until Laird assumed office, when the tide turned. I remember a luncheon in Laird's office attended by Laird, Senator McClellan, General McConnell, and myself. The conversation went smoothly, with General McConnell and the Senator swapping stories about their early years growing up in Arkansas. By dessert, Senator McClellan was almost in tears as he expressed thanks for being invited into the Pentagon for the first time in eight years. He went on to advise us he was no longer an adversary of the TFX, now becoming the F-111, the nation's first variable wing aircraft.

The F-111 had two serious technical problems, the carry-through structure supporting the wings and the advanced avionics for the F-111D. In order to swing the wings aft as the speed increased, the wings were pivoted on a single box-like structure, made of high tensile steel. Steel was used to obtain strength and save weight to preserve the capability for carrier landings that were never to take place. Unfortunately, several aircraft were lost when this structure failed. The failure was ultimately traced to small fractures within the steel that grew with time. The science of fracture mechanics was in its infancy, as was the technology for finding these hairline cracks. It was known that the probability of failure was greatest at low temperature when the steel became more brittle. The Air Force was faced with grounding the fleet unless a reliable ground test could be found. The situation was worsened by the fact that the Australians had bet their future defense on the F-111s, which they had been sold at a bargain basement price.

The airplane was designed for 7g pullup maneuvers and 2g's nose down. A fixture was developed by General Dynamics to apply the equivalent forces on the wings, tail, and fuselage using hydraulic jacks. After cold soaking the aircraft at -40 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours, all aircraft in the inventory and all subsequent planes off the assembly were put through a strenuous regimen of simulated attack maneuvers. There were only a handful of test failures and no subsequent accidents in flight.

In order to provide all-weather capability, the F-111Ds were provided with a television-like monitor, which blended radar signals with prestored [170] mapping information. Unbelievably, the scope had 1,600 lines, four times the number in our home TV sets. General Dynamics had contracted with North American for this equipment on a fixed-price contract. They in turn had contracted with United Aircraft and Hughes for critical components. These contractors were millions of dollars in the hole and refused to continue. The Air Force had 96 F-111Ds ready to fly except for this missing equipment, and General Dynamics blamed the Air Force, claiming it had forced them to use this untested, unproven equipment.

Until this horrible experience, I hadn't realized how cash payments could be used to motivate production contractors. Normally, partial payments of 80 percent are made on a weekly or monthly basis as aircraft leave the production line. The remainder is paid after the aircraft are successfully tested in flight. General Dynamics was receiving 90 percent progress payments on a daily basis. I couldn't believe it. The improvement in their cash flow was enormous thanks to Air Force largesse. I called Dave Lewis, the CEO of General Dynamics, to advise him the Air Force was shifting to normal progress payments and why. Poor performance on the advanced avionics was one of the reasons I cited. His first response was unprintable, but henceforth General Dynamics knuckled down, and the F-111 became a wonderful addition to the Air Force stable of aircraft.

 

The F-15-Can the Air Force Do It Right?

 

One of the keys to a successful F-15 aircraft project was the appointment of a truly competent manager and to agreement on his availability long enough for development and early production. Major General Benjamin Bellis was the answer. He had successfully managed the government's side of the SR-71, the highly successful strategic reconnaissance aircraft that flew Mach 3 at 70,000 feet. Kelly Johnson of Lockheed was his industrial counterpart.

The Air Force had need of a new air superiority fighter-a plane that could protect air space over a battle zone. At the start there were two principal issues: (1) the requirements and (2) the method of contracting. The USAF fought hard for a single purpose aircraft and for a contract with simple incentives. The people in Defense Research and Engineering did not agree. That office felt the F-15 should be capable of close support of troops and wanted a total package arrangement as used for the C-5. The military was fully behind a true superiority fighter. Ultimately, the only [171] compromise made in the design was the placement of hard points under the wing for possible attachment of bombs. We had little support within the Pentagon for our method of contracting. The C-5 contracting had not as yet been discredited. Finally in desperation, I went to Dave Packard with a paper outlining the type of contract we wanted. He approved the paper much to the dismay of his staff. Procurement could then commence.

Many requirements have to be addressed prior to the request for proposals (RFP). I'll only mention a few. In order to minimize cost, the maximum speed was to be limited to Mach 2.2, thereby permitting an all-aluminum airplane. Higher speeds cause excessive heating for aluminum, thereby requiring titanium or equally expensive alloys. Next, it was decided the F-15 would be designed to carry only one person (the pilot) in order to keep the weight down and improve maneuverability. This decision placed great emphasis on the electronic package, including the radar. Detection and tracking of targets had to be accomplished semi-automatically to avoid pilot overload. And the radar had to operate at long range and all altitudes, which required pulse doppler to avoid radar ground clutter, especially when flying low.

The final lineup of contractors included McDonnell Douglas for the aircraft and its electronics, but with a "fly before you buy" between Hughes Aircraft and Westinghouse for the radar. The engines (two per aircraft) were provided by Pratt & Whitney.

After contractor selection, we instituted a "scrub down" to see if the cost of either development or unit production could be reduced. The procurement officers were distressed, believing it unfair and risky to contract for a design different from the original. General Bellis reviewed the cost-saving changes at a meeting with General Ryan, General William Momyer (chief of the Tactical Air Command), and myself. After we made a favorable determination on these changes, we briefed Mr. Packard and the staff of Defense Research and Engineering, who thought the outcome was great. We were starting to rebuild confidence in the Air Force.

General Bellis was responsible not only for the aircraft but for the Pratt & Whitney engine that was going to be used in both the F-15 and also in the Navy's F-14. This was a tough assignment. He had to contend with somewhat different Navy regulations. Before going ahead with the [172] F-15 production, the engine had to pass a 150-hour endurance run under strictly controlled conditions. In mid-summer when he had reached 135 hours, it became known he had omitted the Mach 2.2 tests at 40,000 feet. A brouhaha of major consequence ensued within the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. General Bellis had used good judgment in eliminating this one point for fear of a fire, but bad judgment in not coming clean at an Air Force status review. If he had, we could have informed Packard, the Congress, and the press. But as a result we had to restart the endurance run and nearly had to forfeit our basic contract.

Another close call had occurred previously, just after the McDonnell Douglas Company was selected to build the aircraft. I was attending a commanders conference at the SAC base in Puerto Rico when I received a phone message from John McLucas. He said Laird would ask us to rebid the F-15 contract unless we inserted a proper affirmative action clause in the present contract by the end of the day. Somehow the lack of a proper clause had been omitted and had become public knowledge, and Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame and a member of the President's affirmative action committee, had castigated the Department of Defense for its oversight. I suggested John straighten it out. He said, "Mel insists you go to St. Louis this afternoon." I went back to the conference and announced, "I must be in St. Louis in the shortest possible time." I was soon taken by SAC police, sirens screaming, to the flight line where a tanker was off-loading fuel as we approached. The tanker was on alert, prepared to take off with such a heavy load that it would crash if one engine failed. My departure was not such an emergency. A ladder descended from the nose, and a sergeant grabbed my bags from General Holloway and up the ladder I went.

By mid-afternoon we taxied onto the ramp at the McDonnell Douglas plant. Awaiting us was a small coterie around Mr. McDonnell, CEO of the company, and a TV newsman was standing nearby. After shaking hands all around, I vented my pique about the lack of an affirmative action plan in front of the TV, and we then headed for the negotiation table. The contract was appropriately amended in a few hours, Mel Laird was appeased, and I returned to Puerto Rico.

As of this writing over 1,200 F-15s have come off the McDonnell Douglas assembly line. The airplane has performed well, a testimonial to General Bellis and his team.

 

AWACS, from Air Defense to Battle Control

 

This project wasn't planned; it just seemed to grow on its own. AWACS stands for Airborne Warning and Control System. Its purpose originally was to track incoming Soviet bombers coming across Canada so that they could be intercepted before reaching and destroying U.S. targets. The key to success was obviously not the aircraft but the electronics. Contracts were let to Hughes Aircraft and Westinghouse to develop experimental radar prototypes. By the time the prototypes were ready for flight test, interest in air defense was rapidly waning. Since we and the Soviets had ballistic missiles that could reach most parts of our respective countries in less than one-half hour, why worry about lumbering bombers?

It appeared to some in the Air Force that there was an important role for AWACS in the European theater. With the ability to track hundreds of airplanes, couldn't AWACS be used for air battle control? The enthusiasm for this idea was just sufficient within Defense Research and Engineering to maintain prototype funding of the radar. Westinghouse won the flyoff and Boeing was selected to provide the carrier. The slowly turning 30-foot rotodome mounted atop the fuselage gave a space-like appearance to the converted 707-type aircraft.

General David C. Jones was given the responsibility to take the first airborne prototype to Europe for testing. He determined that it was not only possible to keep track of large numbers of friendly and potential enemy aircraft, but transponders could be placed on Army ground units so that the position of friendly fighters could be related to the ground war. General Jones returned from Europe greatly enthusiastic, only to find many skeptics at home. Among the issues that remained was AWACS vulnerability. Could the AWACS remain useful while far from the battle area?

While decisions on AWACS were still in question, I had a chance to demonstrate its capabilities to Ken Rush, the new deputy secretary of defense. We took off from Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington and flew a racetrack course above the District of Columbia at 35,000 feet. At this altitude, we were simultaneously tracking 450 commercial planes located all the way from New York to North Carolina.

Twenty years later, AWACS was in the Air Force inventory and [174] proved to be most valuable in coordinating air activities during Operation Desert Storm. The Air Force still hasn't demonstrated the effectiveness of AWACS in more intense engagements, but hopefully the need will never arise.

 

AX-The Tension of Roles and Missions

 

The development of the AX further validated the advantages of prototype procurement, and it also provided a good lesson in "roles and missions." Experience in Southeast Asia showed that both the Air Force and the Army needed to improve their close air support of ground forces. Air Force pilots flying high-speed aircraft were sometimes having difficulty locating much less hitting ground targets. The Air Force was thought to be ineffective. The Army was finding helicopters invaluable for transportation and rescue but had such limited firepower they couldn't destroy enemy outposts. The Army had a helicopter gunship under development that promised true combat firepower. But what about helicopter vulnerability in a battle zone? The Air Force suspected the Army of underestimating helicopter attrition rates and thus wanted hard data. When the Army response appeared favorable-that is, helicopters apparently could withstand battle damage-the Air Force claimed that the Army kept helicopters in their operational inventory if they could retrieve any identifiable part of the aircraft. In the vernacular, they would "keep the tail number if they could retrieve the wheels." In short, interservice rivalry was intense.

Two service secretaries entered this arena where angels should fear to tread. I met with my counterpart, Stan Resor, secretary of the Army. We agreed that a fixed-wing, close-support aircraft, the AX, was probably needed, and that the Air Force should be responsible for its development. A simple memorandum of understanding to this effect was signed by both parties.

The result was truly remarkable. General Ryan wanted me to rescind the memo by claiming I didn't understand the import of my actions. Stan Resor received similar recrimination from General William Westmoreland, the Army chief of staff, who claimed he was giving away the store.

I later heard that Stan had said, "Bob and I must have done something right. Both of our staffs told us that we had sold them down the river." Ryan was so upset, he sent the vice chief, General John Meyers, to see me as his emissary. He was afraid he would be too emotional if [175] he came himself. I attempted to explain my action. The Air Force was complaining about the Army's role, but had little say in the matter because it didn't have the effective tools of the trade. The Air Force began the procurement with little comfort on either side. In addition, Mr. Laird reportedly felt that if the Air Force developed a successful close-support aircraft, it would probably be transferred to the Army.

The requirements for the AX included ease of maintenance in the field, durability, a steel tub around the cockpit for pilot protection against small arms, and a 30-mm Gatling gun the size of a Volkswagen in the nose. There were two strong contenders, Northrop and Fairchild Hiller, and they were both provided funds to build two prototypes. Northrop built the A-9, and Fairchild handled the A-10.

Carefully selected pilots were given the job of flying and scoring the two airplanes. Fairchild not only won the flyoff, but their aircraft with two outboard engines was given high marks for maintainability. The announcement of the winner drew criticism on many fronts. Senator Lowell Weicker from Connecticut, the home of Lycombing, the engine manufacturer for the A-9 aircraft, was quick to point out that the outcome must have been influenced by Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York and Vice President Spiro Agnew since Fairchild was located on Long Island and outside Washington in Maryland.

The plane was not sleek and beautiful-it earned its name the Warthog for good reason. More than 700 aircraft were produced, some of which saw service in Operation Desert Storm. Questions have been raised about the A-10's vulnerability and effectiveness. The role of the Air Force in close ground engagements is still an open issue.

 

Interdiction-The Mice Win

 

The Air Force had a variety of combat missions in Southeast Asia. General Abrams could designate an area each day for pattern bombing using B-52s at high altitude. F-4s and F-105s were used for reconnaissance, close support, strafing, and precision bombing of designated targets. The precision was much improved as the war progressed by the use of "smart" bombs. The most effective technique relied on a laser designator that illuminated the target and a traditional bomb with a laser homing device attached to its nose and movable fins attached to [176] the tail. The laser signal is projected onto the target from another aircraft or from the attacking aircraft itself. The homing device is locked on the signal and then the bomb can be released. The results were particularly effective on railroad bridges across rivers in North Vietnam.

But the most difficult Air Force assignment was the interdiction of supplies traveling down the Ho Chi Minh trails in the Laotian panhandle. The difficulty was caused by the unusual geography. Prior to World War II, Indochina was a French colony that included what is now Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The boundaries of these nations were determined on the basis of race, culture, topography, and history. Vietnam held all the shore line along the South China Sea. The middle section of Vietnam backed up against the Laotian mountains is in some places only 30 miles wide and is about 250 miles long. In order to effect a cease-fire in 1954, the French agreed to a division between the North and the South along the 17th parallel. This boundary was later expanded to form a demilitarized zone usually called the DMZ. Even after the cease-fire, the Viet Cong (VC) continued their insurrection in the South, and the North considered it in their interest to aid and abet the VC with a wide variety of military supplies.

The supplies were delivered to North Vietnam by rail from China and into Haiphong Harbor by Soviet ships.7 The resourcefulness of the Vietnamese moving supplies south cannot be overemphasized. When their rail lines along the coast were temporarily destroyed, they would enter the Laotian panhandle further north. Laos borders Thailand along the Mekong River, and its panhandle is 75 to 125 miles wide. The region is mountainous, with foliage and countless rivers and streams. The supplies moved south on Soviet trucks, and when the roads were under repair, on the back of animals and men. As the war in South Vietnam involved local harassment by the VC, not synchronized warfare, delivery wasn't usually time critical. The major battle at Khe Sanh was an exception.

Several technologies were used to stem the flow of supplies. The previous administration made a heavy investment in the development and placing of sensors along the myriad of trails. These took the form of probes that could be air-dropped and would penetrate the earth just deep enough that the antenna would remain above ground. The antennae were designed to [177] appear as small trees or bushes. There were a variety of sensors, including seismic, to measure the passage of trucks, people, and animals. Microphones were used to pick up the sounds of motor vehicles or even conversation. Signals from the sensors were transmitted to a control center just across the Mekong River in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. It was hoped to build up sufficient knowledge of supply routes and their frequency of use that aircraft could be dispatched to areas of activity in real time.

On occasion an audio device would be detected, and the excited conversation of the Vietnamese could be heard until the unit was destroyed. A particularly intriguing episode occurred when the parachute slowing the descent of a probe caught in a tree. The excitement of the Vietnamese rapidly increased, and then one of them could be heard climbing the tree and reaching for the device. There was suddenly a loud noise of splintering timber and a shriek, but the final outcome will forever remain in doubt; the sensor went off the air.

An adjunct to the Air Force and Navy fighter planes used to impede the flow of supplies was the gunship, which was introduced into Southeast Asia by the previous administration in 1965. A large opening was cut in the side of C-47s so that Gatling miniguns could be fired at the ground traffic as the C-47 circled overhead. By 1969 the Vietnam traffic flow was mostly at night, and the gunships were becoming more sophisticated, using both C-119 and C-130 aircraft.8 The development was strictly at the grass roots level, with Major Ron Terry at Wright Field, Ohio, in the lead. He was receiving little support from the Tactical Air Command. I called a meeting to discuss the lack of support with General Momyer and General Ryan. Momyer argued the gunship would not be effective in Europe because of its vulnerability. So why spend resources on a special mission not often encountered? I argued for increased effectiveness in an existing war, with the thought that Vietnam insurgency might not be unique in the future.

Ron Terry received grudging assistance. Ultimately, he installed 105-mm cannons in C-130 aircraft. A wide variety of infrared detectors and displays were used for locating trucks and aiming the guns.

 


[
178]

Map of Southeast Asia during the conflict. U.S. airbases are indicated in the smallest type.

Map of Southeast Asia during the conflict. U.S. airbases are indicated in the smallest type.


 

[179] When a truck filled with weapons was hit, the explosion registered clearly on the infrared screen. For an extended period trucks were being tracked down and destroyed at a rate of 150 to 200 per night. It is estimated that, by the spring of 1972, 24,500 trucks had been destroyed. Suddenly, the trucks disappeared. We never determined whether the Vietnamese concealed roads, used other forms of transportation, or reduced the flow of supplies. It was a cat-and-mouse game, and the mice apparently won.

 

The B-1-Big League Competition

 

General McConnell was anxious to get the development of the B-1 bomber under way, so he made an appointment with Packard to discuss the issue. I came to the meeting not too well-grounded in the subject but recognizing

that the B-52s were twenty to twenty-five years old and would need to be replaced in a decade or so. I also felt that preliminary design studies such as those on AMSA (Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft) were expensive and a slick way to avoid decisions. At the meeting, McConnell agreed to cancel further production of the planned fleet of 250 FB-111s. The bomber version of the F-111 had limited load capacity and range and was not a true strategic bomber. It was agreed to initiate plans for a new strategic bomber, the B-1.

Missiles can be land based and delivered with great accuracy, or aboard submarines hidden under the sea and launched with precision depending primarily on the submarine's navigational accuracy. However, missiles, unlike a bomber, cannot be recalled once launched. And missiles also lack the flexibility of carrying a wide variety of small or large warheads. So bombers continue to be part of the U.S. inventory in the age of missiles, constituting the third leg of the so-called Triad (the other two legs are the land-based and submarine-based nuclear missiles).

Before a bomber reaches its target, it must penetrate the nation's land mass, which in the case of the Soviet Union was heavily fortified. Simulated tests against our own defenses showed the advantages of high speed and low altitude, preferably under 200 feet. Cost projections favored high subsonic speeds rather than supersonic by a wide margin (Mach 0.95 compared with Mach 1.1). Another large cost factor was the use of a swing wing. Although more complicated, this [180] configuration reduced size and power requirements. Consideration was given to a titanium, rather than a steel, carry-through structure to support the wing pivots. However, the weight saving didn't justify the sharp increase in cost.

Our experience with the F-111 was clearly beneficial to the design of the larger swing wing aircraft. Like the F-111, supersonic speeds would be obtainable at high altitude although this was not a basic requirement. Two big issues remained: the avionics and the procedure for bailing out prior to an imminent crash. I took the lead on the electronics, with Jack Ryan on the escape system. Our overall objective was to provide a bomber that would be sufficiently low cost to be accepted by the public and with performance suitable for the Strategic Air Command, in the 1980s and beyond.

Every new airplane is going to have equipment, such as avionics, added later. It's a mistake to add all conceivable equipment at the start and run up excessive costs due to development difficulties and ensuing delays. So we tried to keep the avionics simple. We thought we had made good decisions on the avionics, and then we started to get disturbing signals. We were trying to keep the unit price down to $4 million. The avionics team came in and said, "We can't guarantee it, but we think we're up to at least $8 million."

We just had to take a "meat axe" approach. One of the requirements resulted from the need to fly long distances "on the deck" (at low altitude) with sufficient precision that the radar could determine position along a coastline. If the plane flew at an altitude of only 200 feet until near the coast and then climbed to 400 feet, it made a tremendous difference in the navigation error that could be allowed and still distinguish landmarks along a coastline with reasonable probability. By relaxing the requirement, we no longer needed new inertial navigation systems; rather, we could use commercial equipment. The lessening of this requirement saved lots of dollars.

Another cost-cutting example was the B-1 escape capsule. One of the initial requirements was the ability to escape at very high speed and low altitude even from a tumbling aircraft. The escape capsule became much like a reentry vehicle but stabilized aerodynamically with spoilers, flaps, and brakes. General Ryan had to decide whether to continue with the capsule or change to a conventional bail-out [181] procedure using individual parachutes. He concluded that there would seldom be the need to eject at 720 miles per hour (Mach 0.95) "on the deck." By changing the requirement to being able to eject at speeds less than 450 mph, the capsule became much simpler and cheaper to build. The cost was reduced, and from a development standpoint the capsule was no longer "the long pole in the tent." The B-1 development was canceled during the Carter administration in favor of the B-2 stealth bomber. Its stealth permits it to hide from enemy radar and hence penetrate and approach targets without alerting ground defenses. Even more recently, 100 B-1s were produced and added to the strategic inventory in the Reagan years.

A highly classified visit to the Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Nebraska, could reveal the SIOP (Single Integrated Operational Plan). This plan spelled out each target in the Soviet Union that would be attacked in the event of a nuclear war. The plan designated the tonnage, the specific delivery missile or bomber, and the routes the bombers would follow. Each missile wing, submarine, and bomber would be provided its specific assignments in the event of a Soviet attack. It is truly awesome to contemplate the damage that would have been inflicted on both countries following a nuclear exchange.

I found there was a much less frightening tit for tat between U.S. and Soviet air attach»s. When the Bolshoi Ballet came to the Kennedy Center, the Soviet air attach» in Washington sent me front row tickets. Since I was going to be traveling on that date, I asked to have the tickets returned with a note of explanation and thanks. Just prior to this, the pregnant wife of one of our attach»s in Moscow had apparently been jostled at a Soviet reception. So my invitation was returned to the attach» in a willfully insulting way. A junior officer slammed the tickets on his desk and said, "The secretary wouldn't consider accepting your invitation."

When I found out this had happened, I discussed the stupidity with Jack Ryan, who agreed to help put a stop to the nonsense. Each year the U.S. Air Force took the foreign air attach»s to an active USAF base. That year the attach»s were going to SAC headquarters. Jack Ryan and I decided to include this particular Soviet attaché, a first. The air attach»s weren't shown much more than would have been seen by a Rotary Club, but the Soviet attach» was ecstatic. He was gloating because none of his superiors had ever had such an opportunity.

 

[182] DSS-The Unthinkable Alert

 

The U.S. and the Soviets held each other at bay for the 50-year cold war with "credible deterrents." The deterrent was based on another cold war concept, "mutually assured destruction." The Soviets had to believe that no matter how massively they attacked us, their destruction was assured. No matter how or when we were attacked, sufficient weapons would be delivered on their military and industrial centers that they could no longer function as a viable country. Our ability to counterattack hinged on reliable early warning.

A series of systems was erected to provide such warning. The first included radars and communication stations located along northern Alaska, Canada, and Greenland and was called appropriately the DEW line for Distant Early Warning. This system could give adequate warning against incoming bombers but had no capability to alert the U.S. of a ballistic missile attack. In the late 1950s, a large-scale effort was made to install BMEWS (Ballistic Missile Early Warning System). Large tracking radars were installed in Alaska, Greenland, and Scotland to detect Soviet ballistic missiles before they could reach the continental United States. This system led to one disquieting moment that served to place SAC on alert. Fortunately, the USA wasn't under attack; rather, the Moon was rising above the horizon. As the Soviet buildup continued with further construction of missile silos and increasing numbers of submarines stationed near our shores, deficiencies in BMEWS became obvious. The Defense Support Satellite (DSS) was built to fill this gap in our strategic defense.

DSS truly relied on advanced technology and for this reason gave me the most concern of all weapons systems under development. However, I needn't have worried. Aerojet General did an exceptionally fine job with the sensors, although security was so tight there was little public recognition. DSS was placed in a synchronous orbit in a position from which it could observe all rocket launches as they appeared above the Soviet atmosphere. By analysis of the gas-burning plumes behind the rockets, DSS could discriminate between known types of rockets. DSS also had the capability to count the number of rockets and to determine the destination of their payloads minute by minute. This knowledge would permit the President to be whisked by helicopter from the White House to the Airborne Command Post on [183] the runway at Andrews Air Force Base, ready for takeoff. When aloft, the Command Authority was much more secure than at the previous post located inside the mountain near Camp David.

The Airborne Command Post was fashioned from a Boeing 747. Information is received aboard from DSS, BMEWS, and all other available sources. Computers and electronic maps give the President real-time information on which U.S. targets are to be attacked. It is common knowledge that the "football" (a briefcase containing the launch codes for nuclear weapons) goes wherever the President goes. Using the "football" the President can order a nuclear counterattack by communications to the commands specified for this purpose. When aboard the Command Post, redundant channels are available for such dispatches. A nuclear war would be such a world disaster it's almost unthinkable. But only by such thinking could we continue to have a credible deterrent during the cold war.

 

Campus Life

 

With the Vietnam War on, it was a trying time to be secretary of the Air Force. With American campuses in an uproar over the war, it was probably even more difficult to be a student.

Our son Joe was in the Harvard class of 1970. In his junior year, there were antiwar riots in Harvard Square and in the Yard. I was out west visiting the Air Force Academy during one such happening. When I called Gene, who was in our Brattle Street house at the time, she said, "We've got some pretty bad things going on here. Joe came to supper to tell me about it."

"How does Joe feel about it?," I asked.

She said, "He thinks it's all nonsense."

"Well, I'm glad of that."

The next morning at about 5:30, the phone rang in my room at the Air Force Academy. It was my brother Peter, who said, "I just want to warn you as early as possible that when the police stormed into University Hall after midnight to break up the demonstrations, Joe was one of the students there."

"Well, Peter, I talked to Gene last night, and Joe was with her, saying the whole thing is nuts."

[184] "That may be," Peter said, "but on the front page of the Boston Globe this morning, there's a picture of Joe catching a young lady jumping out of University Hall. The caption refers to Joe Seamans, son of Secretary of the Air Force Seamans, and says he was at University Hall when the police came in."

It turned out that Joe had gone to the movies with some friends. Afterwards, seeing the bright lights in Harvard Yard, they had gone over to investigate. They found a guy with a bullhorn rallying anti-war sentiment, inviting fellow protesters to sit in at University Hall. Joe and his friends, obviously curious, went inside. At about three in the morning, the protesters got word over the radio that police were arriving at dawn. Joe said it was all sort of exciting until he saw real policemen coming up the stairs of University Hall-all of them appearing to be about six feet, six inches and dressed in riot gear. He found a simple solution: jump out the window. It was quite a drop, and he landed pretty hard. He saw a girl who had already jumped who appeared to have broken her ankle. He helped her, then tried to catch another girl jumping. Down she came, her skirts up around her head, and flash! went the camera. The reporter came up and asked Joe's name.

Joe said, "I don't want to get my father in any trouble." Of course, that did it. If he had said, "I'm Joe Smith," the paper never would have used the picture.

Before I went to Cambridge on the weekend, I said to Gene, "I want to talk to Joe." When I arrived, I put on some old clothes and bicycled all around Harvard Yard to see what was really going on. There were posters that looked as though they had been printed by Russian revolutionaries in 1917. When I finally met up with Joe, he said, "All of this is really confusing. It's so hard to figure out what's going on. I can't possibly study in my room at night. Somebody comes in asking me to sign a protocol, and I do so just to get them out of the room." His roommate was a member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). He said, "I go over to the Radcliffe library if I want to get anything done."

Then he went on to say, "I do wonder about the Cabots. You know, they own a lot of the land around the Harvard Medical School, and as a result they're making an awful lot of money supporting the school's land-acquisition process."

[185] "First of all," I said, "it's not the same Cabot. There are two Cabots. Cabot, Cabot, and Forbes are the ones in the real estate business. Tom Cabot, a very distant cousin, has done an awful lot for the Harvard Medical School, but he and his family are not getting anything out of the real estate. You know Tom Cabot. You grew up with his grandson. That charge is totally inaccurate."

Prior to Harvard, Joe had gone to Phillips Academy in Andover, where he was captain of the crew and became interested in cinematography. He not only got the art prize but also received a prize for his photography. While at Harvard, he took a number of courses in photography at MIT with the great Minor White. By the time he graduated cum laude in English, he knew he wanted to go into television.

He had trouble getting a job. After about two months he came down to Washington with his friend Andy Schlesinger, son of historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., to visit me. The two of them were picked up at the airport by my aide, Colonel Mike Cook, and arrived at my office looking dreadful! They had long hair, of course, and their clothes were a bit shabby. The military people who saw them were surprised by the lack of a Seamans dress code!

At Harvard Joe had met a young woman from Wellesley named Elizabeth ("Betsy") Nadas, who was a year ahead of him in school. Her father was the leading children's cardiologist in the country. Betsy had a job working with Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, the public television program produced at WQED in Pittsburgh. She wrote scripts for the show and played the role of Mrs. McFeely, the postman's wife. Betsy wrote Joe and said, "Why don't you come out here and go to work for Mr. Rogers? You probably won't make much money, but you'll have some fun." Joe worked for the program for three months without seeing a paycheck-pushing crates around and doing whatever needed doing-then finally went on the payroll. A few years after his arrival in Pittsburgh, he and Betsy were married at the Memorial Chapel in Harvard Yard. They now have two children. After leaving the show for a while, Betsy is back working part-time with Mr. Rogers, helping with a great variety of programs.

Joe's first big filmmaking opportunity came in 1976. As part of America's bicentennial, the National Geographical Society financed a film about Hokule'a, a catamaran that sailed from Hawaii to Tahiti [186] and navigated entirely by the traditional Polynesian method. Joe was supposed to be an assistant only, helping with pre- and postproduction. But when his boss, the cinematographer, boarded the ship and set out with the Hawaiians for Tahiti, he became immediately seasick. Before the ship had left the Hawaiian Islands, Joe had replaced him as cinematographer. The footage he took was so good that the resulting program was made thirty minutes longer than originally budgeted.

May followed Kathy to Dobbs. By the time she got there, she was faced with the same sort of uproar that her older brother Joe was having to deal with at Harvard. Coming home to Washington was no escape. There were all kinds of characters coming into town every Saturday and Sunday. Back at Dobbs, she didn't always hew perfectly to the line. In time, she fell in love with Gene Baldwin, who worked at the school. When we went to May's graduation in 1971, she told us she planned to marry. Plans already had been made for May to spend that summer in Mexico. We hoped that she would think over her decision, but it didn't work out that way.

May and Gene were married on August 27, 1971, while visiting the Baldwins. They had a daughter in 1978, but were divorced two years later. May came to Cambridge to live and married a very talented dentist, Elliot Kronstein, on October 11, 1986.

May has been trained as a hospice worker, and she helped set up a hospice for people suffering from AIDS. It has provided a wonderful final refuge for hundreds of people. She is licensed as a nurse's assistant and a home health aide. She is a gifted healer.

 

Globetrotting

 

When you're involved in the Air Force, flying is de rigueur. I did a lot of flying, visiting Air Force installations around the globe. The Air Force has many more bases than NASA had centers, so there was a lot of ground to cover. I made it a point in my four-plus years as secretary to visit nearly every major installation inside and outside the United States, and Gene accompanied me on about one-third of the journeys.

In the continental United States, or in conus, as it is called, I flew in a Jetstar, a high-performance airplane. It had four jet engines and [187] made very good time-a far cry from the Gulfstreams used at NASA. Outside this country we made use of a KC-135, initially designed for use as a tanker to refuel bombers. It had no windows in the fuselage. If passengers wanted to see what was going on, they had to sit between the pilot and the copilot. The belly of the plane, normally unfurnished, was cleverly outfitted with insertable modules for executive travel. One module contained tripledecker bunks, where sixteen could sleep on a long flight; the module behind that had four tables, each of which sat four for dining and conferences; and behind that were the galley and lavatory modules.

The military let me know that I ought to get to Southeast Asia as soon as I could. I took the first of many trips in May 1969. On a typical trip, it was a seven- or eight-hour flight from Andrews Air Force Base to Anchorage, but flying across five time zones, we got there before lunch. At that time there were a lot of small bases all over Alaska, particularly on the northern perimeter, as well as very large radars around Fairbanks, all of which kept track of what the Soviets were doing. In my different trips west, I stopped long enough in Alaska to visit many of them. From Alaska we flew across the Pacific to Tokyo, arriving at one of the three major U.S. Air Force bases near that city-often in time for dinner! From Washington to Alaska to Japan, the Sun never set.

On my Asian trips, we proceeded to Saigon via various routes. Sometimes we stopped in Okinawa, sometimes in Taiwan; sometimes we went through the Philippines. Quite a few times I went to South Korea, where we had many bases. I was lectured by the president of South Korea on the stupidity of the United States protecting Japan against Soviet aggression. He argued that the U.S. and South Korea were putting up major resources, while the Japanese weren't putting up a nickel for their own defense. Instead, they were using the money to compete economically against us. I didn't have a very good answer for him, except to say that the United States didn't particularly like the idea of having the Japanese rearm.

"Then why did you let the Germans?," he asked.

While in South Korea we, like many foreigners, were invited to a kee sing party. We went to a restaurant, where every guest had a lovely young woman assigned to him. While we had drinks, our respective ladies were [188] obliged to keep our glasses full. When we sat down on our haunches around the dining table, our ladies fed us. There was dancing with music; then at the prescribed time, perhaps ten o'clock, a whistle went off and the ladies left. Seemingly, they couldn't wait to get out of there!

On one remarkable trip we went into Taipei for a meeting with Chiang Kai-shek. He was an old man at the time, and his wife was ailing, so I did not meet her. We went for tea. I thought the meeting would last half an hour. Instead, we stayed two. Chiang had a lot of questions, then gave me a lecture. Sometimes he didn't agree with the translator's rendering of his Chinese into English, so he corrected him in English. When we were leaving, I said that I hoped to visit the museum which housed the art treasures taken out of mainland China. I had heard that it housed so much, it could have had a different exhibit every day for a year. It was past museum closing time, but Chiang said, "Don't worry, the museum will be open for you." I was given the grand tour.

I don't know how many trips I took from Andrews Air Force Base to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, just north of Saigon. Once when Gene came with me, we stayed in what was known as the Little White House inside Saigon. During our two days together in Vietnam, she visited (always with a flak jacket in her car) an orphanage, a "typical" home of a civil employee, a Vietnamese army hospital, and a rural school, where she was unexpectedly called on to make a speech. The street scenes were unforgettable to her, with their endless piles of trash and numerous little houses shingled with metal from beer cans. On that exhausting trip, we made fourteen stops in two weeks, going as far as central Australia. When we got home, Gene had a severe sore throat and had lost her voice and tummy, though not her head!

Other times I stayed at Tan Son Nhut, a huge base with more traffic flying in and out than is found at any major United States civilian airport. Our military presence there was massive. After a briefing with the commander of U.S. forces in Southeast Asia, General Creighton Abrams, and a meeting with our ambassador, Ellsworth Bunker, I flew up-country, where the Air Force had another seven major bases. One base in Da Nang was used for training the South Vietnamese-what was known in those days as Vietnamization. Tens of thousands were taught English, then taught to be mechanics, pilots, and navigators. Goodness knows what has happened to them all; they were well trained.

[189] We flew pretty close to the DMZ, or demilitarized zone, to take a look at the classified communications outpost on Monkey Mountain. Then we flew into Thailand and the big base at U-Tapoa, where the Air Force had large numbers of B-52 bombers. Fifty or sixty B-52s flew missions every night, each with over 100 bombs in its bays underneath. Then we flew on to Bangkok and visited two big up-country bases along the Mekong River. In later trips, I visited Laos, a never-never land if ever there was one. G. McMurtrie Godley, our ambassador, was in charge of all of the American interests there, a fact that was supposed to be sub rosa, though it was known to everybody. Godley was the person who had almost bought our house in Washington in June 1968, before the deal fell through. It wasn't until I was sitting in his living room in Vientiane that I found out what the problem had been. Our real estate agent had been unwilling to give his agents their share of the commission. Once before leaving Washington, I had received a back-channel communiqué that Godley's wife, who was Greek, was having a terrible time getting kitty litter for her pets. When I arrived at the front door of the embassy in Vientiane, my Air Force jeep was loaded with a 100-pound package of kitty litter tied with a great big red bow.

Godley took me on tours in his small twin-engine plane. Once we flew into the very mountainous northern region of Laos. The peaks are not that high-maybe 9,000 feet on average-but they are very steep and numerous, seemingly placed at random. The weather was terrible, and I finally convinced Godley that, much as I wanted to see Lon Tien, where the Hmong forces were centered, I could probably get along without it!

On my next trip to Laos, we did land at Lon Tien, and I was glad we had stayed aloft on the previous visit. The runway slopes upward toward a mountain, which precludes a go-round if the first landing is missed. When taking off, planes taxi to the high mountain end of the runway and take off going downhill in the opposite direction.

General Van Poa, head of the Hmong, met us in his jeep and drove to a receiving line of men and women dressed in ceremonial garb. There are five subtribes of Hmong, and Van Poa had a wife from each to avoid hurt feelings. I never found out whether they were in the receiving line.

Before lunch Ambassador Godley and I were greeted by all the [190] Hmong present in a unique ceremony. We sat on our haunches, and each guest passed by on all fours, providing us with an egg and a jigger of white lightning. Then each tied a good-luck string around our wrists. Fortunately, after several Hmongs had gone by, Godley whispered to me, "You don't have to eat and drink it all!"

After lunch, we went to Plaine des Jarres (Plain of Jars), where the Hmong had been fighting the North Vietnamese for years. The jars were everywhere, man-sized and carved out of stone. Nobody knows how these ancient relics came to be there. We also saw fourteen-year-old boys on the battlefield carrying rifles taller than themselves.

Several days later, I attended the king of Thailand's annual garden party for the diplomatic corps. Ambassador Leonard Unger asked if I would like to attend and if so to bring my white tie and tails. The garden was in the middle of the palace grounds. Each diplomatic team was lined up by seniority, with no more than two guests standing behind each ambassador and his wife. As the king and queen proceeded along the line, each ambassador bowed and his wife attempted a low curtsey.

Later the king and queen separated, and introductions took place. I suggested to Len Unger that we visit with the beautiful queen first. When introduced, I explained my connection with MIT and said how happy we were to have her daughter studying there. Her face darkened, as she told me that her daughter had forsaken her heritage and would never return to Thailand.

Changing the subject, I discussed my trip to Laos and the strings still around my wrist. The queen explained that when she returned from Laos the strings went as high as her elbow. I decided I was not prepared to deal with royalty.

Of course, much of the Air Force's activities involved NATO, and Gene and I made several trips to Europe, ranging from Norway to Turkey, with many stops along our routes. An unusual trip taken without Gene started at our bomber base in Loring, Maine, on the Canadian border. Morale was excellent there even though the greenhead flies took visible chunks of skin from the unsuspecting. The next stop was Iceland, where we shared the Keflavik Airport with commercial aviation. As we were just below the Arctic Circle, the days were long, and service people were having great difficulty putting their children to bed.

Our northern route then took us up the west coast of Greenland, stopping at Sandrestrom at the end of a long, scenic fiord. From there [191] north to Thule the weather was worsening. The spectacular coastline and ice-filled ocean became less and less visible as we approached the airport, and there was also a strong crosswind. The pilot explained that, in landing, we would follow our glide slope until we reached an altitude of 200 feet. If at that point we didn't see the strobes guiding us to the end of the runway, we would go back. After a successful landing in "zero-zero" conditions (zero visibility), it took great skill for the pilot to taxi to the terminal on the icy runways. The base commander couldn't believe we were able to land. The base was in a "class-four" whiteout, in which not even ground vehicles are allowed to travel.

Such conditions can last several days, but fortunately for us the weather cleared later that evening and we went on a tour of the various BMEWS facilities. A large 500-foot fixed antenna is situated on the promontory that faces north towards potential incoming missiles. Looking north the eye could see nothing but a sea of ice and snow.

From Thule, we flew directly to Fairbanks, Alaska, in just three-and-a-half hours. This part of the trip was of particular interest to Bob Mateson, a Washington friend originally from Minnesota. In the course of many summers he had canoed the northernmost rivers in the hemisphere-from the Hudson Bay, west across Canada, over the divide, and down the Yukon into Fairbanks. I wanted his views on how the Air Force was handling environmental issues. As a consequence of my inspection with Bob, the Air Force removed and sold for scrap over two million fuel drums that had accumulated at its bases in Alaska.

On this trip, we inspected BMEWS facilities near Fairbanks that were similar to the ones at Thule. We then flew to a fighter base in Galena on the banks of the Yukon. Bob Mateson was especially anxious to meet a particular Indian guide who was famous for his knowledge of the region. During the two-hour period when Bob was with him, the river rose six to eight feet around the guide's house. Bob was advised not to canoe on the lower Yukon, as silt can fill clothing and drown a person in minutes. However, he was undeterred and made the trip the following summer. After touring Alaska, we flew home by way of Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, where there is a major ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) installation.

Gene and I took another memorable trip, to South America. First stop was Panama, where the South American command is located. We [192] met the Army people who ran the canal, and Gene had a chance to operate a lock as a ship was passing through. Then we flew on to Caracas, Venezuela, where we stayed with the ambassador. This was the first time we were made aware of terrorism firsthand. When we went to a local club for some tennis, we were escorted by a station wagon in front of us and another just behind, both carrying heavily armed bodyguards. Guns could be seen sticking out of the two vehicles in all directions. While we played, there were men on all sides of the court holding drawn guns. Our ambassador told us that he always carried cyanide pills, in the event he was taken hostage.

From there we flew to Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, and Buenos Aires, where a general strike was in progress. We could not get a car through to our embassy, so Ambassador John Lodge (brother of Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.) came over to our hotel to chat with us. The president of the country kindly loaned us his plane so that we could fly to Cordova, location of the training facility for Argentinean pilots. The next day the Lodges gave us a very elegant dinner party. Ambassador Lodge, who was so handsome he could have been a movie actor, had a beautiful voice and loved to sing at parties. After he sang for us, he unexpectedly called on Gene. She stood up in front of that group of seventy-five jeweled strangers, with her foot in a cast and the musicians poised. Then, God bless her, no words came out! (She later admitted to stage fright.) My military assistant, Colonel Cook, who also had a very nice voice, immediately jumped up and sang "Hello, Dolly!" with her, saving the day. From Buenos Aires we traveled to Lima, Peru, where the Peruvian government flew us to join a National Geographic trip to Cuzco and Machu Picchu.

Another time we went together to Mexico City. Gene and I knew the ambassador, Bob McBride, a personal friend of the president of Mexico. The president finally said he would see me, but only as a friend of the ambassador, not in my capacity as the secretary of the Air Force. The McBrides took us over to call on him. As it was customary to exchange gifts on such occasions, Gene had brought along a hooked rug and a quilted pillow from a store in Georgetown, Massachusetts-crafts she especially enjoyed giving on our various foreign trips. She had written a description and history of them and, before a given trip, had it translated into the languages of the countries we would be [193] visiting. When the president and his wife opened their package, things changed. All of a sudden they were very open and friendly, offering to show us the presidential mansion and, a Mexican custom, the family shrine in their basement honoring their dead.

 

The POWs Come Home

 

One of the biggest heartaches during my term as secretary of the Air Force was knowing that around 700 American flyers were incarcerated in Hanoi and were being treated badly. Yet the POW (prisoner of war) crisis also resulted in one of my most satisfying Air Force experiences, one I wouldn't have fully enjoyed if I had resigned when Elliot Richardson and I first discussed the matter.

Our family took a ski vacation to Vail in 1970. There were nine of us in the party, which meant there was always an odd person out when we paired up for the two-passenger chairlifts. Once when I was the odd person, I paired up by accident with a handsome woman named Joan Pollard. She asked me what I did. I said I worked in Washington.

"As what?"

"Secretary."

"Secretary of what?"

"Of the Air Force."

By the time we had reached the top, she had told me that her husband, Ben, was an Air Force navigator, that he had been captured by the North Vietnamese six years before, and that she was head of the Colorado POW-MIA (missing in action) families. Joan Pollard was a very interesting person, and getting to know a POW wife brought the tragedy even closer to home. We corresponded, and when she came to Washington on POW-MIA business, I invited her to my office. We were telling the families everything we could, but it was nice for me, and I hope for her, to have this personal contact.

Finally the great day came-February 14, 1973-when the Air Force was allowed to send C-141s into Hanoi to pick up our prisoners of war. For each planeload there was a manifest, which was relayed to me as soon as a plane left the ground in Hanoi. I checked list after list without finding Ben's name. Then on the very last [194] manifest-there it was! I called Joan in Colorado and said very emotionally, "Ben has left Hanoi."

A week or two after I had left the Air Force, a large White House dinner was held for the POWs and service people involved in their release. John McLucas, the new secretary of the Air Force, felt very strongly that I should be invited, but H. R. Haldemann was absolutely adamant that I not be included. Though I would have been very gratified to share in the moment, considering all that came later I consider Haldemann's rejection a great compliment. We have stayed in touch with the Pollards and greatly admire not only Ben's conduct in prison-where he somehow managed secretly to build a slide rule and teach engineering to his fellow inmates-but also his adjustment to freedom and his renewed family life.

 

Leaving the Air Force

 

By law, the secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force are in charge of managing their departments-overseeing budgets, development and procurement of equipment, training of forces, and so on. They are not, however, in the chain of command on military operations, which passes from the President through the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the forces in the field. So while I shared in the responsibility, I was not directly involved in decisions on national policy or the conduct of the war.

However, I could and did make my views known. In my second year in the Air Force, I was invited to the White House to discuss the Pentagon budget with the President, Henry Kissinger, Mel Laird, and the other service secretaries. Resor, Chafee, and I were given six minutes each to make presentations. The Air Force, being youngest of the armed services, always goes last; so I waited while Resor and Chafee talked. Their discussions concerned morale and a perceived need for some sort of White House ceremony to honor our military heroes.

I felt that, with the country groaning out loud over Vietnam, we ought to be able to have a candid discussion about what was really going on. I said at the meeting that it ought to be recognized at the policy level that we were paying a heavy price for what was happening in Southeast Asia and that our national security was being jeopardized. The simple way of looking at it, I said, was that we were providing the [195] South Vietnamese people with all kinds of equipment, which we would not have available to us in the event of a flare-up elsewhere in the world. Perhaps more important, I said, was the difficulty we were having recruiting good people. ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) programs were being canceled at our best universities. When I was through, I got a twenty-five-minute sermon from the President on the domino theory and other theoretical justifications for the war. He ended by saying that if I didn't feel I could handle the job of secretary of the Air Force, there were plenty of other people who could.

After two years at the Air Force, I considered resigning. For me, it was a question of how much longer I wanted to participate, how much longer I felt I could contribute. While skiing at Vail, I drafted a letter, which I read to our assembled family. It wasn't a letter of resignation. Instead, it said that unless America made every effort to disengage itself from Vietnam at the earliest possible date, I would resign. I gave the letter to Laird. He liked the fact that I was willing to take a stand and told me so. In fact, he told me that he was putting what weight he could behind the notion of an early and speedy disengagement.

In 1972, just before Nixon's reelection, Robert N. Ginsburg, the two-star general in charge of Air Force public affairs, felt that both General Jack Ryan (the chief of staff) and I should individually meet "off the record" with key members of the media. We invited some leading members of the press to a cocktail-dinner party at Ginsburg's house. After dinner, we sat around in Bob's living room, and they fired questions at me.

At about eleven o'clock, someone said he had just one more question before leaving. What was the chance that, if we were to meet here three years later, the war would still be on? If I had had any sense, I would have said, "You may be here, but I won't." Instead, I recapitulated the reasons why I thought we would be pulling out soon-Vietnamization, the peace negotiations, and so on. Then I added, "If you ask me, 'Is there any possible chance we'll be there three years from now,' I'd have to say, 'Yes, there is that possibility.' "

On my way home in the car, the radio news announced that a high-ranking civilian in the Air Force said there was a good chance America would be in Southeast Asia another three years. Subsequent stories embellished this one. By the time the next issue of Time magazine came out, it stated categorically that Robert C. Seamans, Jr., [196] secretary of the Air Force, predicted we would be in Southeast Asia for three years! I was on the White House blacklist thereafter.

About three days after Nixon's reelection, all presidential appointees within the Defense Department were called into Laird's office. He told us we were all receiving identical letters from the President, as were political appointees in every department and agency. He had the letter read to us. It asked for our resignations, so that the President would have the flexibility he needed to make his second term as effective as possible. Laird then advised us all to give him a signed note, tendering our resignations. He said he would then call the White House and say he had the resignations in hand. "Then," he told us, "when you really want to resign, write me an appropriate letter."

Laird himself resigned shortly afterward. I was en route to Southeast Asia and Antarctica9 when I received a communiqué saying that Elliot Richardson had just been appointed to replace Laird and that he wanted to speak with me. I called him and told him my itinerary for the next two weeks. I told him I would turn around and come back if he needed to speak with me immediately.

He said, "No, that sounds like a great trip. By all means, go ahead with it. But," he added, "what's up between you and Haldemann?"10

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I find that the White House, in effect, wants your head."

"As a matter of fact," I told him, "I do want to get out of the Air Force." "Well," he said, "I've heard that you have an opportunity to head up the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute."

I told him that it wasn't definite but that I had been talking with Lawrence Rockefeller about the possibility.

When I returned from my trip, the Sloan-Kettering opportunity did not pan out. I told Elliot that I did not have an immediate need to resign. But early in 1973, I wrote him, saying that I wished to resign from the [197] Air Force in May. I had just been nominated president of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), which was holding its annual meeting in Washington during the first week in May, and this seemed a good time to make the transition. Ironically, Elliot Richardson left the Defense Department before I did, to become U.S. attorney general.

As I prepared to leave the Air Force, I thought of all the talented and dedicated military and civilian individuals with whom I'd worked. I attempted to say good-bye while offering thanks by visiting several commands during my last week in office. I went to the headquarters of Strategic Air, Tactical Air, Airlift, Logistics, and Systems Acquisition Commands. Flying from one base to the next, I thought of our accomplishments and failures.

The most perplexing was our role in Southeast Asia. Our job there was finished and that was a blessing, but what had been accomplished? Could South Vietnam continue on its own without U.S. military involvement? Even so, was it worth the many American and Vietnamese lives? It was difficult even then to realize the magnitude of the casualties sustained during eight years of fighting. For an extended period, more than 300 body bags were filled and returned to the United States every week. Of course the public was greatly upset.

I remembered the rioting in Chicago at the time of the Democratic Convention in 1968, the shooting at Kent State University, the burning of American flags, and the trashing of ROTC classrooms. I believe there is general agreement now that our military intervention in Southeast Asia was a mistake. There has been a loss of confidence in our leaders. The public is much more skeptical of government than prior to our involvement in Asia. How did this happen?

Before addressing this question directly, it should be kept in mind that both the Johnson and Nixon administrations were faced with the deadly serious cold war. They had to consider the possible impact of their actions on responses by the Chinese and the Soviets in unison or separately. In addition, President Nixon didn't want to upset his delicate plans for opening relations with China. With that said, let me make a few personal observations with the benefit of twenty-twenty hindsight.

The McNamara-Johnson idea was to keep raising the ante. They reasoned that at some point, the communists would break. On the contrary, the more the communists were pounded, the greater their resolve became. [198] Johnson and McNamara were also naive in their belief that they could hold back communism by fighting the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army primarily in the South while attempting to close the supply routes through Laos.

It was the Nixon-Kissinger view that we should withdraw from Southeast Asia, but only by first strengthening South Vietnam so that it could go it alone. I believed in and supported Vietnamization, as this policy was called. However, this policy by itself didn't permit withdrawal rapidly enough. U.S. casualties during the Nixon administration (21,000) amounted to 36 percent of Americans killed during the war.

The only way to have prevented a communist takeover was to conduct an operation similar to Desert Storm, the successful thwarting of Iraq's plans to take over Kuwait in 1992. We had to attack the North Vietnamese forces and their supporting infrastructure at home. We did take such action but much too late and only when the North Vietnamese reneged on the 1972 peace accords. Although highly controversial at home, the so-called Christmas bombing of selected targets around Hanoi and the mining of Haiphong Harbor immediately brought the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. Early in the war, shipments along the rail lines from China to Hanoi could have been the Air Force's number one assignment, and Haiphong Harbor could have been blockaded by the Navy. Intercepting supplies and weapons in transit through Laos was nearly impossible, however. Moreover, trying to do so placed no direct pressure on North Vietnam.

If the risks of more direct attack on North Vietnam were felt to be too great, the only other option was to negotiate a U.S. withdrawal. President Nixon felt that South Vietnam would fall if the United States withdrew and that the whole area would be subject to a communist takeover according to the domino theory. Furthermore, he felt that the United States would be judged an unreliable ally in the world arena. I can only comment that this perception of the Untied States would, even if it existed, be temporary, but our extended stay in Southeast Asia was a permanent loss at home. Today, the United States is the only superpower. We do have broad responsibilities in our own interests as well as in the interests of the world community. That said, it is my strong belief that we should never again risk the lives of thousands of our young men and women unless the future of our country is directly at stake.


1 I never did become Laird's deputy. Mel named me for the post after Packard's two-year hitch, then nominated Curtiss Tarr, head of the Selective Service System, to move into my office at the Air Force. Word came back from the White House that they didn't like this change. It was finally decided to make Ken Rush, our ambassador to Germany, Mel's deputy, and I remained secretary of the Air Force.

2 Senator Symington (D-MO) telephoned me several months after I left the Pentagon to ask me if I would voluntarily testify on this subject. General Ryan confirmed at the committee hearing that I had been excluded from information about the bombing by higher authority. Senator Symington asked me if I found this upsetting. I told him it made me "damn mad," especially since I'd signed a report to Congress saying that the bombing in Cambodia was limited and inadvertent.

3 For comparison with NASA's source selection, see the "Long Hours, Hard Work" section in chapter 2.

4 About a month after my arrival, I started picking up rumors of the MOL demise. I asked Mel Laird for a day in court if such was under consideration. My day arrived on Saturday afternoon when General Stewart and I met with Laird, Kissinger, and President Nixon in the Oval Office. Kissinger called on Monday to tell me I had made an excellent presentation, and on Tuesday MOL was canceled.

5 Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister at the time, was at the airport to greet the first Galaxy. When the plane's nose lifted and two tanks emerged, she reportedly was deeply moved and bent over to kiss the ground.

6 For both logistical and operational purposes, aircraft are identified by the number normally painted on the tail.

7 The North Vietnamese also used Sihanoukville in Cambodia as a port of entry for supplies distributed primarily in the Mekong Delta area south of Saigon.

8 The Air Force names for the gunships were "Spooky", "Stinger", and "Spectre" when using, respectively, the C-47, C-119, and C-130 aircraft.

9 Guy Stever and I met at the Air Force facility in Christ church, New Zealand. There we and our party were fitted out with the necessary boots, parkas, and other gear for the Antarctic. The flight to McMurdo Bay aboard a C-141 took four-and-a-hours. While there we visited a penguin rookery, the South Pole station, the Soviet base at Vostok, and the New Zealand station, while flying in a C-130 equipped with skis.

10 Nixon's chief of staff H.R. Haldeman.


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