To all our members, it is so great to be back to the business of executing AAAA presidential duties after addressing a
pesky medical issue for the past few months. So much so, that I had the honor and privilege of attending a day (May 30) of
the ARSOAC and 160th SOAR activities at Fort Campbell, KY, which included a special and impactful Memorial Service
where they honor their fallen. Many thanks to BG Wilkenson and COL Waleski for having me be among their amazing
community of Night Stalkers… and for the opportunity to induct Mr. Steve Blasey into the Gold Order of Saint Michael.
Steve is a true patriot, who has given 40 years of selfless service to our Army, Army Aviation, and most especially to Special
Operations Aviation. A great way to get back to business!

With that, I have asked our Senior VP, MG Wally Golden, Ret., who so capably and professionally executed the 2024
Denver AAAA Annual Summit, to provide our members with a brief report on how things went. I want to personally
thank him for his efforts, and of course for the efforts of Bill Harris and Janis Arena and the entire AAAA professional
staff, for their incredible planning and execution of the Summit. Wally, I owe you a Cribbins or a Summit in 2025/26!!!

MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA


Mr. President, I am happy to report that the 2024 AAAA Annual Summit was an outstanding success in the face of some
pretty significant challenges. The mitigating actions that our team put together to avoid the experiences of other large
military associations in the Gaylord Rockies all worked!

Those actions included a very well-run busing system, increased exhibit space in a large heated and airconditioned tent
on the concrete apron adjoining the main exhibit hall, food trucks to augment the building’s food outlets, an amped up
registration process, and increased police security and parking lot management.

Never once was there any backed up traffic and we never maxed out the available parking thanks to our attendees who
heeded our pre-event instructions and used the bus system to and from the 22 overflow hotels and the Gaylord Rockies.

I sat in all the meetings with the hotel management and staff with our team and the coordination was impressive.

GEN Laura Richardson gave a landmark Keynote that hit all the key points from the cancellation of Future Attack
Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, (UAS) and the way ahead for Army Aviation.

Although unable to attend at the last minute, the Honorable Gabe Camarillo, Under Secretary of the Army, sent a video
message that spelled out the DA vision for the future and rationale for cancelling FARA.

LTG Mary Izaguirre, Surgeon General of the Army was truly outstanding in her presentation on the realities of what we
face in near peer Large Scale Combat Operations in terms of casualty evacuation and forward medical treatment.

The Hall of Fame Induction Dinner was one of the high points as usual. I could not have been more proud to see two of
our foremost Aviation leaders, the former Chief of Staff U.S. Army, GEN Jim McConville, along with MG Jeff Schloesser,
be inducted. The heartfelt remarks by Viet Nam veterans, 2024 inductee CPT (Ret.) Ronald A. Radcliffe, and former CW2
J.O. Ratliff who represented 2024 inductee the late CPT Larry A. Taylor, Medal of Honor recipient, as his co-pilot for that
action, left us all in awe of their resilience, courage, and infectious enthusiasm for their times as Army Aviators.

The only downside I saw was the construction delay that prevented the large atrium at the Rockies Hotel from being open
during our event, but as usual our Army Aviators adapted and still had a great time.

Special thanks to our Branch Chief, MG Mac McCurry, who was with us all the way with his team and all the Aviation
GOSC members.

Finally, I want you to know that the selections for the AAAA President’s Award and the AAAA Soldier and Family
Award at the final concert could not have been better received. GEN J.D. Thurman was recognized for his decades of
support, vision, and guidance to the Army Aviation Branch. And Sadie and MG Mac McCurry got a well-deserved
standing ovation as they accepted the Soldier and Family award. From the looks on their faces, I am quite sure they were
all surprised!

Walt, you were missed for sure… especially by me. I look forward to a much more relaxing event next year at the
Nashville Opryland May 14-16 while I watch you run the show. With that, I will just say, “You have the Controls!”

Above the best.

MG Wally Golden, Ret.
Sr. VP AAAA
Editor’s Note: for a photo wrap-up of the 2024 Summit see pages 48-57.

Looking Back, June 2024
By Mark Albertson

80 Years Ago:
Operation: OVERLORD

“D-Day has come. Early this morning the Allies began the assault on the northwestern face of Hitler’s European fortress. The first official news came just after half-past nine, when Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force issued Communique Number One. This said: Under the command of General Eisenhower, Allied naval forces, supported by strong air forces, began landing Allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France. This is the BBC Home Service—and here is a special bulletin read by John Snagge.”[1]

* * * * *

The strategic significance of Overlord is greater than the standard popular narrative of the Longest Day; that of serving the vulgar Austrian corporal his eviction notice from France and the Low Countries so as to bring to a speedier conclusion Man’s greatest industrialized global conflict. For what transpired on June 6, 1944, as well as on December 4-5, 1941, followed two days later at Pearl Harbor, and August 6 and 9, 1945, are among those decisive military developments underscoring the changing nature of the global dynamics of power. For Man’s greatest industrialized war, Total War, did not commence on December 1, 1939; rather, by August 4, 1914.[2]

Map of the D-Day, June 6, 1944.

But Overlord, too, was a product of history: Spring 1862, General George McClellan was to land a huge Union Army on the Virginia Peninsula. According to the Assistant Secretary of War, John Tucker, “121,500 men, 14,592 animals, 1,150 wagons, 44 batteries, 74 ambulances, pontoon bridges, telegraph materials, and an enormous quantity of equipage, . . .

“In his account, McClellan’s quartermaster reflected Tucker’s report on the scale of the effort when he listed the craft utilized in the move to the peninsula: ’71 side-wheeler steamers, 57 propellers (craft equipped with propellers), 187 schooners, brigs and barks, 90 barges, making in all 405 vessels, of a tonnage of 86,278 tons.’”[3] Included, too, was a pair of balloons from Thaddeus Lowe’s Balloon Corps, providing McClellan with air superiority of a type. A monumental effort considering the time, perhaps, but, which only ended in failure. President Lincoln was seeking a knockout blow: Get to Richmond, the Confederate capital and end the war. Then, perhaps, be in a better position to enforce the Monroe Doctrine and evict the French from Mexico.[4]

The Peninsular Campaign was a failure, owing, in part, to a lack of intelligence as to an accurate strength of Confederate forces and the fact that General McClellan was a cautious plodder. This will enable the Confederates to concentrate the forces necessary under the command of Robert E. Lee and cause the evacuation of Union forces. The war would continue another three years.

April 25, 1915, a D-Day prior to Normandy will take place, on the Turkish peninsula, Gallipoli. This amphibious operation on the southern flank of the Triple Alliance was to accomplish a number of things: Circumvent the stalemate of the trenches on the Western Front and attempt a war of movement. Two, knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war and free up the Middle East. Three, persuade Greece, Rumania and Bulgaria to side with the Triple Entente. Four, open a needed artery into Czarist Russia and supply this ally on the Eastern Front and perhaps draw off German troops from the Western Front. Churchill even considered that some Turkish soldiers might agree to serve as mercenaries against their former German and Austro-Hungarian allies. Five, a naval control of the Sea of Marmara might well effect a combined effort by the Royal Navy and Russian Navy for an attack on the Danube.[5]

Ill-fated amphibious operation by the Allies against Turkey and Gallipoli, 1915.

The ill-fated British attempt to alter the course of the war failed. Like the Western Front, the campaign on the Turkish peninsula degenerated into a stalemate. Precious resources were squandered and men used up. And by early January 1916 the last of the invasion force was evacuated from Cape Helles, the most remarkable success achieved under the noses of the defending Turkish troops. The cost was some 256,000 Allied troops. The strategic cost can be seen with Czarist Russia. Failure to open up the artery of supply and gain control of the Black Sea will help to bring on the collapse of Czarist Russia as an Entente power and lead to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Bulgarians, seeing to the failure of the Allies in the Dardanelles and the decisive Austro-German victory over the Russians at Gorlice-Tarnow, May 1915, threw their lot with the Central Powers. Same will see to an Austro-German-Bulgarian campaign against little Serbia.

The political fallout shook the Asquith Government in Britain. Conservatives seeking equality in running the war resulted in Lord Balfour replacing Winston Churchill as head of the Admiralty. Lord Kitchener, now sporting a big political black eye, remained in the War Office, yet his control of munitions was transferred to a new ministry under the control of Lloyd George. And of course, British prestige was shaken with the withdrawal from Gallipoli.

Though OVERLORD occurred in 1944, political and military concerns of a significant magnitude were as real as they had been in 1862 and 1915 and play a role in the weighty decisions of the period in question. And the part played by D-Day in these weighty decisions of the period in question can be better appreciated by remarks made by FDR in January 1940. For the Good Neighbor Policy with Central and South America not only jumpstarted U.S. trade in this American sphere-of-influence, but at the expense of Axis Powers attempting to make inroads in America’s backyard. But what about Britain? Well in the words of President Roosevelt, January 1940, during a press conference concerning Britain’s plight, he speculated on the prospects of the United States: “As you know, the British need money in this war. They own lots of things all over the world . . . such as tramways and electric light companies. Well, in carrying on this war, the British may have to part with that control and we, perhaps, can step in or arrange—make financial arrangements for eventual local ownership. It is a terribly interesting thing and one of the most important things for our future trade is study it in that light.”[6]

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was cognizant of the changing nature of the global dynamics of power. After centuries of global political, economic and military dominance, the downward trend of the Europeans was hastening to its inevitable conclusion. And December 1941 was the turning point of Man’s greatest industrialized war.

* * * * *

On June 22, 1941, Hitler hurled 3,300,000 troops against the Stalin’s Russia. On the first day, the Luftwaffe destroyed 1,400 Soviet aircraft, 600 the next. In 48 hours, the frontline strength of the world’s largest air force was eradicated. On the first day, Hitler’s spearheads annihilated three Soviet infantry divisions and cut five others to pieces. 100,000 Soviet troops were off the board. In a week, Heinz Guderian, in command of Panzergruppe II, was already one-third the way to Moscow, some 200 miles deep inside the Soviet hinterland. In two weeks, the Soviets have more dead than the United States will lose over the entire conflict. In a month, the Germans have captured an area twice the size of their own country.

But the Russians were not the French. And, Stalin was certainly not another Edouard Daladier or Paul Reynaud. And by geographic comparison, France in Europe has two time zones, compared to eleven in Stalin’s Russia. And, of course, Russia has an ally, ever faithful to Russia be it Czarist or Stalinist, General Winter. And he will rise to the challenge to defend the Motherland in the Great Patriotic War against Hitler.

Turning Point

December 1941 was the turning point. Beginning on the night of December 4-5, 1941, with lead German spearheads no less than 15 miles from the Kremlin, General Georgi Zhukov launched a devastating counterattack in temperatures forty degrees below zero. Two days later, Japanese naval air attacks crippled the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Now it was truly a global conflict. A protracted clash of arms which both Nazi Germany and Fascist Japan could not afford to wage. Pearl Harbor was a defeat, yes. But it was a tactical defeat. But strategically it proved a boon to what will follow by 1945. For America and Americans will come together in a giant community scene not witnessed again since 1945.[7] But what had commenced in 1898, the Spanish-American War, the transformation of Manifest Destiny from an agenda of continental expansion to that of a program for globalism, had been achieved by 1945. Indeed, by 1942, the two nations that will eventually win the Great War were beginning to take control of it. For instance, the Soviet Union.

In 1941, losses in the face of the initial German onslaught were staggering: 3,137,673 killed and missing; 1,336,147 wounded and sick for a total of 4,473,820 casualties.[8] Yet despite such losses, the Soviets were slowly taking control of the land war by attrition. Take 1942, Germany produced 5,997 tanks and assault guns.[9] By comparison, the Soviets will produce—without assistance from its Western Allies—24,668 tanks and assault guns (including 13,500 T-34s, the best Allied tank produced).[10] After all, Chelyabinsk and the Urals was the world’s greatest tank producing combine, not Detroit.

Yet it is America that is the Arsenal of Democracy. An economic dynamo that will out-produce all comers in almost every category, except tanks and artillery pieces, again these categories go to the Soviets. However overwhelming American superiority is seen with warship production. An astounding 71,062 vessels were produced, from landing craft to aircraft carriers. As well as over 295,000 combat aircraft. And to add to an already weighty advantage, the United States and the Soviet Union were swimming in that one resource that is a requirement to wage and win mass industrialized war, . . . OIL. Or as Lord Beaverbrook (Baron Max Aiken) observed, The Kingdom of Heaven runs on righteousness; the Kingdom of Earth runs on oil. . .

1942 saw the United States beginning to change the course of the Pacific War, at Coral Sea and Midway. Then on August 7, the First Marine Division hit the beaches on Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Gavutu-Tanambogo in the Solomons, America’s first offensive land action of the war. That same month, on the Eastern Front, the epic battle of Stalingrad began. Both Stalingrad and Guadalcanal were battles of attrition that Germany and Japan could not afford to wage. By February 1943, the Germans had suffered a devastating defeat, losing enough war materiel to equip one-quarter of the German Army. While by the same time in the Solomons, both the United States and Japan each lost 24 men-of-war in those horrendous naval battles for Iron Bottom Sound. To which, of course, Japan lacked the industrial capacity to replace such losses compared to the United States, as well as trained crews.

1943, the Soviets will defeat the German Army in history’s greatest air-land battle, Kursk. More than 3,200,000 troops fitted out the orders of battle for both sides. This monumental Soviet victory charted the land campaign for the rest of the war. Meanwhile, the Western Allies had won in North Africa, taken Sicily and by September were on the Italian Boot. And, the Allied navies had decided which side would win the battle of the Atlantic, insuring the lifeline of supply to Britain.

The Tehran Conference, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met, November 28-December 2, 1943. Among the many issues discussed was that of the Allied invasion of northwest France. “The Big Three agreed on the Anglo-American plan to mount the second front between May (the preferred date) and early July, 1944.”[11] Two weeks afterwards, Stalin would launch an offensive on the Eastern Front.

June 6, 1944, 156,000 Allied troops dropped by parachute, crash landed by glider and hit the beaches on a front some 50 to 60 miles across along the Normandy coast. Thousands of ships and thousands of aircraft supported the landings in the greatest amphibious invasion in history. The Germans were now facing two Allied armies in Western Europe, in France and in Italy. And in concert with the bombing campaign against the Reich, Germany’s resources and ability to wage war was being ground down by the unremitting attrition by an economically superior coalition. Yet the bad news continued for Hitler and, certainly did not allow for any respite.

June 22, on the third anniversary of Operation: BARBAROSSA, Stalin launched Operation: BAGRATION, the largest Allied land offensive thus far in the war. Four Soviet armies struck on a front 450 miles across, later broadened to 650 miles.

Operation: BAGRATION, June 22, 1944, the largest Allied land offensive in thus far in World War II. Lead Soviet units will be on the Vistula River, on the approach to Warsaw. Stalin’s troops were only 350 miles from Berlin.

German Army Group Center had been a force of 52 divisions totaling 800,000 men, 553 tanks and assault guns, 9,500 artillery pieces and mortars and 839 combat aircraft. For their attack, the Soviets had an array of 118 infantry divisions, eight tank and mechanized corps, six cavalry divisions, 13 artillery divisions, upwards of 2,500,000 men, 4,070 tanks and assault guns, upwards of 28,000 artillery pieces and mortars and over 6,000 combat aircraft.[12]

On June 22, 1944, a thunderous barrage opened up the massive Soviet onslaught. And in eight weeks, some 28 German divisions were destroyed and upwards of half the manpower lost. German Army Group Center no longer existed. Not only was Belorussia liberated, but the Red Army was on the Vistula River, just outside Warsaw. Soviet tank armies were only 350 miles from Berlin. This was the prelude to overrunning Eastern Europe including Poland and then to taking Prague and Berlin.[13] And such was the object of the exercise.

In episode 25, The World at War, narrated by Sir Lawrence Olivier, showcased U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Averell Harriman. Harriman referenced a conversation he had had with Stalin following the defeat of Nazi Germany:

“Marshal, this must be a great satisfaction to you, after all the trials you’ve been through, the tragedy you’ve been through, to be here in Berlin.” The generalissimo eyed Harriman with a face as bland as the floor and replied, “Czar Alexander got to Paris.” Referencing, of course, Czar Alexander following the defeat of Napoleon.[14]

Despite the fact that agreements that had been rendered delineated where the armies would eventually halt, owing to the Nature of Man, none of what was agreed to mattered since it all depended, in the end, on to how long the struggling German armies could hold out. So landing troops at Normandy followed by the subsequent drive across the Continent into Germany assured that Western Europe would remain in the Allied camp in the postwar period. For France had a sizable Communist Party. Italy had a sizable Communist Party. Spain, despite Franco, had a Communist Party. Picture, if you will for a moment, how the Cold War would have looked with T-34s sitting on the Pas de Calais. Those men who risked life and limb at Normandy not only ended Fascist tyranny in Western Europe, they won the first big battle of the Cold War.

For it is as Joe Stalin observed, when in conversation with Joseph Tito and Milovan Djilas, “. . . whoever occupies territory also imposes on it his own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach. It cannot be otherwise.”[15]

Endnotes

[1] See page 9, “Introduction,” D-Day: ‘Neptune,’ ‘Overlord,’ and the Battle of Normandy, by John Falconer.

[2] There is no World War I or World War II, only the Great War, 1914-1922; 1931-1945. Armistice Day, November 11, 1918 and the Versailles Treaty, June 28, 1919, bought merely a respite from conflict in Western Europe. However in Central Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, conflagration and war still raged.

Otto von Bismarck’s once vaunted Teutonic Corporate State was in its death throes in 1919, what with the Rightist Freikorps on the streets combatting the Communists, while at the same time fighting vengeful Czechs and Poles on Germany’s eastern frontiers. The Russian Revolution had degenerated into civil war, 1918-1921. Newly-minted Poland, a short-term experiment of the horse-trading carried on at Versailles, desired more territory and invaded Ukraine, slaughtering Jewish people in a spreading pogrom as its army moved east; a preview, to be sure, of Himmler’s Einsatzgruppen in 1941 The Poles will be thrown back at Kiev by Trotsky’s Red Army. The vanquished Ottoman Empire saw its former holdings carved up and parceled out between the exploitive British and French, producing such colonies as Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan (Jordan), Palestine, and Iraq. Syrians rose up in 1919 to eject the French, but were crushed by 1920. Sunnis, Shias and Kurds in newly-minted Iraq rose up to throw out the British in 1920. They, too, were utterly defeated by 1921. Anatolia had been divided up by the greedy Italians, Greeks, British and French in a 20 th century crusade that will inflame the Muslim Turks. And in the 1919-1922 Turkish War for Independence, Kemal Ataturk and his army will kick out the Greeks, Italians, British and French and eliminate such colonial satrapies as Kurdestan and Armenia. And for good measure, the Afghans saw to the eviction of the British in 1922. 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne will fashion much of what we see today as the modern Middle East.

But it is the Japanese who will jumpstart the second chapter of the Great War with their invasion of Manchuria, September 7, 1931. Hitler assumed the Chancellorship of Germany, so as to become the ultimate heir to the Kaiser, January 30, 1933. 1935, Italy’s Sawdust Caesar, Benito Mussolini, invaded Ethiopia. That same year Hitler expanded the German Navy with the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, June 15, 1935 and, announced the Luftwaffe and expansion of the army, in violation of the Versailles Treaty. March 7, 1936, Hitler occupied the Rhineland, in violation of the Versailles Treaty. And in 1936, the Spanish Civil War, a tune up for 1939. 1937, Japan invaded China, precipitating an eight-year war that would kill some 15,000,000 Chinese. 1938, Hitler was able to absorb Austria and the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia into his expanding Reich. Then in March 1939, he dismembered the rest of the Czech state. Then on September 1, 1939, Hitler—with Stalin’s connivance—invaded Poland. And the second chapter of Man’s grandest industrialized war unfolded, enabling Levee en Masse to blossom, as if on steroids.

It was a conflict which transformed the global dynamics of power. No longer were the White Christian colonial powers of Europe able to dominate the globe. Only two nations were able to wage industrialized war, on the size and scope upon which Total War could be waged, the United States and the Soviet Union. For it will be the Soviet Union which will win the land war by crushing the German Army. Leaving the United States to virtually do almost everything else. To which a new balance of power will be created. Many who lived the era of this new balance of power called it the Cold War.

[3] See page 24, “A Talent for Logistics: McClellan and Grant Sustaining the Army of the Potomac in 1862 and 1864,” Leavenworth Papers No. 25, by Curtis S. King, Ph.D.

[4] The situation with the French will not be addressed until following the defeat of the Confederacy. President Andrew Johnson will send 50,000 battle-hardened troops down to the Texas border, under the command of Phil Sheridan. But events in Europe will prevent war between France and the United States. In 1866, Otto von Bismarck’s war against Austria to unite the German states under Prussia’s tutelage proved successful. Napoleon III knew now he had a united Germany on his eastern frontier. He evacuated troops from Mexico so as to bolster his army at home. And the French satrap, Emperor Maximilian, will fall to Don Benito Juarez.

[5] See pages 134 and 135, Chapter 7, “Stalemate and the Search for Breakthroughs,” The First World War, by Martin Gilbert.

[6] See page 311, Chapter 14, “The War Before the War (I),” The Forging of the American Empire, by Sydney Lens, 1974.

[7] Per the VA, total number of American service members, 1941-1945, amounted to 16,112,566. 405,399 would be killed. See page 1, “America’s Wars,” Department of Veterans Fact Sheet.

[8] See page 164, Chapter 9, “Conclusion,” Stalin’s Keys to Victory, by Walter S. Dunn, Jr. And these figures do not include civilian dead.

[9] See page 212, “Appendix 4: Production Statistics 1939-44,” German Tanks of World War II, by F.M. von Senger und Etterlin.

[10] See page 180, “Soviet AFV Production,” Russian Tanks, 1900-1970, by John Milsom.

[11] See page 31, Chapter 3, “The Road to Tehran,” Such a Peace, by C.L. Sulzberger.

[12] See pages 22-33, “The Opposing Armies,” Bagration 1944, by Steven Zaloga.

[13] It cost the Red Army 100,000 dead and 200,000 wounded to subdue the seat of Nazi gangsterdom. A major inducement for Churchill and Roosevelt so as not to risk the lives of Anglo-American troops.

[14] See episode 25, The World at War, narrated by Sir Lawrence Olivier.

[15] See page 114, II, “Doubts,” Conversations With Stalin, by Milovan Djilas.

Bibliography

“America’s Wars,” Department of Veterans Affairs Fact Sheet, Office of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.

Badsey, Stephen, The D-Day Invasion: Normandy 1944: Allied Landings and Breakout, Barnes & Noble, Inc., in arrangement with Osprey Publishing Ltd., New Yok, 2000.

Blizard, Derek, The Normandy Landings, D-Day: The Invasion of Europe, June 6, 1944, Bounty Books, imprint of Octopus Publishing Ltd., London2004.

Department of Veterans Affairs, “America’s Wars,” Office of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.

Djilas, Milovan Conversations With Stalin, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York, 1962.

Dunn, Walter S., Jr., Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army in WWII, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 2006.

Etterlin, F.M. von Senger und, German Tanks of World War II: The Complete Illustrated History of German Armoured Fighting Vehicles, 1926-1945, Lionel Leventhal Ltd., J.F. Kehmanns Verlag, Munich, Germany, 1968.

Falconer, Jonathan, D-Day: ‘Neptune,’ ‘Overlord,’ and the Battle of Normandy: Operations Manual, J.H. Haynes & Co., Ltd., Somerset, UK.

Gilbert, Martin, The First World War: A Complete History, Henry Holt & Company, Inc., New York, NY., 1994.

Keegan, John, The First World War, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1998.

Kimball, Warren M., Forged in War: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War, William Morrow Company, Inc., New York, NY., 1997.

King, Curtis, Ph.D., “A Talent for Logistics: McClellan and Grant Sustaining the Army of the Potomac in 1862 and 1864,” Leavenworth Papers No. 25, Combat Studies Institute Press, United States Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, August 2002.

Lens, Sydney, The Forging of the American Empire, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1974.

MacDonald, Lyn, 1915: The Death of Innocence, Henry Holt and Company7, Inc., New York, NY., 1993.

Marshall, S.L.A., Brigadier General, U.S. Army Reserves (Ret.), The American Heritage History of World War I, Dell Publishing Company, Inc., New York, NY., 1966. Originally published by American Heritage Publishing, Inc., 1964.

Milsom, John, Russian Tanks, 1900-1970: The Complete Illustrated History of Soviet Armoured Theory and Design, Galahad Books, New York, NY., 1970.

Sulzberger, C.L., Such a Peace: The Roots and Ashes of Yalta, The Continuum Publishing Company, New York, NY., 1982.

Zaloga, Steven, Bagration 1944: The Destruction of Army Group Centre, Campaign Series 42, Osprey Military, Oxford, United Kingdom, 1996.

Looking Back, May 2024
By Mark Albertson

“Jackie”

Her date of birth seems to be an open question, ranging anywhere from 1906 to 1911[1]  Date of death is fixed, though, as of August 10, 1980.  So is the place of origin, a small mill town in Florida, Muscogee.  And so was the name she was born with, Bessie Lee Pittman.

The Pittman family was mired in poverty.  Mr. Pittman, a journeyman worker, moved his family of seven from town to town throughout Florida and Georgia.

However Bessie, by the time she was eight, was working in a cotton mill, “where by the age of nine, she supervised the other children and earned five dollars a week.”[2]

By the age of ten, Bessie had quit school and, commenced working at a beauty shop that was family owned; to which her employers owned several such establishments.  And so while Bessie’s family moved back to Florida, she remained in Georgia learning the rudiments of the beauty trade.

Bessie moved to Montgomery, Alabama and, found employment in a department store beauty salon.  By fourteen she was married to a Robert Cochran, and within three months had a son, Robert, Jr.  But in need of money, Bessie quickly returned to work, with her son being taken care of by her family in Florida.  But Robert, Jr. died four years later.  Then her marriage to Robert Cochran came to an end.  So, with no immediate family ties to service, Bessie decided to change her life.

* * * * *

Bessie boarded a train bound for New York, arriving at Grand Central Station.  In a new city, she divorced herself from her brief but past life.  The new biography was that of an orphan, a stray who found her name in a phone book.  Her “foster family name” was not really hers at all.  It was a story Bessie stuck with for the rest of her days.  Indeed, for the most part, she never acknowledged her family.[3]  Thus, Jacqueline Cochran had been born.

Jackie found employment with Saks Fifth Avenue and, was soon splitting her time between New York City and winters in Miami.  With a good business sense, she built up a book of clients and contacts.  It was during this time that she met her future husband, Floyd Odlum, a successful venture capitalist who managed to preserve his wealth during the depths of The Depression.  And it was he who planted that seed about flying.  Air travel would open up the field of clients and contacts.

Jackie decided that she wanted to do more than just fly, how about becoming a pilot?  Having little in the way of formal schooling, Jackie enlisted the assistance of a friend who helped sharpen her reading and writing skills.  A willing student, Jackie accomplished in three weeks in what was normally a three month program of flight training.  She was now a licensed pilot as of August 17, 1932.

Jackie found her niche with air racing.  In 1938, she won the Bendix Trophy Race and was twice accorded the Harmon Trophy.  And by 1939, she was rated the top female flyer in the country.  And, with her own cosmetics lines, the enterprising Jackie marketed her products by flying creating, “Wings to Beauty.”[4]

But the resumption of the Great War was gathering momentum.  Beginning in 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria; Italy attacked Ethiopia, 1935; the Spanish Civil War, 1936, which proved a tune up for 1939; Japan invaded China, 1937; Germany absorbed Austria into the Reich, 1938; followed by the Sudeten Crisis, 1938; German break up of Czechoslovakia, March 1939 and finally, September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded western Poland, while the Soviet Army crashed into eastern Poland on September 17.

Jacqueline Cochran in the cockpit of a P-40 Warhawk, World War II.

Back in the United States, Jacqueline Cochran had been presented with the Aviatrix trophy by the International League of Aviators for the third year in a row.  But following the combined Nazi-Soviet elimination of Poland as an independent state, America’s premier aviatrix wrote to the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, in which she urged that women pilots will be required to take up the slack in a national emergency.

“In the field of aviation, the real bottleneck in the long run is likely to be trained pilots.  Women could be used effectively in all sorts of helpful back of the lines work, as for instance, in flying ambulance planes, courier planes, and commercial and transport planes, thereby releasing male pilots for combat duty.

“This required organization and not at the time of emergency but in advance.  We have about 650 licensed women pilots in this country.  Most of them would be little used today, but most of them could be of great use a few months hence if properly trained and organized.  And if they had some official standing or patriotic objective (rather than just around an airport occasionally for fun) there would be thousands more women pilots then there are now.

“Ms. Cochran noted that Germany, Russia, England and France had already begun to use women pilots in their air forces.  As for the United States, she did not believe that it was ‘public opinion that must be touched, but rather official Washington,’ particularly Army and Navy officials.”[5]

Early skepticism eventually gave way to serious concern and interest in the use of women pilots.  Indeed, Jacqueline Cochran participated in the flight of a Lockheed Hudson bomber to Britain; and once there, engaged in research as to the role of women in aviation in Britain.  She shared her experiences in Britain during a luncheon at Hyde Park with the First Lady.  And soon Jackie was assigned to the office of Colonel Robert Olds, commander of the Air Corps Ferrying Command.  Jackie was billed as the “tactical consultant,” and was assisting Ferrying Command in “collecting necessary data on which to base recommendations . . . relative to the feasibility of forming a corps of women pilots to ferrying military training type aircraft in the continental United States to relieve combat pilots for essential gunnery and bombing training.”[6]

The result will be two organizations:  Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Squadron or WAFS, directed by Nancy Love and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment or WFTD, directed by Jacqueline Cochran.  Then on July 5, 1943, the groups will be combined to form the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, directed by Jacqueline Cochran.  It will be disbanded on October 1, 1944.

Though Jackie never stopped flying, she finished the war as a correspondent.  Her husband, Floyd Odlum, purchased Liberty magazine.  And with use of this literary platform, she traveled the Pacific covering the war.  In Europe, she went to Buchenwald for a better understanding of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.  She covered the Trial of the Century at Nuremberg.  But for her service during the war, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.[7]

In 1946, she was back racing, her mount was a surplus North American P-51 Mustang.  That year she finished second in the Bendix Race.  She also set a new women’s speed record of 428.828 mph.

Jackie proved an ardent supporter for a separate air force, which will become a reality with the National Security Act of 1947.  In 1948, she was a commissioned lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves (seen as a consultant, for women will not be allowed to fly in the Air Force until 1976).

In 1952, Jackie was beginning to pilot jet aircraft.  She readied herself to become the first woman to break the sound barrier.  And her trainer, the man who broke the sound barrier in 1947, Chuck Yeager.  And he schooled her on flying the F-86 Sabre jet.

Jacqueline Cochran, standing on the wing of an F-86 Sabre jet, talking with Chuck Yeager and Canadair chief test pilot, Bill Longhurst.

“On May 18, 1953, Jackie and Yeager took off, each in an F-86.  As Jackie began to near Mach 1 (the speed necessary to break the sound barrier), she saw shock waves roll off of the canopy of her aircraft.  As she hit Mach 1, two sonic booms shook the ground beneath her while the air around her fell silent.  When she landed, Jackie learned the men in the tower had not heard the sonic booms to confirm her feat.  Undeterred, she took to the sky that afternoon and reached Mach 1 again.  That same day, Jackie set another world speed record for a 100-kilometer course.  Jackie was not done with setting records, and with limited time left to use the Sabre, she broke several more records over the next week.  When the week was over, she held all but one principal world speed record at the age of 47.”[8]

In 1964, she “went on to set a world speed record of 1,429 mph.[9]  She also received her helicopter pilot’s license at age 61.  But by the end of the 1960s her long and exciting career was over.  She also retired from the Air Force Reserves in 1970 as a colonel.

In 1976, her husband of many years, Floyd Odlum, died.  Jackie will follow on August 10, 1980.

Endnotes

[1]  Interesting commonality she shares with another famous lady, the Oscar-winning actress, Joan Crawford.  However, different sources have different dates as to Bessie’s birth:

  1. The Florida Division of Historical Resources has her born May 11, 1906.
  2. National Army Museum, United States Army, shows May 11, 1910, based on Air Force records.
  3. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum has the date fixed in 1906.
  4. Yet according to the U.S.A.F. Fact Sheet:  “Jacqueline Cochran,” birth date ranges from 1905-1908.

[2]  See page 2, Profile:  “Wings to Beauty:  Aviation Pioneer Jacqueline Cochran,” The National WWII Museum, New Orleans, March 25, 2021.

[3]  At the same time, she kept in touch with her family and provided for them financially.  Apparently the professional career was kept separate from her family roots.

[4]  The Bendix Trophy Race, a long distance competition from Los Angeles to  Cleveland, was won by Jacqueline Cochran in 1937, to which she covered the distance in eight hours.  See page 4, “Women with Wings:  Legacy of WASP,” National Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian, August 5, 2018.

[5]  See page 2, Chapter 1, “Institution of the Program,” Women Pilots With the AAF, 1941-1944, AAF Historical Office, Headquarters, Army Air Forces, March 1946.

[6]  See page 6, Women Pilots With the AAF, 1941-1944.

[7]  See Fact Sheet, “Jacqueline Cochran,” United States Air Force, www.af.mil/iformation/heritage/person.asp?dec=&pid=123006481

[8]  See page 7, Profile:  “Wings to Beauty:  Aviation Pioneer Jacqueline Cochran,” The National WWII Museum, New Orleans, March 25, 2021.

[9]  See Fact Sheet, ”Jacqueline Cochran,” United States Air Force, www.af.mil/information/heritage/person.asp?dec=&pid=123006481

Bibliography

Cochrane, Dorothy, “Flying on the Homefront:  Women Airforce Service Pilots [WASP],” 75th Anniversary of World War II, National Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., May 20, 2020.  airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/flying-home…

Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home, “Jacqueline Cochran and the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), www.eisenhowerlibrary.gov/researchonline

Fact Sheet, “Jacqueline Cochran,” United States Air Force, www.af.mil/information/heritage/person.asp?dec=&pid=123006481

Florida Division of Historical Resources, “Jacqueline Cochran,” dos.fl.gov/…/women-in-history/jacqueline-cochran

Johnson, Caroline, “Women with Wings:  The Legacy of the WASP,” 75th Anniversary of World War II, National Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., August 5, 2018.  airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/women-wings…

National Army Museum, United States Army, Biographies:  Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran, www.themusa.org/…/jacqueline-jackie-cochran

Profile:  “Wings to Beauty:  Aviation Pioneer Jacqueline Cochran,” The National WWII Museum, New Orleans, March 26, 2021, www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/aviation

Women Pilots with the AAF, 1941-1944, Army Air Forces Historical Studies:  No. 55, AAF Historical Office, Headquarters, Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C., March 1946.  Air Force Historical Research Agency, Chennault Circle, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

Welcome everyone to the 2024 AAAA Annual Mission Solution Summit!

Our Branch Chief, MG Mac McCurry, and the entire Army Aviation Leadership will be bringing you all up to date on everything from training and operations, to acquisition and sustainment, special operations, Reserve and National Guard priorities and so much more all under the theme “Transforming Aviation Warfighting – Strengthening Our Sacred Trust.”

It is with great regret that I’ve had to ‘take a knee’ due to a medical condition, and as a result am unable to attend and participate in what I know will be an incredible Mission Solutions Summit. For sure though, our entire Aviation Community is in great hands… as you will see our AAAA Senior Vice President, MG (Ret.) Wally Golden, at the Gaylord Rockies podium leading our great organization and the incredible program of scheduled activities.

We had much welcomed last-minute news that our Under Secretary of the Army, the Honorable Gabe Camarillo, will be opening our Summit to provide the vision for the future of the Army, and indeed our Aviation Branch. Additionally, we are honored to have and grateful for our most senior Army Aviators, GEN Laura Richardson, Commander, U.S. Southern Command who will be our keynote on Thursday, and GEN Dan Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, as our featured speaker on Friday. To have that level of leadership presence, commitment, and participation is so valued by our entire community… and it speaks volumes about the importance of our Branch to the Army, and the importance of AAAA to serve as a catalyst and enabler for the gathering of entire Army Aviation Community.

Building on our “Four Pillars” of actualizing our mission statement to Support the Army Aviation Soldier and Family, the Summit also provides our greatest annual opportunity for realizing those Pillars – Networking, Recognition, Voice, and Support. From interacting with our Industry Partners to attending the Hall of Fame inductions and award ceremonies honoring our best and brightest, to celebrating the 50th Anniversary of our first female Army Aviator, COL Sally Murphy, Ret., graduating Flight School, to the closing concert with Randy Houser, this truly is the premier Army Aviation Family gathering.

And always positive news, since our last AAAA publication, we have set another milestone… breaking through to over 20,000 members! This equals our previous pre-COVID all-time; with our current rate of membership increase it would not surprise me at all if we exceed our record very soon. Also want to give a big thanks to GEN (Ret.) J.D. Thurman and the other members of our Senior Executive Associates, for their enduring support and leadership. They met in Huntsville last month just before the AUSA Global Force Symposium with our Aviation General Officer Steering Committee to again dialogue about the critical Aviation Branch priorities and challenges to determine how best to support our Army and Branch through their advocacy. And finally, many thanks to LTC (Ret.) Josh Baker, Chair of our Legislative Affairs Committee, and Bill Harris who are diligently working to get the AAAA-sponsored Army Aviation Caucus next meeting scheduled, and to make sure your voices continue to be heard at the highest decision-making levels.

Hope you all have a productive and FUN Mission Solutions Summit! Know for sure that AAAA will always be there for you, “Supporting the U.S. Army Aviation Soldier and Family”.
Above the Best!

MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA
walt.davis@quad-a.org

It is hard to believe that another month has flown by. As you read this, we will have convened a meeting with the National Executive Group and our committee chairs to review several areas, importantly our efforts at developing an organizational strategic plan, and to set expectations for the upcoming National Executive Board meeting in April at the Summit. More to follow, but please check the AAAA website to make sure you know who the committee chairs are and get your issues to them; they are your conduit to each mission area from membership to awards, and Hall of Fame to Reserve Component affairs…and we value all feedback, recommendations, and issues you may have.

Next, you all by now have heard the very important news of Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program termination, and the intended investment in a UH-60M multi-year contract, further CH-47F Block II production, and a strong commitment to the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System, along with other unmanned systems and launched effects. While the FARA termination is certainly an impact to what was a priority required aviation capability, we can only move forward positively in support of these decisions that still ensure we are providing an indispensable Aviation capability in support of our Army. For sure we will hear much more about all of this during the excellent programs, panels, and presentations that are on the upcoming AAAA Annual Summit agenda in Denver next month.

And speaking of the Summit. We have received numerous cards and letters about a recent event hosted by another large military association at the same hotel, The Gaylord Rockies, where we will be conducting our Summit.
Fortunately, we had already sent our event Team to observe the other group’s meeting to assess and address potential issues and impacts for the conduct of our Summit. Led by AAAA Meeting Director, Rebecca Sadegh, together with Art Agnew and Marian Spencer, they put together an extensive AAR with lessons learned for the event and mitigating actions. Some of the key takeaways that you all should be aware of include:

The other group experienced a very difficult parking and arrival situation daily, with limited alternative bus service. While we do not expect the amount of local drive-in traffic they experienced, we had already planned for a much more extensive bus system, literally 600% the size they used, servicing all of our twenty-one official overflow hotels. In addition, local police departments are working on a new traffic flow pattern into the Gaylord Rockies, to avoid the extended traffic back-ups that the other group experienced. We will also have access to additional parking capacity that the other group did not have.

Next, we are starting our professional programs each day much later than we have done at previous Summits. Specifically, we will start each day at 10:00 a.m., or later, and have pushed the program one day forward to begin on Wednesday, thus allowing time for attendees to gather beyond the morning ‘crush.’

We have also adjusted food and beverage availability and opportunity, to include food trucks, to accommodate our planned attendance, which is currently about 15-20% above our all-time high registration in 2023.
And finally, we will be using a larger ballroom than the other group did for the important General Sessions, to ensure we can accommodate our larger attendance.

The bottom-line is that thanks to your enduring support, we have grown our Annual Summit substantially over the past five years since this event venue was scheduled and contracted for and we are taking every conceivable step to make sure that we can provide an outstanding, safe, and enjoyable Summit for you and your families.

There is a lot going on in our Army, and especially in our Army Aviation Branch. We could not have a more dedicated, invested, and capable Army Aviation Leadership Team and we truly look forward to working with them and you together at the Summit and beyond, to ensure we know how best to support our U.S. Army Aviation Soldier and Family!
Look forward to seeing you all in Denver!

MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA
walt.davis@quad-a.org

Looking Back, March 2024
By Mark Albertson

Parochial Thinking / Seeds of Contention

On June 4, 1920, the National Defense Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. The Act saw fit to organize the United States Army as an aggregate of three subdivisions: The Regular Army, National Guard and the organized reserves of civilians or Officers’ and Enlisted Reserve Corps. The Regular Army was to have a manpower strength of 17,726 officers and 280,000 enlisted. Of course, this was dependent upon Congress and whether it appropriated enough money for a ground force of even this size. And this is precisely what the august body did not do, as pointed out by Rebecca Robin Raines in her study of the Signal Corps, Getting the Message Through:

“Despite a booming economy, the Army did not prosper during the ‘Roaring Twenties.’ Budget-minded Congresses limited the Regular Army to 12,000 commissioned officers and 125,000 enlisted men, only slightly more than had been in uniform when the United States entered World War I. Eventually Congress reduced enlisted strength to 118,000, where it remained until the late 1930s. Army appropriations, meanwhile, stabilized at around $300 million, about half the projected cost of the defense act if fully implemented. The Army remained composed of skeleton organizations with most of its divisions little more than ‘paper tigers.’”[1][2]

The General Staff lost much of its authority to the Bureau Chiefs again. “Specifically, the General Staff was to prepare plans for mobilization and war, ‘to investigate and report on the efficiency and preparedness of the Army,’ and to ‘render professional aid and assistance to the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of War.’ It was not to assume or engage in of an administrative nature that pertains to the established bureaus of offices of the War Department which might imperil [their] responsibility or initiative, impair their efficiency, or unnecessarily duplicate their work.”[3]

General of the Army, John J. Pershing.  As Chief of Staff, he felt frustrated that his authority was blunted by the Bureau Chiefs, stifling innovation in the U.S. Army following World War I.

The Chief of Staff was not merely demoted in stature, he shared power with the Bureau Chiefs who exercised prerogatives with regards to departmental budgets, and who could and did run to Congress when their turf was “threatened.” General Pershing, who was Chief of Staff following World War I and who was used to wielding his authority as an overall commander, felt frustrated at having his authority compromised by the Bureau Chiefs.

The National Defense Act saw the Chemical Warfare Service added to the masthead of Army branches. This was a reflection of the importance chemical weapons came to enjoy during the Great War. Ditto the Air Service, which became an Army branch with a manpower strength slated for 1,514 officers and 16,000 enlisted. In fact, the growing importance of airpower can be seen in 1926 with the advent of the U.S. Army Air Corps. However a lack of understanding of the importance of Combined Arms Warfare became clearly evident with the demise of the Tank Corps.

Dwight Eisenhower, future Commander-in-Chief of Allied armies in Europe, was threatened with court-martial for his written and verbal support of a greater use of the tank in 1920.

The fledgling Tank Corps was the result of the promise offered by the tank as a medium of mobile warfare. But with the National Defense Act of 1920, the Tank Corps was consigned to the Infantry.[4] This retarded the potential of the tank as a viable component of an American Combined Arms Team. Much of the postwar outlook on armor in the United States was based on experience garnered from the battlefields in France. The U.S. Army, like the French Army, came to view the tank as an infantry support weapon. This line of thinking was based upon the unreliable pot-bellied stoves which literally crawled across the churned up French landscape. Battlefields pockmarked with thousands of water-filled shell craters which, at times, were traversed more quickly by the infantry than the tanks which had been sent to support the advance.[5] Indeed, American thinking was so parochial, that Dwight Eisenhower, in 1920, “was rebuked by the U.S. Army’s Chief of Infantry after having advocated a stronger tank force for infantry divisions and then was threatened with a court-martial if he continued publishing in that vein.”[6]

The Germans, having lost the war as well as being on the receiving end of a weapon that helped to breach their defenses, came to a different conclusion. Officers such as Ernst Volkheim, Oswald Lutz and Alfred von Vollard-Bockelberg gave serious thought to the possibilities of the tank as a spearhead in a new form of mobile warfare that was to become known as Blitzkrieg. Aircraft, artillery and infantry would blast a hole in the enemy’s front. The breach would be exploited by the swift-moving panzer columns, taking the war to the enemy’s rear. This new mailed fist would not be equipped with the battlefield plodders of the previous conflict; rather, speedy, radio-equipped armored fighting vehicles able to attain speeds of 25 to 30 mph. This meant supporting infantry had to be motorized to keep pace with the advance. And the armored spearheads would enjoy Close Air Support provided by Goering’s Luftwaffe.

Some Soviet theorists drew lessons not to unlike those of the Germans. Lessons they would share with their former enemy as a result of the 1922 Treaty of Rapallo. Soviet Deep Operations called for deep thrusts into the enemy’s front. And the Soviets would eventually latch on to the tank as the vehicle for advance. One of those who championed mechanization was Mikhail Tuchachevsky, veteran of World War I, the Civil War and later marshal in the Red Army. But just how advanced Soviet thinking was in comparison to America can be seen in their view of the tank.

According to Eddie Rickenbacker, the Shturmovik was the best ground support/tank busting aircraft of World War II.  Owing to the prominence of  strategic aviation in the U.S. Army Air Corps/Army Air Forces, such a plane of similar effort would not be entertained.  The Il-2 went on to become the most produced combat aircraft in history at 36,183 copies.

During the later 1920s and early 1930s, American designer J. Walter Christie was designing light and medium armored fighting vehicles which were miles ahead of the battlefield plodders of the Great War. The War Department evinced little interest, unlike the Soviets. The Russians bought copies of Christie’s designs and during the 1930s, produced a string of models that would eventually evolve into the superlative T-34. This medium tank was without a doubt the best armored fighting vehicle produced on the Allied side during World War II. And when mated with the IL-2 Shturmovik—arguably the best ground support plane of the Second World War—gave the Soviets a formidable battlefield punch.[7]

The American lack of foresight in tank design, coupled with the lack of appreciation offered by the potential of armor, was unveiled for all to see with the new reality of mobile warfare on September 1, 1939. The Wehrmacht’s crushing of western Poland was a wake up call; a view of the new reality of modern war that was bolstered by the fall of France in June 1940. The latter is of particular importance because the U.S. Army came to view the tank just like the French Army, as an infantry support weapon. And despite the fact that tanks like the French Char B could take more punishment and dish it out in comparison to German types, the vaunted French Army went down in decisive defeat. And this despite the fact the Germans operated at a deficit of some 900 tanks versus the Allies, they massed their armor at those points chosen for their armored spearheads. This local superiority backed by Close Air Support aviation burst out if its tactical confines to produce a strategic victory . . . the humbling of France and the Low Countries. And to add insult to injury, the British Army had been kicked off the Continent barely a month after the start of the campaign. A vindication, to be sure, of an earlier prognostication by Hitler. “The next war would not be fought like the last war.” In this the Fuhrer was proved correct; for unlike the French, Hitler was fighting to the timetable of 1940 not 1914.

Hitler’s lightning victories in 1939 and 1940 were a vindication of Billy Mitchell’s ideas of air supremacy. Luftwaffe fighters swept the skies of enemy pursuits while bombers and ground support squadrons worked over enemy airfields, supply columns, troop concentrations, rail lines and rolling stock. Ju-87 (Stuka) dive-bombers and German artillery worked to blast the way open for the swift-moving panzer columns. Airpower, infantry, armor and artillery working together to produce victory. In other words, modern Combined Arms Warfare.

* * * * *

Air Corps Act of 1926

With the Air Corps Act of 1926, the Air Service attained a level of enfranchisement not previously enjoyed. For the evolution towards an independent air force can be seen with the progression of Army airpower since it early days:

  • Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps.
  • Aviation Section of the Signal Corps.
  • Division of Military Aeronautics.
  • Air Service.
  • U.S. Army Air Corps.
  • U.S. Army Air Forces.
  • U.S. Air Force.

Free of its second-fiddle status within the Signal Corps, through its sojourn as the Air Service, the name Air Corps came to denote the next step towards autonomy. And it is important not to lose sight of this concept. For Army airpower had come from being an insignificant afterthought—featuring Ben Foulois holding the fort as the Army’s sole pilot flying the Army’s only aircraft in 1910—to an air contingent that was to have representation on the General Staff and see to the reappointment of an Assistant Secretary of War for Air, such as there had been during the World War. In addition, the Air Corps Act called for Congress to fund an air fleet of 1,800 aircraft within five years. Indeed, since 1910, Army airpower had come a long way by 1926.

America’s aviators enjoyed a decisive advantage in their quest for autonomy: Military aviation came to be considered state-of-the-art technology. And what the battleship did for the Navy aircraft will do for the Army Air Corps. And the expression emblematic for the idea of an independent air force was the strategic bomber.

The round-the-world cruise of the Great White Fleet, 1907-1909, was seen to have justified the monies spent on the battle fleet.[8] The success of this demonstration of American sea power helped to sell the Navy to the public and cemented its image as America’s first line of defense. And the cornerstone of the sales pitch was the battleship. The battleship was the crowning achievement in weaponry of the Industrial Revolution up to that time; affixing the image in the collective mind of a floating steel fortress able to hurl tons of ordnance out to as far as the eye could see. Cutting-edge technology indicative of the Nation’s quest to see its burgeoning economic and military power able to forge its rightful place on the world stage.

Aircraft came to be viewed in a like manner. Airmen in bombers winging their way unassailably to rain down death and destruction upon an enemy’s potential to wage war was considered top-shelf technology. Airpower, like naval power, came to be seen as a way of keeping enemy forces distant. Indeed some of the champions of strategic airpower saw the Air Corps as a challenger for the mantle held by the Navy, that of the Nation’s first line of defense.

Conversely the Ground Forces enjoyed no such esteem.[9] Edgar Raines, in his Eyes of Artillery, sums up the plight of the Ground Forces pretty well: “During the years between the wars, responsibility for the organization, doctrine and training of combat arms rested in the first instance with their respective branch chiefs. They achieved their goals in these areas in part by shepherding funding requests for their branches through the War Department, Bureau of the Budget and Congress. The equipment category of the War Department budget provides eloquent testimony to the Air Corps’ favored status. In 1931, one of the few years for which detailed figures survive, the Air Corps received $35,823,473. By way of contrast the Infantry received $65,623, the Field Artillery $20,610 and the Cavalry $26,685. This was not autonomy—the Air Corps’ portion of the budget was still subject to General Staff control—but its size in comparison to the other branches did represent a substantial measure of power within the narrow confines of the War Department.[10]

The new Air Corps was to have 1,514 officers—spanning the ranks from lieutenant to colonel—and 16,000 enlisted. The aforementioned Assistant Secretary of War for Air was resuscitated to represent Army airpower needs.[11] The Air Corps Act established a commander known as the Chief of the Air Corps, with the rank of major general. He would have three brigadiers as assistants, two of which were flying officers. The budget was to be controlled by the Office of the Secretary of War.

Unlike Eisenhower, ardent proponent of an independent air force, Billy Mitchell, will be court-martialed in 1925.  He will incur another setback in 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt will not choose Mitchell as Secretary of War for Air.

As might be expected, the Air Corps Act did not go far enough to appease some of the ardent practitioners of airpower. One such was Billy Mitchell, by then a civilian.[12] He “intimated that in some nations, ‘air, land and water are under separate ministries,’” Obviously the Air Corps Act did not go far enough for the champion of airpower. Unlike General Mason Patrick, who observed it was “a long step in the right direction.”[13]

There is an old saying, “What‘s in a name?” Well with regards to this discussion, everything. As mentioned in the preceding pages, the name Air Corps itself denoted a certain air of independence. The march towards an independent air force during the 1930s should have been obvious. For Mitchell’s idea of an air force was to take the fight to the enemy . . . offense. This meant going beyond the battlefront to take the fight to the enemy’s territory . . . to his homeland itself. To strike at his means for waging war. To paralyze and even destroy his ability to not only produce the implements of war, but to transport them as well. This was the essence of strategic airpower. And the emphasis on strategic airpower would increase exponentially by the beginning of America’s entry into the Second World War.

Interest in strategic bombing caused a corresponding shift in Close Support-type aircraft. Single-engine types gave way to twin-engine light and medium bomber aircraft, such as the Douglas A-20. The affect of the Spanish Civil War cannot be understated here. For this tune up to the main event in 1939 instilled the belief that CAS should target airfields and anti-aircraft artillery to support strategic bombing in lieu of supporting infantry and artillery. This rationale certainly retarded the Air Corps’ development of CAS. For the United States Army Air Corps/Army Air Forces will never field a ground support/tank busting aircraft of a similar effort to the Soviet IL-2 Shturmovik. Question here is, where did that leave the foot slogger and breech loader?

Well on the heels of the first chapter of the Great War, the performance of the Field Artillery was reviewed. Major General William J. Snow, Chief of the Field Artillery (1918-1927), convened three boards: The Westervelt Board, so-named for Brigadier General William I. Westervelt, chair of the board which reviewed gun types and calibers, ammunition and transport of the Field Artillery. For the short duration America was engaged in the conflict, Yankee artillerymen relied heavily on field pieces largely of French manufacture. This was not to be in the second chapter of the Great War. For most of the recommendations on gun types and calibers put forth by the Westervelt Board were adopted by the Army.

A second board, too, chaired by Brigadier General Westervelt was the Trench Artillery Board. Like the previous effort, this commission was put together to study the affects of mortars in the Great War and to offer recommendations for the future. Among the findings was that there must be a greater reliance on light and medium calibers of mortars. Another was that the Army should make use of tubes of 160 mm and 240 mm in support of the Field Artillery; and there should be an independent Trench Artillery Branch in the Army. However in an era of military downsizing and too few dollars, little if anything was done to act upon the recommendations of the Trench Artillery Board.

Forerunner of those such as William Wallace Ford.  As chair of the 1919 Hero Board, General Hero urged that organic aerial observation assets be applied to Field Artillery units.

The last of the trio of panels was the Hero Board, so-named for its chairman, Brigadier General Andrew Hero, Jr. This commission shared some of the same concerns as those of the Westervelt Board such as gun types and calibers, training, ammunition, supply, communications and transport. But this board also brought out the necessity of aerial artillery spotters of the organic variety.

Organic aerial artillery spotters would solve the problem inherent with the observers of 1917-1918. Here aerial observers and pilots were spotting for the field artillery as well as being assigned to other duties; hence the lack of continuity which affected their performance as spotters. Instead of rotated personnel, organic aerial artillery spotters would perform no other function but that of adjusting artillery fire. Here, it is plain to see, that a recognition of the evolution of the specialization of tasks in modern, industrialized war is taking place.

In addition, the Hero Board went a step further by recommending that artillery commanders should maintain control over their observation assets. That each division should have an observation squadron attached to it. Aerial artillery spotters should come from the ranks of the Field Artillery; same with pilots, who would train with the units to which they were to be attached. Note, though, the configuration of the Board’s recommendations: The committee’s suggestion was that the Air Observation Posts of the Field Artillery would remain two-man affairs. The Hero Board still saw things based on experience from the Great War. Understandable when one considers that the staffers of the Board were products of the era. But the fact remains that the spotter planes would be flown by two-man crews.

Undoubtedly many of the Hero Board’s recommendations were a decided step forward in the evolution of that process that would produce William Wallace Ford’s Air Observation Post, and to which Army Aviation would be the eventual result. But it also sowed the seeds for that contention between the breech loaders and airmen for control of the Air Observation Post with America’s entry into war, 1941. A political contest over roles and missions between the Army and the Air Force that would last for decades to come. . .

Endnotes

[1]  See page 218, Chapter 6, “Between the Wars,” Getting the Message Through:  A Branch History of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, by Rebecca Robin Raines.  Also see page 408, Chapter 19, “Between the World Wars,” American Military History, by Maurice Matloff.

[2]  See page 16, Chapter 11, “Prewar Settlement and Its Effect on the Army,” U.S. Army in World War II, The War Department, Chief of Staff:  Prewar Plans & Preparations, by Mark Skinner Watson.  Watson basically agrees with Raines.  In 1923, the U.S. Army totaled 131,959 men.  For virtually all of the interwar period, American manpower strength in the Army never approached the 297,726 men specified (17,726 officers and 280,000) enlisted.  In 1940, U.S. Army strength was at 267,767.  It jumped in 1941 to 1,460,998 with the growing threat of war.

[3]  See pages 50 and 51, Chapter 1, Special Studies:  From Root to McNamara, Army Organization and Administration, by James E. Hewes, Jr.

[4]  See page 409, Chapter 19, “Between the World Wars,” American Military History, by Maurice Matloff.

[5]  In an effort to defend the tank’s value by expounding on its wartime use, George Patton published an article in the Infantry Journal, May 1920.  In pleading the Tank Arm’s cause, he  showcased the tank as supporting infantry in overcoming or circumventing the stalemate of trench warfare.  He did not, however, elaborate on the tank as the vehicle of battlefield mobility as it would come to be used in World War II.  This was hardly an appreciation of the view held by J.F.C. Fuller of Britain.  His “Plan 1919” saw masses of armor striking deep into the enemy’s rear as a way of sowing mobility on the battlefield.

[6]  See page 141, Chapter Six,” The Development of German Armor Doctrine,” The Roots of Blitzkrieg, by James S. Corum.

[7]  Famed American World War I ace, Eddie Rickenbacker, observed the Shturmovik and stated, “that it was the best aircraft of its type in the world.”  Stalin chimed in with, “Our Army needs the IL-2 as much as it needs bread, as much as it needs the air it breathes.”  See pages 12 and 13, The Ilyushin IL-2, by Witold Liss, Profile Aircraft No. 88, Profile Books Limited, UK, March 1982.

[8]  Refer to They’ll Have to Follow You!  The Triumph of the Great White Fleet, by Mark Albertson.

[9]  The Army’s image was negatively impacted during the summer of 1932, with the suppression of the “Bonus Marchers.”  See pages 412 and 413, Chapter 19, “Between World Wars,” American Military History, edited by Maurice Matloff.  “The most notable domestic use of Regular troops in the twenty years of peace happened in the nation’s capital in the summer of 1932.  Some thousands of ‘Bonus Marchers’ remained in Washington after the adjournment of Congress dashed their hopes for immediate payment of a bonus for military service in World War I.  On July 28, when marshals and police tried to evict one group encamped near the Capital, a riot with some bloodshed occurred.  Thereupon President Herbert C. Hoover called upon the Army to intervene.  A force of about 600—cavalrymen and infantrymen with a few tanks—advanced to the scene under the leadership of Chief of Staff MacArthur in person, two other generals, and, among junior officers, two whose names would in due course become much more familiar, Majors Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton, Jr.  The troops cleaned up the situation near the Capital without firing a shot, and then proceeded with equal efficiency to clear out all of the marchers from the District of Columbia.  From a military point of view the Army had performed an unpleasant task in exemplary fashion, and with a few minor injuries to participants; but the use of military force against civilians, most of them veterans, tarnished the Army’s public image and helped to defeat the administration in the forthcoming election.”

[10]  See page 15, “Prologue,” Eyes of Artillery:  Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II, by Edgar F. Raines.

However the reader is cautioned not to construe the situation in the early 1930s as a one-way street for the Air Corps.  Despite the budget numbers reported by Raines, the Air Corps did not yet have the bombers to wage a strategic campaign.  Far from it.  But even more  important, the examples of Mussolini’s air force in Abyssinnia, the Japanese in China, German and Italian bombers in Spain were as yet to occur.  Such events in a few years would bolster the arguments posed by the practitioners of bombing; that is, carrying war to the enemy’s homeland.

[11]  The position of Assistant Secretary of War for Air did not give the new Air Corps the hoped for latitude within the War Department.  For as explained on page 79, Chapter III, “Creation of the Army Air Corps,” Organization of Military Aeronautics, Army Air Forces Historical Studies No. 25, “The Air Corps was to be under the immediate supervision of the Secretary of War in spite of the fact that the air faction had repeatedly requested administrative freedom from War Department dictation.  True, an additional Assistant Secretary of War to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, was provided for in the bill; the implication was that he, instead of the Secretary of War, should have the direction of the new corps, but since his duties were not specifically outlined, his power was necessarily restricted to that which might be delegated to him by his superior.  The budget also was to be managed entirely from the office of the Secretary of War.”

[12]  Billy Mitchell resigned from the Army on January 27, 1926, following his court martial on December 17, 1925.  However a potential for righting this blow against Mitchell has been put forth by Roger Burlingame with reference to Mitchell entering government as a representative of airpower:

“In 1932 he had high hopes of a position in which he could work actively for airpower in the government.  As a result of his repeated testimony certain concessions had been made.  The Air Service had been made the Army Air Corps and given more autonomy, or changes to operate on its own.  It had been permitted high-ranking officers—even generals such as the enthusiastic air-minded Frank Maxwell Andrews.  But most important to Mitchell, a new office had been created in the War Department called Secretary of Air.  When the overthrow of the Republicans came in November, Mitchell believed that he would be given the job.  He was, after all, a Democrat by inheritance and faith; he had not fared well in Republican hands.

“Naturally [he wrote his friend General Fechet] I will have something to say in the councils of the Democratic Party.  As soon as Franklin Roosevelt is relieved from his job as Governor of New York, I am going to take up the whole matter of national defense with him. . .   I have plans already worked out for these things and when they are made public, they will certainly make some people jump.

“What followed was perhaps the greatest disappointment of Mitchell’s life.  Everywhere during 1933, the rumor ran that the post of Assistant Secretary of Air would surely be given him as compensation for what he had suffered and to bring about real reform in air defense.

“If the job is offered you [wrote his old flying friend] for God’s sake accept it and take out the Air Corps . . . and Civil Aviation that our broken bodies has made possible out of the hands of politicians. . . .

“When the new President came into the White House, the Mitchells were invited to lunch.  Mitchell went by himself for several interviews.  Mr. Roosevelt was always cordial.  Mitchell’s visits were reported to the press.  It was repeatedly stated that the job was practically in his pocket.  Influential members of Congress and advisors to the President recommended his appointment.  Yet it was never made.

“Several theories about it have been advanced.  It is said that Roosevelt was so strongly under the influence of the Navy that he could never bring himself to favor Mitchell.  Plausible explanation perhaps; yet, the President proved air-minded in the end:  for 1941 and 1942 the sky became black with planes under his urging; he advocated unity of command in the field and independent strategic air missions in World War II.  But in 1933 he was still in love with ships.  His desk and the walls of his White House office were covered with pictures and models of them; there were no airplanes there in 1933.”  See pages 137 and 138, Chapter 15, “Vision of the World,” General Billy Mitchell, by Roger Burlingame.

Going beyond Burlingame’s analysis, one is certainly left with the possibility here, that FDR understood his predicament.  The Army and Navy were institutions, reactionary institutions; institutions whose importance had been inflated by the World War.  By 1933, Hitler had attained power in a resurging Germany.  The Japanese had invaded Manchuria two years before.  Mussolini and his Fascists had taken control of Italy.  Stalin was taking the Soviet Union through the hellish episode of Collectivization and Forced Industrialization.

At this early period in his presidency, FDR needed the support of the Army and Navy.  So FDR was not going to put into government a strong-willed individual ready to ostracize such pillars of power and perhaps publicly flaunt their shortcomings.  Such transgressions were not to be rewarded with a seat at the table of power.

[13]  See page 60, Autonomy of the Air Arm, by R. Earl McClendon.

Bibliography

Albertson, Mark, They’ll Have to Follow You!  The Triumph of the Great White Fleet, Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC, Mustang, Oklahoma, 2007.

Army Air Forces Historical Studies:  No. 25, Organization of Military Aeronautics, 1907-1935, Prepared by the Assistant Chief of Air Staff Intelligence, Historical Division, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, Report Date, December 1944.

Burlingame, Roger, General Billy Mitchell, Champion of Air Defense, Signet Press, 1956.

Corum, James S., The Roots of Blitzkrieg:  Hans von Seeckt and German Military Reform, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 1992.

Hewes, James, E., Jr., Special Studies:  From Root to McNamara, Army Organization and Administration, CMH Pub 40-1, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1975.

Kirkpatrick, Charles E., Writing the Victory Plan of 1941:  An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present, World War II 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, CMH Pub 93-10, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1992.

Liss, Witold, The Ilyushin IL-2, Aircraft Profile No. 88, Profile Books Limited, Berkshire, England, March 1982.

Matloff, Maurice, General Editor, American Military History, Army Historical Series, Office of the Chief of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1969.

Messenger, Charles, The Blitzkrieg Story, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1976.

Miller, Donald L., Masters of the Air, Simon and Schuster, Inc., New York, NY., 2006.

Munson, Kenneth, Aircraft of World War II, Doubleday and Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1968.

Raines, Edgar F., Jr., Eyes of Artillery:  The Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II, Army Historical Series, CMH Pub 70-31-1, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 2000.

Watson, Mark Skinner, The War Department, Chief of Staff:  Prewar Plans and Preparations, CMH Pub 1-1, U.S. Army in World War II, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1991.  First published in 1950.

Your AAAA leadership has just returned from the Aviation Senior Leaders’ Forum at Fort Novosel, AL, held January 22-25, 2024. What an extraordinary forum hosted by our Branch Chief, MG Mac McCurry, and his Branch Team, with the theme of “Transforming Aviation Warfighting – Strengthening the Sacred Trust.”

From the opening “Gathering of Leaders” reception at the Army Aviation Museum, to the classified and unclassified briefings covering the status of Army Aviation and our Army, to the Aviation Awards Dinner that recognized both AAAA Functional Awards winners and the LTG Ellis D. Parker Aviation Unit Award winners, it was simply world-class event.

First, the AAAA Functional Awards and LTG Parker Unit Awards. I know I speak for many when I convey how gratifying and inspiring it is to be among our Army Aviation family awardees, and witness just how exceptional and special they are. Awards were presented for the Aviation Trainer of the year, as well as Air Traffic Services/Control awards in the categories of Technician, Controller, Manager, Facility, and Unit, and in the areas of Aviation Medicine, DUSTOFF Flight Medic, and Air Sea Rescue.. A personal thanks to all the awardee’s organizational leadership for taking the time to recognize the achievements, and to our stalwart industry partners that sponsor the awards, ultimately enabling AAAA to realize its Recognition pillar!

Second, the Army Aviation Senior Leaders Forum. Again, a superbly executed event that provided a tremendous opportunity for the total Army Aviation component leadership to gather for professional development, fellowship, and current Aviation Branch and Army MACOM program updates. The agenda included presentations and insights from our Army Chief of Staff, GEN Randy George; the Chief, National Guard Bureau, our own GEN Dan Hokanson; the Commanding General, Army Training and Doctrine Command; GEN Gary Brito; the Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces Command, LTG Calvert; the XVIII Airborne Corps Commanding General, LTG CD Donahue; the Commanding General, US Army North and 5th Army, our own LTG John Evans; the DCG, Futures, Army Futures Command, LTG Hodne; and the Commanding General, 2nd Infantry Division, our own MG Hank Taylor. Suffice it to say, it was incredible to hear from these exceptional leaders, and their perspectives and insights into the status of the Army, their own organizations, and for their support of vital Army Aviation priorities and initiatives.

MG McCurry, with the support of his Fort Novosel leadership (the Chief Warrant Officer of the Branch, CW5 Mike Corsaro, the Branch Command Sergeant Major, CSM Coley, the Directorate of Training and Doctrine, the Directorate of Evaluation and Standardization) provided a comprehensive review of the state of our Branch from a DOTMLPF-P perspective. Additionally, the other ‘Six Pack Plus One’ leadership (MG Tom O’Connor, Commanding General AMCOM; MG Wally Rugen, Director, DAMO-AV, Army G-3; BG Dave Phillips, PEO, Aviation; BG Cain Baker, Director, FVL Cross Functional Team; and BG Scott Wilkinson, Commanding General, Army Special Operations Aviation Command) provided detailed organizational and operational overviews of their major programs, priorities, and challenges. Throughout all, it was clear the entire Aviation leadership enterprise is laser-focused on ensuring the warfighting training, readiness, sustainment, and modernization of our force, ensuring the sacred trust with our Soldiers on the ground is unbreakable.

Soon, our entire Aviation community including Active and Reserve Component soldiers, our invaluable industry partners, and retired and veteran soldiers, will gather in Denver for the AAAA Annual Summit. As always, it is an unprecedented opportunity to realize our AAAA Pillars in support of our Aviation soldiers and their families – Voice, Network, Recognition, and Support. I encourage all our members who are now out of uniform, to capitalize on this timeframe to strongly advocate for what our Aviation Branch and the soldiers that comprise it truly require in terms of personnel, training and readiness, and equipment, and to educate everyone on the incredibly important and essential capabilities that Army Aviation contribute to our Army and Nation’s strength and purpose.

Above The Best!

MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA

The Annual Summit in Denver will be barely 90 days away by the time you read this. Incredible! We hope that everyone
had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s holiday; really looking forward to the year ahead and the great work that your
Association will do in support of our Aviation family.

Bill Harris and I had the privilege of travelling to Lubbock, Texas after Thanksgiving to join the leadership of the Vietnam
Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA) Legacy Committee to see how our Association might best support them in the future,
as it plans its inevitable ‘sunset.’ Art Jacobs and Don LeMaster are the leads for the VHPA; Bill and I were totally impressed
with their vision for the future of VHPA. Importantly, they are completing their Strategic Plan that will inform the execution of
the myriad tasks and actions that the transition will require, ranging from event planning to publication and membership
servicing. Art and Don have also established a strong relationship/partnership with the Vietnam Center and Archive (VNCA),
located on the Lubbock campus of Texas Tech University. We honestly had no idea how extensive the VNCA collection is
and how deep the expertise is that resides there. The VHPA will be leaving all their records and documents to the VNCA and
have already been coordinating with the VNCA for some years. Their decision to get into a relationship with VNCA to
maintain their legacy records could not have been more well placed. Check out the VNCA website at
www.vietnamwarlegacy.ttu.edu for a quick overview of the breadth of their capabilities and plans for the future.

AAAA has also been a beneficiary of the VHPA’s support and generosity. The VHPA was the very first “Heritage
Matching Fund” scholarship established by the AAAA Scholarship Foundation Inc., in 2002 with a donation of $10,000.
Since that time, the VHPA has donated almost $500,000, which this year supported 18 scholarship awards to deserving
students in our merit-based program. We at AAAA look forward to continuing to develop our relationship with the VHPA to
best support them into the future ensuring that their story and legacy is never forgotten. I conveyed to them on behalf of
our 19,600 members, that AAAA will do whatever it can to carry on the traditions, memory, and spirit that the first “Sky
Soldiers” pioneered during their Vietnam War service. We owe them nothing less.

On December 6th, we concluded our 18th Luther G. Jones Army Aviation Depot Forum. This year’s theme was Corpus
Christi Army Depot – Integral to Aviation Readiness Today and Into the Future. Our thanks to COL Kyle Hogan, SGM Jon
Trawick and the CCAD team for their exceptional support and sponsorship of this ‘small, but mighty’ impactful forum. Also, to
MG Tom O’Connor, Commanding General, AMCOM, CW5 Pat O’Neil, our Aviation Branch Maintenance Officer, and CSM
Bradford Smith, AMCOM CSM, for their enduring support and presence during the entirety of the program – for sure, that
makes a difference for the attendees, industry partner exhibitors, and forum sponsors. CCAD is a national treasure and the
artisan workforce that comprises it is truly indicative of the strength of our Army and Nation.

As I mentioned at the start, we are rapidly closing on the Annual Summit. We will have updates in this space and
through emails regarding the Denver Gaylord Rockies itself, as well as the professional and social agendas as they
inevitably evolve over the next couple of months.

Please take note – the deadline for registration for all food events is April 4, 2024. You may continue to register after that
but there will be no tickets available for any of the food events such as the Hall of Fame and the Soldier Appreciation Dinner
concert. You are going to want to be at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – with inductees including two Medal of Honor
recipients and a certain former Army Chief of Staff. Added bonus – the entertainer for the Soldier Appreciation Dinner
Concert is Randy Houser… so, get your tickets now!

Register for the Annual Summit

MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA

Looking Back, February 2024
By Mark Albertson

Air Defense Tactics of Soviet Airborne Units

By Thomas M. Salisbury, III
Edited by Mark Albertson

[Thomas M. Salisbury, III, an Intelligence Analyst with the Red Team, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, HQDA, attended the Virginia Military Institute and served in the U.S. Army Security Agency from 1966 to 1970.]

* Army Aviation, pages 49-52, Vol. 29, No. 11, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., November 30, 1980.

* * * * *

Soviet military journals categorize the primary threat to parachute and heliborne assault forces on landing to be an immediate attack by armored units or attack helicopters.[1]

Since the adoption of the forward defense strategy by the U.S. Army in Central Europe, the attack helicopter unit’s quick reaction time, mobility, firepower, and availability to the commander make it the most likely asset for immediate response to Soviet airborne battalion or regimental parachute landings in the corps rear area. Therefore, the air defense tactics and weapons of Soviet airborne units warrant the attention of both air cavalry scouts and our attack helicopter crews.

Background

Recent major Soviet exercises such as BEREZINZA, held in the Belorussian military district in 1978, and NEMAN, held in the Baltic military district in 1979, indicate an intent to use airborne battalions and regiments, equipped with the BMD airborne combat vehicle, to carry out parachute assault landings within the tactical zone of defense.[2]

BMD Vehicle

These assaults would probably occur beyond the 50 kilometers from the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA) advocated by the Soviets for heliborne landings of motorized rifle units[3] but considerably short of the 300 kilometer depth advocated for division size operational landings.[4]

A Soviet landing force does not normally drop and hold an objective in static defense until link-up; rather it conducts an offensive battle of maneuver in the rear area.

In addition to initial objectives, the Soviet landing force may raid targets of opportunity (usually nuclear missile, command and control, or air defense related targets) along the route of maneuver to a final objective or area many kilometers from the original landing area.[5] The direction of maneuver in the enemy rear area is usually oriented towards friendly ground formations carrying out the offensive in the enemy main battle area.

Organic Support

SA-7 Launcher

A Soviet airborne battalion has one man-portable SA-7 surface-to-air missile (SAM) squad,[6] probably three launchers,[7] organic to each airborne company for a total of nine SA-7 launchers in each battalion. Thus, a minimum of 27 SA-7 launchers would be organic to a Soviet airborne regiment. In addition to other organic light automatic weapons, each BMD is capable of providing short range air defense fire from a turret mounted 7.62 mm machine gun.

ZU-23-2 23 mm Mount

One air defense battery of six towed ZU-23-2 twin-barreled 23 mm anti-aircraft guns (each weapon providing a combined rate of fire of 2,000 rounds per minute) is organic to the Soviet airborne regiment.[8] Altogether, a Soviet airborne defense is credited with 200 SA-7 and 36 ZU-23-2 air defense systems in its table of organizations.[9]

Other Support

Although this low-level air defense umbrella only provides effective coverage out to about 3,000 meters, or a maximum of 7,000 meters, air defense weapons not organic to airborne divisions have at times been associated with Soviet airborne troops.

For example, SA-4 GANEF SAM launchers with airborne markings were displayed offloading from AN-22 transports at the July 1967 air show in Moscow.[10] Also, one Soviet airborne battalion as described as having been reinforced during a recent exercise with unidentified mobile SAM launchers (which could be interpreted to suggest a platoon of SA-9 GASKIN missiles).[11]

Neither of the above systems is known nor likely to become organic to the Soviet airborne division. However, special tailoring of a combat force with attached weapons should never be ruled out. Soviet authors have consistently pointed out since the 1960s that airborne forces will be reinforced by air-landing whatever weapons, equipment, or non-airborne personnel are deemed necessary to carry out specific missions successfully.[12]

Additional support is provided by frontal aviation fighters which escort the airborne transports to the landing area and may provide limited air cover during the course of rear area operations by the airborne unit.[13] Advancing Soviet units that begin to close with the airborne troops also bring an increasing number of army and front level SAM’s into range to extend air defense coverage over the airborne unit prior to link-up.[14]

Tactics

During the maneuver in the rear area the Soviet airborne unit takes these basic air defense measures:

  • Routes of movement are used which offer tree cover or masking terrain for concealment.
  • Folds in terrain are used to assist in breaking up low level anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) fires delivered from long range.
  • Security on the flanks, rear, and front of the column give advance warning of the approach of scout or attack helicopters.
  • One SA-7 gunner is usually attached to each group of patrol vehicles deployed in a column security role.[15]
  • All-around observation is conducted by designated personnel in the column.
  • Scout helicopters may not be engaged if the column or security elements have reached concealed positions before discovery. If a delay in movement is not feasible, scout helicopters will be engaged on order of the commander.[16]
  • All fires, including small arms, are used to engage helicopters.

If a decision is made to move to cover when helicopters are engaged during the march, SA-7 gunners may dismount and cover their BMDs until the vehicles take position and their 7.62 mm fires to the engagement.[17] During an attack, SA-7 gunners cover tactical command posts and the main enveloping platoons of the companies in the attack.[18]

ZU-23-2 (23 mm) firing platoons have the mission of covering the main body of the airborne regiment during the march or in the attack. When the regiment is in march column the ZU-23-2 firing battery marches between the two battalions of the regimental main body.[19]

During the attack, ZU-23-2 platoons deploy in positions to cover the main attack of the regiment or, more often, are attached to those battalions attacking separate objectives that are of the most importance to the regiment’s mission.

Some Words of Caution

The 3,000 meter effective range of the airborne battalion or regiment’s air defense barely reaches maximum standoff ranges of current U.S. Army attack helicopters, yet some tactical methods and other factors increase the lethality of this short range Soviet air defense.

In Central Europe masking terrain not only shields the approach of attack helicopters—it will also make engagement at maximum standoff range difficult.

Soviet parachute assault training, as described in their military journals, indicates that wartime jumps will be carried out mostly at night or in low ceiling/poor weather conditions. These factors, combined with the airborne unit’s ground mobility and its tactical intention to move and maneuver during most of the operation, make the early fixing, engagement at maximum range, and destruction or containment of the airborne force before it can accomplish its missions a difficult task.

Unconventional Tactics

Soviet airborne troops can be expected to employ some unconventional tactics to defeat attack helicopters. The Chief of Staff of Soviet Airborne Troops, General Lieutenant P. Pavlenko, recently stated that airborne units had experimented with using BMD 73 mm main guns and anti-tank guided missiles against helicopters.[20] Although no details were given, such experimentation indicates the degree of attention being given to defending airborne troops from attack helicopters.

Although the main body of a Soviet airborne regiment or battalion will be a lucrative target for attack helicopters while in march column—caution should be exercised. While the scout may escape untouched by ground fires to report and guide in the attack helicopter flight, attack helicopters may be ambushed while approaching at nap-of-the-earth altitudes by undetected SA-7 and BMD 7.62 mm fires from security elements deployed well out from the main body.

Finally, unlike heliborne insertions of motorized rifle companies and battalions stripped of their usual air defense umbrella provided by regimental ZSU-23-4 and SA-9 systems, Soviet airborne operations in the rear area will be well covered by air defense systems.

These systems are a threat at the low altitudes and varying ranges at which attack helicopters would be forced to engage in Central Europe. Soviet airborne unit organization, air defense tactics, and training all reflect an awareness of U.S. Army attack helicopter tactics and the measures necessary to counter them.


Figure 1. Air Defense Weapons Organic to Soviet
Airborne Battalions or Regiments

AD Weapon Effective Range Maximum Range
BMD Turret 7.62 mm MG Up to 1,000 meters Up to 3,000 meters
SA-7 Man-portable SAM 45 to 3,000 meters 5 to 6,000 meters
ZU-23-2 23 mm AA Gun 2,500 meters 7,000 meters

NOTE: Data is based on the USAITAC Report IAG-13-U-78, Soviet Army Operations, 1978; Understanding Soviet Military Developments, OACSI, 1977; Artillery of the World, C.F. Foss, 1974; FM 30-40, HQDA, 1975; and Soviet Tactical Air Defense, DDB-1140-6-80, Defense Intelligence Agency, 1980.


Endnotes

[1] Colonel I. Kabachevskiy, et al, “The Anti-Air Defense of Airborne Landings,” Voyennaya Mysl, USSR, No. 8, 1968, pages 42-49.

[2] Lieutenant Colonel I. Dynin, et al, “A Front Line Tradition,” Krylya Rodiny, Moscow, No. 10, 1979, pages 16-17, and “The Chords of Combat,” Sovietskaya Rossiya, Moscow, 11 February 1978, page 4.

[3] Soviet Army Operations, IAG-13-U-78, USAITAC, 1978, page 7.

[4] ibid, page 7.

[5] This emphasis on maneuver and raid by parachute units has intensified in Soviet open-source military journals since about 1974. Maneuver in the rear area instead of static defense has been part of Soviet airborne tactics for some time, but it is the BMD that makes this tactic a reality.

[6] Lieutenant Colonel V. Sinoshenko, “When a Landing is Attacked by Helicopters,” Voyenniy Vestnik, No. 10, 1978, pages 43-44.

[7] The Soviet Motorized Rifle Battalion, DDB-1100-197-78, DIA, 1978, page 31.

[8] USAITAC, op. cit., pages 2-18.

[9] Soviet Tactical Air Defense, DDB-1140-6-80, DIA, 1980, page 9.

[10] General-Lieutenant I.I. Lisov, Parachutists: Airborne Landing, (translation) USAFSTC, 1969, page 274.

[11] General-Lieutenant P. Chaplygin, et al, “If an Assault is Attacked by Helicopters,” Voyenniy Vestnik, No. 10, 1974, pages 51-54.

[12] Colonel Kabachevskiy, and Lieutenant Colonel Dynin, op. cit.

[13] Lieutenant Colonel Dynin, ibid.

[14] Colonel Kabachevskiy, op. cit.

[15] General-Lieutenant Chaplygin, op. cit.

[16] Lieutenant Colonel Sinoshenko, op. cit.

[17] Sr. Lt. O. Oleynik, “Behind Aggressor Lines,” Krasnaya Zveszda, 23 May 1979, page 1.

[18] Lieutenant Colonel Sinoshenko, op. cit.

[19] Colonel M. Muslimov, “A Battalion Captures a Mountain Pass at Night,” Voyennly Vestnik, No. 5, 1979, pages 39-43.

[20] General-Lieutenant P. Pavlenko, “The Great Patriotic War and Postwar Period,” Voyenno-Istoriccheskly Zhurnal, No. 1, 1980, page 9.

CONCORD, NH, UNITED STATES
01.03.2024
Story by Staff Sgt. Courtney Rorick
114th Public Affairs Detachment

After receiving intel of a potential Iranian attack on Al Asad Air Base, in western Iraq, Capt. Brendan Meehan began calling units from the operations tent, warning them to seek shelter.

In the early morning hours of Jan 8, 2020, Iran sent a barrage of 22 missiles targeted at coalition headquarters in Al Asad and Erbil Air Base in northern Iraq, in response to the U.S. assassination of Iranian Commander Qassem Soleimani.

A missile struck only 100-yards from Meehan’s location, causing a 500-yard shockwave and sending shrapnel and debris thousands of feet throughout the radius.

The blast threw him 15-feet.

“I was compressed into a spring, thrown, tumbled, then hit my back,” described Meehan. “I looked down and there was this big fire ball of smoke. Things were crackling and my first thought was that they blew up the ops tent.”

Meehan assessed his injuries, rolled over, and attempted to move.

“I couldn’t get up,” said Meehan. “I began crawling to the nearest bunker.”

Once he got inside, after a long pause, Meehan heard a faint “Sir, are you okay?”

After a little while longer, Meehan regained his bearing enough to navigate back and forth between two bunkers, located approximately 50-yards apart. Bouncing between the two, Meehan continued to check on troops inside.

He said an onslaught of multiple missiles ensued following the initial strike.

“The ground moved,” Meehan said. “It felt like tremors. I’ve never felt anything like it. They came down the runway, one by one.”

“I originally placed my team in a bunker located 10-feet from a hangar by the airfield,” said Meehan. “I ended up moving them because it was too far away from my location; I needed better command and control.”

The vacated bunker was later found filled and peppered by shrapnel.

His decision was live-saving. Meehan, a pilot with Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment (MEDEVAC), New Hampshire Army National Guard, was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor for his steadfast thinking, helping to save the lives of nine Soldiers.

While no U.S. Troops were killed in the attack, Meehan said the base was destroyed. The unit lost aircraft, buildings, and various equipment, leaving them temporarily inoperable.

Three days following the attack, Meehan realized the true severity of his team’s injuries and called one of the flight doctors located nearby to assess.

Each soldier was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Although he didn’t feel well himself, Meehan focused on his team’s well-being. Meehan had to be ordered to seek medical care.

“He said, ‘When are you going to get seen? You’re not okay,’” described Meehan. “I wanted to set the example, so I got checked out. It was the right thing to do.”

It was only 10 minutes into the assessment when the doctor told Meehan he needed further evaluation.

“That’s when the symptoms really crashed in,” Meehan said. “It was debilitating; I felt like the world was spinning.”

“I couldn’t look at screens,” he added. “I had major headaches.”

Meehan recalled how he would have to lay on the floor just to be “okay.”

“My neck was so locked up at one point because my brain was trying to perceive the world correctly, which caused everything to seize up,” said Meehan.

While Meehan awaited his replacement, he continued to push through the injury placing the mission first and getting the MEDEVAC team operational.

On February 7, Meehan was evacuated to a military medical facility, in Landstuhl, Germany, for further assessment.

“Unfortunately, due to my condition, they determined I needed immediate relocation to Walter Reed (National Medical Center),” said Meehan, who arrived there on February 13.

During multiple evaluations, doctors told Meehan he would never fly again.

“I was told, ‘you know, you really should be looking for other jobs outside of aviation,’” said Meehan. “Or, ‘you should be on this medication so you can get better.’”

Meehan made the decision to refuse any medication treatment; he didn’t want his brain to develop a reliance on a prescription to function normally.

“This is my life,” said Meehan. “I felt like I was being told to recreate my sense of self, which is something I wasn’t willing to do until I exercised all other option.”

“This would have grounded me indefinitely and any hope of flying again would be in jeopardy,” said Meehan. “I wasn’t willing to give up that easily.”

On May 7, nearly four months after the attack, Meehan was awarded the Purple Heart, presented by Gen. James McConville, 40th Chief of Staff of the Army.

Amidst the recognition for his wounds, Meehan recognized within himself that his symptoms were worsening. He made the decision to seek alternative treatment plans and pursue other options.

“He always kind of down-played how serious everything was because he didn’t want anyone to feel bad,” said retired Sgt. First Class Rodney Anderson, an operations non-commissioned officer with 54th Troop Command at the time.

Anderson, who was also Meehan’s first platoon sergeant, was informed of the decision to leave the hospital and arrived at Walter Reed with fellow aviators to bring him back to the Granite State.

Upon arriving home to New Hampshire, Meehan began exploring other forms of care. After an exhaustive search, Dr. Victor Pedro, the chief innovation officer at the International Institute for the Brain in Manhattan, New York, accepted his case.

“I will never forget the day I met Brendan,” said Pedro as he recounted the moment during a phone interview. “I first met his dad.”

“His dad came in with him and I remember I was looking up at him,” said Pedro of the vast height difference between himself and Meehan’s father. “He put his hands on my shoulders and said ‘you’ve got to get my son better. You’ve got to get him flying again… please.’”

“As a dad, as a father of four, I just understood,” added Pedro, who choked up as he recalled the events.

When describing the most challenging part of the recovery process, Pedro said the impact from a traumatic brain injury can become more severe the longer it’s left untreated. Unfortunately, Meehan was a victim to the detriment of time.

“He couldn’t get the treatment he needed because everything was shut down,” recalled Pedro, describing the nation-wide health care stress on medical facilities due to COVID-19. “This let the situation set in. Whereas, ideally, you get them in right away.”

Although new obstacles continued to emerge, Meehan never lost focus on his goal to once again fly.

“This guy was at it and you have to hand it to him because he just didn’t stop,” said Anderson, describing Meehan’s resilience. “He never quit.”

“He went the extra mile to make sure he got where he needed to be, which was back in the cockpit,” Anderson added.

According to Pedro, one of the keys to getting the Aviator better would be his sheer determination and drive.

“He was willing to do whatever it took,” said Pedro. “That’s half the battle.”

Simply put, Pedro described Meehan’s rehabilitation as a series of stimulations, which tested his visual and sensory abilities.

“Once the cogs and the wheels start going, you want them to synchronize,” Pedro said. “The brain has two pacemakers; we wanted the timing of those loops to be right.”

Approximately two-years after his injury, and extensive work with Dr. Pedro, Meehan went back to Walter Reed to complete a series of neuro-cognitive tests required to fly again. These included, but were not limited to, brain exercises testing reactions to loud noises and lights, as well as memory assessments.

“The lead up to being cleared was extremely daunting and unknown,” Meehan said.

Meehan’s efforts paid off and he received an “up slip,” clearing him to fly. In June of 2022, while on annual training at Camp Edwards, Joint Base Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, Meehan conducted his first flight post injury.

“My first flight back I was very nervous,” said Meehan. “I just kept thinking ‘I hope this goes well.’”

“It really took a year after I finally flew to get the mission set back,” Meehan added. “At that point it felt like I finally knew what my future would be like again.”

Meehan attests that without the doctors at Walter Reed, Dr. Pedro, the support from the New Hampshire Army National Guard, and a list of other encouraging individuals throughout his healing journey, he would never be in the cockpit again.

Today, not only is Meehan flying but he is also in command of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment.

“His drive, dedication, compassion and tenacity to recover are the epitome of a truly well-rounded leader,” said Col. Woody Groton, special projects officer with Joint Forces Headquarters and former commander of 54th Troop Command. “His resilience, when faced with adversity and uncertainties, is something we can all learn from.”

That feeling is shared by long-time friend, Anderson.

“Overcoming this injury, to then fly again, and take command,” added Anderson. “He’s simply unmatched by others and this is a testament to his incredible character.”

When asked how it felt to look back and to see how far he’s ventured, Meehan described the experience as eye-opening.

“I think this has made me more well-rounded,” said Meehan. “I’m able to better understand the things my soldiers go through when it comes to challenges, sacrifices and adversity.”

“This journey really made me grow as a person, professionally and personally,” he added. “I think this has made me a better pilot.”