Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wings of valor: Your United States Air Force

By T. Michael Moseley
The Washington Times
October 18, 2006

It was an honor to dedicate the Air Force Memorial at Arlington, Virginia, on Oct. 14 -- a proud moment for the men and women of the United States Air Force, thousands of devoted professionals who are serving now or have served this great nation. This next year marks the 60th anniversary of an independent Air Force. It is altogether fitting for the Air Force Memorial to be located at Arlington, since Fort Meyer was the site of the first military flight, and also, unfortunately, the location of the first military casualty from an airplane crash -- Lt. Thomas Selfridge, buried in Arlington. In the intervening 100 years, we've marveled at the courage of generations of airmen. In this time of war, it is appropriate to reflect upon this legacy of self-sacrifice of airmen who, like the towering jet contrails represented in the memorial, climbed into the heavens on wings of valor.

Fourteen French villagers witnessed the wings of valor of an American airman in September 1918. As they recounted: "We watched as an American aviator, while pursued by an escadrille of Germans, burned three German balloons, shot down two German aircraft, and killed 11 Germans on the ground with hand bombs and machine gun bullets. Though seriously wounded he landed his disabled aircraft in a field, and emptied his revolver before being killed by a German patrol." The aviator was 21-year-old 2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr.

Aircrews witnessed wings of valor during air battles in World War II -- where the Air Force lost more men over central Europe than the Marines lost throughout the entire war. Uncommon valor was witnessed by the crews of 161 B-24's over the Ploesti oil refineries -- an engagement in which five men were awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism -- the most ever for a single engagement. Attacking the facility meant facing more than 230 antiaircraft guns, some 400 enemy fighters and suffering over 30 percent losses. Nearly 500 airmen died in this one raid.

Ground crews and hundreds of British onlookers witnessed wings of valor when 2nd Lt. Walter Truemper and flight engineer Sgt. Archibald Mathies attempted to land a heavily damaged B-17 on Feb. 20, 1944. The B-17 was attacked by a squadron of enemy fighters; the copilot was killed; the pilot was unconscious; the radio operator was wounded and the plane severely damaged. Nevertheless, the remaining crew managed to recover from a dive, fly for hours back to their home station, with frigid air blowing through the open cockpit, fighting off enemy fighters, even downing one. Upon return -- after observing the distressed aircraft from another plane -- their commanding officer ordered them to abandon the damaged plane and parachute to safety. Truemper replied that the pilot was still alive and they would not desert him. They gained altitude to enable the rest of the crew to bail out. The plane crashed in an open field in a third attempt to land. Sgt. Mathies and Lt. Truemper died, but the wounded pilot lived -- only to perish later.

Ground troops in contact witnessed wings of valor during the battle at Sniper Ridge, Korea. Outnumbered, they watched Major Charles Loring take severe hits during a bomb run against entrenched enemy positions. They expected him to nurse his battered jet over friendly territory for a certain bailout. Instead, he continued the attack, in a deliberate, controlled maneuver. Even though he could have flown to safety, he dove directly into the active enemy gun position, destroying it at the cost of his life.

Army and Vietnamese Rangers witnessed the wings of valor of Captain Hilliard Wilbanks on Feb. 24, 1967, as he flew the 105 mph Cessna O-1 Bird Dog over the Central Highlands supporting the Rangers. Wilbanks spotted a large enemy force waiting to ambush. As Wilbanks radioed a warning to the Rangers and called for fighter support, he fired a smoke rocket to mark the center of the Viet Cong position. Hoping to gain time for the Rangers, Wilbanks dove three times through automatic weapons and small-arms fire, each time dropping a phosphorous rocket on the enemy. Out of rockets, Wilbanks picked up an M-16 automatic rifle and began a series of strafing attacks from an altitude of 100 feet, firing through the open side window and reloading between passes. On his third strafing run, Wilbanks slumped over the controls. An Army advisor ran to the plane and pulled the unconscious Wilbanks from the wreckage. Finally, a flight of F-4s roared in to strafe the enemy while a chopper picked up the wounded Wilbanks. He died en route, but he had given the Rangers time to move to safety.

Grieving widow Teresa Cunningham understood the essence of wings of valor when she tearfully read a letter written by her 26-year-old husband, Jason. Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, an Air Force "PJ," was killed during the battle for Roberts Ridge in Afghanistan in March 2002. He gave his life moving 10 wounded soldiers out of direct enemy fire, even as he was mortally wounded. He wrote -- as if anticipating his fate -- he said: "I'd die a happy man doing the job I love." His wife, an AFROTC cadet with 2 infant daughters, vowed to continue his legacy through her own Air Force service.

These stories are just a sample of the legacy of honor, valor and devotion. The memorial commemorates the service and ultimate sacrifice of airmen, extending skyward to reflect boundless spirit and limitless future. This memorial is anchored in the same Arlington soil that has become the final resting place of so many of our fallen comrades. It is a fitting tribute to each of the 54,000 airmen who have proceeded us into the heavens on wings of valor.

General T. Michael Moseley is the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force.

Vietnam: Free The Political Prisoners

The People's Democratic Party

PO Box 84211
Seattle, WA 98124

Denounce Unlawful Arrest and Imprisonment Eight Members of The People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Two Released and Six Incarcerated. Many Prisoners of Conscience and Political Prisoners Are Illegally Being Imprisoned.

Vietnamese authorities in recent months have unlawfully arrested and detained pro-democracy and human-rights activists in Vietnam.

The recent arrest of eight members of the PDP, detained on or around August of 2006, is an illegal act. With the pressure from the Vietnamese community around the world, the foreign diplomats and the hard work of international bodies (Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, US Congressional Members and diplomats, Freedom Now, Non Governmental Organizations and other agencies), two out of eight members have been released while the remaining six are being held in two detention facilities: Saigon and Tien Giang province. They are imprisoned merely for expressing their democratic views online. Contrary to the claims of the Vietnamese authorities, none of them is a terrorist or criminal.

With this groundless, unlawful conduct by the Vietnamese authorities, the PDP is bringing this matter to the international community’s attention and to the US government in particular, to call for their help to bring an end to illegal acts by the Vietnamese government with the following points:

1. Denounce Vietnam’s authorities for the illegal arrest of Mr. Tran Van Hoa, a Vietnamese national, and his detainment in Quang Ninh province, Hanoi for his membership with the PDP.

During his detention, the interrogators tried to coerce Mr. Hoa to admit that the PDP is a group that engages in terrorist activities. Mr. Hoa denied this baseless accusation and the authorities were finally forced to release him after thirteen days. His release on 03 October is in part a result of growing disapproval of public opinion and pressure from international bodies.

2. Call on Hanoi for the immediate release of six members of the PDP: Dr. Le Nguyen Sang, Journalist Huynh Nguyen Dao, Mr. Le Trung Hieu, three other unidentifiable members and many prisoners of conscience and political prisoners such as Nguyen Vu Binh, Pham Ba Hai, Truong Quoc Huy, Vu Hoang Hai, Foshee Thuong "Cuc" as proof that Hanoi has respect for human rights.

3. Call on the President of the United States, George W. Bush to take interest on the issue of human rights in Vietnam, especially on the freedoms of expression which includes the rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, etc. These fundamental democratic values are rights for which the US has always advocated. Therefore, we ask that President George W. Bush not disregard these issues on his coming trip to Viet Nam.

4. Call upon the US Congress and the Bush Administration to hold off on granting Hanoi Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status since they continue to harass many pro-democracy and human-rights activists, case in point: the arrest and imprisonment of Cong Thanh Do, a US citizen, last month and many members of the PDP. They are such non-violent democrats.

The People's Democratic Party calls for your attention and consideration on these urgent matters thus stated in this letter.PDP's Central Committee Member
Do Thanh Cong

PO Box 84211Seattle, WA 98124 USA

Have the lights gone on again?

By James G. Zumwalt
The Washington Times
October 18, 2006

It now appears North Korea's test of a nuclear device was partially successful. We need to understand not only why Pyongyang ignored international pressure -- even from its sole ally, China -- to conduct this test but also how it was allowed to be done.

The seeds for this test were planted in 1994 when Kim Jong-il's father, Kim Il Song, died. The father's rule for almost half a century was a brutal model for total submission -- a laboratory experiment in mind control as his people were stripped of all outside contact, human dignity and independent thought. But the father maintained a critical balance between two foundations upon which stability of his power base rested -- the party leadership and military.

When Kim Il-sung died, the son experienced uncertainty. Long groomed as his father's replacement, the son held, initially, a closer affinity to the party than the military. However, as later shared by Hwang Jong Yop, the most senior North Korean official to defect to the West, the son felt the party denied him the same respect it showed his father. Sensing a power void, the son's personal bodyguard, a two-star general, sought to fill it. Massaging his personal relationship with Kim Jong-il, the general weaned him away from the party's influence, to the military.

Given additional authority, the general embarked upon initiatives to quickly endear himself to the son, bringing in "tribute." Dealing with drug traffickers, some of whom were later invited to set up shop in Pyongyang, the general established a slush fund for Kim Jong-il into which millions of dollars were deposited.

The weaning process from the party continued as the general took Kim Jong-il to military bases, where each base tried to outdo the other in honors rendered to their leader. Soon thereafter, Kim Jong-il promoted this general from two to four stars. His affinity to the military is further evident in the number of generals promoted -- more in the first decade of his rule than his father made in half a century. The end result is the equilibrium between party and military no longer exists; the military alone has Kim Jong-il's ear.

With Kim Jong-il's power now resting on a single pedestal foundation, a dangerous situation exists. In a totalitarian state where promotions are given away freely, the military has become top-heavy. Military leaders jockey for power and influence with their leader. The son knows he can never afford to minimize the military's role -- for how goes the military, so too goes he.

All the wrong ingredients are in play within the military establishment. Fifty-three years have passed since the Korean war, leaving it devoid of combat experience -- worrisome because only those with such experience can appreciate the dreadful price extracted from those called upon to fight. This atmosphere has created a military high on male hormones, suffering from unnatural levels of bravado due to the recent nuclear test. Kim Jong-il simply cannot do anything now on the international front that might suggest to his military he has gone soft. He must act confidently and forcefully.

A comment by China's foreign minister, suggesting Pyongyang might be relying upon Chinese protection in its international dealings, caused North Korea's generals to bristle and may well have prompted Kim Jong-il to quickly authorize the test to show the world otherwise.

This military focus would also explain why Kim Jong-il who, as part of the historic 2000 summit held in Pyongyang with South Korean president Kim Dae Jung, although having agreed to a reciprocal meeting in Seoul, has yet to reciprocate -- and probably never will. For Kim Jong-il, this demonstrates to his military the "mountain comes to Muhammad."

While the military's evolving role under Kim Jong-il explains why the nuclear test took place, South Korea's leadership role over the past decade explains how. Its appeasement initiative -- the "Sunshine Policy" -- created a perception in North Korea that Seoul would pay any price for peace. And pay it has -- literally billions of dollars, intended for peaceful purposes, have funded Pyongyang's technological breakthrough. It was later learned a large part of this funding was illegal, paid by Kim Dae Jung to entice Kim Jong-il to hold the 2000 Pyongyang summit. With Seoul's generous funding assistance, one could argue, development of Pyongyang's recently-tested nuclear device has been a joint effort on both sides of the DMZ.

A satellite photograph taken of the Korean peninsula at night reveals a well illuminated south and ominously dark north -- with the DMZ the delineating line. We, however, should not be in the dark about North Korean intentions and capabilities, simply hoping Pyongyang will one day shed its rogue state status. The dominant influence of its military simply will not allow that to happen. We must accept the fact we are destined to deal with a very dangerous force of darkness. Hopefully, in the wake of Pyongyang's nuclear test, the light has finally come on in Seoul and it will adopt a more cooperative spirit with the U.S., abandoning its role as an enabler for North Korea.

James G. Zumwalt, a Marine veteran of the Persian Gulf and Vietnam wars, is a contributor to The Washington Times. He has made 10 trips to North Korea.