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CENTRAL VIEW for Monday, April 1, 2024

by William Hamilton, Ph.D.

General Chuck Yeager (1928-2020)*

After a tour in Vietnam, yours truly was sent to Seymour-Johnson AFB, NC, to be the Ground Liaison Officer (GLO) for the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing (F-4 fighters) and for the 19th U.S. Air Force. When I reported to Wing Commander Colonel Chuck Yeager, he asked,"Why the hell do I need a GLO?"

After explaining I could teach jungle survival, escape and evasion, Colonel Yeager told his deupty, "Put him through the altitude chamber and ejection-seat training. Sometimes, he will fly as my GIB (Guy-in-the-back). Also, Colonel Yeager relied on me to coordinate our annual exercise with the 82d Airborne Division and with the U.S. Navy.

After we returned from the USS Pueblo Crisis in South Korea, it was time for Exercise Exotic Dancer, involving a naval bombardment of the Vieques Island Firing Range (before President Carter gave it away), followed by a strafing run by our F-4 fighters, followed by a battalion of the 82d Airborne parachuting onto the smoldering target area.

The moment the naval gunfire lifts, the F-4s do their strafing, A mistake by the Navy or the Air Force fighters or the Air Force C-13Os, carrying the paratroopers could be deadly.

On D-Day, all three armed services performed to perfection. For the post-exercise critique, the Navy provided a 40- by 20-foot sand-table replica of the target area, complete with models of enemy tanks, artillery, and troops.

The day after the exercise the sand-table was surrounded by dozens of U.S. and NATO generals and admirals, their silver stars and gold stripes gleaming in the Caribbean sun. A polished briefer from each armed service explained the role of his service in the exercise. The NATO brass were suitably impressed which, of course, was one of the goals of Exotic Dancer.

In such multi-service circumstances, Colonel Yeager kept me at his elbow. When all the briefers finished, the U.S. admiral in charge asked if there were any questions.

In perfect English, an Italian admiral asked, "I want to know how those F-4 fighters could follow in so closely behind the naval bombardment without being shot down?"

Oh, my. I could feel Colonel Yeager stirring. Colonel Yeager said, "Admiral, thatís simple. Thatís because I was leading the F-ing formation."

The NATO generals and admirals roared with laughter. But I could almost see smoke coming out the ears of the U.S. brass who, like Queen Victoria, were not amused.

But that was vintage Chuck Yeager who did not give a hoot about diplomatic or any other service protocol. Anyone who could fly and fight was okay with Yeager who, without a college degree, came up through the ranks as a grease-under-his-fingernails maintenance officer. Indeed, when Colonel Yeager was not flying, you could find him with the mechanics along the flight line. When he wasnít doing either, he and Glennis would be hunting and fishing up in the hills of North Carolina.

During two years with Colonel Yeager, did we ever talk? Yes, if you count, "Bill, get in the back and donít touch anything."<:>

*On October 14, 1947, Captain Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. In July, 1969. he was promoted to brigadier general.

NB: These tales will continue until morale improves.

©2024. William Hamilton.

©1999-2024. American Press Syndicate.

Dr. Hamilton can be contacted at:

Email: william@central-view.com

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