Monthly Archives: April 2019

Virginia Hall

Since writing about her yesterday, curiosity had gotten the best of me, and I read a bit more on her. What an amazing woman.

As to David Holahan’s statement that ” James Bond had nothing on her”, Bond of course was some fantasy of Ian Fleming. To think that some spy would arrive with a self-confident (arrogant?) attitude in an Aston Martin and tux, well, of course real spies are the opposite. Most times a person who one would least suspect. When the best have disappeared the world is left wondering who they were, or at least what they looked like.

When the Manhattan Project was started, “an informant in the British civil service notified the Soviets. As the top-secret plan to build the bomb, called the Manhattan Project, took shape in the United States, the Soviet spy ring got wind of it before the FBI knew of the secret program’s existence.” It was 4 years after the war before  the identity of one, Klaus Fuchs, was discovered.

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Streamer

By lex, on March 6th, 2012

I supposed it had to happen eventually, everybody has one in time. And I had mine yesterday.

It was a good hop, really. Raging around down low, hiding in the mountains, waiting for a chance to pounce on the unwary. Although this is graduation week at the (prestigious) Navy Fighter Weapons School, and there are very few unwary students left. Still, good clean fun, and your host can say “Copy kill” with the best of them.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Flying, Naval Aviation

Some Unsung Heroes

Unsung Heroes

A Painting of Virginia Hall Using Her Suitcase Radio

Imagine that you are a young woman in her 20s or 30s and in Britain. You are either British, French, or, at least in one case, an American.

The Nazis have just finished their invasion of France, and a desperate British government is asking for volunteers for a dangerous mission.

They won’t tell you what it is until they get to know you. You don’t even know what group you are trying to join.

Then you are either out or in.

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Last Flight Of The Kee Bird

In WW2, the B-29 was a technological marvel. I am bringing these facts from my old memory, but they probably came from James Bradley’s great book, Flyboys. To develop and produce 4,000 B-29s, the government spent as much money as the Manhattan Project.

We learned about the jet stream from the B-29. Even with the Norden bombsight at high altitudes, bombardiers were missing the targets by a wide margin.

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A Dilemma

Since the end of World War II, Turkey has been a strong ally of the West. They field the second largest army in NATO. They were a good ally in the Korean War, and critical for us during the Cold War. The Air Force has had an important base there since the beginning of the Cold War, in addition to listening posts along the (then) Soviet border.

With the election of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2014, there have been some fissures in this critical alliance. Turkish officials accused the U.S. in being complicit in a failed coup in 2016.

There have been disagreements over the US handling of Syria, and the policy over Iran.

For our part – we are facing a critical dilemma, all from the Turkish government’s ordering a Russian S-400 anti Aircraft system over a US or NATO anti aircraft system.

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The Beauty of Simplicity

I’ve often thought that in the world, some of the most profound truths are really simple. Virtually every major religion in the world has their version of the Golden Rule.

In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the
prophets.
Jesus, Matthew 7:12

What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.
Hillel, Talmud, Shabbath 31a

 

The failures of the world can be summarized by failure to adhere to this simple rule.

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It’s About Time

I received this email from a long-time Internet friend who knows Phil. He said that this has been discussed for decades. He was originally recommended for the MOH but it was downgraded because it was a special op mission in Laos, and officially we weren’t in Laos. 

BB


ItsAboutTime

The heroic actions of a USAF special operations helicopter pilot, who saved multiple American lives during a secret 1969 mission in Laos, are getting a renewed look as a Congressman is urging the Pentagon to upgrade the previous award of an Air Force Cross to the Medal of Honor.

Retired Col. Philip Conran, then a pilot with the 21st Special Operations Squadron based in Thailand, received the award for a mission on Oct. 6, 1969, as part of a multiple helicopter flight into Laos. During the flight, a lead helicopter was shot down and a rescue helicopter, designated H-1, in the formation refused a request to try to reach the downed crew because of how dangerous the area was.

Conran, then a major, was flying a H-3 Jolly Green Giant that was carrying troops. He had two choices: “depart the area leaving his downed comrades or attempt a rescue and reinforce the friendly troops already on the ground,” the Air Force Cross citation states.

Despite knowing the chance of survival was minimal, Conran decided to try to rescue the crew “since he felt his comrades would not survive the overwhelming enemy forces.” As the Jolly Green Giant began its approach, the helicopter’s servos were destroyed, but he continued on and landed, letting off the troops he was carrying. He then picked up the four Americans from the downed helicopter. As they tried to take off, enemy fire destroyed the helicopter’s transmission, making flight impossible.

The team fled the helicopter, and Conran took command, exposing himself to enemy fire to set up a perimeter. He ran back to the H-3 to pick up packaged parachutes to use as cover, and then ran 50 yards through enemy fire to get to the downed H-1 that had two M-60 machine guns and ammunition. As the day went on, Conran called in airstrikes, using a pocket compass to help direct the fires. Eventually he received a severe leg wound, but he remained a “source of energy” to the rest of his team. As night fell, the area “was completely sanitized with gas” and two H-53 helicopters were able to land to rescue the downed crews.

Even though he was severely wounded, as the team boarded the rescue helicopter, Conran got down on his hands and knees so another man could use his back as a stepping stone to get onto the aircraft.

“Major Conran’s decision to come to the aid of his downed comrades, his heroic actions above and beyond the call of duty while under severe hostile fire, and his outstanding leadership throughout the many hours were instrumental in enabling them to withstand the superior enemy force,” the citation states.

Conran’s local Congressional Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif) introduced a bill this week to authorize the President to award Conran the Medal of Honor.

“His heroic actions above and beyond the call of duty while under severe hostile fire, and his positive attitude throughout the ordeal were instrumental in enabling the two helicopter crews and 44 friendly troops to withstand superior odds until a rescue could be made,” the bill states. 

In a statement to Air Force Magazine, Carbajal said, “Conran served our nation with the utmost bravery during the Vietnam War when he risked his own life in combat to save his fellow soldiers. It has taken far too long for our country to honor his courage, and I will continue working to help secure this well-deserved recognition.”

In addition to the bill, Carbajal provided two eyewitness accounts from others on the mission to the Air Force Decorations Board to bolster the case for an upgrade.

In one of the statements, a gunner from the helicopter that was shot down said he owes his life to Conran because “before he joined us on the ground, I didn’t think we would survive the day.” The reinforcements from Conran’s helicopter and his leadership helped them “withstand the onslaught” of enemy fighters. The gunner said Conran’s decision to get on his hands and knees to help another soldier was a particularly “heroic act” “that still impresses me.”

In the other statement, the mission commander of the helicopter that was shot down wrote that Conran showed the “willingness to sacrifice to save your comrades” that shows Conran deserves the Medal of Honor.

“I know I lived to see another day because Conran risked his life to save me and my crew,” he said.

The aircraft commander wrote that at the time, politics prevented Conran from the recognition he deserved. Those who fought in Laos did not receive the same attention as those in Vietnam because the US was not publicly in the country.

“We were in a place we should not have been, doing what our country asked us to do, yet we were treated different from those in open combat when it came to recognizing our accomplishments,” he wrote. “In war some secret missions can’t be discussed until enough time has passed so as not to embarrass the nation. In this case, there is no excuse not to bestow this honor on a deserving warrior that was willing to give his life for his comrades.”

The military has in recent years upgraded several valor awards to the Medal of Honor. Last year, MSgt. John Chapman’s Air Force Cross was upgraded the Medal of Honor, and in October, President Donald Trump also awarded the Medal of Honor to retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. John Canley, who originally received the Navy Cross for his actions during the notorious Battle of Hue in 1968.

In 2010, former President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to CMSgt. Richard Etchberger, who originally received the Air Force Cross. Like Conran, Etchberger was deployed to Laos, where he was killed during the Battle of Lima Site 85.

There is precedent for a law pressing the military to upgrade an award. In 1999, then Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) introduced a measure to upgrade the Air Force Cross awarded to A1C. William Pitsenbarger to the Medal of Honor. The measure was included in the next year’s defense authorization bill, and the award was presented to Pitsenbarger’s family in 2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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