"BOBBY BLUE EYES"
Category: "Air Force"
Most Air Force bases are home to a complement of fighters, bombers or cargo airplanes. Usually a compliment at a base is called a “Wing.” The Wing is usually divided into three or four squadrons of airplanes, maintenance units, logistics units, a hospital squadron and other support units.
In the mid 1970s, the Air Force decided to replace the F-4E Wing at RAF Lakenheath with the F-111F Wing from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. My job at the time was “Assistant to the Director of Operations” at Mountain Home.
Every unit in the Air Force has what is called a “Table of Allowances” and it describes each and every person and piece of equipment that is authorized by that unit. Nowhere will you find “Assistant to the Director of Operations.” This meant that I could not ship out with the rest of the unit unless I took a job that was on the Table of Allowances. The only one available for my rank as a Lt. Colonel was Chief of the Command Post [CP]; a job that I had held in Viet Nam five years earlier – and I thought it might be better to retire than to take the job. I didn’t like it in Viet Nam and I knew I certainly wouldn’t like it since the F-111Fs would be part of the European nuclear strike force and all the rigid regulations and tight security that went with it.
Another consideration was that I was coming into the primary zone for promotion to O-6 [Colonel] and if I was passed over for the rank, I certainly didn’t want to spend three years cooped up in a nuclear alert Command Post and all the aggravation and tedious busy-work that went with it. A report card, called an OER [officer’s effectiveness report] had just been written on me by my boss, Colonel Joe Clarkson; the OER was secret and I had no idea what was on it although I had been told my work ethic and attention to detail had been quite good.
The Military Personnel Center at Randolph AFB had been bugging me about whether I was going to retire or take the assignment. I shared a large office with Colonel Clarkson and one day, MPC called to tell me that they needed my answer immediately; Colonel Clarkson was at his desk. I held the phone in the air and said “Colonel Clarkson, I’ve got MPC on the line and they want an answer now on whether I’m going to take the Lakenheath assignment. I gotta know colonel, should I take the assignment or retire?”
Colonel Clarkson knew I was thinking about the secret OER that he had written on me, so he thought for a moment and said “take the assignment.”
So, I found myself at RAF Lakenheath as chief of the ADVON [Advance Echelon], preparing the base to accept the F-111F and also getting briefed in on Command Post chief duties.
The F-111Fs arrived and we went into a very intense upgrading program, preparing the airplane, aircrews, maintenance personnel and others for nuclear duties. In case of nuclear war, the Lakenheath F-111s had Eastern European targets that they would obliterate.
One day, during this time-consuming and mind-numbing upgrade, a CP sergeant called out, “hey you guys, some general down at Ramstein was just caught red-handed in bed with a German National [GN].” We all gathered around him and the phone that he was on - to find out what else he knew, but no further information was forthcoming, so we all went back to work and the incident was forgotten.
In about 8 months, the O-6 list was published and I was on it. Several guys called me to congratulate, but the two guys I was told were responsible for my promotion [in later years]: Bud Crabb and Slip Arthur did not call. However, an ex-Wing Commander of mine at Mountain Home, MGEN Howard K. Leaf did call and told me I was “on line for flag status [i.e., I was being looked at for promotion to general officer; extremely unusual because almost all of the general officers I knew were promoted early at some point in their career, I never had been].” There were no jobs open for an O-6 at Lakenheath, so I would have to be reassigned.
The Colonel’s Assignment Branch offered me two NATO positions: one at Vicenza, Italy as Chief of TAC-EVAL [where I would be in charge of checking NATO pilots’ ability to perform their mission] and the other one was to 4th Allied Tactical Air Force [4 ATAF] at Ramstein AB in Germany as Deputy Chief of Staff, Nuclear and Conventional strikes. I had been in 4 ATAF eight years previously and although I disliked my job, I liked my boss and it was his position that was being offered to me; a very powerful position during my first tour there. Colonel Robert Koles had had the NATO position during my previous assignment there and for that reason; I picked it as my first O-6 assignment because of the prestige. What I didn’t realize was that an intermediate command had been inserted between 4 ATAF and SHAPE [Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe; it was called AAFCE [Allied Air Forces, Central Europe] and everything we did at 4 ATAF was staffed by AAFCE and sent forward with their name on any ideas, suggestions and/or documents.
If you get the idea that I thought 4 ATAF was useless; it is the idea I’m trying to convey.
Leaving my family behind at Fordham, Cambridgeshire, England to finish school and sell the house, I hopped a C-130 for Ramstein. I was surprised and delighted to find several of the schoolteachers and secretaries I knew from my previous tour still there.
A good buddy, Bob Hicks, now married, who was stationed at Ramstein with me before as a bachelor, was once again stationed in the area.
I always tried to check into a new base on Friday, so I’d have the weekend off to look over the environs – and so it was at Ramstein. Bob and I hung around the bar renewing old acquaintances and eating in the excellent Gast Hauses in the area.
One of our previously acquaintances was a divorced GN secretary by the name of Kris Kasper. Kris was, in my opinion, pretty in an impish, sluttish sort of way and we chatted at the bar a couple of times. To speak to Kris, one would not realize that she was German – her American English was so superb.
On Monday morning, I reported to duty. As the Deputy Commander for Strike and Conventional warfare, my immediate supervisor was a Canadian Brigadier General by the name of McNickle [Americans do not work for more senior officers from other countries. Foreign officers do provide inputs to the report cards we received]. My immediate American supervisor was MGEN Bob White, an X-15 Astronaut and highly decorated veteran of the SEA conflict. Behind his back, he was called “Bobby Blue-eyes” because of his bright blue eyes and arrogant manner.
A previous assignment of mine had been as an F-100 pilot at Phan Rang AB, RVN and my Ops Officer there was named Pete Knight. Pete had also been an X-15 astronaut and was a very likeable, friendly person. My mind set was if Pete was a great guy and an X-15 pilot, MGEN White must be cut from the same stock.
After settling into my office, MGEN White called me to his office, as I knew he would. Commanders always want to meet their senior officers. I was surprised to see that Kris Kasper was his secretary; she was also the secretary for the commander of 4 ATAF, a German three star. A bit odd I thought as I had my own private bi-lingual German secretary, as did most of the colonels in the headquarters.
We chatted for a bit and during the interview, MGEN White said, “I see you have been stationed at 4 ATAF before.” I said that I had and he asked, “what kind of changes do you see?”
I replied, “I see that Kris is still hanging around the bar and the communications with higher headquarters seems to be worse than before.”
When I said that, I saw his eyes go cold and he terminated the interview quickly. Uh-oh, I knew that I was in trouble but thought it was because of my “communications” remark. I poked around for a day or so, wondering how I could be so stupid as to make such a remark, but also wondered why MGEN White didn’t recognize the inferior communications problem. I could see it and had only been on duty a few days. Then a friend, another American colonel, while we were chatting, gratuitously mentioned, “oh by the way, don’t say anything bad about Kris Kasper in front of White, she’s his girlfriend.” Then it hit me, I remembered the phone conversation at Lakenheath where we had heard that “… some general down at Ramstein was just caught red-handed in bed with a German National [GN].” Oh my God, I thought, it wasn’t my communications remark at all; he had to be the general and Kris had to be the GN and he must have thought I had some knowledge of the affair.
At a later time, I spoke with people who claimed to have knowledge of the illicit affair [the general was married]. Their stories were all about the same and it seems that the general’s wife caught him in flagrante delicto with Kris in a Kaiserslautern hotel room [Kaiserslautern was a nearby city]. According to the story, Mrs. White went directly to the 4 star, also stationed at Ramstein, who was in charge of all European operations and told him what she had seen. He directed her to go straight to Base Operations and had her flown out of Germany immediately and sent personnel to her home to pack and ship her belongings.
Supposedly, the 4 star then called MGEN White into his office and told him that he wasn’t going to fire him, but that he would never be promoted again and would remain in his current position until his retirement was mandatory. That would explain why he spent six years at 4 ATAF when the normal tour was two years for bachelors and three years for the married guys.
Once a week, the German three star 4 ATAF commander, had a staff meeting and all Division Heads had to attend – and I was a division head. MGEN White would use these meetings to denigrate me, ask me questions that he knew I couldn’t answer and generally made life very unpleasant for me.
Once, when he was berating me because he thought I had been stationed in a European fighter squadron at an earlier date [I had not], I noticed that the German three star wasn’t looking at me, he was looking at MGEN White with a puzzled expression on his face.
And so it went, I dreaded those weekly meetings and sent my assistant whenever I could. One of my friends, who was aware of what he was doing, suggested I tell MGEN White to “knock it off and go piss up a rope.” But MGEN White held the hammer and the hammer was those report cards that would be written on me. I knew that I had a sponsor in the Pentagon, LTGEN Leaf now, who would be backing me for promotion to Brigadier General and I didn’t want any bad reports in my records – the kiss of death.
I had been in and out of the hospital for seventeen years with a lower back, an L4 – L5 disk problem and I suspect because of the stress, I ended back in the hospital in traction. MGEN White came to visit me and told me he was appointing another colonel to my position and that I would take the other colonel’s position. Both were on the same grade level, but my position was more prestigious. The reason he gave, probably rightly so, that he didn’t know when I’d be back at my desk and he needed someone there.
When I was released from the hospital, MGEN White called me in and said he was shipping me back to the States. There is no other way to put it: he was firing me. However, my back was still painful and I welcomed getting out of the assignment and back to normalcy. Of course, I never heard from LTGEN Leaf again.
My follow-on assignment was some sort of horseshit job in the logistics section of 12th AF at Bergstrom AFB, Texas. I had never been in logistics before but it didn’t matter as I was set for retirement. About that time, the officer in charge of all the Air Advisors to National Guard and Air Reserve units west of the Mississippi retired and I was assigned to his position. My back had stopped hurting me and I was able to get back on flying status with the help of an acquaintance, Russ Violett, who was a two star in the Tactical Air Command Headquarters. The San Antonio Air Guard invited me down to fly the F-4C with them, which I did.
Part of my duties was to visit the ANG and Reserve units to inspect their operations. One unit was TDY [temporary duty] to Hurlburt Field near Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Crestview, the county seat of Oskaloosa County, was a few miles up the road and I knew that Mrs. White had obtained her divorce in Oskaloosa County, Florida so I drove to the courthouse to obtain copies of the divorce papers. Since MGEN White had been so malicious, using his senior position to humiliate me, it was my intention to send copies of the divorce papers to personnel still working in 4 ATAF – as was MGEN White.
Unfortunately, the divorce papers said nothing about his marital treachery, just a few words about incompatibility. However, according to the divorce papers, Mrs. White took him to the cleaners, leaving him with a monthly pittance. Oddly, the bi-lingual NATO secretaries were paid huge salaries [my secretary made more than I did], so Kris, whom he later married, probably was able to provide for them both.
So, for a moment of innocent but inappropriate prattle, any future career I had in the Air Force was shattered by a libertine. What’s done is done and the only thing left for me to do is to make sure that the next time I visit Arlington National Cemetery; I piss on the general’s grave.
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