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Monthly Archives: December 2008

From RonRosenbaum.com

Jarvisites (see below) don’t seem to get that I love the ‘net. I love surfing. I love the debates one comes upon (and sometimes starts–see below). And I love Google (just not kool-aid drinking Google- worshippers), for instance for rthe way Google Alerts has helped me with my new book on the new face of nuclear warfare.

And so it was that on Christmas morning I woke up to find one of my Google alerts directing me to what I consider a truly profound and important moral debate, one initiated by the campaign to create a medal for “Cold War veterans”.

These are the guys who manned the missile silos and the nuclear armed subs, flew the nuclear armed bombers. The guys who–depending on your point of view–saved the world from a nuclear holocaust, by making deterrence–the prevention of nuclear and conventional war, possible in the 45 years between Hirsohima and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Or took part in the reckless policy of Mutually Assured Destrruction at the heart of deterrence that pledged them to what anti-nuke types such as Jonathan Schell called “conditional genoicide”: our threat to attack and vaporize entire cities full of unarmed civilians if we should be attacked. To carry out a genocidal threat even after the threat had failed in its purpose. Or even, as happened on more than one occasion, carry out that threat on the basis of “false positive” warnings of an attack.

On the other hand what was the alternative? And also on the other hand they were doing it because we, as a populace, in effect ordered them to do it.

On the other, other hand (I’m running out of hands) there were some who questioned and opted out of it. I wrote about one in a Harper’s article “The Subterranean World of the Bomb” (March, 1978; reprinted in The Secret Parts of Fortune). And I talked to guys in Minuteman misile silos who had doubts, but I had no idea, as the post below shows that some went as far as hanging themselves from the stress of the moral quandry our policy makers (and the Soviet Union’s) put them in.

Was deterrence a profoundly moral doctrine inthat it saved tens, hundreds of milions of lives, perhas the entire human species. Or was it profoundly immoral because it threatened genocide after it had failed to deter nuclear attack?

And do the “footsoldiers” in that unconventional, non-physical–very real, but metaphysical, conceptual–combat that deterrence represeneted, deserve medals for their service regardless because of the impossible demands it made upon them as human beings?

That’s the contention of a campaign for a Cold War Medal campaign I came upon in this blog posting (lined above):

“Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cold War Veteran Spot to Air on Weekend America on Dec 27th.

ACWV and Independent Producer Eric Molinsky have put together a montage of interviews of Cold War Veterans to commemorate the End of the Cold War. Dr. Frank Tims, Scott L’Ecuyer and Bill Robinson are featured on the radio spot.

This weekend marks the 17th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the official end of the Cold War. Some Americans will be observing this weekend as if it were a holiday. These folks flew the Berlin Air Lift, or played cat and mouse games with Soviet subs, like in a Tom Clancy novel. Independent Producer Eric Molinsky says these retired servicemen are facing a new battle.

Bill Robinson was part of an elite crew: People who had their finger on the button. He flew a B52 bomber in 1968, circling the Arctic for 24 hours at a time. If given the order, he would’ve nuked Moscow. “We had one purpose and only one purpose, and that was to put our bombs on the target, regardless of battle damage, regardless of anything other than complete destruction of the airplane. So we all knew that we were basically flying a suicide mission.”

Officially, they were called “Chrome Dome” missions. Bill worked for the Strategic Air Command, or SAC. They were tested constantly – rehearsing World War III over and over again.

“Every time we had a practice alert, we never actually knew whether if it was real or not,” Robinson says. “But if it were the real thing, we would have nothing to come back to. In the back in our minds, and my mind, I knew that my family would probably be vaporized.”

Bill and his crewmates were on the front lines of the Cold War. But when the Soviet Union fell, there were no victory parades and no medal ceremonies. Gorbachev was barely clinging to power. The first President Bush was worried about sparking a backlash in the Soviet Union if America appeared to be gloating. Bill Robinson gets that, but he still feels unappreciated.

“It would have been nice to have somebody say thank you.” Bill says. “It would be nice to have somebody say, as my old OPS officer used to say, ‘It was a real bucket of snot but thanks.’”

Bill is part of a growing movement of retired servicemen who support The American Cold War Veterans Association. The organization is lobbying Congress to create a Cold War Service Medal. They have the support of seven senators, but the Pentagon is against it.

Here’s the problem: The Department of Defense does not consider The Cold War a real war. They’re worried that if they give medals to people who didn’t serve in combat, they’ll water down the whole meaning of the word “veteran.”

Scott L’Ecuyer believes that he was on the front lines of a real war. The contribution of his crew needs to be recognized.

“Sometimes I wonder, if President Reagan was still around and conscious of this, would he recognize us?” Scott contemplates. “I’ve spoken to Ronald Reagan. On a Christmas day, when I was out on the missile site, he called us, and said ‘Merry Christmas.’”

Scott spent four years as a chief mechanic at a nuclear missile silo. The job was grueling. The missiles were constantly malfunctioning, but the base had to be fully operational in case the Soviets took a first strike. The crew was tested every day, unaware if was the real thing or just a drill. One of Scott’s roommates couldn’t handle the stress. He was kicked out.

“I can’t tell you how much that guy did for the mission,” Scott explains. “He couldn’t do the job, but he propped us up so much, he might as well have been the truck that drove us there. When they kicked him out, it was unbelievable to all of us, because he was like our parent. We didn’t realize he couldn’t go home because of family issues, and he hung himself in our room. I have a flag that’s on my mantel right now that was flying over the squadron at the time, and I keep it in a box for his memory.”

Those memories weigh heavily on Scott. He had trouble adjusting to the outside world. He had nightmares from underground in solitary confinement. Scott was eventually diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. He showed up at a local VA hospital, and that’s when he discovered that he wasn’t technically a veteran. He didn’t serve during an official time of war, like Vietnam.

“I was locked out from being a new applicant,” Scott says. “I went crazy. That’s when I really got involved.”

Scott recruits members for the American Cold War Veterans Association. He’s hoping to change the system, which he thinks is unfair.

According to Scott, “Everyone’s made hay on the Cold War, from authors to politicians to the media. Everyone for 50 years has made their careers on the Cold War, and it was us that carried out that mission, and the fact that we’re forgotten is unbelievable.”

Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton have pledged their support, but getting money is going to be tough. A new generation of soldiers is coming home, with pressing concerns. The Cold War veterans might have to hunker down for a long fight. The payoff may be years down the road. They’re used to that.”

How do you feel about the stories of Bill and Scott above? I’d like to hear from “Cold War vets” about their experience–what they thought then, what they think now. Post them in “comments”. I’d like to hear what the non-combatants among you think. I think we just can’t bury their experiences, we need to think about them, because the way things look we’re going to have to deal with these questions again, soon.

There is some lively feedback on Rons blog put in your two cents here
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Tue Dec 30, 6:20 pm ET

WASHINGTON – A federal judge has awarded more than $65 million to several men of the USS Pueblo, who were captured and tortured by North Korea back in the 1960s.

U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. issued the judgment against North Korea on Tuesday.

North Korea did not respond to the lawsuit accusing it of kidnapping, imprisonment and torture.

The USS Pueblo was seized off North Korea while it was on an intelligence-gathering mission on Jan. 23, 1968. North Korea says the ship was inside its coastal zone. U.S. Navy records say it was in international waters.

The men on the ship were held and sometimes tortured for 11 months.

North Korea displays the USS Pueblo on the Taedong River in the capital, Pyongyang (pyuhng-yahng).

Fighting War — and for Custody
Deployment Used In Battles for Kids

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 30, 2008; A01

FORT LEE, Va. — Army Sgt. Stephanie Greer was serving with a vehicle-maintenance unit in the volatile Iraqi city of Ramadi, part of President Bush’s “surge” strategy to stabilize the country, when she learned of a far-off and most unexpected battle: Her estranged husband was going to fight her for custody of their daughter.

Greer had temporary custody of Mackenzie when she began her second deployment to Iraq in early 2007. Her husband was to care for the 7-year-old while Greer was overseas, but soon he challenged that arrangement in divorce proceedings. “He said I was unstable because I was deployed or training too much,” she said.

As a result, throughout her 15-month combat tour, Greer had to mount from 4,000 miles away a legal campaign to keep her daughter.

“If I had not deployed, I know I never would have faced this situation,” said Greer, 39. “I don’t think it should be held against you, and I don’t think my time away, or me deploying, affects my ability to be a mother or provide for my kids.”

If she expected support in that position from the military, she was disappointed. Instead, the message she said she received from her superiors was: Deal with it.

“In the midst of the deployment, everything goes to pieces . . . and they say, ‘Just let it go and fix it when you get home,’ ” Greer said. “But most of the time when you do that, it is too late.”

The military does not track statistics on custody disputes, but as military divorce rates rise — particularly among enlisted female troops such as Greer — so do child custody struggles in which military service overseas has become a wedge issue, according to experts in military family law.

“More and more, a service member is deployed and the service member’s spouse is seeking to use that to their advantage,” said Greg Rinckey, a former Army judge advocate.

“We are seeing a substantial increase in cases . . . challenging the custody of military parents and the return of custody when they come back from mobilization or deployment, compared to virtually none 10 years ago,” said Mark E. Sullivan, a retired Army Reserve judge advocate who practices family law in North Carolina. The increase has been greatest in states with large military populations, such as Virginia and Texas, he added.

Female troops may be particularly at risk, because mothers are more likely to have custody of children after a divorce. “For them to go away for 15 to 18 months, it opens the door to these challenges,” said A.J. Balbo, Greer’s attorney and a former Army judge advocate.

These conditions create an impossible quandary for service members who are devoted parents and yet must fulfill their obligation to their country, Rinckey and other experts said.

Under Army regulations, soldiers can request emergency leave because of the threat of divorce or related problems at home, although unit commanders retain ultimate discretion to grant approval. However, Balbo said, “most of the time the chain of command is not going to view the custody fight as an emergency.”

“Typically, when someone . . . is on emergency leave, it’s understood that he has a family member who is dying or just died,” said Lt. Col. George Wright, an Army spokesman. “But the regulation clearly states that there are provisions for that type of thing,” he said, referring to marital problems.

The Pentagon has supported protections for deployed troops facing custody disputes, Wright said, including giving them the power to request a delay of at least 90 days in child custody proceedings. President Bush signed such a measure into law in January. Wright said the military has also stepped up programs to help service members and their families cope with the stresses of deployments through counseling.

More than 20 states have passed legislation over the past two years to limit the impact of deployments on custody decisions.

“More states are recognizing the need for statutes which protect the rights of service members and their children,” said Sullivan, who helped write North Carolina’s statute.

The states’ approaches vary, but several prevent deployment from being a factor in determining or modifying custody. In a statute passed this year, Virginia bars any permanent change in custody while a service member is deployed.

Still, such protections are incomplete and do not exist in the District and more than 20 states, including Maryland — which killed a bill similar to Virginia’s in a House committee this year — and Georgia, where Greer’s custody hearing took place.

Congress is expected to hold hearings on the issue next year. Meanwhile, experts said, many cases fall through the cracks, such as that of Army Staff Sgt. Dan Diaz.

Diaz gained temporary custody of his daughter, Talia, in February 2002 because her mother was unfit, Diaz said. But when he deployed to Iraq with his engineer battalion in April 2003, he had to delegate joint custody to his mother and Talia’s mother. When he came back, Talia’s mother refused to return the child.

This year, Florida enacted a statute saying that courts should reinstate custody decrees in place before deployment, but for Diaz, the change came too late.

“If I had not deployed in 2003, I would not have lost custody,” he said. “That’s unfair. We are trying to serve the country, but to lose custody because you did the right thing is pretty hard.” He said he will keep trying to get his daughter back: “If there is a small bit of an opening anywhere, I will take that opening.”

Another problem, legal experts and advocates say, is the military protocol that requires service members to devise a family care plan for dependents before deployment — effectively delegating legal decisions about minor children to a chosen relative. Such military arrangements are not equivalent to legal custody, though, and civilian courts may choose to ignore the care plan if the non-deploying parent challenges it. Yet the range of state approaches to family law makes it all but impossible for the military to create a plan that would be legally binding nationwide, experts said.

“It’s wonderful to have protections” for deployed parents, but they should be adopted at the state not the federal level, Sullivan said. “The federal judges would not know what to do. It would be a nightmare,” he added.

“There’s an imperfect fit between military policy and the civilian family court system,” said Rachel Natelson, coordinator of the Veterans and Servicemembers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York.

Spec. Jonathan W. Maldonado learned that fact the hard way. Maldonado, currently deployed in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, is struggling to regain custody of his son and daughter after officials placed them in foster care in New York. He said he gave his mother guardianship and power of attorney over the children. But the courts did not recognize the military’s power-of-attorney arrangements, said Natelson, who is working on Maldonado’s case.

“I can’t contact my kids, I can’t speak with them, and it’s hard ’cause they’re with a foster mother, when they could have been with my family,” Maldonado wrote in an e-mail from Mosul, where he is with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

“No one ever wants to help me out in this situation, no one wants to tell me anything, I’m left in the dark pretty much,” he wrote. He plans to return stateside in January and says he will file again for custody.

Such ordeals have become increasingly common recently as the rate of divorce among military members has risen, particularly among enlisted troops in the Marine Corps and Army, the services with the longest deployments.

Nearly 10 percent of enlisted female soldiers and Marines obtained divorces in fiscal 2008, up from 7.1 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively, in 2004.

“There are a lot of single moms out there. This is very worrisome” for them especially, Rinckey said.

Greer was a single mother in Richlands, N.C., when she approached a military recruiter in 2003, in search of a career that would allow her to better provide for her two daughters, Sheressa Carr, then 14, and Mackenzie, then 3. The recruiter told her that the military did not take single parents. (As recently as the 1970s, the military required women to give up their children if they wanted to enlist and discharged those who became pregnant.) Greer signed over custody of Mackenzie to the child’s father, Stephen Greer.

In May 2004, the two married when Stephanie Greer was on leave from training, ending that custody arrangement, and within seven months she left for her first Iraq deployment. The relationship suffered while she was abroad, and Greer filed for divorce after she returned.

Although she gained temporary custody before deployment from Fort Stewart, Ga., Stephen Greer strongly believed that Mackenzie would be better off with him, given the prospect of more deployments by her mother, said his attorney, John Harvey.

Harvey said the main focus of the custody challenge was to emphasize the “positives” of his client, a schoolteacher. But “deployments obviously do affect custody cases,” he said, and “we certainly raised that as an issue” about Stephanie Greer.

“We weren’t attacking her personally for serving her country,” Harvey added.

But in Ramadi, it felt that way to Greer.

“I had to prove I was sending money, and prove I was taking care of her. That is hard to do” while deployed in a combat zone, she said.

Serving with a maintenance unit with the 3rd Infantry Division, Greer had trouble gaining even the most rudimentary contact with Mackenzie, waiting over the course of weeks in long lines for the phone where her combat brigade was based, trying repeatedly to reach her daughter. Meanwhile, Greer needed to stay alert for fellow soldiers and their mission. “We are trained tears are a sign of weakness,” she said. “I had to keep my composure for my soldiers.”

Greer returned home in the spring, and her custody hearing was held in June, after which the judge took seven days to make a decision. “It was the worst week in my life,” Greer recalled in an interview at her home at Fort Lee, an Army base near Richmond.

Finally the phone call came from her attorney. Mackenzie, now 8, was to stay with Greer. Her father, now in Jacksonville, N.C., would get regular visitation. “I think I blacked out,” Greer said. In a blur, she put down the phone and went flying out the door, embracing her daughter and sobbing.

“I guess I get to stay with you, don’t I?” Mackenzie asked. All Greer could do was cry.

Staff researchers Julie Tate and Madonna Lebling contributed to this report

New America Media, Commentary, Aaron Glantz, Posted: Dec 30, 2008

Editor’s note: On any given night, there are 200,000 U.S. veterans sleeping on the streets of America. Many died while waiting for their disability claims to be approved by the government. NAM contributing writer, Aaron Glantz, is the author of “The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle Against America’s Veterans” (University of California Press). Reach him at http://www.aaronglantz.com.

SAN FRANCISCO – Roy Lee Brantley shivers in the cold December morning as he waits in line for food outside the Ark of Refuge mission, which sits amid warehouses and artists lofts a stone’s throw from the skyscrapers of downtown San Francisco.

Brantley’s beard is long, white and unkempt. The African-American man’s skin wrinkled beyond his 62 years. He lives in squalor in a dingy residential hotel room with the bathroom down the hall. In some ways, his current situation marks an improvement. “I’ve slept in parks,” he says, “and on the sidewalk. Now at least I have a room.”

Like the hundreds of others in line for food, Brantley has worn the military uniform. Most, like Brantley, carry their service IDs and red, white and blue cards from the Department of Veterans Affairs in their wallets or around their necks. In 1967, he deployed to Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army. By the time he left the military five years later, Brantley had attained the rank of sergeant and been decorated for his valor and for the wounds he sustained in combat.

“I risked my life for this democracy and got a Bronze Star,” he says. “I shed blood for this country and got the Purple Heart after a mortar blast sent shrapnel into my face and leg. But when I came back home from Vietnam I was having problems. I tried to hurt my wife because she was Filipino. Every time I looked at her I thought I was in Vietnam again. So we broke up.”

In 1973, Brantley filed a disability claim with the federal government for mental wounds sustained in combat overseas. Over the years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has denied his claim five separate times. “You go over there and risk your life for America and your mind’s all messed up, America should take care of you, right,” he says, knowing that for him and the other veterans in line for free food that promise has not been kept.

On any given night 200,000 U.S. veterans sleep homeless on the streets of America. One out of every four people -and one out of every three men -sleeping in a car, in front of a shop door, or under a freeway overpass has worn a military uniform. Some like Brantley have been on the streets for years. Others are young and women returning home wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan, quickly slipping through the cracks.

For each of these homeless veterans, America’s promise to “Support the Troops” ended the moment he or she took off the uniform and tried to make the difficult transition to civilian life. There, they encountered a hostile and cumbersome bureaucracy set up by the Department of Veterans Affairs. In a best-case scenario, a wounded veteran must wait six months to hear back from the VA. Those who appeal a denial have to wait an average of four and a half years for their answer. In the six months leading up to March 31st of this year, nearly 1,500 veterans died waiting to learn if their disability claims would be approved by the government.

There are patriotic Americans trying to solve this problem. Last month, two veterans’ organizations, Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Modern Warfare, filed suit in federal court demanding the government decide disability claims brought by wounded soldiers within three months. Predictably, however, the VA is trying to block the effort. On December 17, their lawyers convinced Reggie Walton, a judge appointed by President Bush, who ruled that imposing a quicker deadline for payment of benefits was a task for Congress and the president-not the courts.

President-elect Barack Obama has the power to end this national disgrace. He has the power to ensure to streamline the VA bureaucracy so it helps rather than fights those who have been wounded in the line of duty. He can ensure that this latest generation of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan does not receive the bum rap the Vietnam generation got. Let 2008 be the last year thousands of homeless veterans stand in line for free food during the holiday season. Let it be the last year hundreds of thousands sleep homeless on the street.

VA Ramps Up Job Search for Injured Vets

WASHINGTON (Dec. 30, 2008) – Thirty percent of employees of the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are veterans – the second highest
ranking among cabinet departments after the Department of Defense — and
nearly 8 percent of VA employees are service-connected disabled
veterans. But the VA intends to increase the number of disabled
veterans who obtain employment in its workforce.

“I am proud of this effort,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr.
James B. Peake. “VA knows the true quality of our men and women, and we
should be a leader in employing them.”

Peake said all severely injured veterans of the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan will be contacted by VA’s Veterans Employment Coordination
Service to determine their interest in — and qualifications for — VA
jobs. So far, that office has identified 2,300 severely injured
veterans of those wars, of whom 600 expressed interest in VA employment.

The coordination service was established a year ago to recruit veterans
into VA, especially those seriously injured in the current wars. It has
nine regional coordinators working with local facility human resources
offices across the country not only to reach out to potential job
candidates but to ensure that local managers know about special
authorities available to hire veterans. For example, qualified disabled
veterans rated by the Defense Department or VA as having a 30 percent or
more service-connected disability can be hired non-competitively.

“Our team is spreading the message that VA is hiring, and we want to
hire disabled veterans,” said Dennis O. May, director of VA’s Veterans
Employment Coordination Service.

VA coordinators participate in military career fairs and transition
briefings, and partner with veterans organizations, the Department of
Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service, as well as VA’s
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service, the Marine Corps’
Wounded Warrior Regiment and the Army’s Warrior Transition Units.

Vets to see another break on travel reimbursement with deductible decrease

Some Veterans to See Another Travel Reimbursement Increase
WASHINGTON (Dec. 29, 2008) – Service-disabled and low-income veterans
who are reimbursed for travel expenses while receiving care at
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities will see an increase in
their payments beginning January 9.

A recently passed law allows VA to cut the amount it must withhold from
their mileage reimbursement. The deductible amount will be $3 for each
one-way trip and $6 for each round trip — with a calendar cap of $18,
or six one-way trips or three round trips, whichever comes first. The
previous deductible was $7.77 for a one-way trip, and $15.54 for a round
trip, with a calendar cap of $46.62.

“I’m pleased that we can help veterans living far from VA facilities to
access the medical and counseling help they deserve, especially in the
current economic climate,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James
B. Peake. “Together with the increased mileage rate approved last
month, we can further reduce the financial hardship some veterans
undergo to use our superior health care.”

In November, Peake announced VA’s second increase in the mileage
reimbursement rate during 2008, from 28.5 cents to 41.5 cents a mile.

Service-disabled and low-income veterans are eligible to be reimbursed
by VA for the travel costs of receiving health care or counseling at VA
facilities. Veterans traveling for Compensation and Pension
examinations also qualify for mileage reimbursement. VA can waive
deductibles if they cause financial hardship.

Honoring Cold War Veterans
This weekend marks the 17th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the official end of the Cold War. Some Americans will be observing this weekend as if it were a holiday. These folks flew the Berlin Air Lift, or played cat and mouse games with Soviet subs, like in a Tom Clancy novel. Independent Producer Eric Molinsky says these retired servicemen are facing a new battle.

Listen to the Cold War spot here

Download

From the : Mineola American

Veterans Must File By the December 31 Deadline

The Village of Mineola Board of Trustees enacted a new tax exemption for Cold War veterans after a public hearing held on Wednesday evening, Dec. 17.

The exemption provides a basic property tax exemption for the village tax of 15 percent of the assessed value of a property with a maximum reduction of $12,000.

The law also provides an additional exemption to disabled veterans equal to one-half of their service-connected disability ratings. The basic exemption is good for 10 years, but there is no time limit for the disabled portion of the exemption. The exemption only applies to a primary residence.

In order to be eligible for the exemption for the 2009-2010 village tax year, a qualified veteran must make application to the Village of Mineola by next week, December 31, 2008. Application forms are available at Mineola Village Hall, located at 155 Washington Avenue in Mineola.

The veteran must show a discharge or release from the U.S. Armed Forces under honorable conditions and that service was during the Cold War period. The Cold War period covers the time from September 2, 1945 to December 26, 1991. If a Cold War veteran already receives a veterans’ tax exemption, this new exemption will not be available.

Application for the exemption must be made each year by Jan. 1, meaning Cold War veterans have a week to file for next year’s exemption.

“The board of trustees and I have the highest respect for and gratitude to those men and women who served in our Armed Forces. They deserve this benefit as a sign of our appreciation for what they have given to our nation,” said Mineola Mayor Jack M. Martins.

By Andrew McGinn

Staff Writer

Monday, December 22, 2008

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — A world war had just ended with the splitting of atoms.

Daring flyboys were going higher and faster than man knew he could go.

New enemies were emerging. New sides were forming.

And then something happened in New Mexico.

In Roswell.

This was the nascent Air Force Donald Rizer served in.

By the time he was initially discharged in 1948, the Springfield resident had gone from feeding cavalry horses at a base in Texas to personally watching Chuck Yeager fly faster than the speed of sound in the California desert.

He went from tinkering on airplanes at Crabill Airport in Springfield to chasing UFOs across the western night sky.

Now 81, Rizer recalls this era of strange new aircraft and stranger new sightings in a video on SpringfieldNewsSun.com.

As someone always interested in aviation, Rizer considers himself lucky that he was sent to Muroc Airfield (now Edwards Air Force Base) in the Mojave Desert in 1946.

There, he became one of the military’s first jet mechanics.

“This,” he said, “was the place to be.”

From rockets to flying wings, Rizer helped put the wild in wild blue yonder.

“In October of ’47, when they broke the sound barrier, we all witnessed and knew what had happened,” he said. “We were told right then, ‘Don’t tell anybody.’ They didn’t want the Russians to know what we could do.”

At the start of the Korean War in 1950, Rizer was called back to duty, eventually retiring from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as the civilian chief of base operations in 1987.

But if watching a man go Mach 1.06 40 years earlier was weird, chasing UFOs was frankly out of this world.

Because of his dealings with the latest in aviation, Rizer was picked to go on UFO search missions in the wake of the alleged spaceship crash at Roswell in July 1947.

Put on alert, he was handed an infrared camera and put on a C-47 whenever a sighting was reported in California.

“They had to take it serious,” he said. “People were demanding an answer.”

Six decades later, some people are still waiting.

Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0352 or amcginn@coxohio.com.

Voice of America

By Jason Strother

Seoul

23 December 2008

Forty years ago, North Korea freed the crew of the USS Pueblo, a U.S. Navy ship it had captured 11 months earlier. The ship itself is still in North Korea.


Ralph McClintock is seen in this 1968 file photo on the day he was released from captivity in N. Korea

Ralph McClintock, a surviving member of the Pueblo’s crew, was a 24-year-old communications technician aboard the Pueblo when it was captured off North Korea’s east coast in January 1968.

Pyongyang said the ship was in its territorial waters, which the ship’s crew and the U.S. government denied.

McClintock and the rest of the crew spent an agonizing 11 months in captivity.

He says things only got worse before they got better.

“Well, everyday we thought our lives were in peril. And it just dragged on and on,” he said. “We never knew we were going to be released until a day and a half before it actually happened. And they were beating the living life out of us, for the 10 days before that. That is what we call hell week.”

McClintock says the crew members were forced to sign confessions. If they refused, they were beaten even more.

Finally a deal was struck with Washington, and on December 23, the crew was sent across the border into South Korea.

“They were really sort of drummed out of the Navy,” said Mitchell Lerner, author of The Pueblo Incident, and an associate professor at Ohio State University. “They were treated not as deserving heroes, but as people who surrendered a ship that they shouldn’t have surrendered. And then capitulated to torture and signed a bunch of false propaganda statements. Essentially what they were told is that you should have gone down with the ship. And the fact you didn’t means we’re not going to do much for you upon your return.”

Some members of the Pueblo’s crew were recommended for court-martial, but the secretary of the Navy intervened and all charges were dropped.


North Korean guide stands for a portrait next to a mounted machine gun on the deck of USS ‘Pueblo’ in Pyongyang, N. Korea, 19 Sep 2008

Their ship never left North Korea. In the late 1990s, it was towed around the Korean peninsula, and was anchored in the Taedong River in Pyongyang. It is now a museum that praises North Korea’s military for its capture.

A guide leads visitors along its deck, proudly pointing out hundreds of bullet holes that are circled in red. She also shows off the spot where Duane Hodges, the only Pueblo fatality, was killed when the ship was captured.

Inside the old mess hall, a video tells the story of the Pueblo from the time it was seized until the crew was set free.

“General Kim Jong Il instructed to state, the U.S. government should take responsibility and apologize. Then we will return the prisoners, but we cannot return Pueblo because it is a trophy,” says the video.


Ralph McClintock holds his patches and medals in Jericho, Vermont, 04 Sep 2008

McClintock blames Washington for letting the Pueblo become a propaganda toy of the North Koreans. He would have rather seen the ship destroyed.

“Blow it up right then. The ship was given up with no retaliation, nothing. And it’s still to this day, a commissioned ship. For the government of the United States to allow that to happen, to be towed 1,500 miles, is the ultimate insult to the crew,” he said.

There are some U.S. politicians who want to get the Pueblo back from North Korea.

McClintock says if that ever happens, he hopes to be part of the handover.

“What I would like to be on board is the navy ship that meets the Pueblo when it is towed out into the East China Sea for the exchange,” he said.

But he may have a long wait. Over the past five years, the United States has focused on efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, which have stalled. Other issues between the two countries, including the Pueblo, have received little attention.