The "McNamara-ization" of the U.S. Navy©

by

Gerald L. Atkinson

Copyright 20 April 1995

 

       Robert S. McNamara recently published [1] a self-centered, self-serving, indictment of his personal integrity with respect to his role in directing the Vietnam War.  He has appeared, crying [2] and whining, on several national TV shows, promoting his book.  To the deep dismay of those of us who volunteered and fought in that war, we now find that McNamara explains that "We were wrong, terribly wrong [in fighting that war]."  In fact, McNamara testified publicly in a deposition he gave for the CBS-Westmoreland trial that [3] "...by 1965-66 he had concluded the Vietnam War was militarily unwinnable."  Mary McGrory, a liberal syndicated columnist, criticizes [4] McNamara for his perfidy.  "Thousands of young Americans were being sent to a war that he knew, despite contrary assurances to Congress and the country, could not be won.  We could have sought a settlement, he writes, in 1963, 1964, or 1965.  It went on, as we all know until 1973."  Many of us who fought in that war believe that it could have been won, had McNamara and President Johnson not tied our hands behind our backs.  The fact is that the U.S. never lost a battle in that war [5].  In the best book written about the Vietnam War, Lt.Gen. Harold G. Moore (USA, retired), tells us the most important lesson [6] learned in the early (November 1965) Ia Drang battle, "We learned something...about ourselves.  We could stand against the finest light infantry troops in the world and hold our ground."  He also observes, from a statement of Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap [7] made concerning the Viet Minh War with the French, but equally appropriate to our Vietnam War, "The enemy will pass slowly from the offensive to the defensive.  The blitzkrieg will transform itself into a war of long duration.  Thus, the enemy will be caught in a dilemma: He has to drag out the war in order to win it and does not possess, on the other hand, the psychological and political means to fight a long-drawn-out war."  The fact is, our political leaders fought and lost a politically motivated war, fought on our side by 'gradualism' and politically-imposed constraints that guaranteed the final outcome.  But that is not the subject of this story.

 

       It is my purpose to establish the complete absence of integrity characterized by Robert S. McNamara in dealing with the Vietnam War, then and now.  Once established, I wish to point out a striking parallel between his conduct during the Vietnam War and the current conduct of top-level Navy leadership in handling an issue of analogous importance, the U.S. Navy's current experiment with women-in-combat.  We cannot afford to wait for 30 years before someone publishes his guilt-ridden, self-serving mea culpa about women-in-combat if, indeed, the experiment is not working out.  If the Navy's top-level leadership is not telling the truth to the American people about the experiment, by then (30 years hence) the irreparable damage will have been done.

 

       McNamara's book is meeting a huge outpouring of contempt, outrage, and disillusionment from all quarters.  Aside from a President, who feels "...vindicated [8]..." by it, liberals, conservatives, veterans, and just ordinary Americans are outraged by the book.  Richard Harwood observes [9] that, "On the talk shows, the 'war criminal' charge is heard.  In other quarters, 'moral condemnation' is proposed.  The New York Times, in a scathing editorial, 'Mr. McNamara's War,' writes of 'how fate dispensed rewards and punishment for [his] thousand days of error.  Three million Vietnamese died.  Fifty-eight thousand Americans got to come home in body bags.  Mr. McNamara...got a sinecure at the World Bank and summers at the Vineyard'...the New Republic asks: Has any single American of this century done more harm than Robert McNamara?"  Other scathing commentary in the national press [10] contains the phrases, "...consummate hypocrite...[they died] for what? For What?...a truly evil figure in U.S. history...Mr. Body Count suddenly showed his emotions...sad, tragic, late confession...a weak man..."  A consensus has formed that McNamara behaved in a universally contemptible manner, a man of absolute dishonesty, a coward who lacked the courage to tell the truth (as he saw the truth), and a weakling who now cries for absolution from his past sins in directing 'McNamara's War.'  His character is now firmly established.  So, on to the parallel of McNamara with today's top-level Navy leadership.

 

       On 25 October 1994, LT Kara Hultgreen stalled and spun her F-14A jet fighter during a routine daytime landing attempt aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in clear weather about 40 miles southwest of San Diego, CA.  LT Hultgreen is the first female fighter pilot to die since the Navy allowed women in such billets.  Shortly after the fatal accident, speculation appeared in the nation's mainstream press that engine malfunction had a great deal to do with the accident.  Six national-level newspapers carried stories in the October 1994 - January 1995 time frame which blamed the engine for the accident.  In fact, one newspaper [11] quoted a senior editor of an aviation magazine, "...[the pilot] was fighting, trying to get it under some kind of control, trying to get the engine restarted..."  This story surfaced in spite of absolutely zero evidence of a jet engine flameout requiring an engine restart.  Another newspaper [12] erroneously quoted Vice Admiral Robert J. Spane, the Commander of Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet, "...video taken of the plane's approach to the carrier shows that 'both engines were not working correctly.'"  There has been absolutely zero technical support for this speculation.  The important observation regarding this data is that the national press carried absolutely zero stories, based on official internal naval pronouncements, that the accident may have been due to pilot error.  Indeed, not even a hint of contributory pilot error surfaced in the national press.

 

       Nearly two months after the fatal accident, on 21 December 1994, the Navy recovered the wreckage [13] of the crashed F-14A.  This multi-million dollar activity was the third attempt to retrieve the aircraft from the ocean floor (3,600 feet).  The primary purpose of raising the aircraft was to ascertain the working order of its TF-30 engines at the time of the accident.  If the left engine or both engines indeed had failed, a physical inspection would reveal the nature of this failure.  It turns out that the official, but confidential and non-releasable (to the public), Navy internal investigation report, the MIR, verifies [14] that"...The left engine was found to be fully capable of producing normal power at impact.  There were no performance related discrepancies found on the right engine.  The right engine's last throttle input was for zone five afterburner and engine was operating normally and staged in zone five afterburner at impact."  But this is getting ahead of the story.

 

       About four months after the fatal accident, on 28 February 1995, the Navy released to the press and the public the JAG report on the accident.  This report, a legal document prepared primarily by lawyers in anticipation of possible litigation, is the basis for the Navy's publicly announced conclusion that the primary blame [15] for the fatal crash was mechanical failure.  At the same time, the Navy released to national TV news networks a video of the last few seconds of the fatal landing approach.  ABC TV News Tonight, with Peter Jennings, showed Rear Admiral Jay Yakely, USN, the Air Wing Commander who supervises the aviation squadrons on the ship, stating [16] "This mishap was precipitated by a malfunction of the left engine during an extremely critical phase of flight."  That same evening, Nightline with Ted Koppel expanded the coverage of the accident, using both the video and the JAG report.  RADM Robert Spane, ComNavAirPac states [17], "...I don't think we'll ever know the absolute cause.  There were, certainly, a combination.  It was precipitated by engine malfunction...a bleed air control valve malfunctioned in the engine.  [The pilot] had about four seconds to respond, and tragically [died] trying to fly the airplane out of a very dangerous situation.  But we, in fact, tried that with nine pilots.  We even told the pilots that the engine was going to fail.  Eight of the nine crashed in the simulator.  The only one to fly the airplane out was the squadron commander."  For now, the important point is the attribution to 'engine malfunction' as the cause of the accident.  More will be said about the so-called 'simulator test' later.

 

       The Navy's public simultaneous release of the JAG report and the video of the accident led to a rash of pronouncements in the nation's news media that 'engine malfunction' was the cause of the fatal crash.  In fact, a total of twenty national news level TV and press accounts attributed 'engine failure' (6) or 'engine failure and not pilot error' (14) as the cause of the accident.  Only one report even hinted [18] that the accident's cause "...is unknown but could have been [the pilot's] fault."  The reporter of this hint quoted CDR Michael Galpin, the accident pilot's squadron commanding officer, from the publicly available JAG report.  Of course, the squadron commander, ultimately responsible for the combat readiness, training, safety, and morale of his pilots, is the one who is likely to know first hand of the situation in his squadron.  In spite of this fact, the American people were led to believe unequivocally that the fatal accident was due absolutely to 'engine malfunction' and that pilot error was not a factor, not even a contributing factor.  This impression was encouraged at the highest levels of leadership in the U.S. Navy.

 

       On 14 March 1995, only fourteen days after the public release of the JAG report and accident video, the official internal Navy report, the Mishap Investigation Report (MIR), was completed and distributed internally within the U.S. Navy.  MIRs are confidential and are never released to the public or the press.  They are the foundation for finding the truth in an aircraft accident.  The witnesses, including crew members, are protected from prosecution, legal liability, and career damage in order to ascertain the truth.  The investigations are ruthless in terms of the egos, attitudes, and behavior of participants in the accident.  If the pilot, other crew member, maintenance personnel, or any supervisory personnel are at fault, even coincidentally, it is forthrightly exposed. In this way, the Navy ascertains the truth, implements corrective actions, and improves the safety of operations for everyone concerned.  It is a time-honored tradition and practice that MIRs are entirely confidential within the Navy in order to protect the participants from external pressures.  For these reasons, MIRs are never ever released to the public or the press.  The cover page of an MIR contains a warning, "Privileged Information.  Unauthorized disclosure of the information in this report is a criminal offense punishable under Article 92, Uniform Code of Military Justice."  Consequently, all military personnel, active duty or retired, are actionable under the UCMJ for revealing the contents of an MIR.  The violation of this warning could result in a prison sentence and fines for the perpetrator(s).  The violation is a very serious offense and anyone who carries out such a violation knows the consequences of such an act.  Thus, violation is not an act that is carried out flippantly, off hand, or without risk.  Yet, a person or persons on active duty in the U.S. Navy with access to the accident MIR consciously took the risk of imprisonment to provide the American public with the accident MIR in this case.

 

       During the week of 20 March 1995, six days after the internal Navy release of the MIR, someone provided copies of the accident MIR to major national news outlets.  The Los Angeles Times and NEWSWEEK published summary, non-detailed reports that the accident MIR contradicted [19] [20], the previous Navy releases.  That is, some pilot error was indeed found.  One diligent reporter (the only one in our nation who conscientiously carried out his responsibilities to the American people) actually took the time to compare the JAG report and the accident MIR, side-by-side.  He reported that [21], "...the two reports are strikingly different.  The public report, a legal document typically prepared in anticipation of possible litigation, attributes primary blame for the...crash to mechanical failure.  The left engine stalled on final approach, says the report, leaving [the pilot] in an almost impossible situation.  The report and its accompanying letters of endorsement are notably reluctant to criticize [the pilot] directly, or identify pilot error as the primary cause of the crash...Conversely, the language and tone of the Navy's private assessment [the MIR], written to the exacting standards of a confidential safety report, are sharply critical of [the pilot].  The report finds repeated instances of pilot error.  It notes the role of engine trouble but concludes that [the pilot's] flight-control mistakes were the most critical factors."  A Lexus/Nexus search reveals that the only reports in the national press revealing the truth of the accident, that is, primarily pilot error, are the three noted above.  Not a single national news outlet, in addition to the three noted above, published the truth.  Indeed, they remained silent on the matter!

 

       I, a former navy carrier aviator, combat veteran, test pilot, and landing signal officer (LSO), without access to, possession of, or knowledge of either the accident MIR or the JAG reports, drew the same conclusion based solely on viewing the publicly held accident video.  I sent a news release [22] to all major TV and press news outlets on 22 March 1995, exposing the truth of 'pilot error' in the accident.  Within 15 hours of this release, RADM Kendall Pease, chief of Navy Public Affairs, left a message on my home answering machine.  The message strongly suggested a direct attempt to deter me from exposing the truth concerning the fatal accident.  Upon checking with national-level reporters, I found that they also had received personal phone calls from RADM Pease, attempting to suppress their reporting on the truthful accident MIR.  They also revealed that these attempts included intercession with the editors of their newspapers.  Indeed, one journalist reported publicly that [23], "...the Navy was sufficiently concerned to issue an advisory urging journalists and news organizations to check with Navy Public Affairs before reporting on the confidential safety report."  The U.S. Navy, at the highest level of leadership, was indeed attempting to cover up the truth concerning the fatal accident.

 

       The person or persons who 'leaked' the accident MIR to the mainstream press took another revealing action.  The accident MIR was placed on the national computer network, America Online [24], without the warning message, for all to see.  Consequently, the truth is available to anyone who has access to the America Online computer network.  I have interviewed the Army Times employee who placed it on the network.  He received the accident MIR from some anonymous source.  He, an innocent but conscientious American civilian who is not actionable under the UCMJ, has taken heat for placing the document on the network.  I sent a press release [25] on 29 March 1995 to all major TV and press outlets, pointing out that some unidentified active duty naval personnel had taken the big step of releasing the confidential accident MIR to the public at the risk of grave peril to his/her/their future(s).  The U.S. Navy's reaction to public access to the accident MIR has been threefold.  First, on 27 March 1995, Admiral Boorda, the Chief of Naval Operations, promulgated a directive to all Flag Officers that expressed concern that the accident MIR was in the public domain and that the official Navy position is that "the JAG report and the accident MIR concur in their findings.Second, RADM Mobley, Director of the Navy Safety Center, released a statement to the mainstream press to the effect that "The release of the accident MIR is serious and could jeopardize safety and cause the loss of lives if the press reports on it.Third, RADM Pease, head of Navy Public Affairs personally called reporters and their editors who had initially reported on the accident MIR and asked them to not publish follow-on stories on the truthful accident MIR.  Consequently, no national-level news outlet (with the exception of The San Diego Union-Tribune) or TV program has carried a follow-up story on the fatal accident.  Indeed, the whole affair has been completely 'Gergenized.'  The coverup appears to be succeeding.

 

       Why would active duty Navy personnel take the risk of imprisonment just to get the truth to the American people?  The answer is simple.  A military organization requires the trust and confidence of its warriors in its top-level leadership.  Believe it or not, the warriors in America's military are culturally devoted to the principle of truth and fairness.  They believe in personal integrity, honesty, and courage.  They come from a culture, American democracy, which emphasizes these virtues.  They live them.  They know [26] that, "Robert S. McNamara stands out as the singular villain of the Vietnam War."  They know that "...the senior generals and admirals of the Joint Chiefs of Staff...cravenly acquiesced to a Harvard dilettante...[who made the] strategy [in that war]..."  They know that "...Harvard Law Professor John McNaughton...devised the 'slow squeeze' strategy that doomed military operations to certain failure..."  And they know that no perfidy compares to that of Robert S. McNamara, "...They were in error, he was evil...for he was in fact the general-in-chief of the Vietnam War...he betrayed [President Johnson], shoving him further into the quagmire...he betrayed the men and women under his command as well...he betrayed the country he had taken a solemn oath to serve...he has the blood of more than 50,000 Americans on his hands..."  The 'leakers' know that McNamara lied to himself, to his President, to those under his command, and to the American people.  They see this precedent at work in the matter at hand; in the seemingly unimportant handling of an unfortunate fatal accident involving one of their own.  But this connection is very important.

 

       It is clear that the 'leakers,' these Navy 'warriors, see first-hand, in the accident affair, a top-level Navy leadership which is shading the truth, if not lying, to the American people.  They read the truthful accident MIR.  They read the nation's newspapers and watch the nation's TV news.  They find patently obvious shading of the truth, even lies, in the national media news.  They know, first-hand, the truth in the MIR.  Consequently, they know that their top-level leadership is not living up to the standards set in the past by ADM Bull Halsey, ADM Arleigh Burke, and others in later times.  This situation has the potential to completely destroy the trust and confidence between active-duty warriors and their top-level leadership. These naval warriors see first-hand the 'McNamara-ization' of their top-level leadership.  They know by the public pronouncements of their leaders, that they are lying to the American people!  They believe that they are being 'betrayed' by their own leadership.  This is a disastrous circumstance for a fighting force.  Our armed forces will disintegrate if morale plummets as it is now plummeting in the U.S. Navy because of the Navy's handling of the Hultgreen accident.

 

       It is not only the active-duty junior officer 'warriors' who are outraged at the obvious perfidy of the current top-level Navy leadership in the Hultgreen affair.  Retired Admirals, other officers, and enlisted men are absolutely furious with what is occurring.  They also see the transparent dishonesty of the highest levels of Navy leadership.  These former warriors, who earned our enduring respect and gratitude by their heroic service during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and who love their Navy and who have lived the code of integrity, duty, honor, country see their example going up in smoke.  They see all that they fought for, all that they stood for, all that the Navy has been in their lives being dishonored.  They see the fabric of the Navy they built into the 'World's finest' disintegrating before their very eyes!

 

       Only one editor had the courage to write a follow-on story.  Robert J. Caldwell, editor of the Insight section of the San Diego Union-Tribune, recognized the risks being taken by active duty 'warriors' in leaking the confidential MIR to the American public.  He investigated the Navy's public statements concerning the so-called simulator experiments in which 8 out of 9 F-14A pilots were reported by the Navy to have failed to recover, in a flight simulator, from Hultgreen's accident situation.  This statement was used by Navy officials to argue that recovery from Hultgreen's situation was "next to impossible," even by male aviators.  Thus, the fatal accident had no gender overtones.  Caldwell investigated [27] and found three independent sources who corroborated that the simulator experiments were "...rigged..."  The Navy has not, as yet, responded to the detailed questions raised in Caldwell's editorial.  Instead, the Navy responded via a letter-to-the-editor [28] from VADM Spane, in the San Diego Union-Tribune, 'explaining' the Navy's public statements (it was the engine, stupid!) concerning the accident.  This 'explanation' reveals only further dissembling by the top-level Navy leadership on this matter.  It is absolute proof that what once were 'shadings of the truth' are now  outright lies.

 

       I sent a news release [29] to all major national news outlets that exposes VADM Spane's 'explanation.'  The significant findings are as follows.  VADM Spane's letter and one by the Commanding Officer [30] of the F-14A squadron, VF-211, that carried out the so-called informal simulator experiments (in which 8 out of 9 F-14A pilots reportedly crashed while simulating, in a flight simulator, Hultgreen's accident situation) are in direct contradiction of previous public statements made by VADM Spane and the facts as reported in both the publicly available JAG investigation report and the official, but confidential, MIR.  It is clear that the Navy, at the highest levels of leadership, is now outright lying to the American people about this accident.  Their obvious dissembling has now passed the stage of 'controlling the message' and now contains demonstrable outright lies.  This coverup has most likely reached the stage at which some high-level careers are on the line.

 

       A most glaring instance of outright contradiction is in VADM Spane's explanation on Ted Koppel's Nightline program on 28 February and CDR Winnefeld's explanation of the simulator experiments.  VADM Spane said [31], "Hultgreen had about four seconds to respond [to the emergency], and tragically lost her life trying to fly the airplane out of a very dangerous situation.  But we, in fact, tried that with nine pilots.  We even told the pilots that the engine was going to fail.  Eight of the nine crashed in the simulator.  The only one to fly out was the commanding officer."  Contrast this public statement with that of CDR Winnefeld, the C.O. of the squadron that conducted the simulation experiments [32].  "...As reported, eight of the nine pilots crashed on their first attempt, with all nine learning on subsequent attempts how to handle the situation."  Spane clearly misrepresented the fact that all of the pilots were able to handle Hultgreen's accident situation.  In fact, he left this fact entirely out of his public explanation.  This fact would have destroyed his contention that [33], "...The public report, a legal document typically prepared in anticipation of possible litigation, attributes primary blame for the...crash to mechanical failure.  The left engine stalled on final approach, says the [JAG] report, leaving LT Hultgreen in an almost impossible position."

 

       In fact, that situation is not at all impossible.  Several F-14A pilots have told me (at annual Navy Test Pilot reunions at Patuxent River, MD) that they have recovered easily from the same simulation with  prompt execution of the NATOPS BOLD FACE INSTRUCTIONS.  One F-14A pilot told me that he had recovered from Hultgreen's general flight situation in a simulator, but with over 30 units angle of attack (AOA), well beyond the AOA of Hultgreen's accident aircraft.  He did so by promptly  executing the NATOPS BOLD FACE INSTRUCTIONS.  Another F-14A pilot simulated Hultgreen's accident flight conditions in the flight simulator and could not make the aircraft crash as long as he executed the appropriate piloting technique promptly.  Other F-14A pilots report similar experiences.  These pilots simply do not believe the results of the VF-211 squadron simulation experiments.  Clearly, recovery from this set of flight conditions is routine for all NATOPS qualified squadron operational F-14A pilots.  It is thus well known in the F-14A community that failure to recover from Hultgreen's predicament can result only from a failure to promptly execute the NATOPS BOLD FACE INSTRUCTIONS for that emergency.  LT Hultgreen made a 'rookie' mistake.  She did not execute the NATOPS BOLD FACE INSTRUCTIONS for her emergency situation.  Instead, she executed piloting technique that was certain to result in a crash.  The mistake had nothing to do with gender.  So, why does the Navy contradict itself in its explanations?  There is an obvious explanation for this contradiction.  This explanation does not bode well for the integrity of the Navy's top-level leadership.  It requires an understanding of how NATOPS instructors use the simulator to impress on squadron pilots the importance of prompt application of the NATOPS BOLD FACE INSTRUCTIONS in emergency situations.  It is, indeed, routine for these instructors to induce failure or near failure in initial trials and success in later trials to impress upon the trainee the importance of promptness and correctness in executing the life-saving BOLD FACE INSTRUCTIONS in emergency situations.  The fact is that VADM Spane has either been misinformed about the simulation exercise or he is outright lying.  At any rate, someone in the chain of command, from CDR Winnefeld to VADM Spane is lying.  In fact, VADM Spane did not [34] even address the issue of the possibly 'rigged' simulator experiments in his 'explanation' piece which supposedly countered the earlier article [35] in the San Diego Union-Tribune which surfaced the possibility of a contradiction concerning these experiments.  This lie has carried all the way to the top through ADM Boorda, Chief of Naval Operations to the Secretary of the Navy, John Dalton [36].  It has the potential to destroy the trust and confidence of the Navy's 'warriors' in their superior high-ranking officers.  The same high-ranking officers they must trust not to send them to their deaths needlessly, superficially, or for purely political reasons.  The same high-ranking officers they must trust as we, who fought the Vietnam War, trusted Robert S. McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The highest levels of U.S. Navy leadership is, indeed, being 'McNamara-ized.'

 

       VADM Spane continues his 'explanation' by describing the differences between the legal JAG and confidential MIR [37] investigations.  "The JAG discusses facts and bases opinions on these facts.  Just as in a court of law, hearsay, innuendo and conjecture are not allowed.  On the other hand, the MIR, a privileged document, probes all areas.  There are 'no rules' concerning what can and cannot be included in the MIR.  Facts, opinions (whether or not substantiated by fact), guesses, possible causes, ideas etc. are all allowed."  The impressions left in this public statement is that the JAG report is the more reliable one on which to base conclusions concerning an aircraft accident.  Nothing could be further from the truth than this misrepresentation.

 

       Consider what VADM Spane is saying.  The JAG investigation and report are based on a legal model.  This model is, at heart, adversarial in nature.  Opinion, based on fact, is his explanation of the JAG model.  But America knows how this works as it watches the O.J. Simpson trial.  The legal model does not have a goal of ascertaining the truth.  It is based on arguing for a particular point of view, based on facts.  It aims at convincing a judge or jury of one particular point of view against another.  Sometimes a point of view is argued in order to obfuscate the truth based on a misrepresentation or obscuration of the facts.  Consider that the JAG investigation usually has an aviator as the chief investigating officer supported by a staff of legal experts, none of whom know very much about carrier operations, aircraft characteristics, etc.  If the JAG investigating officer is, as well, not versed in the flying qualities of or the piloting techniques for the accident aircraft, what is the likely outcome of the JAG investigation of an aircraft accident?  It is well known that the chief investigating officer for the JAG investigation of the Hultgreen accident was the X.O. of VA-135, an EA6-B squadron.  His is not a pilot.  He is a right-seat bombardier/navigator who consequently knows absolutely nothing first-hand of the F-14A flying qualities.  He was the only [38] flying officer on the team; the rest were lawyers.  No one questions the integrity of this officer.  Questions, however, arise as to the depth of his and others (on the JAG team) understanding of the complicated and complex flight characteristics of the F-14A and the correct flying procedures for an F-14A emergency.  Maybe this is why the discussion of pilot error in the JAG report is stuck way in the back, in the last paragraph on page 28, continued on page 29 of a 29 page report.  The rest of the JAG report is filled with technical details with little connective or interpretive discussion.  It is clearly written by persons with little or no understanding of the technical issues concerning the accident.  It is no wonder that the JAG report became the basis for VADM Spane's public verdict of engine malfunction.

 

       On the other hand, the MIR investigating team consisted of five naval aviators, and one flight surgeon.  Of the five aviators, three were experienced F-14A pilots from Hultgreen's squadron.  In contrast to the JAG investigating team, the MIR team had vast and current F-14A flying knowledge and experience.  In addition, the MIR model is the scientific/engineering model.  No speculation, no theory, no guess is admitted unless it can pass the test of scrutiny by experienced knowledgeable F-14A pilots.  If a theory is posed, it is accepted or rejected based on facts and the knowledge and experience of the pilots on the inspection team in interpreting these facts.  This view is proved by even a cursory look at the MIR.  Theories are posed and accepted or rejected on the basis of the flying knowledge and experience of the participants.  No speculation or theory is dismissed from consideration for measurement against the informed judgement of these experienced aviators who address the facts.  This assures that no factor is overlooked, no possible explanation is gone unreviewed based on the facts.  On the other hand, no speculation or theory is accepted unless it passes the demanding scrutiny of the experienced F-14A pilots, based solely on the facts of the case.  The MIR model is clearly the most professional, truthful and complete model for investigating an aircraft accident.  That is why it is used for the all-important safety program that has worked so well for the Navy in lowering its accident rate by a factor of 10 over the past thirty years.

 

       Clearly, VADM Spane knows the true differences between a JAG investigation and those associated with the more objective and thorough MIR.  He publicly misstates, indeed reverses the actual credibility that the Navy attributes to these two reports.  He states [39], "Since both the JAG and the MIR reports are now 'in the public domain,' anyone who reads both documents will find generally the same set of facts.  The JAG defines what we know and the logical conclusions and opinions based on those factsThat was the information presented at the recent news conference.  The MIR, on the other hand, contains facts, conjecture, as yet unproven theories and opinions, some of which are not rigidly based on fact.  This is appropriate for an MIR but should not be used as the definitive cause of the accident nor to malign the pilot."  It is beyond belief that VADM Spane would so misrepresent these differences in his recent public 'explanation.'  Every aviator in the U.S. Navy knows that he is not telling the truth.  The MIR is the only complete and ruthlessly, scrupulously truthful account of an aircraft accident.  Period!

 

       VADM Spane publicly asserts [40] that there are "...really two issues..." in the Hultgreen accident.  "What caused the engine to malfunction, and, once the malfunction occurred, could the aircraft have been recovered?"  Regarding the first question, VADM Spane starts with the fact that the left engine experienced a compressor stall.  His discussion of stall margin for the TF-30 engine in the F-14A is expanded by the statement that "...Compressor stall margin is also reduced as an engine ages.  The left engine was an old engine with the commensurate reduction in stall margin.  The exact amount of reduction is unknown."  This piece of information is not found in either the JAG report or the MIR.  It was not even discussed as a possible causative factor in either report.  This unsupported, outright speculation on VADM Spane's part is further proof of the length to which the Navy is willing to go in misrepresenting the truth of Hultgreen's accident.

 

       In support of VADM Spane's first assertion, he states [41] that, "...LT Hultgreen used more than normal left rudder during her approach to the ship. This causes unbalanced flight 'sideslip,' which reduced compressor stall margin.  Computer simulation of this accident based on video indicated the aircraft had up to 10 degrees left sideslip.  Engineering information indicates the F-14A engine is designed to operate in this configuration with up to at least 18 degrees of side slip."  This is an outright misrepresentation of fact.  Both the JAG report and the MIR assign a primary factor of pilot error to the application of '...substantial left rudder...' by the pilot in an ill-advised attempt to control centerline overshoot on the final approach.  Thus, it was the pilot who induced the left engine stall!  VADM Spane's exposition of the 18 degree sideslip limitation is for an F-14A at normal angle of attack, reasonably shallow angle of bank, and gentle throttle movements.  In fact, these limitations were all violated by LT Hultgreen.  The JAG report [42] states, "...Neither F-14A NATOPS, or LSO NATOPS address the use of 'bottom rudder'(left rudder) as a technique to help correct an overshooting start in a visual carrier approach/landing situation."  Further, it states, "Lion 103 [the accident aircraft] maneuvered prior to rolling out on final approach using AOA in excess of 12 units (actually 15 units is the correct value), which is a normal carrier approach procedure."  Further, it states, "Lion 103 was maneuvered prior to rolling out on final approach using bank angles in excess of 40 degrees (NATOPS states not to exceed 20 degrees angle of bank into a failed engine)."  Further, it states, "Lion 103, when first crossing centerline at time 1501:10, incorporated substantial amount of left rudder."  This set of flight conditions, induced directly by the pilot, led to the left engine stall!  This is supported by a statement in the JAG report [43].  "The [TF-30] engines generally operate satisfactorily at extremely high positive or negative AOA, but are prone to compressor stalls if high AOA is combined with:

                                                                                 A. Sideslip

                                                                                 B. High altitude and low airspeed,

                                                                                 C. Throttle setting

                                                                                 D. Throttle movements

                                                                                 E. Jet wash.

Excessive sideslip, even at low AOA, may result in compressor stallsHigh AOA, combined with sideslip, may result in compressor stalls anywhere in the aircraft flight envelope.  There is no way to predict when a compressor stall will occur, but there is a high likelihood of inducing one by changing throttle setting at high AOA."  Indeed, all of these prohibitions for safely flying the F-14A were disregarded by Hultgreen.  The pilot caused the engine stall by failing to execute appropriate piloting techniques, both before and after the engine stall.  Indeed, the pilot caused the left engine stall!  VADM Spane's public attempt to hide this fact is transparent from even the publicly released JAG report.  He has in the past (in his written formal endorsement attached to the JAG report, in his appearances on national-level television) and is now (in his letter to the editor) purposely misrepresenting the truth in this accident for reasons that only he knows.  The misrepresentation is there for all to see who take the trouble to read the publicly available JAG report.

 

       VADM Spane further perjures himself by stating [44], "The 'bottom line' question is: Would this engine have malfunctioned if the ...bypass valve had not jammed, reducing compressor stall margin by 26 percent?  My opinion is no.  Neither the side slip nor the throttle movements were out of the basic design parameters of the flight  envelope."  As demonstrated above, from statements in the publicly available JAG report, this opinion is blatantly and demonstrably false.

 

       VADM Spane stretches logic even further by stating, "As a counterpoint, if this conclusion is false, in the 20-plus years this aircraft has been operating, there would have been at least one approach with side slip and throttle movements at least as great as LT Hultgreen's, and another accident would have occurred, or at least we would have had a very frightened flight crew; we have been unable to find a similar incident."  VADM Spane misses the most direct and obvious conclusion from this evidence, the fact that no F-14A has ever experienced a compressor stall in a carrier approach pattern in its entire 20-plus years of operation in the fleet.  That is, no pilot has ever violated safe standard flying operating procedures during a carrier approach in the F-14A, to the extent that LT Hultgreen did.  This is the most obvious and correct conclusion to be drawn from these data.

 

       The most ludicrous and obvious dissembling by VADM Spane in his public 'explanation' of the accident is "...The correct response [to Hultgreen's single engine situation] would have been...full throttle, right rudder and lower the nose of the aircraft.  The last two actions would have placed the aircraft in apparent danger of hitting the ship."  This speculation is patently absurd and demonstrably false.  In fact, LT Hultgreen incorrectly  attempted to recover [45] safe flight by "...Lion 103's flight controls were observed to indicate lateral stick [to the right] inputs following the LSO's wave off."  This right lateral stick input, if effective, would have turned the aircraft to the right, directly into the ship.  Thus, the pilot's actual control input, if it had been effective, would have accomplished exactly the result that VADM Spane observes.  LT Hultgreen was not reacting in some altruistic or fearful manner, as VADM Spane speculates, or she would not have been attempting to roll the wings to the right, toward the ship.  Furthermore, there is absolutely no evidence in either the JAG report or the MIR to support VADM Spane's speculation.  VADM Spane is grasping for straws to back up his pre-conceived conclusions concerning the Hultgreen accident.

 

       VADM Spane further asserts in his 'explanation' that  "...Another F-14A squadron commanding officer tried to replicate this [Hultgreen's carrier approach] situation in a simulator; eight of his pilots 'crashed' the simulator."  This assertion does nothing to shed light on the questions posed in the article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, which appeared about one week before his 'explanation' and which suggested that the simulator tests may have been 'rigged' to fail.  VADM Spane chose not to address this topic in his 'explanation.'  Why not?  This omission was discussed earlier in this piece.  It is likely to be the 'silver bullet' with which top-level Navy leadership has committed suicide.  Honest answers to the questions posed by the San Diego Union-Tribune will eventually reveal the truth with respect to the Navy coverup.

 

       VADM Spane's final conclusion in his 'explanation' is that "...It was improbable that the aircraft would have been recovered...Her late ejection could have been due to her attempt to 'save the airplane at all costs...'"  The first part of this conclusion is demonstrably false, as has been exhaustively  discussed earlier in this piece.  The second part is also demonstrably false.  In fact, the final and most important assignment of pilot error [46] in the MIR (four out of six total factors were pilot error, one was supervisory error, and one incidental finding of material factor in the case of the bypass valve solenoid failure) actually caused the pilot's death, "...Pilot failed to make timely decision to eject."  In fact, the pilot failed to inform the back-seat RIO that a single engine emergency had occurred.  It is also a fact that the RIO, not the pilot, initiated the ejection.  He carried out this action only after [47] "...evaluating altitude reference to CV [the ship].  He was unaware of the single engine condition, though he knew something was wrong with the aircraft.  The RIO states [that] ejection criteria was based on altitude and sink rate.  He felt that the aircraft flight path had stabilized and was going to fly away.  He initiated ejection immediately upon departure from controlled flight."  This last attempt to misinform irrefutably proves that VADM Spane is outright lying to the American people regarding the Hultgreen accident.  He knows directly and absolutely what is contained in the confidential MIR.  He knows that his final conclusion in his public 'explanation' is a pure fabrication.  There is absolutely no evidence in either the JAG report or MIR to support his speculation.  In fact, the confidential MIR directly refutes his self-serving speculation.  No wonder VADM Spane is now attempting in his public 'explanation' to down play and discredit the MIR.  It contains the truth and directly contradicts VADM Spane's misleading and false public statements, on national television, in the national press, and in his letter-to-the-editor on the Hultgreen accident.

 

       In his final public 'explanation,' VADM Spane disputes that there is a question of the integrity of naval aviation leadership [in the aftermath of the tragic accident].  He states, "The integrity issue...is not naval aviation leadership but rather the unauthorized 'leak' of privileged information [the MIR] to advance a personal agenda."  The logic of the situation is otherwise.  There may be an agenda all right, but it is VADM Spane's agenda, driven by the agenda of higher authority. The unauthorized 'leak' of the MIR was obviously a 'scream in the night' to the American people.  Some very courageous person or persons, on active duty in the U.S. Navy, took the grave risk of going to prison for leaking the MIR to the public.  Indeed, they are the heroes who are trying to get the truth out to the American people.  The 'leakers' are our modern-day Paul Reveres!  The stakes involved for them are enormous.  This should tell us that something is, indeed, awry at the top-levels of Navy leadership.  The national media should at least recognize the risk the 'leakers' are taking and ask some hard questions of top-level Navy leaders.

 

       If the American people do not have the truth in this matter, the lessons we are now learning with respect to McNamara's perfidy and cowardice in prosecuting the Vietnam War will be revisited on us in the future.  Wake up America!  Leadership at the highest levels of the U.S. Navy is being "McNamara-ized."   Unless corrected, and soon, this situation will have grave consequences for our national security.  If this tyranny spreads to the other military services, we will be left with hollow fighting forces.  Such forces, wracked with doubt and lacking trust and confidence in their high-level leadership, will not make the personal sacrifices, take the necessary risks, or face death in the cause of our national defense.  Armed forces, thus constrained, will not fight effectively, and cannot win.  America cannot survive future external threats to its existence, depending on such armed forces.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Footnotes:

1  McNamara, Robert, S., "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam," Random House, Time Books, 1995.

2  Adelman, Ken, "More to regret than conceded," The Washington Times, 12 April 1995.  McNamara broke down in tears when interviewed by Diane Sawyer, on the nationally broadcast 20/20 ABC TV program, during the week of 10 April 1995.

3  Ibid, Adelman, Ken, The Washington Times.

4  McGrory, Mary, "Too Late," The Washington Post, 13 April 1995.

5  Pruden, Wesley, "Recalling Vietnam is deadly business," The Washington Times, 18 April 1995.

6 Moore, Lt.Gen. Harold G., "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young: Ia Drang, The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam," pp. 406, 1992.

7  Ibid, Moore, Lt.Gen. Harold G., pp. 398.

8  New York Times News Service, "President speaks on Vietnam: Feels 'vindicated' by McNamara book," The Tennessean, 15 April 1995.

9 Harwood, Richard, "As Wrong as McNamara," The Washington Post, 19 April 1995.

10  Fisher, Marc, "The No-Win Vietnam Memoir: Some Say Robert McNamara's Confession Came Decades Too Late. For Others, It Came Too Soon," The Washington Post, 20 April 1995.

11  Kilian, Michael, "Life of determined woman pilot comes to abrupt end; Family, friends saw her as indestructible," The Houston Chronicle, 24 December 1994.

12  Kucher, Karen, "F-14A is recovered from ocean floor," The San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 December 1994.

13  Ibid, Kilian, Michael, The Houston Chronicle.

14  America Online: Military City Online, keyword MCOHQ, select Libraries, then Text, "F-14A Mishap Investigation Report of LT Kara Hultgreen's fatal accident," week of 20 March 1995.

15 Caldwell, Robert J., "Hultgreen case puts the Navy's credibility at risk again," The San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 March 1995.

16  Jennings, Peter, "LT Kara Hultgreen Vindicated by Navy Report," ABC World News Tonight, 6:30 p.m. ET, 28 February 1995.

17  Koppel, Ted, Nightline, ABC TV, 11:30 p.m. ET, 28 February 1995.

18  Flynn, Pat, "F-14's fate sealed in split seconds Videotape captured pilot's last moments," The San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 March 1995.

19  Reza, H.G., "Pilot Error Had Role in Fatal Crash: Report: Navy investigation reverses earlier inquiry and says mistakes by woman aviator contributed to accident," The Los Angeles Times, 22 March 1995.

20  Exclusive, "The Death That Won't Die," NEWSWEEK, 27 March 1995.

21  Caldwell, Robert J., "Hultgreen case puts the Navy's credibility at risk again," The San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 March 1995.

22 Atkinson, Gerald L., "The Hultgreen Affair: The Big Lie," press release, 23 March 1995.

23  Ibid, Caldwell, Robert J., The San Diego Union-Tribune.

24 America Online: Military City Online, keyword MCOHQ, select Libraries, then Text, "F-14A Mishap Investigation Report of LT Kara Hultgreen's fatal accident," week of 20 March 1995.

25  Atkinson, Gerald L., "The Hultgreen Affair Mutiny," press release, 29 March 1995.

26 Summers, Harry, "Sweet justice: Long time coming," The Washington Times, 20 April 1995.

27  Caldwell, Robert, J., "Hultgreen Case: Were the simulator tests rigged?," The San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 April 1995.

28  Spane, Robert J., VADM, USN, "Anatomy of a plane crash: Evaluating, explaining the results of two different Navy investigations," Letter-to-the-Editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 April 1995.

29  Atkinson, Gerald L., "VADM Spane Continues to Misrepresent the Hultgreen Accident," press release, 17 April 1995.

30 Winnefeld, James A. Jr., CDR USN, "The debate over navy's reporting of Hultgreen accident," Letters-to-the-Editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 April 1995.

31  Koppel, Ted, Nightline, ABC TV, 11:30 p.m. EST, 28 February 1995.

32  Ibid, Winnefeld, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

33  Caldwell, Robert J., "Hultgreen case puts the Navy's credibility at risk again," The San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 March 1995.

34  Ibid, VADM Spane, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

35  Caldwell, Robert J., "Hultgreen Case: Were the simulator tests rigged?" The San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 April 1995.

36 Scarborough, Rowan, " Pilot error acknowledged: Navy chief denies shielding woman from crash blame," The Washington Times, 13 April 1995.

37  Ibid, VADM Spane, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

38  Pinson, Preston C., CDR USN, "JAG Report: Investigation into the VF-213 Aircraft Accident on 25 October 1994 that Resulted in the Death of Lieutenant Kara S. Hultgreen, USN, 450-59-6806/1310 and Injury of Lieutenant Matthew Klemish, USN," 14 February 1995.

39  Ibid, VADM Spane, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

40  Ibid, VADM Spane, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

41 Ibid, VADM Spane, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

42 Ibid, Pinson, Preston C., pp. 17, JAG Report.

43 Ibid, Pinson, Preston C., pp. 19, JAG Report.

44 Ibid, VADM Spane, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

45 Ibid, Pinson, Preston C., pp. 18, JAG Report.

46  American Online: Military City Online, keyword MCOHQ, select Libraries, then Text,

"F-14A Mishap Investigation Report of LT Kara Hultgreen's fatal accident," week of 20 March 1995.

47 Ibid.

 

 

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