OVER THE DC SKY – A REMINDER OF THE NEED FOR AIR SUPREMACYMay 28, 2015 | in News
Washington DC provided on May 8th “the Greatest Generation” another opportunity to receive the heartfelt thanks of their countrymen. That day, World War II veterans gathered at the memorial honoring their service to watch more than 50 vintage military aircraft in 15 formations fly over the National Mall in recognition of the 70th anniversary of V-E Day, the official end of World War II in Europe.
Joining in the excitement of the incredible Arsenal of Democracy flyover, AIA’s staff watched the procession of such planes as the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, Grumman TBM Avenger and North American Aviation P-51 Mustang from our offices across the river from downtown Washington, DC in Rosslyn, Va. Meanwhile, photographers from AIA’s Communications Department (Amanda Jaeger, Keith Mordoff, Dan Stohr and myself — see our photos here) recorded images of the warbird flyover and spectators from different locations throughout the city.
I viewed the airplane procession from the west front of the U.S. Capitol. While watching these aircraft pass in back of the Washington Monument, head east toward the Capitol Building and then gracefully exit “stage left,” I couldn’t help but think of the U.S. Army service of my father, Henry—still going strong at nearly 102 and ½–a member of the Army Corps of Engineers who was part of the allied expeditionary force on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia, and of my Uncle Louis, an Army Air Corps Navigator who went on several perilous bombing runs across the English Channel over occupied Europe. I wondered how many other people watching that day were experiencing similar emotions and remembering their own family member’s service.
Following the flyover, I decided to view the scene at the World War II Memorial. Several proud veterans were still there, graciously accepting the thanks of citizens young and old. Among them was one of our country’s most famous World War II Veterans, former Senator Bob Dole. The Senator was in high spirits, and I took the opportunity to join others in thanking him for his service to our country and for being such a great symbol of the millions who wore the uniform.
In addition to the veterans, it also struck me that the strength of our industry was on full display. It’s amazing to consider the huge role the industry back home contributed to the war effort; when I worked for Rockwell International (now part of Boeing) I learned the story of Dutch Kindelberger, President of our predecessor company North American Aviation, who even prior to U.S. entry into the war promised to the British and delivered in a remarkable five months time the first of the legendary P-51 Mustangs fighter aircraft. Yes, due to the complexity of the global security demands faced on our modern military, it takes much more time and expense for industry to develop and build the sophisticated aircraft and equipment we need to ensure American air power remains second to none. But given adequate resources our industry, powered by its skilled work force, continues to be up to the task producing the aircraft and related systems that help to maintain our air power superiority—thusly signaling to potential adversaries that the phrase “peace through strength,” continues to have great credibility. That said, industry’s ability to invest in technological innovation and gear up in the event of an immediate national crisis is being harmed by the budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
This year I’ve also had the opportunity to write about the centennial of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor organization to NASA. The story of NACA’s many contributions to allied air supremacy in World War II—reduced drag, better aerodynamic engine cooling, high powered piston engines, increased aircraft stability, control and handling qualities and new deicing measures–also reminds us that it’s important for our government to make long term investments in fundamental aeronautical research, which benefits both civil and defense aviation. And cutting such investments through our misguided decade long commitment to budget austerity just doesn’t make sense.
A few months after the D-Day invasion, Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and his son John – then an Army 2nd lieutenant – walked along the Normandy beaches and pondered the course of the war. “You’d never get away with this if you didn’t have air supremacy,” the son told his famous father. “Without air supremacy,” Ike responded, “I wouldn’t be here.” That lesson underscores the impressive air show we saw on the National Mall.