Skip to main content

tv   Topgun - U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School  CSPAN  September 2, 2019 5:05pm-6:56pm EDT

5:05 pm
peterson, the first officer in charge and co-founder of the u.s. navy fighter weapons school discusses his book, top gun and american story. in his illustrated talk about the program popularized by a hollywood film, he offered a first-hand account of the real story behind its development. the myth sewn yn associasmithso hosted this event. >> good evening. i'd like to welcome you to tonight's program. to our members, i'm so glad that you're here. it's your support that makes events like this possibly. if you are joining us for the first time an equally warm welcome. now is the perfect time to turn off your cell phone or anything else that might make noise during the program. thank you for doing that. this past march marked the 50th anniversary of the u.s. navy fighter weapons program.
5:06 pm
we are thrilled this evening to welcome the program's founder, dan pedderson. he went on to become the senior officer in the group of nine men who formed the navy's legendary top gun program at navy air station in march 1969. he served in combat during the vietnam war with the flying crews. he retired as a captain having accumulated 6,100 flight hours and 1,005 carrier landings. for those of you who know his story from the 1986 movie top gun, you will be happy to know that he is producing a sequel which is scheduled to be released in 2020. pedderson's book is available for purchase and signing following this conversation. and here to keep the conversation moving is larry
5:07 pm
burke, cure ator of u.s. naval aviation at the national air and space museum. so now please welcome dan pedderson and larry burke. >> you ready to go? i'm going to take about ten minutes to just set the stage here for larry and i to go back and forth in final preparation for the questions coming from you. the assumption is -- how many of you have actually read the book? good. that really gives me free play. keeping me honest.
5:08 pm
i tell you about how the book came about. it's the 50th anniversary on the 3rd of march of this year. top gun was conceived on that date 50 years ago. that's a long time. it tells you something about how old i am. jim hornfisher has four best sellers of his own. he came to me along with the famous condor who you see in the pictures up here and they said we're getting close to 50 years. it's time to put the legacy in writer. i have been fighting with the brits. i can show you letters i get from london, newspapers.
5:09 pm
somebody said we started top gun and the americans took it over. we have been fighting back and forth. it was time to tell the story. and i happen to be the one who was drafted by the original eight guys because i was a senior. i ended up being the boss man during the initial phase of this. we'll get into how it was done and who did it and so forth here shortly. one of the benefits of writing this book was it allowed me to think back. i do a comparison with what i know today. i'm older. i don't know it all. but i compare what i see and what's in writing about the navy as it exists today, where we are with airplanes and so forth. i think it did a fairly good job
5:10 pm
based on the reaction of the book and the reviews. one of the things we are most proud of is the reviews that we have gotten. i started out in 1953 working two jobs going to college like everybody in those days was doing. and the draft was breathing down my neck. so i went into the reserves. i was assigned to f 4 u world war ii. i was a regal engine mechanic. here's the first good one of the nights. i was working for a chief named brown. and he was my mentor. i work for chief brown. i carried his tool box and got his coffee whenever i wanted. he spent an enorminant amount of time teaching me how to maintain
5:11 pm
those airplanes. we even went on and it was right down here. forgive me. i do make mistakes. but mentor number two, young lieutenant. we had some twin cockpit front and back and flight controls in the back seat. he said you are learning to be a jet engine. chief brown was over my solder every minute watching me. he said why don't you fly them with me? i went flying a few times in the back seat of the first jet airplane i had ever been in. i thought boy, do i love this? so over the course of a few
5:12 pm
month months, he said you are really pretty good at it. i can fly it pretty good. so he said if you -- would you consider going to flight trarning trar training? i said -- i talked to my folks and they said it's an honorable profession. we really support that. so making a long story short there, i went through flight training pensacola. 1956 and '57, 18 months. i did very well. and i think a lot of it has to do with that young lieutenant's inspiration that he gave me. he later went on to be head of
5:13 pm
the fbi in the western region of the united states. hell of a guy. what a great man. and then we come out of flight training, grades are good. that guy down there had some amazing good grades. and i end up with room mates in north highland in the fighter squadron, first set of orders to the fleet. and we had a special mission. the squadron was amazing when i got there. i don't remember when ron got there. i know we were very close. but we had a lot of world war ii guys were seniors in that. and mentor number three -- found
5:14 pm
the japanese at the battle of midway. he was flying a patrol plane. we were surrounded by great talent from world war ii in the first fighter squadron. we had 60 airplanes, four different kinds. the old guy said we have done it. we want to stay home, drink a little whiskey and take care of mom and the kids. so they did. and they encouraged us to fly. and so i had all the flight time. this is a key point of where you are today in america. we had all the flight time that we could handle as young pilots. it's not true today. i'll talk more about it later on. but success from that day on, mentoring is the reason. i don't think intuitively i ever knew what ultimately i was
5:15 pm
capable of doing. i think it was being exposed to great americans. 28 victories in world war ii. he was ready to rest a little bit. his enthusiasm carried over to five or six checked in that squadron. and it was good. i went on from that squadron. we had probably 1,500 hours more than any of our contemporaries because the abundance of flying that we had in those days. and the only way you really get good in tactical aviation is to fly a lot. you have to love it. it isn't airline flying. it's combat flying. and you have to set your mind to
5:16 pm
it. that's my background. i went on from there. dr. larry knows we have had some time together. he knows a good bit of it. he wants to ask some questions and then to questions from the audience. >> as you can see, we have a stack here probably more than i need. we'll see how it goes. i do actually want to back up a little bit. is there anything in your background that led you to join the navy in the first place? is it something you always wanted to do? or was it something you just kind of -- >> you know, when that lieutenant sat me in the back of the airplane the first time, after four or five times -- you have to remember in those days, there weren't airliners. there wasn't anything fancy. it was brand new and exciting.
5:17 pm
and those of you who fly -- i know there are a couple naval aviators back here, it's hard to explain to people who haven't been there how absolutely beautiful flying can be. combat maybe, but flying over the united states, i came across california yesterday. and i had a window seat. it was one of those days where i got to look out all the way across the country. it was beautiful, beautiful country we live in. and expozzing to it. i would do it every day again if i was young enough. unfortunately, time grabbed me.
5:18 pm
i hope that gave you an answer. >> so you have already sort of mentioned that you go from there. you go to basic flight training in pensacola, and you absolutely loved that. >> yeah. >> you go through essentially a boot camp, basic flight training. and then you go on to advance. if you do well enough you get jets and you have to realize particul particularly from lady as, there wasn't -- other than korea, there weren't a lot of male expertise in flying tactical jets. if was something new and really exciting in advanced training. i got to fly the same if not
5:19 pm
f-2s that these guys. it's a new ticket ride every day and they pay you to do it. that's why i think i was born to do it. i enjoy it. >> so actually regarding -- so you started out in basic. and then you went to the tv 2? >> that old thing up there, that wasn't staged. that was a typical airplane in our day. t-28 after that. and then i went to advanced
5:20 pm
training in texas and got to -- they bring you along pretty fast. six months you're going to cover the spectrum airplanes. if you're good and safe, you have to live through it. remember that. that's a prerequisite. you have to live through it. i think when i finally got out of the navy, i think the original 17 guys in my class were still up and kicking. in those days, you know, you didn't have a lot of jet experience. maintenance wasn't nearly what it is today. >> could you just say something more about your first experiences? this is the first time you're getting into a front line
5:21 pm
aircraft by the book. >> it's in the book. those of you who don't have it should have one. the f-9, f-2 were -- you can see where the bullet holes have been covered over on them. the airplanes were re-painted. that was just dynamite. it was a total ticket ride. you're flying number one by yourself for the first time. and there is nothing more thrilling than that. and this airplane it guns. do i like guns? it's all in the book. the guns are the primary weapon of choice today 50 years later. and they always have been. sadly, when you read the book, you'll find that the n-4 never had a gun. industry and washington decided
5:22 pm
not to put a gun in the airplane. i could have saved so many guys on the ground from being p.o.w.s. i got called in a couple times when somebody had gotten shot down and were captured by the guy on the ground. if i had a gun, i had no other weapon in the airplane. that's a down side. i'm sorry. >> so in the book you describe a couple of instances in advanced training that really reinforce the fact that you are on your own in that cockpit. would you care to tell our audience about those. >> you mean the trip to dallas in the low level? three or four of us in a division fly a wedge, if you
5:23 pm
will, and part of the syllabus was to go from bville to dallas, land at naval air station and re-gas there and fly back. that's only several hundred miles, three hours, 3 1/2 by car. in an airplane doing 450, 500 miles per hour it's a handful particularly on a day like -- and there wasn't any weather. we went. and we had about 600 foot overcast this particular day. we went four of us trying to keep track of each other out on the wings. and we swapped the lead back and forth. and we're going up to dallas. we do pretty good, except coming back, come back and we're probably a little bit misaligned on the exact track coming back to bville.
5:24 pm
and all of a sudden goes between me and my wingy is a red lit tower. and the towers we later found out, 1,500 feet. and we were cruising along 400 or 500 feet just below. that thing went by so fast. the red light only caught my eye. i thought that's a reality check. it's a damn dangerous -- a lot of things you can't plan for. that's the only one. those of you, i don't know how many aviators there are, no one my age, remember radio range when we used to fly before we had all the modern technology we have today.
5:25 pm
you got to be able to fly and navigate using just code letters. and in 18 months of training, i got down. i hated to admit it. i flunked going into victoria in the back seat of a t-bird. i got disoriented. the weather right down to the deck and just terrible. no excuse. you you're a naval aviator. i got it down. and i went back and landed and walked in to grab a cup of coffee with my instructor. i thought this is not good.
5:26 pm
you're in trouble. the first one i had, 18 months. he said it's a good lesson in humility there. i took that with me quite a way business yond that day. paid dearly for it. i made it through, got orders to fighter squadron. so i actually was going to go all weather fighter squadron 3 next. >> you get me going sometimes. >> so you're assigned there. what was it that made this squadron so unusual? >> well, it was all veterans. we probably had the best flight leaders. we were broken into four different flights. the pictures of the guys in leather jackets we probably had the four best instructor pilots,
5:27 pm
leaders that i ever flew with in any fighter squadron maybe except for the one on the enterprise during the war. but it was -- you can't help when you fly once or twice a day or as often as you feel like it, truly, it's what we did in that squadron. that's why we ended up with so much flight time. you're around these guys. we stood watches, alert watches. on a hokey mission. somebody in those days we had to do it. and got really good at it. we won the awards every year that we had that duty. but the benefit to the young ones like me, an abundance of why i associated with like-kind
5:28 pm
guys that were same mindset as i was and our mentors and teachers were all the cream of the crop from the second world war. that's what we ought to be doing today. we need to mentor more young ones in the days of naval aviation. there in lies part of the story of top gun. >> did you ever find out how this lone navy squadron came to be part of norad? >> no. i didn't care as long as i got to fly. >> and so the other thing is you were flying the sky or the douglas frd. what was that like? that was a hot rod of the day.
5:29 pm
>> that was fun. that was fun, challenging. never in the history of my flying career, i never flew anything that had the climb characteristics. that's where i learned to dog fight. we would go out there in the book and describe the place. it was illegitimate. people were trying to revert back to missiles and radar and all the magic stuff. we go out and dog fight. go out area 51. that's all true in there. when you know you are doing
5:30 pm
something you probably shouldn't be doing, i'm not sure that our bosses in that great fighter squadron didn't look the other way a lot. so the other thing about the f 4 d is that it did have guns but not a lot of rounds in the guns. it was primarily intended to use guided missiles which were just coming into service at this point. >> rockets at that time they had 2.75 rockets on it. incidentally, if you doubt my statement on mentality, you change to very sophisticated, expensive. they taped off the gun ports, took all the guns out and taped them off. and they eventually just covered them all. even at that day and that time, we never got to use the guns.
5:31 pm
when we went to weapons meet, we never had a -- never got to fire guns, did we? we won the all navy weapon meet that year. one of our friends was killed on the kitty hawk. were you with him on that cruise? >> he had engine failure. he was as good as they got back in the days. career-wise he really did well. but sometimes you roll the dice and you don't win. i write about him in the book. >> so you have already brought up this practice of hassling as you describe it in the book. >> makes me nervous.
5:32 pm
>> what about it makes you nervous? >> it's an art. all those of you -- i see you, set of wings on the gentleman. he's nodding. it's an art to dog fight, you know? i got the -- we come up with some sayings. one of them was second place is dead last. and that's what happens when you dog fight in combat for real. if you don't win, chances are, you are in a parachute or worse. and kind of the movie did an injustice to us in that regard, because it painted us as a bunch of cowboys. and my original guys were all phds at least intellectually
5:33 pm
they all had two combat tours in vietnam. they were 15 that i had to choose from were the seven best i knew. the picture of melholmes, he lived in a flight suit. i had been flying with the israeli air force guys a good bit. mel holmes is the best in the world in that airplane. i put that in writing. his wife gave me a big kiss. mel was that good. i enjoyed telling you about this. why is the guy that good? maybe it's a god-given talent. mel would strap in the f-4.
5:34 pm
when he was out engaging somebody in a dog fight would never look back in the cockpit. he had that kind of perception. the airplane became one with him. out of the seven or eight guys that i picked, top gun, the original, he re-defined the envelope of the f-4. he wasn't agreed as an -- or anything academically. but he knew that airplane. he knew what it would do. i got a lot of trouble with mcdonald douglas, because we flew that airplane way beyond. we flew that airplane way beyond what it was designed to do. and we never killed anybody and didn't wreck an airplane. so you get away with it. pretty soon the kill ratio goes from two to one in vietnam to
5:35 pm
you probably want to ask me this. it fits now. two to one is a reason after five years of war, top gun got started. at the end, from march to the end of vietnam war top gun was going strong putting guys out in the fleet, teaching the new tactics. guess what the end kill ratio was. 24 to 1. that's a whole lot better. you can hold your head up high when you come back and get out of the airplane, i'll tell you. i'm sorry. >> that's okay. >> i probably pre-e..ed you on that one. >> we'll come back to it. you brought this up.
5:36 pm
again, one of your themes is the bean counters restricting what's possible. so in this period of time, you write about the fact that the navy actually restricts or prohibits air combat maneuvering so as not to put strain on the aircraft. and combined with this idea that it's all going to be missiles so you won't need the dog fight, you'll shoot once we get the seekers, side winder and the navy thinks it's all going to be long distance shots. you won't need the maneuver. do you think this practice of hassling grew out of that restriction? or do you think it would have happened anyway? >> you can believe it on the older guys with us. those guys knew because they had been there.
5:37 pm
one guy is advocating it. they're not going to -- they were all seniors. you're not going to publically tell washington what he really thinks except that he can draw on the 28 kills that he did himself. he is probably more of an authority than there was sitting back here mandating the new way of doing it, if you will. and we listen to those guys. they had been there. they were the idles we had. so we went along with it. that's what i blame it on. it worked. stress in the airplane, dog fighting, the way that it works,
5:38 pm
i describe it in detail in the book for you. me and my wife understood it. two guys go up along side. 1?xód we are area 51 or correction out of island in a restricted area out there. two guys, eight to ten airplanes, everybody is really getting along with each other. they aren't going to fight each other. you go out there. you pull up along side somebody and look over, check him out. break away a few miles, come back at it. you are doing 500 knots a piece. this is called the merge. that's what real combat is like when you see the enemy. currently and in vietnam, mcnamara mandated a rules of engagement on us that we had to
5:39 pm
see the enemy before we can shoot. that totally negates the concept of guided missiles, because at that close a rate, 1,000 miles per hour, the guy is pretty close to you coming at you before you can identify a little tiny -- any how, it doesn't work the way it is. that's what's wrong today in some of the current fighting positions. we have the wrong people writing the rules of engagement. they don't trust the combat experience leadership to set the rules of engagement. i can't think of anywhere in the world that we are not going to end up dog fighting when we try to go there or engage whatever the enemy happens to be.
5:40 pm
we will end up dog fighting them. that's me personally how's that? >> all right. we're going to try to get to the good stuff and not run out of time. so from vf 3 you go to black lines aboard uss hancock. you are now flying the f-3 h demon. >> it was a beautiful flying airplane except it had no power. and when we first put him out on the fleet, he killed five guys in one day. out off japan, they happened to come down through a radar that wasn't quite as good as it was today. they come down to it.
5:41 pm
and one slick afternoon. what would happen, this is really interesting. the water would come in, intake. it would surround the engine. when you cool metal, it tends to shrink. it would shrink around the turbine turbines. so all the guys came down, fat, dumb and happy, went through the thunderstorm coming down the bulk to land, and all the engines quit. and it was -- so they -- major, major fix to get it repaired. what they did is they just went in and they cut a very small amount off all the turbine blades in the engine so when the engine went through water it would close down, but it wouldn't stop. but the down side of that is you
5:42 pm
have lost a great deal of power. and what it did to us mentally was it scared you flying that thing. beautiful airplane, but so bad power-wise. i told larry tonight, the phantom was so much better in the sense that it had power beyond anything i had ever flown. i have flown an airplane at 2.47 mach. that's 2.47 times the speed of sound. and she would heat up from heating the air flow over the airplane. and the lights come on and say no faster. i don't like this. i would come out and slow down. he had had phenomenal power. that's why top gun worked. i'll tell you more about that.
5:43 pm
>> so you go from the demon. your next tour at sea is with vf 92 silver kings. you are flying f-4 phantom off the uss enterprise. and the enterprise, you report on board the enterprise goes out to vietnam to yankee station. what was your experience in vietnam? >> 1967 i joined the squadron miramar very briefly. i had been to one teaching tactics and so forth. and luck of the draw, i ended up in the great squadron with the leader, the man i respect most in combat, probably kept me alive a couple of times.
5:44 pm
skank renson. what made him such a great leader was he had phenomenal natural ability, charismatic man. and whenever the hard missions -- oh, no. i shut that thing off. i told her not to call me. >> forgive me, please. anyhow, skank always took the tough missions, there in lies leadership again. we had programs quietly of bringing young guys up. he never put anybody into combat situation that was going to get him hurt until they were ready. i have had some experiences. i don't know what i have time to tell you about. i love that man. i was with him.
5:45 pm
i wasn't with him on this mission. but he's in there wandering around north vietnam. he gets shot, rifle got him, rifle bullet through both legs. it went through the fleshy part of his legs. so being the cool hombre he is, he brings leg restraints for the ejection seat. they keep your legs from flying. he brings these up and puts them above the wound and makes tourniquets. he flew 150 miles back to the carrier, made the carrier landing. the medics brought him out of the airplane. i ran up there to see him. and medics lifted him out of the airplane and put him down in surgery. two weeks later to the day he was back flying in north vietnam with us.
5:46 pm
now, that's my measurement of real leadership. i got better stories than that about him. go ahead. i'm sorry. >> no, no. that's fine. just as a bit of background, then, we have sort of talked about this. i just want to put it all together for our audience, that you know dpen part of this idea that the navy had at the time that it's all going to be straight line flying and firing long range guided missiles at soviet bombers to protect the united states or protect the carrier group, and you find yourself in a very different war in vietnam where you are prevented from shooting anything until you can visually identify your enemy. >> key point right there. you design an airplane as an interceptor to shoot missiles,
5:47 pm
got beautiful, two different kinds of radar in the airplane. you paid for it incidentally, and when you get up there the rules of engagement are so stringent by max mara and lbj, you can't fire your weapons because the rules of engagement are mandated. they court-martial you if you break them. and none of us -- we were all obedient children so we just kind of went along with it. that's why it didn't work. so top gun, 1967 i came back a on enterprise having experienced my best cruise of my life with
5:48 pm
skank. and i'm teaching at 121, teaching a tactics phase of 15 guys up here. those are pretty good drivers. they are really good sticks. -- >> 121 just for the audience is where you are basically training everyone who is about to go out for the f-4s. >> had 1,600 enlisted guys. we had over 100 airplanes. and they were going night and d day. we would send replacement out in a replacement airplane. frank alt, the great frank alt writes a 400-page report unsolicited. he's so fed up with it. he sends thexjñb report back to washington. we had some great people in washington during the war, but they were controlled by
5:49 pm
mcnamara. that's about as close as i will get to politics. they were controlled by people naval officers couldn't do what they wanted to do. but they said in one of the 400 recommendations was two things. we have got to get well program done rapidly, and we need to rethink the sideliner missiles that don't work. they shot over 600 of them and had less than ten percent success rate. and those are expensive. we knew it was going to come right back out to us. and came to 121 and offered the job to me. the down side was 60 to 90 day
5:50 pm
you can have the first class ready, can't you? this is graduate school. this is above and beyond what they had been teaching the whole time. how do you put a graduate
5:51 pm
5:52 pm
5:53 pm
5:54 pm
. i get to go on fox news and do the pr work. the book is a legacy to all of
5:55 pm
the top gun guys. 560 of them on may 1st of this year. the 50th reunion in san diego. we had 42 skippers there. were they good? we got a four star admiral in the mix. got five or six three star admirals. i don't even count the two stars. but the guys -- and those who got out, those who got out of the navy have made a real success of their civilian life and i'm really proud of all of them. as you can tell. had we not had any single guy, had he been not part of the equation in the beginning, it wouldn't have got done. jimmy lane, who you see pictures
5:56 pm
of the ejection, jim ejected twice over there. shot a mig down. and the other one in the picture, those of you who have been around know tom. he has a reputation. he was general of the airplane. call sign was smash. and he got a silver star for saving jim's life in north vietnam. and the brother hood, the brotherhood is real. it exists today. it was in san diego on the first of may. you see them after 50 years. and the only reason the school has gone on and grown to what it is today, internationally now, they have the reputation, bar
5:57 pm
none in aviation. it's up in nevada. if you get up, go and see it. it belongs to you. you pay for it. they got their problems right now with politics and it's almost gone full circle from when we started. got airplane you don't want and don't know how to use. we won't go into much of that. it works. the school worked because of the individual. and here's my last comment. it's not the airplane or the weapon system that wins in combat. it's the individual. it's the man or the woman driving the airplane who is professionally excellent at what they're doing.
5:58 pm
and that isn't the way we buy airplanes anymore either. >> so you come back. you're at the 121. you're shown the report. says i want you to take this. >> yeah. >> but we have no facilities, we have no money. we have a vague instruction that the navy should establish a school to teach fighter tactics. what's your rank? >> lieutenant commander at 31 years old. my youngest guy was a famous condor and he was 22. had two combat cruises under his belt. jimmy had two. mel had two. we all did, as a matter of fact,
5:59 pm
as far as combat exposure. and common trait among these guys is deadly serious about what they were doing as professional navy aviators. there was nothing of what you saw in the movie. they did the flying for the first movie, the top gun guys in 1985, did the flying for the movie. but my i guys were phd 's, elite, and the schedule was so tough. we were -- now, they don't believe it. we worked seven days a week. we finished the night at the club and had a beer together and critiqued. many of the guys slept in their cars. we didn't have a bunk room or anything else. over the boq and wake them up. we started at 4:30 every
6:00 pm
morning. but when you're dealing in human life, the only reason the school was started, the only purpose we had in everything we were doing was guys are still fighting every day in vietnam. and they're losing. and they're losing because they were trained the wrong way. and they just don't -- so the sooner we can get it all packaged and back out there, that's what our students were doing. they were going out and teaching the squadrons the new tactics. if i may, an important point to make. i don't have infinite wisdom. as i said, it was the collective work of eight guys, nine guys. but one thing we pulled off thanks to vx4, the test squadron at point mcgoo. access to the mate. up at dream land area 51.
6:01 pm
mel and i went up there. didn't know where we were going. so we went to the air force base and the next thing i know, i'm in a transport and going somewhere in an air force transport. and they parked the airplane and we get out and look around. and never seen this place before. and go in the hanger and there's these beautiful little silver migs. a half hour later, a fame mouse guy, chief of projects, says come on, dan. let's go flying. he climbs in one and puts me in one and sits on the front canopy. and said don't worry about the instruments. as long as they're in the green everywhere. try that one on. so anyhow, how, 30 minutes after
6:02 pm
we landed, stripped in and rolling. and the hardest thing about flying one is taxiing. and now i won't get into. very difficult. the only mistake the engineer made were there. but we got to validate the tactics that we had all come up with against the real thing. so graduation day, the first class, i said i got a surprise for you. put them on there and said follow me. we went up to area 51. the students took them on unbriefed, unknown, the real thing. you know, you hear them. i won't tell you what they said. and they get to prove their knowledge, if you will. nice way of putting it.
6:03 pm
so anyhow, we validated the tactics. the last bit of this story is shot down the first one after top gun's graduation. he was the first victory we had after the school got going. and now the bed and breakfast hotel over scotland. and he came to the reunion and told the story of the whole thing. pretty happy about it. >> all right. top gun is established in '69. >> yeah. >> graduating your first classes out there. but the real test kind of comes in 1972, right? >> yeah. >> the first time you really get to see what happened. 1972 in vietnam, north vietnamese army launching a
6:04 pm
massive attack on the south. president nixon authorizes operation line backer. so now the navy and the air force go in and bomb places in north vietnam previously off limits. also changes the rules of engagement. no longer have to have visual. how did that go? >> well, you know, it went as rapidly as the -- went up to 24-1. and that's simply stated. the tactics worked. the guys got their momentum back and their pride back. that's a big thing. you going to risk your butt every day if you don't pride in what you're doing and confidence, you won't do well. but we did well. the guys, the students went out and taught their squads and the squadrons did really well. we were back there and most of us had moved on. we had moved on.
6:05 pm
want to get some questions? >> yeah. one or two i do want to get to before the questions. so clearly, you stayed interested in what's going on at top gun since you helped set it up. obviously, interested in the success of this thing you created. how has it changed since you founded it? . >> oh, you got to go to see him. beautiful setup up there. a lot of airplanes. the young guys, i was up there in may for a day. when you watch them fly, they are so good. and you know, actually, they got a picture board up there. i'm the number one picture. it goes across. row after row after row of instructors. they've taken pictures over the years. probably the best collection of photography you'll want to see. and they are absolutely the best
6:06 pm
of the best still. we like to think we were good. and we go up there and watch these guys. the only problem is they're walking the fence politically now to try and keep everybody happy and try and keep up with the new sophisticated airplanes. that's a pretty big challenge. >> all right. so you mentioned that you and your other original bros mostly loved the 1986 top gun movie. it's mixed? . >> i had somebody the other night say hey, maverick. don't call me maverick. anyhow, the movie sold a lot of tickets. it helped the volunteer navy. the navy had 300% backlog in pilot training.
6:07 pm
it was sensational. the top gun guys in 1985 did the flying for the movie along with cameramen and so forth. i loved the sound. i love the music personally. the rest of it was hollywood glitz. i'm worried about the new picture. i haven't had a thing to do with the new picture. >> all right. so i think the last thing i have for you before we turn it over to the crowd here, in your final chapter, you write that basically, there's something, some fundamentals about fighting in the air that really never change. and you sort of imply that these were lost after the second world war. kind of had to rediscover
6:08 pm
them for top gun. >> yeah. you know, guys all the of them had individual grand iose. they couldn't fight each other. there wouldn't have been a school period. that's true today. and great satisfaction in the bros. i mean, these guys are in the pictures up there, the four of us. we're like of the same parents. so proud to be together. and the navy is a great profession. if you get the right mentoring, you can just fly jets. boy, that's really a good way to go. the navy takes good care of you. i had a great career. i skippered the carrier ranger. i had a big super tanker before
6:09 pm
that. same rules apply. don't run it aground. don't hit anybody with it. and you may be in the ballpark for one of the carriers. i went through nuclear power training. that was very difficult. real tough. but i got to carry -- i had the privilege, privilege for two and a half years of skippering the uss ranger, the big aircraft carrier. and that was the original top -- or the original ranger number one ship with john paul jones, flag ship, 200 years ago. i had number seven. and during eight years of sequester and cutting back financially, they sold it for dollars and scrap. that happened. you didn't know about it. i know that. and the other day i was up in
6:10 pm
new york doing a tv appearance and i met a couple of interesting people. and talked one of them into trying to get some power going down here to name one of the new carriers ranger and carry on the tradition. so thank you so much for listening. we'll go to questions and whatever. i hope i'm kind of long winded. >> well, i was prepared if you weren't. i will say there are lots of great stories in the book that we did not have time to get to tonight. i encourage you to get your hands on a copy. all right. we have a question down front here. >> thank you for your service. and i'm wondering -- oh, okay. i was wondering how aware
6:11 pm
were you of what john boyd of the air force was doing at the time and how much cross pollination was there between the two services in terms of bringing back dog fight? thank you. >> i know john boyd personally. john is a brilliant academic. he's been very influential in a lot of good airplanes. but we didn't have time to -- we had a couple of meetings with him. and mel and my aerodynamics guru, if you will, he didn't get along with him. and mel's argument -- john boyd tried to make a mathematical equation of what makes a great airplane and fighter pilot. okay? and we found -- mel's argument and they went at it a couple of
6:12 pm
meetings in a big audience. mel said you can't kwanty identify what the human being flying the airplane will be like. and that's true. remember i told you, the pilot is always the key factor in everyone that dog fights in the future. and that's where the disagreement was. but we're friends. buy me a drink. >> excellent presentation. i want to if you may clear up a rumor. and i'll go back to the movie top gun for a second. >> sure. >> all right. in parts of the movie, you hear the guys in the room and just gushes, something along those lines. what i'm asking is i've heard rumors the tom cruise's character is essentially randy cunningham. can you clear that up? i don't know if it's true.
6:13 pm
i have heard that somewhere. >> well, i don't really -- i don't have any authority or knowledge to comment on that. you know, what tom cruise does with his movie and his money is his business. as long as he doesn't hurt my navy. >> sir, thank you very much for your service and for the great stories tonight. i also appreciate your comments about mentor ship. thank you very much. i'm interested in how did you choose that first class? did you get to choose the students? or were they nominated by commanders? >> you know, that's really a great question. first of all, if you want to multiply out the benefit of it, you got to bring the best ones in.
6:14 pm
they have to go back to the parent squadron and teach. they have to teach like graduate level very quickly. and we had to argue. remember, there's a war going on. and let me tell you, opinionated guys are the squadron commanders out on the carriers who is a young upstart group. we didn't have great publicity or advertising of what we were doing in the beginning. we start calling around and steve smith, the guy who has gotten with the building, i get him on the phone and said you find me students. he said okay. some of the butt chewing he got. what do you think you know that we don't know? we're fighting a war. and they hang up. and then we came to washington
6:15 pm
and we had one magic phone call from somebody in washington to a wing commander on the east coast and one of the west coast. and all of a sudden, it changed. it wasn't a voluntary change. it was probably survival of themselves. you know, you're going to do it. just get on with it. and then when the kids started coming in, top gun's reputation grew. and they're standing in line, trying to get in to get the education. anybody going back to fight in combat wanted to pick up what they hadn't been exposed to prior to going back. >> the one in the back first . can't see you. >> thank you, captain. i'm joe gavin from the
6:16 pm
grumin family. my question is back around the late '70s, there was a referee and monitored flioff between the f-14 and the f-15. i wondered if could tell us anything about the results you took away from that experience? >> you know, believe it or not, i really try and stay out of the political. i'm a big fan of gummin iron. i miss your company badly right now. it was a competitive factor that balanced the equations. they notoriously built great airplanes in the second world war and korea. and the reputation with naval aviators was good. and along came several others. and eventually, you and i
6:17 pm
both know what happened 14. and the competitive bid. and i think tonight -- i wish grummin was back and competing. i wouldn't take 26. it wouldn't take 26 years to bring a new airplane to fruition. that's all i'll say. >> there's a question over here. . >> right here. there she is with the mic. >> thank you. is the air force pilot participate in top gun? or did they have their own program? >> i'll tell you, we got in the vietnam war and croatia went up what i told you, and the airports, their senior leadership during that latter
6:18 pm
phase of the war, they wouldn't change to the tactics. i actually brought robin down, the great general. i idolize the man. great pilot. we brought him down to flying in j.c. and the guys on one weekend. and he is living proof of what should have happened. they should have used somebody like him and joined right in. now, they later went on, a couple of the really great air force sticks. and you know about that, i'm sure. and after they got started, the general who controlled them, he retired or something. but the air force came along and joined in with top gun. today, i won't say they're joined at the hip.
6:19 pm
but they share information. they're both american fighter schools. so they share information. and they're going to end up sharing airplanes. >> the f-4. >> yeah. but air force, i never said a bad word about them. you know, i don't know how many of you know people up 105 in southeast asia, but they built 800 and some of them. in the book, that's one of the reasons i had bar rett tillman with me. we did a lot of research. they lost 340 something airplanes. the f-105s in vietnam. that's a tragedy. those guys were as good as anybody in the world. yes, sir. right here.
6:20 pm
microphone, sir, please. >> i salute you for your service and thank you for that. you referred previously about being -- they took the bullets out of the aircraft. did they take the bullets out of the aircraft and giving ground support to the infantry and all too? >> i understand that. >> i think he's asking about the comment you made earlier where the navy took the bullets and the guns out of the sky. and he's asking if they took them out of any of the aircrafts that were supporting, doing the ground support over in vietnam. >> oh, no. the navy never had a gatling gun. you squeeze it and i guarantee you, even today, it is the weapon of choice in combat. i don't care whether i have
6:21 pm
missiles. take a cup of them if you want to put them on me. give me the gatling gun and something to radar from the carrier or from support ships. i'll go anywhere. particularly against the sophisticated airplanes. the reason i'm against those, i'll get to politics. number one, they take too long. they're too expensive. and all the bells and whistles built in to them overload the pilot. in combat, in combat, serious active duty right there. he just nodded. in combat, you don't look inside otherwise to check your fuel gauge once in a while. you look inside, they may get you. so no. that's the way it works in
6:22 pm
combat. you got to look outside. and what you don't see is what kills you. . >> i've got a friend in flight training as a marine flight training and they're telling him he's the last generation of manned planes. what are your thoughts on that? >> you know, again, you get into industry sells airplanes, drones. the drones have a reasonable mission, certain applications of them. i'm not sure that on a 30 plane strike i want somebody somewhere controlling the armed drone in the middle of us shooting missiles. that strikes me wrong, you know. you can get hosed that way. that doesn't work.
6:23 pm
so my point is, my point is, the pilot, the human will always be the key factor in a win in aerial combat. some of you may not believe that. but take a look at the volume of airplanes in china or russia or north korea. they got a lot of them. and we ought to have -- we do not want to find ourselves numerically inferior to those countries. i don't want them for you young ones. i don't want to see it again. in my lifetime, i hope we never have it. but you got to have deterrents. you have the ability. the other thing, one last thing.
6:24 pm
when i skippered the ranger, i had 5,000 guys on ranger with me. anybody want to venture the average age? 19. somebody hit it right on the head. average age of the volunteer force that manned the aircraft carriers, the nukes out there, ten, 11 of them now. that's the greatest in the world. don't let anybody tell you that they're vulnerable. i won't in a group like this, but if anybody wants to debate that with me, i can tell you how to disappear with an aircraft carrier and it works every time. given the weather, like chronic signatures. you run on four screws, run on two screws. drop in behind super tankers.
6:25 pm
there's so many ways. people are putting out a at of bravo sierra to sell airplanes. and i'm sure they'll find a good use for drones. drones are phenomenal for air to ground work. i personally don't want them on the aircraft carrier. good question. . >> follow up question to what you were talking about. the latest aircraft coming on board now is this joint strike -- coming in the f-22 or f-35, something like that. would you care to comment about how that aircraft compares with the current superhorse we have on the aircraft carriers? >> well, i'll only tell you, i
6:26 pm
saw the day i was up at fallon, they had 100 missions that day that were flown. there were airplanes from all over the world there. different -- a little bit of mix of everything. let me tell you what they did. skipper of top gun right now is just phenomenal young guy. youth is where it is. his name is pops. they call him pops. that morning, all pilots met. they drew times and a piece of paper. and they all went around to do this. and what that drawing was was they drew a time to be out. somebody else drew the same range time and they were going out to fight somebody and had no idea who it was.
6:27 pm
was it f-22, f-35, f-5? i listened to a lot of the debriefs and the hornet guys, i don't particularly -- it's a great little airplane, the super hornet is. it's got better legs. the reason i didn't like it was it caused me of the carrier to shorten the cycle time. it wouldn't stay airborne. didn't have enough gas. but the guys in the super hornets went out and waxed the f-22. and they waxed a lot of sophisticated airplanes that day. the taiwan ese brought f-16s. and the hornet guys held their own. and i'll put naval aviators in a simple, reliable airplane. when you're reading the last chapter, if i were king, quote, in the book, if i were king, you'll remember tonight when you
6:28 pm
read it. i would simple, reliable, carrier maintenance guys are only 19 years old. and that's the abundance of them. they rely on the chiefs and the first class and the second class to maintain the airplanes. if you don't maintain them right, you kill somebody. that's unacceptable. right now, somewhere in this town, they're talking about bonusing pilots to keep them so they don't get out and go with the airline. let me tell tell you what the pilots, the reason they're getting out. for using a sequesters and during the transition time, they haven't had real flying. the guys at top gun, i used to go up there and talk to pops and the boys. they get ten hours a month.
6:29 pm
that's enough to barely know what you're doing. there wasn't any money for flying. now it's a lot better. when you really -- when you look at the original eight and i told larry this earlier, we got 40 hours. 40 hours was enough working as hard as we were. i couldn't handle much more physically and family wise. i was never home. condor, the great condor, his best month at top gun were 60, 60 hours a month. a hour at a time. flying is the reason naval aviators stay in the service. simple. simple is better. reliable. if you're going to bonus anybody, bonus the chiefs, the first class. bonus the enlisted guys. i spent a good bit of time as
6:30 pm
captain of an aircraft carrier. talking to our own people about the poor, i mean this in a loving way, about the poor enlisted guys' wives at home with the kids. they had no money. that's not america i know. we all grew up pretty good and drive nice cars. we ought to be able to take care of the guys maintaining these big expensive airplanes. that's my second billy graham for the night. >> i think we have time for one more question. >> down front here? >> yes, sir. >> the vt-25, texas, '85 to '87. va75 off the kennedy. i saw the great pictures. i was wondering if we had time
6:31 pm
to run through and talk about the pictures and the great people. >> would that be all right? you got five minutes? incidentally, i had lunch -- i spoke at charleston at the yorktown museum two weeks ago one night to a group about the size of this. and i had brunch the next day with jimmy flatley, your skipper on saratoga. good naval aviator. he just had a right hip replacement two days before and shows up to host a brunch for me. i can't believe it. he came in in a wheelchair. that's the -- i can't walk anywhere with this. that's who i went through basic training with. there were hundredsover them. and a great airplane.
6:32 pm
i soloed that first time on a grass field. it cuts the tie off on solo day. i have the tie in a scrapbook. you got one too. did you wear ties? >> yes, i did. >> and this was the squadron that ron and i were in. and a great airplane. that's the sky ray and douglas built the sky ray. i loved it. mainly because i lived through 3,000 hours in it. that airplane there was fun. some great friends there. you want some reality check? i looked at that picture today at the hotel and there are eight guys left. that's the reality. and a lot of it wasn't not
6:33 pm
necessarily performance, but in those days, what they did with the airplane was pretty risky. and that was a terrible airplane on the boat. early laterally unstable on the boat. and lexington, when we were together, they took it out and tried tonight qualify the airplane and lost a bunch of guys. hey, that's, you know, the newspaper pick up on this story almost daily, the russians and the americans at each other's throat. let me tell you, this is an average day off the sea of japan. they come out every day. i've had them -- my backseater would hold up something, penthouse or playboy, and the
6:34 pm
guy in the back there would show them the current playboy and it was more current than the one we had on the carrier. you know, and i had -- i've had guys run across my bow on the carrier and come up on guard and say you don't want to do that again. and i had an electronic warfare plane over them and turn up the gain on the sensors. they probably blew every fuse on that. don't do that again. i'm telling you. and that's a great enterprise. and why i love this shot is i don't know that i was on that cruise or not, but the beautiful radar ray on the island. and then someone in their infinite wisdom said buy the
6:35 pm
lady a new hat. they took that beautiful ray off there and they made her look like everybody else. but there's only one enterprise. right now, they just took the core out of it, the nuclear power plant's been reproved. she's in salvage and they don't know what to do with it. boy, that's a tough decision. that was a great ship. and there's the phantom in its sister role of dropping 500 pounders. and you want to know something that's in the book, when you get to the part about yankee station, read carefully the part about it in detail. i went to kaison and didn't expect to go down there and got called down 500 knots, 400 feet dropping those kind of bombs. only they were snake eyes and
6:36 pm
had clam shells stop and go straight down. and i flew close air support for about four days. that's when i learned to love grunt greens. i had never seen american kids that brave. that's a whole different story. go ahead, please. >> as mig drivers, they've since before over here, some of the guys hosted them here in san diego. and some of the mig guys trying to settle their mental situations. i never cared that much, so i didn't go. but -- and there's the original. john nash on the right. jimmy, second one lower right. i was the third one.
6:37 pm
hank howlin who took all the risks. i would go in to him and complain about something and he would say get out of here and go do it. most of you in washington, we never had a consultant. i don't mean to hurt anybody's feelings. we had no consultants and i had no one outside the uniform involved in top gun for the first two years. that was the great jim lane. he's chairman america's of john -- i would to say bernie. big real estate company in san diego. wonderful guy. you know, the image that was painted in the movie, this guy goes to catholic church every morning. and he would go, bob, and i
6:38 pm
think he did that even before he was flying with us. he's one of the great human beings i had the pleasure of serving with. and he's fearless. go ahead. and that's jimmy. they had just taken a large dose of flak in the engine, both engines were quitting. and the front seater got out a second later. so we needed double exposure and didn't get it. and there's the great mel holmes. these guys talented. he was in the service. i mean it, he was the best in the world. i knew who the ten best were. and i put him up top. he went out and started micronesia airlines. owned his own airlines. just incredibly talented people.
6:39 pm
this is the famous con doer. he's like my son. i think my wife is in love with him. movie star good looking. so success.. i developer big time and a prince of a human being. and that's the other one. incidentally, condor was a backseater in the beginning of top gun. and i found out -- this is how much in control i really was. i found out -- we were flying ta-4s, two seats. i would look for him and he would be gone. he would be in the air. and he was talking the rest of the guys into putting him in the front seat of the a-4 and they taught him to fly. so he comes to me one day
6:40 pm
later on when we were up and running well and he said, i want to become a naval aviator. i want to go to flight training. he said i already know how to fly. so confident. and i said, okay. send an application in. i'll endorse it. and i did. me went through and aced flight training. came right back to top gun as an instructor out of training command. i think in his full career, condor has been at top gun four times. but that's called an insurance policy having talent around you. it's always the guys around you. let's see. and this, the big jerry. he was known for bending airplanes.
6:41 pm
he and mike gunther were on that set. and they were both good. they started our adversary program. they had to be able to fly like the russians. so he put the program together inside of top gun and flew both sides. he would fly the american side one day. he would fly the adversary side later on. and right now, there are about four squadrons that are dedicated adversary. in the air force just funded 25 or 30f-5s to a dedicated adversary squadron. i noticed in the press in the last few weeks, they took the f-35, the new ones from tyndall, devastated by the hurricane down
6:42 pm
there. and they're moving those up to nellis and they'll form an adversary squadron. trying to figure that one out. anyhow, two great ones. there's the building. that was home. yeah. and those are a-4s. we started to study and painted each airplane a little different camouflage. around the world and took a look at various color schemes. some of those airplanes actually were so good you couldn't see them from a mile away. and then you think about the merge come and hit on at 1,000 miles per hour. anyhow, there he is. and i would borrow the guy's. and that guy in the backseat
6:43 pm
pretty famous. that's j.c. smith when you read the book. he relieved me as in charge of top gun. and he got the first mig of the war, the first one shot down before the school even started. he's a wild man. he's a san angelo, texas. i can't believe it myself. he owns two cadillac agencies in texas. he owns a fuel parlor and a country club. and i think he's a deacon in his church. anyhow, great airline airplane. they're still flying. the chinese are still building these. they have 2,000 of them. and there's the boat.
6:44 pm
going off the catapult. that's the most dangerous occupation on the flight deck. and condor wrote a chapter in there for me that as a lieutenant, he got asked to brief a last mission on the carrier cole, i think it was, and he flew the fighter protection over saigon during the ex-doss when we were dragging all the people out. and pictures where the boat people coming out trying to get on a carrier. it's one of the few times i've seen him totally sad. he said, i can't believe it that we're leaving them. i can't believe we're leaving
6:45 pm
these people the way we are. that gives you an inside look at him. that's the guy. and that's a typical classroom. you can tell by the long hair what period it was. that's one of the beauties. that's the two place one. that's the one i was telling you about. he had to look up and find out during the debrief that condor was in the front and one of the pilots in the back getting a private pilot's lesson. a little risky. and that's the airplane i talk about in the last chapters of the example of what i would buy right now. i would take one of boeing's defunct factories, which they have now out in middle america, they're not using it anymore, and i would build 2 or 3,000 of these to fly
6:46 pm
for under $10 million a piece. that's pretty cheap up there. $10 million. and the cost per flight hour is how the pilots get back up to 40. america has to end up with airplanes they can afford in large numbers. because you've got the beautiful aircraft carriers and you got to have airplanes to put on them. my question is what can we afford? so i would build a lot of cheap ones. that one, that one in the hands of a good driver would take anybody on. and there's the f-14. that's my wish. i wish we had them. i wish we had them. somebody saw fit to destroy all the history in that airplane. so we can't rebuild it right
6:47 pm
now. but i would sure like to have about a thousand of those to put on the aircraft carriers. hey, there i am. as i said, you know, if you behave yourself and you're a good guy, somebody gives you a boat. that was a wonderful 600 feet long. and maybe 50,000 tons. i had 14 officers and a crew of 400. and the best story is my supply officer, when we went to the indian ocean, i looked at the invoice of what we had on board to have an idea when i talked to other captains we were resupplying. i would look at the invoices. 3,000 turkeys. well, we're going to be gone
6:48 pm
thanksgiving, christmas, and new year's. he said you really want to have fun, we'll negotiate with all the ships in the company and give them holiday turkeys. we got known as the big turkey out there. and there's my ranger boat at the top. that's how we refuel at sea. and there's mama. that's the love story in the book. i met her on her 14th birthday. i don't think i dated anybody else. and i went away to serve my country and fly. and i didn't see her for 32 years. she married a college football player. but there was a time in our life, both of us, i won't tell you all of it, you got to read the book. 32 years later, i met her
6:49 pm
and married 27 years. and she is just my soul mate. that's mary beth. the penguin. they didn't put the other picture. there's one picture of beth and i today. thank you very much for your patience. labor day weekend. >> tonight, the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of
6:50 pm
virginia's first general assembly. explore our nation's past every weekend on cspan3. may at the heritage and education center in carlisle pennsylvania. talking to the public about the military. the theme was the 75th anniversary of d-day. we visit a living history camp to hear about the experiences, parachute regiment team. 75 years ago during the autumn of 1944. >> good morning my name is matt holborn. and i represent s company.
6:51 pm
which was part of a unit that reported for regimental combat. for italy southern france. a will largely overshadowed unit of the war. 2500 men. we represent them during their time during the maritime campaign , that was in the south of france near the italian border. they were tasked with the rhtne river valley from the invasion of southern france, the second invasion of france that was overshadowed by operation overlord. originally they were designed to take place simultaneously. they were the hammer and the annville. unfortunately due to lack of
6:52 pm
landing aircraft they were not able to have those operations at the same time. and normandy was the more important operation, and we know what happened there it was delayed until august 15. there was experimental camouflage for the airborne task force, they literally had spray guns with green and black
6:53 pm
paint. and have them line up and put a cardboard box over their head , and they would sit there with that camouflage paint and off they would go. that came down from col. frederick. this is an example this was the overspray of the green and black and they would spray for a silhouette in august 1944 he was hot and humid in the mediterranean it's a cotton uniform and the paint made it thick and heavy and it smelled bad. it made the soldiers uncomfortable, and a more serious issue was the fresh paint would bleed into their bloodstreams and they were getting infections due to that. you can read all that history into the book.
6:54 pm
that first hand accounts get that experience to try that helmet on and see what they went through is another way to teach and for us to learn. we are always researching. there's always something that's coming out of the woodwork. photographs or personal accounts that we can learn and pass on so that they are not forgotten. in 1979, a small network rolled out a big idea c-span opened the doors for all to see with unfiltered content and beyond. a lot has changed, but that big idea is more relevant than ever.
6:55 pm
brought to you as a public service. coming up next on the civil war, historians thavolia glymph, catherine clinton, kate masur discuss the impact of women's suffrage is an abolitionist during the civil war and reconstruction era. the national constitution center in philadelphia and drexel university cohosted this event. ladies and gentleman this is an important meaningful occasion. we have a group of historians who have admonished us for the national gallery. w


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on