Friday, April 27, 2007

The Battle of the Bulge and the "flying sergeants"

If you're in Belgium, some time on your hand, then rent a car and drive. I'd recommend St. Vith, Bastogne and Malmedy. Wereth-11. Go in the late fall, when the wind is whipping up and down the rolling hills. Take a guide.

Dress warm.

You'll be walking the ground of the Battle of the Bulge. Where men fought, divisions died and the Nazi's were finally and forever broken.

Here's what you'll see. Dense forest and low, rolling terrain. You could hide divisions in there. An Infantry Company Commander emplaced his unit in one bowl, and assumed he had friendlies to his left and right. Circled by terrain, he could not see over the next hill. Stand in one of those bowls, look up, and you'll see what he saw. Datastarvation. What to do?

Flying Sergeants. NCOs in the Air.

They would have flown something similar to the Taylorcraft L2 Grasshopper. Looked like this:

The Sergeant was given flying lessons, placed in the cockpit and told to go hunt Nazis. They were closer then, to the barnstorming era, then our Air Marshals are today. They used muscle to push plywood, whereas today our Air Lords can push G's at the edge of space, disconnected from the mundane.

Back then, though, those Sergeants were the eyes and the ears of the force, connected to and responsible for, the forces on the ground. They extended that one hundred yards out just a little bit further. Army had Sergeant Pilots for one reason: necessity. Just like WWII saw and exponential increase in Units of Action (they called them divisions) the Army also recognized a need for short range recon, and turned to the NCO Corps to fill that need. Grasshopper Pilots.


Of course, as you all know, the weather kept all aircraft grounded, those fateful days, and the results are well known. From the 106th Division breaking at Schnee Eifel to Pieper finally running out of gas, the Battle of the Bulge raged.

NCO Pilots.

The Cat picks up on the debate between the Army and the Army Air Force over who "controls" the coming UAV fleet:

The Air Force insists that all UAV operators, even if they are sitting at video terminals, must be rated pilots but the Army says this nonsense, pointing out that the best Army UAV operator in Iraq was trained as a cook.

Bottom line, why pay a Major $80,000 dracma to do what a young NCO does in his off time, namely, run a joystick. Doesn't make sense, from a national point of view. Of course, if you're in the Air Force and you take the long view, you know the nation will need more of these:

Than this:

You know this impacts dollars in the outyears. So you worry.

Tough. Necessity makes the needy greedy.

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