General Exonerated for Vietnam-Era Bombings

This headline on the Third Age page on Facebook sent shockwaves through my system.

Big Al served under General Lavelle as an Air Intelligence officer, both in Germany and in Vietnam.  He personally briefed him, and served under him at “Task Force Alpha”, in Southeast Asia.  Those familiar with General Lavelle’s troubles know that it was because he ordered bombings in the north while peace negotiations were on-going in Paris.  A one-striper admin blew the whistle on General Lavelle.

Al came out of Southeast Asia as a Captain in January 1971. and his career was going well.  He thought he was well on the road to his Majority, and then General Lavelle’s troubles happened.  He was stuck at England Air Force Base in Louisiana, and there was an attempt to exile him to Missile Defense in North Dakota, and change his career field from Intelligence to missiles.  He couldn’t figure out why, until he was told by a friend at Military Personnel Center that his file was tagged as one of “General Lavelle’s boys”.  His orders to Missiles were rescinded, and he was held in a kind of limbo for several months – working as Officer’s Club manager, and in other do-nothing jobs.  He cross-trained to Disaster Preparedness and finally got orders to Las Vegas where he spent 14 months picking up crashed airplanes in the desert. 

We got an opportunity to go to RAF Upper Heyford in England in the early days of the F-111.  There he continued as Disaster Preparedness Officer.  He was passed over three times for promotion until he was caught in a RIF (reduction in force) with 16 and a half years of service.   He spent the last three and a half years of his career as an enlisted man in order to be qualified for his retirement. 

How much difference would it have made if he hadn’t been associated with General Lavelle, or if General Lavelle hadn’t been wrongfully accused of misconduct? 

We’ll never know, but we’ll also never know all the rest of the collateral damage these “endless lies” caused thoughout the service, and the country.

I’ve never been fond of Nixon.  I’ve always thought, even before the impeachment, he was one of the worst presidents in our history.  Now to find out he hung General Lavelle (and basically all those who were loyal to him) out to dry, just reinforces my dislike and the contempt I hold him in.

4 thoughts on “General Exonerated for Vietnam-Era Bombings

  1. Pingback: Successes and Failures « No Longer "Not Your Grandfather's CPA"

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  3. Abbie, what a rough deal Al and others got from the military in his career. I am glad you did get to make the 20 years, but that was a rough way to finish financially I expect. Jim had 3 years of army enlisted time, but it came before his 17 years as an AF officer, which enabled him to retire as a major. Over the years I have heard my husband advise our Air Force son about how the evaluation system works. So much politics and timing and luck is involved sometimes.


  4. I was the Air Intelligence Officer for the 38TRS in Ramstein AB Germany while Gen. Lavelle was commander of 17th AF, also at Ramstein. He often flew with the squadron and I had the opportunity to brief on those occasions. I received orders to SEA (Viet Nam) late in ’69 and reported to Phang Rang AB.
    Upon arrival I was informed that my orders had een changed to Task Force Alpha (TFA) by Gen. Lavelle. It took a month just to get out of Viet Nam but I finally reached NKP in thailand and TFA. At the time Gen. Lavelle was about to complete his time as overall Commander of TFA and I briefed him on targets being worked at the time. This did not endear me to my immediate supervisors as they felt they should have been giving the briefings.
    The General moved toCommander of what was then 7th/15th AF and I was moved laterally from TFA to the Special Operations Wing (also at NKP), and that’s another story.
    I was reassigned after my year to the 4403rd TFW, England AFB, LA in 1971 as the Chief of Intelligence (Still a Captain). After the story broke on Gen. Lavelle and his forced retirement, I had a Major replace me and then as the wing converted to A-7s a Lt. Col. This was also the ime when I suddenly was being told that I needed “Career Broadening” and I should go into the Missile career field.
    So ends a bit of correction to the story. I will say that it wasn’t until 1975 that I learned that there was a note on my personnel folder indicating that I had been sponsored by the General.


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