30 January, 2015

Profile 97: UPDATE— the "Pave Knife" pod of the 433rd TFS

"Uh...nice.  What is that?!"

You don't know?!  Why, it's the Pave Knife pod!  One of only six used by the USAF in SEA. This one will be #2.  Eventually, I intend on hanging it under an F-4 drawing that I'm working on.  But for now, I'm just getting my head around the gizmo's strange proportions, and it's even stranger affect on the act of warfare.  It actually made war (clears throat, nervous glance at the door, lowers head) better.

To understand what "better" means, imagine what would happen if a police department addressed a crime by arresting a whole neighborhood in order to get at a single perp.  Of course, it's a ridiculous idea*.  You can't just go around punishing the innocent in order to ensure prosecution of the guilty.  Can you?!

Well, warfare has enough "issues" let alone those caused when the innocent get involved.

Ok, hold that thought.

A few years ago, I had lunch with Dick Rostrum, a lead Bombardier from the 401st BG.  Understand the distinction; he was not a "Toggelier."   During the last year or so of the war in Europe, the 8th AF found that bombing accuracy was improved when one man (Bombardier) would do the actual bomb aiming and the rest in the squadron simply dropped on his command.  Hence the name Toggelier as they simply "toggled" the bomb-switch.

Anyway, I asked Dick if he ever felt responsible for bringing death to innocent people.

Stop for a second and think about that question.  Not that I had the temerity to ask it.  But that the question is actually acknowledgement of the grim reality.  And, as horrible as it may seem, to deny it is to insulate one's brain against the wickedness of war (and therefore sanitize its filth).

"No!" Dick bumped his fist on the table.  "That is why I hated him!"

Who did Dick (even after seventy years) hate?  Adolph Hitler.  He went on, "I read about him and we had to beat him.  I did my part, I did my job with excellence.  To beat him!"

I got it.  Dick was punching-back at the bastard as best as he could.  Thankfully so, too.  But.  Was every German guilty?  Certainly not.  Still, thousands paid, with their lives, for the sins of a few.

Have a look at the image below.  It's a B-17—like Dick flew—on a run on the Reichstag, circa 1945.  As focused, as expert, as determined as Dick was, the averages stated that only 70% of his bombs would land within a 2,000 foot circle.  Do you think there were innocents among that circle?  Of course there were.  Especially considering that virtually every 8th AF bombing raid in WWII was done with numbers far in excess of a mere one B-17!

Now, let's say Dick wasn't in a B-17 but somehow, was now a WSO aboard a Vietnam War F-4 Phantom equipped with a Pave Knife laser-guided bomb.

Have a look at the image below.  Click, boom!  Hitler's dead.  Along with a few of his toadies.  But the collateral damage of innocents is effectively nullified.

Is that "better"?

You're crazy if you can't agree.  Yes, it's "better."

War is here to stay.  However, if one can stomach the notion, war—as a practice—can be improved.  In fact, it's a moral responsibility to do so.  Yeah, yeah,  it's a warped view but I'd rather make a tiny (but guilty) step forward than be paralyzed by righteous indignation.

Have another look at the pod with its sinister profile and diabolical name...if you've ever wanted a feel-good moment amidst the concussive blast of a bomb and shredding of shrapnel, this is it.

On the next and final post, I'll try to describe how Pave Knife worked.  After that, we'll hang it on a rail and take it "up North."

Btw, I'm pretty sure Dick would have done anything for a Pave Knife pod.

OH!  Just occurred to me that I have a little clip of Dick describing an especially memorable moment with a bomb...

RIP, Dick.