TIME Military

Survivors Gather to Remember Pearl Harbor Attack

Remembrance Ceremony Held To Mark 73rd Anniversary Of Attack On Pearl Harbor
U.S.S. Arizona survivor Louis Conter salutes the remembrance wall of the U.S.S. Arizona during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on Dec. 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Kent Nishimura—Getty Images

For many of the roughly 2,000 survivors who remain, there are still painful memories

(PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii) — Many of the veterans who survived the Pearl Harbor attack that launched the United States into World War II attended Sunday’s 73rd anniversary ceremony with the help of canes, wheelchairs and motorized scooters.

Wearing purple orchid lei, about 100 Pearl Harbor and World War II survivors attended the ceremony overlooking a memorial that sits atop sunken battleship USS Arizona. Many of them arrived well before the sun came up.

This year’s anniversary is the 10th consecutive one that USS Utah survivor Gilbert Meyer attended. But it’s getting harder for Meyer, 91, to travel to Hawaii from San Antonio.

Asked if he planned to attend next year’s anniversary, he responded with a chuckle, “That’s like asking me if I’ll still be alive.”

Harold Johnson, 90, is making it a goal to attend the 75th anniversary, even though traveling from Oak Harbor, Washington, isn’t always easy. “I’ve got a little scooter that’s a real life saver,” the USS Oklahoma survivor said.

Johnson had been aboard the Oklahoma for just six months on Dec. 7, 1941, looking forward to a day off and a “date with a little Hawaiian girl.” He was shining his shoes when the first alarm went off, he recalled.

“Three months later I ran into her in town in Honolulu,” he said of his date. “She was mad at me because I stood her up.”

For many of the roughly 2,000 survivors who remain, there are also more painful memories.

Keynote speaker Gen. Lori Robinson, commander of Pacific Air Forces, told the crowd of several thousand about four of the nine remaining survivors of the USS Arizona. Don Stratton, 92, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Lauren Bruner, 94, of La Mirada, California, were two of six men who escaped the inferno that engulfed the forward half of the ship by negotiating a line, hand over hand, about 45 feet in the air, despite burns to more than 60 percent of their bodies. John Anderson, 97, of Roswell, New Mexico, was ordered off the ship, but he didn’t want to leave behind his twin brother, Delbert. Even though he was forced into a small boat that took him to Ford Island, he commandeered an empty boat and returned to the Arizona to rescue three shipmates. But he never found his brother.

“When the Arizona sank, she took with her 1,177 sailors and Marines,” Robinson told the crowd, which included Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Hawaii Gov. David Ige.

Robinson also highlighted the sacrifices of the Honolulu Fire Department, which was dispatched to respond after receiving the alarm at 8:05 a.m. “Without knowing it, the Honolulu Fire Department was going to war,” she said. “Three firefighters would never return, and six others would be seriously injured.”

The ceremony also featured a Japanese peace prayer, a Hawaiian blessing and a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the minute the bombing began. F-22s from the Hawaii Air National Guard 199th Fighter Squadron and Air Force 19th Fighter Squadron conducted a flyover.

Later in the afternoon, the four USS Arizona survivors planned to visit the memorial for a toast to their fallen shipmates with a glass of sparkling wine given to their survivors association by President Gerald Ford, using glasses that are replicas of the ones on the ship. After the toast, divers would place one of the glasses at the base of the Arizona’s gun turret four. It’s where ashes of 38 Arizona survivors are interred.

This year’s anniversary will likely be the last one Ervin Brody, 91, of Houston attends. “Expenses are getting up there and we’re retired,” he said. “A lot of us figure this will be the last.”

TIME Nuclear

U.S. Looks to Improve Management of Nuclear Weapons Cache

“Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in securing U.S. national security”

The United States’ arsenal of nuclear weapons is badly in need of a makeover, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday.

“The good news is that there’s nothing here we can’t fix,” Hagel told reporters. “But if we don’t pay attention to this, if we don’t fix this eventually, it will get to a point where there are some questions about our security.”

Hagel said a full review of the country’s nuclear arsenal revealed “evidence of systematic problems,” including issues with manpower, infrastructure, skill deficiencies, a culture of micromanagement and over-inspection.

The overhaul of nuclear arms across the entire Department of Defense will include reforms that address each of these areas. In order to make the nuclear field a more attractive career path for young soldiers, for instance, Hagel elevated the Global Strike Command to so-called a four-star billet, meaning high-ranking soldiers in the nuclear fleet can be equal in rank to their counterparts in non-nuclear fields. Hagel also announced the creation of a new medal to recognize service in the nuclear field.

“Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in securing U.S. national security,” Hagel said. “No other capability remains more important.”

Read next: Why ISIS Can Survive Without Baghdadi

TIME Iraq

Iraq Plans ISIS Counteroffensive With U.S. Help

Iraq Army ISIS Islamic State
Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias launch an operation against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants to take control of Jurf al-Sakhar south of Baghdad, Iraq. on Oct. 25, 2014. Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Working closely with U.S.

Iraq is training 20,000 soldiers for a spring counter-offensive against the militant group that has taken over large swaths of the country, according to a new report, and working in close consultation with the United States to do it.

The plan, described to the New York Times by at least a dozen unnamed sources, involves hundreds of American military advisers stationed in Baghdad to help the government there take on the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“It is a balance between letting them develop their own plan and take ownership for it,” one U.S. military official said.

Read more at the Times

TIME Military

Airmen No Longer Required to Say ‘So Help Me God’ During Oath

Untited States Air Force Academy graduation ceremony
United States Air Force Academy graduation ceremony at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, May 29, 2013. Craig F. Walker—The Denver Post/Getty Images

“We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously," the Air Force Secretary said in a statement

The U.S. Air Force said Wednesday that enlisted members and officers are permitted to omit the phrase “so help me God” from their oaths if they so chose. In a statement Wednesday, the Air Force said it arrived at the decision after consulting with the Department of Defense General Counsel; last week an airman who was prohibited from re-enlisting until he uttered the phrase threatened to sue if the Air Force did not change their policy.

“We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen’s rights are protected.”

The change will go into effect immediately and enlistment instructions will be adjusted within the coming weeks.

TIME Australia

The U.S. Will Increase Its Military Presence in Australia

US Marines Train In Australia's Northern Territory
The first group of 200 U.S. Marines arrives at Darwin's Robertson Barracks for a 6-month training rotation, April 2012. The Sydney Morning Herald—Fairfax Media via Getty Images

The move comes at a time when China has been testing the waters in the region

The United States will be finalizing an agreement to increase its military presence in Australia in an attempt to bolster its ties with allies in the Asia-Pacific, where China has been flexing its muscles, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The negotiations will conclude an agreement made between Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott and U.S. President Barack Obama in June.

At the annual AUSMIN talks between U.S. and Australian defense leaders this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will discuss a proposal to add more fighter jets and bombers to a military base near the northern Australian city of Darwin, Reuters said.

Australia’s defense minister David Johnston and U.S. officials will also sign a 25-year agreement, which will create a larger ballistic missile defense shield for U.S. allies in Asia-Pacific and boost U.S. troops in Australia from 1,500 to 2,500 by 2017. The additional forces will respond to humanitarian disasters and conflicts in the region.

The negotiations for an increased military presence in the region follow Beijing’s rejection of a U.S. request that China and other nations refrain from provocative acts in disputed areas of South China Sea.

TIME Military

U.S. Air Force Finds Boy’s Body in Aircraft Landing Gear

Members of the US Air Force stand alongside a C-130 transport aircraft at Kabul international airport on October 9, 2013.
Members of the US Air Force stand alongside a C-130 transport aircraft at Kabul international airport on October 9, 2013. Noorullah Shirzada—AFP/Getty Images

U.S. officials said they were investigating how an "apparent stowaway" accessed the upper recesses of a C-130's landing gear

Maintenance crews recently discovered the body of an adolescent boy lodged deep in the wheel well of a U.S. Air Force cargo aircraft shortly after it landed at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base.

“The body of an apparent stowaway was found trapped in a compartment above the aircraft’s rear landing gear,” said Rear Admiral John Kirby in a Tuesday press briefing. “American and German emergency responders were summoned; removed the body, transported it to a German facility for autopsy and further investigation.”

Kirby said investigators were still trying to determine when and how the boy accessed the inner recesses of the C-130’s landing gear. The aircraft recently returned from a long-haul mission in Africa, and Kirby said “the boy was an adolescent black male, possibly of African origin.”

 

MONEY College

22 Colleges Where You Can Earn a Degree for Free. Seriously.

Deep Springs College, California
At Deep Springs College in California, students pay their way by working on the ranch. Brian L. Frank—Redux

You'll never have to take on a student loan at these schools.

A few new proposals are calling for making college free nationally—either for two years or all four. But experts say it could be some time before we can entirely say goodbye to tuition bills on all schools across the nation.

In the meantime, there are some places where college is already free, either for all students or those who fit certain criteria. So if you want to avoid ever signing your name to a student loan, you might add these schools to your list.

Programs that make students earn their keep: Those enrolled at Alice Lloyd, Berea, and Deep Springs colleges work to pay their full tuition—at Deep Springs, on the school ranch and farm.

Programs that reward locals. A program called Tulsa Achieves offers every high school graduate from Tulsa County, OK with at least a “C” average a full ride on tuition and fees at a local community college, local tax revenue. A local oil company pays all tuition and fees at any college or university for graduates of El Dorado High School in Arkansas. And anonymous donors do the same thing for students who attend public kindergarten through high school in Kalamazoo, Mich., and go on to a Michigan public college or university.

Programs that reward service: The U.S. military, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and merchant marine academies charge no tuition for students who are accepted and serve a military term or time at sea. CUNY’s Teacher Academy gives a gratis education for education students who graduate and teach at least two years in the New York City public schools.

Programs that seek talent: The Curtis Institute of Music is free for students who pass a demanding audition, and Webb Institute for a handful of the most promising engineering students. The Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York waives tuition for applicants who can meet the tough admissions requirements—including an “A” average in high school.

Programs with a religious bent: Barclay College, a bible college, is an example of a religious school that is free.

Programs that recognize need: Very highly selective universities with big endowments have also acted in the last several years to make tuition free for students from families with certain incomes—MIT for families that earn $75,000 or less, Harvard and Yale $65,000 or less, and Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, Duke, Brown, and Texas A&M $60,000 or less.

__________

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet affiliated with Teachers College, Columbia University.

Related stories:

Colleges try to speed up pace at which students earn degrees

Testing your way to a degree

Residents are crowded out of college by out-of-state and foreign students

Just as it wants students to speed up, government won’t pay for summer courses

TIME National Security

Air Force Flunked Stolen Nuclear Weapon Test

An Air Force review called the failed drill a "critical deficiency," representing another setback for the Air Force nuclear program.

Security forces at a U.S. nuclear missile base failed to speedily recapture a stolen nuclear weapon in a simulated drill last year, according to a review obtained by the Associated Press.

The test failure came as the security team at Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base was responding to a hostile takeover of a Minuteman 3 nuclear missile silo. According to a review obtained by the AP through the Freedom of Information Act, the team showed an “inability to effectively respond to a recapture scenario” due to insufficient training and, lack of familiarity with “complex scenario” exercises and shortcomings in “leadership culture.”

The Air Force called the failure a “critical deficiency” at the base.

Military officials acknowledged a failed inspection of the base in August, but they did not publicly attribute it at the time to the failed simulation. Even the partially-censored review obtained by the AP does not specify what exactly went wrong.

A spokesperson for the Air Force Global Strike Command declined to comment further to the AP, but said nearly all of the recommendations in the review had already been put in place. An inspection of the base two months after the initial evaluation found no security weaknesses, according to the AP.

The Air Force nuclear missile corps has faced a series of recent embarrassments. A commander of the 450 Minuteman missiles was removed from his post last October after the Pentagon concluded that he drank too much and cavorted with “suspect” women on an official trip to Russia. And in March, the Air Force fired nine commanders at Malmstrom amid fallout from a cheating scandal.

[AP]

TIME Vietnam War

Faces of the American Dead in Vietnam: One Week’s Toll, June 1969

A look back at a landmark, and intensely controversial, 1969 LIFE magazine feature

In June 1969, LIFE magazine published a feature that remains as moving and, in some quarters, as controversial as it was when it intensified a nation’s soul-searching 45 years ago. On the cover, a young man’s face—the very model of middle-America’s “boy next door”—along with 11 stark words: “The Faces of the American Dead in Vietnam: One Week’s Toll.” Inside, across 10 funereal pages, LIFE published picture after picture and name after name of 242 young men killed in seven days halfway around the world “in connection with the conflict in Vietnam.”

To no one’s surprise, the public’s response was immediate, and visceral. Some readers expressed amazement, in light of the thousands of American deaths suffered in a war with no end in sight, that it took so long for LIFE to produce something as dramatic and pointed as “One Week’s Toll.” Others were outraged that the magazine was, as one reader saw it, “supporting the antiwar demonstrators who are traitors to this country.” Still others—perhaps the vast majority—were quietly and disconsolately devastated.

[Read readers’ responses below, and see how ‘One Week’s Dead’ looked when it ran in LIFE]

Here, LIFE.com republishes every picture and every name that originally appeared in that extraordinary 1969 feature. Below is the text, in full, that not only accompanied portraits of those killed, but also explained why LIFE chose to publish “One Week’s Dead” when it did—and in the manner that it did.

From the June 27, 1969, issue of LIFE:

The faces shown on the next pages are the faces of American men killed—in the words of the official announcement of their deaths—”in connection with the conflict in Vietnam.” The names, 242 of them, were released on May 28 through June 3 [1969], a span of no special significance except that it includes Memorial Day. The numbers of the dead are average for any seven-day period during this stage of the war.

It is not the intention of this article to speak for the dead. We cannot tell with any precision what they thought of the political currents which drew them across the world. From the letters of some, it is possible to tell they felt strongly that they should be in Vietnam, that they had great sympathy for the Vietnamese people and were appalled at their enormous suffering. Some had voluntarily extended their tours of combat duty; some were desperate to come home. Their families provided most of these photographs, and many expressed their own feelings that their sons and husbands died in a necessary cause. Yet in a time when the numbers of Americans killed in this war—36,000—though far less than the Vietnamese losses, have exceeded the dead in the Korean War, when the nation continues week after week to be numbed by a three-digit statistic which is translated to direct anguish in hundreds of homes all over the country, we must pause to look into the faces. More than we must know how many, we must know who. The faces of one week’s dead, unknown but to families and friends, are suddenly recognized by all in this gallery of young American eyes.

Here are some of the reactions from readers, published in the August 18, 1969, issue of LIFE—an issue in which the entire Letters section of the magazine was given over to responses to “One Week’s Dead”:

“Your story was the most eloquent and meaningful statement on the wastefulness and stupidity of war I have ever read.” — From a reader in California

“Certainly these tragic young men were far superior to the foreign policy they were called upon to defend.” — From a U.S. Marine Corps Captain (resigned)

“I feel you are supporting the antiwar demonstrators who are traitors to this country. You are helping them and therefore belong to this group.” — From a reader in Texas

“I cried for those Southern black soldiers. What did they die for? Tar paper shacks, malnutrition, unemployment and degradation?” — From a reader in Ohio

“While looking at the photographs I was shocked to see the smiling face of someone I used to know. He was only 19 years old. I guess I never realized that 19-year-olds have to die.” — From a reader in Georgia

“I felt I was staring into the eyes of the 11 troopers from my platoon who were killed while fighting for a cause they couldn’t understand.” — From a Marine second lieutenant in New Jersey who commanded a rifle platoon in Vietnam

TIME Military

Disaster in the Sky: Old Planes, Inexperienced Pilots—and No More Parachutes

A view shows wreckage of Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker plane near site of crash near Kyrgyz village of Chaldovar
Part of the tail of the doomed KC-135. Vladimir Pirogov / Reuters

A routine Air Force mission supporting the Afghan war turns tragic

Putting young, inexperienced pilots into a 50-year-old Air Force plane seems like a risky idea. Even riskier? Getting rid of crew’s parachutes to save money.

But that’s what the Air Force did last May 3, when it launched a mission to refuel U.S. warplanes over Afghanistan using a KC-135 Stratotanker delivered by Boeing to the Air Force on June 26, 1964. A problem with the plane’s flight-control system cascaded toward trouble after actions by what the Air Force has concluded was its inadequately-trained crew. In short order, the double-barreled dilemmas ripped the airplane’s tail off three miles above Kyrgyzstan’s Himalayan foothills. The plane quickly entered a steep dive, dooming all three aboard.

Both pilots graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2008, shortly after the service decided it couldn’t afford to keep parachutes on KC-135s. “A lot of time, manpower and money goes into buying, maintaining and training to use parachutes,” the Air Force said in March 2008. “With the Air Force hungry for cost-saving efficiency under its Air Force for Smart Operations in the 21st Century Program, commonly known as AFSO 21, the parachutes were deemed obsolete.”

Captain Mark Tyler Voss, 27, Captain Victoria Pinckney, 27, and Technical Sergeant Herman “Tre” Mackey III, 30, were the first airmen killed in a KC-135 crash since the Air Force stripped the parachutes from the planes.

Given the violent end of their mission, the parachutes may not have made any difference, according to the official Air Force investigation into the crash. “The [accident investigation] board sort of concluded, informally, in talking among themselves, that even if there had been parachutes, there would have been no way for them in this particular case for them to be used,” Air Force Lieut. Colonel John Thomas, a spokesman for the service’s Air Mobility Command, said Monday.

Others aren’t so sure. “Deploying aircrews to a combat zone without parachutes is an unconscionable risk,” says Alan Diehl, who spent 18 years as an Air Force civilian investigating the safety of the service’s aircraft. “The airmen aboard this KC-135 would have had to don their chutes, jettison the cockpit bailout hatch, and dive overboard—all in a matter of seconds. But to take away the option just seems wrong.”

The aerial tanker arrived in Kyrgyzstan the day before the accident. Earlier flight-control problems had reportedly been fixed. Pilot Tyler, co-pilot Pinckney and, Mackey, the refueling boom operator, boarded the aircraft early that afternoon at the Pentagon’s transit hub at Manas, just outside Bishkek, the country’s capital.

120522-F-FI711-030
A KC-135 refuels an F-15 fighter. 2nd Lt. Lindsay Horn / Air Force

They were the first crew to fly the 707-based aircraft toward Afghanistan, loaded with 175,000 pounds of aviation fuel, since its arrival at Manas. Tanker crews are the unsung heroes of the service, the so-called “global reach” that vastly extends how far Air Force aircraft can fly without landing to refuel.

Voss had slightly more than 1,000 hours flying such tankers; Pickney had fewer than 600. Mackey was the most experienced member of the crew, with 3,350 KC-135 flight hours, but as the boom operator he had nothing to do with flying the airplane.

Shortly after the flight, dubbed Shell 77, took off, a problem with the flight-control system triggered “rudder hunting,” which caused the airplane to yaw, its nose turning from left to right and back again.

A dutch roll. Picascho

Nine minutes into the flight, the plane entered a “dutch roll,” which can happen as increasing yaw generates more lift on one wing than the other. That causes the plane to roll, until increased drag pulls the wing back and the process repeats itself with the other wing. “It’s kind of waffling,” the crew reported as they climbed above 20,000 feet. “The jet’s bent.”

The pilots tried to bring the five-second-long dutch rolls under control by using the plane’s rudder and auto-pilot. But that only made matters worse.

“The cumulative effects of the malfunctioning [flight-control system], coupled with autopilot use and rudder movements during the unrecognized dutch roll, generated dutch roll forces that exceeded the mishap aircraft’s design structural limits,” the Air Force said in its investigation into the crash, released last month. “The tail section failed and separated from the aircraft, causing the mishap aircraft to pitch down sharply, enter into a high-speed dive, explode inflight and subsequently impact the ground.”

Voss’s superiors described him as a “peerless aviator” who was “highly motivated and extremely dedicated.” Pickney’s commanders said she was “a superior leader with the drive and ability to succeed at any task.”

But despite their demonstrated skills, the investigation said that instead of trying to halt the dutch roll with the rudder and auto-pilot, they should have shut down the malfunctioning flight-control system and manually used the ailerons on the main wings to regain control.

So why didn’t they?

“The mishap crew appears to not have been adequately trained for the dutch roll recognition and recovery; they experienced a condition they had not encountered in training,” the investigation concluded. “The mishap crew received a total of 10-15 minutes of recognition and recovery training several years prior to the mishap,” during initial pilot training.

Such training “appears to be insufficient,” the probe added. “The mishap crew was a qualified, but minimally experienced, crew” whose “inexperience led them to rely on the autopilot to make timely inputs in an unstable flight regime. Although the Inflight Manual does not explicitly prohibit autopilot use in dutch roll, the system is incapable of making the precisely timed inputs that are required to counteract dutch roll. Both times the mishap aircraft engaged the autopilot the oscillations grew worse.”

Shouldn’t KC-135 pilots train for such predicaments in their simulators? They can’t. “Insidious onset of dutch roll is impossible to replicate in KC-135 simulator training due to mechanical limitations,” the probe said. Nor can the simulator replicate more serious forms of the roll: “A former KC-135 Instructor Pilot and current simulator operator, who experienced severe dutch roll in flight, confirmed the current simulator training does not reproduce a severe dutch roll.”

Can’t pilots practice it, carefully, while actually flying? No. “The Inflight Manual prohibits pilots from practicing dutch roll recognition and recovery in the aircraft, specifically stating `intentionally-induced dutch roll and aerobatics of any kind are strictly prohibited’” the investigation noted.

Once their plane lost its tail, was the crew’s fate sealed? “Egress was not possible,” the accident report said. “The KC-135R is not equipped with parachutes, ejection seats, or any other means of inflight egress.” The report didn’t mention that parachutes had been on the planes until 2008.

The crew “made no comment on the flight data recorder that `We need to get out of here’ or `This is going down,’” Thomas, the Air Force spokesman, said (the recorder shut down when the plane was at 21,760 feet). “The indications were that they continued to fight to regain control of the aircraft until probably they lost consciousness.”

And how did that happen? “There is some surmising that goes on,” Thomas explained. “But [the accident board] had several experts to address this point directly, and their best understanding of what probably happened—because they have to put together their best guess based on the flight data—is that when the tail broke off, the aircraft that remained pitched, and because it was in the middle of a dutch roll it probably pitched up first, because as the tail section broke off it probably gained altitude as part of the physics of it swinging back and forth, they probably experienced negative G-forces that would have probably blacked them out.”

That 2008 Air Force news article detailed the logic of getting rid of the KC-135’s parachutes:

By design, parachutes slow things down. Crew members forced to evacuate in-flight aircraft with parachutes, for example, have much gentler impacts with the ground than those without chutes. But the only thing being slowed by parachutes aboard KC-135 Stratotankers, Air Force leaders recently decided, was the mission. So they got rid of them. Removing parachutes from military aircraft may sound peculiar, but KC-135s are not like other aircraft. They seldom have mishaps, and the likelihood a KC-135 crew member would ever need to use a parachute is extremely low.

“The [accident investigation board’s] technical experts didn’t recall that there’s ever been an attempted, successful or otherwise, egress from a tanker aircraft,” the Air Force’s Thomas said.

But the technical experts are wrong, according to former airman Joseph Heywood. He bailed out of a KC-135 over Michigan—along with three other airmen—as their plane ran out of fuel in August 1969 (the pilot landed the plane short of the runway, but safely, at the now-closed K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base). “If they were in a dutch roll, I think it’d be almost impossible for them to get out,” he said. But removing the parachutes “doesn’t make any sense—it’s just another way of saying that money is more important than people.”

Bailing out used to be a key part of the KC-135’s Cold War mission. “Our job was to fly up and plug B-52s up near Greenland,” he says. “And if they demanded it, to give them all of our fuel, and then to bail out onto the ice pack and make our way back on foot to Billy Mitchell field in Milwaukee.”

The missing parachutes don’t bother Heywood now. “It doesn’t cause me any heartburn, because I’m not one of the people flying them,” he says. But the former Air Force captain well remembers when he needed one. “The day after I bailed out I took a bottle of booze—I think it was Chivas Regal, actually—to the guy who packed mine,” he recalled. “I’d rather have a slim chance than no chance.”

The combination of an aging aircraft, poorly-trained young pilots, and the need to save money that led the Air Force to remove the parachutes, shows a force frayed by ever-tightening, and perhaps misallocated, budgets. “The various problems surfaced by this mishap—overlooked maintenance issues on older aircraft, limited crew experience and training, poor flight simulator fidelity, and no parachutes—are all driven by funding limitations,” former Air Force crash investigator Diehl says. “The Pentagon and our Congress need to stop sequestering safety.”

The Air Force recently detailed changes it is taking following the crash. KC-135 crews will be getting more training to help them deal with dutch rolls. The service is revising flight manuals, beefing up maintenance, and improving rudder controls for the 396 KC-135s still flying. The fleet is also in the middle of a $1 billion refurbishment. But restoring parachutes to the planes—slated to fly until at least 2040—isn’t on the list of improvements.

Transit Center honors fallen heros
An honor guard carries photos of the KC-135 crew members during a memorial service at Manas six days after the crash. SSgt. Stephanie Rubi / Air Force

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