Aviation giants

Retired Air Force Col. Jack Broughton was quite surprised when he found himself listed as one of the “Badass Pilots: A Vanishing Breed?” in the July 2014 issue of Aviation History.”

Broughton and his wife, Alice “AJ,” of Lake Forest, Calif., have ties to the Minot area. He was the commander of the 5th Fighter Interceptor Squadron “Spittin’ Kittens,” a squadron of F-106 Delta Darts at Minot Air Force Base, from September 1962 to June 1964.

The story in Aviation History by Walter J. Boyne, a retired Air Force colonel and author of numerous books on aviation, joins together several aviation giants Maj. Edward V. Rickenbacker, America’s ace of aces in World War I; Gen. James H. Doolittle, who organized and executed the famous B-25 raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942; Col. Hubert A. Zemke, who became a prisoner of war camp leader in 1944; Col. John R. Boyd, who influenced American air combat tactics; and Broughton, who sacrificed his own Air Force career to protect two of his pilots during the Vietnam War.

“When I first saw that article I was immediately fascinated by the picture of Eddie Rickenbacker, then came Jimmy Doolittle, then my friend Hub Zempke Great! Then to my marvelous surprise there I was. What a delight to have a membership card in that club,” said Broughton.

Boyne questions why the U.S. military might be losing some of its best fliers before they get off the ground.

He writes that if such concepts or catch phrases as “political correctness,” “zero tolerance” and “one mistake and you are out” “held sway in the U.S. military years ago, all the ‘badass’ pilots who have done so much for the country would have been cashiered well before they could demonstrate their talents.”

“One has to wonder what losses the military is suffering now, when we know that any budding badass pilot will be dismissed from service at the first sign of nonconformance to the current hypercritical standards of conduct. This is absolutely not to say that genuine misconduct should be condoned and go unpunished. However, judgment and common sense should prevail,” Boyne writes.

Boyne’s article tells the military stories of Broughton and the other four men.

Broughton, a career officer and fighter pilot, retired from the Air Force in 1968, with numerous awards and decorations, including four Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Silver Stars and the Air Force Cross, the Air Force’s highest award for individual heroism in combat.

Starting his military career in the 1940s with the Army Air Corps after graduating from West Point (World War II ended before he could participate in combat missions), Broughton served in both the Korean War and Vietnam War, flying more than 200 combat missions. He also led the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbird demonstration team.

He has authored two best-selling books, “Thud Ridge” and “Going Downtown: The War Against Hanoi and Washington” about the air war over Southeast Asia.

Another book, “Rupert Red Two: A Fighter Pilot’s Life from Thunderbolts to Thunderchiefs,” relates Broughton’s experiences flying fighters and leading military units during his military career at Minot AFB and other places. It also is the story of the U.S. Air Force.

Broughton told The Minot Daily News in an interview in 2004 that some of his most memorable and enjoyable years were commanding the Air Force’s Thunderbirds demonstration team in the 1950s and commanding the 5th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Minot AFB.

Jack and AJ Broughton visited Minot AFB and Minot in August 2004 when he was the first person inducted into Minot AFB’s Heritage Hall and guest speaker for a reunion of the 5th Fighter Interceptor Squadron.

Many former members of the 5th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Minot AFB say Broughton was a tough but fair commander.

In an interview with The Minot Daily News in 2004, Broughton said his theory was that he wouldn’t have any of his people do anything that he couldn’t do. “That was one of my pride and joys,” he said.