Merrill McPeak

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Gen. Merrill Anthony "Tony" McPeak USAF Neo-Progressive.

The New Yorker magazine did a long article on Ken Burns and the upcoming Viet Nam documentary. One part was a quote below, from General Merrill McPeak, who was one of the primary contributors and consultants for the series.

When “The Vietnam War” is broadcast, he said, “the attack that will get the most attention will come from the Flat Earth Society—people saying, ‘We woulda coulda shoulda won, and what happened is that Walter Cronkite turned against it.’ ”

I have no problem with people having different views of the war, even when there is ample evidence of their being less than totally correct. But for this guy to make so arrogant and ignorant a statement, which dismisses anyone who doesn't see it his way as a "Flat Earth" moron, is way, way over the top. And if he was a main contributor and consultant, it sure worries the hell out of me what is going to be presented in the series. I doubt it'll be dramatically antiwar, but it may well be one of those subtle deals where a lot of stuff is said and supported as fact when it's only partial data, or inaccurate, but it paints that ultimately negative picture of the war and our involvement. One thing we know, which is that there is nothing there about what happened after Saigon fell, and knowing about the tens of thousands of executions, the over a million in concentration camps, the seizure of properties, the loss of all freedoms, and the persecution of everyone who had the least thing to do with the Saigon government. Which some of us consider of significance, since it does confirm that it wasn't actually "liberation and justice" that the communists brought to the South.

Major McPeak, served as F-4 fighter pilot bombing the Ho Chi Minh trail in 209 missions in 1968-9 receiving the Silver Star and served as Chief of Staff of the Air Force. As Chief of Staff of the Air Force, McPeak was a massive change agent from radical reorganization to new uniforms (later repealed).[1] McPeak admits to only recently having studied the history of the war (he could not have seen it flying 600 hundred miles an hour over triple canopy jungle). McPeaks’ antiwar credentials first came to light, known to the public, after his disillusionment with the second war in Iraq. McPeak was Ken Burn’s technical consultant on military equipment, “that’s an A-4, not an F-4.” In the Burns film, he says, “We were fighting on the wrong side.” One historian is reported to have sent him an email: “Sir: You are being quoted as having told Ken Burns that the United States was fighting on the wrong side in the Vietnam War. Your notion that we should have helped the Communists forcibly subjugate the free people of South Vietnam is appalling. The kindest thing I can say, sir, is that you are a fool. "The South Vietnamese were corrupt and inept [the communists were not?]. Merrill McPeak tells Burns, “the antiwar movement itself, the whole movement towards racial equality, the environment, the role of women . . . produced the America we have today, and we are better for it.” The period had, “the most brilliant rock & roll music that you can imagine…I turned up the volume on all that stuff. That, for me, represented what I was trying to defend." Some critics recognized his outstanding service as a dedicated and brave pilot doing his duty for his country, but “it does not reflect on someone’s leadership or make them ‘right’ on the issues of the day.”[2] Though a Republican endorsing Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000, by 2004 McPeak, campaigned for Howard Dean and John Kerry. Texas Republicans complained about McPeak ads in 2004 sent to swing voters. By 2008, he was chairman of Vets for Obama. McPeak signed a petition to demand the Department of Defense recognize the contributions of antiwar movement in the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War.

This is a video about McPeak and the Burns production.

McPeak seems to be backtracking on his statements: http://www.oregonlive.com/tv/2017/09/oregons_gen_merrill_mcpeak_on.html

One report about McPeak is that he was widely disliked and considered to be a basic a—hole by the real operators. He was also not a safe pilot. One person who had personal insight, said McPeak was safety boarded as a general officer for taxiing an F-15 without disconnecting the APU.

Another commentator writes: "For those of you that were either never in the Air Force or were not in the Air Force during McPeak's rein as Chief of Staff, 1991-1993, please be aware of this fact. McPeak single handedly ruined the modern Air Force. He 100% dismantled the entire Air Force structure and proven systems. He spent billions on uniform changes, name changes, rank changes and command changes. Every change results in every book being reprinted, every building being repainted, every sign being replaced, every airplane being re-lettered. Uniform changes cost $100's of millions. And the uniform changes had four or five iterations before he settled on one. In short McPeak took an Air Force that had been honed to a fine edge over it's then 45 year life span and destroyed it. His ravaging effects are still felt today. This General is a disgrace to the Air Force."

This is a "stump" essay which will be revisited when time permits. We will attempt to find more detailed attributions for this and other information. We welcome correction or alternative points of view.

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  1. See: Lt Col Tim Hopper, GENERAL MERRILL A. MCPEAK: AN EFFECTIVE CHANGE AGENT USAF Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, April 1997.
  2. See: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/84945/re-general-merrill-mcpeak-john-derbyshire