How the Vietnam War shaped the modern day US Air Force


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In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, we talk to former Air Force Chief of Staff, General Merrill A. McPeak, who served as a military adviser to the Secretary of Defense, National Security Council, and the President.

He’s also a career fighter pilot with more than 6,000 hours under his belt, including time as a solo pilot with the elite Thunderbirds.

The salty and well-respected Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrill A. McPeak (Photo from Wikipedia Commons)

The salty and well-respected Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrill A. McPeak (Photo from Wikipedia Commons)

The General currently has three books out, Below The Zone, Roles and Missions, and Hangar Flying, about his time being ringside during one of the most tumultuous moments in recent history: the Vietnam War, where Gen. McPeak was an attack pilot and high-speed forward air controller.

Related: How playing cowboys and Indians prepared this commander for war

In this episode, we talk on a wide range of topics, including:

  • [1:35] The Mandatory Fun crew introduces General McPeak and his epic resume.
  • [4:00] How allied troops managed to set traps for their North Vietnamese enemy.
  • [7:00] The general discusses what it was like kicking off Operation Desert Storm.
  • [10:30] The reasons behind why air doctrine changed since the Vietnam War ended.
  • [13:45] The general breaks down the stats of the fighter pilots who have been shot down.
  • [21:00] What it’s like flying in an Air Force air show in front of political VIPs.
  • [28:50] What influences the general had on Ken Burn’s PBS Vietnam documentary and what it was like working with the filmmaking legend.
  • [34:35] How the Air Force attempts to retain it’s outstanding and well-trained fighter pilots.
  • [35:30] What things the general loved about being a fighter pilot.
  • [45:15] The importance of having nuclear weapons on station.

Also Read: How post-9/11 vets are bringing new life to the American Legion

Hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and Managing Editor
Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator
Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

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