The New Republic published barracks BS as true stories of American military atrocities in Iraq when they got their over-eager hands on Private Scott Beauchamp’s “Baghdad Diarist” tales.
During my over 21 years in the Air Force, I heard young enlisted personnel slinging fanciful BS, and some of it was accepted as fact after a while. When I arrived at RAF Bentwaters, England, in 1970, I soon heard stories that young airmen had fitted an old Air Force truck with ATO (assisted take-off) bottles and raced it down the runway at high speed for fun. They supposedly got away with it, and although the date could not be established accurately, it sounded like it happened just a few years before my arrival.
On a visit to England a couple of years ago, Alice and I were on a train going to the cruise ship terminal at Harwich, not far from my now closed old base. I started to chat with an older passenger and his wife, and found he had been stationed at Bentwaters in the early 1950s, many years before me. He mentioned that when the base had upgraded to Republic F-84F Thunderstreak jets, he helped install the arresting cables and net to stop this bigger, heavier fighter-bomber from accidently running off the end of the runway when aborting a high speed takeoff. His comments reminded me of the story about the high-speed truck run, and I asked him if he had heard of it.
He not only had heard of it, he had participated!
But it wasn’t like the story of fun and games. Soon after installation of the arresting barrier, it didn’t properly stop an F-84 on a take-off emergency, and the F-84 was damaged beyond repair.
Since no live tests could be run using the extremely valuable and expensive F-84s, an old General Motors truck was rigged with the landing gear of the destroyed jet fighter, ATO bottles were added to get its speed up to an estimated 140 miles per hour – probably the fastest a GM truck has ever been driven! – and two barrier tests were run in 1954. The first test showed why the barrier hadn’t worked, and the second run showed that modifications made after the first test worked the second time.
The story as told by Derrick Booth, who had worked as an engineering assistant on the project, is very rich, interesting, and humorous (don’t miss how its driver was selected), and may be read in its entirety by clicking here (scroll about half way down the page to the beginning).
Needless to say, if an anti-military rag like The New Republic had heard the barracks BS about this, they would have published it under the pseudonym of an anonymous “Bentwaters Diarist” as an example of military negligence and incompetence, not as one of thoughtful and painstaking testing and problem solving.
When a bunch of guys (and gals) sit around with a few beers and lay on the BS, they are just doing what troops have done ever since the beginning of organized military units. But when The New Republic publishes barracks BS as truth, they steal the integrity and honor of all those who serve and have served courageously and honorably.