In Southeast Asia,
Gen. Chappie James served as deputy commander for operations and later vice wing commander of the 8th TFW. Along with Robin Olds, James formed a strong leadership and combat team, inevitably dubbed “Black Man and Robin.”
As reported by Pensacola News Journal, the new Pensacola Bay bridge could be named Gen. Daniel Chappie James Memorial Bridge.
Cris Dosev, a former congressional candidate, is organizing the effort to name the bridge after the famed U.S. Air Force (USAF) general, and he presented the idea to the Escambia County legislative delegation on Monday at its local public hearing ahead of the 2019 legislative session.
Local legislators were open to the idea, and Sen. Doug Broxson suggested that Dosev arrange a meeting with his office.
James was the U.S. Air Force’s first African American four-star general. Upon being promoted to four-star grade on Sep.1, 1975, James was assigned as Commander in Chief North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), a position he held until his retirement on Feb. 1, 1978. He died 24 days later.
James — who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Southeast Asia War — summed up his thoughts on his role as an American serviceman: “I’ve fought in three wars and three more wouldn’t be too many to defend my country. I love America and as she has weaknesses or ills, I’ll hold her hand.”
His son, Claude James, said his family supports the idea of naming the bridge after the late general.
“It’s a perfect acknowledgement of one America’s greatest leaders and defenders who never forgot where he came from,” the son said. “And throughout his history-making career he gave credit to his mother’s little school on Alcaniz Street that prepared him to succeed in and love and defend his country.”
Dosev, a retired U.S. Marine Corps pilot, said he looked up to James throughout his whole career.
“Everyone is talking about the fact that we no longer have heroes to emulate,” Dosev said. “Well, we do. We do, and that hero is Gen. Chappie James. And I think that the community in a large part has forgotten who this man was, and what he did, and that’s sad.”
On top of naming the bridge after the general, Dosev said he’ll be putting together a board of directors to raise money to build a statue of James in the new park next to the bridge landing on the Pensacola side. Behind the statue, Dosev plans to have a static display of an F-4 Phantom II fighter jet.
The F-4 was flown by James in the Vietnam War during Operation Bolo.
In Southeast Asia, he served as deputy commander for operations and later vice wing commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) and he reunited with ace pilot and wing commander Robin Olds, who James had met during his Pentagon years. The two men formed a strong leadership and combat team, inevitably dubbed “Black Man and Robin.”
Operation Bolo was perhaps the high point of their professional relationship. Dreamed up by Olds, it was an aerial trap for enemy MiGs, which had been evading US fighter escorts and attacking heavily laden F-105 fighter-bombers en route to targets.
The January 1967 operation began with a force of F-4 fighters impersonating an F-105 flight. The F-4s used F-105 refueling altitudes, approach routes, airspeeds, radio call signs, and other distinctive indicators. For the first time, the F-4s were also equipped with ECM pods to deceive the enemy’s missile and flak acquisition and tracking radars, according to Aces and Aerial Victories, an official history of USAF in Southeast Asia.
Each flight of this deception force consisted of four F-4Cs. Olds led the first flight, appearing right on time on target over Phuc Yen, northwest of Hanoi, at 3:00 p.m. local time.
Unbeknownst to Olds, enemy ground control had delayed MiG takeoffs by 15 minutes due to overcast skies.
Then James led Ford Flight, the second group of F-4s. It popped out of the clouds right on time, five minutes after Olds. At that moment the MiGs appeared. What followed was a melee that might have been the greatest fighter battle of the Vietnam War.
Three MiGs immediately pounced on James’ flight. Two came from 10 o’clock high, one from 6 o’clock low. Rolling from a left bank to a steep right break, James was suddenly flying right next to his adversary, in what he later termed a strange encounter.
“For a split second, [he] was canopy-to-canopy with me. I could clearly see the pilot and the bright red star markings,” James said in an after-action report. James barrel-rolled to gain separation for attack and fired one Sidewinder. It missed as the MiG broke hard left. But the North Vietnamese pilot had evaded James only to put himself in the flight path of Ford Flight’s No. 2 aircraft, flown by Capt. Everett T. Raspberry Jr. A few more maneuvers, and Raspberry put a Sidewinder up the MiG’s tailpipe.
When it was over, 12 F-4s had engaged 14 MiGs and scored seven confirmed victories, against no losses.
Pensacola urban planner Alan Gray, who was one of the organizers of Vision Pensacola which submitted the winning design for the new bridge, supports the project and developed renderings to show what the memorial would look like at the foot of the bay bridge.
However, there remain challenges to naming the bridge after James — one being that under Florida law, the bridge already has a name: the Philip D. Beall Sr. Memorial Bridge.
Beall was a state senator from Pensacola who died in office shortly after being elected Senate president in 1943. His grandson, Kirke Beall, has been fighting to keep the name on the bridge.
However, Beall said, he wouldn’t be opposed to the bridge sharing a name.
“As long as it’s a good person and they are deserving of it, I am glad to have my grandfather’s name next to it,” Beall said.
“My motivation is to promote Gen. Chappie James,” Dosev said. That’s my motivation. … I don’t want the memory of Chappie James to be forgotten.”
Photo credit: Pensacola News Journal and U.S. Air Force
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com