I usually try to avoid putting anything political or otherwise controversial on my website.
But my friend, Jerry Yellin, asked me to put this message on my site.
As I said, I normally wouldn’t…but for him, I’ll make an exception.
So, here’s a message from Jerry Yellin to U.S. Presidential candidate John McCain (the words in the message in this post were written by Jerry Yellin as it’s shown below. My personal opinions about politics (American or otherwise) are kept to myself):
Can I vote for a maverick to be the President of the United States?
That is a question I have been asking myself ever since John McCain accepted the nomination from the Republican Party. The only guide that I have to what a Maverick is comes from my experiences as a fighter pilot in WW II.
I graduated from flying school in August 1943 with ten hours in a P-40.
Twenty-three of my classmates and I received orders to report to the 78th Fighter Squadron at Haleiwa on the North shore of Oahu to receive an additional fifty hours of combat tactics, hone our skills and be reassigned to a combat squadron.
We flew off a metal strip laid on the beach. The P-40 was a single engine, single seat front line fighter; there was no dual flight instruction. We practiced maneuvers using our hands to simulate mutual support in elements of two criss-crossing across the sky protecting each other as if in combat. All of us “Yardbirds” flew as wingmen in elements of two in a four plane formation.
“There is no room for individualism in our squadron” we were told every day, “Mavericks will not be tolerated.”
Several of my classmates left the squadron before they flew their 50 hours of combat training. We weren’t told why, but we suspected.
When the time came for reassignment, five of us were kept in the 78th, the rest joined squadrons on other fields in Hawaii, and we became trainers until we went into combat on Iwo Jima in March 1945.
I know what Maverick pilots are, I saw them kill their squadron mates and themselves by their irresponsible egotistical “I am better” attitude and ego.
Here are a few of my experiences with Maverick fighter pilots:
Harold Fish was a Maverick and I couldn’t get him to fly in a proper position below my wing on the outside so he could duck under when we made a turn. He rode high while we were making a steep, fast left turn. When I reversed my turn to the right I was cockpit to cockpit with Fish and had no room to maneuver. We escaped a mid-air collision but both of our planes were damaged. He didn’t kill either of us but he severely injured himself by hooking his wing into the side of a raised runway showing off how close in to the field he could make a high speed landing.
John Lindner was a Maverick. We were diving towards Bellows Field in P-51’s as a prelude to pitching up for a landing approach. I was the element leader; Lindner was on the flight leader’s wing in the #2 slot.
As we started down he left the formation to buzz the field at full throttle approaching 500 miles an hour and pulled the wings off of his plane when he couldn’t handle that speed.
The very word Maverick brings a picture into my mind of the men I knew who were labeled Mavericks. It wasn’t that they couldn’t fly, they could…but not in a cohesive manner that is necessary for successful operations in combat conditions. They were impulsive and made decisions that were
counter to planned operations, often to the determent of the mission or safety of themselves and their comrades. Those traits are synonymous with those of us who have Fighter Pilot Syndrome and are necessary for pilots who fly fighter planes. But they go counter to the big picture and the decision making process of battle.
We are in the midst of a Presidential election that, as always, raises questions about the background and history of the candidates. For example, in 1960 we were asked about the influence religion might have on John Kennedy and his ability to lead the country. Our Rabbi announced in early October of that year that his sermon on the following Friday would be “Can a Jew Vote for A Catholic to be the President of the United States”. Many people wondered whether his being raised as a Catholic would
interfere with his ability to function as our President. Opponents raised doubts about his wartime experience and questioned the heroic stature proclaimed by his supporters.
Now I am being asked to vote for a Maverick to become our president. It is a difficult situation for me, and I imagine for others. John McCain is telling us his experiences as a prisoner of war is one of the attributes that qualify him to be President. That doesn’t cut it for me.
Since he brought up and is using his POW status as qualification for the Presidency I think it is important to hear from him and his squadron-mates about his flying experiences. Mr. McCain’s supporters are telling us that he is a hero because he was shot down in combat. I know he had a
difficult time as a prisoner in Vietnam, all unintended, unwilling prisoners suffer terribly and unnecessarily whether in Manzanita, Tule, Abu Ghrab, Guantanamo or Vietnam; but getting shot down doesn’t qualify anyone for hero status.
So here are a few questions for you Mr. McCain:
Instead of talking about your experiences as a prisoner of war why don’t you tell us about your experiences as a combat pilot?
What was your status in your squadron, your rating reviews?
Were you like Tom Cruise as “Maverick” in the film Top Gun?
If you were a Fleet Commander with the authority to pick your successor would you pick an Ensign over an Admiral?
Would the Navy stand for it?
I want to hear your answers Mr. McCain and I suspect there are others like me in America today who also wants to hear you answer these questions.
I am not negating your combat role in Vietnam, your courage or patriotism but I am questioning your ability to make rational, thought out, intelligent decisions about the welfare of my country. The Mavericks that I knew were hotheads, unbending and always right. I don’t want a Maverick President Mr. McCain.
Only you can answer the questions I have asked in a satisfactory manner. If you want me to consider voting for you to become President of the United States of America, the country I fought for and where sixteen of my fellow squadron fighter pilots died during WWII, you will.