National Museum Of Naval Aviation Symposium
From an AP story in the Sarasota Herald Tribune 5/7/04
NAS Pensacola, FL - Satellite-guided weapons that let U.S. pilots bomb Iraqi targets through sandstorms and other bad weather earned high praise here during the annual Naval Aviation Symposium.
Veterans of the Operation Iraqi Freedom also recalled their ability to fly off aircraft carriers when the sandstorms grounded most planes, plus some close calls and a threat by President Bush to fire a top general if Saddam Hussein unleashed weapons of mass destruction.
Naval aviation’s finest hour came during the sandstorm that began March 25, 2003, said Captain David Rogers, then-operations officer for the Combined Forces Air Component. Superiors told a carrier battle group commander, “If you don’t fly, people are going to die,” although conditions at sea also bordered on unsafe, said Rogers, a native of Parshall, CO.
Navy pilots bombed tanks and other targets with the satellite-guided weapons, although they were unable to see them. Iraqi soldiers then began shedding their uniforms and surrendering. “They realized we had capabilities they never even dreamed of,” Rogers said.
The symposium at the National Museum of Naval Aviation included the induction of Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, a retired Navy Captain from Lake Forest, IL and Horseshoe Bay, TX, and three other new members into the Naval Aviation Hall of Honor. They are: retired Marine BGen Robert Galer, of Frisco TX, a WWII ace; retired Coast Guard CDR Stuart R. Graham, of Naples, Maine, a pioneering helicopter pilot; and retired ADM James L. Holloway, III, of Alexandria, VA, Chief of Naval Operations in 1974-78. All were present except Galer, who was ill.
Rogers said he was in the next room but heard President Bush speak to now-retired General Tommy Franks, then Commander of the U.S. Central Command, at a White House briefing before the war. “He said, ’If there is one event where we have a weapon of mass destruction go against either our neighbors or our troops, then I’m finding a new unified commander,’” Rogers said.