Learn from Legends

Oral Histories of Public Affairs Pioneers

AFPAAA's Oral History Project

AFPAAA's Oral History Project began on September 12, 1994 and continues to this day. The standards the project follows are the same as the USAF Oral History Program and the national Oral History Association.

The purpose of the project is to accumulate and preserve first-person accounts of USAF public affairs events, activities and specific periods in the lives of select interview subjects. (Editors Note: These interviews do not represent a complete list of significant USAF public affairs professionals ... this collection is just a start; there are many more we intend to add in time.)

Why? There is a lot to learn from what others have been through. USAF public affairs people have participated in every significant activity in which the Air Force has been involved, often in key positions; usually interpreting policy if not making it, and normally in close proximity to the "movers and shakers." Yet, no one has taken the time to collect the "lessons learned" ... until now.

Click on a name below to read the recollections of select public affairs pros.

Public Affairs Legends

(click on name to read interview)

... a riveting account of his experiences accompanying Vietnam POWs out of Hanoi and their return to the USA ... and a lot more!

... fascinating insights into the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the mid-'70s plus highlights of his service as a 3-time Deputy Director of SAF/PA.

... recounts WWII P-38 adventures, setting up space operatios at Cape Canaveral, plus his years as (SAFPA) Chief of Public, also talks about Project Blue Book and working on network UFO TV show. Includes his "Pithy PR Proverbs" too.

... reviews 30 eventful years that culminated in being the first career-PA to be promoted to Brig. General and to be named SAF/PA Director.

... from WWII combat to renowned musician, the exploits and accomplishments recalled in inspirational detail by the long-time Commander/Conductor of the USAF Band are truly amazing.

... tells how he turned a 20+ year Air Force public affairs career into posts as Assistant White House Press Secretary and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, with blunt but pertinent thoughts about the PR/PA business. 

... talks about flying rescue PBYs in WWII, serving as a senior PA at CINCPAC and OSD plus giving a fascinating account of working in the White House for LBJ.

... remembers a harrowing WWII ditching, working on Project Bluebook (UFOs) & dealing with the return of SEA POWs and being semi-responsible for (sonic) booming the Air Force Academy.

... reminisces about a 30+ year journey that took him from college basketball star to USAF Director of Public Affairs with stops in Europe, SEA and SAC along the way.

... his view of the conflict between MACV and the USAF in Vietnam, what really happened with LIFE Magazine and the B-52 around the world flight and other highlights - including flying Spitfires in WWII - of a very interesting career.

... an original tale by a publicist extraordinaire, covering his experiences from World War II press camps to NORAD's tracking of Santa, and working with the great and near great in between.

... the history of the USAF Art Program (w/6 color photos) plus "behind the scenes" anecdotes remembered by the doyenne of "Wild Blue" art.

... recalls a storybook PA career including the story-behind-the-story when AF Chief of Staff Gen. Mike Dugan was fired and the chaos that followed.

... was "in the room" during the USAF's formative days helping to develop its fledgling public relations efforts as assistant to Stephen F. Leo the first Air Force PA Chief.

... started as a WWII Bomber Pilot, was later a 4-star's exec followed by PA jobs at Hq 7th AF & Hq TAC. Includes riveting accounts of some of his 45 B-17 missions over Germany.

... the first PA NCO to be promoted to CMSgt (E-9), he worked with Ernie Pyle and other WWII war correspondents, he attended the New York Worlds Fair as a USAF Orientation Group rep and later became the first Palace Info guy (PA assignment guru).

... the amazing story of a millitary public affairs icon - from WW II Eagle Squadron Ace to Cold War warrior helping LeMay set up SAC; includes revealing insight into how (and why) he helped shape "modern" USAF public affairs. (Ed Note: Colonel Tilley was arguably the one person most responsible for developing USAF PA structure and practice. Many innovations he introduced changed military public affairs forever.)

... recalls taking the T-Birds to South America, the TFX controversy, solving PA problems in SEA and during the Cuban Missile Crisis ... and a great deal more.

... recounts her storybook career from salesgirl to instructor pilot to flying as a WASP to becoming a TV producer and an aerospace film/video pioneer.