Oral Histories from Public Affairs Pros

Oral Histories from
Public Affairs Pros

AFPAA's Oral History Project

The purpose of the AFPAA Oral History Project is to accumulate and preserve first-person accounts of USAF public affairs events and activities. The Project operates on the best practices recommended by the Oral History Association (OHA). This collection includes interviews with some of the brightest public affairs minds to ever put on a blue ... or pinstripe suit.

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.

Readers will discover how it "really is" in combat, politics and big business from first-person recountings of "been-there-done-that" experiences in sometimes funny, frequently poignant and always riveting detail.

AFPAA Oral History Library

(click on name to read interview)

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

... relates - with irrepressible wit - his passion for flying, writing and the Air Force. He recalls WWII bomber missions, Berlin Airlift sorties, atomic testing, putting Ed Murrow in a Hurricane ... and authoring over 20 books and screen plays including ... Bat 21. Unusually entertaining ... you can feel the twinkle in his eye.

... recalls Eniwetok during A-bomb tests plus the initial planning and manning for the war in Vietnam.

... a charmed 30-year career that began as a 19 year-old B-17 navigator in WWII ... followed by stops in Tripoli, Germany, Washington and Vietnam ... and culminating as Director of PA at MAC ... but, with a less than stellar ending.

... recounts being one of the first "advisors" in South Vietnam, also the first Palace Info career manager, how "A Great Way of Life" became a recruiting mantra and what it's like to be USAF's guy in Hollywood.

... 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.

... tells what it was like at Lowry (Denver CO) and the Pentagon before and during WWII, then post WWII, working for Popular Mechanics, Burson-Marsteller and Universal Oil Products in Chicago.

... 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.

... recounts pre-war PR for tourist attractions, founding Florida Public Relations Association, WWII in Italy with the 57th Bomb Wing, plus 33 years as a US Air Force Academy Liaison Officer.

... recalls his years of aviation experience starting as an early airline pilot, then an Army Air Corps flight instructor through flying 80 missions during the 1948 Berlin Airlift and serving as a public information officer in numerous eventful assignments from Iceland to USAFE to the Pentagon.

... a self-described "Air Force Brat" who grew up to be an Air Force Colonel with a fascinating 48-year career in military, corporate and government public affairs.

... 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.

... talks about working with Jimmy Doolittle and the Doolittle Raiders including fascinating details about the raid itself, plus how the military "mags and books" business works for both authors and the military.

... 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. 

... describes an unconventional PA career during which he never lived on a base, was never assigned to a flying unit and had many jobs where he was alone. From Japan to Vietnam to the Fulda Gap, from a Weather Wing to Chicago and the Pentagon, this is a fascinating recollection of an atypical 20-years as a Public Affairs officer.

... from the high seas to the Pentagon's E-ring, includes fascinating insights about being a special assistant (speech writer) to three Chiefs of Staff; Generals LeMay, McConnell & Ryan.

... 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.

... describes his unlikely journey from band leader to senior USAF PA officer to corporate PR exec; plus, an inside look at Pennzoil's billion dollar law suit against Texaco.

... one of the USAF's most erudite PA officers gives his sometimes surprising perspective on the reality of public affairs, the newsmedia and unrealistic expectations. He also recalls the USAF MOL program and handling serious R & D issues with the C-5 and F-15 programs.

... the first PA to attend the War College, provides thoughtful insight into modern PA practice based on experience as senior PA at USAFE and AFLC as well as a Corporate VP at Seagrams and Gulf Oil.

... provides surprisingly frank assessments of people and programs he was involved with ... from the birth of the USAF Academy to the Vietnam War to being Director of SAFOI ... all from a SAC Division Commander's perspective.

... 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.

... the coiner of the word "aerospace" to describe the concept of the sky as a limitless operational medium, he spent 26 years writing and editing the twice monthly Policy Letter for USAF Commanders reporting on national, defense, and Air Force policy for key Air Force leaders.

... a triple threat Broadcaster, Newspaper Editor and PA spokesman. Mike served 49 years on active duty and as an Air Force civilian. He’s the only person to have received a Thomas Jefferson Award in both print and broadcasting. In 1981 he helped establish the Air Force Broadcasting Service and later played a major role in overseeing AFRTS operations worldwide. If you were ever stationed overseas, you likely owe Mike Kinchen a “thank you!”

... juggled jobs as a minor league baseball General Manager, a newspaper reporter/editor and a USAF and VA public affairs specialist with additional duties supporting the first Chief Master Sergeants of the Air Force and 30+ years with AFA's Outstanding Airman Program.

... 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.

… reviews an amazingly varied and eventful 32-year military career from the Air Force Academy through wars and disasters (and 12 moves) to another decade-plus in high level corporate and non-profit executive jobs. Not bad for a guy who was just looking for a free college education.

... 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.

... recalls WW II missions in the South Pacific, creating troop (internal) info program, being a "Unification" PIO, early Strike Command growing pains, and provides critical insight into MAC-V & OASD/PA machinations during Vietnam.

... recounts the varied USAF career of a New Orleans newspaperman working with the Selective Service, Army National Guard, Japanese WWII POW's, aviation news media, Korean War, Hollywood and Tokyo's "Tuesday Musical Society."

... was a self-described "time hog" amassing over 30,000 flying hours. He was also a WWII double Ace (13), a best-selling Author, a rebel, a natural salesman and a raconteur who bounced from acclaim to acrimony with smooth southern charm. He also served as USAF Director of Information from April, 1955 to August 1956.

... 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 WASP test pilot to her roles as a TV producer and an aerospace film/video pioneer.