BG Benjamin H. King Auditorium

Building 439 Eglin AFB

6 October 2006 Dedication

 

The following two newspapers article cover the dedication of the Ben King Auditorium in building 439 of the 9 Special Operations Squadron on Eglin AFB, FL on 6 October 2006.  Permission has been obtained from each newspaper to put on the ACA home page.

 

Publication:DailyNews; Date:Oct 9, 2006; Section:Local and State; Page Number:17
Eglin honors Air Force vet
Building bears general’s name
By MLADEN RUDMAN mladenr@nwfdailynews.com



    EGLIN AFB ­ The father of modern Air Force special operations was honored Friday with a dedication ceremony.

    The 9th Special Operations Squadron headquarters auditorium is now known as “Ben King Auditorium.”

    Located on Eglin Air Force Base, the headquarters is on Eglin Boulevard across from the base library.

    Brig. Gen. Benjamin H. King, who died two years ago, was a colonel when he took command of the newly formed 1st Air Commando Wing at Hurlburt Field in 1961.

    The World War II ace with seven kills and many other distinctions understood the responsibility of command and understood men, as noted by retired Air Force Lt. Col. Eugene Rossel, who handles publicity for the Mary Esther-based Air Commando Association.

    Rossel, reading a quote from the book, “Air Commando Chronicles,” emceed the ceremony. The book included King’s first speech to 1st ACW troops:

    “ ‘Welcome! Some of you are here because you expect spot promotions,’ ” read Rossel. “ ‘Some are here seeking fame and glory, some are here to escape your last assignment, and some are here because your country needs you and you answered the call. Well, all I can promise you are long hours and hard work in preparation for what lies ahead! Dismissed!’ ”

    What lay ahead was Vietnam.

    ACA vice president Dick Geron of Destin was a friend of King.

    Geron described the brigadier general as a “tremendous guy” and an immensely skilled fighter pilot.

    King’s charisma and zeal motivated troops.

    The brigadier general, continued Geron, seldom, if ever, forced airmen to do good work.

    “He was a great leader who inspired people,” the ACA vice president said.

Daily News Staff Writer Mladen Rudman can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 443.
[]
Daily News file photo Air Force Brig. Gen. Benjamin H. King stands in front of the Matilda III aircraft. The 9th Special Operations Squadron’s headquarters auditorium on Eglin Air Force Base is now known as the Ben King Auditorium. King, who died two years ago, was commander of Hurlburt Field’s 1st Air Commando Wing.


 

 

 

 

Dedication Presented By Major General L. W. (Svede) Svendsen, Jr., USAF (ret)

 

Good morning ladies and gentleman and a special welcome to Gen Kings family, thank you for coming. I have been honored today to speak at this dedication honoring one of the greatest warriors the Air Force has ever had. In each generation of Americans God produces some warriors and within that select group he occasionally produces an extraordinary one, Ben King was that warrior. I have served with Gen Ben King in three different combat units – the 4th Fighter Group, the 49th Fighter Bomber Group and the 1st Air Commando Group. 

 

When the Korean War started on 25 June 1950, then, Major King along with a dozen or so of us fired up Lieutenants from the 4th Fighter Group, left Langley Field as volunteers to be first in the fight. I mention that because Major King, an already distinguished veteran of both the Pacific and European theaters in WWII, was the only field grade officer to volunteer when the first shots were fired.  It was his very nature, driven by an intense sense of duty and a keen sense of adventure, that compelled him to be the greatest of warrior-leaders. He knew that those who stepped forward when their country called were doing what most Americans either can’t do or won’t do but for him fighting for his country was instinctive. 

 

After my tour with an Infantry Regiment during the perimeter campaign I was assigned to the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 49th Fighter Bomber Group, in Korea, the commander of the 8th Fighter was Major Ben King.

 

I witnessed first hand the superior qualities of this warrior-leader. I remember him using terms like:“when it’s too tough for everybody else it’s just right for us”; for him it was more than just a war fighting colloquialism, he meant it, he led by example, he was big red-leader. He led most of the high-risk missions deep into the enemies most heavily defended targets in North Korea, we would follow him anywhere – into Hell and back if he asked. One of my favorite incidents that captures the essence of his character was when he received a tasking from 5th Air Force JOC to do an on-the-deck visual recon of both airfields at the Capitol of North Korea, Pyongyang, and do it ASAP. He turned and asked for a volunteer and I was first. We briefed on the way to the aircraft. The temp.that afternoon was about 40 degrees F and we had a restriction on takeoffs without JATO assist above 35 degrees F, this because of our weight with big tip tanks, and ordinance and only 5,000 feet of PSP (pierced steel planking). There were no JATO equipped birds available but rather than abort this urgent mission, he pressed on. He instructed me to wait until I saw him airborne before I released brakes, in other words, if I don’t make it you don’t go, typical Ben King. I released my brakes when he was about ½ to ¾ of the way down and saw him blowing dust off the end a few seconds later. As we approached Pyongyang we hit the deck and I took a wing position line abreast as we went across both airfields with enemy gunners firing all around us. Breaking to the south, we armed-recceed the MSR’s  shooting up targets of opportunity so as not to haul any ordinance back to base – it was not his policy to leave enemy territory with unexpended ordinance.

 

 Uncle Ben, as we affectionately called him, had an altruistic and selfless manner always giving credit to others. He said: only the beginners go for the medals. If he ever had anxiety he never showed it, he was fearless in his pursuit of his duty. After briefing on  heavy anti-aircraft defenses of a target we were going to strike he would get a glint in those steely blue eyes and with a boyish grin would say “remember lads, they can’t hit you” – coming from him it gave comfort, even though we lost half our squadron in about 4 ½ months, 18 aircraft out of a combat UE 36.

 

Ben King was a leaders leader and warriors warrior. There may be a precious few as good but there are none better. He understood that military forces are about war fighting and winning, period, they are not institutions for social experiments. He tested each policy proposal with one simple question: does it enhance our ability to win the fight, especially true on today’s 21st Century non-contiguous, non-linear battlefield? That simple test is one I wish all military personnel would use at all levels, because, if the answer is no then it is prejudicial to our national interest and a disservice to national defense and has no place in our forces. Political correctness and equal opportunity have no place in war fighting. Ben King evaluated each war fighters metal and capability in the combat units he commanded and he made decisions on leadership positions based on capability not rank.

 

But his legacy is not of history alone it lives on in a geometric way with today’s warriors who don’t even know his name, because, of all the war fighters he trained and all the war fighters they trained, etc. etc. it’s a geometric progression, a generational thing, but his spirit and leadership live on in today’s force.

 

It came as no surprise to me, 12 years later, when I was a Major and chief of the fighter branch of Tactical Evaluation at 5th Air Force Hq., that I read a classified document that addressed the formation of an Air Force Special Operations, volunteer only unit, code named Jungle Jim, being formed by then Col. Ben King. He had been personally selected by the Chief of Staff, Gen LeMay and who better to found an Air Force volunteer organization doing extra hazardous duty. The first question he had for volunteers, myself included, was: “there will be no promotions, no medals, only extra hazardous duty, sometimes in civilian clothes and if captured we may deny you exist, are you still a volunteer? – no penalty for saying no”. If your answer was positive you could apply and be subject to further intense screening. As a result, he gathered a group of high-spirited adventurous warriors, many of them among you today, – and who better to lead them. Uncle Ben understood human nature and that sheep didn’t make good warriors, his combat leadership skills enabled him to channel the high energy and spirit in his troops into war fighting, innovation and thinking outside the box – before the term was invented.

 

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, circa 1962, Tactical Air Command, now ACC, released their classified war plan. Uncle Ben read it over and there was no tasking for the 1st Air Commando. Ben was airborne in short order on his way to TAC Hq. He went to the TAC commander at the time and convinced him that there was a place in this fight for the 1st Air Commando Group and a day or so later he and I were sitting strip alert on the end of the Hurlburt  runway ready to deploy to south Florida. Once again the spirit of being “in the fight” showed his tenacious warrior spirit.

 

Uncle Ben had a very warm human side with a great sense of humor. Whether counseling subordinates in the squadron or organizing a songfest or other activities at the Officer’s club he used positive leadership because he understood it was long term leadership that motivates the troops to produce beyond their own expectations.

 

The Air Force Special Operations doctrine and procedures established under Ben King’s guidance transcends over 40 years and while weapons and technology have advanced the basic doctrine continues. We all remember that impressive news video of the AFSOC forward air controller on mule back with Afghan forces at the beginning of that campaign. Most thought it was something new and innovative, I thought to myself, we did that 40 years ago in the 1st Air Commando. I personally served, alone, with indigenous forces in north Laos who were trained and equipped by CIA’s Para-military Directorate. I was in civilian clothes and while I had no mule, I did have a backpack battery operated UHF radio. We stalked and ambushed NVN forces on the trails in north Laos using, among other weapons, F-105’s. Indeed, Ben King’s wisdom and professional skills live on today most of them institutionalized in AFSOC and typically anonymous, the way HE would prefer it, but not the way HIS legacy should be treated.

 

Teddy Roosevelt once said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” I say it is time to give public recognition to this esteemed visionary warrior leader who lived his life on the tip of the spear, who knew triumph and high achievement and who founded Air Force Special Operations during a time when it was not popular with supersonic Air Force Generals and budgets reflected it. He knew that better was the enemy of good enough and that budget restraints would not support gold plating – instead, he put a golden arrow in the quiver of national defense. 

 

 While we greatly appreciate this first class auditorium being dedicated in his name, AFSOC would be well advised to rename Hurlburt Field, King Field.We are a better force today because Ben King passed our way and gave us a warrior model to emulate. May God rest your soul Ben King and give you that peace that surpasseth all understanding.  Amen and thank you.    

 

Brigadier General Benjamin H. King Biography

 

General King was born in Addie Lee, Okla., in 1919. He received his high school education in Fayetteville, Ark. He entered aviation cadet training in February 1942 at Foster Field, Texas, and received his pilot wings and commission as a second lieutenant in November of the same year.

During World War II, he served in the Asiatic-Pacific and European-African-Middle Eastern theaters of operations as a pilot, flying P-38s, P-39s and P-51s. He scored seven victories in air battles and logged 122 combat missions totaling 470 combat hours. During the Korean War, he destroyed two aircraft on the ground, flew 200 combat missions and accumulated 382 combat hours.

He graduated from the Army Command and General Staff School in February 1946 and from the Air Command and Staff College in June 1950.

From January 1957 until July 1959, General King was assigned as commander, 4750th Air Defense Group, and later as deputy commander and commander, 4750th Air Defense Wing at Vincent Air Force Base, Ariz. He moved with the wing to MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. In July 1960 he was reassigned as director, Joint Bomarc Test Staff, Detachment 1, Montgomery Air Defense Sector, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

From May 1961 until March 1962, he served as commander, 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron and 4400th CCT Group, Eglin Air Force Auxiliary Field #9, Fla., and in April 1962 he was assigned as commander, 1st Combat Applications Group, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

General King was assigned in October 1963 as deputy director, Office of the Secretary of Defense Advisory Research Project Agency Field Unit, Bangkok, Thailand. During this period, he flew some 100 missions in Vietnam in T-28, C-47, L-28 and B-26 aircraft.

He returned to the United States in October 1964 and was assigned to the Aerospace Defense Command. He served as vice commander, Los Angeles Air Defense Sector, Norton Air Force Base, Calif.; as deputy for operations, 28th Air Division and then for Fourth Air Force; and as vice commander, Fourth Air Force at Hamilton Air Force Base Calif.

In August 1967 he became command inspector general, Headquarters Aerospace Defense Command, Ent Air Force Base, Colo., and in January 1969 he became director of aerospace safety, Office of the Deputy Inspector General for Inspection and Safety at Norton Air Force Base, Calif.

General King was qualified in many aircraft. He has accumulated more than 6,000 hours of flying time, including 1,146 combat hours logged in 400 combat missions. His decorations include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 24 oak leaf clusters, Purple Heart and the French Croix de Guerre.