Most of you probably have never heard of Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr. I not only heard of him, but I also had the pleasure of seeing him in 1965-66. Okay, so who was he? Well, for one thing, he was the very first African-American four-star general in our military. General James was born to a working-class family living in Pensacola FL in 1925. Even back then, Pensacola was an area that was the home of one of our Navy's pilot training centers. Consequently, little "Chappie" told his parents that one of these days he would be a military pilot. His parents told him that if that's what you want to do, son, you'd better "fight like a 'Black Panther' to get all the education you can possibly get because being a pilot will require it!" When WW2 broke out, young "Chappie" was admitted as a Tuskegee Airman. They flew many missions in that conflict, but "Chappie" never saw any aerial combat in WW2. Why was that, you ask? The reason was that "Chappie" was so good a student, he was kept in Tuskegee to train future pilots. "Chappie" was also a very large person. Not because he was obese, but because he had such a large frame. He'd often reply that, "I never get into a plane, I put the plane on!" Well, once WW2 was over, there was a downsizing of all our military, and also a reduction in rank for "Chappie" until the Korean conflict broke out. Finally he did see some aerial combat flying F-80's & F-86's. Then Korea was over, and again the USAF was downsized & "Chappie" again lost rank. One would think that two downsizings & reductions in rank in just a short period of time would be enough for "Chappie," but again he fought like a "Black Panther" to stay in the USAF. Come March of 1965, he was able to achieve the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (O-5) and was the Deputy Commander of Operations (DCO) of the 4453d Combat Crew Training Wing (TAC) that was based at Davis-Monthan AFB outside of Tucson AZ. (A DCO was the "commander" of all the pilots.) At that same time, WPE3BQL was an Aircraft Electrician for the F-4C (Phantom II's) that the wing was flying. Occasionally I'd see "Chappie" on our flight line, and he'd always wave at the maintenance people because he knew that if there was a problem with our F-4C's, us Field Maintenance Squadron troops would be the ones to fix the problem. Another function of being an O-5 was that one would occasionally have to fulfill the responsibilities of being "Officer of the Day." What an OD did was to act in place of the Base Commander any time the BC was not readily available. Generally this would mean "working weekends and/or holidays." Okay, so one very dark and stormy Saturday night, WPE3BQL & his buddy was troubleshooting a malfunctioning circuit on one of the F-4C's. We determined that a part needed to be replaced & had already informed the flight line NCO of it & called for a dispatch truck to carry us back to our shop some 3 miles away. Now a standing policy back then was if you called for a dispatch truck to pick you up, you'd BETTER be where you said you'd be OR ELSE!! So, the two of us were huddled under one of the F-4C's wings doing our best to stay dry and somewhat warm. After a couple of minutes we see a pair of headlights along the flight line, but they're too close together to be a dispatch truck. (Dispatch trucks were about the same size as a UPS truck.) What it turned out to be was the OD's pickup truck. The truck stopped & the driver motioned for us to hop inside. It was then when we saw the two silver leaves on the driver's shoulders. Yes, it was "Chappie" himself!! We relayed to him the fact that we'd already called for a dispatch truck & were waiting for it to pick us up. "Chappie" said that he'd drive us to our shop & here, have some coffee from my thermos to warm yourselves up. But, Sir, "They'll" complain big time if we aren't there when the dispatch truck arrives!!" "Chappie" answered, "And just who are 'they' going to complain to?? I represent the BC, so don't worry about it!!" That's just the kind of guy "Chappie" was! Then he was promoted to full-bird Colonel (O-6) and was transferred to Thailand to command a wing over there. In fact, he was decorated air ace Robin Olds' commander. Now, back then the USAF was flying two principal fighter-bombers: the old F-105's and the newer F-4C's. Each carried a different "Electronic Counter Measures" pod under its wings. Once these pods were turned on, the NVM's radar would pick up the ECM's radar signature and scramble either a Mig 19 for the F-105 or a Mig 21 for the F-4C. Well, "Chappie" as wing commander, got to talking to his ECM troops to see if there was any way that they could wire an F-4C to carry an F-105's ECM pod. Now, when an O-6 asks his NCO's to "see if they could possibly do something," that's pretty much a "direct order." Eventually the ECM troops did manage to wire at least one F-4C to support a F-105's ECM pod. When they told the WC that news, guess who flew that "modified" F-4C over Vietnam air space? And guess what that Mig 19 pilot got for his final flight!! From there, "Chappie" went on to be promoted to Brigadier General (O-7), and with the promotion he became Base Commander of Wheelus Air Base in north west Libya. Now, at that time Wheelus was such a large base that there was a large dependent housing area within the base so that USAF wives & children could live there while "Daddy went to work." It was 1969 by this time, & WPE3BQL was now stationed at Ramstein Air Base in (West) Germany. The 26th Tactical Recon Wing (USAFE) had a "rotation" to Wheelus so that our pilots could fly "training missions" in a little nicer climate than that of W. Germany. However, the Libyan "Powers that be," had other plans for Wheelus. They gave BC "Chappie" an ultimatum that in 72 hours, Libyan tanks loaded with full munitions would roll down the streets of the dependent housing area & proceed with "target practice." (Oh yes, they ended this ultimatum with "Have a Nice Day." So what did BG James do? Well, he stood outside the main gate of Wheelus & essentially told the Libyans, "Go Ahead....Make My Day!!' And within 72 hours, the entire Wheelus Air Base (military & civilian dependents) was completely evacuated! Guess who flew the last transport plane out of Wheelus? From then Gen. James worked various Pentagon positions, especially promoting not only the USAF, but the entire US military. This was about the same time that the "other" Black Panthers were gaining notice in the media. One news correspondent asked Gen. James ("The Black Panther") what his opinion of this other group of "Black Panthers" was. "Well, the basic difference is that THIS 'Black Panther' fights FOR his country!! He finally achieved the rank of O-10 (4 stars) in the middle 1970's. As a 4-star general, he was Commander-in-Chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (i.e., NORAD) headquartered in Cheyenne Mountain. This would have been during the Ford Administration and very early in the Carter Adm. He died about a month after his retirement. One honor Gen. Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr., eventually received was to have Tuskegee's Aerospace Science and Development's facilities named in his honor. And there's even an F-4C that he flew on static display. When the Commander-In-Chief of the entire US Military learned of when this dedication was to take place, he immediately requested that his entire appointments calendar be scrapped so that he personally could preside over this ceremony for one of the USA's finest military heroes that the CinC ever heard of. Now, when the POTUS asks if it's OK to preside over a dedication ceremony, he's going to get his wish! That's when POTUS Ronald W. Reagan first set foot on Tuskegee's ground. "Chappie's" son Daniel James III also went on to serve in the USAF. As a 3-star general, he was placed in command of the joint Army & Air Force National Guard Bureau. As such, Daniel James III would sign every A & AF "Certificate of Service" whenever a member of either the Army or the Air Force National Guard would retire. His signature is on WPE3BQL's "Certificate" that's hanging in my living room. Anyway, there IS one "Black Panther" I admire!!