Archive for May, 2012

Panchito

One lesson I learned years ago is how warm and welcoming the aviation community is, and, I experienced that again today, as did the crowd at Andrews Air Force Base who turned out for the Joint Services Open House & Air Show.

The aerial show was spectacular and included performances by aerobatic Hall of Famer Sean Tucker, the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team, and the Navy’s world reknown Blue Angels, but that’s not why I went.

I went to Andrews to meet Panchito, a 68-year-old bomber. Panchito is a B-25J and Nicholas Katzenbach was shot down in an earlier version of the B-25, a B-25C. I’ve read all about B-25s and their famous Doolittle Raid over Japan, but I’d never seen a B-25 in person.

When I arrived at the air show, Sean Tucker was dazzling the crowd with his barrel rolls, loops, and dives. My visit was already off to a good start. With dozens of aircrafts on the tarmac I asked someone in a golf cart which way the B-25 was and I ended up getting a lift. Lucky for me as Panchito was at the other end of the field.

Seeing a B-25 in person is quite different than seeing one in pictures. B-25s are a medium sized twin-engine bomber used during WWII. While it seems large from the outside (with a wingspan of nearly 68 feet), inside it seems miniscule.

Yes, that’s right I got to climb inside this warbird thanks to Larry Kelley who heads up Panchito’s flight team. He knew who Nicholas Katzenbach was, but didn’t realize he was shot down in a B-25. With that, the welcome mat was extended and a narrow staircase was pulled down from the front of the plane. Here’s some unsolicited advice, don’t wear a dress and don’t wear sandals. I wore both. None-the-less I made it up the narrow ladder and giant steps with guidance from Larry.

While the bomber looks large from outside, inside is another story. It seemed cramped to me and I’m a foot shorter than Katzenbach. The cockpit was tight, with the pilot and co-pilots’ seats closer than I thought. The body of the plane isn’t wide and to get to the gunner position one has to crawl into the nose, I didn’t do that.

Behind the cockpit was a section that Larry told me would have been outfitted for the navigator in the B-25C (Larry knew all the slight modifications between the B-25C and B-25J). Even more remarkable, he had a copy of the original B-25C Maintenance Manual complete with diagrams, photographs, and text. In the manual we were able to see the type of folding navigator table and stool that Katzenbach would have used. Just when I thought chapter two was done, I now need to go back and infuse some of this amazing information I gleaned today. I literally was on cloud nine. While I beamed, Panchito’s metallic skin shined under the sunlight.

Thanks to Larry Kelley for the impromptu cockpit tour, and his son, crew member Josh Kelley, and crew photographer, Richard Allnutt.

It should also be noted that while the Panchito crew shares this warbird with the public they do so for a good cause; Disabled American Veterans (DAV). The Panchito crew offers rides and raises money so DAV can provide free services to our nation’s veterans, assisting them in obtaining medical care and benefits they’ve earned and deserved. For more information, visit: www.dav.org

Thanks again and happy flying!

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USA Today Column: Katzenbach civil rights legacy lives on today

  1. In case you missed it, I had a column in the USA Today over the weekend about Nicholas Katzenbah.  I hope you enjoy !

Column: Katzenbach civil rights legacy lives on today

By Amy Schapiro

Updated 2d 15h ago
Tuesday night, this country lost one of its national heroes. For those who grew up in the ’60s, Nicholas Katzenbach, who was 90, was a household name. For today’s generation, it is a forgotten name. Yet the lives we lead today would be drastically different if it weren’t for the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Bill of 1965. Katzenbach was one of the key architects behind that legislation and more.
  • In this 1963 photo, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, at right, confronts Alabama Gov. George Wallace, standing in front of a door to keep blacks from enrolling at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.By Calvin Hannah, APIn this 1963 photo, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, at right, confronts Alabama Gov. George Wallace, standing in front of a door to keep blacks from enrolling at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

In some sense, it is ironic that on the day it was learned that an unsung hero of the civil rights movement died, the president of the United States, the first African-American, advocated his support for same-sex marriage — the next battleground for equality.

As Robert Kennedy‘s deputy attorney general, it was Katzenbach whom the Kennedy administration relied on to craft legislation and quell crisis after crisis. Katzenbach was the ranking government official dispatched to represent the attorney general, and the president, when James Meredith enrolled at theUniversity of Mississippi.

The following year, it was Katzenbach who was sent to another college campus to enforce the integration of theUniversity of Alabama by two African-American students, James Hood and Vivian Malone (who would later become the sister-in-law of current Attorney General Eric Holder).

Reflections by Holder

The impressions that Katzenbach made on a 12-year-old Holder were everlasting. “When I became deputy in 1997, Nick Katzenbach was a person who by then, I never met, but whom I knew from history,” Holder told me during an interview last year. “One of the things I always do as I take these jobs is try to think about who my predecessors are and what they do well. … As I thought about what I wanted to do as deputy, I wanted to be a force beyond simply making sure that the ship was running on time, and I took that from the experience of having seen (Katzenbach) playing such a pivotal role in a historical event.”

The photo of that historic confrontation — between a short and stocky segregationist governor, George Wallace, and a tall balding government official, Katzenbach, has become an iconic image of the struggle for civil rights. On that hot June day in 1963, Wallace planned to seize the opportunity to highlight himself and his cause. But what he didn’t expect was to be upstaged by a 6’2 man who called it like he saw it — “a show.”

Katzenbach always called it like he saw it. He didn’t mince words; he was a straight shooter, and he accomplished something few others can say. He was the rare individual who was trusted by rivals Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He was part of Bobby Kennedy‘s inner circle, and later succeeded Kennedy as LBJ’s attorney general. For Johnson to appoint a Kennedy man in the position spoke volumes about Katzenbach. Katzenbach was his own man, guided by the principles of the U.S. Constitution. In recent years, he was beside himself over the Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Even in his later years, he never lost his love of the law.

His father’s footsteps

In pursuing the law he emulated his father, who was the state attorney general of New Jersey and died when Katzenbach was just 12 years old.

Katzenbach endured his own struggle for freedom when he was shot down in a B-25 over the Mediterranean and spent 27 months as a POW during World War II. While he was stymied by the confines of prison, he maximized his time by reading hundreds of books, including legal tomes, so he could return to the U.S. and earn his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer. He accomplished both.

When Katzenbach wanted to work for the Kennedy administration, he turned to Yale Law School classmate Byron White. Katzenbach’s eyes were set not on the Department of Justice, but rather the State Department. Ironically, that is where Katzenbach ended his government career. In what was considered a surprise move by President Johnson, Katzenbach went from being attorney general to under secretary of State under Dean Rusk. With the passage of the civil rights legislation, Katzenbach was ready to take on a new challenge, the Vietnam War. He was a dove among hawks and groomed many future statesmen such as Richard HolbrookeAnthony Lake and Lawrence Eagleburger, who all worked for him.

I recently asked Katzenbach about the stalemate in Congress due to unwillingness to compromise. He replied, “Compromise assumes, I think, a certain rationality and a willingness to postpone, not necessarily give up. I never tried to convince the Southerners to stop discriminating and vote for civil rights. But with everyone, I was willing to explain why we wanted a provision and what we thought it would accomplish.”

He did the same when a proposal or amendment wasn’t favored. As he said, “These discussions often exposed a misunderstanding that could be cured. Our language could be interpreted in ways we did not intend.”

This nation will certainly miss public servants like Katzenbach who valued the art of understanding and compromise.

Amy Schapiro is author of the forthcoming biography Leading Justice: The Life of Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach, which will be published next year.

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In Memory of Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach

Today is a day the I’ve been dreading, but knew would come. Even though Nicholas Katzenbach was under hospice care the news of his passing last night is still hard to bear. I spoke to him on the phone recently and he sounded strong, the way I will remember him.

As a biographer it’s tricky confronting the end of your subject’s life. I didn’t want to be an intrusion and just wasn’t sure where that line is drawn. Should I call? Should I visit? Should I write? Should I give them their privacy? I still don’t know the answer.

Katzenbach is much more than the subject of my next book, and, in fact he has become an important part of my life, as is the subject of any biographer.  Their lives start consuming our own. The significant days in his life dot my calendar. If you read this blog regularly you’ve noticed that – January 17 (birthday), February 23 (shot down over the Mediterranean), and June 11 (the stand in the school house door).

And, now today, there is another date to add to the calendar – May 8th, but that date is already etched in my mind. May 8th is also the anniversary of the death of another important person in my life – my grandmother.

Right now what gives me solace is that the broader public is learning what I already know, that Katzenbach was a national treasure whose life was intertwined with some of the most historic events in the latter half of the twentieth century from the struggle for civil rights to the Vietnam War and everything in between – The Cuban Missile Crisis, The Cuban Prisoner Exchange, Ole Miss, the Stand in the School House Door, the swearing in of LBJ, the Warren Commission, the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, the Pentagon Papers, the Pueblo, and so much more.

While I’ve already written the ending to my book, Katzenbach’s life now has an end too.

In some sense there is an irony that on the day it was learned that an unsung hero of the civil rights movement died, the President of the United States, the first African-American, advocated his support for same sex marriage.

I’m not sure if there is such a thing as a perfect marriage, but if there is it was the marriage of Lydia Phelps Stokes and Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach who were married for 65 years. She is feisty and ever bit his intellectual equal, not an easy feat. My sympathies go out to Lydia and the rest of the Katzenbach family.