Sunday, February 19, 2012

Col. George Stanton Dorman

George Stanton Dorman, West Point Cadet

Colonel Dorman’s Family Recall Assassination – By William Kelly

When Mary Dorman of Lambertville, New Jersey answered the telephone, at first she said, “No,” she wasn’t the Mary Dorman who had worked at the White House, but after a brief pause, and a flood of memories, she said, “wait, yes, I did work at the White House at one time.”

And then confirming that she was the widow of Air Force Colonel George S. Dorman, General’s LeMay’s aide, she was told that Col. Dorman can be heard on the recently discovered Air Force One radio tapes that were found among the effects of General Clifton. As General LeMay’s chief aide, he was trying to get in touch with him to give him a message before his plane landed in Washington D.C., but the radio traffic was too busy with Air Force One that the probably didn’t get through.

Does she remember what happened on November 22, 1963?

“Of course, how could I forget that day?” she said.

At the time she worked at the White House Historical Office, responsible for the renovations of the building that were overseen by the President’s wife and first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, while her husband was the aide to Air Force General Curtis LeMay, the chief of staff of the Air Force.

On the day of the assassination, Mary Dorman recalled that with news of the assassination of the President, “My husband called me at the White House and told me to get home immediately. I was at the White House Historical Association office. There were only three of us and the man in charge, his name was Mr. Castro, he pulled he shades and we all knelt and prayed.”

“We lived at Fort Myer on General’s Row, so going past Arlington National cemetery, I stopped at the Chapel to pray. The news was so fresh nobody knew, so I knelt and prayed and didn’t know whether to tell them.”

“I went home and I remember sitting around crying,” she relates. “I went down to the White House when they brought the body there, and it was a mob scene. Everything was in chaos. Everybody was devastated.”

Did she did discuss the assassination with her husband?

Although Colonel Dorman was very busy that weekend, she said, “I did talk to my husband about it, but I can’t remember what he said. We talked about it, and I think there was a sense of fear, is this the beginning of something, of what?”

“For the most part we watched the stupid tube and cried. I was in the kitchen cooking, but maybe he told my sons, George Jr., William, and Robert and they remember what he had to say about it.”

In a segment of the Piers Morgan TV show, Morgan interviewed Nathan Raab of the Raab Collection, and professor Douglas Brinkley, who recognized their historical significance. Raab now owns and is trying to sell the recently discovered copy of the Air Force One radio tapes for $500,000.

On the Piers Morgan web site, it was noted that: “Last night Piers Morgan sat down with Nathan Raab, Vice-President of the Raab Collection and acclaimed author and professor Douglas Brinkley to talk about the newly revealed original and unedited (sic) White House version of the Kennedy Assassination Air Force One tape. Raab told Piers that the tape is historically significant because ‘this is how we know what the Federal government did immediately after the assassination.’"

Although this report refers to the recently discovered tapes as “unedited,” they are indeed edited. The original, complete and unedited tapes have never been released to the public and there whereabouts are unknown.

Professor Brinkley remarked that one of the most fascinating aspects of the recently discovered tape relates to General Curtis LeMay, who Raab describes “one of Kennedy's major adversaries.” It is noted that all references to LeMay were removed in the Johnson Library version, an edited version of the original tape, which sparked Brinkley to say, "People have always wanted to know where was Curtis LeMay on the day Kennedy was shot and there have been mixed messages about it. This tape provides exactly where he was."

Raab notes, LeMay’s “aide wanted to reach him badly and immediately, and was trying to interrupt Air Force One transmissions to do so.”

The Clifton tape includes the excerpt: “This is Colonel Dorman, General LeMay’s aide. General LeMay is in a C140. Last three numbers are 497, SAM C140. His code name is Grandson. And I want to talk to him.”

LeMay Reference on Clifton copy of AF1 Radio tape:

- Andrews Sideband. Sir?
- This is Colonel Dorman, General LeMay’s aide.
- Right.
- General LeMay is in a C-140
- The last three numbers are 497 SAM 497
- 497 last three numbers.
- Right. He is in bound. His code name is Grandson, and I want to talk to him.
- Grandson. Okay sir, we'll see what we can do. We’re really busy with Air Force One right now.
- Okay. You don’t have the capability to work more than one?
- We're running Air Force One with two different frequencies.
- We're running two patches at once and that's all we can do.
- I see.
- What is your drop sir? Are you on the drop off the Washington switch?
- Yes. Either or seven, nine, two, two five.
- Seven Nine two two five.
- But if you can’t do it now it will be too late because he will be on the ground in a half hour.
- Okay, and what is your name again sir?
- Colonel Dorman. D-O-R-M-A-N
- Okay, I’ll get back to you...if we can get him right away sir…..

They also speculate about the nature of the message Dorman had for LeMay, and its possible conspiratorial connotations.

In response to the conversation on the Morgan show, on their web site, Col. Dorman’s son George Dorman, Jr. wrote: “Col Dorman was the aide -de-camp to General LeMay, and my father. Your boy Brinkley totally misinterpreted the message that was sent to AF 1 - and you obviously misinterpreted it also and fed his ignorance. I would like to know how I can obtain a copy of that portion of the tape, By the way, my mother was working at the White House at that time also - and Col Dorman was KIA in Vietnam 6 years later.”

In a telephone conversation, George Dorman, Jr. said, “They were making something out of nothing,” and putting conspiratorial connotations on what they were saying is, “totally uncalled for and untrue.”

While George Dorman, Jr. said that he didn’t know what the message was, “it probably had something to do with the changing of the alert levels, their initial response in preparation for the funeral, or where LeMay had to go next.”

Where would that be? I asked.

“Back to work,” said Dorman, “the office at the Pentagon,” or where ever LeMay went. Dorman said wherever LeMay went his father usually went with him, and the fact that he wasn’t with LeMay at the time of the assassination is itself something.

George Dorman, Jr. also noters that the C-140 was a brand new plane at the time, and it was rare for LeMay to use that plane when he had a 707 – code named “Speckled Trout,” that he more frequently used.

According to George’s brother Robert their dad probably needed to get in touch with LeMay to tell him JFK was killed. But that can’t be right because LeMay was returning to Washington because of the assassination, so he must have known about it. The important message must have been something else.

Robert was just 12 or 13 at the time, and he too remembers the day distinctly, but notes, “that was a busy week and I don’t remember seeing him very much.”

Robert agrees with his brother that, “My dad wasn’t a big talker, especially about work matters.” Robert does remember his dad being in the funeral procession with Gen. LeMay, “but he wasn’t a talkative guy about what happened at work. He was a great guy, but kept quiet.”

George, Jr., Robert and their younger brother William grew up at Fort Meyers, next to Arlington National Cemetery, so the historic military grave yard was their backyard playground. And the other boys they played with were sons of other military officers, all of whom were officially involved in the funeral ceremonies, including Mike Rogers, son of Gen. Bernard Rogers, Executive Officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and John Converse, whose father, Lt. Col. Stanley Converse of the Old Guard, has many unpublished photos of the funeral.

The young boys were at the grave site early and watched the arrival of the funeral procession and burial of the President from atop a nearby tree they climbed in order to be able to better observe the proceedings.

In a memorial article published in Jul '91 it is mentioned that:

George Stanton Dorman NO. 15725 CLASS OF 1946 Died 4 August 1969 near Chu Lai, South Vietnam, aged 45 years. Interment: West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York.

GEORGE STANTON DORMAN was born 23 May 1924 in Portland, Oregon. The youngest of three boys, George was always competing, usually unsuccessfully, with his two older brothers. George enjoyed being a Boy Scout and attained the rank of Life Scout. In high school, he played baseball. His brother Bob remembers the young George as energetic with an excellent sense of humor, having a love of animals, a quick wit and being very loyal to his family. He graduated from Ulysses S. Grant High School in Portland.

George's father was a Reserve officer who served in both World Wars. His counsel, together with his oldest brothers joining the Army Air Corps, shaped George's decision to enter West Point He spent a year at Oregon State College, Corvallis, Oregon, before he received an appointment to enter West Point on I July 1943.

George's cadet life almost ended right after it started. In August 1943, his brother Ted's plane disappeared. This tragic event almost precipitated George's leaving the Corps. However, he was prevailed upon to continue and had a relatively uneventful cadet life. Save for a brush with chemistry, he had no great problems with academics. However, his tremendous leadership potential was sublimated until he entered active duty. When the Air Cadet option was presented to the class, George took it and received his wings together with his second lieutenant's bars at graduation.

George took multi engine transition training at Enid, Oklahoma. Upon completion of his training at Enid, George was married to Mary B. (Petie) Procurat in Orange, New Jersey on 2 November 1946.

His first operational assignment was to the 63rd Bombardment Squadron, 43rd Bombardment Wing at Davis Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona where he flew B29's. George's superb flying skills and leadership qualities were soon recognized, and in 1948 he was selected to be the aircraft commander of the KB29 tanker flying out of the Azores that refueled the B50 Lucky Lady in her historic nonstop flight around the world. In February 1955 George was assigned to Goose Bay, Labrador. In August of that year, he moved to the RCAF Station, Frobisher Bay, Canada, where he remained until April 1956. His next assignment was to Eighth Air Force Headquarters at Westover Field, Massachusetts where he served as executive officer to the chief of staff. July 1959 saw George and Petie move to Pease AFB, New Hampshire as a B47 squadron commander with the 100th Bombardment Wing. Later he became organizational maintenance squadron commander with the wing.

In August 1961, he was transferred to Headquarters USAF with duty in the Strategic Division of Operations. George had received "below the zone" promotions ever since his duty in Arizona, and the evidence of his growing reputation in the Air Force was very clear when he was made aide de camp to the Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis E. LeMay in 1962. He served in this position until 1965 when he was selected to attend the National War College. From there he assumed command of the 7272 and Support Group at Wheelus Air Base, Tripoli, Libya. Prior to leaving for Tripoli, George and a classmate attended an annual instrument school refresher course. The classmate recalls that George told him then that he was looking for the toughest jobs he could find.

That George was marked for bigger and better things became more evident in July 1967, when he assumed duties as vice wing commander, 81st Tactical Fighter Wing, RAF Bentwaters, Woolridge, England. This, after nothing but bomber experience! Shortly after George joined the 81st, a classmate, Phil Safford, joined as Assistant Deputy Chief of Operations. Phil recalls that George had an exceptionally keen mind and could get to the heart of a problem before anyone else. His communication skills were superb and he never lost his poise or objectivity, despite many opportunities to do so. George's goal was to command a wing in combat. To that end, he volunteered for an assignment in Seventh Air Force in Vietnam, not so much for a staff job, but as he told Phil, "I am going to be in line on the spot when the next wing commander job is available."

George received his assignment to the Seventh AF Headquarters in Vietnam. His immediate superior was then Major General David C. Jones. George's orders from England to Vietnam were to report immediately, so Petie and their three boys were left to return to the States alone. In a tape to his mother on 8 June, 1969, George told her how worried he was about Petie and the boys having to make the move back from England on their own. He mentioned that in his latest communication from Petie, she had told him of a visit she had from the mayor of Ipswich, England and his wife. He told his mother that this man had been anti US, but thanks to George and Petie he had become a great admirer and friend of Americans. George was very articulate and in that tape expounded on his concern with the media comments on the conduct of war. He mentioned that he was happy in his job and how proud he was to be serving his country.

On another tape (30 June), George told his mother how pleased he was to have heard from Petie that made the move successfully and was safely ensconced in a house in Charleston, South Carolina. His big news, in this tape was that General George Brown, commanding general of the Seventh Air Force, had selected George to be the next commander of the 366th Tac Fighter Wing in Da Nang. Colonel John Roberts (now a retired general) was the commander and had been selected to be promoted to brigadier general. George was slated to go to Da Nang by 10 July 1969 to be vice to Colonel Roberts for about 30 days before he departed. George felt that he had reached the culmination of his career-- a fighter wing command in combat and was extremely happy with this opportunity.

George became vice of the 366th in July 1969. General John Roberts recalls that on 4 August George was flying a low altitude mission near Chu Lai. Upon return to Da Nang, George's wingman reported that when George came off the target, there was an explosion and fire in his F4. This had been an early morning mission; and about 1300 hours General Robert's exec, Bob Kelly (retired as lieutenant general), told him that there was a CIA agent to see him. It seems the CIA man had been in a helicopter near Chu Lai and had witnessed the action in which George had been shot down. He had seen the plane pull off the target, level off for about a mile --one chute out then the plane crashed. He gave General Roberts the coordinates of the crash. General Roberts called the Army for site security and was told he could have it for only one hour. A call was put out for volunteers from the 366th and six were selected, from the many who volunteered, to investigate the crash. This team located the aircraft and was able to recover George's body. They discovered that George had been killed in the plane and that one engine had been knocked out. The man in the back seat had tried to get the plane under control but waited too long to eject. George was survived by his wife Petie, three sons, George, Jr., Robert and William, his mother and brother.

There is no doubt that George Dorman was destined to rise to the highest levels in the Air Force. One of the brightest stars in the Air Force firmament was dimmed on that fateful day in August 1969 near Chu Lai, South Vietnam. General Roberts said, "George was very sharp-- he would have been a hell of a wing commander." His Air Force classmates appreciated his outstanding qualities as an officer and valued him as a friend. He was a professional to the nth degree.

George, in addition to being an outstanding professional airman, was a loving and caring husband and father. All three of his sons are serving their country in one of the Armed Forces. Petie recalls that after 20 years George is still a viable presence in their sons' lives.

George Stanton Dorman always lived by "Duty, Honor, Country." He believed that a man's word was his bond. He was dedicated to the service of his country. At George's funeral at West Point, one of the pallbearers was then Lieutenant General David C. Jones, later to become chief of staff of the Air Force and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In recognition of George's service with the 81st TFW, Phil Safford was asked to represent the wing at George's funeral. Phil recalls that he was honored to serve as a pallbearer at Petie's request. Phil's words, recalling that time, echo the feelings of all George's classmates and are a fitting tribute to one of West Point's own:
"As I stood in the bright sunshine in that beautiful setting, I thought of how well George Dorman exemplified the kind of leader West Point produces for the service of our country; and for the first time, I truly understood the meaning of [Well Done!]."

1 comment:

Kristin said...

Thank you for posting such a great post on my Grandad Dorman! I never met him, though articles like this make me very proud to be his granddaughter!