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Outspoken combat fighter pilot Broughton dies

November 5, 2014

LAGUNA HILLS, California (AP) — Jack Broughton, the decorated Air Force fighter pilot who flew more than 200 missions in Korea and Vietnam and later became an outspoken critic of the White House and military leaders, has died.

Broughton died Oct. 24 at a hospital in California, his son Mark said Wednesday. He was 89 and had been treated for a variety of ailments.

As a star pilot beginning in the 1940s, Col. Jack Broughton was hailed for his bravery and tactical cunning, and seemed well on his way to becoming a general.

But his career was ended after a high-profile court-martial during the Vietnam War. In 1967, Broughton was accused of covering up the strafing of a Soviet freighter in the North Vietnamese port of Cam Pha by a pilot under his command.

Broughton and two of his pilots were court-martialed. All were acquitted of the most serious charges, conspiracy to violate Air Force rules of engagement that ruled certain targets off-limits.

The court-martial was later expunged, but Broughton retired.

After leaving the Air Force, Broughton criticized President Lyndon Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara for mismanagement of the military during the war. He blasted the restrictions Washington placed on bomber pilots out of fear that the Soviet Union or China could be drawn into the conflict.

“We were poorly utilized, we were hopelessly misdirected and restricted, and we were woefully misused by a chain of stagnant high-level civilian and military leadership that didn’t have the (courage) to fight the war that they ineptly micromanaged,” Broughton wrote in his 2007 memoir, “Rupert Red Two: A Fighter Pilot’s Life From Thunderbolts to Thunderchiefs.”

Mark Broughton said his father never wavered in his beliefs.

“He was always highly patriotic, and believed in leadership and the military structure that we have,” Mark Broughton said. “But his feeling was, if you go to war and put people in harm’s way, play to win, or get the hell out.”

In retirement, Broughton wrote several books and was a commercial pilot. He also worked for the manufacturer Rockwell International, including work on safety measures for the B-1 bomber and the space shuttle Endeavour.

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