Four Air Force officers were charged with causing the
crash. They were Colonel Joseph F. Cotton, the XB-70 test force
director, and Albert M. Cates, director of systems test at Air Force
Flight Test Center, Lt Col James G. Smith, the director of
information (soon to be public affairs), and Lt. Bill Campbell, chief of
media relations at Edwards.
According to Campbell, at the urging of a Texas
congressman, and head of military appropriations, the Air Force convened
a "collateral board" to find those responsible. Unfortunately, the man
who was responsible, Joe Walker, perished in the mid-airl. So the Air
Force had to find someone else to blame.
As Campbell recalled, the board was headed by a
two-star improbably named Joseph Cody, the chief
of staff of the Air Force Systems Command . He had a staff of
about eight. All four of the accused had Air Force-appointed lawyers.
Campbell was the only one to testify, the others taking the military
version of the fifth. The four were charged with violating AF
regulations saying if a picture was to be taken with possible national
merit, the Secretary of the Air Force's Office of Information (now
Public Affairs) would have to bless it.
Campbell states that if Walker not brought down the
XB-70 the photo would have been pretty vanilla. Naturally, after the
crash, the photo was pretty special. But the Air Force ("We take care of
our own.") needed to hang someone and the four were the most available.
Campbell testified that he LEARNED of the flight when
a major from the Los Angeles branch of SAF/OI called him on a Friday to
see if his office wanted press to attend the formation flight, scheduled
for Monday or Tuesday of the next week. Campbell stated that knew
nothing of the "formation" aspect of the flight and asked his boss, Lt.
Col. Jim Smith, if he knew anything. Smith did not, but put in a call to
Colonel Joe Cotton, the XB-70 test force director. Cotton explained
that, yes, there was a formation flight with an F-4, T-38, F-5, B-58 and
F-104 scheduled, all GE-powered airframes (The B-58 broke on the day of
the flight). BBD&O, the Public Relations firm for GE, had been bugging
Cotton for such a photo op, and this flight was perfect as Major Carl
Cross, recently having joined the test project, was taking his first
ride, hence the max Mach number for much of the flight was .86, a speed
the Lear photo chase jet could keep up with.
So Campbell's testimony was why should he have asked
for SAF/OI approval when he had just learned of the flight from a SAF/OI representative? Campbell was exonerated. But the three others
received a transfer (Cates), or letters of reprimand.
Interestingly enough, the major who told Campbell of
the flight showed up in his office during the trial. The major was
taking his family out for a visit to the AFFTC. The trial was on a
break, but Campbell told him to stay where he was and reported to
General Cody that the guy who told him about the flight was actually in
Campbell's office! Cody called for a recess and then told him to send
the major on his way, as the court did not want to talk to him. In
Campbell's opinion, the Air Force wanted to settle this matter at the
lowest possible level.
Of further interest, Campbell's attorney contacted the
Air Force Director of Information, then Brig. Gen. Eugene "Ben"
LeBailley and asked him what he would have done had he known of the
flight. The general sent a reply back that said, "I would have complied
with AFR 190-10, AFR 190-12..." and a lot of other regulations,
cementing Campbell's impression of "We take care of our own."