• Kaboom
  • The Big Story
  • Port Town
  • Port Town
  • Port Town


  • February 20, 2024



    Around midnight on February 2, two B1-B Lancer stealth bombers used 125 precision-guided missiles to strike 85 targets in Iraq and Syria. The bombers had flown all the way from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, then returned home in what was a 44-hour mission. The targets included command and intelligence centers, rockets, and drone storage and supply chain facilities.

    The politics aside, it had special meaning for my wife Carmela Cunningham.

    Back in the early 1980s – when a mid-2os Carmela was still Carmela Castorina – she worked in public relations for the B1-B program at Rockwell International.

    She interviewed the people who built the plane from the folks who carefully laid out the complex electrical connections that controlled the aircraft and its moveable swept-back wings, to the engineers who helped design everything from the landing gear to the avionics, and to the company executives that oversaw the program.

    And she often had to babysit sometimes-hostile members of the press.

    She had the privilege to climb aboard the aircraft while it was being built and after it was completed. She helped host celebrations in Palmdale with test pilots, Air Force brass and aviation legends such as retired Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, who led the B-25 raid over Tokyo in 1942. One of her work friends was test pilot Doug Benefield, who died shortly thereafter when he crashed in the Mojave Desert during tests of the B-1B’s low-altitude, radar-avoiding avionics.

    It wasn’t all test pilots and chasing down the runway during takeoffs and landings. There was also the politics – the retired generals who used their influence to land cushy executive positions with the company; the congressmen who toured the plant, gave a talk after lunch and received an “honorarium” for their efforts; and the grown children of politicians and military brass who spent their summers in well-paid and cushy jobs at the company.

    And though she grew weary of the politics and the never-ending corporate meetings on how to improve employee morale and how to boost the company’s image, she remained proud of the aircraft and of the hard-working people who had poured their talents into developing technology and making it all come together.

    So, when she read about the mission and how successful the plane fulfilled the purpose for which it was built, she couldn’t help but feel at little proud of the small part she had played. She was also sad and a bit horrified about the people who had been killed and injured in the bombing.

    The numbers of casualties depend on which side is doing the counting, but there were scores of fatalities and a larger number of wounded. And there is much controversy over the politics of the mission and the political fallout, but that will be an argument for those so inclined.

    Carmela remains proud of the aircraft she wrote about and promoted and the smart and hard-working people she met during her time at Rockwell. And the blood on her hands? That’s something she also has to acknowledge.

    It may not make her happy, but she knew 40 years ago what the plane was designed to do, and what it finally did. And she’s willing to live with that.

    – George Lee Cunningham

     If you would like to subscribe to our work, you may contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know and you will get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.