To past contributors, this is a continuation of the first campaign and the time ran out. We still have all your information and appreciate your contributions. See below for Ken Curry's interview
Welcome to Phase 2 of this important campaign to raise awareness of PTSD--Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The rollout of this campaign generated great interest, and $1500 in donations, many of those were from the graduates of LA's Westchester High School, class of Winter, 1963. My name is Jim Cornfield, a member of that class, a US Air Force veteran and a seasoned commercial photographer, author and travel writer. My longtime friend, classmate and fellow vet Ken Curry, and I reunited last year at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. to produce an important photograph. It’s the portrait of Ken shown here. This picture will be showcased in my upcoming book, Environmental Portraiture, due for release in 2018 by the presitigious publishing firm of Routledge. The airplane in the background of this image is the actual B-52 Stratofortress Ken piloted to safety after it was struck by an enemy missile in April 1972. Ken was able to save the lives of his 5-man crew and also rescue the airplane for posterity. It’s now a permanent, well-patched-up exhibit at the Nat’l Museum of the US Air Force. Ken received the Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission. But he also returned from Southeast Asia bearing the emotional scars that often go with the trauma of near-death experience in combat--PTSD, which afflicts scores of veterans. As Ken's friend and brother officer, I was proud when I heard about his misadventure, and delighted that he was okay. But I only recently learned of the lingering PTSD that’s been afflicting my good friend since that distant morning in the skies above Vietnam.
I decided to do this portrait for inclusion in my book, in part to showcase the powerful ways that photography can draw attention to important and widespread issues like PTSD. It seemed appropriate that I could do some good for PTSD sufferers with exposure in the book, and in the very visible social media profile which books like this receive after they’re published.
I mentioned our initial success with this project among our many generous pals from our high school days--Ken's and mine, along with our great, uber-talented friend and fellow grad Charlene Adair Middleton who put the campaign together. At the suggestion of many donors, friends and other veterans, we're restarting the PTSD Awareness effort to share with a larger audience of possible advocates for this cause. We're also planning a large scale PR campaign around this particular chapter of the book, hoping it will throw a spotlight on PTSD. In addition, with the aid of mental health professionals and some celebrated artists in my field, we are also planning a series of workshops designed to help both military and civilian victims of this affliction use photography in very creative ways as a means of dealing with PTSD. This is a regimen of therapy that has already shown much promise.
As to your involvement, there are some great rewards for you if you’d like to participate in this outreach by helping to defray the many costs involved not just in our recent Air Force photo shoot but in mounting our PR campaign as well as planning the workshops. We'll be grateful to all who join in. Meanwhile...
Thanks in advance for your interest, and best wishes to all,
Jim Cornfield, Charlene Adair Middleton, and the staff of the Ken Curry PTSD Project
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Defined:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Early Press Coverage:
Pilot relives ‘miracle’ flight on B-52
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE Sept 4th 2016:
A “huge” flash lit up the cockpit of the lumbering B-52D above North Vietnam, jostling the giant jet and turning a bombing run into survival for pilot commander Capt. Kenneth J. Curry and his crew.
The enemy surface-to-air missile exploded near the left wing on April 9, 1972, spraying the massive bomber with shrapnel and taking out two of eight engines.
“The first thing that happens for me is, am I still here?” he remembered thinking. “Second thing, after I acknowledged I’m still here and I’m the aircraft commander, (is to) fly the airplane.”
Curry, 71, of Loveland, Colo., returned to the war-damaged bomber once peppered with dozens of holes on a trip last week to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The airplane on that life-and-death mission fills the Southeast Asia War Gallery.
‘Absolutely a miracle’
“It’s chilling,” the former bomber pilot said. “It’s just very emotional. … Why we didn’t have a fire, why we didn’t have all kinds of trouble, it was absolutely a miracle. I have a great love for this airplane.”
Curry was at the museum with photojournalist Jim Cornfield of Malibu Canyon, Calif., for a photo shoot in an upcoming book focused on environmental portraiture, placing people in their jobs. “The whole idea of portraiture is you picture somebody who embraces their external reality,” said Cornfield, a childhood and lifelong friend of Curry’s.
Curry expected danger on the April 1972 mission to bomb a surface-to-air missile target. Fighters flew above a three-bomber formation and electronic countermeasures engaged as the B-52s dropped bombs on Vinh Airfield. With the bomb loads gone, the B-52s immediately began evasive maneuvers, turning left and right, and gaining and losing altitude to evade a missile hit.
“It was really a radical maneuver,” he said. “The timing was incredible because had my bank angle been greater when that missile went off with the proximity fuse, it could have blown the wing off and we would have had to bail out or gotten killed.”
Fuel ‘pouring out’
Curry and his crew would fly the damaged bomber to Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam. Dozens of holes were punched into the fuselage. Forty of the largest were four inches wide or larger.
“When we landed at Da Nang the fuel was just pouring out of this just like a faucet, multiple faucets,” he said under the shadow of the bomber.
“This airplane saved my life,” he said. “I don’t take the complete credit for it at all. It’s really partly the airplane’s doing. It came through when it was necessary and we survived. And we came very, very close.”
He and his crew were back in the air in another bomber within 36 hours.
“We went back to work right away,” he said. “My crew was OK. We were all pretty shook up, but we were all only one day off.”
Once the damaged jet was repaired months later, Curry and his crew would fly see the jet again.
“We went to the briefing and there it was (plane number) 665,” said Curry, a retired aviation executive.
A crewman who survived the missile strike balked at flying in the same bomber, telling Curry he was not going.
“I said, ‘What? You’re not going? What go you mean?’”
“Pilots are superstitious,” Curry said.
He remembers what he said to the crewman: “This airplane saved our lives, yours, mine and the rest of the crew. Let me tell you, we’re always going to be safe in that airplane after that. So you’re going on this mission and I’m not giving you a choice. Do you understand?”
The airman climbed aboard.
“There was a bit of trepidation, a bit of fear to say the least,” Curry said.
Curry said he was diagnosed in recent years with post-traumatic stress because of his combat experience in Vietnam.
“I was affected by my experience over there and I didn’t even realize it ‘til probably five, six years ago,” he said. “… It damages you. But I’m doing fine.”