Five outstanding Air Force communications pioneers are the newest members of the Communications and Information Hall of Fame. Lt. Gen. Michael Peterson, the Air Force Chief of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer, announced that the late Maj. Gen. Francis L. Ankenbrandt, the late Maj. Gen. John B. Bestic, retired Maj. Gen. Rupert H. Burris, retired Col. Derrel L. Dempsey, and retired Chief Master Sgt. William L. Bethea will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during a ceremony May 10 at Andrews AFB, Md.
Maj. Gen. Francis L. Ankenbrandt
Maj. Gen. Ankenbrandt graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1926, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps. One year later, he received his Master of Science degree from Yale University and reported for his first duty assignment at Fort Monmouth, N.J. His assignments over the next few years would prove to be pivotal in preparing America for World War II. At Wright Field, Ohio, from 1936 to 1938, General Ankenbrandt served as Air Navigations project officer in Aircraft Radio Labs. His work involved creation and testing of instrument landing systems, enabling pilots to land in blind flying conditions. He and his team also developed low frequency emergency transportable beacons, and truck- mounted mobile systems that enabled pilots to identify where they were at critical points in their flight paths. Later, his research enabled Army aircraft to communicate with Navy ships and submarines. As Director of Communications of the Army Air Forces Pacific, he organized the communications channel between Pacific aircraft to the Pentagon and Gen. Hap Arnold's conference room. It enabled General Arnold to receive a "bomb's away" message less than 18 minutes from the time the first bomb was dropped during the raid on Tokyo. He was the last Army Air Forces Air Communications Officer and the first Air Force Director of Communications, leading the transformation from AAF to USAF communications. He retired Nov. 30, 1956, and died Dec. 1, 1976. A proven innovator, his many achievements for the Air Force immortalized him as a communications pioneer.
Maj. Gen. John B. Bestic
Maj. Gen. Bestic was attending college at the University of Minnesota when he received an appointment to West Point in 1935. His first assignment was at Fort Lewis, Wash., where he was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, 91st Observation Squadron. For the first two years of World War II, the young signal officer was assigned to the Northwest Air District and 2nd Air Force until he became of member of the 5th Air Force in the Pacific theater in 1943. He moved with the 5th as U.S. and allied forces took New Guinea, the Philippines, Okinawa, and then Japan. After the war, General Bestic was at Air Force headquarters as chief of the communications division before becoming deputy director for communications-electronics, Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 1950, General Bestic began a seven-year tour as chief of Strategic Air Command's Communications-Electronics Division. He directed development of SAC's worldwide communications network. He was also the first to place computers in the SAC command post for command and control. The last 10 years of his Air Force career were as director of the National Military Command System, Defense Communications Agency. He played a major role in setting up the modern NMCS facility and its data processing and communications networks. He became commander of Electronic Systems Division in l967 and retired in August 1968. He worked as a consultant for the companies Autonetics, Douglas Aircraft, and TRW, and as vice president of MACRO Systems Association. He served as vice president of the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association. He died in December 1969.
Maj. Gen. Rupert H. Burris
Maj. Gen. Burris enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943. He served as a B-17 gunner/armorer, completing 30 combat missions over Germany and France before he turned 20. He was discharged in December 1946, but reenlisted three months later. He received his commission in 1948 and began his career in communications after attending the Aircraft Warning Officers Course at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. General Burris went overseas in 1954 to serve as ground electronics officer at Headquarters Far East Air Forces in Tokyo. In 1958, after a tour in Hawaii, his knowledge of radar technology was needed at Air Defense Command in Colorado. He served first as senior evaluation officer and later as chief of the radar evaluation branch in the Communications-Electronics directorate on Ent Air Force Base. In 1964, he moved to Wiesbaden, Germany, where he held key positions in the Headquarters European-African-Middle Eastern Communications Area. America's involvement in Vietnam was growing and General Burris was transferred there in 1967 as director of communications-electronics for the U.S. Air Force Advisory Group of Military Assistance Command Vietnam. He later served at Headquarters Pacific Communications Area at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; and then at ADC in Colorado before becoming commander of Air Force Communications Service's Southern Communications Area at Oklahoma City Air Force Station, and then commander of the Northern Communications Area at Griffiss. In 1975, he became AFCS' vice commander and then commander--the only non-rated officer to head an Air Force major command. He retired in October 1977 and was the first to receive the AFCS Order of the Sword. General Burris passed away on 13 July 2010.
Col. Derrel L. Dempsey
Col. Dempsey is a "living legend" in the air traffic control realm. His career began with his commissioning and training as an undergraduate pilot in 1954. He then trained at the air traffic control school at Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma City before serving as a radar approach control and control tower officer. The colonel has 30 years of aviation experience as chief of air traffic control, flight inspection pilot, and air traffic control staff officer at various assignments around the world. His major contributions include supervising the largest military air traffic control organization in the free world; pursuing wartime aircraft surge launch and recovery procedures doubling the capability to launch and recover fighter forces during wartime and contingencies; initiating a program to develop chemical warfare capabilities for air traffic controllers; and developing air traffic control enlisted and officer career development and training programs. During the Vietnam Conflict, Colonel Dempsey logged 1,000 combat-coded flying hours in the C-140A Jetstar. He would eventually earn pilot qualifications in 10 different Air Force aircraft. As chief of air traffic control and landing systems at AFCS from 1977 to 1979, he defended AF budgets of more than $200M to modernize tactical and fixed air traffic control and landing systems. In his final assignment as deputy chief of staff for Air Force Communication Command's Air Traffic Services, he deployed more than 642 combat-ready Air Force air traffic controllers to 75 Federal Aviation Administration facilities during the 1981 air traffic controller strike.He retired in 1984. For the next 10 years, he continued to work for the modernization of ATC systems as a contractor in civilian companies. His prestige in the ATC community resulted in the renaming of the Air Force's annual Air Traffic Control Manager (officer) of the year award in his honor in 1995--Colonel Derrel L. Dempsey Officer of the Year Award.
Chief Master Sgt. William L. Bethea
Chief Master Sgt. Bethea is the second enlisted person to be inducted. He entered the Air Force in 1951 and after basic training, attended Teletype and Crypto Maintenance School at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo. His first assignment was at the 1932nd Communications Squadron in Labrador, where he worked for fellow Hall of Fame member, Maj. Gen. Paul Stoney.After a tour in Europe from 1954 through 1955, he was assigned to the 2049th Communications Group, McClellan AFB, Calif., and worked on the first online link encryption device. In 1958 he became one of the first secure voice technicians assigned to the Pentagon and was selected to establish the first Air Force Communications/Information Maintenance work center supporting the National Military Command Center. He moved to Germany four years later to the 1946th Communications Squadron, then back to the Pentagon for almost another four years as a special projects NCO. In 1968, he was sent to Korea to install a secure voice network at all bases there after the USS Pueblo was attacked by North Korean forces. He and his team had the net up and running in 60 days. Master Sgt. Bethea then spent a year at Phan Rang AB, Vietnam, serving as superintendent of maintenance (chief master sergeant position), disaster preparedness NCO, and crypto maintenance supervisor in a combat environment. After a final Pentagon tour, his last assignment brought him to the Headquarters Defense Communications Agency as superintendent of the facilities control branch. He managed the performance of around the clock technical control, crypto, radio, wire, and audio/video support for the DCA. Following retirement in 1978, he helped the Department of Energy implement national policy for communications security related programs at nuclear weapons complex production plants and laboratories. He was later named the project manager for the operation and maintenance of the Headquarters, Department of State diplomatic telecommunications network.