Paso Robles man fights to clear dad’s military record

December 21, 2010

For the last 38 years, a Paso Robles man has been fighting to clear the name of his father, a U.S. four-star Air Force general, who was stripped of two stars and relieved of his command for allegedly ordering a rogue 1972 bombing campaign against North Viet Nam. [LA Times]

Dennis LaVelle, a management specialist based in Paso Robles, has been attempting to clear the record of his father John D. LaVelle, known to his men as “Smiling Jack.”

With the general’s widow, 92-year-old Mary Jo Lavelle in precarious health after a hospital stay in Virginia this week, the family is pressing the Senate Armed Services Committee to act quickly on a petition to restore Lavelle’s rank and reputation while his widow is still alive.

The Obama White House backs the family, which has a new trove of Pentagon documents that their lawyer says prove Lavelle was following orders. And recently released Nixon White House tapes reveal that President Nixon regretted that Lavelle had been wrongly blamed and made “a goat,” or scapegoat.

However, supporters only have until the end of the current lame duck session of Congress to act — and that could come as early as Wednesday as lawmakers rush to get home before Christmas.

General LaVelle died in 1979, insisting all along that he did nothing wrong and that the bombings had been ordered by superiors.

“Time is running out,” said Dennis Lavelle, 56. “The facts speak for themselves.”

The younger LaVelle believes there’s more than enough evidence to exonerate his father. He pointed out that the Armed Services Committee has spent more time investigating the petition to clear the general’s name than it did when he was punished in 1972.

R. Jams Woolsey, a Clinton-era CIA head who was chief counsel to the Senate Armed Services Committee that punished Lavelle in 1972, said the new documents convinced him that Lavelle was wrongly accused.

In 2007, former Defense Secretary Laird wrote to Air Force Magazine that he had authorized Lavelle to apply rules of engagement “liberally.” Last year, the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records concluded that Lavelle had sufficient authorization for the raids and recommended he be restored to four-star rank.

The general’s most loyal supporter, his son said, has been his wife, who has never lost hope that his reputation would be restored in her lifetime.



  1. cmnsns says:

    Does anyone know if this was addressed before the holiday recess? I know they are fighting a ticking clock.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. Paperboys says:

    So reading the Times’ story, this guy was sending out air raids on SAM missile sites. I see nothing wrong with that and I don’t care which side of an imaginary line in the jungle the missile sites were on either. It was war and the NVA had no hesitation hiding behind civilians or crossing national borders to try and hide.
    This is a perfect example of why the U.S. will never win another war. We are unwilling to do what it takes to win a war — annihilate the enemy. That’s right, the only way to WIN a war is to completely destroy your enemy, that means civilians — women and children too — as well as an organized military.
    Our ventures into modern wars are handcuffed by ”rules of engagement” as we try to conduct a war in a humane manner.
    Give me a break, war and humane are opposite terms and you can’t wage war if you want to be humane about it. Frankly, our enemies laugh at us for handicapping our forces like this.
    The only way to win a war is to completely destroy your enemy. It’s not a pretty thought and not a very nice thing for civilized people to do, but that’s the ONLY way you will ever WIN a war.
    If the US is unwilling to go to these measures to win the current or future wars, then we should dismantle our military, close our overseas bases, and declare ourselves to be neutral like Switzerland.
    Let’s just keep enough soldiers in reserve to fend off an invasion of US soil or to help out in times of natural disasters, and let the rest of the world work out its own problems. To hell with them all.
    We could also keep the nukes up and ready and just tell every nation on earth that if you attack us, we will wipe you off the face of the earth with ICBMs. We’d only have to do it once to scare the hell out of the rest of them.
    Back to the story, I hope Congress restores the general’s rank and honor. It would be the just thing to do. And then wipe Kissinger and Nixon off the books, they were the real crooks in Vietnam.

    (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  3. south says:

    So many monkeys. Too many typewriters.

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  4. danika says:

    Ever notice you don’t hear those who served in the Korean War speak about their experiences there? My dad rarely mentioned it. He lost both legs and alot of sleep over that war. Bless you, Daddy.

    (6) 6 Total Votes - 6 up - 0 down
    • Cindy says:

      My dad served in WWII and he never talked about it either. He lost his eye and hearing in one ear and 50% hearing in the other. He never complained, not even when a company he really wanted to work for refused to hire him for insurance reasons. There was no disabilities act at that time. He passed away with Alzheimer’s and Dementia last year, sometimes he thought he was back in the war and had just been shot after he got sick, but he was always a proud American and proud of his service. I am proud of him too.

      (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
      • danika says:

        As well you should be, Cindy. God bless him for serving our country and our freedoms.

        (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  5. willie says:

    Nothing more need to be said.
    I was not in Vietnam, I lived the war through high school classmates and family members who were in the war and participants of headline slaughters of innocent civilians and corrected by these accused baby killers that it was done “Under Orders” (Or else Leavenworth!!!)

    (-5) 11 Total Votes - 3 up - 8 down
    • Maxfusion says:

      Back to the basement willie, mom’s home.

      (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down
    • slowtime says:

      So what’s your point there Willie? Are you some kind of war expert? Just wonderin’?

      (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
  6. Cindy says:

    Lets get on with it and clear John D. LaVelle, known to his men as “Smiling Jack.”. There were plenty of scapegoats during that era. Our boy’s went threw hell as did so many human beings.

    Merry Christmas and may the Senate Armed Services Committee send Dennis and his mother a long over due gift of human compassion.

    (6) 10 Total Votes - 8 up - 2 down
    • cheseburger says:

      In 1974 I was supposed to be inducted, all the cal poly students that surfed, told me don’t go, the ones who went didn’t come back, the one’s who went came back without a foot, anyway they all told me their orders were to kill them all and let god sort them out, on top of that colt got the military contract and the m16 was a piece of crap, alot of our guys took an Ak 47 from the bad guys (if there were any) because it was a better machine didn’t jam if it got dirty or didn’t jam period , this gun made then should and probably will be our weapon of our military soon , hell russia is broke and needs money probably warehousing billions of them, screw colt the same thing happened in Irac, guns jammed no armor on the humbees, our goverment has no problem telling you to walk across a mine feild, and the motto was, horrible, but they were all acting under CIA orders.

      “kill em all and let GOD sort em out” kinda messed up huh?

      (-6) 8 Total Votes - 1 up - 7 down
      • jev5010 says:

        What are you rambling about? The very beginning of your rant was pretty much on-topic, but then you saw butterflies and ended up somewhere in “Irac” with no armor on “humbees.” What has that got to do with the article?

        (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
      • south says:

        So many monkeys. Too many typwriters.

        (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down

Comments are closed.