Reading Dan McCorry's e-mail regarding his son’s color blindness situation at USAFA brought back some real vivid memories for me.
I too am partially color blind – but I was totally unaware until after my Academy physical exam. However, it seems as though that particular malady affects all of us differently "depending upon the whims, I mean needs, of the service."
In late May of 1971, two weeks before I was to report to Annapolis with my appointment to the US Naval Academy, I was called at my home in Frederick. MD and was instructed to report ASAP to the USNA medical Clinic "in order to complete some purely routine paperwork" so that they could finalize my USNA Class of 1975 entrance packet. It turned out that some of my medical test results were not in my USNA files. As a shock to me, (again, less that 2 weeks before my US Naval Academy reporting date, and after I had already turned down a USMA Class of 75 appointment and a scholarship to Georgia Tech) and having not known before that point that I had any color vision problem, I ended up failing all of the Navy's various color blindness tests. I then immediately had my appointment to USNA revoked.
Standing in front of a large model of a (I think it was a) Navy destroyer (all that I recall was that it was real big and grey) I was told by the USNA Clinic Director, a Navy Captain, that "because all of our ships in the US Navy have green lights along their starboard sides and red lights along their port sides, if I were in the Navy and color blind at night while on watch that I would not be able to distinguish as to whether a ship was coming or going..." Well, that was not very comforting news to me (especially since I knew that Roger Staubach was color blind, but that minor technicality was apparently overlooked for him by USNA...)
However, here comes the "destiny" part – I was then informed by the Master Chief at the USNA Clinic that there were recent changes and that our incoming USAFA Class of 1975 would be the very first class at USAFA to be allowed to admit a few select cadets, already knowing that they already were not medically qualified to become pilots – i.e., with previously disqualifying medical conditions, such as color blindness. (I had not even considered applying to USAFA as I had known that my eye sight was 20/40 and that I consequently had been told the year before that I "shouldn't even think about" an appointment to USAFA).
Thus, after returning home from the USNA Clinic "experience," I immediately sent telegrams to each of my congressmen and senators describing my new situation. Luckily for me, just a couple days before our 5 July 1971 report date, I did receive my USAFA appointment... Ironically (and possibly an omen of things to come), I then immediately flew out to C-Springs on the evening of 3 July and contracted a real bad case of food poisoning on the Continental flight (it was the shrimp pasta) and ended up spending much of that 4th of July getting my stomach pumped out as the "very first member of our Class of 1975" to use the USAFA Cadet Clinic... Thus, my "journey to USAFA" in 1971 started at the USNA Clinic and ended up two weeks later at the USAFA Clinic.
PS: Four years later, during our Firstie year when many of us were having our "USAF career choices" amended due to the "Academy female" issue, color blindness DID keep me out of "Missiles." It is just amazing how things can usually turn out for the better... (February 2009)