Army Aviation Hall of Fame 1989 Induction
Known as a soldier, respected as an officer, and revered as a warrior, General Molinelli's character, courage, and spirit embodied the attributes the Nation seeks in its military professionals. Rated in 1957, he began his association with aviation as the Armored Platoon Commander, 114th Aviation Company, amassing almost 1,000 combat hours. Nineteen years later, he served as the Army Aviation Officer, DA.
In between these tours, this Master Army Aviator accumulated, among many awards, the DFC/7 OLC, the Air Medal w/V Device/62 OLC, and the Purple Heart/1 OLC. AAAA's "Aviator of the Year" in 1970, he led his 2/17 choppers in 1971 into Laos in Operation LAMSON 719, taking on heavy Soviet-made tank concentrations, surface-to-air missiles, and ground fire, the first time helicopters faced a sophisticated threat in large numbers. LTC Molinelli coordinated the attacks and developed the tactics that ensured the survivability of his unit's aircraft and their crews. Flown back to testify before Congress, he made a straightforward, honest presentation and was able to establish continuing Congressional support for the Army's attack helicopter program.
In 1976, while in ODCSOPS, DA, he worked tirelessly to ensure that the Black Hawk and Apache programs, just underway, were pursued with vigor. He was instrumental in forming a Task Force to review the ARCSA III study, which greatly expanded the aviation force structure in the Army, and to secure DA approval for the study's recommended force structure changes. As Commander, 6th Air Cavalry Brigade in 1978, he pioneered in the new important area of AirLand Battle. Many of the officers, AWOs, and enlisted men trained by him have become today's leaders.
Always an avid spokesman for Army Aviation's potential, he served, successively, during 1981-83 as Military Assistant, Acting Deputy, and Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Tactical Warfare Programs). In 1983-84, while Army Aviation Officer, DA, he led the effort to field a new Aviation Force Structure, which put an Aviation Brigade in all Divisions and multiple Aviation Brigades and Groups at the Corps level. He was also instrumental in getting the LHX (Comanche) Program started, securing Army, DoD, and Congressional support for this important program.