In November 1967, I was sworn into the U S Air Force at Boston, Massachusetts
and was given a report date 6 - 7 days later at
Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas to begin my Air Force career. As I drove
through Ohio I saw signs for the newly established
Air Force Museum. I didn't have time to stop, but always intended to return
someday That someday turned out to be 2009 when I
accompanied Eva on a business trip to the vicinity and we visited
Wright-Patterson AFB where she had lived in the 70s when her
father was stationed there, and I finally saw the Air Force Museum.
Icarus - second man to fly, first to commit a "pilot error".
Eva's Dad "Doc" flew B-29s in Korea. This B-29 dropped the second atomic bomb on
Japan to end World War II.
The pilot, Major Charles Sweeney, ended up as a General in the Massachusetts Air
National Guard after the war
and was my fathers wing commander for a time.
Doc's all-time favorite plane was the B-47. He probably had most of his flying
hours in this machine in the early part
of his career and he probably had a lot of adventures in this airplane. It
required a skilled pilot with quick reactions and
the ability to anticipate the quirky airplane's next attempt to depart
Still wearing the SAC insignia.
Sitting on a pedestal above the fighter riff-raff. Was this design intentional?
The BUFF got the same treatment - up on a pedestal. I suspect it was not so much
to honor the royalty as it was
to conserve floor space by tucking the little guys under the wings.
Another plane that Doc flew was there. This 2-seat F-100 was a Misty FAC at Phu
Cat and had been flown by
a couple of jocks who went on to become Chief of Staff. Doc never forgave the
Air Force for sending him to
Vietnam in a fighter. He said he was the best bomber pilot in the Air Force, and
I sincerely believe that.
There's an old saying: "If you don't know who's the best pilot in the Air Force,
he ain't you."
Looks like if they don't move that hun, they're going to FOD the engines on the
Robin Olds had 4 MiG kills in Vietnam. It appears that 2 of them were done with
this F-4. (Then)Colonel Olds was
not popular with generals. American generals disliked him because he was a
North Vietnamese generals hated him because he and the 8th TFW Wolfpack cost
them a lot of planes and pilots.
An OV-10 Bronco like our Nail and Rustic FACs flew out of Nakhon Phanom and Ubon
Air Bases. The little plane is
very maneuverable, the centerline fuel tank extends the range and duration, the
4 rocket pods mark targets for fighter
aircraft. The black holes in the leading edge of the sponson above the rocket
pod show where .30 cal machine guns
can be fitted for strafing. The engines are turboprops. A compartment behind the
backseater can hold a litter patient
or a couple of equipped troops. Some of the OV-10s were equipped with laser
designators aimed by the backseater
to guide laser-guided-bombs dropped by fighters.
The OV-10 was equipped with a suite of radios that allowed the pilot to talk
with any aircraft or ground radio.
Without him as a go-between Army troops, particularly non-US forces, rarely
could talk directly to air support.
Intelligence supplied the FAC pilot with extensive information about the area he
would be patrolling and gave
him detailed maps and code books. Other aircraft would go to an area to deliver
bombs or bullets or to perform
a specific mission. The FACs were an extension of intelligence. Notice the
grease pencil annotations still written
all over the canopy on this aircraft. The FACs were collectors of intelligence
also. Other missions had their briefing
in a briefing room and their post-mission debriefing in an assembly line fill in
the blanks format. But the FACs briefed
one-on-one on the map covered desk of a specific intel officer and often were
given photos and information from
unusual sources. When they returned to base, they would debrief one-on-one again
at the desk of the specific officer.
Before the OV-10 there was the O-1 Birddog. (Called the L-19 by the U S Army).
This was my ride back in the
spring of 1970 when I was young and bulletproof. I was riding backseat in these
with a USAF FAC unit based
with the U S Army at Lai Khe.
We wore parachutes in this little thing, even though we were only a few thousand
feet in the air. The plane has one
door, on the right side, above the tire. Getting into the back seat is like
getting into the back seat of a 2-door compact
car. Getting in while wearing a parachute is not possible. I finally learned to
lean in and arrange the parachute on the
seat, then wiggle in and put it on. Fortunately, I never had to find out if I
could get out while wearing a parachute.
The A-1, I've written elsewhere about this magnificent machine and the heroes
that flew them. There are better
sites than mine, written by guys who actually flew them with excellent
information. But I had to get this photo in.
This is the A-1 that Major Bernie Fisher landed under fire, on a cratered and
debris covered enemy-held runway
at A-Shau to save a fellow pilot from certain death or captivity
More A-1 Info
Sorry these are a little blurred. You're not supposed to see the Black
Helicopters at all. This is an MH-53J.
They built these out of the HH-53s we had at NKP for pulling shot down survivors
out of the clutches of the
badguys. They had 3 electric .30 caliber gatling guns at the windows and the
ramp and they were escorted
by 4 A-1s using the callsign Sandy.
These were the Jolly Green Giants. They used to be painted up so they looked
like a greyhound bus pretending
to be a lizard. Now they're black, or gray, or rather gone, because they've been
retired after a long, hard, distinguished
life. The "bomb" shaped device above the window and below the engine intake is
the winch for lowering the
pararescueman, if necessary, and hauling the survivor(s) up to the helicopter.
The Pilot sits on the right hand side of helicopters because of the control
arrangements. He has his right hand on
a stick called a "cyclic" which controls the blade tilt and direction the
helicopter moves. His left hand is on a stick
called a collective which tilts all the blades at the same time and controls up
and down movement. His feet control
the speed of the tail rotor, and therefore the direction the nose faces. I'm
told it's a little more complicated than that,
but as with all things that one knows absolutely nothing about, how hard could
it really be?
The pointy thing on your left (below and slightly to the pilot's right) is the
refueling boom. HC-130s operate as
refuelers for the helicopters and trail a hose with a drogue (basket) on the end
of it. The helicopter pilot extends
his probe so it protrudes beyond the arc of his rotors and plugs into the drogue
to take on fuel.
It's a little tricky at night and bad weather, but any hero worth his salt can
do it on the first shot.
You can probably tell that I'm pleased to have worked with pilots for so many
I've learned a lot of things, some of which were healthy and valuable.
I've visited a lot of places, some of which I'll revisit when the statute of
limitations runs out.
I've learned that age and treachery beats youth and skill every time.
I've learned you cain't never have too much fuel, less'n you're on fire.
I finally got to see the Air Force Museum 42 years later, and
some of my own history was there.
Best of all, I married a pilot's daughter, and she's
wonderful. Thanks Doc.