Chief master sergeant, U.S. Air Force
Served from 1951 to 1984 as a B-29 gunner and in-flight refueler on KB-29, KC-97 and KC-135 tankers.
Memory: “Served 10 to 12 days a month on ground alert during the Cold War. We were mated to a B-52 targeted for Russia. The plan was for us to take off together. Several hours out, we would refuel the bomber, which had the authority to take all of our fuel if necessary. That meant we would have to bail out.
“During Vietnam, ground alert was interrupted with various (temporary duties), either ferrying aircraft to the war area, or refueling operations there. Providing aerial refueling for mass transit of fighter aircraft was always interesting. Formation was often at a California base, with the first stop Hawaii. Each tanker (KC-135) might be mated with two fighters (F-4).
“Every two hours or so, each F-4 would jump on the boom and top off, with the idea of having enough fuel to make a land base in case of malfunction, which seldom happened. Fighters and their tankers would take off together and remain in visual contact during the flight, which could last up to eight hours. (‘Mother hen and her chicks.')
“In 1964, my KC-135 crew ‘mothered' a U-2 spy plane to Vietnam. We did the required position reporting over water for both airplanes. We picked up the U-2 in Arizona and made stops in Hawaii and Guam. There were three U-2 pilots, and they would change off flying their airplane.
“It was an interesting trip and the first U-2 to make the trip to Vietnam. Our route was Hawaii, Guam, a Vietnam base, Clark Air Base in the Philippines and back to Hawaii. We did Guam, Vietnam, Clark and back to Hawaii, only stopping to refuel. Slept in flight as we could. In later years of my Air Force career, I flew on the Looking Glass at Offutt.”