The USAF’s first decade

U-2 in Panama, 1966

Men of the 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (SRW) on deployment to Albrook AFB, Panama Canal Zone, pose for a group photo before heading home. The reason for their trip to Albrook was classified: they were monitoring French nuclear tests in the South Pacific. When this photo was taken in ’66, the 100th SRW was new to the “spy plane” world – they had just gained the mission, personnel, and aircraft of the deactivated 4080th SRW (the men are wearing that patch, not the 100th).

Thunderjets and Streaks

“Miss Bombshell of the 65th”

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The lucky dogs of the 65th Bomb Squadron pose with the individual they have ascertained to best represent the unit’s interests, Miss Myrna Dell. The date is July 21, 1950, the place, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, the aircraft, a Boeing B-50. When not fulfilling her role as “Miss Bombshell”, Myrna Dell was a regular in Hollywood films of the era (she once co-starred with Ronald Reagan).

This week in aviation history: “Operation Power Flite” in 1957 – 45 hours and 19 minutes around the world

KC-135A, circa 1957

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This is one of the early bird KC-135s – the 15th one built, to be exact – and the paint scheme reflects this (the almost obligatory 1950s day-glo orange). This particular tanker, 55-3132, had a long life but not one that involved much aerial refueling. Like many of the early 135s, it was converted into a test bed and spent the majority of its career as an airborne electronic warfare labatory. Last I checked, the aircraft is on display at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. Note: I purposely did not crop this slide. Sometimes its nice to remind folks that not everything was created as a digital image. The word “Kodachrome” should always remain part of an aviation buff’s lexicon.

Airshow time, circa 1979

There was something for everybody at this open house back around 1979: Phantoms, Voodoo, Thunderchief, Vulcan, and the USAF Thunderbirds in their T-38s. Not 100 percent certain of the location, but I believe it is Whiteman AFB, MO. The photographer was not using the best of equipment, but I’m glad he took the pictures.

Jets (and props) of the 1940s

337th Fighter Interceptor Squadron

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The location of this photo is Taoyuan Air Base, Taiwan, where the 337th was deployed in response to the Quemoy Crisis in late 1958. Such deployments were unusual for an Air Defense Command unit but the F-104 Starfighters of the 337th were ready.

Arriving in October of ’58, the 337th relieved the 83rd FIS who departed sans F-104s so the 337th would have something to fly – The 83rd had disassembled their Starfighters in order to have them airlifted to Taiwan and the Air Force saw no sense in requiring the 337th to do the same thing to theirs. The 337th was at Taoyuan less than two months before they were ordered back to their home of Westover AFB, Mass. (It was now their turn to disassemble some Starfighters.)

Several noteworthy aspects to this photo: Sitting at center on his “throne”, and holding a big cigar (the smoking of which he was quite fond of), is squadron commander Major James Jabara, Korean War ace extraordinaire. 

It is also of note that in this photo there are about half a dozen patches worn that are from squadrons other than the 337th. The 49th FIS, 56th, 331st, etc.; most likely new guys who did not get their 337th patches sewn on before the deployment.

PS. I wonder whose job it was to organize the water buffalos seen on each end of the picture?

Tales the flightsuits tell

Air Force One and the Skyranger

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Two aircraft that one does not often see in the same photo would be the VC-137 and the Commonwealth Skyranger. Taken at the Renton Airport/Boeing plant in the summer of 1962, VC-137, “SAM 2600”, is undergoing finishing touches before it is delivered to the Air Force for the use of President Kennedy. This photo illustrates the classic adage of “I seen ’em come, I seen ’em go” by virtue of the fact that while SAM 2600 is now retired to the Air Force Museum, the Skyranger (N90682, built in 1946) is still registered and flying today. Really, about the only thing that shows this photo was not taken in recent times are the vintage automobiles.

George AFB in the early 50s

Johnson Air Base, Japan, early 1950s

The Skyraider

Flown by 56th Special Operations Wing at Nakhon Phanom Air Base, Thailand, this Skyraider (52-139598) had its picture taken while on display at nearby Korat Air Base in 1970. Unfortunately, time was running out for 598: On 24 December of that same year, the aircraft was lost while escorting rescue helicopters deep into hostile country. The pilot, Major Albro L. Lundy, was killed, his body being recovered and identified decades later. R.I.P.

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A 4th of July salute to a great American – General Curtis E. LeMay

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On Independence day, it is well to remember those who have ensured that such liberty endures. One such man is the immortal General Curtis E. LeMay. General LeMay will be long remembered for his revolutionary concepts on airpower strategy and doctrine. As the absolute boss of Strategic Air Command, he put those theories to the test. He was always willing to find out what worked, or did not. Furthermore, from the B-29 to the SR-71, LeMay always knew a good aircraft when he saw one.

In his day, LeMay’s personality and strong beliefs caused him to be a terror in the minds of many. While he was incredibly firm, he was also incredibly fair. He knew what he wanted, and in case one did not know what that was, he would tell you in no uncertain terms. Intimidating though he was to those in the 1950s & 60s, in today’s juvenile-minded political & societal environment he would cause many of his fellow Americans to wet their pants. That being their sole means of expressing their inability to argue with the man.


 

B-36, 92nd Bomb Wing

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44-92060 had, by today’s standards, a brief life. Delivered in 1949, and assigned to the 92nd Bomb Wing at Fairchild AFB in 1951, it did its part for five years until it was scrapped in 1956. Made for a lot of pots and pans.


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The patch of the 92nd during the B-36 days at Fairchild. B-52s arrived in 1957, and, alas, this patch design was done away with.

Shooting Stars

84th Bomb Squadron (Tactical)

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With its tail number of 47-084, this B-45A was a natural choice for assignment to Langley AFB’s 47th Bomb Group, 84th Bomb Squadron. The unit later moved to RAF Sculthorpe in the UK.

The B-45 was, of course, America’s first jet bomber, and like many of those early jets it had a checkered career (of the 143 B-45s built, almost one-third of them were destroyed in crashes and other mishaps). There are very few survivors, and 47-084 is not one of them: it ended its days in 1958 at Ramstein Air Base as an instructional airframe for training firemen.  In other words, a charred and smashed wreck.

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Insignia of the 84th

Junior Birdmen of 1959

These shots were taken at Graham Air Base, Florida, in the latter half of 1959. The aircraft are the T-34 and, of course, the then new T-37 “Tweet”. Graham was an air force training base, but was operated primarily by civilian contractors and not air force personnel. As such, it did not carry the title “Air Force Base”. By 1959, the era of civilian operated training schools was coming to a close, and Graham Air Base closed the following year.

The VC-137A & B

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58-6960 sports the VC-137’s original markings on an early test flight prior to its delivery to the USAF.

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58-6970 cruises the skies of Western Washington in the late 50s. It is now at the Museum of Flight in Seatle.

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62-6000 undergoes final checks prior to delivery.

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62-6000 takes to the skies.

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62-6000 is, of course, the most famous of the Air Force Ones. It was this aircraft President Kennedy flew to Dallas in 1963. The plane is now at the Air Force Museum.

F-102 Delta Daggers!

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F-102A on a visit to Paine AFB, WA, circa 1959. Stationed just down the road at McChord AFB, 56-0972 bears the rather simple yet satisfying markings of the 317th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS).


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Another 317th FIS bird (56-0958) poses with a predecessor, a replica Spad.


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Early F-102A of the 327th FIS.


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Another early bird, 53-1817 of the Air Proving Ground Command, 1956. This aircraft was withdrawn from service in 1962 and was then displayed for decades at Lackland AFB, Tx. It is now on exhibit with the Florida Air National Guard, Jacksonville, Fl.


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The Washington Air National Guard’s 116th FIS flew the F-102 for only 3 years, 1966-69. This aircraft, 56-0985, is currently on display at McEntire Air National Guard Base, SC.


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Speaking of South Carolina, here are a brace of 102’s from that state’s 157th FIS, 57-0859 and 57-0818.