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Fall 2017 The Magazine of the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc. â&#x20AC;¢ www.airforcemuseum.com
Featured Articles 14 Memories from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska 21 The 387th Bomb Group in WWII 32 From American Airman to Polish Infantryman
Vol. 40 No.3
From the Executive Director Every Saturday morning for the past twenty years I have had breakfast with a friend, a retired United States Air Force officer. Over the years we have made it our mission to try every restaurant, diner and café that serves breakfast in the Miami Valley region of Ohio, and we have eaten at most of them. A few Saturday’s back as we enjoyed our coffee, we tried to figure out how this commitment had begun. The funny thing is neither of us could remember; it had just happened. We enjoyed each other’s company, the excitement of trying out a new place, the inevitable critique of the meal and, of course, deciding where we should eat the following weekend. For me our Saturday morning meal has become a tradition, a custom I have handed down by inviting my children who join us whenever they are able. And the younger generation has left their own mark on the tradition—we now memorialize each event with a Snapchat snap. On September 8th I was honored to attend the celebration of the 70th birthday of the United States Air Force hosted by The Air Force Association, Wright Memorial Chapter and Team Wright-Patterson at the National Museum of the United States Air Force™. I witnessed the time-honored traditions surrounding the ceremonies, and the incredible sense of commitment, honor and pride in service. However, what struck me most was that I saw this exhibited by the civilians in attendance as well as by the active duty and veteran attendees. That commitment, honor and pride are integral parts of our history that are on display throughout the Museum in the exhibits and in the stories that surround them. And they are reflected in the very powerful connection to our history that every visitor experiences as they look at an exhibit or read a story. Because of your commitment to the mission of the Museum, we ensure that connective experience continues so that we honor the proud heritage of those who have served while also inspiring our youth write the next chapter. Thank you all for your unwavering support to ensure that General Hudson and his outstanding team are able to forge that bond between all who visit the Museum and the past, the present, and the future of the United States Air Force. That, after all, is our Foundation family’s tradition.
FRIENDS JOURNAL • Fall 2017
THE AIR FORCE MUSEUM FOUNDATION, INC. BOARD OF TRUSTEES Mr. Philip L. Soucy - Chairman Col (Ret) Susan E. Richardson - President Dr. Pamela A. Drew - Vice President Lt Gen (Ret) C.D. Moore II - Secretary Mr. Robert J. Suttman II, CFA - Treasurer Mr. John G. Brauneis Col (Ret) Mark N. Brown Dr. Thomas J. Burns, PhD Brig Gen (Ret) Paul R. Cooper Mr. Timothy O. Cornell, CIMA Mr. Roger D. Duke Ms. Frances A. Duntz Ms. Anita Emoff Mr. David C. Evans Col (Ret) Frederick D. Gregory Sr. Mr. Benjamin T. Guthrie Maj Gen (Ret) E. Ann Harrell Brig Gen (Ret) Allison Hickey Mr. James L. Jennings Dr. Thomas J. Lasley II CMSAF (Ret) Gerald R. Murray Gen (Ret) Gary L. North Gen (Ret) Charles T. Robertson Jr. Maj Gen (Ret) Frederick F. Roggero Maj Gen (Ret) Darryl A. Scott Mr. Scott J. Seymour Mr. Erik D. Smith Mr. Harry W. (Wes) Stowers Jr.
EMERITUS BOARD MEMBERS: Maj Gen (Ret) Charles S. Cooper III Mr. James F. Dicke II Mr. Charles J. Faruki Col (Ret) William S. Harrell Mr. Jon G. Hazelton Mr. Charles F. Kettering III Mr. Patrick L. McGohan Lt Gen (Ret) Richard V. Reynolds Mr. R. Daniel Sadlier Col (Ret) James B. Schepley
New signage at the National Museum of the USAF™
You make an impact You gave to our mission and helped upgrade the navigation system at the National Museum of the USAF® Navigation is extremely important, whether you are flying an aircraft or experiencing a museum. “With more than 360 aerospace vehicles on display amid more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space, navigating through the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force could sometimes prove to be a bit of a challenge for our visitors,” said Museum Director Lt. Gen. Jack Hudson USAF (Ret). “However, the new signage provides a roadmap that allows visitors to more efficiently and effectively find their way to their favorite exhibits and Museum amenities, and learn more about the Air Force story.” “Thanks to the generosity and support of Foundation members and museum visitors we are able to assist in the effort to improve the museum experience, and the new signage helps to better inform the public about all the museum has to offer,” added Mike Imhoff, Executive Director of the Foundation.
Thank you for helping to connect heroic stories with today’s visitors!
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D E PA R T M E N T S
8 A Day in the Life of RB47H Tail Number 53-4299 I stated loudly over the intercom “I’m taking the aircraft!”
21 Memories of St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, 1952-1954 Just as I was about to panic, I walked into the side of the white operations building at the second story level.
6 Editor’s Notes 7 Friends Feedback 28 Classic Aircraft of the NMUSAF Martin B-26G Marauder
10 Talk About a Bad Day I regained consciousness going almost straight down…
50 Upcoming events 70th art exhibit, Air Force Vapor Special Operations Supercar, Family Days, and the Memphis Belle™
12 Flight Nursing We fly for our brothers and sisters in arms who fight. 32 The 387th Bomb Group in World War II Cannon shells exploded in the cockpit of the aircraft on our right before it plunged out of formation.
54 Reunions 55 Artifact Spotlight
38 3389th Pilot Training Squadron One of my students on a solo flight crashed his T-28 near his girlfriend’s farm house. 42 An Adventurous Final Flight We were beginning to think that we were jinxed.
14 From American Airman to Polish Infantryman Guttural Germanic voices and laughter belied the Wehrmacht guards playing cards inside
44-49 Don’t miss these specials from the Museum Store. A perfect way to wrap up your holiday shopping!
Fall 2017 • FRIENDS JOURNAL
Due to the circumstances surrounding the summer issue of the Friends Journal I did not have an opportunity to properly introduce myself, so I wanted to take a few lines in this issue to give you an idea of who I am and why I was hired as the editor of the Friends Journal. I was born and raised in Cape Elizabeth, Maine with a view of the Atlantic Ocean from my bedroom window. In spite of my love of the ocean, I have always been an airplane buff – I can’t help but look up when I hear one. I hold a BA in Journalism and a MS in Mass Communication. My experience over my 30+ year career in media has included stints in print, radio, television and marketing. I’ve been an Air Force spouse for 20 years. I clearly remember the 50th birthday celebrations and the heritage it honored, a powerful welcome to a new AF family. Since then my wife’s career has taken us across the country and overseas and I have supported the military in general and the Air Force in particular at each base. I’ve been privileged to work as a DJ on AFN Okinawa, to organize blood drives for the Armed Services Blood Program and to act as a Phoenix and Key Spouse taking care of the families of deployed Airmen. My wife and I were honored to celebrate the 70th birthday in the National Museum of the United States Air Force. As far back as I can remember I’ve had an interest in the history and heritage of the United States military. I combined that interest with my journalism background during my graduate studies to look at several aspects of the military/press relationship during World War II, including the relationship between war correspondents and the military. Later I worked with the Fairchild Air Force Base historian to produce a video celebrating the history of Fairchild AFB and the 92nd ARW for an Air Force Ball while we were there. The Editor position with the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc., will enable me to continue my support of the Air Force using my professional skills while doing something I am passionate about. Now that you know a little about me, I look forward to hearing about you! If you are an AF veteran you probably have a story about your service and I’d love to help you share it. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an idea for a story you’d like to share with your fellow readers. For more information please see page 27.
Alan S. Armitage
FRIENDS JOURNAL • Fall 2017
Executive Director - Michael Imhoff Chief Development Officer - Col (Ret) Mona Vollmer Chief, Museum Store Operations - Melinda Lawrence Chief, Attractions Operations - Mary Bruggeman Marketing Director - Chuck Edmonson Membership Office: 1-877-258-3910 (toll free) or 937-656-9615
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE U.S. AIR FORCE
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Editor - Alan Armitage Graphic Design - Cheryl Prichard Editorial Assistants - Joe King, Robert Pinizzotto, Art Powell Friends Journal Office: 937-656-9622
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in the Friends Journal articles and Feedback letters are solely those of the authors in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc., the United States Air Force or any other entity or agency of the U.S. Government.
The Friends Journal is published quarterly by the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc., a Section 501(c)(3) private, non-profit organization dedicated to the expansion and improvement of the National Museum of the United States Air ForceTM and to the preservation of the history of the United States Air Force. The Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc. is not part of the Department of Defense or any of its components and it has no government status. Printed in the USA. USPS Standard “A” rate postage paid at Dayton, OH. Subscription to the Friends Journal is included in the annual membership of the Friends of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Friends Feedback Spring 2017 Centerspread brought back memories In March, 1956 I was assigned to the Field Maintenance Electric Shop on Castle Air Force Base, California. At that time or shortly thereafter the first B-52s were assigned to our base. I remember working on tail #0011. The B-52s were there for training purposes. I also remember that the KC-135 tankers were assigned to replace the KC-97 at Castle AFB. The first B-52s had exhaust turbine driven alternators, one in each wheel well.These were not successful as the turbines disintegrated and parts went through the upper fuel tank. We lost several B-52s that way. Later a constant speed drive was installed on each engine to power the alternators. A B-52 made a round-the-world flight in something like 45 hours while I was stationed there. The tail gunner was a friend of mine. He was the one man to fly around the world backwards. MSgt. Lester W. Hahn, USAF (Ret)
RAF Thurleigh A quick follow up to the Friends Feedback letter in the Spring 2017 Friends Journal regarding the RAF base in Thurleigh, England. RAF Thurleigh airfield became the first base in England to be handed over completely to the Americans, giving them full sovereignty and control of those few acres. Further, the 306th stayed longer than any other Eighth Air Force combat unit at a single base and longer in England than any other Eighth Air Force bomber or fighter unit. I note that in the spring of 2017 the runways are still there, but they are being used as a parking lot for autos and there also seems to be a road race course for sports cars as well. I am sorry that I didn’t realize the importance of the base during my time in England in the middle 1960’s assigned to the 6950th Security Wing at RAF Chicksands. I was assigned at RAF Chicksands in the winter of 1965 and stayed until the early part of 1968, when I was separated from active duty and assigned to reserve status. It was very much a small village after you came through the gate as it was in the English countryside. There was a train station located in both Bedford and Hitchin (about 10 miles away each) that had frequent trains to London. I spent as much of my off time as I could in the “Big Smoke” (they still burned coal for heat in the 1960’s) going to the live theatre, and traveling to special places like Stonehenge and Coventry Cathedral. One of the favorite stories that still plays a part in my life was the almost accidental notice of a handwritten note, in pencil, from a man who said: “If there is an Airman who would like to spend time with a British family for Christmas, ring the Chaplin.” That was Christmas 1965 and my wife and I still keep in touch with the family. Sgt. Jerry Hawkins
CASTLE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Retired Brig. Gen. William Eubank, the 93rd Bomb Wing commander, talks with Air Force officers on the flightline here after the first B-52 Stratofortress operational flight June 29, 1955. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Fall 2017 • FRIENDS JOURNAL
Memories of St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, 1952‑1954 As compiled by DANIEL
t. Lawrence Island is located approximately 165 miles southwest of Nome, Alaska. The island is of volcanic origin and is about 100 miles long and ten miles wide. In 1952, the 3rd Radio Squadron Mobile (RSM) of the USAF Security Service (now the TwentyFifth Air Force) established a detachment, Flight B, on the northeast cape of the island. The Alaskan Air Command also had a unit at this outpost, the 712th Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron. The base had a dirt runway about 3,000 feet long. Those of us who served on this island felt that we were on the edge of the world. Roughly 38 miles separates the island from Siberia. On June 22 1955, a Navy P2V-5 Neptune was attacked by Soviet MiGs and had to crash land on St. Lawrence. If the Cold War had really gotten “hot,” we probably would have had to fend for ourselves until things were settled. Needless to say, it was an experience living on St. Lawrence for a year, although I don’t think any of us lost any weight. We put away a lot of powdered eggs, milk and potatoes.We had a supply barge, Mona Lisa, that came in once a year to resupply us. We woke up a lot of big mosquitoes when we unloaded 55 gallon drums of fuel. Although we had a landing strip, sometimes we would go as long as three weeks between mail calls because of the weather. We did have nice warm quarters with two man rooms and innerspring mattresses to sleep on. Looking back on it, we realize that the Air Force does take care of its personnel. Upon leaving the island we had to get acclimated to civilian life. We were a little hesitant in crossing the streets while walking in Nome, and especially tentative driving a vehicle again. The Air Force presence on St. Lawrence ended about 1972. The base on St. Lawrence has recently undergone an environmental cleanup and dismantling operation.
For the last several years we have tried to locate the fellows that served in the 3rd RSM on St. Lawrence in the early 1950s. A few have taken the time to share some of their memories that relate to their time on St. Lawrence Island. Their stories follow: After leaving the Air Force Daniel Grimsley went to college and worked for 33 years with the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He is now retired and lives near Wilmington, North Carolina KEITH DODD’S STORY— LISTENING TO THE RUSSIANS I served with the USAF from February, 1949, to June, 1954. I was among the first class of enlisted Air Force to attend the Army Language School at Monterey, California. I think there were about 50 that started the Russian course. All washed out except for about a dozen of us. Some of us who graduated should have washed out, but they had to graduate somebody. The newly formed USAF Security Service was desperate for linguists, and I was one of the early assignees to the headquarters then located at Brooks Air Force Base (AFB) in San Antonio (moved to Kelly AFB in 1953). I think it was in July, 1950 that a classmate from Army Language School, Vincent V. Dean, and I along with two CW (Morse Code) operators were sent to Alaska for 45 days to see if we could hear anything Russian. The Headquarters of 3rd RSM was already in place at Elemendorf AFB. As far as I know there was no intercept activity being conducted at that time. We picked up a couple of Halicrafter receivers and lugged them to several different sites in the Nome/Marks AFB area. We flew to Nome and had a support crew to set up our antennas. After a month of C Rations, they sent us back to Brooks AFB. The colonel at the briefing was not real impressed Fall 2017 • FRIENDS JOURNAL
that the best Russian that we could hear was actually our Voice of America broadcasts. Back in San Antonio I was the envy of the barracks: I’d had a 45-day vacation in Alaska in the summertime. By November, after many briefings on what we were looking for, a larger crew of us was sent to Alaska to establish Detachment B, 3rd RSM at Nome. Shortly after we got Det B up and running, the commanding general of Dodd and teammates stuck in the ice in the Bering Sea on the way from Nome to St. Lawrence the Alaskan Air Command paid us a Keith Island in July of 1951. (Dodd) surprise visit. The guard wouldn’t let him in our operations room and the general sat and steamed in our latrine DAVE BUSH’S STORY—LESSONS while we got his clearance through 3rd RSM Headquarters IN RESPONSIBILITY AND JUDGMENT at Anchorage. Later the guard was commended, but it was I graduated from the Radio Intercept Operator Course at awkward for a while. Keesler AFB on June 4, 1953, and by the middle of July In July 1951, the powers that be felt we should try to get a I remember flying into Anchorage just after a volcanic little closer to the transmitters we were trying to copy. St. eruption and seeing black snow. We spent about a month Lawrence Island was the most logical place. (We already at Green Lake and then were transferred to Nome where had a sister detachment at Adak.) A crew from Anchorage we awaited assignment and transportation to St. Lawrence flew into Nome. They had a CW operator but no voice Island. operator so I got volunteered to go with them. There was While in Nome we met the grand dame of Nome, one no airstrip at NE Cape on the island at that time so a 60 Jennie Wylie, who owned a fur/gold trading post and a foot tugboat, the Kotzebue, was chartered to pull a barge hotel which had a good restaurant. Jennie, who was in her with us and assorted equipment to St. Lawrence. I don’t late 60s at the time, more or less adopted me and a couple know how long the trip was supposed to take, but it took of friends. She had a Chinese chef who could do magic the better part of five days to get there. We were stuck in with wild game. I’ll never forget the great caribou steaks a field of floating ice for three days and nights. The fog we ate there. came in and we weren’t the happiest of campers during that time. Fortunately the Bering Sea was at its calmest. After a couple of weeks in Nome, we caught a C-47 When the fog lifted on the third day we were buzzed to St. Lawrence. As I climbed off the plane, a fellow met by a Russian twin-engine plane. Later a bush pilot from me there and introduced himself. It turned out he was a Nome flying a Grumman Goose came in and radioed Radio Direction Finder (RDF) operator and he said it instructions on the best way out of the ice pack. (A bit of was a great job, working alone outside the main operations irony: Our call sign was “Catastrophe One.”) building, answerable only to himself. He, having taken a great liking to me, decided that perhaps I might be his I never was real sure what we accomplished at St.. replacement if I was so inclined. Being an independent Lawrence. After returning to Nome I was getting to be a type, I opined that it might just be the job I was looking short timer with plans to be married as soon as I made it for. It took me four months in isolation to find another back to Alabama. “sucker” to take that job. I was nearly stir-crazy by that time and learned first-hand what cabin fever meant. After leaving the Air Force Dodd went to college and seminary Dan Grimsley swears I was the guilty party behind a and served as an Army Chaplain for 16 years. In that capacity “Mayday” episode after I got out of RDF duty and on B he served in Korea,Vietnam, and 10 different states. He is now Shift operations. According to him, someone (allegedly a semi‑retired pastor in Boaz, Alabama. me) cut into the voice operator’s intercom and simulated
FRIENDS JOURNAL • Fall 2017
a Mayday call. Of course all hell broke loose. I just can’t imagine that I would be guilty of doing that. I do recall some other interesting incidents. One of my favorite recollections was the Sunday morning I was in the dayroom, sitting in the barber’s chair when an airman walked in and asked for a haircut. I threw the sheet on him and gave him a haircut that was something to behold. I charged him .50¢ and sent him on his way. I doubt he ever found out that I wasn’t the barber. I also remember the hard days and nights we spent on Mona Lisa, the barge that resupplied us once a year. We worked our tails off for a week either 12-on or 12-off at operations or the same unloading the barge and stacking boxes. Seemed to me that it was a lot of work to then have to spend the rest of the year eating powdered eggs, powdered milk—powdered everything. We learned quickly where the term “green eggs and ham” came from.
the first to volunteer. Six of us loaded the snowcat with supplies and, tying a long rope on to the front of the cat, we took turns searching out the next telephone pole in the long line leading to operations. When we would find a pole, we would signal the rest of the guys in the cat and the cat would follow the rope to the pole. The next guy would get out and repeat the process. All went well until we came to the last pole. As luck would have it, I was the next guy in line. If I remember correctly, the power lines went below the cyclone fence around operations. I went to the end of the rope, but no fence. Having made that trip a hundred times, I knew the fence was within reach of the rope. My next move was a major error in judgment. I laid the rope down and took two or three steps forward to find the fence. Alas, it was not to be found, and neither was the rope when I turned around and took three steps back to where I had left it.
I also remember the time that the alarm clock went off, I staggered out of bed, went to the mess hall, had breakfast and drove out to Operations in the Arctic darkness and relieved the operator on my position. He left immediately and returned to the base. It was 30 minutes later that I realized it was only 2 a.m. He had arranged to have my alarm changed after I was asleep. I caught him a few days later in the hall, sprayed him with water and threw him out the emergency exit in minus 30 degree weather. I can still hear the sound of his clothes freezing in those extreme temperatures.
The wind and snow were blowing so hard nothing could be seen. Not the snowcat, not the fence, not the rope, nothing. What to do? I made a decision. I just knew the fence could be found, so I turned and walked toward the Operations building. I don’t know how far I walked, but just as I was about to panic, I walked into the side of the white operations building at the second story level. Snowdrifts had piled up to the point they covered the fence! I banged on the window and was immediately pulled inside where I had to explain that there was a snowcat out there with five guys in it who had no idea where I was or where they were.
Probably the most memorable event at St. Lawrence was the week of the major arctic storm. The weather was so bad that the crew at Operations was unable to be relieved and after two or three days they were running out of supplies and heating oil. A relief party was organized, and of course being the pioneer that I am, I was one of
The operations officer formed the crew into a human chain. We anchored to the front door and swept an arc around the front of the building. We were fortunate that we found the snowcat, as it was moving away from the building headed toward the Arctic Ocean. Another ten feet and we would have missed it. Needless to say, after everyone was inside safe and sound, I received a thorough dressing down by the operations officer for letting go of the rope. I’ve often wondered what might have happened to that crew had we not found them in time. It was a lesson learned about individual responsibility and judgment.
Keith Dodd and crew setting up a base on St. Lawrence Island in 1951, before the base was constructed (Dodd)
Bush retired from the Air Force in 1976 after 24 years of service. During that time he served in Germany,Turkey, Greece, Pakistan, Italy and Vietnam as well as several posts in the States. After retirement he completed college and worked for the state of West Virginia for 22 years. He now resides in Scott Depot, West Virginia.
Fall 2017 • FRIENDS JOURNAL
RUDY J. DALPRA’S STORY— LIVING IN A SNOW COVERED QUONSET HUT I went to St. Lawrence Island in 1953 as a Russian linguist. On the way there I remember stopping in Nome where I met an old woman who ran the only saloon in Nome. She had pleasant recollections of the Russians while they were stationed there in WWII. “They loved a good time,” she recalled. (Good for her business no doubt.) After arriving on the island I learned that I had a roommate who played chess with someone in the States, meaning his chess board was a permanent fixture in our room. I lived under threat of imminent death if I tipped it over while the game was on. One day a group of us was on the shore of the Bering Sea. One of the guys lofted a rock at a baby seal, and knocked it out with a hit on the nose, whereupon we were all feeling bad about it, so we took the critter back to the base and took him to the shower room to revive him. Once it had regained its senses, we took him back to the water where his frantic mother was waiting to reclaim him. I was one of four volunteers who extended our tour on the island by two months to do some reception tests at Gambell, on the far west end of the Island. I remember we had an airman first class by the name of Wright, a guy named Morkin, me, and a radio antenna specialist whose name I’ve forgotten. We each had one advance in grade promised as a reward for our volunteer assignment. We lived in a canvas covered Quonset hut which was entirely buried in snow the entire time we were there. Most mornings we had to open the door inward, shovel the wind blown snow out of the entrance tunnel into the hut, then once we had made our way to the surface, shovel it back outside. A stenciled message on the hut covering said it had been treated for fungus, and was rated for up to 120 degrees and high humidity! Having grown up at the tail end of the Great Depression, when times were tough, most of us did not think the reprocessed food that we lived on for a year was all that bad. Of course, when the annual supply barge came in we lived high on hog for a few months. My recollection is that we all got along well on the island, even though we were a wide range of personalities from a wide range of backgrounds. I cannot remember a single dustup. After leaving the Air Force, Dalpra spent 20 years running a family weekly newspaper and print shop business in Crystal
FRIENDS JOURNAL • Fall 2017
Guide planes on the island.
Falls, Michigan. He then moved to Arizona where he was editor of the Eastern Arizona Courier and then manager of the county Chamber of Commerce. He retired from the print business and now resides in Safford, Arizona. EDWARD W. OLSON’S STORY—TURBULENCE ABOVE CURRY I arrived in Alaska in August 1953 just in time to take part in details while awaiting my clearance so I could perform as a radio intercept operator for the 3rd RSM. After several weeks of seemingly uninteresting activities, I decided to cut my tour of duty in Alaska in half by signing up for duty on St. Lawrence Island. I received my orders in early February, placing me on the manifest for flight number 5985. I never made it there. It was snowing heavily as 13 passengers and three members of the crew boarded the C-47 sitting on the apron of the runway at Elmendorf AFB shortly before noon on February 4, 1954. Three of us were from the 3rd RSM: Airman Eli LaDuke, Airman Huey T. Montgomery and me. On the inside of the door of the plane was the message, “Stop, take a look, Alaska has been rough on me.” Each of us was handed a parachute and told to put them on correctly as we might need them before the day was over. Little did we know how much that statement would mean to us before that day was over. After about an hour in the air we started experiencing heavy turbulence above Curry, Alaska, and the plane lost altitude on several occasions. The pilots were able to correct this each time except for one final down draft when the right engine appeared to explode while revving up. In doing so, it tore open the right side of the fuselage. The aging plane began to break into pieces as it plummeted downward spilling out cargo and passengers on the way. I blacked out for a few seconds, but the cold air rendered me conscious as I looked down on the fast approaching
mountain tops below. I pulled the D ring and my chute opened bobbing three times and tearing my glasses from my face as it carried me down the side of the mountain where I landed near a small tree. After removing the chute and rolling it up in a package I began climbing the side of the mountain hoping to run into other survivors and possibly the wreckage that I hoped would provide some degree of shelter. It was early afternoon, but was already starting to get dark as I made my way through the deep banks of snow on the mountainside. It was difficult for me to see without my glasses. Large boulders looked like people; after Left to Right: Huey T. Montgomery, Eli LaDuke, and Ed Olson inspect the remains of Olson’s running to them I experienced one parachute during a reunion of survivors of the C-47 plane crash mentioned in this article (Olson) disappointment after another. At one point I found a parka with blood around the collar, all zipped up but nobody filling it. The plane returned within a few hours and landed on a frozen lake. The pilot had a flight surgeon with him An hour or so had passed when I came upon Airman and they walked to us carrying snowshoes for us to wear. Rupert Pratt who was still dragging his chute behind Winter weather set back in, and our group sat out the him and walking around aimlessly in the deep snow. After night under a lean to we had constructed out of tree calming him down, I helped him out of his chute and limbs. In the morning the pilot flew the survivors out noticed he was bleeding profusely from a large wound one at a time to Curry, where we were taken to a small in his leg. We covered the wound and began climbing hotel for examination, food and rest. The next morning the mountain to where we thought we might find the we boarded a train for Anchorage and entered the Air wreckage. Force hospital. Unknown to the three of us in our group, three other survivors had been returned to Anchorage by As we climbed we began hearing someone’s voice below helicopter the night before. LaDuke and Montgomery us. We shouted to each other and within another hour were in that group of survivors.Ten persons were killed in we were joined by Airman Ed Fox who was in great pain the crash. None of the crew members was able to make it after a very hard landing. The three of us began climbing out of the cockpit. once again, but quit after passing the same boulder about three times. We covered ourselves with our parachutes as we huddled together in front of a large boulder. A pack of wolves approached us but kept their distance and never became a serious threat.
Most of the survivors escaped serious injury and were released from the hospital within a week. Pratt, who had suffered the deep laceration in his leg, was kept in the hospital for a longer period.
After some time under the chutes we noticed moisture forming as our warm breaths hit the cold nylon. We had heard a train whistle for some time and decided we would rather try to walk to the timberline than freeze to death sitting in the snow. We began our trek through snowdrifts as deep as twelve feet or more as we crossed between ravines.
LaDuke, Montgomery and I chose to stay at 3rd RSM Headquarters at Elemendorf for the rest of our tours of duty in Alaska.We all became members of the international Caterpillar Club for having our lives saved by a parachute.
We reached the timberline just about daylight, and as we were searching for firewood to start a fire, a Piper Super Cub soared above the tree line between mountain peaks. The pilot tipped his wings and disappeared over the horizon.
Edward Olson returned to Iowa in 1956 after finishing his Air Force enlistment in California. He later served his community as a newspaper editor, graphic artist, business owner, mayor and, in his retirement, a development director. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 75.
Fall 2017 • FRIENDS JOURNAL
MILAN DAVENPORT’S STORY —A TRIP BACK Sometime in early spring of 2003, our daughter, Rhonda, asked me if I had ever thought about going back to St. Lawrence Island. My reply was, “I suppose it has crossed my mind, but it’s really not high on my priority list.” She said, “I would like to take you there as a Father’s Day gift.” She said it would probably be in July or August, because she wanted to go in the summer. I said, “they don’t have one.” I remembered that much about it. During the process of her planning the trip, she found out that the base on the island closed in 1978 and a company with an office in Anchorage was at that time in the process of demolishing the old base and cleaning up the site. Rhonda talked with the foreman on the job and asked him if we could come out there for a couple of days. He really didn’t give her a lot of encouragement. However, about two weeks before we were to leave, the CEO of the company that was doing the work, Joe Terrell, called Rhonda. He told her that they didn’t want to interfere with our trip or diminish it in any way, but that they would sure like to be a part of it. He said, “We would like to help make this trip everything your dad would want it to be.” One of our sons, Quint, who lives in Phoenix, joined us on our arrival in Anchorage. The next morning we went to Joe Terrell’s office and met some very nice people. There were five of us: Quint; Rhonda; her two little girls, Katy Beth (age 9), Gracie (age 6); and me. We flew out of Anchorage late that day on our way to St. Lawrence, by way of Kotzebue and Nome. We spent that night and most of the next day in Nome. From Nome it’s about a 40 minute flight to Northeast Cape.We landed on the same runway we all were familiar with. It still has a gravel surface.The general superintendent of the company doing the work came out with us from Anchorage. He was a Texan named Derwood Johnson. The work camp was set up beside the runway. Everybody out there knew we were coming in and several met us as we deplaned. Two of them told us they were at our disposal for whatever we wished to do or see.They treated us like royalty. I swear, it was almost embarrassing. Most of the base was torn down by the time we got there.The radar site on the mountain was gone.The radio operations building was gone, except for the shell of one room. While walking around and through that room I was trying to figure out what part of the building it was. Then I saw a hole in the wall with a slot to the inside. I realized that what I was seeing was the crypto room. The
FRIENDS JOURNAL • Fall 2017
little RDF shack was no more.The same was true for all the different antenna systems. However, the building beside the runway was still intact. As a matter of fact, I saw some of the RDF equipment in there as well as a few radio sets and other odds and ends.
Neighbors on the Island.
Somewhere along the line, between 1954 and 1972, there were several additions to the base. A bowling alley was built, a recreation building added, the chow hall was enlarged and up dated, etc.There was a two or three story building erected, but I was unable to find out what its function was.They even had a gymnasium. All we had was a basketball goal outside and one at the motor pool. We built our own softball field. It had rocks in the outfield as big as your head, but we played on it as if it was Yankee Stadium. There was very little left by the time I got back out there. As I stood looking over what was left, I tried to reconstruct in my mind the way it once was. As I gazed across the tundra and the two or three roads we all walked many times, and scanned the steep, rocky slopes of the mountains we climbed (because there was nothing else to do), 49-year-old memories flooded my mind. I started remembering the names of guys I thought I’d long forgotten. I remembered the comradeship we shared when we were young. For a little while I was not an old man who had gone back to a place he had been before. I had gone back in time (if in mind only), and I was young again. It was indeed a trip of a lifetime. Especially since my daughter, a son and two granddaughters were along to see where the old man spent some time when he was still good looking. Most of us who served there cursed the day we first saw the place and spent a lot of time wishing we were home or at least somewhere except at Northeast Cape. There’s nothing there now that even hints at the existence of a military installation where young men served their country. After Davenport’s enlistment was up, he went back to college, coached high school basketball for a few years, and then took up flying commercially. He has logged over 23,000 hours in the air and is still a licensed commercial pilot. He resides in Guntersville, Alabama.
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