2017 Spring Friends Journal Sampler

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Spring 2017 The Magazine of the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc. • www.airforcemuseum.com

Legacy Data Plate Wall of Honor Tribute Ceremony May 25, 2017 11 a.m. Ceremony just outside the Museum’s main entrance In the event of inclement weather, ceremony will be held inside, in the Carney Auditorium. For more information, call 937-656-9610

Dayton Ohio Giant Scalers (D.O.G.S.) Radio-Controlled Model Aircraft Show Friday-Sunday, Sept 1-3, 2017 9am to 5pm daily

Featured Articles My Miracle Day These events are made possible by the generous contributions of the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc.


Flying the Mukden Gauntlet: Covert RB-45 Flights against China The Early Days of the “G Suit”

The Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc. is a Section 501(c)(3) private, non-profit organization. It is not part of the Department of Defense or any of its components, and it has no government status.


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Vol. 40 No.1


From the Executive Director

It started with the simple, bold stroke of a pen. Almost seventy years ago, on July 26, 1947, President Harry S. Truman picked up a pen to sign the National Security Act while aboard the Douglas VC-54C Sacred Cow. (Both the pen and aircraft are proudly on display in the William E. Boeing Presidential Gallery of the fourth building). By signing this act into law, President Truman officially established the United States Air Force as a separate and co-equal branch of the United States Armed Forces. That bold stroke of a pen put into motion Congressional intent to provide for the future security of the United States by building an efficient team of land, naval, and air forces. And from the moment of its birth as an independent service, the U.S. Air Force quickly began to create its own history and heritage. I wondered, if he were alive today, what would President Truman say after having toured the National Museum of the United States Air Force? Would he stand on the overlook of the fourth building, arms resting on the railing, and appreciate the hard work of so many; the commitment to heritage, innovation, and team that has propelled our Air Force to incredible heights? At some point, someone would rightly remind him that without his commitment, none of what was majestically in front of him would exist. He would no doubt quickly reply, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Lt Gen (Ret) Jack Hudson and his amazing team have positioned the Museum for success but are not resting on their laurels as they continue the mission to connect our nation’s citizens to their Air Force, and to educate and inspire the next generation. And you will be there to help fund their mission. You’re a lot like President Truman. You make a difference and positively impact future generations. When you renew your annual membership or give to an appeal, you honor the sacrifices made by those that served, and you ensure that their stories are remembered and shared. And it starts with the simple, bold stroke of your pen. With Respect,

Mike Imhoff

Mr. Philip L. Soucy - Chairman Col (Ret) Susan E. Richardson - President Col (Ret) James B. Schepley - 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 Dr. Pamela A. Drew 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 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.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE U.S. AIR FORCE Lt Gen (Ret) J. L. Hudson, Director Krista Strider, Deputy Director/Senior Curator


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

Friends Journal

Editor - Peggy Coale Graphic Design - Mark A. Riley Editorial Assistants - Joe King, Robert Pinizzotto, Art Powell Friends Journal Office: 937-656-9622 Cover: Lockheed AC-130A at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo) The Friends Journal is published quarterly by the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the expansion and improvement of the National Museum of the United States Air Force and to the preservation of the history of the United States Air Force. Authors retain all rights to further publication or use. Author’s views expressed in the Friends Journal do not necessarily represent those of the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc. or those of the United States Air Force. 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. All materials are copyright 2017 and may not be reproduced without permission from the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc. Submission of material for publication and correspondence concerning contents should be addressed to The Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 1903, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433-1903, and marked in the corner of the envelope “ATTN: Editor.”

s e l u s s p e l a u C s p e a p C a EEssc cape A

s aircraft speeds for military aircraft were approaching the speed of sound in the 1950s, it was felt that a more protective system than just an ejection seat was needed to protect aircrews who had to abandon a fighter or bomber at supersonic speeds. One of the first aircraft to pioneer this concept was the B-58 Hustler. The B-58 capsule is mentioned in “A Requiem For Rocky” on page 14. The Museum has in its collection a B-58 escape capsule and an F-111A capsule that actually saved a crew’s life. Both capsules are displayed in the Cold War Gallery. When the B-58 Hustler entered service in 1961, the three crew members had typical ejection seats, but ejection from the Hustler at very high speed proved extremely dangerous.To improve aircrew survivability, the Stanley Aircraft Corp. developed an ejection capsule which was retrofitted into the aircraft in late 1962.It allowed aircrew to eject safely at twice the speed of sound and from as high as 70,000 feet. The capsule sealed the aircrew inside airtight clamshell doors, and air for the pressurized capsule came from the independent oxygen supply system. When activated, a harness system secured the occupant, and the clamshell doors closed. The occupant could either continue the ejection by firing the rocket motor or remain secure in the capsule until a lower altitude was reached, and a pressurized cabin was no longer needed. The pilot’s capsule also had the control stick and other controls needed to fly the aircraft to a lower altitude. After ejection, a parachute lowered the entire capsule to the ground, and shock absorbers eased the impact. If the capsule landed in water, manually operated flotation cells turned it into a life raft and provided stability.


A B-58 Hustler escape capsule.

This F-111A cockpit crew escape module on display in the Cold War Gallery is the first one ever used to save the lives of its occupants. On October. 19,1967, two General Dynamic contractor pilots flying F-111A serial number 63-9780 over Texas were required to eject using the module when the plane experienced complete hydraulic failure and became uncontrollable. Ejection was made at 28,000 feet and 280 knots air speed; the two occupants remained in the module as it parachuted to earth and were not injured. In contrast to the one-man escape capsule that was installed in the B-58, the complete cockpit section of the F-111 separated from the plane’s fuselage and was lowered safely to earth by parachute.

You make wheels turn. Your contributions help fund the Museum’s monthly Family Days that inspire children, like Ethan, to learn about gyroscopes and other STEM concepts.




Thank you for helping to create family traditions that educate and inspire. Friends Journal • Spring 2017




5 My Miracle Day Ken Curry

3 Editor’s Notes

4 Friends Feedback

10 Flying the Mukden Gauntlet: Covert RB-45 Flights Against China Sean M. Maloney, PhD

14 A Requiem for Rocky Tom Kelley

with Shamaine Pleczko

47 New Exhibits

48 Reunions

53 The Museum Store

Air Sampling of Nuclear Tests by WB-50D 18 Aircraft Col (Ret) Pat Hanavan

22 Cold War Living in a Trailer Court Lt Col (Ret) Roger Misgen 25 Fifty Years of the AC-130 Gunship Noel Oman

32 Revolutionary Aircraft in the Early Years

Gallery John B. King

35 The Early Days of the “G Suit” Col (Ret) Lawrence J. Powell

38 The Saga of the Comet

Steve Ananian

39 Teamwork Brought Them Home Robert M. Foose

42 USAF Helicopters & Nuclear Weapons David Delisio

44 Cleared for Duty Anthony Mastrocesare


Friends Journal • Spring 2017

Do You Have a Story for the Friends Journal? We love to hear from our Friends of their firsthand accounts of military service and combat. Our goal is to be able to present a variety of Air Force-related stories from all eras in which the U.S. Air Force or its predecessors played a role. We especially need stories from more recent conflicts, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you or someone you know has a personal experience you think our readers would find interesting, please consider submitting a story to us. Writers with all levels of experience are welcomed! Contact the editor at 937-656-9622 or foundation@ afmuseum.com with any questions you may have. The typical Friends Journal article is 3,000 words maximum and includes three to five photographs. Your photos will be returned. Submit manuscripts and photos to: Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc., Friends Journal Editor, 1100 Spaatz Street, P.O. Box 1903, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433. Or email it to foundation@afmuseum.com.



Dear Friends, This will be my last column to you as Friends Journal editor, as I recently made the difficult decision to step down from my position at the Foundation. Over the last five years it has been an honor and a joy to read your stories of Air Force service and to work with our talented art director, Mark Riley, to bring them to life on the pages of this magazine. I have been continually amazed by your passion for the Air Force and for the Museum devoted to preserving your stories. Clearly the history maintained at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force—in many cases the history which you have lived—is ever present in your minds and in your hearts. Which is why the stories you tell are so compelling to the imagination of those of us who merely read them. It was an honor to be part of the team that connects you to this history and to each other. I am committed to ensuring a smooth transition to the next editor, so I’ll be continuing in a support role to help develop stories for future issues. Which reminds me of how much I owe my predecessor, Joe King (as well as his former collaborator Dick Brice), for steadfastly lending an experienced hand at the editor’s desk as volunteers. I hope to be as gracious to the next lucky person to hold this job. Thanks are also due to the Foundation’s stalwart volunteers who shared their time and ideas with me, but especially to Bob Pinizzotto and Art Powell for proofreading each issue, and Charlie Cooper for his kind encouragement to me in the very beginning. The Wright-Patterson Officers’ Spouses’ Club tour guides are another group I owe much to. In my ten years of working with them to give Museum tours, they taught me much of what I know about aviation history and continued to encourage me in my role as editor. To the Friends Journal readers who took a moment to send a note or make a phone call, I learned from every compliment and critique. When you told me you read every issue “cover to cover,” it was a reminder that every story is worth taking the time to capture accurately in print and to savor. In this world of short attention spans, and communication that runs at the speed of a cell phone signal or the length of a tweet, that’s something you don’t hear every day. I have learned so much from all of you, but mostly this: There is truth to the saying, “A good day is a good day, but a bad day is a good story.” Thank you for sharing your Air Force stories, both good and bad. At the end of the day, it was all good.

Friends Journal • Spring 2017


Friends Feedback

I am sending something I wrote in May 1945 one day after Victory in Europe (VE) was declared, about 11:00 p.m. in the evening. I was a flying control officer with the 306th Bomb Group in the tower at Thurleigh, England. We were required to keep our usual watch even though the war in Europe was over the day before. Unless you were there, it would be hard to imagine the impact of the tensions of the previous years’ operations on everyone in our field.When victory in Europe was declared, there was a magnificent feeling of relaxation. Lt Col (Ret) William Carlile


fter VE day the main function of a flying control oficer basically came to an end—we were no longer called upon to help the “shot ups” come in for safe landing, nor were we needed to make sure the field was in top shape to get those overloaded B-17s off the ground safely and into what forever seemed like that bad UK weather.The sudden stop in activity was, to say the least, quite a change from the daily rat race. Let me share with you what happened to me on VE + 1, when I was the night duty officer in the tower.That evening was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen and felt.You could literally feel the beauty of the time.The late evening sunset seemed to linger on and on. The shadows quietly crossed over our base. Across the field from our tower were a couple of new shiny B-17s and the late sun shining through the woods reflected an orange glow on them. I was thankful that something as beautiful as a Fortress would no longer be used for war. Silence was all around—no radio noise, no engines being tested, no trucks rumbling by, just quiet. I remember seeing some birds playing in front of the tower. In all my days there, I never saw them. God seemed to be saying thanks that we mortals had finally stopped killing one another, and I think He was. Was I alone in these thoughts? No! I finally realized my radio operator was also standing and watching, and not a word passed between us—it wasn’t necessary.


The control tower at RAF Colerne. A B-17 Flying Fortress of the 306th Bomb Group is visible in the background. Image from www.americanairmuseum.com.


Friends Journal • Spring 2017

Lieutenant Carlile, somewhere in Bedord, England in 1944. Three hash marks on his left sleeve indicate 18 months overseas.

My Miracle Day Ken Curry

Last summer a double reunion of veterans took place at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Capt Ken Curry of Loveland, Colorado was reunited with his celebrated B-52D—a veteran in its own right—now on display in the Museum’s Southeast Asia Gallery. This same reunion also joined Curry with his lifelong friend and fellow USAF veteran, Jim Cornfield, now a respected Los Angeles commercial photographer and author. Friends since their boyhood in suburban Los Angeles, Cornfield and Curry entered Officer Training School together in 1968 and went off to different Air Force occupations during the Vietnam War; Curry in SAC as a command pilot, Cornfield to ATC as a squadron commander at two successive training bases. After leaving the service, Curry went on to a career in business aviation, Cornfield to photography and journalism. In Cornfield’s latest project, he pays tribute to Captain Curry, who piloted the Museum’s B-52 on its most celebrated mission, during which he and his crew faced every bomber pilot’s worst nightmare—being struck by a surface-to-air missile. What follows is Curry’s account of that mission on what he will always think of as his “miracle day.”


y experience in the United States Air Force was filled with hard work and many personal rewards. It began in 1968 when I graduated from Officer Training

School at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, and later when I completed undergraduate pilot training in Class 69-08 and received my wings at Williams AFB, Arizona. A few weeks before graduation, my pilot training class was given a block of available aircraft assignments. In training I found that I liked solo flying but was sure I would prefer flying with others. Sure enough, when my turn came I was offered the B-52 or the KC-135. I chose the B-52. My assignment was to be a B-52D copilot at March Air Force Base in California. The next steps included B-52 copilot and pilot training at Castle Air Force Base, California; Nuclear Weapons School at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas; and Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington. I finally was assigned to my first permanent duty station, reporting to March Air Force Base in November 1968. When I arrived at March and completed in-processing, I was assigned to an all-instructor crew as a copilot. This proved to be an important benefit for me. All our missions were training missions, and I was able to learn so much more than had I been on a regular crew. We were exposed to others being trained on the various positions in the aircraft. This was during the Cold War, so we also began to be on the Alert schedule every other week of the month. Alert duty ran from 8:00 a.m. on Thursday until 8:00 a.m. the following Thursday. During this time we lived in the Alert shack at the end of the runway. This also required us to brief the Emergency War Order Mission and qualify with the wing commander before assuming Alert duty.


In the spring of 1970, my crew was notified that we would be going TDY to Southeast Asia. We departed in early June and returned in late September.We flew 42 missions in that time and operated out of Guam, Okinawa, and U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, Thailand.

Captain Ken Curry (far right) and his B-52 crew in 1972. The entire crew was awarded the Distinquished Flying Cross for the April 9, 1972 mission.

Friends Journal • Spring 2017


My Miracle Day

Shortly thereafter I was promoted to captain, and my crew received orders for Southeast Asia. Our orders were to depart March AFB on January 2, 1972 and ferry a B-52 to Guam. My navigator asked me if he could navigate to Guam using only celestial navigation. I agreed to his request, and we proceeded to Guam with one refueling off the coast of Northern California. We arrived safely at Guam and were only one mile off course after about 12 hours of flying. We began flying bombing missions in three-ship formations to the war NMUSAF zone. Out of Guam our missions were about 23 to 24 hours in B-52 being refueled on a mission from Guam to Vietnam during the Southeast Asia War. duration, with the airborne portion about 12 hours in length. We would fly five of those Upon returning to March AFB, I was notified that each cycle, with one day off, and repeat the cycle. We some of my crew would be leaving to move to other then received orders to relocate to U-Tapao, Thailand in bases. My crew was disbanded and I was invited to March 1972 and started flying bombing missions. These join a standardization/evaluation crew and become an missions were only about eight hours in length. The instructor copilot. The crew I would be joining would takeoff schedule would move forward four hours each be a select crew who functioned as flight examiners. I day and go around the clock. was honored to be selected for this role. At the beginning of 1971, my aircraft commander told me that his goal for the year ahead was to have me qualify as an aircraft commander. I was very excited to do that and told him I would work hard to achieve that goal. On my aircraft commander check ride, I experienced an emergency which in some respects prepared me for future emergency encounters I would experience the following year. After takeoff we were to climb to an altitude for refueling. The boom operator on the KC135 tanker was also having a check ride. As I approached the pre-contact position behind the tanker, I stabilized my approach. The boom operator cleared me to the contact position, and I slowly moved forward. Normally as you moved forward, the boom would be lifted up out of the way of the approaching nose. For some strange reason, the boom never lifted and was extended by the operator to strike the center cockpit window, causing the outer pane to shatter. I had to perform an emergency breakaway maneuver by calling the breakaway over the radio and descending. This effectively ended my check ride, but I certainly learned how to respond to such an inflight emergency. The following week I was able to complete my aircraft commander check ride, then I officially became a B-52 aircraft commander in November while still a first lieutenant. 6

Friends Journal • Spring 2017

All the crews who would soon be flying high-threat missions over North Vietnam were given a preliminary briefing as a group. This briefing informed us of the protection that would be provided for us, which included fighter aircraft above us and electronic countermeasure aircraft below us. It was made clear to us that we could expect surface-to-missiles (SAMs) to be fired at us. Our targets would be these missile sites and surrounding troop concentrations. On April 9, 1972 we went to the briefing room at about midnight for our mission. We were assigned B-52D, serial number 56-665, and we took off around 2:00 a.m. as the number two aircraft in Aqua flight, heading for Vinh, North Vietnam. At approximately 6:15 a.m., when we approached the initial point for the bomb run, the acquisition radar activity became intense. As we proceeded, our flight dropped our bombs on the target and immediately afterward began evasive maneuvers. I began by rolling into a 45-degree bank to the right to 30 degrees off the primary heading, while simultaneously climbing and then descending 1,000 feet above and below our base altitude. We were to continue this maneuver independently until the threats ceased. Our flight leader had gone to the left and I went right, as we were all visually seeing missiles in the air and by plan were now

My Miracle Day

not remaining in a normal formation. My electronic warfare officer called out a possible “lock-on” as we were starting our turn back to the left. Concurrently we were seeing several missiles fly close by us. I had started to climb and had just passed our base altitude as I was turning back to the right in a 30-degree bank, when a bright flash and huge explosion severely jolted our aircraft. My first thought, as our cockpit filled with fog and dust, due to the rapid decompression, was Am I still here? My very next thought was Are we still flying? The quick answer was yes, and I reminded myself to continue flying the airplane. Next I went to “Guard” frequency and transmitted “MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY. Aqua 2 is hit.” Then transmitted it again as I began to keep turning right to take us over water. If we had to bail out, I knew it would be much better for all of us to be over water. Next on my list was a crew check, which was the expected procedure for any emergency. The gunner checked in “OK”—holes in his compartment, but no injuries. My radar navigator also reported no injuries but a fuel leak causing him and the navigator to be soaked in fuel. I instructed him to shut down all equipment. My electronic warfare officer reported that he now had a window he could see out of that was not there before, but no injuries. Lastly my copilot and I reported no injuries. I then called for a crew check again, just to assure myself that everyone was okay. My copilot and I began to quickly assess our fuel situation and our engines.We had no fire indication on any of the engines, but number 2 looked hot so we shut it down; number 3 looked weak but was still running. Once over the water I turned to the south and we decided that Da Nang, South Vietnam was the closest airfield and would

be our destination. As we were descending and trying to diagnose the status of damage, our airspeed got quite high. I believe this was a blessing in disguise because this most likely prevented any fire on the aircraft. Also we had lost most of our fuel indications, including our totalizer. Next Aqua 3 came up on Guard frequency and said “Aqua 2 this is Aqua 3. I am catching up to you and when I get closer I will take a look and see how your aircraft looks.” I thanked him and said I would await his observation. It was quiet for a minute or two, and then he said “Oh, shit! Part of your left drop tank is gone and fuel is leaking out all over.” I thanked him again and he said he was heading back to U-Tapao. As we continued our descent, I then contacted Da Nang Tower on Guard to report an emergency and ask for landing instructions. He responded, “Roger Aqua 2, you are number six emergency for landing at Da Nang.” At about the same time, we went into the clouds and went on instruments (IFR). When we got on the downwind leg, the tower contacted us to advise us of an extended downwind leg due to the other emergency traffic ahead of us. As we flew along in the weather, I began to assess what I would do in various scenarios: if we ran out of fuel, if the gear wouldn’t come down, if the tires were blown, if the flaps wouldn’t come down, or if the drag chute would not deploy. It seemed like an eternity until the tower finally turned us to the base leg and then we turned final. Just before we began our final descent, the tower came back on Guard and said, “All aircraft on final approach for Da Nang, be advised we have small arms fire on short final.” I thought to myself, What next?


B-52 dropping bombs over Vietnam during the war in Southeast Asia.

We broke out of the clouds at about 1,800 feet and saw that beautiful runway in the rising sun. It was wet but was a beautiful sight with the ocean just beyond. I was a little hot coming across the fence and we bounced very slightly when we touched down. As we were rolling out, I told the copilot to see where we could park. Just as he was responding to tell me the taxiways were all too narrow, the deputy commander of Operations (DCO) came over Guard and said,“Pull onto the apron and shut that thing down immediately!” Then I saw the fire trucks off to the right and the DCO staff car on my left. We shut the engines down, and I told the crew to abandon the aircraft. I took a deep breath and just sat there,

Friends Journal • Spring 2017


My Miracle Day

They flew it back at 10,000 feet with the gear and flaps down. It sat at U-Tapao under repair until September when it was put back into service. In early September I was approached by an Airman from the ejection seat shop. He said he had repaired my ejection seat on the airplane and found that all the connections under the seat had been severed by the shrapnel. He said the ejection seat would not have been able to function at all. This would have required me to do a manual bailout. The NMUSAF flight manual bailout procedure in the B-52 required that you go Boeing B-52D serial number 56-665 on display in the Museum’s Southeast Asia War Gallery. downstairs to the radar navigator This is the aircraft that Ken Curry flew on his hair-raising mission in 1972. and navigator positions after they had ejected and do a downward feeling so thankful we had survived and were all safe. As tuck and roll out, with your parachute on your back.The I exited the airplane, I looked across the apron and saw warning in the manual stated that you might bounce my crew and the DCO standing there looking back at off the bottom of the fuselage after you exited. It didn’t the airplane. When I got to them and turned to look sound good. back, I could not believe the amount of fuel pouring out from under the fuselage. Then the fire trucks began to We had many other challenging experiences during that hose down the fuel and a bus arrived to take us to the year. Two times we had aircraft malfunctions where we 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron for a beer, breakfast, and had to return to Guam without continuing to Vietnam. some rest. The first time we landed after burning off fuel with bombs still on board.The second time we were instructed A KC-135 was sent over to pick us up at about 4:00 to jettison our bombs over the ocean after burning off p.m. and take us back to U-Tapao. We decided to have fuel. Another time we were given a takeoff temperature dinner when we got back and then headed back to our that was 10 degrees lower than the actual temperature. quarters. It was around 9:30 p.m. when I heard a knock This caused us to barely climb above rising terrain after on my door. An Airman said the wing commander takeoff at U-Tapao. This was equally as traumatic as wanted to see me in his office. I got dressed and went the missile hit. I filed an incident report and we were over to headquarters. As I sat down in front of his desk vindicated by the finding that the tower had in fact given I noticed a red notebook he had in front of him. He us the wrong temperature. We were promoted to select thanked me and my crew for the outstanding job and crew status later that year as a result of our performance. told me we would be decorated. He explained that the missile had exploded about 100 feet off the left wing and We were assigned to fly 56-665 shortly after it was put was detonated by a metal-sensing proximity fuse. He told back into service. It required considerable aileron and me there were 40 major holes in my aircraft. I then asked rudder trim to fly straight and level but otherwise seemed him what a major hole was. He apologized and said each to be fine. My navigator refused to fly that mission and of the 40 holes were four inches in diameter or larger. I had to counsel him outside the briefing room. I told Then he opened the notebook and read a Russian name him that aircraft had saved our lives and we should who he said was acting as an advisor in the site that fired feel confident to fly it again. He relented and went on the missile. Amazing! He said we would have 24 hours the mission. We only flew it one more time before we off and then be put back on the schedule the next day. returned back to the States in late November 1972. All With that, he said good night and I thanked him and told, we had successfully completed 115 missions in returned to my quarters. 1972, with 23 of those missions over North Vietnam. The aircraft remained in Da Nang for about 30 days, and I have told my story a number of times in recent years they patched it up enough to ferry it back to U-Tapao.


Friends Journal • Spring 2017

My Miracle Day

to various service clubs and organizations. I usually end my speech by telling my audience about two books I purchased before I started my Air Force journey. One was the classic, Stick and Rudder, and the other was God is My Copilot. When I reflect on this total experience, I realize God truly was my copilot, too.

After leaving the Air Force in 1973, Ken earned an MBA from Pepperdine University. He subsequently held top executive management positions with multiple business aviation companies. Most recently he was the president and owner of KC Aviation Consultants LLC, in Loveland, Colorado. A second generation native of Los Angeles, Ken started surfing at age 13, skiing at age 18, and became a USAF pilot at age 23. At age 40 he started competing in triathlons and won his age group in a 10k race at age 63. He still loves to travel, surf, and ski and is stoked to be living an adventure. Ken has been married for 40 years and has three children, two of whom are adopted. He currently serves as a member of the board of directors for Jet Alliance, Inc. and Surfing The Nations, a 501(c)3 organization.

Photo of Ken Curry in the Museum’s Southeast Asia Gallery, in front of B-52D serial number 56-665. The photo was taken by his lifelong friend Jim Cornfield in 2016, during a portrait shoot of Captain Curry which will appear in Cornfield’s upcoming book, Environmental Portraiture, due for release by Routledge/Focal Press in 2018.

Operational History of the Museum’s B-52D in Southeast Asia In June 1965, B-52s entered combat in Southeast Asia. By August 1973 they had flown 126,615 combat sorties with 17 B-52s lost to enemy action. The Museum’s aircraft saw extensive service in Southeast Asia and was severely damaged by an enemy surfaceto-air missile on April 9, 1972, as described in the preceding article. In December 1972, after being repaired, it flew four additional missions over North Vietnam.


Cockpit of the Museum’s B-52D

Transferred from the 97th Bomb Wing at Blytheville Air Force Base, Arkansas, this aircraft was flown to the Museum in November 1978.

Friends Journal • Spring 2017