2019 Summer Friends Journal Sampler

Page 1





Summer 2019

Vol. 42 No. 3

The Magazine of the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc. • afmuseum.com

Featured Articles 5 18 37

RF-101s Over Cuba Jackie Cochran Trip Back in Time

From the Executive Director On a sunny September day in 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech in which he famously said “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win too.” However, it’s what he said before that that left an indelible mark on me. He said, “we set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained… and used for the progress of all people.” We all know what happened then on July 20th, 1969; Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface affirming President Kennedy’s vision and changing the world forever. And he summed up the fulfi llment of that vision in one simple phrase we all know by heart… “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” As we celebrate appropriately this 50th anniversary of man’s first landing on the moon, I cannot help but think of the tens of thousands of men and women who silently solved the innumerable difficult problems to make that vision a reality. And how that “one small step” led to a whole new generation of young people who then began their own inspired, passionate quest; joining our Air Force, becoming space explorers, engineers, and pioneers in ventures unknown. Last week, as I walked through the Museum’s new space suit exhibit in the fourth building, I wondered who among the young people gathered there would be inspired to set forth on a journey of their own...in search of new knowledge. And like most days, I could not answer. However, I was certain that if President Kennedy were here to see what your continued support and generosity have accomplished here at the Museum, he would be proud. As you have inspired countless journeys, knowing our world would be a better place for it.

Mike Imhoff Air Force Museum Foundation Executive Director



THE AIR FORCE MUSEUM FOUNDATION, INC. BOARD OF TRUSTEES Col Susan E. Richardson, USAF (Ret) - Chairman Dr. Pamela A. Drew - President Lt Gen C.D. Moore II, USAF (Ret) - Vice President CMSAF Gerald R. Murray, USAF (Ret) - Secretary Brig Gen Paul R. Cooper, USAF (Ret) - Treasurer Mr. John G. Brauneis Dr. Thomas J. Burns, PhD Mr. Roger D. Duke Ms. Frances A. Duntz Ms. Anita Emoff Col Frederick D. Gregory Sr., USAF (Ret) Mr. Benjamin T. Guthrie Mr. James L. Jennings Mr. Ki Ho Kang Dr. Thomas J. Lasley II Maj Gen Brian C. Newby, USAF (Ret) Gen Gary L. North, USAF (Ret) Mr. Edgar M. Purvis Jr. Maj Gen Frederick F. Roggero, USAF (Ret) Mr. Philip L. Soucy Mr. Robert J. Suttman II, CFA

EMERITUS BOARD MEMBERS Col Mark N. Brown, USAF (Ret) Mr. James F. Dicke II Mr. Charles J. Faruki Col William S. Harrell, USAF (Ret) Mr. Jon G. Hazelton Mr. Charles F. Kettering III Mr. Patrick L. McGohan Lt Gen Richard V. Reynolds, USAF (Ret) Mr. R. Daniel Sadlier Col James B. Schepley, USAF (Ret) Mr. Scott J. Seymour

Contents F E AT U R E S T O R I E S




RF-101s Over Cuba “Secretary McNamara didn’t care whether the Air Force or Navy took the photos as long as he got good quality.”

A Cuban Missile Crisis Story “Midway down the runway he stood it on its tail and went out of sight, straight up.” 15

My Cuban Missile Crisis Story “We maintained the F-102s that were flying as interceptor/protector for the McDonnell RF-101 Voodoos.” 18

Jackie Cochran “Cochran changed the collective women pilots’ name to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).” 23

Tornado at the Museum “We were extremely fortunate!” 32

Delta Darts “All of a sudden he had all sorts of warning lights flash on.” 44-45

D-Day 75th anniversary commemoration activities 47

Student Essay “Humans bring the heroic element to space exploration.” 37

Trip Back in Time “Heffley managed to maneuver the dying Fortress onto a plowed field, missing telephone wires, railroad tracks, and trees.”

On the Cover: The R-12 was a theatre ballistic missile developed and deployed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It was given the NATO reporting name of SS-4 Sandal. Deployments of the R-12 missile in Cuba caused the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

D E PA R T M E N T S 4





Editor’s Notes

Classic Aircraft of the NMUSAF

Restoration Update

From the Chief Development Officer







he National Museum of the U.S. Air Force™ is more than 19 acres of galleries fi lled with roughly 6,100 aircraft and artifacts in exhibits that tell the story of our nation’s over100 years of aviation and aerospace heritage. Several divisions of the Museum work together to create those exhibits, but that work largely happens behind the scenes, out of sight of the general public.


The Memphis Belle ™ exhibit is a perfect example of how the different divisions within the Museum bring their areas of expertise together to tell the Air Force story. The Collection Management, Research, and Exhibits Divisions worked hand in hand to utilize artifacts, historical research, and innovative thinking to tell the story of strategic bombing in Europe in an engaging and historically accurate way.


Of course, the major attraction in that exhibit is the Memphis Belle ™. The Restoration Division worked closely with the Research and Exhibits Divisions to present the aircraft as it appeared when it returned to the United States following its 25th mission over Europe. The painstaking behind-the-scenes effort took more than a decade to complete, but if you’ve seen the public exhibit I’m sure you’ll agree it was worth the time and effort.

Michael Imhoff - Executive Director Melinda Lawrence - Chief, Museum Store Operations Mary Bruggeman - Chief, Attractions Operations Christopher Adkins-Lamb - Chief Development Officer Chuck Edmonson - Marketing Director Gary Beisner - Facilities & Food Service Coordinator

David Tillotson III - Director Krista Strider - Deputy Director/Senior Curator

Friends Journal

Editor - Alan Armitage Creative Manager - Cheryl Prichard Editorial Assistants - John King, Art Powell, Robert Pinizzotto Friends Journal Office: 937.656.9622 If your Friends Journal is damaged during delivery, if you have a question about delivery, or if you have a change of address or other information, please contact the Membership Office: 1.877.258.3910 (toll free) or 937.656.9615

As Friends of the Museum, you are more than a visitor; you support these immense undertakings with your donations. We are grateful for your support, and in return we want to bring those behind-thescenes efforts of the Museum to you through the Friends Journal. We know from surveys that restoration of aircraft is one of your top priorities when you donate to support the Museum. In this issue we begin the effort to bring more of the Museum to you. On page 42 you will fi nd the fi rst of what will become regular updates on what is happening in Restoration. We hope you enjoy it. In the future we hope to bring you information from behind the scenes in other divisions at the Museum. Thank you for your continued support.

Alan Armitage aarmitage@afmuseum.com | 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 U.S.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.




RF-101s Over Cuba By




he Cold War is over and economic and political changes have reduced superpower tensions considerably. However, tensions were extremely high during October 1962 after high altitude Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance fl ights revealed nuclear-capable Soviet medium range ballistic missiles (MRBM) were operational in Cuba. The world teetered on the brink of nuclear disaster for almost two weeks, until Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khruschev chose to remove his offensive weapons from Cuba and the crisis slowly subsided. Strategic and tactical reconnaissance (shortened as recce) aircraft played an important role during what came to be called the Cuban Missile Crisis. This article covers tactical reconnaissance (TR) operations over Cuba flown by McDonnell RF-101 Voodoos. Following his seizure of power in 1959, Fidel Castro, with the assistance of the Soviet Union, steadily upgraded his military forces. U-2 fl ights routinely photographed the island monitoring progress and looking for offensive weapons. By the spring of 1962,

the first class of Cuban fighter pilots had graduated from fl ight schools in Eastern Europe. An estimated 50 to 75 defensive MIG-17s — first flown in 1950 — and MIG-19s — first flown in 1953 — had arrived in Cuba. [Editor’s note: MiG means M&G (the “i” being “and” in Russian) and denotes an aircraft developed by the Soviet aircraft design bureau founded by Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich.] Cuban refugees and political opponents of President John F. Kennedy frequently warned of massive military buildups, and during August 1962 the Kennedy administration confirmed this and admitted there were several thousand Russian advisors in Cuba. A high-altitude U-2 mission on August 29 brought back the first photos of a surface-to-air missile site under construction near Havana. The presence of high performance MiG-21s — which entered service in 1958 — was confirmed by a September 5 fl ight. Additional U-2 fl ights were made on September 29, October 5, and October 10. OCTOBER 14, 1962 On Sunday October 14, 1962, an early morning U-2 fl ight confirmed the worst fears of intelligence ☛


This illustration of an RF-101C camera configuration has four KA-45 cameras with various lenses — one pointed forward, one pointed straight down, and two angled to the side (called oblique). RF-101 on ramp with cameras on display.



AFOG Collection NMUSAF

One of the first images of missile bases under construction shown to President Kennedy on the morning of October 16.

Night photo work was assigned to the Douglas RB-66 equipped 16th TRS. The 9th TRS conducted electronic missions with their EB-66s. The TR program was something of a closed loop; aircrews would rotate from Shaw to TR units in the Pacific or in Europe and back to Shaw. Experience and proficiency levels were high.


090 Public Domain


officers. Photo interpreters identified a squadron of Soviet MRBM missiles near San Cristobal, Cuba. This unit was set up in temporary facilities, but was capable of a single salvo strike. It had arrived within hours, or at most, a few days before the U-2 fl ight. A follow-up fl ight identified two more MRBM squadrons in the same area. One was in the form of a convoy and the second had arrived at its destination and was in the process of setting up. Intelligence gathering agencies had already identified Cuba as a potential trouble spot to military planners. Contingency plans dealing with Cuba were being developed before the situation reached a crisis stage. During August 1962, just days after the conclusion of a twenty-odd day deployment exercise which was conducted along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the 363rd TR Wing (TRW) at Shaw Air Force Base (AFB), South Carolina, had been given detailed briefings on a joint Caribbean contingency plan that included U.S. air/sea assaults on Cuba. Shaw AFB was the home of all U.S.-based active United States Air Force (USAF) tactical reconnaissance units. The 20th and 29th TR Squadrons (TRS) flew supersonic McDonnell RF-101C Voodoos in a day photo mission. 6


During September 1962, 363rd intelligence officers received a full set of aeronautical charts of various scales and several volumes of target folder material covering Cuba. Targets included surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites, military stations, ports, radar sites, and airfields. Aircrews were subsequently given instructions to draw up practice missions that originated from Homestead AFB, Florida, and covered all areas of Cuba, including the Isle of Pines. Typical practice missions would include three targets located approximately 50 nautical miles apart. Mission profi les called for climbing to and maintaining 2,000 feet over Florida and descending to 500 feet over the Gulf of Mexico for the fl ight to Cuba. Time and distance pilotage navigation was used to find their targets which were to be photographed from 500 feet or less. The return fl ight to Homestead was made at economical cruise speeds and altitudes after leaving Cuban airspace. Pilots with experience in Europe were proficient with low level pilotage navigation and flying, but it was new to some of those recently trained in the Voodoo. This exercise, however, gave all the pilots an opportunity to become familiar with Cuba and the proposed mission profi les. Late in the afternoon of Saturday, October 13, 20th TRS commander Lt Col Clyde B. East and five members of the 363rd TRW and 837th Air Division (AD) received calls. They would report to Tactical Air Command (TAC) Headquarters at Langley AFB, Virginia to help the TAC staff plan a special operation involving RF-101s. TAC Director of Intelligence, Colonel Triantifallu, gave them a highly classified briefing outlining the situation, and they were given two days to develop an operations plan for a short notice deployment of the wing to MacDill AFB, Florida. Their mission would be to conduct low level photo sorties over Cuba. High altitude U-2 photos required skilled photo interpreters and they were simply overwhelmed with work. Low altitude photos would

Knudsen/White House Photographs

October 18 cabinet meeting. Cabinet Room, White House, Washington, D.C. Among the men seated at the table are President John F. Kennedy, middle right; his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, right; and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, in profile at top left, leaning forward and smiling. President Kennedy and Secretary McNamara exercised total control over the flights and personally flight-followed some of them.

show more detail and allow much quicker and more accurate interpretation with less expertise. The team was given clerical help and worked on the plan until midnight. They received briefings on the latest developments in Cuba the following morning and completed their first draft on Tuesday afternoon. It was returned to them for revisions at 10:00 p.m. and the requested changes were completed before midnight. The team was given a well done on Tuesday morning, October 16, and informed their plan was being implemented in the form of a practice deployment to MacDill. OCTOBER 16, 1962 Tuesday, October 16, was a busy day at Shaw AFB. They launched several aircraft and twelve van-loads of photo equipment for MacDill on very short notice. Reporting for work in the morning and deploying somewhere for weeks at a time before returning home was not uncommon for the recce aircrews. A portion of Lt Col Joe M. O’Grady’s 29th TRS was deployed to James Connelly AFB, Texas, for an exercise with the Army at Ft Hood. They and all members of the 363rd TRW and parent 837th AD who were on leave or TDY (temporary duty) status were recalled. All flying and support units were placed on seven-day work weeks.

The intelligence officers were being overwhelmed with more material arriving than they had time or resources to accommodate. OCTOBER 20, 1962 It had taken political leaders until the afternoon of Saturday, October 20, to decide what action should be taken. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara’s idea of a naval blockade (dubbed a quarantine) prevailed after TAC commander, Gen Walter C. Sweeney, Jr., could not assure the president that a surprise air attack would destroy all the missiles before any could be launched. The last deployed 29th TRS RF-101 returned to Shaw about noon on October 20 as other aircrews were completing their mission profi les. The near chaos of recent days had pretty much been brought under control. Most 363rd personnel were allowed to go home with instructions to pack their bags for an extended TDY and stand by for a telephone call. The call came about midnight on Saturday evening. Pilots were instructed to report for work with their travel bags on Sunday morning. They completed additional fl ight profi les and the 29th TRS was briefed for fl ights to MacDill, but no takeoff times had been established. The aircrews were placed on one-hour alert at approximately 9:00 a.m. Some attended 10:30 ☛ Summer 2019 • FRIENDS JOURNAL


President John F. Kennedy used this map in his Cuban Missile Crisis meetings, September 1962 to October 1962 to show aircraft locations in Cuba.

a.m. mass at the base chapel, said their goodbyes and returned to their units. OCTOBER 21, 1962 At 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 21, they were given takeoff times. The 29th was to start launching RF-101s in groups of four at 5 p.m. and arrive at MacDill after dark. It was felt small groups of aircraft arriving after dark would draw less attention. Weather conditions deteriorated at Shaw and the fl ights of four became fl ights of two. The 29th was in place at MacDill by 10:40 p.m., but it was after midnight when the last 20th RF-101 landed safely through a low overcast and light rain. MacDill AFB was crowded. The 363rd with four squadrons of tactical aircraft was using the facilities vacated by one Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber squadron that had deployed to a dispersal base. The aircrews were housed in inadequate wooden barracks. President Kennedy’s diplomatic corps worked long and hard behind the scenes to coordinate and communicate with our allies. He himself was scheduled to go on national TV at 7:00 p.m. on October 22 to announce his intentions. The Soviets would be advised one hour prior to his speech to the world.



The recce airmen had returned to their makeshift operations office by 6:30 a.m. on Monday morning and were ready to fly. One of them brought in a local Tampa morning newspaper, its banner headline announcing “Huge Air Armada Arrives At MacDill.” The newspaper was absolutely correct. The ramps were full of bombers, fighters, reconnaissance aircraft, and their supporting tankers and transports. So much for a secret deployment to MacDill. Everybody was busy getting organized and establishing communications. The 363rd intelligence officers were buried with new and additional material. Higher authority was dictating every move. Professional recce pilots with experience dating from World War II were told exactly how to plan potential missions over Cuba. More than 90 percent of their previously planned profi les had to be scrapped. Tension mounted as everyone waited for President Kennedy’s upcoming speech. By late afternoon, it was obvious the pilots would not fly that day. Those who had been on alert all day were moved from their nearby barracks to hotel accommodations off base. Small groups made the 30minute ride in Greyhound buses.

Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs.

President John F. Kennedy signs Proclamation 3504 authorizing the quarantine of Cuba on October 23, 1962.


In his speech, President Kennedy outlined the naval quarantine of Cuba and demanded the immediate removal of Soviet offensive weapons. A somber group of airmen was selected for alert duty the following day and tried to get some sleep. They were instructed to meet a bus at 3:00 a.m. so they would be available for duty at 4:00 a.m. OCTOBER 23, 1962 Dawn on Tuesday, October 23, found 20 of 23 RF-101s at MacDill operationally ready. More than 40 combat ready pilots were available. Some of them continued Monday’s cockpit alerts and others remained on short notice standby. The night shift sought badly needed rest and the long wait continued. General Sweeney visited the unit at mid-day and learned his RF-101 pilots were quartered off base. By midnight the recce pilots were all on base and less critical personnel had moved into their vacated rooms. This was an important development. The operations facility was too small to accommodate those on alert and, at the same time, make the rest of the pilots available. The highlight of Tuesday afternoon was watching American United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson confront Soviet Ambassador V. A. Zorin with high quality photos of Cuba clearly illustrating Soviet missiles during a televised debate of the Security Council. Ambassador Stevenson skillfully destroyed the Russian Ambassador’s credibility and demonstrated to the world what was going on in Cuba. The high-altitude U-2 photos used by Ambassador Stevenson were of such quality everyone at MacDill who didn’t know better thought they had been taken by low flying RF-101s. A small number of RF-101 maintenance check fl ights had been made and the security conscious recce test pilots encouraged this notion by simply refusing to confirm or deny reports they had been flying over Cuba. Eager-to-fly fighter pilots were green with envy. Unknown to the 363rd, President Kennedy, via Secretary of Defense McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had authorized low-level fl ights over Cuba starting Tuesday, October 23. Secretary McNamara didn’t care whether the Air Force or Navy took the photos as long as he got good quality. Navy Admiral Robert L. Dennison was in charge of the Cuban quarantine, and Navy Vought F8U-IP (photo) Crusaders were selected for the first low level recces.


OCTOBER 24, 1962 Wednesday, October 24, was a 180 continuation of days past for the Shaw airmen. More fl ight profi les. More marked-up maps, and no flying schedule. Maintenance had all 28 RF-101s at MacDill operationally ready and at least that many pilots waited on alert. Most of the other pilots were either briefing VIP visitors or answering questions from higher authority regarding RF-101 performance and photo capability. One recce pilot counted 23 stars in their briefing room at one time. President Kennedy had seen photos of MacDill and was concerned about the concentration of aircraft there being vulnerable to air strikes. Through channels, he directed the aircraft be parked in a non-linear manner so that no more than two aircraft would be parked wingtip to wingtip. This was a difficult task considering the overcrowded conditions involved. Dog-tired maintenance men spent much of the night moving aircraft into random patterns. The new system was so successful that maps of the ramp were required to locate where specific tail numbers were parked. Maintenance men had 28 of 29 RF-101s ready to fly the following morning, Thursday, October 25. It was business as usual for the frustrated recce jocks until 363rd TRW commander, Col Arthur A. McCartan, and 837th AD commanding general Horace D. Aynesworth carried a large package containing the latest intelligence reports from Cuba and copies of Navy photos from their Tuesday missions into the combined 20th/29th intelligence office. The room was cleared and they briefed Lieutenant Colonel East, Lieutenant Colonel O’Grady, Maj Cecil T. Bush, Maj Stephen E. Harrison, and Capt Norman E. Long, the senior intelligence officer of the two squadrons. It was believed they would be flying on Friday and 10 pilots with reputations for getting the job done were alerted. And the wait continued. Approximately 30 minutes before sunset the base was placed on alert and a taxi test was scheduled for all 100 plus tactical aircraft scheduled for the TAC strike plan. The aircrews were to start their aircraft and taxi onto the runway while maintaining strict radio silence. ☛



Most of the pilots had not been in an aircraft for almost a week and their airplanes had been moved since they had flown in. As luck would have it, one of the lead fighter aircraft blew a tire and a massive traffic jam developed. Unfortunately, an inbound courier was forced to hold in the traffic pattern for almost an hour before the runways could be cleared. The courier carried flying orders for the next day and a list of targets, along with detailed instructions on how the missions were to be flown. President Kennedy and Secretary McNamara exercised total control over the fl ights and personally fl ightfollowed some of them. Existing fl ight profi les did not match the new directives from the TAC command post and White House. Consequently, new profi les were established and maps were marked up for the lucky pilots who were resting. They would be given a 4:00 a.m. wakeup call and briefed at 5:30 a.m. Takeoff times would be no earlier than 8:00 a.m. and no later than noon. The command post promised a one-hour warning before they were launched. Word finally came down and the first of five fl ights of two aircraft took off at 10:30 a.m. Their targets were six known missile sites. One of the fl ights reported light anti-aircraft fire, but all of the targets were photographed and the crews returned safely. Their fi lm was quickly downloaded and technicians began developing and printing the fi lm immediately. General Aynesworth, Colonel McCartan, and the intelligence officers debriefed returning aircrews. Within four hours of landing, the prints and fi lm from these first Air Force sorties were loaded on RB-66s for a high-speed fl ight to Andrews AFB, Maryland. The courier fl ights were met at Andrews by CIA personnel who delivered the fi lm to the National Photo Interpretation Center (NPIC) in the Pentagon. NPIC evaluated the recce fi lm and documented their results for the president and his top advisors. No additional overfl ights were authorized until the results had been reviewed. This general sequence of events continued during the two squadrons’ stay at MacDill except that if the mission fi lm was especially hot, RF-101s replaced the slower RB-66s for the courier run. Targets, time and direction over target, and even altitude were closely controlled by the White House and Pentagon bureaucrats. Pilots were told how to fly their missions and, later, what photo equipment was to be used. Unfortunately, these controls did not always produce the best results. Criticism of the early mission results by officials at the NPIC was largely


due to outdated equipment and the nature of the TAC recce mission, which was to provide intelligence data on a timely basis. TAC was a highly mobile organization requiring photo labs to be air-transportable by tactical aircraft. Speed and mobility were of the essence. This goal was not fully compatible with the mountains of portrait-quality material demanded by NPIC officials. Additional equipment and long hours by lab technicians resolved many of the complaints. Most of the RF-101s which deployed to MacDill were equipped with their original equipment — Fairchild KA-2 framing cameras dating from the mid-1950s. Aircraft speed exceeded camera capability below 500 feet and blurred photos were a result. Camera and camera control malfunctions contributed to less than 100 percent effectiveness. Pilot observations indicated SA-2 sites were capable of tracking RF-101s down to about 200 feet. It was not felt loafing along below 420 to 480 knots (480 to 550 mph) at or above 500 feet was a wise move (multiples of 60 kts provided an even number of miles per minute for pilotage purposes). Consequently, an urgent call went out for improved camera equipment. A number of higher performance Chicago Aerial Industries KA-45 cameras were acquired and installed for use within days. The Navy had been using them operationally and AF units in the Pacific had been using them experimentally. The KA-45s provided better results at higher speeds and lower altitudes than the KA-2s. The KA-45s 4.5 x 4.5inch format required new processing and enlargement equipment. Fairchild provided an experimental KA52 (civilian F-415A) rotating-prism panoramic camera which was tested over Cuba. This new equipment, combined with intensive maintenance and prefl ight checks on old equipment, significantly improved results. The Cuban experience was a catalyst for developing new equipment and procedures which were required shortly thereafter in Southeast Asia. A typical Cuban overfl ight would take off from MacDill as a fl ight of two, climb to about 20,000 feet en route to their primary checkpoint at Key West, Florida. The fl ight from Key



FRIENDS JOURNAL • Summer 2019 180

West to the target area was usually flown at between 500 and 1,000 feet at their navigation speed of 420 or 480 kts. Most fl ights had from two to four targets which were covered at or below 500 feet at their chosen navigation speeds. Precise navigation was important because of the narrow time and location window for penetrating U.S. airspace on the way back in. Missile sites and airfields were daily recce targets. The disposition of combat aircraft on Cuban airfields was of prime interest for targeting. The USAF alone developed 110 target folders for possible strikes against military targets. Once the dismantling of missile sites began, recce targets shifted toward transportation networks and port facilities. The missiles and the heavy equipment used to transport and support them were photographically tracked to ports and ships. Navy patrol aircraft and ships tracked the Soviet ships back to their ports. Ironically, the much-publicized missiles were withdrawn sooner than were the Ilyushin Il-28 bombers (NATO code: Beagles, first flown in 1948) Castro tried to keep. The Beagles were a modest offensive threat and extended the crisis until diplomatic pressure through channels prevailed and the aircraft were withdrawn as well. Low-level recce fl ights over Cuban airfields presented special problems. The airmen routinely encountered air traffic around some of the airfields and the possibility of an air-to-air collision was of more concern to them than hostile fire. One easy-going fl ight leader had a little fun over a chance encounter he had with a Cuban “L-20 type” military liaison/utility aircraft [Editor’s note: L-20 was the early designation of the US military version of the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, later designated U-6A. It was a single propeller engine, high wing utility aircraft]. The RF101 airman came off a Cuban target and rolled out on a heading down the centerline of a small airfield runway. The Cuban aircraft was sitting on the threshold running up its engine. Down came one RF-101 recce bird in a high-speed, high-power, major-league buzz job. The wingman stayed high (a few hundred feet) and wondered if the Cuban pilot needed a change of trousers before taking off. This incident of one airman providing a little pay back probably typifies the frustration most of the pilots felt.


Most of the recce pilots simply wanted to fly. There was very little flying to be done by a large cadre of highly-qualified pilots, and when they did get up, they were told how, when, and where to fly

their missions. There was intense pressure to succeed. What would be an insignificant failure at any other time and place could be career-threatening at MacDill. The chain of command was short and the stress levels were high. Stress levels peaked after Strategic Air Command U-2 pilot Maj Rudolf Anderson, Jr. was shot down and killed on October 27. The following day Khrushchev agreed to dismantle and withdraw his offensive weapons from Cuba. By October 29, there were positive signs the dismantling process had begun and the pace accelerated on October 30/31. Most of the pilots eventually flew two Cuban missions and a few flew three. TAC documents indicate 82 effective sorties out of 108 were flown, totaling 240 hours and 20 minutes. TAC Boeing KB-50 Superfortress tankers were based at MacDill from November 3 until November 13, as a few of the missions required refueling. To give you an indication of the workload handled by the photo lab technicians, between October 26 and November 23, 308 rolls of fi lm from Cuban overfl ights were processed. There were an average of 200 exposures on each of the 291 rolls which were exposed. Some 17 rolls of fi lm were lost to camera malfunctions. Technicians processed 30,980 feet of original fi lm, printed 39,594 feet of contact size prints, produced 29,370 feet of training fi lm, duplicated 92,940 feet of fi lm, made multiple prints of 297 selected negatives, and processed a total of 192,884 feet of fi lm! Lt Col Clyde B. East joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941 and flew reconnaissance over Europe. In 1944 he transferred to the US Army Air Forces. He was credited with 13 victories while flying recon aircraft. He continued flying recon for the US Air Force during the Korean War and into the 1960s before retiring in 1965. He worked as a military analyst for the RAND Corp. until retiring again in 1993. He passed away July 30, 2014 at age 93. Paul Stevens developed an aviation interest as a young boy. After USAF service from 1957-1961 he spent his working career in purchasing and materials management outside of aviation. He has spent many years conducting historical research and photographing all types of aircraft, and now focuses on local events and documenting the experiences of WWII combat airmen. He has authored a book, “Voodoo,” about the F-101, with Lou Drendel.







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