A Career Breathing 100 Percent Oxygen
Gooney Bird of the Missile Fleet
The magazine of the Air Force Museum Foundation
Final Deployment of 4025th SRS, Part 2
Winter 2020, Vol. 43 No. 1
BOARD OF TRUSTEES CHAIRMAN
Col Susan E. Richardson, USAF (Ret)
Home is one of the most powerful words in any language. It instantly transports us to a place in our mind’s eye… flooding our senses and emotions. When asked about home, most offer a short answer. “I am from Dayton, Ohio.” However, for those of us who were military or civil servant brats, served in the military, or supported someone who served, there is no short answer. We have a story that we have told a thousand times. For me, I started in Utica, New York; went to Nouasseur Air Base, near Casablanca, Morocco; then to Bremerhaven, Germany; to Naval Air Station Alameda, Oakland, California; back to upstate New York; and finally to Dayton, Ohio. “Were you in the military?” is the usual follow-up, requiring yet another explanation. And always, I feel disconnected and alone. Thankfully, that feeling does not last long… I have learned to cope with it. I ran into a colleague recently, who, like me, was a brat and has a story. He said, “that’s what makes this National Museum of the United States Air Force™ so special to me. It makes me feel like I am home — home with those who have stories just like me.” I have to tell you, I felt an immediate, cathartic release of energy and emotion. Like my colleague, I was no longer alone. The call to serve, or support those who do, is powerful. Moreover, this Museum, our home, allows us all to stand tall and tell our story; as well as those contained in the exhibits throughout. And thanks to you and your generosity, those stories are heard every day. I am looking forward to the next time all of you who have traveled the world to support and defend our country come home. I will be waiting with a cup of coffee... as I, and all those who visit, cannot wait to hear your story.
Mike Imhoff Air Force Museum Foundation Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Pamela A. Drew VICE PRESIDENT
Lt Gen C.D. Moore II, USAF (Ret) SECRETARY
CMSAF Gerald R. Murray, USAF (Ret) TREASURER
Brig Gen Paul R. Cooper, USAF (Ret) Mr. Stan Askren Col James F. Blackman, USAF (Ret) 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. Scott L. Jones Mr. Ki Ho Kang Dr. Thomas J. Lasley II Mr. Scott E. Lundy Maj Gen Edward (Ted) P. Maxwell, USAF (Ret) 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 Dr. Andrea Townsend Mr. Randy Tymofichuk
EMERITUS BOARD MEMBERS Col Mark N. Brown, USAF (Ret) Mr. James F. Dicke II Mr. Charles J. Faruki Col William S. Harrell, USAF (Ret) Maj Gen E. Ann Harrell, USAF (Ret) Mr. Jon G. Hazelton Mr. Charles F. Kettering III Mr. Patrick L. McGohan Lt Gen Richard V. Reynolds, USAF (Ret) Gen Charles T. Robertson, USAF (Ret) Mr. R. Daniel Sadlier Col James B. Schepley, USAF (Ret) Mr. Scott J. Seymour Mr. Harry W. (Wes) Stowers Jr.
what’s inside 18 IN EVERY ISSUE
Introducing Collection Connection
ABOVE & BEYOND Medal of Honor recipient: Major Bernard Francis Fisher
CLASSIC AIRCRAFT AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE USAF™
The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
On the Move
UPCOMING EVENTS AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE USAF Micro Drone Race, Plane Talks, and World War I Dawn Patrol Rendevous
Reunions Around the Country
A CAREER BREATHING
100 PERCENT OXYGEN
“So I take off, go flying along about 60,000 feet and all of a sudden the engine stops!”
“After obtaining both particulate and gaseous samples of the nuclear fallout we would recover at Johnston Island.”
GOONEY BIRD OF THE
MISSILE FLEET “How many people have had the opportunity to launch an ICBM?”
Telling the story.
“As the balloons were shot down or came down on their own, Soviet authorities gathered the gondolas.”
FINAL DEPLOYMENT OF THE
4025TH SRS — PART 2 “He stressed the continuing necessity to observe tight security regarding the nature of our activity.”
“CCK tower to the black jet between the tankers — please identify yourself.” On the Cover: U-2 / Courtesy Lockheed Martin 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.
FRIENDS JOURNAL ❙
AIR FORCE MUSEUM FOUNDATION LEADERSHIP TEAM CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
CHIEF DEVELOPMENT OFFICER
ABOVE AND BEYOND
DIRECTOR, FOOD SERVICE AND FACILITIES
DIRECTOR, ATTRACTIONS AND EVENTS
Every time I make my way to the galleries here at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force™ I pause briefly at the Medal of Honor display in Kettering Hall (between the Early Years and World War II galleries). It is humbling to look at the faces of these airmen who have earned the highest decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States military for valor in action against an enemy. In this issue of the Friends Journal we begin a new feature highlighting an airman whose actions in combat rose to the Medal of Honor standard. While the Medal of Honor predates flight by more than 40 years, there has been no shortage of recipients among U.S. airmen. From 2nd Lt Frank Luke, Jr in 1918, to Tech Sgt John A. Chapman in 2002, 61 airmen have earned the award. It has been bestowed on 19 airmen since the formation of a separate Air Force in 1947. Prior to 1965, airmen received the Army version of the medal. However, on April 14 of that year a new, Air Force version was adopted. It is, therefore, fitting that the first Medal of Honor recipient highlighted in our pages is Maj Bernard Fisher, who, in 1967, was the first recipient of the Air Force Medal of Honor. In addition to his place in the Medal of Honor display here at the Museum, the Douglas A-1E Skyraider he flew when he rescued a fellow pilot shot down over South Vietnam on March 10, 1966 is on display as well. We will publish the citation of a Medal of Honor award in each issue from now on, to highlight a man who “distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” I hope you are as moved as I am reading about the courage of these airmen, and will, perhaps, do your own research into the actions that earned them the Medal of Honor.
Alan Armitage firstname.lastname@example.org | 937.656.9622
DIRECTOR, HR AND ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
Crystal Van Hoose
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE U.S. AIR FORCE™ DIRECTOR
David Tillotson III DEPUTY DIRECTOR/ SENIOR CURATOR
FRIENDS JOURNAL EDITOR
Alan Armitage CREATIVE MANAGER
John King, Art Powell, Robert Pinizzotto
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1.877.258.3910 (toll free) or 937.656.9615 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.
COL PAUL STAGG, USAF (RET) OF CAMBRIDGE, MD, WROTE TO COMMENT ON AN ARTICLE IN THE WINTER 2019 ISSUE OF THE FRIENDS JOURNAL.
found that to protect the hearing of the gunners, they should wear earplugs and also wear (safety) ear muffs.
“AC-47D vs MiGs” by Col Melvin Bruce Dobbs, USAF (Ret), about flying missions in the “Spooky” gunship brought back strong memories. I was Commander of the 432nd Tactical Hospital at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, from July 1969 to July 1970. I had two ratings: General Surgeon (per Board of Surgery), and Flight Surgeon (per USAF). As Flight Surgeon, my duty was to support the flying personnel, and I was required to fly in mission aircraft certain hours per month, and per year, so I would be familiar with the crew stresses. One of my favorite missions was with the “Spooky” gunship, because I could do my other duties during the day and fly at night, and because I was then on a real combat mission and could help the loadmaster throw flares out the open door. I became aware that the noise during flight while guns were firing, was very loud, especially for the gunners who were standing beside the guns in the aircraft cabin.
For that and for solving many other health problems, Bruce was a valuable asset to our hospital.
TALK TO US Send your comments to P.O. Box 1903, WPAFB, OH 45433 or email email@example.com. For comments or questions directed at the Foundation that don’t pertain to the magazine, please visit the ‘Contact Us’ page at afmuseum.com.
The loudness of noise can be measured by a meter. Bruce Dobbs was our hospital Public Health and Preventive Medicine officer. I asked Bruce to show me how to work the sound meter, so that I could measure the intensity of sounds on my next flight. He offered to go along with me and take the sound measurements, even though he was not on flying status. I requested permission for him to make the flight and was approved. A few nights later, Bruce and I flew on Spooky, and he made the sound measurements. The sound was so loud, we
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FRIENDS JOURNAL ❙
LT COL ANTHONY BEVACQUA, USAF (RET) AS TOLD TO ALAN ARMITAGE
A Career Breathing 100 Percent
[Editor’s note: Lt Col Anthony Bevacqua, USAF (Ret) is part of a very elite group of pilots. Fewer than 40 people have flown in both the Lockheed U-2 and the Lockheed SR-71. When it comes to pilots who flew operational missions for the USAF in both aircraft the number drops to roughly 15. Tony was kind enough to share his recollections of his time in the Air Force, the changes in technology he experienced, and what it was like flying the two most famous designs Kelly Johnson produced at the Lockheed Skunkworks.] “I was very fortunate, very fortunate. It’s unbelievable, in my opinion, the life I’ve been able to lead,” retired Lt Col Anthony “Tony” Bevacqua said. “I’ll tell you how I got so damn lucky!” “I went to the recruiting office to enlist to avoid the draft. The Korean War was going on and I sure didn’t want to join the Army. I’d never flown in an airplane. At that time, 1952, our commercial transportation was (Douglas) DC-3s. And I didn’t even make model airplanes, for crying out loud. But they said ‘Well, what do you want to do?’ “I said ‘Pilot!’ — no use asking for the bottom. “And they said ‘Do you have two years of college?’ “I said ‘No, I have none.’ Well, they required two years of college. I said ‘OK, I still want to enlist.’ Sampson Air Force Base (AFB) in Geneva, New York was one of the basic training bases; used to be a Navy base. I arrived there and was given
a physical, and halfway through they stopped us, got us all together and said ‘The Air Force needs pilots and navigators, minimum requirement — a high school grad. Anybody interested?’ So, of course, I raised my hand.” After pilot training beginning in January 1953, Bevacqua “graduated April 14, 1954, commissioned and had my wings the same day.” After gunnery school in the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star at Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, Texas, and the Republic F-84 Thunderjet at Luke AFB, Arizona he was assigned to Turner AFB, Albany, Georgia. “I joined SAC fighter bombers of the 468th Strategic Fighter Squadron, 508th Strategic Fighter Wing,” he said. “In early- to mid-1956, they allowed bachelor officers to move off base, so four of us got together — Francis Gary Powers, Wes Upchurch, Vic Milam (who would also become a U-2 pilot), and myself. Then,
later on in 1956, I came home from work and not a sign of Frank Powers. Absolutely not a sign of him. Obviously he was recruited by CIA as well as a bunch of other people in both wings (at Turner to fly the U-2). LeMay didn’t want F-84s anymore. He liked those big planes, not those tiny deals like the F-84s, so he deactivated all the F-84 wings. So, as you may know, everybody was an F-84 pilot going into the U-2s. They had already started the (Martin) RB-57s (Canberra) with the 4080th (Strategic Reconnaissance Wing), sometime in 1956 at Turner. I don’t recall any airplanes there yet, but they started it at Turner. “In the meantime, somebody came up to me and asked if I wanted to volunteer for…couldn’t tell me a dang thing…you know the typical story about not knowing what you’re going to, what they call it, where you’re going to go…well, that was me and I said OK! So while still at Turner I got TDY (temporary duty) orders to go to places like David Clark for a suit fitting. (The David Clark Co. of Worcester, Massachusetts, was an early manufacturer of partial and full pressure suits for test pilots and high-altitude militar y aviators.) That’s where I got at least the inkling that I was expected to fly over 50,000 feet. At that time they were par tial pressure suits. Those are the ones with all the
laces and hoses, and it fit like a corset. ( The par tial pressure suit only pressurizes certain parts of the body, often just the helmet, and uses the laces to adjust the pressurized tubes in the suit to provide mechanical pressure against the skin, hence the custom fitting.) When they figured they had it tailor made for you, you got another TDY to an altitude chamber and at the time we were using the one at Wright-Patt (WrightPatterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio). “We were going through all of this and still didn’t know the name of the airplane. In January or February 1957, I had orders to go TDY to March (AFB, Riverside, California). I got there and was escorted to the (flight) line and there was this civilian marked airplane, a (Douglas) C-54 (Skymaster) I think. I got on with a bunch of other people; I don’t believe I recognized anyone. We were all in civvies (civilian clothes). We landed at Groom Lake and that was the first sight I had of what I was gonna fly. There were two or three (Lockheed) U-2s around. “We did not have any simulator. We did not have any two seaters until 1968 or 1969 when they put a couple of birds together to make one. Later the R model came out with a backseat for pilot training. The bird had no ejection seat. We lost so many people they added it on. Our ground training, books type, was about two weeks. We had had some gliding-type experience, to come in and hover above the runway like a U-2 would do, with a T-33, but it’s hardly the same thing. But came the time for the first flight and, of course, it’s a solo. We took FRIENDS JOURNAL ❙
off and landed and did touch and goes on the dry lake. We didn’t use the 6,000 foot runway that they had there for training at first. After about three flights, I was doing well enough they had me land on the runway. And from then on we could take off and land on the runway, providing the winds were proper. On the lake you could take any wind because they had all kinds of directional lines that you could follow to take off into the wind. “The U-2 is still considered to be the hardest airplane (to fly) in the Air Force. Now I never thought of it as hard — I could fly it! But it can be very tricky, particularly on the landing. It’s a bicycle gear (the landing gear is in line, like a bicycle). The spring-steel wheels (called ‘pogos’) that you put under the wings are for taxiing purposes only – they drop out as soon as you’re flying; as soon as the wings lift they drop out. Then when you come back in you’re landing strictly bicycle. You cannot force this airplane down; you can’t land nose down. You have to stall it. Otherwise you’re going to bounce or skip and you can get in a terrible piece of trouble. So that’s why we have a chase car. At that time we had a chase car — which really didn’t chase, it was called mobile control — it was a 1957 Ford station wagon. If you remember the radios were huge then, so that would be in the back of the station wagon. They would sit alongside the runway and call off your altitude, trying to get you to be three feet or less, hold off the runway until your tail wheel comes down. Preferably the tail wheel would touch first very slightly before the nose wheel, and then you made a great landing. “We used to hate pulling mobile, because you’re just sitting there doing that. But today they’ve had Pontiac GTOs and Camaros. (The chase car starts at the approach end of the runway and accelerates down the runway as the plane approaches and passes overhead, so that the car is right behind the U-2. The chase
driver, who is also a pilot, calls off the altitude for the pilot in the plane until the plane has landed.) Right now they’re getting the high powered Dodge four door sedan, and that’s really neat when you’re carrying people who want to watch.” I mentioned to Tony that I had ridden in a chase car for a U-2 landing at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan in the early 2000s and how strange it was to see the plane fall over onto one wing after it landed. Then the maintenance crew put the “pogos” back in to enable the plane to taxi back to the hangar. “Once in a while we’d luck out,” he replied. “One time I taxied all the way back into the hangar. That’s very unusual though. You don’t know how heavy your wings are in a sense. We’d go through a little bit of a stall without stalling, just to see how it would be on the ground, which wing was heavy and then you’d transfer fuel accordingly. That day was obviously perfectly balanced and no winds to knock you over. “Take off, depending on winds, was nothing. You add the power, you’re off the ground in no time. I didn’t have any problem with takeoffs, and I’ve never heard of anybody really having a problem. “But I’d say after about six flights, maybe five, we’d start high flight, with the pressure suit — before that we were flying the airplane in our Levis and street shoes and a basic helmet. “Everything was classified. And because of that they didn’t even want our GCA/GCI to know where we were, and who we were. (The air traffic control center manages Ground-Controlled Approach and Ground-Controlled Intercept, when an air traffic controller using radar guides an aircraft to a safe landing or to an airborne target.) Radio contact was extremely minimal. And they routed us over the most terrible areas of the United States they could find. So we didn’t really have good emergency landing areas to go to. ☛
collection connection MC-3A PARTIAL PRESSURE FLYING SUIT While U-2 pilots now wear full pressure suits, the earliest pioneers to fly the Dragon Lady only wore partial pressure suits. These suits, like the one seen here, usually only fully pressurized the helmet, but had pressurized tubes throughout the rest of the suit that applied mechanical pressure to the skin. The pilot could adjust the tubes using the numerous laces on the suit. To get that kind of mechanical pressure on the skin, the suits had to be skin tight and were usually custom sized.
S1030 FULL PRESSURE FLYING SUIT
SR-71 pilots wore David Clark Company S1030 full pressure suits like this one to protect them from the harsh physiological effects of high altitude flight. If the cabin lost pressure at the SR-71’s operational altitude of 80,000+ ft., a pilot without a pressure suit would be dead within 10 seconds due to the atmospheric pressure at this altitude, which causes liquid to boil without heat. Aside from the external oxygen supply, the S1030 suit is a self-contained system made of four main layers.
“So I take off, go flying along about 60,000 feet and all of a sudden the engine stops! I’m in the middle of nowhere, nowhere to go to, so I stayed on route, went down as fast as I was allowed to, got down to restart altitude, around 25 (thousand feet) I think it was before we could do it without overheating the engine, restarted, climbed back, stayed on course, and that happened two more times! So I had three flameouts on my first high flight. And I came back almost on time, within just a couple of minutes. I reported it. It had something to do with the fuel feed. It did happen a few times with other people, but they did get a fast fix on it. “We were doing two hour prebreathing then. Pure oxygen. The whole time (of the flight) actually. At the time we were sitting in a recliner chair. Some people would pre-breath with just the helmet and then suit up just before they go out to the airplane. Or they could put on the suit and pre-breath that way, which was really the easier way but we didn’t exactly find that out at first. They thought ‘Well, just stay there in your long underwear.’ The long underwear was thin underwear that you wore for any sweat and for preventing petechiae (tiny round red patches on the skin caused by bleeding under the skin) which you could get if the suit pinched you. “They didn’t have a ton of (sanitary) facilities in the airplane. So people would not have coffee, not have water, go up there dry. But we’d eat steak and eggs for the high protein, and that worked actually — you didn’t have to go to the bathroom. Later on they gave you a bottle (to urinate in). Some people just flat quit drinking anything and I did too. But you’d come back and be dehydrated and that was no good. So I decided when they gave us a bottle that I’d drink whatever I wanted to drink. “We flew various routes all over the States, like I said over God knows where, using the sextant to stay on track. We did add ADF (Automatic Direction Finding gives a relative
bearing to a radio signal source) and that helped us. A few more flights and I graduated — became combat ready. Immediately I’m an IP (Instructor Pilot) and almost immediately I’m a functional check pilot. So if they had maintenance done I could go up there and check the airplane. Well, you know, I was one of the most experienced. I was number 55, by the way, of all pilots, civilian, you name it. They’re up to 1,040 now out at Beale (AFB, California). “When we had six airplanes built for the Air Force, we flew them in June of 1957 to Laughlin. In the meantime what happened, I think in April of 1957, the whole unit from Turner PCSd (Permanent Change of Station) to Laughlin. So everybody was on the ground there waiting, including the pilots that were going to train. Then I was training people there. “T hey did have a lot more training when we started getting SACumcised at L aughlin. (In this case being SACumcised is an expression referring to the early efforts to standardize and document everything so that no matter what SAC base an airman was at the procedures were always the same.) The checklist went from a single (piece of) cardboard, legal size, where on one side was your routing, on the other side was the average curves that you’re going to find your fuel dissipate and your oxygen dissipate and you’d mark it every half hour to see how you’re doing, you’re up or down below the line, or on the line, and then there was a few emergency procedures on the back there and that was it. And then it got into an inch and a half book eventually. That’s what I call SACumcised — everything written down, all the emergency procedures, this and that. “You have to consider that the people at Laughlin that were checking out, I had more (room) at the (Groom) Lake because you could make mistakes on that dry lake, you can’t on the runway. And FRIENDS JOURNAL ❙
everybody soloed the first time they flew. I see these kids out there (at Beale today) solo the U-2 and I go to a solo party every once in a while. And there I am Mr. Old Guy and they introduce me and I go up to them and say ‘How many flights did it take you to solo?’ “‘Oh, I did it about the eighth flight.’ “I say, ‘I did it the first flight!’ “At the time we had no VOR, no TACAN. (VOR stands for Very high frequency Omnidirectional Range, a system utilizing a network of fixed land-based transmitters to allow receivers to fix their position via triangulation. TACAN stands for TACtical Air Navigation, a system for military aircraft that provides bearing and distance to a fixed transmitter.) We had a sextant. We had to do star tracking in daylight or at night. That was a pain. The navigators (planning the flight) had to figure out from our scheduled takeoff time where we’re going to take our shots (star fixes) to stay on course. Our maps showing everything on the ground were on a legal size board on both sides and you’d follow the map up one side and go down over the other. I remember one time I took off 45 minutes late because of maintenance and I had to correct. So when your 45 minutes off and had to go back to the other side for where I really wasn’t to readjust and get your fixes that way…somehow I got back. That was fun! I think the dirty rats in stand board (standardization board, monitoring compliance and capabilities in SAC) liked it so well that they made it a test! “Our main mission really was sampling for nuclear particles and gaseous stuff. We had the filters or the compressor to fly and we chased nuclear hot areas. We’d take a route going north, south, north, south, and you had instrumentation that would indicate if you were in some nuclear air. If you found it and the needle was quivering or making noises then we’d try to stay in it and collect all we could. Then we’d come back down and land at our
base. They called it nephographics (which means taking pictures of clouds) instead of photograph, even though we were practicing for photography. We were ready all that time (that the CIA was conducting reconnaissance flights). We took over from Cuba (the Cuban Missile Crisis) on. “My first TDY out of Laughlin was in late 1957 to Ramey (AFB) in Puerto Rico. The other one was Plattsburgh (AFB, New York). It would change — Minot (AFB, North Dakota) would become one when Plattsburgh wasn’t. Alaska at Eielson (AFB). A little bit later we also went to Argentina, Buenos Aires. And then we also went to Australia and flew out of (Royal Australian Air Force Base) East Sale (east of Melbourne) at first and then went to (RAAF Base William) Laverton in Melbourne. We even did some out of (Royal Air Force) Upper Heyford (south central England). That was in 1962 right during the (Cuban Missile) crisis. So we couldn’t get back because of the crisis. We didn’t have anybody to bring back our material so we had to hang there until our cargo aircraft could get with us to come back. After the crisis we flew over Cuba. “The whole unit transferred to DavisMonthan (AFB, Tucson, Arizona) in 1963. From 1963 to 1965 I was there. I had just under 2,000 hours (in the U-2); 1,904 it turned out. I had something like 1,980s or 1,990s, but I made the mistake of letting them figure out this and that by machine processing or computer and it came out I lost a bunch of hours. I don’t know how many combat missions I have, I just never paid attention to it. I was there to fly and do the best I could and I have no idea. I do have my Form 5 (flight log book) but I can’t figure out some of that stuff, because some of it was even put in without the proper description because it was classified. Especially out at The Ranch (Groom Lake) and other places, so I really don’t know. On the SR it’s a different story in that I knew when I was getting an operational mission and it was shown, but I have no idea how ☛
many I got on there, I just don’t keep count of it. “So in 1965 I got orders to go to Command and Staff (College at Max well AFB, Birmingham, Alabama). Oh man, I tried not to go, I wanted to stay flying. But I was glad that they were insistent as it turned out. It was very nice going to Maxwell for that with the family, no TDYs while we’re there. As I was leaving Davis-Monthan (Col John) Desportes was our commander — ‘Hey Bevacqua, you wanna fly the SR-71?’ “‘Hell yes’ I said! “He says, ‘OK, I’ll put you down.’ “A funny thing that happened in retrospect — my backseater was in the same class I was (at Command and Staff College) and we didn’t even know each other at all until we got to Beale and we were paired up in the SR. He was RSO, Reconnaissance Systems Officer, Jerry Crew. “Training for the SR-71 was more simulator, an excellent simulator as far as I was concerned because I’d never been in one. But it sure helped a lot for flying the SR. You could do just about everything in it and still come out alive. Just really positive training. When you consider all the stuff that we had to go through like for the unstarts and things like that it did darn well. What a change when you didn’t have anything for the U-2, for a long time didn’t have anything. “The SR-71 was our first experience, a lot of us, in a full pressure suit. And that, to me is like a turtle in a shell compared to the other one like a corset (the partial pressure suit). It was much more comfortable, but baggy. We did pre-breathing the same as the U-2. Our pressurization sucked just like the U-2. The U-2 was about 27 - 28,000 foot pressurization when you’re (flying) high, and the SR was almost the same. (For comparison, Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, is 29,029
feet.) We started out pre-breathing for two hours, then they cut it down to an hour. They tried to cut it down to half an hour and that didn’t work for many people because they started feeling the bends. (The bends, or decompression sickness, occurs when gas bubbles (mainly nitrogen) form as the gas comes out of solution in the blood stream as pressure drops. It is called the bends because the bubbles often form in the joints, causing pain that contorts the patient’s body. Prebreathing pure oxygen purges the nitrogen from the body, eliminating the problem.) So obviously they either, on their own, s tar ted extending their period on prebreathing or they were going to be in trouble, so they just made it a rule and I’m pretty sure we were still at an hour. So, you’re sitting there and also checking the suit for any leaks prior to going out in the van to the airplane. And there, again, you’re a half an hour before takeoff when you arrive at the aircraft, climb in, hold your breath for a second while they take you off your portable (oxygen supply) and put you onto the airplane system and you haven’t lost anything. A few years ago they knocked the pressurization down to 15,000 feet for the U-2. What a difference that made. Now they don’t pre-breathe except for in the cockpit. “Being a double-delta (wing), made it (the SR-71) very nice for landing — it was a piece of cake comparatively (to the U-2). It flew like an airplane, you just can’t let it get ahead of you. It’s a hell of a lot faster. It had a decent auto pilot. You had the spikes in the engine to prevent supersonic air from going into the engine by bypassing it. Sometimes you got out of kilter and you’d have an unstart (flameout) and that could cause problems. If you caught it right away, if it was catchable, you could go manual on it and adjust it, the spike, getting it even with the other one. “The main reason we refueled immediately after takeoff was you
didn’t want to lose your engine with a full load right after takeoff. It was also easier on the (landing) gear and the airplane structurally as you taxied out, so almost every case that I know of you’re just going to take off with half a load. You refueled about 20 minutes after takeoff, usually, and then went on for your mission, and every hour and a half you’d start letting down for refueling. “One time I had a training flight, and it’s pretty typical, almost like going around the USA. We took off out of Beale, headed north to the Reno area where we had the refueling corridor, caught up with my tanker, and refueled just short of the northern tier states. Then we go supersonic and head east, Montana to Minnesota, go across Chicago, then about Atlanta we star t letting down for refueling over the peninsula of Florida. Then we turn right, head across the Gulf of Mexico and hit just to the west of New Orleans. Then go straight west towards L A (Los Angeles). And I’m going Mach 3, and all of a sudden I get the fire warning light in one engine. Of course I shut her down and we started to let down. I’m 90 miles from Edwards (AFB, California), so that’s good. We’re driving around on one engine, lower (altitude) and a 104 (Lockheed F-104 Starfighter) from Edwards approaches to check me out. He sees some oil and some damage, but otherwise it looked fine. So we landed single engine at Edwards, and it was a lot of damage, I mean expensive, but recoverable. They got a new engine and patched it up. But it was a piece of cake on a single engine. You see how that route kind of made a circle around the USA. “Most of the missions were out of Kadena in my time. We would take off out of Kadena and immediately refuel. Go to our targets, which was North Vietnam almost always. Every
CONTINUED PAGE 49
100 PERCENT OXYGEN
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Our pressure suits would be cleaned and decontaminated, but our underwear and boots were disposed of as radiation waste. It was time to hit the club and drink our mission whisky (Old Overholt, or as we called it Old Overshoes), before finding a bunk in one of the old family housing units that were converted into BOQs. Typically, there were four double bunk beds in each of the two bedrooms, and eight or more bunk beds in the living room. Sleeping wasn’t the problem; sharing a single bathroom with 20-30 others was definitely a problem. The aircraft was allowed to “decay” for a day or two to reduce the residual radiation. The flight back to Barbers Point was only 750 miles, with good radio aids at both ends. The standard procedure was for the navigator, or the backseater, to catch a ride home to Hickam AFB on the next available aircraft, most likely a C-118, to reduce his overall
radiation exposure. Af ter the bombing aircraft was considered safe to fly, the pilot — flying solo — returned the aircraft to Barbers Point for full decontamination in preparation for the next mission.
Ken Schanke’s 21 years of flying in the USAF began in 1961 as a distinguished graduate of navigator training in the last class of Aviation Cadets at Harlingen,TX. He flew initially in the B-57D high altitude sampling aircraft and penetrated three live nuclear detonations. In addition to over 1,000 hours flown in various B-57 models, he has over 2,000 hours in cargo aircraft, and 2,000 hours in F-4 aircraft including 239 combat sorties on a wide variety of combat missions in Southeast Asia. Ken retired in May 1982 to accept an engineering position with Hughes Aircraft Company,Tucson, Arizona, where he and his wife still live.
The author’s aircraft taxiing after arriving back at Kirtland from the deployment. Note the aluminum back half of the open canopy.
100 PERCENT OXYGEN: CONTINUED FROM PAGE 10 once in a while you’d get something special, but most of all at that time it was North Vietnam. In August 1968, I had what we call a double looper. A double looper is flying the same route twice from the area of interest. In other words I’m flying from (the) east over Hanoi, then south and letting down over Thailand for air refueling, then climb out, go back out to the east, go north, then go west again and go right over the same route over Hanoi, then down and come home to Kadena. And that would be about seven hours. That was the date that I got fired at by two SA-2s over Hanoi area. (The SA-2 Dvina [NATO designation Guideline] is a Soviet high-altitude air-defense system consisting of a surface-to-air missile with groundbased radar guidance. SA-2s shot down Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 over the Soviet Union in 1960, and Maj Rudolph Anderson’s U-2 over Cuba in 1962.) I knew that we were fired at. The SA-2 had an acquisition area of 100 miles radius and we would go across that in three minutes. In my case it appeared they actually exploded about a mile below. I was probably at 83,000 feet going 3.2 Mach (3.2 times the speed of sound). We never changed course, nothing. We went over the second time and it was quiet. “I ended up with 738 hours (in the SR-71).” In closing I asked Tony which aircraft he preferred. He laughed and said “I still drive Corvettes!”
Lt Col Tony Bevacqua retired in 1973, working in real estate and real estate lending until retiring again in 1999. He is active in civic and charitable organizations, most notably the Beale Military Liaison Council, Inc., of which he was Chairman for 18 years. He is also a member of several auto clubs.
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