I was born in Watertown, Codington County, South Dakota on 2 August 1928. I enlisted in the United States Air Force 30 June 1951 in St. Paul, Minnesota. I was attending Macalester College and the draft board deferred my call-up until the semester was over. Not wanting to serve in the Army, I took flying lessons through the college at the cost of $6/hour, including the instructor and Piper Cub. I soloed in 6 ½ hours and, knowing that I was able to fly, took the test for aviation cadets and passed.
I attended Basic Training at Lackland AFB, Texas where we lived in tents. In September 1951, I became PFC at $78 a month. Then I went to Perrin AFB, Texas and was a crew chief (gas, oil and air the tires) until 16 January 1952. Then to Bainbridge, Georgia contract flying school to fly the T-6. While there, I was on a solo flight practicing acrobatics when I “blew a jug” and landed burning and smoking at Dale Mabry Field in Tallahassee. In July, I went to Laredo, Texas for advanced flight training in jet aircraft and received my pilot wings and commission on 2 February 1953. After $55/mo in aviation credits, the 2nd Lt’s $100/mo was really great. I married Mina Baker of Gallatin, Tennessee on 7 February 1953. I spent time at Tyndall AFB, Florida in gunnery training and was then assigned to Moody AFB, Georgia for jet instrument school.
In July 1953, I was sent to Bitburg AB, Germany to fly F-86s. There were only three Air Bases that had starting units for our aircraft. With winter weather, we were only averaging 8 – 12 flying hours per month. In October 1954, with Korean War pilots being assigned to Germany, we were offered the chance to transfer to other aircraft. Five of us who volunteered were assigned to fly C-119G aircraft at Neubiberg AB. We were not happy with the assignment but we flew all over Europe, logged lots of flying time, and gained lots of experience flying in weather. I qualified as first pilot in a few months and became an instructor pilot a few months later.
I rotated to the States in July 1956 and was assigned to Hunter AFB GA flying KC-97 tankers. In late 1957, I qualified as an instructor pilot. With the advent of the KC- 135 tankers, I was assigned to Castle AFB CA for ground school and subsequently to Roswell AFB NM for flight training in the KC-135. My new duty station in July 1961 was flying the KC-135 at KI Sawyer AFB MI.
In 1967, I was transferred to Castle AFB to serve as an instructor pilot in the KC 135. Castle AFB was referred to as the “Gateway to SAC” since that was the place for all KC-97, KC-135s and B-52s training. As the experience grew in SAC, the Castle crew members began to be selected for duty in Southeast Asia. I ultimately was assigned to fly AC-119K gunships.
I ended up going to AC-119K Stingers in September 1972. I spent about two months at NKP as Operations Officer, then six months at Bien Hoa as Commander. After giving the South Vietnamese Air Force our Stinger gunships, I returned to NKP to fill a multitude of jobs. I secured the sites of crashed aircraft, expedited the C-5s to get airborne during daylight, filled in for the Base Commander when he was not there, and hosted the families of our Asian Allies who arrived to consult with General Haig.
I was assigned as Commander, 46th Air Refueling Squadron at KI Sawyer AFB MI in September 1973 upon return to the States. I was promoted to Colonel in April 1975, became deputy to the wing operations officer, and then, in April 1976, became Director of Resources Management. I retired from the USAF 30 June 1978 and currently live in Gallatin TN.
I enjoyed flying the Stingers. Because of my background, the crew coordination came to me easily and after my fourth flight, my instructor suggested that I could/should be checked out. I told him that I was satisfied but wanted him to poll the crew when I wasn’t present. If they were uneasy about that happening, I would fly the normal eleven flights. They all agreed with the instructor. On the last flight, we hit a target that caught fire and had 32 secondary explosions. About 2 kms down the road we spotted a truck, with the naked eye, hiding next to a bridge. That was made possible by the light of the first target. That was the second kill for the mission and we RTB’d.