This page describes my military history experience between my birth in 1959, and the start of my hobby research in 1993. This page is organized by assignments, first my father’s when I was a dependent, then my own when I was active duty. I’ve omitted routine autobiographical information, mentioning only places and events that influenced my future interest in military history, and especially my interest in historic Air Force properties and facilities. My thanks to my dad for encouraging me to use some of his photos to document my first decade. Some of the family photos from before I was born have a historical tone, such as my parents' brief stay in temporary quarters at Salina Housing Annex, on the old Camp Phillips, when my dad was stationed at nearby Schilling AFB.
Andrews AFB (1959-60)
I was born in Malcolm Grow Medical Center on Andrews AFB,
Maryland. At that time, my dad worked in Federal Office Building 4, in Suitland. As part of “rent-a-crowd” formations, I saw President
Dwight Eisenhower and
Nikita Khrushchev. I attended my first air show at Andrews when I was
year old, seeing front-line weapon systems we now consider historic.
(Thunderbirds flying F-100Cs)
(B-52G bomber flyover)
(Aircraft on static display)
(Missiles and F8U-1 flyover)
Sondrestrom AB (1960-61)
I lived with my mom at my grandparents’ for a year while my dad was stationed at Sondrestrom AB, Greenland. No, I did not go to Sondrestrom – but while I was growing up the family photos included snapshots of my dad’s tour in Greenland.
Beale AFB (1961-63)
My dad’s next assignment was Beale AFB, California. We were the first residents in a brand-new house on base. I lived on Beale when the movie “A Gathering of Eagles” was filmed at the base. We were at Beale during the Cuban missile crisis, and my mom said that for several days an air police truck drove through base housing, announcing over a loudspeaker "THERE WILL BE NO EVACUATION TODAY."
Chanute AFB (1963-64)
Next we moved to Chanute AFB, Illinois, so my dad could attend Weather Forecaster school. This photo shows my dad and me looking at the RB-36H that had recently arrived at the base for display (I would see that same airframe at the former Castle AFB CA more than four decades later).
Andrews AFB (1964-66)
During my dad’s next assignment back at familiar Andrews AFB, we often went over to Bolling AFB DC to shop at the commissary or go to the theater.
Ramstein AFB (1966-69)
My dad briefly had orders to Phalsbourg AB, France, but France asked U.S. forces to depart and dad's orders were changed to Ramstein AB, Germany. We flew from McGuire AFB NJ to Rhein-Main AB GE. The first bomb shelter I ever saw was behind our temporary quarters on Ramstein. My dad worked at an underground bunker in Kindsbach known to us as “The Cave” (also known as USAFE/ATAF Combat Operations Center). The Cave was open to family members on rare occasions such as holiday open houses -- my first visit to an underground C3 bunker was at about age 8. From our house in Kindsbach, I watched the Thunderbirds perform in F-100Ds (with future Chief of Staff of the Air Force General McPeak flying lead solo). After two years living in Kindsbach, we moved into Ramstein base housing for one year. While at Ramstein I became familiar with aircraft such as the F-100, F-101, F-102, F-104, F-104, F-106, and the “new” F-4! All these types and many more were either based at Ramstein or passed through from time to time. On a school field trip I sat in the cockpit of an F-102. I routinely heard sonic booms and saw formations of fighter aircraft overhead. In 1968, our family vacation to Paris was cut short when USSR forces invaded Czechoslovakia, and we had to catch the first train home. On our return trip from Ramstein to McGuire, we stopped to refuel at Prestwick Airfield, Scotland, and the former Dow AFB ME.
We actually lived in Maryland, but dad worked at HQ Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) located in Alexandria, Virginia. It was many years later that dad give me a brief summary of the work he did there (Google it if you’re interested!). I saw the Thunderbirds perform in the F-4E Phantom. My little brother and I posed with a 16-inch projectile on the battleship U.S.S. Massachusets. I made personal visits to Andrews AFB MD, Bolling AFB DC, and Fort Washington MD. I stayed up late to watch on live television as Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon. I read most of the books by C.B. Colby, including "North American Air Defense Command: How the USA and Canada Stand Guard Together" and I marveled at steel buildings mounted on springs, located deep inside a granite mountain.
Patrick AFB (1972-74)
My dad was transferred to Patrick AFB,
Florida, as part of the
movement of AFTAC. We lived in
base housing. I visited the inside
of the AFTAC building during an open
house. We visited the SST museum near Orlando, and I had my first and only
experience “flying” an actual Link trainer. The Patrick flight line was where I
first saw U-2 and C-5 aircraft. The predominant aircraft at Patrick during this
time was the EC-135N
Apollo Range Instrumented Aircraft (ARIA)
(changed to Advanced Range Instrumented Aircraft when the mission changed from
Apollo to Skylab) but
commonly called the “Droopsnoot.” I saw the Thunderbirds perform in the F-4E
(again). I feel fortunate to have watched the launch of all the
shots, as well as the launch of
Apollo 17 (almost 30 years later, I heard Apollo
17 Mission Commander Gene Cernan speak at a company ceremony for my civilian
job). Living at Patrick, we always knew when there was going
to be an unannounced rocket launch, because of the “Russian trawlers” we could
see offshore in the Atlantic. While riding bikes from housing to the main
base, I was at the end of the runway when an EC-121 Constellation, with
huge belly radome, flew very close overhead as it landed -- wow, was that loud! I made personal visits to Cape Canaveral AFS
FL and the former McCoy AFB FL. My brother and I would always
comment on the B-52 on display at the former Orlando AFB, visible from
the highway on our way to Walt Disney World.
(C-118 bringing my dad home from an overseas TDY)
(A-3 Skywarrior next to base operations)
(HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giant)
(F-100, F-4E, and A-7D on the ramp at an airshow)
(F-102As at the airshow)
(F-4, F-105, C-130, F-105, F-102, F-104, and F-102 on the ramp)
(My dad and brother check out the Thunderbirds' F-4Es)
Andersen AFB (1974-76)
We flew out from Travis AFB CA, transiting Hickam AFB HI on our way to Andersen AFB, Guam. B-52Ds crowded the ramps at Andersen, along with KC-135s and WC-130 “Typhoon Chasers” and various transient aircraft such as this DC-130A. We lived on base in a concrete-block "typhoon proof" duplex with aluminum louvers instead of normal windows. I wandered through the Arc Light-era “Tin City” of prefab metal dormitories while it sat empty, then I saw it packed full of Vietnamese refugees. During Operation New Life, I volunteered in a flight line nose dock, opening C-Rations and serving hundreds of Vietnamese refugees their first meal on American soil. My mom was a Red Cross volunteer, and during New Life she spent many long hours coordinating activities at base operations. The flight line was so crowded with evacuation flights from Saigon, that C-141s were parked with tails over the fence by Perimeter Road. I saw F-111As returning from Thailand. I rode my bike up to the nearly-abandoned Northwest Field AFB, and visited the former Harmon AFB and Marbo Housing Annex (also called Andersen South). I could see Andersen AFS, on Mount Santa Rosa, from the school bus. I knew to look on the flight line for U-2 aircraft whenever a “Russian trawler” sat off the northeast coast of the island. As a high school kid, I roamed the flight line observing the B-52D, KC-135, and C-118 aircraft; I visited the armory and the LOX plant; and I tried my luck in the B-52 flight simulator (I did not find it as intuitive as the Link trainer). I explored the boonies, seeing rusted old Quonset huts and mangled airplane parts, and finding live .30 and .50 caliber ammunition, realizing that only two years earlier the last Japanese straggler from W.W.II had been found on Guam.
Scott AFB (1976-77)
Scott AFB, Illinois, was dad's follow-on assignment after Guam, and I attended my senior year of high school in Mascoutah, Illinois. I watched the YC-14 and YC-15 flying overhead (neither one of them won the competition – years later USAF chose the C-17). I saw the Thunderbirds flying T-38As. Since I didn’t know what else to do with my life after high school, I joined the Air Force under the delayed enlistment program. I signed up on 27 Dec 76, just four days before the Vietnam-Era G. I. Bill ended. The Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station where I enlisted was in the former St. Louis Medical Depot, at 12th and Spruce Streets, St. Louis.
Lackland AFB (1977)
Up until now I had been a dependent, “tagging along” on my dad’s assignments. Now I was in basic training on Lackland AFB, and although I resided in one of the modern 1,000-person dormitories, some basic trainees were still housed in W.W.II barracks. We went to Medina Annex for our M-16 training. During clothing issue, some sizes of Shade 1505 Khaki utility uniforms were still in stock and given to those who could wear them (most of us just received the Olive Green 107 cotton fatigues). After basic training, I stayed at Lackland for small arms specialist technical school. After my training I caught a hop from Kelly AFB TX to Scott AFB IL on a C-9A Nightingale medical evacuation plane. While I was training at Lackland, my dad retired as a Chief Master Sergeant with 26 years service.
Dyess AFB (1977-79)
Mere days after I in-processed at Dyess AFB, I witnessed a EB-47E Stratojet bomber landing to become a display aircraft. Dyess was home to B-52D, KC-135, and C-130H aircraft at this time. My job as a small arms specialist required frequent visits to Dyess Small Arms Range Annex, a portion of the former Camp Barkeley (and we referred to it as Camp Barkeley). Our rifle training used modern targets, but the W.W.II target systems were still in place in “the pits” and some of them still raised and lowered. Our small pistol range on base still revealed 1950s vintage .30 Carbine and .45 ACP cartridge cases in the dirt. I did some volunteer work for a local charity at their camp, which was said to be a former missile site (years later I realized it was Nike missile site DY-50C). When San Angelo’s Goodfellow AFB was announced as a candidate for base closure, we drove there in a 1 ½ ton truck and retrieved equipment and supplies for use at our range (Goodfellow didn’t close). I was on the Baggage Handler detail, meaning I would report to base operations and offload baggage of any important visitors. I carried the bags of retired General Curtis LeMay on 3 Aug 1979 when he visited Dyess (I was closely supervised by a Colonel and a Chief Master Sergeant while performing this task). I made a static-line parachute jump in late 1977 at Elmdale Airpark (I tell people I've been skydiving for many years and I'm between my first and... second jump).
Running some errand for the air show coordinator, I drove my POV (Subaru 1400GL) through the hangar where the Thunderbirds T-38As were parked (I drove very carefully) on 7 Jul 1979.
My first TDY was to the Belleville AF Recruiting Office IL, under the Recruiter Helper program. I made personal visits to Carswell AFB TX and Bergstrom AFB TX.
Bitburg AB (1979-81)
I flew over from Charleston AFB SC to Rhein-Main AB, West Germany, on my way to Bitburg AB. Bitburg had a wing of F-15A/Bs (I believe they transitioned to F-15C/Ds while I was there) and we saw other aircraft such as the Luftwaffe F-104G on the ramp. I lived in Bitburg Family Housing Annex and competed at Bitburg Small Arms Range Annex. To get the Join-Spouse assignment to Bitburg, I had to retrain into the vehicle operator/dispatcher career field. Driving American sedans (with broken speedometers), or Volkswagon vans, or Mercedes 1 ½ ton trucks, I made cargo and passenger runs to Ramstein AB, Sembach AB, Hahn AB, Kapaun AS, Lindsey AB GE, Rhein-Main AB, Weisbaden AB, Pruem AS, Zweibrucken AB, and Spangdahlem AB. I made personal visits to most of those places plus Vogelweh Family Housing Annex. We frequently wore "chem gear" during exercises. I fired in a German rifle and machine gun competition on Hochwald Kaserne, in Hermeskeil.
I went TDY to HQ AFCENT, Hendrik Camp, Netherlands. While there, we traveled back across the border each day to shoot at the German rifle and pistol ranges on Geilenkirchen AB (this was before it became home to NATO's AWACS fleet). While I was at Hendrik Camp, Headquarters USAFE was damaged by a terrorist bomb attack. I visited Ramstein about two weeks later and observed the damage.
The first former missile site I explored was the Mace launch facility at Rittersdorf AF Missile Site. My neighbor Tom and I explored the site. I didn't understand exactly what I was looking at, but I was fascinated by this piece of history. We observed the missile shelter doors, the air vents on top of the missile shelters, and the air shaft for the underground control center.
We routinely saw remnants of W.W.II Siegfried Line defenses. Some neighbors knew about a sealed-up (supposedly) W.W.II German bunker, formerly the Panzerwerk Katzenkopf, and we foolishly climbed down through a caved-in entryway and explored several levels of the facility (I still kick myself for not taking a camera). I also visited a nearly-identical bunker a few miles away that was restored as the Westwall Museum.
Malmstrom AFB (1981-82)
The missile field of Malmstrom AFB was my first exposure to ICBMs (Minuteman III) after being around SAC’s bombers for several years. I caught a helicopter ride to Malmstrom AF Missile Site O-1 “Oscar One” and return. I made a personal visit to Ellsworth AFB SD and went TDY to Keesler AFB MS. While at Malmstrom I had to retrain under Palace Balance, and entered the manpower management career field.
Dyess AFB (1982-85)
Although I was assigned to the 3904th Management Engineering Squadron under HQ SAC, I met 96th Bomb Wing commander Colonel (later General) George "Lee" Butler, who went on to be the final CINCSAC.
I watched as the final B-52G departed the base. Later, I was in the crowd on the flight line as the first B-1 bomber arrived at Dyess. I also watched as the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team used C-4 plastic explosive to “disassemble” a B-52 for treaty compliance (it’s in the background under tarps).
I went TDY to Carswell AFB TX for training. I went TDY to Barksdale AFB LA for NCO leadership school, visiting a friend at England AFB LA on the weekends. I went TDY to Bergstrom AFB TX to attend the NCO Academy. I made personal visits to Lackland AFB. I visited my brother Eric when he was in tech school at Sheppard AFB TX.
Bergstrom AFB (1985-89)
While at Bergstrom AFB, I started appreciating Air Force history. Teaching Air Force history was part of my role as an NCO Academy instructor. I was quite proud to complete the History of Airpower correspondence course. My additional duties included unit historian, museum curator, and school librarian. I remember when I first looked at a copy of Mueller’s “base book” and started to grasp the extent of Air Force property holdings over the years.
I had students who were Titan II missile crewmembers, and a student who was crew chief on Thunderbird No. 1. I had a student who was a maintainer with the 4450th Tactical Group – he was in my class when the F-117 was publically acknowledged, and he received permission to give us a briefing on the stealth fighter just days after it went public.
While stationed at Bergstrom I drove a HUMVEE with Air Force Enlisted Terminal Attack Controllers at Fort Hood TX, and observed Air Base Ground Defense training (I fired blanks at the students in a training ambush) at Camp Bullis TX. I went TDY to Maxwell AFB AL, and I still remember seeing the expansive book stacks in the Air University Library for the first time. I made personal visits to Tyndall AFB FL, Eglin AFB FL, Hurlburt Field (officially named Eglin Air Force Auxiliary Field #9 FL), Patrick AFB FL, NAS Pensacola FL, NAS Corpus Christi TX, and Bergstrom Recreation Annex TX.
I saw the Thunderbirds perform in F-16As (two decades after this, I would watch Thunderbirds F-16Cs take off at Nellis AFB from a vantage point between the runways), and I watched the space shuttle Discovery land and take off, mounted on its Boeing 747 carrier aircraft, on its way back to Kennedy Space Center from Edwards AFB.
Randolph AFB (1989-94)
For most of my time at Randolph AFB, I was a program manager in the Air Force Management Engineering Agency. This is how I managed to go TDY to the Pentagon DC, Andrews AFB MD, Bolling AFB DC, Cannon AFB NM, Kirtland AFB NM, Peterson AFB CO, USAF Academy CO, Scott AFB IL, Maxwell AFB AL, Gunter AFS AL, Robins AFB GA, McConnell AFB KS, Rock Island Arsenal IL, Beale AFB CA, Travis AFB CA, McClellan AFB CA, Elmendorf AFB AK, Kadena AB Okinawa, and Hickam AFB HI. During one of my TDYs, I toured Cheyenne Mountain AFB CO. On the Okinawa visit I flew into commercial airports that were formerly Naha AB Okinawa, Haneda Airfield Japan, and Itami AB Japan. I made personal visits to Schofield Barracks HI, Wheeler AFB HI, Dillingham AFB HI (where I unknowingly photographed Nike OA-84L HI), Eglin AFB FL, Grissom AFB IN, and Fort Benjamin Harrison (formerly Benjamin Harrison AFB IN). I also routinely visited Lackland AFB TX, Brooks AFB TX, and Kelly AFB TX. The program manager job required a good working knowledge of the Air Force’s bases and how their locations and differences influenced workload. I kept a copy of the current Air Force Magazine Almanac Issue at my desk, to have the Guide to USAF Installations as a handy reference. This job allowed me to fly on a T-43 from Randolph AFB to Andrews AFB, and to fly on a C-21 from Andrews to Kelly AFB.
The Epiphany (still at Randolph AFB)
One Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1993, I was idly watching a movie on TV. It was a cheesy science fiction flic about UFOs, and in one scene fighter interceptors were launched from... Godman Air Force Base.
I can remember that moment like it was yesterday. I wondered “Was there really a Godman Air Force Base, or did they make that up for the movie?”
That question sent me to my collection of Air Force history books. I started compiling a rudimentary list of Air Force bases. Then I visited the base library, where I was delighted to find Air Force Magazine back issues – in hard copy – going back to the 1950s. From those old Guide to Air Force Bases my list grew (and yes, Godman AFB KY was an actual base – located on Fort Knox, Kentucky – and according to newspaper articles there were UFO incidents in that area back in 1949, perhaps inspiring the movie I had seen).
But the book research soon motivated me to do field research. My first research visit to an “old base” was the former Edward Gary AFB TX, just up the road in San Marcos, Texas. When I arrived at the present-day San Marcos airport, I got chills up my spine when I saw the W.W.II era control tower and hangar still standing. It was like they were waiting for me to discover them, and share their history with others.
Thus was sparked a long fascination with researching, understanding, documenting, and sharing information about those places – the land and structures – that make up our Air Force base history. Other historians do a great job of documenting units, aircraft, and personalities; but my self-directed, self-funded specialty is documenting the installations, however big or small, the Air Force has owned or controlled over the years.
Barksdale AFB (1994-1997)
One of my duties at Barksdale was serving as a local escort for START compliance inspections, such as the Russian team that visited in 1996 (can you find me in the official inspection photo?) After growing up with the Cold War, it sure felt odd escorting Russian inspectors on the flight line.
Through opportunity, persistence, and luck, I’ve scoured the holdings of many national, Air Force, and local archives and depositories. I’ve spent thousands of hours gleaning information from old installation directories, station lists, airfield directories, DAF and MAJCOM orders, base layout plans, and other primary source documents. I’ve driven more than one hundred thousand miles searching out old military places, even when locals insist “There’s nothing left of the old base.”
It's what I do.
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