New Page 1


My “Navy” Career 

I am the youngest of seven children in our family. There were five boys and two girls. Our parents were raised in Indiana. Our father was a veteran who saw action in France during the First World War. Our mother worked at various jobs in small factories. After marriage they lived in various parts of Indiana where our father held several types of jobs that included carpentering, farming and door to door salesman of Raleigh products. Raleigh sold household items like spices, brushes, soaps, cleaning supplies and many others. This was door to door selling in rural Indiana during the depression of the 1930’s. Mother ran the house and raised the kids. We always lived in rural farm houses rather than in town. We had no electricity, telephone or pluming in the house. We had a cow, some chickens, pigs and always a huge garden. So even though the country was going through a deep, hard depression, our parents always provided the basics. There were always chores and various jobs with the garden and animals. I was a baby so it was the older kids who worked hard to help our family get by. We eventually moved to southern Minnesota in 1940. Looking back, I am absolutely amazed and thankful that the family always had food, clean clothes and a roof over our heads. 

It (my “navy” career) all started just before my seventeenth birthday. I had quit high school due to a major personality conflict with one of my teachers. I was working for my parents in a café as the chief dishwasher and potato peeler. I was wanting out of what I was in and the only place I knew where I might do that was in the military. I had previously wanted to enlist in the Navy but my parents would not sign for me. So I headed to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to check it out again. I asked a policeman for directions to the recruiting station. I told the first person I saw that I wanted to join the Navy as soon as I turned seventeen. The old Sergeant said, “I can’t get you in the Navy, but Son, let me tell you about the Air Force.” Well, the day all the processing was done was the beginning of my new career. It was not “Anchors Away” it was “Off We Go”. The date was August 2, 1949, my seventeenth birthday 

After basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas, I went to Aircraft and Engine Mechanics School at Sheppard AFB, Texas. After the seven month school I was transferred to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona (SAC B-29). I was assigned to the Base Flight “alert crew” which consisted of parking and refueling incoming transient aircraft. After a couple months I jumped at the opportunity to transfer to a gunnery range about twenty miles south of Tucson. The range, called an OQ Gunnery Range (OQ was designation for Target, Flying Model), was out in the middle of nowhere consisting of six old buildings: an open bay barracks (for ten to twenty enlisted airmen), a latrine/shower, a mess hall, a building for parachute packing, a building for target maintenance and a building for gun/turret maintenance behind a row of ten twin 50 caliber ground mounted aircraft turrets with gunner stations to fire from. 

 The purpose of the OQ Gunnery Range was to give bomber gunnery school students and crew members actual live firing at an actual target aircraft. The target aircraft was originally a fabric covered, rail launched, seven foot wing span, radio-controlled, parachute recovered target aircraft. The controller would fly the target on simulated fighter aircraft attack passes toward the row of turrets. The gunners would fire when the target was in range. Later versions of the target aircraft were all metal with a twelve foot wing span, launched from a circular “runway” on a dolly attached to a pylon in the center. After about a year of maintaining the targets, I became a target controller also. I lived out there in the dessert for about two and a half years. 

I spent the year of 1953 at 18th FBW at K-55 (later named Osan AFB), Korea, (TAC F-86) maintaining T-6 and flying as crew chief on C-47 transport aircraft. We flew to about every air base in Korea and Japan transporting personnel and cargo. Upon returning to the states, I was assigned to Lowry AFB, Colorado (ATC) maintaining Base Flight B-25 aircraft. I soon volunteered to be reassigned to the OQ Gunnery Range located about thirty miles southeast of Denver. Once again I was maintaining and “flying” radio-controlled targets for gunnery school students. This OQ Range was much newer than the one in Arizona so I was happy to spend the next four years there. Next stop: OCS. 

After OCS, I was assigned to the 42nd Bomb Wing at Loring AFB, Maine (SAC B-52) as an Armament and Electronics maintenance officer. I was OIC of the ECM and Gun Turret flight line sections. The wing was a full three squadron unit and had fifty B-52s. This was my first assignment to a “real” operational unit. Almost immediately I was sent TDY for seven weeks to Keesler AFB, Mississippi to the Electronic Counter Measures maintenance school. While at Keesler, I ran across several 58-B classmates attending the Communications School. After a year at Loring AFB I was transferred back to the 303rd BW, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona (SAC B-47) as an Armament and Electronics maintenance officer. I was OIC of the ECM and Com/Nav flight line sections. At that time the unit was a full three squadron wing with over fifty B-47s. 

After almost three years serving as an A&E maintenance officer, I was transferred back to Lowry AFB to finally attend the six month Armament and Electronics Maintenance Officers School. Upon completion, I was transferred to 4128th BW at Amarillo AFB, Texas (SAC B-52) as an Armament and Electronics maintenance officer for one year. I was OIC of the ECM and Gun Turret flight line sections. This unit was a dispersed wing with only fifteen B-52s. 

In 1963, I was transferred to Strategic Air Command Headquarters at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. I was in the Electronic Counter Measures/Reconnaissance section of the Armament and Electronics Section, Aircraft Maintenance Division of the Directorate of Material. I was soon working exclusively with SPA147 Drones, RB-47, U-2, RC-135 and SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft and the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. The 4080th SRW (later renamed the 100th SRW) flew remote-controlled, parachute recovered, jet powered drone aircraft launched from a DC-130. About half of my time was spent traveling to bases and contractors’ conferences concerning training and material support for new systems. These trips were primarily concerned with bringing new or modified systems through the manufacturing phases and all areas of material support and personnel training. In addition we were responsible for Tech Order review and verification; spare parts provisioning; test equipment verification; and field problem solving about material/equipment failures and routine inspections. 

During my tour at SAC Headquarters I met and later married Louise, the widow of a Naval Officer killed in the Philippines. I have always considered that the best and smartest move I ever made. 

In 1967, after my four year tour at SAC Headquarters, I was transferred to an Air Force Logistics Command Special Projects Office at Ryan Aircraft Company in San Diego, California. Ryan Aircraft Company manufactured the drones which were launched from a DC-130. The Special Projects Office was responsible for procurement contracts management, flight testing modifications and updates, conducting the final Air Force acceptance inspections on all delivered items and providing technical and material support to operating units. The job was really a continuation of my previous SAC HQ duties except now only for the SPA 147 drones. I remained at Ryan Aircraft Company until I retired in May, 1970. Except for six trips to South Vietnam during those last few years, it was a very enjoyable way to end my military career. I had spent fifteen years of my career directly involved with radio-controlled target sized aircraft. I feel honored to have had a front row seat to witness and to have been a part of the advancement from gunnery range targets to (at that time) an ultra secret, multi-mission reconnaissance vehicle. I am in no way denigrating the remainder of my career because I loved each and every hour of each day. 

After retirement I worked for Ryan Aircraft Company for a year in the program management office for a new runway launched/runway recovered, high altitude, remotely controlled aircraft. But my heart was not in being in the same line of work. So we moved to my home town in Minnesota to be near my parents. We bought a 40 acre “farm” and spent the next four years re-modeling the house from foundation to roof and all in between. During the time we were busy working on the house both of my parents died. So we soon decided to move to Oklahoma since my wife was originally from there. But again we found that we were somewhere we did not want to be so we moved back to Minnesota to be near our grand children. We lived in a small town where I was a state certified volunteer fireman/first responder, served on the town council and finally was elected mayor. 

By 1984 we were back in Oklahoma with two of our grand children living with us. I worked in a retail and wholesale gun and hunting supplies store. The two grand children finally went to live with their father in California. In 1996 we bought a 30 foot Class A motor home. We planned to do a lot of traveling and see the US of A. Before our first trip, our grandson became diabetic so returned to live with us and attend college. Prior to enrolling in college, the three of us took our first motor home trip. We went to California, up the coast to Washington, across the top row of states, down through Colorado and back home. We are so happy that our grandson went with us. 

On March 14, 1997 our lives were changed forever. The grandson living with us was murdered. The murderer was an acquaintance who wanted our grandson’s old car. Over night we were thrown into a world of Police, Homicide Detectives, Medical Examiners, Assistance District Attorneys, Defense Lawyers, Court delays, plea bargaining and all the inside politics that goes on during each phase. But we finally prevailed by going directly to the District Attorney whenever we thought we were being victimized again. The murderer is now serving a life without possibility of parole sentence in state prison. My wife and I have spent considerable time over the past several years lobbying the Governor, State Senators and State Representatives for more victims’ rights and a better criminal justice system. At the present time we are slowly returning to “normal”. It has taken a long time to be able to think about anything other than what happened to our grandson and family. But with the passage of time and a lot of help we will be okay. We are planning to make up for lost time. We have kids and grandkids from California, to southern Florida, to eastern Oklahoma and southern Minnesota. We hope to keep the wheels humming. 

The following links will take you to web pages about aircraft I worked on and/or provided the operating units technical and material support. I sincerely hope you will take the time to follow these links  The history of early US target drones, leading up to the type I flew on the OQ Ranges  The history of drone reconnaissance during the  1960s and 1970s. This link gives a year by year detailed history and analysis of the progression of the early rather simple drones to the final complex, multi-mission craft.  A narrative story about drones in Southeast Asia covering the drones, the launch aircraft, the recovery team, operational history, mission profiles and a list of major accomplishments. This link also concludes with a story about the U-2 and SR-71 aircraft.  The history of the RB-47 & RC-135 aircraft from the 1950s thru their missions in Vietnam  The Ryan SPA154 developed in the late 1960s.  

The history of US drones after the SPA154 has been sometimes stop and go, sometimes full speed ahead with one or many contractors, with fly-offs for contracts, which have lead to the present day Global Hawk and Predator. If the past is any indication of the future, you can rest assured that there are plenty of other specialized drones in the hangers somewhere and more (smaller and/or larger) on the drawing boards in every forward thinking contractor.