Sunday, November 28, 2010


by C. R. Layton, March 25, 2001

While visiting our daughter Melody and her family in Cleveland, Ohio, someone mentioned the Azores. I said that I had been there. Melody said she had been wanting to go there for years; why hadn’t I ever mentioned that I had been there. “Why don’t you write a story about it.”

It was in August of 1953, I was stationed at McCLELLAN AFB in Sacramento, California in the 55th Strategic Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. We had one of our B-29’s and its crew farmed out to an Operation called “BOOTSTRAP”. It was a thing of secrecy then, but now is common knowledge. They were photographing the whole continent of Europe and surrounding islands, etc. This aircraft lost an engine and had to land at Lajes AFB on the island of Terieira, Azores. The Azores is a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean about nine hundred miles west of the coast of Portugal. My crew was selected to take a replacement engine and fly-way kit. A fly-way kit is all the tools and accessories needed to change out an engine on a B-29. The B-29 was called “The Super Fortress” built during World War II but was still being used in the Korean War. The B-29 had two bomb bays, forward and aft. The replacement 3350 Pratt Whitney engine was loaded in the aft bomb bay, the fly-way kit in the forward.

Our trip was going very well until we lost our number four engine and had to feather it. The B-29 was considered to be an under powered aircraft when hauling a full load, which we were. We were about half way between Bermuda and the Azores when this event took place, so it would do no good to turn back. As we were losing altitude very fast our Aircraft Commander made the decision to salvo the load we were carrying. The bomb bay doors were opened and the salvo switches energized to release the engine and fly-way kit from the bomb racks. The kit from the forward bomb bay salvoed smoothly and fell to the Atlantic Ocean floor below, but the 3350 engine became cocked and hung up in the bomb bay. This was not a good situation to be in. The Aircraft Commander ordered me to look the situation over and make an attempt to dislodge the load and allow it to drop. I selected one of the radio operators to help me. I sent him down one side while I was on the other. While squeezing between the bomb racks and the outer fuselage the radio operator got his parachute hung up and panicked. I had to backtrack and go over to the other side and get him loose. We tried for about thirty minutes or so to shake the engine loose, but to no avail. If you have never been in the bomb bay of a B-29 flying with the doors open, you cannot imagine to noise level of those engines roaring and wind passing through. It was totally deafening, and it was hours before my hearing returned to normal. The Aircraft Commander ordered us back inside and attempted to do some maneuvers with the aircraft, designed to shake bombs loose that had hung up on the bomb racks. That didn’t work either. Our Aircraft Commander then offered our options to the crew and wanted input from everyone of us. Our options were, number one bring all crew members to the front cabin and attempt to land, hoping that the engine would not dislodge on touch down, for if that happened our craft would surely break into at the forward bomb bay area. Number two, bail out and abandon the aircraft. Number three, ditch the aircraft in the ocean, but the engine could also dislodge and break the aircraft in half on impact. We discussed the fact that we were over shark infested waters and immediately ruled that one out. The majority of our crew voted to land at Lajes AFB if we still had enough altitude to reach that destination. The Major order me to go back to the bomb bay and try to determine just how low the engine was hanging below the bottom of the bomb bay doors. Normally sitting on the ground there was about 12 inches of clearance from the ground or tarmac. I checked it and decided the bottom of the engine was pretty even with the bottom of the bomb bay doors. So we decided to try an emergency landing if we had enough altitude to reach Lajes AFB. It turned out to be a good decision. We all had a laugh about our decision and agreed to buy the Major a case of beer if he didn’t drag the tail skid. Just before landing everyone in the back crawled through the tunnel to the front cabin. We were packed in there like sardines, but it was the safest way to land. Our Aircraft Commander made the smoothest landing that I ever saw in a B-29, and I logged over 1400 hours in those B-29s.

When our craft came to a complete stop, we deplaned in a hurry to see what it looked like. The engine had shifted some and there was about six inches of clearance between the engine and the runway. Every where you cared to look you could see emergency equipment set and ready in the event it was needed. We didn’t need it. God had heard our prayers.

The bomb bay doors were removed, jacks were put under the engine to level it and dislodge it. Next the aircraft was jacked up high enough to get the engine out. The 3350 engine that we had carried over 6,000 miles had been saved and delivered to the Aircraft it was intended for. Now we were stranded in a foreign land waiting for someone to bring us an engine.

We had lots of time on our hands. Lajes AFB had civilian mechanics that performed all work on the planes that came through there. We had nothing to do. After a few days some of us decided to go into the little town of Priora; I think the cab ride cost about 15 cents. It was a beautiful little town with lots of sidewalk cafes and such. The people were Portuguese and very nice.

After walking around and looking the town over, we went into one of the cafes to have dinner. All the waiters wore black pants with short waist jacket like what we called an “Ike” jacket, white shirt and little black bow ties. When our waiter came to take our order, I ask him if he knew what a Hot Beef Sandwich was, we couldn’t read the menus. They were written in Portuguese. Our waiter could not speak English but he could understand a little of it. (Very little.) He nodded that he knew what I wanted. Across the room I saw some people drinking what I thought was red wine from a very large beer schooner. I ask the waiter what they were drinking and he said red wine. I ordered one of those also. When our food was brought, everything looked wonderful, but my Hot Beef Sandwich looked nothing like what I expected. The meat was shredded and the potatoes were sliced into wedges and appeared to be deep-fried. The meat was resting on what I call French Bread and covered with Brown Gravy. The meat definitely was not beef, but I wasn’t about to ask what it was. (It turned out to be very good.) When we all finished eating, he brought us all a tiny little cup of coffee, which we couldn’t drink. You could have filled you ink pen with it and used it for ink. We ask him if we could have a beer instead. He brought us all a bottle of St. Gorge beer in a green bottle, I had never seen beer in anything but brown bottles before. When we ask for our checks, we couldn’t read that either. I pulled out a one dollar bill, but he indicated change. I pulled my change out of my pocket, he looked it over and took a quarter and brought me back fourteen Portuguese coins, most of which were larger than the quarter I had given him. When I was informed on how much money he had returned with, I calculated that my dinner had cost about twelve cents. At once I thought when I get discharged from the Air Force I’m coming back here to live.

In a few days, one of our other flight crews landed with our replacement engine. A couple of days later the ground maintenance crew had our engine replaced and we were about ready to fly a test hop on the plane and get ready to go home. False!!! When we were doing the pre-flight test for the test hop we found that ground crew had put the wrong kind of fuel in our tanks and every fuel seal on the A/C was leaking, Booster pumps the banjo fittings on the fuel nozzles, every place you looked, there was fuel dripping. We had to inventory and list every part that we needed new seals for and call our Squadron again for parts. After about ten more days we were ready to go home. We had flown a test hop and everything was OK. We had loaded our cargo, forty cases of Seagram’s VO in forty ounce jugs. Liquor was duty free there and very cheap. $1.30 for a forty ounce jug. It was all for our NCO and Officers Clubs at McClellen AFB. And a few select officers and NCO’s in our Squadron like Master Sergeant Donald Wilde who was a survivor of “The Battan Death March.” M/S Wilde was the man that taught me how to play Pinochle. We had several like him of World Was II fame in the 55th at that time. Well, luck was not with us. Operations grounded us because of hurricanes in the area. The next day (Sep 18) we learned that a B-29 and crew of eleven had bailed out of their aircraft and a search was in progress. If we wanted to join in on the search we would be cleared for takeoff. We jumped at the chance. The downed crew was from one of our sister Squadrons, the 53rd Strategic Weather Reconnaissance Squadron from Bermuda and some of our crew member had friends in that outfit. After about ten hours of searching, we received news that the survivors had been rescued and were on their way the hospital at Westover AFB. There were four survivors, the others were lost, mostly to sharks. A few hours later we landed at Westover AFB.

When Operations at Westover designated where we should park our aircraft we were met there by unit of Air Police who set up a barricade around our aircraft and set to guard it and our precious cargo. Before we loaded in a truck, the Major instructed the guards that our aircraft was off-limits to anyone but our crew unless they had a letter from the President of the United States. We had figured that we would spend the night, refuel and go home. Wrong!!!! As soon as we were in Operations the Major informed us that his Mother and Father lived in Holy Oak, Mass. Which was just down the road and that was his home town and we were going to stay three days. If any us needed any money, to let him know right now. Every one agreed they were OK with money. Most of us never left the base.

After we had chow we cleaned up and went to the Hospital to see who the survivors were. None of us knew any of them. One fellow I was talking to told me that every time a shark approached him, he would kick or punch him in the snout. We went there every day we were there and sat with them. Some of us wrote letters for them to their families.

On the third day the Major returned and we were ready to get on our way to Sacramento. When we got to our Aircraft, one of the guards came over to me and ask what we were carrying that was so secret. I told him forty cases of Seagram’s VO. He had the nerve to call me a liar.

Just as we were getting ready to leave, Operations ordered us to re-park for a little while. Air Force One had just landed with D.D.E. on board and no one could land or takeoff while Air Force One was on the ground. In about four hours we were notified that we were cleared and ready to leave. We had a very routine and uneventful trip back to Sacramento and were we glad to be home.


Nov. 20, 2005: Small World, on the 15 of November I sent a few letters out to some 58th guys I had just acquired the addresses of. Just a couple of days ago I got a call from a Roy Wampler Col. (Ret). During our conversation I mentioned my trip to the Azores while in the 55th. He remembered our trip and the engine hang up we had. He told me he was a 1st Lt co-pilot on the B-29 that brought us a replacement engine. He also sent a photo which he called “Crew Lolling” that was taken by the Aircraft Commander, Capt. Francis E. Wilson. This is the crew of that B-29 lolling in the shade of their wing waiting to load up and takeoff for their return to McClellan AFB. I would call this quite a coincidence and thought it worthy of adding to this story.

The author of this story has written more than 35 stories about events in his life or ancestors. If there is any interest in any of these stories, ask and I will be glad to share them with you.
Note: I have finished the Down the Alcan Highway story but have decided to use it in next years reunion program. After the reunion I'll post it on here.

My First Cruise

By C. R. Layton

It was in November 1953, I had came to Parks AFB, CA., to be processed and to disembark on a voyage to Alaska. I was being re-assigned to the 58th Strategic Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at Eielson AFB in Fairbanks, Alaska. I had been assigned to the 55th S.W.R.S. for the last year along with several buddies that had come from Sheppard AFB, TX. where we attended A&E School after Basic Training at Lackland AFB, TX. Some of these buddies were Carl Lord, Darril Hinton, Ray Lowe, Joe Komornic, Ken Waldron and Jim Buffalo. After being processed we were taken to San Francisco Bay to board our cruise ship. It was the USS Thomas Jefferson, and already aboard was a Division of U.S. Army bound for Korea along with their heavy artillery, a few tanks and war supplies.
Once aboard we were assigned tasks for the time we would be on the ship. Seven days we were told, turned out to be Nine. I drew a really tough assignment. "Guard Duty", this was standing guard over the Female Nurses quarters. I had two shifts daily doing Four hour at a time. The Navy Officer (2 bars like an Air Force Captain) that issued my piece and ammunition ask me if I could shoot anyone not authorized coming down my hall way to the nurses quarters. I ask him whom would I be shooting? He informed me that there were probably more that a hundred soldiers on board that would do anything to keep from going to Korea. He said "they would take my weapon away from me and use it on me, and it happens on all most every trip". I said I don’t think so. This isn’t my first time to pull guard duty. I’m not about to let anyone do that. He said, "OK you will do". Would you believe two shifts twice a day for at least Eight days and I never saw a female nurse, or a female of any kind? I never had to shoot anyone either. (PTL)
Food: These Navy guys were a little off on their clocks. What I mean is they didn’t know night from day. They served us beans for breakfast and oatmeal for dinner. I guess it didn’t really matter much, for most of the guys didn’t keep it down for very long. One thing I learned real quickly, after a meal, you don’t go directly to the John or go on deck. One guy told me all he ate on the trip was soda crackers.
About the second day I was coming in from guard duty to our bunkroom when a Navy Chief came in and ask if anyone wanted to play pinochle. This guy had strips everywhere, like an Air Force Master Sergeant with over 20 years. With him was a sailor with one or two strips, I’m not sure. My buddy Carl Lord was lying there on his bunk (in his shorts) reading a Luke Short Western. I said, "well if I can find me a partner I will play some. I said to Carl, "hey buddy do play pinochle"? He said, " yeah I’ll play with you if the stakes aren’t too high". Carl got up and put his fatigues on, we spread out a blanket and the Chief got out his cards and started shuffling them. He said, "how about $.50 cents a game and nickel a point"? I looked at Carl and he said "that's OK by me". Carl stuck out his hand and said, "my name is Carl, what’s yours"? I said, "most everyone calls me Conrad". This Navy Chief and his partner played a pretty good game of Pinochle. What they did not know was that Carl and I was the "Base Pinochle Champions" of McClellan AFB where we had just left. We pretty well skinned the chief and his crony. After we had removed $190.00 from them, the Chief said, "just for the record, you two guys aren’t really strangers are you"? "You guys have the best signals I have ever encountered. I know you do, we just never could figure them out". We never told them anything, just left them wondering.
It was a beautiful trip up to Seward, Alaska. Once there we boarded a very old Train. It was a narrow gauge railroad like out of a John Wayne Western. After all this was still the Last Frontier and almost five years from statehood. It was a very scenic trip while it was still daylight. The train had to stop once to get a Moose off the track. I can’t remember exactly how long this trip took, but I remember eating the same meal 3 or 4 times, (stew I think) and sleeping a little. The first thing I heard when we boarded was that gambling was legal now. It was dark when we reached Fairbanks and Eielson AFB. I remember it was about 30 below zero and all we had was our originial issue. No winter clothing . we got that issues the next day.  I think my buddy Ray Lowe has some photos that were taken on this trip.
So OK, maybe I have forgotten some of this stuff. If any of you readers have a better memory, SO HELP ME MAKE SOME CORRECTIONS!!!!!


by C.R. Layton
Some of you knew and remember Carl L. Lord. Carl was born in Tucson, Arizona on Dec 22, 1934 and died Nov 25, 2001 in Overgaard, AZ where Carl was President of the local VFW. His good wife Mary was the VFW Chaplain.
I first met Carl at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. Carl had just gotten off a train from Tucson and I from Tulsa, OK. What attracted Carl to me was the pair of cowboy boots I was wearing. They were a very special pair of boots, custom made at a saddle & boot shop at our local stockyards. My first and only pair of hand made boots. I had on new Levi’s with a hand tooled belt and a Silver Buckle Set that my step dad "Pop" as I called him had just made for me as a leaving home present.. Carl and I really hit it off from that very moment. When we were assigned bunks together I choose the lower and Carl got the upper. We had guys ask us if we were brothers, one ask if we were twins. I was about a year older than Carl and I think he really trusted my judgment on a lot of things and looked up to as an older brother. We became best friends.
Here are some excerpts from a story I wrote a few years ago "Events That Happened In Basic Training" that involved my friend Carl.
I remember the day we were taking mass drill training. We were all setting on a grassy little terrace with a big Master Sergeant explaining what to do when a Flight of WAFS came marching by. My good Friend Carl L. Lord was looking them over pretty good when the Sergeant noticed he wasn’t hearing a word he was saying. He walked over to Carl and said "Airman, you like those WAFS pretty good don’t you". Carl said, "Yes Sir I do". The Master Sergeant yelled out to the T. I. that was over the WAFS and ask if Carl could march around the block with them. The T. I. agreed, and Carl was told to fall in with them and march around the block. When he returned he never took his eyes off that big Master Sergeant again.
Carl Lord and I were the first two guys out of the mess hall one very hot day and the ice cream man was just pulling up in front. Carl said, "let’s get us a fudge sickle." I said, "if Roberts caught us it may not be any fun." Carl said, " Aw h---, we’ll have it eaten before he comes out." We ordered two fudge sickles and had just removed the paper from them when we heard Roberts yell, "what do you guys think you are doing, who told you to get "that ice cream?" "Put it in your pocket till we get back to the barracks." After all our guys had come out he marched us all around the base the long way back to our barrack. When he halted us and dismissed us he yelled out "OK Layton, Lord, you can eat your ice-cream now." Every guy in Flight 394 was upset, (P O’ed to say the least) about having to march the long way around, and they let us know it. All I had left in my pocket was the stick; I had chocolate running down to my sock.
One day our flight was on detail  picking up rocks out on a newly cleared  area getting it ready for a new tent area. Carl Lord and I were working along together, when Carl said, "Look over there." There was one of our guys stooped over playing with a snake. It was Harry Hubbard, from Baltimore, MD. It was a rattler about 16 inches long, Harry would reach for it and when it struck he would yank his hand back. Carl said, "do you know that’s a rattle snake." Harry jumped back from it saying, "you mean it is poison." Carl killed it with a big rock. Harry said, " we have snakes in the Paawk back home". Carl turned and walked away mumbling something about Yankees.
Carl and I along with several others from Flight 394 were assigned to A&P School at Shepard AFB, Texas. I can recall Carl and I, Deane "Mike" Lawless, Jarel Florence, Sid Billingsley, Arthur Hard III, and Marvin Mills.and maybe a few others that I can't remember.  Carl introduced us to Mexican food while we were at Shepard. There was a Restaurant down town called the "Casa Manana that Carl "Mike", Sid and I ate at about every time we went to town. Until that time the only South of the Border food I had ever eaten was Hot Tamales.
One hot summer day Carl and I were walking back to the Barrack from the PX. We were just about the middle of the Forty-Acre Parade Field when softball size hale hit. We ran licitly split for the barrack with our hands over our heads; Carl had been hit on one of his shoulders that had almost driven him to the ground. When we reached our Barrack which was across the street from the Parade Field, two of our guys were holding the door open and holding our field jackets and helmet liners and pointing back to the Parade Field. There was a guy down just about the middle of the field. Carl and I donned the jackets and helmet liners. And headed right back into the hale storm. When we got to the guy he was really beat up and totally unconscious. We managed to get the guy up and onto our shoulders and proceeded back to our barrack. One of our guys had run over to the Orderly room and told them what was happening. When it was all over, a Captain told Carl and I that we were heroes and would be commended for the act. They took the poor guy that was about dead to the Hospital and we never heard anymore about that incident.
When we were through with Tech School and everyone was getting their orders for their next assignments, about four or five of us were on the same orders going to gunnery school at Lowery AFB, Colorado. We were elated that we were getting to remain together. We cleared the Base turned in our bunks, etc, and was waiting for finance to pay us and transportation to the Bus Station in Wichita Falls when they came out and cancelled Carl and my orders. It was Noon the next day before we were assigned to the 55th SWRS at McClellan AFB, Sacramento, CA. We spent the entire evening and night without knowing what was in store for us and without a place to lay our heads.
There were way too many episodes while in the 55th to try and pen but here is one I’ll never forget. Carl and I were in downtown Sacramento one evening. We wondered into a place called the "Lion’s Den". Bad name right! We should have known better. I found a poker game and decided to try my luck for a hand or two. Carl started playing the little bowling games where you could win money according to what score you could post. I was hot that evening and couldn’t lose. We had been there a couple of hours when I noticed that I was about $485 ahead. I told the guy over the game to cash me out that I had to get back to the Base. I noticed the guy straight across from me give him the "no sign", He said that policy was that the big winner could not just walk out on the game. He said I could leave without my money. I said sure, you can see me doing that. I saw Carl in a few minutes very nonchalantly stroll out of the building. My first thought was Carl you can’t just leave me here alone with these cutthroats. Then I realized that he had heard our conversation and was going for help. Fifteen or twenty minutes later Carl came back in with about six guys from the base and one of them was a guy we called Big Tex. Tex wore a size 57 jacket and was from New York City. He came directly over to me, picked the chair up with me in it and set me down about four feet from the table and bellowed out, Cash out Layton we got a bus to catch. The guy in charge didn’t even look at the guy across from me but began to gather up my chips and cashed me out with about $525. We left that place without further incident. We had another fun incident in Grass Valley, Ca. with Ray Lowe and a couple of others but I wrote about that in another story.
While in the 55th Carl and I  volunteered for duty in Korea, but were assigned to the 58th in Fairbanks, Alaska. One incident that I recall from Fairbanks, one night Carl and I and a few others were in Fairbanks at the Buffalo Saloon. Carl came over to me and asks if I had ever tried Marijuana. I told him no way and he had better not try it either. He said a guy he met in there had some and wanted him to give it a try.
A little while later another guy came over to me and told me that my friend was outside and was really sick. I went out and sure enough Carl was down on hands and knees puking his guts up. He looked up at me and asks me if he was going to die. I told him yes, but probably not tonight. I got him up and went back inside and got a clean wet towel and cleaned him up a little and made our way to the bus station and went back to the base. Carl told me to never let him try anything like that again. I told him you dimwit! I tried to warn you. It turned out that a bunch of the 55th went to Alaska. There was Jim Buffalo, Ray Lowe, Darrel Hinton, Ken Waldron, Joe Komornic, Carl and I that I can think of. This same group minus Ken Waldron and plus Ed Keenan all came back down the Alcan Highway together in Nov. 1955. Two car loads, That trip is a story in itself. We stopped in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to let Carl off for a bus trip home to Tucson, AZ., and Joe to Pueblo, CO. We all took photos and said our good buys, Carl came over to me gave me a big hug and gave me his address in Tucson, when we parted Carl had tears in his eyes. Friends forever I remember him saying. We all later were discharged from the AF and went our separate ways.
Carl and I continued to exchange letters. In 1957 Carl came to Tulsa and stayed for a week with us learning why we called Northeastern Oklahoma  "Green Country".. Carl had gone into the construction business with his father Cal Lord in Tucson. He married a beautiful girl named Mary. In 1961 Beverly and I took our children Melody and Tommy to Arizona to see Carl and Mary. Carl told me that He and Mary were unable to have children and had decided not to adopt.
When I decided to try and find the guys from my Basic Training unit Flt 394 for a 50th Reunion, Carl was the first one I found. He and Mary were living in Overgaard, AZ. He suggested we try to find some of our 58th guys and all get together as soon as possible. We had a Mini Reunion in 2001 with nineteen scheduled to attend. Carl and Mary failed to show although they had sent their check. Several of us tried to phone Carl with no success, we were afraid they had had an accident somewhere along the way. After we returned home from the reunion, I tried calling Carl every day. Finally after a three or four days Carl answered, really sounding haggard, I actually thought he had been drinking. Carl said, "Connie, it looks like we will have to cancel out on the reunion. Mary is in the hospital and may not make it". I told Carl that the Reunion was last week. He said, " really, well I have been living at the hospital day and night". Mary died June 6th 2001. Carl told me that he had lost the love of his life, when he got everything back in order he would come and see us. I ask him if I could fly out there and spend some time with him. Carl told me not right now that he needed time alone to sort things out and figure out what he was going to do. Carl called me later from his brother’s home in Honey Grove, TX. telling me that he had been there about a week and was getting ready to head back for Overgaard. I ask Carl to come up here a few days before he went home, but he assured me he had things at home that needed his attention. Carl’s brother Stan called me right after Thanksgiving to inform me that Carl had passed away. Stan told me that after Mary died Carl quit taking all his medicines and that was what done him in. Stan sent me some of Carl’s belongings, including his Basic Training photo. This aided me in finding some more of our Flt 394 guys. Carl had a few that signed his photo that had not signed mine. I really miss Carl. "Friends for ever".

What We Remember About Alaska

I want to thank all the guys that contributed to this article.
From C. R. Layton
* I remember that we had a "White Christmas" every year in Fairbanks, Our chances for a white Christmas in Oklahoma is less than 1% .
* I remember how long it took for our tires to round out after a cold winters night.
* Do you remember the time the mess hall got it months meat allotment and it was all hamburger meat? (1954-55) We were having hamburger fixed a 100 different ways and SOS every morning. One day I ask the Mess Sgt. if he had a thing for hamburger. He told me to get used to it because that was all they had. One Hundred and Twenty-five thousand pounds of it. Some of the guys got so tired of it that they started eating C-Rations.
* Yes I also remember the green eggs. I decided they weren’t so bad if you put enough Catsup on them.
* Anybody remember the 1st Sgt. That walked with the big cane. I found out later that he was the soul survivor of a barrack fire in Japan, he was one tough guy.
* I learned really quick not to try and loosen the metal buckle on my gloves with my teeth when I came in from the outside cold. (BRRRR!!!!!)
* Do you remember how easy it was to chill your beer in the winter?
* I remember paying $4.80 for Ham & Eggs at the bus station in Fairbanks, but boy were they good.
* I remember the "Oogie Man" that came around every evening with all kinds of goodies in his truck. I saw guys waiting in line with just shorts and shower clogs with the temperature below Zero. Crazy huh?
* Roger "Pockets" Cole reminded me of how good the snow shoe rabbits were that I would cook & share with the guys.
* I remember "Stud" Colburn going into the burning liqure store that was next door to Moose Creek Lodge when it burnt down and coming out with an arm load of booze, singed eyebrows and black all over.
* I remember killing 12 mosquitoes with one swat of my hand. Were they thick or what?)
* I remember mailing home 250 Silver Dollars and a small bottle of gold dust that I had panned just before I rotated. They never got there. (groan)
From Robert Stowers
Some of the little things I remember:
* The rain inside the car when the headliner started melting in the spring.
* When it would freeze in the shade and melt in the sun and having to knock the ice from the front wheel wells so the wheels on the car would turn.
* The frost shields on the car windows.
* The headbolt heaters on the car engines.
* The hitching racks in front of the parking spaces to plug in the headbolt heaters.
* The inch or so of ice on the inside of the barrack windows.
* The long ice cycles hanging from the roof of the Birchwood Hanger.
* Having to pay a dollar for a hamburger when it would have been 25 cents back home.
* Those frozen storage eggs for breakfast.
* Having to change out a piece of equipment on the mission aircraft at the last minute while taxiing out to the runway to avoid a late takeoff.
* The long nights in the winter and not knowing when to wake up.
* The long days in the summer and not knowing when to go to bed.
* Bunny boots.
* The small trees stuck in the snow to mark the edge of the highway.
* Trying to find a particular aircraft on the flight line in the ice fog.
* Deciphering the aircraft log book to determine if what was written was what was meant in regards to faulty equipment.
* Going to Fairbanks in the summer and seeing a man planting potatoes in a garden, then going to town, what seemed like a month later, and he was digging up the potatoes.
* Some guys might include Major Luther Miller here, but he never did anything in a small way, so I don’t believe he belongs on the list of little things remembered. If someone would start a list of big things remembered, then it would more appropriate to include him on that list.
From Larry Liska
* The ice fog so think you could cut it
* 30 days of KP 24 on 24 off upon arrival at the 58th
* Electric outlets at all the parking places on the street in Fairbanks for the headbolt heaters
* Guys "borrowing" aviation fuel to run their cars 24/7 in the winter because the 6 volt systems wouldn't crank the engine then
* Frost on the inside of the barracks windows so thick you couldn't see outdoors all winter
* Mosquitoes as big as F-100's
* Frost forming on your mustache, eyebrows, and hair
* Emergency air drops of equipment to those poor bastards way out in those god forsaken boonies in winter.
* When you spit it freezes before it hit’s the ground.
From Ken Earl
* I remember a few things, such as a place called the Squadron Club in Fairbanks which was made from an old C-46 fuselage with an add on.
* In the winter, I recall quite a few times, as the use of alcoholic drinks were very popular up there, and when it would be dark approx. 20 hrs a day, that some of the guys, on week-ends would come into the chow hall expecting the evening meal and finding out it was breakfast.
* Some of you guys must remember the rotation parties which took place
every thirty days at a tavern called Pauline’s Rainbow club. at mile 6.
*The roller rink just out of Fairbanks, I forget how far, but I know a
couple of us would go there once in a while.
From Phillip Wiles
My most memorable event would have to be when they brought a B-52 in and put it in the hanger. They wouldn't let us near as they had their own maint. and security . Our radio shop was up stairs and we would look at it from there. It was impressive!!!
* I remember the long train ride from Seward to Fairbanks and all the caribou we saw.
* How cold it was on that train...we had to wear our overcoats all the way!!
* All the cords from the windows in the barracks for headbolt heaters for the few cars that were there.
* Icefog, bunny boots and parkas,Ah those were the days!!!!!!!!!!!
From Ken Waldren
* Do you remember to slide your feet until the soles of your boot's cooled off, If you didn't your feet would go out from under & you would bust your A??
* Also never handle metal bare handed or you would stay??????????????
From Dan Waskes
  • The thing I remember the most about Alaska was the aurora borealis. It seemed to be so close that you could just reach out and touch it. 

  • From Dck Ellis

  • * The biggest thing I remember at Eielson was the burning to the ground of the computer controlled B-47 due to a fuel over flow onto the muffler of the power unit. Many heads rolled on that on. (Spring of 1951)
From Gary Blessing
* I remember fixing broken windows in the Barracks with wet toilet paper, worked great until spring and Civil Engineers could replace it.
From Lt. Col. Roy Wampler
* I remember the water truck. We lived in a one room log cabin that was when (1950) the last cabin in town toward the University that had a 500 gallon water tank under the floor. It got filled by the water truck once a week on Sunday morning and there were NO extra deliveries because his schedule would not allow
* I remember the old wood burning cooking range that had been converted to use coal oil. After a few days, the wife cooked better on it than anything we had before or after.
* I remember the great Sunday mornings at the dog races downtown - the natives in their beautiful skins - gold panning - the salmon wheels on the river - and those huge gold digging shovels - chatting with your neighbor and having a beer in the sunlight then remembering it was 2:30 AM and time for bed.
From Bill Glebus
* I remember the cold morning that 50 gallons of oil drained out on to the hanger floor from the B29 that I was working on because I forget to shut of the valve during routine maintenance !! That 2 years was a great experience and made a MAN of me as I was only 18 at the time I got there
From Maj. Vince Carpenter
* Driving across the ice to the Fairbanks airport, when it froze thick enough;
* The river ice breakup in the spring;
* Ice fog;
* Coffee and donuts from "the closet" in the Birchwood Hanger;
* Two-lane road to Fairbanks that looked like a four-lane road, but the outer two lanes were several feet of snow;
* Creamer's Dairy;
* Making a long-distance call meant you had to go to the Fairbanks telephone center;
* Headbolt heaters - circulating heaters - bringing the car battery inside;
* Recombined" milk...
A memory from Mrs Donald Small (Betty)
* I enjoyed reading your memories in Alaska. It was a great time for all of us. Don and I got to know so many special people and do so many things. Camping out with the big mosquito's or having a picnic with them buzzing around was something I never got used too. We were very fortunate to get to go to Grant's cabin at property our landlord took care of for an old prospector. We and friends would stay there on a weekend and just wonder around and do target practice and play double pinochle. One time I left a duck roasting in a roaster oven while we went out to hunt moose and we got stuck in the tundra. We spent the night in an old Hungarian's cabin that night and the next day Don walked out to the main road to get a ride back to town and help to pull the car out. It was so hot in that little cabin the next morning with the roaring fire he built, but the ham he was frying sure smelled great. While Don was gone he and I picked wild cranberries from low bushes on the hillside. I made the best banana-cranberry jam from them and lost the recipe. Anybody ever heard of it? Friends barely got us out and that duck was not edible, but they did shut the oven off and wondered why we didn't come back.
From Melvin Beers
I have three things that happened to me while at Eielson AFB. I will try to write them as I recall.
# 1 I was a truck driver at the Specialist Shop ( A/3c Mel Beers) and part of my job was to drive the Prop Dolly with a propeller to the B-29 Aircraft when the guys from the Prop Shop R & R the prop.
Airman Bill Mc Nerney was the Prop Man and I drove the new prop to the aircraft. I backed it up to the engine as required and stopped when Meade said to. We would then swing the prop off of the dolly and hoist it into position to slide onto the engine. The prop would not slide onto the shaft so Meade said for me to go up into the aircraft and out onto the engine and sit on the engine and get ready to help slide the prop onto the shaft. This I did. The prop slid onto the shaft with he and I wiggling the prop around. It slid on nicely. He then said to rotate the engine. I said "WHAT"? He said "turn the engine". I was new and I said "HOW"? Meade said "just rotate it". I said "OK" and grabbed the blade and jumped off of the engine down to the ground. The engine jerked as each of the cylinders were turned until it hit the ground. Meade just about fainted. I did not know about the magnetos and that the engine could fire. I never told anyone what I did.
# 2 Airman Carl Painter and myself, Airman Mel Beers were sent out to work on a B-29 generator problem. It was a cold snowy day. I'd say it was between 0 & 20 degrees above. We waited for someone to come out to run the engines for us to test and troubleshoot the system but no one came. We were getting cold so Painter said he could run the engines. He knew a lot more about what he was doing than I did. I knew the electrical system but not how to start up and run an engine. Carl ran all four engines and we did our work. Carl said "let's have some fun". Well, what he had in mind was scary. With all four engines running, he pushed the throttles forward and the plane started sliding forward even with the brakes on and chocks in place. In front of the aircraft, guarding the plane was a guard. As the plane moved forward the guard didn't know what to do as he watched us. At that time Carl placed all four engines in reverse and the snow flew all around the guard. I was worried about where the plane would end up. Painter shut down the engines and all was well. We left, and again I told no one about what had happened.
#3 Everyone had to do this: Being that I was a truck driver. I, Airman Mel Beers, was selected to drive the 6 by 6 for the overnight survival training. Well, I was married and my wife had not been in Alaska very long so I hated to leave her for the one night, but I did. A Major had me get the truck and meet him and a large number of men at the 750 man BKS to load up. There were C-rations and sleeping bags for all. I then drove to the north end of the base and up the road there. We had gone several miles when the Major said for me to stop. They unloaded everything and headed off into woods. I, of course went too as we all had to get this Alaska cold weather indoctrination. It was below Zero at the time. After we were back in the woods a ways the Major had every one make a camp by cutting pine branches to place their sleeping bags on. After we did that they made a camp fire. I was wet and cold because the snow was up to my waist. I went back to the truck, started it up and stayed until I was dry. Then I went back to the fire. Everyone was to eat their rations to practice their survival techniques. The Major just stood around and watched to see that all was done as required. He asked me to eat some of the C-rations, as I had not touched them because too many guys were complaining about them. I had brought a paper bag with me and the Major asked, "what is that"? I said it was my lunch because I was on separate rations. He about flipped. I was dry, warm and had plenty to eat.
From Max Hunter
*I remember waking up with the sun shining brightly at 3:00 A.M in the morning thinking that I had overslept and was late for work.*I remember the 1950 Plymouth that Bert Thurston and I bought together. We were told that it belonged to a retired old maid school teacher (and we believed it).
*I remember my mustache icing up.
*I remember the ICE FOG building ice on the cars windshield as you drove.
*I remember how cold it was working on the RADAR equipment while the Aircraft was parked on the Flight Line.
*I remember staying up all night watching the MID-NIGHT SUN set and then rise again only minutes later.
*I remember the LOG CABIN with the DIRT ROOF that we passed going into Fairbanks.
*I remember getting Silver Dollars, instead of Paper Dollars, when receiving change after making a purchase.
From Mel Parker
My favorite memory of Alaska, by far, is walking between hangars at night, hearing only the crunch of snow under my bunny boots because the snow absorbed all other sound -- when the Northern Lights would appear, sometimes suddenly across the sky, other times bursting from a tiny point before filling the sky. My favorite display I likened to seeing vast stage curtains from underneath, slowly shifting in shape and in an indescribable palette of colors. Their beauty was awesome to the extent that sometimes I would think that there should be music -- and infrequently there was ethereal music, but only that which originated in my own mind. I doubt that even the finest photographers would be rash enough to say that they captured the full beauty of the Northern Lights on film or silicon.
My smattering of knowledge that the Northern Lights were a product of a solar wind or other emanation from the Sun cutting across the Earth's magnetic field never diminished my appreciation of them, then or now. 
If you spent time in Alaska and would like to add a special memory to this section, Please write it out and send it to me.  I will add it on. 

Three Young Lieutenants

By C. R. Layton
We have just lost three great officers in the last couple of years. They were a part of what is now called “the greatest generation”. I just added these three men to the “Honor Roll” in our reunion program.
Col. Lester R. Ferriss, Lt. Col. Earl F. Dunphy and Col. Lewis L. Howes were early pioneers of Weather Reconnaissance.
Pilots Col. Ferriss and Lt. Col. Dunphy go back to the 59th RS (VLR) Weather Squadron that was formed in Tampa in Dec 1945, moved to Merced in Jan 1946, Fairfield-Suisun in Dec 1946 and finally to Ladd in 1947. The squadron became the 375th in Oct 1947, and eventually the 58th in Feb 1952. They both were in charge of detachments of the squadron at Shemya and McCord. From Alaska they both went to Reconnaissance Operations office of the Weather Service at Bolling AFB in Washington D.C. Ferriss was commander of the 56th at Yokota, Japan from May 1952 to Apr of 1955. LT. E. F. Dunphy was at the forefront of Arctic operations. Dunphy was the project officer that oversaw the WB-50D acquisition program a AWS and was rewarded with command of the 59th in Bermuda in May 1955. He was replaced in 1958. (see notes and photo of Dunphy’s B-29, “Duffy’s Tavern“) In another story I mentioned that Col. Ferriss then a Captain was on the team that won the basketball championship in the Midnight Sun League in 1947-48. (There is a photo of that team attached to the story, “BEFORE IT WAS THE 58th” that I wrote earlier. Both Ferriss and Dunphy suffered from Alzheimer’s.
Col. Lewis L. Howes was a Weather Officer in the 375th and later went to HQ AWS. He wrote several books, and a booklet, Nuclear Explosion Detection System.
Three men who brought weather recon from its infancy as Lts and went on to be leaders. A generation that will soon be gone:
Col. Lester L. Ferriss USAF (Ret.) born July 19, 1921, died June 23, 2007
Col. Lewis L. Howes USAF (Ret.) born Oct 30, 1922, died Oct 13, 2006
Lt. Col. Earl F. Dunphy USAF (Ret.) born Jan 31, 1918, died Dec 12, 2006
I want to thank Lt. Col. Bernie Barris USAF (Ret.) and Sgt.Wallace Ahborn for the photos and information they both contributed for this story.
LT. E. F .Dunphy’s B-29 Tail number 44-62216 named “Duffy’s Tavern”. The aircraft was destroyed in a landing crash (different crew) at Shemya in 1949/50. This photo was taken at Fairfield-Suisun. The man admiring the artwork is Col. Richard Ellsworth, who was commander of the 308th Weather Reconnaissance Group. He later became a SAC Wing Commander, and was killed in an RB-36 crash in Newfoundland. Ellsworth AFB is named for him. The names painted on the aircraft are:
Lt. E.F. Dumphy Pilot                   MSGT Behn Crew Chief
Lt. L. H. Helle Pilot                        S SGT Brown Mechanic
Lt. B. N. Husky Navagator            SGT Raby Mechanic

Lt. C. G. Markham Weather Observer                     CPL Jelush Mechanic
MSGT Peth Flight Engineer                                      CPL Balls Mechanic
TSGT Barker Radio Operator                                   CPL Dye Mechanic
SSGT Taylor Radio Operator                                     PFC Miller Mechanic
SSGT Toliver Asst Crew Chief                                   PFC Lunsman Mechanic
Note the nine visible “Stork” logos. The Stork tracks went between Fairfield-Suisun and Al

How the Reunions Started

 by C. R. Layton
It all started in the year 2000; my wife Beverly got the urge to find a group of her teenage friends from a long time ago. She began to search diligently and found five of her best friends. She contacted them and they got together for dinner. Beverly came home and told me that it was so much fun and all of them had never laughed so much. Beverly said I should try to locate some of my Air force friends. This gave me the idea of trying to get enough guys from my basic training flight for a 50th reunion in 2002. That would be Flight 394 of the 3700th BMTG at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. I have owned a computer since 1977 but knew very little about the Internet and how to successfully use the white pages. One of my best friends was Carl Lord from Tucson, Arizona. Carl and I were together thru Basic Training, Tech School at Sheppard, a year in the 55th at McClellan AFB than on to the 58th in Alaska. I found Carl living in Overgaard, Arizona., and phoned him. Carl was elated and said “why wait until 2002, why can’t we get together sooner, Mary and I will come for sure”. Carl also suggested that we try to find some of our buddies from the 58th WRS. That would be the 58th Strategic Weather Reconnaissance Squadron in Fairbanks, Alaska where we spent two years. I mentioned the 55th WRS, Carl and I were there with Ray Lowe, Darril Hinton, Jim Buffalo, Joe Komornic and Ken Waldron. I have probably forgotten to mention somebody, but I hope not! You might want to ask Ray Lowe and Joe Komornic about our time in the 55th. We were all on the same orders headed for Alaska. We left from Parks AFB and San Francisco Bay on the USS Thomas Jefferson bound for Eielson Air Plane Camp as Bob Hope later called it at a USO Show while we were there. That trip is a story in its self which I titled “MY FIRST CRUISE”. I know that many of you had a great voyage just like it. Ken & Dot live just up the Turnpike from Tulsa and come here regularly to see their “Doctors”. When they come we usually have lunch somewhere and Ken still likes to remind me about out scenic cruise up through Alaska on the narrow gauge railroad and about all the good food and how much fun we all had. (grin)
(back to the story)
The only reference I had of my buddies in basic was my photo album with our individual photos, luckily many of the guys had signed mine and most had written their home state by their name. Some of the guys were pretty easy to find. Andy Contos of Ohio still had his Special Orders 101 of our rifle range scores. This had the first, last name and middle initial of most of the guys, also their AF serial number. I learned quickly how to define the area of the USA that they were from by these serial numbers. Bad thing was, Andy sent these on the Internet and from a program that my Windows 98 didn’t recognize. The names were pretty well scrambled up. Not knowing much about my PC and how to change the text I could only decipher a few of them. Floyd West and John Zumo both had their copies of the Special Orders and sent me copies through the US mail. Then I really began finding a lot of the guys.
About this time, I had written a letter to Darril Hinton, who lives in Tucson, Arizona. Darril called his ex-wife Peggy Voglesing, in California and gave her my e-mail address. I was Darril’s best man at their wedding in Sabetha, Kansas in early 1953 while we were in the 55th SWRS in Sacramento, CA. Peg ask me to help her get up a reunion of the guys that were good buddies in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1953-1955. Shortly after this Peg had a light stroke and said it was all up to me that she could not do anything. As I began finding some of the guys, all were anxious to get together and did not want to wait until 2002. We wound up with 21 on the Reunion Roster, a mixture of Flight 394 from Lackland and the 58th guys from Alaska. We held that reunion in Branson, MO. May 30-31 calling it the “Air Force Buddies Reunion”. We discovered that it didn’t matter which group you were from, because we were all in the same Air Force for one common goal. It was exciting to meet these guys and renew our acquaintance after almost 50 years.  We stayed at the Melody Lane Inn and had a great time together. We had scheduled the dinner show on the Showboat Branson Belle and  the Shoji Tabuchi show.. Many more would have come but had prior commitments, like weddings, graduation, golf tournaments, etc. When parting time came everyone agreed they wanted to do it again in 2002 and ask if we could make it longer.
When I returned home from this reunion I had a letter in my mail box from an old 58th friend, Ed Keenan. Ed sent me a photo of 4 of us that came down the Alcan Highway together (it is in the program). I had given Ed my Mother’s address in Tulsa and he remembered, and found me in the white pages. Ed had also started trying to find some of the guys. Ed and his better half Stephanie came to our next reunion, and check this out! Ed still had all his orders from the USAF including the 58th. This really opened the door to finding more of the guys. As I began to locate guys, nearly all were really excited that some one after all these years was doing this. Some of the responses that came from the other end were really great. Things like, “Hell yes, how could I ever forget you Layton”, or “my gosh, I haven’t heard that name Conrad since 1955”. I have often wished that I had recorded all of responses that I got, it would have made a great tape. Guys would say, “have you found so and so or I have been keeping in contact with so and so”. I would take these leads and usually find a good percentage of them. Several of the guys I found indicated that they still had their orders, Francis Bishop, Roger “Pockets” Cole, Dick Hollers, Ben Horton, Bob Stowers, Jim Patek and I’m sure a few more sent copies of orders to me.
We held the 2002 Reunion June 12-14 again in Branson staying again at the Melody lane Inn. There were 27 of us in attendance with 20 having to cancel out for medical reasons mostly. We had two shows scheduled, the Shoji Tabuchi Show again and the Dixie Stampede, but 25 out of out 27 wanted to see a show that first night. Beverly got busy and found us another show that would give us a group rate. It was the Lost in the Fifties show, which turned out to be a good selection. I would recommend it to anyone.
The 2003 Reunion was held at the Savannah House in Branson. It sounds like we have a thing going for Branson right! Well actually that is where the large majority of our folks want to go. There were 58 of us that year, with 3 couples having to back out after they had already sent their money and all their reservations had been made. Luckily we were able to recover most of their money. You’ve heard the term “The more the merrier” well turns out that really is true, we really had a good time. We returned again to the Showboat Branson Belle for their dinner show and saw the Magnificent Seven at the White House Theater, it was another dinner show. On the day us guys got together by ourselves, my wife Beverly took the ladies to the “Hard Luck Diner” for lunch and went to ride the Ducks. For our elective first night we all went to see the Paul Harris Show. Paul Harris is a well known “Cowboy Comedian” and has a very good show.
The 2004 Reunion is being held, once again in Branson on June 9, 10 and 11th of June, at the Savannah House. We have 2 shows scheduled again this year and at this time it appears that it will be the biggest ever. At the time of this writing we have 35 rooms reserved and are still getting calls from guys wanting to know if they can still come to the Reunion. I ask Beverly to call and see if we can get more rooms. I never dreamed it would get this big. I sincerely hope we can keep it going.