My military service began in May of 1970, when I received an official looking letter that opened with “Greetings from the President of The United States”. The fact that my draft number was 12, I knew what was coming down, I was drafted.
Being engaged at the time, my future bride pleaded with me to get into the service in a non combat position. Just a few months prior, one of her brothers was killed at Khe Sanh and the other brother, also wounded at Khe Sanh, was in critical condition in the Phillipines. She told me that she didn’t have the emotional strength to do it again.
I immediately started canvasing the Navy, Coast Guard, Nation Guard and Air Force recruiting offices for any openings. I was very fortunate to get a slot in the Air Force in aircraft maintenance.
After six weeks of basic, I was sent to Sheppard AFB in Witchita Falls, TX and trained on F-4, F-100, F-111 & F-101 jet fighters. I had always been intrigued with the B-52 bomber, so towards the end of graduation I put in for station duty at a SAC base and got assigned to Beale, AFB in Marysville, CA. When I got there I went through another 6 weeks course on the bomber. I worked both recovery and launch until May 1972.
Upon arriving at work one morning I was informed that I would be deployed to Anderson AFB, Guam. I was ordered to tell no one except my wife. Shortly thereafter, I was run through a quick crew chief course, given flight equipment and taught how to use the parachute and oxygen system. At the end of the 1 day course, the instructor said, “Oh, by the way, there has never been a successful crew chief jump out of a B-52". What!!!??
With that in mind and assigned to a B-52G, on June 3, 1972 I was strapped in my seat, sitting right next to the in-flight urinal for the next 13 1/2 hours. You can’t open a window for fresh air at 42,000 feet!
It was not until we landed that I realized that I was participating in the largest bombing campaign in the entire Vietnam War. The following is from the 306th Bomb Wing archieves:
In February 1972, in response to the increased infiltration by the North Vietnamese into South Vietnam, Operation BULLET SHOT was initiated. B-52Ds, crews, and staff from the 7th BW, Carswell AFB, Texas deployed to Anderson AFB, Guam and were followed by the 306thBW and 96th BW, Dyess AFB, Texas. This was the start of a buildup that would eventually involve every B-52D unit. SAC B-52G aircraft, crews and staff were deployed TDY to Arc Light during this period and assigned to the 72nd Strategic Wing (Provisional), Anderson AFB. By July a force of almost 50 B-52Ds, 100 B-52Gs and over 12,000 personnel were bedded down at Anderson AFB. Every available building on Anderson was converted to quarters including old tin buildings that were being used as retail concessions and MWR activities. Tin City, as it was called, was soon joined by Tent City which was soon filled requiring personnel to be quartered at other military facilities and commercial hotels on Guam.
When I got off the bomber in Guam, I was picked up by the line chief who greeted me with “Welcome to ‘The Rock’. You’re not in Kansas anymore Toto!”
Man, he wasn’t kidding. I had never seen so many bombers. Driving what seemed to be about 50 mph, he came to a quick stop, said “here’s home”, dropped me off and sped away. I was left standing in front of hundreds of canvas tents.
For the next 6 months, while on the flight line, it was A & Elbows. I was assigned a crew of maintenance guys and we parked, refueled, inspected the returning bombers from Vietnam. Stateside, a recovery crew consisted of about 10-12 personnel. In Guam, there were 5 on a crew. With 12 hour shifts (many extending up to 14) we did 3-4 bombers per shift. All the time I was there I heard constant running jet engines and smelled JP4 jet fuel. Bombers were taking off and landing continuously. A group of 3 bombers (a Ball Game) would take off every 15 minutes, 24 hrs a day. I worked with the finest guys you could imagine. Of all the sorties that were flown in those six months, we did not lose one B-52 due to mechanical failure caused by poor maintenance. Not one!
Ah, Bullet Shot
, what a ride!
Upon returning to the states, I was selected for reenlistment which I declined and in June of 1974 I was discharged with the the rank of E-4 (Sgt). I returned to Spokane and attended school.
I look back on those years with pride and fond memories.
My military experience taught me how to make quick sound decisions under pressure and how to take on responsibility.
Last edited by Anonymous on Fri Feb 22, 2008 12:03 am, edited 1 time in total.