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MSgt John Ogden U.S. Air Force (Ret) (1953-1974)

ogieView the service reflections of

MSgt John Ogden

U.S. Air Force (Ret)


Shadow Box:


I lived my entire life in the shadow of my older brother Joe who had served in both the AAF and Navy during WWII, which I avidly followed in my young years. I remember a popular chant of youths my age after the D Day invasion. It went ” Step on the starter, step on the gas, here comes Hitler sliding on his ass”. Followed by much gleeful laughter.

Brother Joe had just completed serving in his second war as a Marine in Korea. Because of this I had followed this conflict since it’s inception and remember reading of the invasion of North Korea into South Korea in early 1950, the fall of Seoul, the surprise US landing at In’chon in late 1950, the recapture of Seoul, the headlong battles up the peninsula to the Chosin Reservoir When the Peoples Volunteer Army of China entered the conflict at the close of 1950 and completely encircled the X Corps. However the X corps fought valiantly, was able to breakout and were successfully evacuated at Hungnam Harbor on Christmas Eve the very date that Supreme Commander, General McArthur felt he would be able to have the troops back home. Unfortunately the war dragged on for another two and a half years. After several see-saw battles over the the 38th Parallel an Armistice was arranged in July 1953, An actual Peace Treaty between The North Korea, China and the United States, or the United Nations, has ever been signed. Legally, I guess you could actually say we are at war in this region until an actual Peace Treaty between the warring nations is signed.

Although we had just missed all the action in Korea, my best buddy Tom Poston and I decided to enlist. His brother was In the Navy, with mine in the Marine Corps we couldn’t settle on either of our brothers services so we compromised and joined the young US Air Force which then gained two bright and handsome young men. While attending Basic Training at Lackland AFB, TX Tom was made Squad Leader and got to wear deuce strips, while I being scrawny and 5’1″, was made right guide, marched at the head of the flight and wore three stripes. Later I learned that this dubious honor was always given to the smallest man in the flight so the whole flight would have to guide on and match the stride of all to that of the right guide. At least the stripes kept us both out of pulling KP, barracks and latrine guard. Prior to graduating, we were promoted to A/3C I was sent to Keesler AFB, MS for Basic Electronics Training at Keesler AFB and Tom left to attend Aircraft Mechanics Training at Chanute AFB, where tragically he was killed an an automobile accident while on week-end pass.

I would say that I grew up wanting to be in the military and be trained in some useful skill. I completed both during my first two years of service. After working in the field for two more years, I decided I’d found my home and re-enlisted at Hurlburt Field, FL. I have since traced my ancestry back to 1640 and found that we have had family members that have served in every war from the Revolutionary War through the current wars in the middle east conflict. Perhaps military life is in our blood. I enjoy and am proud and honored to live among Veterans from WW11 through the present here at the Trinka Davi Veterans Village.


1954: I was assigned to the 3392 Instructor Sqn at Keesler AFB, MS and attended the Technical Instructor Course to enable me to teach the AC&W Radar Apprentice Repairman Course I had just completed. I taught the smaller gap filler radar, range and height finding radars and Identification Friend orFoe (IFF) Mark 10 System.

1955: I was pulled for training into Course 32170F Bomb Systems Technician consisting of the APS-23 Search Radar and APA-44 Bombing and Navigation Computer. Upon completion I was re- assigned to the 3535 A&E Maintenance Sqn at Mather AFB, CA to maintain the Bomb/Nav Systems installed on T-29 Samaritans, configured to train Bomb/NAV Officer Students. Here I received the AOM Award and was subsequently promoted to A1C.

1956: I was re-assigned to a Tac Recon Sqd at Hurlburt Field, FL to maintain the Bomb/Nav Systems installed on the RB-66 Destroyers there. I was an unhappy camper as the maintenance shop was overstaffed and there wasn’t enough work to go around. When someone came around asking for volunteers, I was first in line and wound up being re-assigned to Shaw AFB, SC for cross training into the new TRC-24 Radio Relay Equipment Repairman AFSC 30450. I maintained a TRC-24 Radio System at the Radio Relay Site at Eastover, SC. I met and married my wife Margaret on Dec. 29, 1956.

1957: I was re-assigned to the 585 C&G Sqn at Bitburg, AFB, Germany. I was deployed to Libya where we set up Radio Relay sites from Wheelus AFB, Tripoli to the Radar Guidance site at Garian. where Matador TM-61A missiles were guided to the bomb rage. Upon return, I was promoted to SSgt. My daughter Rhonda was born on Dec. 17, 1957 and shortly thereafter, I was deployed to and assigned NCOIC of of a Radio Relay site at Delmenhorst, Germany in the British Sector, and set up the site on a British Army Base.. After training my team, they improved the site operation to the extent that they were awarded Radio Relay Site of the Year. On several occasions, a black sedan on the Eastern side of the of the border would stop, men in civvies would get out, watch us through binoculars, and take pictures of the site. We felt that they also zeroed in on individual team members. Upon reporting this to our British buddies we were told not to worry as they were probably APN agents and only doing their job.

1959: I was re-assigned to a SAC unit at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. I cross trained into AFSC 30552 VHF Mobile Radio Equipment Repairman, AFSC 30453 Ground to Air UHF Communication Equipment and 30454 Ground (Heavy) Radio Equipment Repairman. My team and I installed and maintained the SAC Commanders Net and I had the additional duty as NCOIC of the MARS Station. I was authorized to remove electronics equipment from any aircraft in the bone yard scheduled for demolition. I attended an ADT Bomb Storage Alarm System training program and upon completion set up a training program to train other repairmen. It was a busy year and I learned a lot about the entire Ground Radio Communications Equipment Career Field.

1960: I was re-assigned to the 1st RBS Sqn Det 1 ,UT. I supervised 1 repairman and help maintain 1 UHF Ground to Air Radio Set and 1 ground to Air back up. I was not a happy camper and let it be known by requesting re-assignment. Shortly thereafter, I was re-assigned to the 33 Comm Sqn at March AFB, CA. I was immediately a happy camper. Five of us were assigned to assist the Collins Radio Engineers in installing a vast array of High Power HF SSB Transmitters used in the SAC Short Order System which would maintain 24/7/365 Communications between SAC Hq, Looking Glass the Airborne Command Center and all the B52 Bombers en-route to all strategic points of the Soviet Bloc during th Cold War.

1962: I was assigned to NATO 6th ATAF Izmir, Turkey. Here, I worked as Ground HF Radio Repairmen. I made time to study hard and finally obtained my 3047X skill level and was qualified to work on or teach any equipment in the 4 AFSC’s Ground Radio Career field held a T30332 primary and a additional 32170F in BOM/NAV Systems which made a total of 6 AFSC’s I had acquired and a well rounded knowledge of the electronics career ladder. I was now ready to tackle the Liberal Arts Evening. Courses offered through the University of Maryland European Extension.

1965: I was assigned to the 3413 Instructor Sqn Keesler AFB, MS. I taught the Ground Radio Apprentice Repairman Course in Jones Hall and the Officers Basic Electronics Course at Gulf Park Annex. I attended the Instructor Supervisor Course, was promoted to TSgt and completed the Ground Radio Superintendent Course 30490.

1968: I was assigned to Eglin AFB, FL Air Research and Development Command and managed the daily Inventory and Status Reporting of all Mission Essential Equipment to Dept of the AF. I continued my off duty education at Okaloosa-Walton Community College.

monkey island1969: I was re-assigned to the 620 Tac Con Sqn at Son Tra, RVN. I was a refugee from Dong Ha which had been wiped out by a typhoon and was assigned to get the MARS station atop Monkey Mountain up and running again. I spent the entire year in this cushy assignment as Honcho and Chief bottle washer. During the year my team increased the traffic count ten fold. I provided supervision, engineering and operation assistance and training. My team manned the nets 24/7/365 and provided the labor, know how and initiative to build a new radio hooch complete with cooking and sleeping facilities. When Senator Goldwater visited us, He was very impressed with what the team had accomplished.

1970: I was re-assigned to the USAF GEEIA Unit at Keesler AFB and was promoted. I was a very happy camper and hoped to finish my career with this Unit.

1971: I was again assigned to the 3413 Instructor Sqn for an Instructional Systems Development Project. Previously I had a chance meeting in the BX with my former Chief when we were teaching the Officers Electronics Course at the Annex during my previous Instructor tour and this I suspect is how I got pulled back. I was promoted to MSgt and for the next two years and a half years I was the Instructional Systems Development Team monitor. We completed the project on schedule, implemented the new system and completed the validation testing 2 months before my retirement date. I was allowed transitional absence to work at the Litton Industries automated shipyard. I completed the subjects required for a BS of Technical Education at USM and received my sheepskin. I retired on 1 Jul 1974.


I saw no combat during my entire career. I enlisted during the Korean War and retired just prior to the end of the Vietnam War. I was boots on ground in Vietnam 1969-1970. I arrived in time to participate in the Summer Fall 9 June 1969 – 31 October 1969campaign. I was assigned duty as a shift leader and volunteered to be NCOIC,and maintain and operate radios during my off duty hours.

On several occasions I volunteered to accompany the Marine EOD team to downed Aircraft Sites and other sites that had been attacked by enemy forces to salvage electronics equipment that could be used for MARS and other operations. Needless to say I obtained very little sleep during this assignment.

The second campaign I was in occurred during Winter Spring 1 November 1969 – 30 April 1970. One day I was was installing radio antennas at the MARS station and watched several Providers spray all around Monkey Mountain and surrounding areas. My eyes, sinus,trachea, skin and esophagus were all burning before I realized that it was was no smoke screen those babies were laying down for the Marines out in the bush. I grabbed my ditty bag and hiked down the Monkey to our base camp at Son Tra. I took a long hot shower before I got all the grease out of my scalp and off my skin. Then I went over to the club and tossed down a few stiff ones to wash out the internal plumbing. I got to feeling pretty good but that didn’t stop the burning inside. By the grace of God I’ve survived this long and intend to keep kicking for at least 21 more years if I have anything to say about it. So far I have survived Prostate Cancer and I’m working on Diabetes I I with diet and exercise.

My third campaign was the Sanctuary Counter Offensive of 1 May 1970 – 30 Jun 1970. I from AI8AM Monkey Mountain and a buddy from AI8AD Da Nang attended a MARS conference at Ton Son Nhut Air Base. The evening before, we decided to look for entertainment in Saigon. After an evening on the town we decided it would be best to spend the rest of the evening in a hotel near the base. We arose early the next morning and headed for the base. We passed a ’59 Chevy with a man in the drivers seat wearing a floppy field hat. He looked like a Latino which shouldn’t have caused us any alarm except for the Chevy and the field hat. We continued down the street until we heard him open the door. He proceeded to the rear door and removed a weapon. Luckily we were at the end of a block wall which we both ducked behind as we heard the bolt drawn back Alpha Delta had drawn his four inch pocket knife and I had picked up a broken cinder block. At that time a large group of RVN Airman rounded the corner on motorbikes, the Latino ducked into an apartment building, alpha delta and alpha mike ran the remainder of the way to Ton Son Nhut.

My fourth and last campaign was Southwest Monsoon 1 July 1970 – 30 November 1970. It is called such because of the muggy, rain and drizzle that made land operations difficult.I was preparing and looking forward to returning to my family in the sates.

The photo below is one of two F-8 Crusaders that pranged into the Monkey. The Marine F-8 went in just outside the gate to the Radar Site. I could see it from the MARS station. The one shown below was on the other side of the Monkey.


My assignments to Keesler, AFB MS. I served three tours there, I first arrived there in Dec. 1953 where I was to be trained into the Electronics Systems career ladder. I received as a Electronics Systems Helper, AC&W Equipment Apprentice, Technical Instructor, OJT and Bombing/Navigation Systems Technician. I became thoroughly acquainted with the Gulf Coast. I was converted, baptized and ordained an elder in the priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which has effected the direction my life has taken over the years. I made many friends while there and regretted leaving in Aug. 1955.

I was again assigned to Keesler in Apr 1965 with duty as instructor in the Ground Radio Maintenance Apprentice Course. I was promoted to TSGT. We built and lived in our first house and enjoyed the good fishing and seafood found along the Gulf Coast. I was selected to attend the 30490 Ground Radio Superintendent Course.

After returning from Vietnam in Sep. 1970 I was assigned to GEEIA and spent several happy months modifying or installing electronics systems at several installations. However I was transferred back to the 3413 Instructor Squadron and promoted to MSgt. For the remaining years of my career I supervised an Instructional Program writing team until my retirement on 1 Jul 1974

My least favorite was my assignment to Hurlburt Field because there was only one B-66 Destroyer for about 20 32150F Bombing/Navigation Maintenance Mechanics. Work was scarce. I volunteered for another assignment and left a few weeks later.


The bond that formed between the MARS Men, MARS Volunteers and the Operators of the two radar sites and the Gatr site was outstanding. They were all intent on seeing that the MARS operation was manned 24/7. I am deeply indebted to Gene Dixon from the GATR site who helpedme maintain the radio equipment and antenna farm during his off duty time. It seemed that all those who were assigned to the Monkey were determined to do whatever was required of them and were willing to pitch in where ever needed.

The day Senator Barry Goldwater visited the MARS Men stands out above the rest. He was an avid MARS Man and if I’m not mistaken, he visited with most if not all of the MARS stations in Southeast Asia at one time or another. The day he visited us on the Monkey, you’d never have thought him to be a U.S. Senator, a presidential nominee or a Reserve USAF Major General. He was very congenial, chatted with all and swapped several war stories. He even took his turn at operating on one of the Nets. He had his own MARS station that was staffed by volunteers. A MARS station lucky enough to make contact with his station received phone patches for their clients at no charge. Barry footed the Bell charges from his station to wherever the patch was made.

To the Men of MARS who have never received medals or accolades for their service, I salute you. A lot of you worked 24/7/365 to provide back-up communications, obtained radio contact with AARS, ran phone patch traffic, relayed MARS Grams for the guys in the remote areas and trenches of Vietnam and maintained the equipment required to do so. I doubt if your story will ever be told. But that is neither here nor there. You also served proudly.

I received no medals for valor. How ever I did receive the Air Force Commendation Medal. The citation that accompanied the award reads:

“Master Sergeant John R. Ogden distinguished himself by meritorious service as Instructor and Instructional Systems Development Monitor, Course 3ABR30434, Ground Radio Branch, Communications Systems Department, Headquarters, United States School of Applied Aerospace Sciences, Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, from 15 July 1971 to 30 June 1974, During this period Sergeant Ogden demonstrated superior qualities of leadership,dedication, and technical knowledge which resulted in a significant improvement in our training program. His excellent executive ability, coupled with his management of resources, contributed immeasurably to our training mission. The distinctive accomplishments culminate a distinguished career in the service of his country, and reflect credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”


The Vietnam Service Medal because it represents a brotherhood of warriors who put their lives on the line for their country, many fought bravely many died bravely and gave their lives willingly in the hope that the entire world will one day enjoy peace, justice, liberty and freedom.

Senator Barry Goldwater championed those who served in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.He made several fact finding tours over there and strongly opposed the rules of engagement set forth by LBJ and his cohorts. He felt that the toll in military lives was deplorable and fought for more drastic measures against the enemy. He was quoted as saying:

“If I had inherited the mess that Johnson got into, I would have said to North Vietnam, by dropping leaflets out of B-52s, ‘You quit the war in three days or the next time these babies come over, they’re going to drop some big bombs on you. And I’d make a swamp out of North Vietnam. I’d rather kill a hell of a lot of North Vietnamese than one American and we’ve lost enough of them,”.

He favored the use of Nuclear Artillery that was and is part of the U.S. Arsenal. This scared a lot of liberals and needless to say he was never elected president.

The photo seen here was taken during his visit to the Monkey Mountain MARS Station in December 1969. He was an avid MARS Man and ran many a phone patch for those serving in Vietnam and Southeast Asia and picked up the tab from his station to it’s final destination. The awe struck Tech Sergeant standing on his left is your own Ogie Doggie. The other three team members are on my left and the rest were volunteer operators. Jack Webb, my wingman, who replaced me as Honcho when my DEROS arrived is looking over my right shoulder.

My second Instructor Supervisor 1965-66, Marvin Claytor GS-11 and former AF SSgt who took me under his wing, became my best friend, confidant and fishing buddy. However I fear I’ve lost him. I tried to call him after Katrina hit and got no answer. I’ve tried since and have been told that he no longer has that number.


My wife was still a victim of culture shock when we left Turkey. When ever we went out she was always rubber necking to make sure that no Turk had his eye on Rhonda, our six year old, platinum blond, blue eyed beautiful daughter who would have been a prized possession in any rich Turk’s harem irregardless of her tender youth. I have no idea what the Turks fed their horses that they hitched to the Phaetons that constantly roved every street of Izmir picking up passengers at Ecke Pachuk (25 lira or $.25 US) each head not including babes in arms. The horses didn’t drop road apples as those here do. They dropped cow dabs but much juicier. With all her rubber necking, Margaret would inevitably step right in the middle of one and start to slip.

Someone had to be there to catch her or she would have done the splits. She would release an epithet like you never heard come from a sweet lady’s mouth. She would immediately turn tail and make a bee line for the apartment post haste, grab a jug of Clorox, run water into the tub and soak her foot for an hour or two.before she would sally forth again. The worst of these occasions occurred one evening when we and the neighbors went to the movies. Archie pulled up next to the movie house and parked in the alley. Flo pulled the front seat forward so Margaret could exit. It was a ’63 Chevy SS and as with all coupes, it was hard to get out of the rear seat. She managed to get her foot out and when she began to put her weight down she let out the most chilling blood curdling scream I’d ever heard. I ran around the car to see what had happened.

She was up above her ankle in the most ancient watering hole in ancient Smyrna aka Izmir. Jonah had probably used this one when he came forth from the belly of the whale, Alexander the Great probably used it on a foray through Smyrna, after that came the Roman Legions. St. Paul probably used it as boy roaming the streets of Smyrna, after that came the crusaders. Once she begin to stir it up by removing her foot, you wouldn’t believe the stench that emanated from it. She pulled her foot out leaving her right shoe buried in the muck. When Margaret got her first whiff, she commenced to upchuck and continued till she got the dry heaves. Finally she sat down in the front seat, poked the putrefied foot out the window and muttered weakly, “Please take me home.” I think she meant back to the land of the big BX but I had to complete my tour. When we got her back to the apartment she went through her usual ritual only she used a whole jug of Clorox. Her right shoe is probably still buried in the muck of the ancient watering hole of Izmir.


In 1978 after teaching Electronics Courses in Higher Education for four years, I was employed as an Electro-Mechanical Process Engineer by the Cooper Group-Weller Plant in the Electrical/Electronics Manufacturing Industry for twelve more years. During this period, two books I read changed my life. The two books were written by Benjamin Graham and titled “The Intelligent Investor” and “Security Analysis”. I read, re-read then diligently studied them. In 1989 I said to myself, “I can do this.” So I quit working for the man and using our savings and retirement accounts, I started to work for myself and have done so until the present. Now I work when the need arises or the spirit moves.

I spent much of my time looking after my ailing wife before she passed on 28 Mar 2011, visiting on AFTWS and working with Grass Roots movements that are working to get the nation to return to the tenets established by our founding fathers.

At present I reside at the Trinka Davis Veterans Village in Carrolton GA where we receive outstanding care and treatment. I can’t say the same about the County Probate Courts though. I was declared a Ward of the State even though I scored in the 85th percentile on a competency examination, declared competent by four psychologists and two psychiatrists. Now my estate is controlled by a Conservator, Jerry A. Landers Jr., Attorney, Guardian ad Litem, Dawn R. Levine, Attorney and Kelli L. Wolk Probate Judge. Since 09/26/2013, $109,438.37 have been received into my estate. $81,894.17 were dispersed. As of 05/21/15 only $25,214.07 remained in my estate. Mr. Landers claimed disbursements were made to me in the amount of $9,182.81 during this period, I only received a total of $7,896,24. At present I am allowed $500/month of a monthly total income of $3,743/month. The powers that be dispose of the rest in any way they see fit. How many others who have been caught up in the Probate Courts of the nation have their estates wrested from them by the court officers who are supposed to be protecting them? New laws must be passed to protect those who are incapacitated or aged from being exploited at the hands of unscrupulous court officers of the Probate Courts. There are millions upon millions in Federal benefits available to those who are capable of manipulating the present laws.

The Disabled American Veterans have always been there to run interference for me when I was processing disability claims through the VA bureaucracy. I would never have made it to first base without them. They also keep me well informed on programs and benefits available to disabled veterans.

The picture you see here reflects how I felt after a day of being hassled at a VA Hospital. All I wanted to do is sit down with my feet up and stare off blankly into space. The DAV helps me survive this. The little blond haired, blue eyed darling is the reason my better half and I, Margaret were so over protective of her during our stay in Turkey. Siamese Sam helped watch over Rhonda too. He was every bit as over protective as Margaret and me.


I was a kid who skated through school with a B+ average and never cracked a book other than those pertaining to social studies or history as they were subjects I loved. It was this immature kid who enlisted and wanted to jump right into the middle of the KoreanWar and single-handedly win it. But my Guidance Counselor was very wise and turned turned down every item on my wish list. I finally gave up and stated that I might like working on rockets, and he informed me that it was a very hard field to get into. He shook his head and told me that I would have to go though several courses of electronics training first. I was tired of batting out on everything I suggested so I reluctantly said ” Sign me up”. Without realizing it, I had just learned the rules of how to get along in life.

1) Look before you leap.
2) Thoroughly discuss all the ramifications with someone in the know.
3) Always take the path that offers the best opportunities .

I have since followed these these rules and they have served me well in life.


If you don’t have a better half, look the field over and choose wisely. If the Air Force is not for you, wait until you have you have completed at least 4 years of college before you tie the knot. Always agree with your better half. Always watch your six. Never leave a buddy behind. Follow the three rules for getting along in life. Take advantage of every available opportunity. Do what’s right. Always give God the glory for your accomplishments.


It has served as a gathering place, town hall, education center and forum, chat room and family reunion. I have been able to contact veterans of all the branches of our Armed Services and learn what their views are on national and world events. I now have contact a vastnew family that I was unaware of less than a year ago.

I am a lifetime member and have seldom missed a daily visit except when I was on the road or had no access to a computer. It enhances my esprit d’ corps. It has provide me with the means of joining with brothers on the the other branches of TWS and I have enlisted their help in seeking information about my Brother Joe’s experiences in the three other branches of service prior to getting smart enough to join me in USAF, from which we both finally retired. He started in the Army Air Force and strayed to the Navy and the Marine Corps. He’s the only one I know who has served in four of the five branches. I enjoy the camaraderie that I had when I was on active duty.

I love discussing topics of interest on the Forums and swapping e-mails with my Wingmen. I’ve made more friends than I’ve ever made in private life. Most of the ones I made there were the ones who like all here have been there and done that. I will love swapping photos of my family with those aboard who engage in such activities. Before starting this project, I had never edited a photo. I have to give myself an” A” for effort.


SSgt Walter Madden U.S. Air Force (1958-1966)

profile1Read the service reflections of

SSgt Walter Madden

U.S. Air Force


Shadow Box:


The decision was made while I was still in high school. During my junior year, the Air Force invited our Scout Troop to Dover Air Force Base (AFB), Md. We were taken on a tour of the base and fed in the mess hall. But the biggest thrill of the entire trip was when they flew us around in a C-130, allowing each of us on the flight deck where we could ask questions. When we landed, I was hooked! I wanted to fly! I set my mind on getting good grades, going to college during my junior and senior years of high school, all to qualify for pilot/navigator training.

Most of my senior class had plans of going to college, but I couldn’t afford to go. So certain of my plan, in the middle of my senior year, I went to Philadelphia’s All Services Induction and Physical Center and signed up for the Air Force program of induction right after high school graduation. I even took the tests and physical so I could go straight to training.

That is when the first setback occurred. The doctor noted that I had asked for pilot/navigator training and said that I had failed the physical. My two right shoulder operations (one while an infant, the other at three years old from a car accident) had left me with an inability to turn my head to the right far enough to look over my right shoulder, a necessary requirement for flight training. I still wanted to fly, so I went ahead with my enlistment. I graduated high school on June 10, 1958 and within two days, I was in Lackland AFB, Tx. to start Basic Military Training.


During my little over eight years in the Air Force, I had many jobs, some better than others. Of course, my training began with basic training. As we rolled off the bus for our first day on the base, I found that the Training Instructor (TI) was yelling at everyone but me. This was because of my years in the Boy Scouts, I knew what was meant by hurry, fall in line and stand at attention, stop looking around and so forth. I also already knew most of the marching and parade commands since I had instructed other scouts in these same things.

The TI asked the group, “Any of you had any college?” There were only two of us who had, one tall young man who looked older than the rest of us and myself. He made us the Flight Leader and Assistant Flight Leader, respectively.

Most of the young men in my training flight were Southern farm boys who struggled with learning the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the chain of command. I’d been ordered to teach those in my bay in the barracks. However, they had very little trouble with the physical and marching part of the training except with the sweltering heat, which bothered all of us. It was so hot on the day we were at the rifle range, the TI’s took each of us off of the range as soon as we’d qualified. Only the those going into the Air Police (AP) were required to remain for Marksman, Sharpshooter, and pistol qualifications.

We were given a battery of tests at the Philadelphia Induction Center. I did well with the electronics test with a score of 80. I figured if even if I couldn’t go to flight training, I would qualify for a flying job in Electronics. But I was wrong again. I was told that Electronics was not what the Air Force needed. I was also given the Radio Operator Code Test but I purposely did poorly so I would not be forced into a job listening to code all day long. Eventually, I was assigned to “General” which gave me a choice of Air Police, cook, or medical. Since I was always good at first aid in Boy Scouts, I took medical.

After Basic Military Training I was sent to Basic Medical School (on the ‘other side’) of Lackland. The 8-week course was exceptional and I learned a lot. I had made a good career choice. After graduation and a week on casual status, I was assigned to the Air Force Headquarters Hospital at Andrews AFB, Md.

My first assignment was as a Psychiatric Technician with Medical Air Evacuation Unit. I was given the responsibility for moving patients from incoming aircraft to the hospital or from the hospital to outgoing aircraft. Apparently the reason I was assigned to this unit was to be available to help with any incoming or outgoing patient showing signs of psychiatric issues.

My shift was 24 hours on duty and 48 hours off. On my days off, I mostly spent taking classes at the University of Maryland. I used the time between flights coming and going to study my college course home work. The great thing about the job, however, was I got to fly some of the patients to their new hospital or from their old hospital back to Andrews. Shortly after I got married and about eight months into this assignment, I was transferred to the Hospital Psychiatric Ward, where I found I enjoyed working with the patients.

While I enjoyed my work, I came to realize promotion possibilities were slow in the medical field. That’s when I started looking around for a career field that had higher visibility for promotion. I discovered the Air Force was looking for Manpower Engineering people so before reenlisting for my second tour, I switched to the Manpower Management Technician career field.

I was sent to Rock Island, Ill for Engineering School and soon got overseas orders for either Lakenheath AFB , United Kingdom or Bitburg AFB, Germany. I took Germany. The three year tour requirement for a married airman forced me to extend my current enlistment beyond eight years.

My assignment at the 36th Air Base Wing was that of an instructor for the 50 hour Air Force Leadership Course. The students in my class were senior NCOs and officers through the rank of Lt. Col. What amazes me about the whole experience is, I was only a Senior Airman (E-4) and yet all those high ranking students respected me because they knew I knew what I was doing. Later I was transferred to manpower management at the 7101st Air Base Wing for the United States Air Force Europe out of Wiesbaden, Germany. I also made Staff Sgt.

I was still in Germany when it became apparent I needed to leave the Air Force. My wife at the time hated the Air Force and hated Germany even more. Also, I was having severe problems with one of the officers I worked for in the Manpower Detachment. So with eight years, one month, and seventeen days, I came back to McGuire AFB to be discharged, which was maybe the biggest mistake I have ever made.

After my discharge, a friend of my wife, offered me a stripe in the Army Reserves. But when my wife found out that I was considering joining the Army Reserves she threw a real fit! Looking back, however, the marriage only lasted 5 more years and then I met the love of my life and at this writing my second marriage has lasted 40 years. I do not think if I had remained in the AF I would have met my wife. God works in mysterious way–and always for what best.


The three years I was stationed at Bitburg were by far the best of my career. The winters were mighty cold there, however. Teaching the Air Force Leadership course gave me the confidence that carried throughout my entire career and the rest of my life. Even some of the best working conditions I had at my civilian jobs do not compare to this experience. The people I met there were the best (and the worst) of any place I was stationed. They all taught me how to deal with and react around people so that you get the best outcome.


The first outstanding memory was when I was on Andrews AFB, Md. I was befriended by the commanding officer of the Marine Corps Detachment on the base. He invited me to ride along on a post-maintenance test flight. The flight took us over Eastern Maryland and before he turned back, he had the co-pilot come get me and had me sit in the co-pilot’s seat. He instructed me to turn the plane around (same plane as an AF C-124) and gave me all the altitude and headings needed to get us back. I flew it with only the altimeter and compass headings and never looked out the window. After some time he firmly said, “I got it!” I released the wheel and pulled my feet off of the peddles. I looked up and out the front windshield and we were several hundred feet off the end of the runway in perfect alignment to land. What happened next was enough to give you a required underwear change.

A few seconds after the Marine Major took control, we hit a crosswind and were headed down between the runway and the taxi way. The major corrected and put the plane down right on the runway. After we landed the major said that the only trouble I exhibited during the flight was that I did not keep the nose down. He kept rolling the nose wheel down during the entire time I was at the controls, but I was flying the plane. What a great experience!

While hardly a fond memory, I must mention what happen at Bitburg, Germany. My wife and I had been there about two and a half months and had just gotten settled into our in-town apartment. While moving stuff in, an airman from down the street came to our home. He asked if I had heard that President Kennedy had been shot. I was totally shocked and somewhat in the dark. We went back to his home and listened to the radio for a few minutes and then realized that we had better get into uniform and get back to base. We were on alert with the base on lock down for over three weeks. What a time, with little news, and no one really knowing what was going on back in the U.S.


The Air Force Outstanding Unit Award given to Andrews AFB Hospital in 1961. I was proud to be a part of that group. I also thought it was neat that the my first Good Conduct Medal was an Army Medal; I later received the Air Force version.


Anyone in the military for any length of time are impacted by others. But the first one I can recall is Tech Sgt. Clayton Riegel at Andrews AFB Hospital. He taught me the skills necessary to be a good Corpsman and how to care for the people with whom we were charged. They were all hurting, although not by something you could see externally, but mentally.

The second was Airman Alvin (I do not remember his last name) who ended up in our Psychiatric Ward after he had been thrown off of a high voltage utility pole after his Sgt had told him the power was off. He was in a near vegetative state when he arrived. Doctors and nurses told him he would never walk or talk again. Everyone working in the ward thought differently. Day and night, we all took turns caring and feeding him. Most of us being about this Airman’s age, we interacted with him to encourage him to do more and more. Long story short and against all odds and many long months, Airman Alvin walked out of the hospital talking to his parents. I have never seen the courage and determination that Airman Alvin displayed by anyone before or since.

Finally, there was Master Sgt. Jim Bratton. A practical man, he made sure the first things I did arriving overseas was to get my family there and settled. He rightly figured I would learn my new job more completely and quickly if I knew my family was settled. He helped me to understand what was important for both the Air Force and my personal life.


I had rich and varied career after leaving the Air Force, beginning as an management engineer for United Parcel Service (until the Teamsters Union went out on strike and closed down Eastern Pennsylvania).

Other jobs I held was an engineer for ACME Markets (American Stores) and in retail as an Operations Manager for J. C. Penney Company where I was in charge of all the credit, accounting, receiving, cashiers and both internal and external security. This was a lot of responsibility for a young man of 27 years of age. It is doubtful that without the experience the Air Force had given me, the success I enjoyed would not have been mine.

I returned to engineering at The Hartford Insurance Group in both the Claim Department and as a project manager in the Operations Department. I was responsible for seven to fourteen projects at the same time, making sure the design, testing, and installation at each regional office in the system. My Air Force engineering training and the experience of handling a class room full of people who all out ranked me was what had given me what I needed to succeed.

Over the years there were many times I would be called into a corporate officer’s office to explain where a project was or what had gone wrong to cause the project to be delayed. These officers were pussy cats compared to the officers I had to deal with in the Air Force. This lasted over 22 years. It is also where I met the woman I have been married to for over 40 years. She and I both worked for The Hartford and both retired early at age 50 and 52 respectively.

In all of these positions the impact of my service training and my experience of interacting with people (both good and bad) has taught me some very great lessons. The most significant of which was how to handle people with whom you do not agree. It helped me work toward the position of disagreeing without being disagreeable or coming to a mutual position of “agreeing to disagree.”

After retiring from the civilian working world, I have since become a real estate broker, real estate instructor, and Real Estate School administrator after having held a real estate license in three states with lots of experience in real estate investments.

But my military training was not only helpful in my work world, it also helped me succeed as ‘Guardian ad Litem’ (GAL) for the children caught up in the Florida family court system. We represent one or more children before the family court, making sure the court makes the right decision is in the best interest of the child while the system works with parents to overcome their substance abuse or child abuse issues. This has been some of the most rewarding work I have done since I have left the service!

Much of what the military taught me in organizing and sticking with the details has helped me handle as many as seven cases at a time and still keep on top of all the issues the children are having.

Though most of the Guardian ad Litem (GALs) are woman the need for some men in the program is constant. Many times you are dealing with unruly fathers who try to bully the woman GALs, so men work out better those cases. The program phrase is It take a special man to be a GAL. I also like to remember that a man never stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.


As a young man straight out of high school the Air Force not only set me on the right path but gave me the training and the discipline to be successful. In the military I learned how to respect other people and how to act to be respected, especially in the medical career field where compassion and caring are critical for our patients at what may well be the most difficult time in their lives. Also, the engineer training I received showed up in every work situation I’ve been in as a civilian.

What I learned in the service about dealing with difficult people and problem situation has served me very well in my civilian careers. The foundation of military training such as attention to detail, doing things the right way the first time, and being satisfied when you know you have done your very best has been the guiding principle throughout my work and family life.


Try to find the part of the job you enjoy and capitalize on that area. Do not be afraid to change career fields if you find something more interesting and enjoyable. Strive to be the best in your duties, your job, and your career field. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. If you really enjoy a career in the military, find ways to overcome any distraction or interference with that desire. My biggest mistake in life was not staying in the Air Force.


I have not been a member very long, which is not surprising then that I have not yet found anyone I served with through the site. Still, I know if I keep looking and use the many search capabilities of TWS, I will find old friends. I have however made friends of other service members of Together We Served and enjoy the interaction with them. Reading other members reflections, especially those with totally different experience in both war and peace, had made me appreciate their service and the things that they have been through.


Profiles in Courage: The Defiant One: Robin Olds

By LtCol Mike Christy

Together We Served Dispatches

Fighter pilots used to say that there was a glass case in the Pentagon building to the precise dimension of then-Colonel Robin Olds, who would be frozen in time and displayed wearing his tank-less flight suit, crashed fore and aft cap, gloves, and torso harness with .38 pistol and survival knife. Beside the case was a fire ax beneath a sign reading: “In case of war, break glass.”It was something of an exaggeration, but it contained an element of truth: Robin Olds was built for war. And he was born to fly. It was imprinted in his genes. Born July 14, 1922 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Robin Olds was the son of then-Capt. (later Maj. Gen.) Robert Olds and his wife Eloise, who died when Robin was four. The oldest of four, Olds spent the majority of his childhood at Langley Field, Virginia where his father was stationed as an aide to Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell. In 1925 when he was only three, he accompanied his father to Mitchell’s famed court-martial. Dressed in a child-size air service uniform, he watched his father testify on Mitchell’s behalf. Five years later, young Robin flew for the first time when his father took him up in an open-cockpit biplane.

Deciding on a military career at the age of 12, Olds attended Hampton High School in Hampton Virginia where he became a standout football player. Declining a series of football scholarships, he elected to take a year of study at Millard Preparatory School in 1939 prior to applying to West Point. Learning of the outbreak of World War II while at Millard, he attempted to leave school and enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

This was blocked by his father who forced him to stay at Millard. Completing the course of study, Olds was accepted to West Point in July 1940 and played for the renowned coach Red Blaik, compiling so stellar a record as a tackle on both offense and defense that in 1985 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Selecting service in the U.S. Army Air Forces, Olds completed his primary flight training in the summer of 1942 at the Spartan School of Aviation in Tulsa, Oklahoma.Returning north, he passed through advanced training at Stewart Field in New York. Receiving his wings from Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, Olds graduated from West Point on June 1, 1943 after completing the academy’s accelerated wartime curriculum. Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, he received an assignment to report to the West Coast for training on P-38 Lightnings. This done, Olds was posted to the 479th Fighter Group’s 434th Fighter Squadron with orders for Britain.

Arriving in Britain in May 1944, Olds’ squadron quickly entered combat as part of the Allied air offensive prior to the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Dubbing his P-38J aircraft the “Scat II” (every fighter he flew in combat was named “Scat” and numbered sequentially), Olds worked closely with his crew chief to learn about aircraft maintenance. Promoted to Captain on July 24, on a low-level mission over Montmirail, he spotted two bogeys far in front of him, heading to his right, about 200 feet off the deck.

He pulled behind the two FW-190’s and at 400 yards behind the trailing plane, he fired a six-second burst, hitting the left wing and then pulling his gunfire onto the fuselage. Big pieces flew off, flame and smoke poured out, and the airplane rolled off to the right. Turning his attention to the second plane, he did not see the first one hit the ground. As the second plane pulled a full 360 turn, Olds stayed with him. From dead astern, he fired a five-second burst and observed many hits. The Focke Wulf zoomed up and the pilot bailed out.

On August 25, during an escort mission to Wismar, Germany, Olds shot down three Messerschmitt Bf 109s to become the squadron’s first ace, making him the last P-38 ace of the Eighth Air Force and the last in the European Theater of Operations. He also claimed three more unofficial kills that could not be verified by witnesses.

In mid-September, the 434th began converting to the P-51 Mustang. This required some adjustment on Olds’ part as the single-engine Mustang handled differently than the twin-engine Lightning.

After downing a Bf 109 over Berlin on Oct. 6, Olds completed his initial combat tour in November and was given two months leave in the United States. Returning to Europe in January 1945, he was promoted to Major the following month on February 9, and received his seventh aerial victory the same day, using his P-51D’s new K-14 gunsight to calculate the deflection and hit a Bf-109 at 450 yards over Magdeburg with his first burst, a result that surprised even Maj. Olds. He closed in and fired twice more, with his third burst sending the Messerschmitt down in flames. Five days later, on February 14, he claimed three more kills but only received credit for two with the other listed as a “probable.”

On March 25, less than two years out of West Point and at only 22 years of age, Maj. Olds received command of the 434th. He never forgot it. Decades later he said, “As a Major I was responsible for feeding and housing my men, training my men, and rewarding or punishing them. As a Colonel I had to check with some general for permission to visit the latrine.”

Unlike many pilots who regarded airplanes as tools, Olds could be sentimental about his machines. Near the end of the war he was one of six P-51 pilots who attacked a German airdrome and found himself the lone survivor. He nursed his crippled Mustang back to base but found that it stalled at 175 mph, rolling violently. But as he said, “Scat VI had taken me through a lot and I was damned if I was going to give up on her.”

Somehow he got the bird on the runway and kept it in one piece.

Olds was a team player as long as the team wanted to play. When the leaders were only interested in suiting up, he exercised some initiative. In other words, he went freelancing. In his first two dogfights he was alone with his wingman, having left formation to hunt on his own. As he wryly noted long afterward, “When I shot down my first two airplanes I was relieved to see that they had black crosses on their wings.”

Olds used to say that the two best things about World War II were London and Col. Zemke. When the 479th’s first commander was shot down in August 1944, Hub Zemke moved over from the fabled 56th Fighter Group and rejuvenated the Mighty Eighth’s last fighter outfit. Not that Olds needed any rejuvenating, but the group had plodded along in pedestrian fashion.

In a few weeks Zemke turned things around, and added to Robin’s already formidable determination to succeed as a shooter and a leader. The group converted to P-51s in September but on October 30, 1944, while flying in unforecasted turbulence, the wing of Zemke’s P-51 was torn off. Zemke was forced to bail out over enemy territory and was captured. He was liberated when the war with Germany ended.

Olds had made ace in both the P-38 and P-51, probably the only pilot ever to do so. Postwar after VE-Day, he returned to the States and reverted to his permanent rank: a 23-year-old Captain.

With the end of the war in Europe in May, Olds’ tally stood at 12 kills as well as 11.5 destroyed on the ground. Returning to the US, Olds was assigned to West Point to serve as an assistant football coach to Earl “Red” Blaik.

Olds’ time at West Point proved brief as many older officers resented his rapid rise in rank during the war. In February 1946, Olds obtained a transfer to the 412th Fighter Group at March Field, California, and trained on the P-80 Shooting Star. Through the remainder of the year, he flew as part of a jet demonstration team with Lt. Col. John C. “Pappy” Herbst.

In 1946, while based at March Field, Olds met Hollywood actress (and “pin-up girl”) Ella Raines on a blind date in Palm Springs. They married in Beverly Hills on February 6, 1947, and had two daughters, Christina and Susan, and a son, Robert Ernest, who was stillborn in 1958. Most of their 29-year marriage, marked by frequent extended separations and difficult homecomings, was turbulent because of a clash of lifestyles, particularly her refusal to ever live in government housing on base. Olds and Ella Raines separated in 1975 and divorced in 1976. Olds then married Abigail Morgan Sellers Barnett in January 1978, and they divorced after fifteen years of marriage.

Ella Raines died in May 30, 1988 Sherman Oaks, California from throat cancer. She was 67.

Seen as a rising star, Olds was selected for a U.S. Air Force-Royal Air Force exchange program in 1948. Traveling to Britain, he commanded No. 1 Squadron at RAF Tangmere and flew the Gloster Meteor. With the end of this assignment in late 1949, Olds became the operations officer for the F-86 Sabre-equipped 94th Fighter Squadron at March Field in California.

Olds next was given command of the Air Defense Command’s 71st Fighter Squadron based at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport. He remained in this role for much of the Korean War despite repeated requests for combat duty. Increasingly unhappy with the U.S. Air Force, despite promotions to Lieutenant Colonel (1951) and Colonel (1953), he debated retiring but was talked out of it by his friend Maj. Gen. Frederic H. Smith, Jr. Shifting to Smith’s Eastern Air Defense Command, Olds languished in several staff assignments until receiving an assignment to the 86th Fighter-Interceptor Wing at Landstuhl Air Base, Germany in 1955. Remaining abroad for three years, he later oversaw the Weapons Proficiency Center at Wheelus Air Base, Libya.

Made Deputy Chief, Air Defense Division at the Pentagon in 1958, Olds produced as series of prophetic papers calling for improved air-to-air combat training and the increased production of conventional munitions. After assisting in generating the funding for the classified SR-71 Blackbird program, Olds attended the National War College in 1962-1963. Following graduation, he commanded the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Bentwaters. During this time, he brought over former Tuskegee Airman Col. Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. to Britain to serve on his staff. Olds left the 81st in 1965 after forming an aerial demonstration team without command authorization.

After brief service at Shaw AFB in South Carolina, Olds was given command of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base. He knew from his own sources that all was not well in the 8th TFW and resolved to see it from the perspective of the FNG (the “freaking” new guy).

He went through the normal in-processing routine like any other newbie, paid close attention and spoke little. By the time he reached the front office, he reckoned that he knew all he needed to. He began cleaning house.

First he cut loose the deadwood, the ticket punchers and careerists who had “sniveled some counters “- missions that counted toward completion of a tour when in fact they had not gone north. Then he began learning the way the Wolfpack did business so he could improve upon it. He stood before the F-4C Phantom crews and said, “I’m going to start here by flying Green Sixteen (tail-end Charlie) and you guys are going to teach me how. But teach me fast and teach me good, because I’m a quick learner.”

Sitting in the audience was Capt. Ralph Wetterhahn, a future MiG killer. Like so many other pilots and WSOs, he was energized by the new CO’s press-on attitude. Years later, Wetterhahn compared Olds’ arrival with that of Brig. Gen. Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) in Twelve O’clock High.

The old ways were not only out, they were deceased. A new regime had arisen, and the Wolfpack began showing results. Olds ruled over a fiefdom like a feudal baron, enjoying the excitement of the hunt by day and discussing the great game with his men at arms by night.

Under Olds’ predecessor, who seldom flew combat, the 8th had eked out a meager kill-loss ratio. Like the rest of the Air Force, it had barely broken even with Hanoi’s MiGs, peaking at a 2-1 exchange rate. Under Olds, the Wolfpack shot to the top of the Southeast Asia league, bagging 18 MiGs, and when he left, the wing’s kill ratio stood at 4-1.

The free-wheeling environment at Ubon fueled morale, and the Wolfpack’s was stratospheric. Dedicated consumers of booze and red meat, they reveled in the warrior ethic. In contrast, todays sedate, sober young professionals are superbly educated, highly competent, and terrified that they might say something that somebody would find objectionable. Olds did not want to live in that world.

And he didn’t.

Increasing concerned about F-105 Thunderchief losses to North Vietnamese MiGs during bombing missions, Olds designed “Operation Bolo” in late 1966. This called for 8th TFW F-4s to mimic F-105 operations in an effort to draw enemy aircraft into combat. Implemented in January 1967, the operation saw American aircraft down seven MiG-21s, with Olds shooting down one. The MiG losses were the highest suffered in one day by the North Vietnamese during the war. A stunning success, Operation Bolo effectively eliminated the MiG threat for most of the spring of 1967. After bagging another MiG-21 on May 4, Olds shot down two MiG-17s on the 20th to raise his total to 16, including the four MiGs over Vietnam.

Over the next few months, Olds continued to personally lead his men into combat. In an effort to raise morale in the 8th TFW, he began growing a famed handlebar mustache. Copied by his men, they referred to them as “bulletproof mustaches.” During this time, he avoided shooting down a fifth MiG as he had been alerted that should he become an ace over Vietnam, he would be relieved of command and brought home to conduct publicity events for the Air Force. On August 11, Olds conducted a strike on the Paul Doumer Bridge in Hanoi. For his performance, he was awarded the Air Force Cross.

Upon return to the U.S., Olds was acclaimed as America’s top gun of the war to date, a record he retained for the next five years. But he was contemptuous of the Air Force’s attitude toward air combat, exclaiming, “The best flying job in the world is a MiG-21 pilot at Phuc Yen. Hell, if I was one of them I’d have got 50 of us!”

Despite his MiG-killing fame, he was perhaps proudest of the strike against North Vietnam’s best-defended target: Thai Nguyen steel mill. In an ultra-low-level attack, leaving rooster tails on the paddies behind them, Olds and two wingmen put their bombs on target. He considered it a dangerously wasteful effort, as the mill had been hit repeatedly, but its smoke stacks had remained standing. What he valued most was the courage and skill of his aircrews.

Leaving the 8th TFW in September 1967, Olds was made Commandant of Cadets at the US Air Force Academy. Promoted to brigadier general on June 1, 1968, he worked to restore pride in the school after a large cheating scandal had blackened its reputation. In February 1971, Olds became director of aerospace safety in the Office of the Inspector General. That fall, he was sent back to Southeast Asia to report on the combat readiness of USAF units in the region. While there, he toured bases and flew several unauthorized combat missions.

He found what he feared: most Air Force fighter crews “couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag.” Commander John Nichols, a Navy MiG killer brought to Udorn, Thailand to teach dog fighting to the Air Force blue suits, saw Olds taxi his F-4 into the chocks after a practice mission. “The canopy came open, followed by General Olds’ helmet in a high, lofting arc. He was not happy.” But his report and analysis were not well received, and his recommendations were ignored.

When Operation Linebacker began in May 1972, American fighter jets returned to the offense in the skies over North Vietnam for the first time in nearly four years. Navy and Marine Corps fighters, reaping the benefits of their TOPGUN program, immediately enjoyed considerable success with a 12:1 kill-loss ratio. In contrast, by June, as Olds had predicted, the Air Force’s fighter community was struggling with a nearly 1:1 kill-loss ratio.

To the new Inspector General, Lt. Gen. Ernest C. Hardin, Jr., Olds offered to take a voluntary reduction in rank to Colonel so he could return to operational command and straighten out the situation. Olds decided to leave the Air Force when the offer was refused (he was offered another inspection tour instead) and he retired on June 1, 1973. With 17 career victories (thirteen in WW II plus four in Vietnam) when the triple ace died, he was America’s third-ranking living ace. His 259 total combat missions included 107 in World War II and 152 in Southeast Asia, 105 of those over North Vietnam. Scat XXVII (F-4C-24-MC 64-0829), the plane he flew for his four MiG kills, was retired from operational service and placed on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, with the four red MiG stars representing his four MiG kills in Vietnam painted on the splitter vane of the intake.

Retiring to Steamboat Springs, CO, he became active in public affairs. Enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2001, Olds later died on June 14, 2007. His ashes were interred at the US Air Force Academy.

Far too many military personnel, policemen, and politicians mouth their oath of office as a rote exercise. Not Robin Olds. He thought about the words, absorbed, them, and passed them along. In addressing newly commissioned officers he said, “The airman swears that he will obey the orders of the officers appointed over him. Do you realize what responsibilities that puts on your shoulders? Your orders have to be legal and proper. Think about it, before you give one. But think about how to protect and defend the Constitution. Because do you know what that is? That is by, for, and of The People. It is not the President; it is not the Speaker of the House; nor the Leader of the Senate. It is the People of the United States; who, hopefully in their wisdom will guide their forces properly.”

Olds had been writing a memoir for several years prior to his death. Says F-4 pilot and novelist Mark Berent, “It was well written, as you’d expect from Robin, but it wasn’t really about him. It was more about people he knew.”

Another Air Force officer who read part of the text said that it began as an ethereal discussion with the ghost of Robin’s father. Robert Olds had asked his son the status of the U.S. Air Force and got a detailed debriefing on what’s wrong with the service. It was a long list.

When he died on June 14, not quite 85, Olds left the work incomplete. The fact that his book remains unfinished represents a major loss to aviation literature.

Gen. Robin Olds once said his magnificent mustache represented his defiance. This defiance grew into the modern-day practice called “Mustache March” in the U.S. Air Force, in which Airmen of all ranks grow their mustaches out of regulations for the entire month of March in defiance of AF hair grooming standards.


CMSgt Gary Hull U.S. Air Force (Ret) (1967-2008)

Read the service reflections of US Air Force Veteran:

profileCMSgt Gary Hull

U.S. Air Force (Ret)


Shadow Box:


hull3I was a college freshman at a time in my life when I was not mature enough to be a college student. My decision to enlist was spurned on when I was jilted by my first love during our second semester freshman year. She told me she was not ready to settle down with just one guy and wanted to date other guys. My heart was broken and I finished my freshman year with a GPA that would not have kept me out of the Vietnam draft. I knew one way or the other I’d be in basic training by the fall and decided to enlist thinking if I did not return to college after active duty, I might be able to learn a trade that I could carry into my civilian life. I wanted and was selected for electronics communications training. I chose the Air Force because I did not like the Navy uniforms.


I served 3 years, 9 months, 27 days active duty as a Ground Navigational Aids Electronics Equipment repairman (304×1). I elected to get out to return to college but soon missed the camaraderie I had experienced in the USAF. In an attempt to recover it, I enlisted into the MN ANG and pretty much stayed in for more than 38 years. I was forced to retire in July 2008 when I turned 60 years of age but would have stayed in and would probably still be in today.

During my career I have served in many diverse assignments including: Maintenance Technician as a Ground Navigational Aids Flight Facilities Electronics Repairman; Ground Electronics Engineering Installation Agency (GEEIA) Navigational Aids Team Chief while serving in Southeast Asia (Thailand), Key punch and Computer Operator, Social Actions Counselor and office Manager, Quality Assurance Technician, Wideband and Satellite Communications Supervisor, and Information Operations Analyst and Communications Superintendent. My military service included duty in direct support of the Vietnam War, the Global War on Terrorism, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Many of the missions I was assigned to supported combat operations, but I never once felt my life was in danger. The closest I came to actually being involved in combat was when I served in Thailand from July 1969 to July 1970. One of the US Air bases within
Thailand I was TDY to was attacked twice by the NVA. Being with GEEIA, I was staying off base in hotels and I never was present when shots rang out. I was later escorted back to base under SP protection so the unit I was TDY to could account for my presence.

The first time this happened and I reported to the Communications Squadron at Ubon RTAFB, I was handed an M-16 with an empty clip and ordered to guard the squadron perimeter. I was astonished and asked if I saw anyone suspicious was I supposed to hit them over the head with the empty weapon. The Commander told me the shooting action was over but I had to do something since I was called in. Instead I volunteered to report to the TACAN facility to begin my day of work to which the Commander agreed since it was probably a better use of my time.


I regard the year I spent in Thailand as the best year of my life. I was young, impressionable and not at all worldly. Enlisting in the USAF changed all of that for me! Being on active duty was an exciting period of my life and it was punctuated bythe year I spent in Thailand. 1969-1970 represented my coming-of-age year. In that one short and very fast year, I experienced what many guys my age took years to experience. I have nothing but fond memories of serving in Thailand! I went over there as a boy and came home as a man simply because after several months in country during which I continued to save myself for my college girlfriend, I could no longer resist the temptations of young girls who just wanted to sleep with a blonde haired, blue eyed man and offered themselves to me for free.

Saving myself for my college girlfriend went out the window to Alice (she told me I could not pronounce her Thai name and suggested I just call her Alice). We stayed together for a short week while I was sent to Udorn, Thailand, for an emergency fix of a critical communications site. I returned a couple of months later for another job and when I saw her, she was beaming when she announced she was pregnant”. I asked her if she knew who the father was and she just smiled saying yes, but did not offer the father’s name and I was afraid to ask. What she did say however scared the daylights out of me, “I know my son will be as suimoch (beautiful) as you”. Believe it or not, I saw her at the BX during my last year in the USAF while stationed at Kelly AFB, in San Antonio. She had married another GI and moved to the states with him. Her son had blonde hair and blue eyes. She saw me and smiled back, winking. I was newly married to my first wife who caught Alice’s wink and asked if I knew her. I had already told her about Alice and our history and simply answered her, “that was Alice, from Thailand”. Her response was, “Oh, I didn’t think she would be that pretty”.

During my one-year tour, I learned a lot about life from the Thai people I became friends with. They were always laughing and finding something good in their lives. I grew up relatively poor but I knew after being there for only a short time, I had more tangible wealth then did the average Thai. Still they were happy and their positive outlook on life was infectious. I made many friends during that year and will never forget what they all taught me about life in general and growing up to become a man.


Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the sense of accomplishment and pride bestowed me by the USAF while serving in Thailand. I was a first term Airman who because of my apparent good reputation for fixing communication sites, was made a Team Chief and Supervisor. Iwas the first and as far as I know the only first term Airman to be made a Team Chief. I supervised career Air Force troops who outranked me by 2 and 3 stripes. The amount of responsibility was tremendous and I was in charge of millions of dollars of equipment at the age of 21-22. I know the work I did saved the lives of many pilots and I took great pride in always doing my best job. I was also volunteered for a mission that included humping into Laos.

I was “escorted” by an Army Green Beret Lt and 20 Thai Special Forces whose job it was to protect me. We saw no combat but it was quite scary. I could not stop wondering if attacked, would the Thai army troops run or fight. I did not carry a weapon either. The Green Beret Lt told me I was USAF and did not need one because I probably did not know how to use one anyway! I fixed the site and we humped back, all quite an uneventful but long day. Air America, a CIA owned/run US organization with HDQTRS in Udorn, Thailand tried to recruit me in April of 1970. They told me I was what they were looking for and they guaranteed me an Honorable Discharge after only serving 3 years of my 4 year enlistment and $22,000 tax free/year to continue doing what I had done for the USAF. I turned them down because I wanted to go home to see my college girlfriend.

I was TDY to Udorn RTAFB when a damaged F-4 crashed into the Armed Forces Radio Station building killing 9 personnel. The site I was working on was on the other side of the runway and I exited the shelter to see the fire. The SSgt with me and I jumped into our jeep and headed over to help. When we got to the sight, I was handed a rake and told to look for evidence. Within minutes I found a boot with a foot still in it. Although I was at Ubon RTAFB twice when NVA sappers attacked it, this incident drove home to me how fragile life is during war. Had the F-4 dipped left rather than right, it would more than likely have crashed into the site I was working in. I will never forget that day for as long as I live.


I am most proud of my last 10 years service while with the DC ANG. In 1998 I was transferred from Combat Communications to a Joint Services Mission named the Joint Web Risk Assessment Cell (JWRAC). Our mission was to identify information contained on military web sites that singularly orin aggregate could divulge mission capabilities to the enemy. I was awarded the Meritorious Service medal twice for what was described as; “positively impacting DOD’s operational security posture by providing Open Source Assessment reports that directly reduced the Department of Defense OPSEC exposure. He initiated, researched and developed customized reports that identified Information Assurance and Operational Security vulnerabilities for the National Command Authority, Combatant Commands, the National Guard Bureau and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. During this period Chief Hull’s outstanding professionalism and exemplary technical skills significantly enhanced national security by creating a more secure operational environment for the entire DOD. Immediately following September 11, 2001, Chief Hull provided daily web OPSEC briefings to the Commander of the Global Network Operations Security Center at the Defense Information Systems Agency on major and critical web OPSEC discrepancies. CMS Hull provided continuous support to OPERATIONS Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom without regard to duty status. The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Chief Hull reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force”.


My first Meritorious Service Medal is the one I am most proud of. It was awarded for exemplary service to the District of Columbia Air National Guard, the National Guard Bureau, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the National Command Authority and Combatant Commands throughout the United States and its territories
from 1 September 2001 to 30 October 2004. The award states “CMSgt Hull’s exceptional technical competence and analytical insight conceptualized the Department of Defense abstract Operational Security battle space and developed comprehensive Information Assurance products in support of national security. His initiative and personal drive elevated the Joint Web Risk Assessment Cell level of support to the Department of Defense beyond expectations. CMSgt Hull’s combined knowledge of Information Security and military objectives in support of the warfighter focused the JWRAC to report on mission, force protection, infrastructure protection both physical, communications and weapons of mass destruction, and logistics.

Immediately upon the events of September 11, 2001, CMSgt Hull transitioned to a wartime operations tempo in support of both OPERATIONS Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom without regard to his duty status. Chief Master Sergeant Hull has lead the JWRAC into a new analytical direction by providing unprecedented information security awareness in support of the heighten OPSEC posture of the Department of Defense. His knowledge of web site security has allowed him significant contributions to improving the DoD Internet OPSEC posture by incorporating aggressive risk analysis methodology which identify known vulnerabilities that if exploited, could pose a risk to national security.” I am quite proud of having been recognized in this way.


TSgt Robert Coleman, my first Nav Aids NCOIC while stationed at McChord AFB, 1905 Communications Squadron probably influenced me the most. We called him CC because his favorite adult beverage included Canadian Club. CC also enjoyed mentoring young troops like me and he gave me the confidence to succeed as a newly graduated nav aids repairman. CC impressed upon me that the most critical period for becoming a good electronics maintenance technician are the experiences and OJT following graduation from tech school. In my case, CC gave me the responsibility with every opportunity to succeed. Under his direction and confidence in me, I believe I grew into a pretty good technician which later influenced my career path when I arrived in Thailand.


During the Christmas and New Year holiday of 1968-1969 at McChord AFB, our NavAids shop decided to split the on-call responsibility. We had 4 maintenance men in our duty section and we decided two of us would share all of the on-call responsibility during one week while the other team had the entire week off and then during the second week, which was New Year’s week, the other team would have maintenance responsibility while the first team had that week off. I was on the team that worked Christmas week with New Years week off. I decided to submit leave papers for my week off so I could go home to visit my family and friends and CC told me he’d approve it.

When my week came I reported to the orderly room to sign out and CC told me it wasn’t necessary to “burn” leave time to go home since the week off was already approved so I did not sign out. I did enjoy my week off at home but when I returned to McChord, I was told I had been AWOL because I did not sign out and would be given an article 15. Both CC and our Communications Officer, a Captain, went to bat for me and the incident went away. I was terrified when first told I was recorded as AWOL and would have to pay the consequences. As I think back I now can laugh at the entire event which probably would never have occurred had I not filed leave papers, but at the time, I could only see Leavenworth in my future.


I used my military electronics experience to get into computers and today I am an IT Security person with 37 years experience and the President and CTO of Insure IT Security. I provide client consulting services using industry best IT security practices in the areas of architecture, strategic systems design, network assessments for security and policy compliance, penetration and vulnerability testing, and disaster recovery planning for several agencies of the United States Government to include NASIRC, ASSIST, AFCERT, DoD, NSA, DOE, SSA, US Dept of Education and the AFOSI as well as for large and small businesses in the private sector. I have also authored several security software tools and security bulletins published by CERT and NASIRC and several articles focusing on both Computer Security and Mass Storage research for NASA. I am a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Superior having earned a B.S. degree in Liberal Arts and an M.S. in Psychology. I still work full time for the FDIC and in my spare time I pursue my hobby as a fly fishermen.


Air Force Sergeants Association and Air Force Memorial.


I enlisted in the United States Air Force in June of 1967. I did so not out of a great sense of patriotism but because after my freshmen year in college I had to. I discovered a social life to include girls and my grades were not what Uncle Sam
and the Army expected in order to keep me out of the draft. It was the Vietnam era and I knew if I waited until the Army called me, I’d be a grunt humping the boonies in Vietnam. So I enlisted in the Air Force thinking if I didn’t return to college, at least I may learn a trade at the expense of the US taxpayers. I wasn’t afraid of going to “war” at least I didn’t think I was. I just felt the war experience would not provide me with the life skills I would need to become a productive and successful citizen when I returned. I never once thought if I ended up in Vietnam that I would not return home either.

Many of my friends either enlisted to go to war, or were drafted and forced to war. Some came back to start their lives over, others came back and never had the “coping” skills to start over and still others never did return having given their lives in Vietnam. I felt if I went to war, I’d come home and fall into the first group of returnees. When I enlisted I had no grandiose visions of making the military my career. Instead, I rationalized it as something I had to do in order to acquire skills that would allow me to move through life and become a productive member of society. The USAF grew me up, taught me confidence and most importantly, showed me how to be the man I was capable of becoming. My successes in my chosen civilian career were in great part directly related to what the military taught me as an individual and a team player.


I am honored to have served our nation as a 38.5 year member of the USAF/ANG and would do it all over again. The greatness of a nation is punctuated by the sacrifices of those who serve to protect and guarantee our freedoms. I have no advice but rather a thank you for those still serving as well as for those who have served.


Everyone of us have sacrificed something to continue our service and even now, TWS members will not let each other down. There is a camaraderie amongst those who have served that continues on TWS.


Profile in Courage: Col James Kasler

James Helms Kasler was born on May 2, 1926 in South Bend, Indiana and following 30-years of distinguished military service, retired as a U.S. Air Force Colonel. Three times he went off to war and three times returned home. During his career, he is the only person to be awarded three Air Force Crosses. He also was awarded two Silver Stars, Legion of Merit, nine Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Purple Hearts, eleven Air Medals and Bronze Star with V for valor. Setting aside recipients of the Medal of Honor, he is the 10th most decorated serviceman in U.S. history. For some, he is known as Indiana’s Sgt. Alvin York, the famous hero of World War I.

Shortly after graduating from Shortridge High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force in May 1944. He spent his two-year enlistment flying combat missions over Japan as a B-29 Superfortress tail gunner.

Following the war, Kasler attended Butler University in Indianapolis for three years before entering the U.S. Air Force pilot training program in January 1950 and received his wings on March 24, 1951 at Williams AFB, Arizona. Following a brief assignment to Presque Isle, Maine, in November 1951 he was sent to Korea and assigned to the 335th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Group.

Flying the F-86 Sabrejet, Kasler was credited with his first aerial victory on April 1, 1952, downing one MiG-15 near Wongsong-dong and damaging a second east of Sinuiju. He shot down another MiG near Okkang-dong on April 21. Action picked up in May, and he was credited with four more MiG-15s – one on the 4th, two on the 15th. It was on April 25 when he got his 6th in MiG Alley.

He and his wingman, 1st Lt. Albert Smiley, caught several MiGs just as they were returning to their Communist air base. Kasler got behind the lead MiG, chasing it for about 50 miles on the deck, refusing flight commander Phil “Casey” Colman’s request to call it a day. On the MiGs tail, Kasler opened up, and his gunfire tore it apart. Its canopy gone, its pilot engulfed in fire, the MiG arched down in a flaming trail before it splattered in the mud flats just below. Kasler pulled back on the stick mightily, to avoid sharing his victim’s fate. He cleared and called triumphantly to Colman, “Casey, I’m an ace.”

MiGs were routinely piloted by Chinese and Soviet pilots and a U.S. intelligence officer later informed Kasler that the three MiGs he and Smiley killed were the only ones recorded that day.

The officer had another bit of information: One of those three planes had been piloted by the son of Mao Zedong, father of the Chinese revolution and principal founder of the People’s Republic of China.

Kasler returned to the United States in July 1952 and during the next 11 years served in Canada, Turner AFB, Georgia, Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, and Breitburg Air Base, Germany, flying a variety of jet fighters. In 1963 he received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nebraska.

In February 1966 he went to Tahkli Air Base, Thailand as the operations officer for the 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 355th Wing. While mission were flying daily over both South and North Vietnam, Hanoi was at that time off-limits to U.S. warplanes. Fearing a wider conflict, Robert McNamara, secretary of defense during the Kennedy and Johnson presidential administrations, drew a 50-mile circle around it and a 30-mile ring around the principal harbor.

That restriction was eliminated in June 1966 as American defense chiefs were slowly escalating the war, and had recently decided to broaden the bombing of North Vietnam to include industrial targets like the Hanoi POL (petroleum, oil, & lubricant) facility.

On June 21, Kasler learned of the impending strike and began to select pilots, draw up the precise navigation plans, and studying Hanoi’s formidable aerial defenses. North Vietnam had the strongest anti-aircraft defenses in history: over 7,000 AA guns of 37mm or larger, and batteries of radar-controlled SAM’s ringing Hanoi.

By midnight on the 28th, their plans were complete, down to detailed route charts, folded accordion-style. Minutes before the 0830 mission briefing, Kasler was invited to lead the mission, much to his surprise, and to the discomfort of Col. Holt, who otherwise would have led the large raid. The briefing focused on weather (clear) and winds (light and variable) – both perfect for fighter operations. Both wings, the 355th and the 388th, would approach the target from the south, to minimize the chances of a bomb ending up in the city of Hanoi. Each Republic F-105 Thunderchief carried eight 750-pound bombs.

Kasler rolled down the runway and lifted off at 235 knots. Airborne, he headed north for the rendezvous with the aerial tankers. They refueled uneventfully and were three minutes ahead of schedule. Kasler led the Thuds in a circle to kill the 180 seconds. Twenty minutes later, they were over the Red River and Kasler began to lose altitude, until they were 300 feet off the ground, at the base of “Thud Ridge,” the landmark mountain range that ran east-west across North Vietnam’s mid-section.

As they dropped tanks, they could see smoke rising up from the POL tanks, already hit by Navy jets. Flak blossomed all around them, even at 300 feet. The NVA gunners must have had their 85mm and 100mm pieces at zero elevation. Amidst the smoke from the target and puffs of anti-aircraft fire, Kasler called for afterburners and went into his bomb run. Big fat oil tanks filled his view; he dropped his bombs and rolled away to the right. Turning back, he saw the fuel tanks erupting into huge billowing fireballs, thousands of feet high.

His flight crossed the Red River and the flak gunners switched to fighter-bombers behind him. Flying west, looking for targets of opportunity, he found a convoy of twenty-five trucks. The Thuds blasted them with 20mm cannon fire, destroying at least half of them. He glanced back at Hanoi, now 35 miles behind. A pillar of black smoke towered up, over six miles high.

The Hanoi POL strike was very successful. Over 90 percent of the facility was destroyed and the Vietnamese abandoned it altogether.

On August 8, 1966, on his 91st combat mission, he was leading the formation when his wingman, Fred Flom was shot down. Kasler dropped down and flew low-level cover while awaiting the arrival of a combat rescue patrol. Running low on fuel with just enough to return to base, he instead hooked up with a KC-135 midair refueler and return to look for Flom.

Kasler’s F-105 was also shot down over North Vietnam that same day and captured by the North Vietnamese. He was a POW until 4 March 1973. So began six years and seven months of imprisonment by an enemy who knew exactly who he was and why to hate him.

Oddly, it was Kasler’s notoriety that saved his life, but it also exposed him to unspeakable torture. His captors gloated. They singled him out. They almost immediately put Kasler on television, so they couldn’t kill him without losing face, but they were particularly eager to force a confession or any capitulation, so great would have been its propaganda value.

It was testimony to the ferocity of the air war that another of Kasler’s closest friends, Lewis Shattuck, was shot down and rescued on Aug 1st and was shot down again, and this time captured, on Aug 11th. And that his friend John Brodak went down Aug 14th.

That’s three buddies down within 35 days of one another and serving as POWs from 1966 until 1973.

At one point, during the fall of 1967, Kasler’s captors took his clothes and his mosquito net. For three days, they denied him food and water and they beat his back and buttocks with a truck fan belt, every hour on the hour, 6 a.m. until 10 or 11 p.m.

He was tortured repeatedly by his Communist captors, in an effort to get him to cooperate with their propaganda claims. In the early years, the prisoners were kept in isolation and rarely let out of their cells. The Vietnamese used isolation, sleep deprivation, starvation, as well as physical pain to try to break Kasler down. His worst session came in June 1968:

“The Vietnamese were attempting to force me to meet a delegation and appear before TV cameras on the occasion of the supposed 30000th American airplane ever North Vietnam. I couldn’t say the things they were trying to force me to say. I was tortured for six weeks. I went through the ropes and irons ten times. I was denied sleep for five days and during three of these was beaten every hour on the hour with a fan belt. During the entire period I was on a starvation diet. I was very sick during this period. I had contacted osteomyelitis in early 1967 and had a massive bone infection in my right leg.

“They would wrap my leg before each torture session so I wouldn’t get pus or blood all over the floor of the interrogation room. During this time they beat my face to a pulp. I couldn’t get my teeth apart for five days. My ear drum was ruptured, one of my ribs broken and the pin in my right leg was broken loose and driven up into my hip.”

“I lay in agony for six months until I was given an operation in January of 1969.”
[Excerpted from]

Kasler shared the infamous Room 7 of the “Hanoi Hilton” with other great heroes like Robinson Risner, James Stockdale, Bud Day, John McCain, Larry Guarino, and Jeremiah Denton. He never cooperated with the North Vietnamese and survived to return home in March, 1973, after six and one-half years in captivity.

For seven long years, his wife Martha, daughter Suzanne and twins Jim and Nanette awaited Kasler’s return from Vietnam. It came, joyfully and tearfully, on March 8, 1973 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

The twins were 12 when their father left for Vietnam. They were 19 when the family was reunited. Kasler momentarily mistook his son Jim for Suzanne’s husband, John Morris.

The confusion was understandable but short-lived. It is testimony to Kasler’s enormous strength, and that of Martha and the kids, that normalcy was incredibly, and almost immediately, restored.

In July 1974 Kasler was assigned as vice commander of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho and remained in that capacity until his retirement as aColonel on 1 May 1975, in spite of him being in line for an Air Wing command and a brigadier general’s star.

He spent the last 39 years of his life as a resident of Momence, an Illinois-Indiana border town where he owned South Shore Golf Course and had interests in banking and real estate, served on a number of boards and received a variety of civic and service awards.

He died on April 24, 2014, at the age of 87, in West Palm Beach, Florida. One obituary read, he joined what Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg called ‘our honored dead.’

Kasler’s former cell-mates at Hanoi Hilton, Lewis Shattuck and John Brodak, were in Indianapolis for the May 16, 2014 memorial service at Crown Hill Cemetery that saluted Kasler in death. It was a grim, gray day, but the rain eased and the sky brightened a bit for the F-15 Eagle flyover, when there was a lump in every throat and a tear in almost every eye. Kasler was more than a hero. He was a husband to Martha for 65 years, a father and grandfather.

At his funeral, John Brodak, his voice flush with feeling, said, ‘The colonel was my mentor and my hero, the most courageous man I’ve ever known. He was a fierce warriors and a patriot and I’m proud he called me his friend.’

Brodak is a retired Air Force colonel who flew with Kasler. And for 15 months of the six and a half years both were North Vietnamese prisoners of war, he was Kasler’s cellmate at ‘The Zoo’ and the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton.’

Kasler’s happiest occupation was Grandpa. His six grandchildren served as greeters at his Crown Hill memorial celebration. Each spoke.

One, Ashley Hurley, recalled grandpa’s infectious sense of humor and how, when she was little, he would get down on the floor with her and laugh and laugh.

James Kasler was nicknamed “Stoneface” by his Air Force peers, testimony to his toughness, his seriousness of purpose and his mission commitment. But men like Brodak and Shattuck, his wife Martha, kids and grandkids


CMSgt Richard Hardesty U.S. Air Force (Ret) (1952-1976)

hardestyPersonal Service Reflections of USAF Airman:

CMSgt Richard Hardesty

U.S. Air Force (Ret)


Shadow Box:

(Veterans – record and share your own service story with friends and family by joining This is a free service)


I graduated from high school at 17 and enrolled in college the following fall of 1951. I also joined ROTC program at the school and two fraternities–ah, the marvels of college life. By the end of the first semester and getting several D grades I decided college wasn’t for me and joined the Air Force in February of 1952.


My basic training was at Lackland AFB, Texas followed by nearly 10 months going through the Electronics School at Scott AFB, Illinois. Getting there was a bit of a thrill. I wasn’t sure why or how but I ended up on my first airplane ride aboard a C-46 from San Antonio to Scott AFB, Illinois.

I graduated from the school in November 1952 with orders to Japan. I went on a 30-day leave to my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa where I enjoyed time away from military life. When it ended I made my way to Chicago where I’d be taking a train to the west coast and hopping a ship to Japan. In Chicago I met up with several buddies right after the New Year. Having them along as company on the trip made the journey a lot more fun. Since we were travelling in uniform every old soldier on board the train insisted on buying us drinks and regaling us with their stories of how they helped win the war…World War II that is.

Several days after arriving at Camp Pendleton we were taken to where our ship, the USS General W. H. Gordon (AP-117), was docked. The day we left port–January 19, 1953–is a date I will never forget: My idol Hank Williams died on that date.

The highlight of the voyage was crossing the Equator on the International Date Line. In this ancient tradition Sailors and Marines crossing the Equator for the first time are subject to all kinds of weird rituals. This rite of passage is a daylong affair where pollywogs–those being initiated–are put through many embarrassing obstacles such as being locked in a salt-water coffin, hair chopping, digging through rotting garbage, locked in the stocks while shellbacks–the initiators–throw mushy fruit at them, and other degrading behavior. It was a lot of fun to watch.

We arrived at the port of Yokohama 28 days later and took a 4 hour train ride to the Replacement Depot. On the ride there a sergeant came through the car and read off a list of names and where those called would be assigned. He then bellows out, “Anyone whose name I did not call…you guys will be heading to Korea tomorrow morning.” Welcome to the war!!

I was sent to Chinhae AFB (called K-10) to the 102nd Comm Squadron. Less than a month later, the 75th ADW Air Police Squadron got their first mobile communications, and a buddy of mine and me were transferred to the AP Squadron. We lived in a pretty secure environment since he North Korean army had been pushed out the area years ago so the actual shooting war was far off. We had some A-26 twin-engine small bombers based at Chinhae and they made quite a racket on take-off and landing–mainly because we had a PSP (Pierced Steel Planking) runway. We slept in tents on canvas cots and in the winter used sleeping bags. We were always envious of the Army guys based not too far from us. We figured they probably had it better since they had steel cots, sheets and blankets.

Of significance in that tour, my buddy and I were called down to Chinhae port to work on some HF radio gear located on a boat belonging to Sigmund Rhee, the President of South Korea. We did an excellent job of repairs and had him out of the port in under an hour. The gear we worked on was a Collins Radio manufactured in my home town of Cedar Rapids.

One funny story was when our main switchboard reported an outage with the Navy unit in town and asked us to investigate. We got about halfway to town and found a ROK Army unit calmly cutting loose the tie-downs and rolling up our telephone cable connecting us to the Navy base. We never understood why.

And who could ever forget the “Twelve-Holer” at the bottom of the hill from our tents. It was a wonderful experience in the winter time, as we wore the old one-piece fatigue uniform and had to half undress to go to the bathroom.

Then there were the steel canteen cups we used for everything drinkable including cereal soaked in that wonderful reconstituted milk. It worked well for cool water and orange juice too but not hot liquids. Every time I tried drinking hot coffee my mouth would burn and when the cup finally cooled enough for my lips to touch the metal, the coffee was too cold to enjoy. Oh the joys of Korea!

The final armistice agreement was signed on July 27, 1953 and when it was announced there was wild jubilation throughout our base. I rotated out in December 1953 and was the third ship to dock in Seattle, Washington on December 24th. When I and many other returnees tried to get home we found that all ground transportation and air was booked solid. Somehow the military found a train going to Chicago so most of us got out. I remember the one conductor playing cards with a large group of us. As we arrived near Minneapolis we caught him cheating. After the train starting moving we threw him off the train as it left town. The Air Police was waiting for us in Chicago but didn’t take any action. My parents met me and we made the long drive to Iowa, celebrating Christmas on the 30th of December!!


In Vietnam I was stationed at Tan Son Nhut AB near Saigon. I remember the medic almost taking pleasure in showing us the 3 and 5/8 inches long needle used to administer the Hepatitis shot. He then jabbed me in the left cheek of my buttocks. The pain of the serum flowing into my system hurt more than anything I can remember. That shot disabled me for two or three days making it hard to sit or lay down.

In December 1966 and again in early 1967 we came under several attacks by Communist Vietnam Peoples’ Army (VPA aka NVA). I was the communications superintendent in charge of a transmitter site and receiver site located on the north perimeter fence. When the enemy made a second assault the .50 caliber machine we had set up on the roof kept them at bay as they tried to breech the fence-line. I was taken aback a day or two later when I saw some of the bodies laid out on the flight line and among them all of the barbers from the base. They were the guys that snapped our necks and gave us a razor cut haircut!! They could have taken us out at any time. It was the only determined enemy attack on the base while I was in-country. I do recall the VPA threw a bomb under our work bus two days after I rotated back to CONUS and several guys were either killed or severely injured.

This is what a “crazy and wild” guy does on R&R in Thailand. The snake was 17 foot long and very heavy.

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