Biographical Notes re

Charles A. (Chuck) Stone

Page 4 of 6 Pages, of Chapter 6,


Life moved on and the two bomb wings on the base were striving mightily to achieve combat-ready status. It seemed we were always under the cloud of a “readiness inspection”. This could mean getting ready, being inspected, or getting over having had one. I learned to appreciate and admire the way SAC was evolving a management system for an organization that was flying and air-refueling aircraft, with such remarkable safety records, with such precision. Yes, we all had our jokes about charts, graphs, and management innovations; but, in the end, the system was working increasingly like a Swiss Watch and it made me proud to be a part of it all.

As the month of October, 1955, was turned on the calendar, the 98th Bomb Wing was getting ready for its first serious deployment to Lakenheath, England, taking its turn to stand alert in the growing Cold War climate.

After a week of preparations for our deployment we all had a weekend to enjoy our families before being away for three or more months of TDY for many in our bomb wing. My back spasms had been infrequent, but always remindful that they were there, waiting to complicate my life.

On Sunday afternoon, doing a bit of work in the yard, I stooped over to turn the water faucet off on the side of our house. I got a sudden jolt in the back and a whole cluster of muscles in my back went into the fully locked position. By bedtime, I had to crawl up to our second floor bedroom on my hands and knees. Monday morning, navigating with difficulty, I headed for the base wondering how to deal with this issue. Should I tough it out and risk killing my crew (my friends) or should I talk with the Flight Surgeon and get some advice and/or help.

I chose the latter and went to our 98th Bomb Wing Flight Surgeon’s office. He was at the officers club having coffee. I went to the officers club and located him, chinning with some of his compatriots. I apologized for the intrusion, standing there in my flying clothes, and told him what had happened to my back. (Note: This was not our first discussion regarding this dilemma. As I will outline later on, this doctor believed that any flyer who was ill must be afraid to fly and/or goofing off.) He gave me a sly smile that said to me “Stone, I know you are doing this because you don’t want to go flying overseas and be away from your family. Quite possibly you are afraid to fly, under any conditions.” In reality, he looked up at me and said “Just go take a few APCs and you will be just fine.” — Another case closed for this worker of medical miracles. I limped off down to Operations. I discussed the situation with my very understanding crew members and they said they would help see us through, as needed. We attended a planning meeting and learned that the weather over the North Atlantic was deteriorating and our departure was going to be delayed a few days. Lucky for me. I spent the next few days doing what I could to rehabilitate my back and put it in working order.

If my records are correct, we departed for Lakenheath on the 9th of November, my birthday. We launched in small groups, just a good size for a small flight of tankers to refuel, enroute. The sun was going down as we set our course for Newfoundland and then Lakenheath. As we got into our cruise mode, I tried to flex my back enough to keep it from locking up on me. As we approached the refueling area I became aware that I couldn't put my left foot on the rudder peddle without my back going into a spasm. As we began our descent to find our assigned tankers, I did so with my left leg hanging out in the isle crawlway and a prayer on my lips. The atmosphere was really spooky. You could look in any direction and see the Northern Lights effect all around you. It was very murky and misty. Through good coordination we pulled up under our tanker with other tankers and our B-47 cell companions doing the same.

As I moved in and got hooked up, the KC-97 tanker’s boom ejected as soon as fuel pressure was turned on. I moved in again, hooked up, and the same thing happened. Each disconnect gave us a face full of fuel all over our canopy. After about the fourth ejection, the boom operator told me he that after we had hooked up, he would turn up the fuel pressure gradually to see what the pressure disconnect regulator would tolerate. When we determined what kind of a fuel flow we could achieve, without a disconnect, we realized we were using fuel faster than he could transfer it to us. Our fellow B-47 crews were getting antsy and wanted to get on their way. We knew we had enough fuel to get to Lakenheath, but not enough to go on to our alternate, if Lakenheath were closed in. I chose to return to Lincoln to have our refueling system checked out and repaired.

We turned 180 degrees and headed home with a sense of frustration and pending defeat. By the time we got into the pattern at Lincoln, I had loosened up my back so I could use both feet and we landed OK. We were sent home to bed, waiting for notice when to report back for new departure time and route instructions. Maintenance found that our aircraft, which had just newly been assigned to our base, had not been air refueled since its arrival and they did not know that the fuel pressure control settings were way off. They fixed it and called us back to the base. We were instructed to take a replacement alternator to one of our planes that had made a cautionary landing at Loring AFB, Main. We would then refuel there, and hop on over to Lakenheath. The plane worked and my back worked, happy days! Landing at Loring, we found that one of my commuting pals from Wichita school attendance was the A/C of the B-47 needing a new alternator, and there was a second aircraft of ours there, as well. After a bit of rest, our three aircraft took off at about two minute intervals, climbing out through an overcast into a beautiful moon and starlit sky. As the vapor trails began to form, we followed them until we had a loose formation of traveling companions. The photos that are included on this page were taken from our aircraft to mark the event after the sun was well up. Our trip to and landing at Lakenheath was routine.

Above: Three B-47s departed Loring AFB in the late night darkness into a new day.

Looking back at the copilot,
Robert L. Stevenson

We tighten up our loose formation for a photo op as we head for Lakenheath AB, England

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