The Earl E. Myers Story
Page 1 of 3 Pages
|In March 1961. my wife, children (Steve, Ann and Chris) and I, departed, by car, from Forbes Air Force Base headed for our overseas departure point, Maguire Air Force Base, NJ. We planned our route for an overnight stop at Niagara Falls. Viewing the magnificent Falls was quite an experience for all of us. Another of God's wonders of the world. On arrival at Maguire, Sweetie Pie, our doggie, departed by air freight from New York for Madrid and was only 7 hours in enroute. We departed Maguire for Torrejon Air Base, Spain (Madrid) in a lumbering Military Air Transport DC-6. It was a long and gruesome flight, especially after becoming used to the speed of travel of the RB-47.
We were billeted in the Hotel Del Cornado. The restaurant at the Del Cornado had a 5 Star rating in the guidebooks. Staying at the hotel also gave us the opportunity to find other restaurants and to explore our new surroundings. We made our temporary home in this hotel for 3 months trying to obtain living quarters off base. There were no quarters available at Torrejon AB. Finally a 5 bedroom, walled in yard and house, with a swimming pool, a small space for a garden to raise vegetables, and a closed door garage turned up. It was a real plus. It cost $125 per month and was only about 6 miles from Torrejon.
My first assignment was in the 16th Air Force Headquarters Command Post. Soon after, I was transferred to the Directorate of Operations to take on more responsibilities. Since I had considerable time in the RB-47s, I was assigned the extra duty to operate and manage the 3 RB-47s that were assigned. These aircraft looked like they had just come from the factory as the looked shiny and new, both inside and out. They were assigned to 16th AF for the purpose of transporting the 16th Air Force Commander to SAC Headquarters and return from command “Looking Glass” duties (Looking Glass was the code name for the SAC 24/7 Airborne Alert Command Post) and other administrative trips around Europe and Africa.
On a domestic note: I had just returned from my first flight to Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha. I brought back 5 sacks of fertilizer for my garden. The owner of the property, Sr. Escobar, living next door, saw me working on the garden and adding the fertilizer. “What's that?” he said, in Spanish? I replied, “fertilizer” and went through sign language that it would make the tomatoes grow big. No, no, was his reply, BASUDA, Basuda Basuda. In Spanish that is horse fertilizer. Well the garden soil was smiling up at me because it had never had such good feeding before. Later, when the tomatoes started appearing, I would find him in the garden admiring the growth. I called him over when the first tomato crop was ready for consumption. I pulled one and proceeded to cut it open and offered it to him. He was astounded with the taste and size.
My military duties included periodic visits to other bases under 16th Air Force control. This included Zaragosa and Moron Air Bases in Spain, and Sidi Slimane, Nouasseur and Ben Guerir Air Bases in Morocco. An additional duty was to inspect the operational aspects of ?Reflex? Operations at each base (“Reflex” involved the temporary assignment of various SAC Bomb Wings for overseas alert duties). Also, we had many requirements to go to England in the process of coordinating a variety of operational activities. Many times we hosted a visiting General on a classified mission who required transportation to various air bases in both Europe and Africa. Since I was an instructor pilot in the B-47s, the VIP would occupy the front seat and my place was in the copilot's position which was the proper place for the instructor pilot. I learned a lot about geography with this assignment.
One of our continuing missions was developing and maintaining positive relations with the local populations within each area where our Air Bases were located. In the fall of 1962, “Friendship Days” were in the planning stage for our bases located in Spain. Dates were selected for special air show and ground display events to be held at Torrejon, Zaragosa and Moron Air Bases. This included performances by the USAF Thunderbirds and Canadian Aerobatics Team, as well as the Italian and Spanish Air Force demonstration teams. This event was scheduled for 3 days at each base. It drew about 200,000 visitors to Torrejon and large, but uncounted, numbers at the other bases. They were spectacular events, to say the least. The civil population swarmed around the viewing areas, enjoying the air shows and static displays.
I was with Gen. David Wade in Adana Turkey when President Kennedy was assassinated. It was early evening, by our local time. As I recall there was 8 hours difference in time from Dallas to Turkey. Gen. Wade, myself and some others went into the city for dinner. We had just ordered, when a Turkish Policeman entered. He was obviously very very excited. In Turkish sign language, he demonstrated to us that President Kennedy had been assassinated. He did so by saying "Keeenneeddy, Bang Bang” and pointed to his head. He repeated it 3 times. We departed at once to return to Incirlik AB. The base gates had been locked and were heavily guarded. We entered and proceeded to the base gym where a briefing was scheduled. The briefing over, our departure was expedited and we returned to Torrejon AB, Spain. Its an easy flight as it is only 4 hours enroute each way. By this time it had become a very long day. The 16th Air Force Headquarters staff members scheduled a special briefing on Gen. Wades return. He asked me to attend with him. The base was secured very tight. It was a time of great tension and deep sadness.
Some time later, I was scheduled to take General Wade to Offutt AFB for his "Looking Glass" tour. On our departure from Torrejon, unknown to us, there was a flock of ducks at the far end of the runway. The runway was 12,500' long and it had just rained hard. It was impossible to see the ducks as we released the brakes and began our takeoff roll. The ducks apparently thought the wet runway was a lake. On liftoff, the ducks and our aircraft took to the air at the same time. The windshield was suddenly blacked out (red) with blood and feathers.
The windshield was impossible to see through for Gen. Wade to make the landing. The odor from the ducks entering the engines was almost unbearable. Every engine cowl, the leading edge of the wings and the empennage were completely covered. They appeared to have been spray painted with red paint. He stated, “Earl, should we jump it?” My reply was that I could see through a small opening on the lower left part of the windshield for landing. I asked, Gen. Wade, “What are the EGT's (engine temperatures) indicating?” “All normal, for now.” was his reply. We circled to the South at 5,000 ft. and burned off fuel until we were within the limits of our maximum landing weight. The landing was completed and we stopped on the runway for a tow to the hanger. A staff car was there to pick us up and the ground crew towed the aircraft. to the hangar for a thorough inspection, repair and cleaning. All six engines were changed. We delayed the trip for 24 hours and then departed for Offutt AFB, Omaha, Nebraska in one of the alternate aircraft.
Along our route, in-flight refueling was accomplished over Lajes, Azores and in the “Brokenbelt” refueling area about 500 miles East of Boston. The landing was uneventful. We would typically depart Torrejon at 1000 hours and land in Omaha at 1300 hours, local times. A small bite of lunch and then back to the BOQ for a nap. Normal wake up time for our trip back to Madrid was about 0300 hours Omaha time. What are you going to do in Omaha at 0300 hours?
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