Another Air Cadet
I really enjoyed the article in the September issue by Hadley Dixon, “Letters Home.” Enclosed is a picture [above] of my uncle, Sam Byerley, in the 1940s, standing by a BT-14. I believe he’s at the same base, Randolph Field, shown in the article. My Uncle Sam not only trained at Randolph as a cadet, he also became one of the tough instructors there.
In the late 1940s he ended up at what is now Naval Air Station LeMoore, in California, where he met and married my Aunt Jessie Macedo. She helped propel his career in 1955 to director of operations at Castle Air Force Base, one of the first Strategic Air Command B-52 bomber bases in the U.S. I was 15 then and privileged to get to sit in the pilot seat of one of the first B-52s ever made. My uncle became the commander of Beale, Mather and Travis SAC bases in northern California in the early 1960s, and as a major general was in charge of the Eighth Air Force SAC base at Guam during the Vietnam War.
Empire State Witness
Each issue of Aviation History is a “mission accomplished.” Every issue brings back so many memories. If I survive until this September 22, I’ll be 92, and my gardens can wait until I read Aviation History.
The article about the B-25 that crashed into the Empire State Building [“Empire State Tragedy,” September] cleared up my wondering about the “whys.” We were flying from Chincoteague, Va., to Hyannis Port, Mass., in SB2C “Beasts” of VB-75, preparing to board the newly commissioned aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, when I got a good view of the B-25’s fuselage protruding from the building.
Much later I was at Oshkosh when the only Beast still flying made the EAA show, and I got to sit in the cockpit again. It gave me goose bumps when I heard the familiar bark of that big radial up front.
Regarding Emil Petrinic’s article on air-launched ballistic missiles in the July issue, I was assigned to the 6511 Parachute Test Squadron (not group) in 1974 when the test he described was accomplished. The loadmasters in my Test Support Branch were the worker bees who performed all the test drops out of the C-5A on the National Parachute Test Range at El Centro, Calif. Prior to this time, the heaviest load that had ever been air-dropped was 50,000 pounds, so the amount dropped had to be increased in increments until reaching 90,000 pounds (more than the weight of the Minuteman). This allowed the test to be completed with a live drop off of the California coast on the missile range.
Two of the more significant failures occurred early in the series. They started by using only one extraction chute, but that didn’t work because the single chute applied only enough force to unlock the rail locks on the pallets and then it blew, leaving the load free to take its time exiting the aircraft. The danger here was when the load reached the balance point on the end of the ramp, it might pivot up and take out the back end of the C-5A. This was countered by the pilot’s going to max power and pulling the nose up. Another time the load exited the aircraft fine, but the chains couldn’t hold it to the pallets, and sprayed the area with links, causing the photo chase aircraft pilot some consternation. After that the chase planes flew a looser formation.
Lt. Col. George T. MacDonald
U.S. Air Force (ret.)
Last B-29 Raid
John Ottley Jr., author of “The Long Haul” in our September issue, sent us this photo [above], which shows former B-29 navigator Richard Almand Jr. holding the framed Jack Fellows artwork and cover from the issue, along with a list of his missions. Ottley surprised Almand with the presentation at a July 8 gathering of the Atlanta Kiwanis Club. “My purpose in getting this together was to publicly recognize a man deserving of our praise—one who never would have sought this for himself—and to repay a fraction of the debt we owe these men, including my own father, who volunteered for the USAAF in 1942 and rose to the rank of major,” wrote Ottley.
Fat, Not Little
On P. 4 of the September issue, the atomic bomb “Little Boy” is twice associated with Bockscar and Nagasaki. That should be “Fat Man”; Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima by Enola Gay.
Fran Severn, author of “Zeros Over Oz” (July), wrote to apologize for misspelling the name of an engineer involved with the Technical Air Intelligence Unit. His name was Lieutenant Clyde Gessel, not Gessler.
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