I started basic training at Sampson AFB in July 1953 at the age of 19. After eight weeks, I moved to Sheppard AFB for R-2800 engine mechanics, and in March 1954 went to Walker AFB, being assigned to the 812 Hq. Sq., Base Flight Operations. I worked on several of the planes assigned there, including the C-118, C-45, B-26, B-25 and C-47. In early 1955 I became crew chief on one of two B-25s stationed at the base flight hangar. My plane was all aluminum and had to be polished often as it was the base CO’s plane. It was an exciting time to maintain that plane, do the pre-dawn preflights, and fly as crew.

In early 1956 I transferred to the Transit Alert Section to drive the “Follow Me” pickup truck. Our office was in the Base Operations Building and next to the flight line fire department. On the night of June 26th, while working on the 11-7 shift, I was standing outside our office watching a KC-97 refueler take off. A few miles from base the plane exploded in mid-air, and again as it hit the ground. All eleven men on board were killed. Following this, all KC-97s were grounded for prop magnafluxing on the premise that the accident was caused by a prop blade shearing off.

Does anyone remember the dosimeters we had to wear during alerts? I’ve often thought we were all guinea pigs for atomic test fallout.

July 12, 1957, was my discharge day and SAC decided to honor me with a base alert. I thought I would be grounded on base for three days, but I signed out and to my amazement was soon waved through the main gate headed to New York State.

A/1C Richard G. Pappa (Pappy)

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