This Week In AFLCMC History - November 14 - 20, 2022

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
14 Nov 1973 (Wright-Patterson AFB) 

Operation NICKEL GRASS ended. This operation, approved 9 Oct 1973, was the U.S.’s response to the Yom Kippur War between Israel and a coalition of Soviet-backed Arab states led by Syria and Egypt. After learning about Israel’s plans to potentially use nuclear weapons to defend themselves from the attacking armies, and fearing the Soviet response to this, the U.S. started an airlift mission to supply Israel with conventional weapons and supplies instead. Many of the C-141s and C-5s supporting this mission came through Wright-Patterson AFB - which may have contributed to the many local October 1973 “UFO sightings” - as well as Robins AFB. The 1973 energy crisis was a consequence of this war.

15 Nov 1994 (Presidential & Executive Airlift Dir./WPAFB) 

The E-4B National Airborne Operations Center, or NAOC (pronounced NA-YOCK), began using Wright-Patterson AFB as a forward operating location, meaning the aircraft could be routinely deployed there. The E-4B is a Boeing 747-200 heavily adapted for military use as a portable command and control center for the President and national command authority during national emergencies. There is always at least one of these planes on 24-hour alert, 7-days a week, should it be needed. The original program was developed by Hanscom’s Electronic Systems Division in the early 1970s to provide assured command and control during a nuclear war. (See photo at top of page). 
16 Nov 2004 (Bombers Directorate) 
The Boeing NB-52B serial number 52-008 made its final flight at Edwards AFB. At the time, it was the oldest flying B-52, yet had the lowest amount of flying hours. While the B-52A was supposed to be the first production model, only 3 were made in favor of the newer RB-52B that had a removable reconnaissance pod in the bomb bay, which gave it the dual-purpose “RB” designation. 52-008 was just the fifth of the fifty of these  -B models produced. While the rest of them were retired in the 1960s, -008 was turned over to NASA in 1959 as the NB-52B “mothership” to carry and air-drop the joint USAF-NASA X-15 experimental hypersonic rocketplane. It served a similar role for hundreds of subsequent test flights, including the hypersonic scramjet X-43A launched on this last flight. This historic bomber was retired as a “Gate Guard” at Edwards. 

17 Nov 1970 (Digital Dir.—Hanscom AFB) 

The Electronic Systems Division (ESD) at Hanscom AFB was directed to assume lead division responsibility for the Automated Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station (AAFEES) program. This was a new program meant to add an element of automation to Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Stations (AFEES). AFEESs were locations where individuals hoping to enlist in the military could go to receive their medical examinations and tests. Since 1982, these locations have been called Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS). The automated program was established to take some of the load of doctors, to reduce errors, and to reduce fraud. 

18 Nov 1945 (Tinker AFB) 

After World War II ended, it was decided that the Oklahoma City Air Depot would not be closed down like so many other wartime air bases around the country. Instead, it would be made into a permanent installation and expanded. On 18 Nov 1945, Lt Gen Ira Eaker addressed a crowd of nearly 150,000 people, where he deddicated the newly-permanent base “Tinker Field.” The namesake for Tinker was Maj Gen Clarence L. Tinker, a Native American of the Osage Nation born in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, who unfortunately lost his life near the island of Midway in 1942. He was the first Native American to achieve the rank of Major General. 

19 Nov 1993 (AF Security Assist. & Coop. Dir.—WPAFB) 

Officers of the Royal Air Force (RAF) stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB plant-ed an English Oak along Wright Avenue just across the street from the Arnold House (Building 8, Area A) to mark the 75th anniversary of the RAF. There was a brief ceremony, complete with bagpipes, and a memorial plaque was mounted on a plinth of Chilmark stone brought to the base from a quarry at RAF Chilmark, Wiltshire. The stone reads, in part: “This English Oak Tree was Presented to the 645th Air Base Wing, [WPAFB], by the Officers of the Royal Air Force to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force. May it grow to show the bond between the RAF and USAF.” 

20 Nov 1925 (ISR & SOF Dir.) 

Army Air Service Lt George Goddard took the first nighttime aerial photograph, over Rochester, NY. Goddard established the McCook Field Aerial Photography Lab in 1919 and was obsessed with night photography as the key to battlefield surveillance. He tested various types of cameras, flash bombs, and timers in Dayton, garnering frequent local complaints. In 1925, Goddard and two crew-mates brought their equipment to Rochester, home of their collaborator Kodak, for this demo. Their resulting photo appeared in papers around the world. 

Native American Heritage Month: Hill AFB 

Last week, we discussed the historical peoples who had once called the lands around Wright-Patterson AFB home. This week, we highlight the tribal nations around Hill AFB. While today there are no federally-recognized tribes to be found in the state of Ohio, Hill AFB regularly works with tribal authorities in Utah and surrounding states. This past April, for example, more than twenty tribal and Department of Defense (DoD) representatives came together for the 18th annual Utah-DoD government-to-government meeting at the Natural History Museum of Utah (below), and archaeology and construction on Hill AFB lands frequently involves the still-vibrant tribal nations in the area. 

The earliest evidence of human life around what is to-day Hill AFB goes back 13,000 years. This period is referred to as the Paleoindian Period (11,000 B.C.—8,500 B.C.), and little is actually known about these early people outside of the fact that they used tools and appear to have hunted mammoths and other now-extinct Pleistocene animals in the area. Archaeology of the later Archaic Period (9,000 B.C.—450 A.D.) provides a little more detail on life in the region during that period - for example, while in 2006 there were only 36 known Paleoindian sites on Hill AFB lands, there were 104 Archaic sites, with a handful of additional sites discovered since. It is believed that during the Archaic Period the people inhabiting the lands around Hill AFB lived in caves and rock shelters around the shores of the lakes in the area, where they combined hunting with foraging. Archaic Period sites can be found especially around the Utah Test and Training Range South. 

Following the Archaic Period was the Fremont Period (450 A.D.—1300 A.D.), where evidence of farming in the region begins. (The period is called the Fremont Period because the first evidence of these farmers was found around the Fremont River.) These peoples, which included the Mogollon, Hohokam, and Salado, practiced agriculture in small villages, and nearly 40 sites from this time period have been found on Hill AFB lands. The last major period was the Late Prehistoric Period (1255 A.D.—1805 A.D.), which is perhaps less well-understood than the earlier Fremont Period. There are also fewer sites from this period, which some have suggested reflects population decline as a result of European expansion. Europeans began arriving to the area in the 18th century, where they encountered the Paiutes, Shoshone, and Ute peoples. Friction continued between the tribes, locals, and the federal and state government before relations stabilized after the 1950s.  Today, Hill AFB partners and consults with 21 tribes over 8 states.