This Week In AFLCMC History - August 28 - September 3, 2023

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
28 Aug 1948 (Wright-Patterson AFB/88 ABW)

Seventy-five years ago, the 4000th Air Force Base Unit and subordinate organizations were redesignated the 2750th Air Force Base. Eventually, in 1994, this organization would take on its current name: the 88th Air Base Wing. At the time, the commander of the newly-redesignated unit (and the first known commander of what would become the 88 ABW) was Brig Gen Joseph T. Morris. Born in 1894, Gen Morris joined the Army in 1918 and went on to command the Eighth Air Force Service Command during World War 2 (in Jul 1943). Gen Morris is received his first star in England, in 1944, while still serving in this role. It was pinned on by his son, Lt Harry B. Morris. Near the end of the war, in Jul 1945, Gen Morris was assigned to be the commander of Wright Field (modern WPAFB). He would serve in that position until 1952, and today’s “Morris Hall” (Bldg 10) is named in his honor.

29 Aug 1969 (Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate)

On today’s date, Tactical Air Command received its first production-model LTV (Ling-Temco-Vought) A-7D Corsair II. The Corsair II originated as a Navy carrier-based attack air-craft, with its first flight in Sep 1965. The escalation of the Vietnam War prompted the Army to ask a reluctant USAF to field a dedicated close air support (CAS) aircraft. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara pushed the Air Force to adopt the A-7, just as he had “encouraged” them to procure the Navy’s F-4 a few years earlier. The A-7D was the USAF variant, with a much-improved engine, avionics, radar, and a 20mm rotary cannon. Air Force units used the A-7 into the 1980s, including the 345th Tactical Fighter Wing, the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing and others.

30 Aug 1970 (Tinker AFB/Chaplain Corps)

Today, in 1970, religious services were permanently concluded at Tinker AFB’s Chapel No. 2 (Bldg. 429)—a “temporary” building that had been in use since 1942. On Dec 4, 1960, the new chapel No. 1, an almost $375,000 brick building with seating for 300, had been dedicated, but part-time services continued in the old building for the next decade, until finally ending on this date. The new, permanent Chapel No. 1 had a 40-foot-high bell tower, an oak-beamed ceiling, and eight stained glass windows. Four of these windows were WWII-era windows originally from Morrison Field, FL; and one of them, pictured, memorialized Maj Gen Clarence L. Tinker—the Oklahoma native for whom Tinker AFB was named.

31 Aug 1992 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Dir./Agile Combat Support Dir.)

On Aug 31, 1992, the first two T-1A flight simulators were delivered to Reese AFB, Texas. Reese had received the first T-1A Jayhawk aircraft earlier that year, in January, and led the way as the Air Force transitioned to a new system for training pilots: “Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training” or SUPT. All training bases were utilizing joint SUPT training after 1997, when the last Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) class graduated at Columbus AFB. After learning how to fly on the T-6A Texan II, pilots who are going to be flying tankers or airlift planes train on the T-1A Jayhawk. Today, the T-1A is flown out of Laughlin AFB, Texas, Vance AFB, Oklahoma, and Columbus AFB, Mississippi. 

1 Sep 1948 (Wright-Patterson AFB)

Seventy-five years ago today, the Republic XR-12 Rainbow took off from Edwards AFB, swung out over the Pacific Ocean to gain altitude, and then turned around for a full, nonstop cross-country flight—coast-to-coast in 6 hours, 55 minutes—eventually landing in New York. It recorded its entire journey on a single, 325-foot-long filmstrip. It was the first time something of this magnitude had been accomplished, and it showcased the potential of the experimental reconnaissance plane. The filmstrip went on display at the 1948 Air Force Association Convention in New York, and the flight itself was featured in Life magazine. The XR-12 used radial engines (four Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Majors), and was said to “fly on all fours”—meaning that it flew with 4 engines, at 400 mph cruising speeds, with a 4,000 mile range, at 40,000 feet. But while the aircraft had potential, it was soon realized that it could not compete with the new jet-engine technologies coming out during this same time period, and it never entered production.

2 Sep 1916 (C3I & Networks Directorate)

On today’s date, Lt William A. Robertson (radio operator) and Cpl Albert D. Smith (pilot) successfully transmitted a radiotelegraph from airplane-to-airplane when they communicated a short message to Lt Herbert A. Dargue (pilot) and Capt Clarence C. Culver (radio operator) above North Island in San Diego, California. California Congressman William Kettner, also of San Diego, was on hand to witness the event. It was suggested that the Congressman write a short message for Lt Robertson after Capt Culver had taken off into the air. Smith and Roberson then took off, themselves, and radioed that message to Lt Dargue and Capt Culver. The latter two landed before Smith and Robertson, and repeated the message the Congressman had given the first pair: “North Island makes new world record.” They thereby proved that the radio message had been transmitted and heard. This was an achievement, as early attempts struggled with both range and clarity—specifically in reproducing the human voice over the noise of the engine and wind.

100 Years Ago in AFLCMC History: The McCook Air Carnival (3 Sep 1923)

“A Thrill a Minute! A Laugh Every Second!” Just 50 cents per adult and 25 cents for children (about $9 and $4.50 today) gained admission to the Army Air Service's technical complex— and forerunner for AFLCMC—McCook Field  in Dayton to see dozens of aerial acts and ground displays featuring “Millions of Dollars” worth of Air Service equipment. Impending storms didn’t deter the crowds: 75,000 people showed up, which was 50% more than expected and equivalent to half the entire population of Dayton, forcing the Army to shut the gates 45 minutes before the show even started. Tens of thousands more watched from the nearby neighborhoods, downtown rooftops, and the levees across the Great Miami River. So many cars clogged the area that the traffic jam persisted for hours after the show ended.

Local officials declared this the largest crowd ever gathered for a single event in Dayton’s history. What did they come to see? Just like any modern airshow, the aerial acts combined displays of aerobatic prowess with operational might. “Lucky” Jimmy Doolittle, famous for his recent one-stop, coast-to-coast flight, featured most prominently in the stunting. He put one of McCook’s war-prize Fokkers through its paces (just as he was doing for his master’s thesis research through MIT), formed part of a trio of formation
aerobatics, and perplexed the crowd during the “Foolish Flyer’s Freak Flight.” That last bit involved fitting a small Dayton-Wright PS-1 monoplane (left) that had retractable landing gear (an oddity at the time) with a fake set of wheels on top. When he retracted the actual gear, it appeared as if he were flying upside down continuously.

They also saw: teams of pilots from Chanute and Selfridge Fields demonstrate mass fighter and bomber tactics; a bomber blow up a specially-constructed 100- foot long “fortress” in the middle of the Field; a full-sized airplane remotely controlled from the ground; a radio-controlled tank (the “Radio Dog,” below) directed from an airplane; aircraft knocking over giant dice in a game of Craps; and the destruction of balloons by fighters. Chief test pilot Harold Harris had the honor of piloting the massive Barling Bomber (see last week’s article on its first flight) for a flyby and taking up the de Bothezat Helicopter, which were the first public demonstrations of both.

One probably apocryphal story that’s sometimes attributed to this event involved parachute demonstrations. In a planned simultaneous “triple jump” of three parachutists, two of the men descended safely, while the third plummeted to the ground without a chute in front of the horrified crowd. Fortunately, the mischievous McCook team had substituted “Dummy Joe,” their test manikin, as a joke, though the punchline took a while to circulate.