This Week In AFLCMC History – June 3 - 9, 2024

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  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
3 Jun 1959 (Air Force History/Eglin AFB)
Sixty-five years ago today, the U.S. Air Force Academy’s very first class of cadets graduated from the then-new service academy in Colorado. The Academy was established in 1954 (70 years ago this year, on 1 April), and its first graduating class consisted of 207 students, with all but one of them (who was medically disqualified from commissioning) becoming officers (204 with the Air Force, 1 with the Navy, and 1 with the Marines). It was the smallest class in the Academy’s history, but its members were successful in their careers, with 15 going on to become general officers, and with one even serving as the vice chief of staff of the Air Force (Gen Michael P. C. Carns). In late January 2024, some of the surviving members of this first Class of ’59 visited the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB.
4 Jun 1992 (Bombers Directorate)
On today’s date in 1992, the Northrop B-2 Spirit made its first night flight during tests at Edwards AFB, California. The four-and-a-half hour testing period saw it successfully takeoff and land 11 times, five times in twilight and six times in total darkness, and it reached altitudes of 10,000 feet as the crew evaluated its night flying capabilities and characteristics. The B-2 is a stealth bomber capable of carrying either conventional or nuclear weapons. It played a major role in Operation ALLIED FORCE, 25 years ago this year (Mar-Jun 1999), destroying 33% of all Serbian targets in the first two months of the NATO air campaign.
5 Jun 1986 (Presidential & Executive Airpower Directorate)
Today in 1986, then-acting Secretary of the Air Force (officially appointed a few days later) Edward C. Aldridge, Jr., selected Boeing’s four-engine 747-200 to become the next “Air Force One,” winning over the competing three-engine McDonnell Douglas DC-10. Following this selection, Boeing modified a pair of its 747s into the two VC-25As that are still operating as the presidential planes today. The VC-25A first flew as “Air Force One” on 6 September 1990. AFLCMC and Boeing are currently in the process of replacing the VC-25As with VC-25Bs based on the 747-8i—the newest, largest, and final model of the “Queen of the Skies.”
7 Jun 1989 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate)
Thirty-five years ago today, a C-5B and its 436th Military Airlift Wing crew set a new world record for “total weight air-drop” during that year’s Airlift Rodeo, an annual airlift competition that was shortly afterwards replaced by Air Mobility Rodeo, which in turn was eventually replaced by the present-day exercise called Mobility Guardian. To set the new record, the C-5B airdropped four 21-ton M551A1 Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Vehicles and 73 fully-kitted 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers, the combined weight of which was 190,346 pounds. At the time, Air Force officials described that weight for the public as being roughly the equivalent of “eight city buses or 55 midsize cars.” The Sheridan armored vehicles were dropped first, with the paratroopers deplaning about six minutes later over Pope AFB, North Carolina (now called Pope Army Airfield). The previous (unofficial) record, also held by a C-5, was for around 180,000 pounds.
8 Jun 1995 (Fighters & Advanced Aircraft Directorate/Hill AFB)
On this date in 1995, Capt Scott O’Grady was rescued from hostile territory in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He had been patrolling the skies over Bosnia and Herzegovina in his F-16C as part of NATO Operation DENY FLIGHT several days earlier, on 3 Jun 1995, when he was shot down by a rocket from the Bosnian Serb Army. He successfully ejected from his plane, landed safely, and then spent the intervening days evading capture by hostile forces on the ground, until he could be picked up by a U.S. Marine Corps rescue helicopter. A few months later, in October 1995, Capt O’Grady went to Hill AFB as a member of the 419th Fighter Wing. In November 2020, President Donald Trump nominated him for Assistant Secretary of Defense, but his nomination was returned by the 116th Congress (2019-2020).
9 Jun 1967 (ISR & Special Operations Forces Directorate)
On this date in 1967, the first O-2A Skymaster arrived in Vietnam. The Skymaster was a military variant of the Cessna Model 337 Super Skymaster, and its mission was to act as a Forward Air Control (FAC) aircraft, flying low and slow over jungle-choked terrain to look for enemy forces, camps, tire tracks, and similar indicators that could help direct airstrikes. When FAC aircraft spotted targets, they’d radio in the bombers and mark the area with smoke or white-phosphorous. The O-2A supplemented the existing fleet of O-1 Bird Dog FAC aircraft, and operated as a stopgap between the O-1s and the slightly later (arriving in Vietnam in 1968) OV-10 Broncos. Another variant of the O-2, the O-2B, was equipped with speakers and leaflet-dropping apparatuses for propaganda/psychological warfare missions. 

This Week in AFLCMC History: D-Day on the Home Front
In the dark, early hours of June 6, 1944, an armada of Allied ships carrying over one hundred thousand soldiers left the shores and docks of southern England bound for the beaches of Normandy, France, that bristled with countless guns and bunkers intent on throwing them back into the sea. Above them, staggering waves of bombers determined to make the first cracks in Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall” and cargo planes intent on delivering their cargo of paratroopers and gliders behind enemy lines braved a literal firestorm of flak and machine gun fire that lit up night. In Gen Dwight Eisenhower’s words, this “Great Crusade” on which they had just embarked, has been known ever since as “D-Day.”
Then, as now, the mission of AFLCMC and its predecessors was to provide the airplanes and armament that proverbially darkened the skies on D-Day: research, development, and acquisition management at Wright Field and testing at Eglin, both of which pre-dated World War II; logistics, repair, and training at the new Hill, Robins, and Tinker Air Depots that opened to support the war; operational units and radar systems testing at Hanscom Field; and pilot training at Gunter Field. The head of the Army Air Forces Materiel Command Engineering Division at Wright Field, Brig Gen Franklin Carroll’s official statement read, in part, “The war is far from being won. We’ll still need thousands of planes, thousands of new items of equipment—and to get them, we’ll need the help of every person engaged in war production. This is decidedly not the time for relaxation.” He also gave some figures for context: the Command provided 450,000 items of planes and equipment for the invasion and spent $75 million per day—the equivalent of $1.3 billion in 2024.
But the recurring theme for the workers was “mixed emotions.” Any celebration of this “beginning of the end” of the War was muted by the reality that almost everyone had a husband, father, son or other relative plunging into harm’s way, maybe for the first time, while others had loved ones in jungles or on ships in the Pacific, driving through Italy to liberate Rome that very day, or flying deep into Germany to cripple its industry. For them and the Home Front, work—and life—went on.