This Week In AFLCMC History – July 8 - 14, 2024

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
8 Jul 1979 (Bombers Directorate/Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate/Robins AFB)

On this date, 45 years ago, USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC) began its first command-wide exercise in twenty years: GLOBAL SHIELD I. Lasting through 16 Jul 1979, this exercise involved the command’s entire reconnaissance, tanker, and bomber force, as well as various support and staff organizations. The exercise simulated all facets of an emergency war order (EWO) mission, from preparation to execution, allowing SAC to practice its Single Integrated Operations Plan (SIOP) all the way up to but just short of nuclear war. Robins AFB’s 19th Bomb Wing participated in the exercise with its B-52s, and at the height of the exercise scores of BUFFs around the world were executing minimal interval takeoff (MITO) procedures to get airborne. In the photo, SAC commander-in-chief, Gen Richard A. Ellis, sits aboard his airborne command post during the exercise.

9 Jul 1944 (Bombers Directorate/Medal of Honor)

Today, 80 years ago, Lt Donald D. Pucket gave his all in an attempt to save his bomber crew following a successful Allied attack on the Ploesti oil refineries, inside Romania. After dropping bombs on target from his B-24 Libera-tor, Lt Pucket’s aircraft was hit by antiaircraft fire. The airplane was badly damaged, with one crew member killed outright by the enemy’s guns, and six badly injured. After regaining control of the aircraft, Lt Pucket turned the B-24 over to his copilot and went back to administer first aid and rally the crew, even as the bomb bay flooded with gas. After getting things calmed in the back, Lt Pucket realized the plane was losing altitude and jettisoned all guns and equipment to try and recover. When that failed, he ordered everyone to jump. All but three crew did, and when Lt Pucket couldn’t convince those remaining to bail out, he refused to abandon them and returned to the controls to try to crash land the bomber. Unfortunately, the damaged plane eventually became completely uncontrollable and crashed into a mountainside, killing the four still on board. Lt Pucket was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for refusing to abandon his crew.

10 Jul 1998 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate/Women’s Air Force History)

Today in 1998, then-Colonel (later Major General) Teresa Marné Peterson became the first woman to command the 14th Flying Training Wing (14 FTW) at Columbus AFB, Mississippi. In taking that command, she also became the first Active Duty woman to command an operational flying wing in the Air Force. A distinguished graduate of Office Training School, Gen Peterson was commissioned in 1973. After a brief stint as a maintenance officer, she earned her wings as a pilot in 1979. In Dec 1990, eight years prior to taking command of the 14 FTW, she’d already made history as the first woman in the Air Force to command a flying squadron when she took charge of the 42nd Flying Training Squadron (also at Columbus AFB).

11 Jul 1999 (Hill AFB)

Twenty-five years ago today, a Riverdale neighborhood adjacent to Hill AFB, Utah, was flooded when an irrigation canal broke. In a stroke of good luck, nobody was killed or injured by the flood, but over 100 homes were damaged—with some basements filled almost to the ceiling with mud. Hill AFB provided security to help keep pedestrians away from the canal break, where the ground might be unstable, and nearly 2,000 volunteers showed up to help residents recover scattered and buried belongings or shovel mud from their property. Among the volunteers were a couple dozen Airmen, led by 1st Lt Tim Wilcox, from the 729th Air Control Squadron. 

12 Jul 1981 (ISR & Special Operations Forces Directorate)

Today in 1981, the Tactical Air Command retired its last Vertol CH-21B Work Horse (later Shawnee). Created by helicopter designer Frank Piasecki, the H-21 first flew in April 1952, and for many years was nicknamed “the Flying Banana,” on account of its unusual shape. It saw use by both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, as well as a number of foreign services, including the Royal Canadian Air Force, the French navy, and the West German Air Force, on account of its versatility. It could be equipped with wheels, skies, or even floats, and its long design—with two spaced-apart rotors—allowed it to carry around 20 fully-kitted passengers for troop deployments, or up to a dozen stretchers for medevac. It was largely replaced by the UH-1 Iroquis (“Huey”) and the Army’s CH-47 Chinook by the mid-1960s, though a number of “Flying Bananas” remained in service for use as transports for sever-al years after.

13 Jul 1959 (Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Dir./Mobility & Training Aircraft Dir.)

On today’s date, 65 years ago, Williams AFB’s 4530th Combat Crew Training Wing graduated class 60A, the last Active Duty class to fly the F-86F. North American’s F-86 Sabre first flew in 1947, and it was the Air Force’s first swept-wing jet. It was also the first production aircraft to break the sound barrier. Highly successful as a dogfighter during the Korean War, the F-86F variant pictured here, the F-86F-35-NA, was even capable of carrying a 1,200-pound nuclear weapon—which it had to deliver in a special way to keep itself clear of the bomb’s flight path and blast. Using the Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS), the pilot would approach at low altitude, then begin an upwards loop, releasing the bomb near the top of said loop. The pilot would then conduct an Immelman turn to escape.

50 Years Ago This Week in USAF History: 14 July 1974 - Gen Carl A. Spaatz

Fifty years ago this week, on 14 Jul 1974, Gen Carl Andrew “Tooey” Spaatz died of congestive heart failure. He was 83 years old. A lifelong proponent of air power, Gen Spaatz is said to have once remarked that “a second-best Air Force is like a second-best hand at poker—no good at all.”

Spaatz was born on 28 Jun 1891 in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. In 1910, he entered West Point, where he’d get his famous nickname—”Tooey”—and from where he’d graduate in 1914. Although initially with the Army Infantry, it wasn’t long before he was detailed to Army Aviation School at San Diego, California, and in 1916 he served under Gen Pershing during the Punitive Expedition into Mexico—America’s first tactical deployment of air power.

During WWI, he shot down three German Fokkers with the Thirteenth Squadron, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. With Billy Mitchell, he was a strong proponent for the value of the air service and air forces dur-ng the interwar years, and testified on behalf of Mitchell at Mitchell’s 1925 court-martial trial. In 1929, Spaatz flew the famous “Question Mark” plane demonstrating aerial refueling by staying aloft for a then-record 151 hours. He was one of the few Air Service/Corps leaders of the Interwar period not to have served with AFLCMC’s predecessors at McCook, Wright, or Patterson Fields, or the Fairfield Air Depot.

Spaatz played a key role during WWII, participating in combat operations in all theaters of the war. He was instrumental in convincing Gen Eisenhower to target German oilfields and refineries as primary strategic objectives, speeding the end of the war; and then commanded the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe from just before D-Day until Germany’s surrender. Afterwards, he commanded the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, where he oversaw the final weeks of the strategic bombing campaign against Japan, including the two atomic bombings.

In September 1947, Gen Spaatz had the honor of being appointed the very first Chief of Staff of the newly-independent United States Air Force by President Harry S. Truman. He retired from the Air Force about a year later, at the end of June 1948.

General Spaatz died at Walter Reed Medical Center, and a memorial was held for him at Andrews AFB, Maryland shortly after. His funeral later occurred where he was interred, at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. Numerous streets (including that of the National Museum of the USAF at WPAFB), facilities, and awards are named in honor of his legacy today—there’s even an island named after him in Antarctica.