The Earl E. Myers Story
Chapter 24 RB-47 Combat Crew Operations
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|On our return flight to Forbes we were flying a stacked up formation and, on arrival, were scheduled to break up and fly a 4 ship formation over the base at 1,500'. All went well until I observed another RB-47 at a high rate of closure from the right. I brought it to the A/C's attention “Harry, slow it down "NOW"”. The last I saw of him was when I pulled up and the A/C of the other aircraft pushed forward.
I could have reached out the cockpit canopy and touched the vertical stabilizer with my hand. What a return that could have been. We formed back up and completed our flyby, as planned.
Later, at an open house about two months after returning from Alaska our Wing hosted a ramp party for small school children and their parents. Whoever wanted to could climb the ladder and sit in the cockpit. One little boy about 8 years old was aboard and when he saw all the instruments he hollered down to his parents and said "Mommy, Mommy, you should see all the clocks up here". That made it worth the effort on a day off. This lad later became an airline pilot.
When both the 90th and 55th Recon Wings were deployed to Alaska and Morocco in 1955, the merchants in Topeka were not aware of the amount of money that was spent in their community by military personnel each day. It was an economic impact that they just would not reason with it. When both wings returned every person was paid in $2.00 bills. It was only a few days after our return and the merchants, flooded with $2.00 bills, finally realized what the military was spending in Topeka. The city fathers were attempting to have the commissary closed. It is not known who's idea it was to pull off this caper, but it was ingenious. The complete picture changed overnight to open arms for all military personnel.
Serving with the 90th Recon Wing at Forbes provided opportunities for a variety of experiences and contacts with both civil and military personnel. An example of one of these unexpected encounters in the air and on the ground was getting to know Dan Missenger in October, 1954. Dan was a native of Topeka. He was a Piper Dealer and had three distributorships that were located in Kansas City, St. Louis and Topeka. I first met him over the Topeka VOR. I was making a jet penetration and at about 8,000' in the solid clouds while Dan was climbing to his cruise altitude. We were head on and saw each other just a split second before passing by. Again, this was before extensive radar control was established. Operating conditions were not what they are today. Neither one of us had the opportunity to take evasive action. That was a Friday afternoon and that evening, our squadron was sponsoring a party at the Officers Club. B/G David Wade was our Division Commander. Gen. Wade introduced me to Dan. We were both still in a state of shock, but we laughed about it. and thankful that God was with us both.
As to further flying adventures, in one case, in January 1955, after completion of a training mission on return to Forbes, our profile altitude was flight level 45,000'. A normal jet penetration was made and we were cleared to flight level 22,000'. We broke out of the overcast at about 23,000'. Below us was the reason for the altitude hold. The 7th Bomb Wing B-36s from Carswell AFB were making RBS (Radar Bomb Scoring) runs on Kansas City at 20,000'. There was no mistaking their identification. Their contrails were persistent and heavy. It was winter time. All 10 engines must have been operating on the monsters and there terrific speed of 150 knots was unbelievable. Seeing this persistent contrail pattern gave me a wild idea that we could have some fun. We canceled our IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) clearance and descended to be level with the contrails. (This was before the requirement was established that you must be IFR above Flight Level 18,000'). We lowered the nose slightly and slid under and bottom and then up and over the top of the B-36 contrails, causing our contrails to paint a corkscrew pattern around their arrow-straight contrails. This continued all of the 60 mile distance to Kansas City. On landing, there was a "friendly group" gathered to meet us, consisting of the Sq. Commander, Operations Officer, Wing Director of Operations, and others. There was a tough time ahead until we convinced them we corkscrewed around the contrails and were not doing barrel rolls around them.
News sure travels fast. A lot of different things have fascinated me, but to do a roll in a B-47, "NO NO". A picture appeared the next day in the Kansas City Times showing the corkscrew pattern we had created for all to see. It was titled “Art in the Sky”.
In May of 1956, as part of our learning process to stretch our legs with the RB-47s, our wing was scheduled to fly a mission code-named Treasure Chest. All 36 of the crews and aircraft were involved. The Division Commander, Maj. Gen Harold Ohlke was the Commander of the Task Force. He chose our crew to lead the ?In-Trail Formation?. Our first stop was Hickam AFB, Hawaii, where we got our crew rest and then flew on to Tokyo. As lead aircraft we were responsible for position reports. Over Tokyo we called in, “Tokyo Radio, this is Beanpole 25, flight level 390 with a flight of 25 aircraft”. Tokyo Radio replied in very broken English, “Ah Beanpole 25, yo say yo over Tokyo Radio with 25 aircraft?“ “HI” for yes was the reply. “Ah, Beanpole 25, how you have 25 aircraft over Tokyo Radio at one time.” We had already started our decent into Yokota and most of the flight was in the process of landing.
I told our navigator that there were 3 airports, two on the same course and lined up the same about 8 miles apart and that the one on the left with the same runway heading was Johnson. We were IFR and the weather was marginal for an approach. Al said no sweat on the correct runway. Well, we broke out about 300 ft and there was Johnson Air Base right in front of us. I made a 90 degree turn to the right and another 90 degree to the left and there was Yokota. Although their GCA was inoperative, we landed without difficulty.
|After a brief stay for R&R at Yokota, it was on to Anderson AFB Guam. All was well on this flight for the wing. Approaches and landings were all normal. The 5th Recon Wing, with their RB-36s were already on the ground, as they had arrived about a week earlier. That evening in the Officer's Club Mess, the Division Commander of the 5th Recce Wing, Gen. Hunsaker and Gen. Ohlke were at the same table. Gen. Ohlke motioned for me to come over when I walked in and asked that I be seated. We enjoyed a cocktail and ordered our food. During the dinner Gen. Ohlke and the 5th Commander were talking about our routing back to Hickam.
|During the discussion we learned that we would be flying the same route only they would be at 5,000' and we would be at 37 to 39,000' on a blocked altitude the entire way. The 5th Commander stated that they were to start taking off at 0700 and asked Gen. Ohlke what time they were departing. Gen Ohlke said at 1900 hrs. Gen. Ohlke asked me in an undertone, Earl what time will we be over Johnston Island? I told him about 2200 hrs. He started chiding the other commander that we would wave "Bye Bye" to them over Johnston.
It was not long after departure that we started seeing navigation lights below us all in a row. It looked like the turnpike at night. We did pass the lead RB-36 over Johnston. Gen. Ohlke could not resist, he called down to General Hunsaker and really ribbed him. Our landing was planned for sun up. We had our crew rest before the 1st RB-36 landed. Of course Gen Ohlke was there to meet the 5th Commander. The lead A/C said they heard us calling in on approach for landing.
We took off from Guam, local time, and landed at Hickam, local time, before the time we took off from Guam on the same day because we had crossed the International Date Line. It was only a seven hour flight.
Again, on to Mama Mia's for good old Italian food, as before. It was a wonderful homecoming and we all had a fantastic time. Mama and Papa hosted us. I had been going to Mama Mia's since WW II on return from Saipan. Gen. Ohlke went with us. He told me, this better be good or else. Two days downtime and we were off for home base at Forbes about 6 1/2 hrs flight time. What a flight. It was great.
Editor's Note: For those of you who would like to review some
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