20th Jet Fighter Group at Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter, South Carolina

I was assigned to the 79th Jet Fighter Squadron and after a few days of ground school/aircraft familiarization made my first flight. The F-84A was a very easy airplane to fly. With its straight wings its top speed was limited to about 585 miles an hour and its service ceiling was about 35,000 feet. It was the first aircraft in service in the Air Force with an axial flow jet engine. The incoming air flowed straight through the multiple compressor blades, was mixed with a kind of kerosene fuel, then was ignited and then continued straight through the turbine blades which drove the compressor stages.

Each pilot was limited to 25 hours flying time per month due to Air Force budgetary considerations. I became an instructor pilot in the F-84 after 75 hours of flying time. When checking out a new pilot, the instructor pilot flew formation with him to keep him out of trouble. One day while flying formation with a new pilot, my aircraft had extra fuel drop tanks on, we leveled off at 20,000 feet and lo and behold as I pulled the throttle back, nothing happened. The engine was stuck at 103 percent full power. I told the new pilot to do whatever he wished and head for home when he had 10 minutes of fuel remaining. By this time my F-84 was approaching its maximum mach number, 550 miles per hour plus, so I went up vertically until slowed down to about 250 miles per hour and popped down the dive brake. I got on the radio and told the tower my problem. The tower got my Squadron Commander up in the tower and the conversation went something this. "Bob, you can bail out of that rascal if you wish since if that engine comes apart you may not be able to get out." I replied, "no thanks, let's see if I can get back to the field in one piece." Going from 23,000 feet to 1,000 feet at 103 percent power is no fun at all. The dive brake stayed down even descending at 400 mph even though it was rated only to about 250 miles per hour. Once back at Shaw Air Force Base at 1,000 feet I started circling the field to burn off fuel at about 350 miles an hour. When my fuel remaining was down to 300 pounds I lined up with the 8,000 foot runway about 3 miles out, pulled up and dropped the gear and flaps at 290 miles an hour. I then turned the engine main fuel valve off and crossed my fingers. The spinning down turbine still gave me enough hydraulic pressure for control. Fortunately, the F-84 slowed down to about 225 miles an hour when I touched the runway. 8,000 feet at 225 miles an hours is not very long. I managed to stop at the very end of the runway. We did not have drag chutes to help slowing down in those days. A few seconds after stopping both of the main landing gear tires blew out from the excessive heat from the disk brakes. End of war story.

Our Squadron practiced dive bombing and air to ground gunnery/rocketry at nearby Fort Jackson's firing range which is on the east side of downtown Columbia, South Carolina. The F-84 was a very poor dive bomber since it accelerated so quickly when pointed straight down. As such bomb release was at about 2,000 feet altitude which does not necessarily yield down the smoke stack accuracy.

Its advanced gun sight was a giant step forward compared to the old P-51's gun sight. I shot 'expert' level on my first try.

Grandad and Gram were married July 16, 1949 in Meadville, Pennsylvania. We spent part of our honeymoon at my Grandmother's summer home at Lake Chautauqua, New York and part of our honeymoon racing C-scow sailboats at Skaneateles Lake, New York where the New York State Championship C-scow sail boat races were being held. My partner and I won. After the honeymoon we returned to a rented duplex in Sumter, South Carolina. Our next door neighbor was Doc Blanchard and his wife. Doc Blanchard was a fellow F-84 pilot who was one of the most famous of all time West Point football players.

During the fall of 1949 our fighter Group put on a firepower demonstration near Fort Knox, Kentucky. The demonstration was for senior NATO officers from all over Europe plus senior military officers from all over Central and South America. There were a number of old Sherman and Panther tanks setup in the target area along with a number of cinder block buildings for us to destroy. We had HVAAR (high velocity anti-armor rockets), 500 pound demolition bombs and 50 caliber machine guns. Needless to say our fighter Group destroyed everything in sight of the viewing stands. It was a fun two hour show that we put on. A 500 pound bomb makes mince meat of cinderblock buildings and 4.7 inch diameter HVAAR rockets turn Sherman and Panther war surplus tanks into erector set pieces.

One discouraging note. Our Squadron operations officer who was leading our flight of twelve F-84s on the way home made a turn directly into another flight of twelve F-84s. When you are flying tight fighter formation you only watch the aircraft that you are flying on. Through some miracle and the grace of God both flights passed through each other with no mid-aid collisions. I lost my cool when we got back to Shaw Air Force Base and applied for Radiological Defense Officer College. In all my flying experience I had never personally witnessed anything so stupid. It turned out that the SOB was blind in one eye and never reported it.

Though entrance required a B.S. degree in physics I had enough credits from Princeton University and my Air Force flight training programs to qualify. So off I went to the U.S. Air Force Radiogical Defense College at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. No matter where I went or what I did it seemed like that I always wound up at Keesler Air Force Base near the Mississippi swamps. Actually, Keesler is adjacent to the town of Biloxi, Mississippi which many southerners consider a resort town on the Gulf of Mexico. On my previous visit to Keesler our fighter Group managed to drop enough empty brass cartridge cases from our .50 caliber machine guns on shrimp boats who were illegally fishing in the Gulf of Mexico restricted area, so that they quickly departed.

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