• Lt. Bong, meet the Lockheed P-38

    Posted on May 12th, 2014 John Dorcey No comments
    Hamilton AAF main gate

    Hamilton AAF main gate
    Photo courtesy the California State Military Museum

    It was 74 years ago today, May 12, 1942, that 2nd Lt Richard Bong first flew the Lockheed P-38 Lighting. In the book, Dear Mom – So We Have a War, his letters home set the stage for the big day in this young pilot’s life.

    2nd Lt. R.I. Bong
    49th Sqdn, 14th Group
    Hamilton Field, Cal.

    Dear Mom:
    Well, I’m here and settled in my new barracks. This is an old post and it is pretty complete and also pretty nice. I got my assignment today. I’m assigned to the 49th Pursuit Squadron of the 14th Pursuit Group stationed here at Hamilton. We start training tomorrow. Start out in ships like the airlines and then get shipped into P-38s. That is all they have here and so that is all we can fly.

    Richard Ira Bong entered the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) on May 29, 1941 at Wausau, Wisconsin. He had earned his Private Pilot Certificate through the Civilian Pilot Training program (CPTP) conducted at Superior State Teachers College (UW-Superior) in Superior, Wisconsin.

    Flight Cadet Bong went immediately to the Rankin Aeronautical Academy in Tulare, California, for primary training and became a member of Class 42A. He soloed the Stearman PT-17 “Kaydet” less than a month later on June 25, 1941. Next was basic training at Gardner Army Air Field (AAF), arriving on August 20. Here Cadet Bong flew the Vultee BT-13A “Valiant” and soloed this airplane on September 3, 1941. He then went to Luke AAF for advanced training in the North American AT-6A “Texan” arriving on November 4. Graduating from flight school on January 9, 1942 Bong received his wings and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant.

    Lockheed C-40, image courtesy National Museum of the USAF

    Lockheed C-40
    Image courtesy National Museum of the USAF

    2nd Lt Bong stayed at Luke as an instructor, building his skills as a pilot and adding one more aircraft type, the P-36, and flight time to his logbook. He arrived at Hamilton with 501 hours of military flight time, all of it in single engine aircraft. The “ships like the airlines” Dick wrote about in his letter home (above) was the Lockheed C-40, or its civilian designation, the Model 12 Electra. He received one hour of instruction in this type, his only twin engine time, and later that same day made his first flight in the P-38. This first flight would last 40 minutes.

    Here is Dick’s next letter home:


    Dear Mom:
    Well I flew a C-40, (a ship like the one that flies on the airways and comes into Duluth or Superior every day), and a P-38. WOOEY!! What an airplane. That’s all I can say, but that is enough. You know what they look like from the pictures.

    He continued a few paragraphs later,

    Our training program is supposed to finish on the 13th and we leave the states shortly afterward, I guess. I don’t know where to, but it will be a long ways from home.

    It won’t turn out quite like that, but that is another story.

    The Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) kicked off its Bong Anniversary Tour at the Wisconsin Aviation Conference in Wausau on May 5-7, 2014. Learn more about the tour kickoff  or all of the tour details.

    70th Anniverssary MOH logo

  • Opportunities for Flying and Hangar Flying Abound

    Posted on April 4th, 2014 John Dorcey No comments

    While winter weather continues in Wisconsin – snow is forecast for the northern half of the state, spring is definitely in the air. More and more activities, either about flying or involving flying, are appearing on the calendar. Over the next few weeks you have numerous opportunities to hear some interesting flying stories, attend two fly-in breakfasts (one with educational seminars), participate in a spot landing contest where proceeds go to charity and attend the 59th annual Wisconsin Aviation Conference. The only question is which events will you take advantage of?

    S.J. Wittman Birthday Fly-in Breakfast
    Saturday, April 12
    Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH), Oshkosh
    The Steve Wittman Chapter (Chapter 252) of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) will be holding its annual S.J. Wittman birthday breakfast celebration. The event is held in the airport’s terminal building located at 525 West 20th Avenue. For those flying in you’ll park at the terminal ramp on the NE corner of the airport.

    In addition to the a eggs, sausage and all you can eat pancake breakfast, a special focus on the Wittman Tailwind aircraft will be conducted. A Young Eagles event will be held in conjunction with the event. Women in Aviation, Oshkosh Chapter will be selling cupcakes as a scholarship fundraiser. The event runs from 7:30 until 11:00 a.m. Steve Wittman was born April 5, 1904; the event celebrates the famous air racer’s 110th birthday. For more information contact Dennis Moehn at 920-810-1046.

    Oshkosh Chapter, Women in Aviation
    Tuesday, April 15
    EAA AirVenture Museum, Oshkosh
    Sergeant John Jones of the Wisconsin State Patrol will explain aircraft types used and modifications to make them suitable for law enforcement purposes. He’ll cover training requirements, how the specialized technology in the aircraft operates, as well as communication and coordination systems with ground support troopers. John’s presentation includes numerous stories and photos of real world events highlighting the range of activities in which flying troopers are involved. The program begins at 7:00 PM and is open to the public. The Women in Aviation, Oshkosh Chapter meets monthly and membership is open to all pilots and aviation supporters.

    Fox Valley Technical College
    Saturday, April 26
    Spanbauer Aviation
    Center, Oshkosh
    FVTC’s Aviation Center’s Seventh Annual French Toast Breakfast Fly-in includes breakfast and two educational seminars. Breakfast begins at 8:00 a.m. and runs until noon. The French toast breakfast with yummy sides is an amazing $5. Local flight instructors Tim Lemke and Keith Myers will each present a safety seminar. Tim will address “The Art of Trim Control” and Keith’s presentation is “FARs Every Pilot Should Know.” The FVTC Spanbauer Aviation Center is located at 3601 Oregon Street in Oshkosh. The school’s ramp is on the east end of Delta taxiway.

    59th Annual Wisconsin Aviation Conference
    Monday – Wednesday, May 5 – 7
    Patriot Center, Rothschild
    Wisconsin Aviation Conference 2014 logoThe 2014 Wisconsin Aviation Conference begins with two networking events, golf and sporting clays, during the day. A welcome reception and dinner on Monday evening provides attendees a chance to meet and catch up with friends and associates. Tuesday morning the conference program begins with topics designed to be of interest to everyone in the aviation community. Sessions and presenters include: industry updates by the FAA and Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics, Wildlife Hazard Management, Strategic Planning, the Wisconsin Aerospace Consortium, NEXTGEN, General Aviation Hangar Construction Trends, and more. Visit www.wiama.org for more information.

    EAA Speakers Series
    Thursday, May 15
    EAA AirVenture Museum, Oshkosh
    Tom ThomasTom Thomas will present “Landing a C-97 at Dodgeville” as the final presenter in this year’s Speaker Series. Many of you have seen the C-97 parked outside the Don Q Inn on Hwy. 23 in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. Tom will share his story of the role he played in landing that huge airplane on the short runway that once graced the Don Quinn property. Tom will discuss this experience, which took place in 1977, with explanations of preflight and runway preparations, aircraft operations, and other facts about the flight. The program begins at 7:00 PM, is open to the public and is free of charge. FMI: 920-426-6108.

    Landings for Lunches
    Entire month of May
    Wausau Downtown Airport (KAUW)
     A charity flying challenge, giving airplane pilots an opportunity to compete in a spot landing contest. Proceeds from the 2nd annual event benefit The Neighbors’ Place. During the entire month of May, pilots will attempt to land with their main wheels on or as close as possible to a box marked on the runway. Pilots will donate one dollar and a non-perishable food item (or an additional dollar) each time they compete. Donations will be split between prize money and contributions to The Neighbors’ Place. Contact John at Wausau Flying Service for more information, 715-845-3400 or visit www.WausauFlyingService.com.

    Plenty of opportunities for you to “get back in the air” this spring. Bring a friend to any, or better yet all, of these events.

  • Air Force Armament Museum

    Posted on April 20th, 2011 John Dorcey No comments

    A quick review of our Spring 2011 museum/history tour. We left Wisconsin on Friday, April 15. An RON in Paducah, Kentucky, set up our first history stop at the Shiloh National Military Park. After an early departure Saturday morning, we arrived at Shiloh about 3½ hours later. We toured the Interpretive Center, watched the 1950s era movie, Shiloh: Portrait of a Battle, and visited the bookstore. After a picnic lunch we toured the battlefield. We then continued south to Birmingham, Alabama, for our next overnight. After Ft. Rucker we drove to Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida on Monday. We toured the National Museum of Naval Aviation yesterday.

    Entry at AF Armament Museum

    Plans for today called for a drive east to Eglin Air Force Base and the Air Force Armament Museum. Today was our third day in Florida and the Armament Museum is our third military aviation museum of the trip. The Air Force Armament Museum is located adjacent to Eglin AFB, just west of the main gate.

    The idea for an armament museum was approved by Eglin command staff in early 1974. Much like the Army Aviation Museum, a lack of facilities slowed the development process. Two years later, in 1976, the museum opened its doors for the first time, in a former Enlisted Club facility. The Air Force Armament Museum Foundation was established that same year. The on-base facility was closed in 1981 and the museum was again without a facility until 1985. In mid-November 1985 the museum again opened its doors, this time in a new 28,000-square-foot facility. The museum was now home.

    Gun Vault

    There are 25 aircraft displayed outside and four more inside the museum. In addition to the aircraft there are hundreds of munitions. A gun vault houses not only airborne guns but hundreds of pistols, rifles, carbines, and other munitions. Missiles and bombs are also well represented. A video tells the story of Eglin AFB and its role in munitions development.

    B-52G with Hound Dog

    The outside display included a Boeing B-52G Stratofortress or “BUFF” with a North American AGM-28B Hound Dog missile alongside. I spent six years working on the B-52H/Hound Dog system at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota. The missile is displayed on a storage/transportation trailer but without the pylon (adapter between the missile and the bomber’s wing).

    AC-47 "Spooky"


    Other unique aircraft displayed outside include: Douglas AC-47 Gunship “Spooky”; the first Lockheed AC-130 Gunship “Spectre”, AF Serial No. 53-3129; a Martin B-57 “Canberra” and a Boeing B-47 Stratojet. Outside aircraft are a little weathered and suffer from bird droppings but these are minor distractions.

    AC-130 "Spectre"

    Inside exhibits include tributes to USAF Congressional Medal of Honor recipients including Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) inductees John Jerstad and Lance Sijan. Another exhibit was a tribute to the Doolittle Raiders. The “Raiders” did training and their aircraft were modified at Eglin early in 1942 prior to their April 18, 1942 Tokyo Raid. WAHF inductee Richard Knobloch was the copilot on Aircraft 13 – “The Avenger “.

    F-105 with munitions

    We enjoyed our time at the Air Force Armament Museum. Some of the displays are in need of minor repair while others are beginning to show their age. These are minor discrepancies and should not deter anyone from visiting.

  • Robert J. Goebel – Gone West

    Posted on February 28th, 2011 John Dorcey 1 comment

    Today would have been Robert Goebel’s birthday. Mr. Goebel died last Sunday, February 20, just days short of his 88th birthday. Goebel, a member of the greatest generation, was typical of the group. He enlisted on April 4, 1942 as an aviation cadet. Goebel graduated flight training, earning his wings and second lieutenant commission in May 1943. His first assignment, defense of the Panama Canal, would last a scant five months. He flew the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and Bell P-39 Airacobra while gaining invaluable fighter pilot experience.

    Lt Robert Goebel in his P-51 "Flying Dutchman"

    Robert shared his World War II combat pilot story in the book, Mustang Ace, Memoirs of a P-51 Fighter Pilot. In the book’s forward, Goebel states, “Like the rest of my generation, in combat I did what I had to do, the best way I knew how. There was no hating, no anguish, no sense of guilt. Only of getting the job done.”

    First Lieutenant Robert J. Goebel was awarded the Silver Star on August 18, 1944. The citation reads in part, “Displaying outstanding aggressiveness and courage, with complete disregard for the overwhelming superiority of enemy aircraft, Lieutenant Goebel immediately engaged the hostile ships, and, in the ensuing engagement destroyed two enemy fighters and forced the rest to withdraw, thus saving the life of his comrade. En route to base, though having serious mechanical difficulties, he again intercepted enemy aircraft and accounted for another enemy fighter destroyed.”

    Lt. Robert Goebel, wife June, and son Gary

    He flew 61 combat missions in the North American P-51 Mustang during World War II. He had 11 aerial victories over enemy aircraft. In addition to the Silver Star, Goebel was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Silver Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Air Medal with 17 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters.

    After the war, Goebel attended the University of Wisconsin and earned a bachelor’s degree in physics. He served as commander of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 126th Fighter Squadron until being recalled into the Air Force in 1950. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Goebel retired from the USAF in 1966. After retiring from the Air Force, he worked for NASA and the Atomic Energy Commission.

    Robert J. Goebel, 2003

    Goebel was born on February 28, 1923, in Racine, Wisconsin. He was the youngest of seven children. Robert married his high school sweetheart, June Meany, while awaiting orders to San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center. They were married for 64 years. Together they raised nine children. June died March 6, 2006. In addition to their children, he is survived by 27 grandchildren and 37 great-grandchildren.

    Robert was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame in 2003.

  • Madison Air Scouts

    Posted on May 10th, 2009 Tom Thomas 1 comment

    At the age of 12, I joined the Madison Air Scouts sponsored by Truax Field, a US Air Force Base in Madison, Wisconsin. The base was also known as Madison Municipal Airport, today it is known as the Dane County Regional Airport.

    Madison Air Scouts, ca 1954

    It was 1954, I grew up on Madison’s east side, between the Yahara River and East High School. My home was right under the flight path for Truax’s Runway 36. All the neighborhood boys playing baseball or football would stop and watch the military jets whenever they flew overhead.

    I had three uncles that served in the Army Air Corps in World War II and they were my mentors. Every aviation magazine or book that I came by was read over and over. I spent hours studying the missiles and aircraft they covered.

    I don’t recall how I found out about the Air Scouts, but when the opportunity presented itself, I joined. I was never in the Boy Scouts so this was my first uniform and I was pretty proud of it. We would get briefings from Air Force staff and I recall seeing many movies on life in the Air Force and of course airplanes. The movies with airplanes were my favorites.

    Several months back, I was given a photo that I had completely forgotten about. It’s an official Air Force photo taken of the Madison Air Scouts in 1954. We are assembled in front of a Convair F-102, Delta Dagger. I am standing in the back row, seventh from the left, under the ‘C’ in Air Force.

    My dream of flight began early in my trip on this planet and has just continued to grow over the years. At that time, in 1954, I never thought I’d be able to fly fighter jets at my home airport, Truax Field. Providence and persistence paid off and I was able to do just that. I flew the A-37 Dragonfly and the A-10 Warthog with the Wisconsin Air National Guard throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

    My life-long involvement in aviation and flying only goes to prove – Where there is a will, there is a way. The dream of flight lives on…

  • BUFF driver and an…ostrich?

    Posted on April 11th, 2009 Pete Drahn No comments

    Main gate, Travis AFB, CALt. Pete Drahn (left) with his crew, 1966

    I flew BUFFS before and after my year as a FAC in SEA. In about 1966, as a young copilot, myfirst operational assignment was to Travis AFB, where we had a wing vice-commander who was a terror.

    Colonel King would usually officiate over the crew changeovers in the alert shack after each seven day alert cycle. Being the grand leader that he thought he was, he would present an award to the crew that screwed up the most during the previous week. The award was a 3-foot tall statue of a crow, a former advertisement for Old Crow bourbon. He had the crow painted with white jailbird stripes and a plaque around his neck announcing “Awarded to the Worst Air Crew of the Week”, or some such language.

    After a half-year of this arrogant and sorry display of leadership and enough beers between us, another copilot, Todd Jagerson, who was a talented artist, and I built a paper mâche model of our own. It depicted an ostrich bending over with its long neck going between his legs and the head shoved up where the colonel’s was at that time. The sign announced “Awarded to the Worst Staff Officer of the Week,” or some such wording.

    Lt. Pete Drahn (left) with his crew, 1966

    The day of reckoning arrived with Todd and me on alert. We sneaked into the large briefing room after we saw the Colonel’s staff drop off the “jailbird” and retreat to the alert shack mess hall to await “The King’s” arrival. We deposited the “Staff Ostrich” right next to the “Old Crow” and beat tracks out of there.

    The briefing room was packed with around 16 tanker and bomber crews (both coming on and going off alert) 10 minutes before Col. King made hisgrand entrance. Todd and I were tucked fairly well back in the room, but sweating bullets; seeing our careers fly out the window if we got caught.

    The Old Man arrived, gave his usual glare at the assembled troops and proceeded to the stage. He stopped dead cold about 4-feet way from the Crow and Ostrich. He studied it for what seemed like 5 minutes, turned around, and departed the room. We never did get caught, but the old buzzard never hauled out that award again, and actually became a lot more respectful.

    Of course, we never told anyone and just hope the statute of limitations has run out.

  • Visiting the Museum of Aviation

    Posted on March 3rd, 2009 John Dorcey No comments

    Museum of Aviation main gate, Robbins AFB, GA

    The day, though it dawned grey and overcast, held great promise. It was 0730 and I was boarding a bus for a two-hour ride from Atlanta to Warner Robins, GA and the Museum of Aviation. This trip was part of the Women in Aviation International 2009 Convention. My wife worked, making several presentations, and I reaped the benefits of accompanying her. While familiar with Robins AFB from my time in the USAF, I had limited knowledge of the museum. Little did I know the treat that awaited.

    North American Rockwell B-1B Lancer

    The museum sits on 43 tree-lined acres along the base’s southwest boundary. The museum complex consists of four buildings and displays nearly 100 aircraft. A North American Rockwell B-1 B, Lancer, guards the museum’s main entrance. A Fairchild-Republic A-10 A, Thunderbolt II (Warthog), parked nearby reminds me of wars ongoing. Across the main drive sat a McDonnell F-4D, Phantom II, from an earlier war, my generation’s war. My senses were now on high alert. The sun began to peek from behind the morning’s clouds and yes, it was going to be very promising day.

    We were advised to begin our tour at the Century of Flight building as an event scheduled for later in the day would prohibit our entry in that building. Good advice as it turned out. The building held prime examples of USAF aircraft. I lingered while reading information plaques and attempting a few photos.

    General Dynamics F-111E Aardvark

    I then made my way to the outside storage areas. The aircraft here are in various conditions – many are showing the affects of sun, wind, rain, and even more sun. Most had their cockpits protected by sun shades which made the canopy/window crazing all the more obvious. The F-111 E will undoubtedly suffer more than the others  – its nose art “Heartbreaker” more telling than a pilot’s lament. The airplane’s big nose cone is AWOL; the radar set sitting out in the elements.

    My pulse quickened as I approached a B-52 D Stratofortress. An early model of the aircraft I worked on for over six years beginning in the late 1960s extending into the mid-1970s. The D’s were the oldest B-52 model to carry the Hound Dog (AGM-28). This particular aircraft, 55-085, served in Southeast Asia twice. First in 1968, and later, flying out of Guam in 1972 and 1973. A number of my squadron mates would have loaded external weapons on this aircraft while serving TDY there.

    Boeing B-52D Stratofortress

    The typical in-flight lunch, served in a quiet picnic area, provided time for reflection. Years have passed since my days in blue (can it really be that many?) but the memories are still vivid. Alas, there were still airplanes to view, pictures to take, and two more buildings to visit. I had to pick up the pace, only two and a half hours to departure. The main museum building provided the more typical museum exhibits, a gift shop, and cafe. I spent a great deal of time pouring over the exhibits telling the history of Robins AFB; its development, layout and early construction. It never ceases to amaze me how much work was accomplished in the early months of World War II.

    Among other exhibits are tributes to the 507 Parachute Infantry Regiment, the Tuskegee Airmen, those CBI pilots that flew the “hump”, and the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame. The Museum of Aviation is more than just a museum; it is an education center for all ages. Artifacts of the past, reminders from yesterday, and glimpses into the future.

    Discover more about the Museum of Aviation at their website.

  • The Cold War

    Posted on February 15th, 2009 John Dorcey 2 comments

    While the war waged on in Viet Nam, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) continued fighting the cold war. Depending on base assignments, the troops may have been fighting a cold war on two fronts.

    I served in the USAF from January 1969 until April 1975. For all but seven months of that time, I was stationed at Grand Forks AFB, ND. Grand Forks is a cold and windy place all year round. It gets real cold during the winter.

    Coming from Wisconsin everyone thought I had thick blood and would be acclimated to North Dakota winters. I worked on the flight line (outside!) for five of the six winters I was there. You learn to cope with the cold but you never get used to it.

    The 319th Bombardment Wing (H) had the latest B-52 Stratofortresses, the H model. These aircraft were built during 1960 and 1961. The airplane went through numerous modifications while I worked on it and many more since. The BUFF continues to serve as a deterrent and will for the foreseeable future.

    Tech School class, Chanute AFB, 1969

    I worked on the Hound Dog missile (AGM-28B) as a missile mechanic and later as a missile systems analyst. Two of the missiles were slung on the underside of a B-52’s wing. The 319th Airborne Missile Maintenance Squadron (AMMS) was a small unit, with just under 100 men.

    Like most GIs, I have fond memories of my time in the service and stay in contact with some of the guys. One way we keep in touch is through an alumni organization. You can learn more about the Hound Dog, the AMMS, and some of my friends at http://www.ammsalumni.org/index.html
    John Dorcey, SSgt
    SAC, Peace is our Profession