I have no metals, or ribbons of valor to show my kids and grands that I served bravely for more than a decade in the U.S. Air Force, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) to be specific. The powers that be don’t like their aircraft, nor the grunts who fix them, being shot at unnecessarily. Therefore, I returned to civilian life unscathed.
Barb and I were married in June 1962. I was disappointed that no leave was granted me for such an important event. The shop chief offered a three-day-pass as an alternative, so I grabbed it. The day after Barb and I moved into a small apartment in a tiny, mountain hamlet called Rough and Ready, California I received military orders reflecting the fact that was one of a six-member mobility team – part of a war readiness plan.
I was good at my job, fixing airplanes, that was one reason for the assignment, but perhaps the greater reason I was selected, I think, was because being married would make me easier to locate, should an act of war occur. The callouts began soon thereafter.
Our rendezvous times and places were everywhere and at any hour. Each time I arrived – 2 AM, or whatever hour – our leader, a Major was checking his watch, seeing how long it took us to assemble, and he was always frowning.
Rarely did I work daylight hours, but the morning in question the shop chief met me at the door. Something was afoot. It was written all over him.
“Go” he shouted.
“We’re going to war. Your team has been activated.”
I was stunned, but I grabbed my tool box and headed for our secret assembly point, a cafe parking lot in Nevada City where I found an Air Force bus waiting.
We were to drive to a hangar in the Nevada desert, a location that only the driver knew. Upon arrival we were to load a KC-135 tanker with spare B-52 parts and then head for a south sea island. Our mission was to refuel, repair as needed, load more bombs and missiles, and then launch those few surviving bombers on a second mission.
The driver started the engine, but before we moved an Army Sergeant Major, a stranger to me, darted from the back door of the cafe, and told the driver to wait. We waited. In less than a quarter-hour he returned and ordered us back to our normal duty stations.
The following day when I realized the USA and the USSR were not going to drop H-bombs on each other, was the day of my greatest peace-of-mind, ever.