During the winter of 1961 an Air Force C-124 aircraft was en route to a diplomatic summit meeting somewhere in South America. Aboard the aircraft were some 20,000 pounds of prime beef steaks packed in dry ice and wrapped in a thermo-blanket designed for keeping food in peak condition. As the airplane approached Beale AFB near Marysville, California a serious problem developed and the flight crew was forced to land at Beale where I was currently stationed.
The aircraft maintainers determined the aircraft should not travel any further and grounded the craft until the necessary parts arrived and proper maintenance was completed. Computers and the Internet were not yet part of the system, and two full days passed before Douglas Aircraft responded. The parts requested were not readily available.
The lack of parts was not the only problem. The steaks, the primary purpose of this mission, were degrading with each passing day.
After the C-124 had sat on the ramp for three days the powers that be ordered another aircraft loaded another 20,000 pounds of prime steaks. And the shipment already on the ground was given to the Beale AFB Food Service Squadron. We, the personnel stationed at Beale, began having steak for breakfast, steak for lunch, and steak for dinner. This was my first experience with prime beef. I wasn’t aware that an inch-thick steak could be cut with a fork. I was pleased.
However, even miracles have limits. Such was the case with our gifted beef. But we were duty-bound to scarf-up the food that came from that broken airplane.
Before our bounty was gone I was yearning for SOS, hamburgers, meatloaf, cold cuts, and other run-of-the-mill meals. Foolish me! Youth is wasted on the young. We were fortunate to have been the recipients, and I didn’t fully appreciate our good fortune until the ten tons of gifted beef were consumed.