Alva George Branch
“I don’t know which was the most exhilarating; my first twilight mission in an F-86 over the Punchbowl when I noticed the little red tennis balls floating up out of the dusk and maintaining their position in my canopy, or watching the telephone pole maintaining its relative position while visiting some miles north of Hanoi.
There was never a time for flying like the ’50s and ’60s. The Cold War era. The Wing went from two T-33s to four combat-ready squadrons in about a year. We deployed on our first “crisis” six months and 15 days after my arrival and fifteen days after the wing was declared combat-ready. It is amazing how many things you can hear wrong in a finely tuned J-57, at night, over the Atlantic, when you are heading east and the tanks are behind you heading west.
In the next several years at the Beach, I made ten more Atlantic crossings and participated in two more “crises.” (All in all, I made fourteen crossings in fighters. One in an F-86 and two across the Pacific in an F-4, not a record but a good average.)”
Note: There’s a historical marker outside Myrtle Beach dedicated to George. It reads: Colonel Branch was born and raised in south Texas where he learned to fly in a Piper Cub. In 1951, he joined the United States Air Force and was commissioned and rated as pilot in 1952. He completed advanced training in the F-86 and was sent to Korea, where he flew 69 combat missions. Upon his return to the United States, his unit was reassigned to Europe, where he flew the F-84F and the F-100.
In January 1958, he joined the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing and was assigned to the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron. In July 1958, his squadron deployed on a top-secret mission code-named “Double Trouble” to Adana, Turkey, in support of the Lebanon Crisis. The flight required multiple day/night aerial refuelings and encountered adverse weather conditions. Captain Branch led the only four aircraft in the squadron to complete the mission setting a world time-distance record for an operational flight under nonsimulated conditions. Captain Branch later became the Operations Officer for the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron and deployed with the squadron in support of the Berlin and Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as other major deployments during the Cold War Era.
After assignments to Headquarters, 12th Air Force, and Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Captain Branch was assigned to the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, where he flew 228 combat missions in the F-100. A few years later, by now a Colonel, Branch returned to this theater and as Director of Operations for the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing, flew 35 combat missions in the F-4 into North and South Vietnam.
Colonel Branch retired in 1978 and returned to Myrtle Beach. During his career he made one Atlantic crossing in the F-86 and 11 in the F-100, well as two Pacific crossings in the F-4. His decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star, and the Air Medal with twelve oak leaf clusters.
Location of Plaque: 33° 39.697′ N, 78° 56.253′ W. Marker is in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in Horry County. Memorial is at the intersection of Pampas Drive and Mallard Lake Drive, on the left when traveling west on Pampas Drive. Located in Market Common. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Myrtle Beach SC 29577 (1)
Source: (1) https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=102239
- 1952-AC Class 52G, Malden Mo., T-6, Perrin AFB, TX, T-28, Laredo AFB, TX (T-33)
- 1953-12th Fighter Bomber Squadron/18th Fighter Bomber Wing, K-55, South Korea (F-86)
- 1954-1956 561st Fighter Bomber Squadron/388th Fighter Bomber Wing, Cannon AFB, NM/Hahn AB, Germany (F-86)
- 1956-1957 77th Fighter Bomber Squadron/20th Fighter Bomber Wing, RAF Wethersfield, UK (F-84F, F-100)
- 1958-1963 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron/354th Tactical Fighter Wing, Myrtle Beach AFB, SC (F-100)
- 1964-Chief Stan/Eval 12th Air Force Headquarters, Waco, TX (T-33)
- 1965-ACSC Montgomery, AL
- 1966-D/Operations (Worked on SEA build-up), HQTAC, Langley AFB, VA (T-33)
- 1967-416th Tactical Fighter Squadron/3rd Tactical Fighter Wing, Bien Hoa/Phu Cat, Vietnam (F-100)
- 1968-1971 Chief, Flying Eval Branch, AFMPC, Randolph AFB, TX
- 1972-1974 DO, 49th Tactical Fighter Wing, Holloman AFB, NM (F-4)
- 1975-1978 AFMPC, Deputy Dir/DPMA, Randolph AFB, TX
- 1978 Retired USAF
Awards & Decorations
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
Air Medal with 12 Oak Leaf Clusters
Military & Civilian Education
- BA University of Southern Mississippi
- MBA George Washington University