Robert "Pat" Barry
Pat flew the Hun with the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing out of Cannon AFB. NM. For a great Caterpillar Story, click on the Caterpillar Club tab.
Poem by Robert Pat Barry – Gas Stations in the Sky, Ode to the KB-50 Guys
Cruising down the Yalu doing 620 per,
I gave a call to the Major, “Won’t you save me, sir??”
“Got three big flak holes in my wings, my tank’s running low on gas,
And those KB-50 guys just upped the price of gas.”
Now a tale such as that never did occur,
But the story that follows I truthful: a few of you may concur.
Cruising over the Pacific at Flight Level 360,
We checked in with “Duckbutt Charlie” circling far below.
He gave a vector to the point of rendezvous.
That magic point for fighters was 600 miles west of Holl wood and Vine, and a mere ten minutes from the “Point of No Return.”
The tankers spotted us above and turned on course to Waikiki.
The jets dropped down, took on gas, and then continued heading west.
The tankers turned and headed east.
That was where the fun began on 18 May 1959….
It soon became quite clear; this fighter jet would not make it to the island west of here.
Tomahawk 213 had flaps down and frozen at 30 degrees
Quick calculations did clearly show,
Tomahawk would run out of fuel 150 miles from shore.
I did not panic, but started to pray,
That this jet jock would not swim in the Pacific today.
The only choice left was to turn and head back,
To the great Mohave Desert and George Air Patch.
I called for the tankers to turn around,
And off load more gas so I wouldn’t drown.
The KB-50s reversed their track,
Then met me part way to help me get back.
Flaps were made for landing,
Not for speed or emergency fueling.
The flaps now crept to 45 degrees
And the jet’s top speed was down to 175.
Since mid-air refueling had not been done,
At this low speed by anyone,
Another procedure would have to be tried,
So rewrite the book and help this guy.
Hurry up and try a new trick,
For this Super Sabre was really sick.
The boom operator, by the name of Horne,
Devised a procedure that worked quite well:
He reeled up the hose, then turned it loose,
It slammed onto the probe and the jet took on juice.
The three other tankers used the same trick as well,
And the KB-50’s transferred all they had.
But ejection would still take place,
Fifty miles west of any dry place.
Another tanker north of us, headed south to assist.
He had a full load and was coming fast—he burned up an
engine but didn’t turn back.
His ETA was within minutes of my final “May Day,”
He turned toward the coast in front of me.
The new SOP was now approved, and we all landed safely at George AFB. Thanks to all of you KB-50 guys who operated those gas stations in the skies.
Robert “Pat” Barry
P.S. That was fifty-two years ago. THANKS AGAIN
- 1959 308th Tactical Fighter Wing, George AFB, CA (F-100)
- 1964 27th Tactical Fighter Wing, Chief of the Stan/Eval, Cannon AFB, NM (F-100)
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Robert “Pat” Barry – Caterpillar Story
In mid-summer of 1964, Pat was Chief of the Stan/Eval shop of the 27th TFW at Cannon AFB.
One fine day, Pat was scheduled to give a check-ride on a gunnery mission to nearby Melrose Range with a Newby wing pilot. It was a three-ship with the Checkee as #2 and an Old Head (Al Martin) as #3. It was a perfect day to fly the F-100, aka the Hun.
As Pat started a straight-ahead climb for some altitude, he advised 2 to pull out of formation to the right (“You’re on your own, Son.”), then began a slow turn to the left toward a downwind for Runway 22 and eventually leveled on around 2,500 AGL Not long after he started the climbing turn, Old Head 3 was closing and advised that Pat was “torching” from right aft of the canopy, and as he closed, he advised (strongly) that Pat should eject ASAP.
“Right on,” thought Pat, as he gave up on an attempt to land on Runway 22 from the downwind perch. The lineup on Runway 22 was Lead on the centerline, #2 on his right wind and #3 on the left, As briefed, Lead and 2 made a formation takeoff, with 3 following with normal spacing. Just after Pat felt the familiar wheels-up thump, he was staring at a Fire Warning Light … and that perfect day went straight to hell!
Surveying his position, he had Base Housing on his left and lots of Clovis on the right. So he continued his left turn and pointed the jet to due north where there was plenty of wide-open space for the plane to “plant” itself. Pat went into the prepare-for-ejection drill, trimming the wings to level and with some nose-down trim to assure hitting his open space target. And as he took a last look at the crippled jet, he thought to himself, “It’s all under God’s control now.” Providential!
“Whoosh, KaBang!” The canopy blew and the ejection seat went up the rails. Pat was soon tumbling head over heels but soon got a good chute. Then, he watched with considerable angst as he watched the jet slowly turn to the right and plow, intake first, into the ground about 100 yards from a large building that turned out to be an Elementary School!
Almost simultaneously, Pat survived a “pretty hard” landing [likely because of his attention to the crashing plane] but was able to walk under his own power when the base Pedro helicopter arrived.
Pat was concerned when he saw some of the students come out of the school to gawk at the smoking hole that had just arrived in their backyard. So, he had Pedro take him to the school, and found himself pleading with the kids to get back into the building because the 20 mm rounds were cooking off in the wreckage!
About that time, an Air Force Staff Car arrived, driven by non-other than Colonel Albert W. “Al” Schinz, the well-liked CO of the 832nd Air Division at Cannon. He had been in the vicinity of the crash area on business with the “Committee of 50” [a joint Air Force/City of Clovis organization] and came to the crash site when alerted by “the Brick.” It was he that, after a cursory evaluation of the situation, concluded that Pat should be at the hospital, not the crash site; and with that decision, drove Pat away from the crash site … and that’s the end of this Caterpillar Club tale [as told to Medley Gatewood].
While researching this oral tale, I discovered that there is, today, a Clovis Elementary School in the general area of where this Hun crashed. Name of the school? Would you believe Barry Elementary School? I asked Pat Barry if he knew of it, and the answer was no. Ah, but Fate IS the hunter! — R. Medley Gatewood