5 December 1956 – A Northrop XSM-62 Snark, 53-8172, N-69D test model, fitted with a new 24-hour stellar inertial guidance system, launches from Cape Canaveral Missile Test Annex, Florida. It wanders off-course, ignores destruct command, disappears over Brazil. It is found by a farmer in January 1983. The Day They Lost the Snark By J.
Rodney Bernard Beckman
Biography of Rodney B. Beckman, Colonel, USAF (Retired)
Colonel Rodney B. Beckman was born on November 25, 1934, on a farm near Wendell, MN. He attended grades 1 through 6 in a one-room country schoolhouse and graduated from Tintah High School, Tintah, MN, in June 1952. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in History from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a Master’s Degree in Mass Communication from Shippensburg State College, Shippensburg, PA.
Colonel Beckman enlisted in the US Air Force on 3 April 1953, and one year later was in flying training as an aviation cadet, Class 55-S, at Hondo Air Base, TX. He was awarded his pilot wings and was commissioned a second lieutenant at Williams AFB, AZ, on 1 August 1955.
He then completed the T-33 Pre-Fighter Familiarization Course at Laughlin AFB, TX, and the F-84G Combat Flying School Course at Luke Air Force Base, AZ. In April 1956, he was assigned to the 516th Strategic Fighter Squadron at Malmstrom AFB, MT, where he flew the F-84F. The mission was nuclear weapons delivery.
In July 1957, Colonel Beckman was assigned to the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan, again flying the F-84G. He transitioned into the F-100 in December 1958, and finished his tour with the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, in August 1960, The mission in both types of aircraft was nuclear weapons delivery, and he sat nuclear alert in the F-100 at Kunsan Air Base and Osan Air Base, Korea.
Upon leaving Misawa, Colonel Beckman’s next assignment was to the 613th TFS, England AFB, LA, as an F-100 pilot, standardization/evaluation flight examiner, flight commander, and squadron weapons officer. During this assignment, he deployed to Incirlik AB, Turkey, in 1961 and1962 to sit nuclear alert, completed Squadron Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL, in June 1961, and completed USAF F-100 Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB, NV, in June 1962.
In April 1963, he was assigned to the 80th TFS, Itazuke AB, Japan, still flying the F 100 and sitting nuclear alert at Osan AB, Korea, until July 1963, when he checked out in the F-105. In April 1964, he moved with the 8th TFW to Yokota AB, Japan, where he served as an instructor pilot and standardization/evaluation flight examiner. Colonel Beckman was among the first to serve on temporary duty status in Southeast Asia, in December 1964, and he performed additional temporary duty tours there in 1965 and 1966. In addition, he was selected to attend the first F-105 Fighter Weapons Instructor Course at Nellis AFB, NV, in April 1965.
In June 1967, Colonel Beckman was assigned as an F-105 instructor pilot and 4520th Combat Crew Training Wing Programming and Scheduling Officer at Nellis AFB, NV, where he was promptly selected to attend Air Command and Staff College the next year. After completing Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, AL, in June 1969, he was assigned as an F-105 Flight Commander, in the 354th TFS, Takhli Royal AFB, Thailand. He finished his tour as Wing Weapons officer of the 355th TFW in May 1970 and went from there to attend the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in January 1971.
Colonel Beckman was next assigned to Manpower Requirements Division, Headquarters, Tactical Air Command, at Langley AFB, VA. In June 1973, he was selected to attend the US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA, where he also earned his Master’s degree in Mass Communication at Shippensburg State College.
Upon completion of Army War College in August 1974, Colonel Beckman was assigned to the 354th TFW, Myrtle Beach AFB, SC. He immediately checked out the A-7D and took command of the 356th TFS on 1 January 1975. Thirteen months later he was selected for promotion to colonel and assigned as Wing Assistant Deputy Commander for Maintenance,
In January 1977, he left Myrtle Beach for an assignment to the Air Force Section, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Tehran, Iran, where he served as Chief, Operations Division Advisor. While there, he flew the Iranian Air Force F-4D and F-5B/E/F.
In February 1979, Colonel Beckman returned to Myrtle Beach AFB, SC, and was assigned as 354th TFW Vice-Commander flying the A-10A.
In April 1980, Colonel Beckman was selected as Commander of the 355th Tactical Training Wing, Davis Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ, again flying A-10As. During his tenure, the Wing set Tactical Air Command flying hour and in-commission rates, flying 40,000 sorties and 80,000 hours without a Class A mishap.
After two years as 355th TTW Commander, Colonel Beckman’s final assignment was as 3400th Technical Training Wing Vice-Commander, Lowry AFB, Denver, Colorado. He soon became acting Wing Commander and held that position until he retired on 1 October 1983.
Colonel Beckman is a Command Pilot with 4,411 total flying hours. He had the privilege of flying eight fighter aircraft during his career: the F-84E/G, F-84F. F-100D/F, F-105B/D/F, A-7D, F-4D, F-5B/E/F, and A-10A. He maintained combat-ready status in all but the Iranian F-4D and F-5 and flew a total of 176 F-105 combat missions and 438 combat hours. His military decorations and awards include the Legion Of Merit with one oak leaf cluster, the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, and the Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters,
Colonel Beckman was promoted to the grade of colonel on 1 December 1976, with a date of rank of 13 September 1975.