30 November 1957 – Capt Benny Lacombe is killed when he unsuccessfully attempts to bail out of Lockheed U-2A, 56-6704, Article 371, 13 miles SE of Laughlin AFB. Ejection seats had not yet been fitted to U-2s at this point. The history of the U-2 program is fraught with fatalities and crashes. “CIA pilots Wilburn S.
Vernon D. Hesterman
Vern flew the F-100 from 1957-1959 with the 98th Tactical Fighter Squadron out of Nellis AFB, NV. From 8/26/1965-10/28/1965, he flew the F-105 with the 36th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Here are some of his thoughts on the THUD…
A Few Thoughts About War and Music By Major Vernon D. (Bud) Hesterman USAF (Ret) “Let me tell you a little bit about the Republic F-105. This big beautiful airplane was developed during the 1950s at the height of the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The concept at that time was that the age of limited warfare was over and from now on we would only be engaged in full out nuclear war of total destruction. The F-105 was designed jointly along with the MK 43 variable yield atomic bomb and even had a bomb bay specifically sized to fit that weapon.
I first saw the airplane at the World Congress of Flight at Nellis in 1958. My reaction was, “Holy smoke, (or something like that) I’d sure like to fly that big, powerful, and fast machine.” Well, five years later, in 1963, my wish came true.
I was back at Nellis TDY from Itazuke, Japan checking out in that awesome piece of flying art. I loved it from the very beginning, but admit to a little bit of acrophobia the first time I climbed the ladder to the cockpit and realized I was a good ten feet above the tarmac.
I returned to Itazuke, and then the Wing moved to Yokota. However much of my time was spent on temporary duty either to Korea or Southeast Asia. My duty in Korea consisted in living with airplanes loaded with nuclear bombs. We had targets in communist countries and we were able to go from a sound sleep to engine start and ready to taxi within a fifteen-minute time period. If they would have opened the gates, and if I would have received the proper authentication, I would have taxied out, taken off, gone to my assigned target, and dropped my very real weapon of mass destruction.
I had no feelings of hatred or animosity toward the hundreds, or maybe thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of people who might be instantly killed, or who might die horrible deaths years later as a result of the radiation from my bomb drop. I would have dropped my bomb because it was what I had been trained to do and what my country asked me to do, and I would have done it to the best of my ability.”