THE EARLY YEARS
I entered the US Air Force,18 August 1952, at Williams AFB, AZ PCS (Pipeline) to my Primary Flying Base, Greenville, MS. for entry into Class 53-G. It should be noted that I contacted Hepatitis, and was hospitalized for 63 days and a 30-day convalescent leave, so consequently washed back to Class 54 ABC. In the meantime, Graham Aviation (My Contract Primary Organization), moved to Marianna, FL. I flew the PA-18 and T-6G airplane in Primary. I was the first person in my class to solo.
Upon completion of Primary, I was assigned to Bryan AFB, TX for Basic Flying Training. At Bryan, I flew the T-28 and the T-33. I graduated with Class 54-B 15 January 1954, and was assigned to Nellis AFB, Nevada for Gunnery. At Nellis AFB I completed Air-Ground Gunnery in the F-80 C, and Air to Air Gunnery in the F-86 F.
While at Nellis and subsequent I had an unfortunate thing happen to me.
I was due to be promoted to 1/Lt a few days after I was due to leave Bryan AFB, so I stopped by personnel to see if they would cut the orders promoting me. They said no, because it was automatic, and with that, I left for Nellis. As soon as I got to Nellis AFB I told personnel that I was due for 1/Lt and asked if they would they cut the orders for the promotion. They informed me that they did not handle Student Personnel matters so I remained a 2/Lt all the time I was at Nellis.
The Korean War was going on at the time, the entire Gunnery Class asked for 45 days leave before we shipped out for Korea. It took Secretary of the Air Force approval which was very slow in coming and in the meantime, we were finished with our training and just laying around the BOQ.
Nellis was having a lot of dust storms at the time, so my buddy and I decided to go down to visit a friend of mine from my home town who was living at Manhattan Beach. We proceeded to get involved in a 4-day party, and finally headed back up to Nellis only to find out that our orders had come in denying the 45-day leave and the entire class had processed out and we were AWOL with orders to report to the Wing Commander at 0800 the next morning. We were ushered into the Commanders Office and he sternly advised us that AWOL was a most serious Court Martial Offense, but after the requisite amount of time informing us of the error of our ways, he advised us that as we had been the first two to request Korea, he would let us go, but might send a letter to our new Commanding Officer telling of our error, and, oh by the way, he was cancelling all our leave and we had 6 days to report to Parks, AFB for shipment to Korea.
With that over, we were out of there. It took two days to drive home to Wisconsin, one day to go to Manitowoc, WI (where Mary was teaching), to get engaged and then drive back to my home, sell my car and fly out to San Francisco. I spent two weeks at Parks AFB. One day I found a notice on the bulletin board directing me to see the Adjutant. There I was handed a letter to be delivered to my next Commander. I assumed it was THE letter so never paid much attention to it, other than to know that I was in serious trouble. I never stopped to question why my buddy who had also been AWOL did not receive a letter but assumed the Colonel back at Nellis knew I was the ring leader.
For the next week at Parks, another 10 days at Travis AFB waiting for a flight, and then another week at Hickam AFB waiting for another flight, that letter burned in my duffel bag. In the meantime, my orders had been changed to Clark AB in the Philippine Islands. Finally, I got out of Hickam, but we lost an engine and had to land and wait at Kwajaelein Atoll while they flew in a new engine. One night I was walking around the Atoll and decided I was going to open that letter and see how bad it was. Figured if it was too bad I would just wade out into the ocean as my career would be ruined. I went back and tore open the letter. IT WAS MY PROMOTION TO FIRST LIEUTENANT! They had done for me at Parks what they wouldn’t do for me at Nellis. I had been a 1/Lt all that time. They backdated my date of rank, but they never gave me my back pay.
My Orders were for the 44th Fighter Bomber Squadron flying F-86F’s. It was the best assignment I ever had as we were the only fighter outfit assigned to Thirteenth Air Force and really a diplomatic award for the Philippine Islands. They didn’t know what to do with us so pretty much left us alone. To add to the desirability of the assignment, Crow Valley ( our gunnery range) was located just a turn out of traffic and our two air-air ranges were all to our selves also. So a typical day consisted of the first flight with an 0700 take-off, fly for 45 minutes on Crow Valley, land, brief for the next flight and repeat. We were usually to the Officers Club for lunch by 1130, then 18 holes of golf at the Clark Golf Course, go back up to the BOQ on the Hill, clean up, go to the Hill Bar for drinks, then eat at the Hill Dining Room, back to the Hill bar for more drinks, go to bed and repeat the next five days. The 44th was the best squadron I was ever in. We were all so compatible, it was truly great.
While at Clark we deployed twice for 6 weeks each time. The first time was to Yon Tan on Okinawa which had been a Japanese Kamikaze base during the war. It was notable in that the runway was 5,000 feet and one end of the runway dropped off sheer for several hundred feet to a quarry. The other end dropped off into the South China Sea. It was frustrating for us because we were miserable living in tents, taking outdoor showers, eating C rations, and we could look down on Kadena AB and knew the other two squadrons in the 18th Wing were enjoying all the amenities of the established base.
The other deployment was to Tao Yuan on the Island of Taiwan. We were there to fly top cover for the evacuation of the Tachen Islands which had been under control of the Chinese Nationalist government on Taiwan but were being driven off by the Chinese Communists. The only memorable thing from that miserable deployment was a flight one day. My Flight Commander had been in the CBI during WWII and was itching to finally get into an air-air battle. So on this day, I was #4 in a 4 ship flight. We took off and took up a heading of 270 degrees, kept going and kept climbing. We crossed over mainland China and kept going and kept climbing.
We finally leveled off at 44,000 feet and our element was at 46,000 feet. We flew for approximately 1:15 before he turned around and started heading home. It was absolutely clear over China, and I kept looking around for MIG’s as #4 so much that my neck was sore for a week. We never SAW A THING! When we landed all hell broke loose. They had tracked us on radar and thought we were defecting. When we landed they were waiting for us, including BG Davis. They questioned us and threatened us for several hours until finally, our flight leader pointed out that there had not been any word of it by anybody and probably wouldn’t be and why not let it go. Cooler heads prevailed and that was the last of it.
In July 1955 we moved PCS to Kadena. For the first time since WWII, the 18th Wing was back together as a Full Fighter Wing. I was due to rotate in November. I figured I would go to a Fighter outfit back in the States and I also planned to get married. I was shocked and very mad when I got my assignment to the 1738th Ferrying Squadron of the 1708th Ferrying Wing stationed at Kelly AFB!
THE SUPER SABRE YEARS
The 1708th was a vestige off WWII when they decided aircrews would be dedicated to delivering aircraft as a safer way than having line crews pick up airplanes. The 1738th handled all models of the F-86, the F-100, the T-33 including the recce models for both, plus F-89’s, F-94’s, L-20’s and just about everything else. We delivered new aircraft from the factory all over the world, and we picked up airplanes for the boneyard at Davis Monthan and to whatever other units were getting them. At one time I was checked out in about 10 different aircraft. I delivered eight F-100’s to units in Africa and Europe, and several dozen F-100’s from the factory to McClellan for shipment by boat to the Far East.
The reason why I delivered so many aircraft to McClellan– North American Aviation had been turning out the airplanes for the Far East, but nobody had been picking them up, so one day Maj Whaley our Op’s officer told me to go down to Transportation and grab a handful of Travel Requests and go out to the West Coast and not come home until I had delivered them all to McClellan.
I worked out a system where I could deliver two airplanes a day to McClellan. I would pick up from the North American base in the desert by Edwards, first thing in the morning. Fly up to McClellan (a little over an hour), land, sell the airplane, change into civilian clothes (we had to wear a sport coat in the Ferry Command), get transportation out to the Sacramento Airport, take the United Air Lines luncheon flight to LA, go around to the North American side, change into my flying gear, pick up another F-100 and head for McClellan, get there in time to sell the airplane, change clothes, head for the SAC airport and catch the United dinner flight back to LAX where I would catch the North American C-47 making its last flight up to the desert, go to the motel and go to sleep. The next day was a repeat of the first. I delivered two F-100’s a day for several weeks. That helped me have the most aircraft deliveries in the Ferry Command for 1957.
The Assignment turned out to be good as I learned a lot about flight planning, navigation, and instrument flying as well as dealing with maintenance types, and I saw a lot of the world. It wasn’t so good for my new wife however as I was gone A LOT, and in those days she had no idea of where I was. I had been married for three weeks when I went on my first High Flight and was gone or two months. I came home and found out my wife was pregnant!
I checked out in the F-100 at Kelly. We took two F-100s down to Foster AFB and one IP. Three rides with a chase there and flew the birds back to Kelly and were checked out!!!! The next thing we knew we were ferrying airplanes. I picked up an L-20 at the factory in Canada one day and got the factory rep to help me start it and away I went for some Army Fort in Virginia! I was halfway across Lake Erie and it dawned on me, I had never landed an L-20 and didn’t know if I would get it started after I stopped for gas.
We delivered the first jets to the Brazilian Air Force. (12 T-33’s) The last time we had AF line maintenance support was at San Juan Puerto Rico. We had a C-54 accompanying us with crew chiefs and a LOT of batteries because after Puerto Rico we had to burn AVGAS and make battery starts. The crew chiefs would hold the plenum chamber doors open until you got enough RPM to hold the plenum chamber doors open. It was a constant battle between a successful start and a hot start. The TPT needle would hit 1,000 degrees and it was just a matter of guts if you were going to let it go or abort. We were stuck in Piarco, Trinidad for nearly a week waiting for clearance to land at Fort Atkinson, British Guiana. One day we got a cablegram saying the President of Brazil and the US Ambassador would be waiting in the stands for us to arrive at 1100 hours!! We were still three days away IF everything went well! From then on we were persona non grata!
My one claim to fame out of that trip is that I may be the only person in the world in aviation history who has LED A FLIGHT OF FOUR AIRCRAFT IN CLOSE FINGERTIP FORMATION OVER THE EQUATOR AT 35,000 FEET – INVERTED!!!!! As we prepared to cross the Amazon river, which also happens to be the Equator there, I waggled my three other airplanes into close formation, after they were in nice and snug, I rolled over and flew across the Amazon inverted and then rolled upright and kicked them back out to spread formation. They had no inkling of what I was doing, and I just thought of it in the spur of the moment. Needless to say, they had a lot of questions for me after we landed!
In 1958 they deactivated the Ferry Command. Of the roughly 350 pilots in the Command, 21 got Fighter Assignments. I was one of the lucky ones. This was a time in our history when many/most pilots up for assignments were going to GCI, Supply Officer School or Maintenance Officer School. I was assigned to George AFB flying F100D’s in a Day Fighter Outfit. I was in hog heaven but it wasn’t to last.
The assignment to the Ferry Command was a five-year assignment, but I had heard about this thing called AFIT where the Air Force would send you to get your Masters Degree. I immediately applied and was approved, but MAC (the Parent of the Ferry Command) put a 5-year hold on me. I had forgotten all about that when one day down in the squadron I got a notice to report to Wing Personnel. I found out I was going to Graduate School!!!! What? I tried to tell them that was just a ploy to get out of the Ferry Command but to no avail. I was going to the University of Texas. After six months at George flying the F-100 D in a Day Fighter role, we were off to Austin, Texas and the University of Texas. The Personnel folks told me that I would have a three-year Directed Duty Assignment to Intelligence after finishing. Well, every time I was able to get a T-33 I was off to Langley or Washington, DC pounding on desks to go back to Fighters.
No one gave me a hint of encouragement, but somebody must have listened to me because when my assignment came in it was a 3 year directed duty assignment to the 18th TFW Kadena AB, Okinawa! So, after a short excursion to Stead AFB for Survival Training in the middle of winter we were off to Okinawa again I was assigned as Flight Commander of Kilo Flight in the 12th TFS. After getting certified it was back to the old routine of sitting nuclear alert for a week, and then two weeks of doing lots of LABS maneuvers at Ie Shima. I guess it has been long enough so I can talk about some of the things we did back in those days. My first target was Khorol East at Vladivostok, USSR. There was a slight possibility that if the tankers were all there, and everything worked perfectly, I might make it back to Misawa, AB, Japan. My last target was Shanghai, and I probably could have gotten back to Kadena from that mission. With a 1.2 megaton weapon, I had an estimated casualty count of 10,000,000! That’s serious stuff!
We sat alert in a Quonset hut, and when we would get a scramble, the Pad Commander would unlock the Top Secret safe and hand us our mission profile folders. Things were very rudimentary back then. There was NO ABORT once you received a valid scramble. IF it was an ACTUAL LAUNCH there would be a red light rotating on a pole outside the Alert Shack. On practice scrambles, there would be no light.
One day after several days of very damp/wet weather the Alert went off, the Pad Commander gave us our mission folders, and out the door, we went anticipating it was just a practice scramble, go start the engines, and check in with the Command Post and that would be it. Well, the red light was “On” and “Rotating!”
It is interesting what people will do when they are stressed. Some of the pilots went back inside the Alert Shack to call their wives, some started crying, one armament man refused to arm the weapon until the pilot drew his 45 on him. I just wanted to get airborne!! All 12 birds headed for the active runway. I think I was about the 3rd or 4th airplane on the runway. A staff car carrying Maj Gen Dale O. Smith came down the runway with all its lights on and him halfway out of the window! I might point out that Gen Smith was at least 6’6” so he was a long way out. The first airplanes halted, so I couldn’t take off.
I might point out that also back in those days there was NO RECALL. Once you had a valid launch there was no recall even if the President of the United States came on the radio. Gen Smith told us it was not a valid launch and to head back to the parking pads. Turns out a bird had somehow snuggled up into the light, and when the Command Post gave the signal for a Practice Launch the light came on. THAT’S HOW CLOSE WE CAME TO STARTING WORLD WAR III! After that, they changed the procedure so you could be recalled when airborne with properly authenticated orders. It was an exciting day, one I will never forget.
After two years in the Squadron, I was assigned to Wing O&T working for my hero Eddie Skelton. We had great leadership in the 18th Wing. Col Gabreski, the top Living Ace was Wing Commander when I got there, and about a year later Col George B. Simler took over the Wing and Jones E. Bolt took over as DO. Great leadership. Good Squadron Commanders, and great pilots. I should point out that by then Col Gabreski only flew the F-100 F with an IP in the back. He chose me to be his IP so whenever he would fly I would be in his back seat. I was very happy flying the F-100D.
Okinawa is right in the path of typhoons. We didn’t have protection for the airplanes, so every time a typhoon threatened we evacuated the airplanes to Itazuke, then when the typhoon threatened Itazuke, we flew to Yokota, then when chased out of there, we went to Misawa. Our next stop would have been Vladivostock!!!, but luckily we never had to leave Misawa. I went on EVERY typhoon Evac they had while I was stationed there. Finally, Col Bolt made me stay home, just to see what my wife had to go through each time. That was no fun at all!
The Wing was transitioning to the F-105, but after three and one-half years I did not have enough retainability to upgrade, but I was sure I would be going to an F-105 base. After all, I was the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot. Imagine my surprise one day when I came back from a mission and they told me my next assignment; The Air Force Academy!
I was sure some personnel weenie had stepped on my IBM card with a pair of golf shoes and I would have terrible assignments for the rest of my life. I found out later that I had been specifically picked by Col Simler (formerly the Director of Athletics at the Academy) and Maj GEN Stillman, (formerly the Commandant of Cadets at the Academy). I led the last Flight of four F-100s from the 18th Wing back to the boneyard at Davis Monthan and my F-100 flying days were over.
The Academy turned out to be a wonderful assignment. I was the Air Officer Commanding of a Squadron of Cadets. I learned a lot about myself and leadership and was daily inspired by the Cadets, many of whom I still stay in touch. The Air Force can be justly proud of the product they turn out. While at the Academy I flew the T-33.
After three wonderful years at the Academy, I was sent to the Armed Forces Staff College. The Viet Nam war was heating up at that time and I wanted to get over there. Once again the personnel weenies told me I would be going to the Pentagon. Wrong! They didn’t understand! After numerous phone calls, the guy at Personnel said, “Okay we will send you to F-4’s at Danang!” Bingo! I wanted it confirmed in a Twix that day! I went home and told Mary. We may have been the only couple ever drinking martini’s at a softball game after we knew I would be going off to combat!!!
After Jungle Survival training at Clark AB my backseater, Bob Riddick and I were off to Danang and the 480th TFS of the 366th TFW. We had the best flying in the world, doing all the tactical missions: air superiority over Downtown Hanoi, Interdiction, and Close Air Support. We lost the air superiority mission downtown a couple of months after I got to Danang. It was the best flying I ever had in my life. I ended up with 169 Combat missions, 106 in North Vietnam. ( I was having so much fun that I hung around and sniveled 6 more missions over North Vietnam). It was great flying. I was shot down and picked up by an Army Huey helicopter pilot in an absolutely miraculous rescue. Danang was the best assignment I ever had.
From Danang, I went to Hq USAFE, Wiesbaden, Germany, as Chief of the Fighter Branch. Eighteen months later I went to Torrejon to be Squadron Commander of the 613th TFS. I picked up our first F-4E’s at the factory in Saint Louis and flew one back to Torrejon.
My next assignment was as a Research Associate, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Then came a tour in the Pentagon, but I got out of there after 22 months to become the Chief of Staff, Fifth Air Force. (I was on the Wing Commanders List so PACAF wanted to warehouse me until a Wing CC job opened up.) Three months after I got to Fifth Air Force I was charged with forming and becoming the first Commander of the 51st Tac Fighter Wing, Osan AB, Korea. During my year as Commander of the 51st, we passed two Operationally Ready Inspections and were named the best Wing in PACAF, by the CINC.
Once my tour was up I was assigned as Vice Commander of Fifth Air Force, Yokota, AB Japan. As the CC did not care to fly our fighters I flew with all the units in Fifth Air Force. My last flight in a fighter after 26 years flying fighters was with the 44th TFS, which happened to be the same squadron with whom I flew my first operational jet (F-86 F), 26 years earlier. And, it was a gunnery mission out to Ie Shima and I won both the Dive Bombing and Strafing bets!!!!!
Finally, after 26 years of bad mouthing Personnel, they caught up to me as my final assignment was to the Military Personnel Center, Randolph AFB, Texas.
After 30 years, 4months, and 3 days from when I entered the Air Force, I retired. I live in San Antonio, Texas and have come full circle in a way, as San Antonio is where I was stationed when Mary and I were first married.
LIFE IS GOOD
Glenn L. Nordin