Ronald R. Green
I left Nellis AFB in Jan ‘60 on my way to Cannon AFB. At that time, I had the big sum of 161 hours in the Hun. On arrival at Cannon, I was assigned to the 481st TFS because they were short of pilots, and scheduled to go on deployment to Incirlik, Turkey, in June. Cannon was planning on 30-days-worth of runway construction, so for proficiency purposes, we deployed to England AFB on May 30th.
TAC always gave each squadron a pre-deployment inspection 30 days before going TDY to ensure that the pilots were qualified and combat-ready. Our inspection was given while we were at England. This turned out to be a visual inspection of our gunnery records and a KB-50 night refueling mission with 10 airplanes manned by pilots with a cross-section of flying experience. As the FNG in the squadron, I was chosen to fly as number Ten.
A TAC colonel was to monitor the operation in the backseat of an “F” with the squadron CO leading the flight, the rest of which were D-models. We went out to preflight the airplanes near sunset. Since we would not be over any large bodies of water, and we were not going to be pulling Gs, we didn’t wear water wings (I didn’t swim) or G-suits. After engine start, I found that my ADF (our only usable Navaid at military installations) was inop. But since the weather was forecast as VFR and a night overhead landing pattern was planned, I decided to take the aircraft anyway and say nothing. (Big mistake!)
The mission was going as planned, but we encountered a fair amount of clear air turbulence. We entered the refueling track about 100 miles east of England on an easterly heading for join up with the tankers. As they came into sight, I counted the lights and noticed there were only four tankers versus the five that were scheduled. The lead tanker said that his number Five was behind but coming as fast as he could. (This tanker was for our fifth element of two, number Nine and me.)
We started to rock and roll downstream, with Tanker Five radioing in that he was behind us and at his max airspeed of about 250 knots. As we continued to fly eastbound behind the refueling gaggle, our fuel kept going down. Nearing bingo fuel, I asked our flight Lead if we couldn’t do something to expedite join-up, or I was going to have to leave. He cleared my element off, we did a tight 360, and joined on our tanker.
The tanker cleared us both to the pre-contact positions on the two trailing baskets, and I stabilized about three feet behind a drogue that was doing at least a seven-foot arc. When cleared for contact with the old straight probe, I pushed the power up when the drogue was at its peak and saw the hose bobble and kink indicating I had made a successful hookup.
At that hyper-critical nanosecond, we hit a spot of severe turbulence, and the tanker bounced up several feet. And, at that exact instant, I felt the AB light. “Holy Smokes!” As the Hun leapt forward, I brought the throttle inboard and simultaneously applied a little bit of forward stick to avoid colliding with the tanker’s wing while being bounced around by the turbulence. I ended up with the drogue coming off the probe as I slid under the tanker’s wing. I dropped back to a pre-contact position and checked the probe. To my amazement, I could easily see the tip of the probe, because it was bent up about 15 degrees.
Even with it at that odd angle, I decided it was worth another try and hooked up again. No luck with fuel transfer. I changed the Hun’s pitch angle by going low to try and establish a path for the fuel. Still no luck. Giving up, I told our flight Lead of the situation and that I was going to abort. He asked if I knew where home was, and I replied that it was about 270 degrees for about 175 miles. He said, “Close enough, we’ll see you on the ground.”
I turned to 270 degrees and started to assess the situation—it was serious. I didn’t have enough fuel to make England AFB. Since my ADF was out, I decided that it was time to get “Stargazer” involved, so I gave them a call on Guard to pinpoint my position and get vectors to the nearest airfield, which I assumed was Mobile. They ran me through several squawks and then told me, “Sorry but your IFF is out and we can’t see you.” With this wonderful news, I turned to about 230, thinking that maybe I had just enough fuel to make New Orleans International.
Soon I started to pick up the glow of lights from New Orleans against some scattered clouds along the coastline. More southward and closer, I had a fleeting glimpse through broken clouds of a beacon which I took for Mobile. “No sweat,” I thought, “I’ll just get an emergency DF steer for recovery there,” I called Mobile on Guard. They answered. I briefly explained my critical situation and requested an emergency DF steer. Guess they didn’t want to get involved as they never answered again. This left me no choice but to continue my VFR flight headed toward where I thought would be a final approach for landing at New Orleans to the southwest, but the fuel situation when I got there would be fumes! Not good.
Still, at altitude, I estimated the point where I thought I could just make it to landing at best glide speed. When there, I pulled the throttle to idle, slowed to about 220, and started my descent. I called New Orleans on Guard to alert them of my predicament, but “Navy Callendar” radar (Naval Air Station, Alvin Callendar Field, near Belle Chasse Louisiana) answered first and told me they had me, understood the problem, and to turn to about 210 degrees. (Why their approach radar could see me and Stargazer couldn’t, I never did figure out.) Navy Callendar told me I was about 45 miles out, that they were about 15 miles closer than New Orleans International, and assigned me a frequency for the rest of the approach. There was still some hope!
I could see three lines of lights and thought it was their runway, so I asked them to flash the runway lights. They did, confirming my ID. Looking down, I could discern water below me and asked Callendar about this unexpected development. They said I was over the bay but would soon be back over land. Prior to that observation, I had kept my 450s because I didn’t want them to hit anyone on the ground. But now, over water with no lights, I quickly jettisoned the tanks and pylons.
With the “bathtubs” gone, airspeed increased, so I dropped the gear and was still able to aim at my touchdown point. I had seen the fuel gauge at 600, then 300 and now it was at zero. Suddenly, I was over the overrun, so I pulled the poser back and started a round out while lowering flaps and retracting the speed brakes. Then, it got very quiet. The engine had finally quit from fuel starvation!
Being rather steep, I had a very firm touchdown. I deployed the drag chute, and while still going fairly fast, I saw a taxiwary45 degrees off the runway towards Base Ops. A flight of F-102s was on downwind screaming that they did not have fuel for an alternate, so I knew I had to get clear of the runway quickly. I skidded some but made the turn. A seaman was vectoring me into a spot in front of Ops, and I had just enough speed to make it there with very light braking at the end. The Seaman put a ladder up on the cockpit and said, “Boy, you sure have a quiet running airplane, Sir.” All I said was, “Yes, Huns are pretty quiet when they’re not running.”
My post-flight revealed the right tire had one tread showing a lot of red, but the next tread was just a little bit of red. When I signed the 781, this mission brought me up to about 197 hours in the Hun.
I went into Ops, called my squadron back at England, and was put right through to the Squadron CO. He immediately asked what farmhouse I was calling from. I replied that I wasn’t calling from a farmhouse but from Navy Callendar Ops and that the airplane was sitting on the ramp out front. I told him about the tire, and that it would maybe need a change before flying back. He told me to relax, RON there and he would have the maintenance officer come down the next day to check the tire.
After I hung up, Base Ops offered a staff car to take me up to the Q. At the Q/Club, I told the driver to wait while I bought something to take out to GCA. He said I was too late because the bar had closed earlier. To this day, I still owe that GCA crew a case or many bottles of something!
The next day, Gus Blue, our maintenance officer, arrived in the backseat of a T-33 and said he could fly the airplane back with the tires as they were. I, of course, got into the back seat of the T-Bird for the trip back to England AFB. Earlier that morning, I had had the airplane refueled—it topped off at 7,737 pounds. I had been told an F-100D only had 7,600 pounds internal usable.
When I got back to England, the Squadron CO asked me to come into his office and discuss “things” with him. After I had recounted every detail to him, including the flameout (he’s the only person I ever told about that part), he looked at me and said: “Lieutenant, you did one thing wrong, and that was you didn’t bail out. But if you had, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now, because I would have been fired! You didn’t have enough experience to be flying by yourself, and I shouldn’t have sent you back without an escort. And to make up for my mistake, you and I are going to take an F-model on cross country soon so I can teach you everything you need to know about cross country flying. Until we can get a bird for that, you will fly normally as if this event didn’t ever happen. Any questions?” I, of course, answered, “No, Sir!”
About two weeks later, he took me on that extended cross country and footed the whole bill. This man was the best squadron commander I had in my whole 21 1/2 career in the Air Force. And by the way; I chalked up that night refueling pre-deployment inspection flight as the mother of great learning experiences, but not one I’d ever like to repeat!
I flew a total of 292 combat missions over NVN, SVN, Laos, and Cambodia without a hit. I had 231 missions in the F-100 and 61 missions in the F-4.
After retiring from the AF (I decided I had to grow up and get a job) I went to work for McDonnell Douglas in St Louis and worked on many projects involving Simulation. I flew the simulators (40 ft and 20 ft domes and the MICS (Manned Interactive Control Station), and helped design the advanced systems for current and future airplanes (some of my displays are in current aircraft). The simulators were so good that where I spent many hours in the AF getting out of having to go to the simulator. I would work only on projects involving simulation or projects involving mission debrief systems. A stroke in 1994 forced me into retirement.
I now live in the Phoenix, AZ area to stay away from snow!
- 4/1960-10/1960 Williams AFB, AZ – F-100 Checkout
- 10/1960-1/1961 Nellis AFB – F-100 Advanced Training
- 3/1961-3/1963 481st TFS, Cannon AFB, NM with TDYs to England AFB, LA, Incirlik AB,Turkey, MacDill AFB, FL, England AFB, LA and Nellis AFB, NV (F-100)
- 04/1963-6/1964 416th TFS, Misawa AFB, Japan with TDYs to Kunsan AB, Korea. (F-100)
- 6/1964-10/1965 416th TFS, England AFB, LA with TDYs to McCoy AFB, FL, Danang RAFB, SVN, Tan Son Nhut, RAFB, SVN and Bien Hoa RAFB, SVN (F-100)
- 11/1965-6/1966 416th TFS, Bien Hoa RAFB, SVN with TDY to Tan Son Nhut AB, SVN (F-100)
- 8/1966-6/1969 494th TFS/48 TFW, RAF Lakenheath, UK with TDYs to Aviano AB, Italy, Wheelus AB, Libya and Chili AB, Turkey. (F-100)
- 8/1969-6/1969 4517th CTTS, 311th CTTS, Luke AFB, AZ (F-100)
- 6/1971-12/1972 Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe, AZ (Graduate Program)
- 1/1973-3/1973 George AFB, CA (F-4 Training)
- 4/1973-3/1974 433 TFS & 497 TFS, Ubon RTAFB, Thailand (F-4)
- 4/1974-7/1978 Pentagon with TDY to Nellis AFB, NV
- 7/1974-8/1975 Air Staff – Studies and Analysis
- 8/1975-7/1976 Joint Staff – J-3 (Pacific Division)
- 7/1976-8/1978 Joint Staff – J-5 (European Division)
- 8/1978-9/1980 31st TFW/Chief of Exercises & Chief of Safety, Homestead AFB, FL with TDY to Luke AFB, AZ (F-4)
- 09/01/80 – Retired USAF
Awards & Decorations
Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor device
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal with 15 Oak leaf Clusters
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Oak Leaf Cluster and Valor Device
Presidential Unit Citation
Combat Readiness Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
Vietnam Service Medal with 3 Bronze Stars
Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
2013 Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame
F-100 (231 missions)
F-4 (61 missions)
Total Flight Hours: 4050
292 combat missions over NVN, SVN, Laos, and Cambodia without a hit
Military & Civilian Education
- BS/EE (Electrical Engineering) from SDSC (South Dakota State College)
- 1973 MSE/IEOR (Master of Science in Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Operations Research), Arizona State University