Raven-7  

"The Iron Pumpkin"
Hi Res



You are about to enter "The SAC Hangar" (Hangar #2) where Rivet Ball and her crew lived. Notice the propped up "PRIDE FOR ALL" sign in the photo above. It was mounted above the entrance door to Hangar #2. PRIDE stood for "Professional Results In Daily Efforts". It was a command wide program to encourage higher standards of performance and professionalism. As you can tell.... Hangar #2 needs a little propping up now and then due to hurricane force winds. During WWII, Hangar #2 was quite busy compared too the "Cold War" years. Click Herefor a glimpse into the past.





"The Iron Pumpkin"
Hi Res


The video clip above is a model replica of Rivet Ball by Capt. Duncan (Dunc) Wilmore, a fellow Raven / EWO and crewmember on Lisa Ann / Rivet Amber. The photo depicts Rivet Ball parked in Hangar #2 while on alert with her crew.

While on alert we prepared ourselves and our aircraft for the big event which could come at any time. The Russians controlled our schedule, not the Air Force.






"The Iron Pumpkin"
Hi Res


When the dreaded KLAXON / GRONKsounded, your heart jumped into your throat and adrenalin shot thru your veins as you scrambled to get airborne. You were PUMPED.

Most of the time we never had far to go since we practically slept in the aircraft with our flight gear. We were always ready to launch at a moments notice. Timing was critical. However, many times the weather was so bad we were unable to open the hangar doors due to high winds. It was not unusual for the wind to blow more than 50 mph. Shemya was famous for some of the worst weather in the world. When the weather prevented us from launching we chained the doors, unzipped our boots and had a wild party.






"The Iron Pumpkin"
Hi Res


In no time at all Rivet Ball and crew were on the run with full power and water injection..... she was a screamer. The non SAC troops called her "The Bitch" because she was so loud.





"The Iron Pumpkin"
Hi Res


That's Hangar #2 zipping by our left wing tip as we build up speed for rotation and lift-off. Right about now we're clocking 100+ Mph and accelerating fast. The pucker factor is rising because the Bering Sea is straight ahead and we're committed for takeoff. It's either do or die.





"The Iron Pumpkin"
Hi Res


We're airborne....... it's off to work we go. We're headed for the Kamchatka Peninsula of the Soviet Union. One short flight for us but one long flight for anyone else. The Russians were doing their thing and we were doing ours. We were loaded for bear and raring to go. You don't get Medals parked in the hangar.

In less than an hour we were on station and ready for.... Show-Time.






"The Iron Pumpkin"
Hi Res


This image shows us flying over central Alaska near the Denali range. We were returning to Shemya from our home base at Eielson which is about 26 miles south of Fairbanks. The distance between home and work was 1,374.2 miles each way (As The Crow Flies). Eielson was home of the 6th SW and considered "Land of The Big BX" to all those stationed on Shemya.

Big also applied to the size of Alaska. At 591,000 square miles, Alaska is as wide as the lower 48 states and larger than Texas, California and Montana combined.Click Herefor a comparison.

Some of our families lived on base at Eielson when there was space available. My family, along with several others, lived in the remote village of North Pole. Our address was Mile 14 Badger Road.The front yardwas a sand pit and the back yard was a stream with many a moose. The original Santa Clause House was about a mile down the road. It was nothing more than a shack with a blinking light pole outside. Inside was a stuffed Santa Clause along with hardware, tools, basic food supplies and a few trinkets. Today it's more like Santa's Mall.

Nobody owned much of anything back then. We were only allowed to ship a total of 200 Lbs. from the Lower 48. Uncle Sam provided the pots and pans, Army blankets and furniture from recycled military surplus. Sorry.... No Tv. Interior decorating meant that you had two chairs one sofa and three lamps. We didn't care.... we were just glad to find a place to hang our hat. About ten days after our families arrived and the sofa was in place we packed up our flight gear and departed for the Twilight Zone. The families we left behind now had to support each other as never before. Their biggest concern was losing power in the winter which happened about once a week. Living in Alaska was difficult at times but then again it was exciting.

We were always excited when the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) paid a visit. It was dramatic and exciting when viewed from ground level near Fairbanks. It was truly awesome when viewed from 35,000' at night while sitting in the manual tracker position on Rivet Ball. Your head was outside the fuselage in a clear acrylic dome which gave you a panoramic view of the heavens. It felt like you were part of the Aurora. Words cannot describe the feeling.Click Herefor a photo taken by Yevgeny Pashnin while flying in a Boeing 747-430 north of Canada in 2004. It will give you some idea, although limited, of what we experienced in Rivet Ball flying over the Bering Sea and central Alaska.

Summersunsetsviewed from our front porch in North Pole were also dramatic and beautiful.

Winter months (6-7) in central Alaska were long, dark and extremely cold at times. Fifty below zero (-50 F) was not unusual in January. At one time it dropped to -66 F. When the temperature rose to zero it felt like shirt sleeve weather in comparison. A strange thing happened whenever the temperature dropped to 30 degrees below zero (-30 F). The snow crackled like broken glass beneath your boots. The unrelenting cold and darkness of winter frequently brough on cabin fever. Once you became a sourdough though, everything got a lot easier to tolerate. The name sourdough was given to seasoned non-native Alaskans. The old time (Politically Incorrect) definition of a Sourdough was: one who had peed in the Yukon, slept with a squaw and killed a bear.

Other memorable events were the earthquake andflood of 1967. The earthquake struck hard (Magnitude 5.9) early in the morning on 21 June 1967. The epicenter was south of Fairbanks and directly under the hospital at Fort Wainwright where my wife and newborn son were staying. My son (3 days old) was evacuated with two other babies and placed in a doctor's camper to keep them warm. The earthquake was frightening at first but fortunately didn't cause a lot of damage. The real damage occurred when it started to rain in August 1967. It rained and rained and rained until the Chena River reached more than 30' above normal and flooded downtown Fairbanks. Families that lived in base housing at Fort Wainwright were trapped in their quarters for more than a week and required daily visits by boat to supply them with food, water and transportation. Our family along with others in North Pole ran for high ground. Fairbanks was devestated by the worst flood in 100 years! One week after the rain stopped I drove to the edge of Fairbanks and what I saw was heartbreaking.






Our first two years in Alaska (Dec. 1966 - Dec. 1968) were challenging, difficult and rewarding all at the same time. Our last year, 1969, was rewarding and tragic in more ways than one.



1969

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