Raven-8  

K. Hawes
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"The Iron Pumpkin" is the title of an 8mm home movie produced, directed and edited by Capt. Robert L. "Viper" Brown of Team-2, Rivet Ball. In 1968 Viper's better half, Cathy, gave him a Minolta K-11, Super-8mm camera for Christmas. Viper loved his camera and you rarely saw him without it. For more than a year he shot many rolls of film that included Shemya landscapes, crewmembers in action, Rivet Ball and Rivet Amber. Click on the YouTube link below for Viper's classic home movie, "The Iron Pumpkin" (12 min. with sound).


The Iron Pumpkin 
Dedicated To Rivet Ball Crewmembers



Trivia: The images of "Rivet Ball" (RC-135S, #59-1491) in the beginning of "The Iron Pumpkin" movie are of a 1/72 scale model made by Capt. Duncan, "Dunc", Wilmore in 1968 while on assignment with the 6th SW, 24th SRS at Eielson AFB. Dunc was one of the original Ravens on "Lisa Ann / Rivet Amber" (RC-135E, #62-4137). After completing the model he donated it to the 24th SRS for display in their newly remodeled quarters located in "Ptarmigan Hall", aka "Amber Hall". At the time, it was the one and only model ever made of "Rivet Ball". Unfortunately, no one knows what happened to Dunc's beautiful model after the 24th SRS transferred to the 55th Wing at Offutt AFB in 1992.





"The Iron Pumpkin"
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This photo was taken thru Rivet Ball's Manual Tracker dome which is located on the top side of the fuselage. You are looking forward. Penetration for landing is under way. Back to The Rock for another death defying landing. 

Landing on Shemya required special training for all RC-135 Pilots due to extreme weather conditions. More than a few times the weather would turned sour at the last minute and required us to hold for an hour or more or divert to Eielson.






"The Iron Pumpkin"
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On 13 January 1969 Rivet Ball was returning from an operational mission and attempted a night landing on runway 28 at 12:30 AM. Runway conditions appeared to be within limits according to all reports. After a normal touchdown she struggled to brake on the runway slush and then began to hydroplane. She was unable to stop in time and hydroplaned off the end of the runway 28 into a 40' ravine! Fortunately, the Aircraft Commander, Maj. John Achor, was able to shut down the alternators in time and avoid crashing into the telephone poles that supported the approach lights for runway 10. Had he failed, surely Rivet Ball would have exploded in a ball of fire and consumed everyone and everything. John did good. 

Seconds before final impact the MT, Capt. Robert L. "Viper" Brown, sounded off with.... "Ride 'Em Cowboy"






"The Iron Pumpkin"
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Here you can see the fuselage broken and twisted just forward of the Manual Tracker (MT) position. That's right about where the Tactical Coordinator (TC) and Signal Monitor (SM) positions are located. Thank God the MT wasn't sitting in the tracking seat when Rivet Ball crashed or he would have been seriously injured for sure. It was not uncommon for him or someone else to sit in this position during landing since it provided such an interesting and exciting perspective. It wasn't legal, but it sure was fun.





"The Iron Pumpkin"
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Here you can see the #2 engine ripped off and and the left main landing gear back near the tail section. Broken fuel lines can spell distaster when a plane breaks apart on landing as Rivet Ball did. It's a miracle that engine #2 didn't catch fire. I'll guarantee you there were a lot of crewmembers thanking their lucky stars that night.





"The Iron Pumpkin"
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Rivet Ball's hog nose may be be ripped off and her fuselage damaged beyond repair but the Outstanding Unit Award mounted above the entrance hatch remains intact as does her reputation and accomplishments. In my opinion, she deserves a Medal of Honor. One thing that no one can take away from her... she was the very first KC-135 of any variant to perform a reconnaissance mission, the very first RC-135S and the very first to successfully photograph a Soviet MRV. She served with distinction on Shemya for seven years until her replacement (Cobra Ball I, #61-2663) arrived in October 1969.





"The Iron Pumpkin"
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The crewdog you see walking away from Rivet Ball with his hat off is Capt. Casey, one of Rivet Ball's two Navigators. As the old saying goes... "Any landing you can walk away from is a good one".





E. Wakeman
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The signed photo of Rivet Ball shown above hung in the Officer's lounge of Hangar #2. It is signed by all the crewmembers that were onboard when she crashed. The caption reads "We walked away". What the Captain really meant to say was... We didn't walk, we ran.





Maj. John N. Achor 
Aircraft Commander 
24th SRS 

Capt. Usto F. "Sam" Schultz 
Co-Pilot 
24th SRS 

Capt. Wm F. Casey Jr. 
Navigator 
24th SRS 

Capt. Ellis S. Williams 
Navigator 
24th SRS 

Capt. Robert E. Armentrout 
Raven 
24th SRS 

Capt. Rowland B. Perry 
Raven 
24th SRS 

Capt. Robert L. Brown 
Raven 
24th SRS 

Maj. Alan R. Hansen 
Raven 
24th SRS 
Taps: Jan. 1999 

Capt. Joe E. Hall 
Raven 
24th SRS 

Capt. Russell G. Howard III 
Raven 
24th SRS 

Maj. Edwin B. Wakeman 
Raven 
24th SRS 

MSgt. Thomas F. Dodds 
Photog 
24th SRS 
Taps: Jan. 2006 

TSgt. Arthur I. Reid 
Photog 
24th SRS 

TSgt. Carl R. Denton 
Maintenance 

SSgt. Eugene J. Willard 
Security Service 

SSgt. Richard J. Steen Jr. 
Security Service 
Taps: 5 Jun. 1969 

Sgt. Bryan L. Dumka 
Security Service 

Sgt. Michael W. White 
Security Service



"With only thirty minutes of that day having passed into history, 
we lived through the longest few seconds of our lives".

Maj. John N. Achor




The connection between Rivet Ball and pumpkins is based on the story of Cinderella when her magnificent coach transformed into a pumpkin after midnight. 

Not long after Rivet Ball crashed (12:30AM), Capt. Ellis S. Williams (Nav.2) and fellow crewmembers were examined and treated at the base infirmary. While at the infirmary a Major from the control tower burst onto the scene and asked: "Did you all get my call that the last 2,000 feet of the runway were not clear !?" Capt. Williams responded by saying : "What difference did it make, by that time we had turned into a pumpkin." Henceforth we have "The Iron Pumpkin" movie by Capt. Brown and the SAC Combat Crew Magazine article "Pumpkins & RCR's" by Maj. John Achor and Capt. Sam Schulz (Main Page #16 under "Published Works").  

Here's what the Aircraft Commander, Maj. John Achor, has to say about the accident: 

"A bit about the runway at Shemya. There was a single 10,000 feet runway (28 / 10). At the west end of the runway, there was about ten feet of dirt "overrun" before reaching a 45 foot cliff. Extending out on the runway centerline was a twin row of telephone poles -- holding the runway approach lights for a landing on Rwy 10. 

The weather at Shemya was generally miserable. I've seen 25 knot winds and zero visibility in fog for more than a half hour. So, you say, you can't have fog with that much wind -- you can if the clouds are on the deck and the cloud bank is large enough. I'll say one good thing about the weather. The accident review board was delayed arriving at the island for a week due to winds and weather. The day they arrived, as they stood on the ramp, the weather went from CAVU (clear and visibility unlimited) to zero-zero conditions in blowing snow and then back to CAVU -- all in thirty minutes. 

The night of the accident, I was flying a GCA (Ground Controlled Approach, precision radar) approach to Rwy 28. The reported Runway Condition Reading was RCR-09IR-P. The IR stood for icy runway and the P indicated patchy, but the 09 reading was well within our safety margins for landing. What they didn't tell me was that they had sprayed isopropyl alcohol on the ice. That turned the ice to slush and I hydroplaned off the end of the runway and over the cliff. After the crash, the RCR was confirmed as less that 04 and that would have sent us to our diversion base (Eielson AFB, Alaska). 

The nose steering was totally useless. The anti skid system worked like a charm -- only one trouble -- the tires were not in contact with the runway surface. I managed to "steer" the airplane using ailerons to "bicycle" us toward the right edge of the runway and avoid those telephone poles. 

The airplane was a virtual total loss. They salvaged one of the four jet engines, part of the tail section and about 60,000 pounds of electronic gear from the interior. Staff operational errors and weather were listed as the causes of the accident. No responsibility was assigned to any crew member."
Source 

If you want to know what Capt. Robert L. "Viper" Brown has to say about the accident make sure you read his recently published, 15 March 2009, story titled "The Last Flight of Rivet Ball". You'll find it on main page #16 under "Related Stories” titled “Raven’s Nest". It's a must read IMO.










The Russians Are Coming !!!
The Russians Are Coming !!!


About six hours after Rivet Ball crashed, Joe Hall (Preacher) walked to the crash site by himself for one more look at the wreckage when all of a sudden two long range Soviet bomber/reconnaissance jets (Tu-16 Badger) made a low altitude high speed run over Rivet Ball. Joe was thunderstuck and stared in disbelief. It wasn't exactly a Pearl Harbor run, but it sure was unexpected and not much was said about it afterwards. When the boys in Moscow got word that Rivet Ball was down and out it must have made their day. The only thing that remains now of "The Ball" are fond memories and a few rare photographs.



USSR

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