Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sharing Memories - Bay of Pigs - April 1961

Sharing Memories - Bay of Pigs - April 1961

This is Part 1 of memories from Air Force service in Winslow, Arizona, where we arrived in January, 1961. I had hardly gotten settled into my new duties in the Radar Bomb Scoring Squadron unit on the mesa west of Winslow when a national crisis arose. Known as the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy authorized an attempt by Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba, with support and encouragement from the US government, in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. It only lasted three days, with the defeat of the invading forces. But we were on high alert, and wondering if the results would lead to Cuba invading the U.S. or some such activity.

Part of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), our mission was to "score" simulated bombing runs in the area by B-47 and B-52 aircraft SAC aircraft. Our unit consisted of semi-trailer vans, perhaps a dozen of them, connected together with radar units on top that tracked the SAC aircraft. We received a radio signal from the plane as they approached their targets (simulating 'enemy' locations) - the signal stopped when the bombs 'would have been released.' The job of our unit was to track the 'bomb' using speed and trajectory, to determine how close it would have come to the target… and transmit that information back to the crew of the SAC aircraft and their command structure. There were a dozen or so (we didn't know, for sure) other units like this, around the country.

We operated with three officers (I was the junior of the three) and a couple dozen enlisted men and airmen. We lived on the civilian economy; our nearest military installation was a small army supply facility west of Flagstaff. The next closest was an Air Force Base in the Phoenix valley.

Good relations with the local community were important. One of the activities I became involved with was the formation of a newly forming Toastmaster Club. I was a charter member. It was a good experience for a young officer as well as for the business folks in the organization.

Families are Forever!  ;-)

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