Curt Jensen
Wed, Dec 17, 2008, 3:38pm (CST-2)

Ltc. Hawes,
I bumped into your website while looking for information on another missing USAF aircraft in Alaska. Your project is very powerful and obviously a lot of work went into putting this all together.

As a 40 year resident of Alaska, I have had many experiences in the aviation field. My wife is related to USAF pilot, Virgil Perkins, who was reported missing over Alaska waters sometime between 1963 and 1965. No trace was ever found and I have not be able to find any information on that incident, so one wonders what kind of mission he was involved in.

Kind regards,
Curt Jensen

Tom Hinson
Tue, Dec 23, 2008, 10:53pm (CST+1)

I was assigned to Shemya in 1968-1969 with the Air Force Fire Protection Division. I worked in the Technical Services section and inspected all the facilities there. I was an Airman First Class then. It was an interesting tour, I worked off duty at the NCO Club for extra job, as many did. 
Thomas Hinson USAF, Ret.

Jenny Wonders
Tue, Jan 6, 2009, 8:59pm (CST-2)

Wow, so many years gone past. Still go to your site daily King, in hopes that someone will say..."hey I know where they are"...Just a dream, a fantasy...something that never ever leaves your mind. A Crazy dream I am sure all of us kids have...we may be 40+ in our age, but we are still young children in our minds and hearts trying to remember our fathers. I will NEVER stop believing there is a chance you are out there nor stop loving you Dad. God Bless to all that fight for our country and many prayers for the Amber Children...I am with you.

Jen Wonders 

Forever Riding Free in The Wind

Alan Warby
Wed, Jan 7, 2009, 6:13pm (CST-1)

Thanks for all the good work you have done on keeping the story of the 6th SW and the 24th SRS alive. In the summer of 1976 and as a brand new 2nd Lt., just out of pilot training, I asked for a -135 and the northwest USA. My assignment to the 24th SRS set me on a flying career that continues to this day. Like you, many people told me what a bad assignment this was going to be. But, I won't trade my days, well weeks, lets say months on  the "rock" and the flying experience I got there for an EC-135 in Hawaii.( well, I got that AFTER I had been at Shemya and Eielson, but that's another story.)

I will have to send you some pictures and movies I have of action at the "rock" including a crosswind takeoff of the Ball. Thanks Again,
Alan Warby
24th SRS 1976-1979

Tim Stephenson
Mon, Jan 12, 2009, 10:26pm

Very well done. I loved the pictures and the story. I can`t imagine the sites you must have seen or the memories you must have. Thank you for sharing them. I enjoyed them very much.
Tim Stephenson
Osceola, Iowa

Earl E. Beach
Mon, Jan 19, 2009, 10:04pm (CST+1)

What a web site!!!

I'm Msgt. Earl E. Beach, retired 1968. I was stationed at WPAFB ASD Bomber Test Wing. Flying and working on test bed KC 135s when called in along with Sgt. Ward if we would be interested in a special assignment on an NKC 135a. That was mos. before we ever saw the a/c. Our 1st task was figureing out spare parts and equipment, just everything we needed to operate in a remote place without any support. I was on the project out of WP until SAC took over.  I have a model of 491 (Nancy Rae) setting on my stand that always brings back a lot of memories. Living in the hanger for mos. wind rattling the doors 24 hrs. a day. I've been reading your stories and what stories you guys where doing a great job but very few people ever knew it. We spent quite a few hrs. in 491, a great aircraft. Sgt. Tsuda told a nice history of our small part. I talked  to Dick Tsauda yesterday for the first time since 62. I also located a couple more of the original crew and told them about your website. Thanks

Take Care Earl

Nancy Rae Model Pics: 1, 2

Richard Neyland
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 11:44 PM

CC of original message sent to Barbara Nowak in reponse to her Shemya page @ Posted here with permission from Richard Neyland on 21 January 2009. Message follows:

The other night, I was on the computer reading some things about the islands in the Gulf of Finland and decided to "Google" an island where I spent a year of my life on….so it caught my interest when I found your blog about Shemya!

I was stationed on the lovely Pearl of the Aleutians from about April of 1972 until my DEROS of March 1973 with the 16th Surveillance Sqdn. (Airman First Class then later a buck Sergeant), and needless to say, your articles & photos brought back some memories (obviously, not my most pleasant ones!).

You are right on regarding the Shemya weather….that wind could give one an instant headache in less than a minute.  We had a few clear, cool days though and it was a delight to see the blue foxes when they came out from their dens (one of our guys got accidentally nipped while feeding one and was on the next C-141 to Elmendorf for rabies treatment).  When it snowed that winter, that boardwalk was covered and it was a common base detail to shovel it clean….we left the room windows open at night, as it was stuffy & humid in the Composite, even in the near zero temperatures.

The place was pretty much the same then as in your more current photos.  I remember a large hangar which was used for storing some vehicles & equipment and the hangar we were supposed to stay away from when the Cobra Ball RC-135 was overnighting from Eielson.  I learned to drive a stick-shift (utility truck) in my spare time and played some basketball, read in the library, & did ceramics with my own moniker.  I remember the dish inside of the geodesic dome…I think an AN/FPS-42?, which we operated along with watching the scopes tied in with the 3 FPS-17 screens, with their underground switching stations down in a long corridor.

Everyone got along fairly well in the 16th, but there were some racial tensions in the other units.  One night, a riot broke out and several guys were hurt as well as arrested.  It started with drinking (not a surprise) and the next morning the base commander ordered everyone to report for a "third degree" hearing in the auditorium, where he shouted & waived the UCMJ at everybody.  He was shortly dismissed from his command.  Fortunately, I was working a swingshift that night and none of us in the 16th were involved.

I also remembered the junk that littered the island – the rusty barge, an abandoned wooden dining hall from WW 2, some turrets, the partial body of a B-17, and the fuselage & wing of an ill-fated RC-135 – as well as the unmarked graves of 3 Russian fishermen whose bodies had washed up some years before.  The only women at the time that came in were a lady technician from a computer company and the flight attendants from Reeve Aleutian Airways who would sometimes overnight at the "K House".  Shemya was given a bad name for any of the "rookies" going out there for the first time (because of its distance from anywhere), but it was better than the any of the other radar sites (Tatalina, Tin City, Cape Newman, etc.) that I could think of on the Alaska mainland at the time.

Thank you for bringing back some nostalgia to my younger life.  I hope that my experiences above can be of use in an historical sense.  If you would like to, you can email me at Thanks again for your excellent article!
Rick Neyland
Delta Air Lines, Inc.,
Los Angeles

Fred W. Miller
Thu, Feb 12, 2009, 12:51pm (CST-2)

Hello King,
Your website detailing your experiences on Shemya is a wonderful resource and nostalgia corner for those of us who also shared your Aleutian experience. During the winter of 1963-64 I had the honor of serving with the U.S. Navy as a pilot in Patrol Squadron 2 and we routinely flew ELINT missions out of Shemya to Kamchatka and the Siberian coast. Your descriptions of life on Shemya, the mission, the work, the play and relaxation all bring back fond memories of a very different time and place. Thank you for the excellent work. Here is a picture of Boozer taken in 1963. Click Here for Boozer photo.

Best regards,
Fred Miller
(858) 694-6177

Tom and Bonnie Stuckey
Fri, Feb 13, 2009, 2:10am (CST-2)

My name is Tom Stuckey, I am a surviving crew member of the RC135 Cobra Ball crash on March 15, 1981. I was one of the Russian Linguists on that flight. I was not originally scheduled for the tour. I had swapped with one of my friends who had commitments that fell during his scheduled 2 week tour to Shemya. I remember the approach and crash as if it was yesterday, the aftermath is a blur. We were flying into very severe weather and had tried to land twice and was on our third attempt. Sgt Harry Parsons who was our AMS (Airborne Mission Supervisor) for the linguists was sitting in the position directly behind me.  We were talking about the nasty weather that we had to land in. I remember the hard bump and sound as the landing gears hit the approach lights and were torn off the plane. I remember the sound and vibration as the engines on the right side were ripped off the wing. Everything was now going in slow motion and I thought "This Can't Be Good", I remember glancing back and to my right through the jump seat window and seeing the bright orange glow of the flames from the exploding engines. We hit hard and the plane broke apart just behind me, I was slammed down in my seat, and the plane spun around so fast that the lap belt stretched my stomach muscles down to my lap. We came to a stop and the only thing behind me was flames and searing heat. I got up and went forward through an over wing emergency exit into the snow. I followed those in front of me to a bus as an explosion of jet fuel occurred behind me. We were put on a bus and taken to a hangar to receive care. At the hanger we found out about the others who had died and those that were missing. I was considered one of the injured and at first thought to have internal injures from the stretched stomach muscles. It turned out no internal injuries, just muscle damage. I count myself very fortunate to have survived the crash since everyone directly behind me had perished. Reading the other posts and reviewing the links you have provided was a mixed blessing for me, I gained a lot of information about the Rivet Amber loss that I didn't know about. I am thankful for everyone who has the desire to preserve the memory of these events and the sacrifices that we made to keep our nation safe.
Thomas Stuckey
Survivor - Crash 21664 March 15, 1981

Jim (U-Tapao) Gilmore
Thu, Mar 5, 2009, 10:16pm (CST+13)

I made two trips to the rock. The first in late 1970 as an assistant crew chief from the 55th OMS at Offutt and the 2nd as crew chief on a "taxi" mission while TDY to Eielson AFB from Travis AFB. The Rock at a minimum was a heart breaker. It was cold, desolate, isolated and did I mention cold? On the TDY in 1970 we knew to expect cold. In 1977 when I went I didn't expect it but was ready for it. We left Eielson in Mid-July (I don't recall the exact date after all this time but...) when we departed for Shemya it was sunny and 85F. Four and a half hours later, 3 missed approaches, a fuel dump and not enough gas to get back....we landed in what WAS below minimums at 75 feet and crossing the sequenced flashing lights (SFL) or strobes at a 45 degree angle. Yank, bank and a controlled crash we were on the ground at Shemya. We were on the ground long enough to look around a bit, use the latrine (do they still call it that?), steal a sign, drop our 40 pax returning from an R&R and head back.

It was strange that you had to be checked out to fly there. My A/C told me Shemya? You can*t get there from here (Eielson). The reason was the constantly lousy weather that got worse! So, before a crew could fly there they had to be checked out by a crew that had flown there...or at least so I was told. It really was not on my need to know list. The latest map on Google Earth still shows the old SAC home away from home but my understanding the place is in caretaker status. I firmly believe that McPeak screwed the pooch when he reorganized the USAF resulting in the death of SAC.

ACC - BULLSH**! SAC WILL be back!

James V. (Jim) Gilmore
Nongprue, Thailand


David English
Sat, Apr 4, 2009, 7:39pm (CDT-1)

I wanted to thank you for an outstanding presentation of the RC135's Rivet Amber and Rivet Ball.

I have saved this as a bookmark. There is so much information.

My name is David English, I live in Tyler Texas and have been a military communications "listener" since the age of about 13. Born in 1954, I was a little late arriving on this earth I guess to have a chance to be a part of such a great project, and no one told me when at the age of 18 that a carreer in the USAF could be a good thing.

I listen very often to all the different shortwave frequencies for "good stuff" communications and over the years have snagged some pretty good stuff. I always wonderd what it would have been like to be involved with something like the RC135's.

Thank you again for a job VERY well done!!


Paul Tompkins
Tue, Apr 7, 2009, 8:20pm (CDT+1)

Dear LTC Hawes,
I am very grateful for your website.  It brought a plethora of memories flooding back that I haven't thought about for way too long….  I flew on Cobra Ball and was on aircrew status with the 6985th ESS in 1981 when 664 crashed at Shemya.  I was not on the plane, but the incident profoundly affected me.  I was on one of the first rotations to go back in after that fateful day.  This crash and multiple landings on Shemya later that year were some of the many motivators that woke me up to my own mortality and led me to my faith in Christ.  I was led to Christ by a Raven named Walt Jenkins from the 6th SW, while sitting in the hanger at Shemya.   I remember talking to Harry Parsons not long before the crash, and seeing my future like his, only to be reminded so soon that….my future could be like his in the twinkling of an eye.  So I am eternally grateful to that crew that suffered greatly for a cause that was just.

While I did not stay on flight status for future assignments, I did complete my career of 22 years as a Russian linguist.  It was because of the caliber of the people that I flew with, and later worked with, that I could see no other career options than active duty service.  I was blessed with the opportunity to use my language skills openly for peace, as a treaty inspector/escort, working with the underground nuclear test verification on the Threshold Test Ban Treaty and sometimes supporting the INF Treaty.  The cold, dark world of life in an RC-135 was only ever made bright, brilliant, and warm by the men I flew with.  I will forever be in their debt.

Paul Tompkins

Maynard Chaney
Wed, Apr 22, 2009, 10:39am (CDT-2)

I was looking up the "ROCK" on Google to show my wife where I spent a year of my life back in 1967-68. I went to one of the links and behold there were pictures of the ISLAND, the planes that I was involved with and the what I thought the classified names LISA ANN, RIVET AMBER. A flood of memories came back.  I was an in-flight maintenance tech on the electronics monitoring gear. I am the third one from the left kneeling, SGT Chaney.  We were reminded just how important our mission was while on the ROCK when Capt. Levis put the whole crew in for quite a few Air Medals and DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross). They were awarded to us at Offutt AFB. I retired in 1974 at E-7 after going to Southeast Asia for a year. Thank you for the memories. I did not know the number of aircraft that actually went down supporting the mission on the ROCK thru the 1980's.

Clifford Dotson
Wed, Apr 22, 2009, 3:04pm (CDT+1)

Hey Col. I spent fifteen months on the rock .12/67-2/69 has a member of the great fly swatter sq. 16 Sur.. Your dare friend , the little guy , Col J . Ratto ,was a tuft but fair guy. Enjoyed the guys from Det-1, AFFJOG , Powerplant , The Family from Hangar - 2 .I also was a member of a little elite group of range officers , we instructed small arms classes on the east point of the island , the lone NCO. among Gods choosen. Miss the place in some ways. What ever happened to Reeves Airline ?  Thanks for memories.

Raymond Moore
Mon, Apr 27, 2009, 2:03am (CDT+5)

Dear King,
Just read your "Story of two Airplanes" and the memories of the men and mission on Shemya flooded back. I was an Army Teletype Intercept Op at the AAFJOG from 73 June -74 June.  I copied the Air Defense net that tracked you guys doing your "fig 8s." It was the one that the "zoomie" morse incept ops copied and plotted your position on the "big board." Whenever this guy changed freqs the Air Force guys would come running over to my position yelling "Where'd he go"? It was a great team effort and a great mission. I have your Det CO to thank for getting me on a KC 135 hop back to the "world" for Christmas leave. We had gotten to know each other from his visits to the AAFJOG while you guys were airborne. He actually came to my room to get me for the flight back home. When we were boarding the aircraft the crew chief wouldn't let me on board because I didn't have my "Mickey Mouse boots." He almost crapped his pants when the Det Co yelled at him to let me board. Kind wish I had gotten the boots though. My feet were freezing the whole flight! After I got back, a Navy sub chaser landed for fuel and the crew visited the AFFJOG along with your CO in the middle of the night. The mess hall was closed and these guys we hungry as hell. The Col. came to me and asked if there was anything I could do in the way of some food for the "squids" so I hauled ass to the mess hall and I got them some box lunches that were being made for the next day. After all I owed him big time. Any way you could find out what his name was? I can't for the life of me remember. I think he was a full bird Col during the 73-74 time frame. Enough babbling. Tks for a great story and take care.

Ray Moore
De Oppresso Liber

Thomas S. Atkins
May 8, 2009, 3:21pm (CDT+1)

I just happened to find your site yesterday. I was a Morse Interceptor at Sinop, Turkey, TUSLOG DET 4, 60-61.

We monitored the tactical and ICBM launches. It just happened that I was one of a couple on each trick that did the ICBM traffic and it was interesting to read about the look from the other end of the launch.

However, being in the Army the Enlisted men did the work that the AF had Officers for. The ASA was a different type of Army group. On my trick, of about 100, all the Enlisted men had at least an AB. Of the about 50 officers on the base only the Priest, the MD, and a ROTC Lt who was the finance officer were college graduates.

Not your typical Army outfit, as I found out when with 3 weeks to go I was sent from Vint Hill Farms Station in Virginia to Ft. Campbell in support of the the 101st Airborne during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I had forgotten what it was like in the real Army and all thought of reenlisting quickly left my mind.

Tom Atkins

Jenny Wonders
Sun, May 10, 2009, 6:26pm (CDT-2)

Hello my dearest friend.  Getting closer to that day of June 5 and feeling the sadness overwhelm me once again.  I want to thank you again for all that you have done for me again.  When I get lonely and really down missing Dad, I have a place to go; the site you have created.  All the speeches you may give, everything you may share with others about Rivet Amber and Rivet Ball; I don't think that it has more of an impact or meaning to them as it does to me.  There are angels
Forever Riding Free in The Wind

Bob McCullough
May 17, 2009 1:07:05 PM CDT

I was one of the people that transferred from AFSC to SAC with aircraft 491 in 1963 and did a remote tour of beautiful downtown Shemya. Don Coones and I were both aerial photographers 63 to 64. We also had a non approved patch of the black pearl. I have a copy of that patch, if interested I can provide you with a digitized version. I enjoyed reading the later life of 491.

Bob McCullough, retired AF

Webmaster PS:
Bob "...would love to hear from any of the rest of the group up "there" with the original bunch."

Kris Mulner
Mon, May 25, 2009, 9:31am (CDT-2)

Dear Mr. Hawes,
On this Memorial Day I was searching the web for information about a plane crash that killed two men that were very dear to me and my family. I found Jack on your web page with information about the crash. My Dad, Gren Bickford, flew many missions with Jack. I was a child when we stayed at Jack's home in Massachusetts and have pictures of us, there. He often came to our home and we called him our "Uncle Jack".

When he died, I was away from home and I remember my mother calling to tell me the sad news.

The other friend on board was Al Morissette. I wondered if you new him, too. We called him Twiggy because he was so small.

I can not believe the reaction that I had when I saw Jack's name and information about the crash. After all these years, I cried. I thought that no one would ever reveal what happened and that these men would never be remembered for their sacrifice, as they were not military.

Thanks so much and I would love to hear from you.

Kris Mulner
Hilton Head, SC

Cathy Fox Melton
Fri, Jun 5, 2009, 11:03am (CDT+1)

Hello, King
I was just in a "remembering" mood and wanted to post this to the guestbook, please.

Today is the 40th anniversary of the loss of Rivet Amber and the 19 men that she carried that fateful day. My father SSgt Robert W. Fox was one of those men. It has been a very long time, but "Daddy, you'll never be forgotten..."
Thank you, once again, King for all you have done. Sincerely,
Cathy Fox Melton

Jack Williams
Fri, Jun 5, 2009, 2:21pm (CDT+1)

Hi King. Here it is, 40 years later. We remember Rivet Amber. I heard her leave Shemya that morning heading for Eielson. I tried to raise the AMS on the secure comm link when they were about 20 minutes out, but could get no answer.  I tried and tried, and then tried and tried again. Then the word came in: Rivet Amber with 19 aboard was missing. That was a long time ago, but it lingers in memory and with sadness.

A year ago, I was very pleased to see a fitting tribute to Rivet Amber, including a plaque showing all of the names of those who were aboard and perished that day in June 1969, at the National Cryptologic Museum on the NSA grounds at Ft Meade, MD.

Thanks for the web page, King. It is a treasure.

Jack Williams
Capt, USAF, Retired

John Waterous
Thu, Jun 11, 2009, 11:26pm

Dear Mr. Hawes,

Thank- you for creating this website and I looked at every page and read all within with much serious interest and got a grip on understanding remote secret posting. I have never been in military service but I work at the airport at Authors Bookstore and I see lots of TSA and pilots and many military personnel every day. I was told my aunt was in some kind of secret military service but don't know what it was; I know my dad can shoot bull's-eyes with a revolver at 50 yards which I can't even do with a rifle and sandbag rests. I happened on your site while browsing facts about the aircraft of the type Air France flight 445 was. I now know, because of your careful website construction; I know it would be some kind of vibration or loss of airframe structure to have caused the catastrophe of the "crash of Air France flight 445." I thank you for your exacting editorial skills!
Sincerely Yours,
John Waterous

Mike Falvey
Mon, Jun 15, 2009, 10:05am (CDT+1)

I recently came across your web site while killing time – I loved it! I was a Cobra Ball nav from '83-'86, having been a Rivet Joint nav at Offutt before that. I later had the pleasure of being the Det 2 Commander in Greenville TX from '93-'95. My association with the RC-135 will always be a source of great pride.

I'm now retired and on the faculty of the Defense Acquisition university at Ft Belvoir VA. At the moment, I'm co-teaching a class with a retired Cobra Ball Raven and RTOS project officer (Bob Carlson, Lt Col, USAF, Ret). Small world.

Thank you for the web site.

Mike Falvey, Col, USAF, (Ret)

Professor of Systems Acquisition Management
Defense Acquisition University
(703) 805-5417
Fax: (703) 805-3728

Anthony Mitchell
Address Deleted
Sun, Jul 5, 2009, 8:50pm

I found your website while looking for information on the RC-135. I live in Omaha, NE, constantly see the planes flying over, and I wanted to find out more about them. I just wanted to say that it's a wonderful page and that if you ever publish a book on the same subject, I will certainly purchase it and look forward to a book signing.

Anthony Mitchell

Chuck Williams
Thu, Jul 23, 2009, 6:41pm (CDT-2)

Col. Hawes,
I just found your web page off the home page of my web tv. Thank you so much for a fascinating read. My father, James Williams, Lt. Col retired USAF, was a SAC KC-135 pilot in the late 60's. In that same time frame I was a KC-135/B-52 sheet metal mechanic, (retired Master Sergeant now). We were both stationed at Mather AFB, CA in the mid/late 60's. I regret he's not still with us to share your story, as I know he would have appreciated it as well. He retired in August '69, at the same time I transferred to the Reserves, but I don't remember ever hearing of those two RC-135s before your story. Perhaps the news was not released to the public at the time due to the Top Secret classification of their mission.

Just wanted to thank you again for a great job and great story.

Chuck Williams

Paul Forte
Fri, Oct 9, 2009, 2:11pm (CDT+1)

My name is Paul Forte.  I was stationed at Shemya from April 1969 to April 1970, perhaps the worst 360 some odd days of my life!  I was a Russian linguist doing whatever it was we did day in and day out for that entire year.  What makes my story so strange is that I could easily have been one of the crew on either or both of those aircraft.  I was a class mate of Ned Consolver and Lucian Rominiecki.  Also in our class was Bryan Dumka.  As we went through our training, I flunked out of the Altitude Chamber portion, so I was destined not to go on flying status with the others in my class.

Of course, when you don't turn out as the USAF bosses planned, they don't know what to do with you!  I lingered at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas for about 9 months before they decided to assign me to far away San Antonio!  I spent about a year there and then, on to Shemya, shortly after I got married!

I was on the "fringe" of the search for Amber.  I remember being in the movie theater with Lucian when they were called out for their flight back to Fairbanks.  I didn't think anything of it since they were frequently on the Rock.  I used to envy them because they got to leave and I didn't.  My envy turned to horror that night in June.  What I remember the most is the frustration of not being able to find out any information.  At first, I thought it was the usual secrecy we had come to expect.  But, soon, I realized, no one seemed to know anything.   

Most of us that were on duty that night do share your belief that there was no involvement by the Soviets, though.  After all, our jobs were to keep an eye on our Eastern friends, and we would have had some inkling of their presence in the area. 
I am still plowing through the vast amount of information you have amassed on your site.  If I come across anything that further jogs my memory, I will let you know.

Paul Forte
Cell 301-343-9526

Glenn Thomas
Sun, Oct 11, 2009, 5:29pm (CDT+1)

Outstanding site, thank you for an excellent example of keeping history and memories alive for our Armed Forces.
You get an A+ !

Glenn Thomas
Cpt USAF Ret. (5yrs active duty USNR P-3's, 20 yrs GA Air Nat Grd, 117th ACS Savannah, GA)

Petter Gramnæs
Entry Via Facebook:
Wed, Oct 14, 2009, 7:15pm (CDT)

I've enjoyed reading your interesting stories about Rivet Amber, and Rivet Ball. At the moment I am sitting in my appartement in Spitsbergen, (not too different to Shemya) where I am priviliged to be a crewmember on a Norwegian Coast Guard Dornier 228 performing long missions in the Barents Sea. I just want to thank You for your passionate stories.

Best Wishes,
Petter Gramnæs

Keith Junker
Wed, Nov 25, 2009, 5:13pm (CST-1)

Thanks, King, for starting and maintaining this site.
Keith E. Junker
6985th Electronic Security Squadron Oct. *82 - Oct. *84

Monte Lowrey
Wed, Dec 2, 2009, 2:18pm

Thank you for creating this site. I was with the 6SW from 78-81 and was on duty at the 6SW command post as an NCO controller the night 664 went in at Shemya. It was one of the longest nights of my career. We locked the crew list in the safe as soon as we got the call.  We released it later that night to either the wing CC, Col Perry, or the DO.  I don't remember just which one it was now. We took all the steps we could to protect the names to prevent rumors from getting started. Getting info from Shemya was difficult at best. They were quickly overwhelmed. I don't remember much of the after actions as I PCS'd from there in late April. Your site really explains the history behind the entire program and  brought back many memories. I really appreciate all the photos as I took very few while assigned there. I was afraid men in black would visit me if I possessed photos of or said out loud the name , Cobra Ball!  Ha! 
Thanks Again
Monte Lowrey, Chief
McKendree University
Office of Public Safety

Andy King
Sun, Jan 10, 2010, 10:16pm (CST+6)

I am doing some research about RC-135's for a model that I'm planning to build sometime (RC-135V) and I found your site by accident. I just have to say what a great resource it is; lots of very useful links, photos etc.

Thank you so much for making it happen!

Andy King

Bob Armentrout
Tue, Jan 12, 2010, 8:37am (CST+6)

Hi King. Well, in about 22 hours it will be 41 years since we rumbled down the cliff on Rivet Ball's final mission, time for a glass of wine. If someone ever wants a definition of 'unlucky/lucky' we were it. I just wish Amber could have shared our luck; my heart goes out to the families every time I think of Amber. Always come back to your site this time of the year and without fail find something new. I especially enjoy reading the Guest Book entries. Amber and Ball were unique aircraft, as were their missions and exploits; you've done a great job of explaining that uniqueness. 

Bob Armentrout
Lt Col, USAF (Ret.)
Rivet Ball, Team-2, Tactical Coordinator

Jane J. Thomas
Wed, Jan 13, 2010, 12:14pm

Hi King Hawes
I have just spent several hours combing your site and getting a better understanding about what my cousin (his dad and my mom are brother and sister), Robert L. "Viper" Brown, did while in the Air Force. You have put together a fabulous site and I have learned so much today.

My dad was a "Hump" pilot in WWII, two of my three brothers were in the military, and now my grandson is a mechanic servicing C-130s (I think that is what it is called) in Jacksonville, Arkansas, where I pray he will stay. He just re-upped for 6 years.

Robert was older than me and in the summer when our family would go to Sumter, S. Carolina, he was usually off somewhere as his dad was in the Air Force too. In the back yard of our grandparents house was a little out building that we were told was Roberts. We weren't allowed inside, but could jump up and try to see inside.

When we were in Sumter at the same time I always remember him as being very serious, but this site along with his Facebook postings have shown me a funny side of him that I appreciate. I had to laugh out loud when I read "Ride 'Um Cowboys", since I never saw that side of Robert.

Thank you so much for putting up this site and I am going to pass the link along to my husband, a history buff, especially with WWII.

Have a blessed day.

Jane J Thomas
Pleasant Hill, Louisiana

Edwin Wakeman
Fri, Jan 15, 2010, 4:24pm (CST+1)

Boy, are we all getting old. Today is two days past the anniversary of our beloved Wanda Belle/Rivet Ball turning into an Iron Pumpkin and landing in the Pumpkin Patch.


Mother ...

Tue, Jan 19, 2010, 10:16am (CST+1)

Fresh out of tech school, I arrived on Shemya Aug76,working as a 702 at Base OPS , The 1st week I was there a funny stratotanker(my dad was crew chief on F86's in japan 1951 and brought back tons of pictures so by age 7 I knew a kc-135 when I saw one) taxied out to south end of runway and did a runup.  All of a sudden chunks of alsphalt were flying, and brass everywhere. That is the 1st time the plane was refered to me as "snoopy".  As the year wore on, I met some SAC guys, a Major from SAC taught a correspondence course in Business Admin, I think he was from Montana or that general area, he had a firewood business going with his  sons.  I never knew what these brave men did and I wasn't very informed until I found this website. Thanks so much.  This site has led me to believe my year was not wasted!!

Craig M. Cousley
Wed, Jan 20, 2010, 11:24pm (CST-2)

Mr. Hawes,

I just finished reading through your excellent website.

I was stationed on Shemya from July 1980 to Jul 1981 and was there on the "Ides of March." My job was driving the fuel truck around and filling up the  airplanes there, as well as the ones that stopped by, and diesel tanks, for power and heat, on the island.  

Reading about Shemya has always been a unusual experience, that like being stationed there, only people that have spent time there can truly understand.
Thanks for re-awaking memories of my time there and teaching me about the history of "The Rock" before I had the honor of serving there.  

Craig M. Cousley

William McDonald
Thu, Jan 21, 2010, 3:55pm (CST-3)

Hello Arctic warrior
By pure accident I stumbled onto your super website and it is a great experience for this old retired blue suiter.

I arrived at Eielson AFB in Jun of 1991 to become the DCM for the 343rd TFW only to find that jerk McPeak had made his personal changes to the Air Force that I grew up in. I became the 343 Logistics Group commander overnight and was not a happy commander.

In my new capacity I had a lot of support related functions which included supporting the 6th SRW. It was not long before I noticed the RC-135s in and outbound from the base. I knew the commander of the 6th SRW and was in the hanger when the birds were there but still did not fully understand many aspects of the misssion related to operations on Shemya. Your website, which I stumbled onto after all these years since I retired in 1994 is the best overview/summary of events surrounding one of the most significant programs that won the cold war. I retired up here in Fairbanks and can tell you it still has many of the cold moments you remember from your time here. My three years spent in Amber Hall have taken on new meaning after reading of the loss of your comrades.

One of the things I do in my old retard life up here is frequent military history displays. I have a great large framed photo of one of the RCs at Eielson that I use in the displays. NOW after being briefed through your website I plan to keep the sacrifices of your mission efforts alive in the displays hence forth. To learn more and figure ways to enhance the northern recon cold war effort in my displays, I shall return to your great website in the near future. Thanks for a very accidental but informative time.

Bill McDonald Colonel USAF retired

Jack Ward
Fri, Feb 5, 2010, 3:46pm

Col King,
I had the honor of being the Chief of Maintenance for 61-662.  We only had the one "Ball", so when it had to go, it HAD to go! You had to be at Shemya to appreciate the stories told by others.  Wednesdays were rotator days.  After everything settled down, we would go to the Club for two for one steaks.  We moved out of hangar two to the Cobra Eye hanger while I was there.  Since I was the only PCS officer to move into the new hangar, I became the Dorm Daddy and picked up the nickname of Ward Cleaver.  In turn, I would call the two weather officers Wally and the Beaver.  I can remember playing racquetball in hangar three with the two weather officers and the Det CC.  There are too many other things to mention, including the Sunday afternoon road trips, the Beer Lights, Movies popcorn and crab legs.

I will never forget the multiple launches of the Ball, the team work and professionalism of everyone associated with the launch and recovery of 662. The first order given to me by the Det CC before I even signed into the Squadron was "DON'T F**K WITH THE BALL!"  Needless to say, I didn't.   I have two sons who are associated with the Air Force.  One is in Omaha and is doing "Intel stuff" with Stratcom.  The other is a KC-135R pilot with the Reserves.  We are never too far removed from the Ball or its sisters the other RCs, either on the ramp at Offutt or in the air in the AOR.
Colonel Jack D. Ward, Retired
"Cobra 4", Chief of Maintenance
Sept 86 – Sept 87

Richard A. Goodman
Fri, Feb 12, 2010, 9:08pm

I was an Airman maybe a Sgt. back then @ Eilsen working on F-106's.  I went up in an Kc-135 looking for the plane.  Never did know about the plane but just wanted to help.  I remember seeing KC-135 coming back to base with salt spray all over them.  Thank you for the story, I have been looking for the plane for awhile.

Richard A. Goodman
SSgt. USAF, 1972

Joe Einig
Mon, Feb 15, 2010, 12:14pm

Just read the web site.  I was the ET on crew E16 on both 663 and 664 from 1976 to 1978. That was one of the best jobs I've ever had during my 20 years in the service. Found this picture of 663 on the web.

Joe Einig
Click Here for 663 photo.

Kevin Arcano
Tue, Mar 2, 2010, 10:10am (CST+1)

Hello my name is Kevin Arcano. My Uncle Douglas Arcano was on the Rivet Amber on June 5 1969. My Grandmother was Sara Arcano ( Doug's mother ) and my Grandfather was Nick Arcano Sr. I am just writing to you to acknowledge what a wonderful job you have done on this web site. Both of Uncle Dougie's parents have past but before Sara did, I was able to show here some of the web site. She was a little emotional and still was feeling the loss of her son but she did say that it helped with some "closure". It did my heart good to see her show interest in this site, enough that she wrote it down and started to give it out to the rest of the family. I am not sure if some of my other family members have tried to contact you? If they have or have not I personally would like to thank you for doing such a thorough job in the explanation of who, what and where.

Kevin Arcano , nephew to Sgt Douglas Arcano

Gerald Walker
Sat, Mar 13, 2010, 5:27pm (CST+1)

Hi King,
I came across the picture of aircraft 62-4137 when was with MATS. Since it later became RC-135E RIVET AMBER thought you and the recon history folks might like to have it.

I flew with the 82SRS at Kadena from '69-'72 and then assigned to the SRC for 4 years.

Thanks for all your recon history work.

Gerald Walker

Click Here for photo.

Wayne A. Robins
Mon, Mar 22, 2010, 5:38am

Mr. Hawes
My name is Wayne Robins and I was stationed at Eielson AFB with the 6985th ESS from 1982 to 1984 as an Airborne Maintenance Technician flying on the Cobra Ball (aircraft 663). My very first flight was April 18 1982.  I have a Cobra Ball patch given to me by another AMT named Marcus Forbes. That patch is one of my most treasured in my collection.  I was on the mission (returning back to Shemya on 663) on 1 September 1983 when KAL 007 was shot down.  As I remember the Navigator called out an aircraft flying passed our right wing and I and my student looked out the window by the crew rest seats in the aft of the airplane and thought we saw navigation lights pass us by. We didn't know the extent of what happened till we landed and our AMS told us what happened.  I enjoyed the read!! Glad to be a part of the mission! I retired in 2000 and now work at the plant in Greenville Tx. I started as a Test Engineer and one of the first planes that I helped work on was 663.  Brought back a lot of memories!

Thanks Again
Wayne A. Robins MSgt USAF (Ret)

Jim Sleezer
Wed, Apr 28, 2010, 4:40pm

I just discovered your website.  I've wondered about things ever since I saw a couple of paragraphs in the Milwaukee Sentinel in June 1969.  One of my planes was missing and that's about all I knew until today.

I'm not sure what made me do a Google search today but I'm glad I did.  Great site. 
I arrived at Eielson AFB December 31, 1965 and spent my first "tour" on Shemya the three weeks before Wanda Belle went off station for repairs and modifications in 1967.  I loved the rock and when Rivet Ball returned three months later, I volunteered to spend the rest of my time in Alaska doing two or three week rotations to "APO Seattle 98737."  When Amber arrived, I flip-flopped between Amber and Ball and an occasional week at Eielson.  I deployed with the bird to Johnson Island in May-June 1967 and never returned to Shemya.  Soon after returning to Eielson, I left the 6985th to return to college.   

I cut the original stencil for the witch silhouette on Page 10.  It was first applied to Ball.  Soon after we stenciled a moon to indicate success we were directed to remove them as they could provide classified information!  My patch had a much more shapely witch.  

Jim Sleezer, most commonly called "SLEEZ," aka Lucy, aka Spook 1.

Jenny Wonders
Wed, May 26, 2010, 8:21pm (CDT-2)

My Dearest Friend King,
Once again we are here. Another year older and another year missing our loved ones. I am so happy how you have taken your site to new "places". I love every bit of it! You have found your nitch and your passion to continue giving to the military and then some and that makes me sooo happy. I truly still believe in my heart of hearts that Dad reached out from the grave and picked "YOU" for a reason to help me. It was GOD's wish to share this many, many tales and stories...and he needed a good and truthful man to do it....and that was you. GOD BLESS YOU MY FRIEND AND MANY MORE

P.S. And God Bless to all my Amber you lots!

Steve Bender
Tue, Jun 29, 2010, 10:49pm (CDT+1)

Mr. Hawes,
Thank you for such a wonderful website. I was a crew chief and served with the 6SRW out of Eielson (88-91), and was given the Cobra Ball assignment almost immediately upon my arrival. I rotated in and out of Shemya on many occasions for two-week trips. Alert, Klaxon, Launch, Recover. I still remember burning a batch of brownies in the oven due to that damn Klaxon - and I only had one box. I often wondered what happened to Shemya, 2662, 2663, and 4128. It's good to know they are still flying. Your website also enlightened me on the history of the program. I heard of Rivet Ball and Rivet Amber, but never got the full story about them.

I was wondering if the Cobra Balls and Eye still have their nose art (Island Girl)? Darby Perrin requested and received permission back around the late 80s to decorate them. He did a good job, and I wonder if the USAF painted over it. I believe Mr. Perrin also had a hand in designing the 6SRW patch with the pirate on top. Here is a link to his "Art Gallery." You may need to copy and paste it.!3F!1B!0F007B987787/KingdonPhotography/TheArtGallery/  

Thanks again for putting together the presenting the history of this awesome program that I was privileged to be a part of during the Cold War.
Steve Bender
Eielson AFB
1/88 - 7/91

David V. Tiffany
Sun, Jul 18, 2010, 3:12pm

I hope it's not too late to make an entry in the guestbook.  In one of life's ironic twists, Harry and I were roommates with SSgt Charles A. Brown in Omaha in 1978.  Charlie left to go bootstrap (later a Major assigned to NASA).  Both Harry and I had follow-on assignments to Eielson AFB, but I opted to transfer to the reserves to go to college and law school.  On St Patrick's Day 1981, I was crushed by the news of Harry's death, during my first year of law school.  Harry and Charlie had introduced me to Star Wars – the number 1 movie in 1977. Harry was an absolute character, an avid stamp collector, and he and I would sit around on days off, working on our collections and arguing constantly. Every St Pat's Day, I remember Harry, and miss him.  My wife has heard tales of Harry for almost 30 years now.  I am grateful to Stan Vandiver for the photos – now I can finally show Harry to my wife.

Thank you for the memorial.

David V. Tiffany
Criminal Prosecutor, Johnson County Attorneys Office, Iowa City, Iowa.

Jerry M Agan Sr
Sat, Jul 24, 2010, 11:03pm (CDT+1)

I was station on Adak from April 1963-April 1964. That was my first duty station right out of boot camp. I got out in 1966 after two tours to Nam and then went back to active duty in Nov 1973 and retired in Jan 1990 as a BTC (E-7).
I live in Elizabethton Tn and am also retired from the VA at Johnson City Tn.

Jerry M Agan Sr
240 Hart Road
Elizabethton, Tn 37643

Al Reyer
Tue, Aug 10, 2010, 3:03pm (CDT+1)

I was a maintenance officer at Eielson AFB from 1974 to 1978. I remember well the support we provided to Cobra Balls I and II. We did phase inspections on them whenever due, and of course recovered and placed them on alert whenever they weather diverted from Shemya. Every morning when I went to work, I would wonder if the ball had landed during the night. I remember going out to Shemya for a week in 1976 or 1977 (Paul Martin was the CC out there). When we landed, it was a gorgeous day, with temps in the high 60s and no wind. The next day, it was cold, with 70 mph winds. What a place. Great website and great remembrance to the crew members who served and to those that perished out there.  

Al Reyer, Lt Col (Ret)

Charles Fleming
Wed, Sep 1, 2010, 9:25pm

My name is Charles Fleming of Collector's Airmodel Company in Fort Worth, Texas. I was doing some research on the "Cobra Ball" aircraft (I'm building one for a customer) when I ran across your website; I remembered this website as I visited it when I was building the "Rivet Amber" model for Mr. O'Neal!  I wondered what had happened to the model, and lo and behold, I saw the pictures of the model in your display!  Outstanding!  I remember that Mr. O'Neal said he'd probably donate the model one day, but I didn't know he'd actually donated it.  Please take GOOD CARE of it!  It took a LOT of research and labor to make that model from a "plain-jane" KC-135, and I really didn't charge enough for it!  I told Mr. O'Neal that he got a GREAT deal on it; the next one would cost much more!  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or if you want another one or a model of any of the "Cobra" series of 135s!

Charles Fleming

Webmaster NOTE: Click Here and view Charles Fleming's 1/72 scale model of Rivet Amber.

Kingdon R. Hawes (Webmaster)
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