Chris Coffman
Thu, Dec 21, 2006, 7:56am (CST+1)

I was a "Secret Squirrel" from 82-92.  Eielson was my first duty assignment.  Thanks for preserving the history.

Christopher B. Coffman
Independent Business Owner
"Failure is not the opposite of success.  Failure is an integral part of success.  The opposite of success is quitting." - John C. Maxwell

No Name
Sun, Jan 14, 2007, 6:35pm (CST+1)

For anyone who went through DLIWC, I have up over a thousand images of the Monterey Peninsula for your viewing pleasure.
Plus there are a whole bunch of other images more or less relating to the USAFSS experience on Kadena, Okinawa.

Toby Wintersteen
Sun, Jan 28, 2007, 4:55pm (CST+1)

Dear King
Thanks for sharing your experiences.
I had heard a bit about Shemya from some of my fellow Army Security Agency friends. Bleaker than they said..........
NSA has a memorial in their National Cryptologic Museum at Ft Meade. I checked for one name on your River Amber list and found it, I didn't check for the others.
Wishing you health and happiness.

Thanks for your service.
Toby Wintersteen

Leavenworth Sr, William P
Thu, Feb 22, 2007, 2:22pm

King, great website- "riveting" reading. Blessings to all you Cold War warriors, especially to families who lost loved ones.

Bill Leavenworth
LM Aerospace

Art Lubben
Wed, Feb 28, 2007, 11:48am (CST-2)


Thank you so much for your web pages and your history of your service on Shemya.

I was assigned to 16th Surv. Sq. (ADC) from 8/68 to 8/69 and well remember your flights on and off the island.

The loss of Rivet Amber was a very sorrowful time as I had met and was please to call one of the crew members a friend during his lay-overs.

God bless,

Art Lubben
SSgt, USAF, 1965-1969

Ken Wondra
Tue, Mar 13, 2007, 6:01pm

Having been stationed at Eielson from 67-73 as a radar tech with the 6th your site brought back many memories. I remember the loss of Amber quite well. I think everyone on base volunteered to fly on the search missions. The volunteering of 6th maintenance troops had to be stopped when it was discovered there were no hydraulic troops to respond to a problem on one of the many tankers there at the time or so the story went as I recall. I have no idea how many TDY aircraft we ended up with but it was a considerable number. We were in the middle of a Giant Lance exercise at the time so had extra tankers and TDY troops assigned. In the radar shop we had half a dozen or so techs from March AFB assigned. Their help was sure appreciated. Would have been very difficult to keep up with the number of sorties launched each day with just the 12 of us. I seem to recall that tankers still rotated in but none ever left. Additionally there were a couple of Big Team planes from Offutt flying the missions. I also remember that every RC launched was accompanied by at least two tankers and often three.

I managed a couple of trips to the rock.  Shemya was the only place I've ever been where you couldn't see ten feet because of the fog and the wind was blowing near gale force. Went out with 664 on its first deployment. It developed a fuel leak and returned to Eielson. That left us with double the manning and nothing much to do. I remember the living conditions in 664's hanger weren't as nice as they were in the main hanger. Sparse to say the least not that they were extravagant in the other hanger. The thing I hated the worse was the hanger door warning horn. It sounded very much like the alert klaxon just not quite as loud. Every time someone moved those doors and I was somewhere other than the hanger floor, the adrenalin rushed and there was no place for it to go.

I never knew the Whales filled in for us during the dark days of 69. Interesting.

Ken Wondra

Mark A. Allsbrook
Sat, Mar 24, 2007, 5:47pm (CDT+5)

Finding this site was by chance, reseaching information to comlete a term paper on the Cold War.  As I entered my subject matter months ago for approval my thoughts were of the time I spent at Shemya, AFB. AK. (Treaty Varification) as a Photog and Elint Tech on Cobra Ball and Cobra Eye as a Staff Sergeant in the 24th SRS (86-91).  I had heard of the history "Amber" and "Ball" but never so much and so complete!  You have done Justice to the crews and the "Remembered Lost"  Thank You! Time well spent!
Mark A. Allsbrook

Bert & Exie Schlossberg
Thu, Apr 12, 2007, 12:14am (CDT+8)

Thank you, King, for your information and the really heart warming (as well as heart rending) accounts of the people involved. I was  particularly touched by the Rivet Amber write–up, as well as by the guest entries. As you know, I too lost family members on a flight – KAL 007. Would it be possible to request help from the RC-135 "followers"?. If any of you could share your thoughts or personal experiences in relationship to the crew and the flight of the RC-135 that was on mission off Kamchatka on September 1,. 1983, the night that KAL 007 was shot down, please let me know (contact address listed on our website address below).

Thank you!
Bert Schlossberg

International Committee for the Rescue of KAL 007 Survivors

Jeff Denham
Tue, Apr 10, 2007, 9:24pm (CDT-2)

My dad retired in 1980. He had been station on Shemya for 13 months though I don't know the year(s). He retired a Master SGT. He was a mechanic on the Cobra Ball I believe. His name was Carl Denham but went by "Pete". He told me about having to go on flights, but once the camera work started, he wasn't allowed to be around, so he had to hang out in a small room or something until the camera work was done. He passed away in 2003 and this is the first that I have really read about these planes. All I really knew was what he told me when I was young.


Patty Dodds Younglove
Thu, Apr 19, 2007, 2:59pm (CDT+1)

Mr. Hawes,
My name is Patty Dodds Younglove, oldest daughter of Tom "Short Round" Dodds. I became aware of your site over a year ago and have checked back and read it time and time again since then. It is an amazing piece of work, and my father thought so too. He spoke of you all often, and I was able to meet Art Reid again when he came to visit my parents last year. My dad enjoyed the time he spent with the team at Shemya. Mom just received the most recent edition of "Gaslight" and the tribute to my dad was just wonderful. Thank you so much for being a part of his life, and ours.

Patty Dodds Younglove

Finley, Glenn D
Tue, May 1, 2007, 1:37pm (CDT+1)

6949th USAFSS 1967-1968 .....Airborne Russian at Lackland, Skytop Syracuse Univ, Goodfellow, Fairchild 1965-1966

Craig Thompson
Sat, May 12, 2007, 7:47am (CDT+5)

Dear Sir,
Thanks for your brave service and the remarkable history lesson of what it was like to fly back in "the day". I was aircrew on RJ out of of Okinawa from 1991 to 1995...a much more peaceful time. I often heard second-hand stories from veteran crew members about what it was like to live and work out of Shimya. It seemed like another planet to me at the time.  Perhaps that is what it seemed like being there too. Although our missions were quite different, I feel the airframe and the love of what we did is the connection. Thanks again for putting together a great website.

Craig Thompson

Calvin Romrell
Tue, May 15, 2007, 11:29pm

I served in the 6 SW from 1983 - 1987.  I flew with several folks that servived the Cobra Ball II crash.  I remember after that experience they were white nuckle fliers.  I totaled a years worth of TDY on Shemya during my 6 SW assignment.  I was on Shemya on 25 Feb 1985 when we were called into the briefing room and told that the TC-135 had crashed at Valdez Alaska.  I was close to those that died and have vowed never to forget.  I can find very little on the web related to that crash.
Thank you for your site.  The years have fogged my memory of that time.  I am very proud of those years and am very glad they are over.  I ran into one of my aircraft commanders several years ago.  He said of the time on Sheyma, "them were the bad old days."  That was true for many of us, but our missions were very successful and important to the Cold War effort.  I would enjoy hearing from any I served with from the 6 SW.
Calvin J. Romrell

Craig Simeroth
Wed, May 16, 2007, 7:04pm (CDT-2)

Just wondering if you have thought of starting a memorial page for those Airmen no longer with us. My father, Bill Simeroth was on the crew of the Nancy Rae. He passed away March 1, 2007.

Jen Wonders
Tue, Jun 5, 2007, 6:02am (CDT-2)

Well once again June 5 has arrived upon us.  Just wanted to say God Bless to all the wonderful men who have been there for me over the past few years and to all the surviving children of Amber.  You are still greatly missed Dad.
Jen Wonders

Forever Riding Free in The Wind

JC Mcmillian
Fri, Jul 20, 2007, 3:55pm

Thank you for this website and the data that you have provided. I looked at this info before but have never "signed" the guestbook.

I am an original crewmember of Rivet Amber and an In-flight Maintenance Technician (IMT) on the RC-135 C's for several years. I then became a "SAC Headquarters Flunky" for five years working with the RC-135s (All Models), SR-71's & U-2's from a logistics stand point. I developed the "Rivet Joint Maintenance Concept" and worked closely with its development. I thoroughly enjoyed my USAF career and all of the people that I worked with.

James C. McMillan, CMSGT Ret.
P.O. Box 24
Roanoke, LA 70581

Robert Schornick
Sat 04 Aug 2007 21:25:18.0977 (UTC)

Thank you for telling the story of Rivet Amber. I served with SSgt Robert Fox at Offutt AFB. He was a friend and mentor. We were never told what happened to their aircraft, only that it disappeared into the Bering Sea.
I have often wondered what happened to SSgt Fox. Thank you again for telling their story and answering some of the questions I have had all these many years.

Robert Schornick

Elaine Taub
Thu, Aug 9, 2007, 8:43pm (CDT+1)

Hi Kingdon,
I'm "Ironhorselady" off the site.  I was enjoying the Park Ridge talk when I clicked on the link to your Cold War story.  Wow!  Really nicely done and tremendously interesting, although I haven't finished reading it all and won't have time tonight.  Not only will I come back to it, but I'm sharing it with my boyfriend (RaftGyde on the forum), my older son (private pilot), son-in-law (commercial pilot), 15 yr-old-son (because he needs the education) and also the husband of a friend of mine, Mark Hansen.  Mark's also a Lt. Colonel who was Air Force, went commercial and now back & forth between Nat'l Guard and Homeland Security.  Mark recently finished training on an F-22 and, I believe, one of only about 105 pilots that have flown this plane.  On a fun note, he's done the fly-by at the Richmond Nascar races a few times over the last few years.  Sadly, he just told his wife that he was leaving for awhile and couldn't tell her where to.  I hate that part!!  I guess you understand it.
Thank you for having served our country!  And in such a huge way!  I'm always proud to say my dad was a WWII veteran. . .
My pleasure to meet you,
Elaine Taub

Doug Kasemeier
Tue, Aug 21, 2007, 7:27pm (CDT-2)

I was a small part of the operation there, as Jim Brady's co-pilot from 1969 - 1972.  Your documentation brings back many memories from the past. What a great tribute to the operation, and all that served there. Thanks!

Douglas G. Kasemeier

John Biggs
Tue, Aug 21, 2007, 10:30pm (CDT+1)

Dear Mr Hawes,
I very much enjoyed your site regarding your time and involvement at Shemya AFB. I too was part of the Cobra Ball Operation. I was stationed there from Dec 80 to Nov 81 as the Chief of Maintenance. I went through the sadness of the crash of 61-2664 and all that followed. It was a terrible time for a group with such pride in what we were doing.  
Our Det Commander was Lt. Col William O. West and that fateful night will remain in our memory forever. You have done a great service to those comrads of yours from those days and I'm sure they are proud of how you immortalized them. To often, those who secretly help keep the peace are forgotten.
Thanks Again,
John E. Biggs, Capt USAF, Ret

Steve Hiott
Sept. 9, 2007 7:49:58 PM CDT

Part of my previous guestbook entry (#218 on Page #6) was accidentally deleted by website host/server

I really can't remember what I wrote but I can still recall a lot of what being stationed at Shemya was like, even after so many years. I remember processing in at Eielson AFB and getting on my first flight out to the Rock. It was something never to be forgotten seeing the base for the first time. The weather was something words cannot rightly describe, one can only have experienced it to fully appreciate what life was back then. I can tell you that the people stationed there and the TDY folks who rotated in and out made it one of the best assignments of my career. No where else did the Flight crew, ops, weather and maintainers live as one extended family. I guess that is why the crash of 61-2664 still brings back vivid memories. I lived in hanger two with my aircraft, worked and played with the crews and all the others for a year. On the day of the accident TSGT Martin (Marty) (who was crew chief on 61-2663, which was gone to Greenville had arrived ahead of the Ball (We took turns taking the aircraft to the lower 48 for wash and phase at Eielson). Marty and I were notified that 664 was inbound so we were standing outside of the hanger doors waiting and watching when the Ball came over head but all we could make out was the lights from the landing gear as it went around. A second time resulted in another missed approach. We were told that they were attempting the third and last approach so we went back out again. As we were standing there Marty said "here they come" I said "that's not them, that's a truck on the dirt road" a few second later I realized that he was right and it was them. I remember saying, they are too low way too low. I can still remember the acft coming down the runway with flames coming out of the right side (I couldn't see where it was coming from because we were on the opposite side) at that moment I did not realize that the aircraft had impacted the approach lights and the cliff, losing its landing gear and the right two engines. I thought that it had shelled out an engine. about the time the aircraft reached a point almost across from us it veered to the right going off the embankment. As it started going over, the fuselage aft broke taking the tail with it. As the broke end of the fuselage faced me going over all I could see was a vortex of fire in the broke end. I felt that the crew were all gone and felt horrified. People started running out to the runway and when we arrived we saw crew members coming up from various places staggering in the snow and strong wind. We started helping the ones we could find to the bus that had pulled up and started looking for more survivors. Some people went down to the other side of the aircraft and some on the runway side. I was close to the aircraft when the first explosion took place. Let me tell you truthfully, I thought that I was dead too! Pieces of the airplane were falling all around me but not one piece hit me. A few minutes later another explosion came with the same results. By then I was so tired I was gagging for breath and a pickup stopped and someone told me to get in. I crawled in the floor and was taken to the hanger were I collapsed just inside the hanger doors. When I could walk again I went to the OPS room where the survivors were and remember the tears and anguish of the survivors and the people who watched the accident. The next few days were solum as the search for the missing continued. The memory of the honor guard standing in the howling wind on the ramp at Shemya as six coffins were loaded in a C-130 to be sent back to the families was one of the saddest days of my life. I was two weeks away from rotating back to the states and every time I came out of my room and went into the hanger I had to pass all the pieces of 664 that had been collected and laid out on the hanger floor. I left two weeks later and returned to Charleston but I never forgot the year at Shemya and I still get angry when people who are fat dumb and happy don't appreciate the hardships and sacrifices that were made behind the scenes during the Cold War. We still have dedicated folks doing the same things now and I for one salute them and support them. I also appreciate people like King that take the time, effort and expense to not let them be forgotten. Thank you for listening to my story

Steve Hiott

David Vargo
Mon, Sep 17, 2007, 2:37pm

I was on shemya from April 1980 to April 1981 and was a first responder with the Security Police when the Ball went down I used my truck to transport medical personnel to and from the crash site and gave comfort to injured crew members at the clinic. The events of that night will be with me forever.

Dave Vargo 5073rd Security Police

Timothy L. Marlin
Fri, Oct 5, 2007, 9:03am


I've kept coming back to your site time after time, and always discover things I missed on previous viewings.

Having the honor of actually being on Shemya myself, the things I've read before and since my time there have much greater meaning to me.

As I walked the same turf, though many years departed from all of you honorable men, I felt a sense of great pride in your service and sacrifices.

Only those who served in one of our Countries varied "Special Ops" would understand. {Myself:  6 years Marine Corps, 20 years Army}  I retired from service in 1996.

I pray that when we have all gone to our rewards, that someone will take up the task to continue to keep all our stories alive.

Thank you for all you do,
Warmest Regards,
Timothy L Marlin
Systems Design Analyst/OPSEC
GMD, Program Protection & Security
(256) 461-2145

Richard J. Arcano
Thu, Oct 11, 2007, 12:20pm (CDT-2)

My name is Richard J. Arcano. On June 5, 1969, our family had gathered at my Uncle Nick's (Doug's father) home to begin the mourning process for mine and Doug's Grandfather who died earlier that day. It wasn't until the next mourning when an Air Force Officer knocked on the door and delivered the devastating news that Douglas was missing along with the other crew members of the Rivet Amber.

For years, Doug's mother Sara lived with the uncertainty of Douglas' fate and to a lesser extent so did the rest of our family. At first, we had hopes that the crew would be found safe and uninjured or maybe they strayed into Russian territory and were forced to land in Russia and were being held captive. When the Cold War ended the last bit of hope we had also ended.

Thank you for the true story of the fate of the Rivet Amber and its crew.

Pomeroy Terry R Ctr GCIC/MI
30 Nov 2007 13:28:24.0530 (UTC)

I "stumbled" on your web site during a flurry of e-mails between Cobra Ball/Cobra Eye veterans from the late eighties and early nineties. This site is terrific. It brought back a lot of memories from the "Rock" and filled in a lot of blanks for me on the much unappreciated history of one of the most important missions the US military performed during the Cold War.
 Terry Pomeroy, Col, USAF (Ret)
Commander 24 SRS, 6 SRW, Eielson AFB AK, Jan 1992 to July 1992
Commander 24 RS, 55 SW, Offutt AFB NE, July 1992 to Sept 1994

Fri, Dec 7, 2007, 7:33pm (CST-2)

Hello Col. Hawes,
My name is Mike Wallace.  I was assigned to Shemya from September 1966, thru August 1967.  My work was with the USAFSS, and I held the position of Surveillance and Warning Supervisor as well as the Air Force non-Morse participant of the AAFJOG POI (Period of Interest) team. We worked very closely with the crews of the Det. 1.

Your Rivet Amber and Rivet Ball production is outstanding.  It certainly brought back vivid memories of some of the incidents that you presented.  There were some great moments and huge sucesses.

I had the good fortune to attend some of the debriefings with your air crews that were held in the secure area.  There were some great takes on some new hardware into the impact area.  There were some humerous instances as well.  For instance, the time when we told your a/c (via secure ground to air comm) that, when they were on the North leg, 24 TU-16's were coming down from exercises straight into the Rivet team, at night, at the same"reported" altitude, and the tracks merged...The lead a/c commander announced the the "Russian SOBs pulled on their landing lights first!"

We had many long watches when your guys and other USAF and Navy recconaissance missions were flying over and down to Shemya and Yokota.  Exciting times! Lots of stories about Shem.

Thanks for putting your production together. A good friend of mine was a Raven in the 135 series told me about this web site.

Only somebody that worked on the Black Pearl can understand how tough it was out there and also how vital and rewarding the mission was.

Thanks again!
Best Regards,
Mike Wallace

Jennifer Spencer
Fri, Dec 28, 2007, 8:24am (CST-2)

Thanks for the great website. I was stationed on Shemya from April 88-89 and knew many of the aircrew since I worked in weather. If anyone who was on the rock during that time sees this, I'd love to hear from you.

Jennifer Spencer (this is the email address to use)

Jenny Wonders
Thu, Jan 10, 2008, 10:02pm (CST-2)

WoW!  Your site still warms my heart and brings me close to Dad. You have done an outstanding job on telling the facts as you know them; but also given some peace to some of our hearts the best you can at the same time. You still continue to honor thy brother and your country........and beyond. God Bless you and yours and all of the Rivet Amber families. Thinking about all of you in this new year.
Jen Wonders

Norman Aabye
Wed, Jan 16, 2008, 10:33pm (CST-2)

Just found your site while looking through the list at Silent Warriors. What a great job you've done on archiving information about the 135's. I was on duty at Shemya (6984th Security Squadron), monitoring the mission when Rivet Amber went down. What a shock it was, after having just had the guys in the operations room before they left. I remember vividly when Rivet Ball went off the runway. I have some pictures (somewhere!) of the event and of myself standing inside the fuselage after everything was removed.

Although Shemya was severe, there was something about it that made it special. I've had some recent contact with men who served with me at that time, and the memories make it seem like yesterday. If I had to do it all over again, I'd do it in a minute!

Thanks again for the site.

Norm Aabye
Saegertown, PA
(Ssgt, USAFSS)

Elliott E. Fowler, Jr.
Tue, Jan 29, 2008, 11:10am

As a fellow Cold War US Navy flyer (Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean) I send my deepest thanks and regards to the veteran aviators and especially to the families and friends of those who gave their lives in service to our country during Cold War service in the far reaching corners (most unknown) of the world. We all tracked and followed the Soviet "Bear" Threat where ever it reared its threatening head.

We have all been slowly pushed aside by the unbelievers and the on rush of technology which has put the "eye in the sky" many miles up in satellites.

I'll close now as I feel the emotion swell inside.

Respectfully yours,

ADCS Elliott E. Fowler, Jr.  (P-2 Neptune/P-3 Orion FE)
(AW) (AC)

Rex W. Reynolds
Thu, Jan 31, 2008, 10:06pm (CST-2)

Greetings and Thank You,

God Bless you and your extended family for what you did for our country.

You don't need to include this (below) in the guest book.

Never served in the military but the Air Force has always been #1 in my eyes. Volunteered for 14 years in the Civil Air Patrol and practically lived @ WPAFB.

Never heard of your unit or your mission.

Rex W Reynolds
Jamestown, CA

Jim Gall
Tue, 4 Mar 2008 16:45:27 -0800 (PST)

Great website, thanks for the effort in putting this together. I was an ATS operator, the Raven 1 and 2 positions on the Ball from '85-'89. Spent 452 days on Shemya and flew 100 sorties into what we called "the sensitive area." Flew with some great guys but I won't ever miss the landings at Shemya!

Jim Gall, Electronic Warfare Officer

Duane Lorentzen
Thu, Mar 6, 2008, 3:37pm

Mr. Hawes:
Great site. Very informative. Lot of good photo's. Really enjoyed the trip.

Best Regards.
Al Lorentzen   (USAFSS - Intercept Radio Operator/
Shemya 1958

Daniel L Goulette
March 26, 2008 2:12:55 PM CDT
Hello to a fellow graduate of the University of Shemya!
My name is Dan Goulette, Capt, USAF Retired.  I was assigned to Shemya May 1978 to Jun 1979 as the detachment commander of Operating Location OLAA for the Foreign Technology Division at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH.  FTD is often remembered as the UFO Hunters and Project Blue Book.  Don't let the title impress you too much. There were only two of us in the detachment: a MSGT and myself!  We were the only two AF Systems Command personnel remote in the world.  We were attached to the 16SURS radar squadron that ran the NORAD COBRA DANE radar.  We were the "intell" officers that processed the post-mission collections of data from the phased-array radar and sent the data off to the lower 48 for futher processing.
When the balloon went up, I would get a tip off from the Security Service site called DoD Anders.  It was probably run by the Army ASA when you were there.  About that time your klaxon was going off and you guys would be zipping down the runway.  I had about 20 minutes to get to the site before we could pick up the mission.  We were able to detect the objects 3000 miles out.  Sometimes we would relay updates to COBRA BALL for final positioning for their money run for collection.  I did the same with the Observation Island (later COBRA JUDY) ship when she could hear us.
I thought you might want to know that all of RIVET BALL was NOT buried after the crash.  While I was on Shemya in 78 at least the cockpit portion of the plane was still off the side of the runway.  Sometime before I left it was finally buried because it did nothing for morale for incoming newbies to see a fellow RC in the ditch.  When COBRA BALL crashed in 81, I was gone, but most of the crew that died, was still there from my days on the Rock.  They used the chow hall cooler as the morgue.
When I first got to Shemya, COBRA BALL and COBRA DANE never got together very often and seldom talked.  Being a retread from the Security Service days flying RC121s, EC130s, and RC1335s in Viet Nam, I met an old friend of mine, Claude Nieghbour, who was flying the BALL. We were linguists: he was Russian and I was Vietnamese.  That was all it took.  We started briefing each other's organizations on our missions and discovered we could help each other.  I started attending post-mission briefings when they got back.  By that time I had already positively identified what the missile and mod were, how many war heads, and a rough guess on impact areas.  When new BALLers came to the island they always got a tour of the DANE where I would play back missions and explain the data to them.  They often asked if I tracked them when they were out there.  I told them no.  At 15 megawatts, it would basically fry the plane even at a couple of hundred miles.  We had algorthims that preclude tracking stuff under Mach 1.  I got to see lots of film too.  We were both close organizations after that. 
We would party together too when we could.  They were invited to come up the the radar's smoke house, next to Embony Cliff, cause we had all the women.  There were roughly 750 guys on the island and about 35 women.  The girls were quite popular and we always invited them to our parties at no charge - just show up.  We were able to do parties once our relationship with the BALL took place.  When Claude was in Eilisen, he would call and I would give him a commissary list of items to bring out on the rotator.  I had him get all the fixing for pizza, and we would make them from scratch.  Sometimes he would bring it out on a BALL plane.  Pretty impressive -  my backing up my International Harvester pickup to a $150M spy plane and getting pizza supplies.  But that is what it would take to survive out there.  Some of best AF memories are from there, and it was the most satisfying job I ever had in the AF.
Two other stories about the Rock.  You talked about moving the rocks from the northern side of the island and dropping them in the water south of the island.  We got that story too.  Another one was when you left the island you were suppose to take a 2-5lb rock with you to carry on the plane.  Once you got to Elmendorf, you could either throw it in a trash bin or take it to your next assignment.  The reasoning behind all this, was: eventually enough people would take enough rocks off the island that it would get too small for anyone to live there anymore.  Secondly, there was a sign just outside base ops at the runway that said:  "SHEMYA, it is not the end of the world..... but you can see it from here."
Another enterprising Lt from the radar squadron was also a retread.  We got along fine.  We were always doing something crazy to improve morale.  The million dollar dump was our favorite place.  We found brand new ranch oak furniture still in the boxes.  We took it up to the smoke house and got rid of the old 50s chrome furniture.  Gave a bunch of it to the BALLers too, so that they could take it back to Eilsen for their base housing.  Caught hell for that.  We found a P-38 buried in the dump and used the base back hoe to dig most of it up before we got caught.  Caught hell for that too.  Also found a huge artillery piece (not those skinny AA guns) and tried  hauling it up to the smoke house as a lawn ornament, but burned up the transmission on the truck.  Caught hell for that too. We found an underground command post from WWII, but it was flooded.  We "borrowed" the base fire pumper to pump it out, but got caught.  Caught hell for that too. Gave the BALLers some extra oxygen/acteline torch kits and tanks we had in exchange for incoming plywood.  It was interesting when the base supply officer went down to the runway to arrest a SAC crew for stealing the stuff.  Only problem was that the stuff was abandoned outdoors and just rusting away.  The solution to all this "bartering" was to put the dump off limits to avoid further government waste & abuse.  Nearly got arrested and courtmartial for that one, but the prosecutor said he was not going to jeapordize his career prosecuting us for stealing a cubic yard of land fill.  We still made midnight runs when we needed stuff.
Glass balls were still around in the 70s but getting scarce. Most fishing boats were using nylon or aluminum balls.... still a good find.  We took a ship out to Alaid? Island about 10 miles west where our radar had a far-field calibartion dish.  It had to be inspected once a year for damage, so we volunteered to go over to check it.  After crashing threw summer tundra growth, we finally got to it.  On the way back we detoured up a slope where we knew a B-24 had crashed in WWII.  It was still there, but the fog rolled in and we were afraid we would get lost, so we headed back to the ship.
There were still Coast Guard people on Attu maintaining the TACAN site, when we were there.  Every once in a while one or two would come over on Reeves Aleutian Airlines for a few days to shop at our Macys BX.  They looked like country bumpkins in the big city... especially when they saw we had WOMEN. Reeves would fly us over to Attu for a few days for salmon hunting (no poles, hooks, or nets - just baseball bats).  We were allow to bring back about 200lbs each.  Since we had no charcoal, we burned pallets (ash wood) and yes, ranch oak furniture for our smokers.
So all in all, you can see I had a miserable time for my 13 months there. It was suppose to be 12 months but my replacement never showed up.  Would love to go back again and look around and talk to people.  I understand there are more missions there now but fewer people.  It would be interesting to exchange stories.  Thanks for the impressive web site of the earlier days.  I alway wondered about that period, now I know.

Roy L Carter
Fri, Apr 4, 2008, 5:00pm (CDT+1)

Roy L Carter. SRA
Eielson.AFB 1994-1997
I was a POL troop refueled many Rc's at Eielson.
RIP Amber crew.

Boyd Sutton
Sun, May 18, 2008, 9:15pm

From a long-time customer of what you did, many thanks. You made a huge difference.

B. Sutton

Jack Harris
Tue, May 27, 2008, 7:51pm (CDT-1)

In 1970, I went the front end crew to E-Systems at Greenville to pickup 61-664 and spent time at the Rock on it quite a few times and back at Eielson I crewed one of the RC-135D models (60-357). Before that I recovered tankers TDY to Eielson and when Amber was lost we turned tankers around even faster than we did for the exercise that was going on at the time. That was one of the reasons I wanted to transfer to the Recon Branch.

Next month my wife and I are going back to Alaska, and also visit the memorial at Offuitt. I think your web site is fantastic and I read it over and over. I would be honored if you could take a look at the web site we have started for our trip up and back.

Thanks, Jack Harris
Msgt. USAF (Ret.)

Jenny Wonders
Thu, Jun 5, 2008, 12:45am (CDT-2)

40 years later and still wishing he would show up on my doorstep. God Bless all the surviving family members and all the great surviving "military family" as well.

Bob Anderson
Wed, Jun 18, 2008, 9:25pm


Words fail as I look at the site. I have searched for years to find any mark of our existence and I just found your site today.  Memories exploded and I am very grateful for all the work you did to create this site.  It is a wonderful tribute and very fitting for some of the finest who served their country. I searched in vain for photos of my aircraft but did not see it. If you are looking for some additions, let me know and I can send you some from the 1974 timeframe.

I served with the 6985th Security Squadron in 1974 as a photographer and spent a little time out on Shemya. I had the highest respect for the great men who flew out of there under very difficult conditions. I remember working with and reviewing the unbelievable footage captured on the missions and still find it hard to believe we could do what was done even today.

Please find a way to keep this site alive into the far future as a memorial to great heroes.
Thank you!
Bob Anderson

Stan Vandiver
Fri, Jul 4, 2008, 12:26pm

Hi King,
First, thank you for creating your outstanding tribute website at! It is very comprehensive, and I know from reading the Guestbook entries that it means very much to people who discover it on the WWW.

I really appreciate reading the recollections (and seeing the photos) of Kerry Crooks and Steve Hiott concerning the Cobra Ball crash in 1981. One of those killed that day, SSgt. Harry Parsons, was my first Air Force roommate after bootcamp, at the Presidio Of Monterey language school.

This was in 1978... Harry was a Russian linguist and was there for intermediate training. I was there for basic Korean. Though my own memories are dimmed by the years, I remember that Harry was a great guy and a good roommate. I especially remember that he had a passion for the role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, which we often played together. I don't remember exactly when he left Monterey, or if his next assignment was direct to Shemya. But I do remember sadly reading his name as among those killed while I was assigned to the 6903rd ESS (Skivvy Nine) at Osan AB, Korea.

I have a number of faded pictures in an old album, but I was able to find my original negatives and scanned some of what I thought were the best pics of Harry. I would be honored if you would post any or all of them on your Cobra Ball II Memorial page. I put them in a 2.5 MB ZIP file ( There are 6 pictures with 6 "thumbnails"... all are very high resolution but the filesize is reasonable because the negative image is physically small. They should look pretty good on a computer as is, but the high resolution will also allow decent prints if enlarged. Different web browsers view, zoom, and print differently though, so I find it is usually better to use a true graphics program for printing. You are free to re-size or re-scale these pictures... or to manipulate them otherwise to suit your needs, if you choose to use them. Or I will also gladly make changes if you want.

Very best regards,
Stan Vandiver
Hanna, IN

Budd Rice
July 13, 2008 7:01:04 CDT

Background information.

My name is Budd Rice. I worked for Hughes Aircraft and was lead Engineer of the Hughes Rivet Amber (Lisa Ann) (Project 863) maintenance teams (2). Hughes named the program Project 863 because the contract was signed in August (8) of 1963 thus 863.

Hughes' other team, headed by Dick Maddux,  had relieved  us in March 1969 and our team was to rotate back to Shemya the week Rivet Amber went missing. It was Dick Maddux and Bob Kubo who attended the Accident Review meetings as the representative for Hughes. Dick passed away several years ago from prostate cancer. Somewhere I have the Hughes logs and if I can find them I will forward them to you, if you would like them. I will also send you the pictures that I have, again if you would like to have them. The picture that is attached to this e-mail is the one I  have hanging on my office wall. We provided all the radar maintenance crews and EW Officers with  the Hughes Snoopy patches designed by Logan Delp. I only have one left out of the 300 ordered. 

For the Log

Budd Rice
Lead Engineer Hughes Project 863 (Lisa Ann/Rivet Amber) Shemya Support team (retired)
Seattle, WA

I thought I would google "Lisa Ann" to see what information the net had. What a surprise to find your site. Thank you for establishing the site to honor the crew of Rivet Amber who were lost and providing a history of an aircraft unknown to the general public. Congratulations!

I doubt that what the Air Force did in 1963 could be done today. From the signing of the contract in August 1963 the massive radar was designed, built, ground tested, delivered to LTV E-Systems (prime contractor) in Greenville, TX  and installed on the RC-135 in two years. Flight Test of the RC-135's, code named Lisa Ann, radar and associated modifications were completed and the aircraft delivered to SAC in 1966 at which time she became Rivet Amber. The impossible became possible.

Budd Rice
Hi Res - VHi Res

Bill Person
Wed, Jul 16, 2008, 10:35am

I was Capt. Bill Person, based at the 6986th RSG at Wakkanai AS, Japan from Sept 1963 to May 1965. We monitored the activities from Trackmaster and had a direct line to Shemya to alert them of pending ESV launches from Tyura Tam and ICBM launches from Kapustin Yar. I was on duty when we got word about the earthquake that at 5:36PM Alaskan time on Friday March 27th, 1964, which would have been 12:36 noon there the 28th, a Saturday. The quake had created a tidal wave that was proceeding out from the epicenter at well over thirty miles per hour, about 3 hours per hundred miles distance with a crest more than seven meters, over 20 feet high. I wrote this poem for the FTV effort.


To the Codebreakers toiling at the take
Of foreign voice and ditty chases.
For those who served behind the scenes
In far off secret places.

Their silence sworn by solemn oaths
To strive with vigil stealth
To fathom evil, hostile foes
No thoughts of praise or wealth.

This is the Syndrome of the labyrinth,
That eats one's pride away,
There is no fame for anything;
It is no game they play.

It's Freedom Through Vigilance,
Their stated creed, you see.
To serve our nation tried and true
The way it ought to be.

These are the loyal, silent few.
And because of their noble strife,
Their faithful trust, that has no end,
Shall preserve our way of life.

Their countrymen might never know
Of deeds they've done not told.
Without their part, no war is won,
The hot wars or the cold.

Bill Gwathney
Tue, Jul 22, 2008, 1:08pm (CDT+1)

My father is Earl W. Gwathney. He was a MSgt. and the senior ranking photog (Photo Technician) on Rivet Ball (Circa 1967-69). My father died in 1978, 2 years after retirement. I started researching his military background recently and came across the website that Mr. King Hawes has graciously created. I am very proud to learn of his teams accomplishments and would welcome feedback from anyone that knew my father. This website has been a breath of fresh air. A ton of history that families, friends, and strangers can all learn from. Thank you for taking the time and effort to pull this together.  

William L. Gwathney

Bill Maxwell
Sat, Aug 2, 2008, 9:56am (CDT+1)

Dear Sir:

Enjoyed viewing everyone's memories of "the Rock."  I scanned the list of folks who submitted inputs and saw Chuck Davenport's name.  I was assigned to the 24 SRS 80-84 and was one of the lucky survivors of the CB II (664) crash on the Ides of March (15 March 1981).  It was a fateful day and we lost some very good people (Bennett, Mayfield, Balcer, Parsons, Kish, Ginter).  An interesting note was that the flight on CB II was my Raven 4 checkride.  Bruce Carson was the evaluator.  One memory was Bruce turning his crew seat to face aft prior to landing, which was standard procedure in preparation for a rough, or in this case, a crash landing.  I looked and figured he knew something and so I faced my seat aft too!  A thing that lots of people don't know is when 664 struck the end of the runway, it completely sheered off the main landing gear and engines 3 and 4, creating an asymmetric (and unflyable) flight configuration.  We were so low during the approach we also struck approach light stanchions.  The second hand story I heard was the pilot attempted to push up the throttles thinking it was a go-around, but the co-pilot pulled them back, whereupon we struck the main runway a second time, then careened off the runway to the right into a culvert, doing a complete 180 degree turn.  If the part about the pilots is correct, I'm thankful to the copilot, because we would have wound up in the Bering Ocean due to the condition of the aircraft, and killing the whole lot of us (24).  The aft section of the airplane was weakened during this and broke off as the airplane came to rest.  Bruce preceeded me when we exited the right overwing hatch onto the wing which was on fire.  We jumped off the leading edge, ran up the enbankment to the crew bus that scrambled to the crash site.  Soon afterward there was a large "clap" as the fuel tanks ignited.  I looked and saw a mushroom cloud rise from the site.  The weather was bad and since the aircraft was off the runway in a ditch, the fire trucks could not get close enough to do any good.  I suffered smoke inhalation and was on the first evacuation flight to Elmendorf.  A P-3 from Adak provided transport.  My injuries were insignificant compared to some of the others.  15 years to the day after the crash I returned to Offutt for the dedication of the 664 monument currently placed in front of the 45 RS.  A few of the other survivors were there too, including Bill Van Horn, Rick Grove, Bruce Carson, etc.  I was reassigned in 84 to March AFB and got the word that the TC-135 (121) crashed at Valdez with Kent Seckman, John Davis, and Mike Manning onboard.  We lost more good people that day.  I'm glad I was able to share these memories and hope I see more folks from the 24 SRS add their thoughts too.  

Bill Maxwell, Lt Col, USAF (Ret)

Jacob Zimmerman
Thu, Aug 7, 2008, 1:50pm (CDT+1)

Thanks very much for your website 'A Tale of Two Airplanes.' I'm not a military man, much less aircrew; I'm just a part-time analyst. But I've long been fascinated with the Cobra Ball and Rivet Joint missions and programs, and reading of the daddy of those programs gives me an appreciation both of their contribution and of the sacrifices of their crew.

JB Zimmerman
J.B. Zimmerman | Sr. Systems Engineer |
Medidata Solutions Inc.
79 5th Ave 8th Floor
New York, NY 10003
| M: +1 (347) 482-1969

R.H. (Dick) Laughlin
Thu, Sep 11, 2008, 5:07pm

I just read your "A Tail of Two Airplanes"  It was great. I was a sub system engineer at LTV in the late 60's and worked on the Rivet Ball cameras when it came in for IRAN. Jack Tumas (who I assume you knew) was a friend of mine.
I am currently working on a proposal to the Missile Defense group at Kirkland and did not know what I could say about Rivet Ball so I did a Google search and found your site. I really enjoyed seeing an open publication and your prospective.     

R.H. (Dick) Laughlin
Optical Wireless d.b.a. DELTA IMAGE

Bobby Shaffer
Tue, Sep 23, 2008, 9:03pm (CDT+1)

I served my time there in the early 80's. I remember riding the "SAC TURN" and "Reever", explaining Shemya to someone not being in the military or "government work" is impossible. Of my 15 plus assignments this one is most remembered, because I met my, Yes, future wife.  

Bob "Doc" Shaffer

Carl Bruce Rideout
Mon, Oct 27, 2008, 9:00am (CDT+1)
Many thanks for the memories of what others did for our protection & future freedom!!

Carl Bruce Rideout
Suffolk, VA

Tom Martel
Email address deleted
Wed, Nov 26, 2008, 9:10pm (CST+1)

Dear Col. Hawes,
It has been a great pleasure (and an unexpectedly emotional experience) to review the great content on your Rivet Ball/Rivet Amber website.

The men who flew those missions, as well as those who worked hard to keep the equipment operational for the mission and safe for the crews, were among America's very finest. They represent the dedication to excellence, the creativity, and the can-do attitude that makes America "a light unto the world."

I'm 53 years old, sir, and I believe that the hard work, talent, professionalism, and willingness to sacrifice comfort and an easy life for our country of yourself and the others at Shemya made it possible for me and my generation to grow up safe, under the illusion that our future would be simple and free. What a great gift for us. It was, perhaps, wasted on some of us, but not all.

Very Truly Yours,
Tom Martel

Allan, Michael
Tue, Dec 16, 2008, 7:57pm

I too have my Shemya memories. Besides the flight line folklore told by flight and ground crews when on alert or just passing time I was fortunate enough to have been on the ramp at "The Rock" in that summer of 1995 to have my own story to tell my kids. We left our TDY station at Eielson bound for the "Black Pearl" I was excited and I remember the approach to the island and from my vantage point in the jump seat; the waves seemed to crash right onto the hammerhead. We were lucky that first day as weather was no issue; clear skies all around. I remember clinching my armrests with such a tight grip for dear life I probably left marks in them. We landed; and as we were prepping our KC-135A 61-0288 for strip alert; the weather shifts Shemya was known for appeared. It was June and there were mild temp's of about 50 degrees. The mercury plunged to the low 40's and a snow squall blew across the ramp. We thought OK; what's next? The foxes were busy and so were we. We cocked the airplane and went to our "accommodations" for the trip. Just like everyone had told us they were what we expected and more. We had a nice tour of the island by some "locals" and found it awesome. The dumps were calling me to explore them; but duty calls. We left "The Rock" under typical Shemya skies (there was no sky) low clouds and wind; just barely legal but we wanted to get the hell out of there before we too became a tale to be told by aircrews.

I really enjoyed your "Tale of Two Planes"  

Michael Allan
EC-135 Crew Chief
Ellsworth AFB 1981-1986
Michael D. Allan
Manufacturing Engineer
Pferd Advance Brush
W142 N9251 Fountain Blvd.
Menomonee Falls, WI 53051
Phone (262)255-3200 Ext. 281
Fax (262)255-2840

Kingdon R. Hawes (Webmaster)
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