This page, "Passages Through Time", and the two that follow provide a timeline of historical events that begin in 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland and ends with the most recent input for 2013. I also added a few personal events that had a major impact on me and my career along with some trivia. Since I was born in 1938, this entire timeline feels a little bit like a biography. I remember many if not all of these events when they happened. As the old saying goes..... "I must be getting old."


On 1 September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland and World War II began.

On 7 December 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor.

World War II

On 3 October 1942, NAZI Germany achieved its first successful test flight of a V-2 rocket.
"The rocket was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile and first known human artifact to achieve sub-orbital spaceflight. It was the progenitor of all modern rockets, including those used by the United States and Soviet Union space programs, which gained access to the scientists and designs through Operation Paperclip and Operation Osoaviakhim." Click Here for "WW II : RARE COLOR FILM : NAZI V2 ROCKET FACILITY" video.

V-2 Rocket

On 8 May 1945, (V-E Day) Nazi Germany surrendered to World War II Allies in Europe ending Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.

On 16 July 1945 at 05:29:45 local (Mtn. War Time), the United States successfully detonated the world's first atomic device (Trinity) on White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico. "The advent of nuclear weapons, made possible by the Manhattan Project, not only helped bring an end to the Second World War -- it ushered in the atomic age and determined how the next war, the Cold War, would be fought." Click Here for the history of nuclear weapons. Click Here for a time-lapse video of worldwide nuclear testing between 1945 and 1998.

Dawn of The Atomic Age

On 6 August 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb (Little Boy) on Japan (Hiroshima) during WWII.

on 14 August 1945, (V-J Day) at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time, President Harry Truman announced on national radio the unconditional surrender of Japan, effectively ending World War II.

On 29 August 1949, the Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear weapon (RDS-1, Operation First Lightning) at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan. It had an explosive yield of 22 kilotons, similar to the "Fat Man" atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.

On 8 April 1950, a US Navy PB4Y-2 Privateer with a crew of ten was shot down by four Soviet La-11 fighters over the Baltic Sea. Click Here for a list of "Aircraft Downed During the Cold War and Thereafter."

On 25 June 1950, the Korean War started.

On 1 November 1952 at 07:15 A.M., the United States successfully tested a fusion device aka hydrogen bomb (Codename: Ivy Mike) on the Pacific island of Elugelab, part of the Enewetak atoll.

On 27 July 1953, the Korean War ended with the signing of an armistice.

On 12 August 1953, the Soviet Union successfully detonated its first hydrogen bomb, aka "Joe-4", at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan. It had an explosive yield equivalent to 400 kilotons of TNT, 26 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

On 1 March 1954 at 06:45 local, the United States detonated a 15 Megaton hydrogen bomb (Castle Bravo) on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. It had the greatest yield of any US nuclear test. At 15 Megatons It was 1,200 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Click Here for "Castle Bravo Nuclear Test" video.

The Big One

On 14 August 1955, I joined the Naval Reserves when I was only seventeen years old. Bootcamp followed in December at the USNTC in Bainbridge, MD. After bootcamp I was assigned to a surface fleet and eventually crewed on the USS Hugh Purvis (DD-709). My General Quarters (GQ) station aboard ship was "Hot Shell" man on the rear twin 5"/38 mount (Cannon).

On 20 May 1956, Maj. David M. Critchlow (AC) and crew air-dropped the very first hydrogen bomb in "Operation Redwing" while flying a B-52B Stratofortress named "Barbara Grace". The aircraft was flying at an altitude of 50,000 feet over Namu Island, Bikini Atoll in the Pacific when it released a Mark 15 hydrogen bomb.

Major Critchlow also has the distinction of being the first aircraft commander (AC) to fly Nancy Rae, aka Wanda Belle / Rivet Ball (#59-1491), when it deployed to Shemya for the very first time on 31 December 1961. He along with the rest of the team were known as "Ali Baba and The 40 Thieves". Click Here for a snapshot of Major Critchlow making "Boozer" beg for a snack on Shemya (Circa 1962).

On 4 July 1956, a U-2 known as "Article 347" began the first flight over the Soviet Union.

On 26 August 1957, the official Soviet Agency, TASS, announced that a multistage intercontinental ballistic missile flew a successful test mission. Source

~ Dawn of The Space Age ~
CIA Story

On 4 October 1957, the Soviet Union launched "Sputnik-1" from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Sputnik not only shocked the world, it started the "Space Race" and accelerated the "Cold War".

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"Sputnik Moment"

In June 1958 I replaced my white "Seaman" stripes with green "Airman" stripes and became an "Airedale" in the Naval Reserves. My duty station was Floyd Bennett Field in New York. I was an assistant "Plane Captain" on the Lockheed P2V Neptune. Our mission was submarine patrol and aerial reconnaissance.

On 2 September 1958, "Soviet MiG-17 pilots shot down a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance-configured C-130 aircraft over Soviet Armenia; 17 crewman were aboard." Source

On 1 May 1960, Francis Gary Powers and his U-2 spy plane were shot down over the Soviet Union while on a CIA reconnaissance mission. Click Here for the "Cold War Museum" created by Francis Gary Powers Jr.

Trivia: When I returned from my 12 month Vietnam combat tour with the 388th TFW at Korat RTAFB in 1971, the first thing I did was visit my sister, Barbara L. Hawes, in Los Angeles, California. She was an art teacher and semi professional guitar player in LA. After catching up on past events and future plans, Barbara invited me out for dinner to one of her favorite oriental restaurants in Los Angeles. While waiting for an open table at the restaurant, she said to me.... "Oh, there's Gary Powers and a friend of mine." I said.... "Who did you say." She said.... "Gary Powers, have you met him before." I said.... "I know of him but I never met him. How do you know him?" She said.... "Gary's friend is a good friend of mine. Would you like to meet them?" With that, my jaw dropped and we joined them at their table for coffee and small talk. It was an evening I'll never forget.

Francis Gary Powers

On 1 July 1960, "a Soviet MiG fighter north of Murmansk in the Barents Sea shot down a 6-man RB-47 crew. Two young USAF officers survived and were imprisoned in Moscow's dreaded Lubyanka prison. Capts. McKone and Olmstead were accused by the Russians of espionage, punishable by death, for allegedly violating the Soviet Sea frontier, although their plane had been many miles away from it at all times. They managed, however, to resist all Soviet efforts to obtain "confessions" through cajolery, trickery and threats of death, and were finally and unexpectedly released after seven months of imprisonment." Source

On 22 September 1960, I graduated from "Aviation Cadets" with freshly minted 2LT bars and Navigator wings proudly mounted on my new dress blues. It was a day to remember. As fate would have it, the most important aircraft in my career (RC-135S, #59-1491) started its new career only nine days after I received my commission and wings. Over the course of her lifetime she was know as Nancy Rae, Wanda Belle and Rivet Ball. It would be six years, upgrade training to EWO and a BUFF tour before we would be united in December 1966.

On 1 October 1960, KC-135A (#59-1491) was delivered to Wright-Patterson AFB where she was modified to monitor and record Soviet ICBM testing. With this, she became ".... the very first KC-135 of any variant to perform a reconnaissance mission. (Source: Page #108)" She was initially under the aegis of Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) and named "Nancy Rae."

Nancy Rae

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On 12 April 1961, the Soviet Union launched Vostok-1, the first human spaceflight, with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin aboard. Gagarin orbited the earth in 108 minutes and returned safely. Once again, the world was impressed.

On 15 April 1961, President John F. Kennedy launched the unsuccessful "Bay of Pigs Invasion" against Fidel Castro's Cuba. It was a disaster.

On 5 May 1961, Alan Shepard launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a Redstone rocket named "Freedom 7" and became the first American to travel in space.

On 21 July 1961, Alaska Airlines Flight 779 crashed at Shemya on a flight from Anchorage after the controller neglected to turn on the runway landing lights. All six onboard were killed in the crash.

On 13 August 1961, the Soviet Union closed the border between East and West Germany by erecting the the "Berlin Wall". It became a symbol of the "Iron Curtain" between Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc. It remained in place for 28 years.

On 30 October 1961, the Soviet Union detonated the largest, most powerful nuclear weapon, "Tsar Bomba" aka "Big Ivan", ever detonated. It weighed 27 tons and had a blast yield of 50 megatons, 4000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The fireball itself measured five miles in diameter.

Bombs Away

On 31 December 1961, Nancy Rae, aka Wanda Belle / Rivet Ball, (#59-1491) arrived on station at Shemya for the very first time. She operated under the aegis of Air Force Systems Command (AFSC), thus becoming "the very first KC-135 of any variant to perform a reconnaissance mission."

On 7 February 1962, Nancy Rae (#59-1491) was redesignated a JKC-135A.

On 26 April 1962, the Lockheed A-12 (OXCART) made its first flight with test pilot Louis Schalk at Area 51, Groom Lake, in Nevada.

On 22 October 1962, President Kennedy addressed the nation on television and announced the discovery of offensive Soviet missiles on the island of Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis). In his address he said the following: "It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union."

Trivia: While President Kennedy addressed the nation, my crew (E-97) and I launched our B-52 on a 25 hour airborne alert mission with an orbit in the Mediterranean area. Our target was Moscow. We were assigned to the 99th BW at Westover, AFB in Massachusetts.

On 23 October 1962, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) was ordered to Defense Condition 2 (DEFCON 2), the highest confirmed DEFCON ever.


On 1 March 1963, Nancy Rae (JKC-135A, #59-1491) was transferred from AFSC to SAC and assigned to the 4157th SW at Eielson, AFB.

On 7 October 1963, Nancy Rae (JKC-135A, #59-1491) underwent conversion by General Dynamics / LTV Electrosystems, redesignated an RC-135S and renamed Wanda Belle.

On 22 November 1963 at 12:30 CST, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas while riding in a motorcade with his wife Jacqueline and Texas Governor John Connaly.

On 29 January 1964, the movie "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" was released. I watched it with my B-52 crew (E-97) while on alert with the 99th BW at Westover, AFB in 1964. Typical of most combat crewmembers, we loved it and laughed our ass off. What a hoot.

Dr. Strangelove

On 25 July 1964, President Johnson revealed the existence of a new Air Force reconnaissance aircraft, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.

On 7 August 1964, the "Tonkin Gulf Resolution" was passed by the U.S. Congress in response to two alleged minor naval skirmishes off the coast of North Vietnam between U.S. destroyers and North Vietnamese torpedo boats. It authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to use military force in Southeast Asia without declaring war. Rapid escalation of military involvement followed with retaliatory air strikes, Good Morning Vietnam.

On 16 October 1964, the People's Republic of China exploded its first atomic bomb (Code Name 596) with a yield of 22 kilotons.

On 3 February 1965, at 7:01pm local, Shemya experienced a major earthquake measuring 8.7 on the Richter scale and a 35' tsunami that followed. Damage was limited to cracks in the runway.

On 17 January 1966, a B-52G loaded with four Mk28 hydrogen bombs collided with a KC-135A tanker during mid-air refueling off the coast of Spain. Both airplanes were destroyed and seven crewmembers were killed. Three of the four bombs landed near a small fishing village named "Palomares". The fourth bomb landed in the Mediterranean Sea. All bombs were recovered. Click Here for details.

On 16 May 1966, Mao Zedong, chairman of the Communist Party of China, launched the "Cultural Revolution".

On 28 September 1966, Lisa Ann (RC-135E #62-4137) starts operating from Shemya for the very first time.

Lisa Ann / Rivet Amber

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On 18 December 1966, I arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska via Alaska Airlines and was welcomed aboard by my sponsor, Capt. Wil Main, a Raven assigned to the 4157th SW. This was the beginning of my adventure of a lifetime.
PS: I'm sorry to learn that Wil Main is no longer with us as of 19 January 2011.

In January 1967, Wanda Belle (RC-135S, #59-1491) was renamed Rivet Ball, Lisa Ann (RC-135E, #62-4137) was renamed Rivet Amber and three RC-135Ds (#60-0356, #60-0357, #60-0362) named Office Boy were renamed Rivet Brass.

On 25 March 1967, the 4157th SW was replaced by the 6th SW and its assigned squadron the 24th SRS.

On 8 June 1967, the USS Liberty, an intelligence ship in international waters, was attacked by Israeli fighter planes and torpedo boats during the "Six-Day War" between Israel and neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The combined attack killed 34 crewmembers and wounded 171 out of a crew of 297. It was the worst loss of US Navy personnel from hostile action since World War II.

On 17 June 1967, China successfully exploded its first hydrogen bomb (Test No. 6) over the Lop Nur nuclear test site after being dropped from an H-6 medium bomber in western China. It had an explosive yield 150 times the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during WWII.

Made In China

On 21 June 1967, a 5-6 magnitude earthquake struck Fairbanks, AK early in the morning. The epicenter was under the base hospital at Fort Wainwright. Everyone was evacuated from the hospital including my newborn son, Kingdon J. Hawes.

In August 1967, Fairbanks, AK barely survived the worst flood in 100 years.

On 21 January 1968, two years after the "Palomares" accident, a B-52G from Plattsburgh AFB carrying four Mk28 hydrogen bombs crashed onto sea ice in North Star Bay near Thule AFB in Greenland that resulted in widespread radioactive contamination and the end of "Operation Chrome Dome". Click Here for details.

On 23 January 1968, the USS Pueblo was captured by North Korea.

On 12 March 1968, an Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) drilling crew discovered oil at the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field on Alaska's North Slope. The new field contained more than 25 billion barrels of oil, making it the largest in North America and the 18th largest in the world.

On 4 April 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

On 5 June 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated after addressing his supporters at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Senator Kennedy was a strong Democratic candidate for President of the United States.

On 21 June 1968, Shemya Air Force Station was re-designated an Air Force Base.

On 4 October 1968, eleven years to the day after the launch of Sputnik-1, Team-2 Ravens with Rivet Ball (RC-135S, #59-1491) and crew successfully captured the first photographic evidence of a Soviet ICBM test with three Multiple Reentry Vehicles (MRVs).


Ed Steffen
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On 19 October 1968, the Soviet Union deployed its first ICBM (8K69) capable of fractional orbit, aka Fractional Orbit Bombardment System (FOBS).

On 18 December 1968, Team-2 Ravens with Rivet Ball (RC-135S, #59-1491) and crew successfully captured the second photographic evidence of a Soviet MRV (3- RVs).

On 31 December 1968, Shemya's beloved dog named "Boozer" was put to sleep after suffering from old age.

On 1 January 1969, Boozer was buried next to the "Shemya Plug" with full military honors. Click Here for stories, photos, history and tribute.


On 13 January 1969, Rivet Ball (RC-135S, #59-1491) hydroplaned off the end of runway 28 on Shemya. The aircraft was destroyed beyond repair. Fortunately, the aircracft didn't catch fire and no one was seriously injured. It was however, a sad ending for a great aircraft with a very important mission. Her replacement was named "Cobra Ball".

Rivet Ball

On 5 June 1969, Rivet Amber (RC-135E, #62-4137) with 19 souls aboard vanished over the Bering Sea while flying enroute from Shemya to Eielson AFB, AK. This was a tragic event that haunts many of us even today.

Where Oh, Where ???

R. I. P.

6th SW
Ltc. Charles B. Michaud
Maj. Peter S. Carpenter
Maj. Richard N. Martel
Capt. Michael E. Mills
Maj. Horace G. Beasley
Maj. Rudolph J. Meissner
Capt. James F. Ray

55th SRW
MSgt. Herbert C. Gregory
TSgt. Donald F. Wonders
TSgt. Lester J. Schatz
SSgt. Robert W. Fox
TSgt. Hervey Hebert
TSgt. Charles F. Dreher

TSgt. Eugene L. Benevides
SSgt. Roy L. Lindsey
SSgt. Richard J. Steen Jr.
Sgt. Douglas Arcano
Sgt. Sherman E. Consolver Jr.
Sgt. Lucian A. Rominiecki

On 10 July 1969, I pinned on my Major leaves and departed the 6th SW with a heavy heart for Air Command and Staff College (ACSC) at Maxwell AFB. While attending ACSC I published a research paper titled "Analysis of RC-135S Optical Tracking System (U)".

On 18 July 1969, I wept in grief for the second time in my life when my two year old son, Kingdon J. Hawes, was run over by a car that belonged to his grandfather, James A. Walker, in St. Charles, Virginia. The right front wheel of a 1970 Dodge rolled over the middle of his back and cracked his spine as he lay face down on a bed of rocks and gravel. Fortunately, he is doing well today after multiple operations and lots of hard work on his part. My prayers for full recovery have been answered in more ways than one. Kingdon is now fully recovered, and happily married with three wonderful boys. He is also a certified triathlon "Ironman", a full time paramedic / firefighter Captain and professional photographer. It just doesn't get any better.

On 20 July 1969, the United States won the "Space Race" when Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon. Click Here and watch a dramatic video of NASA's Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

"One Small Step"

On 18 August 1969, a memorial service was held in the base chapel at Eielson AFB in rememberance of the 19 Airmen lost when Rivet Amber and crew vanished over the Bering Sea on 5 June 1969.

May They Rest In Peace

Copyright © 2000 Kingdon R. Hawes (Webmaster)
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