Russ Jester
Mon, Sep 13, 2010, 1:20pm (CDT+1)

First of all my thanks for that great website.

I was at Eielson from1970-1975, Offutt from 1975-1977. I was an AC on the D, S,  M,  V, and the Cent.

Picked up the BALL at E Systems, Majors Field, after they put the sliding door on the right side.
"The crosswind today will probably have you seeing the runway  out your sliding window, call it when you see it. Flaps 50, final check please
Russ Jester
Capt, USAF

K. Hawes

Bill Browning
Thu, Sep 16, 2010, 7:23pm (CDT-2)

I have just read some of your website and it is great-brings back a lot of memories. I was an A/C on 663 when it first came to the 24th. I arrived at Eielson in Apr 69 and was waiting in the ops office with my helmet to get checked out on Amber when they landed. When we received the news I was sent to get crew rest so we could fly search missions. I flew one search mission in a RC135D for nearly 20 hours with refueling. This was an outstanding crew and a great loss. I came to Eielson from the 343rd at Offutt and knew some of the crew well.

When I left Eielson in Nov 70 there was a picture of an RC135D refueling with Mt McKinley in the background. I was flying this plane on this special picture taking mission and didn't get a copy before I left. Do you know who might have a copy? I would be happy to pay someone to make me a copy.

Thanks, for keeping the Shemya story alive.

Bill Browning Lt Col, USAF, Ret

Carl T. "Ted" Carpenter
Tue, Oct 12, 2010, 2:05pm (CDT-2)

all i can say is wow. i thought i had all those memories locked down tight. i was in the library using their computer since i can't afford the internet right now and i was on facebook reading a comment written by my cousin and i saw his comments and clicked on the link and there i was at eleven with my family. i lost all family pictures a long time ago and i would like copies of my family, the planes, the bases, the sunset at shemya for example anything at all if possible. i don't  have alot of money right now but i will find a way to pay you if needed sometime in the near future when i am back to work. wow , i was balling like a baby. your website brought home something i already knew but don't know how much others realize and that is how incredibly patriotic these men where in those times and the devotion to duty that they all brought to the job on a daily basis with little or no recognition, of course they would tell you that recognition is over-rated and results are what counted. these guys, (my dad was major peter carpenter) did what they did for their god, their country and their families and that was more than enough. thanks for the tribute. something you may not have known but my dad retired and started flying for United Airlines for what was at that time alot of money, and within a year decide to go back into the airforce because it was what he wanted to do and approximately one year later rivet amber disappeared. once in awhile, for about one second i wish my dad had stayed with united but then i realize how important the things all those guys did for all of us as a country and as individuals and i realize how unselfish my dad was and i try to think the same way. its hard though cause i miss him still and would love to talk to him. i made a mess of most of my life but have gotten on track the last 12 years or so and am doing well. everyone in that picture is dead except for me and i should have been the first to go. well thanks for an incredible tribute to an incredible bunch of normal guys doing abnormal stuff. when the plane had disappeared the airforce came in an sanitized our house taking any and all pictures and items that related in any way to rivet amber, any of the missions and people involved. so anything you can send me or email me at would be greatly appreciated. i used to talk to major jerry white who was a good friend of my dads and knew alot about the disappearance of my dads plane and the circumstances surrounding it. he was in military intelligence for awhile and now is with an organization called the navigators in colorado springs. an interesting source of information about those days. i do remember omaha a little bit, i think i was 9 when we were stationed there and lived in papillion. i started to enlist in the airforce at around 18 to be a pilot but my eyesight was bad at the time and the regulations were much stiffer then about wearing contacts, and flying was all i wanted to do. i probably should have gone in anyway since it would have probably helped me make better decisions in life than i did. but i am a recovering addict with 12 years clean and normally when the economy is good i have a great career. i am living in riverside ca., but intend to move to colorado in about two years when i finish school. that's not far from you and i would like to get together and talk.    


Thu, Oct 14, 2010, 12:52pm (CDT+7)

I found your site via Wikipedia, quite by chance. Really well done. Congratulations.

Brussels, Belgium

Krista Stanley
Sun, Oct 17, 2010 at 5:30 PM

Thank-you so much for all the help you provided me. I learned so much about the work my grandfather performed and the aerial reconnaissance of the Cold War. Without your help, I am afraid I would not have been nearly as successful in my endeavors. Your contributions made the difference. They made the difference in my own knowledge, as well as the quality of my project. My project did well in competition. It received first place at the regional competition and then proceeded on to receive third place at the state competition. Attached are some pictures of me and my project. Thanks again for all the wonderful help you provided me with.

Krista Stanley

Frank Schlesinger
Fri, Dec 3, 2010, 2:26pm (CST+1)

What an amazing site you created. I took a break from work today and on a whim, searched for information about one of my heroes – Harry L. Parsons, III – and there he was, on your website, along with so much more information than I bargained for.

Gosh, it's been 30-plus years. Harry and I were high school running mates. We spent many a dinner over each other's house, staying ahead on our homework, giving his younger siblings a hard time, playing military board games into the wee hours of the night, and outlining our military careers after graduation. Although our military careers took different paths, we did our best to keep in touch and visited home at the same times more than once.

I attended his funeral with great sadness. Yet the joy of knowing this man and other Giants of Freedom have given my daughter and I a rich, colorful life and for that, I am eternally grateful. Thank you for a historical – and personal - perspective. I now have even more stories I can share with my daughter.

Anyone with stories and / or information about Harry can contact me at

Good Journeys,
~ Frank Schlesinger
MSgt., USAF, Ret.

"Those willing to give up a little liberty for a little security deserve neither security nor liberty"
~ Benjamin Franklin

Dr. Tracy Baker
Mon, Dec 13, 2010, 7:17pm (CST+6)

I just wanted to let you know I enjoyed "A Tale of Two Airplanes" immensely.  I was a "Cold Warrior" for quite a few years, albeit in another venue, the MInuteman Missile system.  In recent years, I have read many stories about the Cold War, with all the paranoia and craziness of those times.  I recognized back then the extreme chances SAC took to stay ahead of the Soviet Union.  Those actions cost many millions of dollars and many lives.  Reading about the loss of Rivet Ball, I was intrigued by the fact no one was apparently blamed for its loss.  The part of SAC I belonged to usually wanted to fix blame on someone.  The story of the loss of Rivet Amber really had me "riveted" to it (pun intended).  There was clearly a poor decision to fly an airplane that was significantly damaged from the previous day's flight over the objections of highly qualified maintenance personnel/civilian tech reps.  I suspect someone high up the food chain made that decision.  A Colonel I once worked for told me that the higher rank you have, the more you can get away with.  But the stories of Rivet Ball and Rivet Amber are amazing stories and I congratulate you and all those who served on doing an amazing job in exceptionally adverse conditions. The "Ride-em Cowboy!" comment is the kind of thing I am likely to say in such stressful situations and I laughed when I read that.  In the practice of medicine, which is what I do now, I occasionally get similiarly stressful, life threatening situations and am prone to make smart aleck statements, though I withhold them for times when not in front of the patient.  By the way, I don't know when or where, but I remember seeing either Rivet Ball or Rivet Amber on some flight line at some time.  I just can't remember where.  I remember that nose.

In the Minuteman Missile system where I worked during the Cold War, we also worked in very bad weather, though I'm not sure it can be equated to Shemya.  When I was a Lieutenant in Missile Maintenance, those #$%& missiles always seemed to break in the worst weather that Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska had to offer(we had 200 missiles scattered over the corners of those three states).  The last time I went out to a missile site, it was a January night (they also usually broke in the middle of the night!!!) and the temperature was -20 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chill of -100.  My Targeting Assistant, Sgt. Jeff Landsberg, was from Minnesota and usually did not wear a coat out to the sites.  I'd yell at him "Jeff, where's your coat?"  He'd say "I'm from MInnesota, this isn't cold!"  But the night we went out with a chill factor of -100, he shows up with a parka and gloves on.  Being the ever present smartass, I said "Jeff, what the heck, you're wearing a coat!"  He replied "This is a little cold."  The winds were usually awful, which caused many problems.  One other night, we faced an unusual problem for that part of the country.  We had to go out to a missile site in Nebraska that was over 100 miles away and it was raining incredibly hard all night.  That area doesn't usually get much rain, so the roads on which much of our travel was done (gravel) were dicey at best.  I need to say that these missile sites were way out in the boondocks since most people don't want such things near where they live.  So, if we got into trouble, we were on our own mostly.  At least till the Air Force Base (F.E. Warren AFB) could rescue us.  This expedition occurred in the obligate middle of the night.  As we were headed back from the site at about 2 a.m., the road we were on became exceedingly slippery.  So much so that we were sliding all over the road, even at low speed.  Just as we were thinking things couldn't get worse, we come over the crest of a hill and, at the bottom of he hill is the Semi truck and trailer that had changed the Missile Guidance Set on the problem site before we did our job.  It was stuck up to its axles in mud, partially blocking the road.  Not a good sign!  Going down the relatively steep hill on the incredibly slick road, stopping was not an option.  I had a different Targeting Assistant that night, Sgt. Terry Munden (I called him "Mad Man Munden" as he was prone to fits of temper and slightly irrational behavior when things went wrong-often).  Terry was driving and said "When we get up beside the MMT van, I'm going to punch it (the accelerator) and try to get past him!"  A reasonable plan in our much lighter truck (an Air Force Six Pack).  He did so and we almost made it through the deeper mud at the bottom of the hill.  The acceleration pushed us past the Semi about 50 feet and just as it seemed like we would make it, our truck came to a dead stop like he had hit the brakes on a dry road.  One look outside made it apparent that we weren't going anywhere.  We were up to our axles in mud.  We had another problem also.  We carried coded, classified computer tapes and were required to notify Job Control every 20 minutes of our position and security status.  Job Control notified us that it would be at least 4 hours before the tow truck could get to us.  Our radios were less than the best and with the weather like it was, radio transmission was often poor and, with the classified tapes, Job Control would get a little excited if we failed to call in on time.  We also wore guns, intended to protect the tapes and ourselves.  After sitting there for about 15-20 minutes, the "Mad Man" became impatient and said "I'm going to try to dig us out."  I tried to dissuade him from this course of action since even if he dug the wheels out, there were several miles of road ahead of  us nearly as bad.  We were stuck!  But he was very impatient and was determined to try.  He took off his gun (soon to be an important issue) and set it, in its holster, on the seat, got out, got the shovel and went to work.  In the profoundly black night and heavy rain, I couldn't even see him.  After about 10-15 minutes, I heard him start screaming at the top of his lungs and, immediately, mud began hitting the truck all over it.  Besides the unintelligible screams, there were loud, profane utterances as shovels full of mud hit the truck all over.  The "Mad Man Munden" had emerged!!!  I quickly locked all the doors.  After about 5 minutes of his insanity, things got very quiet.  About a minute later, I heard him trying to open his door, which was of course, locked.  I was glad he had taken his gun off since there might have otherwise been a little shooting at that point.  There was a pause of about a minute when I heard a plaintive voice saying "Please let me in, I'm ok now."  I unlocked the door and he got in.  It was readily apparent he had regained his sanity and he sat silently for a few minutes then said "I went a little crazy for a while."  No kidding.  When the tow truck got there, we were both a little disturbed to note that they were there to get the MMT truck first.  We were stuck there with classified material!  Finally, an hour or so later, another tow truck arrived to pull us out far enough for us to get traction and be on our way.  Then we faced another problem.  Our truck was covered on every level surface with about two inches of sticky mud.  It was a requirement for us to bring vehicles back "clean" and, if we didn't we had to wash it.  And this was deliberately done by the "Mad Man".  As we approached the base, I brought out this bit of information.  To which Terry said "If the people in the Vehicle Assemby Building tell me I have to wash this truck, they can kiss my a**!"  The people in the VAB also tended to have "attitudes" about such things and I expected fireworks.  But when we pulled in, the VAB folks took one look at our truck and said "Where in the H#%% have you two been?"  In my usual smarta** best, I said "We drove through a mud puddle!"  There was fortunately no hue and cry for us to wash the truck.

My story is not as poignant as yours, but I hope you get a laugh out of it!
Dr. Tracy Baker

Bob Armentrout aka "Granny"
Tue, 25 Jan 2011 22:21:49 -0800 (PST)

"Great Zots" - 2011 is starting off unusual, it's the first time in years that I was not awake at 0130 on January 13th, toasting our walking away from the "broken" Ball (so I shall raise a toast tonight at 0130). Still use the occasion to re-stabilize my gyro whenever something riles me. It's a sure fire way to remind me of what is and is not important; however, I do sometimes need a nudge.

Your site remains the definitive source when it comes to explaining what the operation at Shemya was all about, especially for the family or individual who wondered what their father, brother or uncle did when they were stationed on the Rock, but never knew until coming across your site.

Over the course of my Air Force career I had many interesting jobs, assignments and exciting experiences in the B-52, RC-135, and F-4, but still count our tour in Rivet Ball as the most rewarding.

Bob Armentrout, Lt Col (ret), Team 2 TC on 13 Jan 1969

Bob Brown aka "Viper"
Wed, Jan 26, 2011, 10:21pm (CST+1)

First of all, multiple kudos on your web site. A lot of people have been educated about the Cold War and Recon because of your efforts here. As for the old Rivet Ball and her final flight, all I can say is that we were lucky and it was a very good thing that everyone "walked away."

As for the old Team-2 Ravens -- I consider myself lucky and privileged to have served with you crew-dogs, and on the Rivet Ball. I also flew on B-52s and AC-130 Spectre gunships, but it was the Rivet Ball mission that was the most professionally and personally satisfying, and what fondly remains in my memory.

Bob "Viper.." Brown
Manual Tracker

King Hawes aka "Tinker"
Wed, Jan 26, 2011, 10:30pm (CST)

On 13 January 1969, "Rivet Ball" (RC-135S, #59-1491) hydroplaned off the end of runway 28 while attempting to land on Shemya. Three engines were destroyed, the fuselage broke in half, the left main gear ripped off and she crushed her nose. "The Ball" was destroyed beyond repair (Photo). Fortunately, the aircraft commander, Maj. John Achor, did everything right and everyone onboard survived without serious injury. They were also..... Very, Very Lucky..... Thank God.

I was scheduled to be on that flight as part of Team-2 (Signal Monitor) but fate dictated otherwise. I was grounded (DNIF) with the flu at Eielson. This was the only flight I ever missed in 5,000 hours of flying during my entire Air Force career. Fate is what it is. :)

I crewed on many different aircraft (B-52C/D "BUFF", RC-135S "Rivet Ball", RC-135D "Rivet Brass", EB-66C/E "Suey", EC-135C "Looking Glass" and E-4B "Nightwatch") during my career as an EWO / Raven / War Planner in SAC and TAC. I enjoyed each and every aircraft with its unique mission and configuration but "The Ball" tops them all by a long shot. The aircraft was one of a kind, the mission was exciting and operating out of Shemya in the Aleutians was very challenging. Most of us loved what we did in spite of the dangers and hardships. It was the best assignment I ever had in my career and I knew it at the time.

Most members of Team-2 have stayed in touch with each other over all these years (40+) and share a unique bond that will last a lifetime. We may be a lot older, but our memories remain vivid and we stay connected via, telephone, email, Facebook, Viper's Team-2 "GASLIGHT" newsletter, ocassional visits and my website ( Once again, I want to thank everyone for sharing their personal stories, photos and guestbook entries on this site for all to enjoy. Without your contributions it would not be what it is. For me personally, it's a labor of love.

King "Tinker" Hawes
Team-2, Rivet Ball Raven (Signal Monitor)

Kerry Crooks
Sat, Feb 12, 2011, 11:17pm

To pay tribute to those who flew onboard and who supported the Cobra Ball aircraft during the time of its tragic crash in March 1981, the 45th Squadron at Offutt AFB, NE, is considering hosting a special event to recognize the sacrifices of those involved and to recognize their relatives and friends. The event is planned to be held at Offutt (in Omaha, Nebraska) on March 15th (the actual 30th anniversary), and we are looking to provide all involved and their friends and family further information on this event.

Please contact Dr. Kerry A. Crooks,, so information may be directly e-mailed to you.

K. A. Crooks
Cobra Ball 1980-83

45th RS / 664 Memorial

Hi Res

Bill Mosby
Mon, Feb 14, 2011, 11:53pm (CST-1)

Col. Hawes,
I don't have an aviation story to tell (although I was once in the 100th SRW at Davis Monthan and can still describe what a U-2R takeoff looks like), but it does involve the Cold War in a different sort of way. My story dates from 2004 and 2005 when I worked as a monitor on a program called HEU Transparency. I had a couple of decade career in nuclear material accountability measurements at Argonne National Lab-West near Idaho Falls, ID. Right at the end of my career I got the opportunity to do similar kinds of work in Russian uranium enrichment plants as part of a program we have had running since about 1994 called Megatons to Megawatts. Since about that time, 10 percent of the electricity in the U.S. has been generated using uranium from retired Russian nuclear weapons. The HEU Transparency part of the program was set up to monitor the processing of the original bomb material as it is downblended from its original 90 percent enrichment to about 3 to 4 percent enrichment prior to shipping it to the U.S. where it is put into the nuclear reactor fuel supply chain. By now upwards of 250 tons of highly enriched uranium has been processed (about 10,000 weapons worth) and there is still about that much left to process.

There are 4 enrichment plants involved in this work- one near Ekaterinburg (in a closed city called Novouralsk), one near Tomsk (Seversk), one near Krasnoyarsk (Zelenogorsk), and one near Ozersk. I worked at the first three of those plants, never quite made it to Ozersk. The one near Ekaterinburg is very near the place that Gary Powers came down after his U-2 was shot down (Ekaterinburg was named Sverdlovsk in those days, and the region is still called that today). The military museum in Ekaterinburg still has about a 1 square foot piece of the fuselage skin from that plane. The rest is in a museum in Moscow, it is said.

The most amazing thing about those experiences for me was that I was born about a month after the first Soviet nuclear weapon test, grew up during the Cold War, spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Department of Energy lab environment, and then at the end of my career got to see "how the other half lived". And I found that the people who worked over there were more or less our mirror images with the same kind of jobs and everyday concerns that we had, career-wise. One difference, though, is that so many of our facilities are shut down now while theirs are very much still going concerns, and very well run ones at that.

A couple of links for the programs I mentioned:

Highly Enriched Uranium Transparency Program

USEC Inc. - Nuclear Nonproliferation - Megatons to Megawatts - HEU to LEU: Step by Step

Here's a link to a picture I took from the guest house at Seversk, near Tomsk. This was the only location where our lodging was inside the closed city; at Novouralsk and Zelenogorsk we stayed outside the closed cities at Soviet-era plant-owned "resort" hotels. If you have Google Earth you can see the guest house, called the House of Specialists. In fact all of the sites are on Google Earth at quite high resolution.

Panoramio - Photos by Bill Mosby


Bill Mosby

Ken Van Wickler
Sun, Feb 27, 2011, 3:17pm (CST-2)

Thanks for the great site re: Rivet Ball & Rivet Amber!

Having spent a couple years flying F-4s and F-15s out of Keflavik in the mid-80's, I know a little about Remote Life and the true friendships that come out of such experiences - they almost (almost) make you sad to leave!

Best Regards,
Ken "VW" Van Wickler, Lt Col, USAF

Robert Anderson
Sun, Mar 13, 2011, 7:42pm (CDT+1)

I don't have a story. I just wanted to thank you for this web site. I enjoyed reading of the Rivet Ball mission. Your site is well put together and seems very complete. I hope the crew that went down in the Bering have found peace. I wish the same for Boozer. He was obviously much loved. That's the only thing missing from this site; more on boozer. Where did he come from. How did he come to be on the base. How old was he; things like that. I myself was in the Army from 66-68. So I remember these days well.

Thank You,
Robert W. Anderson
Marquette, MI
Former combat medic Sp5

Howie Appel
Tue, Mar 15, 2011, 10:44pm (CDT+1)

It always brings tears to my eyes to go back to the site and see updated reports on Det 1, 6 SW. I wish that my ol' buddies from those days would post….oh well. I fondly remember most all that's been said in the postings. I was there from 1969-1970 and was a 3 striper NCOIC of Operations in (I think) hanger 2, across from the NCO quarters with our "BALL" parked right in front of the volleyball court. Great writing King.
Howie Appel
Orlando, FL

Howie on "The Rock"

Click Here for Howie's "Bridge To Nowhere" on Shemya photo.

Bill Kaelin
Fri, Mar 18, 2011, 11:25am (CDT+5)

Great site and story. It was a real thrill reading about the 'rock' and seeing picures from there from the sixties. I was a USAFSS maintenance tech (wirebender) assigned to the 6985th and flew in the back of both Ball and Amber many times from 67 to 69.

I was on that Oct 68 flight and also remember a month-long trip to Johnson Atoll, where we pulled more alert time.

Thanks for the great memories, I'll be back often to check the guestbook for more names from the past.

Bill Kaelin
SSgt William Kaelin, 6985th SS, Sept 66 to Feb 69

Jerry Knotts
Sun, Mar 27, 2011, 4:36pm (CDT-2)

This is the first time I spent the time to review your most magnificent presentation. You should be extremely proud of the result.

This is the most interesting series on Shemya, Cobra Ball, Rivet Amber, etc. that I have ever seen.

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Jerry Knotts (Col, USAF, retired), formally with Big Safari. A few of my challenges are described below.

As a Captain project engineer with Big Safari (1969 - Apr 1972  Det 1, 2762 Mnt Sq Spec , General Dynamics, Fort Worth Tx) was assigned the task of meeting with SAC Hq & the 55th to convert the Big Team aircraft into more usable recon vehicles. I was the original Project Engineer and later, program manager for Combat Sent. Worked with some fantastic 55th people building three aircraft. We later converted 792 into a Rivet Joint aircraft.

Had the pleasure of flying the windup turns/slide slip maneuvers on 792 with the 849 tail. We had to do this flight test to prove the tail would not break off. If you remember, the CS aircraft (847 & 849) had B-58 Radar systems installed near the tip of their tail fins. These systems weighed 1/3 that of the tail. After the experience with the B-52 losing its tail fin, the OCAMA C-135 System Manager wanted some assurance for crew safety. Interesting note. If you see 702 with a tail radar you are really looking at a non-existent aircraft. In reality, it is 792 with 849s tail fin a short lived configuration for the test flight only.

Also, not long after the delivery of CS I, had the onerous task of going to Offutt and taking Combat Sent I back to GD/FW. Seems the original nose radome was not right and the in-flight air flow was damaging the nose wheel doors. The original wind tunnel tests completed in the GD wind tunnel in San Diego, CA did not show this defect. Lt Col Roger Wasmer (sp), working in maintenance at that time, was rather surprised that I would admit that Big Safari might have made a design error. We became friends when he saw that I would take the aircraft back immediately and fix the problem without argument. You can see the difference in nose radomes if you have photos of the initial delivery and the one you show in your 55th album for CS II.

After we lost Rivet Amber, Maj Bob Schaaf (Det 2) and I were given the task of preparing a plan to create another Rivet Amber. After much research and visits to the Pentagon and Foreign Tech Div – WPAFB, the decision makers came to the conclusion that it would be too expensive to create another similar aircraft. Besides, Cobra Dane (USS Observation Island) was coming on line.

Later, after moving to Greenville (Apr 1972 -  Det 2, 2761nd Mnt Sqd Spec,  E-Systems), I kept Combat Sent and picked up Cobra Ball. Had the privilege of supporting the new "optical system", working with the engineers to design and install the first "side door" etc. It was a white knuckle flight conducting the flight tests wherein we  opened the "door".  This was not the first time I was involved in such an experience. We had installed a similar door in another aircraft at GD/FW.

In June 1974, I moved to the Big Safari office at WPAFB and worked directly for Pat O'Malley. Bill Grimes assumed my position with Cobra Ball at Det 2 and subsequently became the Commander of Det 2. At WPAFB, I was the Program manager for Combat Sent, Cobra Ball, part of Rivet joint, and many other Big Safari Programs. Those stories  are much longer. Created CSTAG (Combat Sent Technical Advisory Group) which became the model for similar groups for all the major Big Safari projects. This enabled the MajComs, system operators, crews, Pentagon Ops & Intel guys, the Agencies and ASD to all work together on operational requirements and needed funding. What a fantastic  working group this became.

King, you helped bring back many memories. Years ago when Bill Grimes was the Big Safari Chief at WPAFB, he asked Pat O'Malley and me to write a History of Big Safari. We did that. Unfortunately, at that time, most of the good stuff was still classified. Now much of the old projects are readily available on the Internet.

You deserve a special award for taking the time to share those special moments of history.

Thank you very much for sharing.

Jerry Knotts
Col, USAF (Ret)

Combat Sent

Clif Ware
Sun, May 8, 2011, 12:29am

Thanks King
I never knew most of that. All I knew in my 78-March-79 tour was that we were there for 2 reasons, Cobra Ball & Cobra Dane.

I sure wish I had known more of the story then and some of the guys that we were supporting.

Thanks Again
Ssgt (Ret) Clif Ware
Snow Equip. Mechanic

( #369 )
Dale Wilson
Mon, Jun 13, 2011, 1:40pm (CDT+1)

What a great web page I have spent days on there. I was stationed on Shemya from Mar. 74 to Mar.75 am I correct that we had Cobra Ball I and Cobra Ball II would you have the tail numbers of those planes I would like to have a model made or ordered.

I was in the Army Security Agency and we worked at AAFJOG with the Air Force Security Service. I had a great time there and would go back in a heartbeat. Reading you stories made me look up my room mate and another fellow I worked with, we carried on for hours … Thank You  

Dale Wilson
757 593 4780

Tom Feazel
Wed, Jun 29, 2011, 1:15pm (CDT+1)

Great website!

Let me introduce myself,

My name is Tom Feazel

I'm a retired architect in Polk City, Florida, where I live across the Lake from Fantasy of Flight, the world's largest private collection of vintage warbirds.

I was an electronic technician E4 at Shemya in '68 and 69. I was the sole navaids tech on SYA, and owned the TACAN set and the other unreliable sets at Shemya.

I've wondered for years about that mysterious plane that crashed in winter '69. I had flight line clearance, but  no clue that you guys even existed.
Your website answers lots of questions.


Blake W. Dozier
Thu, Jul 14, 2011, 4:08pm (CDT+1)


Our mission was returning to Offutt AFB in 1969 from a TDY to England and were preparing for our last refueling when we received the news of Rivet Amber.  We were told (Don't know how true this is.) that, if we wanted fuel, we would have to proceed to Alaska.  We ended up at Eielson and logged a lot of hours during that fruitless search & rescue.  I was a 203XX and spent a lot of time in the belly of the aircraft looking down into the icy waters between Shemya and Alaska from a very low altitude.  To my knowledge, no one ever found anything.  Many times we thought we had found some debris but when we turned around for a closer look it would be nothing.  My hat goes off to the front end crews of those aircraft.  The aircraft would make the turn and then the navigator would tell us that the object should be X yards off the left or right wing.  It was always there and they did this for a lot of hours.
We may never know what happened that day but we do know that it could have been any aircraft on any mission on any day and could have happened to any of us.  Our families and friends were the lucky ones and we came home.  May God bless the friends and families of those who did not return.
TSgt, USAF (Ret)

Mike Beuster
Sun, 17 Jul 2011 18:30:46 -0400 (EDT)
Dear Mr. Hawes (Lt. Col USAF Retired):
I really enjoyed visiting your Web site.
I spent a year on Shemya (Black Pearl of The Pacific) April 1973 to April 1974. I was assigned to the 6984 Security Sqd. (USAFSS) as a E-4 - R294X0 Electronic Emissions Monitor/Analyst.
I felt bad when the Cobra Ball SAC crew had to leave in the middle of a movie at Shimichi theater due to an alert.

I got to visit the Cobra Ball aircraft in the hanger and talk with the collection crew.
I have sent some background info to Mr. Larry Tart - (SMSgt. USAFSS Ret.- Russian Linguist) recognized as the "Father of the Aerial Reconnaissance (C-130 60528) Memorial," dedicated in National Vigilance Park, Fort Meade, Maryland, on 2 September 1997.  on my experiences after Shemya on Project Pony Express for his upcoming Volume on Freedom Through Vigilance.
My Bio:
I spent four years in the USAFSS 1971-1975 (E-4 - Hon. Discharge).
1971-1972 - Electronics Emission Monitor/Analyst / Electronic Intelligence R294X0 / 205X0 school at Keesler AFB.

1972-1973 - 6970th Support Group - Ft. Meade/NSA Main Ops - W1613 DEFSMAQ - Watch Operations - Special Research Technician.

1973-1973 - OLBB 6940 TTG - USASA - Telemetry Identification and Collection School - Ft. Devens, Mass.

1973-1974 - 6984 Scty. Sqd. - Shemya AFB - AAFJOG - E-Ops

1974-1975 - OLEB 6948 Scty. Sqd. (MBL) (DA) - Ft. Meade - W17 - Project Pony Express - USNS Gen. H.H. Arnold (TAGM-9)

After getting out spent 30 years in classified programs with:
1975-1978 - Electronic Systems Laboratories, Inc. (ESL,Inc. now owned by Northrop Grumman) Sunnyvale - SIGINT, COMINT, TELINT - Signals Analysis Tech - Project DERF

1978-1979 - Intercon - now part of Atlantic Research?), Sunnyvale and OCONUS (UK) Systems Tech. - Large Analog/Digital Signal Processing System - Silkworth 

1979-1984 - Lockheed Missiles and Space - Sunnyvale and OCONUS (UK) Research Engineer, Project Runway, Large Analog/Digital Signal Collection Systems,
P-180 Systems Technician, P-377 System Technician, Sr.

1984- 2000 - Martin Marietta/Lockheed Martin Defense Systems
Systems Engineer Staff, Sunnyvale, Denver

2000-2008 - Lockheed Martin Special Programs - P-81/Military Support Programs - Systems Engineer Staff, Denver

Retired from Lockheed Martin - December 31, 2008
Latest project provided background for William Scotts latest book Counter Space - The Next Six Hours of World War III.
Respectfully yours,
Mike Beuster
441 12 Point Rd.
Blairsville, GA 3012

"There Is No Easy Way To Get From The Earth To The Stars"

Kym Gwathney
Wed, Jul 27, 2011, 6:00pm (CDT-2)

It was so interesting seeing my grandfather's name Earl Gwathney mentioned in the website. He was a photographer in the Air Force, Chief Master Sergeant. Though he passed before I was born I still get to see his career through his photography.

Thank you :) -Kymberley Gwathney

Timothy J. (Hebert) Donovan
eMail Address Withheld
Fri, Aug 26, 2011, 12:42am (CDT+5)

I am Hervey Hebert's oldest son, Tim.  I have spent many hours immersed in your "Tale of Two Airplanes" and cannot express how moving and complete I find your tribute to the crews of Rivet Ball and Rivet Amber.  Your work took me back to that time and allowed me to feel what it must have been like for you, and him at Shemya in 1969.  It also gave me images to go with the stories that I remember my Dad telling me.  I am certain that over the years you have heard many different statements of wonder and gratitude so I doubt I can add anything new except maybe:  We all stand on the shoulders of giants without knowing who or where they may be.  The crews at Shemya were certainly GIANTS.  And no one knew!

I remember vividly the day that the Air Force honor guard came to my house to inform me of the loss of my father.  I remember them explaining that the plane was lost without a trace over the Bering Sea.  They reported that there was no explanation for what happened and I would be notified if any information became available.  I never heard another word and figured I wouldn't as I suspected the mission was Top Secret.  I also remember my Dad telling me that there were two planes in the squadron and the other plane had crashed on the runway.  That would have been Rivet Ball.  I still miss him.  

Thank you for your hard work and time invested in one of the best museums I have seen, and for demonstrating that on that day in 1969, the honor guard, though being vague, had indeed told me the truth.

Timothy J. (Hebert) Donovan

TSgt. Hervey Hebert

Hi Res

Webmaster Note (16 October 2011):
I'm sorry to report that Tim (Hebert)  Donovan is no longer with us as of 30 September 2011.
"May He Rest in Peace" with his Dad, TSgt. Hervey Hebert
Click Here for Tim's Obituary.

Dr. Timothy J. Donovan and his wife Cheryl founded Kindred Spirits Mobile Veterinary Services in 2006.
Memorial Fund

Bob Armentrout
Thu, Sep 22, 2011, 9:05pm (CDT+5)

King, Although I make it a point to review your web site on the 13th of January each year to see what surprising new information you have managed to accumulate, I will occasionally open it up on a whim to view recent guest book entries, such was the case earlier today.   

I am always moved by entries from friends and relatives of the men we flew with that were lost on Amber, especially from the children and grandchildren, such as the entries from Timothy J. (Hebert) Donovan and Kym Gwathney.  Team2 was more than lucky to have survived the Rivet Ball crash on 13Jan69, because we were allowed to watch our children grow into adults.

I have mentioned it before, and I'll say it again, your time and dedication to the site has no doubt filled many information gaps these children and grandchildren, who are now adults, may have wondered about for years. What a great service!

Bob Armentrout, Team2 TC on 13Jan69. (

McNamara's Multipurpose F-4 Phantom

Bob Armentrout
Hi Res

Wewmaster Note: Bob Armentrout, my TC on Rivet Ball, went on to fly the F-4 Wild Weasel after his tour in Alaska with the 6th SW.

Jim Peeler
Fri, Oct 7, 2011, 7:49am (CDT+1)

I spent time (6 weeks) on the Rock (Shemya) as radio operator/plane captain Navy VQ-1 EA3B with SAD Army guys in backend ECM in the spring of 1964, Met some of the AF guys a composite building "A place with a flag pole attached by chain to a concrete drain plug" There was only one KC135  there at time we always raced to see who got wheels in the well 1st when alarms were sounded. With us on 1 minute standby it was noisy with J-57 jet engines spooling-up from turbine huffers in hanger bay while hanger doors were opening and you getting into flight gear and position all at the same time with 6 other people climbing aboard  then hit the runway throttling up for takeoff in about 3 minutes after alarms were sounded. You ate and slept less than 15 feet from your aircraft while on flight status. Had many of harrowing and foggy flights. Don't remember many names of Rivet guys but would like to share knowing what we did there. Had a lot of fun times with SAD crews there as well as down south in Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand. Spent most of my time flying combat mission out of Danang and Cubi Point. All of us that rotated in and off the Rock would share stories and tales from those northern latitudes, As a radio operator and Electronic Technician with cryptographic clearances really was a joy to call home on Alaskan Switch Network when off flight status. We as Navy VQ'ers had flight status then rotated to launch status the next day while maintaining  our own special aircraft usually  the Sun Birds  EA3B's PR9 and PR 10 noted for their super cooled cameras and other "black boxes".

I'm 69 years old now and still have recollection of memories of those days long ago when I run across articles such as yours on the web!

Thank you for the memories, King Hawes !

Jim Peeler
Rock  Hill, SC

Ken Kamman
Sun, Nov 13, 2011, 9:22pm

Mr. Hawes,

Thank you for your brilliant piece on Rivet Amber.  I was stationed at Eielson at the time that she went down.  I know that it was utter chaos on the base.  We went from welcoming a new wing commander one day and then losing a bird the next day.  I was on one of the first planes on the search and rescue mission that went out.  Since she was part of the 6th, everybody volunteered.  I know that it was a trying time for everyone in the 6th.
Thanks again,
Ken Kamman (Sgt.-Eielson A.F.B; 6th SRW)

Edward Sellmeyer
Sun, Dec 4, 2011, 12:35pm (CST+1)

Col. Hawes,
I just want to thank you for this outstanding site. I was one of the "spooks" from the 6985th to have the pleasure of going tdy occasionally to Shemya in 1965 and 1966. I got to Eielson in November '64 and left February '67. When I heard to news of the crash, I immediately called the ops center in Ptarmigan Hall to find out who was on board. It was a sad day. I have fond memories of the time at Shemya, sitting in the hangar waiting for the horn, watching the weather to see if we could fly. I also remember hauling stuff to "The Rock" when we deployed; fresh milk was popular. I remember filling an order for Japanese lanterns on one of the Yokota trips for the crew at Shemya. I only spent 4 years, but it was a time that defined my life and helped me grow. Thanks again for the wonderful site.

Ed Sellmeyer, former Baker crew and S & E with Tony Baciewicz

George R.  Sanders
Date: Wed, Dec 14, 2011, 7:39am

Man, you really did a nice job on your website, I couldn't stop looking at it. The facts, the photographs, and the presentation are all spectacular. The time line and the whole package……….I call myself a history buff…..but a lot of that stuff was news to me. Again Nice job!! Happy Holidays to you and yours.
George Sanders, Nampa, Idaho

George R.  Sanders
Directv Staff Engineer IV
Northwest Region
303 681 1250

Mick Hartzell
Tue, Dec 27, 2011, 1:10pm

I was stationed on Shemya with the Army Security Agency as a Traffic Analyst (98C30) on Trick One from 1970-71.

Boozer was gone and Penny was the mascot at that time.

Your website brought back hours of memories and thoughts of what we did at that time. I marvel at the change in technology since then, but realize that a lot of what we did (ASA and AFSS) were precursors to what is used in business today.

I had two major "consumers" during my shifts. One was Cobra Ball and the other was the 16th Surveillance Squadron. Ltc. Bonnie R. Stockman was the AAFJOG commander. He had been with the JCS at the pentagon on his previous assignment. The trick chief was an Air Force E-8, Kenneth Gentry, and a second NCO was an E-7 named Harris. During The Ball's missions, there was always three or for senior Air Force officers (a Col. or Lt. Col.) and for a while a Major who joined us in the AAFJOG. They were always relaxed and somewhat informal in their approaches with the enlisted men. But there was mutual respect show by both.

When it came time to put in our "dream sheets" for the next assignment, I listed 1) Hawaii, 2) Germany, 3) Japan, 4) NSA, 5) USASATC. Now we all know that no one ever gets the first, let alone the second choice on the dream sheet. About a month before we submitted out sheets, the company clerk was reassigned to Personnel at our Headquarters. He garnered the dream sheets coming from Shemya and we were automatically assigned first choice. I was on my way to Hawaii.

I had picked up three or four short timer whistles due to my many trips to the Semichi theater. The 1900 show never started until the base commander (a Colonel with the 5073rd who was up for a star) walked into the theater and had a seat. The crew of The Ball had a special section of seating reserved for them. And there an "Alert" light to signal them should their services be needed. There were showings about 0100 and 1400 every day. The movies changed every two to three days.  

My NCOIC in Hawaii was a combat veteran E-7 who was to rotate to a remote assignment when I worked for him. When he told us of his next post I gave him two of my short timer whistles and smiled. I told him to pack warm clothes, keep an eye out for the girls, don't pull the plug, and give Penny a dog bone for me.

Thank you for your efforts putting the site together. The time spent reviewing it is very worthwhile. I would make it mandatory reviewing for any history student.

Mick Hartzell
Army Security Agency

Jenny Wonders
Fri, Jan 20, 2012, 8:35am (CST-2)

It has been awhile since I have sent u a hello. I am just totally in awe at where you have taken the website since I first contacted you. Just amazing. You have accomplished what I set out to do, which I couldn't do myself, but to have everyone remember Rivet Amber and their crew. 
Thank u and god bless.

Jen Wonders

Tom Salmon
Mon, Feb 27, 2012, 5:49pm (CST+1)

I was an Army printer guy at Shemya AAFJOG from Sept 66 until Aug. 67.  One day I had to pull driver duty at the site and drove an Amber officer crewman back to the hanger.  Being young and brave/foolish I asked for a tour of the aircraft upon arrival and he respond to have my NCO make a request to so and so.  I did, he did and the 2 of us plus my roommate were invited down for a 20 minute tour by the officer.  The backseaters were all on the aircraft doing whatever they did in between missions and generally ignored us.

I remember that there was an empty Coke can hanging by a string from the roof at the midpoint of the radar with a sign beneath it that read.  "This is a thing, and things go better with Coke".

On mid shifts I had special duty that pulled me from the printer room for 2 hours and after completion of the task I had run of site but could not return to the Composite.  On many occasions I was involved in plotting our aircraft near Kamchatka from Soviet sources.  Nothing of note happened with the Rivet aircraft during my sessions but one evening the Soviets mounted an 18 aircraft (Bear bombers) raid on Petropavelosk.  However the last 2 craft did not turn around but continued on toward Shemya before they were dropped from coverage.  An hour later E ops called to inquire if our birds were in the air.  I told them no and they in turn said that S band had just tracked somebody overhead at 90 degrees.

Otherwise a routine year on the rock for a ground based guy.  Went on to Germany for 2 more years before returning home, college, 20 years in Personnel in the Defense/Intelligence community and then some other work prior to retiring here in Florida.

Thank you for you efforts on the Shemya website and the Rivet website.

Best wishes

Tom Salmon
Vero Beach, Florida

Fowler, Kenneth L
Wed, Feb 29, 2012, 2:44pm (CST+1)

Just doing a little web-surfing and stumbled on your site "Rivet Ball";  great reading and recalling my days on the Rock.  I was there from Nov. 69 until Nov. 70, at a spacetrack technician, tracking those missile launches into Kamchatka.  I was a young enlisted guy and didn't know much about what the special a/c "did" there at Shemya.  Apart from being separated from my wife and 1 year old son, it was a great tour.  I learned to play handball in the old gym with an elderly man I knew as Mr. Culpepper.  He was a civilian that worked with General Electric maintaining the radar system, (I think).  But he could play the game. Took up ceramics in the hobby shop. Walked the island in search of those "glass balls".

Anyway, thanks for bringing back some really good memories.  I've enjoyed the info that I've read!!!!  And THANK YOU for your service to our great nation!!!!

Ken Fowler

John L. Bristow
Fri, 23 Mar 2012 15:40:19 -0700

I was a copilot on John Brashears crew (one of the initial Office Boy crews) at Eielson from 1961 until Nov. 1964. On one of our missions out of Shemya, we had an incident very similar to the accident described in your document. The tower at Shemya did not report icy conditions and gave us a good RCR number prior to landing. I don't remember if base operations did a physical check on the runway as required but when we touched down we were on ice. John tried his brakes to no avail and I tried mine with the same result. We were headed towards the end of the runway at a pretty high speed. Just like in your narrative there was an EWO watching the landing through the bubble. When he saw what was going on he scrambled. John Brashear (then Major, now retired Maj. Gen.) brought up the outboard engine and started a ground loop. The tires burned through the ice and we came to a stop without sustaining damage. Had John not thought to try a ground loop that aircraft would have been destroyed on that landing.

Prior to re-assignment from Eielson in Nov 64 to the AFLC Detachment at Greenville TX, I was upgraded from co-pilot to pilot. On arriving at this new assignment I found I was the instant test pilot, instructor pilot, aircraft commander for 135 flights. I flew on every flight of Lisa Ann from the very beginning until she was delivered to SAC. I was the test pilot (or aircraft commander, or instructor, depending on the flight regime) for all the flights of the aircraft out of Greenville and Hawaii except for the very first two or three structural test flights which were considered experimental test because of the radical modifications to the structure. Pete Odgers, RB-57 long wing test pilot from the Detachment at Carswell, (then Captain now retired Major Gen) was qualified for experimental test so he was in charge on those initial flights and I served as copilot on those.

Nothing else of particular note comes to mind right now but I'll send you a note if something occurs to me that I think you might be interested in.

John L. Bristow
Col. USAF (Ret.)

John Minck
Sat, Mar 24, 2012, 7:13pm (CDT-2)

Dear King,

Hello from Palo Alto,

One of my friends sent along the Story of Two Airplanes. I found it compelling and interesting.

Although I spent my career in 37 years with Hewlett Packard, I first spent 3 years on atom bomb test operations at Eniwetok and Nevada, and then 2 years as a USAF Navigator cadet. But just before my Wings, when I asked to be assigned to the 4925th at Kirtland AFB to be near my friends, the Commander laughed and said they would tell me where to fly. So I resigned and went back to grad school, leading me to HP.

During all those years of the 60s and 70s, we supplied mountains of test equipment for all manner of military equipment R&D and maintenance. I would meet engineers from the various spook projects, TRW, Hughes, Northrup, and a dozen others. A typical event would be that we would show a brand new piece of HP equipment at a trade show, and soon would come a phone call to one of our high level marketing execs, no purchase orders even. We would send the invoice to the Agriculture Dept.

The equipment was to be delivered to a county airport near LA, "hold for pickup." Who knows what project needed that performance.

Programs like your Rivets had a LOT of microwave and RF technology to exploit. We could only guess at the amazing capabilities of those remarkable projects and the men like you who carried them out. We admired the courage and commitment of men like you, and as we saw, it was terribly dangerous work.

At 81, I marvel what we accomplished in those Golden Years of Technology of the last half of the 20th Century. In spite of the amazing stuff these days, genome, iPads, Internet, games, we worked hard to make our own history, and we did.

Kudos and congrats to all of your group. It is good that you have pulled the story together.

John Minck
Palo Alto, CA

Stephen Williams
Wed, Apr 25, 2012, 10:39am (CDT-2)

Dear Sir,
I am Stephen Perry Williams, son of Perry Oliver Williams ("P.O."), Maj., USAF, Ret. (deceased).  My father was detachment commander of the OSI operation at Eielson AFB from 1967 to 1969.  Recently I came across your account of the RC-135 operations out of Eielson.  I was in junior high and then high school at that time and your wonderful recounting made me realize how my path had crossed those of several of the men from that period.  If I am not mistaken, I used to babysit for the Armentrout family (that is another story) and for the pilot of a KC-135 by the name of Nacrelli.  My best friend was the son of a Sergeant Williams; no relation to my family but perhaps he might have been a crewmember on one of the RC's.  I can also recall that at the time of the loss of the RC-135 in the Pacific, we had just been transferred to Tinker AFB in OKC.  Mrs. Michaud, widowed by her husband's loss on that aircraft, had moved to Enid, Oklahoma afterwards and we drove up to visit her.  It was a very somber time as you can imagine.  I hope you get this message and if you have anything you'd like to share I would welcome it.

Steve Williams
704 477-0383

David Kocher
Sat, May 5, 2012, 6:51pm (CDT-2)

I came across your website today "A Tale of Two Airplanes."  It brought back some memories of my time as a KC-135A nav 1977-1981 with 22ARFES, March AFB, CA.

In June 1980 my crew deployed to Eielson AFB on a 30-day TDYs in support of the RC missions (Alpha Short and Long) and other refueling missions there.

One day we were tasked to fly out past Shemya to pick up some F-4s rotating back stateside from Japan.  About the time we got over Shemya, we were contacted and told that the F-4s aborted back to Japan.  We now had a load of "gas" with no one to give it to.

"Stand by," said Command Post.  "Prepare to copy."  I took down an encoded message.  I broke out the secrets decode.  The message gave us an ARCP, time, altitude, and track coordinates.  We were to rendezvous with the Ball which had been up north since earlier in the day.

We flew due north from Shemya about an hour and made the rendezvous and refueling.  I'll never forget seeing the cockpit crew in Hawaiian shirt sleeves while in contact position behind us!
The photos of The Rock and the Ball were taken on this mission.  For posterity, I also took a shot of my chart - you can see the track over at the left.

Thanks for a great tribute to the crews and mission of the Rivets and the Ball.

Dave Kocher
Spring Valley, CA

Click on the following links (1-5) for Dave Kocher's air refueling and Shemya photos (Circa 1980): 12345

Indra Riyanto
Sat, May 26, 2012, 7:38am (CDT+6)

Hello Mr. Hawes,
I just come by your site and read Rivet Ball & Amber story. That's a very good story being told from the person who there makes me feel there too myself. I see you're a kit modeler too, perhaps we share common interest in airplanes and their model kits.

Indra Riyanto,
Jakarta, Indonesia

Ray Damerell
Wed, Jun 6, 2012, 7:12pm (CDT+1)

Every year the beginning of June is a difficult time for me. I was a Sgt. with the 6985TH Security Squadron waiting with my gear to be taken to the flight line as part of the "Amber" rotation crew. Our first Sgt. notified me of the disappearance of "Amber". The next weeks are a total blur to me as we flew 12 and were off 12 for at least the next week looking for "Amber". I thought the search and rescue and the memorial service we eventually had provided closure. I was wrong. Even now I can hardly see this note as I type it.
Today is the first time I looked on the Internet for information. I was hoping something had been found of the plane. I am very happy to find that the people on that flight have been remembered.  

I flew on the new "Ball" with no incident. I flew on RC130's over all of Southeast Asia with no incident. Every day I am thankful for being alive.
Ray Damerell

Ron Stearns
Thu, Jun 14, 2012, 12:40am (CDT-2)

Dear Mr Hawes,
My father, Ron Stearns (Sr.), referred me to your website some time ago.  As events and projects in his life come into the light of day I'd receive an email from him with nothing but a hyperlink.
My father has photos of Rivet Ball and Rivet Amber in his office to this day.  My father died May 31, 2012.

I know he worked at Litton Itek during the time these aircraft were in service.

I would greatly appreciate any information or vectors you could provide to fill in some of the gaps; I'd like to someday tell my children what my father did in service to this country.  When I've asked him in the past he would say he signed papers to the effect that he could never talk about it.

Thank you for your website; at least two of the images within your site are identical to color photographs that hang on his office wall.

Best regards,
Ron Stearns (II)

Research director
G2 Solutions
DDI: +1 707-781-0823
Mobile: +1 707-484-5149

Harry Stewart
Sun, Jun 17, 2012, 3:19pm (CDT+1)

Col Hawes,
Thanks for the effort you put into developing your thoroughly enjoyable remembrance "A Tale of Two Airplanes".  I spent my year on the rock from August 1982 to August 1983.  I can remember being delayed on my trip back to the world by the C-5 incident.  What a mess!  I couldn't believe it when I found out (years later) that she made it off the island and back to depot for some heavy duty repairs.

I was one of the two on-site Cobra Dane analysts, and caught my share of missiles.  Since my duty time was rather light (compared to others there), I was able to have a part-time job.  For about six months, I was the Reeve Aleutian Station Manager.  This was a glorified name for the person that collected "last minute" fares (mostly contractors with urgent needs) and prepared the manifest for the return flight back to Anchorage.  I did coordinate with both the 6th (Det) guys and the DoD Anders facility as part of my job.  I sorry to say, my memory has faded, and a great deal of the details have passed into a non-retrievable status.  Needless to say, the tour there was a double-edged sword.  The mission was great, the folks were diverse and often entertaining, but the time spent from family was among the worst I had in the Air Force.

I did spend my other active duty time in a interesting spectrum of locations and jobs and Shemya had it's moments with the best of them. I trained as an ELINTer (Keesler), went to Pakistan (another interesting place), followed up with 2 & 1/2 years at Ft Meade.  I then got SACemsized and spent back to back tours in SAC (6 years at Beale w/multiple TDYs to Okinawa - SR-71 and then 3 in Athens - RC-135).  I must have messed up because the TAC hammer descended on me and I went to Eglin (Tactical Air Warfare Center) for two years.  Beware of what you hope to escape, because the truncated tour at Eglin led to my time at Shemya.  I finished up with a school reward (the Old Defense Intelligence College) and a final tour w/DIA at the Pentagon.

All in all a good 20+ years.  And yes, I would do it all again.

Sorry, just got into a reminisce mode.  I believe your great story telling about Shemya put me in that mode.  I do thank you for bringing this on. I thank you again for your service (you were also among great and memorable people) and wish more of this was spread for the public's consumption.  I know, though, as I know that you do, the best parts of these stories cannot be told.

Harry Stewart
SMSgt - Retired (1987)

"I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend."

Steve Crawford
Thu, Jul 5, 2012, 11:50am

Thank you sir!

My father, Lt. Col Harvey J. Crawford, passed away several years ago to leukemia.

He flew As a nav on the Cobra Ball. He was at all the places you described...Sheyma, Anchorage, Eielson, Maxwell...etc.

My full name is Steven Andrew Crawford. Take a moment to look at my name-specifically my initials...SAC

That was no accident. Strategic Air Command.

I have been researching his life and going through all his things. I am amazed. Your website helped me fill in holes and understand him in another way. I've never loved him more.

You brought that to me. Thank you more than I can say...

I am building my own memorial to him to put in my office. I have been collecting patches, stories etc. in order to celebrate him.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!

Steve Crawford

Larry Bryant
Wed, Aug 22, 2012, 3:06pm (CDT+1)

I knew Don Wonders very well. We served in the Combat evaluation Group (SAC).
He was stationed at the Radar Bomb Scoring site at St George, Utah. Before Lisa Ann, Don and I were involved in a secret project called "Commando Club" where a AN/TSQ-81 Radar was placed on a hilltop in Laos called Lima Site 85, to provide ground directed bombing over North Vietnam. The Radar site was over run by the North Vietnamese, and we lost 11 out of 16 of our people. After that, Don went to Lisa Ann and subsequently lost his life.

Don was as good as they come...

Larry Bryant USAF retired.

Jerry W. Morris
Wed, Aug 22, 2012, 4:09pm

It is with heavy heart that I write this.

I was stationed on Shemya in 1968 through April of 1969 as a member of the United States Army Security Agency Special Operations Unit. We worked along side the Air Force Security Service and I knew those who perished on the flight.

I did not know about the plane going down for years until I was doing some research on the stations I had served.

A couple of years ago I read for the first time an account of what happened not long after I left and cried like a baby.

I then reflected back to January of 69 when the other aircraft was returning from a mission and almost slid off the runway.

I remember talking to a couple of the linguists on the flight and by looking at their bandaged hands knew that exiting the plane had been interesting.

I was close to some of those guys and will always think of them.

I am very appreciative that you have been able to help the young lady learn at least something about her father and his service.  

Jerry W. Morris
1335 E. Republic Road Ste. K
Springfield, Missouri 65804

Larry Beasley
Mon, Sep 10, 2012, 5:29pm

Thank you sir for the information you have given my family about the rivet amber. My uncle was Major Horace G Beasley, and we never knew anything until I found your story. My father James Loyd  Beasley, passed away 15 days after the plane was lost at sea. It was a very hard time for my family and this finally gives us some closer after 43 years.

God bless you sir and thank you

Norbert Sichterman
Mon, Oct 8, 2012, 2:18pm (CDT-2)

My name is Norbert Sichterman. I read your on-line article about Shemya with great interest. I was stationed at Shemya AFS from February 1971 through February 1972. I was a cook.

One of my hobbies is amateur radio, and I have always had a strong interest in electronics. While I was stationed at Shemya I went to the dump and the front of the fuselage of Rivet Ball was there. Like many other people I was a scavenger and I decided to see if I could find something useful in the cockpit. I could have taken many things but I always liked the way the switches had red covers on them and I thought they would dress up some of my future ham radio projects so I procured several of them. I still have some of them, and some of them are still on my radios.

You also mentioned the glass ball floats. I found one of them and two steel balls. I also had an old dummy bomb from WWII that I got form the old ammunition dump. Many of the "hippie" types would paint anti war slogans on them and ship them home.  I painted mine with the old slogan "kill em all and let God sort em out." I also have a photograph of Shemya that was supposedly taken from one of the RC-135s (we called the one there at the time Snoopy). I also have a photo of one of the RC-135s in the air.  I got both of them while I was on Shemya.

Thank you for your time and thank you for your service.

Norbert Sichterman

Webmaster Note: On 11 October 2012 I received a piece of history in the mail from Norb Sichterman. He sent me a switch cover salvaged from Rivet Ball. Thanks Norb, much appreciated.

Switch Cover

Larry Clonts
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 7:38pm


I ran across your site searching for info. on the June earthquake in Fairbanks (which I experienced). It is a great site and thanks for all the work you did.  

I was stationed at Eielson AFB from September 1966 to March 1968. I searched your site for familiar names but unfortunately did not recognize anyone. I was known simply as "Tennessee" the entire time, so no one would recognize my name either.  

I worked in base supply for the entire 18 month tour, and met many, many nice folks which are all distant (but pleasant)memories now.  

My wife & I lived in the Polaris apartments for awhile (no room in base housing for Airmen) and then moved to the huge apt. complex out on Airport Way called Fairview Manor). That is how far the waters reached during the flood in Aug. and my friend and I waded out to the highway (like the 18 yr. old idiots we were at the time), eventually got a rescue boat to take our wives out to the highway where a huge Army vehicle took us to the airport. We were then evacuated back to the base on a C-130.

I was at the rifle range on the base in a Quonset hut the morning the quake hit.  For some reason, they decided we needed to qualify (again) although being in Base Supply, that was the last skill I needed.  

Your site brought back many memories, especially of the remote guys like yourself from sites like Murpy Dome, etc. who would get to come to the base once a month and go to the BX (if they were lucky). It was a thrill for them to just get above ground, even though it was still very dark in the winter.
Thanks again for all your work.

Bill Cornpropst
Sat, Dec 22, 2012, 11:22am (CST+1)

Hi King,
I was recently surfing and read your "Tale of Two Airplanes" and thoroughly enjoyed it. It brought back memories of my short time on Shemya while I was with USAFSS. I see in some photos that you must be a HAM?

An acquaintance (also a ham) and I were talking recently and I mentioned KL7FBI, he got all excited and said that he had worked that station on Shemya several times. Just for grins, I googled the call sign and found your posts. In 1970 I was a team chief of an installation team out of San Antonio and was sent TDY to Shemya for a small installation. When my crew and I got off the C141, I was greeted by an old friend CMS Cooper from my previous tour in England. He was a ham also and saw my name on the incoming paperwork. He had a pickup ready to take us and our gear to get checked in. On the ride to the K house he told me that there was a MARS station on the island, but it wasn't operational and wondered if I could help get it going. As you well know, there isn't a whole lot to do on the rock when you aren't on duty. We were all electronic installers and I even had an electrician with me. What an opportunity ! The other guys agreed to help out with some installation and cleanup of the radio shack. We got the station on the air and the response to KL7FBI from the lower 48 was overwhelming. I was even able to talk to my wife (also a ham) in Texas. We found the shack in total disarray, but left it better than we found it although still unfinished. We were only there for 2 1/2 weeks. One evening, I gaffed up and went up the telephone pole beside the shack to rework an antenna connection. While up the pole I gaffed out and took a pretty severe fall. I ended up with a badly sprained ankle and that curtailed my island exploring.

We finished our project and needed to get to the mainland to do another installation at Elmendorf. The weather was terrible and the MAC flights couldn't come in. I was able to arrange transportation to Eielson on the KC135 that SAC rotated the Ball crew on. As I recall, a Major Tanzello was very helpful in getting us on the flight. We got to Fairbanks and still couldn't get a flight to Anchorage so ended up taking the train. What a trip!

I hope you get this email and would love to hear from you. Also, I really enjoyed your photos and story. I have a neighbor who is in his 80s and was stationed on Shemya in the 50s. I'll pass the link on to him as well.

All the best and have a very Merry Christmas.

Bill Cornpropst

Roger/Ann Richardon
Tue, Jan 1, 2013, 9:54pm (CST+1)

Thank you so much for your Rivet Ball Amber web site.  I was a young analyst on Shemya in June of 1969 when Rivet Amber was lost.  I kept my ears peeled to every transmission on the air hoping for good news. Seems we had Japanese fishermen, Russians, and everyone in the Bering Sea looking for them.   I worked close to the map where the crew members would come into the operations center before their flights.  I never got to know them personally but do remember them.  I also crawled through the remains of Rivet Ball, arriving there in April of 1969.  Lucky no one was hurt on that one.  It's been over 40 years ago but seems like last week.  I still have friends from my year on the Rock.  One of them put me on to your web site.  Thanks again.

Roger Richardson
6941st Security Squadron
USAFSS  (43 years ago)

Robert Powers
Mon, Jan 7, 2013, 6:41pm (CST-2)

I really enjoyed reading the story of Rivet Amber. I was stationed on Shemya when she went down and recall vividly how we all shared the grief of her loss. I remember that we all waited for the "good news"  that never came. I was on duty in the bubble the night Rivet Ball skidded off the runway and listen to the pilot on UHF. I remember an "oh shit". Great stories here. Unless you were there you never appreciate the dedication of the people that fought the "cold war".

I hated the place at the time, but looking back it was a real experience. 

Thanks again.

Rob Powers

Rob Powers in Rivet Ball wreckage (1969)

Kingdon R. Hawes (Webmaster)
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