This Week in AFLCMC History – November 14
November 14, 1973 (Wright-Patterson AFB)
Operation NICKEL GRASS is over. This operation, approved on October 9, 1973, was the US response to the Yom Kippur War between Israel and a Soviet-backed coalition of Arab states led by Syria and Egypt. After learning of Israel’s plans to potentially use nuclear weapons to defend against attacking armies, and fearing the Soviet response to this, the United States launched an airlift mission to supply Israel with weapons and conventional supplies instead. Many C-141s and C-5s supporting this mission passed through Wright-Patterson AFB—which may have contributed to the many local “UFO sightings” of October 1973—as well as Robins AFB. The energy crisis of 1973 was a consequence of this war.
November 15, 1994 (Presidential and Executive Air Transport Directorate / WPAFB)
The E-4B National Airborne Operations Center, or NAOC (pronounced NA-YOCK), began using Wright-Patterson AFB as a forward operating location, meaning the aircraft could be regularly deployed there. The E-4B is a Boeing 747-200 aircraft highly suited for military use as a portable command and control center for the President and National Command Authority during national emergencies. There is always at least one of these planes on alert 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in case of need. The original program was developed by Hanscom’s Electronic Systems Division in the early 1970s to provide assured command and control during a nuclear war. (See photo at top of page).
November 16, 2004 (Bomber Branch)
The Boeing NB-52B serial number 52-008 completed its final flight at Edwards AFB. At the time, it was the oldest B-52 in flight, but it had the fewest flying hours. While the B-52A was meant to be the first production model, only 3 were made in favor of the newer RB-52B which had a removable reconnaissance pod in the bomb bay, giving it the designation “RB” dual purpose. 52-008 was only the fifth of fifty such -B models produced. While the others were retired in the 1960s, -008 was handed over to NASA in 1959 as the NB-52B “mothership” to transport and jettison the experimental X-15 hypersonic rocket plane from the USAF-NASA. It played a similar role for hundreds of subsequent test flights, including the X-43A hypersonic scramjet launched on this final flight. This historic bomber was retired as “Gate Guard” at Edwards.
November 17, 1970 (Digital Director—Hanscom AFB)
Hanscom AFB’s Electronic Systems Division (ESD) has been tasked to assume responsibility for the main program division of the Automated Armed Forces Entry and Examination Station (AAFEES). This was a new program intended to add an element of automation to Armed Forces Entrance Examination and Examination (AFEES) stations. AFEES were places where people wishing to enlist in the army could go to receive their medical examinations and tests. Since 1982, these locations have been referred to as Military Entry Processing Stations (MEPS). The automated program was put in place to lighten some of the workload for physicians, reduce errors and reduce fraud.
18 November 1945 (Tinker AFB)
After the end of World War II, it was decided that Oklahoma City Air Depot would not be closed like so many other wartime air bases across the country. Instead, it would be turned into a permanent facility and expanded. On November 18, 1945, Lieutenant General Ira Eaker addressed a crowd of nearly 150,000, where he dedicated the new permanent base “Tinker Field”. Tinker’s namesake was Major General Clarence L. Tinker, an Osage Nation Native American born in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, who sadly lost his life near Midway Island in 1942. He was the first Native American to reach the rank of major. General.
November 19, 1993 (AF Security Assist. & Coop. Dir.—WPAFB)
Royal Air Force (RAF) officers stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB have planted an English oak tree along Wright Avenue directly opposite Arnold House (Building 8, Area A) to mark the RAF’s 75th anniversary. There was a brief ceremony, complete with bagpipes, and a commemorative plaque was mounted on a plinth of Chilmark stone brought to the base from a quarry at RAF Chilmark, Wiltshire. The stone reads, in part: ‘This English Oak was presented to the 645th Air Base Wing, [WPAFB], by officers of the Royal Air Force to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Royal Air Force. May it grow to show the bond between the RAF and the USAF.
November 20, 1925 (ISR & SOF Dir.)
Army Air Service Lt George Goddard took the first nighttime aerial photograph, over Rochester, NY. Goddard established the McCook Field Aerial Photography Lab in 1919 and was obsessed with night photography as the key to battlefield surveillance. He tested various types of cameras, flash bombs and timers in Dayton, garnering frequent local complaints. In 1925, Goddard and two teammates brought their equipment to Rochester, home of their collaborator Kodak, for this demonstration. Their resulting photo appeared in newspapers around the world.
Native American Heritage Month: Hill AFB
Last week, we discussed the historic peoples who once called the lands around Wright-Patterson AFB home. This week, we’re spotlighting the Tribal Nations around Hill AFB. While today there are no federally recognized tribes in the state of Ohio, Hill AFB regularly works with tribal authorities in Utah and surrounding states. Last April, for example, more than twenty tribal and Department of Defense (DoD) representatives gathered for the 18th Annual Utah-DoD Government-to-Government Meeting at the Utah Museum of Natural History ( below), and archeology and construction on The Lands of Hill AFB frequently involve the still vibrant tribal nations of the area.
The earliest evidence of human life around what is now Hill AFB dates back 13,000 years. This period is called the Paleo-Indian period (11,000 BC to 8,500 BC), and little is known about these early people other than the fact that they used tools and appear to have hunted mammoths and other animals from the Pleistocene that have now disappeared in the region. . Archeology from the later Archaic period (9000 BC – 450 AD) provides somewhat more detail about life in the region during this period – for example, whereas in 2006 there were only 36 known Paleoindian sites on Hill AFB lands, there were 104 Archaic sites, with a handful of additional sites since discovered. It is believed that during the Archaic period, the inhabitants of the lands around Hill AFB lived in caves and rock shelters around the shores of the area’s lakes, where they combined hunting and foraging. Archaic period sites are found especially around the Utah Test and Training Range South.
The Archaic period followed the Fremont period (AD 450 – AD 1300), where evidence of agriculture in the region begins. (The period is called the Fremont period because the earliest evidence of these farmers was found around the Fremont River.) These peoples, who included the Mogollon, Hohokam, and Salado, practiced agriculture in small villages and nearly 40 sites of this period. were found on Hill AFB grounds. The last major period was the Late Prehistoric Period (1255 AD – 1805 AD), which is perhaps less well understood than the earlier Fremont period. There are also fewer sites from this period, which some believe reflects population decline following European expansion. Europeans began arriving in the area in the 18th century, where they encountered the Paiute, Shoshone and Ute peoples. Friction continued between tribes, locals, and federal and state governments before relations stabilized after the 1950s. Today, Hill AFB partners with and consults with 21 tribes in 8 states.