In the following column, Clatskanie Air Force veteran Harold Bowles describes his 22 years of military service.
I joined the U.S.A.F. right out of high school in June 1956. They sent me to Oakland, California for basic training. Upon completion, I was sent to Amarillo Air Force Base (AFB) in Texas where I started my technical school. I was trained on a B-47 aircraft, which also included all multi-engine aircraft.
After school, they sent me to Springfield, Massachusetts to Westover AFB. It was a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base. There I continued my education and training, this time on B-52/KC-135 aircraft. I specialized in flight controls and landing gear. I stayed at this base for six years. I also met and married my Dorothy there.
From Westover AFB I went to Schilling AFB in Kansas where I worked on B-47/KC-135 aircraft. While there I would be sent to Alaska and Spain on temporary duty. We would have aircraft on ground alert. There were times I would be away from home from 30 to 90 days.
During this period of time, Alaska had a large earthquake in the 60s. We took a load of equipment and supplies up for the military and civilians in our KC-135 aircraft. Then, the Schilling AFB was closed down by our government and I was sent to Walker AFB.
This base also had B-47 and KC-135 on it. Our mission there was basically the same as Schilling. We were there for two years and then went to McGuire AFB in New Jersey. This was a Material Air Command (MAC) base. There I was assigned to a C-141 aircraft in which I flew materials of all kinds all over the world. I flew with the aircraft to keep it air-worthy.
From McGuire, I was sent to Dover AFB in Delaware. This base had the same mission and aircraft as McGuire. From these two bases, I flew around the world. I flew military equipment to Viet Nam and brought people and those killed in action (KIAs) back home. I was in all of Europe, North Africa, South Pacific, and Arabic countries.
While at Dover, I was sent to Florida to an OU-10 and O2 aircraft school where I trained how to maintain them in a hot and wet country. The aircraft were used for forward air controller missions. I returned back to Dover from school and was then sent to Viet Nam.
Dorothy went to Clatskanie, Oregon and stayed with our children while I was away for a year. Upon reaching Vietnam, I was assigned to Da Nang AFB which is in Northern South Vietnam. This was my main base. The aircraft were sent to six different locations. This was to support the Army and Marine Corps, or any other group that needed us to Forward Air Control (FAC) for them. We also watched the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Upon returning to the states, I was assigned to Beale AFB in Marysville, California. We had a B-52, KC-135, SR-71’s and U-2 craft there. We stayed at Beale for the remainder of my career, retiring in 1977.
In my career I worked on just about every military plane in the United States Air Force inventory, also gaining an FAA license for aircraft maintenance. I retired as a master sergeant (E-7).
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