Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

A History: Robert D. Clark

Jun 1964-Aug 1965: UPT at Webb AFB, TX near Big Spring

Sep 1965-Nov 1965: Combat Crew Training as a PSO in RF-4C's at Shaw AFB, Sumter, SC

Dec 1965-Feb 1966: 9th TRS, 363 TRW at Shaw

Two weeks in Jan 1966 at Stead AFB, NV in winter SERE

Ops Officer comes by to ask if I wanted to go to Tan Son Nhut to the 16th TRS, 460 TRW. Seems with all the staff flying, they need more PSOs to handle the load

Mugs Morgan, the only other bachelor in the squadron, and I volunteered to go into combat without a tac check

Mar 1966-Aug 1966: 16th TRS, 460 TRW, Tan Son Nhut

Spent a week at Snake School in the Philippines

Lived at Sam's Inn across from the cemetery that became infamous in the 1968 Tet offensive

The mission was primarily night IR (Red Haze) area covers looking for VC campfires, and night photoflash missions on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and Route Pack One.

After eight missions and during the debrief of the eighth, the Ops Officer came by asking if I was ready to take a tac check. I thought he was looney tunes. He said, “Here, sign this Form 8, you just had it.”

Shot down on my 77th mission during a night photo run in NVN Route Pack One along Route One from the DMZ as far as 40 photoflash carts would take us. See separate war story.

Medevaced to Walter Reed

Aug 1966-Oct 1966: Walter Reed

Oct 1966-Jun 1967: Mountain Home AFB, ID; an hour from Boise

Assigned to 22nd TRS, 67 TRW and back on flying status

Al Campbell, Al Matezun and I rented a house in Mountain Home. It had the only in-ground pool in town and a cabana. Charlie the pool monster lived on the bottom and the water striders were rampant. Couldn't see the bottom on a sunlit day because the pool hadn't been cleaned in three years. Come spring, Al Campbell and I had the pump and filter repaired; drained the pool (Charlie left in a huff); scrubbed the walls with muriatic acid to dissolve the scale that had accumulated; and were ready for business.

Mattie checked out in the front seat of the RF-4C and deployed to SEA, and we got a new roomie.

Jun 1967-Nov 1967: Mountain Home AFB, ID, RTU, 67 TRW

Al Campbell and I started upgrade training to the front seat. He was scheduled to go to Udorn and I was slated for TSN again. Not to my liking. We worked out a deal where we'd swap navigators and I'd take the Udorn slot. I traded a former SAC bomb-nav for Al's pitter, a buck lieutenant fresh out of nav school. Big Andy filled the rear cockpit – literally.

Graduated and deployed for Udorn RTAB with a week's sojourn in the Philippines for a refresher at Snake School.

Nov 1967-Aug 1968: 11th TRS, 432 TRW, Udorn RTAB

The wing was tasked heavily in Route Pack Six, and was losing jets and crews. Many have seen the sequence of recce photos of the RF-4C getting hit by a SAM. That happened the week I arrived. My turn would come after re-introduction to the theater.

After a few missions the Ops Officer (always the harbinger) came to my room with my flight commander, and asked if I still wanted to fly with Big Andy. Nonplussed, I didn't know what to say. It seems Big Andy wasn't up for the threat. I finally said no, if he didn't want to fly with me, I wasn't interested in flying with him. His replacement was Bones, who would later become known as the Phantom Dancer. Bones was 108 pounds (hence Bones) sopping wet and had fangs. We figured with me at 135 pounds we had 50 knots more airspeed available than heavier crews and would be better prepared on ejection if it came to that. We started with night ops – mostly Red Haze and photoflash of point targets and some area covers.

When Bones was on holiday, I flew with some other navs. Talk about anxiety, I couldn't wait to have him back in my pit. The man was fearless; could interpret a radar; and was cool under pressure. We could hit a target anywhere at night. One night we were sneaking in at 500 feet above the rocks and Bones had a fire going in the pit. The aircraft was immediately at 1000 feet and wouldn't go back down no matter how hard I tried. Fire went out and we went home. No sense in tempting fate.

On 5 Jan 1968 I went on a day mission to photo the Northwest railroad from just south of the Chinese border. The Wing vice was up front and I was in the pit for this one. The war story is provided separately.

PACAF assignments came by one day and asked where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. I must have struck a nerve when I told him I wanted to fly fighters, because I wound up with an assignment to the F-4E RTU at MacDill AFB starting in September 1968.

Sep 1968-Apr 1969; 46th TFS, MacDill AFB, FL

Checking out in the F-4E and chasing girls…

Completed checkout and sent to the 25th TFS, 33rd TFW TDY enroute to Korat

Apr 1969-Jul 1971: 58th TFS, 33rd TFW, Eglin AFB, FL

Caught at the gate by MPC and told since I'd been twice, I could stay at Eglin or go to Seymour-Johnson. I took Eglin. Besides it had better beaches and more girls.

Deployed with the squadron to Cigli AB, Turkey for a two-week NATO exercise after we passed an ORI. We had six second lieutenants as aircraft commanders in the squadron; all with talent, but COMTAC wanted experience in the pit for the High Flight over. I wound up as “experience” with OJ. For the flight back home after the exercise, the Ops Officer (harbinger again) injured himself, and I was on the schedule in his place. Great fun!

Deployed to Kunsan AB, Korea to sit SKUNK boat alert at the Kun, and air defense alert at Osan on a rotating basis with the 408th TFS out of Homestead. I became a third of the staff in the 354 TFW's operations and training shop as an additional duty. Air aborted into Osan after a gunnery mission and one of the senior master sergeants came up the ladder to pin the seat. I noticed there wasn't anyone from our maintenance line below tech and asked what was going on. Chief Red had persuaded the Boss the kids were ready to run the flight line on their own. He took all supervision with him to Osan to play crew chief – and shop. The staff sergeants and below did a bang up job back at The Kun. Took a lesson in leadership from that.

One hundred twenty days later maintenance prepped the jets and we launched for Hickam AFB at 0400. “Leavin' on a jet plane…” Boss' gear wouldn't retract so he brought it back around; landed; maintenance fixed it; and he was 30 minutes behind us. Told you we had good maintenance…

Two days at Hickam with all 24 jets checking in, and we were airborne again for the 9+30 hour flight to Eglin.

Selected for the first TAC/SAC Exchange and departed in July 1971 for Bomb Commander's School at Carswell. Not much of a class and went on to Merced for CCTS in Buffies.

Jul 1971-Oct 1971: CCTS, Castle AFB, Merced, CA

Pull on the yoke or turn the wheel on F-models used for training, and you're controlling a portion of the elevator or aileron that then flies the main surface into position. Talk about getting used to response delays! Air refueling becomes a challenge until you get used to the delayed response. Can't turn the wheel and hold it until the aircraft responds because you've just generated a lot of momentum that takes lot more to overcome.

The proper technique is to “put it in and immediately take it out.” I was having trouble with landings and AAR until a former B-58 IP explained it to me and showed me how to do it. It got easier in the G-models since they had hydraulically actuated horizontal slabs for pitch control and spoilers for roll. Coping with the bow wave and interaction with air flow when behind a tanker is interesting as well. Leave the power in to move into position and you'll submarine under the tanker, scaring hell out of the boomer. I got good enough to do an “almost fighter” join up, and screw it onto the nozzle regardless of weather.

Landing with four engines out on one side is sporty. The castering landing gear for dealing with crosswinds needs rudder as you flare (remember the principles of aero). Crew coordination, managing the fuel panel (need a conscientious co-pilot) and nervous navigators are in the mix also. However, Buffie will almost turn up its own tail.

Dave McLoed was checking out in KC-135's as a navigator when I was there. Great to see him.

Oct 1971-May 1972: 744th BS, Beale AFB, CA

Married the girl from Connecticut in April 1972 that I met when going through CCTS. Two weeks later with two days notice, my crew and I went to Guam for the buildup to Rolling Thunder II. Bulletshot it was called as I recall

From May 1972 to 17 Dec 1972 we flew Arc Light sorties out of Guam, coped with the boredom, wrote letters home, and taxied Buffies to and from the refueling pits. In June Jo An says she's preggers and due in January or

February 1973. Peachy, I'm a father!!

Sortie duration averages 12 hours. Three ship in trail formation; tap a tanker an 1+30 after takeoff; after refueling half the crew bags out; get everyone up and into their seats over the Philippines; hit the compression box; check in with Skyspot; release bombs; climb to 39,000 and set the heat for the ride home; eat box lunch; and bag out the other half of the crew until ready for landing at Guam. John Schuhmacher and family are stationed on Guam and I availed myself of his hospitality on a regular basis. Thanks, Schuh!!

On 17 Dec 1972 we knew we were going Downtown. I drew lead of the third wave of G-models attacking the SAM dump at the foot of Thud Ridge, which was defended by the SAM site that had almost gotten me in January 1968. We'd enter to the northwest and turned right paralleling Thud Ridge, release and turn right using 50 degrees of bank (like I said, she turns like a son of bitch at 460 indicated); then defend until clear of the SAM zone. Sparky, the EWO, will get a workout and see stuff he's only seen in simulators.

The B-52G starts and taxis' at 500,000 pounds with 12,000 pounds of water to increase the mass rate of flow and cool the engine (remember Thermo). By the time she's ready for takeoff, she's down to max gross of 488,000. Roll onto the active when cleared, bring up the power, give the co- the throttles and flick eight switches to activate the water injection; and the co- tweaks the engines to 2.78 EPR. Time hack at 70 knots for acceleration check at S1. Keep the tail down and wait for “unstuck,” bicycle gear, you know. Suck up the gear and follow the airspeed limits as the flaps retract.

The Bomb-Nav couldn't breakout the joinup code from the tanker and I had to resort to visual cueing – at night. “Texaco, go Christmas tree.” A couple of tries and I was able to pick out his lighting contrasted against the stars. Called the cell, told them I had tally, and was headed for the bottom of the refueling block altitude. Two and three hung with me, found their tankers echeloned to the right of the lead tanker, topped off, dropped to be bottom of the block again, and headed for Pack Six and Thud Ridge.

I was pleased that my nav's voice broke only once during the flight in, and that was when he called for the bomb run heading to parallel Thud Ridge. After that I could see where all the shooting was coming from and I had a mental picture of the target area – back in familiar territory. Bomb bay doors opened as scheduled and we put iron on the target. Hard right turn to exit the SAM threat ring, and only a single MiG stopped by to chase us out. I think the gunner was playing with him by locking on and breaking lock to light up whatever RHAW Charlie had.

Fourteen hours in the saddle and the crew was beat. We went up twice more but missed the debacle on the night of the 20/21 December.

Went home in January. Jo An was in Hartford Hospital having our first child. I walked in about the time James was brought in from the nursery. First time she'd seen him. Interesting set of emotions that I later figured out were the bonding of father and son.

Jun 1973-Aug 1974: Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, AL

Dragged ACSC coursework as well as a Master's program in Public Administration from Auburn to completion. The curriculum seemed a lot like Squadron Officers' School only on steroids. I was glad to leave, but out of the frying pan and into the cauldron of the Air Staff.

Aug 1974-Jul 1978: DCS/Doctrine, Concepts and Objectives, the Air Staff, the Pentagon

Bought a townhouse in Annandale, set up the family, and disappeared into the Pentagon for four years.

---To be continued---

[ Combat Experiences ]
[ RF-4C Shootdown ]
[ Home ] [ Table Of Contents ]