Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Hell Week and the 64 Flag

(from Ace’s perspective)

It was May 61, Class of 64’s Doolie year, Hell Week was upon us, and the 3rd Sqdn Doolies decided to put up a class flag. I have no idea whose idea it was. Like so many things somebody had a brain fart and we all jumped into the middle of it and made it happen. McAdoo was the “go-to-guy” for supplies. Somebody had an extra bed sheet (I wonder where they got it) and with a can of blue spray paint we painted a big 64 on the sheet and knotted the corners on the left side so as to accept the flag pole rope clips. Next we devised a rope chair for the climber to sit in with enough rope to wrap around the flag pole a couple of times as a safety rope. The flag pole is a beautiful pole, very wide at the base (you can’t get your arms around it) and tapering to about 6” diameter at the top, painted a slick glossy white, no seams, very tall, and two flag ropes, each with it’s own pulley. The idea was to attach the two flag ropes to the rope seat and pull the “climber” up the pole. The safety rope would be kept tight around the pole as the climber went up so that if the flag rope broke the climber could make a controlled descent down the pole. That was the theory.

Climb #1

So the night before Hell Week was to begin the Flag party (consisting of about 10 of us Blue Tag 3rd Sqdn Doolies) headed out to the flag pole at about 0100 in the morning under the cover of darkness and relying on Security Flt to be asleep. I was the skinniest one and one of the lightest and so was given the duty of “Climber.” The rest were the real workers and performed as “yard arm haulers”. Everything went pretty smoothly. We silently crossed the quadrangle and quickly undid the flagpole ropes and hooked them to the rope seat. The haulers worked in smooth and surprising unison – and I was on my way to the top.

It worked great with two ropes haulin. I had the flag tucked in to the harness and I was pretty diligently keeping the safety rope tight around the pole as we went up. There was a bit of squeaking in the pulley mechanism (probably hadn’t been oiled since the pole was installed) which was distracting as I ascended. I worried it would wake the Security Flt crew. And it was dark up there. And a slight breeze was blowing which make it a bit chilly and the pole began to wave a tad – not bad, but you notice those things at 250’ AGL , or so it seemed (anybody know how tall it is?).

I estimated we were in about the right spot and whispered down to the “haulers” to stop haulin. The Idea was to leave the proper space above the 64 flag for the American flag. Now the tricky part. I tightened the safety rope as tight as I could get it and secured it with a good quick release knot and then unsnapped one of the flag pole ropes from the harness. Great relief when the other rope held by itself. Now all I had to do was connect the 64 flag to the loose flagpole rope and tie off the excess rope at the bottom of the 64 flag – which effectively kept anyone from lowering our flag.

Coming down was a piece of cake. I gradually loosened the safety rope and the “haulers” let me down easy. We put the remaining flagpole rope back where we found it - ready for Reveille in the morning and we all went back to bed. Somebody taped a message to the flag pole tie down explaining that there was enough room at the top for “Old Glory.” All told about 30 min of activity.

Climb #2

So we put the 64 flag up on a Fri night as I remember it, before Hell Week started. And for a couple of days over the weekend she proudly flew just below Old Glory. Then the word came down (somehow) from above that there were going to be a lot of dignitaries visiting the Academy that week and if whoever put that flag up would just take it down there would be free access to the pole, no action would be taken, and the powers that be would be appreciative. So, on that Sunday night or maybe Monday night, we gathered the team and went out in the cover of darkness and brought the flag down. Same technique. The learning curve was high and this time it took 15 minutes.

Climb #3

A day or so later we flag team members all came to the same conclusion at about the same time. WE HAD BEEN HAD. We had been conned and the big boys had gotten that flag down for free – and this was our Hell Week.

So we put it back up again that night and tied it off tight. This time, however we added a bit of pizaz. On my way down I candy striped a role of bright blue crepe paper down the flag pole. A big mistake. Next day the weather was cold, foggy, and misty. The crepe paper permanently faded onto the pretty white flagpole.

This time the 64 flag flew proudly for the rest of the week.

The Flag Comes Down

As I remember it, Friday was the last day of Hell Week. I rose early because I had it on my agenda to “Drown Out” my cousin Mike Rawlins who was a Firstie in another Squadron and fixin to graduate. I had heard of Mike all my life and had followed him through Texas A&M and then to the Academy, but we did not know each other and because he was an upper classman I had not gone by to introduce myself. Today however I would introduce an old Aggie tradition (drowning out an upperclassman) to the Air Force Academy and I would introduce it by drowning out my cousin, a captain of the Falcon football team, a previous Aggie, and a soon to be 2nd Lt and F-100 fighter pilot.

So, as the sun was peaking it’s head over the horizon about an hour before Reveille I looked out the window and observed a “steeple jack” with a crane and bucket preparing to take down the 64 flag.

I wrote Mike a short note introducing myself, telling him “Howdy” from his classmates at A&M (they had asked me to do so when I left there the previous May), and congratulating him on his approaching graduation. I slipped the note in my pocket and headed for Mike’s room down two floors and 500 ft West of my room. I found his room, slipped inside and got his trash can. This is important. Never use your own trash can. I don’t remember if he had a roommate. He was sleeping soundly. I took his trashcan down to the shower room and filled it up with cold water and returned to his room. At this point I placed my note on his sink counter next to the door and arranged his desk chairs next to his bed as a barrier to his pursuit (normally an individual that is drowned out will leap out of bed in the darkness, slip on the wet freshly waxed floor – this is normally accomplished the night before an inspection – bust his shins on the chairs, and hopefully loose the desire to pursue). I then dumped the trash can of cold water on him as he slept and ran like hell.

I made it back to my room without getting caught by anyone. I was pumped and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I pulled up a chair and watched as the steeple jack finished bringing down the 64 flag and the blue crepe paper.

At breakfast Mike came by my table and invited me to come to his room for some push-ups prior to class. I did and together we did lots of pushups. I was invited back again after class. Mike was a wonderful person. We got to know each other and are now great friends as well as relatives. Again, if I remember correctly, there was a collection taken up by the class to pay for the steeple Jack and to repaint the flagpole. 3rd Sqdn Blue Tags were proud to contribute.

Two photos: 1. Picture of Flag on the Flagpole 2. Picture of Flag in the hallway next to 3rd Sqdn Ops Room after we took it down

Flag Party Participants Jim Curd Gary Matthes Pat McAdoo Ace Rawlins Jim Raver Denny Stiles Bill Sweetay Jim White Dave Williams


Sometime Later, let’s call it the 10th year class reunion, (that would have made it about Nov 74) we had all come back to the Academy to watch the football game, renew old friendships, drink beer and tell war stories. And so we did. And once again someone had a brain fart and it was decided that we would put the flag up again. McAdoo procured the stuff on short notice, we painted the flag and left the wives up at Arnold Hall and once again we found ourselves out on the Terrazzo around midnight putting the flag up. This time however we were 15 yrs older, all Captains, Majors, even an L/C, all in civvies’, emboldened by alcohol, more mature?, and noisier than previous missions.

All went well. Everybody remembered what to do and in short order I was back up at the top of the flagpole securing the flag. As I was working I remember seeing a figure come out of the light of Security Flight and head our way. There was no use trying to warn the guys cause my voice would have carried forever and it wouldn’t slow down the silhouette headed our way. Another point was that I didn’t really want the guys to head for the hills and leave me stranded up there. As the duty guy approached our team (turns out it was the OIC, a Capt,) he asked “what are you guys doing?” or something to that effect. At which time Gary Matthes, who was holding one of the flagpole ropes, became the self appointed Sqdn information officer and replied that we were just out reliving old times. The duty officer then said that we would have to leave. When the guys didn’t move to leave he repeated himself. At that point Gary told him that we couldn’t leave just yet. He asked why and Gary explained that he was holding the rope for one of us who was up the flag pole and when I got down we would all leave. At that the OIC said “where?” and Gary just pointed up the flagpole. He looked up the pole and said “I see.” He then said that we were to leave as soon as possible – at which point he retreated to Security Flight, I finished tying off the flag and we all left. Next day the flag was flying. I don’t know for how long it flew or when it was brought down. We all left the scene and retreated to our various duty stations around the world.

The only activity since then has just been “all talk.” Maybe we are getting more mature.

We were joined on this last foray by Johnny Graves who started out with us in 3rd Sqdn but ended up cadet life in 2nd Sqdn.






[ My History ] [ Home ] [ Table Of Contents ]