Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Milt's History

milt.jpg Born in Buffalo, NY, 28Feb1942, where my father was an immigration officer at the International Peace Bridge. My earliest flying experience came at age two, when I launched from the window sill in my second story bedroom, crashed, but walked away, so---a good landing? No significant damage was observed during 48 hours in hospital, but I decided to avoid solo flight for the next 20 years.

I grew up in northeastern Ohio, where my father continued civil service work, inspecting lake freighters as a Customs and Immigration Official. We lived on a farm with over 100 acres to explore, plenty of work, plenty of play, and many days swimming in our front yard pool called Lake Erie. My family numbered seven, parents and four sibs, one sister and two brothers older, plus a younger sister.

Right after high school, it was off to USAFA where, besides just maintaining academically, I participated in the ski club and sang in the Protestant Choir.

A few academic memories: Routinely being lost in the academic building during doolie year, looking for my next class (had occasional nightmares of that situation and also uniform formations for some years).

Testing out of regular math courses and accelerating into Calculus, the text (Taylor) totally incoherent from the opening page, which ended something like “from the preceding it is easy to see that---”. Only one thing was “easy to see,” the futility of it all. From page two things got more challenging. Eventually I changed majors from science to international affairs.

Our toe-crunching, knuckle-slamming, chalk-throwing Russian instructor, Kapitan D.

My failsafe three-step method for attacking major exams in the likes of EE, Aero and Astro: first-- previewing all problems so as to find the easy ones to do first, and failing at that; second-- looking for one or two problems containing words or terms I vaguely recognized; and third-- with time running out, madly scribbling all the equations and formulas that might possibly pertain to each remaining problem. Apparently some instructors had better things to do than grade exams, and simply flipped through the pages to note any blanks---it seemed to work! I did graduate! The practice of grading on a curve helped a lot, too.

There were three hospital vacations at USAFA, the first at the end of doolie Christmas when I came down with mononucleosis, and was released just in time for the trip to Washington, D.C. for JFK's inauguration, and that wonderful trek for miles in a foot of slush. If memory serves, I returned with pneumonia and spent more time in hospital. Again sometime during the upperclass years, respiratory problems sent me in for a third stint. Perhaps all that stemmed from early childhood back-to-back bouts of scarlet fever and pneumonia.

Other memorable experiences include the week exchanged at the Coast Guard Academy, where my roommate was a Thomas Rutter.

For Operation Third Lieutenant, I was assigned to a B-47 unit at Pease AFB, outside Portsmouth NH, along with, among others, Mike Vandette. For our operational flight Mike and I were in a two ship of B-47's, on a mission including refueling, the anchor points for which had been chosen to be directly over our respective hometowns along the Lake Erie shoreline. While occupying the co-pilot seat, I was directed to pull a couple circuit breakers, which I took to mean actually removing them from the panel; in spite of my best effort the breakers held.

Following graduation, I joined a group of mostly '64 classmates for pilot training at Moody AFB in the swamps of southern Georgia. Seemed like the most difficult aspect of controlling, both in the T-37 and later the T-38, was taxiing, but of course we got through that and various other trials and reached graduation. For future assignment options, Moody fortunately had been given two F-105 slots, the first of which was snapped up early by Nick Lacey, then I sweated during the ongoing selections but managed to snag the second Thud.

Regarding the experiences of our Nellis class of nine, all USAFA Class of ‘64, and our combat tours flying out of Takhli AB, Thailand, Nick Lacey has said it all, and so much better than I could hope to do, so be sure to read his entry. I add my own humble “Here, here!” for the heroes who stayed behind for years, as POW's.

I recall an incident which involved Bob Abbott, RIP. Having flown an early mission one day, I was showering, reached for the soap which abruptly flew across the shower room, simultaneous with a sonic boom. Turned out, Bob was number four and accelerating slightly to stay in position, while flight lead engaged in a little razzle-dazzle air show in celebration of his 100th mission. The formation was so close to mach that Bob strayed over the line. Anyway, lead was chastised in some minor form, and the only other damage-- a Thai seamstress reportedly jabbed her finger with a needle.

From another 100th mission air show, I claim the honor of having flown with the Thunderbirds, sort of. The Wing Operations Officer, Col. Broughton decided to lead the mission marking the 100th for Maj. Doug Brenner, those two resuming their former T-bird positions of lead and #2. Not being a former SAC man, as was the remaining pilot, I was nominated to fly the slot. So after the business end of the mission was accomplished, the flight refueled, and we had a short course on tight diamond formation. Ground reports called the show impressive, with only the SAC wingman somewhat loose-- but I need confirmation on that! Anyone out there have a movie of Doug Brenner's 100th?

Early in 1967, having completed the magical 100th, and while awaiting final departure processing, I volunteered for a joyride to take an AF photographer as far as the pre-strike refueling tanker, so he could record the drill. Some weeks later, while I relaxed at my in-laws home near Albany, GA, this video clip was shown on a network evening news program.

The rest of my flying career was back over the south Georgia swamps of Moody and ATC, in the T-38. After training a few UPT students, I was invited over to Standardization/Evaluation, at the time headed by one of my Flight Commanders from SEA. Besides the usual Stan/Eval duties, we were also involved in Pilot Instructor Training. I resigned my commission at the end of 1971.

Prior to facing a serious civilian career, I decided to fulfill a long dreamed of driving expedition to the southern tip of Tierra Del Fuego in Argentina. This would take a year of planning, and outfitting a brand new Ford Econoline van to provide for self-contained living, then a travel time of 14 months covering 45,000 miles. Call it the vacation of a lifetime.

Following that extended travel I felt the need to be rooted somewhere, so spent about a year building a house on the family acreage, deep in the woods and half a mile from the highway. (I still call it home, and expect to die there some years hence. ) At the time though, mid 1970's, I found one more option to avoid immediate work, in the form of an Ohio educational fund for veterans, which resulted in an MS in Botany at the Ohio State University, and two additional years in the direction of a PhD in Environmental Biology. The latter goal was abandoned in 1980, following the deaths of both my parents in a short period of time. The writing on the wall seemed to direct me back to the family farm, to settle estate matters and take over and develop the potential gardening business, which took the name of ERIO Farm, with a roadside stand to market the produce, consisting of tree fruits, berries and vegetables. At various times, I also managed bees and sold honey, raised Japanese quail, developed a market in homemade jams and jellies (a logical value-added solution for excess fruit and berries), and as a last resort for surplus fruit, made some pretty good and varied wines-- not for sale.

I retired from the business of gardening in 2008, but continue to enjoy growing things for the table.

During the last 20 years I have worked with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, serving on a stewardship committee which monitors their local acquisitions of properties representing critical and endangered habitats. One of the Museum's first local purchases, of land adjoining mine, protected a rare remaining portion of ancient, post-glacial beach ridge known as sand barrens, part of a larger Oak-openings habitat which will hopefully be reestablished. Wanting to guarantee the preservation of my property beyond my lifetime, through a combination sale/charitable contribution concluded in 2007, I transferred ownership of 40 acres to the museum cause, out of my original 60 acre property. The remaining parcel conserves access to my woods house. My property, including that now owned by CMNH, is known as Ironwood.

Also in conjunction with the museum, and as a means of continuing a lifelong interest in flight, for nearly ten years I have studied and photographed local Odonata, meaning Dragonflies and Damselflies, incredible in their habits and variety, and such fantastic fliers. At the end of the 2010 season, my list of species at Ironwood numbered 65.

So in retirement I continue to enjoy the outdoors, gardening, and travel. For two decades I have had the good fortune of sharing those interests with my lady from Boston, Carolyn Carlson. We have made several visits to Paris, in addition to vacations in Hong Kong and Thailand, the British Isles, Portugal, Alaska, Costa Rica, Belize and Argentina. Life is good!


Argentina 2008

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