Memories From Westover

Submitted By Harry Stringer.

…..…and Now for the rest of the story

     While serving my country between the years of January 31, 1955 thru December 17, 1958 as a member of the United States Air Force, which still had planes with propellers, I was assigned to the 4050 Air Police Squadron at Westover Air Force Base, Mass.

     The Strategic Air Command (known as SAC) had taken over the base to be a front line deterrent in the Cold War. The base had a Wing of Aerial Refuelers (KC-97’s) to refuel the bomber’s (B-47’s and B-52’s) in mid-flight. The base also had a wing of the B-47’s stationed there along with all of the support planes, personnel, nasty weapons and other stuff.

     In order to be able to fight in all parts of the world under all kinds of conditions it was demanded that all of the elements have a turn in various parts of the world under ideal and extreme conditions.

     September 1955 our group (planes, people and stuff) was chosen for temporary duty for 45 days TDY in the wonderful world of, no not Disney, but Greenland. Why they called it Greenland behooves me, as there is at least 1-mile thickness of ice there. The base we were headed for was Thule Air Base. It is situated half way between the Artic Circle and the North Pole, constantly frozen. Nothing really grows there. We left Westover early in the morning and stopped over at Goosebay, Labrador.

     My assigned aircraft was a KC-97 Aerial Refueler. Nothing fancy to say the least. My seat in the propeller driven aircraft was in the boom operators’ area at the extreme back of the plane. No seat: Just a floor. My feet were in the little bubble where the boom operator lays while refueling the bombers. Mostly windows. Nice view….looking straight down at the ground or ocean with Icebergs as we approached Greenland. We did have our parachutes to sit on for comfort (?). Stopover in Goosebay for lunch and fuel was a trip. Food was military style of course…OK.

     After the noon meal (we can’t call it lunch as for some of the airman it may have been breakfast or dinner depending on what shift they were on; but it was lunch for me. As we gathered back at the plane, which was, refueled, the flight crew was gathered under one of the wheel wells discussing weather it would be OK to fly the rest of the mission. One of the wheels was worn and caused a little concern to some…. ME. One of the flight crew said he flew with worse wheels than that and thought it would be OK to continue. That sort of gave me a good feeling knowing we had OK wheels….YEA. Anyhow we did make it to Thule that day with no problems.

     When we got there the sun would be up for 6 hours and when we left on Oct 31, 1955 (Halloween) the sun was up for about 30 minutes. Darkness was the king then.

Anyhow we left on the 31 of October again in the morning and arrived at Westover just before the Noon meal. We were in the air for about 12 hours. We were tired, hungry and smelled a little. That was the reason for the big smile on my face as we departed the plane and had a photographer grab my picture.

We were all given a 3-day pass. So I quickly got showered and changed and made it to the Springfield, Mass. train station. I just wanted to be along, catch a little shuteye and go home.

One stop later in Conn. a little old blue haired lady got on and found the seat next to me to her liking. She sat down and said hello and didn’t stop talking for the rest of the trip, just what I wanted. After hearing my tale of woe of where I had been she must have felt guilty as she reached into her little brown bad and pulled out a sandwich. I tried in vain to refuse her offer of a half of a sandwich thinking of any kind of a reason. Didn’t work. She ripped it in half and gave me a half of a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. Well…..that really did it for me. I hate Peanut Butter…..period. I hate the smell of peanuts. Anyhow I gagged, gagged and gagged some more trying to get it down. What a miserable time it was. The taste of peanut butter lingered in my mouth and I had nothing to wash it down with.

My dear little blue haired old lady, bless her heart, then offered me half of her banana. At least it took some of the taste out and with that I pretended to go fast asleep.

When I returned to Westover after the 3-day pass and walked up the flight of steps in the barracks I saw the front page of the “Westover Yankee Flyer” posted on the bulletin Board.

Harry Stringer,
Member 4050 APS & 814th APS 1955 - 1958.

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