Wednesday, November 21, 2012
They said I was AWOL
It was August, 1953. I was being transferred from Chanute AFB in Illinois to Selfridge AFB in Michigan. I was to travel by military air using one of our Wing C-46 Curtiss "Commando" aircraft.
With all my gear I checked in and the clerk at Operations said I was on the manifold (passenger list)
and that I was to go out to the flight line and board the plane.
Once boarding I found the pilot to be someone I knew quite well and so I felt comfortable with him at the controls. Once airborne we headed east and, with two hours completed< I thought we ought to be getting close to the Michigan area. But when I looked out the window I saw a city below surrounded by a "Y" of rivers. Going to the cockpit I told the pilot that it sure looked a lot more like Pittsburgh 'downstairs' and he said I was correct. I asked,"isn't this a strange way to get to the Detroit area?" He replied that I was pretty perceptive, but that we were not going to Michigan - we were going to Suffolk County AFB in Long Island, NY. Obviously there was a glitch in the flight plan, or maybe it was a problem with the manifest. At any rate, when we got to New York the flight crew supposedly checked with Chanute to see what they should do with me. Chanute came back to say that they would let us know.
And so we charged on to the next base: Dow AFB, ME. Another check with Chanute. Same answer.
Same thing at Andrews AFB. And Donaldson AF. At MacDill AFB in Tampa, FL there was a B-25 going to Selfridge But no authority to switch planes was granted from Chanute.
By this time I was beginning to think that I had been drafted into being a lifetime load master because at every base I was wrestling equipment off and onto the aircraft. I may have even heard a few snickers from the crew chief and the cockpit crew. Every base we stopped at the answer was the same;' We're working on it and we'll let you know'.
From MacDill we went to Keesler - Biggs - and Barksdale. Same old story. From Barksdale we headed north to Seward AFB, near Nashville TN. By now the flight had consumed almost a week.
I had now gotten interest in the Loran navigating system and had almost gotten it down pat. One more base to go: McGee/Tyson AFB in Knoxville TN. Well, actually there was another - back to Chanute AFB from which I had started this ill advised trip. Getting back quite late at night I stayed over in the transient barracks wondering is was fated to go out on another load master assignment.
Not likely. When I checked back in with the First Sergeant of home squadron. Instead of a warm welcome home I found myself in the midst of a hornets nest. Turns out that none of the calls from the aircrew had gotten back to the squadron and I had been carried as AWOL (absent without leave). When everything was ironed out they prepared new orders for me to my initial goal, Selfridge AFB,
Michigan. What's more, they heeded my plea not to send me by military air - "Let me go by train,"
I begged. That's what they did and I finally got to the base the next day where I was roundly counseled by the Detachment First Sergeant.
I think it was only two weeks later that I bought a car and the rest of my transfers were by car. After all, I was no given a load master rating so why should I have to do it without getting flight pay?