Chapter 4 - Carswell AFB, Texas
27 June 1955, I received my orders to report to Carswell AFB, Texas by 1 Sept. This gave me a months vacation in California and to find a home in Ft Worth. My original assignment was to Great Falls, Montana but I got Air Weather Service to change it to a better assignment since I had just spent an isolated tour in Thule. I flew as a passenger on MATS from Thule to Westover AFB and by civil airlines to Los Angeles and by bus to Orange. I imagine Jane, David, Mark and I "mooched" off Grandpa and Grandma Wegner and Rhea and Ray for most of the month's vacation. Jane had bought us a 1955 white and orange hard top Oldsmobile sedan. My 1940's friend Earl Flanders worked at a Old's agency in Anaheim or Fullerton but wouldn't meet the price that Jane got from the Santa Ana dealer. He was quite unhappy about that. We drove to Ft Worth Texas during the last week in August and rented a motel near to Carswell AFB. Within a week we bought a NEW three bedroom, living room, dining room, den and brick siding house for $7500. We had a single attached garage and a large yard. The houses were built in a black walnut orchard and we had small stream (Trinty River) about 2 blocks to the west of our house. Carswell AFB was on the other side of this "creek" and about 4 blocks by car to get to the East Gate.
This was the best housing since I had been in the Air Force. Our neighbor next door to the south were Dick and (?) Conrad. They had 2 boys about the ages of David and Mark. Dick worked for the FAA as a airways controller and was a Texas National Guard T-33 pilot. Next door to them were Jim and Carol Wattier. They also had two boys also about the ages of Mark and David. They now live in Encinitas, CA. Jim worked on the west side of Carswell AFB for General Dynamics in the airborne nuclear project. Our best military friends were Frank and Jean Barrett and Cornelius "Casey" and Betty Ann Klapthor. Both families lived nearby in another section of Ft Worth.
I was assigned to the Base Weather station at Carswell AFB with duty assignment to the 7th Bomb Wing, B-36's and later the B-52,s and KC-97's) as their Wing weather officer. Lt Col. Francis McHenry was the Detachment Comander, Some of the other forecasters were: Lt. Merle Bundy, Mr Howard McNeil, (Wife was Dorthy) , Maj. Harold Taft, a reserve officer who was a weather forecaster on TV and a forecaster for American Airlines. Maj Frank Barrett and I worked in the base weather station helping with the forecasting and weather briefing duties. For flying I flew the base support aircraft starting with the C-47's. All I did in the C-47's was to fly radar bombardiers on practice missions back and forth across Carswell AFB. This got to be very boring and as they had C-119's at Carswell for base support aircraft, I applied to fly C-199's. 17 July 1956, I was sent to C-119 ground school at El Paso (Biggs AFB). Since this was for two weeks Jane and the kids went with me. I remember a lot of good Mexican food there and we went across the border to Juarez, old Mexico.
Back at Carswell, I started C-119 transition with Captain Plonoski at Carswell. Now my flying would be all over the United States. We would be at Carswell until the 8th of February 1960. The flights were quite varied. Trips to Omstead depot in Pennsylvania for B-36s and later B-52 aircraft parts, Bolling Field at Washington D.C., trips out to Merced AFB and San Diego in California and to Pease AFB in mid-winter. I got a lot of weather and instrument flying and learned a lot about serious weather and instrument flying. The flying in the United States can be much more dangerous than any other flying I did in the rest of the world. This includes the Arctic, Europe and the Pacific. During Nov 1955 I did the paperwork so I could fly with the B-36 crews as a copilot. I did this to help with my Weather forecasting for them and when the B-36s deployed to Nouasseur, French Morocco, I could fly as a crew member rather than a passenger on a transport plane. This plane had six pusher engines and two jets on each wing tip. The jets were only used on take-off and when we flew at 40,000 feet. They were enormous planes but the crew quarters were quit crowded.
On 12 Nov 1955 I went on my first trip to Nouasseur AB, French Morocco for a training mission. Nouasseur was to be our forward B-36 strike base against Russia. My job would be as weather briefing officer at Nouasseur. I was cleared for top secret as I knew where the Russian bases were that the B-36s would strike. Gen John D Ryan was the 19 Air Div Commander. On 14 Feb 1956 Maj Ralph L. Butler and I went to Nouasseur, French Morocco on a second training mission. On the trip back from Morocco in March 1956 we flew 33 hours without refueling and could have flown another 6 hours. The two Bomb wings at Carswell started to convert to B-52s and KC-135s during 1956 so I only flew occasionally on the KC-135s for weather scouting. The B-52 pilots use to try to get me to fly with them but the only seat I could have on a B-52 was the Jump seat between the Pilot and Co-pilot which did not have ejection. In trouble you were suppose to "crawl out the hole after they ejected. "Fat Chance!!". So all my flying during this time was in the C-119s and occasionally with base flight people in their C-45.
Nov 13, 1957 I was granted aeronautical rating of command pilot. During this period I had what I consider my only faulted flying experience that almost caused an accident and could have been fatal. On 28 Feb 1958 I was given a flight to fly from Fort Worth to Lake Charles AFB in Louisiana to pick up a maintenance crew of about twenty airmen and fly them back to Carswell AFB. We didn't leave Lake Charles until early evening. The weather was Gulf stratus the entire route with ceilings near minimums (200 feet and 1 mile visibility) I used Tinker AFB in Oklahoma for an alternate as it was expected to be north of the stratus cloud deck and in the clear during the time that we would be using it. Kansas and north would be even better. We had plenty of fuel to reach this area if needed. The flight in the C-119 was uneventful and the cloud tops were probably no more than 4 to 5000 feet and we were on top most of the way to Fort Worth. When we got to the Carswell AFB area and were ready to make our approach to the field we were advised that the Base was below minimums and what were our intentions. We found that the National Guard base at Navy, Dallas was slightly above minimums and we could make a GCA approach to this field. I had never been there but I knew where it was and we could call Carswell when we got on the ground and get a bus ride to our base at Fort Worth. We were picked up by the Navy, Dallas GCA radar operator and vectored into a landing pattern.
We were in the clouds at this time around 5000 feet. We were told to start our descent. It required a very rapid descent rate. Thinking back now, it was probably what a T-33 would be using as that was the type of planes the national guard was flying at Navy, Dallas. A C-119 is not a very stable plane and I was having trouble in maintaining a smooth descent staying on the glide slope at this high rate of descent. I should and could have done better. I was above and below the designated altitudes and as we got close to the field I went dangerously below the flight path and even dropped below the cloud bases. We saw some lights on the ground before I got back up into the clouds and up to my correct descent path altitude. It scared my co-pilot (and me too). At this point we were off course and too high to make a landing. I initiated the missed approach procedure to try another approach to the field. This is first and only time I every made a missed approach and I know it was caused by lousy flying on my part. Also there was a 2300 foot TV antenna tower just beyond and south of this Navy, Dallas field that we could have hit. After this fiasco my "shook-up" co-pilot suggested we go north to our alternates bases in Oklahoma or Kansas. I said let's try another approach. As we climbed up and out of the missed approach and headed toward the radio beacon south of Navy, Dallas to initiate a second try the Ft Worth Air Traffic Control came on the radio and informed us that Carswell was now reporting 200 foot cloud ceiling and 1/2 mile visibility in fog. This weather was now at our flight minimums so we advised Air Traffic Control that we would take a radar hand-off to the GCA (Ground Control Approach) at Carswell AFB for a radar approach to our home base and original destination. From then on the plane flew smoothly and everything went excellent for the 25 or so miles to Carswell.
We began a GCA approach on the north to south runway and we broke out of the clouds as expected at our 200 foot minimums and made a landing at Carswell. I never flew with that copilot again. I imagine he probably told our flight scheduling Šnever again with Wegner-. From that experience I RE-LEARNED that you cannot rush an approach and if it's not going smoothly, take the plane around and try it again before it's out of your control and too late to fix it. If it starts to become a bad approach for any reason, don't be "macho" about aborting the procedure and try it over.In the fall of 1958 Casy Klapthor and I went to C-123 ground school at Mt Home AFB in Idaho. It was about 50 miles south of Boise. We learned all about the C-123 for a two week class. My first flight in C-123 was at Carswell on the 15th of August 1958. I really liked this plane and the way it flew. The only draw-back was it did not have an automatic pilot, however it flew so easy and was as stable as the old C-47's. It had reversible props and a heated wing and surfaces so it was an excellent instrument aircraft.
Trinity River Flood
During this period the Air Base let the military families live in a BOQ on base and eat at the mess hall free. At first the regular bachelor residents were quite surprise to see kids and wifes using their facilities. I took a month's vacation to rebuild our house. The beautiful hardwood floors swelled and buckled so I had to take them up and stacked them in the front yard to dry. The Air Force relief gave us $1100 dollars for repairs. The builders of ours houses sold building supplies to us at cost. I put plywood and rugs in all of the house except the Living, dining and den rooms. There we put the dried oak hardwood flooring back down and re-sanded the floors. The plaster board walls suffered no damage other than having to re-taped the joints that were in the water. The biggest job was installing new doors as the hollow core doors had swelled and distorted. This involved cutting holes for handles and installing hinges and fitting the door blanks into the frames. The only good part was that all the river silt made every thing in the lawns and gardens grow. We put our house up for sale in 1959 and sold it to a couple for $7500. Exactly what we paid for it. We rented until we got orders in February to go to Zaragoza AB in Spain. The last night we spent in a guest house on base at Carswell. During the early morning a KC-135 has crashed while trying to land in the fog on the south end of the runway. We had sold our fancy 1955 three tone hardtop Oldsmobile 88 and bought a 1959 6-cylinder ford station wagon to take to Spain.