My service in the Kentucky Air National Guard involved some logistics which might be considered wasteful of taxpayer’s money. The most I can say is that these events were not at my request or instigation.
Shortly after joining the Air National Guard, probably 1948, I was “hanging out” one day at the Guard center at Standiford Field, Louisville. While there, a helicopter flew in – a rarity at that time (1948). It had a pilot and a passenger. The pilot’s destination was Fort Knox, but the passenger’s final destination was Louisville. The pilot asked if we could provide him with a sandbag or similar weight to balance his helicopter for the flight to Godman Field. It was an early model Bell chopper (Model 47, or military H-13 Sioux) which couldn’t fly safely with all the load over on one side.
They couldn’t come up with anything suitable, so one of my pilot friends said, “Norm, why don’t you fly with him to Fort Knox, and I’ll come down and pick you up in an AT-6 (two-seat trainer.)” I agreed to substitute for a sandbag, and experienced my first helicopter ride. As we were leaving Standiford Field, I saw my friend warming up the AT-6 Texan. I thought he would pass us going to Fort Knox, but he didn’t. We flew fairly low, and it was fun to see people rushing from their houses and pointing at us. Perhaps their first helicopter sighting.
At Godman Field, I said goodbye to the ‘copter pilot, having performed my counterbalance duties well, and stood and waited for my ride home. Eventually I saw a C-47 land, and was surprised when it pulled up beside me, and I was invited to “hop in”. It turned out that a pilot who wanted to get a bit of flying time in the C-47 had called my friend back from the AT-6 to co-pilot the C-47.
During WW II, when I was trying to become a fighter pilot, I read that ”by the time you are 18, you are beginning to be too old to be a fighter pilot” . But now those same WW II pilots were in their late 20s or early 30s and were still our frontline fighter pilots., and some of them would serve in the Korean war and beyond.
The National Guard was required to serve two weeks of active duty each year, for training and to maintain proficiency. This was before flight simulators were widely used, and the fighter pilots needed actual “stick-time” to remain proficient.
One of these active duty periods took us to Lockbourne Air Base near Columbus, Ohio. There I was introduced to the high-pressure aircraft maintenance required to keep the planes available for flight. Yet P-51 Mustangs were relatively simple aircraft. The ratio of maintenance hours to flight hours was nowhere near as high as with today’s jets.
A memorable event during the Lockbourne exercise was that we burned down the mess hall. But we kept the planes flying.
Another two-week activation took us to Godman Air Base at Fort Knox, Kentucky. For this, I pleaded to be excused, because I felt that I couldn’t afford to miss two weeks of college at this point in my studies. They offered me a deal. I would attend the lecture classes in the mornings, then skip the laboratory classes in the afternoon sessions. The ANG would fly me from Louisville to Fort Knox around noon each day. This required a dedicated flight by a C-47 and two pilots. Again, they justified this procedure by the fact that they needed a certain quota of flight hours each month to maintain their flight proficiency.
During our active-duty tour during the Korean War, we enlisted men were moved about on C-46 Commando transports. These, were larger than the C-47s, and were often fully loaded. On one occasion I was pressed into duty as a loadmaster. We had a lot of equipment and toolboxes to move, and didn’t have scales to weigh them. So with a couple of helpers, we “hefted” each item and estimated its weight. We loaded the plane close to it’s weight limit, The flight went smoothly, and I wondered how well the load limits were observed during the WW II period.
One of our war games exercises took us to “Operation Southern Pines” at Laurenberg-Maxton Air Base in North Carolina. This involved various disciplines, including some paratroopers. One day, a buddy and myself talked ourselves into going along as “observers” on one of the drops. There were at least a couple of dozen paratroopers on the plane, as we approached the drop zone. Suddenly, they were all jumping, and my buddy and I were the only ones left in the C-46 besides the pilots.. He asked, “Where did everybody go?”