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Interview: Alfred "Joe" D'Amario

"Alfred J. D'mario (Joe to his friends) was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1930.  His only life's ambition was to be an Army Air Corps pilot.  By the time he was old enough to be one, the Army Air Corps became the United States Air Force.   But, before reaching the ripe old age of twenty-two, he had achieved that goal.  Everything after that was pure gravy" [liner notes, "Hangar Flying"]

[Loring Remembers] - Joe's career spanned across propeller driven aircraft, through the first jet aircraft, Korean War, and the Cold War, where he transitioned to fly both the B-47, and the B-52,  including a day in January 1968 that will forever be etched in the history books.  Joe was stationed at Loring AFB from 1964-1966, and you can read his profile on our site HERE.

I asked Joe if he would mind if I conducted an interview with him, based on the event's in his career he details in his book.  He readily agreed, and the results follow.  I hope you enjoy it, and thanks to Joe for allowing us this insight...

The interview took place in the Spring of 2012.

[Loring Remembers] - Joe, why don't we start off with you telling us a little about yourself - where you grew up and what got you interested in flying?

[Joe D'Amario] - "I was born in Baltimore Maryland in 1930 when aviation was still in its infancy. As I grew up, running outside to the sound of an airplane motor might result in seeing a single engine monoplane or biplane, an auto gyro (I don't think helicopters were invented yet) a dirigible or (since we lived about 15 miles from the Glenn L. Martin factory) a four engine China Clipper type flying boat.
    Then, just before I turned 12 years old, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and WWII went into full swing. As a teenager, I was in awe of the pilots whose exploits were shown weekly in the newsreels at the local theaters and in the newspapers. Watching the handsome young Army Air Corps pilots flying their PT 17 trainers at Logan Field put the icing on the cake. My father said that I never expressed any desire to be anything other than an Army Air Corps pilot.
    When I learned the requirements of the Air Force's Aviation Cadet Program, I fashioned my high school and college activities to attain them. Believing I would need a strong background in military discipline, at age 17, I joined the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve. And, to prove to myself that I had an aptitude for flying, I took flying lessons, soloing at age 16 and getting my Private Pilot's License at age 17.
    The minimum age for application to the Aviation Cadet Program was 20 and 1/2. I met that requirement on July 4, 1950. On July 5th, when my college report card arrived in the mail and confirmed that I had the necessary 60 semester hours, I went directly to the neighborhood recruiting booth and began the application process. Concurrently, the Korean War started in June 1950 which increased the need for military pilots. My application was approved and I was inducted into the Air Force and the Aviation Cadet Program on November 10, 1950. The Air Force wrote to the Marine Corps and told them to discharge me as of November 9, 1950. Not many people can put that in their resume.
    Thirteen months later, on December 15, 1951, after getting about 200 hours in the T-6 Texan and 70 hours in the P-51 Mustang, I fulfilled my life's ambition. As a brand new second lieutenant in the United States Air Force, I received and pinned on my first set of wings."

[Loring Remembers] - In 2008, you wrote a book titled "Hangar Flying", (available at Amazon.com), about your career as a fighter, then bomber pilot.  I have the book, and I find it absolutely fascinating.  For those who have not read the book yet, what drove you to write it, and please explain the title of the book?

[Joe D'Amario] - "Many, many years ago, 1947 to be exact, Fritz (my lifelong friend and flying buddy) and I were in the operations office of the fixed base operator at Baltimore Harbor Field. We had hoped to fly for a few minutes, but the weather was too bad for visual flight rules (VFR) flights. Instead, we listened to our instructor and several of the other local pilots talking about some of the close calls and in-flight emergencies they had experienced in their flying careers. It was like a "can you top this" exercise in storytelling. We sat fascinated until, finally, it was time to give up for the day and go home. On the way back into town,  Fritz told me that what we had just experienced was called "Hangar Flying". That is, when pilots gather and aren't able to fly for one reason or another, they sit around the hangar and tell "war stories". That's Hangar Flying.
     Many, many years later, after I had retired from my 20 year career as an Air Force pilot, I sometimes told my kids about some of the more interesting or exciting things that happened to me while flying Air Force airplanes. One day, one of them (and I don't remember which one) said, "Dad, your stories are a part of living history about the Korean War, the Cold War and military life in general. You need to write them down. If you don't, when you die your stories will be lost. And they need to be preserved as part of our American history."
    So, whenever I remembered an incident that I thought was exciting, I wrote it down. Eventually, I put those incidents into chronological order, added an introduction and conclusion and, suddenly there was a book. It is called Hangar Flying because it is my tales of exciting things that happened to me. And, in the spirit of true "Hangar Flying" I always encourage other pilots to document their tales of "daring-do". Originally I had thought to have them publish their stories as Hangar Flying, Volume II, III, IV, etc. But, since I am currently writing my own volume 2, I never made that offer. My second book will be titled HANGAR FLYING, VOL. II: TWO ON THE RAMP AND ONE IN THE HANGAR. That is what a pilot would answer to the question "How many children do you have?". While it contains a few more flying stories, it will relate more about life, and especially family life, in the military."

[Loring Remembers] - During your early career, you flew the famous P-51 Mustang, and comment in your book how powerful an aircraft it really was.  Please give us a comparison of its take off ability versus the first jet aircraft you flew?
 
[Joe D'Amario] - I guess I am fortunate to have flown the Air Force's last propeller driven fighter, the P-51 Mustang, and its first operational jet fighter, the F-80 Shooting Star (and its trainer version, the T-33).
    With its 1200 horsepower, V-12 Rolls Royce engine, the P-51 was a powerful and very responsive airplane. Comparing it to the F-80 would be like comparing a Honda Civic to a Corvette. However, contrary to popular belief, it would be the F-80 that played the role of the Honda Civic.
    Taking off in the P51, the pilot would first brace himself for the strong acceleration forces he would be feeling. So, leaning forward in the seat and braced against being thrown back against the headrest, the pilot would bring in the power while rolling down the runway. We didn't go to full power while holding the brakes for several reasons. First, it wasn't necessary; there was plenty of runway. Second, releasing the brakes with the engine at full power would have necessitated the sudden input of a lot of right rudder to counteract the sudden effect of torque. Better to bring it up gradually while gradually applying more and more right rudder. And finally, between engine start and takeoff, the coolant temperature of this liquid cooled engine was climbing steadily toward the boiling point where it would "blow the cork" on the coolant system, necessitating an abort. Going to full power without being in motion would probably have blown the cork. So we didn't do it.
   
As the speed of the P-51 picked up the pilot could begin to ease off on the right rudder as the airflow made the rudder itself more effective. At the same time, he could begin to raise the tail so he could see over the nose. Then, after a relatively short roll of 2 to 3000 feet, the plane would be airborne. The pilot would suck up (retract) the landing gear and be ready to take on the world.
    On the other hand, my first flight in a T-33 (the two seat trainer version of the F-80) was a real disappointment. We took the active runway and stopped. Holding the brakes, we brought the power up to 100%. (Note: Power on reciprocating engines is measured in either manifold pressure, i.e., so many inches, or by propeller RPM . In jets, it is measured in percent of 100% RPM.  So, for takeoff at 100% power, I have no idea what the engine RPM is, only that I am at 100% of it. After takeoff, we would pull back to 96% power to climb and then to 90 to 92% for normal cruise. Idle power was 35% in the F-80 and T-33.)
    When satisfied that the engine was running at 100% power, we release the brakes and...nothing happens. There is no sudden movement, no lurch forward, etc. The airplane slowly begins to roll forward and there is no need to use rudder to counter the torque because there is no torque. If you are conscious of your surroundings, you begin to hear and feel the thump, thump, thump as you cross the joints between the concrete slabs on the runway. As the speed increases the frequency of the thumps increases to a thumpety, thumpety, thumpety etc. and after 5,6,7 or even 8000 feet of roll (depending on your gross weight and various atmospheric factors) the airplane finally becomes airborne.
    The main difference between the Mustang and the Shooting Star during takeoff and in flight was the lack of vibration and engine noise in the jet. Basically, there was none. In fact, the jet is so smooth (vibration free) that some of my classmates got sick on their first takeoff because of the "greasy" feeling.
    In flight, the two airplanes were very similar in performance. They both cruised at about 250 Kts, had about the same service ceilings and about the same maximum allowable airspeeds. The p-51 was much more responsive to power changes than the F-80 which made formation flying much easier in the Mustang although a much improved fuel regulator in the "C" model F-80/T-33 did a lot to correct that situation.
    I'm often asked which, of all the planes I've flown, did I like the best. In truth, I liked them all. My ambition was to be a military pilot and anytime I was in the air at the controls of a fighting machine, fighter of bomber, I was in "Hog Heaven".


[Loring Remembers] - "From reading your book, I know there is a special attachment to one of your aircraft called "The Triple Nickel".  Can you tell us about the final flight and when you saw her again?"

[Joe D'Amario] - "As a relatively NEW HEAD in the 35th Fighter Bomber Squadron at K-13 with only 10 missions under my belt, I was surprised when the squadron commander offered me my own airplane. I learned why when I went to look at my new bird and met the crew chief. The airplane was an F-80C Shooting Star, tail number 9555. On the fuselage, the numbers 555 were painted about two feet high. Hence, the airplane had always been called Triple Nickel.
    In our first meeting, the crew chief, a young half-Italian fellow named Tom, told me that several pilots had flown his bird a few times and then abandoned it for a newer, faster plane. Triple Nickel was slow. Tom explained that it was probably slower than some of the other birds in the squadron because it had seen a lot of combat and had been shot up and patched several times. On one mission alone, it had suffered 32 bullet holes and a dent. But, he promised, Triple Nickel would always bring me home. Tom recounted how some planes got hit once and went in, whereas Triple Nickel always came home.
    Well, I flew Triple Nickel every time both she and I were scheduled to fly on the same day. She was a little slow, but by flying in a straighter line and carrying a little more power, I could easily keep up. One notable thing was that I never suffered any kind of malfunction while flying her.
    One day, the squadron commander suggested that if we polished our airplanes (which were all dull grey oxidized aluminum) they might go faster and it might boost our morale. I was the only pilot who took him up on that, and Tom and I spent all of one day just polishing the right side of the fuselage. It was hard work but that side shined like a new nickel.
    The very next day, with only one side polished, I flew Triple Nickel on a squadron mission against a headquarters and supply area in a deep valley in North Korea. I was flying wing on the squadron leader, our squadron executive officer. On the bomb run, I got lower than I had intended and, to escape being caught in the crossfire of anti-aircraft guns on both sides of the valley, I decided to get down on the deck and fly out of the defended area at low level. 
    After a few seconds, I saw a small canyon off to the left that appeared to be unoccupied and therefore undefended. I threw Triple Nickel into a tight, 90 degree banked turn, to the left. About half way through the turn, I felt and heard two "click" sounds. I'd been hit. However, there wasn't any smoke or visible damage and the airplane and engine were still working fine, so I continued the turn, flew up the canyon until clear of the anti-aircraft guns and then climbed out and rejoined my flight.
     One thing I learned was not to announce that I'd been hit while still over enemy territory. Mostly because everybody got on the radio asking if you were hurt, on fire, going down, etc. So, I didn't say anything about being hit until, entering the landing pattern, the man now on my right wing told me that I had two big holes in the bottom of my airplane.
    We broke out of the formation and checked the operation of my landing gear and brakes. Detecting no malfunctions, we re-entered the traffic pattern and made an uneventful landing.
    On the ground, we found that Triple Nickel had taken two 40 mm rounds. One glanced off the belly, leaving a tear about 2 inches wide by about 12 inches long. If that round exploded, it did so after leaving the airplane. The other round hit under the wing near the right main landing gear hinge point. It did not damage the landing gear or any hydraulic lines, but did take a gouge out of the main wing spar, causing the spar to crack all the way through.
    My crew chief, Tom, was under the wing with me when we inspected the damage. Triple Nickel was totaled. The wings couldn't be replaced at K-13 and it wasn't safe to fly it to a depot where it could be fixed. But Tom, torn with emotion, said through his tears, "I told you she'd bring you home." And she did.
    I've said that there wasn't any one KIND of airplane that I liked better than others, but there is one PARTICULAR airplane that will always hold a special place in my heart. Triple Nickel was old and slow, but she was there when I needed her and SHE ALWAYS BROUGHT ME HOME. "

[Loring Remembers] - "Let's skip ahead now, it's after your tour in Korea, and you are at Little Rock AFB, as a combat crew member with the B-47.  The B-47 has been called "The most beautiful aircraft" ever designed.  Can you give us some insight on the handling and performance characteristics, and did you ever perform a RATO take-off?"

[Joe D'Amario] -  "My introduction to the B-47 was rather unique. When I returned from Korea, I was assigned as a ground school instructor in the B-47 Transition School at Pinecastle AFB near Orlando Florida. I didn't actually fly the B-47 then, but learned a lot about it. I did get one flight in it, but had to sit in the crawlway seat throughout the flight and saw virtually nothing for six hours.
    Some six years later, I was finally forced to go through B-47 flight training and become a B-47 combat crew co-pilot. Naturally, I hated being a copilot. Eventually, I screwed up so badly on three ECM runs on the same flight that SAC applied their favorite maxim, SCREW UP AND MOVE UP, and I was moved into the front seat.
    Even while going through the pilot up-grade program, I found I had a real affinity for the airplane. On one of my first duel rides, we made a GCA in a heavy snow storm into McConnell AFB. When we broke out of the overcast at about 300 feet, the instructor in the back seat said he couldn't see a thing, and told me to complete the landing. I had to side slip a bit to the left to get completely lined up with the runway, flared and made a beautiful grease-job landing. 
   
The airplane itself was a thing of beauty. With its swept wings and slim fuselage, it looked more like a fighter than a bomber; except that I had six throttles instead of just one. The copilot sat behind the pilot and the navigator/bombardier sat forward and below the pilot, in the nose. So, for all practical purposes, the pilot could feel all alone. SAC had stopped doing the LABS maneuver by the time I got into the 47, so I can't say I ever did any real acrobatics in it. But I wasn't too concerned about SAC's idea that a steep turn was anything over 30 degrees of bank.
     In-flight refueling in the B-47 was really easy. Once I had the airplane in the refueling envelope behind the tanker, I just kept the tanker's wings framed in the front windshield as if it was my attitude gyro. As long as I kept his wings level in my windshield, he, the tanker, could climb, turn or do anything. I just followed along like a flighter pilot flying the slot position in a diamond formation. We did, very often, stay on the boom during a 180 degree turn if we happened to reach the end of a refueling track before we finished refueling.
    SAC had begun using low level flight to penetrate enemy radar defenses, so almost every mission included at least an hour and a half of high speed, low level navigation (200 to 500 feet) with a pop-up to 1500 feet to release the bomb. The low level flight wasn't exactly like buzzing, but it came close and was a lot of fun. On one low level navigation flight out in the Gulf of Mexico, I detected that we were being searched, and then tracked on radar. We were too far from the coast for it to have been U.S. radar. The navigator located the source of the radar, a ship about 5 degrees and 15 miles off our nose. I pointed our nose at it and dropped right down on the deck. When I finally saw the ship;, it was a Russian factory ship for the Russian shrimp fleet that was in the Gulf. I told the navigator to, on my signal, open the bomb bay doors. Then, at the last possible second, I popped up over the ship with the bomb bay doors coming open. As soon as we were clear, I dropped back down, closed the bomb doors and hauled out of there. That Russian factory ship had ELINT antennas all over it. It was a spy ship, and when we flew the same route a few days later, it and all of the Russian shrimp fleet were gone. I never reported that because I'd probably have been court-martialed. But, I ran the Russians out of the Gulf of Mexico.
    At least once a year we had to practice a Rocket Assisted Take Off  (RATO).  The rocket bottles initially were mounted inside the aft fuselage. But, by the time I got into B-47s that mount had been removed and the exhaust ports sealed. (I think it posed a fire hazard.) Instead we used a horseshoe shaped rocket rack mounted on release shackles on the aft fuselage. I had no problem with practicing the RATO takeoffs. I did have a problem with the way SAC scheduled the practice.  You need rocket assist on a heavyweight takeoff when the airplane can't take off on the runway available. But, the idiots who scheduled our missions set me up for a rocket assisted take off with a minimum fuel load and no bombs.  At such a light weight, I was going to have to fight like crazy to keep the airplane from exceeding flap placard speed. I'd have to pull the nose way up farther than normal, and then push over hard when the rockets quit in order to keep from stalling. That would be nothing like a real heavy weight rocket assisted takeoff. The mission planners at Combat Ops fought me on that one but I simply refused to practice something that in no way resembled what I would have to do in a real situation. When I finally invited them to go with me to SAC Headquarters and explain their logic to General Ryan, they conceded and gave me a full fuel load.
    One thing I always found gratifying (not fun but very self-satisfying) was the trans-Atlantic flights. We "Reflexed" from Little Rock AFB to bases in Morroco, Spain and England every nine weeks. We'd fly a B-47 over, pull alert on that same airplane for two of the three weeks we were there, and then fly the same airplane back to Little Rock. It just felt good to be able to say "I've flown the Atlantic many times."
    In all, I flew B-47s for 5 1/2 years and, except for the time as a copilot, really liked the airplane. Granted, it was a bomber. But, I had half (the engines) of a fighter squadron in my throttle hand.
    About 20 years after I retired from the Air Force, I moved back to Arkansas and visited Little Rock AFB a few times. The B-47s were long since gone, but one of those from my old wing had been mounted as a static display near the front gate. It was very nostalgic to see that old bird there and to be able to tell some of the airmen I met that I had actually flown that very airplane."

[Loring Remembers] - "It seems to me in reading your book, you had a very strong core belief in right and wrong, and didn't hesitate standing up to authority when needed.  Can you give us a little insight into that and how it helped or hurt you in your career?"

[Joe D'Amario] - "I probably do have pretty strong beliefs about what is right and what is wrong and, at times have taken some rather drastic steps to do or get what I believed was right.  In Hangar Flying, the episode about "Waiting for the Bus", I did think the Division Commander went a little bit overboard about not letting us drive on the flight line.  But, more important, I was pretty sure that the "gravel crunchers" who would have to implement his policy wouldn't even read his memorandum (order).  That's why I exaggerated my response to it by not walking to my airplane when his bus didn't arrive. And, I guarantee, from that time on, the bus was always there.
    On another occasion, my B-47 crew (with my squadron commander aboard) got weathered out and landed at a base in Texas.  The weather was moving from Texas to Little Rock, so I knew that Little Rock's weather wasn't going to improve for several hours.  When I called the LR command post, I was told to stay at Base Ops, hoping for better weather.  I told the LR command post that we were going to go into crew rest, instead, and would be fresh and ready to return by the time LR weather was improved enough to let us back in.  They argued, but I told them that I had a set of orders (my flight orders) that said I was in command of the airplane, and I would bring the airplane back when "I" thought it was safe to do so.  (Actually, though we hadn't taken off until late afternoon, we had already been awake for more than 24 hours and I/we were tired) My CO, standing beside me,  didn't interrupt, but was silently telling me to "Sock it to 'em."  We went into crew rest, got up 8 hours later and filed back to Little Rock and were the first crews to arrive after the weather had cleared.  Those who stayed at Base Operations at the alternate, followed about 6 hours later after they got out of a belated crew rest.
    Much earlier, as an academic instructor at McConnell AFB, I was chewed out for coming to work at 0915 one morning when, by coincidence, my new CO had wanted to see me earlier that day.  Instead of asking why I wasn't there at the 0730 start of the duty day, he just gave me a direct order that I would arrive at 0730 and I would depart at 1630.  On that particular day, I was scheduled to teach from 1000 to 1200 and 1600 to 1800 hours. I taught my 10 to 12 class as usual.  I started the 4 o'clock  class on time, but at 1630 I told the class I had been ordered to leave the base at 1630, and dismissed them and left.  Naturally, the next morning I was on the carpet again.  But, this time he had sense enough to ask me why I dismissed the class early.  I reminded him of his direct order.  I also told him that, since we worked other than normal duty hours, we kept our own schedules and  still had the best training course in the Air Force (according to our student critiques).  He apologized and suggested I continue with my old ways.
     Actually, with just a few exceptions, I seldom argued with a senior.  I just saw to it that, when they were wrong, it would blow up in their face.  But, you asked how my concept of right and wrong affected my career.
     I can assure you, it didn't make me any friends.  As the chapters about my experiences at Little Rock AFB illustrate, while I probably had the best B-47 crew in the 384th Bomb Wing, we were never made a "Select Crew", and never received the spot promotions that go with being recognized as the best. I was too much the "Bad Mouth".
    When I found that me and the B-52 were a perfect match, I told myself that, at my next duty station, I was going to keep my mouth shut and my nose clean and just fly the airplane.  I did, and within less than one year my crew was selected as the back-up crew for the "Bomb Comp" crew at SAC's annual bombing competition.  We did that for two years running. And, while we were never the Bomb Comp crew, we were the crew they didn't send who might have won instead of the crew they did send who didn't win.
     After 2 1/2 years as a B-52 crew commander, I was selected to be the Wing Chief of Safety at Plattsburg AFB and also became a B-52 instructor pilot.  And, I went from Captain, through Major to Lieutenant Colonel  in just over three years.  So, I guess keeping my mouth shut was the right thing to do.  I still didn't compromise my principals.  I had to overrule my wing commander a couple of times in some safety investigations.  Fortunately, subsequent events supported my position, and he remained very supportive. But, all in all, it may be good for your own survival to speak up at times, but it is not the best route to go career wise."

[Loring Remembers] - "For those of us non-flyers, give us a sense of what flying the B-52 was like, from start-up to taxiing, take-off, refueling and landing?  How difficult was it to fly (low level, high-altitude), and what was the worst and best characteristics of it?"

[Joe D'Amario] - "What is it like to fly a B-52? Is it fun? No. It's hard work. In that case, did you like it? Yes, very much. First of all, flying a B-52 was unlike flying any other airplane I'd flown. It is big, with a capital B I G. I jokingly say "Getting something that big off the ground and back down again without breaking something is very impressive." And, it is.
    At its maximum gross weight, the B-52 could take off at 488 thousand pounds. That's 244 tons, or more than six times the weight of a fully loaded 18-wheeler. Also, it was big, more than 180 feet from wingtip to wingtip. You can't park two of them side by side on a football field. That wingspan made it slow to respond to lateral (turning) maneuvers; it takes a while to get a lever that long to start moving. 
    Likewise, the B-52 was more than 130 feet long. With its bicycle type of landing gear that meant, in a landing attitude, you were trying to touch a set of wheels that were about 100 feet behind and 40 feet below you very gently onto the runway.
    This would make it appear that the B-52 would be very hard to fly. To the contrary, it made the airplane very stable. It didn't bounce around a lot or wander up and down or from side to side. Once you put it in an attitude, it would hold that attitude until you told it to change. Once you became accustomed to its sluggish response, you could be extremely precise with it. I have spent a full hour in a holding pattern, holding the altitude within + or - 20 feet, the heading within + or - 2 degrees and the airspeed within + or - 2 knots. And that was while I was still in B-52 training at Castle.
    In an earlier response, I mentioned that me and the B-52 ware a perfect match. Understand that, even after 5 1/2 years in B-47s, I still thought of myself as a frustrated fighter pilot. I really hated the idea of flying the box the B-47 came in. But, on my very first flight in a B-52 (in the training program at Castle AFB) I completed every requirement of the whole course, and every grade was "Highly Qualified", the highest in the SAC grading system. That is when I decided that the B-52 must have been the airplane that I was meant to fly.
    Even in-flight refueling in the B-52 is easy. At least it was for me.
On my first attempt, I stayed on the boom for 15 minutes without a disconnect and finally gave the airplane to my instructor because he said he needed the practice. Because the airplane is so stable, once you get it into the refueling envelope, you can almost let it go and it will stay there by itself. Once in the envelope, I'd just frame the tanker in my front windshield and hold it steady there. But, you have to anticipate control inputs and patiently wait for the airplane to respond.   I used to frustrate my copilot with a couple of demonstrations. From being centered on the boom, I'd flinch the control wheel (yoke) to the left and back to center, Then, I'd count to ten. When I reached 10, the airplane would begin to drift slowly to the left. To stop the drift, I'd flick the yoke to the right and back to neutral. Ten seconds later, the airplane would stop drifting left. Then, I'd repeat the process to the right and return the airplane to the center of the refueling envelope. Or, I could do the same thing by jazzing an outboard engine just a little. But, in each case, you had to wait for the response. Most people who had the controls in constant motion were four of five steps ahead of the airplane. 
    Crew coordination in the B-52 is essential, and nothing is done without a checklist. SAC crews are so disciplined that any copilot can replace any other copilot (or navigator, etc.) on a given flight and instantly fit into the crew routine.
    Takeoffs were like an orchestrated operation. Every facet of the takeoff was pre-planned during mission planning and adjusted, if necessary, prior to takeoff. We made rolling takeoffs, bringing in the power as we turned onto the active runway. For an on-time takeoff, the front wheels had to cross the hold line from the scheduled takeoff time (not one second before) to 30 seconds after the scheduled time. Any deviation from that was scored as a late takeoff.
     Taking the active, the pilot would bring up the power and, of course, steer the airplane to the centerline. The copilot would monitor the engine instruments to insure proper operation. The pilot would call "Coming up on 70 knots ready, ready, NOW." At that point, the copilot would crosscheck his airspeed indicator to make sure it agreed with the pilot's, and the navigator would start his stop-watch. As the airplane accelerated, the navigator would call out, "Coming up on S-1 time, ready, ready, NOW."   At that point, the pilot checks his airspeed indicator to make sure that he has the pre-computed S-1 speed. (S-1 speed is the last point during takeoff where you can abort and stop on the remaining runway. It is also the point from which, even if you lose one engine, you can still takeoff on the runway remaining. The S-1 time and S-1 speed varies with the gross weight of the airplane and with atmospheric conditions, so is computed for every takeoff.)
     If no abort is needed up to this point, the pilot announces "COMMITTED" and the copilot locks the throttles at 100% power because there will be no aborting from that point. And, as the airspeed continues to increase, the copilot will announce, "Coming up on S-2 speed (or "unstick" speed) ready, ready, NOW." The pilot applies just a little bit of back pressure on the yoke, and the airplane comes off the ground. The pilot calls, "Gear up" and the copilot responds "Gear coming up" as he raises the landing gear handle. Then the pilot will call out "Start flaps", and the copilot responds "Flaps coming up" as he puts the flap handle in the up position. There is a very specific speed schedule to be followed during flap retraction (too fast and you can rip the flaps off and too slow and you can stall the airplane.) While the pilot pulls the nose up to control the airspeed, the copilot calls off "Flaps 75%, flaps 50%, flaps 25%, flaps full up". Once the gear and flaps are up, you are off and running.  
    If this happened to be a MITO (minimum interval takeoff) as on an alert launch or an ORI, the pilot was also trying to avoid the jet wash of the planes ahead of him, or overtaking any slowpokes in the launch.
    Landing the B-52 is really not that hard. It, too, is orchestrated and performed by checklist to insure that the gear and flaps are down, etc., but the actual technique probably varies from one pilot to another. There is one unique feature on the B-52 that I've not seen on any other airplane; that is the cross-wind crab landing gear. After getting the current wind direction and velocity from the control tower, the copilot uses a chart in his checklist and computes the amount of crosswind crab (heading left of right of the actual runway heading) the pilot will need to keep the airplane from drifting off the runway centerline. For example, if he computes 10 Degrees left, the pilot will hold about 10 degrees left of the runway heading coming down the final approach. Also, and this is the unique feature of the B-52, the copilot will set the main landing gear 10 degrees off neutral. In other airplanes, when you've had to crab down the final approach, you had to kick out the crab (return to the runway heading) just before touchdown. But, in the B-52, you hold the crab angle right through touchdown. With the landing gear properly offset, you will roll down the runway even though the nose is pointed off the centerline. It is a weird sensation and a little tricky until you get the hang of it. I have landed with 15 degrees of crosswind crab, going straight down the runway while looking outside through the front corner of my side window.
    When the airspeed is at or below 135 knots and the airplane is firmly on the ground, the pilot calls for the brake chute, which the copilot deploys. Then, when the airspeed is down to normal taxi speed, the copilot, on the pilot's command, returns the landing gear to neutral (takes out the crosswind crab). And, except for the after-landing checklist, you're down.
    I truly enjoyed flying the B-52. To reconcile my fighter pilot frustration, I rationalized that I had half a fighter squadron in my throttle hand. (Most fighter squadrons had 12 to 16 airplanes, and I had half that many engines) And, again, it is really impressive to get something that big off the ground and back down again without breaking something. 

 [Loring Remembers] - "Joe, you mentioned MITO takeoffs.  Please explain what that term means for those who don't know, and the experience of performing one.  I have watched them from the ground during my career, and to be honest, don't understand how you had the guts to do it, especially if you were one of the last in the line!"

[Joe D'Amario] - "To the observer (this sounds like the start of a theory by Einstein) a MITO takeoff is one of the most exciting things you can ever see. Let's take a close look at it, from the pilot's point of view.
    First, MITO means Minimum Interval Take Off, so saying "MITO takeoff" is redundant (like saying "pizza pie" which really means "pie pie" because Pizza means pie in Italian).  MITO was developed by Strategic Air Command as a way to get an alert force of up to twelve B-47s or B-52s off the ground in a little time as possible. SAC combat crews were constantly being tested on their ability to get the entire alert force off the ground in a maximum of 15 minutes after the klaxon sounds. Their movements on base were restricted to locations with a klaxon and from which they could return to their airplanes within approximately 5 minutes, allowing 10 minutes for engine start, taxi and takeoff.
    The reason for the haste was simple. In the event of a preemptive strike by the Soviet Union, ICBMs would be enroute to the United States and the first ones would be targeting SAC bases and missile silos. So, since the missiles would take approx. thirty minutes to reach their targets, we needed to be airborne and out of there in less than that; hence the MITO.  (It has only been recently that I have realized that, in the event of a real launch in a real war, we would have been leaving all of the other base personnel as well as our families on the base to very probably be vaporized by the incoming ICBM. Not a happy thought.)
    The takeoff spacing (or Minimum Interval of the MITO) was established on the ground. While the alert force is taxiing to the runway, each pilot establishes an interval of 50 feet (or about a half fuselage length) between the nose of his airplane and the tail of the one ahead of him.  That 50 foot interval is maintained right up to and through the hold line just short of the runway. As each airplane crosses the hold line and turns onto the runway, its pilot brings the power up toward 100%, causing his airplane to accelerate away from the one behind him. Meanwhile, the planes ahead of him are already accelerating down the runway, constantly increasing the time and distance between aircraft so that, at the point on the runway where they are becoming airborne, the interval is almost exactly 15 seconds between airplanes.
    To an observer, especially one standing reasonably near the runway, this is a spectacular event. First of all, the noise is deafening. Actually, to the flight crews, the noise is only what they would hear during any normal takeoff. Looking toward the approaching aircraft, the runway appears to be totally obscured by smoke. Then, looking at the airplanes as they are leaving, each B-52 is leaving four smoke trails, one from each engine pod. The observer notices that the airplanes tend to fan out, each taking a slightly different route so as not to follow directly behind the aircraft ahead. And finally, in about 2 and 1/2 minutes 12 huge bombers have taken off and are disappearing into the distance
    To the flight crew, A MITO is an exciting event, not because it's dangerous but because you get to do it so seldom. To the leading aircraft, it is only a routine takeoff. But, to those planes that are farther back in the stream, it is a pretty breathtaking view. And, of course, the farther back you are, the more impressive it is.

Global Shield MITO

     An observer would think it must be very turbulent for the following aircraft, but actually, it isn't especially so. All that engine smoke looks like it'd be rough, but it has very little effect on the following planes. There is some turbulence from an effect that is actually not visible. It is the wingtip vortices coming off the wingtips of each airplane. These vortices are sort of horizontal tornados that trail and expand behind the wingtips of each airplane. In a T-33, I have been flipped into a 90 degree bank by a wingtip vortex from a B-47 that landed ahead of me. But, the B-47 and B-52 have such long wingspans that they are not easily effected by a 5 or 10 foot (in diameter) vortex of an airplane ahead of them. And, as mentioned, we try to spread out a bit and not follow directly behind another airplane. 
    On a Coco exercise [see footnote], the SAC alert crews do get to practice the taxiing interval and actually the start of the takeoff roll, but we abort upon reaching 70 knots and don't actually take off. However, when the base is hit with their annual (and sometimes semi-annual) ORI [Operational Readiness Inspection], The planes that are on alert are downloaded (of their nukes) and replaced by other airplanes and crews. Then the planes and crews that were on alert when the ORI first hit, take off on their graded ORI mission, using the MITO technique. To the observers it is very impressive. To the flight crews, it's fun.
    Once, following a Coco exercise and simulated MITO in B-47s at Little Rock AFB, our Chief of Standboard (a lieutenant colonel affectionately known as White Fang) decided to critique the exercise. After we were assembled in the alert briefing room, he began:
    "That was the sorriest excuse of a Coco I have ever seen. You guys were supposed to have 50 feet between airplanes. You didn't have 50 feet between airplanes. Is there anybody who doesn't know you're supposed to have 50 feet between airplanes?"
     A young, hot-rock captain we all called Pinky, murmured under his breath, "Hell, we all know we're supposed to have 50 feet between airplanes."
     White Fang came right back with, "Well captain, if you knew you were supposed to have 50 feet between airplanes, why didn't you have 50 feet between airplanes?"
    Pinky came right back with, "Because I was the first one out."

[Coco exercise] - "During the 1960s no-notice alert exercises were conducted periodically to determine if bomber and tanker alert aircraft could meet the BMEWS reaction times for "Bravo" (ready to taxi) and "Coco" (taxi to the active runway hold line) readiness. Average "Bravo" times were four minutes for bombers and five minutes for tankers, while average "Coco" times were 12 minutes for bombers and 15 minutes for tankers." (from http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/systems/b-52-ops.htm)

[Loring Remembers] - "In 1994, a Fairchild AFB B-52 bomber crashed during an airshow practice when the pilot banked the aircraft too steeply and stalled the plane.  In your book, you recall an incident that, in hindsight, was quite dangerous in your eyes, involving a B-52 "maneuver" you performed to avoid a storm cloud.  Can you elaborate on this, and why it was so dangerous?"

[Joe D'Amario] - "I've already told that, going through the B-52 training at Castle AFB, I completed all of the requirements of the course on my first flight in a B-52. On subsequent flights I found that I seemed to be able to make the airplane do anything I wanted it to do. It was as if we were a team and that the airplane would never let me down. In fact, I have sometimes jokingly said that if I walked up to a B-52 and said "Start Engines.", it would do it. Well, that overconfidence very nearly got me and my crew killed.
     A few weeks after I got combat ready at Loring AFB with my new crew, we were completing a low level navigation and bombing run. After an electronic "Bombs Away" we were climbing out of the low level route. It was daytime and VFR (clear weather).
     The climb-out route was straight ahead to about 12,000 feet followed by a 180 degree climbing turn to the left, continuing to our cruising altitude. As I neared the place where we would start the left turn, I noticed one single cell towering cumulus cloud that might be in the way of the turn. I thought that if the navigator didn't call for the turn soon, I would extend our course a little farther and go around it. However, he called for the turn and started turning left. Then, as I got almost halfway through the turn, I realized that we were going to go into that cloud (really a single cell thunderstorm in its early formation).
     Understand, a B-52 can penetrate a thunderstorm with no difficulty. There was really no reason why I didn't just continue the turn and spend maybe fifteen seconds in that cloud. But, I was a hot-rock B-52 pilot and could do anything, and THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT.
     I told the crew I was going to do an unusual attitude. I think I really just announced over interphone to "Hold on to your hats." Then, I firewalled all eight engines and pulled the nose up, way up. I was going to do a wingover. (In a wingover, you pull the nose up to at least 60 degrees above the horizon and as the airspeed falls off approaching a stall, you then tap a little bit of aileron and let the airplane fall off to one side. There are no Gs and properly coordinated, there are no undue stresses on the airplane. Anyway, you let the airplane fall off on a wing until the nose has dropped below the horizon. Then you level the wings, pull the nose up to level flight, and you have completed a wingover, a complete reversal of direction.)
    I got the nose up 60 or 70 degrees and popped the wheel to the left momentarily and returned it to neutral. As the nose fell off to the left and down through the horizon I pulled the throttles back to idle and let the dive bring the airspeed back to normal cruise. Meanwhile, after the nose was well below the horizon, I leveled the wings and then brought the nose up to level flight, bringing the throttles back up to cruise power.
    I had been flying the airplane strictly by sight, looking out the windows, and by the seat of my pants, so I hadn't been looking at the flight instruments. However, my copilot told me that, as the nose was coming down toward the horizon, he saw 110 degrees of bank on the attitude gyro. That's 20 degrees past vertical. (Let me add now that that copilot, Martin J (Rip) Ryan, went on to become a Major General and came back to Loring as its Division Commander. I only made Lieutenant Colonel.)
    Well I really felt good. I had done a wingover in a B-52 and I was a really hot pilot.
   
Many years later, after I retired, I was watching television and saw a news story of a B-52 that crashed while making a low altitude pass over an airfield either in preparation for or during an airshow. Watching that video made me remember something about the B-52 that made my blood run cold. It made me realize how close I had come in that wingover to destroying an airplane and killing my entire crew.
    A B-52 doesn't have ailerons. Instead it only has spoilers on each wing. To turn left, for example, you turn the wheel left and the spoilers on the left wing pop up, reduce the lift on the left wing and it drops. Unlike planes with ailerons, the other wing doesn't climb and you do not rotate around the longitudinal axis of the airplane. You rotate around some point out on the high wing, and the fuselage actually loses a little bit of altitude. In short, you cannot "raise" a wing in a B-52; you can only lower the other one. So, near the top of my wingover, I could not have RAISED my left wing, I could only LOWER the right one. And, while it was past vertical, the shortest route to LOWER was over the top to inverted.
   
In the case of the B-52 at the air show, it appeared to me that the pilot initiated a turn, perhaps a steep turn planning to do a chandelle up to the downwind leg, while he was right on the deck. When the wing went down, so did the fuselage. He caught a wingtip on the ground, cartwheeled and crashed. (Contrary to popular belief, he was going too fast to have stalled.) If he was really going to do a chandelle, he should have pulled the nose up and climbed one or two hundred feet before starting his turn.
    His crash made me realize that, in my wingover, if I had started to level the wings before the nose was well below the horizon; the high wing (the right one) would have fallen over the top and put the airplane on its back. Then, there would have been G forces and stresses that the plane couldn't take and we, have come apart, probably exploded and crashed.
    For a long time after I realized how stupid I had been, I used to wake up in a cold sweat from a recurring dream about that incident.  I hope this isn't too technical, and yet clear enough to explain why we could have crashed. And, incidentally, I never did another wingover in a B-52."


[Loring Remembers] - "In January 1968, you experienced one of the worst event's imaginable - ejecting from a burning B-52 with nuclear weapons on board.  This is the famous Thule Greenland crash that ended Chrome Dome.  In your book, "Hangar Flying", you fully explain what happened, and we won't go into that here.  However, I would like to know, from your perspective, what was it like to eject from the flaming bomber, and how did it stack up to what you thought it would be?"  (Note:  I would highly recommend reading "Hangar Flying" so you fully understand what happened on that flight, and the REAL reason for the fire).

[Joe D'Amario] - "According to the aviation psychologist at the Flying Safety Officers School at USC, pilots have a higher incidence of "fear of heights" than does a typical cross section of people. I know I do. So, I always wondered how I would react when faced with the need to abandon ship, so to speak. Well, now I know. Properly motivated, there is no hesitation whatsoever. And, a cockpit fire certainly provides the motivation.
     A full account of what led up to and caused the cockpit in our B-52 is already contained in my book, Hangar Flying. So, for the sake of brevity, we'll skip ahead to the point in time when it was time to go.
     I was in the copilot's seat flying as the third pilot on a Chrome Dome* mission when the pilot gave the order to bailout. I don't know exactly what I was doing at that instant, probably trying to get an alternator back on the line because we were completely without electrical power. Anyway, I didn't hear the order. Instead, I heard four "POP" sounds. When I asked what they were, the pilot said that was the navigator, radar navigator, EW and gunner ejecting and for me to go next. I very briefly questioned, in my own mind, whether we could still fly and land this dude, but a great many factors made it impossible.
*Chrome Dome refers to SAC's Airborne Alert program where B-52's armed with nuclear weapons were in the air 24X7.

    
The first thing I did was check my parachute chest and leg straps to make sure they were tight, and they were. The arm rests on my seat were already raised (on a Weber set, you can fly with them up for comfort,) and I rotated the trigger guards on both armrests. That did four things, some of which had already been done. It depressurized the cabin (actually we had already depressurized while fighting the fire. And, with the first four crewmembers gone, we were wide open.) It would have also set off the bailout warning signal, but that, too, had already been activated. In my case, raising the trigger guards stowed my control column so as to clear my knees during the ejection, and it blew the hatch over my head.
    I reached for the right trigger, but my training kicked in and a tiny voice said, "Stop, Joe. Do what you've been taught. Sit up straight, put your feet back against the seat (there are no stirrups or footrests on the upward ejection seats) put your head back against the headrest, tuck your chin in and bring your elbows inside the armrests." Having done that, I prepared to pull the trigger.
    I honestly don't remember actually pulling the ejection seat trigger; I only remember  thinking about it. And, that suddenly, I found myself outside the airplane. Oddly enough, there was no real shock or sensation of "G"s despite the charge that was big enough to blow me clear of the tail. One second after leaving the airplane, the seat belt and shoulder automatically separated and the wind blew the seat away from me. That activated a timer that would pull my ripcord one second later. Meanwhile, I was aware that my right arm was fully extended to my right rear. (I had pulled the right trigger and probably had a death grip on it with  my right hand until I lost my grip as the seat fell away.) I remember thinking that I had better get that arm tucked in close to my body so it wouldn't get hurt when the chute opened. This sounds like an awful lot of thinking in the space of only one or two seconds. However, if you have ever skied, you'll remember that, even in an "ass over tin cups" tumbling spill, you are conscious of the position of your arms and legs and can actually position them to reduce the chance of injury. This was just like that.
    Since we, the pilot and I, thought we had been at about 20,000 feet when we initiated the bailout, I had expected to free-fall to 14,000 where a barometer in the parachute would pull the ripcord. But, to my great surprise, the chute opened instantly (one second after seat separation). The opening shock was horrific, but over in an instant and, though I suffered some bruising on my inner thighs, I didn't receive any real injuries.
    There is a question on all SAC emergency procedures exams that asks "What is the first thing to do after your parachute opens?"
The correct answer is "Look up and check the canopy." That's a stupid question. Nothing could STOP you from looking up to check the canopy. So, of course, I did and found that the canopy was intact (no blown panels) and that all of the riser cords were unbroken.
So far, I was in good shape.
    Next, I moved my arms and legs and was satisfied that I hadn't hurt or broken anything. Then, I looked down to see where I was and, lo and behold, I was descending right onto Thule Air Base. But that view of Thule spread out under me was one of the strangest things I have ever experienced in my life. I was probably at 6 or 7,000 feet, so there was no visible movement of the ground; at least not coming toward me. Instead, I felt total detachment from that place I was looking at. It was like looking down on an elaborate Christmas garden, only more so. In Hangar Flying, I said it feels God-like. But, it doesn't make you think about God, it makes you feel like you ARE God (almost). There aren't any words to describe it, you'll just have to make a jump yourself to understand.
    As soon as I was assured that I was physically all right, I reached down and pulled the deploy handle on the survival kit. As advertised, the survival pack fell away, the life raft separated from the main pack and inflated and they both ended up dangling from the lanyard below me. So far, everything had gone exactly right.
    The next thing I did was sight down between my feet to check my drift. Below and to my forward left, was a big arch roofed hangar. It was probably about 80 feet high and the arches of the roof ended about 40 or 50 feet above the ground....and I was drifting right toward it. I thought, "Great. The hatch blew, the column stowed, the seat separated, the chute opened, the survival kit deployed and now I'm going to land on top of that hangar, slide off and kill myself." I did try to steer the chute by pulling on a riser and it might have helped, but I really couldn't tell. Anyway, it soon became apparent that I wasn't going to drift that far before reaching the ground.
    There was one very scary thing that happened. When my chute opened, I heard a sound like "CHING". I soon discovered that the metal cover on the uncoupling device on my left riser had come open and the wire loop that you pull to separate the riser was sticking out.  That was touchy.  That quick release is just an over-center connection and it wouldn't take much to open it. I thought of putting the cover back up, but I'd have to push the  loop back into place and I really didn't want to even touch it. So, I didn't.
    Also, not long after I deployed the survival kit and life raft, I saw the B-52 hit the ice out on Thule Bay. Actually, I saw the explosion. Then, a few seconds later, all hell broke loose. The shockwave from the explosion arrived and my parachute canopy and the life raft both took off to my right, leaving me behind. It was like holding a button in the middle of a length of string and then twirling the string so the button circles round and round. Well, I was that button. I spun around two or three times but then settled down again into just a straight descent toward the ground.
    It appeared that I was going to land in an open area between the ramp in front of the hangar and another taxiway or runway. The ground was all white and I thought it would be nice soft snow. NOT SO. It was permafrost and as hard as a rock. I had already gone over in my mind, and practiced putting my arms and legs in the right position for landing. But, on impact I felt as if I had no control of anything. I just hit like a ton of bricks. However, based on scrapes and abrasions on my flight clothes, I did land on my feet and rolled on to my thigh and back.  At the same time, I had put my left hand near the left riser release (the one that the cover was already open) and one finger through the loop. My thought was that, at impact, I would have a natural reaction to tuck my arms in and, in doing so; I would be pulling the riser release. It worked, and by the time I was on my back, the parachute was already deflating and falling away on one side. I got up, checked for injuries and found none.
     The rest of this is almost like a fairy tale. With no other place to find rescue within at least 1,000 miles, I had landed less than 100 yards from a nice warm hangar. And, the WARM was important because, with the chill factor, the temperature was minus 51 degrees. My fingers were already too numb to operate the latches on the parachute harness, but I managed to get the chest strap open and let the rest of the harness just fall down my legs.. I put my silk in the life raft, the survival kit on top ot that and my helmet on all of it. I put my parka hood up and walked the short distance to the hangar, where I was picked up immediately by two Danes in a truck, and taken directly to Base Operations. (Some purist is probably going to say, "But, you screwed up. You abandoned your survival kit." Well, no I didn't. I kept it in sight to make sure I could get back to it if necessary, but it wasn't)
    I gave the Base Operations officer information about the bailout order, etc., to aide in rescue operations. I was the first one to walk in. From Base Operations, I was able to call my home base command post (Plattsburg) and tell them what little I knew of the origin and nature of the fire. My CO patched me through to my home phone and I was talking to my wife within seconds of her being told I had been in an accident.
    Obviously, this is not the end of the story, but it is the end of the ejection story. By the way, I did get a membership in the Caterpillar Club for riding down in the chute and a plaque from the Weber Seat Company for my ride in the ejection seat. Not too many people have that in their resume."

[Loring Remembers] - "After the incident involving Thule, DOD policies for length of serviced ended up with you retiring.  You relate in "Hangar Flying" an interview you did for the History Channel that didn't quite meet your expectations.  Care to give a little insight into that?"
 
[Joe D'Amario] - "In the years following the Broken Arrow event at Thule, Greenland in 1968, long after we had both retired, both John Haug and I have been interviewed by members of the media regarding the accident. John Haug was the pilot and crew commander of the crew on that mission. I was flying as third pilot and was in the copilot seat when the emergency arose. The first interview was for an independently produced documentary that has appeared many times since on the History Channel. The second time was several years later for a BBC documentary.
    In both cases, John and I were assured that the productions would be an unbiased documentary simply describing the accident. However, in both cases, the programs turned out to be propaganda pieces. The one that has played on the History Channel was a very biased anti-nuclear weapon program. Many times during the interview, I was asked "Weren't you afraid that the bombs would explode?' Each time I replied that the bombs are so safe that those of us who are charged with their delivery are much more afraid that they won't go off when they are supposed to than that one would ever go off accidentally.  We both explained that, on impact, the bombs were destroyed by the explosion of the many thousands of gallons of jet fuel that exploded and that the high explosives incorporated in the bombs themselves probably burned or exploded. But, we assured the interviewer(s) that there was no nuclear contribution to those explosions. We also advised that we, the crew members, had been told by the accident investigation team that parts of all of the weapons had been identified by serial number, confirming that all four weapons were in the airplane when it crashed (actually, bellied in) on the ice and that all four weapons were accounted for through serial numbered parts.
    Despite all of our statements to the contrary, the narrator in the Broken Arrow documentary inferred several times that one or more of the bombs were lost or un-accounted for. And, he closed the documentary with the statement that, "Though no nuclear bomb has ever detonated accidentally as a result of a crash, there is always the possibility that, someday, one will." Based on all of the ruclear weapons training that I (and all SAC crew members) got before we were allowed to carry them, I can state positively that his statement was an absolute falsehood, meant only to undermine the best deterrent weapon in our defense program.
    The Broken Arrow documentary contained other distortions and falsehoods. The narrator stated that 800 Danes had been employed by the Air Force to clean up the debris and nuclear radiation left on the surface of the ice at the crash scene. That statement was probably true. I know that a massive cleanup was performed to keep the radioactive material out of the food chain, i.e., fish>seals>eskimos. Then, the narrator stated that 137 (I'm not sure of the exact number he said, but 137 sounds familiar) of those Danes had since died of cancer. He made no effort to identify the kinds of cancer(s) they died from, or to connect the cancers directly with their exposure to radiation during the cleanup. Considering that this statement was made approximately 30 years after the cleanup, he made no effort to say how many people in that age group would have died of cancer from any causes. I don't have any exact figures, but these Danes were experienced truck, road grader and bulldozer drivers, so were probably in their 30s or 40s at the time of the cleanup. I suggest that, in all probability, about 137 of them would have died of cancer anyway. Especially when you consider that Europeans are usually heavy smokers of cigarettes that would choke a typical American smoker.
    Finally, there is one more factor in the Broken Arrow documentary that really bugs me. Ex-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara also appeared on that documentary. In the first part of his interview he said something like, "When I was first appointed as Secretary of Defense, I had heard of atomic bombs, but I didn't know anything about them. I thought they were probably a little stronger than a regular bomb, but I had no idea that they were as powerful as they were." And, of course, later in the program/interview he says that atomic bombs are bad and we should get rid of all of them.
    Often, when talking to other veterans of my era, I have referred to McNamara as "An idiot named McNamara".  When I have, the person I'm talking to has almost always laughed and said something like "You've got that right." Also, while I was in high school in 1946 or 1947, I gave a short presentation in a science class on how atomic bombs worked. If I, as a high school kid knew about how A-bombs worked in the late 40s, how come this idiot "didn't know much about them" in the 1960s. Where had he been?  Anyway, to use his advise regarding our weapons program would be the second dumbest thing I have ever heard of; the first being his presence on the program in the first place.
    The BBC documentary, which didn't air in the US, Wasn't as bad. But, it also blamed the US for deaths among the Danes we employed to clean up the crash site. It too contained a lot of misleading information and was obviously intended as a propaganda piece from the beginning. As a result, John and I have both agreed that we will not submit to media interviews again. I have agreed to this interview because Ray Ingham has not altered or edited one word of my responses to his questions.
    In summary, I believed and still believe that it was our demonstrated ability to annihilate the Soviet Union that prevented a shooting war with them and led to their ultimate collapse. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, it wasn't the naval blockade of Cuba that ended that confrontation; it was the nuclear armed B-52s patrolling over eastern Europe, just outside of the Soviet Union, but within sight of their own radars that convinced the Soviets to back off. I know because I was there, in Spain, with a nuclear armed B-47 on ground alert within about 30 minutes of our target had we been scrambled. So I get really upset when the liberal media tries to undermine our defense by presenting slanted facts and outright lies. They still don't understand that they would not exist as a free press/media were it not for our nuclear deterrent capability."

[Loring Remembers] - "In closing, I would personally like to thank you for allowing us to pick your brain on a fascinating career in the Air Force.  If you took away one thing from your time in the military that stayed with you the rest of your life, what would that be?"

[Joe D'Amario] - "I have frequently been asked which, of all the airplanes I've flown, did I like the best. And, most recently, I've been asked what one thing have I taken from my career in the Air Force that will stay with me all of my life. While answering the second question, I will be able to touch on the first one as well.
    Regarding the airplanes, understand that I loved to fly and my life's ambition was to be an Air Force pilot. From pilot training through retirement, I flew the T-6 Texan (both D and G models), the P-51D Mustang, The F-80 Shooting Star and its trainer counterpart, the T-33. While the T-33 was my primary aircraft when I was in Training Command, I also got time in the C-47, B-25 and C-45 and a little bit of pilot time in the T-34. Then, I got drafted into Strategic Air Command and flew the B-47 Stratojet and the B-52 Stratofortress.
    Which one did I like best? ALL OF THEM. The T-6 was my first military aircraft. Who would not LOVE the P-51? It was a constant thrill. Then, buzzing over the desert of Nevada at 300 mph in an F-80, kicking up dust with my jet blast...WOW. Then 100 combat missions in it in Korea, and it never once let me down. I loved it. The same with the T-33 except I wasn't being shot at. The Gooney Bird and the B-25 were not so much fun, but still a pleasure to fly, especially since Uncle Sam was paying for the gas.  I never actually checked out in the Double-breasted Foot Locker, the C-45, but as a copilot I flew one from Bolling AFB in Washington, DC to Pinecastle AFB (later McCoy AFB and now the Orlando International Airport) non-stop, a distance that the experts said was impossible even with a full fuel load. But we were T-Bird pilots. What did we know?
    The B-47 was a real thrill to fly. Sitting alone in the front of the tandem cockpit, it was like flying a fighter. And, the B-52 was just made for me. I completed the entire training program on my first training flight at Castle AFB. It wasn't that much fun to fly, but it was impressive to get something that big off the ground and back down again without breaking something.
    So, my favorite airplane was ALL OF THEM. But, since I quit flying when I left the Air Force, I left that thrill behind me.
    The one thing that I think I keep with me is the memory of and the benefits to my family life. I grew up in a neighborhood where the people were born, grew up, worked in the steel mill, shipyard or in service businesses. They seldom travelled at all. A trip from Baltimore to Washington, DC, 32 miles, was considered a major excursion and required a car tune-up and membership in Triple A for maps and directions.
    On the other hand, my family got to go places and see things that my childhood friends wouldn't dream of. On one trip alone (paid for by Uncle Sam) we saw Meteor Crater, The Grand Canyon and toured Hoover Dam all in one day. Then after a night in Las Vegas, we went to Disneyland and SeaWorld of the Pacific. While going through B-52 training at Castle, we visited Yosemite National Park several times, drove through the General Sherman Sequoia tree and panned for gold in Columbia, California. We visited San Francisco, drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, ate at Fisherman's Wharf and drove the 7 Mile Drive at Pebble Beach. Enroute to Loring AFB, we went through Donner Pass, Salt Lake City, ate steak in Cheyenne, Wyoming and toured the rest of the Great Plains, and New England.
    Earlier at Little Rock AFB, we explored recently discovered caves. We dug for diamonds at the only diamond mine in the Unites States. We had a small boat and picnicked and water skied at least once a week all summer for five years. The wife and I saw and chatted with Jackie Mason (the comedian) in Hot Springs, Arkansas and once had Frankie Laine have a drink at our table in the Playboy Club in Montreal, Canada.
   While at Plattsburg AFB, we visited Lake Placid, watched the high school and college kids ski jumping ( I had better sense than to try that myself), rode a five man bob sled down the Olympic bobsled run and almost every winter weekend, skied the same slopes on Whiteface Mountain as did the Olympic downhill racers (though we went much slower). 
    I could go on and on about the many places my family has been and friends they have made that wouldn't have happened had we not been in the service. Contrary to what most civilians believe, moving occasionally, going to new schools, meeting new friends and facing new challenges produces a very well educated, mature adult. And that's not just my opinion. I was told that by the principal of the school at Plattsburg, New York.
    So, the thing I believe I value most from my 20 year career was the effect it had on my family and how it produced three really great adults. Though we are scattered geographically, we are in close communication, love and support each other, and all three of them are successful in their chosen careers. Who could ask for more than that???"

Final note:  This was a "once in a lifetime" chance to talk to a SAC pilot who was actually involved in one of the most infamous incidents in SAC's history, and learn the real story of that mishap.  I want to personally thank Joe for his participation, and hope everyone comes away from this interview thinking how awesome it was to be a part of the Strategic Air Command...to learn even more about Joe's remarkable career, I highly recommend his book, "Hangar Flying"

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