May 2011 Assoc Web Site Message Traffic

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110529 - Dick Kiefer ... Urschler
110529 - Pizzo article
110526 - All NAV's Reunion ... Hoberman
110525 - Maj Jeffers ...Simundich
110525 - Maj F. Jeffers ... Tish Jeffers
110524 - Maj Jeffers - Simundich
110516 - Taps Fred Jeffers
110512 - Micro55th Reunion... Lewis


from:     Regis Urschler
date:      Sun, May 29, 2011 at 10:35 PM
subject:     Dick Kiefer
Dick Kiefer served in the 55th from about 1959 until 192 when he departed for the “Office Boy” Program in the RC-135D in 1962.
          Dick has been diagnosed with cancer and presently is at his home in Tucson following surgery. I spoke with him earlier this evening. He had his first radiation treatment last Wednesday and is feeling the related affects. He also has a feeding tube in his stomach 14 hours a day..  
          I asked him if he heard from many of his friends and comrades and his response was not too many….Joe Kaminski, Lou Adams, Jim and Marion Taylor and a few others. He would like to hear from others with whom he served, either at Forbes, Eielson the Pentagon or where-ever.
          I would ask you to consider placing this in the association web in the hopes it might generate correspondence....written or phone. I hesitate to share his prognosis. I just would encourage all who might like to visit to do so.
      His address:  3966 N Avineda De Montezuma, Tucson, AZ 85749                 Tele: 520-749-2141    Wife is Carrie Lou,

date:   Sun, May 29, 2011 at 12:21 PM
subject:    Fwd: This article is in the NOLA Times Picayune today.
About our revered fellow 55th member.

This article is in the NOLA Times Picayune today.
Sam Pizzo's colorful military career shared with a devoted wife

Sam Pizzo's colorful military career shared with a devoted wife
Published: Sunday, May 29, 2011, 5:00 AM
By Sheila Stroup, The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune

   I didn’t mean for this to be a love story. I just meant to write about the long and colorful military career of Col. Sam Pizzo, USAF (Ret.), whose adventures included being navigator on a crew that escorted Nikita Khruschev home to Russia and working at Area 51, the super secret U.S. Military Base in the Nevada desert.
     Air Force Col. Sam Pizzo, 89, had a long and legendary military career, including serving as navigator on a flight taking Khruschev back to Russia and working at Area 51, the super-secret site north of Las Vegas. 
But when we sat down to talk at his home in Mandeville, all his stories circled back to his wife, Mary.
“She played a very important part in all of it,” he said, smiling at her.
When they met at the swimming pool at Audubon Park, he was a recent graduate of Fortier High School and she was a student at Mercy Academy.
“I was supposed to meet another girl there, and she didn’t show up,” Pizzo said. “I met Mary instead, and that was it.”
The Pizzos celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary Saturday.
“There were those who thought it wouldn’t last,” Mary said. “I was Catholic and he wasn’t, which was a big deal back then.”
They were supposed to get married a few days earlier in 1944, but Pizzo couldn’t get home to New Orleans because he was waiting for his military orders.
“I was three days late for my own wedding,” he said.
            Two days after Mary became Mrs. Sam Pizzo, they were on their way to Dyersburg, Tenn., where Pizzo, a bombadier, began combat crew training.
            “That was our honeymoon,” he said.
Once his training ended, Mary came back to New Orleans, and he went off to the war in a B-17. He flew 30 missions over Germany and escaped without a scratch.
            After World War II ended, Pizzo went to work for Delta Air Lines, joined an Air Force Reserve unit and then the Louisiana Air Guard. He was called up to active duty in March of 1951 during the Korean conflict, and he and Mary left Louisiana and headed to Langley Air Force Base in Langley, Va.

Retired Air Force Col. Sam Pizzo, 89, had a long
 and legendary military career, including serving
 as navigator on a flight taking Khruschev back to
Russia and working at Area 51, the super-secret
site north of Las Vegas. 
From there, with Mary’s blessing, he decided to go back on active duty with the Air Force, and for the next two decades, he went from one exciting assignment to another, arming atomic bombs in-flight, becoming a navigator and flying reconnaissance missions, writing a manual for a spy plane that had never really been tested, and advancing to colonel along the way.
            “I was one of the lucky ones,” he said. “It wasn’t planned that way. Things just happened.”
           From there, with Mary’s blessing, he decided to go back on active duty with the Air Force, and for the next two decades, he went from one exciting assignment to another, arming atomic bombs in-flight, becoming a navigator and flying reconnaissance missions, writing a manual for a spy plane that had never really been tested, and advancing to colonel along the way.
            “I was one of the lucky ones,” he said. “It wasn’t planned that way. Things just happened.”
            The Pizzos moved from Shreveport to Houston to Topeka to Las Vegas, and while he deployed to such exotic places as Thule AFB in Greenland and worked his way up the military ladder, Mary took care of everything else, including their two sons, Sam and Steve.
            “If you have someone like her at home, it makes things go a lot better,” Pizzo said. “She took care of the money. She took care of the house. She took care of the kids. And when I was there, she took care of me.”
            He was a 37-year-old navigator with the 343rd Strategic Recon Squadron, stationed at Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka, Kansas, when he and a pilot from his wing were assigned temporary duty at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
            “We had no idea what we were going to be doing,” he said.
They learned they’d be escorting Russian airplanes carrying mail and passengers in and out of the United States while Premier Nikita Khrushchev was visiting. They were on board to make sure the Russian pilots didn’t fly over restricted air spaces and to operate the radio equipment and communicate with air traffic control centers.
            “This was during the Cold War, and I was also supposed to find out everything I could about those airplanes,” Pizzo said. “I took a lot of photographs.”
            The American pilot spoke fluent Russian. Pizzo spoke not a word.
            “I never figured out why I was chosen,” he said.
            Although Russia and the United States were enemies in 1959, the Russian crew and the Americans hit it off.
            “There was a bond between us, and they had quite a sense of humor,” Pizzo said.
            He remembers being served a meal of Russian beef that was extremely salty.
            “I grabbed what I thought was a glass of water and gulped it down,” he said. “It was 100-proof vodka, and I gagged and coughed. Those Russian pilots couldn’t stop laughing.”
            When he ended up on Khruschev’s flight back to Moscow, he had his 35mm camera around his neck the way he’d had it on the other Russian flights. The Soviet premier, wearing a bathrobe and slippers, was busy much of the night, sending greetings to the leaders of every country they passed over and dictating to stenographers.
            Pizzo lives in Beau Chene near Mandeville with Mary, 85, his wife of 67 years, whom he credits for much of his success. Wednesday, May 25, 2011, photos at his home.
At one point, he motioned to Pizzo to come over and take his photograph.
            “Then he motioned for a crew member to take my camera, and I got my picture taken with him,” Pizzo said.
            When they landed in Moscow, the Americans waited in the terminal for someone to meet them. Suddenly, a US Air Force Major strode in and asked Pizzo if he was out of his mind, being in uniform and wearing a camera around his neck. Did he want to be arrested as a spy?
            “He took my camera and put me on the next flight to Denmark,” Pizzo said. “I got booted out of Russia.”
            His most memorable time in the service was probably at top-secret Area 51, when the A-12 spy plane was being tested and flown. In 1961, when a former boss asked him to come and work for him again, Pizzo signed on.
            “I asked him, ‘Where will I be going?’ and he said, ‘I can’t say.’ I asked him, ‘What will I be doing?’ He said, ‘I can’t say,’” Pizzo said.
            He asked Mary what she thought, and she told him, “It’s up to you.”
            Not long after that, Mary asked him if he was in trouble.
            “She said, ‘The FBI is asking everyone all kinds of questions about you,’” he said.
            Then he was whisked off to Washington, taken to a secret location by men in civilian clothes, and given a lie detector test.
            When it was over, one of the men told him, “You passed. You’re in the program.”
            “I asked, ‘What program?’” Pizzo said. “I called Mary and told her, ‘I’m in, but I don’t know what I’m in.’”
            He was in a program so secret, our government didn’t even admit Area 51 existed. He can talk about his time with the 1129th Special Activities Squadron now because the information was declassified in 2007.
            The families had homes in Las Vegas, and the men, who called themselves “the roadrunners,” took off for Area 51, about 80 miles north or the city, every Monday morning. They would not come home until Friday evening.
            “That was the hard part, being away from our families all week,” Pizzo said.
            They lived in spartan conditions and amused themselves on weeknights by playing poker.
“You couldn’t even get a radio station at night,” he said.
            What made it worthwhile was knowing they were doing something important, working on the amazing new Lockheed aircraft for the CIA. Pizzo, chief of the mission support division, was in charge of developing a manual for the spy plane, which had the code name “Oxcart.”
            The A-12, which followed the U-2 spy plane, was like nothing Pizzo had ever seen. It was long and slim with a projecting nose, swept-back wings and two immense jet engines. It could fly at 90,000 feet at three times the speed of of sound.
            He remembers watching that plane take off from Groom Lake, a dry-bed lake on the base, after the sun had set.
            “It was one of the most spectacular sights you’d ever want to see,” he said. “It lit up the desert. It lit up the night. Oh, God, it was beautiful.”
            When I asked Mary what it was like being married to a man who could not discuss a single thing about the project he was working on, she laughed.
“I didn’t want to hear about it anyway. It would have been boring,” she said.
            Pizzo has no patience with conspiracy theories that link Area 51 to extraterrestrials and UFOs.
            “There just weren’t a lot of places you could hide little green men up there,” he said.
            His time at the top-secret facility was just one chapter in a memory-filled career.
Pizzo lives in Beau Chene near Mandeville with Mary, 85, his wife of 67 years, whom he credits for much of his success. Wednesday, May 25, 2011, photos at his home.
            “I couldn’t have written it any better,” he said. “If you’re lucky, there’s some time in your life where you say, ‘I’m glad I did that. I’m glad I was there.’ I had a lot of those times.”
            And he’s happy Mary was along for the ride.
            When I asked her what she liked best about being a military wife, she thought for a moment and said, “I guess it was all the travel and the people you meet.”
            When I asked her what she liked best about being to being married to Sam Pizzo, she didn’t hesitate at all.
            “Oh, everything,” she said. “Just everything.”

Sheila Stroup's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in Living. Contact her at or 985.898.4831.


from:    Errol S. Hoberman
date: Thu, May 26, 2011 at 9:02 AM
subject:   "ALL Navs-ALL TYPES" Reunion put on by the Air Force Navigators Observers Association AFNOA,

AFNOA Reunion (
Las Vegas, Nevada
Sept 6-7-8, 2011
Tuscany Casino & Resort
Reservations Dept 877-887-2261

AFNOA CONTACT for Registration ($150 each) and tour notes.
Jimmy Bannerman
761 Marina Point Dr.
Daytons Beach, FL 32114

Complete forms and details on AFNOA web sites: and and

We welcome all, thank you. Registration deadline is August 1.

Ron Barrett, AFNOA
Sent: 5/25/2011 11:48:55 A.M. Central Daylight Time
Subj: FW: Maj Jeffers
It appears that my Major Jeffers is not the one whose death was reported.
Tom Simundich
From: Tish Jeffers []
Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 8:52 AM
To: Simundich, Thomas M
Subject: Maj Jeffers
I was forwarded your kind e-mail regarding Major Jeffers (my dad). Interesting to hear there was another Maj Jeffers out there somewhere, but unfortunately that wasn't my dad. My dad served in the USAF 1941-1961, commanded bombers over Germany, flew the Berlin Air Lift, did Recon over Russia and was part of the provost effort in Japan after the war. He retired from Barksdale AFB in 1961. He was almost 91 when he passed May 12 and was a proud member of the 55th. He was awarded 2 distinguished flying crosses, and we'll be taking him to Arlington some time this summer for internment. I am including a recent photo. (he's on the left) Maj Fred F Jeffers, USAF retired. His plane the Travelin' Bag was pictured in the recent publication of the Mighty 8th.                                           

Sent: 5/24/2011 5:21:10 P.M. Central Daylight Time
Subj: Major Jeffers
Dear Sir,
I read your posting in the 55th mailroom of the passing of Major Jeffers. I believe he was the maintenance officer on Shemya when Rivet Amber was lost. He is the tall officer in the middle of the attached photo. (You may know some in the photo. Where have all the starched fatigues gone?) I annotated the photo some years ago and e-mailed it to some of the folks involved with Rivet Amber. I would appreciate it if you could send or direct me on how to send the photo and the commentary about Major Jeffers to the family. Thank you for any efforts you make,
Tom Simundich
Technical Representative to the 6th Strategic Wing Alaska May 1968 - July 1969

In the staff photo left to right is:
Col Ratto - who we all knew and loved
Maj Summer - I just have a vague impression of him and no memories. He was in Col Ratto's shadow.
Captain Plummer - I'm under the impression that he was the weather officer on Shemya. If that is right, John Achor will have a better memory of him.
Major Jeffers - I have many memories of him, largely because he was the maintenance officer. My chief memory was of him shortly after we lost Amber and its crew. I started a quarrel with him about some trivial manner about the LN16 (the navigation equipment on Rivet Amber) . I was aware of my shrillness in the quarrel that he politely countered. I couldn't quit though and finally provoked him into shouting, "I'll maintain the LN16." This calmed me down. He didn't hold a grudge. After I returned to Eielson I saw him and TSgt Connie Curtiss sitting together in the BX cafeteria. They greeted me with broad warm smiles. Major Jeffers was a fine man.
Maj Kurthe - A quiet man that I have no real memories of. Yet the only tangible memento I have of my time on Shemya is a receipt for a BOQ monthly fee, $20, signed by Dale Kurthe and dated December 31, 1968. The day Boozer was put down.
Maj Flickinger - He was as good looking as his picture shows. My strongest memory of him again comes from an embarrassing incident. The LN16 lab remained in the Amber hangar after Amber and all of us were moved to the Ball hangar. As such whenever I went over to the Amber hangar I would have to fire up the big generator that sat on the hangar floor. One time I forgot to turn it off. I don't know how many days before someone discovered that it was still running. Major Flickinger asked me if I had turned it on. I sheepishly admitted that I had. I can still see his sour look.
Lt Col Jumbo O'Neal - I wrote in a Tech Rep on Shemya (In King Hawes' Rivet Ball/Rivet Amber website) that the command pilots never laughed out loud. This was an exaggeration, as were a lot of things in that article. In many instances I applied color to the bold outlines of truth. We all saw the David Niven movieThe Impossible Years at the Semichi Theater and rolled in the aisles with unrestrained laughter. As we left the theater we were still laughing out loud including Jumbo O'Neal who had tears of laughter running down his cheeks. How short were the days until tears of sadness followed the same path down his cheeks when we lost Amber.
From: []
Sent: Monday, May 16, 2011 10:43 AM
FYI: Another real pioneer. Not much on his time with 55th and some confusion on rated position. No obit located thus far.
Anyone know more about the guy?
Wife is mentioned as Frances, but roster lists Heidi. May be second wife.

Dear Sir: I don't know if I have gotten this information to you in time for the reunion or your TAPS newsletter but my father Maj. Fred F. Jeffers passed away May 12, 2011. His wife, Frances asked me to get in touch in case there was the opportunity for his passing to make the newsletter. Fred was 7 months into his 91st year, and died with his family present in Centennial, Colorado. He was with the 55th but I don't know how many years. His position was Raven1 pilot, he flew B-29's I believe. He had 5 daughters, 6 grand children and 2 great grand children. He remained sharp until his last breath, and talked long and fondly of his military service.

centennial colorado

From the daughter.
My mother didn't put anything in the Denver paper as she didn't want neer do wells knowing...I guess people stalk the obits. My dad was at Forbes AFB in Topeka. If you have any other questions I can answer them. We have contacted Arlington as we will take him there when they give us a date...probably 6 wks. TISH JEFFERS
PS. my mom's nickname is Heidi....Use that instead of Frances...she never uses Frances anyway.

date:  Thu, May 12, 2011 at 3:58 PM
subject: Micro 55th Reunion
This was last year's micro 55th Reunion at the Olive Garden in Danbury Ct.

   L-R Tony Longo, Roy Lewis, Bernie Marino
        Radio, ASN-53, ASN-53 1968-1970

We have another micro reunion scheduled for May 28, 2011 at the Olive Garden ,,,,