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131114 - RegPics
131112 - BillMartin's 55th Story
131107-AOC50th -

Date: Nov 14, 2013     From: Reg Urschler
Subj: some pictures
                 Incirlik AB Officer's Club - Dec. 1958
Tom Grisalfi(EW),'Curly' Behrman (EW),Bob Kane (AC),Ben White (EW)   
(front):    Eddie Davis (Nav),
June 1, 1970   Maria Goforth / Urschler / Red Winters / Darlene Winters

From: "James F. Bard, Jr." <>

Date: November 12, 2013, 0:30:39 CST
Subject: Interesting Story of the 55th

Here is an interesting story from one of our 6091st RS guys, Bill Martin. [
Sent: Monday, November 11, 2013 8:54 PM

Thank you for the article on Colonel McKone. Although I never met Col McKone, I was connected to him in an interesting way  After the shoot down over the Barents Sea of the 55th Strat's RB-47, SAC stood down from the RB-47 electronic collection missions for a while to consider what to do; These missions were vital to SAC's SIOP war plans and they needed the information.  SAC decided they needed better warning of approaching Soviet fighters so they made an arrangement with USAFSS to include a Russian linguist on board to monitor Soviet military air traffic.

I was stationed at Yokota at the time as a Russian linguist where we were flying peripheral missions with the 6091st Recon Squadron's RB-50's.  SAC/55th Strat Recon Wing planned to resume their recce missions with a flight out of Yokota covering the entire Sea of Okhotsk, where intelligence collection had been sparse at best since the shoot downs of an RB-29 and an RB-50 that were on recce missions. (The Soviets had claimed the Sea of Okhotsk was their territory and the U.S. had declared that area to be international waters - after all, it was the height of the Cold War.  The mission was scheduled for a moonless night in January 1962.

I was selected as primary to fly on the modified RB-47 to warn of danger from Russian fighters.   I traveled to Topeka, Kansas - Forbes AFB in December 1961, along with my backup, Chuck Keally, and an electronics technician.  The electronics tech installed audio listening equipment in one of the Raven positions in an RB-47.  We flew a couple of missions stateside to test the equipment, then the three of us returned to Japan.

In January 1962 the modified RB-47 arrived at Yokota and we launched the mission to arrive in the target area after dark on a moonless night.  After aerial refueling prior to entry, we circumscribed most of the Sea of Okhotsk without incident, and about 150 miles from our exit point the fun began.  I heard the Sakhalin Island Air Traffic Controller initiate a scramble and then turn control over to the GCI (Ground Control Intercept) operator.  I kept the Aircraft Commander (A/C) informed of the situation until I had to inform the A/C that were in imminent  danger with two MIG's closing fast and that they had been instructed by the GCI operator to initiate a shoot down.  The A/C took immediate evasive action, jinking and dropping out of the sky at max speed. We dropped all the way from 35K to 50 feet over the ocean where it was pitch dark, while continuing evasive maneuvers with the Navigator continuously calling out altitude readings using his sounding equipment.  The MIGs came down with us and since they could no longer communicate with the GCI operator using VHF, they communicated with a YAK 28 that was at a higher altitude and was relaying communication back and forth between the fighters and the GCI operator. When we leveled of at 50 feet, all communication from the MIGs suddenly ceased altogether. The GCI operator was yelling at everybody, but to no avail.  There was no more communication from the MIGs.  I so informed the AC and shortly thereafter we climbed to 500 feet and continued to exit at a low altitude until well into Japanese air space before climbing to refuel.

Although no one in the RB-47 actually saw it happen, circumstantially, at least it would seem that the MIG's went straight into the ocean. 

As an aftermath, SAC/55th did fly further missions into the Sea of Okhotsk; my backup was on the subsequent mission that was completed without incident.

And, the entire flight crew, including me, was recommended by General Curtis Lemay, SAC commander at the time, for the Distinguished Flying Cross;  Since  I was not assigned to SAC, My DFC orders were issued by order of the President of the United States. 

I hope you enjoy this short narrative.  Have a great day!

Bill Martin

From: Reg Urschler <>
Date: Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 11:15 PM
Subject: RE: Interesting Story of the 55th

Had not seen the written version but have heard some verbal descriptions of a sortie in Okhotsk which was pursued by Migs and descended to low level evading. Matter of fact this was discussed up here sometime earlier this year but now can’t remember who shared it. I seem to recall Arlan Howe may have been the Nav and Jack Schweizer the AC . I’m passing to few of the fellows who may be able to shed some further info. Very curious now.

 V.O.,    Reg

From: Roby Craft [
Sent: Thursday, November 14, 2013 10:09 AM
To: Reg Urschler
Subject: Re: Interesting Story of the 55th


Here is a different story. Summer of 1964, my crew flew into the Sea of Okhotsk on a Friday or Saturday night.  The crows could have read books the entire trip.  My memory is that every five or ten minutes a Tall King would sweep us and then shut down. We assumed that the Russkies had a long cocktail hour.   In a summer with some interesting missions --- Korean Bay , Gulf of Tonkin --- it was a long boring night.


From: Larry Tart [
Sent: Friday, November 15, 2013 12:15 AM
To: Gen. Regie Urschler
Subject: Fwd: Interesting Story of the 55th

General Urschler,

I'm one of your old "USAFSS back-enders" (my flights with SAC were limited to RC-135M and RC-135V missions from Athens, Greece. I was the USAFSS airborne mission supervisor on the first RC-135M Rivet Card mission from Athens on 14 June 1974. I was also the AMS on the 500th SAC mission from Athens some 500 days later (as you recall, Det 3, 55th SRW flew daily RC-135 missions from Athens over the Mediterranean Sea for years). 


Between 2010-2012, I published "Freedom Through Vigilance," the 3,116 page, five-volume history of USAF Security Service. Volumes I, II, and III, which the Prop Wash Gang presented you at our PWG reunion in 2011, address USAFSS ground site history, and Volumes IV and V (some 1,500 pages) document the history of USAFSS airborne reconnaissance. (USAFSS intercept operators and maintenance technicians have participated in airborne SIGINT missions aboard SAC, USAFE, PACAF and TAC recon platforms from 1952 to present.


Now, back to the USAFSS airborne recon pioneers who provided internal defensive support aboard SAC missions --  I include many of their anecdotes in Volumes IV and V. As Bill Martin points out in his recollections below, airborne Russian linguists William B. Martin, Charles Thomas Keally, Francis P. Kondler and Joseph A. Shepherd participated in SAC Bonus Baby RB-47H  Bonus Baby missions over the Sea of Okhotsk in the early 1960's. Tom Keally's recollection of the Sea of Okhotsk Bonus Baby missions as revealed to me in a series of email exchanges are very much in agreement with Bill Martin's recollection of those Bonus Baby missions. Subsequent to Martin's involvement in the first Bonus Baby mission in early 1962, Keally and Martin alternated on additional missions during 1962 (one Russian linguist-intercept operator replaced Raven 3 on Bonus Baby missions). Using inputs from Keally, I address the Bonus Baby missions in the Sea of Okhotsk in "Freedom Through Vigilance," Volume IV. Keally's Form 5 shows that he logged Bonus Baby missions on 2 May 1962, 2 July (aborted), 3 July, 30 August, and 3 December 1962 -- missions by Kondler and Shepherd came later. This excerpt from Tom Keally addresses the cramped Raven compartment in the belly of the RB-47H.


"The ravens faced to the rear of the plane. Raven 1 behind Raven 2 on the right side of the plane (left side facing backwards), and Ravens 2 and 3 were side by side. The compartment was cramped; impossible to stand and sitting, the helmet almost hit the ceiling. I could easily reach across Raven 2 to work his circuit-breaker panel. The toilet was a can with a lid; you knelt to use it. It was the first thing you saw coming into the compartment."

"All flights took off and landed at Yokota AB, Japan, and all flights were at night. The route was the inner perimeter of the Sea of Okhotsk. All fights went up the west side of the Kurile Islands to near Magadan, then turned left (west) to the north end of Sakhalin Island, then left (south) down the east coast of Sakhalin Inland to Hokkaido and YAB. A U-2 flew the same route on the same night. The U-2 took off from Osan in Korea. The U-2 left before us and returned to base after us."

Tom Keally, Bobbie Posey and other Yokota-based Russian linguists also participated in 6091st Recon Squadron RB-50 COMINT/OPTINT missions (Projects Peggy Ann and Party Doll) in the Pacific broad ocean area in 1960 -- forerunners of Nancy Rae/Wanda Belle/Rivet Ball/Cobra Ball KC-135/RC-135 missions monitoring the splashdown of Soviet ICBM warheads in the Pacific. AFSC deployed KC-135A 59-1491 codenamed Nancy Rae to Shemya on 31 December 1961 as the successor to SAC's ERB-47E missile monitoring platform, and AFSC transferred the mission to SAC (4157th SW at Eielson on 1 March 1963. Excerpts of Tom Keally's discussion of the Project Peggy Ann RB-50 TDY to Johnston Island during Sept-Oct 1960 follow.

        "I was taken as a transcriber, but I did get in some flying time. My flight records show flights on 12 September (14:30), 20 (12:00) and 28 (12:30) and on 4 October (8:30) and 12 (7:55). The September 12 flight is probably the trip down and the other four flights while at JI. I came back via Wake Island on some plane other than an RB-50."

        "Johnston Island is about 750 miles southwest of Hawaii. The Soviet ICBM warheads landed somewhere in the Pacific roughly between Hawaii and JI. We were to monitor their communications in that downrange area, probably ship-to-ship communications."

        "Several of my photos show three RB-50's on the hardstand. That might be the total number we had there."

Returning to Bonus Baby activities, the Bonus Baby missions over the Sea of Okhotsk were preceded by other Bonus Baby missions in the Soviet Arctic area, with the crews staging from RAF Brize Norton, England, commencing in late 1959 and from Eielson AFB, Alaska, in early 1960. TSgt Jack Roberts, a USAFSS Russian linguist assigned to Det 1, 6911th RGM, Rhein-Main AB, Germany, became the first USAFSS flyer to participate in an RB-47H ELINT mission. Asked about the shoot down of the RB-47H over the Barents Sea on 1 July 1960 -- there was no USAFSS operator aboard that mission -- Jack Roberts told me that only fate saved him that day. Per Jack, SAC decided on an individual mission basis whether the mission crew would consist of three Ravens or two Ravens and a USAFSS linguist. SAC decided to fly that mission without a Russian linguist on board!


In January 1959, Jack Roberts and two other USAFSS flyers deployed with a 55th SRW contingent to Thule AB, Greenland, on a project appropriately named Cool Stool -- they had traveled on TDY to Forbes AFB, Kansas, in November 1958 for orientation and checkout on the RB-47H airframe and continued on to Thule on 5 January 1959. (Some of the ELINT equipment on the Raven 3 position was swapped out/replaced with gear used by the USAFSS crew members to intercept Soviet air defense comms.)  When Project Cool Stool ended in February 1959, SAC requested USAFSS to provide intercept operators to support Project Bonus Baby and TSgt Roberts volunteered and PCS'd to Det 1, 6950th RGM, attached to the AFSSO at Brize Norton along with an airborne Morse intercept operator and a maintenance technician. (A USAFSS Morse operator flew some of the early Bonus Baby missions, and a USAFSS maintenance tech maintained the COMINT collection equipment.) Another small USAFSS team was detached with the AFSSO at Eielson AFB, Alaska, to support RB-47H Bonus Baby missions along the Soviet periphery in the Arctic. Bonus Baby terminated on 15 December 1962, replaced by an unmanned automated COMINT collection suite -- the QRC-152A(T) -- Project Box Top, which produced a 4-track recording. The airborne Box Top equipment was activated by Raven 3 during missions, and USAFSS linguists processed the recordings on a ground reduction module (AN/ASQ-32) as soon as missions landed.


During his tour at Brize Norton, Jack Roberts was also involved in another historic event that resulted in the creation of a jury-rigged portable COMINT collection suite that the detached USAFSS team at Brize Norton used to support Operations Speed Light Delta, which involved the monitoring of Soviet nuclear testing in the Arctic. Here's Jack's version of associated activities.


"We got involved in another project periodically while at Brize—I don't remember the exact time frame (probably late 1960 or early 1961). A modified C-135 would deploy to Brize to cover Soviet nuclear weapons tests on Banana Island (Novaya Zemlya). When the aircraft flew a mission, it was accompanied by a KC-135 refueler that loitered over the North Sea to provide fuel for return to Brize."

"My boss, 1st Lt./Capt. James I. Hines, came up with the bright idea of keeping us busy by putting together a portable collection position with one VHF [receiver], one HF, a recorder and a VHF antenna that we stuck up thru the navigator's sextant hole. We placed this position on the support KC-135 and provided support for the nuke chaser! I doubt there is any record of this activity anywhere, except maybe a couple of guys’ diaries!!"

With HQ USAFSS approval, Roberts and a maintenance technician fabricated a prototype (a rack with two receivers, a recorder and cabling) that could be mounted to the floor in the cargo area of a KC-135—they used a tent to block off the view of their COMINT work area from the tanker boom operator and other uncleared crew members.

Using the COMINT position aboard a supporting KC-135 tanker that loitered over the North Sea, Jack Roberts’ team monitored the target area while the Speed Light Delta KC-135 crew collected data on Soviet atmospheric nuclear tests—the Soviet Union detonated the world’s largest nuclear bomb (“Tsar Bomba”) over Novaya Zemlya on 30 October 1961. The performance of the prototype COMINT position used during Speed Light missions was the springboard that led to a two-position QRC system that then Capt. Doyle E. Larson’s crew used aboard a KC-135 tanker staging from Eielson prior to the arrival of the three RC-135D Rivet Brass ASRP's at Eielson in late 1962-early 1963. The prototype created by the detached USAFSS team at Brize Norton and the QRC portable system used by Larson's USAFSS crews aboard KC-135's at Eielson in 1962 paved the way for the four-position USAFSS advisory support COMINT suites used aboard RC-135C Big Team (Burning Pipe) platforms five years later. 


All of these event are documented in "Freedom Through Vigilance," Volumes IV and V, along with the histories of other joint SAC 55th SRW and USAFSS activities and the histories of other USAFSS airborne recon units. Please use the tables of content and indexes for any of the five FTV volumes to search for specific entities and/or individuals. I would be most happy to address any questions you may have about other specific USAFSS-SAC joint activities -- with the holiday season approaching, I'd also like to sell a few copies of the "Freedom Through Vigilance volumes. For autographed copies, please contact me directly --  Volume prices and shipping details are available here.


Thank you for your service.


Larry Tart

     Currently 'snowbirding' in Destin, Florida

     Destin phone:  (850) 837-4597

From: Reg Urschler <>
Date: Sun, Nov 17, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Subject: RE: Interesting Story of the 55th
To: Larry Tart <>
As always, I am fascinated by your compelling compilation of reconnaissance history, primarily that of USAFSS and SAC involvement from “flirting” (Bonus Baby) to “dating” (Eielson and the RC-135D) to “engagement” (Kadena and the RC-135M) and finally “marriage” (Rivet Joint and the 55th SRW) as I described it in my presentation to the Gang two years ago up in Wisconsin.  My experience prior to my assignment as ESC Vice was 28 years of SAC Reconnaissance beginning with my first deployment to Yokota in early July 1956 with three RB-47H’s, replacing the SAC RB-50s from El Paso. They were there in conjunction with the 6991st (ninety worst) who as we know, remained and continued to fly sorties along with our RB-47’s, justified as we had no linguists aboard.

“Bonus Baby” (the “dating” between SAC and USAFSS) came later as you described and I personally never had any of the linguists aboard the -47 when I flew. It was common knowledge among the 343rd crews where I flew for ten years from 1955-65, that a “stranger” would “appear” at the aircraft and the Raven Three would “stand down”. No explanation was given before or after the mission. The “stranger” simply “appeared” and then “disappeared”.

My lengthy experience in SAC provided me with the opportunity to fly the RB-47H, the ERB-47H and the EB-47E “Tell Two”, the latter from Adana AB in Incirlik, Turkey, where the first two Tell Two aircraft and three crews deployed in early December of 1958. I was fortunate enough to be in the initial cadre for the establishment of the mission (55th SRW  Detachment 4) and as result of an extended six month tour in theater (December ’58-May ’59), I became very familiar with the operation and Soviet telemetry transmission methods (rotating armature).
Singer Sewing Machine Company in State College, PA had a contract for a civilian TDY to Adana for a “quick-look” after landing on any intercepts we made . We had  no linguists aboard but received intel updates on Soviet launch timing data on HF radio every five minutes in code using an LOTP (literal-one-time-pad) to decode the updated information which was coming from NSA/USAFSS intercepts of the Soviet “down-range) downrange communications and retransmitted to us. Missile powered flight telemetry was our goal and with over-the-horizon barriers we were lucky to copy much after the powered-flight signal came available, normally much less than fifteen seconds.
We stood hard alert with a primary and secondary crew while the third crew went off on R&R on the European continent. Lots of stories there.

Our targets were KY (Kapustin Yar) and TT (Tyuratam) and our orbits for intercept either were in the Black Sea or over northern Iran.
You mention the “ERB-47E” a being replaced by “Nancy Rae” cum “Wanda Belle” 59-1491. I suspect you meant to say the EB-47E (Tell Two) as we never had an ERB-47E. Having flown both aircraft (Tell Two and Nancy Rae/Wanda Belle) from both locations (Turkey and Shemya) the primary mission of the two aircraft were complimentary. The “Tell Two” attempted to collect “powered-flight” missile telemetry while the Nancy Rae/Wanda Bell’s primary mission was a “photo collection” platform with SAC personnel operating the cameras and  USAFSS personnel on board monitoring Soviet down-range, impact area VHF comms and other signals.
I appreciate very much the copies of “Freedom Through Vigilance” you provided me at the reunion. They are a magnificent source of date for those who wish to learn “another side” of the reconnaissance mission. I am copying this e-mail to Jim Maloney who is the web master for the 55th Wing Association in the hopes he makes available your offer to provide signed copies of your work. All of these event are documented in "Freedom Through Vigilance," Volumes IV and V, along with the histories of other joint SAC 55th SRW and USAFSS activities and the histories of other USAFSS airborne recon units. Please use the tables of content and indexes for any of the five FTV volumes to search for specific entities and/or individuals. I would be most happy to address any questions you may have about other specific USAFSS-SAC joint activities -- with the holiday season approaching, I'd also like to sell a few copies of the "Freedom Through Vigilance volumes. For autographed copies, please contact me directly --  Volume prices and shipping details are available here.
would be delighted to have the opportunity to sit down for an extended session with you to share experiences from the SAC side and to provide any “melding” material to those who are unfamiliar with the history of the SAC/USAFSS “connection”.
With warmest regard and best wishes, I remain,
Reg Urschler
P.S. I have included copies of photos of the EB-47E (Tell Two), ERB-47H (distinguished by the chin antennae under the forward radome, and the wonderful “resort” known as Shemya.

12 Jan 1962

Bill Martin’s description of the  night of 12 Jan 1962, was a great explanation of what transpired in the Sea of Okhotsk that  night.  Don Littfin was the A/C and crew members were Leroy Peters (Navigator} Buck Dube (Raven-1) Jeff Ray (Raven-2) Bill Martin Raven-3 Position. I don’t recall who was flying in the CO-Pilots seat.  This was my second deployment with Don’s crew, he was a great aviator and person.  His leadership was quiet and effective.  The right man in the right position.  Three hours before take-off we went thru the briefing with emphasis on the rules of engagement.  The key rule was to abort the mission if intercepted by  Soviet fighter's with their Airborne Intercept Radar in a lock on mode, believe there was additional rules between Don and Bill. Bill’s description of the mission is accurate and I would like to add to his narrative : radar and communications were sparse to  none; abeam of Sakhalin island it was like some one turned on a flash light; Radars and communications signals filled the air; we were being detected by fighter Intercept radar after advising the A/C; 10 minutes later the fighter locked on us as a target. advised the A/C and we initiated abort procedures; dropped bundles of chaff and dove to hit the deck. We returned to Lakota Air Base but don’t believe the Soviet fighters were able to return to their base because of weather. there were no reports of the fighters returning to the base they took off from.
Bill, great job describing that night.
Regards Buck Dube
Subject: Re: 12 Jan 1962
Dear Buck:   Thank you for naming the crew and their positions.  I had been asked by others whether I remembered any crew names, but couldn't recall.  Now that you have named them, I can recall a couple of names.  I do now recall your name because it was unusual, and the A/C's neme  Also, thank you for verifying my story.  You say there was no evidence that the fighters returned to their base; neither was there any voice communications concerning the fighters whereabouts.  As I said in my narrative, I believe the Migs went into the drink. I had never told anyone this for 50 years, thinking there might be some security classification still in effect.  I have recently learned that others had  openly discussed these events.
There are a couple of missing pieces  in my narrative that I thought might be relevant.  First, I didn't remember the chaff bundles but now that you mention it, I do remember.  Second, I had said we refueled on the way out.  Now that I think about it, that is probably not accurate.  As you may remember, we did not return directly to Yokota because it was socked in.  We were diverted to Itazuke Air base in southern Japan, on Kyushu Island.  I do remember discussion by the crew whether we had enough fuel remaining to make Itazuke and the conclusion was that it was somewhat iffy, especially should Itazuke be socked in as well. We stayed in transient quarters at Itazuke and returned to Yokota the same afternoon.  I assume there must have been a crew debriefing at Yokota, but I don't remember one.
By the way, how did you happen across this story?  Did you stay in the Air Force?  Have you related your part of this story to others?  As you may recall, at that time I was an E-4. eventually went to OTS and retired as Lt. Col. 
The best to you.  Bill
From: Larry Tart [
Sent: Friday, December 20, 2013 3:41 PM 
Thought these additional details about the RB-47 Bonus Baby mission that aborted over the Sea of O in Jan 1962 would be of interest to you since you participated as the airborne Russian linguist/intercept operator on the next RB-47 Bonus Baby mission in the same area.
     FYI, the mission in January 1962 occurred about the time I arrived in the 6986th RSM, Wakkanai AS, on Hokkaido, so I do not know if the USAFSS Russian linguists at Wakkanai intercepted the comms of the reacting fighters that night. However, I was on duty during a later Bonus Baby RB-47 mission in the Sea of Okhotsk on 30 August '62, and our operators at Wakkanai had several Sakhalin Island-based fighters in reaction to the RB-47 and accompanying U-2 mission -- I address that 30 August mission in "FreedomThrough Vigilance, Volume IV (page 2159). memories……….
Merry Christmas to ALL.
Larry Tart
     Currently 'snowbirding' in Destin, Florida     Destin phone:  (850) 837-4597


From: Errol Hoberman <>
Date: Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 10:52 AM
Subject: Dave Sjolund
Dave Sjolund cutting the 50th anniversary cake at the AOC Convention Washington DC.
       Dave was one of the oldest members of the AOC present and Bryan Finck was one of the youngest members of the AOC present at the 50th Anniversary Banquet. The 50th Anniversary Banquet was the kick-off to a yearlong celebration of the 50thAnniversary. AOC will turn 50 in 2014.

L-R: Brian Finck, BAE Systems - Dave Sjolund