You went to ride with the 555th TFS ("The Triple Nickle"). They later
transitioned to F-4's and dropped large, loud bombs on me after you went
If any fighter pilots ever spent time at Katum, I don't remember it. The
only AF types who ever spent more than about a minute and a half on the
ground at Katum were the ones who brought in the shot up and gloriously
aflame C-130 that burned up on the turnaround point in July '69.
I was restocking ammo on my bunker roof and heard a C-130 coming in from
the south. Looked at him and he was streaming fuel big time behind the
right wing. As soon as he touched the runway, he reversed the props to
keep from running into the garbage dump at the north end.
As soon as he reversed the props, he sucked that raw fuel up around
those hot engines and it just went "poof". Flames and burning fuel all
over the runway. The top and bottom wing skins were left on the runway
when it popped. He got it slowed down enough to make the right turn into
the turnaround point and then everybody unassed in 7 different
I took a couple of pictures of the fire and then got the jeep and went
down there and rounded them all up out of the weeds. (Remember, you
couldn't see the camp from the turnaround point because of all the
weeds.) Had to holler and yell to get them to come out. They came out
with .38's drawn!
So I haul them into camp. They're standing on the Teamhouse roof
watching the fire. I decide to drive back down there to get some closeup
Now, the tail of this thing is sticking out over the runway. No more
C-123's or C-130's until it gets moved somehow. I'm out there in cut-off
tiger stripes, my no-sleeved blue OR smock, shower shoes, and a pistol.
A Caribou comes in and lands. Taxis up to within about 50 yards of where
I'm standing on the runway taking pictures. Out pile about 12 or 15 AF
types armed for bear, come to secure the site. So help me, they fan out
360 degrees around the Caribou. One comes running right at me, stops
about 2 meters away, and flops down into a prone firing position aiming
his weapon (more or less) between my ankles.
They mill-around-mill for a bit after that. I told their CO (a Full-Bull
Colonel Squad Leader!) that we were relatively secure right now but
"you'd better be out of Dodge before sundown". So they got back in their
Caribou and left.
Crew is still on the Teamhouse roof. Drinking up all our stolen beer.
The crew chief had a couple too many and fell off the roof backwards.
Only reason he didn't kill himself was that he landed flat on his back
on the blast wall in front of the teamhouse door. Engineer stake support
dinged him a bit so I had to patch his ass up somewhat.
I got busy doing something and next I knew, they had departed.
And that was probably the record for time on the ground for the Air
Corps at Katum.