Captain Peter H. Chapman II was a navigator in the 44th MAS during the mid 1960’s. He was a navigator on the 1964 C-135 Bob Hope Christmas Tour (see below). He was selected to attend pilot training in 1966 and returned to the 44th MAS as a pilot in June 1967.
In a later assignment as a helicopter pilot he was shot down and killed during a rescue mission in Viet Nam.
Captain Chapman was a fine gentleman and a hero. A bio of Captain Peter H. Chapman can be seen at www.virtualwall.org
First USO Bob Hope Christmas tour to Vietnam
Historical photo of the Bob Hope Christmas Special 1964. This was the first USO Bob Hope Christmas tour to Vietnam. The 44th was flying the C-135B at that time. In 1965 the 44th would start flying the C-141.
In November 1961, the 44th Air Transport Squadron was reactivated at Travis AFB, Calif., and received 18 brand new C-135B (fan-jet) aircraft directly from the Boeing aircraft company in Seattle.
Initial cadre crew members of the 44th Air Transport Squadron were selected from the two C-124 Globemaster squadrons that were stationed on Travis AFB. These pilots received temporary duty assignments to McGuire AFB, N.J., so they could train in C-135A (water injection) aircraft. The navigators — myself included — were assigned to undergo ground training at Travis AFB. We also were allowed a single flight in the back of a Strategic Air Command KC-135A aircraft to experience the transition from 210 knots in the C-124 to 475 knots in the new aircraft. Several of the navigators also were assigned additional responsibilities to assist with setup of the new squadron. My specific responsibility was that of squadron supply officer. I had to figure out how many desks, chairs, tables, bookcases, file cabinets, and typewriters we would need to supply the new squadron. Then, it was my duty to requisition these items from the Base Equipment Management Office.
One day, a couple of weeks after I had submitted my supply requisitions, a young airman approached me and informed me he had the furniture on a flatbed truck parked near our building. “Great!” I responded. I told him where we wanted it to be unloaded. “But, sir,” this young airman replied. “You don’t understand. I am the driver, and I am alone.” He informed me I would have to arrange for the furniture to be moved from the back of the truck to the second floor of our building where our offices were located.
Being a first lieutenant and a navigator, I had absolutely no authority over the other personnel working in the squadron, who all were officers with more senior ranks than mine. I could only ask them for their help. The first person I asked — a major — told me he had back problems and was unable to help. Every other officer I asked was otherwise busy and also could not help move the furniture.
Unbeknownst to me, Lt. Col. William A. Brinson, USAF, commander of our squadron, who was working in his office at the time, became aware of my problem. Brinson quickly jumped up from behind his desk, put on his Class A uniform jacket, and said, “Come on, Bill. Let’s get that furniture!” Without so much as another word, all of a sudden every other person in the area began giving me a hand, and the furniture soon was in place. To me, this truly was leadership by example and a lesson in how valuable it is to have a supportive boss.
— Written by: Leonard W. “Bill” Riley III is a retired lieutenant colonel. He lives in Roseburg, Ore.
Used by permission
First Line Operational Unit to Fly the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter
SSgt Danny Seydel
I was a Loadmaster on the new C-141 and assigned to the 44th at Travis from 65-67. I became a instructor loadmaster as an Airman 2nd class and I think that was a first. We flew our tails of flying to Vietnam and back in 7 days, home for 2 days, staging at Wake Island, Clark AFB and Yokota AFB. The picture I am standing in front of was presented to us by Lockheed and placed in the 44th rec room.
44th - 44th + 44th + 44th + 44th + 44th + 44th + 44th + 44th
Capt Anthony Mournian
From 1966 to 1969 I was assigned to the 44th MAS as a line navigator. It was a strange time. Viet Nam was floating all around us. We flew there seven and eight times a day, yet never saw beyond the end of runway at any field long enough to take us and our cargoes of bombs, bullets, toilet paper or ping pong balls.
The redeeming element of our missions to Vietnam were the frequent Air Evac missions bringing home the wounded and the dying. More than one man died enroute from Yokota to Travis, or on to Brooks Burn Center in Texas. Those missions, and the silver metal coffins, fifty at a time, tied down in the cargo hold, always facing forward, never covered with a flag, were somber reminders of the gravity of life outside our aircraft.
It's already half a century ago, longer than many have lived. And yet, the 44th remains a force in memory if not in fact. As the first squadron to receive the C-141A, the 44th was a special place housed in grungy green barracks just off the flight line.
Navigators had an office back in a corner, steps away from Admin in the center of the building. Col. Lennie Crose and Col. Fritzinger kept tabs on all the young navigators, with older men giving us good advice or trying to lead us down primrose paths.
Those were busy times. Flying 110 hours a month was not unusual. It meant being gone at least three weeks a month, and as one writer has noted, a trip to Viet Nam took from five to seven days. Two days crew rest and time was up; the phone rang and "You're the only one we have. Be ready to go at 3 am." Or, in moments of boredom, "You've got TAC tonight. Report for Briefing at 1600."
As I look back I enjoy most of the memories. The 44th flew the Embassy Run every third week, alternating with the 75th and 86th, around the world in 4 and 1/2 days. Take off Monday at 8 am land at 4:30 on Friday, with 12 and 2 at Hickam, Clark, Delhi and Torrejon. It was a ball buster of a trip, but how many of us can make the statement of circumnavigating the globe in less than five days?