46th Air Refueling Squadron (SAC) Association

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More Stories from the 46th.



At Sawyer I was fortunate to be crewed with one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. Those who know Dick Ring understand what I mean. Except for my TDY to SOS in 1964 and when he went to Boot Strap a couple of months before I left for pilot training in Mar 1966, he was my A/C and I was his NAV. To the best of my knowledge we flew every mission together. Also, we have maintained contact through the years and currently live about 30 miles apart. He was the perfect mentor for me and his wife, Mina, was the same for the young wives of our crew.

We first met at Walker AFB (Roswell, NM) in the summer of 1961. I was a 21 year old 2/Lt fresh out of Nav school, and Jean and I had gotten married the previous April. We arrived at Sawyer in Sept as the 46th was being formed. The first 4 or 5 months we had virtually no alert commitment - NICE. However, we were up to speed well before the Cuban Crisis hit in October 1962.

At Walker our crew was formed: Dick, AC; Palmer Lewis, CP; Clarence Lewis; BO (another interesting fella) and Me, NAV. When we got to Sawyer Lindsey Nelson replaced Clarence. The crew stayed intact until Palmer went to SOS and was replaced by Al Westbrook, and Lindsey left the service and was replaced by Phil Wangsness.


1. Since there was no base housing at Sawyer when we arrived Jean and I purchased a new 10 x 50 mobile home (biggest they made) and parked it on the southeast side of Marquette in the thriving community of Harvey. Except for Lindsey who was unmarried, the rest of the crew was renting in the Negaunee area. The mobile home proved to be a good idea, because we were able to move to the newly developed mobile home park on base in the spring of 1962. SAC was big on Practice Recalls in those days. Being on base simplified our lives.

2. The O’Club was the center of all social activities. One of our first functions was a Squadron Halloween Party. Of all the costumes, the one I remember was worn by the Vizzinis. John wore only the bottoms of a pair of pajamas and Carol wore only the top. No problem. It worked just fine.

3. That winter all the units were tasked to build an ice sculpture in support of the Base Winter Carnival. It was a total disaster! I don’t recall who the Squadron Honcho was. He probably didn’t get promoted. We had to constantly change the plan to coincide with the sculptures (term used loosely) appearance. By the time we got through chipping away at that block of ice/snow, we ended up with a small object that was best described as “Modern Art.” I can’t remember if Modern Art was invented yet.

4. The outdoors was one of the most appealing things about the UP. In the spring smelt fishing was a tradition. Except for Dick Ring and Frank Larson, I can’t recall who was on this particular smelt fishing trip. For light and a little heat on the shore we took a truck tire, dosed it with gas and torched it. Frank had a bottle of Vodka that he nursed the whole night. He never left the fire, and sucked in the tire smoke and fumes the entire time. When we left we threw Frank in the back of the car with our smelt and headed out. He wasn’t able to get to his front door, so we helped him into the house. When we turned on the light we realized that his was pitch black from the tire smoke. He was somewhat coherent so we dumped on his couch and laughed all the way home. He survived with no ill effects.

Another outdoor adventure involved Rollie Buhrman, Bob Utter and Joe Harrop. Rollie had a relative who owned lake property somewhere 20 +/- miles southwest of Ishpeming. It had an old boat house that we got approval to convert into a RUSTIC deer hunting camp. We did and we deer hunted opening weekend. About all I can remember is that I had to wake Joe when I picked him up at 3:30 am opening morning. Bob was an exceptional camp cook and the deer were scarce. I don’t think we fired a shot. Still had a ball.

Winter at Sawyer was indescribable. With alert, extended TDY, etc., I don’t know how the wives from the deep south made it. Some didn’t. During our tour, snowmobiles and snow blowers had not been invented and real insulated clothing/boots were years away. In short we were immobilized and froze most of the time.

5. Babies happened! I suppose our ages, the mission and the dark winters had something to do with it. Our family doubled in size by the time we left and several others doubled and halved again. It was a wonderful time and I’m willing to bet that most of us would like to be transported back in time to our days at Sawyer.

Many of our experiences living in the base mobile home park were memorable. One that demonstrates what we dealt with in the UP in the early 60’s stands out. In the dead of winter we would often get together with our neighbors and play cards. We invited Dick Crotteau, a B-52 EWO and his wife Lyndia over to play bridge. Lyndia bundled up their little baby boy and Dick carried him to our place about 150 feet up the street. When Dick laid him on our couch and unbundled him we realized that he had carried the baby upside down all he way. We are still in contact with Crotteaus and that little boy is now a very successful lawyer in Atlanta.

6. Dick Ring was a great aircraft commander. To break the monotony at Sawyer, he was big on volunteering for unique missions and even cleared it with us, once in awhile. We flew to Miami IAP in early January 1962 for a KC-135 static display. We ended up at the Orange Bowl watching what was then known as the Play-Off Bowl. That year it was Bart Starr and the boys against the Browns with Jim Brown. On another trip in late summer 1962 we ferried a modified KC-135 from Wright Pat to RAF Brize Norton, England. The stated plan was to deliver the A/C and return commercial from London. However, when we landed the folks in charge said “welcome for 60 days!” That was new to us. The missions were super classified. They consisted of 12 + hour flights that were completely radio silent. We started engines on one green light from the control tower, taxied on two green lights and took off with three. It was James Bond 007 stuff. Except for being away from home, it was great.

7. The Cuban Crisis presented may opportunities for war stories. The flying was routine; however, some other events are worthy of recall. While on alert in the old mobile home facility, Palmer, I believe, went to the supply shack for more coffee. In route he overheard on the Security Police radio that a suspected penetrator was shot at the fence surrounding the SAGE site at Duluth. This created quite a stir amongst us fearless warriors. We thought it was for real and the horn would go off any minute. It was a tense time. Some relief came when a follow-on report identified the penetrator as a Black Bear.

Another memorable event on alert was when our boomer’s lung collapsed. Phil (Wangsness) was just hanging around the trailer when he started hurting. It was a heck of away to get off alert. He spent several days in the hospital while they pumped him back up. As a side note, Phil‘s next trip to the hospital was later that summer when one of his fishing buddies got the treble hook of his Rapala stuck in Phil’s ear lobe, ouch! Dispite all this, he was an excellent boomer and crewmember.

8. The Spain trips were interesting. Most notable events took place when we were not flying. We took a trip from Seville to Gibraltar, a British possession attached to mainland Spain. We failed to get out of Gibraltar before Spain locked the gate to the city. Unable to leave, we found a couple of rooms for the night. In the morning our car was surrounded by a flea market that had moved in during the night and we couldn’t get out until that afternoon.

On another trip we temporally lost Jerry Miller in a small Spanish town. We finally found him leaning up against a signpost staring off into space - a symptom of too much local wine.

9. We were in the second rotation to Young Tiger. We arrived in Okinawa in the late evening and the ops guys told us to go to bed and we wouldn’t fly the next day unless the phone rang at 4:00 am. It turns out that we didn’t see Okinawa in the day light for the next 14 days. On one of our returns to Okinawa we over flew the mass gaggle of C-130’s that landed the first contingent of marines at DaNang.

During that trip we deployed to Bangkok and finally had a break. Like most tourists, we took a trip down the Klong (canal). Unlike most tourists, we brought back a 12 foot, teakwood banana boat. Guess who bought it! You’re right - Dick did. He rounded up a Thai truck, loaded it on the airplane and launched it at his cabin on Norine Lake, just south of Sawyer. The boat was in his possession for 42 years, from 1965 to 2007. It had long since been converted into a planter. Finally, the bottom rotted out after producing a bumper crop of tomatoes.


For a career officer, SAC was the place to be, at least up to the time I left in Mar 1966. However, there were a few things I didn’t care for. Alert for half your life, “Break-Break”, MITOs and FSAGAs were no fun.

From pilot training I went to Duces in ADC which was a real flying club. It was great until TAC took over.


Most of the following resulted in shortened careers. The names are left out on purpose or lost in my memory bank.

1. An aircraft commander who was caught carrying a ladder around the girls dorms at Northern Michigan University.

2. An aircraft commander who spent too much time in the enlisted mens barracks while TDY in Spain.

3. The copilot who stole stereo equipment from the BX and stashed the hot goods in his aircraft commander’s BOQ room.

4. The squadron navigator that bragged that he was paying more alimony then the pay of any 1/ Lt on flying status. In 1972 he was shot and killed in Thailand by the brother of a Thai lady he had taken advantage of. Unfortunately, the brother was publicly executed by the Thai government less then a week later.

5. The Wing Commander’s wife who lost control of her car after leaving the club late one Feb night and hit the main power pole to the base housing area. The power was out for hours and the temperature was well below freezing.

6. The same Wing Commander went to a commander’s conference at 2nd AF and never returned.


1. Dave Thompson, my AC the last couple of months at Sawyer, was at NKP the same time I was. He was flying CH-53s and I was flying A-1s. We were both earning our flight pay.

2. I met Dick Ring at Clark AFB in the Philippines in Sept 1972. He was in route to a C-119 Gunship assignment at NKP and I was returning from my tour. He made sure that I got up in time to get on my early morning flight back to the states.

3. I ran into John Haken at Eglin in 1973. He was flying the TAC shuttle (C-54) out of Langley.

4. I went to Homer Gaouette’s retirement ceremony at Eglin in 1973 or 74. Also, I attended his funeral in Pensacola in, I believe, 2004. He was one of those interesting characters and I liked him a lot. Also, I got to see Peggy and the kids at his funeral.

5. I was TDY to McConnell AFB (Wichita KS) in 1974 and was able to attend Charley Lingle’s retirement ceremony.

6. I helped organize the first 46th ARS reunion in Pensacola in 1999. Other planners were: Dick Ring, Wilson Howard, Nick Carter and John Stevens. Unfortunately, Col Howard, a 46th Squadron Commander, passed away before the reunion.

George and Jean Batte’ Sept 1961 - Mar 1966

U-Tapao,(UT) Thailand.   We had a great crew on this Young Tiger deployment from K.I. Sawyer in April of 1969.  Major Tom “Boss” Davey was the IP/AC, Capt. Mike “Goose”  Vairo was the CP, Joe “Hump” Heywood was the Nav and John “J-Pop” Popular was the boomer. It was a typical YT deployment with flying, going to the club, drinking, flying, going to the club, drinking etc ,.  It was not long after we arrived at UT that Boss Davey took us aside to explain bio-rhythms to us.   Boss Davey dynamically and enthusiastically explained that each person and their lives were intricately intertwined by three inner activities:  emotional, intellectual and physical.  These three activities ran continuously and most people were unaware of the impacts they were or could cause to their lives.  Usually these activities  were countered by each other such as when the emotional  bio-rhythm activity was low, one of the other activities would be high to offset it.  However if an “X” day occurred, one would really be in trouble.   A double “X” day in which two of the three intellectual, emotional or physical activities (plotted as lines) would intersect was a very bad sign.  If one had a triple “X” day, well the pending events could be disastrous -- like the end of the world for that individual and presumably anyone close to him.


Ring's Banana Boat

Dick Ring bought this 12 foot, teakwood banana boat from a Thai boatbuilder after we had taken the Klong tour in Bangkok. I took the photo on the ramp at Don Maung IAP just before we loaded it on our airplane. We managed to get it from Bangkok to Okinawa to Hickham and home to Sawyer. Dick launched it at his cabin on Norine Lake, just south of the base. The boat was in his possession for 42 years, from 1965 to 2007. It had long since been converted into a planter. Finally, the bottom rotted out after producing a bumper crop of tomatoes.

George Batte

Landing Story

Another true "War Story" from A models at K.I. Landing at night in mid November as I recall (Snow on the gound). Female pilot, female Co-, female Nav, and me in the jump seat. SOF gives us a good RCR for landing, but what he DIDN'T tell us (or maybe he didn't reali...se) we were getting ICE PELLETS on the runway. Pilot does a good approch, flare and landing to Runway 01, speed brakes up, then tries the brakes........ We start to skid. She tries using the Nose Wheel Steering to at least keep up us on the runway. We see the landing light go right but we keep skidding nose LEFT!! At this point she had NO contol over the plane. This seems like it goes on for a LONG time. Well, we do manage to stop on the runway, nose pointed to the left, nose gear pointed right, and almost off the concrete and on the asphalt. We just sit there for a couiple of minutes, trying to calm down. No call over the radio about a fire or to get out of the plane so we know the we're okay and no obvious damage. The pilot looks back at me over her shoulder and says....... "My panties aren't wet but they are damp."
Ryan Cermak


Stories 2

46th ARS Association
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