Walla Walla, Washington is in the southeast corner of Washington state. I was born there to Hazel Louise [Ford] & Merle Edwin Frazier on 12 December 1935. One older brother, James Edwin, was born there and one younger brother, Roy Ford, was born in Tyler, TX.
At the time of my birth, my family was living on a farm north of Walla Walla. We stayed there until war clouds started to loom, then my aunt Ludie Ford, sister of my mom, who was visiting us, took us to rural Benson, Louisiana in the middle of the cotton and sugar cane fields, deemed by my family to be a safer place for kids since the Japanese were close to the west coast.
I suppose I was about three when we three kids arrived in Louisiana. At that age, I was just learning to talk and use abstract expressions – all in a rural Louisiana dialect. Benson was a wonderful place for a pre-school kid; my playmates were both black and white and although discrimination was rampant, neither my black friends nor I were affected by it under the pecan tree where we would gather for kids’ picnics.
Benson has a school with grades from 1st to eight [there was no such thing as kindergarten] and I went to the first grade there while our military forces were destroying the Japanese empire and the Nazi war machine. When my parents were convinced that no Japanese would invade our home, my folks moved us back to Waitsburg, Washington, on a wheat farm that my dad’s dad had purchased for him to keep him out of the war - as farmers were exempt from the draft.
My dad had already been in the military in the late 20s and early 30s but even though he had served, he enlisted in the Air Corps, only to funk the physical due to a compression fracture of his lower back. He tried the Army and Navy with the same result. So he signed up with the Merchant Marines [civilian sailors hauling war material to Europe]. He was set to leave for training until his physical caught up with him and he was cancelled.
We spent my 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade in Waitsburg. Then on 11 June, 1945, my younger brother tripped and fell while carrying a loaded .22 short rifle that my dad though he had locked up securely. The rifle went off and killed him.
We moved to Walla Walla where my dad took a job as a ticket agent for United Airlines. He proved quite adept at his work, so United promoted him into a job where he opened new stations for the airlines. So we moved again, this time to Redmond, Oregon where he opened the Bend/Redmond facility, then to Medford and Reno where he did the same thing. Tiring of the moves, he quit and we moved back to Redmond where he opened a woodworking shop. One day, the phone rang and it was the CEO of Empire Air Lines wanting him to come to work and do the same thing for Empire as he did for United. He locked the door to his woodworking shop and we all traveled to Coeur d d’Alene, Idaho where he opened the Empire station there. If one wonders how we subsisted with all the traveling, the answer is my mom, who always had a job as a Registered Nurse and was usually hired as Chief of Nurses and she made excellent money. My dad was also an inventor since he was a teenager. He happened to be born in a farm community [Walla Walla] where, when he was in his early teens, was able to see how farm machinery, designed to be pulled by horses or mules, could be redesigned to be pulled by a Caterpillar or tractor. He did not sell his designs, he leased them to one of the big tractor manufactures and had a monthly income from one or more of the farm machinery manufacturers.
He was transferred around, finally ending up in Boise where my dad was made the public relations Representive of Empire and my mom was Chief of Nurses of the 3rd floor at St. Luke’s hospital.
My school was North Junior High School for the 7th and 8th grades, then over to Boise Senior High for my freshman year.
My dad quit Empire Air Lines for a better paying job selling trailer houses for Aetna Trailer Sales in Boise. The company opened a dealership in Pueblo, Colorado and offered my dad the job as manager. He took it, and once again, we were on the move and I attended Centennial High School for my Junior year. None of us liked Pueblo, even though both my parents were making good money, so my dad quit and we moved back to Boise where I completed high school at Boise Senior High.
My three buddies, Roger Worley, Hugh Williams and Marsh Ramey all had an interest in the military so we joined the high school ROTC unit [I had attended ROTC before we left for Pueblo and at Centennial High School in Pueblo] there. Once we were old enough, three of us, Roger, Hugh and I, joined the 190th Fighter Interceptor Squadron as motor pool mechanics. Another close friend, Mac Everett, became a photographer with the unit and held that position for over 30 years. Marsh Ramey joined the Army National Guard.
In the summer of 1954, I drove wheat truck for my granddad and then transferred over to the Regular Air Force. Even though I had a stripe [A/3c] from the ANG, I would have to travel to Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas to compete Air Force basic training.
Along with 73 other guys, I was put into Flight 880 for training. Oddly, I was the only one out of 74 basic trainees that had military training. The Junior ROTC in high school was beneficial in military ways. I could march, do facing movements and knew the manual of arms [the manual of arms is the military way to carry a rifle – although we did not carry arms in basic]. I also knew how to make a military bed and keep things spic and span, the military way. Because of this, I was 2nd in charge of my flight [the No. 1 trainee was 34 years old and the Tactical Instructor though he should have some responsibility even if he didn’t have any military experience].
About half way through training, I learned that I could take the test for Aviation Cadets, the Air Force flying program. I took the test, both academic and physical, passed them and went on to finish up basic training. For most of us in Flight 880, there were no follow-on assignments, so we were put to work in the various dining halls as cooks and bakers. One comment here: the senior cooks and bakers at Lackland did the best they could with the amount of money the AF allocated for meals. In my opinion, AF members who derided AF meals just needed something to complain about.
After about six weeks, we were all put on a bus and taken to Sheppard AFB, Wichita Falls, Texas to be medics. Once there, my assignment was to Ward 411, a closed psychiatrist ward. No training. I was giving a white shirt and white pants, the uniform of a hospital medic, and reported to the ward. I did not like working on the ward and was really, really happy after about a year when my orders came down to report back to Lackland AFB for Aviation Cadet training.
Back at Lackland, as Aviation Cadets, we had significant military training along with aeronautical ground school for three months. The first six weeks was as an underclassman and the second six weeks as an upper classman.
Finishing the initial part of Aviation Cadets at Lackland, we were farmed out to various Primary Flying School bases around the states. I went to Stallings Air Base in Kinston, NC where we met up with the other half or our class, officers who also attending flying school in class 57-K. Within a week after arrival, we started our flying lessons in the PA-18, a 108 hp Piper Cub along with academic lessons. After soloing the PA-18, we transitioned into the T-28 “Trojan,” a 650 hp, low wing airplane with a retractable gear, flaps, controllable propeller and radio.
After Primary training that took about six months, we were again divided up and sent to other Air Force bases for jet training. My base was Laughlin Air Force Base where we were to fly the T-33, a single engine, two place, tandem seated airplane. More academics and plenty of flying, including instrument training. As Aviation Cadets, we were graded on our military bearing, our academic record and our flying skills. The final flying test was a complex instrument sortie and I managed to get the highest grade in my class [of about 70]. Along with my academic scores and military bearing scores, I graduated number 7 in my class and was awarded a Distinguished Graduate certificate.
At the end of the jet training, we were awarded our pilot wings and sent on for advanced training. Because of my class standing, I was able to pick the assignment that I wanted: F-86F training at Williams AFB, near Phoenix, AZ.
At Williams, my class received more instrument training and introduced to gunnery in both the T-33 and the F-86. The gunnery consisted of strafing, skip bombing, dive bombing and rocket delivery. The course was 3 months long and after graduation, I was assigned to Seymour Johnson AFB [SJAFB], Goldsboro, NC where we had F-86Hs. The F-86H looked like the F-86F but was half again as large and had a more powerful engine. Of all the airplanes I flew in the Air Force, the F-86H was my favorite.
In about 1959, we received an old model of the F-100, called the F-100C, this was to mark time until we were equipped with the F-105. The F-100C was okay but not nearly as nimble as the F-86H. After about 2 3/4 years, I was transferred to Misawa AB, Japan where we flew the F-100D, a later version of the F-100. Additionally, we had a nuclear commitment where we pulled alert, on average, of one week out of four at Kunsan AB, Korea. No nuclear bombs were allowed in Japan, or so they told us. My tour was for 2 years, but as my 2 years were approaching, our pilots were getting non-flying assignments when they rotated back to the States, so I volunteered to stay an extra year in hopes of a flying assignment. My last six months in Asia were spent at Song Be, Viet Nam as an advisor the Vietnamese Air Force [Air Liaison Officer] and as s Forward Air Controller [FAC] flying the L-19 Birddog. Returning to Misawa AB just in time to get recurrent in the F-100, I left for my next assignment as an instructor pilot at Luke AFB, west of Phoenix, AZ. I spent a little over 4 years at Luke; the first two years instructing pilots new to the F-100 in the entire spectrum of weapons delivery including nuclear delivery. My last two years at Luke was training operational F-100 pilots to be instructors.
Leaving Luke in 1967, my next assignment was a one year’s duty as a strike pilot in the 614th TFS at Phan Rang, Republic of Viet Nam [RVN]. LCOL Ken Miles was the Commander. Our duties at Phan Rang were to destroy Viet Cong and regular North Vietnamese infrastructure and personnel in South Viet Nam and occasionally Cambodia.
My next assignment came down to the 1141st Special Activities Squadron, Ramstein AB, FRG. “Special Activities Squadron” sounded like the “Special Operations Group,” a counter-insurgency program we had in SEA, so I didn’t question the assignment. Arriving at Ramstein, I learned I was to be a staff officer in NATO, so I went to personnel and put in for an immediate transfer to F-105 training. The personal people were quite solid in their answer: “you’ve got two years here and once your two years is up, you can put in for anything you like. So I spent two years doing useless paperwork. When my two years was drawing to a close, I again put in for F-105 training and subsequent deployment to SEA. This time personnel said, “you have over 2,000 hours in the F-100. If you want to go back to the war, you’ll have to go in the F-100.” So I did. Same base, different squadron and eyes that were two years older flying many night, close air support missions with TIC [troops in contact].
For my next assignment, I had put in for A-7s at England AFB, Louisiana, but got F-111s at Mountain Home AFB [MHAFB], Idaho instead.
As soon as I got there, I put in for AT-28s flying out of Vientiane, Laos
My squadron operations officer and I were picked for the assignment, but unfortunately, the assignment by-passed our Wing Commander and he raised holy hell when he found out about it and cancelled our assignment. About six months later, the 474th TFW at Takhli Royal Thai AFB needed crews and this time the commander had no objecting to me taking the assignment.
We were there for about six months and then returned to MHAFB.
A few months later, I was called into to see the Director of Operations officer, Col. Slip Arthur, and told that since I did not have a college degree, I could never be a squadron commander in the Tactical Air Command [TAC] but I could become one if I would volunteer for an F-111 assignment at Korat Royal Thai AFB. I did and was appointed as commander of the 428th TFS.
After the assignment was over, I was once again transferred to MHAFB and was able to obtain a 4 month permissive TDY [temporary duty] to Park College, MO to obtain my under graduate degree and graduate, by correspondence, from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces [ICAF].
When I returned, The DO sent me to RAF Lakenheath, England to head up the ADVON [Advanced Deployment] since the F-111Fs we had at MHAFB were being transferred en mass to Lakenheath. My permanent job at Lakenheath was Chief of the Command Post, a job that I hated. But while Chief, I was promoted to Colonel [O-6] and transferred once again to Ramstein AB, FGR.
The assignment at Ramstein was a staff position that I did not like and since I did not have to extend my assignment because of my promotion, I took another staff job at Bergstrom AFB, Texas. When there, a good friend, Russ Violett, was able to get me back on flying status that I took advantage of by flying F-4Cs with the Texas ANG.
A devastating inner ear problem stopped my flying and I was medically retired.
We decided to stay in the Bergstrom area in Texas, near Austin, because the hot humid atmosphere seemed to ease the pain of arthritis that I was developing. Vertigo and loss of hearing were a problem I had to deal with a couple of times a week, but I was able to finish another Bachelor’s Degree at Southwest Texas State College, now called Texas State College at San Marcos.
We bought 46 acres out in the woods near Lockhart, Texas. Since Jimmy Carter looked like he would ruin the economy, we laid in 2 cows with one calf each, chickens and planted a large garden.
We lived there for 13 years. Of course Carter was defeated in election and things were looking better, so we moved to Georgetown, Texas and have been there ever since.
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