The 4787th AIR BASE GROUP, DULUTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, MINNESOTA. ( 1970 -1974 )
It was my first assignment in the US AIR FORCE. What a neat little installation this place was. It was a small civilian airport that serviced the twin ports of Duluth-Superior. Half was the public airport and half belonged to the Air Force.
It was so neat. There was the main gate entrance.......... you went straight up for less than 1/4 mile, made a hard left and went straight about a half a mile and you were at gate two or the rear entrance. No way you could get lost on this installation either.
At the rear gate or just before it, was a huge concrete building that housed all the Air Defense radar stuff for the 23rd AIR DEFENSE SECTOR. It was called the SAGE building. ( SEMI AUTOMATIC GROUND ENVIRONMENT ) Man, this place was huge ! It had to be too, Several levels of this multi story building housed computers that still used the old vacuum tubes in hundred of rows of electronic racks. The cooling system for all that was also gigantic too with part of it outside giving off tons of steam during the sub zero Minnesota weather.Lots of fencing around that compound with plenty of armed security people. ( it was still the cold war )
The installation sorta looked like an old US ARMY installation. The old barracks looked Army as did many of the buildings. I recall all the old steam pipes for heating that were visible everywhere because they were above ground with a steam plant to keep the heat going.
We had a tiny movie theater, base exchange, dining hall that served pretty good food and one of those HUGE coffee pots up front near the serving area. Damned good coffee too. I never understood why my buddies complained about military chow. Breakfast was my favorite meal ! I miss the hot pancakes with that heated corn syrup on top. Frankly, I thought the chow was fantastic.
We were an air defense fighter base ( 87th FIS I think ) and we had alert huts at the flight line that housed F-106 Delta Darts in them. On the other side of the field was the Minnesota Air National Guard flying the F-101 VooDoo fighter. ( two seat version ) We did have a few Lockheed T-33 aircraft on hand. I think they were used to mock airspace intruder alerts to keep pilots on their toes and so pilots could keep up their proficiency.
I managed a few rides on the T-33 by doing some favors for alert pilots but I had to be EGRESS qualified and still vaguely remember the MARTIN BAKER procedure. 1/ pull knob on lower left seat cushion to activate bailout bottle 2/ pull left handle up to tighten seat harness 3/ pull up right seat handle to blow canopy 4/ Squeeze trigger on right handle to blow the seat out of the aircraft. Holy crap ! I found out later that that type of ejection seat used a type of explosive charge to push the seat out. Some pilots really got serious back injuries after ejecting. Of coarse the seat designers have improved all that over the years.
The group commander was a full bird Colonel named Walter O. Bean who was a fine base commander and took good care of his men. My boss directly was a Captain by the name of Glenn T. Caldwell. A senior pilot that was assigned to our group after a tour in Vietnam. I heard years later that he retired a full bird but have yet to locate him and where he resides today. Like to get together a reunion for our old gang. ( he was the finest officer I ever worked for. )
The only thing I didnt miss was the horrible cold weather in Duluth. Never was in an area previously where you had to plug in your car every night to keep the engine warm enough to start, You should have seen the size of the snow plows they used up there. I think they were Oshkosh plows and blowers. Megatron snow removal for sure !
Made a lot of friends in Duluth . It was sad to hear that BRAC closed down the installation in 1986. I hear that the barracks area of the base has been fenced off of is now a minimum security federal prison. The dining hall, the heating plant, the NCO club, the officers club, the theater, the base exchange and most of the original hangers and repair shops are now gone.
Yep ! I'll never forget ! Anybody else here ever stationed there or visit the base when it was active ?
Many thanks for reading. SteveZ
Edited by SteveZ, 03 January 2017 - 09:14 AM.