Sent to Keesler AFB in Mississippi for Radar Training and eventually to Travis for Guard Duty
I was sent to Keesler AFB in April with a group of other guys who were also to be trained as Radar Technicians. I was at Keesler for about 14 weeks. It started off OK and we began our radar training.
Unfortunately for me, I got in with a group of guys who were headed for trouble and I got into trouble with them. It was primarily my own fault, but it was also the first and only time in my life that I allowed a "peer" group to lead me astray.
I remember an "infamous" weekend in the French Quarter in New Orleans when we visited the "girls” and had a great “Southern-style” meal of crispy fried Oysters and Pecan pie. My buddy name Forney ended up going AWOL while we were there and I never saw him again.
I remember a wild ride in an old beat-up car with a group of guys near Pascagoula, Mississippi. It was raining so hard we couldn't see past the windshield. The driver of the car (I can’t remember his name) also ended up going AWOL and I never saw him again either.
I remember a warm summer afternoon on the Gulf Beach at Biloxi. I was out on a pier enjoying the blue water and cool breezes coming off the Gulf. One of the guys had a transistor radio and I heard Nat Cole sing Mona Lisa for the first time. From then on for the rest of my life whenever I heard that famous recording, I remembered that warm summer afternoon at Biloxi. It is truly a memorable song in my life.
I didn’t go AWOL but I did lose interest in the USAF and its radar training. As a result, I was busted down from PFC to PVT and put on guard duty.
On July 15th, I was put aboard a C-47 with a group of other guys who had gone "wrong" and we were flown to Travis AFB in California. It is located about half-way between Sacramento and Oakland. We were assigned to the 9th Air Police Squadron and put on permanent guard duty to increase security at the base. Travis was now the main hub for overseas shipment to Korea.
I didn’t realize it until later, but some of the guys in my group were really "bad apples". Two of them (Red Coulson and Fred Manfrini) went into Vallejo one Saturday night and killed a sailor in a barroom brawl. Both were given Undesirable Discharges, and we heard later that Coulson was shot and killed by police while trying to rob a gas station.
I remember standing guard duty one night out on the wind-swept runways of the base. A big training mission was in progress, and I watched as the lead B-29 took off and circled as it was supposed to gain altitude. Unfortunately it didn't this time. It disappeared behind a windbreak of tall Eucalyptus trees and then I heard a dull thud. A minute later, the sky was lit up like it was dawn. The plane had crashed and burned. Everyone aboard was killed including General Travis, the Base Commander.
I remained on guard duty for about two months, then I was assigned to an AP Office that made personal identification cards for airmen and civilians who were going overseas on official Air Force business. There were three of us in the office: Sgt. Ahrens was in charge; a plump civilian named Bill who lived in nearby Vacaville; and myself. Both Ahrens and Bill were pretty nice guys, although the Sgt. was bucking pretty aggressively for a promotion and this created a somewhat “tense” work environment.
One Sunday evening, Bill invited me to his place in Vacaville for dinner. He had a wife and a year-old kid. I got promoted back to PFC and I remained in the ID Office for the rest of the year of 1950.
I spent a lot of my free time riding the Greyhound Bus, to places like Sacramento and Vallejo - where the “action" was; and of course, my trips back to Oakland to visit with the family.
On a pier near Biloxi’s historic lighthouse, I heard for the first time a recording of Nat Cole’s Mona Lisa.
Keesler AFB in Mississippi.
It is located near Biloxi on the Gulf Coast - I was sent here in April of 1950.
Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento, California
I spent many hours on guard duty out on its cold and windy flight strips.
Biloxi, Mississippi Lighthouse
I remember seeing it while on leave from Keesler AFB.
This is the main street of Fairfield, which is a city close to Travis.
On a hot day in July 1950, I was transferred to Travis AFB in California. It is about 40 miles north of Oakland, CA. Travis was a major military hub in the Korean War.
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