Oh The Memories!

In an email (6 February 2008) from Fred Horky (“plank owner” with the TM-76A “Mace”)


Congratulations on your comprehensive Sembach Missileer website!

I was a “plank owner” with the TM-76A “Mace”, having been in the first class of the Mace ops officer course at Lowry in the summer of 1958, then one of the earliest launch officers in training at Orlando that winter,

SSgt “Gerry” Hightower and A2c Davies, Mechs #4 & #5 in the old launch crew system; both 431XX airframe mechs.
Click on thumbnails to see larger images.

…fired test missiles at Holloman in the spring of 1959…

One of the two missiles my crew launched at Holloman
Mace TM-76A Launch - Holloman AFB, Spring 1959 (photo courtesy of Fred Horky)

and deployed in July of 1959 with “C” Flight of the first Mace squadron to Sembach and settled in at Grünstadt. Later A, B, & C flights were redesignated as separate squadrons.

Building the launch pads at the abandoned Security Service radio site at Grünstadt was done by German contractors, but we did all the other work ourselves to convert “the hill” into a livable missile launch site. Long story! After we went O.R.; I stood alert for two years of my tour; for the last year I transferred to 38th TMWg HQ and was a duty officer in the MOC under the football stands for that last year.

This was all during the original “single-missile-count-down” system where a crew of nine did everything: assembled, tested, and stood alert with the missile; and before the RFML. The latter happened half-way through my tour. I had just been requalified in RFML when I made the transfer to the “hole”, as we called the Missile Operations Center command post.

You already have a contribution of mine via Bob Bolton, to whom I’d written briefly about Dick Becker being our “C” flight commander during that whole period. By coincidence I just learned that Dick at age 81 (I think that was the age mentioned) in the Tampa area, is “sharp as a tack”, but doesn’t have email. I plan on contacting him soon to renew our friendship after almost a half-century.

The memories are rushing back …there is just too much to mention. I have tons of pictures from the tour, nearly all digitized slides …even some aerial shots of the Grünstadt site taken when I was flying with the “Simulated Missile” section on my days off.

Site 3 Aerial views (no question where the T-bldg and H-bldg got their names!)
Site 3 Aerial View (photo courtesy of Fred Horky)Site # Aerial View (photo courtesy of Fred Horky)

A lot of Sembach folks didn’t know even then about the “Sim Missile” mission, but it existed because the old TM-61 Matador missile was still O/R at Bitburg until 1962. Its mission was to be guided from the ground Weapons Controllers on hilltop radar sites near the East German border. In wartime, those controllers would have acquired the missiles and guided them to their targets like a big radio control model, using their MSQ-1 (naturally called “miss-cue”) ground radar. Naturally, those controllers needed continuing training and evaluation; thus the T-33 “T-birds” equipped with the same APW-11 transponder. We “Sim Missile” pilots would pretend to be missile autopilots, taking fine turn corrections from the controller by light signals “beeped” into the APW-11 light box added to the top of the instrument panel glare shield. (I was just “attached” to Sim Missile, but the proximity to a VERY hostile border coupled with the crappy weather made it some of most challenging flying of my career …on my days off from missile duty!)

T33 T Bird with APW-11 transponder
T33 T Bird with APW-11 transponder (photo courtesy of Fred Horky)

I have hundreds of pictures digitized from that tour, but I’d better quit now or I’ll be up all night. My wife just reminded me…

Hope to hear from you soon.

P.S. Has anybody ever mentioned the Air Force Volkswagen pickup trucks and “Microbus” vans we had over there? They were retired and replaced with regular U.S. Fords and Chevy trucks by about 1961, so many Sembach blue-suiters probably never ever knew the Air Force had LOTS of VW’s at one time! They were so common that I didn’t think to get pictures: they were everywhere, including the launch sites as utility vehicles.

I learned later that when they were retired they were given back to the host government, and were refurbished by the Luftwaffe who got another life out of them. I came across this one when back in Europe several years later with a C-130 TDY deployment. My crew had a mission to Erding Flugplatz, an F-104 fighter base down near Munich …an old time Luftwaffe base. I called for crew transportation, and this is what showed up…

Air Force Volkswagen “Microbus” Van
Air Force Volkswagen Microbus (photo courtesy of Fred Horky)

In hi-wear spots where the feldgrau (field gray) paint had rubbed or been scratched off, good old Air Force blue paint showed through! The Luftwaffe driver acted like his name was Earnhardt. Two speeds: stop and go.

Oh, I just thought of one picture I have of USAF Volkswagens. The Transient Alert “Follow Me” vehicles at Sembach Base Ops were VW pickups. The noses of a pair of yellow-painted T/A Volks are peeking out in the picture below: next to them the tail end of a blue VW pickup (with canvas top) can barely be picked out.

Sembach Base Ops
Sembach Base Ops (photo courtesy of Fred Horky)

BTW, when I first arrived in 1959 for my proficiency flying I flew this “Base Flight” C-47 “Gooney Bird” …as a bachelor I managed to get some VERY fun Weekend Cross-Countries …London, Berlin (my first Berlin Corridor checkout), and Copenhagen …but those are several other stories entirely.

Sometimes I’m amazed that I survived that tour, “Burning the Candle at Both Ends” as much as I did! But we were young…

1959 “C” Flight Christmas party… I’m at left, ____ Rafferty at right. Good old “Parkbrau”…
Fred Horky - Christmas 1959 (phto courtesy of Fred Horky)