The following is a collection of articles and stories of the 85th FIS
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Recollections of my Days in the 85th Fighter Interceptor Squadron
By Joseph Holden, December 1997  

            I was assigned to the 113th Fighter Interceptor Squadron upon completion of a wonderful, scenic tour in Korea . I arrived at Scott AFB around the 1st of September in 1952. The 113th was a National Guard Squadron from Indianapolis , Indiana and was equipped with F-51D/H and a few T-6s. The squadron was housed over base operations and maintenance was performed in the large hangar behind base operations. I think that at that time, Maj. Owen Farmer, Lt. Dick Gruber and myself, were the only Air Force types assigned. I was checked out in the T-6 on 6 September and the F-51D on 8 September. Never did get to fly the H model.

            Gradually we got more Air Force types. Among them was Lt/Col. Joseph Klemovitch, and Capt. Oscar Fladmark(Oscar was killed in an automobile accident at Yuma, Arizona in 1957). On the 1st of November, 1952 the 113th designation was returned to Indiana and the 85th FIS was activated with Col. Klemovitch as commander. Most of the guard personnel and their aircraft remained with the 85th.

            My only near experience with UFOs came at Scott AFB on November 4, 1952 . Two of us(I don't recall the other pilot) were on night alert, watching election returns on TV to find out who the next president would be. Around 7PM we were scrambled. We all know the feeling…a shot of adrenaline and away we go. After becoming airborne, we contacted GCI and were informed that our target was a flying saucer. The controller claimed to have had visual on the target and in addition to being saucer shaped, he claimed that it had windows. I asked if he had seen anyone peering out of the windows. My question was studiously ignored. We were vectored in a northerly direction and directed to climb to around six thousand feet. Our target was twelve o'clock at twenty miles. When we leveled off, we maintained climb power. We were informed that our target was now twelve o'clock at thirty miles. A couple of minutes later, our bogie was at forty and another couple of minutes at fifty miles. I suggested that our target was a bit faster than we and I didn't think we could catch it. I was really disappointed. It would have been nifty to catch a UFO. I probably would have become rich and famous. In any event, we returned to base and found that "Ike" was our new president but we also proved that in general, UFOs are faster than F-51s.

            About the middle of November, a large group of pilots just graduated from pilot training arrived. None of them had tail-dragger experience. The rest of November and most of December was spent preparing them to check out in the F-51. This was done by having them become proficient in landing the T-6 from the rear cockpit. Some during this period several of us went to Burbank to pick up newly IRAN'ed F-51s from Pacific Aeromotive. The aircraft were not ready when we arrived and I recall myself and another pilot somehow ending up staying at a beach cottage in Hermosa Beach with a group of stewardesses…'nuf said. The birds we picked up were the best F-51s I ever flew. The aircraft were delivered with external fuel tanks which slowed cruise speed by about 40 MPH.

            The first new pilot cleared to fly the F-51 was killed on his initial flight…Lt. Delmarcado?? If I recall correctly, it was thought that he had too much fuel in his fuselage tank and he pulled up too abruptly causing stick reversal and then airframe failure.

            The second pilot to check out, Dick Rardin, ground looped on landing…an event witnessed by all the new pilots courtesy of  Maj. Farmer. Neither the airplane or the pilot suffered any damage. One pilot couldn't check out and I think left the Air Force. I can't recall exactly when the 85th moved to it's permanent home at the south end of the ramp, but it was around this time. We acquired several T-33s and I can't recall why, but also at least one L-20. In January of 1953, I got most of my time in T-33s in preparing to go to Tyndall AFB to check out in the F-86D.

            In February, I departed for Moody AFB and Tyndall to check out in the F-86D. Moody's job was to brainwash you in to believing you could fly in any kind of weather. They did a good job of it. Their T-Birds looked as if they had been crafted by Lockheed with ball pean hammers, particularly the leading edge of the wings and air intakes. Three pilots from the 85th were the first to get the full 40 hour training course in the Dog. Capt. Herman Williams, and I think Maj. Yancy Williams and myself. After about 20 hours, our instructors were asking us what happened on each mission…they hadn't been there yet! I do remember what a great piece of equipment the simulator was. I felt right at home in the "D" on my first flight.

            In late May of 1954, the squadron deployed to Yuma for gunnery training in the F-51 and I found I couldn't hit squat. In late June, I was sent TDY to Norton AFB to ferry F-86Ds from the factory at LAX to squadrons all over the US . Had a great time. There were three exciting things I can recall from this mission. The first occurred on a  mission to deliver and "86" to Moses Lake (Larson AFB?), Washington . I had encountered a line of thunderstorms on my way there and although I never went IFR, some really rough weather was encountered. When I landed the "Follow Me" vehicle picked me up and I followed him to the parking ramp. As I approached, I became aware that there was a really large group of people on the flight line, even a band. I wondered who the VIP was. I was directed to a parking spot right in front of the crowd. As I got closer, the eyes of the alert crewman grew larger and his mouth kind of gaped. After he chocked the airplane, he put the ladder up and asked me what happened. I had no idea what he was talking about. He invited me to get out and see, which I did. To my surprise, the radome was non-existent and the radar antenna looked as though it had been in a battle and lost. Apparently one of the thunderstorms I flew next to was ejecting hail stones out the top or side of the storm. I was informed that this was the first aircraft to be delivered to the base and the big turn out was to welcome it. I filled out the forms and slunk from the base. Was really glad to get out of there!

            The second incident occurred when I picked up a "D" at Norton…a number of the earliest 86Ds were sent to Norton to be upgraded from -5, -10, and -15s to F-86D-20s. I took off without afterburner because the leg was to Kirtland which was a fairly long leg for the bird. We had been told that the engine could not flame out because of the way the fuel system worked. I checked the emergency system before take off and everything sorked fine. On climb out I was climbing at about the same rate as the terrain. I was about 2,000 feet above the ground and at about 8,000 feet when the engine went BLOOP and there was no doubt in my mind that I had a flame out. I made a fast 180 and called an emergency and immediately did an air start procedure. I made a start in the emergency fuel system mode and landed without further incident. When I reached the parking slot, I didn't shut down and requested a GE tech rep. In a short time a rep appeared and I told him what happened, he said it was impossible so I asked him to switch from the emergency system to the normal system, when he did the engine again went Bloop the RPM went to zero the tech rep turned red climbed down and left.

            Some of the ferry missions took several days and required that I carry cloths for three or four days. There were only 2 places to store cloths on the "D". One was over the rocket pod and the other was under the cowling that covered the top of the radar system between the radome and the windshield. I was to deliver a bird to Suffolk County Airport on the eastern end of Long Island , New York . The cloths I had to take would not fit over the rocket pod so I stowed them under the front cowl. The leg from LAX to Kirtland was uneventful. I took off from Kirtland bound for Memphis NAS and somewhere over Oklahoma there was a loud boom and something flashed in front of the windshield. My first impression was that I had been involved in a mid-air and I was waiting for something dire to happen. After a few seconds, I realized that there wasn't any immediate consequences for what had happened(I had apparently ducked into the cockpit with the first bang). I sat up straight and began inspecting the aircraft. The wings were OK. The controls responded normally and I was really mystified as to what had happened. I sat up real straight to look over the nose and discovered that all that was visible was a bunch of black boxes between the cockpit and the radome. I landed at Tinker AFB with no further incident. Amazingly, my cloths and shaving kit were still where I had put them on top of all the black boxes.

            When I returned to the 85th, it was almost at wing strength with T-6, F-51, F-86, F-80, and L-20 aircraft. My last flight in the F-51 was in January of 1954. I left the squadron in June of 1954 along with several other pilots to start the 326th FIS at Grandview AFB, MO.  

Service record after the 85th FIS…
326th FIS at Grandview , MO , June 1954 to January 1958
ATF 13, Taipei , Taiwan , February 1958 to April 1960
3625 TTG, Tyndall AFB, FL, May 1960  to September 1962
Performed duty as GCI instructor, then as commander of the T-33 flight section(live target section), went to Boot Strap at Omaha University and got my degree in basket weaving.

            4420th CSG(Jungle Jim, later designated 1st Air Commando Group) October 1962 to July 1968(retired from Air Force July 31, 1968 . Most of this assignment was in the black(spook operations) and included a combat tour flying T-28Bs in South Vietnam . In 1963, a tour in Udorn , Thailand training Lao, Thai, and American mercenary pilots to use the T-28 in combat, and spent over 2 years in Laos doing all kinds of stuff. Aircraft involved were T-28B/C/D models. Also RT-28C/C models, L-20s, U-17s, O-1s, C-47s, U-10 Porters and even an Aero Commander…a real flint stone operation, but it usually worked better than the exotic stuff.


A second Joe Holden article:

The following article is from the December 2005 issure of the Air Commando Newsletter. Not sure who the submitter is….  

The Adventures of Joe Holden

Joe and I have had a  number of emails about his experience at Scott AFB, IL as a fighter pilot. We had one F-51 crash killing a Lt. near Belleville, IL and a F-86 killing a Major when he avoided hitting a school in Mascoutah, IL, my hometown. I remembered both crashes well since it. is big news in a small town like Mascoutah and we were in awe of the flying at Scott. Joe was at Scott AFB during these crashes and he brought back many memories of my youth as he was the guy  buzzing the town. Here is Joe:  

I wasn't really at Scott that much, I spent about three months going to instrument school and F-86 transition. then I ferried aircraft for about six months from the factory to squadrons and I was transferred to Grandview AFB Missouri in the spring if 1954. I did have one interesting experience. The squadron command a Lt. Col wanted me to check him out in the F-86. All jet fighters at that time had emergency buttons. They were surrounded by a wall so that they could not be accidentally pushed so it was like a button in a small bucket. The F-86 had two such buttons on the instrument panel, one was checked just before take off. It failed the main fuel control system and made sure the emergency system worked. The other one was located nearby and when activated dropped  the external fuel tanks. We taxied out, I was on his wing and lined up beside him. I told him to run the engine up and check the emergency fuel system, he ran it up and then I noticed both his fuel tanks on the runway, he didn't say anything but came back on the power and taxied back to the parking ramp. As far as I know he never tried to fly the F-86 again. Incidentally at Grandview I was again amongst a group of 2nd Lts. Fortunately we didn't have to check them out in F-51s, they had all been to F-86D school.

I was assigned to Scott AFB in August 1952 when I completed my tour in Korea. I'm fairly sure I was ferrying airplanes when the Major was killed (I think his name was Yancy Williams) but do recall that he made an extra effort to clear any possible ground casualties probably costing him his life. You are correct, fortunately the P-51 Lt. only killed himself, horrible thing for his wife to see however. We lived in base housing which was across the road from the base. They were like town houses with two stories, they had three bedrooms upstairs. I already had three kids, all boys but if I recall they were quite comfortable. Most of  the new pilots were bachelors so we got a graphic picture of the dating game at that time. It wasn't to much different than now as most of them found a girl to shack up with. It was kind of a shock when we went to visit some of them and the girls were lounging around with less cloths than the Burlesque queens in St Louis.

It was the 113th Ftr Squadron and was an Air National Guard Squadron from Indiana. They were equipped with F-51s and I was one of only about four non-guard pilots assigned, that changed shortly when we received about twenty five pilots fresh out of flying school, interestingly they never had any tail wheel experience. We prepared them to fly the F-51 by teaching them to fly the T-6 from the back seat. One pilot couldn't hack it and lost his wings. The first pilot who went for a flight in the F-51 exceeded the design limits of the airplane and managed to pull the wings off buzzing his wife's house and the next one ground looped on landing. This got the attention of all the rest and we had no more problems. In December of 1952 a new squadron was formed.. the 85th Ftr Interceptor Squadron. In the spring of1953 three of us went to Tyndall AFB and were actually the first three pilots in the Air Force to get the full forty hours of training. After about twenty hours our instructors were asking us questions. The Major who later crashed was one of the students. I was assigned duty delivering aircraft fresh out of the North American factory to various bases around the country, ultimately I spent six months doing this and delivered over forty aircraft. For a while the 85th Fighter Squadron was the largest in the Air Force with 22 Guard F-51s, 25 USAF F-51, 3 T-33, 5 T-6s, 1- L20 and 25 F-86Ds, this only lasted a few weeks as the Guard Planes returned to Indiana. I can't recall where our F-51s went since I was ferrying airplanes. I think the T- 6s went to the bone yard.



Going down town in Mascoutah , Illinois

Narrative by Lt. Roger Pile
... F-86D accident October 1956

 This is the narrative report of my F-86D aircraft accident which occurred on October 9th, 1956. I was in the hospital at Scott AFB recovering from a very sore neck sustained in the ejection. Lt Col Peck , the Squadron Commander, and Capt. Fox, the Operations Officer, asked me to write it while the details were still fresh in my mind. I did so the same day as the accident. I had only been in the squadron for about six months and had maybe 100 to150 hours in the aircraft, receiving my wings less than a year earlier. 

"I took off from Scott AFB at 0825 on a training mission as target ship. All instruments checked out as normal on the runup before take-off I contacted AGONY when airborne and they told me to climb out on a heading of 120 degrees to 40,000' . I reached 26,000' climbing at 100% military power and everything appeared normal. At this point the tachometer failed and rapidly wound down to zero. I checked all instruments and noticed the oil pressure guage also indicating zero. I contacted AGONY and advised them of my condition. They gave me my pigeons as 310 at 62 miles. I turned to this heading, and leaving the power at 100% and 685 degrees TPT, dropped the speed brakes and started to descend. 

During this time I was contacted by Capt. Fox, the 85th's Operations Officer, to set up a simulated flame-out pattern. I called the tower and requested they open the long runway for me and after a short delay they approved me to land on R/W 31. I had 3300# of fuel while inbound to the field and descended at about 250 kts-2500 fpm. I arrived over the base at 12,000 ft and elected to do a 360 degree turn and set up a high key for the simulated flame out pattern at about 7-8,000 ft as per the T/O. At this time I reduced the power to 450 degrees TPT figuring this would give me about 80%. I did this in order to kill off my airspeed so as to be able to drop the gear and also felt that this would be enough power to complete my approach since normal simulated patterns are done with 79%. 

After 180 degrees of the intended 360 to the high key, I experienced what appeared at first to be complete electrical failure and smelled and noticed electrical smoke in the c/p. Both generators and inverters were out and the lock-up light was on.. The TPT however had dropped to approximately 250 degrees. I called the tower and advised them. Realizing that I was now committed to land from this high downwind of 9,000 ft., I rolled out on approximately 130 degrees and put the gear down. The normal extension did not work so I pulled the emergency extension lanyard and the gear extended slowly and all indicated safe. 

During this time I also switched to the emergency fuel system and moved the throttle with no change in TPT. I stopcocked the throttle, closed the nozzles and attempted to airstart unsucessfully, although I got the fuel pressure to 1000#. 

Convinced now that the engine had seized, I concentrated on making the runway and it appeared to me at first that I would be successful. I turned base leg about 5-6000'. With the engine siezed I soon realized that my rate of descent was higher than ex- pected so I put the speed brakes in. I don't know whether they came in or not. I'm not sure if the normal hydraulic system was operating at this time but I have a vague recollection of a slight stiffening of the controls followed by normal control action. I continued on my approach and tried to call the tower again but my UHF radio was inoperable. 

I passed over the far side of Mascoutah at 2,500' and appeared to be very low for my approach. This altitude is the last one I remember seeing on the altimeter and when I felt I was clear of the town I elected to eject. At this point my airspeed was 150 kts and I had approximately 2500# of fuel on board. 

Ejection was successful with both the automatic seat belt and parachute operating before I pulled the D-ring. I don't remember pulling the D-ring but recall I was groping for it as I felt the opening shock I was within a few hundred feet of the ground when the chute opened and only swung about twice before landing in a small backyard in Mascoutah about a foot from a picket fence.A woman in the next yard came out and asked if I was OK and then led me to telephone where I called the 85th Operations and advised them. My neck felt very stiff so I lay down on a couch until the ambulance came." 
                                 (s) Roger A. Pile, 1/LT, USAF, AO 2208952 

Some things I later learned was that the UHF was not working because the air start switch was on. The speed brakes did not come in due to failure of the hydraulic system. The stiffening of the flight controls and return to normal was failure of the primary hydraulic system and activation of the battery powered back-up system. The reason the oil pressure guage failed was that it shared a common shaft with the tachometer. It was the failure of this shaft which caused oil starvation, over- heating of the bearings and subsequent engine seizure. T/O procedure was to leave the throttle in the position it was in if oil pressure failure occurred. That's why the throttle was left at 100% during the descent - until I felt I was in a position to land. The accident investigation board determined the accident was 100% material failure. The only question I was aked about my actions was whether I considered raising the flaps to increase my glide. As you have read, I didn't even remember putting them down! Don't know if it would have made any difference. My observation to the team was that frozen engines don't glide like the windmilling ones we simulated. Also, with emergency gear extension, the gear doors remained down, adding more drag to an already bad situation. The plane hit the ground in a left wing low attitude, rolled through a few backyards and came to a stop short of the next block of houses. Although some debris went through a couple of house walls, there were no casualties except for a small dog. The true miracle, however, was that there was an elementary school across the street from the crash site and school was in session! Beyond the school was nothing but swamps, so if I had trimmed the aircraft better, it would have cleared the town completely as I thought I had when I decided to eject. The neck stiffness was attri- buted to strained ligaments and I was placed on DNIF until the pain subsided and free movement was possible. Took some leave time and went to Oklahoma City to visit the young lady I had met a month earlier at the National Air Show where the 85th had participated in a fly-by . Convinced her not to worry about her new boyfriend. We were married 40 years last June.

Tale of the Tail Numbers, etc
85th Fighter Interceptor Squadron tail numbers
By Duncan Curtis  

Initial F-86D equipment of 85th FIS comprised 8 F-86D-20, one F-86D-30 and 18 F-86D-35 aircraft (a total of 27). The first was assigned to 85th FIS straight from North American on 17 August 1953 (s/n 51-6235, an F-86D-35) and the last of this batch was assigned on 7 December (s/n 51-6253, also an F-86D-35).

This batch of aircraft was retained by 85th FIS until July 1954 when they began to be ferried out to McClellan AFB for slotting into the Project Pull-Out conversion line (to bring them up to a common F-86D-45 standard).

In their place, 24 Pull-Out converted F-86D-31 aircraft arrived (serial numbers included in the range 51-5995 to 6141), and these were retained until May and June 1955, when they were reassigned to McClellan AFB and North American at Fresno for overhaul.

The third batch of F-86Ds operated by 85th FIS were F-86D-41s, similarly Pull-Out converted aircraft, this time with serials in the 52-3598 to 3897 range. (I don't know why the squadron completely re-equipped with similar aircraft at this point, but I'd like to know) . The F-86D-41s were retained until March 1957 when all the survivors were routed into the
Fresno , Inglewood and McClellan lines for conversion into F-86Ls.

The fourth and final allotment of Sabres to 85th FIS were a mixture of F-86L-45, 50, 55 and -60 aircraft, delivered from June 1957. When the Sabres were phased out, most were transferred out to Texas ANG squadrons in June/July 1959.  

Hope this helps sort dates out, etc. I'm currently working on my third F-86 book - detailing all F-86D/K/L squadrons. Any help (especially photographs and recollections) would be gratefully received.
Duncan Curtis


One War Story
by Richard T. Gruber

The following by Richard Gruber is about a particular mission occurring during his tour flying F-51D's with the 12TFS/18TFW in Korea.

One war story._.May '51 Korea. Flying my 44th mission, assigned as element lead in a fit of four .Pre-mission briefing was about 15 minutes 
of weather and possible enemy troop info. Essentially we were "search and destroy", there was no specific target. if any enemy activity was discovered, we would attempt to destroy it. Emphasis was made that there were no 'friendly" personnel in the assigned sector. The weather was CAVU, we were flying wide-spread finger - formation at about 4,000', shortly after arriving in our target area, someone in the flight transmitted "there's a lot of people in that field at one o'clock". We circled the the field, it was about
a mile long,1/2 mile wide, surrounded by low hills. There were about 50 people, scattered through out...seemed to doing farm work. However the briefing was specific... no friendlies and destroy anything of of value to the enemy. used the possibility that they could be military. I advised the Fit Leader, that I would drop down and take closer look, also told my wingman to stay with the flight. As there were no objections, proceeded down to about 20 feet above the ground, around 325  mph, looking for military age men...saw nothing but old men/women and a few young kids. 
the end of the field, I radioed my observations to lead, started a fairly sharp pullup, at about 200' AGL, saw a circular dug-in 50 caliber machine gun position (assumed it was 50 caJ)...1n my eleven o'clock position...roughly 200 yds away. Clearly saw several men and the ring-mounted flashes from the muzzle...pointed straight at my aircraft. Thought,._"he's got me"...didn't seem likely that the gunner would miss. Since I was committed to a climb, I pulled straight up.. rammed the thrott1e hard forward .tried to shrink my body "ribbon thin"._.thought "hope that steel armor plate behind the seat works" ...spent 10 or so seconds. waiting for something or everything to break loose. When I reached about 4,000', began to think maybe "he hasn't got me",..breathing resumed..running out of airspeed, I nosed over. .leveled out..looked down, damn, if that gunner was not still firing at me. I remember thinking "you son of a bitch, you scared the hell out of me...I'm coming back". I'd been shot at before, on previous missions, ,been "happy" to get out of range...and the wing policy was, except for a close air support mission, if you are shot at..leave (a plane for a gun is not a good trade)...however, that slipped my mind. I was irate that I had been so frightened...and I "wanted" those gunners. So. I rolled my '51 up and over, headed as straight down as I could...put my sight on that still blazing gun muzzle and fixed my six fifties on the gun position...their gun stopped firing before I did. As I pulled out of my dive, my wingman (Lt Luther A Webb) called me with words to the effect of  "I saw another gun position firing on as you made your pass". Now, somewhat carried away I rogered him...and said "knock it out'. To his credit, he acknowledged...and hit the gun position. As he rolled in on the second gun I saw a third position firing at him_..which I proceeded to eliminate (at least, they also stopped firing). Not much more happened..returned to base. After parking the crew chief noted several sheet metal bullet hole damage. During debriefing, Lt Webb identified the gun he hit as a quad-flfty...both guns
I hit were singles.


High Flight

by Roger Pile


After reading Forrest's tale of the T-33 flight at 50,000 ft (see Fenn's article "My War"), was tempted to write this about  when Jim Metz and I got one that high on a trip from Kelly to Yuma on return from a parts pick-up while on rocket deployment.

Had filed VFR on top and the thunderstorms around Marfa , Texas were so high we had to keep climbing to stay above them.  Remember the updrafts helping to push us higher as we skimmed their tops.  After hitting 47,000 , we wondered if we could get to 50, so kept going. 

Had to turn off the flight control boost and turn on the pressure oxygen as we were at 37,000' cockpit altitude and getting the bends in our wrists.  Finally, Jim (in the front seat) said we had made it, but told him my altimeter only read 49,100, so he kept it it until mine read 50 and his read 51,100'!

We were really on a bubble: lift the nose and we would stall as our indicated airspeed was barely over 120 kts.; lower the nose and we would exceed the limiting mach.  After passing Gila Bend and reporting our altitude as 50,000, the controller asked if we had said 15,000', and was surprised when we confirmed 50,000, and he replied "we were really getting up there."

Letting down was another story.  Pulled the throttle back to the stop and it  only went down to 93%, so we had to descend rather slowly.  Told Jim we should try for a 4 hour flight, but our butts were too sore, so we gave up that idea.  Had to turn on the windshield de-ice so we could see out.  Good thing the desert air was dry and it cleared without incident.  Pull out my flight records to check the exact date and flight time.  It was  August 14, 1957 . The bird was new (a '56 model) and shiny, probably the only reason we made it so high.

I've told the story "a few times", that's why the details still stick out, even after 50 years.