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Paul E. Brown
Entered Service, November, 1951
"I volunteered for the Air Force rather than get drafted. The draft was coming up and I thought I would enjoy the Air Force and I wasn’t sorry. It was most interesting."
- Paul E. Brown
[Interview by Charles Knox with Paul Brown, Air Force, June 18, 2002]
I enlisted here and went to St. Louis and then to Amarillo. Basic Training was intense for awhile.
We arrived at St. Louis and had a waiting period of about a week before we were inducted and put on a plane, headed for Texas. It was storming and those small planes ride rougher than heck, bouncing along, but we arrived at San Antonio for a temporary stop, and proceeded to Wichita Falls, Texas..
The instructors in Basic Training were tough. We had one Drill Instructor, who would have you drilling about half of what the cadence is supposed to be. All the other drill instructors, when we were marching, would be laughing and heckling him; that was just his way of doing it. It’s a lot easier to do a regular cadence. He would slow us down, I don’t why. But, we got along good with him. I was inducted with three other guys from Tuscola. They were Charles Sanderson, Weldon Hackett and McLennan
I was assigned to Mechanics A&E school. That was a real interesting course. It was a fun course. We learned how to work on aircraft engines. Later I came to Chanute for a month for an Engine Specialist’s course. We didn’t get our pass right away and I wanted to go home and see the folks who lived at R. R. Tuscola, IL, so I just took my Amarillo pass and walked out the gate, they really didn’t look at it, and went on to Dad’s farm. My parents let me have Dad’s pickup truck to drive back and forth. That night when I was going back to Chanute, the cops stopped me. He wanted to know why an airman was driving a Tuscola truck. He wanted to know, "Where are you from?" I said, "I’m going to school here" and "My folks live near here and this is Dad’s truck." I guess he believed me. He didn’t ask to see my pass. It’s a good thing he didn’t. But anyway, I got back on the base that night and I did get a legal pass. The course lasted a month and then I returned to Texas.
After I returned to Amarillo, lacking three days of finishing school, I received a call that Dad had a heart attack. The Red Cross contacted me and made arrangements for me to go home. When I returned to Amarillo I was to received orders to go to F-80 school, but it was cancelled while I was gone so I was waiting around the squadron, for new orders. Later when I went up to squadron headquarters and asked the guy what I was going to be doing. He asked me my name and he looked through a list and said, "there are two bases open today, one in New Mexico and one here in Amarillo" and asked "Where do you want to go?" I said, "I’ll stay here in Amarillo if I have a choice." So he made the orders and I stayed at Amarillo as a mechanic. I was working on the fighter planes.
My wife, Wanda came down as soon as she could after I got established. She got a job at the Pioneer Natural Gas Company and we made out all right. We ended up staying the full four years in Amarillo.
I spent two months in Florida at Tendell Air Force Base working on F-86’s on flight line. It was an interesting job. We flew on B-25’s that were stationed in Amarillo for the officers to get their flight training in and they had some of them fixed with seats, ten or twelve of them. You just had a little square hole you could get in and out of and they showed you how to use a parachute to bale out. Put your hands up on the side of the door so you don’t bang your head as you’re going out. This one airman, was really scared and was sick on the plane, but he might have been the smart one because, we landed at Wichita Falls and let him off, and sent him down on a train. But after we arrived it was interesting work. They had flight training there for the pilots and gunnery practice. There was a plane that would pull a target for the F-86’s gunnery training practice.
Panama City and Tendell sits right on the Gulf. They had an Officer’s Club on the beach. It was pretty neat. Something that I didn’t realize, they said any time one of the planes crashed out in the Gulf, and the pilot was killed, the dolphins would get behind them and start nudging, until they are pushed to shore. That was fascinating to me. I guess they were trying to keep the Gulf clean.
One of the main things I remember at that time, they were having a drought in Texas and would have dust storms pretty regular. In fact, a lot of times they would have one from up north and the dust would be so thick in the air that it would just settle in our area. One morning we had a dust storm so severe that all the streetlights came on. It was that dark at 11:00 in the morning.
I saw a lot of changes in planes. But all the time we were there we stuck to the F-84’s for the training purposes. They had some bombers in once in awhile and a lot of service to planes in flight that would be passing through. I never realized those planes would glide like they did but there was a time or two when one would come in, that had run out of fuel up over Oklahoma; they were at an altitude of probably 30,000 to 35,000 feet and they glided clear into Amarillo. I didn’t know they could glide like that. But, if you have the height and the speed you can. Once in awhile those Navy planes would stop in to get serviced. That was quite a sight to see. They land right on the end of the runway. They’re used to landing on a carrier. They would hit the runway right on the end and by the time they got out to the first turn-off, they were ready to head up and get serviced. The Air Force guys would use about the whole runway to get stopped. Once in awhile, you’d have a plane come in without the power and they’d end up going off the end of the runway which was, I think Rt. 66 at that time. They’d go clear across Rt. 66 and hit a river or railroad track before they finally got them stopped. It made it interesting for the tourists.
I did get to meet Jerry Van Dyke, Dick Van Dyke’s brother in some USO shows. Jerry was really good; he was a nut with his banjo. We did see Elvis. He came down to Amarillo; when he was getting started in show business. They always had big name bands there. Harry James was one.
I volunteered for the Air Force rather than get drafted. The draft was coming up and I thought I would enjoy the Air Force and I wasn’t sorry. It was most interesting. That was at the time they were drafting married men.
We were lucky to see Pike’s Peak, New Mexico, White Sands, and Carlsbad Caverns while we were in Amarillo.
I didn’t go overseas. I don’t know how I lucked out, but very thankful, as I was an old married man of 27.