Chambley AFB, France

May 1966

Upon arrival at Chambley I was called into the Commanders office with 5 other Airmen first class and Schmidtke and were told that as the Base was short on Sergeants and other personal  and as were on our second hitch we would be assuming the Staff Sergeants position. The job would tough because when the call went out to the bases in USAFE (United States Air Forces in Europe) for personal and equipment, we did not get the cream of the crop, we got the bottom of the barrel. This gave all the bases in Europe the chance to get rid of their problem equipment and men We can assume that most of the men are not to happy to be here coming from nicer assigments.Our main mission was to motivate  the troops performance and get all the aircraft and related equipment up and running meeting Air Force standards.

After signing in at the Orderly Room Joe and I walked over to AGE Shop and met the two Master Sergeants running the Shop, Sargeant Barlow and Dey. We sat down a talked and they said how glad they were to see us as Sergeant Barlow after spending 17 years as a cook was now cross training as  a 42133 AGE Mechanic. Sergeant Dey said I was to supervise fifteen men in the periodic inspection  section and I would break  it down to five crews of three. He gave me  a list of names and a chart of the equipment we had. Schmtke was going to the maintenance section working swing shift four - midnight his favorite shift as he could be in the Airmans Club by 00:10.

Coming into the barracks, I was bombarded by the sounds of America. Each area of the open bay barracks was made up of four steel lockers, two on each side of two double-decker beds.

In the first area were four Blacks, one from Cleveland, one from Chicago and two from Philly who listened to rhythm and blues Motown. and Jazz

The next area was four good ol boys from Iowa, Tennessee, Texas and Oklahoma who listened to country and western, “Jimmy Brown the News boy, was on of my favorites and if they saw me coming they would play the record which I think was by Bill Monroe. it got a good laugh and for a while I had the nickname of “Country, the kosher Cowboy”. The song started :I sell the morning papers Sir, my name is Jimmy Brown, every body knows me I’m the news boy of the town. Sometimes a song by Porter Wagoner and the Wagoneers  like The Green Green Grass of Home would get stuck in my head and I would be humming it for weeks.

The next was four All American boys from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Chicago and Indiana who were into Timi Yuro, Sonny & Cher the Beach Boys, and Beetles.

My group was two from New York and two from Boston We listened to the Stones, Bob Dylan and Joan Biaz. Besides listening to our own music, we all got a taste of each others sounds without encroaching on another groups space and we knew the correct volume levels so as not to interfere with others. It was a harmonious group.

The base itself made Lakenheath look like a country club. It was a decommissioned Base that had been used in the Second World War and was recommissioned. The mission now was to bring all the B-66 aircraft  from  other bases in the European Theater Alconbury and Sculthorpe in England and Bitburg in germany to Chambley and to modify them from a twin-engine medium bomber to an ECM aircraft with computers to jam enemy radar and missiles, especially the surface to air missiles (SAMS). There were three models If I remember correctly

the A model would fly over the enemy’s missile sites and pick up their search frequencies and record them.

The B model would be given  this information and would fly over enemy territory with the F-105′s and jam the enemy radar with the end result (hopefully) that the Sam missile became disoriented and would fall to the ground.

The C model would do photo recon  and control the actual dropping and guiding of the  bomb loads to their  targets.

This was a very dangerous mission. The B-66 with a top air speed of about 450 mph was an easy target. I will get into this more in the chapter “Takhli”

PLEASE NOTE THIS IS MY INTERPERTATION AS TO WHAT OUR MISSION WAS AND WHAT WE WERE TRYING TO accomplish. a

We were about ten miles from Metz which was considered the hub of Europe. Trains would come from, Spain, Italy, England,Germany, the Netherlands and all other points. It had been a disputed area forever and the Germans had a strong influence over the culture food and drink. I worked the midnight to 8:am shift and after our shift a group of us would head for the Metz station and the big cafeteria area which took up a city square block. There was a tremendous variety of food available and the greatest beers available on tap.  We would sit and eat and BS  for a couple of hours and  pick  up a case of twelve one liter bottles of  “snap cap” beer to take back to the Base The beer was called Snap Caps because they came in a bottle with a ceramic cap and a rubber seal and cost $6.00 for the case of beer with a $3.00 deposit on the bottles that was returned when you brought back the empty bottles.

We also ould go to a french bar across the road from the from the back gate of the Base. They had French beer on tap that always tasted a bit funky. They had a Dutch beer in bottles Orangeboom {spl?} that was really terrific.They made a terrific beef sandwich and Jambon et Fromage , ham and cheese served on great crusty baguettes with hot mustard. At 8:oo in the morning there would always be five or six French men hanging around, drinking strong coffee and smoking Galois  the worst smelling cigarette int the world. They would always be complaining about everything, the French government, the weather,but mainly why the Americans always  had a lot of money  and they had none. One of the our guys asked him “Why do you think we have more money than you? All you people do is sit and complain all day while your wives are plowing the fields” “Why don’t you help them or get a job? That started a brawl and we were not allowed back in for a month.

One day as we getting ready to go back to the base I was getting in my car. We always parked our cars in the back of the Cafe and I looked down and there was a leather pilots flying hat from WW2. I still have that leather helmet and its a puzzle how the hat lasted so long in the field and the story behind it. Was an American pilot landing a shot up plane at Chambley during WW2? Did he crash in the field?

I was in France for about 2 weeks when I bought a new 1966 VW Beatle for $1,300. What a great car. We used to bring our cars into our shop at night and work on them. I added  abarth exhausts, a Blaupunkt radio that had a load of signal bands and pulled out of the dash-board to become a portable radio.

The Base had a Skeet range that was open weekends.  I had done a lot of hunting and shooting in South Dakota at Ellsworth AFB and I was pretty good with  firearms. I went to th range my first weekend in France . The range was being run by a Staff Sergeant. We started talking and he said he was being  reassigned to Shaw AFB and would I be interested in running the Skeet range which called for picking up the two kids who took care of the small machines that tossed  the “clay birds.I would also instruct  people interested in how to shoot and handle a firearm saftly.I got the job and made a couple of extra bucks. I would teach kids how to use a shotgun a .410 gauge and they really took to skeet. It was easier to teach the kids than to teach adults as they had no fear ofr the recoil once they learned the proper stance, breathing and trigger control. It was a Zen moment and they would be “enlightened”. You must remember that this was 1965 and the United states and the World was a different place.The Base had a big  Rod  and gun  Club and a lot of the officers would purchase pistols such as Beretta and othe quality firearms. The pilots and flight crews all liked to have a small pistol besides their government issued  .#38. You must remember that the B-66 and F-105  had a loss rate of about 40 percent of our planes being shot down over Viet Nam and these planes flew most of the bombing missions The B66 had seven men aboard each plane and the Vietnamese were not known for their good treatment of prisoners nor did they show any awareness of the Geneva Convention.

We had a skeet team that was made up of three full Colonels and 2 light colonels me and another airman first class. The officers would get a C47 Gooney Bird on a Sunday and we would fly to another base for a meet. We mostly flew to Ramstein AFB in Germany and we were always invited to the Officers Club for lunch and refreshments. It was nice that we had the confidence of our officers and neither of us would speak unless spoken to.

The next promotion cycle the two of us made Staff Sergeant.

I was put in charge of about fifteen mechanics, five crews of three to perform scheduled inspections on the equipment. Our main piece of equipment was an MA-2 multi purpose unit. It was a truck with a Ford V/8 engine and a transfer case, a type of transmission similar to a tanks that provided power to a generator set, gas turbine engine to start the planes engines, air conditioner, hydraulic test stand and other equipment to service the B-66 while it was on the ground.

The base had been set up to modify the B-66 which was known as the Douglas Destroyer. Originally  a twin-engine medium bomber it was being reconfigured to an “ECM” Electronic Counter  Measure aircraft with four men in the area that was the bomb bay and was now being loaded with electronics to jam enemy radar and Sam Missles. It had a flight crew of three, a pilot, co pilot and flight engineer. along with the 4 radar jammers in the bomb bay that made a crew of seven. The pilot and Co pilot would take the plane off and the engineers in the back would control the flight until the plane touched back down and landed. There were three different configurations B66A, B66b and B66C. All the equipment needed could not fit in one plane at this time. That changed with the introduction of the F111 “Ardvark” wich I will get to in another chapter. Today all the equipment needed for the 3 different models would most likely fit into one lap top.

At this time Viet Nam was starting to worry  every one and the need for a plane with the capabilities of the B66 was one of the highest priorities especially the need to neutralize the SAM missile. yet today very little is publically known, about the aircraft and it’s mission. A good deal of the modifications were performed by Lear Jet which was an important contractor to the Air force.

Robert Yazell

I was working the swing shift, 16:00 – midnight when a van pulled up outside our shop and the driver walks into the office and said “I think I have something or someone for you sarge”. I walked out to the van and there was an airman second class who jumped out of the van and started saluting me profusely. I told him to relax and asked what was going on. He showed me his orders and he had just got out of Tech School and was reporting for duty. We unloaded his stuff from the van and went into the shop office. and I told him to sit down. I saw from his papers that he had leave coming but he came directly from Shaw AFB which usually points to problems at home.

Where are you from Bob? I’m from Gary Indiana”  “Do you have family there?” My mother and my sister, my father is in the Navy” My parents dont get along and I always had problems with my father. Everything had to be ship shape and if it wasn’t he would beat us. We haven’t seen him in 7 years. He was always getting in trouble in the navy. and was a seaman third class. I told Bob he didn’t have to worry any more as he outranked his father.  Physically Bob was about 5′ 6″ 100 lbs max with one of the worst cases of acne I had ever seen. In his oversized uniform he looked like he was 12.  “Let me introduce you to the rest of the guys  and then we will get you a spot in the Barracks and a hamburger at the snack bar. ” I asked him what his friends called him and he said he had very few friends and every one called him Robert. I asked if he would mind being called Bobby and for the first time he smiled. I took a look at his records and was surprised to see that he did exceptionally well intech school and scored very high in all his classes.

I rang the bell in the shop and Frank Malier, one of my crew chiefs entered the office.

“Frenchy this is Bobby a new member of our organization. I’m putting him in your crew.” Line up your guys and I’ll talk to them for a minute”. I walked out ot the office with Bobby and the crew was lined up.  “This is Bobby Yazell  who is just out of Chanute AFB. Dont judge a book by its cover, Bobby aced every course at Chanute and has the makings of a natural-born grease monkey. With his build he will be great getting into the tight spots on the equipment.He is now one of us and will be working in your crew so give him the respect he deserves . Frenchy take  Bobby to the Orderly Room tomorrow at 10:00 and have him processed. We certainly need more troops.

I get him a bunk in the barracks and we go to the snack bar and I buy him a burger for a hamburger.

About  3 weeks later Bobby asks to speak to me and I take him to the office. I ask how he is doing and he say.s this is the happiest he has been but he has one problem, he doesn’t know how to drive. “Come on let’s go”. I check out our Ford Econoline van and we go to the end of the runway and I show him everything on the vehicle and let him sit in the driver’s seat. “OK check your mirrors, adjust your seat, check the emergency brake, pump the brake pedal. Everything OK? start the engine, let the engine warm, step on the brake,take off the emergency brake, gently step on the gas  pedel……………After about an hour he is driving. After two months he is driving and is licensed and checked out on all the equipment.

At 23:00 one evening B-66 crew chief comes into the shop, “Sarge I got a problem, I need someone to put my bird in the hanger, the guy with the license  broke his thumb and my wing walkers are all set up. I understand you have a license, can you help us out?

Yazell was listening to the conversation and I ask him if he wants to learn how to park a plane in a hangar. His eyes light up and we go out to the runway. I check that all the doors are opened properly on the hanger. the wing walkers are placed properly, and the tractor is hooked up properly to the tow bar and the tow bar to the plane. It is very tricky because as you turn to go left the towbar and the plane goes right. This is a small problem if you ,are towing a 20 foot boat, but try it with a plane with a large wingspan and are relying on two guys , one on each side of the plane to guide you with flashlights. Bobby is amazed at this feat so the next night I arrange with a crew chief friend of mine to let us practice on a t-33 (F-80 shooting star) which is a small trainer with a short wingspan we have plenty of room to get the plane in the hanger which is made for a plane 3 times the size of the T-33 but tonight we practice with the tractor and the tow bar and no plane I let Yazell practice driving the tractor and backing up with the tow bar. Turn too fast and the bar will lock up.We use the same tractors with small tow bars everyday towing AGE equipment around the flight line and it operates the same way, turn left go right.After about a week, he is checked out and licensed to tow aircraft. He is a confident and important asset to the base mission and has built up his self-respect. I have one of the troops take him to the Base Tailor and have his uniforms and fatigues altered to fit him with the correct patches. The base hospital cleans up his acne and we now have a poster boy for the Air Force. Its funny I am a 24-year-old Staff sergeant and the guys working for me are 19 – 26-year-old Airman, all of a sudden, I am an old man.

To provide some incentive for the troops I made a deal with them that any crew that got an MA-2 Multi purpose unit through it’s 90 day inspection without any write ups I would buy a case of Heineken for. We would go to the Rod and Gun club on a Friday night when beers were five cents

o be added to Chambley, Reinha.rt,y yazel, Eindhoven, leave back to Lakenheath Heuer, Rod and gun Club, case of Heiniken, Archer, Brooks, Muldaur, Kruptka - mercedes to Ramstein, Joel, parts, Day shift to Takhli - Secret, tdy 6 mos and back to chambley to close down base,, Jim adams word cards FBI

2 Responses to Chambley AFB, France

  1. luckylevine says:

    ADDITION TO MY TIME AT CHAMBLEY AFB FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO CANT GET ENOUGH OF FACES ALONG THE WAY

  2. Jim Adams says:

    Well, well, well. Here I was wandering through the internet searching, among other things, Chambley Air Base and I came across your website. I guess we must have lost touch after you got married and moved upstate (I think) and I moved down to Washington D.C. to finish college and then law school although I do remember connecting up with you and a couple of your buddies one time when you were down in the D.C/Virginia area.

    Anyway, here is what I have been up to for the past 40 plus years since we last got together. After graduating from American University in 69 I went to Georgetown Law School. But after my first year my GI bill ran out so I switched into its night program and went to work for the Marine Corps (as a civilian because I’m not that crazy) during the day. I have to say that working for the Marine Corps was a real experience. The Marine Corps, both military and civilian staff, is so small that I ended up, along with only my boss, developing and implementing personnel matters including labor law and collective bargaining matters for some 17,000 Marine Corps’ civilian workers in the Marine Corps Exchanges, officer’s and enlisted men’s clubs and recreation centers world-wide. After I graduated from law school in 74 and passed the bar I went to work for a small Federal agency as an attorney doing labor law issues. I stayed with that same agency and retired in 97 as a supervisory attorney and director of case management. After retirement from the government I did private labor management consulting until 2003 when my wife and I moved to Easton Maryland. Even though we live not far from the Chesapeake Bay the only boats I have anything to do with are the ones I play with in the bath tub. But I have been doing volunteer community mediation (neighborhood disputes, business billing and employment issues and some divorce matters). I also was the treasurer of our homeowners association and I am currently on the Board and the treasurer of the Mid Shore Mediation Center here in Easton.

    The last time I was up in New York was about 10 years ago to attend a fund raiser at the Beekman Tower Hotel just up the block from the UN. The owner of the Hotel chain was hosting the event so we stayed gratis. Other than that, I haven’t been up to the city or Long Island since my brother moved from Wantagh to Florida.

    Enough about me. Let me know how you have been and what you have been up to.

    Jim Adams

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