A Hard Day's Night
Cold war B-52s flew an icy northern route on alert for a Soviet missile strike.
- By Bill Robinson
- Air & Space magazine, September 2006
NASM (SI NEG. #00129297)
(Page 3 of 3)
Our final refueling was with KC-135s from Eielson Air Force Base in the “Cold Coffee” area, abeam Mount McKinley. We had been flying for 15 hours, covering nearly 7,000 miles. At a pressurized-cockpit altitude of 12,000 feet, everyone was a little dehydrated, the coffee was history, the water stale, and our teeth felt like they were growing fur. Only nine hours to go.
After a final lead change, I could relax a little. Tired but not sleepy, I moved up to keep the pilot’s seat warm, giving him the opportunity to stretch out on the deck for a nap after his refueling exertions. The electronic warfare officer gave our post-refueling report to the SAC Command Post at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, the radar navigator monitored Ranger 41’s electronic beacon on his radar scope to maintain our position two miles behind him, and the gunner started another Playboy. I joined the copilot in dining on a couple of semi-petrified pieces of cold SAC fried chicken purloined from the alert facility mess hall 18 hours earlier.
Munching on our drumsticks, we were content. World War III hadn’t started and it was beginning to look like the world, and Ranger Flight, might make it through another day. We cruised out beyond the Alaskan west coast, just north of the Aleutian chain, then reversed course, heading toward a turn point off Kodiak Island for the final leg, along the Canadian west coast and home to Larson.
At touchdown, 24 hours and 10 minutes after wheels up, our squadron mates aboard Soapy 21 and 22 were already airborne, taking our place on their own odyssey across the top of the world.