Biography of George Kasparian
1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing at George AFB, Victorville, CA & Detachment #1, OSI, 1005th IG Group on Guam, USAF
I served in the USAF after WWII. For the first 8-9 months after basic training, I was a Weapons Mechanic with the 1st Fighter-Interceptor Wing at George AFB, Victorville, CA. I was not familar with firearms prior to enlisting in the USAF. I learned how to maintain the standard .45 Caliber Colt automatic pistol, .30 caliber carbine, pump shotguns, .45 caliber grease gun, and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun which was used on virtually all fighter planes flying in 1951, fighter bombers, and bombers. Maintaining the .50 caliber machine guns was by far the most interesting job as it was interesting to see how the guns were installed on the various planes. The planes I worked on were the F-84, F-86, F-51, and F-94 Fighters and the A-26 attack bomber. The A-26 attack bombers we had at George AFB, Victorville, CA had 6 .50 caliber machine guns in the nose, 4 pods of 2 in each wing, 2 in the upper turret, and 2 in the lower turret. The upper and lower turret were slaved together and operated by a single gunner who looked through a periscope and selected either the upper turret or lower turret for viewing and firing.
The work was interesting because of the novelty. It was heavy and awkward to remove and replace the .50 caliber guns and their magazines which were filled with either ammunition or ballast.
Working on armed planes in a combat setting is undoubtedly dangerous. I was fortunate to have never worked under those conditions. There were some accidents which I was very lucky to be in some other place when they happened. The only two that I can remember are as follows:
1. Around May 1951, a fighter had returned to George AFB from aerial gunnery practice near the Fort Irwin gunnery range. It was standard operating procedure to remove the 6 .50 caliber guns to the armament shop for cleaning and reinstallation. It was also S.O.P. to open the breeches and cock the guns to insure that there were no live rounds in the chambers prior to removing the guns. One of the fellows assigned to this task entered the cockpit, selected guns on the fire control switch and pressed the trigger. There were 3-4 rounds remaining in one of the guns which immediately fired off. Fortunately, our desert location and direction the plane was parked resulted in no injuries.
2. Around June 1951, an F-51 assigned to the 188th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 1st FIW at Long Beach Municipal Airport had a problem with its fire control system and requested help from us. A S/Sgt was sent to Long Beach which was around 100 miles away to troubleshoot and repair the problem. Somehow, all of the 6 .50 machine guns were fully loaded when the TS effort began. When the fire control selector was set on guns and the firing button pressed, the guns began to fire and continued uncontrolled until the barrels overheated and the guns jammed. The Long Beach area was sprayed with quite a few .50 caliber rounds. Amazingly, there were no casualties.
I saw an F-94 crash while circling the field to land. The pilot survived the crash and was not injured too badly.
Our Commander was Colonel Worley. I recently found a website which has brief biographies of mostly General Officers of the USAF. I checked for Colonel Worley's name to see if he had made General. I was saddened to read that Colonel Worley was KIA in Vietnam when his plane was shot down by ground fire. He was a Major General at the time of his death. I'd guess he was the highest ranking American killed in action in vietnam. I never saw Colonel Worley at George AFB as I was an enlisted man (Airman basic, A/3C, and A/2C) during 1951 until the 1st FIW was deactivated in December. I remember that he crashed either a T-33 or an F-94 on takeoff around July 1951 and walked away from it without a scratch, but a Major in the rear seat was injured because he wasn't wearing his shoulder harness. It's too bad that Colonel Worley's luck ran out in Vietnam.
It was quite a thrill for someone like me to work on or around planes that I had only read about. The F-51s and A-26s were leftovers from WWII. Jet planes were still in their infancy and had either never been combat tested or were just been introduced into the war in Korea.
I'm sure that armament work in Korea was very difficult. Guys who had done a tour in Korea told me that they were working 10-12 hours on some days and 6-7 days a week. Most were living in tents. The Air Force sent guys to Japan for a 7-day R&R leave after six months in Korea. At George AFB, we removed, cleaned, and reinstalled guns on maybe 10-20 planes a week. The rest of the time we would read technical manuals about armament systems and have the NCOIC of the Armament shop hold classes about what we read. This was called OJT (On the Job Training). In Korea, they would do maybe 30-40 planes a day. Also, in Korea, they would have to load live rockets and bombs on the planes. There was always the danger of a rocket being accidently set off by static electricity while it was being installed under the wings. Guys told me that occasionally, a North Korea plane dubbed "Bedcheck Charlie" would fly over the base around midnight and drop a few bombs to keep the troops from getting too much sleep. Combat zones are not the place to be during wartime.
I volunteered for overseas duty in the Far East in November 1952 to do something useful for the war effort.
I was sent to Japan on the USNS Daniel I. Sultan and landed at Yokohoma around 4:00 PM on 29 Dec 1952 in a snowstorm. We, approximately 2500 G.I.s and airmen, disembarked and after standing on the dock area for around 4-hours in snow squalls and sub-freezing temperatures, a rickety train showed up and we were all ordered aboard. After a four hour ride, we arrived at Tachikawa, FEAMCOM Area B a little after midnight. They separated us by branch of service and order numbers.
Guys with TROOP MOVEMENT armbands started to call out names and directed the airmen to either walked through a gate into a barbed wire fenced-in area or to board a bus. When my name was called, I was told to board bus #? with about 20 Airmen. Around 1:00AM of the 31st, all of the seats were filled and the bus started up. Soon as it got underway, somebody asked the driver where the bus was going. The driver told us that it was going to Headquarters Far East Air Forces in downtown Tokyo across from the Emporer's Palace. Sure enough, after around a 40-mile 1-2 hour bus ride we arrived at Hq. FEAF. The bus driver told us that the guys who were directed to the fenced-in area were being sent to units in Korea. As luck would have it, Hq FEAF had more than enough clerks by the time they got to me, so around 10-days later, I was reassigned to the Detachment #1, OSI, 1005th IG Group on Guam.
Headquarters FEAF was located in the NEW KAIJO building. It was around an 8-story building which was once owned by an insurance company.
The upper floors of Feaf HQ were housing for the airmen. The ground floor housed the "messhall", barber shop, snack-bar. Both officers and EM dined together. I had never experienced that before. Also, there was no serving line. My first time in the "messhall" on 31 Dec 1952, I went in for the noon meal and sat down at a table. A Japanese waiter came right over and handed me a menu. I selected something and when it arrived around 15-minutes later, it was served on plates. First time I ever ate in the messhall where the food was served on plates and not stainless steel trays. The waiter was standing beside me and nodding. I thought he was waiting for a tip. Finally, one of the other guys at my table told me that the waiter was waiting until I told him that the food was acceptable to me. If not, he would have brought something else. I nodded and smiled and gave him the OK sign.
There was a service club next door to the NEW KAIJO building which housed two ballrooms with bands or small musical groups. One night I was in the snack bar area and heard what I thought was the Harmonicats playing "Peg of My Heart". I got up and went into one of the ballrooms and was stunned to see 5-6 Japanese harmonica players. They sure fooled me.
Next door to the service club was the Meijii Building which was the Hq of the Supreme Commander Allied Powers or SCAP. My recollection was that Gen Mathew B. Ridgeway was SCAP. Just a bit of trivia, General Ridgeway graduated from Boston English High School around 1915. I graduated from Boston English High School in 1947.
My recollection also was that all USAF units in the Far East (Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Guam, Saipan, etc were under the command of Hq FEAF. In 1953, the commanding General was General Otto P. Weyland. The 5th AF in Korea was under Hq FEAF as was the 20th AF. I saw somewhere that the successor to Hq FEAF is now located on Hawaii. It may be called Hq Pacific Area Air Forces or something similar.
I never worked at Hq FEAF as I was there for only 10 days. However, the work would have been the same as stateside for a clerk. A military base is a military base. For the enlisted men in 1953, overseas duty in a place like Tokyo was heaven as compared to a stateside base. All menial tasks were performed by local civilian help. They would do all the cleaning of quarters, kitchen work (KP), almost any task that was dirty. Usually, the GIs would contribute a couple dollars a month. I ate in the mess hall at Hq. FEAF during the time I was there, and it was the only time in the USAF that I ate in a mess hall from plates instead of steel trays.
I was at Hq FEAF for around 10-days and then reassigned to Detachment #1, OSI, on Guam. I went to Guam by a Navy C-54. So much my intentions for contributing to the war effort.
When I arrived at Guamn, the sign at the entrance to Andersen AFB, Guam had 20th AF, FEAF emblazoned on it.
General Weyland and an entourage of maybe 6-7 other generals visited Guam on an inspection tour around April of 1953.
I don't have any war stories as I was too young for WWII (born 1930) and although I served with the USAF from Dec 1950-Dec 1953, I was a clerk for most of the time and experienced nothing of interest or importance. My only combat experience was to battle the mosquitos on Guam from Jan-Dec 1953. I was an Ace many times over thanks to an unlimited supply of ammo (DDT in spray cans). We got some help from aerial spraying by USAF planes. Thanks to mosquito netting which draped our bunks, we were able to sleep at night even though it was hot and humid. You've got to think how tough it must have been for the Marines and G.I.'s who took the island back from the Japanese in 1944 without benefit of Quonset huts, mosquito netting, and insecticide. While fighting the enemy. It must have been hell.
On Guam there was again the option of having the local inhabitants do our menial chores for us. We paid $2.00 per month to have Philippinos pull KP. If we wanted houseboys to make our beds and clean the barracks, then this was another option. Philippinos worked in the snack bars, the service clubs, there were Philippino bands which played in the service clubs, laundry, etc.
It's been a few years since I was in the USAF. Wish I had kept a diary and taken a lot of pictures, especially of Andersen AFB, Guam. Like they say, "Ve get too soon Oldt, und too late schmardt."
For More Air Force History I reccomend Air Force Link II -- biographies. Its where I got the information on MG Worley and General Weyland.
----- George Kasparian
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