Q: In the late forties and maybe early fifties, what was the mission of the
Strategic Air Command?
JE: SAC was the bombing arm of the new Air Force. All of the bombardment
airplanes were put in there, and it had a bombardment mission. It wasn't
directly pointed at Russia, but it turned out to be that way. And it was
certainly that way by the time I got in...
The Air Force, as it was organized initially, had put its fighting units into
three different organizations: SAC (Strategic Air Command) with the bombardment
capability; the ground support capability was TAC (the Tactical Air Command);
and the air defense capability was ADC (Air Defense Command). And their job
was to defend the United States, and of course they were pointed towards
Russia, too. Their job would have been to try and get up and shoot down
Russian bombers coming in.
But as SAC was being formed and through the early days of SAC, it was to have
been a bombardment force. My old 22nd was cut in half, and half of
it became a new-- I've forgotten even the number now, but it [be]-came another
bombardment group, and was moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana. So SAC was
expanding, growing, training, developing. The 22nd, when I first
went to it, was a-- was a hodgepodge of people and airplanes. We could hardly
keep the airplanes in commission. A lot of my people were untrained. They had
been assigned to the outfit, but they'd never been in a B-29 before. And by
the time I left it three years later, it was a-- it was a going Jesse.
Q: How did Strategic Air Command crews train for their missions?
A: We constantly flew what were called profile missions, where a guy and his
airplane would take off, and the crew in his airplane, and would fly as nearly
identical a mission as you could make it to what his war plan called for him to
do. Distances were the same. Takeoff weights were the same. The type of
target that he was given to hit at night was similar to the type of target that
he was going after in Russia. You would hit refueling tankers at the same
time. Everything would be the same as a wartime mission, except the geography
that he flew over-- He'd be up over Canada or up someplace else. He would not
be flying over Russia. But these war plan profile missions were--were
excellent training for a crew.
Q: So each crew basically was assigned a very specific target?
A: Each crew was assigned a very specific target. This got a little looser
when the B-52s went to airborne alert, because at different points as they were
flying this 24-hour mission, they would be over different real estate, and they
would have different amounts of fuel in their tanks. And so the target that
they would have assigned to them during a certain part of their flight might
change. In other words, it might be of quite a shallow target, and then after
it hit tankers over--over, uh, Goose Bay or over Thule, and add a full load of
fuel, then he would immediately pick up responsibility for a deeper
target...But other than the airborne alert, the crews-- each crew slept with
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