Charles D. (Chuck) Severns MSgt USAF Retired
19 ½ years on Helicopters
1952 working Civil Service at North Island NAS, San Diego CA. Engine
Overhaul department working on Skyraider engines. 19 years old, the Korean War was going strong and they would not defer us from the draft.
Joined the Air Force 2 Dec. 1952.
Basic training at Parks AFB, CA.
Sent to Gary AFB, TX for helicopter training on H-5’s. All the classes up till ours were issued combat gear and sent to Korea. Our class was sent to the flight line at Gary AFB, TX. Pilot training flight line on H-13’s.
Volunteered world wide to get out of Texas.
September 1953 shipped to Goose Bay Labrador. A/3c crew chief on H-19. Spring of 1954 we received 4 ea YH-21’s, number 5 crashed on the way to Labrador.
While at Goose Bay Labrador 2 H-19s, 4 pilots, and 3 mechanics sent TDY to Knob Lake, Quebec, Canada, near Hudson bay, on operation “Eclipse”. We established and supplied 3 observation sites along the path of a solar eclipse. 1 site north, 1 at ground zero, and 1 south of the eclipse path. The scientists were from Cambridge Research Institute, Mass.
A Canadian Bush pilot flew us out one day to one of his VIP fishing spots. In about 30 minutes we filled a large tub he had in the aircraft. Lake trout like you can’t imagine 24 to 30 inches. The only fishing in the lake had been natives and VIPs that he had flown in.
Sept. 1954 shipped to Sewart AFB TN. A/2c back to H-19’s. We soon started to receive our H-21’s. Went on flight status. Built up to a Helicopter Wing, three squadrons, 345th, 346th, and 347th Troop Carrier Squadrons. When the Army Airborne went on maneuvers we went too. We did work on the DEW Line extension in Greenland, did geodetic survey of Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island. We did geodetic survey of Cuba 1959 and our helicopters were there when Fidel Castro took over. When the Wing broke up the squadrons were renamed, 20th, 21st,and 22nd, HELRON’s.
The 21st, and 22nd shipped overseas one to Japan and one to England. I stayed at Sewart AFB TN. I was now SSgt on flight status and one of the QC inspectors.
In 1959 the 20th HELRON moved to Myrtle Beach SC. In May 1960, the 20th was being deactivated and we were flying our aircraft to other units all over the states.
April 1960,PCS to 51st Fighter Intercepter Wing, KI Sawyer AFB MI. NCOIC of base flight helicopter an H-19 again with 1 SSgt and 3 young airmen. We soon received our two H-43’s and became Det. 23 CARRC.
1960 TDY 90 days to Thule Greenland. They had an H-19 but all the mechanics had shipped out. Not to bad a TDY if you like living in a refrigerator.
1961 TDY to Pease AFB NH. Transfering 2 H-43s from SAC to CARRC. Grounded both aircraft for multiple red X conditions. Both had tower rods installed backwards, and other hazardous conditions. SAC QC personnel wouldn’t talk to me anymore. They had to reply by endorsement to Gen. LeMay why a SSgt from rescue could tear up a SAC QC department staffed with E-8s and E-9s.
Finally bought the aircraft and took off for Wurtsmith AFB MI. Outside of Allentown PA oil started flowing out of the panel under the engine. Told the pilot we had an emergency, he asked how bad it was, looked back and I was in a shower of oil.
Emergency landing on the grounds of Allentown prison. Before the rotors stopped the warden was there with armed guards wanting to know what was going on.
Flew on to Olmsted in the other aircraft. Spent the night in the secret helicopter unit’s hangar pulling the engine out of the good aircraft. I had flown with the Maintenance Officer at Goose Bay, and he said the place was mine.
In the morning loaded the engine into their H-19 and they flew it out to the downed aircraft. They had dispatched a cherry picker from Olmstead. Did a boon dock engine change and went back to Olmstead. We left one helicopter there to get a new engine and flew the good bird to Wurtsmith. ARRS
Headquarters awarded me with the AF Commendation for that trip.
1963 TDY to 59th Weather Recon, Goodfellow AFB TX. Flying balloon chase out of Sioux Falls SD. The requirement was 3 good balloons a month. High altitude air sampling, 100 to 110 thousand feet. The balloon would launch at 0600 in the morning. Take off with the H-21 and the C-47 command ship. Follow the balloon for 12 hours, and recover the package when it came down.
The package transmitted radio code all day long so we could tell if the blowers came on or not. If they didn’t the command ship could abort the mission.
Most balloons we recovered around Iowa or Wisconsin. When the package came down it was about 10’X20’. We had compressors on the chopper and would pump the air into a cylinder and it would be shipped to Cambridge Research Institute.
One got into the jet stream and was past Cape Cod in 12 hours. Easy life, per-diem, living in hotels, landing at any available airport, and signing for fuel.
Sept 1963 PCS to 33rd ARRS, Naha AB Okinawa. Again back to H-19’s. We got our H-43’s soon after and gave the H-19 to base flight.
June 17 1964 Secret orders, TDY 89 days to the Philippines. We never saw the PI. First stop DaNang, AB RVN. Next stop Udorn RTAFB Thailand. We assembled our H-43’s in Air America’s hangar. Air America’s painter painted out our dayglow and yellow Rescue markings and we flew to our new home NKP Thailand. (Jim Burns has covered our stay there already and posted most of the pictures that I have).
They augmented our unit with personnel from Japan, and Jim Burns from PI, an Electrician, Instrument man, Security Police and First Mobil Communications. A grand total of 35 personnel.
The chief flight engineer for Air America was an ex-Sgt that I knew from Sewart AFB. I told him we didn’t have anything but M-16’s for weapons. He came back in about 15 minutes with 2 BAR’s and several cases of ammunition. He told me to forget where I got them.
November 1964 back to Naha. Shortly after our return from Thailand we split from the 33rd ARRS and became Det. 6 PARRC Kadena AB Okinawa. I was now TSgt.
July 1967 shipped to 703rd TASS, Shaw AFB SC. Training aircrews on H-3’s for SEA. I don’t remember if the new unit was the 20th or 21st SOS. I was sent to Fort Jackson SC for one day of training on the M-60 Machine gun and became the aerial gunnery instructor. Most of the Instructors, Pilots and FE’s were ex Jolly Greens just back from NKP.
1967 Helo-sid program. TDY from Shaw to Otis AFB MA. For tests and demonstration of Mc Namara’s new project helo-sids. 2 pilots and myself TDY to Eglin AFB FL.
Sikorsky factory crew would not fly test with helo-sid booby trap unit. Bought the aircraft from factory crew, loaded 6 booby traps in the launch tubes and planted then in a concrete slab from 1,000 feet to see if they would detonate on impact. Good test no detonations, sold the aircraft back to Sikorsky crew and returned to Shaw.
August 1968 received orders for Phu Cat AB RVN. Stopped in Saigon and went to Rescue Headquarters and told them I had just spent the last year training H-3 flight engineers at Shaw AFB SC.
They changed my orders to 37th ARRS DaNang RVN. Because of my TDY time in 1964 my rotation date was May 1969. While at DaNang I flew 184 sorties that logged as 112 combat missions. Participated in the rescue of 8 downed aircrew members. One of the missions was 1 April 1969, Misty 51 in Laos.
In 2001 I made contact with Misty 51A, retired Col Ron Standerfer through my PJ on that mission. We have been e-mailing back and forth since then. He wrote a fictionalized biography based on facts that I bought and read “ The Eagles Last Flight.”
Misty 51B, Charles L. Veach died of cancer several years ago. He had gone on to be an Astronaut and made two shuttle missions.
Ron is the editor of a newsletter for a group of about 500 old F-100
Pilots. If any of you would like to make contact with any F-100 or Misty pilot’s that you rescued, he said he would be glad to assist you! I can give you his e-mail!
May 1969 shipped to Det. 5, 40th ARRS Edwards AFB CA. While there was sent to Huey school in Texas. Det. then converted to Huey’s.
In September 1970 I had the flight surgeon voluntarily ground me. I had been on flight status 16 years, was now MSgt, and had my Chief Aircrew Member Wreath.
September 1970 shipped to MACV, Bien Hoa RVN. Working with VNAF flight line crews. Our VNAF unit had 30 Hueys, slicks, guns, and command ships. We had them operational and flying combat missions in 90 days, then had to sit and twiddle our thumbs 10 hours a day, 7 days a week for 6 months until they released us for re-assignment to the states. The word of the day was don’t make waves, and go home with your Bronze Star. I made waves!
While at Bien Hoa my wife sent me information about a new career field, Biomedical Equipment repair. I submitted my retirement papers for Dec 1972.
June 1971 shipped to Davis-Monthan AFB AZ. Another TASS unit building up to do drone recovery work. We only had 2 H-3’s, and a whole lot of drones when I transferred to the base hospital in June 1972 on project transition at the hospital OJT-ing into the Bio-Medical field.
Retired December 31 1972 as MSgt. Refused to submit for SMSgt. My plans had been made for a new career after retirement.
Upon retirement I went back to college full time for 2 years and finished my AS degree in electronics. On the side took Physics, Anatomy and Physiology.
Jan 1975 went to work for a local company pushing a van around the county, repairing medical equipment at Hospitals, Clinics, Doctors offices, and Dental offices.
December 1976 I got a call from the first hospital where I had applied for a job, 1 mile from my house, to come in for an interview. They hired me that week and I started 3 Jan 1977. I was the only Bio-med for several years, but the hospital was growing. I received my inter-national certification (CBET) in 1983.
In 1987 I completed my BA in Health Services Administration. In 1992 we completed construction of the hospitals second tower. I was Assistant Director of Engineering and Bio-medical dept supervisor.
When I retired from the hospital July 1995 I had five personnel in the Bio-med department. I had been with the hospital 18 ½ years without a single lawsuit from any of our medical equipment.
My wife Carolyn, that some of you knew from different bases where we were stationed, died of cancer Feb. 1986.
In April 1987 I married again, a nurse from the hospital where I was working. She has a daughter and two sons. So with my three sons we grew to a much larger family. Now we have six grandchildren, and five great grand children.
FEBRUARY 22, 2007 CHARLES (CHUCK) D. SEVERNS HEITZ TOOK HIS FINAL