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Hot War-Cold War Back-of-the-Lines Logistics (Memoirs)

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Jun. 26th, 2008 | 09:11 am

(Edited and material added March 14, 2009)

Meyer Moldeven

About the author

United States government logistician with the US Air Force from 1941 until retirement in 1974. Senior emergency survival gear maintenance technician (parachutes, life rafts, escape and evasion gear) at the Hawaiian Air Depot (WW2); developed USAF maintenance and operations manuals at Wright Field (1949-1952); transferred to a USAF North African base and developed logistics plans for (future) emergency support to disabled US/NATO aircraft landing along the North African-Med coasts in the event of a WW3 (1951-1953); during U. S. post-Sputnik initiatives to create a national space program was member of a USAF Log Command team that critiqued aerospace industries' pre-program definition (conceptual) proposals for space systems organization, infrastructure and support (Space Logistics, Operations, Maintenance and Rescue' (Project SLOMAR); during 'Viet Nam' was civilian deputy to the IG McClellan AFB, Calif. a USAF major logistics center near Sacramento, California.



1. Preface: Logistics

2. Introduction: We Learn From Each Other

3. Memoir: Survival Equipment Maintenance Technician: World War Two: Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. 1942-1948

4. Memoir: Urgent Procurement of Aircrew Bailout Parachutes and other Emergency Survival Gear to Meet U. S. Air Force Priority Needs for the Korean War, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. 1950

5. Memoir: Cold War Contingency Planning: Nouasseur Air Base, Morocco 1952-1955

6. Future History: Spacefaring Societies, Inexhaustible Nonrenewable Resources, and Logistics, McClellan Air Force Base, California, 1961, at:


7. Memoir: Military-Civilian Teamwork In Suicide Prevention, 'Viet Nam' Years, McClellan Air Force Base, California, 1969 and Afterwards, at:


8. Checklist and Memoir: Fix And Prevent Mistakes and Deficiencies in the Workplace, at:



1. PREFACE Logistics: (military definition) The science of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of forces.... those aspects of military operations that deal with the design and development, acquisition, storage, movement, distribution, maintenance, evacuation and disposition of material; movement, evacuation, and hospitalization of personnel; acquisition of construction, maintenance, operation and disposition of facilities; and acquisition of furnishing of services. (Joint Chiefs of Staff Publication 1-02 Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms]

2. INTRODUCTION Lore adapts to altered circumstances and lifestyles, and to cultures and environments other than the times and places where the 'lore' had its roots. The familiar may be comfortable, but we also read and listen for other perspectives that disclose events and experiences grown dim over the decades, and in time, of generations and centuries past.

Memoirs and often just storytelling a civilization's and a culture's traditions, values, 'how to... guidance, and even opportunities to inject a sense of history and visions of a future. In doing so, their mix provides context to interactions among the family's constituents and continuity to their societies and communities. Excessively redundant, they might appear as frayed platitudes. Yet, throughout all civilizations a people's traditions, values and suggestions retain their relevancy and often, their majesty.

Tradition passes history to a new generation on what happened to family and community across time, and, to the extent possible, the reasons and the lessons. Elders' stories and lore convey facts and interpretations about customs, events and personalities and how they became part of the whole. Tradition supports the family's and the society's sense of continuity.

Social and cultural awareness offers sanctuary to education, law enforcement, science, sports, health care, religion, and more. Together, they form a collection of interacting primary forces that drive a civilization's evolution in concepts, principles and methodologies that societies utilize to make life possible and livable. Awareness includes what is wrong with the way things are, as well as what is right.



Several years after I retired from my Civil Service career after 34 years with the U. S. Air Force Logistics Command I was one of several addressees on an email from a teacher at a middle school in a northeastern state. She wrote that her students were working on a class project about the United States involvement in World War II and invited memoirs from older Americans who had lived through those times. The students wanted to learn directly from those who had served in the nation's wartime Armed Forces and Merchant Marine, as well as from civilians on the home front who had produced, serviced, and transported weapons and supplies from where they were made to where they were used. They also wanted to hear from people who cared for the wounded and helped in other ways.

The teacher added a note that memoirs received had generated questions among the students. The result was a Q&A exchange conducted in follow-up email communications. At the project's conclusion, the students' teacher reported to the online community that the project had been a great success: the students learned history from those who had lived it. The storytellers, many of whom were long retired, had an audience for reminiscences that might not otherwise have surfaced. Together with the students, they had created a bridge from the 1940s to the 1990s and, in doing so, had contributed to the historical records of an important era in American history. The experience enhanced communications and respect across the generations.

I wrote to the students about my work as a parachute rigger and survival equipment technician during the war. To set the stage, I described the parachute's purpose: to lower a weight, that is, a person or a cargo, slowly and safely from a place high above the Earth's surface to a place on the ground. In time of war, the one-way trip down might be aircrews that were forced to abandon their airplanes because the craft could no longer remain airborne.

During World War II, tens of thousands of airborne soldiers parachuted from transport aircraft and gliders with their weapons as part of military operations. Almost equally in numbers, cargo parachutes lowered food, weapons, and other essential supplies and equipment to the fighting forces and to isolated civilian communities. Parachutes also have a wide range of uses in peacetime, such as emergency egress from disabled aircraft and other airborne systems, slowing an aircraft or space shuttle on a runway after a high-speed landing, sport parachuting, 'fire jumpers' fighting forest fires, rescues in terrain that lack easier access, and more.

Parachutes must work the first time; there are very few second chances.


In September 1941 I was a civilian parachute rigger for the Air Service Command at Patterson Field, near Dayton, Ohio. My job was to repair and service-pack personnel and cargo parachutes for United States Army Air Corps aircrews, Army Airborne troops in training, and American and friendly foreign nations' special operations in which the United States was involved at that time in various parts of the world.

The months from September through November of 1941 were busy in the parachute shop at Patterson Field, near Dayton, Ohio where I worked as a rigger. The conflict, even in its early stage, had already swept across Europe and on fronts in Asiaand Africa. The United States Army and Navy accelerated their training programs, and Americans were active in various capacities in the war zones of other nations. The parachute shop, as were other industrial facilities at Patterson Field, and dozens of other military installations throughout the United States, was on a round-the-clock seven-day workweek.

Parachutes requiring periodic servicing or tech order modification, or were damaged, were brought to our shop in large quantities from United States training bases and overseas theaters of operations. Military parachutes in general use by the Army Air Corps at the time were the 'ripcord' deployed Type S-1, a 24-foot diameter canopy seat type; Type S-2, a 28 foot diameter canopy seat type; the B-7, a 24 foot diameter canopy back type; and the A-1 quick-attachable (QAC) chest type. Seat, back and chest parachute canopies were deployed by a pilot chute that ejected from the pack (canopy container) when the ripcord was pulled free, drawing the canopy to full extension when the jumper pulled the ripcord attached to the parachute harness. The chest type A-1 ripcord was attached to the canopy pack (container).

In all of the above parachute types, the ripcord cable, at the end opposite the 'pull' grip, has two pins installed, one behind but clear of the other. Each pin fits into a hole through a shaped cone that is fastened to the inner closing flap and protrudes up through grommets on the outer, inner, and side flaps. Pulling the ripcord releases all flaps simultaneously, and they are instantly drawn back by bungee cords, uncovering the canopy and freeing the spring-loaded pilot chute that draws the canopy free of the pack and extends it to its full length.

The types T-4 and T-5 28 foot diameter canopy back types were in use almost entirely for training Army airborne troops for mass jumps as paratroops. The canopies of the T-types were deployed by a 'breakaway' cord and lanyard that links the back-packed canopy at its apex to a stressed overhead cable along the troop carrier's interior ending above the egress door.


Often, the parachutes that arrived in our shop for repair and modification had harnesses, which are wrapped around the jumpers to lower them safely, were shredded, canopies ripped and pack containers and emergency survival attachments were scorched and gory. I was in a crew that fixed and packed personnel parachutes, and then drop-tested a number of them selected at random by the shop foreman from each two or three hundred that had been processed for major repairs.

The drop test consisted of attaching one end of a lanyard to the ripcord handle of a service-packed parachute to a 120-pound weight or canvas-covered dummy, loading the weights or dummies into a C-47 airplane, and connecting the free end of the 30 lanyard to a cable stretched taut above the airplane egress door. The door was lashed open. Each of the two men on the test crew wore a back type parachute secured to the airplane frame by a strong webbing belt so that they would not accidentally fall from the aircraft.

The pilot took off and circled the field at about a thousand feet. Approaching the drop zone, the co-pilot flashed a red warning light above the door where the parachute handlers were stationed. At the next signal (green) the handlers, one on each side of drop load, heaved the weight out the door. The lanyard, reaching full length , pulled the ripcord, and the canopy deployed, opened, inflated, and descended. The ground crew tracked the drift of the descending parachute to where it would most likely touch ground and run in that direction.

Ground crew work is not dull. I remember how we would spread out, and watch the dummy as it fell. As soon as we got a fix on where the parachute would land, we'd head for it, haul in one of the 'risers' to spill air from the canopy, and get it all together with the least possible damage to the parachute and to ourselves.

There were times, even on a relatively calm day, when a gust would pass across the field and re-inflate the canopy before we got to it. A partially inflated canopy in a gentle breeze can drag a heavy dummy and parachute along the ground faster than ground handlers can run.

I'll always remember chasing a parachute and its weighted load that a sudden gust dragged, rolled, twisted, and bounced along in a field we were using for the drop zone. Finally, I caught up, and grabbed and hauled back on the risers. I managed to spill enough air to deflate the canopy. Controlling an about 120 pound dummy that's is being tossed around by a breeze can be a bit bruising.

Back at the shop after the tests, we inspected every part and surface of the parachute closely to see how well it had been repaired. At one time, apprentice parachute riggers were not certified until they jump-tested a parachute that they, themselves, had inspected, repaired and packed. Jump certification by riggers was suspended because of the enormously increased workload.


On Sunday, December 7, 1941, I was working the night shift in the Parachute Shop. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that morning was being reported on the radio in almost continuous news flashes. About an hour after the work shift began, our supervisor instructed all male parachute riggers to go immediately to the aircraft maintenance main hangar nearby. Several hundred men from aircraft and aircraft systems repair shops, and other shops on the air base, were already there. They were milling about; I joined them and wondered why we had been called together.

A military officer climbed to the platform at the top of an aircraft maintenance stand. Drawing attention by rapping on the stand's railing with a metal object, he told us that the Air Corps needed skilled workers and supervisors immediately at Hickam Field in Hawaii. Whoever wanted to go, he said, should raise his arm and his name would be placed on a list.

I happened to be single, footloose and fancy-free at the time, and my arm got caught in the updraft. We were told to stand by, and the others instructed to return to their shops. Those of us, who stayed, lined up, and our names, badge numbers, and job titles were entered on a list. Each of us was given an instruction sheet.

The next morning, following the instructions, I reported to the dispensary for vaccinations and immunization shots in both arms, and then to the Personnel Office to sign papers that came at me from all directions. I had a week to get my affairs in order; after that I would be on stand-by for departure. A week later, along with several hundred other volunteer workers, I boarded a train on a siding next to a warehouse, and was on my way west.

The train, with all windows covered by blackout curtains, left Patterson Field, Dayton, Ohio, in the dead of night, and arrived three days later at Moffett Field near Mountain View, California. Disembarked, we lined up for bedrolls, and were pointed toward rows of tents in a muddy field adjacent a dirigible hangar. An instruction sheet, tacked to the tent's center pole, told us where the mess halls were located, and the meals schedule by tent number.

More trains arrived the next day and the day following. Hundreds of civilian workers joined us in the tents waiting for the next leg of our journey. We quickly got to know each other; we had come from all across the country: New York and Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia, Alabama and Texas, Utah and California. The Air Corps bases at which we had signed up were Griffis and Olmstead, Patterson and Robbins, Brookley and Kelly, and Hill and McClellan. We were the vanguard,ready to move out with little or no advance notice.

Except for a carry-on bag, with a change of clothing and personal items, our luggage had gone directly into the ship's hold.

Days passed. The 'alert' came one night at 2 AM. Voices shouted along the lines of tents, 'This is it, you guys. Movin' out. One hour.'

In a torrential downpour, we slogged through ankle-deep mud and climbed into the backs of canvas-covered trucks. Flaps down, escorted by armed military guards in Jeeps, all of the trucks were blacked out except for dim lights gleaming through slits in their headlights. We formed up as a miles-long convoy rolling north along U.S. 101 from Moffett Field, and arrived, shortly before dawn, at Fort Mason, adjacent Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. The trucks filled the pier from end to end; a gangway led up to the deck of a ship alongside. We learned later that she was the U.S. Grant, a World War I troop transport.

Herded below deck, we jammed into compartments where the narrow bunks were five high along aisles barely wide enough for passing. A 'Now, here this... .' over the loudspeaker restricted all passengers to their compartments, and to passageways only when necessary, until we were out of the harbor. We were to have our life preservers with us at all times.

Hours later, the ship's vibration, a back-and-forth shifting in my center of gravity, and creaking along the bulkheads, told me we were under way. Scuttlebutt was that we were in a convoy, escorted by destroyers. Enemy submarines were suspected to be in the area.

We took turns, by compartment number, going on deck. On our way to Honolulu, the convoy zigzagged frequently to minimize the success of an enemy air or submarine attack. Finally, on the fifth day, land appeared on the horizon and, shortly afterward, we saw Diamond Head. Our ship left the convoy and entered Honolulu harbor.

We docked and disembarked, under heavy military guard, at the Aloha Tower pier and boarded the Toonerville Trolley, as we got to know the train on Oahu's narrow gage railway. An hour later, we were at Hickam Field.

The devastation was appalling. Burned-out hulks of bombed aircraft were scattered about on parking aprons, and huge accumulations of debris lay next to aircraft hangars and along the roadways. The roofs of military barracks hung down along the outsides of the structures; they had exploded up and outward over the walls.

As a senior technician, I was assigned to the recovery and repair of damaged parachutes, life rafts, inflatable life preservers, oxygen masks, and the escape-and-evasion kits that air crews relied on when they bailed out over enemy territory. (Note: 'Survival' and 'escape and evasion' kits from (I assume) the South Pacific, Alaska, and China-Burma-India theaters began to arrive at our parachute shop in late 1942 for parachute maintenance, conduct tech order modifications, as required, http://www.bloodchit.com/ replace/refresh kit items and controlled return to the source activity.

The B-7 back type parachute, the 'standard' at the beginning of the Second World War, had a pad of about 2 inches thick of a spungy or foam-like substance encased in a zippered pad installed to serve as a cushion between the parachute wearer and the harness diagonal back straps.

A number of B-7s had been altered to create cutouts about half way through the pad and formed to accommodate shaped packets of medical items, rope, knife, survival guide, blood chit, socks, writing materials and, in a few instances a machine pistol. A sealed medical packet (tourniquet, bandage and pain relief syrette) was also tied to the parachute harness. Looking back now, I believe that these survival guides and kits are among the earliest escape-and-evasion used in WW2, forerunners those that evolved for the current SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) kits, see:

http://cbi-theater-4.home.comcast.net/~cbi theater4/bloodchit/bloodchit.html
The B-7s, when their survival kits were attached, were usually delivered to our shop by an officer or an aircraft crew chief. At other times, I (as senior rigger) was phoned by my contact in the Supply Division (Supervisor of Property Class 13) to stand by for delivery of a controlled parachute. Upon receipt, the parachute was aired, inspected, cleaned to the extent possible, suspect parts and assemblies replaced and Tech Order special inspections and modifications accomplished. Parachutes with overage canopies were replaced; dates of manufacture are stamped on the canopies of all personnel parachutes.

The newly inspected and packed parachute, the checked back pad/survival kit, zipper closed and sealed by a clinched lead seal, the Form 46 parachute log 'signed off' by the journeyman and checked by senior rigger, were returned to the Depot Supply supervisor or, per instructions, to a named person or the crew chief of a specific tail number airplane.
Many of civilian employees of the Hawaiian Air Depot joined Hickam Field's armed civilians, officially titled the Hawaiian Air Depot Volunteer Corps. We were a group of employees who, during non-duty hours, trained to handle and fire a rifle and a pistol, and guarded locations at night where high security was needed. We were armed with '03 Enfield rifles and, at night, patrolled aircraft maintenance hangers, warehouses, instrument repair shops, and an engine repair line at Wheeler Field, near Wahiawa in the Oahu highlands.

As armed civilians, we were each given a card to carry in our wallets. The card stated, in fine print, that if captured by the enemy while carrying a weapon, we were entitled to claim rights as a 'prisoner of war.' The Army Air Corps military officer who commanded our unit said that, since we did not wear military uniforms, nor carry military identification tags, the card would have to do to certify us as 'combatants'. The statement on the card was supposed to keep us from being shot as spies in the event the enemy invaded the Hawaiian Islands.

During the war years, my fellow riggers and I fixed and packed thousands of man-carrying and cargo parachutes, and 1 and 6-man life rafts, and serviced many other types of life-saving and survival gear.

After the war, my job was changed. I was transferred to the office of the chief of maintenance production inspection where investigated and wrote reports on defects that had been found in Air Force equipment that were made by civilian contractors government entities during manufacture or repair. My job was to examine the evidence, and talk to mechanics and anybody else who knew how and why a defect or deficiency occurred. I wrote reports that described what was wrong so that specialists and engineers, who were thousands of miles distant, would understand the problem and solve it.

I worked at Hickam Field until April 1948, and then returned to the place where I had signed up when the war began. By then, the base had grown enormously, and was named Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. My field and depot-level experience in the maintenance and overhaul of personnel and cargo parachutes and aircraft emergency and survival gear qualified me for a 'supply requirements and distribution' position and I was reemployed by the Hqs Air Force Logistics Command Directorate of Supply in that capacity. The 'Korean War' was closing in from the horizon and I was soon deeply involved in meeting USAF urgent requirements for the Korean War and its potential consequences.


Question from a student and my reply:

Q. How did you get from fixing parachutes to writing reports about mistakes and defects?

A. I think my change in jobs came about because of what happened when I worked with parachutes and survival gear. It began in 1942, when large numbers of damaged parachutes were shipped from the Mainland to Hickam Field and other AirCorps bases in the Pacific. The parachutes had ripped and mildewed canopies, badly frayed suspension lines, rusted metal connectors, and the straps that secured the aircrew person in place, were so rotten that they came apart in our hands. Other types of survival gear that came to our shop from the Mainland had obvious defects, too: life rafts and life preservers did not inflate the way they should, escape-and-evasion kits were damaged or had been pilfered, and items that were vital to survival were missing. In many instances, medical kits tied to the parachute harness or in life raft compartments had been slashed open and pain relief syrettes were just 'gone.'

Before 1942, parachute canopies were made of silk or cotton cloth, and the harness, in which the parachutist is encased, was made of cotton webbing. Both silk and cotton are organic materials which can be seriously weakened when attacked by fungus and dampness. That's what had happened to the gear we were getting, much of it recently shipped. Often, the equipment was unsafe, and could not be fixed.

I complained to my supervisor about the quality of the parachutes and survival gear that we were getting from the Mainland, and he passed my complaints along to his supervisor. He told me to put my complaints in writing. I wrote reports that described the damage, and included photographs. The poor quality of the life-saving gear that had been sent to us, I wrote, added to the risk of an emergency bailout from a disabled airplane.

At work one day, I was called to my supervisor's office.

'Just got a phone call from the front office,' he said. 'You're to report immediately to Headquarters, Seventh Air Force. The soldier in the Jeep outside is waiting for you. He'll drive you there. Move.'

Sitting alongside the driver, I wondered what it was all about. The thought that I had made an error in my work made me nervous. Was I being called on the carpet because an injury, or worse, had happened, resulting from an improperly packed parachute?

At Seventh Air Force headquarters, a Colonel cleared me past the security guards and I followed him into an office that had a sign on the door. It read 'Major General White, Commander, Seventh Air Force.' Several men in uniform were standing near a desk at the far side of the room. A uniformed officer was seated behind the desk. In the middle of the room lay several packed parachutes in a heap.

The officer behind the desk, stood, came around, walked to and crouched next to the parachutes. He motioned me to get down beside him. On each of his shoulder tabs he wore a Major General's two stars.

'OK, son,' he said, 'show me the problem.'

My reports had received attention.

I separated the parachutes heaped on the floor. Did any among them include the damage I had reported? I checked the inspection log that accompanies each parachute. The dates showed that the parachutes had been recently inspected and packed at a stateside Air Corps base.

I stood, bent forward over one of the parachutes, and grasped one of its four straps; the strap is known as a 'riser', and it links the wearer to the suspension lines that lead to the canopy. The life of the jumper would depend on the strength of that riser.

Jerking the riser straight up as hard as I could, I shook it repeatedly against the twenty-five pound weight of the packed parachute. The sudden yanks and shakings were only a fraction of the shocks that the riser would get when the parachute's canopy snapped open.

The cords, of which the riser was made, separated, and several cords were shredded. Here was another case where dampness and rotting had weakened an emergency man-carrying parachute into dangerous uselessness. Yet, the parachute had been tagged as 'serviceable'.

The General studied the shredded strap and then glanced at me. 'Thanks, son,' he said. The Colonel, who had escorted me to the General's office, motioned to me and pointed at the door.

As I left, I heard the General say; 'I want a 'personal' on this to Hap Arnold.' General Arnold was the Commander of the Army Air Corps worldwide during World War II, and reported to the President of the United States.

I returned to my job. The quality of parachutes and other survival gear that arrived at Hickam Field from the Mainland quickly improved.

Serious defects in design, operating instructions supply, maintenance, and acquisition of aircraft and their components were also found in other types of equipment and methods used by the U S Air Force. When the fighting part of the war was over, I was assigned to a work group that gathered evidence from technicians, engineers and administrators on what was wrong and to write reports that went to engineers and managers at higher headquarters. They would do what was required to get the problems solved and, when appropriate, issue correcting technical instructions to the reporting field activity or USAF-wide.

In time, my experiences in gathering evidence and analyzing technical and administrative mistakes and deficiencies on the job led to





For an overview of the parachute's history, design, and construction see:



'Wikipedia' describes the parachute and how it works:



About deceleration devices, parachutes and parafoils.



Parachute design and construction (



Paratroopers: 1950s: T-4, T-5, T-7, T-10



Parachutes and their uses:






A memoir about a decision I was required to make relevant to the day that the Korean War started and its context. The issue was an urgent priority for the acquisition of 50,000 aircrew emergency bailout parachutes for United States Air Force-NATO operations in Korea. Chronology and types of USAF aircraft operating in the Korean Theater at the time are based on personal recollections and occasional use of references available from public libraries and the Internet. See:





The technical design and operation of military man-carrying parachutes evolved rapidly after World War II, as did parachute servicing, packing and maintenance methodologies. The Korean War, five years after the end of WW II, began generally with WWII weapons and equipment, much of it overage and obsolescent. Where significant shortages of vital equipment existed or were otherwise considered certain to occur, urgent procurements were initiated, taking into account manufacture 'lead time' and supply and maintenance pipelines to the troops.


Rather than procure the 50,000 man-carrying parachutes as complete assemblies, e.g., in which the canopy's suspension lines are permanently linked to the harness and, through the harness, to the canopy container (pack), as in the past, the procurement I initiated in 1950 was by major components. The components would subsequently be assembled into standard types of complete parachutes by certified technicians at Air Force Materiel Command supply and maintenance depots or certified parachute maintenance shops to meet priority needs in Korea and other support activities.


In 1949, the Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson cut back radically the Armed Forces' programs for weapons and support systems. The Korean War, in which the U S S R and Communist China openly supported and militarily joined North Korea against the United Nations, was launched the following year.


In the early '50s, Hqs AFMC had Command jurisdiction of 8 major industrial depots and at least an equal number of sub-depots and special activities throughout the continental U S and in foreign countries (Europe, Philippines, Japan, Middle East, North Africa, etc.)

For several years following the end of WWII and creation of a separate U. S. Air Force the logistical missions, organizations, and personnel policies for active duty military and civil service personnel experienced important changes in their management, location, and performance of functions. The changes were reflected in chain of command, consolidation and/or wholesale reassignment of materiel property classes, Hqs components and field organizations, transferring or eliminating low priority workloads and assuming new missions and industrial workloads.

Concurrently, the worldwide Cold War and its effects steadily increased in scope and intensity throughout Europe, Africa, and the Far East. Widespread and ongoing post-WW2 reductions-in-force among military and civil service personnel accompanied a nationwide conversion from war to civilian economies.

In 1950, shortly before US military action in Korea (see June 30, 1950 under Time Line), I was assigned to supervise several supply technicians. The primary function of my group was to determine USAF worldwide requirements and distribution for emergency survival equipment which included parachutes, aircrew emergency life preservers, emergency survival kits and their components, and other aircrew personal emergency gear for USAF-worldwide.

Parachutes in the possession of USAF field commands and in back-up supply warehouses at that time had been procured for WWII, which had ended 5 years previously. An unknown quantity of parachutes in warehouse storage had been declared excess to requirements or was close to their maximum authorized 'years in service since dates of manufacture' (the date of manufacture was stamped on the canopy). At the 'maximum' age of 7 years, personnel parachutes were, by USAF regulation, to be removed from further service for aircrew emergency bailout, although they could be used for cargo drops.

Computing quantities of serviceable parachutes and spare parts to be on hand for the USAF active and programmed aircraft inventory was made by type of parachute, e.g., seat, back or chest as applicable to aircraft types. Parachute selection depended on crewmember or passenger stations in the aircraft, space available in cockpit and cabin, access to and through emergency exits, and the aircrew member's weight, e.g., aircrew or passengers above a certain total weight (body weight plus flight clothing, emergency kit, flotation gear and the parachute) were entitled to a parachute that incorporated a larger diameter canopy.)

Based on type of aircraft and aircrew stations (or special circumstances) the harness of a 'quick attachable chest chute (QAC) might be the choice and the canopy pack hooked on to the harness before bailout.

Requirement computations for parachutes took into account quantities in service by type (back, seat, and chest), in the pipeline, and in back-up warehouse storage (serviceable and repairable). Information on quantity and condition of parachutes in storage was not reliable in the years immediately following the end of WWII.

Translating a requirement into acquisition called for justifying funds, ensuring that procurement and manufacturing specifications and tech data were current, and initiating and monitoring acquisition documents. New production parachutes from a commercial source received an acceptance inspection before being shipped to a USAF regional or property class depot or directly to the base supply activity where the requirement existed. There, the parachutes was scheduled to the base parachute shop (part of the Maintenance function) where it received an Air Force directed technical inspection, aired, pre-pack scrutiny, packed for service, a post- pack inspection, and returned to 'Supply' to complete the requisitioning transaction.

USAF parachutes procured from a commercial contractor (manufacturer) are normally shipped unpacked (that is, with the canopy rolled up loosely in the canopy container (pack) and the 4 webbing harness risers permanently connected to the canopy suspension lines by 4 stainless steel links; six suspension (shroud) lines tied and permanently stitched to each link. When suspension lines and harness webbing are so stitched, undoing the stitches weakens reliability at vital points; damaged suspension lines and harnesses must be replaced.

Upon requisition for a 'packed-for-service' parachute the Supply warehouse sends the (unpacked) parachute to a base maintenance parachute shop where it is inspected to ensure that all required parts are on hand and free from damage and defects, and current with latest technical and modification instructions. Normally, the parachute canopy is aired for at least 24 hours in a parachute loft, re-inspected by the certified rigger who will personally pack it for service. A security breakaway-thread and lead seal is pressed over a knot where the forward ripcord pin passes through the pack-closure flaps-retaining cone.

The servicing and packing log, which is marked with the same USAF serial number as the parachute pack and canopy, is signed by the rigger and inserted in a pocket on the pack assembly. The packed parachute is inspected externally by a certified inspector and/or supervisor and returned to supply as 'ready for service.' During WWII and on into the '50s USAF military and civil service certified parachute riggers accomplished these procedures.


Time Line

The following events on the Korean War time line had logistics implications.

-- 1948 April 8 - US troops ordered withdrawn from Korea on orders from President Harry S. Truman.

-- 1949 June 29 - Last US troops withdrawn from South Korea.

-- 1950 June 30 - President Truman orders US ground forces into Korea and authorizes the bombing of North Korea by the US Air Force. US troops are notified of their deployment to South Korea.

The morning following President Truman's order to the Armed Forces to initiate military action in Korea the military chief of the Hqs AFMC Equipment Division, Directorate of Supply, strode along the 'supervisors' row in the office where I worked. He was accompanied by my Branch Chief who was responsible for specified categories of military equipment and supplies, including those assigned to me. Pointing to each supervisor (or desk if it was unattended at the moment) the Division Chief briefly consulted with the Branch Chief, then read off a dollar amount from a spreadsheet he held in his hand. The dollar amount for my area of responsibility was $25 million -- as a starter.

Immediately upon the Division Chief's departure, the Branch Chief assembled his subordinate supervisors and directed that the $-amounts cited were mandatory totals for Purchase Requests (PRs) from each to be his office at the start of business the following day. He would review them and, upon his approval, have them hand-carried to the Division office. The Purchase Requests were to be for most urgently needed equipment and supplies to support current and 'programmed' USAF operations in Korea.


My highest priorities for USAF in Korea were aircrew parachutes, aircraft emergency life preservers, aircrew emergency bailout survival kits (attached to parachute harnesses), oxygen masks, and components ('components,' for instance, took into account that inflatable life preservers are not much help to an aircrew member floating in the sea if the CO2 inflation cartridges had not been checked and installed or had been discharged for an unauthorized purpose. Life vest checklists directed that inflatable life vests would be examined by the wearer or a technician before donning to ensure that the mouth inflation tube connections and CO2 cartridges and emergency inflation levers were intact. It was not unusual to find that the CO2 cartridges were missing or the cartridge seals punctured.

Insofar as personnel parachutes were concerned, 'components' double-checked included ripcords (pins bent, pull cable for burrs or kinks), pilot chute spring action, harnesses, canopy containers (packs), seals on emergency kits, etc.

As combat operations intensified by US-UNCommnd forces in Korea the urgent need for parachutes, aircraft life preservers and other survival and escape-and-evasion gear increased. The United Nations Command (UNC) included the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Belgium, Greece, Canada and Thailand and other nations.

USAF aircraft in the Korean Theater included the P-51, F-80, F-82, F-86, B-29, KC-50, C-46, C-47, C-54, C-82, C-118, C-119 and C-121 and more. See a more complete list at:


The F-51 (Mustang) role in Korea was ground attack. The F-80 (Shooting Star) was the first operational American jet fighter and a major weapon system of the Korean War. The F-80 recorded the first USAF aerial victories in June 1950. The F-80's high accident rate in the early years of the war was attributed to pilots familiar with propeller-driven aircraft transitioning to the faster and more powerful jets. The F-80 was used for ground support after it was replaced by the F-86 in air superiority tactics.

In effect, the USAF was experiencing a major transition from relatively slow propeller-driven to much higher speed jet aircraft - in the middle of an intense air war. The transformation involved upgrade training for jet aircraft air and ground crews, line and support shops technicians were in practically OJT (on the job training), revamping test and maintenance facilities, acquiring and shipping maintenance new tools and equipment, skills, procedures, tech data, etc. Among these drastic and far-reaching changes, parachute compatibility with aircraft was one among thousands.

The new design B-8 backpack parachute applicable to F-86 and F-100 fighters had been standardized in 1944, however, to my recollection procurements had not, as yet, been initiated by the Property Class 13, in which personnel (bailout) parachutes were catalogued and from where Purchase Requests would be initiated. Procurement data existed. Here again, the problem might have been in coordinating acquisition lead-time for equipment to support the Korean War with the Executive Directive to initiate military action. Logistics had to catch up with reality.

The F-86 jet had entered service in 1949, about one year before the start of the Korean War. F-86s and other aircraft, as well as to support aircraft. Personal equipment, including parachutes and other survival gear was also provided to allied nations under Mutual Defense Assistance Programs (MDAP).

The total additional quantity required for USAF immediate needs in Korea and for other developing or programmed USAF operations worldwide was 50,000 parachutes plus spare parts. The U S was well along in its conversion and retooling to a civilian economy that would concentrate on meeting the pent-up needs of the populace. A one-shot relatively short-duration production program for a distant 'police action' did not represent a sound investment to industry.

Considering the time required by prime contractors to reactivate (actually to recreate) product lines, install manufacturing equipment plus acquisition of materials, parachute hardware, manufacturing tools and skills; acquire components through outsource or in-house-manufacture, and lead time to integrate production and assembly, and ship complete parachutes, etc., was much too long. It got down to how many of each type parachute (seat, back or chest) was most urgently needed, and how could we get the right types and number of parachutes to where they had to be. What was the mix of parachute types to be procured commercially, checked through the USAF internal quality assurance process, and shipped (packed or unpacked based on circumstances) to meet Korean Theater needs in a combat environment and rapid changes in the Theater's types of aircraft?

The parachute design engineers at the Wright Air Development Center (WADC) at adjacent Wright Field had, by that time, completed the development, test and evaluation phases of the new design Type B-8 back parachute and it had been judged 'Standard' and ready for an initial procurement action. Lead time for commercial acquisition of the B-8 to meet the Korean War's urgent priority was judged unacceptable in light of availability of tooling up, sub-contracting pipiline time, manufacturing the parachute fabric and hardware, and intergation of the components into a complete B-8 parachute. Acquiring the components separately, funneling them into the USAF depot system's fully equipped and staffed parachute shops with their professionally skilled riggers was considered appropriate and that option directed.


A 'complete' parachute, as procured during WWII consisted of all of its components assembled and permanently connected to each other, except for the pilot parachute, ripcord, and 6 bungee/hook assemblies, all of which were installed by the rigger during the pack-for-service process. When the shroud lines, canopy and pilot 'chute are folded into the 'pack' (container) and the flaps brought up from the sides and over to enclose the canopy, the ripcord pins are inserted through holes in the cones that were brought up through grommets.

The bungee (elastic) cords are hooked to eyes along the packs frame so that they snap the flaps back when the ripcord is pulled to clear the way for the pilot 'chute to eject and draw the main canopy out to full extension. The ripcord cable is run a sleeve of which one end ferrule is fastened to the harness webbing and the other end to the pack side flap in line with the canopy release cones. When the ripcord is pulled, the direction of its withdrawal is from the canopy pack across the wearer's chest.

Based on my experience in parachutes and survival equipment maintenance generally I concluded the best approach would be for several contractors to provide USAF with canopies, harnesses and packs as components. Ripcords, pilot chutes, bungees, etc., could be procured independently from qualified sources and from the tens of thousands of each item that were still new in USAF supply warehouses, excess from WW2. The AFMC depot and/or operating wing's Supply function and Maintenance certified parachute riggers would take it from there and connect the canopies to the right harnesses and packs for the job, pack for service, and get the parachutes to where they were needed.

I initiated the Purchase Requests, and received quick coordination on technical accuracy of procurement data from the parachute engineers and Maintenance technical services. The Purchase Requests, to my knowledge, were approved by the oversight authorities.

Some time later, I was criticized by top management for my initiatives and notified (informally) that an 'action' against me was likely. As it turned out, I was 'transferred' to the Hqs AFMC Directorate of Maintenance to review draft Air Force specifications for 'maintainability' on new types of survival equipment for which procurement was planned, to analyze deficiencies reported from the field on aircrew emergency gear, and to write field maintenance manuals and technical orders.

About a year or so after my transfer from the Directorate of Supply the employee who took my former job told me, in the presence of my former staff, that my 'decision' for parachute procurement had been 'right.' I didn't ask for details.



The Cold War between the United States and the former USSR began in the mid-1940s and extended over the following half-century until the Soviet Union dissolved in the early 1990s. The Cold War's cost to the United States exceeded $8 trillion. More than 110,000 American military lives were lost on foreign soil in the major military conflicts of that era: Korea in the early 1950s and Viet Nam from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Military personnel and civilians killed and wounded on both sides in those two wars and in other Cold War clashes between the US and the USSR and their allies, have been estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.


From 1953 to 1956 I was a U. S. Air Force civilian employee at Nouasseur Air Base, about 20 miles southwest of Casablanca in what was then French Morocco. My job was in the Logistics Plans Office of the Nouasseur Air Depot.

The Air Depot was being built and staffed to serve as one of three major USAF-NATO logistics centers in the European-Med-North African-Middle East Theater in the event of war with the USSR. Each of the three depots would have a primary geographic area to serve with acquisition and distribution of supplies, repair and maintenance of aircraft and equipment, and conducting Military Assistance Programs.

In addition to Nouasseur Air Depot, the Burtonwood Air Depot, near Manchester UK, would support air forces in the UK and European Northern Tier countries, and the Chatereaux Air Depot in Chatereaux, France, about half way between Paris and Marseilles, would support the Central Tier which extended beyond the Northern Tier to the Mediterranean coast (overlapping somewhat with Nouasseur for Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Turkey). Nouasseur (Casablanca) had the Southern Tier, which included North Africa and on into the Middle East and countries along and in the Med and areas which were not within the Northern and Central Tiers.

As a Logistics Planner at Nouasseur, one of my projects was to prepare an element of U S Air Force Europe (USAFE) logistics plans to support the U S Strategic Air Command (SAC). The plan would organize, staff, equip, transport, test and evaluate, and (in the event of war) activate and deploy Mobile Maintenance Teams consisting of U S civil service volunteers. The teams would provide on-site emergency repairs sufficient to continue flights of US-NATO combat-damaged aircraft forced to land in the Middle East/North Africa on return flights from battle zones.

Strategic Air Command bombers and their direct support aircraft in the active and near-future inventory during the early-1950s included the B-47 Stratojet, a six-engine 4,000 mile range medium bomber which entered service in 1950; the B-52 Stratofortress, an eight-engine 8,000+ mile range heavy bomber scheduled to enter operations about 1955, and the C-97 Stratofreighter cargo and tanker versions with four piston-driven engines which had been in SAC fleet operations since about 1950; also late models B-50 and some older B-29s from World War Two.


At the time, the public's apprehension of a worldwide conflagration including use of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons, sparked by a Cold War incident between US/NATO and the USSR, was considered to be high. The memory of World War Two was fresh in everyone's minds, and the U S confrontation with the USSR that brought on the Berlin Airlift, and its implications for the future, were, to many people, of the gravest portent. The Korean 'police action,' another outgrowth of stresses in the relationships between the USSR, Communist China and the U S, was winding down. 'Viet Nam' was on the horizon.

During much of the half century of the post-World War Two -Cold War era the US depended almost entirely on its own economic, military, industrial and human resources to defend NATO and its own far-flung lines. The international competition for country and regional security, resources to rebuild a devastated Europe, and control and administration of conquered territories created a massive arms race that affected the lives and destinies of people everywhere.

In the late-40s/early-50s the US-USSR conflicts of interests were at a critical stage. Intercontinental nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles were far past the drawing boards, their operational capabilities and effects in war had been carefully estimated and were understood.

The US doubled the number of its Air Force groups to ninety-five, and placed great importance on the Strategic Air Command (SAC). The number of SAC wings increased from 21 in 1950 to 37 in 1952. The growth of SAC air power arrayed US military capabilities and strategies to such concepts as massive retaliation and Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) by NATO should the USSR launch a pre-emptive attack in Europe.

American and NATO planners admitted, however, that neither massive retaliation nor MAD, by themselves, would stop a Soviet first strike and an invasion into Eastern and Central Europe and the Middle East. The USSR could count on huge reserves of its still young, combat-seasoned men under arms, pre-positioned war materiel still in prime combat condition, and relatively short lines of transport and communications.

I have no specific information that would verify the following on international negotiations other than publicly accessible media. Obviously, NATO and the US had to counter the potential of Soviet military offensive and defensive resources and capabilities during the early '50s -- less than a decade since the close of World War Two, and the US and its allies, Communist China, the USSR, and Korea already in a war on the Korean peninsula.

Operational ICBMs were still several years in the future. The B-52 bomber, itself, was still in the early stages of production and deployment. Strategic warfare against Soviet oil drilling, refining, storage, and pipeline facilities in the southwest USSR (Caspian Sea area) were expected to slow Soviet military momentum. For this and other reasons, and to support planned military operations throughout the Balkan, Middle East and Mediterranean, the US expanded and modernized its existing facilities to conduct air operations over the USSR southwestern regions.

NATO and the US built or otherwise secured ground, seaport, and air bases and/or implemented joint-use agreements with governments in the Mediterranean area in the event of a NATO-USSR conflict and, specifically relevant to this memoir, in Morocco, Libya, Turkey, and the Central and Eastern Mediterranean generally.

[French] Morocco

In the early 1950s, SAC was the major tenant on military airfields in Morocco: Ben Guerir and Sidi Slimane Air Bases in central Morocco, and Nouasseur Air Base in the desert about 25 kilometers south of the Morocco's dominant port Casablanca. Morocco had been a French protectorate since 1912, and thousands of French citizens and other Europeans had migrated to French and Spanish Morocco over the years and taken up residency. Large numbers of Moroccan, French and other European nationals were employed by the USAF at its bases and the US Navy's tenancy in Port Lyauty, and at other military installations where the U S and/or NATO had been granted French and Moroccan permission to do so.

Throughout the French occupation of Morocco a number of Moroccan nationalist groups formed in opposition to French domination, and they engaged increasingly in nationalist political and guerrilla resistance, including occasional bombings and other acts of violence. Sultan Mohammed V sided with the nationalists and was deposed in 1953. This further angered the Moroccan populace and in-country violence increased.

The Sultan returned from exile in 1955 and Morocco gained its independence some years later. Many French and Spanish citizens returned to their countries of origin. French military forces, business enterprises, and employment for the indigenous population in Morocco became uncertain, and so did the American military presence on Moroccan territory.

In the years that followed, the Libyan government also changed rulers, with the results that American use of Wheelus Field, for any purpose, was revoked. Nevertheless, context and circumstances in North Africa aside, USAF planning for support to SAC operations under general war conditions, and for a variety of military contingencies, continued; in its way, North Africa all along the Med, would likely experience a deja vu of its World War Two experiences, but caught in a nuclear exchange, probably worse.

(In World War Two, oil refineries, such as those in the Romanian Ploesti fields, were important but extremely costly targets. For instance, in one mission, of the 178 B-24s dispatched to bomb Ploesti, 52 were lost, and all but 35 aircraft suffered damage, one limping home after 14 hours and holed in 365 places. These Allied bombing missions originated in and returned to airfields in North Africa; many of the old landing strips, fuel storage, and maintenance shops previously used by German and Italian military occupiers and then by the Allies, were in poor condition, but they were there.)

Caspian Oil Refineries

Assume that, a US/NATO war with the Soviet Union would include strategic air attacks against Soviet oil wells, refineries and other industrial plants, storage facilities, and transport nets. If so, USSR facilities in the southwest USSR (the Caspian Sea area) would have been among the high priority targets.

That being so, planning for US/NATO aircraft to return from bombing runs over southwest USSR included the option to select routes over-flying Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Crete, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and other countries throughout the Middle East, across and along the north and south coasts of the Mediterranean.


It was expected that among returning aircraft there would be those which had incurred severe battle damage. Battle-damaged, or marginally or entirely non-operational in flight for other reasons, the aircrews needed to be helped. Unable to remain airborne to reach an organized repair facility or any location where the airplane could be fixed sufficiently for continued flight that would get the aircrew to safety, the airplane 'fixer' had to 'reach out' to the airplane and the aircrew.

One option, to be implemented immediately upon USAFE, SAC, or NATO notice, was to deploy 'rapid area maintenance teams' comprised of U S civil service employees, along with their tool kits and air-transportable mobile power generators, todesignated locations along the SAC aircraft return routes where battle-damaged aircraft could be quickly fixed and serviced sufficiently to take off and keep going west, if not all the way, then at least to another location where another quick-fix and service could be rendered so as to extend the flight another step in the right direction. Repairs would be accomplished through use of anything from on-site fabricated bits-and-pieces to parts and assemblies cannibalized from wrecked aircraft.

The Plan

My assignment was to plan for, inspect potential fixit sites, work out and integrate the details, and prepare a supplement to the USAFE and SAC overall logistics support plans to close the gap. The tasks were to draft '...how to...' policy and procedural guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP); identify hands-on maintenance and supervisory skills that applied to aircraft in the current SAC operations inventory, and provide for their continuing compatibility with replacement weapons and support systems as they became operational in the theater, identify by skill, name and location committed US civil service technicians and staff currently on duty at a depot, identify U S personnel policies which would need adjustment to the anticipated circumstances and initiate administrative actions to initiate policy changes.

From there, I went on to provide for updating manpower resources to anticipated skills requirements, identify and set in motion urgent-immediate procedures to acquire (by standard practices or otherwise) relevant and current manuals and tech data, general and special hand tools, etc. Get a training plan into operation for the program applicable to maintenance team skills, team crew chiefs, and on-site and regional supervisors.

Maintain a current team member notification system, and ongoing liaison with Hqs USAFE to acquire opportune air transportation from selected pick-up points for Mobile Maintenance Teams and drop-off at forward area emergency work sites. Put it all together, get staff and command approval in principle at Nouasseur, take the draft to Weisbaden (Lindsey Air Base) and get staff preliminary sign-off by Hqs Air Material Force European Area (AMFEA) and Hqs United States Air Force Europe (USAFE). Following that, get the coordination of the Directors of Maintenance and the Commanders at Burtonwood Air Depot UK and Chatereaux Air Depot France (Burtonwood and Chatereaux depots' manpower, tools, and other resources were to be committed to the program, hence their being in the loop for sign-off.)

With that done, I could come home, re-cycle, integrate, and send the package off to Hqs SAC, Offutt AFB, Oklahoma and give them a crack at it.

Along the way, get with SAC and other (unidentified) intelligence types and check the lay of the land from Morocco east to Turkey.


The three Directors of Maintenance at Nouasseur (Morocco), Chatereaux (France) and (Burtonwood) UK assemble personnel committed to Program, and using the previously authorized priorities request Base Commanders for opportune airlift to move skills, tools, supplies, tech data, etc., to the Program's initial team assembly point in a specified maintenance hangar at Wheelus Field, Libya.

At Wheelus, the program manager (a Nouasseur Air Depot military officer and staff) shuffle and combine the physically present skills, tools, etc., so that teams and their kits are formed, organized, equipped, and ready to move according to requirements and priorities at each forward site where maintenance teams are needed. By air, sea or land transport get the teams to their assigned stations, each Civil Service employee equipped with personal gear adequate for survival under the anticipated wartime conditions. Use designated transportation and other support priority, when essential to the mission.

That, generally, was how it was supposed to work, at least in theory. But we knew better. The reality was that as soon as the nuclear threshold was crossed, which was highly probable, a US-NATO-USSR war wouldn't last more than a couple of days - if that.

The plan was one of several that I drafted while at Nouasseur and at other places in those early days of the Cold War. Many personal anecdotes, from the deeply sad and poignant to the trivial and absurd, have been written about World War Two, Korea, Viet Nam, and the other confrontations between the U S and the Soviets, but the Cold War in as many of its facets as possible, needs to be written about, including memoirs such as this, and they should be entered into the nation's lore so that students will see their many perspectives.

Almost two years were spent in working out, drafting and coordinating the details of this SAC support plan. Would it have worked if and when the need arose? Were contingency plans devised for other options? I don't know. Forward area emergency maintenance (Rapid Area Maintenance - RAM) teams that were much further advanced and detailed, yet comparable in concept to the SAC support plan I worked on in Morocco, were used extensively in the Viet Nam War.










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