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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

EC-121 Warning Star - Part 3

From about 1966 until 1971, my father was in the service of our country in the USAF during the Vietnam War.  He was in combat flying over the war and spotting enemy planes for the war (police action) in the air over South East Asia.

I asked him once if he was looking for enemy planes so that they could be avoided.  He indicated quite the contrary. They were spotting planes using radar screens and driving the U.S. forces toward the enemy planes to engage them.  The goal of their plane (EC-121 Warning Star) was to stay clear of the fight that would ensue.

Looking back on that conversation with my father, I realized that I never really asked much more.  Fighting and war are a tough subject.  That brief description always made me wonder how they all survived.  War is far from my favorite topic and yet it is a reality.

I had hoped the box that I was looking through at my mom's house would tell me more.  While there was not much written down, there were plenty of military patches, pins, and other uniform bits and pieces.

I did go look up "College Eye" and do know now that my father was in the 965th AEWCS.  My mom thinks he might have started in the 963th AEWCS at a Lt. but was moved shortly after that.  Maybe because he made captain or maybe because they needed more people.  I'm just not sure.  There were three squadrons out of McClellan AFB at the time.

Now, my father would go on TDY to Korat RTAFB, Thailand.  He was stationed in Sacramento at McClellan but was also assigned to Korat.  Now that I know more, I could ask so many questions of someone "in the know".  I do know that he was part of the College Eye Task Force of the 552d Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing.  The USAF used the Royal Thai Air Force Base in Korat as their overseas base.  My father indicated that he was sent there on a number of occasions.  My mom said that right after they were married he was gone for 6 months to Korat.

It would be interesting to have contact with someone who was involved in this particular air command during Vietnam.  My father is no longer around to answer questions.

I've done my best to honor his service in this post.  There is so much more information that I could share about my father, including photos.  For now, this is what I feel comfortable sharing.

Rest In Peace
Brian E. McGuire

Saturday, January 19, 2013

EC-121 Warning Star - Part 2

Recently at my in-laws house, my father-in-law (FIL) and husband were intensely discussing the infantry and military service of their step uncle by marriage.  They knew so much detail and had photos.  I thought to myself, "I know so much more than that about my own father's service."  When I went to look up his group (which is known as an air control wing), I realized that I actually did not know much.  Since I work on my family tree, I decided that I'd dig up "proof".

Before I went digging, I did try to figure out exactly what I'd be looking for.  The 552d AEWCW, McClellen AFB, California was what I was looking for.  I also realized quickly that I was seeking the squadron number too.  I asked my mom but she could not remember exactly what squadron number he was in.  The next time I went to her house, she handed me this:

I asked her about the box.  She said it was probably given to my dad, full of cigars, by his Air Force buddy's when I was born.  The contents hold a treasure trove of what I like to call "proof" and stories that I will probably never fully realize.

Capt. Brian E. McGuire, USAF 

I asked my mom what the medals were for but she really did not know.  She said that after every mission to Vietnam, he'd come home with more medals or ribbons.  While it is not a medal or ribbon, there is patch above that refers to my father as a short timer and says "Go to Hell" on it.  My father was in the Air Force for 4 years and 3 months.  He would say that was long enough for him.

So, I found a lot but there was more.........see my next post.

Since I posted this, I've found out what each medal and/or ribbon he received represented.  They are as follows:

  1. Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
  2. Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
  3. Vietnam Service Medal
  4. Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
  5. National Defense Service Medal 
  6. Air Force Training Ribbon
  7. Air Medal 

Of all of the medals, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal had the most striking description.

This medal was established on Dec. 4, 1961, to be awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces who, after July 1, 1958, have participated in a United States military operations and encountered foreign armed opposition, or were in danger of hostile action by foreign Armed Forces.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

EC-121 Warning Star - Part 1

Years ago, I recall making an attempt to tell my college roommate's military officer father what plane my father flew on in Vietnam.  All that I could remember was that it was a "121" and it was a radar plane.  His rather insolent response back was that there was not such thing.  I attempted to explain to him that I was not clearly recalling the full title of the plane.  Soon after, I abandoned the conversation.

My next experience in working to remember the plane that my father flew on in the military was met with someone who knew what I was talking about.  While I had asked my father a few times what plane he few on during the Vietnam War, it was not always in the forefront of my mind.  The second instance was with a retired Air Force officer.  I was at work helping him as the customer.  Somehow the conversation went to his military service.  He had indicated that he'd flown out of McClellan AFB in Sacramento.  My father had too.  While he was in wars prior to Vietnam, he was definitely up to speed with the Air Force air crafts.

I made my best attempt at telling him the plane.  He came back with "The Connie".  I had not heard the plane called that before.  He said the EC-121 Super Constellation was made by Lockheed.  "That was it!"  I wholly agreed.  He told me a few of his stories and his own interests in these planes.  His recommendation to visit the museum at McClellan AFB was soon forgotten for a number of years after my conversation was over this with gentleman.  At least he knew what plane that I was talking about.

Now, before my father passed away in 2004, the topic of his Air Force days would come up here and there.  He was not inclined to chat about his military service unless it involved some funny stories outside of any missions.  I did get him to tell me more about the plane that he flew on.  Mind you, he was not the pilot, co-pilot, or the navigator.  He was, in fact, the non-pilot officer running the back of the plane.  That would be the radar portion.

The name given to the Air Force (and I suppose the counterpart in the Navy) was the EC-121 Warning Star.  This military version of the Lockheed Constellation was used from 1954 to 1978 as an early warning radar plane with 2 large radomes and 4 tubro supercharged radial engines.

At McClellan Air Field Museum c.2009 Zelsersk

Yes, I finally got to McClellan AFB (now an air field since it is no longer an active military installation) in 2009.  It took me long enough.  I only live about 5 miles from the base.  The museum was very interesting to say the least.