At Bakalar Air Force base north of Columbus, an era has come to an end. Last week, after nearly 11 years of supporting Army paratrooper training and 23 years as an Air Force Reserve airlift unit, a C-119 "Flying Boxcar" of the 434th Tactical Airlift Wing flew the unit's final airlift support mission.
The 434th has been flying airlift missions since its birth in the U. S. Army Air Corps during the second world war. Organized in 1943, men of the unit saw action in England and France flying C-47's. Reservists have been flying missions in support of the Army's paratrooper training since 1958 and have dropped over a quarter million troops since that time. In addition they have dropped more than 100,000 in joint service war game exercises. The last of those missions was flown by the 931st Tactical Airlift Group last week. Now the Group is preparing for its new mission flying U-3 forward air controller aircraft.
Two Columbus area men were members of the crew. They were M/Sgt Larry Brown of Franklin and S/Sgt Nelson O. Monroe, 3337 McCullough Lane, Columbus. Aircraft commander was Lt. Col. George A. Lutz, Jr., Ridgeville; co-pilot 1st Lt. Hugh Graham, Muncie; and navigator Major William G. Ramose, Bloomington. "We felt a sense of finality as the mission came to an end, said Colonel Lutz. "We hate to see Tactical Airlift go, but we are looking forward to the challenge of flying a new aircraft and training for a new mission."
"It is impossible to estimate the total numbers of passengers hauled and tons of cargo transported since 1947," commented Col. Alfred Verhulst, Commander of the 434th and of Bakalar. "I am sure the figures are in the millions." For example, from June to December last year, the 931st airlifted 153.8 tons of cargo and 1,299 passengers. The unit airdropped 106.3 tons and 6,792 paratroopers. This was accomplished while a sister group, the 930th, was on active duty in Vietnam flying AC-119 gunships. In addition, the group extended its accident free flying time to 45,039 hours.
During 1967 both Groups of the 434th flew 1,050 tons of cargo a total of 636,430 ton miles. There were 4,613 passengers flown over one and a half million passenger miles and 13,988 Army paratroopers were airdropped.
As a Tactical Airlift unit, the 434th participated in many highly significant Air Force programs. From 1961 to 1963, the unit was a part of the Air Force recovery team which snatched nose cones in mid-air as they returned from space.
The unit was mobilized in 1951
for the Korean conflict and spent 21 months on active duty. Again
in 1962, it was mobilized for the Cuban missile crisis. It was
selected in 1965 by the Tactical Air command to test off-set
and trail formation procedures for C-119 operations. Bakalar
reservists developed a new extraction system for airlift operations
in 1966. The system was dubbed SPARS for Slingshot Positive Aerial
Delivery system. SPARS is presently being considered by the Air
Force for adoption as a technique for Tactical Air delivery of
supplies and equipment. The system is capable of extracting as
many as 52 bundles from the C-119 in four seconds. Wing chief
navigator Major Donald E. Johnson of Taylorsville estimates one
half million tons and more than a quarter of a million troops
have been dropped since 1958 in support of the Army training
program. This involved about 6,600 hours of flying time.
Early aircraft flown by the Wing include the C-47 "Gooneybird" and the C-46 "Commando." Reservists transitioned into the C-119 "Flying Boxcars" at Bakalar in 1956. Since then the 931st has logged over eight million miles of accident free flying time. This involves 45,039 hours of flying.
When the mission change to forward air control was originally announced last January, it was thought that the C-119 would disappear from the skies over Columbus. As an interim aircraft, until regular forward air control aircraft can be obtained from the Air Force, Hoosier Air Reservists will fly the U-3 "Blue Canoe," manufactured by Cessna Aircraft Corporation and comparable to the civilian Cessna 310. However, C-119's will now remain at Bakalar. Last month the Air Force announced that the 930th, now serving in Vietnam, would be released from active duty next June and return to Bakalar. They will continue to maintain combat readiness as a reserve AC-119 gunship unit rather than an airlift unit, however. They will fly the transport version of the "Flying Boxcar" until more aircraft can be converted to the gunship configuration.
The end of the tactical airlift era has ushered in a new chapter in the 434th's history. "One of our biggest jobs and challenges is ahead of us," said Colonel Verhulst. "The task of conversion to a new aircraft and mission will require new approaches and unique solutions to seemingly impossible problems. I am convinced the high spirit and 'can do' attitude typical of the men of the Hoosier Wing will rise to the challenge; building a bigger and better Air Force reserve unit.