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CMSAF recalls legacy of Andersen's F-4

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Steven Wilson
  • 36th Operations Group Public Affairs
A piece of Vietnam-era and Cold War history is resting here as a tangible legacy for all Pacific Air Forces Airmen and their contributions to the Nation's defense.

The F-4E, number 71-1392, on static display here received an updated paint scheme.
"Corrosion control is a non-stop battle in our environment," explained Maj. David Boles, 36th Maintenance Squadron commander. "Even plastic rusts in Guam."

This particular jet has a rich and colorful history.

According to information supplied by Dr. John Treiber, 36th Wing Historian, this aircraft was "born" on Nov. 9, 1972, and delivered to Ogden Air Logistics Area at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

After a brief stay at Hill, the F-4 began its operational service with the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing in January 1973 at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand.
When its recon duties were finished, the F-4 traded its cameras for weapons and was
assigned as a fighter aircraft with the 432nd Tactical Fighter Wing at Udorn
in November 1974.

After its tour in Thailand, aircraft 71-1392 was transferred to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing, Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines, in December 1975. It finished out its term of service at the 3rd TFW, which formally ended when F-4 Phantom 71-1392 was removed from the inventory in January 1991.

Instead of being shipped to the Air Force Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center, commonly dubbed "the bone yard," in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Andersen officials arranged to have the F-4 flown from Clark, formally retired here and memorialized.

In a cosmic coincidence usually found only in books or movies, this fighter jet destined to end its service at Andersen was launched by an Airman who would always keep a special fondness in his heart for that particular airframe.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley, then NCO-in-charge of the functional check flight section of the 3rd TFW, was the last Airman to launch this F-4 as it made its historical flight to Guam.

"I was on the team that prepared and launched F-4E 71-1392 on its last flight from Clark Air Base, the Philippines, to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam," Chief McKinley said. "I recall we had a Red X condition before getting the aircraft airborne and had to launch it twice. I always loved working on the F-4; it's a great aircraft."

The Air Force's top enlisted leader said he'd never forget this special gull winged airplane.

"I keep a model F-4 on my desk, and the reminder always brings me fond memories of my time as an F-4 maintainer," said Chief McKinley.

The jet arrived here April 23, 1991, and was formally dedicated in November of the same year.

A 1993 news brief provided by Dr. Treiber states that while Andersen never had F-4s formally assigned, the base supported more than 3,000 F-4 sorties beginning in March 1965.

Andersen was a frequent stopping point for F-4s entering or leaving the area of operations in Southeast Asia during the buildup prior to and during the Vietnam War.

"If you read the plaque in front of the aircraft you'll see that this base was a major fighter way station to and from Asia in the 1960s - 1970s," Dr. Treiber said. "The link is there but it's limited."

The wing historian explained the recently removed paint scheme on the F-4 depicting it as the flagship for 13th Air Force stemmed from Andersen being 13th's headquarters from 1991 - 2005.

When 13th Air Force departed Andersen, the F-4 did not reflect the current wing organization or structure.

"Fortunately, when the 36th Wing was the 36th Fighter Wing at Bitburg, Germany, it flew F-4Es along with other platforms," Dr. Treiber explained. "Therefore, the new paint job links the aircraft to the 36th Wing's illustrious fighter past. On the other hand, the tail code makes it distinctly Andersen's airplane."

Dr. Treiber said he hopes Andersen's Airmen and visitors enjoy seeing and having their photo taken in front of the new base symbol.

Major Boles summed up the F-4 static and its B-52 counterpart in Arc Light Park as legacies to America's Airmen.

"The mighty maintainers are responsible for maintaining the B-52 and F-4 static displays as memorials to the Airmen who supported the mission from the base, launched the aircraft, and to those who flew them in combat," he said.

Andersen's Airmen continue to pave the way forward with current lethal platforms, like the B-2 Spirit deployed here, just as their predecessors did with what have become legacy aircraft. Airmen here are continually supporting stability in the Western Pacific region. Perhaps someday aircraft flown today will be forever memorialized somewhere on Andersen for future generations of proud Airmen as corporeal reminders of where their Air Force came from.

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