Beating Up The Canadiens

William McCollum

The cover picture and article in the Spring 1999 issue of SabreJet Classics reminded me of an amusing incident that I was a part of.

In 1956, I was in the 388th Wing (561st Squadron), at Etain AB, France. We had been TDY to Wheelus AB, Libya, and Herb Kochman had done something to upset the squadron CO, Howie Poulin. When we returned to Etain, the CO sent Herb TDY to England for 90 days as punishment. He was ferrying F-86 aircraft from England to Italy.

On one of his early trips, Herb stopped at Etain and remained overnite, and gloated quite a bit about his new `punishment' assignment. At the club that evening, I talked him into letting me fly his "E model" Sabre, actually an RAF Canadair Sabre Mk. 4, the next morning before he departed for Italy. The aircraft did not have USAF markings like the photo on the cover. It only had very small numbers on the tail, camoflage paint, and 120 gallon drop tanks. Quite different from USAF F-86Fs, which were all shiny and had 200 gallon tanks.

I took off from Etain rather sedately, departed the area, descended to low level, and proceeded to Gros Tenquin, where I commenced to beat up the airfield. I then left and headed straight for Marville, where I performed the same stunt. I left Marville and descended to VERY low level and went back to Etain, entered the pattern very sedately and landed just as innocently as possible. I told Herb that I enjoyed the flight. He refueled and departed for Italy.

For quite some time, we heard stories from the Canadiens about the two RCAF units that accused each other of an airfield `attack'. I think I told herb about it some time MUCH later. But I'm not sure. In any case, if either or both of the Canadien commanders are still around, I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations has probably expired on the incident. But if we do meet sometime, I owe them a round.

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