A COLD WAR TALE

A COLD WAR TALE
NOT IN EUROPE

by Jack 'Spider 'Webb

I was employed by Minneapolis-Honeywell in New Or-leans as a sales engineer, living in the French Quarter, and flying F-86Ds with the 159th FIG, Louisiana ANG, at Alvin Callendar Field/New Orleans Naval Air Station.

I was in the alert shack sawing logs one night when the klaxon went off at 0230 hours. I jumped up, ran out-side, mounted the mighty Dog, and the ground crew was already starting the APU. Per Ground Control's instructions, I taxied out and was cleared for takeoff. The tower instructed me to contact "Big Burley", the GCI site located at Houma, about 70 miles from New Orleans.

Going through 5K, they told me they had an unidentified aircraft at 18,000 feet and vectored me to 'intercept and identify'. Climbing out in `burner on the assigned heading, I was able to pick up the target on radar and swung around behind the target, which I saw was an airliner, 4 engine prop type.

I told the GCI folks this info but they wanted aircraft numbers. It was pitch black and we'd been briefed not to get too close to civilian aircraft, but `Big Burley' insisted. I said I must have authorization from the highest level. They came back in about 2 minutes with a code - "Kilo Alpha Zulu" - which was their highest level. I pulled up on the right side of the DC-6, put on my landing lights and read that it was an Aeronaves DC-6, and passed the tail number on.

When I put my landing lights on and yawed to the left to light up the fuselage and tail, I saw nothing but eye-balls staring out the passenger windows. Needless to say, I had to report to our group CO the next day and explain what had happened. After I gave Col. Ed Murphy the details and the code I'd gotten from `Big Burley', I was off the hook.

Of course, Cuba wasn't that far away and Castro had many MiGs and was considered a threat. After all the jockeying around, I was `Bingo' fuel and had to land at Chennault AFB at Lake Charles to refuel. Then back to New Orleans. So much for that nights sleep!


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