MY SABRE STORY

by Jim Ramsay

I flew the F-86H with the Massachusetts Air National Guard while based at Logan International Airport in East Boston. We were reorganized into Tactical Air Command as the I01stTactical Fighter Squadron and were equipped with Sabres in summer 1953.

I was assigned to command the 101st in 1956 after the tragic death of our squadron commander, Colonel Joseph W. Mahoney, in an F94B crash. Colonel Mahoney had adopted long, Irish-green lightning streaks along the full length of our F-94s' fuselages on both sides, in recognition of his and several squadron pilots' Irish heritage. Subsequently, in memory of Colonel Mahoney, we adopted the shamrock as our squadron's symbol. In this form, we became known as the "Irish Air Force"! Incidentally, our brother 131st Tactical Fighter Squadron, based at Barnes Municipal Airport in Westfield, MA, with Sabres trimmed in red and white stripes, became nicknamed the "Polish Air Force", as their commander was Colonel Bruno Grabovsky. They flew F86H-1s with six .50 caliber guns. I remained our squadron commander throughout our F-86H years.

I knew no one who flew the "H" who did not thoroughly appreciate it as the Cadillac of fighters in that era. None of us had previous F-86 experience, although some had flown P-51s. Our transition from F-94Cs was enjoyed by all, and we had NO pilot recruiting problems throughout our Sabre years. This lasted until summer 1965 when there were just too few suitable Pratt and Whitney jet engines for the "H", forcing us through another aircraft transition.

Our eight Sabre years were very active. We flew many multi-service exercises, such as Swift Strike I, II, III, three years in a row, with many other Air Force, Reserve and Tactical Air Command units, together with several Army airborne and armored organizations from Pope and Shaw Air Force Bases, Fort Bragg, Travis Air National Guard Base in Savannah, Hunter, and others. I feel out 101st TFS was an early and frequent leader in mobility demonstrations. During one 15-day annual field training period in the summer of 1959 or 1960, we fiew 20F-86Hs to Nellis Air Force Base for two weeks of live weapons training on their Indian Springs weapons range. We flew that first Saturday from Logan to Nellis, with refueling stops at Wright-Patterson, Ofiut and Hill Air Force Bases. Nellis was skeptical we could accomplish such a plan. We did it, though, arriving over Nellis within minutes of our planned arrival time, peeling off five flights of four for landing. Nellis tower, ground control and their follow-me vehicles directed us to our assigned parking ramp, but no one was there to meet us! I parked and shut my lead Sabre down, jumped out and personally directed the parking of my 19 associates! Our ground crews from Logan arrived later using a non-stop MATS air lift after launching us. Embarrassed advisors and a few advance party ground support people greeted us on Sunday! They were absolutely certain we could not possibly complete that deployment in one day!

We were federally activated in October 1961 during the "Berlin Crisis". We island-hopped to Europe via Goose Bay, Sondrestrom, Greenland; Kefiavik. Iceland; and Prestwick, Scotland, to Phalsbourg, France. There, with the Massachusetts ANG's 131stTFS and the New York Air Guard's "Boys from Syracuse", also in F-6Hs, we formed the 102nd Tactical Fighter Wing. We were commanded by Major General Charles W Sweeney (no relation to General Walter Sweeney, then commander of TAC) of Nagasaki fame who flew observation/safety on Colonel Paul Tibbets' Hiroshima B-29 mission. From here, as members of Major General Harold Spicer's 11th Air Force and General Troman Landon's USAFE, we flew many hypothetical tactical missions, exercises, operational readiness inspections and stan-evals all over Europe. We often worked with U.S. Army and other NATO ground and air forces, for whom we formed great respect and received much in return. Our distinctive green-trimmed Sabres' noses were very favorably recognized, especially among allied ground forces. On some joint missions, we joined with several Royal Canadian Air Force reserve units. We also few an exchange operation with a Luftwaffe squadron in Germany flying Mk. 6 Sabres. This squadron was commanded by Colonel Horst Kallerhauf. He and I concluded we had very probably engaged each other at least once during World War Two! Some of our activities took us to Spain, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as to Italy where I had served with the 15th Air Force flying F-5s (P-38s) during World War Two. We maintained a detachment at Wheelus Air Base in Libya (King Idris' regime) where we constantly rotated flight and ground crews for live weapons firing and delivery practice over the North African desert and the Mediterranean Sea for some exercises. We resumed Guard status in Boston on October 1, 1962, after a westward retrace of our European/North African deployment.

Air-to-air refueling capability or dragchutes for landing rollout may have had some benefit for the F-86H, but if they had reduced its overall performance somehow, then we agree with the decision not to add them. We adapted "mice" supplements in our tailpipes that, on average, helped increase our thrust to nearly 10,000 pounds. Our aircraft were F-86H-5s and -10s, all equipped with four 20mm revolving cannons replacing the .50 caliber machine guns on prior Sabres. There were many other less conspicuous refinements, such as a much improved gun and weapons camera, and later generation UHF avionics.


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