THE SAUCE DID IT

by James B. McCain

When the 330th Fighter Interceptor Squadron returned to Stewart AFB, New York, from the Air Defense Command rocketry practice in Yuma, Arizona on 20 April 1958, we were surprised to see a large banner iIn front of operations. The inscription read, 'Welcome Home Deadeyes!" We were met not only by our families, but the 579th Air Force Band and other well-wishers, including a lot of brass since Eastern Air Defense Force Headquarters was housed at Stewart. The party started when our squadron commander's wife cut a large cake.

The 330th FIS had broken all existing records at Yuma up to that time. Our percentage almost doubled the previous record set earlier that year. Our accuracy was evident in the fact that the squadron had downed twenty-two of the Del-Mar reflector targets in comparison with the previous high of nine. Many opportunities for hits were missed because the targets, which were being towed by other aircraft, kept being knocked down leaving nothing to shoot at!

Moving the squadron from New York to Arizona was not an easy chore to begin with because the F-86D was never built with cross-country flying in mind. Due to the limited range it was a number of short hops. I had a sick bird on the way out that would not give the required tailpipe temp, which greatly increased my takeoff roll. But to write it up would mean I would've been stuck somewhere awaiting maintenance and missing out on all the fun. So I became very determined to make it all the way to Yuma.

Taking off from Biggs AFB, Texas, I used virtually all of the big runway, normally used by B-36s, chasing jackrabbits for five miles or so before I could get the gear and flaps up with safety. At Albuquerque, I had an advantage. I just drug on out past the edge of the mesa where I had room to sink before cleaning up the airplane. Most of us stopped in Las Vegas for the night where I heard a fabulous concert by Nat King Cole at the Sands Hotel. The cost was an unbelievable $4.00! A treat that was truly "Unforgettable."

When we all gathered in Yuma, actually Vincent AFB, the first thing I heard was that our commander, Malor Steiner, had made a stop at Biggs, crossed the border and got a good supply of 'fire water'. Anyone who has ever been around an F-86D knows there is no place for luggage of any kind. But being the ingenious fellow that he was, Major Steiner managed to stash it all in the cockpit, behind the seat among the oxygen bottles and such. To my utter delight, when he reached altitude all the corks let go, and let go, and let go!

Our record was praised in the base newspaper with very high praise going to aircraft malntenance and radar specialists for getting everything back in shape. Those guys put in some very long night hours, and I'm sure that had a lot to do with our success. But the pilots had a different slant on things.

The first few days we hardly scored any hits and everyone was down and disgusted. After a few days of this, someone suggested a party. That night almost everyone got pickled. Next morning when the sun came up, there was great difficulty getting guys to the flight line and into the air. But you know what? That was the day we started getting hits. Everyone would come in from the flight bragging on how great each run had been and describing graphically just how each run was accomplished.

It was truly a night for celebration! Naturally the main topic was why did we do so well when we had been doing so poorly? After much discussion, it was decided that the answer was obvious. We had always been taught that we were to make smooth corrections when following the steering dot on the radar, in order to make a successful run ending with the dot buried in the line when the rockets were fired. On that particular day, with everyone having an aching head from the night before's libations, no one wanted any unneccessary movement. Thus the flying was very, very smooth! Therefore, THE SAUCE GOT THE CREDIT!


No portion of this article may be used or reprinted without permission from the President of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association or the editor of Sabre Jet Classics magazine.


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