TAIL ZAP

THE RCAF VISIT TO THE 496TH FIS
AT HAHN

by Ralph Waddell

During the late 1950s, the 496th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, stationed at Hahn All, Germany, established an on-going association with the RCAF fighter squadron at Marville, France. RCAF No. 439 Squadron was flying the Canadair Sabre Mark 6. On many occasions while on local missions, we would find ourselves confronted by several Mark 6's and friendly air combat maneuvering training would ensue, i.e. 'Rat Race'! A very friendly rivalry was established between the 496th pilots in their D model Sabres, and the RCAF Mark 6 pilots.

We also scheduled social visits to their base, and they would visit us at Hahn. I remember one of their visits to Hahn very well. It was in the spring of 1958. The Canadians flew an afternoon training mission and recovered at Hahn. Our maintenance crews took care of their aircraft, while the pilots gathered at the Officers Club with us. It was a night of good fellowship, a good dinner, and some social drinking. All in all, a grand evening. It culminated with a parade through the Hahn housing area at about 4 in the morning - led by a Canadian pilot playing a very LOUD bagpipe. We heard about this from base personnel numerous times during the next several weeks.

In the meantime, our maintenance and alert crews had been busy on the flightline. The tail flash on the Mark Es was a large Sabre-Tooth Tiger on the camoflaged aircraft. The tail flash on our 496th F-86Ds was black and golden yellow emanating from the apex of the rudder. But during the night, while both the Canadian and 496th pilots were enjoying themselves at the O-Club, all the RCAF aircraft were repainted with the 496th tail flash colors.

Imagine the surprise of the Canadians when they came to the flight line the next morning to head back to Marville. Later, I was told the hardest part was convincing the Marville tower operators to let them land once they got home! Of course, we subsequently visited Marville to reciprocate the visit of the Candian pilots. Knowing they would retaliate, and not being stupid, we flew down in our C-47, leaving our aircraft at home. All except for the T-33 flown down by our Operations Officer. The next morning, we awoke to find the T-Bird painted a glorious red, with a large Sabre-Toothed Tiger flowing all the way down the side of the aircraft. It was truly a thing of beauty.

They bad gotten us back in a big way. However, them was one difference. When we painted the tail flash on the Mark 6s, we had used water paint so it could be removed without too much trouble. But our T-Bird was painted with enamel, and it took a lot longer to remove it.


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