AN UNTOLD TALE

by Bill McCollum

I completed the 'Tiger' program at Nellis in April 1954. We had a group of Korea veterans as our instructors. They taught us how to'really fly the F-86'. My next stop was Clovis AFB, New Mexico in the 561st FBS, 388thFBW.

There were only twelve of us 2nd lieutenants in the squadron. And only four of those were going to get to fly an F-86F during the move to Etain AB, France later that month. We had a coin toss and I was one of the lucky ones (or unlucky - your choice!). We left Clovis on Thanksgiving Day 1954, and arrived at Hahn All, Germany on the 4th of January 1955. Etain wasn't ready for us yet, so the three squadrons of the 388th Wing went to Hahn, Bitburg, and Spangdahlem. A year later the wing and I moved to Frain.

Sometime in 1956, Herb Kochman was sent to England to ferry some F-86Es (actually, ex-RAF Sabre Mk.4s) to Italy and Yugoslavia. (Sabrejet Classics carried a similar story from member Gary Sparks in vol. 7-1, Spring 1999.) This was supposed to be a 'punishment' by the squadron CO for some infraction that my "CRS" mind can't dredge up at the moment. But Herb always said it was one of his favorite assignments.

During one of his early trips, Herb came into Etain to spend the night and brag at the bar. I talked him into letting me fly the 'E' model that he brought in the next morning before he left. He said sure and I immediately was looking forward to flying a different model of the '86. I took off early, immediately went low level to Marville (an RCAF Sabre base) and proceeded to beat up the base. Then I went to Gros Tenclum, another RCAF base, and did the same thing. Then back down low for the return to Frain and landed.

Herb refueled the airplane and departed, not having a clue about what I had been up to in 'his' airplane. Now, you realize that alI the Air Force F models that we had were natural metal finish,with big numbers and markings that plainly said "US Air Force". And we carried the big 200 gallon drop tanks. The E model that Herb had brought in was camouflaged, had small 120 gallon drop tanks, and had no markings other than some tiny number on the side of the fuselage or tail. (The Canadair serial number)

In any case, we heard rumors the next few days that the two Canadian wing commanders were giving each other fits about who had done the job on their base. I trust that the statute of limitations has expired on the event, so I cannot be charged at this time. But it sure was a lot of fun!


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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