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Sandy Beach To Paris


The preparations were being completed. That part of the supplies which had arrived were being loaded on board the SC-47's medical specialist had been inoculated, given passports and visas, briefed and rebriefed on the area and the mission.


The flight crew and commander departed in formation at 0800 on 15 August 1961. Enroute to Norfolk or first crisis was faced. Waldvogel had forgotten his passport. A long-distance phone call from Norfolk to Marge reminded him to check in the bottom of his brown bag. With that crisis surmounted, debriefing was conducted at the Venice Restaurant.


Wednesday morning found several clouds south of Harmon. With reckless abandon the 4400th ordered the armada to proceed to Langely. With ditching drills completed, Waldvogel and Scarpino made excellent take-offs. Scarpino's landing was somewhat disconcerting. Hereafter only pilots may make take-offs and landings. At this stage our second crisis was encountered. Maxwell lost his wallet, complete with money and identification. To soften the blow, he was entrusted with the position of Morale and Social officer.


The early flight to Harmon ended in GCAs through a rugged storm. A rousing birthday party for Scarpino and Waldvogel was organized by the M&S officer.


The flight of 18 August to Lajes was cut short as Walker's HF radio failed near Argentia. 430 remained at Argentia while 508 took off for maintenance at Harmon and to return later in the afternoon.


A flat strut on 430 delayed take-ff. Later we proceeded toward Lajes. Later we proceeded toward Lajes.


Chaffing rings being changed on 430 delayed the possibility of take-off until afternoon. The controller desired for us to depart immediately. We decided to rest until morning.


Our early morning take-offs were made around 32,000 pounds gross weight. After “communication difficulties” (violations might follow the admission of not having the correct crystals) we landed at Evreux AB, France. Debriefing was conducted at the Viking until closing time.


On 22 August briefings and arrangements were made until mid-afternoon. Most of the troops adjourned to Paris, thereafter for social studies. By this time, the team utilizes Phillips as Transportation Officer, while Gaston handles all aspects of Quarters, Subsistence and Morals. Again at Evreux nine hollow shells quietly absorbed briefings by Col Rush, Vice Division Commander, Lt/Col Wolf Dir TransOps, Lt/Col Robert, USAFE Intelligence, and Lt/Col Docksteader, Div Weather Officer on 24 August. An American strike team of Waldvogel, Maxwell, and Phillips deployed while the remainder returned to Paris for make-up operations.


Meanwhile, back in the new world, the maintenance/medical team departed home base with supplies on 23 August, for stops at Andrew and McGuire. Coburn accompanied the equipment to Dover, and Château roux. The others led by Elisson, flew directly to Orly, arriving 23 August. On the 26th Coburn and the supplies arrived at Evrux. On the 27th the remainder of the Maintenance/Medical team reached Everux. There additional supplies, including mosquito nets were obtained. The aircraft were loaded and all personnel enjoyed a needed rest for the evening.


South to Bamake


The two-hour stop at Torrejon provided Doc Balch ample time to obtain additional malaria pills. A few other supplies were picked up at Nouanseur.


The stop at Atar, Mauritania, on 29 August was made in the desert heat (127 F). The French provided the wine and gas. Eighty minutes were more than ample time for sight-seeing. 

As we flew southward, Mali became less arid. The inter-tropical convergence provided several hours of rough flight. Prior to our arrival at Bemaka, low ceilings and rain shower moved into the area. Neither aircraft was able to get into Bamako after repeated attempts. The tower was unable to give the weather reports at possible alternate fields. The fuel reserve dwindled to one hour. Walker attempted another ADF approach and broke out of the clouds at a few hundred feet to complete a landing. McEwen attempted several approaches down the river at 500 feet with Waldvogel map reading the riverbank. Finally, an approach 100 to 200 feet over and down the river was made for a successful landing.


The residents reported this as the worst storm of the year. All five pilots agreed, after wiping their brows, that this was the most rugged approach of their flying experience.


On hand to greet us were Ambassador Wright, Colonel Manin and many Embassy personnel. A few officers were quartered in the Majestic Hotel and all other personnel at the Mali Mess. The aircraft were parked on the civil side of the field. All personnel were adequately served and quartered.


Qualifying The Troops


Cordial relations were reestablished with the maintenance and operation personnel of Air Mali. On 31 August Ambassador Wright gave a comprehensive briefing to all Air

Force personnel. A control lock, empennage, and two instruments of 430 were damaged by the prop blast of a transient C-124. While repairs were being rushed to completion by the maintenance team, Walker and crew flight checked the local area and drop zone (1 Sept). The Mali paratroopers and students were familiarized with the interior of our aircraft. Arrangements were completed by us to place on display a C-124, which had brought a medical truck to Mali. We conducted tours and explained the gift to local citizens. Meeting and favorably impressing the population receives considerable attention. Standards of shines, haircuts, neatness, shirttails, handshaking, friendliness, and deportment are maintained. Doc Balch has implemented procedures for filtering, boiling and chemically treating all drinking water. Vitamins and malaria pills are taken and recorded.


On Saturday 2 September, wind dummies and two seven-men sticks were dropped from each aircraft in the drop zone west of the airport. A second load was picked up without cutting engines to bring the total for the day to 55 jumpers. That evening the party at the home of Mr Kim was well attended by Air Force types.


On Sunday, 63 men were dropped just under and in low hanging clouds. Communications are maintained with the drop zone using 121.5 MHz. No one could hear an

VHF emergency call from Bamako anyway. Contact is also maintained with the control tower at all times. Distinguished passengers were Ambassador Wright and son, Minister of Defense Diskite and Lt Col Mahin, Chief of MAINISH.


Sgts Ewing and Elison have broken dentures, which bear testimony to the hardness of the French bread. A second member of the maintenance drinking team has prudently agreed to join the first to climb aboard the wagon of sobriety. This will be an additional blow to Henri at La Chantilly Bar des Sports, but losses are to be expected in large operations.


Today’s drops were conducted at 1450 feet instead of the usual 1230 feet, above the ground so we could stay out of the clouds. Emalite’s 508 is still on the initial, maintenance-wise. 


Each Wednesday McEwen attends the Ambassador’s staff meeting. The Ambassador has been very generous in his praise of the conduct, appearance and performance of all Air Force personnel. The Ambassador is a leader of action, force and intelligence. An example of his thoughtfulness is his visit to Scarpino who is presently enjoying the alternate coolness and warmth of malaria.


On 8 September we began parking our aircraft on the military side of the field, now that the French have removed all military personnel and equipment from Mali. Czech and Russian aircraft are parked a few feet from our aircraft.


Saturday the Air Force of Sandy Beach hosted as trash and a half. The theme was Tahiti. Native musicians as well as records were utilized. The quarters of misses Kecobedo and Leicht of the Embassy were completely decorated a la Tahiti. High points of the evening and morning (until 0500) were Phillips’ bongos, Maxwell’s expressive dancing, and Walker’s strumming.


On Sunday, 10 September no radio contact with the control tower could be made. After we had taken off the tower asked us where we were going. On Monday, as we loaded the aircraft, the motorcade of President Modibo Kaita stopped in our area. He inspected the parachutists, shook hands with most of the men, and parked on the end of the runway. We took off over his head. He observed the drop before proceeding to his meeting with President Kennedy.


Walvogel, Johnson, Ewing and four others have been able to make contact with the Ghana Embassy personnel. They attended a small party. This is the first American contact of consequence with this group. Frequent volleyball games include such stalwarts as Bianchi, Hyland, Lucas and Stuckmeyer.


The parachutist company was brevetted in a ceremony attended by all American military personnel on 14 September. We flew every day from our first flight 1 September, except on 4 September (high winds and low ceilings) and 8 September (insufficient packed parachutes), and on 12 September (storm, low ceiling). There was only one aircraft about during this period. This was caused by a defective pilot system. At the brevetting ceremony there was much singing, toasting and camaraderie.


Sunday, the Air Force and Army officers trounced the enlisted personnel at baseball. The losers cheerfully bought the beer and soda pop.


McEwen has been participating in weekly workouts at the Bamako judo club. There are only two other black belt holders in Mali. McEwen is the senior judoka of Mali.


Monday and Wednesday flights were made in preparation for Mali Independence Day. In the morning of 22 September there were speeches and parades. A huge crowd including President Keita and the Diplomatic Corps witnessed the drop at 1400 of to wind dummies and four sticks (two per aircraft) of Mali paratroopers, a total of 32 jumpers. The timing was excellent and each stick landed within 100 yards of the target. Everyone from the Ambassador to our truck driver was well pleased with the performance.


Louis J. Combs

Major, USAF

Historical Officer



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