Sixty individuals from the four corners of the continental United States attended. Many facets of the B-58 Hustler programwere represented by thoseat this homecoming. Weshared highlights of our common experiences and teamwork. Comradery was enjoyed by all as we renewed the concept of "family" from the relationships and favorable outcomes, as well as the setbacks, we encountered a half-century ago.
The B-58 Hustler Association appreciates
Tom Kelley,Chairman of the Board, and Jim Price, Executive Director, of the Grissom Air Museum, for hosting this B-58 Hustler Hoosier Homecoming and Armed Forces Day Open House, respectively.
Tom Kelley provided the following view of this event:
It was a “Gathering of Eagles”. Last weekend the Grissom Air Museum hosted a reunion of Hustler era Bunker Hill and Grissom airmen, many of whom were returning to the area for the first time in 50 years. These men flew and supported the mission of the world’s first supersonic bomber, the B-58 Hustler. The US Air Force maintained only two wings of these highly advanced nuclear strike aircraft during the 1960s, and one of them was at Bunker Hill-Grissom Air Force Base.
Col. Earl Barlow (ret) and his wife Dorothy came all the way from Spokane, Washington. “We got here on Tuesday because we wanted to look up a few old friends. But we didn’t have to come that early, most of them are dead”, the slim, energetic old man with a military posture, who had cheated death many times as a Hustler pilot at Bunker Hill and then a combat pilot in Vietnam added with a grin.
Another pilot, Lt. Col. John Yuill (ret) of Texas also went to Vietnam after the B-58 program was cancelled. Shot down in a B-52 during the 1972 “Linebacker II” bombing missions over Hanoi, Lt. Col. Yuill was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese. “I was a prisoner only for a short period of time. I received humane treatment and feel there is no way to compare myself to those "real" POWs who were prisoners for many years. The POW story is theirs to tell, not mine. I am honored to be associated with these men. I cannot say enough about their courage, faith and leadership. I will say that my short stay in Hanoi reaffirmed my faith in God, friends, and country. They all performed magnificently!”
Rob Blakeslee woke up in his Orlando, Florida home on Saturday morning and decided that he needed to be part of the Museum’s celebration. His father, Maj. Richard Blakeslee was killed along with the rest of his crew in a Hustler crash in 1966 near McKinney, Kentucky. “This is a family,” Blakeslee mused. “I was a junior in high school when my dad was killed, and although we’re scattered all over the kids I grew up with on this Base get together regularly.” Blakeslee’s surprise appearance at the Museum reminded everyone the importance of preserving the Bunker Hill- Grissom legacy.
Inspired by Bunker Hill air shows of his youth, Jerry Tharp, Dayton enlisted in the Air Force with the hope of working on the Hustlers. Instead, the Air Force sent him to DaNang Air Base, South Vietnam in 1969. “These guys were, and still are my heroes. If you ever saw a Hustler take off at night in full afterburner you’d understand why. Just to stand among them, even for an afternoon is an honor.”
During the memorial ceremony, conducted by the 434th Air Refueling Wing’s Honor Guard at Grissom, it was noted that; “These men, the most highly trained and disciplined in the United States Air Force were always cocked and ready as they stood on the forward wall of our Nation’s peace throughout the Cold War. Let us pause to remember and honor our causalities of that long Cold War, of their individual sacrifice, and the sacrifice of every Strategic Air Command family.”