Armed Forces Days
Visitor remembers thrill, awe of
B-58 Hustler fly-by at Westover
Scores of curious people look over a B-36
Peacemaker "Do Do Bird" at the 1956
Armed Forces Day. The base set aside one
day per year for the public to visit the base
and see the SAC mission up close. The
Peacemakers transited the base often as
part of weapons training exercises with the
Stony Brook Air Force Station troops. Note
the anti-aircraft guns above the "U.S. AIR
FORCE" marking on the side and above the
nose art  of the airplane.
RAF Vulcan bomber on display at 1964
Armed Forces Day. Note KC-135s parked
on the ramp near the runway.
Above, three B-52s of the 99th Bomb
Wing fly in trail formation during the 1959
Armed Forces Day. Below, Stan
Lukasiewicz  stands in front of B-52C
#54-2685 at Armed Forces Day. Note the
KC-135A in the background with the
Day-Glo paint.
(photos provided by Stan Lukasiewicz)
A B-52C is on display in front of the DC
Hangar, May 1961 Armed Forces Day.

     
        (photo provided by Lisa Szatkowski)
Hundreds of curious visitors look over the
massive B-36 during the 1956 Armed
Forces Day. (Springfield Republican photo)
This B-52C is on display during the Armed
Forces Day held May 16, 1964. That's serial
#53-0401; note the 99th BW emblem on
the left side of the nose.                                     
                                                                               
     (
photo by Wilton Curtis)
I framed symbols of Westover's past and
present in this photo. The B-52H is from the
2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, La.; between
the bomber and the Westover C-5  is the water
tower with its classic "Ralston Purina" look.
See the photo to the right showing the BUFF
landing at Westover before the air show. The
water tower, built in the early 1940s, is one of
three built for the base. Another, located on
Padgette Road in Chicopee on former base
property, was built in 1971, and was torn down
in April 2006. See a third base water tower in a
 KC-135 (tail # 63-5992) photo by Tom
Hildreth, who told me about it. When that
tower was dismantled is unknown, but look
closely for it below the boom pod of the tanker
after clicking on
Aircraft at Westover
The B-52H deploys its drag chute as it
lands Aug. 12, 2004 for static display at
the Great New England Airshow.  Alas,
the mighty BUFF's aircrew elected to
make a full-stop landing that afternoon; I
was hoping to see a couple of low
approaches or touch-and-goes before it
landed. Nevertheless, the sight of the
drag chute brings back memories of
days gone by , as seen with the B-52C
and its chute on my
Home page (photo
by Al Aldrich)
This front page of a May 1959
Holyoke Transcript-Telegram shows
the 1959 Armed Forces Day. At the top
of the photo, three B-52s fly in trail
formation. Aircraft parked on static
display on the right are, from left to
right: two KC-135 tankers, a B-52, two
Vulcan bombers, two KC-97 tankers, a
C-124C Globemaster II, a B-47
Stratojet, and a F-86 Sabre. On the
airfield are two more C-124s. One
appears to be taxiing while the other
looks like it's ready to take off from
Runway 23. A similar photo taken of
the three B-52s - but  from a different
angle by Stan Lukasiewicz - appears
on this page.
                                            (Clipping
provided by Stan Lukasiewicz)
                                                                     
          
This KC-135A is
displayed at
Westover's final
Armed Forces Day as
an active-duty Air
Force base.
A group of Boy Scouts checks out B-52C tail
#54-2685 during a late 1950s Armed
Forces Day at Westover.

                                                            (Holyoke
Transcript Telegram photo provided by Stan
Lukasiewicz)
This head-on shot is
believed to have come
from a
Yankee Flyer. That's
KC-135A #56-3637 at what
appears to be an Armed
Forces Day. (clipping
provided by Stan
Lukasiewicz)
photo by Tom Hildreth
B-52C on display, 1964 Armed Forces Day.
A B-36 Peacemaker bomber dwarfs its
visitors while on display at the 1956 Armed
Forces Day.
photo by Tom Hildreth
photo by Wilton Curtis
An RB-47E Stratojet is on display at the
1956 Armed Forces Day. Note the left wing
of the nearby B-36 Peacemaker.
Writer Bill Parker grew up in an Air Force family and
describes his exhilarating experience seeing what was
then the hot new bomber - the B-58 Hustler - pass by
him and thousands of stunned onlookers.

Armed Forces Day of 1960 was being celebrated at
the huge Strategic Air Command base under a sky of
scattered clouds. Not only was the giant ramp already
crowded with aircraft on display, an exciting new
supersonic bomber was destined to join our existing fleet
of B-47 and B-52 bombers, and thus help with the
national defense effort. It was scheduled to pay a brief
visit to Westover in little more than an hour. As for me and
my youthful companions; well I guess you could say we
had already traveled for many years and across great
distances to be there and welcome it.
On ‘Armed Forces Day’ each year, the expansive and
normally ‘Off-Limit’ ramps were open to all, and literally
packed with support aircraft and fighters and bombers
on display for the crowd. I knew most of the facts and
figures about each of course, excepting perhaps
oddities like the visiting delta-winged 'Vulcan' and
‘Valiant’ bombers from Canada, but an airplane-junkie
like me could never really get enough.
We suddenly stood impatiently in the hanger, forced into
silence as the public address (P.A.)
system echoed itself into near unintelligibility while
describing the scheduled events of the day.
Was the P.A. guy kidding? Real insiders (as we imagined
we were), might deign to pause and glance at a
helicopter air-drop demonstration.
We might even photograph the honors ceremony and
subsequent departure of the last B-25 bomber in the 8th
Air Force for the aircraft boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB
(as we did).
Our real interest however, remained focused on the
radical new aircraft already speeding toward us.
Supersonic flights over the continental United States (or
CONUS as we knew it), with their companion shock
waves were already being discouraged, but hadn't yet
been banned completely by the damned civilians and
their wimpy noise police.
Using its great speed, one of the Air Force’s new Convair
B-58 'Hustlers' was scheduled to visit many widespread
SAC bases that same day from its home at Carswell AFB,
in Ft. Worth.
I had mailed a carefully crafted letter to the factory
some months before requesting information, and they
had provided me with a packet of material. I
memorized everything in it as I read eagerly about their
new aircraft.
With its "uniquely formed delta wing”, they claimed, it
would “literally ride atop its own shock wave, using the
lessened drag to fly higher, farther, and faster than most
jet fighters.”
I  could only daydream about the sense of exhilaration
and power the three-man crew must certainly enjoy
when moving faster than a rifle bullet in the mysterious
realm that existed many miles above the clouds. There,
the atmosphere was so thin there was no weather, and
no winds disturbed its eternal stillness. There too it was
rumored, the blue horizon line could be seen to follow
the curvature of the earth, and the upper sky was so
darkened that stars were visible in the daytime. A small
polished quartz window on top of the fuselage
concealed a mysterious star-tracking device. If war
came, it could be employed to guide the aircraft
directly to targets located half a world away. Best of all I
thought, the new plane carried one hell of a selection of
nukes, including a big pod-borne Mark-53 and up to
four additional pylon-mounted Mark-43's.
I gleefully contemplated the shift in the strategic power
balance this aircraft would bring; ensuring that little
commie kids would be the ones doing the ‘shelter-
snivel’ in the future while waiting for the all-clear whistle
to sound.
The appointed time neared, and we moved outside,
drifted clear of the crowd on the immense ramp, and
unconsciously glanced around the horizon. As we
spoke in low voices, the clock’s hands swept past 10
o'clock, and the unseen Hustler slipped by some miles
overhead.
The Viking god Thor was believed to be god of the sky,
ruler of storms and deliverer of thunderbolts, and the twin
blows of the Hustler’s mighty shock wave suddenly struck
us and the concrete ramp just as an forcefully as an
impact from his legendary Hammer might have done.
Caught completely by surprise, we flinched with the
same fearful reaction as everyone else, then joined the
loud ripple of nervous laughter that passed through the
assembled crowd.  
Paul suddenly began dancing around John and I like
some sort of crazed dervish; shadow boxing and
shoulder-punching us in an attempt to mitigate his own
obviously frightened response. The public address man
started talking again about the plane and its crew, but
between his bit of chaos and our yelling at Paul to stop
hitting us, we understood little of what he said.
With calm finally restored, the mysterious silver airplane
became visible low in the far distance.
For all it represented of the future, it seemed for a
moment that a mighty spear had been hurled at us by an
unseen giant standing beyond the horizon. The green
countryside’s reflection off the aircraft’s shimmering
underside created the dark arrowhead shape; followed
by a shaft comprised of the black smoke trail of its four
powerful J-79 engines.
Though subsonic by then, it closed quickly, and to our
heightened senses it suddenly appeared to be racing
down the main runway only a hundred feet or so above
the pavement.
The loose portions of my clothing began to vibrate as
though possessed, but I stood absolutely transfixed,
unblinking as I reveled in the polished beauty of the
thing, for I was literally cleansed; purified in spirit by the
wave of thunderous noise as it sped by.
Approaching the runway's far end, its afterburners gave
off sharp thumps as they were called to duty. The
exhaust gases expanded rapidly, and their blooming
caused the receding aircraft’s image to shimmer like a
desert mirage. As it accelerated away, I focused intently
on the engine exhausts in hopes of seeing them glow
red, but they disappeared from view beneath the wings
as the streamlined aircraft suddenly pitched up into a
steep climb. Its delta-shaped silhouette instantly
sharpened to razor clarity as it rose swiftly up out of the
boiling hot gas cloud of its own making. Only a few
flashes of reflected sunlight came back from its
gleaming top surfaces before it passed from our view
into the bright sky.
We stood silently after that, and like us the crowd was
sobered, remaining quiet for several minutes after the
event. Certainly none of us suspected such an incredible
aircraft would remain in Air Force inventory for only a
decade. Proving both expensive to maintain and very
dangerous to fly, it killed many of its crews. Those dollar
costs (and even the human losses), were acceptable to
the Cold-Warriors of course. As the years passed though,
its chances of mission success using a high speed/ high
altitude penetration approach to reach targets deep in
the Soviet Union finally faded away, outmoded by their
deployment of increasingly capable anti-aircraft
missiles.
The B-58s have themselves been gone for over thirty
years now, forgotten by all except those men and their
families who were once associated with them and their
mission. As for me, well I still believe exactly as I did on
that crisp New England morning when I walked along
Westover’s ramp. They were magnificent machines
whose like will never be seen again; literally visitors from
the future.

Bill Parker
Atlanta, Georgia 1994
B-52C serial  54-2667 is displayed at a
Westover Armed Forces Day in May 1957. This
airplane arrived at the base in December
1956. Thirty-five C-models came to Westover.
Another 10 B-52D models joined the 99th
Bomb Wing fleet as well. It's evident that SAC
was intent on basing its newest strategic
bombers at a location very close to the
Russians. (photo by Stan Lukasiewicz)
photo by Wilton Curtis
photo by Stan Lukasiewicz
Thanks to so many great photos from my
contributors, I have made them into thumbnails, so I
can fit more!
This 1959 Armed Forces Day photo shows
Col. O.F. Lassiter, 99th Bombardment Wing
commander (the man appropriately
positioned above the word MASTER), fully
engaged in the activities of the day. (Click on
thumbnail to right)

 (photo taken by Lisa Szatkowski)
Left, a trio of KC-97s
fly during the 1955
Armed Forces Day,
(the first such held by
SAC at Westover)


(photo by Stan
Lukasiewicz)
This B-58 Hustler is shown on display at the
1964 Armed Forces Day at Westover.
photos by Wilton Curtis
Stan Lukasiewicz gave me
this '59 Armed Forces Day
photo showing B-52C
#54-2672 on display.
KC-97 at '56 Armed
Forces Day

photo by Tom Hildreth
Look closely in the photos above of
the 1956 Armed Forces Day -- there
appears to be construction on one of
the nosedocks; in the lower photo,
there is a lot of earth being moved
beyond the B-47. The construction is
probably a new taxiway as the main
runway was finished in September
1955.