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View Full Version : Remembering the Dragon Lady


Razor
10-30-2013, 06:16 AM
Here's a good article about some of the early days of the U-2 program at Del Rio, TX. It talks about a few of the Cuban overflights during the Missile Crisis.

Remembering the Dragon Lady (http://sanangelolive.com/news/2013-10-29/remembering-dragon-lady)

"Two weeks into the crisis, tragedy struck the 4080th. Major Rudy Anderson, flying a U-2C was shot down by a SA-2. Some of the fragments of the missile’s exploding warhead penetrated his pressure suit and killed him.

Pilots at McCoy awaited his return, but they never saw him again. “I remember we were out on the golf course and Rudy never returned when we expected him. You could always see him in the traffic pattern from the golf course,” Brown recalls.

“When Rudy Anderson was shot down we all went ‘gulp,’” Brown says."

http://sanangelolive.com/sites/default/files/styles/iosslider_node/public/u-2_anderson_return.jpg?itok=8dQ4C46a


HuggyU2
11-02-2013, 08:24 AM
Good stuff, Razor.

Last year,... on 27 Oct,... I was in Greenville, SC for the memorial commemorating Rudy Anderson's life and shootdown. The city (which is beautiful) completely restored the memorial park to Rudy. There was a ceremony there, as well as one at his graveside. BG McIlvoyle was there too.

Of a side note, I notice the author was Joe Hyde. He's a former AF pilot whose father was a U-2 pilot. His father's U-2 crashed in the Gulf on the way back from a Cuba mission, and he was killed. Joe's mom was pregnant with Joe Jr.

The crash never got much press, since less than 2 days later, JFK was assassinated,... and that pretty much buried all other news.

Ftrooppilot
11-02-2013, 10:34 AM
http://i546.photobucket.com/albums/hh403/Ftrooppilot/f50thPatch_zpsa02aa817.jpeg (http://s546.photobucket.com/user/Ftrooppilot/media/f50thPatch_zpsa02aa817.jpeg.html)

http://i546.photobucket.com/albums/hh403/Ftrooppilot/Cotons11711002_zps9f177cf3.jpg (http://s546.photobucket.com/user/Ftrooppilot/media/Cotons11711002_zps9f177cf3.jpg.html)


Razor
11-03-2013, 07:33 AM
Of a side note, I notice the author was Joe Hyde. He's a former AF pilot whose father was a U-2 pilot. His father's U-2 crashed in the Gulf on the way back from a Cuba mission, and he was killed. Joe's mom was pregnant with Joe Jr.

I didn't know that, Huggy. Thanks.

USMCFLYR
11-12-2013, 10:46 AM
Sent to me from a former U-2 pilot.
RIVERSIDE: U-2 Pilot remembers close calls


BY MARK MUCKENFUSS
STAFF WRITER
November 08, 2013; 05:06 PM
Cliff Beeler was a spy.
He didn’t hang out on shadowy street corners with his trench coat collar obscuring his face. The Air Force major, now retired, spent his snooping time in a plane.

Beeler, 88, of Riverside, was a U-2 pilot at the height of the Cold War.
His missions took him over Russia, Cuba and China, photographing targets from nearly 80,000 feet in the sky.

His planes crashed more than once. He was occasionally targeted by MiG fighters, and he once landed on and took off from an aircraft carrier in the Pacific using only a few feet of the deck.

Beeler, who grew up in Santa Ana and spent most of his retirement in Santa Barbara, is a resident of Air Force Village West, near March Air Reserve Base. Recent back surgery has left him reliant on a walker, but his memories are as vibrant as ever.

He remembers enlisting at 19, learning to fly a P-51 fighter and being on his way to Saipan to get ready for the invasion of Japan. Then the United States dropped its atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The war was over, and Beeler was sent home. Unlike many of his fellow pilots who left the service, Beeler stayed in. He learned to fly the Air Force’s first jets and then trained others to fly them.

Then the U-2 program caught his eye.
“I wanted to fly the latest,” he said.
There were never more than 24 pilots in the program, he said. In 1958, he entered the program. He spent seven years flying missions high above the Earth — out of the range of other planes and most other defenses — in the long-winged, lightweight plane.
It was not an easy task, he said.
As a plane climbs in altitude and the air thins, it must go faster to avoid a stall. The higher it climbs, the faster it needs to fly. Above 70,000 feet, the critical stall speed approaches the plane’s Mach speed, or the speed of sound — somewhere above 650 mph at that altitude. If that barrier is crossed, the shock waves can break the plane apart. U-2 pilots usually had a window of less than 12 mph between the two speeds. They had to keep the plane within that window for hours at a time.

CLOSE CALLS
Beeler learned the hard way what it meant to violate that window. He was above Louisiana on a night flight when he reached Mach speed.
“It tore the tail off,” he said. “The plane flipped over, and that tore the wing off.”
The plane fell apart, he said, and at 78,000 feet, “I’m out in space. That’s a long way down.”
Fortunately, he was in a pressure suit with oxygen and had a parachute. After a long freefall, he opened his chute and found himself floating toward the ground. To his right, he could see lights on the ground. To his left, the same. But beneath him, all was black.
He remembered he was over Louisiana
“I said, ‘That looks like a swamp.’”
It was.
“I landed in a big cypress tree,” he said. “My chute got caught and swung me into the trunk.”
Telling the story, Beeler reached down toward his calf, “I always kept a double-bladed knife in my pocket,” he said. He was able to cut himself free of the parachute and use the ties to lash himself to the tree.
He took off his helmet and dropped it into the darkness below. There was a distant splash.
“All I could think about was alligators and cottonmouths in the swamp,” he said.
Lucky for Beeler, the breakup of his plane had been spotted on radar. Within an hour and a half a rescue helicopter was overhead.

Another close call came over Cuba.
Beeler said MiG jets would fly beneath the U-2 planes, at about 50,000 feet. The fighter pilots would sometimes attempt to reach the spy planes by turning on their afterburners and flying straight up, higher than the MiGs were capable of operating effectively.
A Cuban pilot’s effort was particularly memorable, Beeler said.
“I look back and there’s this MiG tumbling about 50 feet off my wing,” he said. The plane was so close that he could see the pilot’s face.
Remembering, Beeler turned his hand cockeyed in front of his face. “His goggles were like this and his face was …” The sentence ends in a grimace, Beeler’s eyes and mouth wide. “He was sure scared up there.”
Beeler took the U-2 on numerous missions over Cuba, providing information on the country’s armaments and the strength of its air force. Images from U-2 flights, he said, showed that Castro had only a few dozen bombers instead of the more than 400 he had claimed.
At one point, Beeler said, President John F. Kennedy stopped by the U-2 headquarters in Del Rio, Texas, to talk to the pilots.
“He said, ‘You guys gave me information that prevented World War III at least twice,’” Beeler said.

AMAZING IMAGES
Sometimes the U-2’s high-resolution, long-range camera captured images that had nothing to do with national security.
During one Cuban mission, Beeler spent some time following the coastline. Afterward, he was called into the lab by the man in charge of analyzing the film.
“He showed me a picture of this Cuban gal sunbathing nude on the beach,” Beeler said. “It was so clear I could see she had blue eyes. (The analyst) said, ‘The only film these guys want to work with is your film.’”
Returning from another mission, he took some images over San Diego. Later, he was shown a photo of a man sitting in his backyard reading the paper.
“I could read the headline on the newspaper,” he said.

Beeler is semi-famous among pilots for landing his U-2 on an aircraft carrier. The landing followed a mission over northeast Russia. The U-2’s 80-foot wingspan meant it could only go a short distance before it collided with the superstructure of the ship. Because of the ship’s speed and a headwind, Beeler said he was able to touch down and come to a stop in about five feet.
“When I came aboard they had a ceremony welcoming the Air Force into the Navy. I said, ‘I don’t have much I like about the Navy except one thing,’” he said. That one thing was the Navy pilots’ leather jackets. Before he left the ship the following day, the captain had given him one.
It lasted.
“I gave it to my son last week,” he said.

AFTER THE U-2
Among the military photos and plaques on the wall of his room is a framed row of medals from his service, including the Distinguished Service Cross.
He points to the photo of one plane, a B-46.
“It was the God-almighty bomber,” he said. But he declined a chance to fly those planes.
“I didn’t like the mission,” he said. “Go out and drop bombs. I wanted to shoot things up.”
After he left the service, in 1965, Beeler said he worked on the Apollo 5 program for three years. He was in charge of purchasing the equipment for the swing arm on the launch tower, he said.
He spent the next 25 years selling airplanes. He had his own dealership in the Santa Barbara area.
When his wife, Mary, developed Alzheimer’s disease, he retired to take care of her. After five years, he felt he needed help, so he moved with her to Air Force Village West, which has a nursing home on its campus.
“She lasted 11 days after I brought her here,” Beeler said. “I guess I kept her about as long as I could.”
The couple, who were married for 65 years, had two sons. The oldest lives in Corona and comes to see him most days, Beeler said.
For Veterans Day, he said, he doesn’t have any big plans.
“I’ll probably sleep late,” he said.

God bless such men.

Ftrooppilot
11-12-2013, 12:55 PM
Huggy and Razor.

To many inconsistencies.

The gentlemen is on the 1960 check out list. (#151) http://www.u2sr71patches.co.uk/flightnamesu2.htm

USAF U-2 pilots never flew over the USSR. CIA did 24 flights 1956-1960.

The first carrier landing was Aug 5, 1963 - three years after powers was shot down and all USSR over flights were terminated. I believe only Lockheed test pilots flew the aircraft. There may have been one "operational " flight off a carrier when we were sampling the French Nuclear tests in the Pacific.

He stopped in "five feet." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8HMPMYL19E

The Mach Tuck accident sounds "fishy." The Pineville LA accident (56-6708) involved pilot Sam Swart on 1 Jul 1967. It happened at a much lower altitude - about 45,000 feet.

Camera lens capability (Early 1960s in A or B model) is grossly exaggerated - "Blue Eyes" and "reading newspaper". The two ton camera we carrier in RB57F in the late 1960s couldn't do that.

Perhaps the author took license when he wrote the article.

Ftrooppilot
11-12-2013, 06:37 PM
RIVERSIDE: Veteran talks about his memory as a pilot during the Cold War - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAIKgaRz7R4)

HuggyU2
11-14-2013, 08:26 AM
FTroop,

Yes, I was thinking the same thing when I read it via another source a few days ago.

I wrote the author, primarily to let him know that the description of how we climb, how altitude affects stalls, and how the sound barrier shock wave that breaks up the jet are all incorrect.

He did write me back, and ask for my input. That's a first, so I like this reporter.

I've been meaning to check into some of those events. I am pretty certain something is way off on the carrier landing event too.

USMCFLYR
11-14-2013, 08:43 AM
Well guys - sorry for re-posting something that seems to have many inaccuracies in it. My apologies.
When it came from a former U-2 without any such comments, I figured it was a known story.

T6 Pilot
11-14-2013, 09:05 AM
Sounds like Buddy Martens great-grandfather?

HuggyU2
11-14-2013, 10:31 AM
Well guys - sorry for re-posting something that seems to have many inaccuracies in it. My apologies.
When it came from a former U-2 without any such comments, I figured it was a known story.

On the contrary, this is good stuff to post!
The pilot really was a U-2 pilot, so you'd expect the info is probably pretty close.
In any case, I'll look into it when I have time. In the meantime, I'll assume it is 100% good.

T6 Pilot
11-14-2013, 10:48 AM
I'm not a U-2 pilot, but know a few....don't know any of their stories - which is a good thing. I highly doubt the "blue eyes" and "headlines" as well (3lb vs 30lb bass) -- but doesn't the story only need to be 10% truthful to be, well, FACT?

HOWEVER - we all know that there are stories out there of missions that couldn't be discussed at the time which would contradict any written account. Heck in my meager career as a AF pilot (17 yrs), there are plenty of missions I've never discussed. Pending this veteran's age, it likely that he wanted to share some of the "walked 3 miles up hill both directions" stories....I'm sure we'll all be there someday.

HuggyU2
11-14-2013, 11:37 AM
No argument there! 10% is GTG.
When I'm 88 years old, I'll probably start talking to the press,... but if they print what I say, you'll read about how I used a laser to vaporize Taliban in downtown Houston, while orbiting at .9M and 169,000 feet MSL. ;)
And just wait until you hear the stories that come from Razor and Kuma! :eek:

Ftrooppilot
11-14-2013, 11:46 AM
. ;)
And just wait until you hear the stories that come from Razor and Kuma! :eek:

Did I ever tell you about the time that we were giving a U-2 / SR71 /RB
-57F briefing in the Vette theater (EAA HQ during convention) and Huggy walked in wearing only his underwear ? :eek:

FTP

jugheadf15
11-14-2013, 02:21 PM
No argument there! 10% is GTG.
When I'm 88 years old, I'll probably start talking to the press,... but if they print what I say, you'll read about how I used a laser to vaporize Taliban in downtown Houston, while orbiting at .9M and 169,000 feet MSL. ;)
And just wait until you hear the stories that come from Razor and Kuma! :eek:

Look forward to reading your story next year Huggy!!!!:p

Kuma
11-14-2013, 07:07 PM
No argument there! 10% is GTG.
When I'm 88 years old, I'll probably start talking to the press,... but if they print what I say, you'll read about how I used a laser to vaporize Taliban in downtown Houston, while orbiting at .9M and 169,000 feet MSL. ;)
And just wait until you hear the stories that come from Razor and Kuma! :eek:

Huggy, you signed a 1000 year non-disclosure statement on those missions. Remember OPSEC.

Jughead's right, 88 is only next year for you old man...

HuggyU2
11-15-2013, 06:58 PM
Well,... after 3 hours of paintball fighting today (my first time doing that), I'm pretty beat up, and feeling a bit older.
Remember the story of my left wrist issue at March AFB, Jughead? Well, my right one feels similar right now. Doh!! :o

UASIT
11-18-2013, 08:05 AM
Saw an outstanding documentary on BBC over the weekend (Cold War Hot Jets) and there was a small piece on the U2. The fact that missions over the USSR were (58 and 59) flown by RAF pilots on loan to the CIA. Also, something about USAF weather research planes painted as RAF planes and flown by RAF crews over USSR.

Ftrooppilot
11-18-2013, 01:02 PM
Saw an outstanding documentary on BBC over the weekend (Cold War Hot Jets) and there was a small piece on the U2. The fact that missions over the USSR were (58 and 59) flown by RAF pilots on loan to the CIA. Also, something about USAF weather research planes painted as RAF planes and flown by RAF crews over USSR.

There were 24 CIA flights between July 4, 1956 and May 1, 1960. RAF pilots flew two of the USSR over flight missions.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/revealed-the-rafs-secret-cold-war-heroes-1285189.html

jghyde
11-18-2013, 06:22 PM
I published a magazine in southwest Texas from 2005-2008. We wrote a few stories about the U-2 program in Del Rio. One of the highlights was taking to Lt Col Charlie Kern (ret.) who told me more about my dad's fatal crash while returning from Cuba on 20 Nov 63. We're running that article this week, closer to the JFK assassination anniversary.

The other good one we have is the story of the Taiwanese Black Cat squadron U-2 pilot who was shot down over Cuba in 1964 and held prisoner by the Chicoms until 1984 -- 20 years! When he was dropped off unceremoniously in Hong Kong in 1984, Taiwan didn't want him back. He had to get his CIA contacts who were then retired to get him a passport back to the USA. He retired in Houston.

But... all of these U-2 stories are not as epic is the one about Huggy teaching this old bomber guy how to conduct wing landings in the T-28 at KRND. Man, flying the T-38 was a tough adjustment from the Buff, and formation was even harder for me. So... it was late in the afternoon and I was on the wing flying as a student IP in the backseat. Huggy had this huge noggin and a big-ass black helmet that no one could see over or around. I hadn't developed my peripheral vision yet, and lead cut his power, so I did too. The result was the most violently hard landing I've ever experienced. I mean my butt hurt and I was sure the main landing gear penetrated the top of those honeycomb wings. I was shocked the plane still taxied around after that landing. On the taxi back, Huggy didn't say a word. Not a word. I mean he was ****ed.

jghyde
11-18-2013, 06:23 PM
^^ The T-38, not the T-28. Neither myself or Huggy are that old (-;

Ftrooppilot
11-19-2013, 04:22 AM
^^ The T-38, not the T-28. Neither myself or Huggy are that old (-;

The T-38 IS old. I started flying it at UPT Reese AFB in December 1964. That's 49 years ago. Yes I am that old. :eek:

HuggyU2
11-19-2013, 04:19 PM
Well, Joe... what can I say?? **** happens! Wow... that was a long time ago.
So good to see your post here.

May I be the first (albeit a day early) to offer a toast to your dad.

jghyde
11-20-2013, 08:12 PM
http://sanangelolive.com/sites/default/files/styles/iosslider_node/public/hyde_u2_arrival_laverton.jpg?itok=ptRVehda

With no stall strips, no functioning autopilot, and an airspeed tolerance of only three knots, even a small deviation in temperature or turbulence can quickly put the U-2C in an out-of-control situation. That morning, 40 miles south of Key West, ground radar following the mission watched in horror as the U-2C plunged almost vertically and disappeared from radar. Within eight minutes, search and rescue aircraft spotted an oil slick at the location the plane disappeared from radar. Ten days of extensive search and rescue ensued, and the wreckage was salvaged from beneath 100 feet of the Gulf of Mexico water. Hope remained alive for a long time because the survival gear was found, and it appeared that the pilot had departed the aircraft. Maybe, just maybe, the pilot would be found floating, alive, in in the water somewhere. With each ticking hour, then days, hope diminished until the search had to be terminated. The body of the pilot was never found.

The pilot of that U-2C that day was my father, Captain Joe Hyde, Jr. He was only 33 years-old when he died.

Full story (http://sanangelolive.com/news/2013-11-20/sky-still-burns-your-memory)

Ftrooppilot
11-21-2013, 05:44 AM
Well, Joe... what can I say?? **** happens! Wow... that was a long time ago.
So good to see your post here.

May I be the first (albeit a day early) to offer a toast to your dad.

To honor Capt. Joe Hyde and others of the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing please read some of their history at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4080th_Strategic_Reconnaissance_Wing

In the late 1950s the wing had two aircraft - the RB- 57D and the U-2. Many of the RB-57D pilots like "Red Dog" Campbell transitioned into the RB-57F at Kirtland AFB where he was my "ops officer." . They retained their friendships with the U-2 family and I have copies of correspondence between Red Dog and Pat Halloran regarding the RB-57F loss over the Black Sea in December on Dec 14, 1965.

I will drink a toast tonight to Red Dog, Joe Hyde, and the many other "pressure suit" flyers that have gone before us. There is a new book about to be published "Stratonauts" which will chronicle many of their accomplishments.