The Globe's Greatest
The 85th Fighter Interceptor Squadron was activated at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, on November 1, 1952. They replaced, in designation, the 113th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Indiana Air National Guard, which had been called to federal service on February 1, 1951 at Stout Field, Indianapolis. At the time of activation the 85th FIS absorbed all of the assets and the majority of personnel from the 113th FIS, and the 113th FIS designation was returned to Indiana Without Personnel & Equipment for reconstitution, now at Terre Haute. The 85th FIS was assigned to the 33rd Air Division at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, with further assignment to the Central Air Defense Force, CADF, at Grandview AFB, Missouri.
The squadron commander of the 'new' 85th FIS was Lt. Colonel Joseph Klemovich, who replaced Lt. Colonel Charles Peterson, who took eligible members of the 113th FIS back to Indiana with him. Klemovich now was accompanied by 60 officers and 242 airmen, the majority of which by now were USAF personnel with only a few air guardsmen left over.
Just prior to the 85th FIS's activation the 113th FIS had converted from F-51H to F- 51D Mustangs. They also gained a pair of T-6 Texan trainers, one D model, and one G model, for instrument work. (During this brief changeover period the 113th FIS suffered a fatal F-51D loss over Belleville, IL which is often erroneously associated as being an 85th FIS Mustang).
Three days after the 85th FIS's activation, on November 4, Lt. Joseph Holden and another pilot were scrambled by "Agony," the 798th AC&W Squadron at Turkey Hill Air Force Station, IL and the squadron's primary radar site, after a UFO. It quickly outran the Mustangs and no visual contact was made.
During the first part of 1953 the 85th FIS sent five pilots to jet-transition schools, and had ten more slated for assignments to F-86D conversion training. On March 10 L-20A 52-6083 arrived, which replaced the squadron's two T-6s for general hack service. Sometime during this period they also gained a pair of F-80Cs. The T-6s would finally depart in the fall.
On April 14 Captain Emil Froelich was landing on Runway 12 in his Mustang (44-74855) when his left landing gear strut broke: material failure. Froelich was uninjured.
In June the 85th FIS returned from Yuma AFB, Arizona after seven weeks of gunnery training. In July the 797th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, "Mastiff," at Fordland, Missouri was running a practice interception mission between two 85th FIS Mustangs when one of them began loosing all of its oil. Radar vectors were provided to Naval Air Station, Vichy, Missouri where its (unidentified) pilot broke out of an overcast just it time to effect a safe dead-stick landing. Also, on July 6 the 85th FIS participated in a 'live' air defense scramble, which turned out to be a 8-29. Another 'live scramble occurred on July 13, this time the target turned out to be a civilian Cessna that was off course.
On August 7 their new squadron insignia as "The Globe's Greatest" was approved. It replaced the original "Flying Skulls" insignia that had stemmed from WWI. The new insignia had been designed by the art department at Washington University, St. Louis.
(The same art department students designed and painted abstract designs upon the pilots P-1 helmets). During August the squadron was challenged by an Operational Readiness Inspection which pitted them against 8 B-29s conducting a mock attack against St. Louis.
They were the only ADC squadron to defend their area with 100% effectiveness. A St. Louis Post Dispatch newspaper article describing the event was titled "The Globe's Greatest," and the name stuck. On August 17, 1953 Major Carl Habeck, 85th FIS operations officer, flew in the first F-86D (51-6235).
Exercises in September included six with Sabres, four with Mustangs, and one with one of the squadron's two F-80Cs. All of which involved twenty sorties, of which fifteen were considered successful.
In September the squadron's strength was boosted by arrivals from USAF Pilot Training Class 53-C, which were all jet qualified. They served as replacements for the last of the ANG people that were soon released from federal service. The new pilots were not permitted to fly the Mustangs!
The 85th FIS suffered its first fatal F-86D loss on October 22 when Major Yancy Williams crashed after takeoff from Runway 14 (51-3029). Williams attempted to turn to the northwest, overshot the approach to Runway 36, and then attempted a landing in a cornfield west of the base. He almost made it, but the Sabre struck an electric transformer pole and exploded. The accident investigation showed that the Sabre had a hydraulic elevator control lock due to a misconnecting of hydraulic lines. Williams had been the squadrons Material Officer.
On November 3 two Mustangs were scrambled on a 'live' mission, which turned out to be a B-25. This was followed by another scramble against another B-25. On December 18 an active scramble took place, apparently the first for the squadron's F-86Ds, and this time the target turned out to be a balloon!
The 33rd Air Division stated that Lambert Field, St. Louis, MO would be the "emergency fighter base" for the 85th FIS in early 1954. There is no evidence that it was ever utilized as such.
The only actual air defense scramble during the first half of 1954 occurred on January 13 when two Mustangs were scrambled against a B-50 flying at 29,000 feet. And it appears that this was the last one for the squadron's Mustangs.
The F-80Cs were transferred to the 33rd Air Division right after the first of the new year, and one was lost in Michigan on February 25 after its 33rd AD pilot became lost.
On February 4, 1954 one of the squadron's F-51Ds was lost near Wentzville, Missouri during a two-ship formation flight. Just after a cross-over maneuver at 15,000 feet 1st Lt. Neil Hadley spotted a Sabre and climbed after it, but he lost control and spun-in. He was fatally injured (45-11561). Soon thereafter all of the squadron's Mustangs were placed in storage while awaiting transfer to the ANG.
On March 3, 1954 the 85th FIS went TDY to Grandview AF8 while the base runways and the squadron's parking area at Scott AFB were resurfaced. The flightline area was only eighteen months old, but it was already in disrepair due to jet blast and fuel spills. While at Grandview they assisted the 326th FIS in becoming operational in with their F- 86Ds.
The 85th FIS lost an F-86D (51-6236) on March 15 at Grandview AFB when it burned on the ramp. 1st Lt. Richard Gruber had completed an engineering test flight, landed, and was demonstrating a fluctuating RPM drop to the aircraft's crew chief and the line chief when the aircraft exploded. It was abandoned without injuries. The 85th FIS officially became operational with the F-86D in March, and the F-51s began being transferred, with the last one leaving in May.
After Lt. Gruber was promoted to captain he became the squadron's maintenance officer and flew with the radio callsign of "Dropkick Five." His flight demonstrations with the F-86D during Scott AFB Open Houses, were impressive, particularly during his "Merry Widow" passes with the Sabre in a high angle of attack on the edge of the power curve. They sure looked neat from the control tower.
On April 28 the 85th FIS lost its first Lockheed T-33A (51-6908) while on a cross-country flight to Offutt AFB, Nebraska. Its pilot undershot his landing approach by forty feet and crashed against an embankment. Both 2nd Lts Frederick "Bud" Brown and Robert Lynch suffered back injuries.
(Now) Lt. Colonel Carl Habeck replaced Lt. Colonel Klemovich as squadron commander on May 5. Klemovich was transferred to the Japanese Air Self Defense Force.
June 1954 was a tough month for the squadron. On June 10 1st Lt. Ellis Meaker had a hard landing at Scott AFB, in his Sabre (51-3026) which resulted in major damage to its wing, fuselage and landing gear. Two weeks later, on June 24, another T-33A was lost (52-9636) as 2nd Lt. Ron Long attempted a JATO takeoff on Runway 18. The aircraft stalled, cartwheeled and burned right in front of the flightline. Long suffered second degree burns, while its enlisted man passenger, A/2C Larry Stevens, had third degree burns. On June 29 another F-86D (51-6226) landed wheels-up in a farmer's field after a flameout in the traffic pattern at Scott AFB. 1st Lt. Stuart Kane was uninjured, and the damage was considered to be only 'moderate.'
During the later half of the year the squadron's F-86Ds were replaced under Project Pullout. This entailed the transfer on a one-to-one basis of a Sabre to McClellan AFB in exchange for one that had been modified to include a drag parachute in its aft section (Plus some six hundred other improvements). By the end of the year twenty had been exchanged, and the project was completed on April 20, 1955. This exchange also brought on a change to the squadron's Sabre's markings, by Headquarters ADC decree, with the squadron insignia being moved to the vertical stabilizer in place of the old identifying letter, and the removal of the lightening bolt from the fuselage sides, replacing them with U. S. Air Force.
Then came project Hot Wheel, which involved returning these Sabres to McClellan AFB for an engine with improved turbine wheels. [The older F-86Ds had a propensity to have their turbine wheel explode. "Don't give me a F-86D, she's fast, I don't care, she blows up in midair."]
During March, April and May a detachment of 85th FIS went TOY to Duluth AFB, Minnesota to cover for the 11th FIS while they were TDY to Yuma AFB for gunnery training. The 85th FIS received a letter of commendation for their efforts. On an unspecified date during this period the 85th FIS received the Air Defense Command's "A' Award" for excellence.
It was back to Grandview AFB on April 27 while additional runway resurfacing took place at Scott AFB. They returned on May 31.
On June 30 Lt. Colonel Habeck was transferred to Germany and Lt. Colonel Douglas Peck became the new squadron commander. Befitting, his radio callsign was "Dropkick One."
Major David Campbell, squadron operations officer, "Dropkick Three" became the first pilot in the CADF to attain the 'Skilled' rating in the F-86D. He shot off the target sleeve on four consecutive sorties, to the dismay of his wingman who then did not have a target to fire upon. In a historical oddity, Campbell had been initially assigned to the 85th Fighter Squadron in 1942 as a Flying Sergeant.
Lt. Ronald Ferguson was killed in a F-86D on October 1, 1955. The Sabre (52- 3810) had flamed out in the traffic pattern after shooting a touch-and-go, and Ferguson was again attempting to land on Runway 18. When he saw that he was not going to make it, he ejected, but he was 'out of the envelope' and he struck the ground just ahead of the sliding wreckage.
On March 1, 1956 control of the 85th FIS was transferred to the 20th Air Division at Grandview AFB. As when assigned to the 33rd AD, they still would report directly to their Air Division, without having either a parent group or wing assignment as did most of ADC's interceptor squadrons.
Commencing in May 1956 came Project Follow On, a conversion of F-86Ds to the new F-86L with a slightly longer wing and SAGE equipment.
On August 3 Lt. Tony Skur was on a cross-country flight when he became lost and ran out of fuel in his Sabre (52-3868). Skur attempted to land on a rural road near Turner AFB, Georgia, but wound up in a ditch. The Sabre was destroyed and Skur was injured.
On September 10 Lt.'s Ted Stoick and Dennis Kidd were killed in T-33A 52-9765 as they attempted to takeoff from Runway 13 at Scott AFB. Halfway down the runway they realized that they had a fire in the engine's plenum chamber, but it was too late to abort the takeoff and the T-Bird exploded before they could get high enough to eject. (During the summer of 1956 Runway 14/32 was re-compassed and became Runway 13/31).
On October 9 1st Lt. Roger Pile was serving as an early morning target for another flight of F-86Ds when his engine began loosing oil pressure. On the way back to Scott AFB it then had a double generator failure. Pile attempted a flameout approach to Runway 31 but its engine seized and he had to eject over Mascoutah, Illinois. Pile was commended for his courage in sticking with the Sabre long enough to ensure that it would not strike two schools in Mascoutah. (52-3867)
During the squadron's deployment to Vincent AFB, AZ (nee Yuma AFB) in the summer of 1957 Captain Oscar Fladmark was killed in an automobile accident. He may have been the squadron's only non-aircraft accident/illness loss.
On an undetermined date during this period Lt. Buckhotz landed as the number two man in his flight on Runway 18, only he had forgotten to lower his landing gear. Buckhotz salvaged the situation by turning it into it a touch-and-go, went around and landed okay. The only damage was to the bottom of his droptanks. (And his pride). It was regarded as an incident, and not an accident.
During the evening of November 19, 1957 two F-86Ls were lost when they collided near Sparta, Illinois. 1st Lt.'s James Metz and William McDaniel were conducting a practice interception exercise, working with "Parka," the 725th AC&W Squadron at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, as "Agony's" "weapon was broke." Lt. McDaniel was flying as "Dropkick White One" and Lt. Metz as wingman, "Dropkick White Three." The radar failed on McDaniel's Sabre as he was making a final interception and he told Metz they were about to collide and to eject and attempted to do so himself. The Sabres collided before McDaniel could eject, but he was blown clear of the wreckage, suffering major injures. 53-576 (Metz) and 53-954 (McDaniel).
On July 21, 1958 1st Lt. Charles "Bud" Rogers had to eject from his F-86L (52-10134) after it caught on fire during an engineering test flight near Walsh, Illinois. He was uninjured.
On April 4, 1959 1st Lt. Robert Gregory attempted to takeoff Runway 13 enroute to Grandview AFB, but his engine lost power and Gregory attempted to abort the takeoff. He tried to jettison his tiptanks, but only the right one came off, and the T -33A slewed off the runway collapsing its left landing gear. He was uninjured. (56-1698).
The 85th FIS lost its last F-86L on April 9, 1959 as 2nd Lt. Charles Rasnic was participating in his first practice scramble with the squadron after graduating from Perrin AFB, Texas just two months previously. The fuel system in his Sabre (52-4298) failed and no amount of corrective efforts would help, and when the engine quit over southern Illinois, Rasnic ejected three miles southeast of Houston, Illinois without injury. [Just some five miles from where Rogers' had to eject.]
The 85th FIS was inactivated on July 1,1959. It's last squadron commander was Lt. Colonel James Covington. The majority of their F-86Ls were transferred either to the Nebraska or Texas Air National Guard, their hanger was taken over by the 11th Aeromedical Squadron, and their alert barns went to the base aero club. Today the aero club still occupies a part of the alert barns, while snowplows are stored in the other part. The 458th AS occupies the old main hanger with C-21s.