Back in the 70's as the Vietnam war was winding down, I had the pleasure of being a member of the "T Tail Mafia". No, it wasn't a street gang in LA. We were young men and a few women who had the priviledge of being a part of what would become history. Not the kind of history your kids will study in school, but a history you know made a difference.
As of May 6, 2006 the C-141 will no longer exist in the Air Force inventory. They have been the backbone of the United States Air Force transport fleet for more than forty years. The last one, tail #60177 known as the Hanoi Taxi will land at Wright-Paterson AFB in Ohio. It was the first aircraft to bring the POW's home from Hanoi. If you watched the ceremonies like I did, it was the aircraft always in the background. It will be officially retired and is becoming a static display for the Air Force Museum. Not all of the Starlifters were so lucky. Many are at Davis-Mothan AFB in Arizona awaiting to be scraped or already have been.
Charleston AFB, SC was my first duty assignment. It was going through a lot of transition at the time. The Vietnam war had just ended. Lots of people were getting out of the Air Force and not many were coming in. It wasn't very popular to be in the military at that time.
Working on a transport aircraft took me around the world doing all kinds of things. I've been to Europe, Africa, Asia, South & Central America, Canada and lots of the U.S. I've meet presidents of foreign nations, kings, princes, numerous politicians, etc. I've worked long hours and partied with many a NATO troops. We brought home the wounded, tired, sick, POW's, families of, and some deceased. I remember mostly the British paratroopers in Panama, the French Foreign Legion troops in Zaire and the U.S. Army troops in Guyana. I also remember the dedication so many had to an aircraft and it's mission. Some I'm still in touch with to this day. This aircraft was a work horse. To borrow a phrase "it could take a licking and keep on ticking".
As an E4, I became a flight chief for a while, a position usually held by an E7 or above. Problem was they didn't have enough to go around, so it worked its way down the food chain. My true love was going on TDY's. Going anywhere I've never been before. If someone said the place sucked, I wanted to go find out for myself. They could send me anywhere at anytime, and they did. I traveled the world and I traveled on this aircraft into manhood.
Those days are gone and now so is the aircraft. Leaving only fond memories for old crew chief's (war dogs) and flight crews. The new war dogs and flight crews have it now with their new aircraft. Thanks Lockheed, she was a great ride. I'll never forget her. Good job! Mission complete.