Cold war risks remembered at local reunion

Bill Steiner of Decatur, GA, was one of the group who took time to recall his role of aerial photographer with the crew. “We generally used a six-inch lense,” he stated. “But, we even had a lense that was 36 inches. And, we carried 360 feet of film. We’d take photos of anything that could add pieces to our intelligence system.” He went on to describe how he sometimes took photos while hanging out the plane’s open door while two others held onto him.

A total of 31 U.S. planes were shot down by Cold War adversaries between 1950 and 1970. Approximately 160 airmen were either killed or never found. Of their own missions, Steiner said, “We were approached a few times by fighters, but never attacked. Luckily, we missed out on becoming another statistic.”

While the five officers of the crew all went on to make the Air Force their careers, only one went back to Japan. The one who went back was Paul Jackson who returned to marry a Japanese girl he had met. It had taken him 10 months to get all the necessary paper work completed. His wedding day, he recalled, was an all-day affair with he and his bride racing back and forth with papers to the American consulate, the Registar’s office and the Japanese War Office.

While in Little Falls, the group visited the Lindbergh Historic Site and Park, attended a dinner at the Fireside Room at First United Church where Stone gave a slide presentation of their days at Yokota, enjoyed a catered picnic lunch at Chuck and Nellie Stone’s home and, last Tuesday evening, said their farewells at a dinner at Jerry’s Supper Club.

Several of those at the reunion brought along their wives. All were impressed with the city’s clean, flower-filled yards and the “beautiful weather” they were given. “Of course, I don’t know if I would say that if it was January,” said Steiner.

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