MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Former North Dakota Gov. William L. Guy and retired Air Force Col. Harold A. Radetsky remember when they were on the flight of the first B-52H bomber to be assigned to Minot Air Force Base 50 years ago.
That flight was on July 16, 1961. Guy and Radetsky were on the flight from Ellsworth AFB at Rapid City, S.D., to Minot AFB.
Guy, now 91, lives in Fargo and Radetsky, 92, lives in Fort Worth, Texas. Both were recently interviewed by The Minot Daily News. Radetsky was the wing commander at Minot AFB when the first B-52 arrived.
Eloise Ogden/MDN • This photo of a B-52 at Minot Air Force Base was taken May 5 when members of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee were getting an upclose look at the bomber. July 16 marks 50 years since the first B-52H was brought to the Minot base.
Eloise Ogden/MDN • This photo is from a page of The Minot Daily News about the formal ceremony July 16, 1961, marking the arrival of the first B-52H bomber at Minot Air Force Base. William L. Guy, North Dakota governor, is in the foreground of the photo at left and retired Col. Harold Radetsky is at the front right of the photo.
Submitted Photo • Retired Air Force Col. Harold A. Radetsky, shown here at his home in Texas, was a passenger with North Dakota Gov. William L. Guy on the first B-52H bomber brought to Minot Air Force Base 50 years ago on July 16, 1961.
Submitted Photo • This photo, courtesy of the State Historical Society of N.D., is of William L. Guy at the North Dakota Heritage Center in November 2010.
In recognition of the arrival of the first B-52 at Minot AFB, a ceremony is being planned at the base in August, said Capt. Genieve David, chief of Public Affairs at the Minot base.
Guy said he flew to Rapid City in the state's twin engine plane which was available to the governor, and then got on the B-52.
"I wasn't used to being around those big planes like that," said Guy, who said he always has had an interest in airplanes.
He said someone helped him get up and into the opening of the plane and showed him where he would be sitting. "I would be able to sit right behind the pilots so I could see out as we flew," he said.
"We flew very, very low and the pilot explained we wanted to make this flight to Minot a flight training effort at which we do low-level bombing so we flew at a low level, which we did," Guy said.
When the plane came into the Minot base, he said it landed nicely and there was a crowd.
When we got down, the pilot pointed at this speck in the air above us, Guy said. "If we were not able to land we had an identical bomber flying high above us so not to distract from below. But if we couldn't land the bomber, it could have fulfilled the obligation of this first bomber at Minot."
Maj. Clyde Evely was the commander of the crew flying the first B-52H to Minot AFB on July 16, 1961.
The plane arrived at the Minot base for an open house event called "Peace Persuader Day."
Guy said, as he recalled, some of the local officials in Minot came aboard the plane and were given a flight around the city.
Retired Col. Harold A. Radetsky said, when asked about his flight on the first B-52 bomber for the Minot base, said, "I remember that very well."
Radetsky said the plane was brought from the (Boeing) factory to Minot AFB via Rapid City. At the time Radetsky was commander of the 4136th Strategic Wing at the Minot base.
"Later, it (4136th) was changed to the 5th (Bomb Wing)," Radetsky said.
The 5th Bomb Wing is the present B-52 wing at Minot AFB, with Col. James Dawkins as its commander.
Currently, 28 B-52s with the tail numbers of 60 and 61 are assigned to the Minot base.
Radetsky said he joined Guy in Rapid City for the flight on the new plane, he recalled. "It was a great day," he said. He said they were the only two passengers going along with the crew.
Radetsky said he had not been stationed at Minot AFB for very long when the first B-52 arrived there. He said it was a big deal to get the latest model of the B-52, a plane that he flew while at Minot AFB.
Besides the B-52, during his 28-year Air Force career, Radetsky also flew the B-25, A-020 and B-26.
Radetsky spent about a year and a half at Minot AFB, then was sent to Barksdale AFB, La. Those two bases now are the only bases with B-52s.
Is he amazed these planes are still flying? "I am," Radetsky said.
He said a number of generations have or are flying the B-52. He related a brief story about a commander of a B-52 looking over to the co-pilot and saying, "Hello son."
Radetsky said he was looking over stories from The Minot Daily News from 50 years ago about the arrival of the "Peace Persuader." He noted the photos showing him, William Guy, Maj. Gen. Delmar Wilson, division commander, Col. James Jacobson, deputy wing commander for maintenance who worked for Radetsky, Lt. Col. Robert Whitehead,bomb squadron commander, and Diane Ulvedal, Miss North Dakota from Grand Forks. "She christened the bomber," Radetsky said.
Guy said Minot was a good place for this type of base because of its close proximity to the Canadian border and being in the northern center of the U.S. "It is a logical point for security for the United States," he said.
Evely, who headed the crew of the first B-52H on that flight to Minot 50 years ago, visited Minot AFB several years ago when he and his son, Clyde P. Evely Jr., attended a Northern Neighbors Day open house and air show. The event also was the opening of a museum at the base and Evely was invited to talk about his experiences.
Evely, who retired from the Air Force after a more than 30-year career with the rank of colonel, died April 7, 2010, in Virginia. He had lived in North Carolina for many years.
Clyde P. Evely Jr., of Catawba, Va., in a phone interview with The Minot Daily News Wednesday, said his father would talk about bringing the first B-52 to Minot AFB and that it was an honor for him. "He had a lot of respect for the B-52," his son said. He said his father had more than 20,000 flying hours.
Clyde P. Evely Jr. said he remembers when his father and other crew members arrived at the Minot base with the first B-52H, the "Peace Persuader." He said he remembers going to the flightline and then they went into a hangar. "I was 10 years old," he said, adding, "It was a big deal." The Evelys were at Minot AFB from 1960-64.
When he and his father visited the Minot base a few years, he said his father visited with some people from Boeing and talked to them about the B-52 being "a remarkable plane."
About a year later, in 1962, Evely headed a crew which gained notoriety in another B-52, "Persian Rug," which set numerous records.
Where the "Peace Persuader" is now or what may have happened to it is not clear because resources have discrepancies in their information so more research is required. One report is it may have been a B-52 which crashed a number of years ago.
The 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB has two squadrons of B-52s: the 23rd Bomb Squadron and its newest addition, the 69th Bomb Squadron.
The B-52 Stratofortress remains the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the United States and in the center of this nation's national security picture. It is expected to continue operations for many more years.