Memories of Minot AFB

Missouri man recalls bringing one of first B-52s to Minot AFB

Eloise Ogden/MDN B-52 bombers, like this one at Minot Air Force Base, are America’s longest-serving bomber. Hal Regele, of Missouri, was a member of an aircrew bringing one of the first B-52s to the Minot base in the 1960s.

Hal Regele was a member of an aircrew bringing one of the first B-52H bombers to Minot Air Force Base.

Regele, now of O’Fallon, Mo., just west of St. Louis, Mo., recalled they picked up the plane at the Boeing plant in Wichita, Kan.

“A DC-3 crew from the base flew us down there for the pick up,” he said. Regele was the navigator on the crew to bring the plane to the Minot base. He believes the plane may have been the third B-52 brought to the base but has not been able to officially verify that.

Regele contacted the Minot Daily News recently after seeing a Minot Daily News story about the first two B-52H bombers to land at the Minot base.

Last August, Brad Foote of Annapolis, Md., and Bill Sims of Yuba City, Calif., both retired Air Force lieutenant colonels, and their wives attended Northern Neighbors Day, the base’s open house and air show. Foote and Sims made history in 1961 when they were aircrew members of one of the first two B-52H bombers to arrive at Minot AFB in July 1961. Their plane was the backup plane for “Peace Persuader”, the first plane to arrive at the base, in case that plane could not get here or land.

Regele related a story about how he was assigned to Minot AFB and his first experience with North Dakota weather.

“A navigator classmate of mine was from Deering, N.D., James “Jim” McDonald, and he always talked about North Dakota and how great it was. So, I was third in our navigator class at graduation and the first two positions available were at Homestead AFB, Fla., which I requested and bang, they went to the first two in the class. Because of Jim bragging about North Dakota, I put Minot down as my next pick and bang, I got it. I could have picked many other assignments but I wanted the B-52H and because of Jim I picked Minot.

“As I drove into town on route 83, the snow on the side of the road kept getting higher and higher because the snow plows were clearing the roadways. Needless to say, seeing all the snow piled up on either side of the highway mid-December of 1961 didn’t make me very happy,” Regele said.

About two months later, Regele was qualified in the B-52H. “I qualified in the B-52H the first of February 1962 and was declared combat ready June 23, 1962,” he said.

“The things I remember about being a crew member at Minot AFB was three or four weeklong alerts on the alert facility about every two months, flying two to three 14 to 16-hour training missions a month, and then all of the military academics and target study sessions,” he said.

Regele said he became acquainted with many people at Minot.

“I interfaced with a lot of Minot folks – all nice,” he said. “I had a couple of Regina, Saskatchewan, friends. The military folks were dedicated and very nice.”

He also recalled, “When I had time I would eat a pancake and berry/cherry breakfast at a restaurant out on the west side of town a couple of times a month and, of course, there was the Dutch Mill.” The Dutch Mill was a bar/restaurant on the east side of Minot and now the Rockin’ Horse is located there.

“Who could forget the SNERT (blowing snow and dirt) storms and the super low temperatures. Oh yes, the Officers Club (at Minot AFB),” Regele said, continuing to reminisce.

“While at Minot I was involved in the Cuban Crisis. While being a pilot I was involved in Nam and the Arab/Israeli conflict,” he added.

Regele left Minot AFB in May 1966 and went to Del Rio, Texas, for pilot training. “I was high enough in the class to get Air Force Rescue HC-130s in Honolulu, Hawaii,” he said.

He said he flew those planes for three years in Hawaii and all over the Pacific and was part of the secondary force to the Navy for the Apollo landings.

Regele then went to Vietnam, where he was in the Air Force Rescue business. “There I flew 122 missions and about 825 hours during my year’s assignment. Many aviators knew our call sign ‘KING.’ We were the Air Rescue ‘Air Mission Commanders,’ “ he said.

After Vietnam Regele went to a base in the San Francisco area and about two years later his squadron moved to the Sacramento area. “While there I flew special missions catching NOAA, NASA, ERDA atmospheric sampling packages five times a deployment which was in Alaska for a week in the summer and Panama in the winter, also for a week, for a total of 10 catches a year.

“While in Sacramento I flew many, many rescue missions and made the West Coast TV news about four times and many of the newspapers,” he said.

During his Air Force Rescue days, he said they averaged about 60 hours per week. “Like one fellow said we were a small unit with a large workload. In Hawaii we were so busy that we had to call in between 4:30 and 6 p.m. every night of the week to get our flying/alert assignment for the next day. Also, we had to manage/work various offices where larger units have people assigned to those duties. In Nam I had one day off. When not flying or sitting alert over there I was very busy with being chief of Aircrew scheduling and mission briefing,” Regele said.

“While in Hawaii, Vietnam, San Francisco and Sacramento I flew many, many rescue missions and saved a great number of lives,” he added.

While in Sacramento he was moved to an intermediate command level (a wing), then transferred to the Air Rescue Headquarters near St. Louis, Mo.

Regele retired from the Air Force at Scott AFB, Ill., then worked as an income tax specialist, later started his own tax business and then developed a landscaping business. “The two dovetailed quite nicely,” he said.

His days at Minot AFB and flying the B-52s now are several decades ago. They’re the early days of his Air Force career as well as the early years of Minot AFB.

(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Editor Mike Sasser at 857-1959 or Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send email suggestions to msasser@minotdailynews.com.)