Grissom AFB

A cold front came through leaving in it’s wake gusty winds and an Airmet for moderate turbulence, the kind that can bounce you around during a cross country. There was no pressing need to make today’s flight. DUATS and a call to the flight service station gave indications that the flight should be scrubbed. A reasoned decision was made and before long, the plane was pointed to Grissom Air Force Base. Grissom was recently opened to the public at specific hours and was at the opposite end of three Military Operations Areas. (MOA).

Travelling above the heartland, I’m impressed howIMG_2193 farmland spreads pretty much in all directions as far as the eye can see, at least once out of the Chicago area past the class B airspace. The upside to the monotony? In the event of an emergency, there were lots of options.


Grissom AFB was initially established as a Naval Air station for training (including the famous ball player Ted Williams). It later saw duty as an air base for the 319th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron equipped with the F106 Delta Dart. The Strategic Air Command (SAC) took control in 1957 and it became home to the 305th Bombardment Wing. During the cold war it hosted the B-47 Stratojet and later the more famous and sleek jet bomber, the  B-58 Hustler.  IMG_2153An F101 Voodoo was also featured. Interesting that it was equipped with only two missiles-no guns. The Air Genie air to air missile was an unguided nuclear missile designed to take down a Soviet nuclear armed plane. All it had to do was get close. Strange by today’s standards. Taking down an adversary plane with nuclear weapons. I hope that time has forever passed. The AFB is still known as the 305th but with the dissolution of the SAC, it became a refueling wing in 1970 as it remains today.

You can see some of the Air Force all time greats (and a few ugly ones like the T-37 tweety)IMG_2179 if you make the ten minute walk to the museum. Highly recommended. If you don’t love history, you’ll still love the planes. When it comes to general aviation, it’s the journey. This time the destination was as good as the trip.


Not many veterans have flown both the F-4 and 0-2 in combat. Those intrepid few had these aircraft in which to fight.  You can see the pylons for the “willie pete” under the Skymaster’s wings.





10 responses to “Grissom AFB

  1. virgil xenophon

    You call the T-37 ugly? I thought it just looked plain silly. Our tng squadron call sign WAS “Ugly” tho, LOL!! As I was the Sq. CO’s only student (all other IPs had 4students, the XO had two) my call sign was Ugly Zero Two. Guess, like my avatar, they knew something even then. 🙂 BTW, is that the tail of a 105 in the background left?

    • The 6,000 pound dog whistle. There were uglier aircraft built but this one looked especially strange among it’s much larger Vietnam era brethren. There are a number of stories of how it was used in SE Asia (designated as the A-37 as I’m sure you’re aware) with almost half of the attack version that was built going to the South Vietnamese, some who were reportedly great pilots.
      Good catch on the Thud tail depicted in the photo. That’s a plane with high wing loading. I’ll bet only the F104 (or F102) came over the fence at higher speeds.

  2. virgil xenophon

    PS: Isn’t that a B-25H model or later in the top slot? Seems like the turret is forward, and has the waist gunner windows of the H, but looks like some glass in nose, so I’m getting mixed signals–unless it’s the glint/reflection of one of the external gun pods or something…

    • Actually this one is the “J” model. There is a lot of glass on it.
      The B-25-J that visited our airport had eight nose mounted guns-no glass. Very lethal looking. The Mitchell is one of my all time favorites based on the the Doolittle raid history.

  3. As I understand it, the purpose of the Genie was not to take out one aircraft but a formation of bombers with nuclear eapons. At the start of the cold war, bombers were the only way to take nuclear weapons to the enemy and this shotgun method was proposed to eliminate the threat.

    • Great observation and makes more sense given the expenditure of such lethality. Still: air to air nuclear weaponry has a “Dr. Strangelove” feel to it. I wonder how many average Americans knew that was the plan if an invasion was eminent. Scary stuff.

  4. virgil xenophon

    The introduction of the Genie into the arsenal was done before the had entirely thought thru the whole EMP thing. Same with the Army’s Nike Ajax/Hercules nuke tipped misslies–which is one of the reasons it was allowed to die a quiet death by the AF after they wrested control of the entire AD mission from the Army.

    One of my 1st cousins was an Army LtC (WP’43) who, in 1960, commanded an Ajax/Hercules site on San Pablo Ridge over-looking SF Bay. The entombed site is now part of a State Park up on the ridge. I visited him up there while on summer vacation from Illinois in the summer of that year. Weird-the site was encased in fog until around 11:00am each day with daily highs around low 60s in Aug. Drive down mountainside into Orinda on back side of mountain and it would be 100+ on the valley side, then drive thru mountain tunnel into SF bay and it would be back to around 64 degrees AMT for the day. Al made O-6 out of that assignment, which was a prestige post at the height of the Cold War.

    • We had a Nike base only a few miles from our home that was inactive at the time we moved there. Shortly thereafter, they turned it into a public park. The arms race continued though until the superpowers founds an outlet for limited war in SE Asia. The whole idea of “not thinking it through” with nuclear weaponry amazes me even today, experimenting with deterrents that had unbelievable consequences.

      The photos of the O-2 and F-4 were a h/t to VX when I was snapping away at Grissom and of course, the Phantom was also was a nuke capable platform.

  5. virgil xenophon

    Thanx–was too embarrassed to comment (ME?) didn’t want to look TOO egotistic (HA!) It IS kind of weird to see them side by side, hadn’t seen that since the flt-line at DaNang low those many years ago…memories galore for sure. Too bad about the O-2 commercially–not large enough for most commercial apps and too expensive to buy and operate for most GA types (let alone being somewhat rare.)

  6. I thought the O-2 would have been more commercially successful. A Twin engine without asymmetric thrust if you lose one. This factor, remains a problem in twin fatalities.
    Of course, with the advent of the Cirrus and Cessna 400 models, there is better than twin performance with the operating and maintenance costs of a only one engine.

    Still, I would rather take a twin over mountainous terrain or water (like the great lakes) as it has a reduced decent rate on engine out

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