This site is dedicated to ALL those who served in usafss, the united states air force SECURITY service, on the nsa comint intelligence team, during the cold-war years
VIVA USAFSS!
HeadsetHeadset

The headset is probably the most representative icon of our work--after all, we did a lot of listening. The photo on left was provided by Al Lorentzen (USAFSS 1956-1962). He wore this set while stationed on Shemya Island and later in Scotland. One can only estimate what intelligence came through this one set but, believe me, it was substantial. Then multiply that by the thousands that were in use 24 hours a day around the globe and you may get an idea as to the magnitude of the USAFSS MIssion.    


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Administrator Note:  This piece was presented by Bob Lehman (no relation to Don Lehmann) in response to a request for former USAFSS folks to share their experiences with others.



Sadly, Bob passed away recently--he will be missed by all, especially by his USAFSSer comrades. His obituary follows.


Robert G. Lehman, 75, St. Augustine, passed away Feb. 18, 2009 ,at Shands in Jacksonville. Memorial services will be held 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23, 2009, at the VFW Post No. 239, 6184 U.S. 1 South, St. Augustine.
He served in the U.S. Air Force and he was a commander of the United Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 14-07 for two years and an active member for many years.
He is survived by his wife, Kathy J. Lehman; daughter, Melinda Lehman and husband, Jim Cybul; son, Rob Lehman and wife, Jeanine and their children, Katie and Andrew.


 
 
Foreword

I was a 203, trained at Yale under Bob Tharp and Dr. Henry Fenn, et al.  Selected from my basic flight at Sampson in the spring of '53, we completed training, I believe in late February of March '54.  Sent to Kelly by mistake, it took a month to get orders straightened out for overseas deployment.  Twenty-six new Chinese linguists with nothing to do for a month.  Finally someone decided we should be put to work and they brought in a C-47 and loaded us all up and flew us to Parks AFB for shipment.    Those of us with new orders for Clark arrived too late for the ship and had to wait more than a month for the next one.  So, I got my duty job as the barracks chief, (get everyone out of the barracks before inspection, basically), and also got a paying job at the golf driving range.  My buddy and I got a weekend pass and hitch-hiked to Hollywood and back. (Not supposed to be over 50 miles from base, but who's counting) 

Basically, after 17 days on the General Daniel Sullivan, my assignments were 29th RSM,Clark,  Flight A 29th at Kadena, back to Clark, posted to ShuLinKou on "Formosa", then by mid-55 to the first Chinese 203 group at Yokota on ole 290, B29 deicer tearan RB-29. (Another photo of this historic bird can be seen at: http://www.silent-warriors.com/rb29a290.gif) staging there with other 203 groups. This B-29 was the prototype for airborne intercept.  As I said, we called her "two-nine nuthin"  It had a small blister on each side, aft for scanner positions to watch the engines, and a tail gunner.  No other armament except the tail.  We lost engines for oil leaks many times and landed on 2 once.  One time we were AOCP, (Aircraft Out-of-commission for Parts), for 4 months.  Then we found a whole hanger full of B-29 parts in Okinawa in a conversation with some WB-50 weather guys.  Never AOCP again.  I stayed there in that assignment until Feb 57, extending so I could get discharged in time for spring semester back in college. 

I remember the very un-military mind-set, but absolutely no disrespect for the job or it's priority.  We played cards, drank, played tennis, rented motorcycles, raised hell, but no one ever missed a flight or a trick. We lost one plane in Sept 56, a refurbished RB-50 that was to replace old 290, losing 16 people on a Russian mission.  Reportedly, it was the victim of a typhoon.

I got my degree in Industrial Engineering and spent about 35 years in the foundry business with GM and others.  In 1991, I took a job as the first Director of Industrial Extension at West Virginia University, retiring from there in 1996. My wife Kathy and I now live in St. Augustine, FL.

The following is a note I sent to Doug Quinn, regarding some of my experiences at Clark
Memories of Clark AFB
by
Bob Lehmann

Doug Quinn, 

I was at Clark, (29th RSM)  in 1954 as my first overseas deployment.  We sailed from Oakland CA to Manila in 17 days, stopping off at Kuajalien and Guam on the way, arriving, I believe, in late June or early July.   It was an interesting experience, but not worth repeating. 

After initial on-the-job training monitoring and translating, I was in a small group reassigned to Kadena on Okinawa.  After 4 months or so, a few of us were sent back to Clark to help catch up a backlog of translations of accumulated tapes.  We translated  and transmitted live on a teletype machine.  I remember I couldn't type fast enough to keep ahead of the tape eating monster, and had to stop it periodically to get ahead of it.  We caught up the backlog on New Years Eve in time to go into Angeles and get roaring drunk!.  What a hangover!

In early Jan. '55, I posted for Taiwan, and went to ShuLinKou, from there in 4 months, to Yokota in Japan, where I was in the first group of Chinese Lings to be assigned to the flying platform on old RB-29, ser. No 290, affectionately known as "Two Nine Nuthin."

At Clark, I really liked the tropical climate. I played a little golf there, and the course had sand greens!.  Very challenging!  One time we went to Bagio for a couple of days and I played golf there, also.  On the way, we went by a bay were there were landings in WWII and wrecked LST's were off the beach where we went swimming. 

The Huks were pretty active while we were there, and there were reports of the front gate getting shot up one night, and guards shooting someone coming over the fence.  I remember seeing the smoke up on the mountain from planes bombing or staffing Huk hideouts.  We didn't seem to worry much about them or other security matters.  We just did our work and played.  It's incredible to think that the whole placed got buried in ash from a volcano that far away!

I only have a couple of pictures from Clark.  One showing Mt. Uriah in the background and one showing the barracks. When I get a new printer/scanner, (soon), I'll send them along.

I had two more interesting experiences at Clark.  Sometime in '56,  we flew our old RB-29 to Clark to base out of there for a few missions off the coast of Canton. When we arrived, the beer in the transient barracks was not cold.  So, we loaded up about 8 cases of beer and went back to the flight line and put them in the bomb bay and took that 29 off and flew around for an hour to cool the beer!.

Also, in '56, we were temporarily flying out of Kadena and I got a message to get the plane back to Yokota asap, for a Russian mission.  (I was the senior non-com in the back.  The front-end flying crew were not briefed at out level, and were on TDY from stateside. )  So, I got everyone back on the plane but we were one seat short, so I stayed over to find my own way back.  I asked base ops who was going to Yokota, and they only had this C-119 coming from Yokota en route to Clark and back to Yokota. I talked to the AC on the 119 and he let me hitch a ride.  We were taking Sake to Clark for the officers club on this training mission, and taking bananas back to Yokota!

Well, those are most of my memories of Clark.  I know they were 10 years before your tour there, but I thought you might like to hear them.