CONQUERING THE DRAGON

In the first of a series of features, former U-2 pilot Lt Col (ret’d) Rick Bishop recounts how he joined this elite group of US Air Force aviators.

IT WAS A typically dreary and cold Monday morning on a seven-day nuclear alert tour at Loring AFB, Maine, in 1977. The Strategic Air Command (SAC) base was initially chosen for its close proximity to the Soviet Union by flying directly over the Polar ice cap, and it was just 22 miles south of the Canadian border. My crew had just returned to the massive alert facility after pre-flighting and performing hundreds of checks through engine run-up and shut-down that were carried out daily to ensure our assigned KC-135A Stratotanker was airworthy and ready to go to war along with the resident B-52G Stratofortresses.

With 30 minutes to kill before lunch was served in the chow hall, we settled into the vinyl couches along the wide corridor alert facility for our favorite alert pastime of playfully insulting other crew members and cracking jokes, when over the intercom I was summoned to the front desk.

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