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Interview with Loyd Ernest Abbott [6/12/2005]

Brenton Wiens:

June 12, 2005. I am Brent Wiens, and I'm interviewing Loyd Ernest Abbott for the Veterans History Project for AP U.S. history, __+ class here in the high school. Mr. Abbott, during what war did you serve?

Loyd Ernest Abbott:

Okay. Actually during the war, the one that I served in primarily was the Vietnam War, in nineteen sixty -- 1971, '72 -- 1972 probably.

Brenton Wiens:

When did you enlist?

Loyd Ernest Abbott:

Originally 19th of January 1954 in the Navy.

Brenton Wiens:

Were you drafted or did you enlist voluntarily.

Loyd Ernest Abbott:

No. I enlisted. I was 17 years old.

Brenton Wiens:

In which branch did you serve?

Loyd Ernest Abbott:

Well, I started in the Navy in 1954, and at the age of 17. And I got out of the Navy and - - June 6, 1957.

Brenton Wiens:

Where were you located during your service?

Loyd Ernest Abbott:

Well, at that time I went to Navy basic training at San Diego, and then I went to Alameda Naval Air Station and from there up to Tacoma, Washington, where I put a brand new mine sweeper ship into commission on October 16, 1955, and then from there back down to San Diego -- correction. I -- I went from -- from there I went back down to Long Beach, California, which was my home court here in the United States. From there I went to Sasebo Naval Base in Japan, and that was my home court overseas. While there I went all over the Southeast Asia. I served -- sailed up and down the Marietas, the islands, and on to the Marshall Islands and then came back to the States in, oh, May of 1957. And I got out of the Navy in June of -- June 7 of 1957. And then I built airplanes for Boeing airplane company in Seattle for a year, came back down to Willamina here in -- worked in the old brick plant for several months, and then I went into the Air Force on February 25, 1959. When I went into the Air Force, I went to jet engine school and became a jet engine mechanic, technician, later superintendent, and I went to Rantoul Air Base in -- I went to -- just a minute. It was Rantoul, Illinois, and I can't even think of the base now that -- let me see. Good Lord. I guess -- let me see. Chanute, Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois. Oh no. That's going to be terrible. From there I went to Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka, Kansas, which was a strategic air command base, and I spent nearly five years in the strategic air command there. And that's where I was, of course, when the Cuban Missile Crisis was going on in 1962. And during that crisis my outfit lost three airplanes and eleven men in the Cuban Crisis. We were flying an airplane every hour, one of our RB-47s, which is a B-47 bomber that is equipped for reconnaissance that had real super cameras in it, four in the belly of the airplane. And gives you an idea of how accurate those cameras were then -- and this is all of 50 years ago, but they could fly over at 40,000 feet in the air and tell whether you had mowed your lawn in the day or not. That is how accurate they were then. And we were flying one of those every hour over Cuba, 24 hours a day. And like I say, we lost three airplanes. They crashed and burned on take off, full sea load of fuel. And two of those airplanes had four men on, and one of them only had three men on, and that's a fast way to lose a lot of friends. I'm not sure, should I say anything about -- in Turkey when I --

Brenton Wiens:

Yeah.

Loyd Ernest Abbott:

Well, in 1963 I went to TUI, to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey where I was on a six-month TUI. And of course I was there when President Kennedy was killed, and that was a real special duty. We had real special RB-47s that each one of us -- there was three of them, and each one of them at that time had over a hundred million dollars worth of ECM gear, electronic countermeasures. And whenever one of those airplanes would fly, I don't know, but they claimed that there was enough power on those airplanes that they could knock out televisions for a hundred miles around. I don't know that to be true, but I know that when they flew, you know, Turkey was just across the Dardanelles from Russia. And any time that there was action around the border or what have you, our birds would fly. And where they went, I really don't know, but they were gone for eight hours and -- before they come back. And when they come back, that was absolutely top priority. We had the very top priority on the air base. And at the time they would declare an ASAP which was to get you airborne as quick as possible. From the time that word hit the air base, we had 15 minutes to get that airplane -- to get to the airplane from where we were at and get that airplane completely started and in the blue flying. And if we didn't do it, heads rolled all the way from the commander on down. And this is absolutely so. And -- well, I don't know, but -- anything else that you -- anyway, it was quite interesting.

Brenton Wiens:

What were some of your duties in the services?

Loyd Ernest Abbott:

Well, in the Navy I was an electrician. Well, after I got out of the Navy and built airplanes for Boeing, I was a riveter. I went into the Air Force as a jet engine technician. So I pretty well had most of it. I once thought of going in the Marine Corps as a cook just to -- no. That was strictly a -- but I remained in the jet engine field throughout my Air Force career, and I retired as a Master Sergeant from the United States Air Force 31st of May 1976. And -- so I don't know. Anything else you can think of?

Brenton Wiens:

What are some of your personal memories from this time?

Loyd Ernest Abbott:

Well, gee. I don't know. It was a long time ago. I had a lot of great times, wonderful times. A lot of them I wouldn't care to go over them. Give you just an idea, during the Cuban crisis, most airplanes, most units were -- their airplanes were fueled and armed and ready to go, but they were siting there waiting for the word to go, you know, to bomb or whatever. My own airplane being -- my own organization being a reconnaissance, we were flying an airplane, a B-47 reconnaissance bomber over Cuba every hour. And we were literally flying the wings off those old airplanes and we were working -- at that time we were supposed to be on 12-hour shifts, which we were, but any job that you were on, even though it might be just five, ten minutes before time -- shift change, you stayed on that job till you finished it, whether it took you 20 hours or -- had several of those days. For three months we didn't get a day off, and several of those days were at least 20 hours long, you know, before you get any sleep or anything. It was -- it was busy. And the Cuban crisis itself lasted only what? About six weeks or so, but it took us another six weeks or better just to get caught up again from finally -- and it was busy. It was busy. Vietnam, well, I went to Vietnam in 1971, '72, and -- oh, I don't know, it -- it was different. It was hot and you perspired a lot. We did lots of walking, and it didn't -- for two months I was there, I had lost about 30, 35 pounds which was good. I needed to. But I loved the -- well, the country, it had a lot of orchids and stuff like that, and you could smell them and it was beautiful smelling, you know. But you perspired so much that you -- only the armpits and the other areas that you were rubbed raw, your undergarments and so on. It was really -- you know, really difficult. I found that cornstarch made the best thing to -- against the -- you know, the chafing. And I found it was better than any other powder. I don't know. I can't think of anything right now. I imagine I will when the -- when it's not appropriate, but --

Brenton Wiens:

Were you able to correspond with your family and friends while in service.

Loyd Ernest Abbott:

Oh yes, oh yes, absolutely. In fact, I don't know if you know what MARS is. This was -- military something radio. It's like ham operators. And what I would do, if I want to speak to them, I would go to one of the MARS shacks and they usually -- nearly every day they'd try to get the air up, you know -- you know, you couldn't always get through. Sometimes atmospheric conditions kept you from it. But what they would do, when -- the MARS shack, when they get the -- as I called, the air up, where you talk on two-way radio, you know, from over there at the MARS to here in the states, the ham operator. And at that time, well, I mean -- tried to call by land line, it might be twenty dollars a minute or better, which would be prohibitive. And I ran into that. But through the MARS you could make a three-minute call if the air was up through the -- to the MARS -- or to the ham operator, and then they would make a phone patch from there to your home phone. And it wouldn't cost you anything for that. So you could get a three-minute call to your family for about a dollar a minute which was far -- that was -- you know, we could afford that. And I did that several times. But the only disadvantage there -- and it wasn't much -- was what -- you would say what you wanted to say, and then you'd say "over" so they -- key the mics back the other way so the person could talk to you. And once they were finished talking, they would say "over", and then they would key the mics back the other direction so you could only talk one way at a time. But it -- I talked to my wife that way out of Vietnam. I talked to her that way from Thailand. I talked to her that way from Taiwan. I talked -- you know, from places around the world. So that was really a blessing.

Brenton Wiens:

When were you able to come home from services and what was that like?

Loyd Ernest Abbott:

Well, whenever my tour of duty of course was up, if I was over there for 18 months or whatever, that would mean the time had come. However -- like in 1974, I did take a leave about halfway through and I came home -- I left my family there near Offutt Air Force Base, and I came home because they were there for a while in June and July, and then I went back to Thailand again. I hitchhiked on jet airplanes back and forth so it didn't cost me anything.

Brenton Wiens:

What would you tell today's youth about war and serving the country?

Loyd Ernest Abbott:

Well, nobody wants war. But a lot of times it's absolutely necessary to protect our way of life. And war is terrible. There's just no doubt about it. But we can't allow people to, you know, to -- terrorists to kill Americans or anybody else. And for that purpose I myself feel absolutely that we cannot allow this to happen. I feel that we must stamp out the terrorism and -- although they don't want to obey it. I'd go back in a minute if they did. You know, it's something that's entirely against my grain, against my whole way of life. And I just absolutely don't think that terrorists should be allowed to randomly kill Americans or anybody else. I think that that's something we cannot allow. And if we must go to war to prevent it or to put a stop to it, I feel that we must do it.

Brenton Wiens:

Thank you so much for your time and -- with helping me with this project.

Loyd Ernest Abbott:

You're welcome as can be. I hope I haven't disappointed you too much.

Brenton Wiens:

It's been wonderful.

Loyd Ernest Abbott:

Okay.

 
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