Be Sure To Get Some Insurance Before Your Next Flight To Eniwetok

Those were the days. Piston driven airplane engines, unpressurized cabins, in flight food service that consisted of a box lunch tossed at you by a loadmaster, and your luggage not just flying on the same plane, but often flying right next to you on a pallet lashed to the bare aircraft floor. Aaaah, to be a serviceman in the 1960’s headed of for exotic ports of call like Johnston Island, Keflavik, Tripoli or Karachi.  All courtesy of the US Air Force’s Military Air Transport Service and the US Air Force Europe’s 322nd Air Division.

But hey Soldier, before you board that plane why not get yourself some flight insurance? Who knows when that engine was last overhauled or the hydraulic fluid levels were checked? The responsible thing is to leave Mom & Dad a little pocket money should the unexpected happen. So step over to the Mutual of Omaha insurance desk right here in the MATS terminal and sign up for a few hundred dollars, or even a few thousand dollars of flight insurance. It’ll give you peace of mind and maybe even help the folks pay for that new Oldsmobile they’ve been seeing in the commercials on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Flight Insurance

After WWII the US Air Force recognized the need to maintain the ability to transport personnel to make sure they could get the people and supplies where they were needed, often to places commercial airlines couldn’t or wouldn’t fly. This led to the creation of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS). While MATS operations were severely restricted inside the United States (the commercial airlines didn’t like the idea of competing with Uncle Sam), the Air Force operated regularly scheduled personnel and logistics flights to a wide variety of duty posts as far flung as Thule, Greenland and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

The map on this post card neatly reflects the state of our military commitments in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. At the time we had a heavy presence in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. We tied the Pacific basin together with bases on Johnston Island, the Marshall Islands, Iwo Jima, Manila and Saigon. One of the goals of all this activity was to let the Soviets know, in clear terms, that we could move what we wanted, when we wanted, to where we wanted. At the time we were a true global power and everyone knew it.

But back to our poor Soldier about to climb aboard that rickety C-54 transport and fly a thousand miles at night to a small spot in the middle of the Atlantic known as the Azores. Suddenly buying a few hundred bucks worth of flight insurance doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. After all, you just never know. Good thing Mutual of Omaha is johnny on the spot with an insurance counter where you fill out your form, slip it and some cash into an envelope and drop it into the collections slot, hoping like hell your folks never see a return on the investment.

I’m not sure when this postcard was printed, but I’m guessing the late 1950’s or early 1960’s based on the flights into France (Charles de Gaulle kicked us out in 1967) and the fact that the Military Air Transport Service became the Military Airlift Command in 1966. The back of the card shows no marking to indicate the date of printing, but it does helpfully remind us that insurance is available at all MATS or ALS terminals. Just in case our Soldier wants more insurance for the second leg of his trip.

Flight Insurance 2

Flight insurance was a common offering in airport terminals in those days. As a kid I remember seeing the insurance counters during our infrequent trips to the airport to pick up visiting relatives or say goodbye on those rare occasions when one of our family members flew. Flying was frightfully expensive in those days, and the insurance counters served as a reminder that flight was still something a bit daring and risky.

– Brian

It’s Throwback Thursday!

Everybody does ‘throwback Thursday’ these days, so why not me.

I came across these quirky but interesting (for a topo geek and an airplane geek) video clips on YouTube and thought I’d share them.

First, a nod to our Air Force friends. From WWII right on through the 1980s the Army Topographic services relied on the US Air Force for wide-area mapping photography support. The Army did pick up some missions using its fixed-wing intel platforms like the venerable Grumman OV-1 Mohawk, but for the most part it was the Air Force (or the Air Force Reserves or Air National Guard) who handled the military requirements for mapping photography. You can read more about the USAF’s photomapping activities at the 1370th Photomapping Squadron’s history site. In fact, as late as 1994 in Panama we were tasking the Air Force to fly Furbish Breeze photo reconnaissance missions over key areas of Ecuador and Peru for cartographic map updates and terrain study development. Furbish Breeze wasn’t a mapping camera system, but it was the best we had available at the time and the Air Force was happy to fly for us.

Let’s start with 1961 and British Guiana. This looks like a home movie shot without sound and it depicts the mundane routine of supporting photomapping missions in British Guiana (today’s Belize). I’m guessing this mission was being run in support of the IAGS. This is the 1370th Squadron in action:

Next, let’s move to Vietnam. Here’s a video showing 1370th operations out of Tuy Hoa Airbase in South Vietnam in 1968. The Army Topographic services had a huge mapping mission in Vietnam – most of the original mapping of the country had been done by the French pre-WWII and was badly outdated by the time US forces got heavily involved in the conflict. Army Topographic units had to re-map the entire country at all scales, and had to do it fast. We relied very heavily on mapping photography provided by the 1370th:

Honestly I have little or no idea what these guys are doing inside the aircraft during flight. I get the general idea that they are checking in with HIRAN ground stations and monitoring camera operations, but that’s about it. If there are any USAF photomapping veterans out there who’d like to provide some insight into what’s going on in the videos please chime in!

Next, it’s something for the Squids (sorry, I couldn’t resist). These videos don’t depict mapping or charting activities, but they are interesting snapshots of photo intelligence activities.

The first video is a short clip showing what I assume is a photo interpretation team aboard an aircraft carrier reviewing stereo photos during WWII:

Next is a formally produced video made during WWII showing the importance of aerial photo reconnaissance in the Pacific Theater. Beyond the ‘mom & pop homefront’ scenes at the beginning and end of the video it’s actually pretty good. And hang in to the end to see Navy Commander R.S. Quackenbush discussing the importance of photo reconnaissance and take note of the stereoscopes and aerial photography neatly arrayed on his desk for dramatic emphasis:

Thanks for watching!

– Brian