William D. Brooks/SSgt./5yrs (1955-59)
307th Bomb Wing, 307th Armament & Electronics (A&E) Squadron
307th Bomb Wing, 307th Armament & Electronics (A&E) Squadron
Aircraft Radio Maintenance Technician. Repaired and maintained various aircraft radio electronics equipment. Note the attached photo of TSgt. Walter Barton (left) and SSgt. William Brooks (me) checking out a radar system on a B-47 StratoJet.
What were your initial thoughts of being sent to Lincoln AFB or also your first thoughts of seeing the base for the first time?
I was assigned to the 307th Bomb Wing at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa maintaining radio equipment on B-29 prop driven bombers when the 307th transferred to Lincoln to convert to B-47 StratOJet aircraft. My electronics background was deemed a usable skill therefore I was transferred with the 307th to Lincoln. I was quite excited about the opportunity to return to the States from a shortened 2 year overseas tour and to be a part of a new generation aircraft weapons system.
I do not have any vivid recollections of the base upon initial arrival but am certain that it was in a frenzied build-up state to accommodate the new B-47 bomber aircraft and support squadrons. At age76, my memory of initial impressions of the base has somewhat faded.
How were you trained to perform your duties before and while at Lincoln?
Prior to transferring to Lincoln AFB, I was trained in aircraft radio electronics at Scott Air Force Base, IL. After arriving at Lincoln, I was sent back to Scott AFB on several occasions for upgrade maintenance training on radio equipment applicable to B-47 aircraft.
In your own thoughts, what was the general mood of the base throughout you tour? Any tension or worry?
I think tensions always were in evidence to some extent as we were in a continued training flux of becoming ‘alert ready.’ The many scramble alert exercises were constant reminders that our mission could, in fact trigger Armageddon at any time.
In many instances, duty hours were long and exhausting in support of mission operations.
Your opinion on the living conditions on base including Dining Halls
The barracks facilities were satisfactory as such facilities go and the mess halls provided reasonably good menus. No doubt the situation improved dramatically after I got married and moved off-base.
Was their enough entertainment located on base to suit your needs?
I looked forward to the dances held at the base recreation center (where I eventually met my future wife.) An occasional movie provided an alternative outlet.
Your opinion on base housing (please indicate North or South tier) and if you thought it was a nice place to raise a family and/or live. Also any stories concerning the Base Housing Community you may recall
Being married and a Staff Sergeant rank didn’t quite qualify us for base housing. However, my mother, wife and 3 children resided in the housing during my tour of duty in Vietnam (1966-67) after the base had de-activated and reverted to civilian control. This did much to alleviate my worries about my family’s well-being while completing a tour in Vietnam.
Your thoughts on living in the city of Lincoln (if you did at all)
I married a Lincoln girl in Feb. 1957 and promptly moved off-base to a small apartment in Lincoln. This was my first experience living off-base. This enabled us to become more socially comfortable with the Lincoln community in general.
Visiting with family and new-found friends was easier. The opportunity to visit Lincoln amenities such as parks, theaters, government and university cultural centers and shopping areas were made more accessible. Travel to & from the base was generally without incident, however wintry weather conditions occasionally presented travel problems.
Your opinion on base security, did you think Lincoln was safe pretty much from sabotage and/or attack?
I probably took it for granted that the base was secure since I was a member of the military community but was not much concerned with any terrorist threat that is prevalent in today’s world. I think Lincoln would have been a prime target for a strike due to the huge combined bomber and missile force located there.
Explain perhaps an ominous period which you thought there was a danger of war (i.e. Cuban Missile Crisis) and your thoughts on potentially going to war.
The Soviet ICBM build-up was perhaps the most singular event impacting my thoughts that we could go to war at any time. I was concerned that the Soviet missile force (if sufficiently developed) could possibly penetrate our defenses before we could get our alert aircraft off the ground.
How do you think the citizens of Lincoln looked upon the personnel of the base?
I thought that relations between base personnel and the civilian community were quite cordial and that the Lincoln folks were supportive of our military mission.
Obviously, the base was an economic windfall to the local community providing a wealth of jobs and services.
If ever on a TDY, what sort of preparation did you experience and also any notable stories being deployed you would like to share.
The 307th did a TDY to Lakenheath, England at which time I accompanied one of the bomb squadrons as a radio maintenance technician. Preparation from my perspective involved packing the many portable equipment test benches and various equipment items for deployment.
A terrible accident occurred in October 1956 when a C-118 transport aircraft went down near the Azores and all aboard were lost. I had several airman friends on that aircraft. As I recall, the aircraft was returning to the US after the Lakenheath deployment. Remains of the accident were never found. Some of our maintenance shops were short of personnel as a result.
Explain your last days at Lincoln and how you felt about leaving the base for good.
I was married, had one small child (born in Nov. 1958) and was permanently transferred and re-assigned in late 1959 to a strategic missile wing in northern Maine. I felt rather sad about leaving Lincoln as my wife’s family and relatives resided there. But at the same time, I was somewhat excited about becoming a member of a missile (SM-62 Snark) launch crew.
Any thoughts on how your stay in Lincoln has influenced your life?
Lincoln was a large part of my early military career having been stationed there for 5 years. Trying to combine a military ‘alert readiness’ posture and sync family life proved difficult at times but I think that I was able to become a better person for both myself and my family.
Were there any special places or events at Lincoln that you remember visiting or hanging out at (such as drive-ins, bars?)
Several of my airmen friends & I went to the Sunday night dances at the downtown Lincoln CYO quite frequently. Did Saturday night dances at the PlaMor club. Also went to the Fred Astaire dance parties occasionally with several of my friends. I also attended several of the ‘Big Red’ football games courtesy of my future wife who worked at the University Club & obtained game tickets for me.
Any major events that were defining moments at Lincoln AFB you may have witnessed
Marriage in 1957 to my current wife of 54 years and birth of our first child in 1958.
If you could, explain particulars about the base that you may remember
(Such as transportation around, gates, the flight line, hangars, shops, base operations, bowling lake, BX, commissary)
I was primarily assigned to in-shop radio maintenance-repair duties at the A&E building but did flight line radio maintenance on the aircraft when needed. I also assisted in the design & construction of our radio test benches.
The ‘lake’ comes to mind as our 307th A&E Squadron obtained a small motorboat for use by squadron members. I volunteered as the caretaker-operator and occasionally drove members around the lake during off-duty hours.
Finally, Please share any stories, thoughts, incidents, Etc. that you believe should not be lost to history. Anything we have not included that you believe should be included.
Lincoln AFB was a vital component in the defense of our country and the free world at a time when political and oppressive regimes were bent on developing destructive weapons systems and threatening our existence, ideals and way of life. There is no doubt in my mind that the bombers and personnel from LAFB served as a vital deterrent to potential aggressors. The legacy of the men & women stationed at LAFB should never be forgotten.