Cadet Lt. at Maxwell AFB, AL 1942

Original Orders to U.S. Army
Hank, a Cadet Lt.
Cadet Lt. at Maxwell AFB, AL 1942 Original Orders to U.S. Army Hank, a Cadet Lt.
        I left Newark, N.J. in October 1942 for induction and boot camp in the Army Air Corps. My first stop was at Nashville Tenn. For our basic training. We went on a train that was towed by a coal burning locomotive that spewed its ashes into the coaches, whose windows were wide open for ventilation ???
          While at Nashville, I was appointed a Cadet Lieutenant, mostly due to my loud and commanding voice.  We were allowed to go to town for one evening. The Army had a boot camp there for the WACS and they were billeted in a hotel. As we passed by on the sidewalk, one of the gals hollered from her window 'Hey G I, come on up and I'll give you something that you have never had '. My buddy looked at me and said 'What do you think that could be, LEPROSY?'
          After a few weeks of boot training, getting uniforms, haircuts, learning to eat Army chow, etc. I was assigned to my Primary Flying school at Souther Field in Americus Georgia.

Stearman PT-17 - My first plane My First Airplane - a Stearman Class of 43G at Souther Field, Americus, GA. L-R Cadets Paul Wine, ??, Hank Meierdierick
Stearman PT-17 My First Airplane - a Stearman Class of 43G at Souther Field, Americus, GA. L-R Cadets Paul Wine, ??, Hank Meierdierick

          I guess that it was early January 1943 when we arrived at Souther Field at Americus Georgia. It was a very nice civilian school with civilian flight instructors and Military check pilots. We flew open
Hank, ??, Paul Wine, Murphy, Instructor Paul Lobr
Hank, ??, Paul Wine, Murphy, Instructor Paul Lobr
cockpit Stearman PT 17 trainers. I think that I soloed after 5 or 6 hours. My instructor was a very pleasant young man named Paul Lohr. He lives near Ann Arbor Mi. and we correspond to this day. I still think that the basics of flying that he instilled in me and the importance of keeping my eyes open and to look all over the sky, is one of the reasons that I am still alive today.
          My favorite flying trick, being a young 'HOT PILOT', was to climb the Stearman to 3000 feet, put it on its back and glide to about 1000 feet, start the engine and climb back up and do it again. Not too smart since I had to depend on the wind to turn the prop to get the engine going. Another fun thing to do was to try to hit a buzzard with the wing. I never was successful but it did teach you the turning limits of the plane.
          The weather was very chilly up in the sky and we were outfitted in bulky sheepskin flying suits. We had excellent food and learned a great deal about flying from our air and Ground School instructors. After about 60 hours of flying I was sent to Courtland Alabama to continue my training at a Basic Flying School.


          At this school we were introduced to a more powerful flying machine, the BT-13, made by the VULTEE AIRCRAFT CO. Nicknamed The Vultee Vibrator. [A big jump from the Stearman PT17]. It was an all metal airplane with a bigger engine, variable pitch propeller etc,. It also was a low wing monoplane. It didn't take long to become accustomed to this plane. We learned formation takeoffs, formation flying and many other flying techniques.
          One of the trickier things that they taught us, was short field landings over an obstacle. They put two tall poles about 20 feet high with a string between them in the center of an auxiliary field. The trick was to land a very short distance past the string, without breaking it. Great fun and every landing was a crash landing.
          The technique we used was to fly close to the stall and as you passed over the string, cut the throttle and the plane would drop. [Not unlike the way we land a U2 except that we fly very close to the ground before we stall it]. This aircraft had integral fuel tanks in the wings and from dropping it in from 15 feet, we ruptured the tanks and they started leaking fuel.I think that we were the the last class to do this since we were damaging the planes. We each received about 60 hours more flying time and after a proficiency check, were sent to advanced flying school.


         Here at Craig Field in Selma Alabama, we were introduced to the North American AT-6,again,a much more powerful plane with retractable landing gear. This was a dangerous time for pilots since we had about 120 hours and thought that we were HOT. I survived the test and returned to my home in Newark, in all my glory, for a few days leave.
North American AT6, Curtisds P40
Republic P47

Vultee BT13

Vultee BT13

          My next assignment was to Page Field in Ft. Meyers Fl. for fighter tactics and training in the P-47 Thunderbolt, a monstrous, powerful airplane. The base didn't have any airplanes when we arrived at there. We were eager to fly when we saw our first P-47 being flown in. It made a beautiful landing and we all crowded around to look at it. When the pilot, a small, young gal who needed wood chocks to reach the rudder pedals, climbed out, our egos were deflated.
          Mildred came down and we were married but that is covered in another chapter. It took about two months to complete the flying and ground school schedule but we were 'FIGHTER PILOTS' when the time was up. I guess we flew about 60 hours more and now I have almost 200 hours flying time and was ready to go to combat. Watch out HUN, here I come.


          We were sent here to receive our overseas assignment. Nothing was happening for a few days, so I took a trip back to Americus GA. to visit my Primary Instructor to let him know that his faith in my flying ability was fruitful. When I returned two days later, all of my class had shipped out to overseas posts and I was there alone. Now what? I did a little flying locally since again, nothing was happening. Then they asked me if I wanted to go to 'Ground Air Support'? I agreed and off I went to be a Reconnaissance Pilot. We were sent to Charlotte N. C.


          Millie and I rode the bus for a couple days and nights and were dead tired when we arrived in Charlotte North Carolina. We found, probably the only vacant hotel room in town and got some much needed rest and a shower. I reported to the base the next morning and was informed that the unit that I was assigned to the 22nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron of the 74th Tac. Rcn. Gp., had moved to Camp Campbell Ky. Back on the bus and another hot and dirty ride to Hopkinsville Ky. I left Millie in a hotel and went to the base to sign in. Our first job was to find a place to live, an almost impossible job in a small town next to a very large Army base. There was a canteen run by the Red Cross and when I stopped for a doughnut, I asked the lady about a room. She said that there was a vacancy coming up that day. I called Millie to rush over and we had a place to stay.


P-39, P-40
P-39, P-40
          The unit that I was assigned to was the 74th Tactical Reconnaissance Group and they were equipped with several types of airplanes. The P-40 was our primary plane but I also got to fly the L-5, P-39, P40, A26, and the UC 78 . We supported the Cavalry by adjusting artillery fire, reconnaissance,
22d TAC Rcm Sq. L-R: Cracker Face Lewis, Gordon Dingee, Pappy Hughes, Frank Schlabs, Earl Gosnell, ??, Carl Burak. Squatting: Hank, Vincent Graves, Bob Monsted, Ralph Voorhees, ??
22d TAC Rcm Sq. L-R: Cracker Face Lewis, Gordon Dingee, Pappy Hughes, Frank Schlabs, Earl Gosnell, ??, Carl Burak. Squatting: Hank, Vincent Graves, Bob Monsted, Ralph Voorhees, ??
maneuvers and various other jobs including photo of the troops. We also participated in war games and special photo missions. All in all a lot of fun and interesting flying.
          There were three squadrons and I was assigned to the 22nd Tactical Recon Sq. A very historic squadron from W W I with the original Shooting Star insignia. Major Vincent Graves was the Squadron commander. Most of the pilots had been together for at least a year. It was a friendly well knit unit and I enjoyed being there. {Note. I arranged a reunion in Sept. 2001 in Las Vegas NV. for the few members and widows that I was able to contact]. Two couples came and they weren't in the greatest health. There was a lot of camaraderie at our small officers club. The prevalent saying was 'Every night is Saturday night and every Saturday night was New Years Eve.'
          The Army held maneuvers in various nearby states and we would attend as umpires or as a support group for the ground troops. Again, fun flying.


          This is very informal and a jumbled portion of this epistle so let me tell you of some of our trips. One in particular occurred when we were enroute to N.J. and as usual, driving at night. Doing about 60 MPH on a two lane highway someplace in Tenn. or who knows where, we came to the crest of a hill and there were four headlights coming toward us at a great rate of speed. Before I could react, the two vehicles split and one went on either side of us. That was enough to slow me down. Another time we had just left Hopkinsville Ky. and were going through a small town when we were pulled over by the local constable at a speed trap, The officer accused me of speeding and would not let me proceed. I had to appear before the local ORDINARY. {actually a local judge} I went to the court house and appeared before him. To say the least, I was very irate, and to coin a phrase, very pissed off. They read the charges, etc ,etc. Then I spoke and said that he was the most ordinary that I had ever seen. Then I shut up realizing that he could lock me up and ruin my whole Christmas trip. I was fined a few dollars and allowed to proceed on my way to N.J. I learned to shut up in court. In fact I never have won any court case that I've been involved in. So it goes.


          You are beginning to understand how frequently we moved. Our unit received orders to move to De Ridder Louisiana. Talk about a housing shortage, the local hotel would allow you stay only three nights
Mildred and I at Sat. night party
Mildred and I at a party
at a time, then out. The government opened the old officers barracks and let the couples live in them. Let me try to describe them. One room, about ten feet by ten feet, with a partition down the center [making it a two bedroom unit] that did not reach the ceiling or the floor. Each room had two GI cots, one footlocker, one small table outside the rooms, a bathroom at the end of the community room with a curtain hanging down. Privacy ? Never entered our mind. We survived somehow.
          Millie was getting close to having a baby [ 7-8 months] so she went to the local hospital ?. While there she saw the Doctor coming down the stairs with blood all over him, so she came home and declared 'I'm not going to have my baby born in Louisiana' We got in my car and a fellow officer joined us and off we go to New Jersey and Gail was born In Newark. Booze was very difficult to find in Louisiana so we would send an airplane to another state to fill our needs. One pilot returned and declared that he had saved about one dollar a bottle. We examined his purchase. The label read 'Scotch type whiskey made from potatoes. Guaranteed not to be over 30 days old ' That was the last time that we let him go on a whiskey run.


P-51 Mustang
P-51 Mustang
          It was necessary to transition to P-51 Mustangs as that was to be our primary combat aircraft. The pilots all flew to Miss. and we had some of our Sergeants escort the wives in convoy to the base. We received our new aircraft, F-6Ds, the photo version of the Mustang. The only difference was a small oblique mounted in the tail. Transition was easy enough, we had some training in tactics and use of the camera and were ready to head overseas.
          My brother Victor and his wife flew down and drove Millie back to N.J. The rest of the wives headed for their homes and we packed the squadron for deployment. If I remember correctly, I packed a few bottles of booze in with the squadron equipment in case there were any snakes at our overseas base in France.


          Luckily, our embarkation was to be from Brooklyn, NY. so I got to go home and see my Mother and Millie. On the day to depart, Millie drove me to Ft. Dix N.J. where we were to assemble for the trip overseas. I stopped to fill up the gas tank and a short time later the engine quit. FUN!! We later learned that the service station where I had purchased the gas had a leaky storage tank and we filled up with water. I was able to find a cab and go to the base but I was late and the group was ready to pull out. Some female Second Lieutenant wasn't going to let me go with my unit but after some very strong words from me.
          I was back on the list and we all headed for a ship named the BUCKNER for the trip to England. A troop ship is not fun and this one was no exception. Fully loaded and the hold stunk from the sick
soldiers. The officers were assigned duty to patrol the ship but I just couldn't make it down below. We went in convoy with Navy escort since there were German Subs to contend with. None of our convoy ships were hit but the ship in front of us lost a propeller and came to a stop and our ship barely missed a collision at night.
          My friend D B Waller and I had some large fish hooks and heavy twine and fished off the fantail. I went to lunch and the guy who was watching my line told me that a big fish had grabbed the bait and snapped the line. True?
          We landed at Le Havre France and immediately were put into '40 and 8' boxcars for the trip to Strasbourg France. We were in a camp there for a few days before going to our final destination, Hagenau, which is not too far from the Rhine river, the Black Forest and the German border.
HE 72D German Plane
HE 72D German Plane
L-R: Quinlan, Burak, Hank, DB Waller
L-R: Quinlan, Burak, Hank, DB Waller
          There was a GI theatre nearby and several of decided to see the film. I brought along one of my precious bottles of whiskey, stuck inside my flying jacket. During the show, this bottle slipped out, slowly rolled down my leg and gently went 'PLOP' as it hit the floor and broke. It only took a few moments for the odor to permeate the theatre and the GIs on R and R were very noisy trying to determine where the smell was coming from. I left the theatre.
          Our base was on a dirt field with no amenities. We put up tents for our quarters, mess hall and work areas. Not too comfortable but then a war was going on. This could be determined graphically by some bodies and minefields nearby.
          I flew 13 combat missions over Germany but had no aerial combat. We would go out in two plane elements where the leader was responsible for looking at the ground for troop movement, trains, tanks, etc. and the wingman scanned the skies for enemy activity. The plane was equipped with an oblique camera in the tail and we would photograph any noteworthy activity. We were not to fire our six 50 cal. guns unless attacked but it was a rare mission that didn't use up all the ammo on some target of opportunity.
          VE day came and we packed for home but with one proviso, we would get 30 days leave in the USA and then on to the Pacific theater. We had a small officers club at Hagenau and someone hung up a noose with a sign that said 'You don't have to go to the Far East.'
          A fellow officer, Lt. Carl Burak and myself took a trip through Germany. This was just as the war was over. We went to Mannheim just two days after our Army had captured the town. It was a mass of rubble. Carl and I went into a sort of apartment building basement and met some German men. Carl spoke Ukranian and wanted to talk to these men. He faced about 6 of them and I stayed about 10 feet in back of him.
          These men were not very happy after having been invaded a few days before. As Carl was trying to talk, the man directly in front of him held a bicycle tire in a very tight grip. I called to Carl and said' Carl, don't look back at me, just slowly move to the rear and pull out your 45, these men would like to kill us'. He did as I said and we both backed slowly out of the area, with pistols drawn. It was dumb on our part to go in there in the first place.
          I was able on another trip, to find my neighbor and lifelong friend Capt. Bob Bennis, someplace in Germany. I also took a hitchhiking trip with Lt. DB Waller to find his brother who was in the Army. We had a good idea of where he was and as we got close, an Army officer gave us a ride in a jeep to the castle like building where he was living. We thanked him for the ride and then tried to enter the building but all gates were locked. We could see some light from under a gate and I bent down to see if there was any activity inside. [Note: I had a pack on my back and inside the pack was a bottle of whiskey that we were going to share with his brother] As I bent down to look, the bottle of booze slid from my pack and broke and that was the end of our planned evening. We did find his brother and they had some libations for us.
         We processed through several camps, one was called Camp Philip Morris and then we boarded the USS United States at Southampton for a fast four day crossing to New York. While home on leave the Big Bomb was dropped so they cancelled our deployment to the Far East. GOOD !! I then received orders to report to the 69th, Tactical Reconnaissance Group at Mac Dill field in Tampa Florida.


          This was the lull after the war ended. We disbanded our unit and most everybody was discharged, People were granted a discharge according to the points that they had accrued, ie: 5 for a battle star, some for months overseas, etc,. Well I had flown down into the Po Valley in Italy so we were awarded 5 points for that campaign. Many enlisted men contacted me for certification so that they could get the extra points to be discharged. We only stayed a short time and moved on to Stuttgart Arkansas..


          This was another base in the middle of nowhere. We spent a lot of time flying against the Army on maneuvers and being umpires on war exercises. Our quarters were minimal but we survived. The best part of this assignment was that it was right in the middle of the best duck hunting territory in America. Every morning before I went to the base I would go out in the flooded woods and bag 10 ducks and two geese, the local limit. I can't think of anything special that happened, on to our next assignment


          With the war being over, there wasn't much happening to keep the pilots busy. We flew a few P-51s in support of Army maneuvers but generally hung around. By this time we had Gail, shared an upstairs apartment with another Lieutenant and his wife. Times were easy and we just kind of lazed around. Finally orders came and we went to the 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Group at Langley AFB in Hampton Virginia.


          Quarters were very hard to find in the area but we did rent a cold damp basement apartment, with worms in the shower drain. Again I don't remember very much activity at this base. We flew P-51 aircraft and Hampton Virginia was a pleasant place to live.
          I was sent to Denver Colorado to attend a Statistical Control School. On a warm day, Millie and I and Gail went to a lake for the day to swim and picnic. On the way home Millie said that she had left Gail's bathing suit hanging on a bush. Back we went to get it. We found it but while I was shooting at prairie dogs, I had my 22 ammo in my pocket. Each time that I would put my hand in for a cartridge, I inadvertently pulled out some dollar bills that were blown away with the wind.
          We headed on towards home and had a flat tire. I put the spare on and had the tire repaired at a gas station. Pretty soon I had another flat and put the repaired tire back on. That lasted about five miles and then it also blew out. Examining the tire carcass I noticed that the people at the garage had put some trash into the tire and that was what caused the blowout. There we were and it was night time to boot.
          I had Millie and the baby with me and had to get them home, so there was no alternative except to ride on the rim. We slowly went on but it was very noisy. Then the rim started to become square and now we had the bumps besides the noise. I guess we went ten miles that way and finally arrived home but about that time the brakes went out. Seems the pounding loosened the fluid lines and we lost all the fluid. The next day I had the brakes repaired. I think that going back for a three dollar bathing suit cost me several hundred dollars. Now, if we forget something, it stays where it is.
          Talking about losing things, we took a trip to the Northeast and decided to drive up Mt Washington. This in itself was dumb since it was during tire rationing days and in those days the road up the mountain wasn't paved, but I had to drive up there. Up we went , when we got near the top I had a flat. I unloaded the trunk and got the spare out, put it on and away we went. That night we looked for Gail's clothes. No clothes. The suitcase that had all her clothes was still on top of the mountain. No, I didn't go back up for them.
          About this time, 1945, the Air Force was going through a RIF [reduction in force ] and my being a Reserve officer [versus a Regular ] I was slated to be selected out, a polite phrase. At that time the Air Force offered a M/Sgt. rating to any officer that wanted to re-enlist. We talked it over and since we loved the service, didn't have any job to return to and no money, we decided that I would re-enlist at March AFB in Riverside Calif. and visit friends enroute.
          We bought a used 1938 Cadillac prior to our leaving on this trip to the west coast, I also bought a set a good tires for it. In the middle of Texas, on a two lane road with nothing in sight, we were cruising at about 70MPH. In the distance I saw a pickup truck coming our way. So what? But just as he neared us he made a sudden left turn in front of me and into a graveled area where there were two or three stores set back about 100 feet from the road. My only recourse, to miss him, was to go to my right on the gravel and fishtail till I could come to a stop, Right up against a large cottonwood tree. To say that I was pissed is a great understatement. He had stopped by the store and was still in the truck.
          I got out of my car, ran up to him and shouted, 'You SOB etc. etc, You almost killed me and my family. I ought to shoot you.!! I think I will.' I ran back to my car and behind the seat I had a loaded 12 gauge shotgun. I grabbed it and started back when Millie was screaming for me to stop. I did stop and put the gun away but went back and really gave him hell.

[Date of rank 28 July 1943]

          Upon arrival at March AFB, there were no enlisted quarters available. The nearest place that we could find to stay was at a motel in Lake Elsinore, Ca. 30 miles south, that didn't even have a refrigerator. We used a large tub of ice with a bucket in the center for our perishables. They delivered ice every day. On Saturdays a very old man would deliver the ice and asked Millie ' Did the boys take good care of you during the week'?. Those boys were afraid to deliver on the weekends when the husbands were home.
          At the base I was assigned to the Statistical Control Office. A humdrum paper job. I, of course knew many of the pilots in the First Fighter Group and used to spend time in their ready room talking, playing ping pong etc,, This perplexed the Squadron Commandeer who wondered who this Sergeant was that was hanging around his squadron.
          This wasn't too happy a time for me since I wasn't flying, spending six gallons of gasoline a day to commute and all on a Sergeants pay. My predicament didn't last too long [three months ] when Lady Luck smiled on me again. A flying school classmate, whose wife was Millie's Maid of Honor at our wedding, passed through and we had a talk. He went back to Andrews AFB and talked with his Group Commander, Colonel Herkey Green and they went to the Pentagon to try and get me recalled to active duty. Somehow it worked and I received orders reinstating me as a First Lieutenant Pilot and reporting to the Fourth Fighter Group at Andrews AFB Md. A wonderful day.
          You won't believe the next story. We were in north Texas headed for Lawrence Kansas to visit my WW II Squadron Commander, Vince Graves, when we stopped for gas. I was driving the Cadillac and was towing a small luggage trailer. I noticed that the weather was pretty bad and it was almost dusk. I asked the station attendant if the road that I was going to take was in good shape. He assured me that it was paved and off we went . The road was newly paved for about a mile and then it was newly graded. About one half mile further on the rains came. In torrents and then is when I found out that the road had a thin layer of dirt over a clay base. It didn't take me long to bog down caused mostly by the clay sticking to the underside of all the fenders. So, out I went and scraped the clay from the fenders and dug a dry path a short way in front of each wheel. Back in the car I changed out of my wet clothes. I started up and we were able to slither again for a short ways when we again bogged down . Hoping that we would get out of the clay area in a short time, again, out I went and dug us out.
          Changed out of the wet clothes and tried to go a little further. And we did make another quarter of a mile when 'here we go again'. I tried once more but we were on a small incline and after changing clothes, decided to spend the night in the car. But ,I had just settled down when I saw some headlights coming. I opened the window and waved him on. He went about 50 feet and he bogged down too. He got out of his car and walked back to talk to us. Seems he had just gotten out of the service and his wife was having a baby in the next town and he was anxious to get home. He said 'I'll pull you out' I laughed cause he was in a small ford and we were on a small incline. He said 'We can do it '.
          Beside us at the side of the road was a lot of road construction equipment. He went over and started up a humongus Cat and Carryall. About the biggest that I had ever seen. He spun it around on the newly graded road a few times and then brought it over so that I could hitch onto it . He then proceeded to pull me over the grade and partly down the road. Back he went to get his car and I aimed it while he towed it. He had really torn up the highway by now. He parked the Cat and Carryall next to the road . We chained my car and my small trailer behind his car and off we went. If I started to slide off the road, he would step on the gas and it would snap me back in line. If he started to slide off, I would ease up and snap him back. On and on we went through the night till we finally arrived in Dalhart Texas about dawn.
          We unhooked and he went on home to his wife. Millie and Gail and I had breakfast. in a small restaurant and I was clad in my last clothing. a flying jacket and swimming trunks, We had gone 35 miles. The speedometer read over a hundred from the tires spinning and we had used about 25 gallons of gas. We took a nap and then went on to visit our friends. The tires would smoke from scraping on the clay caked under the fenders and we looked like we were climbing uphill from the weight of the clay on the car. We finally made it to Lawrence, Kansas and the next day I washed the car and trailer. The street was red for blocks from the red clay that I washed off the car. .

          Again, quarters were very hard to find but we did survive, somehow. I was sent to a school in Aurora Colorado for the months of July and August. A most delightful place to be at that time of year. Back to Maryland and I was flying the F-80, the USAFs first Jet Fighter, [Can't believe that it was 59 years ago that I had my first Jet flight]
My First Jet. An F-80 at 4th Fighter Gp, Andrews AFB, MD 1946
My First Jet. An F-80 at 4th Fighter Gp, Andrews AFB, MD 1946
          I was only there a short time and had garnered 44 hours of Jet time when we received orders to transfer to the Panama Canal Zone. This was a surprise but a welcome one because we would be in a strange country, flying RF-80s [jet] and my family would be with me and we were looking forward to an adventurous couple of years. There were several problems involved.
          Millie was pregnant, three months, and I would not get quarters at the base or government transportation until the baby was six months old. I did not relish the thought of such a long separation. Knowing HANK, I had faith that I could solve this problem, and I did.
          First I had to get Millie settled at my Mothers house in Newark, then I had to get to New Orleans LA. to be on a ship to Panama. [An adventure in itself.[ See CARS ]But My Mother and Millie are great friends and she and Gail were settled in, with a car. I somehow made it to New Orleans, with very little money .[Military pay is not very lucrative] and boarded the boat for Panama. I think that I arrived with ten dollars and change. Now what to do to get my family down?. Maybe I'll change my name to 'LUCKY' because LUCK did change our life again.


          On my first night in Panama they had a Las Vegas night at the Officers Club. I wandered around and finally inserted about three nickels in the slot machine and won a five dollar jackpot. I had four dimes, dropped them in the machine and won ten dollars in the jackpot. The same with a few quarters for twenty five dollars and one fifty cent piece gave me fifty dollars more. Now I had a stake. I went upstairs to the poker game and before the night was over I had over four hundred dollars in my pocket.
          The next day I got busy with the transportation office and found out that the COLON, the Pan Canal ship, and one of the largest in the US fleet, was due to leave Brooklyn for a trip during Christmas and there was lots of room on board. For $75 I was able to get my car on board and tickets for Millie and Gail. Couldn't believe it, now we would not have to wait till the baby was six months old to have my family with me.
          Things were not going too smoothly for Millie back in N.J. I had phoned her and the overseas calls in those day were by radio. The conversation went something like this. 'Take the car to 24 State St.' 'eighth street' 'Yes, 24 State St.' 'Eighth street' 'Yes State St.' So here goes Millie and Grandma over to NYC and trying to find the shipping docks on eighth St. It must have been fun since they were flirting with every Irish cop within miles of the docks. But they did get the car disposed of and they went back to N.J.
          We also had a small luggage trailer that had to be sold since it was chained to a tree in front of the house. This was sold about 30 minutes before Millie left. She had ordered a taxi to take her to the shipping docks to get on the ship for the trip to Panama. The taxi ride was about 10 miles as the crow flies but the night before she was to leave a blizzard was forecast and it started to snow heavily. The taxi arrived four hours early so that they would be sure to get there on time. And they made the departure time, thanks to a 'Good Driver'.
          The next item of business was to find a place to live in Panama. I found an apartment in the heart of Colon. Not too nice but livable as long as you sprinkled Lysol on the stairs every day to obliterate the urine smell.
          Millie had a very rough trip down due to the weather off Cape Hatteras but I'll cover that later. I met them at the dock and she wasn't too impressed with the apartment that I had rented but it was the best that I could do. I gave Millie $50 to buy new clothes after the baby was born but two weeks later I saw a beautiful Tonkin Cane surf rod and there went her $50. There weren't too many places to purchase nice clothes except in the Base Exchange and that was where everybody else bought their clothes.


           You just read about their getting to the ship in the snowstorm. The ship belonged to the Pan Canal Co and was the second largest ship owned by the USA. They left on time and Millie not being a good sailor found that if she bundled in a blanket on a deck chair she would be comfortable. She would have been happy to spend the whole trip right there.
           A lady passenger took Gail down for dinner and the kids were given hard Christmas candy. Gail returned to the deck and promptly choked on the candy and threw up. A steward took her down and cleaned her up but left the smelly clothes in the stateroom. About midnight they cleared the decks due to the impending weather and rough seas and when Millie opened the stateroom door, the smell was overpowering and she promptly got sick too. Her fur coat was covered with the nasty stuff so she threw it out in the hall hoping that the steward would throw it overboard.
          The rest of the trip was very rough and not as pleasant as one would expect on such a large liner but they finally arrived in Panama and I was at the dock to meet them. The steward gave her a box and when we opened it, there was the smelly fur coat.


          The apartment that I rented was on the second floor, right in the middle of the toughest neighborhood in Panama. We had a little balcony that overlooked a long tenement and the separation was only six feet. We could see into the tenement, hear their arguments and smell their cooking which was generally done just outside of their doors. It was very hot and humid and I generally slept in the nude. One night I heard a thump on the patio and Millie awakened and said 'Hank, there is somebody in the apartment!!' I jumped out of bed to investigate and all the time Millie is shouting 'Get your pants, get your gun, get your pants, get your gun.'
          From the patio I could see a native crouching on the tenement roof. I had my shotgun in my hand and could have easily picked him off but the law in Panama is that if you shoot someone, you have to do it in your own home. I would have had to shoot him, put my clothes on, run downstairs, get into the tenement, climb on to the roof, carry him down and around the block to my building and then drag him up the stairs and into the apartment and all the time avoiding and evading the hundreds of natives that lived in the tenement. I wisely decided not to do that but I put on my pants to go downstairs to get a cop and telling Millie that if he tries to jump onto the patio again, to use the machete and chop off his arms. I found a cop right by my building and while trying to explain, he kept saying 'MANANA'. The thief took my pants and wallet but I found the wallet in the adjoining alley and nothing was taken out of it.
          Going out on the streets was always an adventure since the Panamanians really didn't like the Americans. Once Millie was downtown driving our car and at the stoplight a bunch of people started climbing on the hood and roof. She did the correct thing, put the car in gear, started to go forward and they all were thrown off. Our car had a vacuum shift that would sometimes stick in gear. This happened to Millie in the middle of downtown Colon. Luckily there was an airman there and he came to her and fixed the problem so she could drive off.
          As a matter of interest, I was in Colon on 1977 and when passengers got off the train, they were behind a tall chain link fence and were not allowed to proceed any further. It just wasn't safe for Americans.
          I bought a Servel refrigerator that worked on 25, 40 or 60 cycle electric or propane. It never seemed to make ice cubes. After a few weeks ,we got our first electric bill, about $40. To test our usage, I shut everything off in the apartment and checked that the meter had stopped. Now I turned on a 100 watt bulb and timed the meter. Then I plugged in the refrigerator and sure enough, I was using about 2500 watts an hour. The next electric bill was about $120 and I didn't pay that either.
          About this time I was assigned to quarters in the Canal Zone that the French had built when they tried to dig the canal back in the 1700s. But back to the refrigerator. I put it up for sale and it sold right away because you could run it on gas out where there wasn't any electricity. A Panamanian bought it but three days later he looked me up in the Canal Zone and said that it wouldn't get cold [can you imagine that?} I said that I had guaranteed it and I would look at it. When I arrived at where he had taken it, I took the lower front cover off and looked under it. 'Here is your problem, you had it shut off ' and I proceeded to make believe that I was turning a knob under the machine. Put the plate back on and left. I wonder if he ever did get it to cool off.


          Now that I had moved into the Canal Zone, I decided to pay the electric bill, which was over $200. I went into the office of the electric company and asked for my bill. He told me what it was. I took my checkbook out and was starting to write out the correct amount. About half way through, I stopped and asked ' What will you do if I don't pay this?' He said 'Sir, if you don't pay the bill, you can never get electricity again in the Republic of Panama. ' I said 'Imagine that' as I tore up my check and walked out of the building. That was in 1947 and I haven't tried to get electricity since.
C-47 and Buttonose RF80. RF80 Panama Patch
C-47 and Buttonose RF80. Panama
          We were flying RF-80s, a photo reconnaissance jet plane and the DC-3 'Gooney Bird. On my first day at France field, I checked in with the base commander. He asked me if I knew how to pilot the C-47 [DC-3} and I said 'NO SIR'. He then asked if I liked to fly cross country flights. I of course answered YES. He said 'Well you better check out' I went to the flight line, had an instructor pilot ride with me, I shot 43 landings, day and night and I was cleared to fly it. Soon after that I was made an Instructor Pilot in the C-47 and have held that rating ever since. One reason is that when I'm in an airplane I want to fly it and besides I get sick in the rear.
           A few weeks after my arrival, I was interviewed by the local Canal Zone paper. The headlines the next day were ' although jets will be new to Panama, it is an old story to 1st Lt. John H Meierdierck' Note; I had 44 hours of Jet time that I had just flown at the 4th Fighter Group.
Me and F84 at Turner AFB, Albany, GA 1950
Me and RF 80 at 4th TAC in Panama

          I made many trips through the Caribbean chain, all through South America and a trip to and around the USA. On this trip we were flying at night and passing over Cuba. I guess that I was dozing because I looked out the left seat window and was startled by a bright red glow. It was the moon.           The USA was closing all the small bases in the Caribbean and I used to fly there and visit the officers clubs where they were trying to dispose of their liquor stocks. I bought many cases of booze for $3 to $5 and brought them back to Panama.
          I was allowed to fly a B17 to the states {only as copilot} and I also flew a C-47 to and all around the states.
          Our quarters assignment in the Canal Zone was at the old French Quarters by Gatun Locks, that they had built when they tried to dig the canal back in the 1700s. We were on the second floor of this rickety wooden building with nothing below us except the spindly tall support poles. There was only one train [called the Panama Donkey} that crossed the Isthmus and it went right by our house. As it climbed the small hill nearby, it chugged and with every 'CHUG' our quarters shook. We always held on to something until it passed on up the hill. Luckily, it only came by once a day and that was enough.


          The weather was beautiful, the living was easy so we just kind of relaxed. After a few months they closed France Field and we moved across the Isthmus to Howard Field and we had very nice quarters on the base. They were right across the street from the Little Officers club and as the people left the club they could see our bedroom window. 'Lets wake up Hank and Millie was the cry most every night'
          We had several Majors and Captain pilots in the squadron but I guess that they were inept since I was assigned the position as Operations. Quite a prestigious position for a Ist Lt.
          We flew our RF-80s back to Sacramento Ca. and were awaiting our new planes, the F-84. With no planes to fly, we were all assigned base support jobs. I was named assistant commissary officer and the day I checked in, the Commissary Officer went to the hospital and I was IT.
          This was a strange job for me but I enjoyed it. The first thing that I realized was that each individual squadron mess had been 'forced issue' many items that they did not need. I called all the mess Sergeants into my office and told them 'Gather all the food that you do not want in your storage areas, bring them in and we will add up their value, then go through the Commissary and buy what you really need, sugar, coffee, etc.etc. 'Well, I was the most popular man on the base in the eyes of the enlisted men'. I also supported the missions throughout Central and South America. I also became very popular with those people when I allowed then to purchase all the cigarettes that they desired. I'm sure that they made a few dollars from them on the Black Market but that was their problem, not mine.
          Our planes finally did arrive but I continued to fly support missions in the C-47 plus reconnaissance photo missions in the RF 80. Lots of good trips to Central and South America. Then the 36th Fighter Group arrived with their own aircraft [F-82s] and were supposed to remain there but they received surprise orders and the whole group continued on to Germany. When they flew their F-82s to Panama, I was flying above them in an RF-80 and took photos of their formation.
          While stationed there our son, J H was born at Coco Solo Naval Hospital. His was the last birth before they closed the Navy base and hospital. We had three maids to do the housework, laundry and baby-sit Jay and Gail.
          Once we had planned a fairly large party and being very proud of my ability to speak Spanish, I told the maids to take the next day off but be sure to be there on Saturday to help with the party. They all answered 'Si'. When they returned to work on the following Monday, they all swore that I had given them a three day pass. That is the last time that I gave them instructions in Spanish.
          With the three maids to help Millie with caring for Gail and Jay, the laundry etc,, she had little to do, so she applied and was hired for a job as the Supply Chiefs secretary {GS 3 } but that only lasted a short time when things changed again.
          There were lots of wild jungle animals around the base . We quite frequently saw Anteaters, and other jungle animals in our yard plus one day we found a Three Toed Sloth hanging onto the water pipes in the downstairs laundry. There was a yearly invasion of land crabs heading from the jungle and going to the sea. There were millions and it was impossible to drive around them hence when we ran over them, their guts splashed all over the car and had to be washed every day. I even saw a Black Panther on the runway one day as I was taking off in a jet. They are not native to Panama but this one had escaped from a circus several years earlier and was surviving in the local jungle.
          One of our friends lived next door to us and we started a cribbage game whenever we had the time. I guess that we played for two years and the stakes were a penny a point and ten cents a game. On the evening before we left for the states, we finished, He paid me five cents. That was a pretty even game.                Before leaving on a trip to Lima, Peru, I wrote my bank in Virginia and asked that a loan of $1000 be deposited in my account. They did and while in Lima I purchased a complete flatware set of 99.5 sterling silver plus all the necessary trays, vegetable bowls, etc. I also bought a lot of good wine and some ceramic mugs. Three days after my return we received orders to take my car to the dock for shipment to New Orleans and we were to follow a few days later. Off to Albany Georgia.


          Our car was waiting for us when we landed in New Orleans so we took some leave and made the long trip to Newark, N.J. to see my Mother and to show her our son Jay. After a few days there we headed South and arrived in Albany, Ga. on a hot Sunday afternoon. At the end of the road that entered the air base was a small gulf gas station. I stopped for some gas and a one legged man came out and he was the owner. I asked to buy a beer and he told me that it was illegal to sell beer on Sunday in Georgia but he gave me one. At that time a large truck that was loaded with watermelons stopped nearby. I asked the driver if he would sell me one. He said ' A penny apiece, one or the whole load '. He was on his way to dump them in the fields for the pigs to eat. A nice introduction to Albany GA.. and from then on, I always bought my gas from that gulf station.
          Housing was scarce but we found a fairly nice house to rent on Slappy drive, on the far side of town. The one proviso was that I had to take care of the many rose bushes that were on the property. Millie and I had a red dog and some chickens to tend to. The chickens were no trouble but the dog kept killing the chickens. To break him of this habit I tied a dead chicken to his collar with wire. I thought that this would cure him since it was very hot and the chicken stunk. No such luck, after I cut the chicken away, he got another one so we got rid of the dog.
          I was assigned to the 307th Fighter Squadron of the 31st Fighter Wing and we were equipped with F-84 Thunderjets. My first position was as a Flight Commander. Life was easy but we were very busy and it didn't take too long to amass 1100 hours in various models of the F-84. We did lots of gunnery, cross country and formation flying and it was all fun. I also planned and flew several historic long range flights but I will cover them under FLYING.
Me amd F84 at Turner AFB, Albany, Ga 1950
Me amd F84 at Turner AFB
          Albany was a friendly small town and the local populace plus the Military took care of each other. An example is that Millie wanted to buy some material to make a dress but it was a little expensive and she didn't want to spend a lot of money. The salesgirl told her to bring the pattern in and they would lay it out on a table and cut the exact amount necessary. Try that in a big city.
          I was gone on temporary duty all over the world for long periods of time. The gals had to fend for themselves and did a great job of raising a family alone. After about six months we found a small house for $90.00 a month quite close to the base.
          Both of our Wing Commanders, Cols. Schilling and Cy Wilson were great guys. We had a KB 29 Tanker squadron assigned and a Col. would send one of the tankers to the Northeast for an airplane full of lobsters and we would have a party $I.00 a person or sometimes they would send one to Ft. Myers Florida and they would return with large garbage cans full of shrimp, Again $1.00 a head. The best party was when Cy Wilson was able to have the USAF band [ the old Glen Miller Band ] at our base for a dance when the Wing returned from a long TDY trip to Japan.
          Since I was wearing two and sometimes three sun tan uniforms a day and Mildred needed someone to watch the kids when she wanted to play bridge, we hired a very obese but also very lovely black lady named Leola. She ironed all of my uniforms and even cooked chicken for us when she came. One day there was a terrible storm coming with possible tornadoes. The children were left out of school early and were told to get into the fireplace as a safe place to be if a tornado did come by. When we arrived home there was Jay and Gail and Leola huddled in the fireplace. She said 'Miss Millie, they made me get into the fireplace with them '. We loved her and hated to see her go when we were transferred to Calif. We had kind of adopted her as one of the family.
           On the property that we rented there were several large pecan trees. Millie would pick up the pecans and sell them and made quite a few dollars spending money.
          There was a lot of activity on the base such as a picnic area, boat dock on the Flint river, officers club dinners and dances, swimming pool etc,. etc,. All in all, life was quite pleasant and we look back on it as one of our memorable experiences.
1929 Model A Ford. Hank, Jay, and Gail

 Ann Stratton, G.B. Stratton, Hank,               Hank, Jay, Gail
Herb Ricord                                  

          Turner AFB was picked as a spot to try 'Racing on the runways' where we would close the base to flying and race cars would compete on those runways. It brought a great crowd to the base and some money was made for various base activities. I was asked to go to Atlanta and pick up a new Jaguar convertible to display during the festivities. I returned with it late one night and one minute later my Wing Commander Col. Cy Wilson was at the door wanting the keys. Quite a few people got to drive it and when
Outdoor kitchen. Ann Stratton, CB Stratton, Hank, Herb Ricord
Outdoor kitchen. Vicki, Betty Kanig, Al Kanig, Millie Eleanor
I returned it to the Atlanta dealer in was quite a mess. General LeMay attended the event and when a sergeant reminded him that there was no smoking in the airplane hanger and that it might catch on fire, The General remarked 'It wouldn't dare'.
          My Mother came to live with us for awhile and also my brother Victor and his wife Eleanor were there for a visit. During these visits we would always have a continuous party and all the cooking was shared by the neighbors on an outside grill.
          On one of my Mothers visit via the local airport, a large group of us assembled to greet her arrival. We made large signs that read 'Welcome IDA, Newark's loss. Albany's gain, etc,'. Then we would form a motorcade and parade all the way to our house. The Gulf of Mexico wasn't that far away and every once in awhile we would send someone to the coast to buy several sacks of oysters and then we would have a feast consisting of beer, oysters and fresh corn. We used old doors set on wooden horses as the table on which to open the oysters.
          My brother Victor and his wife Eleanor came down for a visit and stayed four or five days. We ate outside for every meal and lots of friends came by to eat with us and bring food or cook. Millie didn't cook a meal the whole time. Great sport for all.
          A fellow officer was building a very nice brick house and I mentioned to him that if he didn't want it that I would buy it. About a week later he got orders to transfer and I bought the house for $11,000 dollars. The best thing that I ever did because since then we have bought and sold houses and actually lived rent free for years. Wish that I could have afforded to keep them because I would have a lot more money today. When we left we sold this house and made a nice profit.
             This property also had three pecan trees and with the profits from the nuts that Millie picked, we were able to carpet the house and pay the years taxes. Gail and Jay went to school in town and had a pretty stable and quiet environment to grow up in., One Sunday they were asked to leave the Sunday school bus for singing one of my ribald songs titled 'Sipping Bourbon Through A Straw'.
          Millie and her friend Betty Kanig were driving to the base one day when the car was broad sided. Betty was O K but Millie slid under the dashboard and both of her ankles were sprained. She had to get around by bumping her rear along the ground. The other drivers insurance wanted to settle and offered Millie a few dollars and I also received a few for the loss of her 'Services'


          During this period all Strategic Air Command crew members were scheduled for survival school and training. This was primarily designed for bomber crews but later on the Fighter Pilots were included. I took the first group to Camp Carson Co. in the winter time. I had eleven pilots with me. The idea was that we would spend the first night in camp, be given a case of rations each [no one could carry a full case so we picked out the cans that we liked and left the rest] The instructors were Army troops mounted on mules and they were out to intercept and capture us. They didn't plan for Ist Lt John H. Meierdierck!'.
          The next morning I ordered all of my people to stay in their sleeping bags until I told them it was safe to get out. We could hear the mule troops going by and firing ammo to intimidate us but I let them pass and then we started out, leisurely, way behind them. They could look all that they wanted to up front, but they wouldn't find us.
          It was a rough trip through the mountains and we had to carry a 45 lb. generator with which to check in every night. It was hand cranked to give it power. We traded off the chore of carrying it and it was kind of foolish because a fighter pilot wouldn't have one in his plane. They had lots of dumb rules.
          We were told that at a certain spot in the mountains, there would be a cache of food that we could have if we could liberate it. We did, but it was the same junk that we chose not to take with us originally. This kind of irritated me so that night we raided the mule troops camp and stole a lot of their food like eggs, ham, bread, coffee etc,. They didn't like that.
          Finding more food was a problem and one evening we made a stew with some fish, squirrels, roots etc,. It was very good and when I got my second helping, there was a squirrel skull right in the middle of my bowl. One of our pilots, a Lt Stevens always lagged behind and since I couldn't hold up the group for him, I would tell him where to find us and late in the evening he would stagger into camp, with his pack dragging against his knees and completely worn out. We fed him and put him to bed and the next day it was the same thing. [He was shot down in Korea and I worried that he wouldn't survive the rigors of POW camp, but he did and was repatriated.]
          On we went and finally arrived at the marshaling area where we were to be picked up and driven back to Camp Carson. Here come the trucks, racing madly and several hit the one in front when they came to a stop. I wasn't about to let these drivers jeopardize my troops so I commandeered the trucks, put the drivers in the back and made my Lieutenants drive back to camp.
          This and my other actions didn't set well with the Army. A Czech officer [Lt. Col. Stampados] who had infiltrated and crossed the German lines many times was given a direct commission as a Lt. Col. in the U S Army, was in charge of the survival school. He pressed charges against me and wanted to court marshal me but I did the same thing to him and we were at a stalemate and the whole issue was finally dropped.
          The pilots were also forced to go to jungle survival in the Okefenokee swamp in Georgia. Again I ran into a problem when the instructor tried to tell us that if we went down in the arctic, to build a teepee with our parachute. Ridiculous!! First there wasn't any trees for the poles, second, the wind would blow it away and what you needed to do to survive was to build a low level block ice hut to keep warm, block the wind and be at least a little comfortable. General Olds was in the class. I ended up cutting some cypress stumps [for the next 40 years the Mc Murray family and the Meierdiercks exchanged one of the stumps at Christmas] and bringing them home in the back of his staff car. Some months later, the General was dancing with Mildred when he asked her 'Should we send Hank to another survival school?'. Mildred quickly replied ' I don't see why General, he hasn't passed one yet '. Actually I could teach the course a hell of a lot better than the instructors.
          I had orders to attend Instrument Instructors school at Tyndall AFB and we moved down to Florida and had a very nice time at the beach. I flew the course in B-25s, a twin engine bomber similar to the ones that Lt Col Billy Mitchell and crews flew to bomb Tokyo. The course ended just in time for me to return to Turner AFB and deploy to Japan for 9 months.
          I was also assigned the duty as the USAF Project Officer for a Fighter Celestial Navigation Test Program and I worked with my consultant Charles Blair, a very well known pilot. I would take off in an F-84 with Charlie on my wing and then navigate strictly by my sightings of the Sun and Moon. My 'shots' were preplanned and by comparing the actual shots with the preplanned, I could determine my ground speed and flight line. The system worked and I proved the concept but it was impractical for everyday operations.
          I further did some test work on the F-84 and went to Edwards AFB Ca. for these flights. There I met many famous pilots including Jacqueline Cochran but she and I didn't hit it off too well when I chided her on her first jet ride. To elaborate, While on the ramp one morning I saw a pilot get into a T-33 airplane and the pilot seemed to be wearing lipstick. I had good eyes in those days. Al and I went into the Republic Aviation hanger and mentioned it to Tiny Trasker, the Republic station chief. 'Yes', he said, 'that was Jacqueline Cochran and she is getting her first jet ride today'.
          The power controls on jets are a lot more 'TOUCHY' than the controls on other airplanes and the pilots on their fist flight generally over control and they rock their wings till they get the hang of it. Well, Jacqueline did that. She landed a short while later and came into the Republic hanger. We were there to meet her.
          She entered the hanger just beaming. Upon being introduced to her I congratulated her and said ' I won a sizable wager on your flight today' Still smiling she said ' How did that happen?' I replied 'I bet my friend Al a nickel, that when you took off that you would wave the wings at everybody and you sure did'!!. She turned RED. I said 'Pleased to meet you Mam' and we went out the door.
          When Al and I returned to Georgia after completing the test program, we each brought our wives a fur jacket. Where did we get them??? The answer remains a secret.
          Between overseas temporary duty deployments of up to six months, we were generally able to get to New Jersey for Christmas, a 24 hour fast auto trip
          We spent about six years at the base assigned to both the 31st and 508th Fighter Wings. All good things must come to and end and one day I was asked if I would volunteer for an assignment that was highly classified and I said 'YES'.


          A lot of the happenings that occurred during this period were and still are highly classified. I went TDY every week, and sometimes didn't get home for two or more weeks. I was not able to tell her where I was or what I was doing but we trusted each other and we both survived until the 'Program' was completed. Millie had to do everything without my help. My Mother was living with her and I'm sure that this eased the burden.
          The flying portion will be found in another section, so this may be a short chapter. When I received orders to report to March AFB in Riverside Ca., I had to leave my family at Albany GA. I got to fly back for a weekend now and then. I found a nice house at 4505 Gay Way in Riverside Ca. and bought it. I was given permission to fly to Georgia and drive my family to California. We purchased a 'CHEAP' Chevrolet for the trip, big mistake.
          The movers and packers came to our Georgia house after we had left. Our instruction to a neighbor was to ship everything, and she did. Upon unpacking we found the burned briquettes from the grill, neatly packed.
          We loaded the Chevrolet with Millie and I in the front, Grandma, Gail, Jay and Vicki in a bassinet, in the back. We opened the door and told Nicodemus, our Boxer to get in. Somehow he found a spot on the rear floor. We towed a very small luggage trailer loaded with Christmas presents and off we drove.
          The trip was without any real problems and when we arrived in Riverside, I drove out to the new house to show it to the family and here came the moving van with our household possessions. We started unpacking and stayed right there. It was a nice house with a garage and fireplace and we all enjoyed having our own house again.
          On one of my short and infrequent weekends home, I took Jay with me while I purchased some auto supplies. I left him in the toy department and went on my way. Later that afternoon, he was scheduled to go to a neighbors birthday party. He wasn't any where to be seen and after searching the neighborhood with no luck, we called the police During their questioning of me about his clothing, they asked 'What color are his shoes?'. This struck a note and I remembered that I had left him in the toy store. He was there when I returned and all ended well and Jay had a new toy.
          My work was at the Nevada Test Site [Area 51 ] and I flew there every Monday, if I happened to have been home that weekend but generally I only got home every second or third week. During a short break we took the wives for a trip to Las Vegas. This proved very expensive since I never did leave a Casino ahead of the game. It didn't bankrupt me though since I had been winning several hundred dollars each week in the continuous poker game at our operating site.
          This is, of course, taking place during the time that I was testing, training and developing the U-2. Mildred didn't know what I was doing until years later. The effort proved to be very rewarding and the intelligence that was gathered was a deciding factor in our winning the cold war. Of note is the fact that at the present time [2003] I am the Honorary Chairman of a committee to have a National Monument placed on Mt. Charleston, very near Las Vegas NV. to honor 14 people that were killed in a C-54 crash and also all the people that were involved in the U2 effort. It is named the 'National Cold War Memorial' and will ultimately honor all the Cold War participants. [see also 'silent heroes of the Cold War'] This effort keeps me busy with attending meetings and giving talks to various groups. On a recent nationwide drive I spoke to seven different groups. The bill authorizing this monument has passed the Nevada legislature and the Congressional bill is awaiting President Bush signature.
          We trained three groups of pilots, deployed them overseas and then checked out the USAF pilots and I left the program. [See FLYING for details] I received orders to be transferred to England and after a trip back to N J, we boarded the USS Buckner for the trip across the Atlantic.


          Enroute to the departure docks in Brooklyn. I became very ill and in fact had to stop the car and throw up. At the boat, I went to see a Navy Doctor. He gave me some good advice. Have a couple 'Bloody Marys' and go ahead on the trip. I did and made it OK.
          We had happy hour every night in one of our staterooms but this caused me an unforeseeable problem. In my cabin, the gang all drank my Bourbon. In their cabin they only had Scotch so I had to drink my Bourbon. After a few days, I ran out of Bourbon. Now I have the dilemma of how to acquire more Bourbon?. The very next morning I was talking to a Captain, as we leaned against the railing, and I was lamenting the fact that I was out of booze. He volunteered the information that he wasn't feeling too good but had two fifths of Bourbon that he would sell to me for five dollars a bottle. That is what I call 'A Stroke Of Good Fortune.
          We enjoyed the boat trip across since we were assigned one of the better cabins. The weather was nice and the water calm. We arrived at Southampton and was met by our good friends the Delaps. They had a small apartment ready for us and we settled in. I reported for work the next day and was very disappointed to find that I would be assigned to the Command Post and the Launch Authority for all the bombers in England. UGH
          On my very first day on the job a Captain came to me and said 'I hear that you like to hunt geese. 'I of course said 'Yes'. He then mentioned that he was going to hunt geese with a buddy and the buddy couldn't go and would I like to go to Scotland with him for a week??. Just a minute and I'll let you know. I asked my boss if I could have a week of leave. He was flabbergasted but said 'Yes.' I went home, told Millie and the next day I was on my way to Scotland. It was a great hunt.
          Several of our friends from the U-2 program also came to England so we had good friends in a strange country. A few weeks after arrival, we found a pretty nice house whose address was Westcott on Ridgeway, in Gerrards Cross, Bucks. Yes, that was it. We had several Au Pair girls come and stay with us and they were a great help for Mildred. Helga came from Germany and ?? came from Norway plus one from England and Ireland. Having them there gave us a lot of freedom to visit and sightsee.
          The black fogs were a great problem. One evening we went to the theater and the fog rolled in and was so thick that we could not see the screen. I had the headlights on my 1955 Oldsmobile convertible focused down and to the left since we drove on the left side of the road. Another evening when we were returning home, the fog came in. I put the car in low gear, had the windshield wipers on, was walking along and steering from outside and was using a flashlight to see the curb and still ran into a brick wall. Sometimes it was patchy and you would run in and out of it. So it went.
          An evening out, about once a month was always an exciting affair for the group of officers that came over with me from the U2 outfit. We took turns at being responsible for all arrangements. One of the more memorable evenings was a trip to London and dinner at The GORE Hotel. Upon entering, a very buxomous young lady took your hat and she carried it away lying on her protruding breasts. A good start. The dining room was reminiscent of an old English castle. Complete with Mead, family style service with enough 'Wenchs ' for all. We had rooms at the Columbia Club and spent the night in London.
          We made many trips to London and saw all of the sights. Even saw the Queen and Prince Philip in their carriage just before the Ascot races. Trooping of the colors, tattoos etc, were always fun to witness. Shopping at Portobello road was a must on every trip to town, in fact, Millie purchased our complete Silver Tea Service there. The US Military had a hotel in London called the Columbia Club and when we went for dinner or a show, we would spend the night there, a great saving in hotel rates.
          With the Ricord family, we took a tour of most of England including Stonehenge, the South and West coasts, King Arthur's legendary castle Tintagle and everything in between.
Millie and I at going away party from High Wycombe UK 1959
Millie and I at going away party from High Wycombe UK 1959
          Since we had a housemaid we took advantage of the freedom and took Gail and Jay on a bus trip through Italy. This proved to be well worth the effort. We left London by bus to Southampton, by boat to Le Havre France, a train through Switzerland and then a tour bus through Italy. We visited all the important scenic spots. Pisa, Lake Garda, Rome and all the Cathedrals, Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel. Gail and Jay went on to the ruins of Pompei. A great trip and Gail and Jay remember it today. It seemed that every lunch and dinner was pasta, sometimes without sauce, and with the wine of the province. When we arrived home, Helga had dinner ready for us, spaghetti.!!!
         While I walked through the Forum with Gail and Jay, Millie walked along the road that paralleled the ruins. A young Italian was walking near her and intimated that he wanted to be with her!. Millie couldn't talk Italian so she showed him her ring and raised three fingers while shouting 'Three Bambinos'. This convinced him and he left.
          At Lake Garda we rented a speedboat and I went for a water skiing ride. There was a small chop on the water. The driver 0f the boat went about three miles down the lake and when I signaled Millie to turn around, I went inside the turn and ended up in the water.
          She finally convinced the driver to turn back and get me. I was so fatigued that I barely could hang onto the boat and needed the driver to pull me on board and I didn't have a life preserver on. DUMB and they almost lost me.
          We moved several times in the three years that we were in England. In one house we had central heating [a pot stove of coke that had to have the clinker removed quite frequently, this barely warmed the one radiator], Electric heaters, coal oil and kerosene heaters, paving blocks, wood, coal and anything that would burn in the small fireplace. All the electricity was 220 volts so we had to have transformers placed in several locations in order to use our appliances. Gasoline was very expensive but the Military could purchase it at the base for 25 cents a gallon plus we could use the Commissary and Base Exchange.
          We made several good friends among the British but in general, they don't like us. The only similarity between the two groups is that the language is only slightly the same. The country is chilly and damp. The daily weather forecast was 'Changeable with bright periods'. We did enjoy their culture and country but their is no desire to return. So much for England.
          When my rotation to return to the States was near, I made several wagers that I would return to a Fighter assignment and I won. My next assignment was as Director Of Operations at Oxnard AFB in California flying The F-101 Voodoo Interceptor. We flew back to N.J. and then drove to California.


          Oxnard AFB had several qualities that made it a very desirable place to be. Excellent quarters, near the ocean and Los Angeles, small base, great airplanes and a very mild climate in which they grew many fruits and vegetables. My job was of interest and I got to fly the F-101B.
          Things were very quiet and I decided to finish my education. The Air Force allowed me to return to the Universary of Maryland for two semesters and I received my Bachelors degree in Military Science. This was in 1962 and I was over 40 years old. What a great way to go to college. A new sports car full of whisky and a pocket full of flying pay and all tuition paid. I drove back to Maryland in my Austin Healy Sprite that I had purchased in England. My other car at this time was a 1955 Oldsmobile convertible, White and turquoise with a continental tire kit. Snazzy..
          While at Oxnard AFB in Oxnard Calif., from 1959 till 1962, I was the Director of Operations for the 414th Fighter Interceptor group and flew the F101B interceptor. To check out I had to first show my
McDonald F 101B Interceptor, Oxnard AFB, CA
McDonald F 101B Intercep
Jet skill by taking a flight in a T-33, a two place jet. Remember all the experience that I had in this type at Area 51 and in the Icy flights to Europe???. Well a young Lt. Flew with me. Right after takeoff he declared, simulated flameout. I casually called the tower and asked for permission to land downwind since it was a calm day and that was the safest thing to do.I told the Lt. That I would touch down at the 500' mark, and did and then continued on the takeoff.
          Again, when we got to about 500' altitude, he declared another simulated. I said that this time I would land on the active runway about 500' down, and did. Then continued on off and up to about 500' when he declared the third simulated flameout. This time I told him that I would again touchdown at the same spot, and did. He said 'That's all Sir' and I taxied in. He said 'thank you, well done' and from then on I had the respect of all the Pilots in the group. The Old Man could fly.
          Gail met an airman here and was married. I had bought a Sprite sports car in England and Millie and I would take it on trips alone, since it was only a two-seater and we would be free of the kids for a spell. Gail drove it now and then but had a very terrible crash in it but luckily, she and her girlfriend were not injured. She was grounded for quite a while though.
          After three years at Oxnard, I knew that I would soon be transferred but I wanted to find a good spot on my own. I took a jet back East and roamed the halls of the Pentagon. I lucked into bumping into an old friend and he sent me to the officer in charge of assignments who after talking to me for awhile stated 'You are just what we are looking for ' What do you want me to do??. Nothing , go back to Oxnard and I will send orders. What will be my job?. Don't ask, just go home. I did and the very next day a wire from Hdq. USAF came down through channels and all that it said was 'You will reassign Lt. Col. Meierdierck immediately to Washington D.C. Upon arrival the officer will call phone number '!!!!!! and We were on our way again and I was back on exchange duty with CIA.
          We had recently purchased our first travel trailer, parked it in the driveway and had Happy Hour in it most every night. It was an oddity at this time and many of the base personnel joined in with us. We loaded the Thunderbird, hooked up the trailer and headed East to a new life.


           In my new assignment, I was an Air Force officer on exchange duty with CIA. The position was supposed to be classified but it didn't take long for the neighbors to know what I was up to. We bought a house in Vienna VA. in a development being built by Yeonas Co. It was a very nice house, even air conditioned. The trees on the lot were beautiful in the fall. In fact, the whole area is ablaze in color in the fall. My office wasn't too far away so I missed the D C commuter problem. We added a carport, enclosed stairs and a deck in the back.
          One of our close neighbors was the chief of White House Security and we got to meet some very influential people. I was extremely busy with my job and did a lot of traveling to the west coast. The family settled down to a routine and Jay stated that DC was a great place to start dating since there were many free things to do and see. Gail had been married when we were in Oxnard so we just had Jay and Vicki.
          Millie and I bought a nice travel trailer and went to many of the beaches on the Chesapeake and Atlantic ocean. The Virginia heat, mosquitoes, traffic and having to load on Friday, drive, drive home, unload and then do it again the next week proved a real chore so we sold it and stayed home. There was enough to keep us busy right around D.C. The Washington weather varies from day to day. Hot sticky summers to cold winters. We even had a blizzard and were snowed in for three days. The White House sent some Army trucks to dig out my security friend so I then hired an end loader to dig the way to my house and we could get out but there weren't many places where the roads were open.
          My job was secure when suddenly, the Air Force decided to retire me with 22 years service. O K, my boss General Jack Ledford told me to come to work at the same desk on the day after I retired and I had a good job, more money and was still collecting all my retired pay. One of the original 'Double Dippers'. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy !.
          I was deeply involved with the YF-12 A ,the Oxcart Program and the SR-71 even got the fly the YF-12A.
Lockheed YF12A. This could be me taking off at Area 51
Lockheed YF12A. 
          Pictured to the left is the actual airplane that I checked out in and that could very well be one of my takeoffs.
          I was kept busy but I did have some spare time while I was in D.C. I decided to write a book!! I researched, took the photos, wrote the narrative, helped print and collate it, paid all the expenses but then I never did sell more than 5 copies. The book was titled 'The Statues Of Washington D.C.'. I have many copies in my storage room If you plan a trip East, let me know. It is cataloged in the Library of Congress. My previous efforts along this vein were several songbooks and the photos and narrative of the first mass Trans-Pacific flight by single engine jet fighters. It is named 'Fox Peter One'. I have a copy on my book shelf.[note: I tell the whole story of this flight under Flying]
          Life was all roses. I was flying, traveling, making enough money, welcome in high levels of government, nice house, we were all healthy and the kids were doing their thing and having fun. Everything changes, without fail. I was asked one day if I wanted to be program manager for a new RPV [remotely piloted vehicle] and of course I said YES. [Project Aquiline] It entailed a move to Las Vegas NV. and daily commuting to Area 5 but I was the boss of a new aircraft concept. Here we go again and we moved to Las Vegas and bought a really beautiful house, 5100 square feet with a 40 by 25 foot heated pool. We settled in again and purchased another travel trailer.


          I was gone every day but generally was able to fly home most evenings. I had a pretty good team but the contractor, Mc Donnell Douglas gave me a hard time and didn't progress as fast as they should have. They were also trying to cheat the USA out of about $11 million dollars. I took them to CIA headquarters, made them present their case. I refuted their assertions and at the end of the presentation, the senior people asked me what I thought that I should do?. I said 'Sir, since these people are lying, trying to cheat us out of all those millions and the program is not going where it should be, I suggest that we cancel the program'. They agreed and I didn't have a job. I went back to Virginia and in a few weeks decided to retire and here we are.
          My Mother was living with us during this period and she was getting pretty old. She fell twice and broke her hip both times and finally, I couldn't handle her anymore and neither could Millie when I was gone. I had to put her in a nursing home. Some months later most of her bodily functions were failing. I called my three brothers, explained the problem and all three suggested that I pull the life support systems and she passed on.
          Jay had been off to college at Arizona State and had gotten married, Vicki was still around the house but when she turned 21, she got a job dealing blackjack and moved out. Millie and I were left alone in the big house. I spent a lot of time traveling with the trailer, fishing etc,. and the house was a burden for her so we sold it and moved into a Mobile Home Park, where we are today.


          One of the traditions of the 'Ranch hands' [the original U2 group] was to rotate responsibility for a get together or a reunion. The DeLaps lived in Lexington, KY and when their turn came, we all went to the Kentucky Derby. Jack worked at The University so he was able to arrange for us to be in the infield at the finish line. This worked great since we arrived on an Air Force bus and were driven to the infield where we had strong security and no one else was allowed into the area.
          One of our group, Jerry Johnson was with some friends in the stands 'Do you know how many people were in the stands?'. Well, just before the race started, I said that I would look for him. I raised the binoculars, looked at a spot and there was Jerry waving back at me. Unbelievable coincidence.
The races were interesting and I think that I won about $17 that day.