Dick Crisafulli's Story

This is two emails from Dick Crisafulli sent to Sibert

Email of 2-2-2013

My name is Dick Crisafulli, and I live in Algood (Cookeville), TN, about half-way between Nashville and Knoxville off 1-40. I saw your comprehensive recollection of Dreux and Incirlik while Googling and surfing Dreux AB, France. I enlisted in August of 1956, and turned 18 September 7, in basic training at Lackland. From there I went to Warren in Cheyenne, WY, for teletype school, and to Chanute, IL, for cryptographic school. I made SSGT in four years and TSGT in five years. I got out after eight years to finish college. I am a Vietnam era vet by 26 days, and will be 72 this September. I have been a serious amateur photographer since I was seven years old so have many, many memories of Dreux (and had about a dozen Kodak carousels of color slides) especially of grief and frustration of a base that was barely habitable when I first arrived. I have sent all my Air Force slides to the Air Force Historical Branch at Maxwell. I arrived at Dreux in January of 1957, just after the base opened, if you could call it that, and rotated in January 1960, just before the 322nd Air Division received the Outstanding Unit Award for the Congo Airlift.

It took us 3 days to get to Orly from McGuire because of weather, stopping in Keflavik, Prestwick, Hahn, and then Orly. Of course, I had to be the only one going to Dreux that day, although I was assigned there with about a dozen other guys in my outfit that got to the base before or after me that day. I had a hell of a time after the bus dropped me at Montparnasse (sp), confused about connections, etc. I got on the train around 5:00pm and rode 2nd class (who knew) out to Dreux, and had a first class ticket. The French people I rode with in my compartment got quite a laugh over my consternation when the conductor called it to my attention, in French. A chemical engineer sitting next to me translated saying, "Messieur, I am an engineer and obliged to ride 2nd class. You have a first class ticket." I got to Dreux about 7:00 or 8:00pm. It was cold, rainy, and dark, but the big 00 bus was waiting. Got to the base, and to the transient barracks that turned out to be my squadron's quarters upstairs.

The barracks were not complete - there weren't any doors on them, no sidewalks yet except for the trenches that would become sidewalks, and there was mud and dried sand all over the concrete floors that didn't have the tile laid yet. There were about four or five guys already there, some from my tech school classes. They had arrived a little earlier. I signed in the next day, transferred upstairs to the squadron, and proceeded to integrate myself into the squadron and base. Dreux was nothing but mud, actually, and combined with the weather made life grim. My first KP was in April, at the main mess hall which was right across the street from my barracks. That was a lucky stroke. Food Service and Transportation squadrons were right next door, so we had it made for chow and transportation. We had to check out trucks to transport the French telephone operators. You must understand that the Army Corps of Engineers had just departed after getting the base fit for habitation and operations. That's where all the Quonset huts came from, some still had latrine and living quarters that were made into various base services including laundry and post office among others.

Many buildings that you saw were built after I arrived, e.g., the control tower still had scaffolding around it while they stuccoed it, and the base gym was finished about six months before I rotated. They finally finished all the barracks which were like you experienced, with four open bays to a floor, etc. By the time I rotated back to the States the Dreux was a beautiful base.

Our barracks, as I mentioned, was across the street from the main mess hall, and we were centrally located across from the service club/ snack bar, and not too far from the commissary, BX, and Class 6 store. I spent a lot of time in the snack bar, reading the Stars and Stripes and killing time with the guys. We used script for about the first year and a half after I arrived. The French converted to the Nuevo Franc about the time we went to American currency.

A lot of the big bands would entertain at the service club. Don't forget, this was only 11 years after WWII. I worked at the communications center, across from the base photo lab and pretty much in front of the main hangar. We had about 70-75 people in the outfit including two officers, the CO and Operations Officer. The 60 th Comm. Squadron is now at Travis following 46 years of deactivation (1958-1994) as part of the 60th Air Mobility Wing, and has about 1500 people with a female full colonel in charge. Captain Siler was the last commander in 1958. Some difference, huh?

There were both C-119's and C-123's assigned when I got there. The i10th. 11th, and 12th TCS had the 119's and the 374th, 375th, and 376th had the 123's. Colonel Randolph Churchill was 60th  Troop Carrier Wing (M) commander, and Colonel William H. (Bull) Bentley was the 60th  Air Base Group commander. As the history shows the 60th  ABG did not last long after I got there. When "Bull" Bentley retired in the spring of 1957, they deactivated it. I don't remember, but Churchill must have left in 1958. He was an old fart with a young wife who had a baby in 1958. There was quite a ceremony for Bentley's retirement, even Frank Everest, the USAFE Commander was there. It was a gorgeous Saturday morning, and I was working, but I took off to photograph the ceremony which was held right up from the comm. center on the apron in front of the main hangar. One picture is of Everest and Bentley standing in a Jeep while reviewing the troops. Word has it that Bentley got in trouble during the war, but had some sort of distinguished record. Everest came back to the States to take over TAC until he retired. As soon as Kennedy was sworn in he promoted Walt Sweeney at 8th AF at Westover to take over TAC. I had returned to Westover and 8th AF by that time. By September of 1958, the 123's had left and the 60th TCW deactivated and replaced by the 7305th Air Base Group. All the 60th support consolidated into Hq Sqdn, 7305th Air Base Group. That ended the life of the 60th Comm. Sqdn. for 46 years.

Colonel Clyde Boxx was 322nd AD Commander, later promoted to MG. There was an NATO air show at Dreux in September of 1957. It was the first time I saw a lot of aircraft including the B-66 and the C-130A which was just coming on line. The former Sewart AFB here just below Nashville didn't receive C-130's until 1958. The 322nd AD got them in 1957. The two new 130's on display were named "Ville de Evereux" and "Ville de Fauville." The leader of the USAFE Skyblazers was none other than LTC 'Bill' Creech, who became a four-star and for whom Creech AFB in Nevada is named after. I made a good deal of money baby sitting for a lot of the young officers in the trailer park just down from the barracks, and got to know a lot of them personally. One guy was Major Eugene D. Cook who was the Base Operations Officer. He had been a B-17a/c during the war and whose plane was shot down in 1943. He and his crew got out, but only he survived. The rest of the crew was killed in their parachutes. There is a picture of him, as a 2LT and his crew on one of the WWII websites. I used to get hops all over Europe, Africa and the Middle East from them.

I was going with a girl in London, and spent a week with her there. I got a ride from the Douglas House to Bovingdon AB about 30 miles north of London on that cold and rainy Sunday morning only to learn there weren't any aircraft scheduled to depart for the continent that day. Any 'hop' aircraft would have to come from either Dreux or Everux because we had the only transports in Europe. I had to be to work at 8:00am. There were about two dozen Army guys waiting in the passenger lounge also waiting to get a hop. I looked out the window at the ramp and saw a C-123 parked. I hustled my butt over to Base Ops and inquired. Conveniently, the crew had not filed before 5:00pm (Bovingdon tower closed at 5:00pm) so had to RON. The dispatcher told me that the crew would be in momentarily. Wouldn't you know it but the pilot was a guy I sat for regularly who asked me what I was doing there. He told me to get my bags and ride to the aircraft with him and the crew. We made a stop at Burtonwood before heading back to Dreux, sans Army guys. Most of the English bases we used to fly into are long gone, including Bovingdon and Burtonwood. Bovingdon is now a prison site.

I was kind of a conservative kid, 'loner' you might say, didn't smoke, didn't drink much, went to night school, etc., so I didn't get out to and around the local base economy much. That didn't mean I didn't know all about the local economy, and set off a whole bunch of memories when I read some of the names of the towns and joints around the base you mentioned in your write up. Mostly, I went to Paris, and got to know it pretty well. It certainly has changed since I left 50 years ago. But, back in the day, as they say now, it was a Gl's paradise, just after the war, no ugly Americans, the dollar was king, and the women plentiful. Early on I linked up with Gigi, who was a year older than I, and the warmest thing I ever held. She danced like a feather, and had her own small place near the Sacre Cour (sp). I think about her to this day and wonder what might have been. I have several ex-GI friends who married European women and they are still delightful. We would go to all the big night spots, and some of the left bank places. She really knew Paris well. She'd also translate, even though I had -4- learned a lot of conversational French from her. We'd try to speak only French when we were alone. Some times it would work, sometimes not. I borrowed a car and we spent three weeks traveling through France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, etc., and really enjoying ourselves.

My wife and daughter don't like me to bring out the slides of our trip. She cried and cried when I told her I was going back to the states. We had never thought about it much, but as much as we liked each other self-preservation kept me from marrying at such a young age. At that point I didn't have much of a future, and wanted more. We corresponded for awhile, but it drifted off. I have a lot more 'war stories', but I will close here and let you digest what I have so far. I thoroughly enjoyed your recount of your days at Dreux as I had forgotten a lot of names of people, places, and things about Dreux. Here is the website for the Nostradamus Radar facility at Dreux that will explain the dismantling of the base. More later.

Dick (Cris) Crisafulli

Email of 2-2-2013

Greetings I would really love to contribute to your Dreux AB saga, but I'm just too pooped out to sit at my computer for long (ADHD) to go through a chronological history of my three years at Dreux AB. I could literally write a book about my time, but then I would be stealing your thunder. I think I may have given you some "war stories" in our last correspondence. I will sum up my time by saying that when I arrived at Dreux it was a mud hole - no doors on the barracks, buildings incomplete (the control tower/base operations still had scaffolding around it), and walks to barracks and buildings were just forms. There weren't even tiles on the floors, just sand from the mud residue. My barracks was just across the street from the main mess hall. The 60th Communications Squadron was upstairs and Headquarters Squadron 60th Air Base Group was downstairs. MSGT Lovelace was the mess sergeant. The 60th Communications Squadron had about 75 people in it, and had a captain (Siler) as Commander, and a Captain (Mason) as Operations Officer. The 60th Air Mobility Wing (as it's known now) at Travis AFB, CA, contains the current 60th Communications Squadron, has about a thousand or more people in it, and has a full bird colonel as commander.

The 60th Transportation Squadron and the 60th Food Service Squadron were in the barracks right next to us I got to know a lot of movers and shakers on the base even though I was a lowly airman, and on one occasion, even wound up taking pictures for Don Singleton, one of the base photographers, at one of Colonel (Randolph) Churchill's (Base Commander) parties because Singleton wanted to go into Paris for the weekend, and he knew I was a serious amateur photographer who could handle a 4x5" Speed Graphic camera. Colonel Churchill and his wife had just had a baby girl who would will be 55 this year. Colonel Churchill's secretary was a young Miss Yount. Stufffffy!!!!! I witnessed the base going from the 60th Troop Carrier Wing and the 60th Air Base Group (Colonel Bentley) to the 7305th Air Base Group. The retirement of the 60th Air Base Group coincided with the retirement of Colonel Bentley in the summer of 1957. The dais was loaded with all the full bulls on the base including Colonels Churchill, Bentley, Orland G. Huffman (Wing Material Officer), and Carleton Van Sickles, hospital commander. I would later bump into Colonel Huffman in the 57 Air Division at Westover AFB, MA The ceremony even brought in General Frank Everest, USAFE Commander, to the ceremony. Shortly thereafter, he rotated back to the states where he became commander of the Tactical Air Command. After Kennedy became President, he replaced Everest with Walt Sweeney who was 8th AF(SAC) commander when I first arrived back in the states at Westover AFB. Everest was still flying around in a 4-engine recip. which Sweeney quickly changed to a 135.

There was also an air show in September 1957, at which the first two C-130A's in Europe were flown in for static display from Evereux AB and 322nd Air Division: They had been christened the Ville De Evereux and the Ville De Fauville. The USAFE Skyblazers performed, with Lt. Col. Creech as their leader, later to become a four-star and have Creech AFB named after him. There were a lot of old and new USAF aircraft displayed at the show. Two of the new aircraft in the USAF inventory were the C-130 and the B-66. It was a NATO event, so many other countries had their aircraft displayed and or demonstrated.

The 60th TCW supported the Hungarian Revolt (the canvas seats were still in many of the base aircraft to rescue dependents and civilians), the Beirut Crisis (one of our communications vans was taken there with our radio operators, for two weeks), and the Congo Airlift, for which the 322nd AD, including the 7305th, was awarded the Outstanding Unit Award. I had rotated back to the states at the end of January 1960, so did not receive the award.

There were several USO shows to come through and appear at the service club including Ray McKinley and Les Brown. Lonnie Richter was the director of the service club. Many of the guys thought she was hot stuff. I spent many an hour at the snack bar with my 60th Comm. Squadron buddies in the same building.

When I first arrived, script was the coin of the realm for all cash transactions. If you wanted francs for the economy then you went to the base bank and got the script converted. The Americans began using American currency at about the time the French went to the Nuevo Franc which better equated to the dollar. The 60th Comm. Squadron was across the street from the service club and snack bar, so we killed a lot of time there. It is where I began to like Country and Western music because that's mostly what they had on the juke box. We got to know many of the dependent kids who went to Paris/American High because we weren't much older than they were. Most will be on Social Security by now. I was in the Dreux AB Protestant Chapel choir that came in second in the Air Force Chapel Choir Contest. MSGT LeVau was the director, and TSGT Elton Britton was the organist/pianist. MSGT LeVau was also the Wing Sergeant Major, and according to some, had a music degree. The Protestant Chaplain was Captain Dean C. Hofstadt, and the Base Chaplain was a Catholic Major. I was a member of the NCO Club for a short time before I rotated back to the states because I made SSGT in four years. I went on separate rations and ate at both the mess hall and the club. At least I could walk back to the barracks. I didn't have a car, but I really didn't need one, and consequently saved a great deal of money over the three years. I remember the MSGT that was in charge of the NCO Club, but I have forgotten his name. He had a German wife and a Mercedes, and never dressed in uniform, except when he reenlisted and Colonel Churchill insisted he wear his uniform. I remember standing retreat in front of the headquarters building. To this day I can whistle the French and American bugle calls.

A number of new buildings were finished or were constructed while I was at Dreux. The base gym opened a few months before I rotated. We used to roller skate there. I had the hots for the daughter of a TSGT, and once in awhile he'd let me go skating with her. She'd be on Social Security now, but then, even two or three years was a big difference in age. By the time I rotated back to the states, Dreux AB was a fine base: landscaping was finished and there was wonderful grass growing everywhere, buildings were finished and well maintained, the BX and Commissary were well stocked.

Most of all I remember people. In addition to the ones I mentioned earlier, there was Major Eugene D. Cook, Base Operations Officer, for whom I used to babysit. I didn't know it until two years ago that as a 2/LT and B-17 aircraft commander he was shot down during WWII, and was the only one of his crew to survive. He retired as a Lt. Col. Then there was 1/LT Eurich who I babysat for and was the only young reserve officer on Dreux AB augmented into the Regular Air Force in the 1959 cycle, and who did not have a college degree, but he was a flying fool. There was also 1/LT Miller who transitioned into SAC tankers and I met later as a major at the SAC Reflex base at Frobisher Airport on Baffin Island. He did a tour in Vietnam and retired as a Lt. Col.

There is lots more, and I could go on for a couple more days, but I'll quit here and hope I've given you enough to at least begin with.


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