The American Heritage Dictionary defines the Cold War as thus:
cold war or Cold War n.
- A state of political tension and military rivalry between nations that stops short of full-scale war.
- A state of rivalry and tension between two factions, groups, or individuals that stops short of open, violent confrontation.
A kid growing up in the suburban Patio Culture would consider the Cold War as a heck of a lot of fun! It’s not that the nuclear holocaust is a light-hearted subject, it’s just that when you’re seven years old it doesn’t seem to be high on your worry list. By the mid-1960s the “duck and cover” drills had been abandoned in my school district. I never saw it. Maybe by then, the government figured out that it was pretty much a useless gesture. Instead, if you were a kid (especially a boy) what you saw were the sleek fighter jets that inhabited the local airbases which were plentiful in Texas. Clear blue skies were laced with numerous contrails and the suburban buzz was often punctuated with sonic booms. Here are a few icons of the Cold War as I saw it.
Perrin Air Force Base
Perrin was built as an Army Air Corps base just before the start of World War II in 1941. During the war, the base was primarily a training facility utilizing the two-seat AT-6 Texan trainer. A brief deactivation ensued after the war, but the demands of the Cold War created a need for trained jet pilots. In this new incarnation, Perrin consisted of air defense and jet flight training. It supported T-37s, F86Ls, and the venerable F-102 Delta Dagger. Once a year on Armed Forces Day, the base would open up to the public and you could tour the base and view various static aircraft displays. The vast Flightline was covered with aircraft all lined up in rows for as far a kid’s eyes could see. They must have been lined up all the way to Lubbock! Cool jets are one thing, but the most vivid memory of the event was all of the chocolate ice creams! Delicious, cold, and running all down my white shirt! Family friends who were based at Perrin could also get us into the O-Club to swim in the pool.
Perrin was finally deactivated in 1972 and its property and facilities were deeded over to the county to become Grayson County Airport. While most of the facilities were derelict for many years, some industrial development has taken place. Not too many of the original structures remain today, but efforts are underway to expand the civilian commercial potential of the airport. Grayson County (Texas) commissioners recently renamed the facility to North Texas Regional Airport/Perrin Field to reflect the growing economic importance of the area, AND to recognize the historical contribution of Perrin Field.
Convair F-102A Delta Dagger
This was the type of interceptor flown by the 4780th Air Defense Wing (ADC), Perrin AFB, Texas in the mid-1960’s. The distinctive “double delta” insignia was emblazoned on the aircraft’s tail. The primary mission of the F-102 was to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft. It was the world’s first supersonic all-weather jet interceptor and the USAF’s first operational delta-wing aircraft. The F-102 made its initial flight on Oct. 24, 1953, and became operational with the Air Defense Command in 1956. At the peak of deployment in the late 1950’s, F-102s equipped more than 25 ADC squadrons
One of the connections I had to Perrin was a family friend from Australia, “Bernie” Reynolds. Besides the fact that he was a fighter pilot, Bernie earned major kid points for bringing me exotic gifts from Australia such as kangaroo tail soup, and a stuffed koala bear. An old Sherman Democrat, photo from March 31, 1964, illustrates Perrin’s role in training allied air force personnel.
“Australian Soloist–The first Australian pilot to solo a Convair F-102 Delta Dagger is Squadron Leader Bernard J. Reynolds, 33, an exchange officer assigned to the 4781st Combat Crew Training Squadron at Perrin Air Force Base. Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Wyman D. Anderson pins an F-102 lapel pin on Reynolds’ flying jacket after his solo flight recently. The Australian fighter pilot reported to Perrin last November for two years of exchange duty.”
T-33 “T-Bird” Trainer
Modified from the F-80 Shooting Star, the Lockheed T-33 “T-Bird” trainer seated an instructor and a student pilot. Stats: Empty Weight: 8,804 lbs., Max Weight: 14,442 lbs., Powerplant: Allison J-33-35 turbojet, Thrust (each): 5,200 lbs., Performance- Max Speed: 543 mph, Ceiling: 47,500 ft., Range: 1,343 miles, Armament (none)
Cessna T-37 “Tweety Bird” Trainer
The T-37 Tweety Bird trainer seated the instructor and student pilot in a side-by-side configuration. I can remember being told to look for the Tweety Birds, fully expecting the little cartoon character to appear. The T-37 was later muscled out with armament and designated the A-37 which saw service in Vietnam. This aircraft is still serving as an intermediate trainer with the U.S. Air Force.
North American F-86L Sabre Jet
Another Perrin veteran, the F-86L, was a radar equipped variant of the Korean War vintage F-86A. Specifications-Length: 40′ 3.25″, Height: 15′ 0″, Wingspan: 39′ 1.5″, Wing area: 313.37 Sq Ft., Empty Weight: 13822.0 lbs., Gross Weight: 18484.0 lbs., Propulsion – No. of Engines: 1, Powerplant: General Electric J47-GE-33, Thrust (each): 5550, Performance – Range: 750 miles, Max Speed: 693.00 mph.
F-100 Super Sabre
Seen here in its Vietnam era camouflage, the F-100 was the first supersonic fighter to enter service with the U.S. Air Force.
Still in service to this day, the Hercules remains an integral part of the Air Force’s airlift capability.
The “Huskie” was used primarily for crash rescue and aircraft fire-fighting. It was in use with the U.S. Navy when delivery of the H-43As to the USAF Tactical Air Command began in November 1958. Delivery of the -B series began in June 1959. In mid-1962, the USAF changed the H-43 designation to HH-43 to reflect the aircraft’s rescue role. The final USAF version was the HH-43F with engine modifications for improved performance.
Aircraft marked with a (*) are from my air show static display memories and may have not been permanently attached to Perrin AFB.