Memories of Malden, Page 2


As we all know it started with the Korean thing in 1950.  A forgotten war, so some would say, but it was pretty real for many.  As for me, I wanted to be in the first instructor class at Malden but due to prior commitments didn’t get in until the third class.  So on we went to Craig AFB for Pilot Instructor School (affectionally called, PIS), where one of the things I did was to teach my instructor how to make wheel landings in the T-6.  By the time the 6 weeks was over he was pretty good.  So it was back to Malden around the first of December 1951 and introduced to our first students.  Hmmm, what an interesting time! 

December of 1951 was a cold sucker — much freezing rain and plainly miserable.  The airplanes were literally frozen to the ramp and conditions were unflyable of course — the ready rooms, being reconditioned WW II buildings — wooden one story things - with asphalt shingles or tar paper on top and sides — heated by an oil fueled (or maybe propane) stove which would have been welcomed by Daniel Boone, but which would only heat a limited spot in an otherwise very cold space, were quite an introduction not only the students but to the instructors also.

We spent time — oh so much time hoping for a break in the weather but it only stayed that way for days.  Base Colonel put out an edict: “we will get a flight on each student before the Christmas break (morale purposes of course)”.  And so it was when one day there was a slight reprieve and with much clearing of ice off the planes, but no removal of ice off the ramp and runways, we got things moving.  I had 4 student assigned, 2 American Cadets and 2 NATO; one French and one Belgium.  Foreign students were supposed to be able to read, write and understand English.  But neither of the later two comprehended very much about what was going on.  So with very careful taxiing and preparations out to runway 13 we waddled.  We had about a 45 degree right cross wind -- with ice covered runway — brand new students — brand new instructors and pucker time was on.  Around the pattern the first two Americans went for their first flight with a landing that was “acceptable” under the circumstances.  Next was the Frenchman — canopy open, which he would never close — so we both froze and then next the Belgium.  He did close the canopy for the short flight but when it came time to land, I put the gear handle down — but the student would immediately pull it back up.  He remembered the handle must be moved but he was confused as how it should be used and for what purpose.  Nor would he understand my intercom instructions to either put the darn thing down and leave it alone or let me handle the thing.  All I got was him turning around and giving me a big grin and a thumbs up.  So it went – handle down — handle up, gear down-gear up for 2 or 3 times — on the way to landing.  I guess that landing was the one of the most challenging of my life up to that time.  Good stiff cross wind — ice covered runway — and I had my left knee braced against the landing gear handle while trying to put the thing on the ground.  Somehow it turned out OK.  The students had their first real flight in an Air Force airplane, most enjoyed it, and away they went for their Christmas break to brag about their exploits.  For the instructors the day was a frustrating one, one they probably wouldn’t forget and wondering what they had gotten themselves into.

For some this is old stuff, but as far as the situation at the time and place the following is offered:
The airplanes, re-manufactured North American AT-6’s and renamed T-6 were fantastic.  Some I’m sure were, old D and F models, I had flown previously back during WW-II and great airplanes for their time.  The ones we had were for all practical purposes, brand new planes, with refurbished interiors and state of the art (for the time) instrumentation, and were a pleasure to fly.  The T-6 was a very honest plane if flown properly, but would eat you for breakfast if you abused it — fly it properly and it would do what you wanted — an excellent plane all around.  Students who learned on that plane, in my estimation, were much better airman over all, than the planes that replaced the T-6.  I would like to say here however that the T-28 was also a pleasure to fly.  I must say when I got close to my first T-28 I noticed it had a Wright engine, an Aeroproducts prop and I think manufactured by the Chrysler or Kaiser company.  Didn’t sound too good to me, but still I liked the plane even though I had two complete engine failures at night, versus never having an engine failure with the T-6, a Pratt and Whitney engine.  The T-28 was great — the engine???.

Malden as you know is located in an ancient flood plain of the Mississippi river.  Level and with much sandy soil, which tends to blow with any appreciable wind, so actual sandstorm type conditions could be experienced at times.  Being in what was called the Boot heel of Missouri it was an area that got very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter—seasonal weather to say the least.  Thunderstorms, snow and ice and frost on the 100 or so airplanes parked overnight were constant problems.  With the T-6, you could operate with the canopy open — sweat like the devil but at least have wind in your face and on your body if you wanted.  In the T-28 at low altitude in the summer, it was beastly hot since you could not operate with the canopy open so you were wringing wet at the end of a period. 

Some events are more notable that others.  Like one dual night cross country from Malden-Paducha-Dyersberg below a wintry 5,000-ft ceiling, in and out of snow, truly dead-reckoning.  This mission should have been called off (had to stay on schedule you know—however the students told me later they got a kick out of watching the snow stream past by the passing and position lights).  But the following solo cross-country operation came off without a hitch.  I suppose the involved students took the dead-reckoning navigation system to heart.
Frost:  A frosty T-6 is not to be flown without either removing it or smoothing it to contour with the airfoil.  Well, due to schedule pressure one frosty morning one instructor (I won’t mention his name) had to fly an airplane off a red dash or some such, so he got in a rush and scooted out to the runway, got slightly airborne, the left wing dropped followed by a roll to the right and then back to the left very rapidly when the pilot decided he’d had enough, chopped the throttle and the plane pancaked into a water soaked area to the left of the runway, still gear down, and in a level attitude.  A great geyser of water and mud completely engulfed the plane and surprisingly the plane came to a stop upright and I think basically undamaged.  It was suspected by the accident investigators that he had attempted a takeoff without clearing the frost—but where was the frost after the incident?---gone, completely washed off by the bath.  Everyone should be so lucky.  Another scheme to remove the frost and get back to flight system was to utilize a fire truck to spray water onto the ready-for flight aircraft with engines running, which would thus remove the frost.  Many, including myself, didn’t like this because we feared that while removing frost, the water might run into parts of the flight control systems and freeze during the ensuing flight and create a potential flutter or restrict flight controls.  As it turned out the system worked perfectly and as far as I know, no one had any problems.  I suppose the temperature just above ground level was not conducive to freezing.

White-Yellow (maybe Red?)-Black flags:  These flags were hung from the central control tower, backed up by radio announcements.  As I remember, white was for unrestricted solo, yellow (or red) was for discretionary solo and black was the signal for all you cats to come home or stay on the ground.

Geese:  Migratory wildfowl flying thought the area, especially at night were always a problem in the fall season.  I know of two planes that were damaged by goose strikes.  And speaking of waterfowl, the extensive swamp to the northwest of the base provided a number of us with fantastic duck hunting along with hunting on the Mississippi river
Accidents:  Ground loops and cartwheels were part of the T-6 program causing no fatalities to my knowledge but more serious were two dual flights, which resulted in fatal injuries to the instructors and students.  And I believe there was one midair collision between two solo students in the T-6.  The T-28 had its share of problems but mostly due to hydraulics and engine.  I believe the T-34 had relatively few accidents.  Several PA-18’s busted bungee cords and had nose up situations.

The Union thing:  Ok, so some didn’t like the fact that we all were getting some $50 or $100 pay less than most of the other 8 bases.  Dissatisfaction got a bit out of hand and a vote to organize a union was taken for the purpose of demanding more pay—a slight majority voted to organize.  Well that didn’t go over well with management and next thing you know General Dissoway (?) was up to Malden from Headquarters in his T-33, an all hands meeting was held in the base theatre and the General who delivered a very short speech stated in so many words, “gentlemen if these students aren’t flown as scheduled there will be C-47’s here in the morning and they will be flown to bases where they will get training.  The war demands it.”  With that he stomped out through the center isle, jumped into his jet and blasted off.  Inside the theatre you could hear a pin drop—and so ended any threat of any formal organization.

Local things to do:  Malden had it’s Blondell’s beer joint and Pop Warner’s for entertainment and local color.  Bernie had it’s Hobes for beer and Joe Haw’s drug store for sore throats and splinter removal and a shot of Wild Turkey if you hung around and had a few minutes to hear some funny stories from Joe.  Dexter, a few miles further up the road had its Hob Nob emporium.  If you really wanted to get out you could go left from Dexter and end up in Poplar Bluff or turn right to Sikeston or even Cairo.  That was about it locally off base.  But on-base there was the OFFICERS CLUB, known simply as the CLUB or the “O club”.  I don’t know the buildings original use during WWII, might even have been a mess hall or club, since it was built in the traditional H shape, which was normal for that time.  It wasn’t very pretty but served the purpose; bar at one end, band stand at the other (one of the mechanics a fellow by the name of Dorsey I believe, provided music with his little band—served the purpose well)

Round one at Campbell auxiliary field:  Landing practice always provided some congestion but one day it got a little out of hand.  One instructor (name will be provided by those who know) would constantly crowd the aircraft ahead and the Flight Commander at runway control would repeatedly send him around for that reason.  Well, apparently he finally got enough of that so even tho told to go around, he didn’t and after landing taxied up to control and jumped out of the plane with the student in the front cockpit with the engine running.  Up to the Flight Commander he went with arms waving and much yelling which evolved into him delivering an uppercut, decking the Commander.  Needless to say that was a no-no.  I was in my plane near by and was called over to take over control while the Flight commander flew back to the main base in the pugilist’s plane and with his student.  By the time, this unnamed pilot got back to the base his paycheck was waiting for him and he was gone by sundown.

Anyway, these were a few things to remember about a very interesting time in a person’s life.  How could it be otherwise?  Here we had the best group of students in the world, darn good airplanes, a job that most of us loved all for around $450 a month, a bunch of highly skilled coworkers, a long weekend every other weekend, a week off between each 6 month class, a frozen turkey at Christmas from the boss and in an area of very friendly local people.  Yep, we had our problems with a few grumpy persons but that goes with the territory any place in life.

Take care and good luck

-- Bill Fredrick


I was an aviation cadet a MAB in December 1943 and January 1944 then went on to Stuttgart and stayed most of '44 as an instructor in twin engine advanced flying training.  I was teaching students that came from Malden and other basic training fields. I think that Malden was feeding cadets to us all during '44.

   -- L. Moore Class 44-C

I was an Aviation Cadet with 55-A Class, the best time of my life was in Malden AFB. I remember one funny thing--I was the first Cadet to be a member of the Malden Ladies Club. I was graduated with 57B Class in Reese AFB. This year we have our 50th Anniversary. I am retired from the Peruvian Air Force with the rank of Colonel.

-R.V.M. Class 55-A


Memorable events, happenings...
"The T-28 night solo cross-country to Paducah!"

           -- L.F., Class 57-A, 1955-56

Looking south from the tower at Malden Air Base."I remember doing tail spins over a field of people who were picking cotton, and watching them hurridly run for cover as the downward spiraling plane approached the point of recovering from the spin."

          -- H.D., Class 56-B, 1954-55
"In 1953 and 1954, Malden was a small, rural town of mostly mature, and friendly, genuinely good people. We were a bunch of young men, eager to become something to be respected, if only in our own analyses, and we were fortunate to have lived for about seven months among these good people of Malden, Bernie, Dexter, Poplar Bluff. We were treated well, and hope that there were but few times the locals wished that we actually weren't among them.

It was never hot while we were in Malden. We did experience some of the cold. Remembering the requirement for us to "shoot" landing qualification "stages", where we flew the traffic pattern solo with the canopy fully open for the entire flight, and we practiced for grade purposes repeated landings and takeoffs for periods up to three hours, in January, with the temperature hovering around eight degrees Fahrenheit and a 100 mph wind in your face. It might better be described as damned cold. Maybe even frigid.

But we made up for it on Friday night. And again on Saturday night. We covered much of the local and not-so-local areas on those occasions. It was never cold on Friday night. Or on Saturday night.

You know, we were never bored during our brief stay with you. And we never met a person in the Malden area that we didn't like. You treated us well. Missouri has some mighty fine folks. We were young then, but hopefully we always tried to be gentlemen. We hope we didn't cause you too much concern. Thanks for having us!"
    -- J.C., Class 54-Q, 1953-54

"During one solo night flight a student pushed the T6 prop control forward (like for takeoff) and quietly glided down toward a drive-in theatre. When he came to the theatre, he pushed the throttle of the T6 forward and, of course, the engine roared like it did on take-off. There was pandemonium at the theatre, rumor had it he was so low that the silouete of the plane appeared on the screen as he flew off. No one was caught."

          -- H.D., Class 56-B, 1954-55

"Landing in one piece at MAB after the T-28 night solo cross-country to Paducah!"

          -- L.F., Class 57-A, 1955-56

"I remember that whenever someone did something stupid, a silence would fall over the cadet mess hall at dinner and there would begin a tinkling of spoons on glasses. Then the name of the guilty party would be chanted by all present until the guilty party stood on his chair for all to see, and announced his error for all to hear. I remember it well because I stood on a chair one evening.

R.R., Class 54-K, 1953

Lt. Lemuel Foster, July 1954, Photo Courtesy - Ben Foster"Remember the place like yesterday. Especially the cadet barracks that were like converted motel rooms. Remember the rooms housed four cadets to each and had windows that went sideways until Uncle Andy, Mr. Anderson the contractor, had the place redone and then the windows went up and down. One of our class also got a small radio station started there with a range of about five miles that we found the AF Tac Officers were listening to since we played Kenton, Brubeck and the like. That is, until one night they were having a party with Mr. Anderson and one of our guys said something disparaging about the old man!"

           -- A.D., Class 57-J, 1956


"Our class had several Italian students and they loved the soft American bread. I can still remember them in the mess hall with their trays stacked high with many slices of bread. And I remember the woman (Ma) who ran the mess hall."      

     - - H.D., Class 56-B, 1954-55

Class of 54k- "Mean" Gene Sackey was our instructor. I will never forget our first meeting and his short speech. "My name is Gene Sackey and I have about 10,000 hours and have never had an accident, any questions?" I took one look at him and said to myself this hillbilly is going to teach me to fly. Well he went on to bigger and better things. As for myself, I retired after 20 years and most memorable part of my career was flying 100 missions over North Viet Nam in the F-105 (thud).

    -- F.S. 54K


I was at Malden in 1944 for C-47 transition training and while there i met my wife. She was from Kennett. We married on Oct 16 1944 and we are still married. I returned to Malden as a ground school instructor in 1951 and left in 1959. I also owned and operated Polly's Jewelry, next door to Willy Millers Men's Store. Memories..... Bill Norrid bought my house when i left.     
     - - J.C. Instructor

I went through Malden as an aviation cadet in class 56-B. 

I was at Malden from Oct 54 until April 55 before transferring to Bryan  Texas for single engine training.  My instructor was named "Doc" Edwards.  I certainly tried his patience as I had not even driven a car before soloing the PA-18 and the T-6.  His instructions were apparently great as I went on to survive 20 years as an Air Force pilot.
- G.W. Class of 56-B

I arrived at Malden Air Base in July of 1954, Class 55R, as a Foreign Cadet from the Honduras Air Force.  My Instructor was Mr. Widner,  cigar smoker, excellent Pilot and human being.  I left for Bryan AFB in January 1955.  I have great memories of the old Base.  I flew for 30 years (military and commercial) and logged over 24,000 hours.  I am now a proud Citizen of the USA, my Country that I learned to love while I was undergoing training with the USAF. 

    -- C.G. Class 55R


My aviation career started as an Aviation Cadet in Class 56-N and lasted for 43 years. Paul Johnson was my flight instructor and mentor. He was a perfect instructor for me and I "heard" his voice prompting me throughout my career. "Pappy" Dewald released me for solo. I remembered what Pappy said when he was given a demonstration flight in a T-33, "All these years I have been flying at a stall!"

The PA-18 and T-6s were great plans to learn fundamentals on flight.

My next assignment was Bryan AFB for T-28 and T-33s, then Perrin AFB for the F86-D. I was assigned to Selfridge AFB with the Air Defense Command for the next 5 years, flying F86D/: and F-106s. When the Berlin Wall went up, I was assigned to the 526 FIS, Ramstein AB, Germany, flying F-102s the next 4 years. I left the Air Force after 11 years and joined Unit4ed Airlines. I flew most all United's aircraft, both domestically and internationally the next 32 years.

Malden Air Base and Anderson Air Activities served me well beyond all expectations!!! A special thanks to you and all my aviation friends.

     -- L.K., Class 56N


I got lost on a rather long VFR solo cross country on a nice spring day (good visibility) which started at Malden went to Paducah, KY then to Jonesboro, Ark. and back to Malden. One of the visible landmarks along the way was the Air Force Base just outside Blytheville, Ark. Anyway for some reason Jonesboro never appeared even after I flew another 20 minutes beyond my ETA. Knowing I was lost I flew down to 4,000 feet and began looking at names of towns on Water Towers and found I was over Marked Tree, Ark, about 20 miles south of Jonesboro. Because of the added distance this created, my fuel started to run low as I flew back to Malden. I thinned out the mixture as much as I could without causing the engine to overheat, to save fuel, and reduced the RPMs, which also used less fuel. As I entered the Malden landing pattern the gauges said I was close to empty, and I made a good landing, no go around, parked the plane and returned to the flight shack. Instructor Russell Essex was there so I told this story to him, and how low my fuel gauge registered when I'd shut the plane down. He went out to see in the dash how much fuel was put in the plane after I'd shut it down. He came back in and said I had only .2 of a gallon left and if I'd had to go around I'd never have made it. My response was, "But I made it!" That's what being young is all about, no sense of risk. I didn’t' give it a second thought. It would be different today!

H.D. Jr. Class 56B



1944,missippi river flooded all of the land,at dorena mo,our family of sharecroppers was evacuated to malden base,we were like refugrees, living at the base,we lived better than we did living in the house where we were rescued, they fed us well there at the base,better than we had at home,powdered eggs & milk was a treat,loved it,what a nice place it was,compared to the cotton fields,you folks were our heros,even with the planes dive bombing us when pickin mom would always say 'keep your head down",keep on picking,never mind those planes,they couldnt hit us anyway, guess she was right, they came close but no accidents, all this is some memoral times,thank you malden afb, my brother joe,was so inspired with the planes, he went into the air force, i was in the marine corps,due to the nature & way we were raised,always fighting & scuffling, i later on became a professional fighter,joe became a business man, had it not been for the malden afb,saving !
 our lives,none of this would never have happened, once again afb, thank you
J & J Newsom


How nice of you to keep all these memories alive! I was in Class 57-G arrived Jan'56 to Jul'56, then to Goodfellow AFB, TX for last 6 mos., B-25's. Flew T-34&T-28's at Malden. I think we were 4th class to fly T-34/T-28 after change from T-6. Civilian pilot instructors(a lot of crop dusters)and small cadre of military, who flew our check rides. Great instructors and friendly town folks. I was ROTC grad/2nd Lt. so could go to town more than Cadets. Those guys really got there butts worked off! My instructor was Bobby Jack Mars, local crop duster, great guy and instructor, stood about 5'-6" but could he fly!! Remember first welcome to Malden AB, told it was northern most pilot trng. base but how good WX was and flying time on schedule. That night norther came thru and aircraft were frozen to ramp for 2 days! During trng. on night solo cross country(triangle route with instructors at turning points) an aircraft flew thru the projection light at a drive-in movi!
 e. Next day all students who flew  night before were told we would be washed out if the culprit didn't confess. Nobody did, and we never heard another word about it. We finally concluded it was one of the turning point(instructors)aircraft! Flew B-25's another 8 mos. after got my wings(Jan'57), then T-29's 3 yrs.(support to Nav. Trng) at James Connelly AFB, Waco, TX. Off Active Duty but stayed in Active Reserve another 17 yrs. I didn't know history of Malden AB all these years but sure nice to read these memories. Keep up the good work!  R. Strottman Class 57-G


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