Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Vandenberg used to be called Camp Cooke. Back during the Second World War it's specialty was artillery training. Some ordnance detonated as advertised. Some didn't. It's the "didn't" part that was a problem. Hence upon orientation all combat crew students where advised to keep on the sidewalks. It was not unusual to find unexploded shells lurking about. The base is located roughly 150 miles north of L.A and 150 miles south of San Francisco along the California coastline.

To attest to it's air base status, there was an active runway. To solidify it's true mission, there were numerous missile launch sites both old and new. NASA owned a few sites to support their missions. One of the relics of the past were three particular launch complexes dating back to the late 1950s. These were old Atlas sites. The gantries where still in place silently rusting away. It is said that Eisenhower allowed Kruchev to take a train trip down the California coastline. The railroad tracks passed the launch complex and Kruchev was allowed to see three Atlas ICBMs on "alert". The liquid oxygen was seeping off the boosters demonstrating that they were fueled and ready to go. Other relics simply were large craters indicating failed launches. In engineering parlance, "a catastrophic failure."

South Vandenberg was where "loud" noises usually occur in the dead of night. Classified payloads were hoisted into the night's sky via variations of Atlas configurations or by the heavy lifting Titan III and/or Titan 34D launch vehicles. In short, impressive.

The 4315th Combat Crew Training Squadron, my adopted unit for the next three months, tasked with training SACs missile launch crews. This included all species of Minuteman, ILCS, CDB, and Mod. Also included in the mix was the Titan II crews. Interesting note about Titan crew training, the crews started their training at Sheppard AFB, TX and finished out at Vandenberg.

The 3901st Strategic Missile Evaluation Squadron, keepers and defenders of the faith. This was SAC's missile Praetorian Guards, or, in the opinon of some, SAC's version of the S.S. The 3901st was tasked with evaluating all SAC missile crews based upon the concept of "standardization." The 3901st was like a cold virus, unavoidable and unwelcome.

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