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FROM THE STARS AND STRIPES ARCHIVES

B52s wind up for Sunday punch

Bombs attached beneath the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress are prepared before a mission over Southeast Asia in January, 1970.

RUSS ANDERSON/STARS AND STRIPES

By RUSS ANDERSON | Stars and Stripes | Published: February 11, 1970

UTAPAO RTNAF, Thailand — Big and black, bulging with bombs, it sits, sweltering. Bright yellow generators pump life into its belly. It waits for the crew.

In a cold, antiseptic room, the crews sit. Fifteen of them. Six to a crew.

A major pours out a torrent of technical terms, pausing from his auctioneer-like delivery only to breathe. It's an incoherent babble to the uninitiated. Maps flash across a screen.

Finally a chaplain stands. So do the crews. They pray. Then they leave the cold room.

This crew disperses about the big, black B52. All young captains under 30. One middle-age sergeant. They pick at it and probe.

The youngest captain pulls wires from the bombs — 500 pounders and 750s. Some in its belly. Some on its wings.

The gunner-sergeant crawls into his lonely tail-cockpit. The rest struggle into their tiny enclosures.

Screaming down the runway, the plane. struggles to lift its 30 tons of bombs.

Airmen on the beach at Utapao in Thailand cram fingers to their ears. Damn noisy things. A glass of beer on a beach table shivers.

Then they're gone and its quiet once again. It'll be quiet for several hours. They'll be back then, empty.

Somewhere there's a war. Some forget. Not the B52s. Or the enemy below.
 

B-52 crewmembers at U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield are briefed before a mission over Southeast Asia in January, 1970.
RUSS ANDERSON/STARS AND STRIPES

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