Dave Wade crewman in B-45, first jet bomber in America’s air defense

More reach is given to the long striking arm of the U.S. Air Force North American B-45C Tornado four-jet bomber, a “wing tip tank” version of the B-45. The tanks pack much more range into the Tornado’s normal tactical radius of over 800 miles. Black paint on inside of tanks and engine nacelles reduce glare. The sleek bombers carry a payload of over 10 tons and are in the 550 miles per hour speed class.

David Wade of Overbrook Gardens in Englewood, Fla. was a crewman aboard a B-45 four-engine jet bomber during the Korean War era. It was this country’s first jet bomber after the Second World War designed specifically for a nuclear payload.

Wade returned from a tour in Korea and Japan and ended up at the Air Force base in Yuma Ariz. Col. James Jabara was base commander.

He was the first American jet ace in Korea. He shot down 15 North Korean MIG fighters in his F-86 “Sabra Jet.” Jabara was killed in an auto accident near Homestead Air Force Base, south of Miami, on Nov. 17, 1966. He was the commander of the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Homestead at the time.

“It was always an experience every time we went up in a B-45. You never knew what was going to happen,” Wade said. “I always wondered if I was going to have to bail out. I never jumped.”

Almost every time they’d landed the flying bucket of bolts, a base fire truck raced along side them down the runway because their airplane was experiencing some crisis.

It wasn’t until almost half way through his four year hitch in the Air Force Wade became one of the four crewmen aboard a B-45. He served as a staff sergeant flying in the rear seat of the bomber towing big silver targets for fighter pilots firing air-to-air rockets from F-94Cs and F-86D fighters at the towed target.

“Because of the heavy tow cable and the hydraulic system used to retrieve the 15-foot-long, 10-foot-high targets, a bomber was needed as a tow plane,” Wade said. “Our B-45 was used as a work horse.”

He was flying out of Yuma County Airport in Yuma, Ariz. Half the base was civilian and the other half was military. They were part of the U.S. Air Defense Command.

“Yuma was a decommissioned Air Force Base from World War II being used  as an Air Force gunnery range during the Korean War era,” he explained. “There were not many buildings left on the base. We lived in tents in the desert. We had to contend with a bunch of desert  creatures, particularly ‘sidewinders’ and scorpions.

“It was cold at night and hot as hell during the daytime. Before you climbed in your bunk in a tent in the desert at night you felt around for creatures who liked the warmth of your blankets,” Wade said.

“When I got to Yuma they were doing target practice using old P-51 ‘Mustangs” fighters from World War II. We would pull targets and fighter pilots from all over the country came to Yuma to fly our P-51s and test their fighting skills,” he said.

“To say the least, the US Air Defense Command wasn’t very secure. We finally got F-94C jet fighters with rocket pods on their wings to fly for target practice to replace the P-51s,” Wade said. Then we got F-86Ds that had rocket pods on the ends of each wing and no machine-guns.

“I was told they were looking for someone to go to the Lockheed Factory in California and be trained  as an armament expert on the rocket pod system on the F-94Cs. They chose me to send.

A ground crew checks out a B-45 Tornado after it returns from a secret mission. Photo provided

“I was flown to Lockheed’s home base by a young Naval Academy  graduate, Lt. James Irwin. Later in life he would be one of our astronauts who went to the moon,” Ward said.

“I got trained on the 2.75 inch rocket. The first air-to-air rocket that was put on the F-94s and F-86s. When I returned to Yuma my job was to train all the guys at our base that were working on these aircraft. They in turn would train many more weapons system specialists from around the country.”

It was after he completed this mission that Ward transferred to his job as the towing expert on the tail end of a B-45 bomber.

The B-45 went into production in 1947 as America’s first four-engine jet bomber. Because it developed serious engine problems the bomber played a minor roll during the Korean War. However, after that war the B-45 came into its own, despite its mechanical problems. Nuclear bombs designed by the U.S. were much smaller, thus enabling al bomber like the B-45 to play a roll for a short time as part of this country’s strategic nuclear strike force.

For a decade, until 1959, the B-45 had a small roll in this country’s nuclear strike force. The B-47 “Stratojet” became the Strategic Air Commands main nuclear strike bomber in 1951. It was far superior to the B-45 in lots of way including dependability.

“By the time the Korean War was winding down in 1953 the military was looking for ways to downsize. They came out with a program, if you were accepted to a college they would let you out of the service early ,” Wade recalled. “I decided to go back to Springfield College in Springfield, Mass and finish by degree in physical education and history.

“They let me out of the Air Force  after three years, nine months and 20 days. I had signed up for four years of service,” he said. “After graduating from Springfield in 1958 my first teaching job as a physical education and health teacher was at Livingston High School in Livingston N.J. I was also the wrestling coach and the assistant football coach.”

Thus began a teaching career that lasted for 26 years. Wade became teacher, coach and athletic director at a number of high schools in the Northeast. Almost always he left on an up note where the athletic department had a string of winning seasons.

He was the athletic director at Deer Park High School on Long Island, N.Y. for 7 years. He was also the athletic director at Columbia High School in South Orange, N.J. for 9 1/2 years.

In 1983 Wade decided to hang it up as far as teaching was concerned and do something else. He and his wife, Connie, moved to St. Augustine. They both had their real estate licenses and sold real estate for a while. Later they moved to the Sarasota area and a few months ago the couple purchased a  home in Overbrook Gardens on the north side of Englewood.

Wade’s File

Name: David William Wade
D.O.B: 28 Nov. 1931
Hometown: Morristown, NJ
Current: Englewood, Fla.
Entered Service: 29 Dec. 1950
Discharged: 18 Sept. 1954
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Commendations: Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal

This story was first printed in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Friday, June 3, 2011. It is republished with permission.

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be republished without permission. Links are encouraged.

Click here to view Wade’s Collection in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

Click here to view the War Tales fan page on FaceBook.

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