Carter Endsley of Punta Gorda Isles kept the F-100 “Super Sabre” jet fighter planes of the 48th Tactical Fighter-Bomber Wing in the air during the “Cold War” in Europe in the 1950s and ’60s. For four years he served as a jet engine mechanic in the U.S. Air Force.
The super sonic fighters he worked on patrolled the border dividing West Germany and the Soviet Union. The fighters were equipped with hydrogen bombs that would have marked the start of World War III if they had been called on to drop their payload.
“Our planes flew out of Chaumont Air Force Base halfway between Paris and Switzerland. I became a crew chief on the F-100 engines. I had a team of guys working with me on the engines,” the 76-year-old former airplane mechanic said.
“The 48th Tactical Fighter-Bomber Wing was on a suicide mission. After they dropped their nuclear bombs on specific Soviet targets the pilots were supposed to ditch their planes in the Black Sea. They were supposed to be picked up by American submarines,” Endsley explained.
“If the 48th had been called on to go to war they would have been the first Americans to go into the Soviet Union. It was an interesting time to be a member of the 48th Fighter-Bomber Wing.”
Although his job was not as stressful as the pilots who flew the F-100 fighter-bombers, it had its moments. One of those came early in his deployment to Chaumont.
“When I first got over there and was living on base in the barracks I was put on the Security Squad. There were about 12 or 15 of us on the squad. We were supposed to be back up for the Air Police on base,” Endsley said.
“They provided us with helmets, .30 caliber carbine rifles and two or three clips of ammunition. If there was a security problem they’d call us.
“When May 1st came the problem arrived. The French Communist Party held a demonstration outside the front gate at Chaumont that year. They got us up in the middle of the night and we put on our helmets, grabbed our M-2 carbines and doubled time down to the main gate,” he recalled.
“When we got down there they spaced us about 15 or 20 feet apart inside the perimeter fence surrounding the air base. They didn’t tell us what to do or what was going on.
“I looked over toward the fence and on the other side were what appeared to me to be thousands of Communists screaming and yelling with hammers and pitchforks head toward the fence,” Endsley said. “I was pretty scared. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.
“When they reached the fence they were maybe 20 feet from me. I’m thinking: ‘Am I suppose to shoot ’em?’ I decided I’d probably run and not shoot ’em. I put a banana clip of bullets into the magazine and attached my bayonet.
“The yelling and screaming at the fence lasted maybe 15 or 20 minutes. Then, some of the other guys standing guard along the fence line with me fired their weapons over the mob’s heads.
“The Frenchmen called it quits. They left as quickly as they had arrived and that was that.”
“There was a time at Chaumont when I was on unscheduled maintenance. Five of us were doing this work and spent 48 hours at a time sleeping and working in a hanger.
“To keep from going nuts we threw darts. We’d made a dart board out of a piece of cardboard.
“If we had a jet engine change, the guy with the lowest dart score had to take care of the ‘Hell Hole’ at the bottom of the engine. The guy with the next worst score got the right side of the engine which was mostly electronics. The guy with the best score supervised,” he said. “I got to be a pretty good dart thrower.
“One day I was working on an F-100 and the sergeant in charge asked me if I wanted to start up the aircraft. I was 20-years-old and this was a really exciting thing get to do.
“He stood up on the wing and watched everything I did in the cockpit. Just before I started the jet he gave me a stopwatch and told me what I was to do. Once they removed the chocks in front of the wheels I was to fire the jet’s afterburners while standing on the brakes.
“When I kicked the jet’s afterburner in I was to hit the stopwatch. When I took it out of afterburner I was to hit the stopwatch once more. I got confused about what I was to do. I put her in full afterburner and she started to skid across the hanger floor and I couldn’t control it.
“Finally I realized I need to pull back on the throttle. When I did the jet quieted down and caused no damage. I survived the incident without any problem.
Before Endsley completed his tour at Chaumont, President Charles de Gaulle decided NATO and the Americans had to get out of France.
“Apparently he didn’t want the American forces in the country with their hydrogen bombs,” he said. “The 48th Fighter-Bomber Wing had to relocate to a Strategic Air Command Base in England.
Endsley spent his last six months or so in the service at the air base in England. After being discharged from the Air Force, Endsley got a job working as a draftsman. Fourteen years later when he resigned and moved on he was director of engineering for the firm.
After that he got into the oil business and eventually went to work for Exxon-Mobile. He became project manager for an oil facility in Indonesia in 2000. He was on 28 days at a time over there and off 28 days.
The American lived in a small compound in Indonesia that had all the amenities. During the period he was over there the Indonesians were having a civil war.
“It started getting really hairy and we needed to get out of there,” Endsley said. “A few of us were put on a small shuttle bus and driven out of the compound proceeded by an Army truck full of soldiers and followed by an Army car. Half way to the airport, 40 miles away, we were attacked by insurgents who had cut trees down that fell across our escape route,” he’s said.
“When we stopped the insurgents opened up on us with AK-47 rifles. We hit the ground and the insurgents kept shooting. No one was wounded and we escaped the road block. We reached the airport.”
Endsley stayed with the company until 2004 when he retired and moved to Punta Gorda. Since then he has taken a position with the state as an engineer working for the State Department of Environmental Protection.
He has two grown daughters: Tammy and Trina who live in the Houston area.
Name: Carter Endsley
D.O.B: 31 May 1937
Hometown: Emporia, Kan.
Currently: Punta Gorda, Fla.
Entered Service: 1956
Rank: Airman 2nd Class
Unit: 48th Tactical Fighter-Bomber Wing
Battles/Campaigns: Cold War
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 and is republished with permission.
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