Retired U.S. Air Power Col. LaVerne Griffin, EAA 96399, who served within the Korean and Vietnam wars and was a pilot for top-secret RF-86 Sabre Haymaker reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union, will current on the EAA Aviation Museum on Thursday, August 16, as a part of the Aviation Journey Speaker Sequence.
LaVerne, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, native, enlisted within the U.S. Military Air Forces in August of 1946 and started pilot coaching in 1947, flying Stearmans, AT-6s, and P-51s earlier than receiving his first task with the twelfth Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, flying RF-80s (the reconnaissance model of the Lockheed F-80) and starting a prolonged profession flying reconnaissance for the U.S. Air Power.
“Proper out of flying faculty that’s what I used to be assigned to, and I beloved it,” LaVerne. “The work was nice. I favored it higher than the fighters as a result of we had been all the time flying throughout California and the USA taking footage, and the fighter guys would simply go to the gunning vary and again, however we acquired to go throughout”
After a quick stint flying C-47s in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, LaVerne acquired again into jets by flying the F-84, RF-80s, and RF-86s. In April of 1953, LaVerne formally entered the Korean Struggle fray, flying 25 whole reconnaissance missions within the RF-80 through the struggle. On the ultimate day of the Korean Struggle, July 27, 1953, LaVerne made a high-altitude, top-secret reconnaissance flight over Manchuria in an unarmed RF-86, touring from Seoul, South Korea, to Harbin in northern China. It was the deepest overflight of Manchuria ever recorded in a single-engine jet.
After the Korean Struggle, LaVerne briefly flew McDonnell F2H Banshees for the Marines earlier than being recalled to the Air Power to fly within the modified F-86s (with painted-on gun ports) that will be used within the Haymaker missions over the Soviet Union.
“These airplanes had a bulge on the aspect for the cameras as a result of we had two 40-inch, focal-length cameras,” LaVerne mentioned. “And the journal’s about that huge, so with the intention to mount them vertically, they needed to put slightly bulge on the aspect of the airplane.”
Stationed in Nagoya, Japan, LaVerne flew his first Haymaker mission over Vladivostok within the Soviet Union on March 22, 1954, main a flight of six airplanes, two of which had been spares and finally diverted again. Flying at altitudes of greater than 40,000 toes, two of the airplanes began to provide contrails and aborted the mission to keep away from detection, however LaVerne and his wingman had been capable of get the images they wanted.
“We get the photographs, and the rationale for this mission was [former President Dwight] Eisenhower was very involved that the Russians had these TU-4 bombers that might carry a nuclear bomb and will bomb the USA, even when it was a one-way mission,” LaVerne mentioned. “He’d proposed this open skies preparations to [Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev that we’d fly over their space, they may fly over ours, and Khrushchev mentioned, ‘Nyet’ (no). So Eisenhower, we discovered later, mentioned, ‘We’re going to do that anyhow as a result of we want this info,’ in order that’s the way it acquired laid on for us to do that mission beneath Eisenhower’s direct orders.”
After his first Haymaker mission, LaVerne obtained the Distinguished Flying Cross and his images helped decide that the Soviet Union wasn’t able to delivering a nuclear bomb to the U.S. on the time, easing tensions between the 2 international locations.
“They developed the photographs, and so they discover out that they aren’t able to carrying nuclear bombs,” LaVerne mentioned. “I don’t understand how these picture interpreters do their work, however they by no means let me see the photographs that I even took…. The following morning, [Gen.] Otto P. Weyland … calls us into his workplace. We’re in our flying fits. He mentioned, ‘Boys, that was an excellent job,’ and he got here out and he pinned a DFC proper on our flying fits, and he mentioned, ‘I’ll care for the paperwork later.’”
LaVerne flew two extra Haymaker missions over the us, together with one wherein he noticed a MiG-17 under him, earlier than rotating again to the USA. He then flew the RF-84F for just a few years because the commander of the twentieth Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron and have become an air pressure advisor to the Air Nationwide Guard in Meridian, Mississippi. He was chosen by the Air Power to attend Penn State to earn an aerospace engineering diploma, doing so in 1963, earlier than heading to Udorn, Thailand, in 1968 to command the 14th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron through the Vietnam Struggle, flying 152 missions within the RF-4C. LaVerne ended his Air Power profession at Alconbury, England, the place he was commander of the tenth Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, which was comprised of three squadrons of RF-4C plane, and retired from lively responsibility in Could of 1974.