In the fall of 1964, our crew was assigned a mission to Puerto Rico. We were to deliver supplies and troops to the island and take five days of R&R.
After landing our KC-97 Stratotanker on the air strip on the western end of the island, we dropped off our supplies and troops, then we left our KC-97 and flew a C-47 to San Juan airport. We went to the naval base, where we stayed for five days. While there, we rented a VW and made daily tours of the island. We were there during the baseball World Series. Every radio was tuned to the game. They love baseball in Puerto Rico.
When our five days of R&R was up, we flew back to our KC-97. After refueling, we loaded a few troops and took off from the island back to Dow Air Force Base in Bangor. Shortly after takeoff, the pilot raised the landing gear. The main gear came up OK but the nose gear doors closed before the nose gear came up, causing the nose gear to jam into the door. The pilot lowered the nose gear and had me, a boom operator inflight fueling specialist, go down into the nose gear compartment and crank the gear down and locked. It was better to fly with the nose gear down than to risk trying to recycle the nose gear up again, possibly jamming it into the door, rendering it useless upon landing. We could fly OK with it down.
We were about one hour into the flight when the number one engine just quits. I got foward to the main cabin and asked the flight engineer what has happened. He explained that the engine overheated and was about to freeze up, so he shut it down to prevent a fire. The pilot then ordered me to prepare the passengers for the ditching of the aircraft. This meant landing the aircraft in the Atlantic Ocean.
When I went back to the rear of the aircraft, many of the passengers, which were young airmen, were on their knees praying. After preparing the passengers, I asked the pilot through the intercom how long it would be before we ditched. He explained that the aircraft could fly adequately on engines 3 and 4 on the right side of the aircraft and at that moment, we were running normal. Since we were now closer to Ber-muda than Puerto Rico, the pilot headed there. We landed safely on the island of Bermuda. After three weeks on the island, we had two new engines to replace the ones that burned up. We were able to fly safely home to Dow Air Force Base.
Almost this entire flight was over the Bermuda Triangle.
Jim Mabry lives in Hermon.