December 22, 2010

Hi Everyone!

I hope you enjoy, as I surely do, “Memories of a Missile Pioneer”.


John Gibbs


The enclosed; truly a Missile Poem, was found by Missileer Ray De Bolt in his collection of USAF documents, letters and many varied mementoes of his missile years.

Ray read it over the landline to me and I immediately asked him to send me a copy, and for his OK to edit, to send it on to my missile-type email addressees and to credit its origin and chain. Also given was permission to offer it to the TAC Missileers for in-house publication and/or on the TAC Missileers website.

The poem, original in-hand, has a byline of “Author:Almost Unknown r.e.s.”. It is to me of unknown authorship. I have made some small, reduction, wording and stanza changes.

This poem was received by me from Ray DeBolt, Major, USAF (Ret.), enclosed in a letter to Ray from Tom Duffy, Major, USAF (Ret.).

Tom’s letter to Ray, of which I have the original, is dated August 25, 1991. I am, all these years later, particularly honored by Tom’s mention of me in this letter.

Ray DeBolt, a WWII veteran, was a self-described “Womb-to-Tomb” USAF Matador project participant; starting with the early launches of the B-61 “Redbird” at Holloman AFB, NM, through the 1st Pilotless Bomber Squadron (L) years at Patrick AFB, AFMTC, inclusive of the B-61 and B-61A launches at Cape Canaveral AFS.

Ray shipped on the March, 1954, original deployment of the 1st PBS, on the USNS General Harry Taylor (the Taylortub) from Charleston, SC, to Bremmerhaven, Germany, and on to Bitburg AB, along with Tom Duffy, George Craig, John Gibbs and 546 other 1st PBS members.

Ray was in Germany some four years, most of which was as Guidance Detachment Commander at Bremmerhaven. He also was the OIC of the 1954 Operation Suntan, Wheelus AB, Libya. Also to Ray’s credit was a tour as coach of the Bitburg AB American High School football team; for which he was immensely qualified, as a former first string player of the University of Nebraska “Huskers” football team.

Tom Duffy embarked on the USNS General Taylor a Captain and disembarked a Major. He served as a 1st Pilotless Bomber Squadron launch officer and OIC during the several 1st PBS years at Patrick AFB and on Cape Canaveral AFS. He was OIC of the 1st PBS Launch Section at Bitburg AB and was OIC of the 1956 Operation Sunflash, Wheelus AB, Libya. Tom Duffy was a rated pilot, having combat flown B-29s in World War II.

Tom and Ray were close friends during their 1st PBS years and for decades following their retirements.  Tom and I were close friends for many, many years following his USAF retirement and worked together for some years, for Technical Publishing Company of Dun and Bradstreet Corporation.

At this Christmas Season, this poem “MEMORIES OF A MISSILE PIONEER” came to me as if it was perhaps authored as a Missileer’s Christmas Poem. Thus, I am sending it right along, via email.

I trust you will enjoy it as I have, as it surely is of memories to me.

The actual accomplishment of the entire Matador/Mace Project Mission was that no missile was fired in anger. The entire missile mission’s legacy is thusly one of Peace.

Merry Christmas and Peace to all,

John Gibbs
1st Pilotless Bomber Squadron
1953 – 1956


In ’51 on Canaveral’s sand among snakes and thistles,
a group of young men started launching missiles.

Days and nights were always long,
systems, parts, procedures often wrong.

Some blew up and came down in flame,
but the repeat routine was always the same.

We counted down hundreds dry,
for every one we put in the sky.

We were seldom praised and often chewed,
in those days supervisors were allowed to be rude.

Every man knew his efforts did excel,
and those who chewed could go to hell.

Fifteen December in ’53,
a maximum effort for you and me.

We went to the Cape proud and bold,
it rained all day and the nights were cold.

The hours dragged by but we were here to stay,
five hard-won launches were made that day.

Forty-eight hours without food or sleep,
but there was still a press meeting to keep.

Gotta look sharp and sound real bright,
the man being briefed is Walter Cronkite.

Years later by the pad in Libya’s sand,
there had been erected a huge grand stand.

It’s NATO Brass, their numbers high,
more stars there than in the sky.

Men we will make it or break it this hot day,
those four stars at your elbow are Curtis LeMay.

The count-down is awfully slow, with hundreds of screws atop the wing,
Sergeant! Get enough in so I can launch the thing!

We fought the Cold War and won the race,
now the youngsters have inherited space.

We won the battles and played the game,
now young astronauts enjoy the fame.

But pride in accomplishment of a job well done.
is reward enough for anyone.

We knew we were first and we knew we were best,
now we are older, we earned the rest.

Author unknown.

Provided by
John M. Gibbs
1st Pilotless Bomber Squadron
1953 – 1956