Parks Air Force Base Stories
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06-04-2021: UPDATING: continuing attempts to revive the site and eliminate
the FotoTime collapse-induced "404 Not Found" responses to clicking formerly active
links h
ave been fruitless, with one exception. Flight 221's group photo will now display in all its GIANT glory.

Still working. Less and less hopeful for complete recovery. Sigh.


Received from Karl Bratcher:

(13 Dec)
Hi Frank,
Went through Parks for Basics and follow up in the North Barracks for Air Police Training. Basic Oct 3, 1955 thru Dec 23, 1955 Air Police Feb 1, 1956 thru April 28, 1956 Have my Basic Training album showing photos with names for flights 351 through 358. I was in Flight 352...

Interesting experience joining the US Air Force 5 October 1955 with my best friend at the time who become my brother-in-law 3 years later when I married his sister. His Name, Warren Douglas McCurtain.

Flight 352 at Parks AFB with A/2C Rebledo as out TI. Pretty much the typical training flight with a couple memories standing out. One such time was the tear gas training in the rather farm looking shed affair which after gone through the mask removal then finally allowed outside to get the snot cleaned out of our heads we were grouped in an disorderly manner when one of the guys yelled something to the effect of telling the instructor to. "Go to h*ll." With that, the instructor ordered all mask to be replaced on every bodies head followed by repeating the exposure all over again in the gas.

The second issue involved that wonderful time we made that suppose to be two day trip on bivouac. Oh lots of fun playing all day followed by pitching tents with our partner. Again, my partner for this adventure was my future brother-in-law. No problem, we had our tent up in no time as we had camped out together dozens of times fishing on the Columbia River. About 45 minutes later, as it began to get much darker out, we were dismissed allowing us to bed down. Our small tent wasn’t all that bad but two blankets wasn’t much for a full night in December even in California. We kind of let our backs get pretty close together to help capture as much heat as wee could. All was as well as could be expected, that was until someone some distance away yelled out for the instructor to, "Fu*k himself." Great, now we were all ordered out of our tents where we were made to stand at attention for nearly an hour while our over seers searched and found the foul mouth airman. With that we were allowed to return to our beds right at the same time it began to lightly rain. Doug and I talked knowing it wouldn’t be long before our bodies would be getting wet. Moments later the order came to get up, fold blankets and personal stuff and to prepare to return to the base. We did return that long march and by the time we hit arrived we were all as wet as if we had jumped in a swimming pool. Hot shower, a little washing of dirty clothes then to bed for the few remaining hours left. Morning saw us go for chow then a march back out to retrieve our tent. When we arrived we made much noise as we looked at all the tent standing a foot and a half of water. In order to get out tent everyone had to wade the water.

Overall I rated the skill of the Air Force Training staff at Parks AFB to be slightly more effective than the Cub Scouts.

(14 Dec) Thanks Frank for the response, I was thinking you may have ended the effort, so am glad that isn't so. I don't remember if I mentioned of not, that Doug and I returned after a few weeks of Christmas at home, in order to attend Air Police School there at Parks. A very relaxed group to say the least. I'll have to tell you the story also that happen in Japan much later while I ran town patrol in a city of two million, as A/2C and arrested a Lt. Colonel in the red light area and did so after instructions directly from our Base Commander a Full Bird Colonel.

I'm not familiar with photo bucket but will check it out. The six flights I scanned into jpg images ready to send. I'll get back to you tomorrow if I run into any problems.


(25 Dec) He did put up the flight pictures, I retrieved them and they are at the FotoTime site:
Flights 351, 352, 353, 354, 355, 356, 357, 358

Let me see ... there are like 55 names on each page; eight pages; more than 400 names. I typed in the names of my flight-mates, so search engines will find them on these pages; however, the eight flights there are just too daunting a prospect, so if any member of those groups are willing to do the job and email me the lists, I'll put them here.

Just too much other stuff to do. Plus, I'm pretty lazy, lately.

Keep those cards and letters coming. I'll catch up, eventually.

/s/ Frank Sheffield


Received from Phil Martin:

Good to see a Site for Parks! I'm a Sampsonite and enjoy our site*, but yours is also interesting. Will visit it occasionally.

So you know Lackland has historic photo section also.

* We have an organization that is fairly active w annual reunions @ Sampson and an Ohio Sq, that meets at Wright-Pat annually, One of our members wrote a history of Sampson. I live outside of Akron, Oh, went to Weather School @ Chanute, then spent 35 yrs at Weather Bureau/National Weather Service @ Akron-Canton Airport '60-95, now teach part time @ Univ of Akron, so the AF set me on a very rewarding and interesting careear. Life is good! The Sampson Air Force Veterans Assn. has a museum @ Sampson State Park in the former Stockade. Am in contact w/ 2 of my Flightmates.

At the last Ohio Sq. meeting @ Wright-Pat our speaker was the Base Commander [female]; after the dinner we had a get together. I asked if she had ever heard of Sampson, she said no. I told her that Parks was also a former Basic Traing Base: she showed some surprise. The AF is not doing a good job of keeping history-- SAD!

Phil Martin Flt 4692 3657th BMTS SAFB Oct-Dec '55


Received from Tom Whitebirch, Palm Desert, CA :

I went to Parks in Mar. of '55. Went into Flt 131. Graduated May 31st after 11 weeks. My T.I. was A/2c Charles Huffman. Had and Asst. T.I. for awhile by the name of Pulley. The last night of Basic was really special. I think our T.I.'s wife was having a baby. He sat there with us and chatted untill we left at midnight. I returned after 10 days leave for ABD school to become an Air Policeman. About 7 weeks into school I aggrivated an old knee injury. They almost discharged me with a medical. I really fought it as I thought it would screw me up for future employment. They worked on me for about 8 weeks to no avail. Meanwhile I was working up in the orderly room for a Master Sgt. Forgot his last name. He used to let me take off on Fri. afternoon and come home to L.A. as long as I was back by O800 Monday morning. Since the knee was all screwed up I pretty much had to take a desk job so ended up at Chanute AFB in Illinoise for awhile and later got transfered to Wright Patt. AFB in Ohio. It was great duty. Worked in the Provost Marshalls office in charge of the Air Force Library. Stayed there for a couple of years and ended up getting out early as my mother got real sick and had 3 younger siblings to take care of. I ended up getting a hardship. Wright-Patt was a great base, enjoyed my 2 years there. Worked for a S/Sgt William B. Moon. What a great guy. Tried to get in touch with him several years ago but found out he had passed away. Last year I was in Dayton, Ohio and went out to the base to see the museum drove around looking for my old area. I'm pretty sure I found it but it was all torn down. It was still eerie being there after all of these years. Went by Parks in 1981. Found my old barracks It was just down from the parade field. Grass had grown up pretty high all around it but I managed to look in the window at my bay. Almost could see the guys in there. Started remembering names and could almost hear our T.I barking at us outside to line up. Went back again in 1996 and everything was gone. Still have my flight book with pictures of flights 127 thru 134. I have found 2 guys that I went thru basic with. Would sure like to locate more. Most of the guys were from Calif. I'll post some pictures and if anyone would like to correspond please do. My email address is bigtwsandy atsign aol dotsign com.


Received from Lincoln Chee:

I had to write to you after reading your website about Parks AFB. Looking at the class picture of your flight I knew it was one from Hawaii. My dad and I reside in Hawaii and when he received his basic training at Parks AFB in October of 1955 he was with Flight 374 and it was a flight with boys from Hawaii. Their flight was nicknamed "Sons of Hawaii". His T.I. was Airman 2nd Class Gomes who was also from Hawaii. Both your flight and my dad's flight was made up mainly of "Buddhaheads". After basic my dad went to Gunter AFB, Alabama for tech school and then to Tachikawa AB, Japan. My dad retired from the USAF in 1975 after 3 tours in Japan.


Received from Cherry Lyn Casalin ( - From Cavite City:

I want to know about Watanabe, Howard T. Where he is residing now or he is still alive as of now!!! Because my aunt name Estella Reyes wants to meet!!!!!!!


Because my aunt meet him in Cebu during the+ vietnam war,the year 1960s. Watanabe landed in Cebu (at Mactan air base)

(Must be a story there, eh?)


My name is Earl Neiss and I received my basic training at Parks AFB as a member of Flight 12. It was on March 21, 1952 that I was sworn in at the Los Angeles Induction Center, boarded a train in Glendale, California and arrived at Parks about 3:00 a.m. We were issued bedding and bunks and got all of about an hour and a half of sleep before we were rousted out to begin our 8 weeks of basic. A rude awakening. We didn't get fatigues, boots, uniforms or any other G.I. clothing for maybe a couple of weeks, but they got us started learning the UCMJ and cleaning up the base along with all the other duties in our civvies. The base had only been open 5 days. The axiom was, "If it moves salute it, if it doesn't move pick it up, if you can't pick it up, paint it". Sure, we scraped paint, finished the barracks and cleaned up the grounds, but as I look back on it, it wasn't altogether too unpleasant and could have been a lot worse.

Our Drill Instructor was "Sgt" Louie Zamaroni and his assistant was "Corporal" Cannon. Zamaroni's rank was A/1c. Cannon's an A/2c. I seem to remember that they were still wearing Army chevrons. Officers were still wearing the 'pinks and greens' left over from the U.S. Army Air Corps. Although Zamaroni wanted us to believe he was tough as nails, we all knew that inside he was really a softie and we really liked him. After a little while we could tell he liked us as much as we liked him. He taught us some intricate marching formations, a lot of Jody Cadence and some slightly risque marching songs which really picked up our morale. The training was thorough and seemed to last forever, but when it was over we were proud and made quite a hit with our marching on parade day and received our orders for our first assignment. There were no class pictures or yearbooks. I didn't even get to go to specialty school. Just a simple written exam, a bypass of Photography School at Lowry AFB, Colorado, an AFSC and assignment to Luke AFB in Arizona where they were still flying Mustangs.

These were soon phased out for the first jets at Luke, the Republic F-84G which were the aircraft used by the newly formed Thunderbirds at Luke. There I served as a Gunnery Film Assessing Technician. After about a year I shipped out to Yokota Air Base in Japan (5th Air Force) as a photographer in the Base Photo Lab and finally a few months at March AFB, California where, in 1956 I was discharged.

All in all, I believe that my time at Parks was a positive experience and that I was well prepared to take on the next 4 years in the U.S. Air Force.

On 2007-03-11 Donald F. Thomas, Sr., checked in again with a photo of the pillowslip he sent to his mother from Parks. The text says:


To one who bears
               the sweetest name,
And adds a luster
               to the same.
Who shares my joys--
               who cheers when sad
The greatest friend
               I ever had.
Long life to her-
             for there's no other,
Could take the place
             of my dear Mother.

Click image for larger version
Lovely sentiment. I'm certain there are many Parks alumni who sent similar gifts. To see Don's earlier contributions click here.

Here's a 2006-08-11 message from Brent Bachman:

Playing around on google I happened across the website. The name John L. Lopes jumped out at me big time !!!!! I was stationed at Hickam (1958-1961) and I worked with and was a roommate of John (we called him Lopey). He rotated sometime in late 1960 and apparently settled in Calif. My wife and I exchanged Christmas cards with John and his wife Janey for several years and at the time he was living in Hemet, Calif. It was our understanding that he was flying as a crew chief on a KC-135 and I assume he was doing so out of March AFB. I don't know if he was still on active duty, a reserve or a civilian. We lost contact in mid-1960's and I've been looking for him ever since with no luck. Mail was returned from the Hemet address. He may have gone back to the islands. I use which is free and I come up with a ton of Lopes in both Calif and Hawaii. If you can help me in any way I'd greatly appreciate it. Hoping to hear from you.....and thanks !

Brent Bachman ~ Adrian, MI

If you are out there, Lopey, click the "Tell us your story" text and I'll forward your message to Brent.

Here's a 2006-05-06 message from John Central Crowe, Jr.:


Just happened to look at your site, my father, A.F. M/Sgt. John C. Crowe (AF32118736) was stationed there, having changed over from the Army, after the Air Force was created. We live in Chabot Terrace, Vallejo, Calif. from 1950-1957, he went to Parks after being stationed at Camp Stoneman, when he was then transferred to Clark A.F.B., Philippines. My dad was a light skin Afro American, & may have been in recruiting & at the Provost Marshall.

John Central Crowe, Jr.
Kailua Kona, HI

Here's a 2006-04-07 message from Jimmy Self:

Dear Frank,

I wasn't in your squadron but I was at Parks Air Force Base for 4 weeks from about July 5 to August ? for the first phase of basic training. It seems like our drill instructor was a squatty guy named "Schultz" I don't remember much about it but it seemed to me that we referred to our group as a squadron not a flight. I'm not sure. I was shipped out to Keesler AFB in Biloxi for the rest of my basic training and classes in electronics. I was trying to locate an old buddy (James Reed Pugh, who enlisted with me in Wichita Kansas) when I ran across your web page.

As I recall, we were among the last trainees to take basic there and the AF began sending all recruits to Lackland in Texas. I was in the regular Air Force on an 8 year comittment and was separated from active duty at Keesler in July of 1960. If it is of any interest to you, I will try to remember more details. It was all pretty much over my head at the time. I was a bewildered and confused Kansas boy while there. I hope my correspondence hasn't been an annoyanbce to you but I assumed I could write since you published your email address.

Jimmy Self

Here's a 2006-02-07 message from a member of Parks Flight 221:

Here's one for your site. The TI is on the first row and his name was Ralph Robledo.


I'm in the back row far left. We were Flight 221 graduating in July 1955. I spent ten years on active duty flying as an Airborne Radio Operator with over 5,000 hours in the air.

I later retired from U.S. Army Special Forces.

Those were the days, my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we'd choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes, those were the days

Best wishes,

Wayne L. Wickizer

And one on 2006-02-08, from Flight 284:

I was looking up Clyde Springer's name on and the site for Flight 289 Parks Air Force Base, 1956 came up. Wow, looking at those pictures brought back such fond memories of days of my youth. Clyde and I as well as Samuel Collins attended the AP School there at Planeless Parks AFB.

I was in Basic the same time as Flight 289... I was in Flight 284, affectionately known as the LA Flight because the bulk of the guys were from Los Angeles. And, Flight 289 was also affectionately known as the Pineapple Flight.

I believe Clyde went on to duties in Japan as well as Samuel and myself.

Gosh... those were the days.

Dovard Ross

I have a couple-three emails from another Flight 289 alumnus:

2006-01-29: My name is Edwardo Yrojo. I am on the front row of the group picture second from the last. The last person is Benny Manago. Hope to hear from you. The funniest moment was when we had an inspection by TI McClain. He came up to Robert Williams who got so up tight that let out a high pitch sound of a long fart. McClain bust out laughing that made everybody laugh uncontrollably.. After McClain contained himself he yelled out Barracks then everybody was quiet. Did you remember that?
Feel free to use the story. I have more. Where do you call home now? A couple weeks ago I was thinking about the good old days and started typing Parks AFB in the search then I found the picture of our flight 289. Man, was I surprised. I was so happy. It brought wonderful memories.

After high school I decided to join the Air Force but my Dad was a Navy guy and wanted to keep the tradition. I told him no way since I always get sea sick when we go fishing on his boat. I wanted go by air. Sadly too many young men in Hawaii joined the Air Force the same month that the Air Force shipped all of us by a troop ship. I was sick all the way to San Francisco. I wasn't the only one. I will never forget the ship's name since I had my head out of the port hole many times. Yes, it was USS General Alton. Anyway, I looked at your picture and I remembered your face but I'm trying to remember If we did anything together. I was on the North side of the barracks. I email you If remember more. Aloha!

2-3-06: I'm going to a high school reunion this month. I hope to meet many of the fellows who were in flt 289. I'll share the website with them so we can get more memories posted and to know what they're doing now. What are you doing now? As for me I'm retired from Hospital management. Got my B.S. From Loma Linda University in California using my G.I. Now I spend most of my time feeding the homeless. I'm Running a grass root effort to get a decommisioned troop ship in mothball from San Francisco or Vallejo. Bring it to Hawaii, dock it and house the homeless ... It was nice to think about the good old days and communicate with you. Thank you and God Bless you.

I'm eager to hear from and about the others from Ed's reunion.

25 April 2005 - a very sad note:

I stumbled upon your website today & felt that I should pass on some information to you. My Dad, Richard Pilgrim was a member of Flight 289. He passed away just about a week and a half ago on April 16th. He always had fond memories & often told us stories about being in the Air Force.

Dad will be laid to rest at the Hawaii Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe Hawaii on May 6th.

James Pilgrim

I remember Richard Pilgrim as more thoughtful and serene in many respects than were our other Flight-mates. I'm certain his passing leaves a void never to be filled. My sympathy and best wishes go out to James and all of his family.

Frank S

I have a message from Donald F. Thomas, who says he was in Flight 53 at Parks, from April through June, 1952. He "...was on detail after detail cleaning out the new barracks for new flights coming in. Scraped paint from the windows and cleaned floors and latrines..." I guess we can say something about the beginnning of Parks as a Basic Training site. I wonder if anyone out there can say when it closed...

Don said he retired in December, 1982, and that his early Air Force career involved tours at Goodfellow, Harlingen, and Perrin AFBs in Texas, and 13 months in North Africa. He remembers his Flight Chief at Parks, a tall Texan nameed Pierman.

Thumbnail: Joyce and Donald Franklin Thomas, their first photo together

He met his wife, Joyce, while at Goodfellow, and they will celebrate their 51st anniversary in August (2004). Congratulations!

On July 26, 2004, Don wrote to say:
I've done some research on the web and this is what I found. Parks was closed in 1959 as a BMT facility. It was short lived. The need of new BMT facility for the Air Force was overwhelming during that time and the ones they had could not take care of all the new recruites coming in. It's now under the control of the Air National Guard. For a short while it Part of it was used for a California Co-Ed Prison for prisoners with low or no other crime rate. Patty Hearst was there until President Carter let her out. We lived in the Bay area at that time.

Miss Beth Blote wrote on December 31, 2003, to say:
Today I was searching for more information about the group photo I have that my Father, Palmer Louis Blote, went through Basic with. I have only two other names, Bob M. Hood, Ted Dwelle of Fresno, CA in the picture. I don't know what the numbers and letters mean, 3289 B.M.T.S., but the photo was taken by Keith Cole Studios March, 1953. I wasn't born until 1960. My brothers were born at Travis AFB in Mar. 1954, and Mar. 1956 in Fairfield.

I thought I'd write to say how great your site is. I thought I'd ask, even if it's a long shot, to see if you can help me scrape up any more information about these guys or where to find more info.

Thanks for any assistance.

PG Miller wrote on May 13, 2004, to say:
I was there in flight 409 from Nov. 1955 to Jan. 1956. It was a great experience and a wonderful place to take basic training. I have many fond memories of that base. And first weekend pass in to San Francisco. Went up to the top of the Mark Hotel. Many foggy, rainy days when I was there but had quite a few nice sunny days too. Remember the little chicken house where we were trained with tear gas.They marched a few of us into that little shack on the hill behind the base, set off the tear gas in a gallon can and had us take off our masks when the smoke came up inside. Of course the helmet liners were in the way and many, including mine fell to the floor where it was booted by the TI off into the corner. Then ran us outside and cleared our eyes in the breeze. Raised cain about those of us who weren't wearing helmet liners and ran us back inside to get our helmets. Of course it took several trips for some of us to get the right helmet. Went to the base theater and saw the new movie out at the time, "Mr. Roberts". Navy but very inspiring for a young airman.

Well I wouldn't have missed those days for the world, would you?
Paul Miller
Washington state

And on May 14, 2004:
Just a thought. while looking at your flight pix I noticed several guys who looked just like guys in my flight and in the thumbnail your flight looked just like mine and neighbor flights. Well memories are somewhat dimming but every time I see Mr. Roberts it all comes back, the sights and even the smells sometimes. I think I can remember the base cleaners with the smell of cleaning fluid.

On parade day I remember all the flights out on the tarmac and them telling us not to lock our knees while standing for long periods. Sure enough two or three in other flights passed out and hit the deck with there chins and I saw them picked up by medics with the gravel still stuck to their chins and whisked off in ambulances to the base hospital. Funny the things we remember.

It sure was green around there, but it was the wet season while I was there. Wish there were more on the internet about Parks AFB but I never find much, do you?

I did go down to Parks several years ago and actually drove through it. The barracks were still ther and it was being used for something like low income housing and training for Job Corps or something of that like. It was a big operation though. At that time the base still looked just about as we left it. It was really strange driving around through the barracks (found my old barracks) down there and boy the memories sure came flooding in and I felt very sad wondering where all the people I knew had disappeared too since that time. There were lots of people living in the barracks and I guess some had been remodeled into apartments. Kids were out running around between the barracks. Our flight had guys from all over the USA. What an experience. My brother went through Lackland for Basic in Texas and I visited him there while I was in the AF. Lackland couldn't hold a candle to Parks. It was one of a kind and I will cherish it forever.

John Hansen wrote on August 7, 2004 to say:
Try this for AFB info............J. Hansen

Parks AFB, Pleasanton, Calif. (Closed 1959, part to National Guard; AF Comm Station.)

Art Poutre wrote on August 18, 2004, to say:
I found your name while searching out Parks AFB. I went throught Parks on my way to Korea in 1953.
What I am interested in was where did you obtain the photograph of the class, and do you know if there are photos of other classes available. I went through Sampson AFB up in New York and would be interested in finding a class photo if they were available.
I would appreciate what ever help you could provide.

WR Craig wrote on September 21, 2005, to say:
I was at Parks AFB from Aug 18 to Nov 2, 1955 in Flight 305. A/3c Harper was our TI. I went on to Amarillo, TX for jet mechanic training and then on to Presque Isle AFB in Maine.

"USAFE" wrote on October 28, 2005 to say:
I was at Parks Air Force Base from Oct. 1954 to Jan. 1955 in Flight 72. I remember being there and that's about it. That was a long time ago.

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