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With jobs hard to attain, I enlisted in the Us Army on July 23, 1940, as a private making $21.00 per month. My unit was The 69th Coast Artillery Detachment at Fort Crockett, Texas. With the war raging in Europe, the U.S. Army was expanding for the war that everyone knew was coming. I advanced in Rank to PFC, CPL, SGT, and to Staff, SGT. I applied for and was accepted as a Cadet in the Army Air Corp Pilot Training program. I  graduated as a 2nd Lt., and with those Silver wings, I flew the P-47 Thunderbolt and the P- 51 Mustang. I served 5 years during WW 2 and after leaving the Air Force, I joined The 155th Fighter Squadron of The Tennessee Air National Guard. In 1950 during the Korean War, our unit was recalled to active duty for 24 months. Shortly after being recalled, I was assigned to the Far East Air Material Command at Kisarazi Air Force Base as a jet maintenance test pilot.  I flew the F-80, F86, F-84, F-94, and the T-6 Trainer. I also tested and flew the various planes for the Army such as the L-19, which was used as an observation plane by the Army. My Boss was Capt. Stan Zarosky, who was a career regular Air Force officer – He was a good guy. I retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Command Pilot, Aircraft Commander, with approximately 10,000 hours of flying time. I served 5 years active duty in World War II as a fighter pilot and I also served 24 months during the Korean War as a fighter pilot and jet maintenance test pilot. I served 26 years in the Tennessee Air National Guard.

During those 26 years we had several missions such as P- 51 photo recon, B-26 photo Recon, and RF 84 photo recon. We received the C-97 Boeing Transport with a worldwide mission. We flew cargo and military personnel worldwide. After 7years with the C-97 we lost it and was assigned the C 124 Lockheed Transport. I flew the 124 for 7years, and it was at this time that I decided to retire.



Lt. Colonel Gene Barksdale, 155th Fighter Squadron, TANG.





Me in the cockpit of my P-51





            This is the 155th Fighter Squadron, Tennessee Air National Guard, High Speed Acrobatic Team

            ( 1947 - 1949 ). We represented the entire Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard  at the

            Cleveland Air Races in 1948.







The P-51D was my favorite War Plane of all time that I had the pleasure of flying,

except mine had a different paint job on it than this one pictured does.


History of The P-51D

The P-51B and P-51C were excellent aircraft that served until the end of the war. The shortcomings of the B/C models were well-known and evolved into a new model of P-51, the P-51D. The B and C models suffered poor rearward visibility and gun jamming during high-G manuevers. The B/C models only had four .50 cal Brownings (2 in each wing). Pilots wanted more fire power. NAA also took the oportunity to make other improvements to the new line.

The new line, designated NA-109, P-51D, was started after the USAAF ordered 2,500 in July 1943. Interesting is that the XP-51D did not have a test flight until November 17, 1943, well after the first order was placed. Deliveries to fighter units began March of 1944 and a good supply was on hand for the Normandy Invasion, or D-Day.

The signature change in the P-51D line was the new bubble canopy. The U.S. was behind the Brittish in canopy development. A Brittish company had designed and built the "Malcolm Hood" which improved visibility to the rear of the P-51B/C models. The U.S. was not unaware of the advantages of a bubble canopy design. NAA had built a wooden model of the P-51 with a bubble canopy for wind tunnel testing. The technology to build large curves of plexiglass "distortion free" at that time was being invented and developed.

The Brittish had figured out how to make a bubble (also called "teardrop") canopy with unobstructed 360 degree view and they were beginning to use them on the latest model of Spitfires and Typhoons. The U.S. Army sent Col. Mark Bradley to England in January of 1943 to find out the workings of this new canopy and then find a way to get them on U.S. fighters. Bradley returned and began to pursue ways to incorporate the new style. The first U.S. fighter so tested was a Republic P-47.







                                                                                 P- 40 War Hawk

                                  This is the first fighter I flew after graduating from pilot training program, 

                                                 but mine didn't look as pretty as this restored one does.

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk was an American single-engine, single-seat, all-metal fighter and ground attack aircraft that first flew in 1938. It was used by the air forces of 28 nations, including those of most Allied powers during World War II, and remained in front line service until the end of the war. By November 1944, when production of the P-40 ceased, 13,738 had been built, all at Curtiss-Wright Corporation's main production facility at Buffalo, New York.

The P-40's lack of a two-stage supercharger made it inferior to Luftwaffe fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 or the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 in high altitude combat and it was rarely used in operations in Northwest Europe. Between 1941 and 1944, however, the P-40 played a critical role with Allied air forces in three major theaters: North Africa, the Southwest Pacific and China. It also had a significant role in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Alaska and Italy. The P-40's high altitude performance was not as critical in those theaters, where it served as an air supremacy fighter, bomber escort and fighter bomber.








  Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

This is the second fighter I flew in WWII after the P-47.

History:  The Thunderbolt was the most famous of all the Republic aircraft in WWII. First flown on 6 May 1941, the P-47 was designed as a (then) large, high-performance fighter/bomber, utilizing the large Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine to give it excellent performance and a large load-carrying capability. The first deliveries of the P-47 took place in June 1942, when the US Army Air Corps began flying it in the European Theater.









Douglas C -124 Globemaster

This is the military plane I flew for 7 years. 

May 1967 brought the introduction of the C-124 Globemaster, affectionately known as "Old Shakey". Along with Old Shakey, the group's personnel performed numerous humanitarian missions as well as routine support to Military Airlift Command (MAC). The C-124 was given a well-deserved rest in 1974 when she was retired from military service, reluctantly giving up her berth to the C-130 Hercules.







Douglas C - 47  “Gooney Bird”

( Civilian Version: DC - 3 )

I flew the Gooney Bird for 15 years in conjunction with the other aircraft that was
assigned to the 155th Fighter Squadron and the 155th Photo Recon Squadron.

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain was a twin-engine medium transport used by the US , ROK, Australian, Greek, and Thai Air Forces, and by the US Marine Corps during the Korean War.

The Douglas DC-3 Sleeper Transport first flew on 17 December 1935.  It quickly became the main aircraft used by US airlines.  The US Army Air Force designated the military version the C-47 Skytrain, but it was more widely known by its unofficial nickname, “Gooney Bird”.  The C-47 was the mainstay of Allied troop carrier and transport operations during World War Two.  It was also used during the Berlin Airlift in 1947-1948.





Douglas A-26 Invader

(Variants/Other Names: Douglas B-26 Invader )

I flew this airplane with the 155th Night Photo Recon Squadron of The Tennessee National Guard.

History: The A-26, the last aircraft designated as an "attack bomber," was designed to replace the Douglas A-20 Havoc/Boston. It incorporated many improvements over the earlier Douglas designs. The first three XA-26 prototypes first flew in July 1942, and each was configured differently: Number One as a daylight bomber with a glass nose, Number Two as a gun-laden night-fighter, and Number Three as a ground-attack platform, with a 75-millimeter cannon in the nose. This final variant, eventually called the A-26B, was chosen for production





The following list of jet fighters shown below, are ones that I flew on a daily basis, as a jet maintenance test pilot while I was assigned to Kisrizu Air Force Base in Japan during the Korean War. These airplanes  were brought to Japan on an aircraft carrier and delivered to  Kisrizu Air Force Base to be flight tested before being assigned to the units in Korea. It was my responsibility along with Captain Stan Zarkorsky to flight test each aircraft before they were delivered.



Republic F-80 Shooting Star

The Shooting Star was the first USAF aircraft to exceed 500 mph in level flight, the first American jet airplane to be manufactured in large quantities and the first USAF jet to be used in combat. Designed in 1943, the XP-80 made its maiden flight on Jan. 8, 1944. Several early P-80s were sent to Europe for demonstration, but WW II ended before the aircraft could be employed in combat. (The aircraft was redesignated in 1948 when "P" for "Pursuit" was changed to "F" for "Fighter.") Of 1,731 F-80s built, 798 were F-80Cs.
     Although it was designed as a high-altitude interceptor, the F-80C was used extensively as a fighter-bomber in the Korean Conflict, primarily for low-level rocket, bomb and napalm attacks against ground targets. On Nov. 8, 1950, an F-80C flown by Lt. Russell J. Brown, flying with the 16th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, shot down a Russian-built MiG-15 in the world's first all-jet fighter air battle. 





Republic F-84 Thunderjet

The Republic F-84 Thunderjet was an American turbojet fighter-bomber aircraft. Originating as a 1944 United States Army Air Forces proposal for a "day fighter", the F-84 flew in 1946. Although it entered service in 1947, the Thunderjet was plagued by so many structural and engine problems that a 1948 Air Force review declared it unable to execute any aspect of its intended mission and considered cancelling the program. The aircraft was not considered fully operational until the 1949 F-84D model and the design matured only with the definitive F-84G introduced in 1951. In 1954, the straight-wing Thunderjet was joined by the swept-wing F-84F Thunderstreak fighter and RF-84F Thunderflash photo reconnaissance aircraft.

The Thunderjet became the Air Force's primary strike aircraft during the Korean War, flying 86,408 missions and destroying 60% of all ground targets in the war as well as eight Soviet-built MiG fighters. Over half of the 7,524 F-84s produced served with NATO nations, and it was the first aircraft to fly with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team. The USAF Strategic Air Command had F-84 Thunderjets in service from 1948 through 1957.










 North American Aviation F-86 Sabre

The North American Aviation F-86 Sabre (sometimes called the Sabrejet) was a transonic jet fighter aircraft. The Sabre is best known for its Korean War role where it was pitted against the Soviet MiG-15. Although developed in the late 1940s and outdated by the end of the 1950s, the Sabre proved adaptable and continued as a front line fighter in air forces until the last active front line examples were retired by the Bolivian Air Force in 1994.

Its success led to an extended production run of more than 7,800 aircraft between 1949 and 1956, in the United States, Japan and Italy. It was by far the most-produced Western jet fighter, with total production of all variants at 9,860 units.[2]

Variants were built in Canada and Australia. The Canadair Sabre added another 1,815 airframes, and the significantly redesigned CAC Sabre (sometimes known as the Avon Sabre or CAC CA-27), had a production run of 112.







Lockheed T-33 "Shooting Star"

History: The T-33 was the most widely used jet trainer in the world. A two-seat version of the USAF's first jet fighter, the F-80 Shooting Star, the T-33 continues to serve in various armed forces today.

The T-33 is a F-80 with a lengthened fuselage to make room for the second tandem seat. It entered service during the 1950s, and the US Navy also acquired the type and had it modified for blue-water operation as the TV-2. It was the USAFs first jet trainer. It soon was dubbed the 'T-Bird' and was being produced under license in both Japan and Canada. In Japan, Kawasaki built 210 of these trainers. In Canada, the T-33 was designated the CL-30 Silver Star and the Allison turbojets of the original were replaced with Canadian built Rolls-Royce Nene 10 engines. The type still serves as a trainer for both countries. Limited numbers were also produced for export, some being modified to carry light armament. While only 1,718 P-80 Shooting Stars were built, nearly 7,000 T-33s saw active service around the world.






Lockheed F-94 Starfire

The Lockheed F-94 Starfire was the first U.S. production jet to have an afterburner. It was one of the first jet fighter aircraft equipped with radar and the first operational all weather interceptor.

It was a derivative of the P-80 / T-33 Shooting Star. Its mission was as an interceptor / fighter / bomber.

A Lockheed F-94 Starfire prototype first flew on April 16, 1949. Production aircraft were deployed by December of 1949.

Initial missions were flown with the U.S. Air Defense Command, where they were kept on 3-minute alert status, ready to intercept Soviet bombers.

The Lockheed F-94 Starfire saw action in the Korean War, primarily as a night fighter. They are credited with the downing of four enemy planes during the war. Their service continued with the U.S. Air National Guard until 1959.







Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter

This is the actual Tennessee Air National Guard plane that I also flew for 7 years.

In November 1965, Operation Christmas Star transported over 90,000 tons of Christmas gifts

and military cargo  for servicemen to Vietnam . All presents were donated by citizens

of Memphis and the Mid-South - Below is an article about this mission.


The 164th Airlift Wing began life in 1946 as the 155th FS flying F-51 Mustang piston engine fighters. By 1961 the unit was flying C-97 cargo aircraft in vital support missions in conflicts all over the world, a mission that the 164th continues today. In 1973, the 164th completed its final flight of a C-124 and switched to the more modern C-130 turboprop cargo aircraft. All C-130As were retired in 1992, and the 164th was given newer C-141 aircraft. The 164th was one of the last units to operate the venerable C-141, using it until it was finally retired in 2004 and replaced with the massive C-5A.

The 164th is based out of Memphis International Airport in Memphis, Tennessee.


History of The 164th Airlift Wing

The United States Air Force's 164th Airlift Wing (164 AW) is an airlift unit of the Tennessee Air National Guard, operationally-gained by the Air Mobility Command (AMC) and located at the Memphis Air National Guard Base at Memphis International Airport, Memphis, Tennessee. The 164 AW is also the "host wing" for Memphis ANGB.

This unit was activated 23 December 1946 as the 155th Fighter Squadron with the F-51 Mustang as the assigned aircraft. On 1 April 1951, the unit was redesignated as the 155th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron utilizing the same aircraft. During this same period, the 155th was activated for the Korean conflict. The 155th returned to state control as a night photo unit on 1 January 1953, equipped with the RB-26 Invader.

The unit was redesignated as a jet photo reconnaissance organization on 1 April 1956 and equipped with the RF-84 Thunderflash, the jets being received directly from the factory for use in this mission.

April 1961 brought a major change for this unit. The 164th Military Airlift Group was activated as parent unit and the 155th was redesignated as a military airlift squadron. At this time, the unit received the C-97 Stratofreighter, which was a converted Strategic Air Command (SAC) aerial refueling tanker. Conversion to this aircraft brought a worldwide mission with operations to such places as Europe, Japan, South America, Australia and South Vietnam.





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