Whitesburg KY

I drove a bus to Cape Canaveral

In October 1963, a C-133 aircraft from Travis Air Force Base flew the first Gemini Space Capsule from Baltimore, Md., to Cape Canaveral, Fla., prior to its launch into space.

During this time, I was named the flight leader of Air Force One’s crew at the Air Force Academy at McCoy Air Field, Orlando, Fla., for five weeks of training.

Halfway through training, orders came from the Pentagon. All students and instructors would be bused to Cape Canaveral for a day to watch the liftoff.

The academy had two buses, but only one driver at that time. The commandant, who served with me on my first overseas tour as a young captain, spoke up. “Sergeant Vanover will drive one of the buses; he can drive any vehicle in the motor pool.”

That was not entirely true. I would check out a large truck to have items we needed from supply for my printing department.

Early the next morning, I made sure my 25 men of Air Force One were on my bus. I was a little nervous when the commandant took the seat behind me.

Halfway to Cape Canaveral, we stopped at an army base to eat lunch. The army people were wondering where about 200 Air Force non-commissioned officers and one officer came from.

The liftoff was a sight to see. I was very proud of my Air Force One’s crew; they acted like gentlemen.

All of us were worn out when I drove into the base at McCoy. I was the only one awake.

We finished the other two and half weeks of training, and went back to the base where we were assigned.

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