In early 1960 I got a phone call from the Travis Air Force flight line, one of Air Force One’s crew I had trained at the NCO Academy at McCoy Air Base in Orlando, Fla. He asked me to come to the flight line for a tour of Air Force One.
It was only a short walk there. I found out for the first time that Air Force One had more than one aircraft.
Vice President Lyndon Johnson had landed for a stay of a couple of hours chatting with military personnel and civilian workers, shaking hands and paying particular attention to a man from his state.
He declined an honor guard and toured the base before departing again for two weeks in Asia.
The plane was a Douglas C-118A Liftmaster. It had been lengthened and had the more powerful 2,500 horsepower radial engines.
As I toured the plane, my academy classmate told me that few people get a tour of this plane. When I saw the communication setup, and was told they could get in touch with any country in the world, I knew not to touch anything. I had been a radioman on a B-17 bomber, and no one touched my radio.
Vice President Johnson returned to his plane and said, “Sergeant, I know you from somewhere.” I told him that we talked at Arlington Cemetery when I escorted the first Air Force master sergeant casualty of Viet Nam for burial.
He told me that he would never forget that day. That was also his first trip there. He wanted to know all about my job, where I was from, how long I’d been at Travis. He shook my hand and then they were gone.
On his return trip, I had coffee with him and my classmate.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.