C-141 Memorial dedicated at Tinker airpark

  • Published
  • By Jillian Coleman
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

It was a “monumental” occasion as the C-141 Memorial was dedicated in the Maj. Charles B. Hall Memorial Airpark Oct. 19.

Made possible by the members of the 57th Alumni Association, consisting of individuals from the 57th Troop Carrier Squadron, Military Airlift Squadron, Airlift Squadron and Weapons Squadron. More than 100 members were in attendance as Col. Kenyon Bell, 72nd Air Base Wing and installation commander, helped unveil the pristine monument.

Fifty-three years ago to the day, on Oct. 19, 1964, the C-141 Starlifter arrived at Tinker, its first operational base. The C-141 was flown by the 1707th Air Transport Wing and the 1741st Air Transport Squadron until the unit was inactivated in January 1966. Jan. 8, the same day of inactivation, the 57th Military Airlift Squadron was activated in its place to continue the mission.

“We dedicate this treasured piece of history to all who flew, maintained or supported the C-141 at Tinker, and express deep gratitude to their devoted service to ensuring prosperity for the United States of America,” retired Chief Master Sgt. Woodie Hall announced. Hall serves as the president for the 57th Alumni Association.

In the early 1960s, the Military Air Transport Service depended upon a substantial number of propeller-driven aircraft for strategic airlift. Such aircraft were mostly obsolescent designs that the United States Air Force needed for the benefits of jet-engine power. The C-141 began making flights on a near-daily basis to Southeast Asia in 1965, carrying troops, equipment and supplies, as well as returning patients home to hospitals. Additionally, the C-141 became the first jet transport from which U.S. Army paratroopers jumped, and landed in the Antarctic.

The airlifter even set a world record for heavy cargo drops of 70,195 pounds.

Colonel Bell, an aircraft maintainer by trade, expressed his appreciation and gratitude on a personal level, recalling a specific memory he experienced with the C-141s.

“As a young CGO, I was the transient alert officer in charge at Andrews Air Force Base,” he said. “I witnessed what this C-141 had done and was doing, and found myself in awe. As the first jet-engine power airlifter to bring us into the era of accomplishing global reach and strategic airdrop missions and aeromedical evacuations, it holds great significance through Vietnam, Desert Storm and even in Iraq.”

The Air Force, as Bell described, would commence its conversion of the C-141 model to stretch the aircraft 23 feet and expand its air refueling capability. Converting from an A to B model was compared to purchasing 90 new aircraft, in terms of its increased capacity. Two-hundred seventy C-141s were converted by 1982, and that aircraft remained in service until the Air Force withdrew its last one from service in 2006. After 40 years in service, the airlifter was replaced with the C-17 Globemaster III.

“It is a tremendous honor to be a representative of Tinker Air Force Base, accepting this memorial,” Bell said. “I am thankful for the opportunity to have a piece of history in our airpark, and grateful to see so many veterans here today to witness. Thank you for everything you have done and everything you continue to do in leading and showing our Airmen the way.”