The Senior Redhawk today, if not the Senior Ranking Redhawk, is probably Mr. Loren Wade of Winfield, Kansas. Mr. Wade celebrated his 102nd birthday on 25 July 2014 at the Walmart in which he still works. Happy Birthday, Loren Wade!

Wartime Redhawk Mr. Loren Wade celebrated his 102nd birthday at work on July 25, 2014, at the Walmart in Winfield, Kansas (Courtesy KWCH12 News)

Wartime Redhawk Mr. Loren Wade celebrated his 102nd birthday at work on July 25, 2014, at the Walmart in Winfield, Kansas (Courtesy KWCH12 News)

Mr. Wade was born in Winfield, Kansas, in 1912, and had his first job when he was 12 years old. He graduated high school in 1930, and worked on and off through the Great Depression in whatever work he could find.

In 1944, S/Sgt Loren J. Wade was one of more than 300 men assigned to the 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron as the unit shipped out for overseas duty in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater. He was a crew chief back then, Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 750, described as follows:

AIRPLANE MAINTENANCE TECHNICIAN (750)
Airplane Crew Chief
Airplane Inspector
Airplane Flight Chief
Airplane Line Chief

Supervises the inspection, maintenance, adjustment, and minor repair of aircraft and aircraft equipment.
Performs prescribed inspections of aircraft to determine necessary servicing, adjustments, or parts replacements. Determines priority of jobs, and assigns crews or individual specialists to tasks. Thoroughly checks maintenance work to insure proper condition of aircraft. Instructs subordinates in interpretation of technical orders and in maintenance methods. Analyses and trouble shoots unusual malfunctioning of aircraft.

Coordinates all maintenance operations to expedite restoring aircraft to serviceable condition. Supervises maintenance of shop records, airplane and engine maintenance forms, and requisition and care of tools, equipment, parts, and supplies. Warms up engines and taxis airplanes, checks weight and balance computations of aerial engineer-gunner.

Must have a thorough working knowledge of all aircraft assemblies, systems, and Army Air Forces technical orders. Considerable experience in inspection and maintenance aircraft required.

(Source: Military Yearbook Project)

When the squadron arrived in China in September, 1944, S/Sgt Wade was assigned to “G” Flight, one of several detachments of the squadron sent to forward airfields in order to expand the reach of photo reconnaissance in the CBI, where resources were relatively limited as compared to other theaters of war. In the case of “G” Flight, they started out at Yunnanyi Airfield in China. He was the Crew Chief for the Lockheed F-5E Photo Lightning flown by Lt. Sterling E. “Yogi” Barrow, Sr. (Col, USAF, Ret).

A 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron “G” Flight F-5E rests in an earthen revetment while being serviced by the ground crew in China during late World War II, possibly at Yunnanyi.  Note the 55-gallon drum being used as an improvised maintenance stand for the Redhawk working on the aircraft.  (Courtesy John Brasko, Jr.)

A 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron “G” Flight F-5E rests in an earthen revetment while being serviced by the ground crew in China during late World War II, possibly at Yunnanyi. Note the 55-gallon drum being used as an improvised maintenance stand for the Redhawk working on the aircraft. (Courtesy John Brasko, Jr.)

A crew chief had much responsibility for an assigned aircraft, as described above. In the case of “G” Flight, composed of about four F-5E aircraft and 40 men, a crew chief’s responsibility for keeping an aircraft going grew, due to the relatively primitive field conditions and limited numbers of personnel and equipment as compared to a full squadron establishment. Crew Chief Wade likely had an assistant Crew Chief, and perhaps one Airplane and Engine Mechanic (MOS 747) as the ground crew to perform the day to day maintenance and service for his ship.

Loren Wade served a total of 43 months in the Army Air Force before his discharge after the war. Since the war, Mr. Wade had his own business and worked as a mail carrier for 22 years in the US Postal Service before retiring. But retirement didn’t really suit him and he joined Walmart in October, 1983, where he has worked ever since.

So a hearty hand salute to the Senior Redhawk, Mr. Loren Wade, on the occasion of his 102nd Birthday!

References:

Airplane Maintenance Technician MOS 750, http://militaryyearbookproject.com/references/old-mos-codes/wwii-era/army-wwii-codes/gunnery-and-gunnery-control/airplane-maintenance-technician-750

America’s Outstanding Oldest Worker – 2012, http://www.adlercentenarians.org/centenarian_archive.htm

The 6th Bomb Group, Ground Personnel, at: http://philcrowther.com/6thBG/6bgcrewg00.html

“Wade still working hard at 102,” at: http://www.winfieldcourier.com/news/article_26141996-147b-11e4-be28-0019bb2963f4.html

“Winfield resident celebrates 102nd birthday at work,” at: http://www.kwch.com/news/local-news/winfield-resident-celebrates-102nd-birthday-at-work/27158296

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