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Story ID:10679
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Andrews Air Force Base Maryland USA
Person:The Perpetrator
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By Fred Wickert

It was summer time. The Vietnam War was still raging and the C-9 Nightingale aircraft came in every night with the wounded. They unloaded the wounded from the planes around midnight and took them to the hospital squadron. It was a separate outfit from our Base Hospital. They were distributed all over from Andrews. Some went to Walter Reid and some to Bethesda Naval Hospital, others were flown right back out to other hospitals all over the country. Some were because of specialties of the hospitals and some just because they were closer to their families. By 0300 hours (3:00 A.M.) the hospital planes were gone and usually every one of the wounded flown in were dispersed by morning. Only a few were even aware of it. Those who died on route to Andrews were flown out to Dover for proper handling from there. The dead were flown directly to Dover Air Force Base.

I was with the Presidential Wing and was one of the security personnel that provided security for Air Force One and the other planes in the White House fleet. We occupied hangars #6 and #7. They could be plainly seen from the Air Terminal. On the night shifts we could observe all that came and went from the Air Terminal which was right next door to us.

Suddenly one day a bomb threat was received by phone. There was no such thing as caller ID in those days and it was difficult to determine where the phone call was coming from. When such a call was received emergency procedures were put in place immediately. Air Force One and as many other planes as possible were quickly taken out of the hangars. Every one of the planes had to be inspected for a bomb. Every nook and cranny in the hangars all had to be checked. All of the gates in and out of the restricted area had to be closed and no one allowed in or out.

All personnel working in the hangars, in the office building between the hangars, all the shops on the ends of the hangars, such as the paint shop, the radar shop, the sheet metal shop and so on, had to be evacuated. No one could return to work until everything had been closely inspected and the all clear given. All this disrupted things greatly. It took a while before the all clear could be given and everyone could return to work.

At 4:00 P.M. shifts changed. New people came to work and other ones went home. A few minutes after five, it happened all over again. When all was checked and the all clear given, all returned to normal for the rest of the night. The next morning about 9:30 it happened again. This disruption could not continue. It had to stop. How could it be stopped? We couldn’t just ignore it. Suppose there was a real bomb? No one could be sure.

Because they had all been false alarms it was evident someone was enjoying all the disruption and enjoyed watching us from somewhere, It was probably great fun to see us all scramble to move all the planes outside and scurry around checking for a bomb. Something had to be done and it was going to be very difficult to find the culprit.

A decision was made. Very quietly the word went out. When a bomb threat was received, we were to make our checks but we were to do it attracting as little attention as possible. Hangar doors were to be opened just in case, but no planes were to be removed from the hangars. Security gates were not to be secured. Everyone was to check calmly for a bomb but do it with as little commotion as possible.

Soon another bomb threat was called in. Other than the hangar doors opening, there was no other visible reaction at all. Hangar doors remained open for a few hours so it appeared they were opened as a routine anyway, and not in response to the phone call. As far as any observer could tell, the threat was being ignored. Two days later it happened again and was met with the same lack of reaction. From then on there were no more bomb threats. We had spoiled the perpetrators fun and they gave up. The only disappointment for us was that we never caught whoever it was. We were pleased that it had stopped.

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Photos of planes in Hangar #6 and #7 at AndrewsAFB and the author guarding Air Force #2.