Batcat

The United States Air Force
553rd Reconnaissance Wing
Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base

Report on the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing, Batcat
50th Anniversary Reunion at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Thursday September 28 through Sunday October 1, 2017

50th Anniversary Reunion area added 10/15/17, Last updated 10/22/17.

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Background on the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing
50th Anniversary Reunion


During 1966 the USAF was experiencing little success in reducing the flow of supplies and manpower from North Vietnam to the Viet Cong insurgents operating in South Vietnam. North Vietnam was sending supplies and manpower down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. While it is always referred to in the singular as "the trail," it was really a maze of trails 20 to 30 miles wide well hidden mostly under an umbrella cover of dense jungle. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who did not want to bomb North Vietnam, was approached by a group of scientists from MIT and Harvard who proposed an electronic fence across the border of North and South Vietnam to stop the flow of supplies and manpower south. McNamarra liked the idea and presented the concept to President Lyndon Johnson in eary January 1967 at the White House. On January 13, 1967 President Johnson signed National Security Action Memorandum No. 358 giving the concept, at this time called project "Practice Nine," highest national priority status.

Practice Nine comprised participation from the Army, Air Force and Navy. The USAF established the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing Feb. 25, 1967 at Otis AFB, and the changes began to modify thirty mothballed Lockheed EC-121 aircraft into the EC-121R configuration which the 553rd would fly to monitor the sensors in SEA. Simultaneously the Navy, who intially dropped the sensors monitored by the 553rd, formed squadron VO-67 and flew especially modified Lockheed OP-2E Neptune aircraft as sensor drop aircraft. Construction began on the data relay facility at Nakhon Phanom called Task Force Alpha.

The 553rd continued to develop the electronic fence concept with deployments to Florida and Panama durning 1967. First contingent of 553rd airmen arrived at Korat RTAFB in September 1967. First aircraft from the 553rd arrived at Korat in November 1967. First combat missions were flown December 1967. From initial concept to fully operational and flying combat missions in less than one memorable year - 1967, 50 years ago this year, 2017. The 553rd Reconnaissance Wing's primary purpose to provide the intelligence necessary to help reduce the flow of supplies from North Vietnam to insurgents in South Vietnam. By reducing the amount of supplies and Viet Cong moving from North Vietnam to South Vietnam, as well as current data to ground troops, it limited the U.S. loss of life. The wing continued its mission to monitor sensors, detect supplies and troop movements until the wing was inactivated on Dec. 15, 1970. Between 1967 and 1970 the best known code name for McNamara's electronic fence was "Igloo White." At the time the wing was incactivated the remaining squadrons were reassigned to the 388th TFW which was also based at Korat. The last EC-121R departed Korat for the U.S. in Dec. 1971, with the last personnel assigned to the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing departed back to the U.S. in Jan. 1972.

Note on the photographs included on this page. Webmaster Larry Westin took some photographs, and Batcat Robert Gurley took the other photographs. I tried to resize all photographs to the same size of 1200 pixels in width, and 750 pixels in height. This resizing kept image file sizes between about 120K and 380K. All images are color. I have attempted to publish on this page a representative selection of images.

553rd Recon Wing 50th Anniversary Reunion
Attendees Begin Arriving Thursday September 28, 2017


Beginning about noon on Thursday September 28 Batcats attending the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing 50th Anniversary Reunion began arriving. Due to airline delays and cancelations some Batcats didn't get to the Wyndham Garden Oklahoma City Airport hotel until 8PM. Official sign in time began at 4PM on Thursday September 28, 2017. Here are some images of Batcats and their guests signing in.

Arriving Batcats congregating in the hotel atrium - view 1. Here is another view of Batcats lining up to receive registration packets. Here is a view of Batcats receiving their registration packets from Trish Blanton, The Reunion "BRAT" reunion planner. The BRAT standing for "Bringing Rotated Americans Together."

The Wyndham Garden hotel displayed an Electronic image of the Batcat patch which those attending saw as they checked into the hotel.

Click here for a List of the Batcats and their guests who attended the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing, Batcat 50th Anniversary reunion.

Memorabilia Brought to the Reunion
and some Memorabilia Available for sale


A number of Batcats brought their personal 553rd Reconnaissance Wing memorbilia to display at the reunion. The original memorabilia items were kept in the Magnolia hospitality suite during the reunion.

Part of the original memorabilia displayed in the hospitality suite. The patch display sits on an original waterproof escape and evasion map. The Lockheed EC-121R model is a hand made accurate wood model including the extensive attena array used by the actual aircraft. Here is an expanded view of the 553rd Recon Wing and Igloo White patch display. Here is another view of more original memorabilia. The 553rd Reconnaissance Wing contracted with the McKean Leprosy Hospital at Chiang Mai, Thailand to make the plaques. Additionally as part of the wing community outreach the wing collected almost $2,000, which wing commander Col. Timmermans presented on June 18, 1969, to Dr. Gilbert E. Fisher, Director of the McKean Leprosy Hospital.

Batcat Bob Pruiksma brought some quality memorabilia to the reunion, including 36 hats, plus patches, pins and coins which were offered for sale on a first come, first served basis. I don't know if Bob has any memorabilia remaining for sale. If you are interested 553rd memorabilia send Bob Pruiksma an email at batcatbob@gmail.com and ask what, if any memorabilia is still available for sale. As of October 19, 2017 Bob tells me he has NO Cavete Cattam Pins or patches left. I do have pins & patches from both flying squadrons.  Also First Wave stuff and American flag patches.

Optional Tour of Tinker AFB
Friday September 29, 2017


The first optional tour was a visit to Tinker Air Force Base. Many of the attendees elected to take the all day tour on Friday September 29, 2017. Except for the first image waiting for the bus, my thanks to Robert Gurley for all other images of the Tinker AFB tour. Here are some images of the tour.

Some of the reunion attendees group together in front of the Wyndham Garden Oklahoma City Airport hotel waiting for the tour bus. Once at Tinker AFB the attendees were given a welcome by the 552nd Air Control Wing which is based at Tinker AFB. Here is another view of the Tinker tour. Here is a view of the Tinker AFB Flight Line showing the E-3 Sentry AEWC aircraft. Here is a E-3 Sentry close up.

There are vintage USAF aircraft on Tinker AFB which the reunions attendees had an opportunity to exam. Head on view of the Lockheed EC-121D Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft. The serial number of this airplane is 53-0552, which is quite appropriate as it is entrusted to the 552nd Air Control Wing for care. Here is another view of Lockheed EC-121D with Robert Gurley in front which also shows the POW-MIA memorial. Robert Gurley took many of the images which appear on this page. The EC-121D was the AEWC version of the Connie similar to the Batcat EC-121R ELINT Connie flown by the 553rd Recon Wing. Close up of the POW-MIA memorial at Tinker and the code of American fighting men and women.

The tour also showed other vintage USAF aircraft. Here is a Republic F-105D Thunderchief serial number 62-4360. The F-105 was flown by the 388TFW at Korat as well as from other bases in Thailand. This webmaster's recollecion of the F-105 is that on takeoff it had to be one of the noisest fighters built. Here is an image of a McDonnel F-4D Phantom II serial number 66-7518. While the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing was at Korat the 388th TFW transitioned from the F-105 to the F-4E. The 388th TFW flew the F-4E which differed in the F-4D displayed by having an interal 20mm gun while the F-4D did not have an internal gun. Another aircraft on display at Tinker is the Boeing B-52D Stratofortress. The B-52 was not based at Korat, however during February 1969 the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing did temporary duty at U-Tapao RTAFB while the runway at Korat was repaired. U-Tapao did base B-52's.

A second POW-MIA Memorial at Tinker. Here is a closer view of the Inscription which was part of President John F. Kennedy's Inaguaral address defining what the U.S. stands for.

Optional Tour of the
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
Saturday September 30, 2017


The morning of Saturday September 30, 2017 was for the optional National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum tour. My thanks to Robert Gurley for all the Cowboy Museum images. Here are some images of the Cowboy Museum.

Entrance to the Museum is a sculpture of President Abraham Lincoln. Next is another sculpture showing Bobcats as would be found in the mountains of the West.

Diorama of a Cowboy with a Covered wagon which was a smaller wagon than the Conestoga wagon. Here is a Vaquero which is a Spanish word for a herder of cattle. Last is a trail cook with a chuck wagon.

VA Attorney gives presentation on VA
claims Saturday afternoon September 30, 2017


Batcat Bob Langenhan arranged for Veterans Help Group attorney Donnel Beckles, Esq. who flew in from his office in Florida to give a presentation of Department of Veteran Affairs benefits available to veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam era. In addition attorney Beckles outlined what benefits may be available to surviving spouses. After his presentation attorney Beckles conducted a question and answer session to help answer individual questions from those attending.

This webmaster attended the full presentation and the question and answer seesion. I felt attorney Donnel Beckles was very knowledgeable and gave a very professional presentation to the group concerning the steps necessary to submit a VA claim, and what to do once the claim is denied. Attorney Beckles also provided information most beneficial to surviving spouses as they must submit their request to the VA in a timely matter or it will be automatically denied.

Here is an image of Attorney Donnel Beckles, Esq. taken during his presentation while he was speaking at the podium. The presentation was well attended as seen in this image of 553rd Reconnaissance Wing veterans who attended the presentation by attorney Beckles.

553rd Reconnaissance Wing - Batcat 50th Anniversary Reunion
Banquet Supper Saturday evening September 30, 2017


The Banquet Supper was the concluding event of the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing, Batcat 50th Anniversary reunion in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Featured guest speaker after the banquet supper was Brigadier General Charles Bishop Retired who gave us his first hand insights about Batcat. General Bishop was part of the first group assigned to the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing when it formed at Otis AFB, Massachusetts in February 1967. General Bishop was the first Batcat CICO, participated in the deployments to Florida and Panama to refine the equipment and techniques used by Batcat to perform the assigned mission. General Bishop was also chief of the wing's Combat Intelligence Standardization and Evaluation Section. General Bishop gave the reunion a most interesting description of dealing with the political figures of 1967.

Master of Ceremonie was Firstwave Batcat Cliff Jensen. Cliff Jensen is the individual who worked with Trish Blanton, The Reunion BRAT to organize the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing 50th Anniversary Reunion.

Below are images taken at and after the banquet supper. Webmaster Larry Westin took a few photographs, and Batcat Robert Gurley took most of the other photographs. I tried to resize all photographs to the same size of 1200 pixels in width, and 750 pixels in height. I have attempted to publish on this page a representative selection of images. Sometimes I include names of the individuals, most of the time I don't include names for my fear that I will give an incorrect identification or misspelling of names.

Here is an overview image of the banquet supper attendees. The banquet was held in the Magnolia Room of the Wyndham Garden Oklahoma City Airport hotel, beginning at 6PM and continuing through to about 10PM.

Featured Guest Speaker Brigadire General Charles Bishop at the podium.

Master of Ceremonies and reunion organizer Cliff Jensen. Cliff created a number of videos to cover all aspects of the 553rd Recon Wing which he controlled with the laptop on the table behind Cliff.

Another overview image of the banquet supper attendees.

Views around the Banquet Room

Here are some representative views around the Magnolia Room during the banquet. View 1, View 2, View 3, View 4, View 5, View 6, View 7, View 8, View 9, View 10, View 11, View 12, View 13.

Batcat Steve Rust brought this poster size photograph of an EC-121R which 553rd Reconnaissance Wing members signed the back of photo.


Cleaning up the hospitality room at the end of the reunion

It's now 11PM Saturday September 30, 2017 and we see here The Reunion BRAT Trish Blanton, the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing 50th Anniversary Reunion planner doing the final cleanup in the hospitality room. After a nights sleep at the hotel the atendees will head back home starting Sunday October 1, 2017.




Other Completed 553rd Reconnaissance Wing, Batcat
Reunions and other Get Togethers


Click here for COMPLETED reunions which the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing, Batcat has participated in.


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