Ike's spies and reconnaissance planes
Donald Tuter was born in Brookline, Missouri, in the throes of the great economic depression in 1934.
When he was five years old, he remembers the day the 32nd President of the United States, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, made his "Day of Infamy" speech. It was given only one day following Japan's strike on the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor.
"It's frightful to a little kid to have that kind of information," recalls Tuter. "From that time on, my dad and several of my uncles all were drafted into the military, and I am thankful not a one of them died in combat."
In June 1953, Tuter had just graduated from high school. A neighbor suggested he join the Army National Guard in Kansas, and if he did so, he would help him get a job with the Union Pacific Railroad.
"That became my military career. I became a grunt soldier and also a greenhorn on the Union Pacific Railroad," he said of his early military career.
He stayed with the infantry for three years and four months. The Korean War had settled, and he still had Korean War status because he joined before the war was over.
In October 1956, his brother, Forrest, and a friend from high school joined the United States Air Force. At the time, the Air Force was only nine years old as a separate military because up until this time it was part of the Army.
"The Air Force had a lot of growing up to do, and we had a lot of things to learn," Tuter added.
Their first month was spent at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. They spent their next four months in Amarillo, Texas.
Their technical training enabled them to be mechanics on the Reconnaissance RB47 Bomber, where they served more than three years. He made trips to Japan for temporary duties (TDY), while their planes were surveying the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and before the great offensive that wreaked havoc in Vietnam.
"At times I thought we are just lowly mechanics back here, keeping the planes flying," said Tuter of his mission at the time. "And the officers got all the accolades and apparently got the best treatment. Then I realized, they didn't shoot at us, those officers had to take the brunt, and it made me even more proud to be where I was in supporting those planes."
One summer, they were assigned temporary duty in New Finland. They were assigned to several KC97's, which were prop and regular engine planes for refueling. They also traveled to Alaska and Puerto Rico. In 1960, they went on a detachment to eastern Turkey near Syria. They were supporting their planes there, and they were unaware that they were considered "Ike's Spies." Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.
"We were over there flying our reconnaissance planes to see what the Russians were doing," clarified Tuter.
While in Turkey, the airbase where they were assigned became the great shipping point for the Middle East, the Iraqis and the Afghanistan war supplies. It was located a few miles from the Mediterranean Sea coast, and supplies from ships were unloaded and flown out of that base north to the war zones.
"While we were there one day, one of the airmen said, 'Come look at this.' We all ran outside our hangars and looked up, and almost disguised by the clouds was one of the big Russian Bison bombers, which was apparently photographing our airbase."
"Years went by fast—that three-and-a-half years we were on active duty. We saw a lot of things happen, but not one bullet was shot at us, and I will always be thankful."
He added that although they did not make much rank in the Air Force, they were expected to do a great deal.
"But not anything like the sacrifice of our what I call 'mud marines and dog-face soldiers' (meaning combat service personal) that were out there in the dirt keeping America free," declared Tuter. "I will always be thankful, and I really believe the Air Force gave me the equivalent of a junior college education, and they showed me two-thirds of the way around the world. I will always be thankful for that experience. I would certainly go back today and do that again; except I am knocking on 86 years old."
Tuter joined the Prineville Band of Brothers six years ago and is currently the Chaplain for the organization and also serves on the Honor Guard. Tuter was selected as the Grand Marshal. He is proud of his three children and wife, Joyce, with whom he has shared 60 years of marriage. He also has nine grandchildren and several grandchildren.
"It is an absolute pleasure of mine before our meetings that we have a prayer. I have realized that it is my privilege to lift the whole group up before the Throne of God and ask his blessings."
Tuter concluded with emotion, "I love the United States of America, and I am proud of my service."
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