Starlifter Memorial Honors Aircraft, the Airmen it served

Post date: Mar 17, 2011 5:16:29 PM


Starlifter Memorial Honors Aircraft, the Airmen it served

by Capt. Darrick Lee and Gary Boyd

305th Air Mobility Wing

11/12/2008 - McGUIRE AIR FORCE BASE, N.J. -- Fallen crewmembers who served aboard the U.S. Air Force's most successful airlifters received proper recognition during a Veterans Day ceremony at McGuire Nov. 11.

A large crowd of people representing active duty military members, Reservists, veterans and the civilian community gathered at the site of the new Starlifter C-141 Memorial Park. They paid tribute to what some describe as the most versatile aircraft of all time, while remembering Airmen who gave their lives serving aboard the historic plane.

The C-141A (the initial edition of the plane) first flew on Dec. 17, 1963 -- the 60th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight. It arrived at McGuire in 1967.

The entire fleet underwent a service life extension program from 1979-1982 that included stretching the aircraft by inserting a 23-foot four-inch tubular section to the forward fuselage, lengthening it to 168.3 feet. The stretched C-141 became the C-141B and also incorporated an in-flight refueling receptacle increasing its range to almost limitless proportions.

McGuire received its first C-141B in 1980. It later made history when it became the first military cargo jet crewed only by women in 1983 during a cross-Atlantic air evacuation mission. The fleet had more than 9 million hours of total service and has supported every major American operation contingency since Vietnam.

The new Starlifter park is the latest contribution from The Maj. Thomas B. McGuire Foundation. The foundation, whose mission is to support the local military community, has a history of honoring military service, including the creation of a P-38 display at McGuire's Pudgy's circle, and the Ultimate Weapon monument at nearby Fort Dix. Ted Strempack, the foundation's president, spoke about the significance of the memorial.

"During this ceremony, we will be honoring others who are not here today because they lost their lives serving in this noble aircraft," Mr. Strempack said. "This park will become a sacred meeting place to visit, honor and remember."

There were five accidents resulting in the complete loss of a C-141 operating from McGuire in 30 years of service. Seventy-two crew and passengers died in the incidents.

Col. Scott Smith, 305th Air Mobility Wing vice commander, echoed Mr. Strempack's comments, sharing praise for the fallen as well as those who remain to tell the Starlifter's story.

"This memorial will honor every crew dog, Army grunt, POW, dependent, patient, evacuee, and refugee who benefited from the C-141 mission," the colonel said.