MEET OUR VETERANS:
Bob Borth USAF, Canton, Tx.
Bob Borth was born on January 17, 1941 in Childress, Texas. “I had one brother in the Air Force and he served four years,” said Bob in our interview in Canton.
“We left Childress when I was about five years old and moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico. I was raised and grew up there. My dad was in the military and got in at the end of WWII. He was a radio operator on a B-17.
Carlsbad was a nice city, home of the Carlsbad Caverns. I was in the High School R.O.T.C. for three years. It was supported by the 5th Army out of Ft. Bliss in El Paso. They had electives in High School like shop and auto mechanics and I wasn’t really excited about P.E. so I figured R.O.T.C. is where I wanted to be,” laughed Bob.
“I was associated with the Army long enough to realize I didn’t want to live in foxholes and carry rifles for the rest of my life which included the Marine Corps. I didn’t particularly like the water, so that left the Air Force. I was committed and had all the paperwork filled out to join the Air Force. This was about a year before I graduated from High School,” said Bob.
JOINING THE AIR FORCE
“When I went into the Air Force in El Paso they had appreciated the fact that I was in the R.O.T.C., but it really didn’t do anything for me. It gave me an idea of what to expect from the military. They also expected more out of me since I had some military background. I was on the rifle and drill squad on my High School team. I was company commander. I graduated in May and was in the Air Force about three weeks later in 1959. I told my parents when I went into the Air Force, I am going in to retire from the military. At the time I had no clue what I was going to be doing in the Air Force. I had taken all the tests and made good scores, but I still did not know what my job was going to be,” Bob said recalling his early days.
“I went to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, in June, July and August. Three of the hottest months in Texas. The regimen was a lot stricter. Up at 0430, chow at 0600 and the drill field at 0700, military classes and yes sir and no sir. I was used to most of this from being in the R.O.T.C. I kind of looked forward to Boot Camp.
In September, I found out I was going to INTEL school in Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo. I don’t know if my test results led me there or not. All I know is I was told I was going to INTEL school. I said, Hell I’m ready, let’s go,” said Bob emphatically.
TRAINING TO BE AN ANALYIST
“I was in training from October of 1959 till May of 1960. I was taught how to become an Intel Analysist, what to look for and how to analyze it. I was learning all the ins and outs of Intel and what I could expect once I got out into the field. Once I got there and got into it, I said, this is what I want to do. The entire twenty years in the Air Force, was spent in foreign intelligence. I enjoyed every day of it. My MOS was Intel Traffic Analysist (202X0),” said Bob.
INFO: the USAF Security Service was composed primarily of airmen culled from the cream of the Air Force’s enlisted recruits (the top ½ of 1 percent). The USAFSS was a secretive and tight-knit branch of Air Force cold warriors tasked with monitoring, collecting and interpreting military voice and electronic signals of countries of interest (which often were Soviet and their satellite Eastern bloc countries). USAFSS intelligence was often analyzed in the field, and the results transmitted to the National Security Agency for further analysis and distribution to other intelligence recipients. USAFSS was tasked to carry out a cryptologic mission and to provide communications security for the newly-established Air Force. (SOURCE: USAFSS motto adopted July 27, 1963 entitled “Freedom Through Vigilance”)
1ST TOUR SAMSUN, TURKEY
“I had a choice after graduating to go to Samsun, Turkey AFB. I said, that was fine with me, I don’t care. I was 19, single and didn’t make a difference to me where I went.
That tour was for twelve months. Our job was to watch the Soviets. Samsun was sitting at the bottom of the Black Sea. There wasn’t much the Soviets did that we didn’t know about it. Turkey was the first place I had ever seen a water buffalo,” laughed Bob,
“Our OP site was about three quarters of a mile from the barracks. On good days we would walk to and from the base and bad days they would pick us up in a school bus. For the most part military were treated good in Turkey. It was a different time than what it is today. They had house boys to keep our rooms clean, kept our uniforms and our shoes shined,” said Bob smiling at the fact he had his own maid service in the military.
You had your own maid service? “Oh yea. We paid them about $2 a week for that service. We were behind a chain link fence with Concertina wire on top. You had to have clearance to get in. No windows. I never worked in a building that had windows in my entire twenty years in the Air Force. Dark rooms with artificial light. Lot of intel privacy,” Bob quipped matter of factly.
“Whatever the Soviets were doing they had to launch their own communications. Our job was to sit there and listen to them. Some of the intel required reports and some was just to listen. I was a two-striper fresh out of tech school but gained valuable experience in Turkey Intel Ops. My first tour was like a gopher tour helping other analysts gather the information.”
2ND TOUR WAKKANAI, JAPAN
“After my tour in Turkey I was given the opportunity to take an early out and re-enlist. Turkey was a remote tour meaning a tour where families could not go. If you were married your families had to stay in the states. It was an isolated tour and they asked me if I wanted to go to Wakkanai, Japan which is about as far north in Japan as you could go. I said sure and they promoted me to E-4 and I was given a $500. reenlistment bonus. That was like a fortune to me. I had more money than I knew what to do with. This tour was for 15 months. I also received a higher clearance because of it. I was moving up in the world. Back to the dark room watching the Soviets. This is where I first got into Aircraft Recon Missions. We would send up Recon planes to agitate the Soviets. Make them bring up their radars and launch their aircraft, make them fly their recon missions and bombers and fighters. We would aggravate them. They had specific routes they would fly. Over time we knew where their bombers were going using EP3s and RC135s.
INFO: The 11 aircraft in the Navy’s inventory are based on the Orion P-3 airframe and provide fleet and theater commanders worldwide with near real-time tactical SIGINT. With sensitive receivers and high-gain dish antennas, the EP-3E exploits a wide range of electronic emissions from deep within targeted territory.
During the 1990s twelve P-3Cs were converted to EP3-E ARIES II to replace older versions of the aircraft. The original ARIES I aircraft were converted in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The last EP-3E ARIES II aircraft was delivered in 1997. EP-3Es have been heavily engaged in reconnaissance in support of NATO forces in Bosnia, joint forces in Korea and in Operation Southern Watch, Northern Watch, and Allied Force.
Much of the EP-3’s mission is secret and is conducted in high threat areas where long range standoff is required. Most recently, a Navy EP-3 crashed into a Chinese navy J-8 fighter and was forced down into Chinese territory. The crew was eventually released but the plane and its sensitive electronic surveillance systems were picked apart by the Chinese government before the plane was returned in pieces. (SOURCE: www.military.com)
INFO: RC-135 This aircraft gathers electronic and signal intelligence worldwide. It can operate at a theatre, or country level. This reconnaissance plane has near real-time on scene intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination capabilities.
The RC-135 is operated by a total crew of up to 27-32 members, depending on its mission. Of which 3 are pilots, 2 navigators, and the rest are various intelligence gathering specialists, system operators, in-flight maintenance technicians and airborne linguists.
The RC-135 can be easily identified by its “thimble” nose radome and bulged cheek fairing on the forward fuselage. These house mission equipment. Also, there are a number of antennas on the fuselage.
The RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft was developed by Boeing in the early 60’s from C-135 Stratolifter. It is a major variant of the C-135. This reconnaissance aircraft was adopted by the US Air Force in 1962 as the RC-135. It is referred by the Boeing company as the Model 739. Although the Boeing RC-135 has been in the service for over half a century, its operators plan to keep it employed for a few decades more. This aircraft remains among the USAF’s most important strategic reconnaissance assets. The United Kingdom, which is the only country outside the US that uses the RC-135, plans to use these aircraft until 2045.
The US Air Force has been using this aircraft since 1962. (SOURCE: http://www.military-today.com/aircraft/rc_135.htm)
“The Russians, at this time, were a threat. Our job was to intercept their Morse Code, their radar sites, their aircraft and communications. We put all this together, analyzed it and did a lot of reporting back to National Security Agency, (NSA) and sometimes directly back to the White House. If certain criteria were met we would report on it. If they sent their heavy bombers on missions over to the North Pole or the Baltic Sea we would pay a little bit more attention to what they were doing. Every day you went to work was a different job. You never knew what you were walking into. It might be a nice calm day with no activity and other days were very hectic and could be very stressful. Most of the times we did eight-hour shifts. If we were on high alerts we may be on twelve-hour shifts. Wakkanai was a good tour until just about when we got ready to leave. That was when Krushev decided to put missiles into Cuba. I was given an involuntary extension for thirty days. This was October 1962.
INFO: The Cuban Missile Crisis started in October 1962. President John F. Kennedy was given top secret information that the Soviet Union was deploying nuclear missiles in Communist Cuba. He demanded the missiles be removed and ordered U.S. ships to blockade Cuba. B-52 bombers were in holding patterns loaded with nuclear weapons near Soviet airspace. The Soviets agreed to remove the missiles and a major war was averted.
There was always a threat from the Soviets. We didn’t see much of that intelligence coming from the South Pacific but other bases would have. The base was locked down during this time.
I really loved Wakkanai, Japan. I bowled a lot in Japan. It had four lanes. I was on the base team. I bowled in leagues every night of the week, five nights a week. I was a pretty good bowler. My brother once bowled a 300 game. He always thought he could beat me, but he couldn’t,” laughed Bob. “I generally carried a 190 average. At one time I was carrying a 201 average in five leagues,” said Bob.
“During this 30-day extension in Wakkanai I got lucky. I won on the slot machines at the NCO club. I won a $500 Jackpot the night we were supposed to leave. I used that money to buy my first car when I got back to the states. It was a used 55 Chevy Belair 4-door, 8-cylinder. It was turquoise and white,” Bob said proudly.
Oooohhh, I bet you would still like to have that car today, do you have pictures of it? “NO, but I wish I still had the car,” he laughed.
SECURITY KELLY AFB
“My next stop was Security Kelly AFB in San Antonio in November of 1962. That is where I met my wife Mary Ann. She was walking off Interstate 35. Her and her roommate had blown an engine in their car and was walking down the access road. Me and my roommate were eating lunch and saw these two girls walking by. We gave them a ride home. After that I saw her again at the restaurant and took her out for a date. Got married in 1964. Been married 55 years,” smiled Bob looking across the table at his wife. Was it love at first sight? “Yeah, pretty much,” he smiled. I asked his wife seated next to me if it was love at first site? “Yeah,” she smiled and they both looked at each other and laughed.
3rd TOUR BERLIN, GERMANY
Next stop Berlin, Germany. “They asked if me if I wanted to go to Berlin, I said you bet. Of course, that was behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. We were there from June 1966 to June 1969. This was my third tour and the first tour I was allowed to bring my family, including my daughter. We lived on base housing in Berlin. They had the French, English, British and Russian sectors. It was a four-power control city when we lived there. It was still 110 miles inside Communist East Germany. We were in West Berlin.
INFO: On August 13, 1961 military units from Communist East Germany began building the Berlin Wall. Razor ribbon was used and then a permanent wall replaced the sharp wire. The winding BERLIN WALL was ten to thirteen feet high. The wall stretched for nearly 100 miles. The Berlin Wall was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Constructed by the German Democratic Republic, the Wall cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany, including East Berlin, until East German officials ordered it opened in November 1989. Its demolition officially began on 13 June 1990 and finished in 1992. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, accompanied by a wide area that contained anti-vehicle trenches, “fakir beds” and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state in East Germany. (SOURCE: WIKILEAKS and author)
“I had a 64 Chevrolet Impala we took to Berlin. The autobahn had no speed limit. The fastest I ever went was 80,” said a grinning Bob. “I also reenlisted again, don’t remember what my VRB was but more than $500. We lived in a brand-new housing unit, right behind the commissary,” he said.
“In Berlin I had moved into Intelligence gathering from the East Germans, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Western USSR, mostly all of the Eastern bloc nations. The stress was higher probably because where we were based. Any of these nations could have rolled over and taken Berlin anytime they wanted to. We could ride the underground trains into any of the three sectors except Russia. If you took the trains you had to travel at night with all the windows blacked out. We were restricted to where we could go,” Bob said with a serious look on his face.
“I was on the base bowling team there. At this point I was doing a lot of bowling. I was up to about 201 average. The Vietnam War was going on but we didn’t get a lot of feedback from Vietnam. We were more concentrated on doing our job in Berlin. We had Armed Services Radio but we didn’t have TV service. We also did not know a lot of what was going on back in America.
The op center I was in, of course was blacked out, but they had continuous circular elevators. Moved slowly, never stopped. They were like an escalator, you hopped on and hopped off, never stopped moving,” he said smiling.
INFO: The paternoster consists of two elevator shafts side-by-side, with no doors. Within them, a chain of compartments—also without doors—moves continuously on an endless belt, like a weirdly efficient Ferris wheel. In one open shaft the compartments go up, and in the other they come back down. If a person stays in their small cabinet after the last floor of a building. The box they’re standing in just keeps going up or down and around again plunging them briefly into darkness until they again reach an open floor.
This odd elevator was once somewhat common. It was invented in the 1860s by Peter Ellis, an architect from Liverpool.
( SOURCE: www.smithsonianmag.com)
“We really liked Berlin. The people, food and the parties. The USO sent over acts from America for the troops. We did have Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass and Charlie Pride came over. We enjoyed it there a lot. We took a 30 day leave to come back to the states for some R&R.”
MISAWA, JAPAN ( 2nd tour of Japan )
“Misawa was located in the central part of Japan. This was another choice I had that we took and was glad to be going back to Japan. When we were there we extended for another four years in the Air Force. So, we were in Misawa for another four years from 1969 thru 1973. I had my own car and family with me again. We were back watching the Russians, back in the no window operations center. We were watching them and they were watching us. Security guards everywhere. This has been going on for probably the last 60-years. I was in the security group part of it for two years and the security wing part of it for two years. When I first got there, I was on flight duty. We had just got off the swing shift when Armstrong landed on the moon in August of 1969. We were in the day room and got to watch that part of it uninterrupted. We lived on base with commissary and theatre. I was back on the base bowling team again. We left Misawa and had another 30 days R&R in the states.”
“Our next stop was on the island of Crete, Greece out in the Mediterranean Sea. When we left Greece in 1975 we had been overseas for nine consecutive years less the R&R stops back in the states. Crete was like a vacation island. It was four miles wide and twelve miles long. We learned about the Greek cuisine, goats, Mediterranean food, olives and homemade wine. We lived on the base and in the summer the island was packed. The French and Italians liked to come there for vacation. Once again, I was on the bowling team… this time on the European team. Went on TDY for nine days to Spain to bowl in a tournament. We finished our team bowling, singles and doubles all in the first two days. We had another seven days for some nice R&R. Spain was nice, good people and good food. I have to give a lot of credit to families. We would go to work each day and come home and can’t talk about what we did. It helped us to get involved in other activities with the family. We loved our tour in Greece. One of the things I will never forget about our stay there was we once stood in line to get a head of iceberg lettuce. All our supplies came in from Athens. Lettuce was like a gold mine. It was worth waiting in line, to get Iceberg lettuce. First thing we wanted when we got back to the states, was a salad,” laughed Bob.
GOING BACK TO SAN ANTONIO
“In 1975 we headed back to San Antonio. Two years later the Air Force wanted me back overseas. We had just gotten off nine years of overseas travel. I did not want to go back again. The Air Force gave me an opportunity to go to England. Looking back today, I probably should have taken that tour. We had just bought a house and I was just tired of travelling. By this time, I was E-7. I stayed another two years and retired in 1979. Twenty years of working foreign intelligence and I loved every day of it. Our op center front gate was firebombed in Greece when the Turks and the Greeks got into it, but other than that I was never fired at,” said Bob.
“I really loved my job in the military, and I was good at it. I had been doing my job long enough to know I was a good analysist. I knew what was important and what wasn’t. We were always working with different Intel agencies. We were working the threat side of intel. Our job was to discern what the threat level was. Our analysis allowed us to do our jobs. Intercept, analyze and report. I never second guessed myself nor did I ever lose sleep at night thinking I might have made the wrong decision or analysis. Most of the time you didn’t have time to second guess yourself. If the criteria were met we knew we had to report it. We had a really good playbook.
Twenty years in the military taught me respect and do your job. My grandpa once told me, if you are going to do a job, do it right the first time.”
“I received the Air Force commendation medal, twice. I was in twenty years and never had my good conduct medal jeopardized and retired with a meritorious service medal,” boasted Bob.
“The best food I ever had was deer steak at the French Officers Club in Berlin. It was also the first time I had ever eaten escargots (snails). German food was good.”
COMING BACK TO VAN ZANDT COUNTY
“My wife had a brother who lived in Paris, Texas. After spending a total of 27 years in San Antonio, we moved to Paris for three years. We ended up buying some property out on Hwy 64 in Canton and have lived here for the past 20 years. We have some goats and we like to garden.
My biggest regret in life is I wished I had never taken up smoking. Having this oxygen tank is a direct result of 35 years of smoking,” said Bob looking down at the green oxygen cannister by his side.
“I would love to go back to Berlin. When we were there it was right after the wall had gone up. I would like to see what it is like compared to what we saw when stationed there. When that wall came down it was very exciting to watch. The security guards, the German shepherds, the razor wire, the gun ports and the separation wall, it was all real for us. I also want to take an Amtrak train and travel thru the Rockies and visit Yellowstone National Park and down thru Salt Lake City. Those two items would be on my bucket list.”
“I had a good life, a good job and a good retirement. Everything we did, we enjoyed. We did it together,” said Bob smiling at his wife seated across from him.
Bob, you were good at your job and we are glad you were good at it. Millions of people were made safe because of your efforts and dedication to our country in the U.S. Air Force. Thank you for your service.
NOTE: Meet other Veterans from Van Zandt County by going to the top of this page and click on MEET OUR VETERANS and click one of the (5) branches of services and the veterans last name first and click to read.
“Every Veteran has a story to tell.” Phil Smith
GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
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Jon Borth says
Proud of ya Grandpa! Some great history here. 🙂
-Jon Borth, MSgt, 129th RQW