Dr. Sartor approached me with the idea of making something to commemorate her father’s service in the United States Air Force. After discussing his career, primarily as a C130 pilot, we concluded that a folder would be the best thing. She liked the blade shape because it resembled half of a pilot’s wings. I went with that shape, adding some sculpted lines to further enhance it and built the rest of the knife around that blade shape. My techno-art style seemed to fit with various elements such as the handle overlays resembling a pilot’s neck scarf from the open cockpit days. I added a raised tail spacer in aluminum to symbolize the vertical stabilizer on an airplane. Dr. Sartor asked for a view of the sky from inside the C130’s cockpit for the presentation side. His name and rank and years of service on the reverse. She also liked the image of the old Universal Pictures airplane circling the globe and a C130 circling the globe was added. Brian Powley was commissioned to engrave this. I filled him in on the man’s story and ultimately he came up with a flight of C130s coming in to resupply some unit in the field with the lead ship banking toward a landing approach. The brown leather pouch by NB Designs rounded out the concept by causing one to think of the brown leather flight jackets of old. It was an honor to be a part of this veteran’s legacy. Story and pictures follow.
Here is Lt Col King’s story as told by his daughter:
“My dad enlisted in the USAF in 1955 at age 17 in his home town of Atlanta, GA. After basic training, he was stationed at Lowry AFB in Denver as an electronics instructor in the guided missile program. He started Officer Candidate School in 1959 and was commissioned as a second Lieutenant in 1960. Pilot training was in Spence AFB, and then he received his wings at Williams AFB in 1961. Since he graduated #3 in his class, he got his choice of the Super Constellation in Charleston AFB, SC. This wing transitioned to C-130s, and he flew as a globally qualified aircraft commander until October 1965 when he was assigned to Viet Nam.
In early 1966, he volunteered to fly in Operation Ranch Hand, spraying Agent Orange. They flew at 150 feet above terrain and 130 knots airspeed so the formations took a great deal of ground fire. He was slightly wounded in August and severely in late September when they took a 20mm shell in the windshield. He almost lost his left eye and his face and arms were filled with glass and shrapnel. His copilot was “green” and highly excited, so Dad flew to Da Nang and landed. When the medtechs helped Dad off the plane, he must have looked pretty bad since one of them threw up. He still has shrapnel in his face and arm.
He was med evaced to Travis AFB, CA then to Wilford Hall USAF Hospital in San Antonio. We were still in Charleston, so Dad expected to be sent to the Navy hospital there. The Air Force said no, so Dad went to the basement, got his clothes (the same ones he had been wearing when he was wounded), called a taxi to take him to the bus station, and rode the bus to us in Charleston. Since he was technically AWOL, he checked in at the Navy hospital where the commander told him they had been looking for him. The commander then surprised Dad by handing over a sheaf of orders dated the day he went AWOL transferring him to the Charleston Navy Hospital for treatment. We kids didn’t know Dad was home. He showed up at my school at the end of the day on a motorcycle wearing an eye patch, a large mustache, and about 30lbs lighter than I remembered him. I rode home on the back of that motorcycle with my arms around my Dad.
He was awarded 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 2 Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star and Palms, and various campaign medals.
Dad returned to flying status about 103 days after he was wounded and we moved to Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, TX where he was an instructor flying T-37s. His next assignment was as the T-37 Operations Officer in the initial cadre to open an additional Pilot Training Base in Columbus, MS. Following a year of success for the mission, he was assigned as the Director of the Data Systems Division at ATC Hqs, Randolph AFB in San Antonio. While we were stationed here, Dad was able to complete his degree at Texas Lutheran College in Business and Studio Art. He also managed to remain in San Antonio all of my high school years. As my graduating class’ gift to my high school, Dad sculpted (and I helped) a 1000 lbs. sheet bronze bust of Theodore Roosevelt. Dad and my friends and I rented a cherry picker and got to mount it to the front of the school where it remains today.
Next it was to Omaha NE for my Dad, his least favorite assignment, then to Dyess AFB in Abilene, TX, his last assignment, again flying C-130s globally. Dad retired as a LtCol with a bit more than 23.5 years of service.
Dad flew all over the world in both “Connies” and C-130s. He was selected for Operation Deep Freeze in 1964 and flew resupply missions from Christchurch NZ to McMurdo Sound Antarctica. He tells about how beautiful the Southern Cross is at night south of the equator. He tells the story of a very long Christmas Eve 1964 flight from Hickam AFB, HI bound for Clark AFB in the Philippines. Just past the equal time point he lost an engine but had to continue while descending to 23000 feet. The clock passed midnight for that time zone and it was Christmas. There was a long line of storms across the route, but no choice except to pick the best way through by radar. As they entered the line, they lost a second engine. A second “Mayday” went out, and Air Force rescue dispatched from Midway Island to try and intercept. Dad’s crew opened the back ramp, ran the cargo jettison checklist, and they continued to descend. About 50 minutes into “Christmas”, they crossed the International Date Line, so it was December 26. The Air Rescue SA63 intercepted them about an hour out of Midway and escorted them in to one of his worst landings ever.
Dad certainly has led an eventful life, and I wanted to honor that life with a knife from David. I think it turned out very well.”
Tammy Sartor, proud daughter of Richard E. King, LtCol (Ret), USAF