Lee Hodge, Strategic Air Command

Lee Hodge, Strategic Air Command
Lee Hodge, Strategic Air Command

Tell me about your experience in the armed forces.

I served in the Airforce from 1954 to 1974. I was a ground radio operator. Stateside I worked air ground traffic talking to airplanes. Overseas in Vietnam I was in SAC. I worked U2s (Lockheed U-2. A single jet engine aircraft).

I’m going to have to stop you there. I have no idea what a SAC is, and it sounded like to me you said YouTube and I know you didn’t say that.

SAC stands for Strategic Air Command in the Airforce. They handle all the bombers. U2 is a spy aircraft. When we were in Vietnam, we worked U2s and other so-called spy aircrafts, drones, and stuff like that. SAC has two bases there, so we handled the traffic between the two bases. While I was in SAC, I was assigned to downtown Paris because SAC had planes that went to the Paris air show. I was in Bermuda twice. I was in Fairbanks Alaska. I decided that if I ever did 10 years, I was going to go the whole nine yards and enlist for 20 to get the retirement. After Bermuda, I was assigned to SAC headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. When I went to Bermuda the second time, the SAC squadron deactivated. I received my pay every payday, but they didn’t have any place to send me.

Did the Tuskegee Airmen pave the way or impact your experience in the military?

In most cases when people bring up the Tuskegee airmen, most people think about the flyers. Tuskegee airmen also had maintenance crews that were black. Knowing what I know about the Airforce, they had to have more than a few maintenance guys and other support people. We know the Tuskegee airmen had a remarkable record because white pilots were requesting them for escort.  They are something that blacks in the Airforce can be proud of because they set the standard.

Back then overseas we were one big knit family. The same guy that lived next door to you overseas, probably wouldn’t live next door to you when you come back to the states.

Anything else?

I entered at a time where it had just become Airforce and it just left the army.

I wasn’t born in the continental United States. I was born in the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands had to sue the US government in order to participate in the service. It didn’t affect me because I left when I was eight years old. Gaum and Marianas were the same thing.