DICK AND DOT ROUSSELL
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MAJ. RICHARD "DICK" ROUSSELL.
As a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force, I flew 309 F-100
combat missions in Vietnam for which I was awarded the Distinguished Flying
Cross and the Air Medal with 10 Oak Leaf Clusters. Prior to that I participated
in a project in Nevada that to this day does not officially exist. To appreciate
where I've been and things I've done, you need to know about me from the start.
I was born an only child to a poor couple on July 23rd, 1930,
delivered by a mid-wife. Both my mom and dad were out hustling through rough
times brought on by the depression. My grandfather on my mom's side had a sugar
cane plantation and my grandfather on my father's side was a genuine
'blacksmith"-- a good one!
My mom worked as a clerk in a nickel and dime store (F W
Woolworth) and dad had one truck. To earn a living, he purchased bulk farm
produce from various small farmers and used this truck to deliver the produce to
the open-air French market in New Orleans. My godfather and his dad had a couple
stalls where they allowed my dad park the truck and sell to the general public
from the back of it. That market is still in full swing today.
By the time I reached the age of about one or maybe a little older, my mom
depended on my grandparents to take care of me at their plantation while she and
dad were at work. This continued until my dad's business had grown somewhat
and he decided to get more trucks and drivers. In 1934, my dad
built a home in a small town about 35 miles out from New Orleans (Lockport) so
he could have enough area to park his vehicles. He darn near went out of
business when one of his drivers wrecked his best
truck. He fixed the truck that was wrecked and at my grandfather's
blacksmith shop and built a trailer to haul other produce from a huge farm not
too far from our home. The farm (Clovelly farms) was owned by a British family (Skully),
and through a very close friend of our family, my dad was given the contract for
hauling all of their produce which included red Irish potatoes, bales of cotton,
and cotton seed.
The word got out that my dad was a good man to do business
with so before he knew it, others were interested in his hauling various
things to market including cattle. of course, he was obligated to haul sugar
cane to the mill for my grandfather.
At age 5, my mother wanted me to learn music. She found a music
teacher, and based on recommendations from the teacher, she bought me a
trumpet to learn to play. I started parochial school at age 6 and played in a
small school band where my teacher was also our band leader.
My mom and dad were getting interested in my music and would
take me to various amateur contests primarily in New Orleans. The one that
comes to mind is the Lafayette Theatre on Baronne Street where each Friday
night an amateur night was held with a small cash prize awarded to the winners
(1st, 2nd and 3rd place). The first place award was something like $3.25 on
down to the others...My folks were hoping that I
would someday qualify for "Major Bowles amateur hour"
on radio, but it never happened. Then, my dad and a neighbor of ours, whose
daughter was approximately the same age, got together with the music teacher
and decided to check the feasibility of forming a "big band". We got
our act together and before you know it, a 10-piece big band was formed and
the "Star Serenaders" were all practicing and learning different
tunes (fast, foxtrot and waltzes). Then, about 1937, we were
hired out to play in dance halls, night clubs, etc. The pay per
player was not too great, $4 to $6 each dependent on age, family status, and
expenses by vehicles to haul the instruments. Fortunately, my father had a
good ear for music and he was also hired to play the base fiddle. I had no
expenses, so I pleaded with my parents to allow me to buy a two-wheeled
bicycle and they refused, then a Red Ryder BB rifle and they refused, then to
have my own puppy. Finally they gave in on the puppy, though "Teddy"
had to remain outdoors. The poor little guy was loaded with fleas, so my
mother said "no way" to his entering the house.
I really got one of my aunts and my uncle in trouble when I
saved enough money to
order a bicycle with all sorts of accessories from the sears
catalog for $26.95. I gave her the money and she ordered it for me. When it
arrived, my uncle and I put it together and I then pushed it to our house. My
mom came unglued, so I told her it could not be returned. She gave in and
allowed me to keep it.
The same happened with my BB gun--I bought it the same way and
was allowed to keep it and still have it to this day. Along the way, I felt
that I should have a better trumpet, so I asked the teacher to assist me in
choosing one. He told me what the famous brand manufactured horns were: King,
Buescher, Selma and Conn. I selected the airflow model by Conn and still have
it today. The teacher gave me terms and I paid for the horn out of my
savings--$135.00 was a lot of money, but I did it anyway. We traveled all over
south Louisiana playing music through the war. Rationed gasoline and tires
hurt us badly, but we were able to cope.
There were A, B and C stamps handed out, but a dance band did not qualify for
any of them. My mom had an "A" stamp for her car, but my dad had
"C" stamps for his trucks. Dad managed to siphon some gas from the
trucks and got by that way, but, again, it was tough. The teacher became ill
and we had to stop playing. I continued with my schooling and graduated from
high school on May 28, 1947. Five of us then got together and formed a 5-piece
combo to make some extra money for the summer as I awaited enrollment at
Louisiana State University.
After my first year pursuing pre-med, I recognized that it would not work
because I could not stand the sight of blood and continue to stay standing. I
would feel faint right away. Then, I changed to an engineering major. LSU was
a "land grant" school, so I was forced to enroll in Army ROTC for
the first two years. The second two years was an option. I took US Army ROTC
for the first two years and opted to enroll in US Air Force ROTC for junior
and senior years.
Operation Left Hook was an historical event in my Air Force career because
of my, during the exercise, being seated next to Maj. Gen. John P. McConnell,
SAC Deputy Commander of Plans during a special dinner one evening at SAC
Headquarters, Offutt AFB, Nebraska. General McConnell was special to me since
he was raised in Arkansas neighboring my home state. The commander of Second
Air Force, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, General McConnell, advanced to 4 stars
and served as Air Force Chief of Staff. Another extended mission in which I
participated while in SAC was "Operation Oil Burner." Colonel
Graham, who later retired as a 3-star general, led a series of F-84F jet
aircraft on missions which demonstrated that nonstop air refueled, and night
long-range deployments in fighter aircraft were practical. Our operation was
tasked with obtaining a cross section of oil consumption of the J-65 jet
engine equipped F-84F over extended use. In 1958 I participated in the first
nonstop deployment of F-100 aircraft from the United States to Europe, flying
non-stop from Myrtle Beach AFB, S.C. to Nouasseur, North Africa.
After transferring from SAC to TAC and the F-100 aircraft, my squadron was
tasked with practicing air-to-air night refueling on the KB-50. Bill Rippy,
another pilot in my squadron, and I coordinated everything for the practice
and between the two of us were able to develop the procedure used thereafter
by all F-100 pilots using the "probe and drogue system". Learning
the night time procedure really helped us in becoming more proficient during
the day-light hours. We had had lots and lots of training in the field of air
refueling with the KC-97 tankers out of Hunter AFB, Georgia, which was an
entirely different method. After that I had a month of TDY to AUX Field 6 at
Eglin AFB for gunnery training, both air-to-air and air-to-surface.
Later, the strategic air command of which we were a part of upgraded us to
the republic F-84F (a swept wing model). More of the same training at Aux
Field 6, Eglin and to Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico for gunnery training. There, you
can believe me, we were well trained to do the assigned mission. Shortly after
my arrival at turner in 1953, I met Dorothy Faircloth, a Georgia girl, a
registered nurse. We fell in love and married on October 17, 1953.
The chase planes were F-101 (Voodoos) and I was sent back to Shaw AFB,
South Carolina to learn the ground school and check out in the airplane. On my
return, I was then qualified to do the assigned chases, etc. Lockheed test
pilots, CIA civilian pilots, and a couple of Air Force pilots flew the A-12.