SR-71 pilot recalls when a Blackbird buzzed Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp after protest women threw paint on that very same SR-71

SR-71 pilot recalls when a Blackbird buzzed Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp after protest women threw paint on that very same SR-71

By Linda Sheffield Miller
Dec 16 2023
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RAF Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp

In 1981 a group of women, angered by the decision to site cruise missiles (guided nuclear missiles) in the UK, organised a protest march from Cardiff, Wales to RAF Greenham Common near Newbury in Berkshire. Here they set up what became known as the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp.

SR-71 T-Shirts
CLICK HERE to see The Aviation Geek Club contributor Linda Sheffield’s T-shirt designs! Linda has a personal relationship with the SR-71 because her father Butch Sheffield flew the Blackbird from test flight in 1965 until 1973. Butch’s Granddaughter’s Lisa Burroughs and Susan Miller are graphic designers. They designed most of the merchandise that is for sale on Threadless. A percentage of the profits go to Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base. This nonprofit charity is personal to the Sheffield family because they are raising money to house SR-71, #955. This was the first Blackbird that Butch Sheffield flew on Oct. 4, 1965.

According to Imperial War Museum, between 1981 and 1983 the protesters attempted to disrupt construction work at the base. Their methods included blockading the base and cutting down parts of the fence. In December 1982 more than 30,000 women gathered at Greenham to join hands around the base at the ‘Embrace the Base’ event.

SR-71 Blackbird at 1983 IAT at RAF Greenham Common

International Air Tattoo (IAT) 1983 was also held at RAF Greenham Common.

Posted by SR-71 pilot BC Thomas on his YouTube channel, the video in this post shows a Blackbird (flown by Thomas himself with John G. Morgan as RSO) arriving at Greenham Common for the 1983 International Air Tattoo.

Thomas recalls in the video description;

‘I was the pilot in this video, but did not fly the SR-71 out of RAF Greehnam Common. I was the “mobile control” officer when the aircraft departed and the pilot was Maj Jim Jiggens, a USAF Thunderbird pilot and formally a US Army helicopter combat pilot in Vietnam.

Protest women throws paint on SR-71 Blackbird

‘On the evening of the air show featured in this video, women, who were protesting President Reagan’s decision to station intermediate nuclear missiles in England, broke into the security cordon around the air show aircraft and threw paint on several, including this SR-71.

‘Owing to the unique metals associated with the SR-71, the removing of the paint required special maintenance procedures to assure that no “hot spot” would develop on subsequent flights. It was quite a hassle and we were not amused over this incident. Jim and I planned a farewell departure for the protesters who were encamped in a squalor of tents just outside the main gate.

SR-71 Blackbird noise on the protesters at RAF Greenham Common

‘Jim obtained clearance for a “closed pattern” and turned to a downwind leg, descended to about 50 feet above the ground, and flew directly over the protestors’ encampment. It was early and probably most were asleep, but not for long. Jim was flying about 250 knots and selected afterburner in both engines as he was approaching the tents. As the SR-71 accelerated to 350-400 knots, he pulled up and focused the plume (and noise) directly on the protesters. It was a magnificent sight.’

SR-71 pilot recalls when a Blackbird buzzed Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp after protest women threw paint on that very same SR-71
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. SR-71A Blackbird 61-7972 “Skunkworks”

Thomas concludes;

‘As we were leaving the base immediately after Jim’s departure, the gate guard (British) said to me: “I say, that was a jolly good show, but next time, please warn me before you do it.” I also had the honor to prefer charges against the women, but the British government later declined to prosecute.’

Greenham Common today

In 1987 US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which paved the way for the removal of cruise missiles from Greenham.

Today Greenham no longer belongs to the military. Part of it is a business park and the rest is common land.

Be sure to check out Linda Sheffield Miller (Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) Twitter Page Habubrats SR-71 and Facebook Page Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.

Photo credit: Mike Freer – Touchdown-aviation via Wikipedia

SR-71 pilot recalls when a Blackbird buzzed Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp after protest women threw paint on that very same SR-71
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

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Linda Sheffield Miller

Linda Sheffield Miller

Grew up at Beale Air Force Base, California. I am a Habubrat. Graduated from North Dakota State University. Former Public School Substitute Teacher, (all subjects all grades). Member of the DAR (Daughters of the Revolutionary War). I am interested in History, especially the history of SR-71. Married, Mother of three wonderful daughters and four extremely handsome grandsons. I live near Washington, DC.

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