U-2 Vs SR-71: former USAF Avionics Technician explains why the Dragon Lady still flies spy missions while the Blackbird had been retired

SR-71 pilot recalls when he and his RSO stole the jar with testicles of the (passed away) mascot of U-2 pilots and flew it at Mach 3+ (U-2 crews were proud of having flown the mascot’s testicles at 70,000 feet)

By Dario Leone
Jul 3 2023
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‘Since the U-2 guys were so proud that they had taken “Oscar” flying in the “Dragon Lady,” we put a label on the jar that read, “Oscar’s Balls—flown Mach 3+ in an SR-71.”’ Tom Alison, SR-71 Blackbird pilot.

Frags (from the Vietnam War-era term of “fragging,” or “frags” for short, to indicate a practical joke) were part of SR-71 Blackbird crew members (or Habus)’ traditions.

Former Blackbird pilot Richard H. Graham recalls a very special frag that took place at Kadena Air Base (AB), Okinawa, Japan, home of Sr-71 Det. 1.

He explains in his book SR-71 Revealed The Inside Story:

‘Habus once fragged the 9th SRW/Det 2, our sister U-2 detachment located at Osan, Korea. Det 2 crews and personnel were known as the “Blackcats” and wore a U-2 patch depicting a black cat. They also had a Det 2 mascot, a black male cat called, Oscar. For Oscar to be the true Det mascot they flew him on a U-2 mission in one of the empty mission bays. After the flight he became crazed and was never the same again. They decided to have Oscar castrated to see if that would calm him down. At the Det’s request, the vet saved Oscar’s testicles, where they were proudly displayed in a glass jar in Operations for all to see. The inscription on the out-side of the jar read, “Oscar’s Balls—flown over 70,000 feet in a U-2.”’

60-year-old U-2

Colonel Tom Alison describes what happened next.

‘The frag of Det 2 concerning “Oscar’s Balls” occurred in early December, 1978, and JT [JT Vida was Alison’s RSO] and I were the crew involved. It was the only time we ever had to divert/land away on a GIANT SCALE mission and occurred on a night sortie over the DMZ when we had a generator failure. We only had two land aways in over 120 operational sorties and six years (speaks highly of the jet). We diverted into Osan AB, Korea, at night, and the folks at Det 2 were extremely helpful in getting us settled.

‘The recovery team arrived the next morning, and the fairly routine generator replacement was accomplished, and everything looked good for an early morning departure the next day, which was a Saturday. JT and I had decided that, if at all possible, a frag was in order and had talked about what would be appropriate. The Det 2 Commander at the time was Lt. Col. Doyle Krumery. He had a large beautiful desk in his office that he was very proud of. With the help of a couple of crew chiefs, we entered the Det offices later that night and very carefully moved the prized desk into a shower stall in the PSD area. Not a scratch… we were very proud of ourselves!

In 1971 an SR-71 crew flew 15,000 miles, in 10 hours 30 minutes non-stop, in full continuous AB to see how many times the Blackbird could refuel before the liquid nitrogen gave out

‘On the way out of the Det we spied the jar with “Oscar’s Balls” prominently displayed in the operations area. It was perfect. JT put the jar in a helmet bag and stowed it in the rear cockpit early the next morning. Since it was a Saturday and no Det 2 flying was scheduled, all the U-2 people slept in and no one had gotten to the Det to discover the jar with Oscar’s balls was missing. All the way through engine start, taxi, and takeoff we expected to hear a radio call to come back immediately until the missing items were found. As it turned out, the desk in the shower caused so much of an uproar that Oscar was overlooked. I think our maintenance people even got loaded on the tanker and headed back to Kadena before the “the real frag” was discovered.

‘On our way back to Kadena, which was a “hot” flight, we decided how we were going to put the finishing touches on our frag. When we arrived back at Det 1, we got together with Chuck Weithoff the SAS/autopilot technical representative, and a good friend. He fried two chicken hearts until they were just two little black, hard things, and then we took a needle and some dark thread and wove a short strand between the fried chicken hearts. It was rather easy to get another jar that was the same as the one that held the precious cargo. After filling the jar with water (I don’t know what was in the jar with “Oscar’s Balls”—we never had the courage to actually open the jar) we added the chicken hearts. It was amazing how they looked exactly like the original except they were burned black! Since the U-2 guys were so proud that they had taken “Oscar” flying in the “Dragon Lady,” we put a label on the jar that read, “Oscar’s Balls—flown Mach 3+ in an SR-71.”

SR-71 print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. SR-71A Blackbird 61-7972 “Skunkworks”

‘We then, appearing as contrite as we could, had the jar returned to Det 2 with our profound apologies because, we said, the jar had been stored in an aircraft bay that had gotten hot on the trip back to Kadena and “Oscar’s Balls” had been fried! JT and I returned to Beale before the reaction traveled back to Det 1; however, knowing Doyle Krumery’s explosive nature, it wasn’t hard to imagine the conversation between him and the Det 1 commander, Lt. Col. Bob Cunningham.’

Alison concludes;

‘Later, the real “Oscar’s Balls” were returned to Det 2. However, the U-2 pilots vowed they would get even. Sometime later, when one of them was at Kadena they took from the Det 1 office a jar containing a Habu snake. They thought they had purloined a Det 1 prize. We had to tell them, that we had numerous jars with Habus in them and they could keep it if they wanted!’

CLICK HERE to buy Richard H. Graham’s book SR-71 Revealed The Inside Story

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird model
This model is available in multiple sizes from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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