The story of the first SR-71 crew to deploy a Blackbird in Japan that landed at Kadena two hours before the take off from Beale beating the sun

The story of the first SR-71 crew to deploy a Blackbird in Japan that landed at Kadena two hours before the take off from Beale beating the sun

By Linda Sheffield Miller
Nov 21 2021
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On Mar. 8 1968 Lieutenant Colonel Buddy Brown and RSO Major Dave Jensen flew the very first SR-71 Blackbird (#978) out of the US to Kadena Air Force Base, Japan.

On Mar. 8 1968 Lieutenant Colonel Buddy Brown and RSO Major Dave Jensen flew the very first SR-71 Blackbird (#978) out of the US to Kadena Air Base, Japan also known as the OL (operational location).

Buddy came from the U-2 program to the SR-71 and he had many risky adventures. He was picked for this honor because he was the chief of Standardization during this time.

Buddy and Dave experienced quite a few problems with the SR-71 as the airplane was not used to the weather in the tropics. The following story is an excerpt taken from Buddy Brown memoirs.

‘The first leg of the first flight of the SR-71 across the Pacific was to Hawaii. And then on to Kadena it took five hours. When I flew the U-2 on this same flight it took five days (that included resting). Speed is good! On the third leg of the flight we encountered another small problem, my left generation went off-line and I couldn’t reset it. This was a NO-GO situation which means I should land as soon as practical… my decision was to continue on because we were only 1000 miles (less than 30 minutes) from Kadena. At this time on the high frequency radio using our code at callsign I contacted mama [Kadena’s Command post] and informed them ‘’I was lost, but was making good time’’ [because despite the problem, Buddy’s SR-71 was flying REALLY fast].

The story of the first SR-71 crew to deploy a Blackbird in Japan that landed at Kadena two hours before the take off from Beale beating the sun
Buddy Brown and Dave Jensen in front of an SR-71 Blackbird Mach 3 spy plane

‘We landed at Kadena with no further problems.

‘We took off from Beale at 11:00 AM and arrived at Kadena at 9:00 AM, two hours before we took off from Beale we beat the Sun!

‘For the first few weeks we would be using the hangars next to the CIA hangars that’s where the A-12’s were. A couple of the CIA pilots briefed us on the missions they were flying, what to expect when flying some of our missions. They were very helpful. Kadena was one of the major US strongholds of the far east. Since I had flown the U-2 a few years before out of Kadena I was very familiar with the Far East.

‘Dave and I had over a week to target study the route of flight and survival techniques in case we were shot down, refueling emergency recovery HF procedures. Dave and I were planning to fly the first mission operational.

‘My back up crew was Jerry O’Malley and Ed Payne, they were briefed on the mission also.

SR-71 print
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‘The following day March 21, 1968 the routine was normal during our taxi out at the end of the runway for the engine run up and trim [but] the ANS system froze on us. This of course was a NO-GO situation which caused us to abort the mission.

‘Our back up crew, O’Malley and Payne, they flew the first operational Sortie in aircraft # 976.’

This is just a small part of Buddy Brown’s memoirs. Stay tuned for future episodes.

Thank you to Lori Hudson Puente for sending me the memoir and thank you to the Brown family for sending it to Lori.

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

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird model
This model is available in multiple sizes 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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