While the usage of a spy plane by NATO allied pilots looked extraordinaire and completely out of the question, especially of a nimble airplane flying at high altitudes in the fragile U-2(A) at 70000 feet, such an article about the training of RAF pilots had appeared in Aeroplane Monthly magazine on August 1995 reversing any second thoughts on the contrary. “The UK and the U-2” by Paul Lashmar referred to training, type rating, and in overflights by British pilots with experience on RAF Canberras from similar missions. All of them were QFI/Instrument Instructors less than 30 years of age, single, of excellent health, and very keen on Air Navigation. These were Squadron Leaders Christopher Walker and Robert Robinson and Flight Leutenats Michael Bradley, David Dowling, and John McArthur. They were sent for training in 1958 at Laughlin AFB at Del Rio. They weren't the only ones as five U–2A/U-2C were transferred to Taiwan in the early 1960s when their RΒ-26C were retired. All in all three classes of ROCAF pilots passed from Laughlin during 1959-60. The ROCAF U-2 was supplemented by RF-104G at a later stage. By no means the two different pilot groups crossed each other's paths during their stay in the US, so the program of allied pilots remained TOP SECRET even to them. But were they the only allied non-US pilots to ever be assigned on U-2s?
GREEK PILOTS IN THE US
There were 3 significant leads that linked the Greeks early into the U-2 program and made this happen, all documented and well connected:
As World War II ended in most parts of Europe, bringing peace and prosperity, this was unlike the case with Greece, as a new series of fraternal bloodshed was carried on. It is apparent to say that the Greek-communist groups received plenty of help from the neighboring European countries in the northern borders that were slowly adhering to the communist Block and eventually led them to form the Warsaw Pact. This war was evidently known as the Greek Civil war that lasted until September 1949! Thus the Greek civil war conflict paved the way for the post-war friction in Europe between the two superpowers. Until that time the original equipment in Greece was Spitfire Mk.IX, LF, and HF models handed over to RHAF by the British aid to Greece on May 30th, 1947. Two Squadrons, 335 & 336 in which “Free Greeks” in exile were formed in North Africa with Hurricanes at that time, as they were most available carried on the fight against Luftwaffe. These Squadrons were supplemented with Spitfire Vb and Vc. of No.337 Squadron which was formed in Eleusis airbase on 30 April 1948 with Spitfire Mk.IX. Additional Spitfires were given in the form of late mark Spitfire Mk.XVI. Among them were a few PR versions as well as two converted Mk.IX, and two PR.XI. All of the above received plenty of action and weathering during the ensuing civil war that erupted between Greek communist forces and the Hellenic Armed forces, after the German retreat from Greece in 1944-45. As British aid in the form of Mk.XVI was pulling out, the Officer in Charge of the American Mission to AMAG/Air, was ex-Eagle No.121 Squadron Spitfire Vb/c ace pilot Lt. Col. Selden R. Edner from San Jose, California serving as Air Attache. AMAG provided the necessary bureaucratic connections so that RHAF could receive 40 ex-USN SB2C-5 Helldivers, being the first US-built airplanes entering service in RHAF. Meanwhile, Sel Edner was killed in action during a recce flight, as sadly felt under fire around Karpenisi. He was shot down flying as an observer with an RHAF T-6 on January 21, 1949. This was the initial postwar USN- RHAF co-operation. So in August 1949 336 “Olympos” Squadron received these 43 ex-USN Helldiver SB2C-5 models that literally pondered Grammos and Vitsi mountains at northern Greece with their bombs and accuracy, that eliminated any pockets of resistance. With this final act, RHAF brought this conflict to an end. Lt. Col. Selden Edner was an "ace" flying with the "Eagle" Squadrons with the RAF and later on with USAAF, as 336 FS C.O and 4th FG Operations Officer with the elite USAAF Squadrons confronting Germany’s Luftwaffe fighter pilot aces during the fiercest dogfights of World War II and his sacrifice during the Greek civil just war didn't go unnoticed. A new Air advisor in AMAG had come into place in Athens in 1950. He was no other than Lt. Col. Leo Geary, as Chief of the A-1 Division, Air Force Section of Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, Greece, and later on deputy Commander of 1191st Squadron in Greece.
Above: From March 1943 to May 1954, General Geary had many varied assignments, including overseas duty during World War II as B-24 pilot with the 449th Bombardment Group, Italy, and chief, A-1 Division, Air Force Section of Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, Greece, and later deputy commander, 1191st Squadron, Greece. In May 1954 General Geary was assigned to deputy chief of staff, operations, Directorate of Plans, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, where he served as an intelligence staff officer, Special Projects Branch, Psychological Warfare Division; and chief, Special Activity Branch, Subsidiary Plans Division. From June 1955 to September 1965, General Leo Geary was assigned as a special staff officer and special assistant to the inspector general for special projects, Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Air Force. Geary was tasked to find foreign pilots to fly the U-2 and believed strongly in the RHAF personnel abilities. He was the one who asked for the Greek participation in U-2 flights. (USAF)
Middle Left: In 1949 Lt. Col Edner was an "Air Attache" to Greece. At the time Greece was involved in a Civil War with communist guerrillas. While flying in the back seat as an observer in a Greek AT-6 reconnaissance plane, the aircraft was shot down by guerrilla AA fire near Karpenision, Greece. The pilot, Lieutenant Panayiotis Tsoukas was killed and Lt. Col Edner was injured in the crash landing. All evidence indicates that he was hanged by the enemy and brutally mutilated. Edner's action paved the way for the RHAF to be equipped with ex-USN Helldivers, some of which were used as photo-recee airplanes. (http://www.4thfightergroupassociation.org/)
Middle Right: Lt Colonel Rufus E. Barnes Jr is thought to be the youngest Army Air Corps fighter pilot in the Pacific during his combat tour in WW2. Some 20 years later he volunteered to fly combat missions in the Vietnam Conflict. In the course of his 30 year USAF career, he flew over 50 different aircraft in a variety of flying assignments all over the world before retiring in 1972 with over 10,000 Military flight hours. He was the Commander of the Hellenicon Airfield American Detachment which supported special RB-26s flying ELINT missions from Greece during the early 50s. (Shirley Saltarelli)
Both Below: Before the jet era RHAF reconnaissance duties were carried by a handful of PR Spitfires and some Helldivers with modifications to carry cameras which were in use until 1957. Such examples can be seen in these two photos. Note the overspray Greek roundel above the RAF roundel as well as the F.24 camera behind the pilot as well as the open hatches behind the bomb bay doors on the Helldiver, which housed the camera. (MISPA Archive via Kirk Paloulian)
As Greece was recovering from damages inflicted by the Civil war and restructure and modernization of RHAF was imminent, part of the AMAG organized the dispatch of two classes of cadet pilots to the US in 1949. After their graduation from Basic training and I/r at Randolph, logging some 250 flight hours on T-6 Texans, the Greek cadets were shipped to Nellis, close to Las Vegas, Nevada. From November 15, 1949, the Advanced and Single Engine training started utilizing F-51D, TF-51D, including aerobatics and cross-country flights from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno airports. The combat-ready stage was achieved in 7 months as pilots flew the F-51D logging 60-70 flight hours each. That is where Combat Training Unit was for USAF as since 1949 "Gunnery meet" and "Gunsmoke" exercises evolved. Amongst the Greeks, there was an attached Greek Flight Instructor as a tutor. Flt. Lt. Marinos Skliris, a pilot with an extensive background who flew in the Albanian front in 1940-41 as a sergeant pilot, and later Hurricanes, Spitfires in North Africa, was checked out on P-51D Mustangs at Nellis AFB. During his time there he mingled with Greek-American USAF pilots who were posted to Nellis in order to gap any language barrier. He came to meet USAF bomber pilot Demetrios Karnezis a former B-17 Captain and Major Solon Mamalis, a P-47C/D fighter pilot (both flying over occupied Europe), and finally Captain Nicholas Xenakis. Except those, he flew multi-engine aircraft like the B-25 with Boutselis and Major Geary on April 1950, who would soon join AMAG. This co-operation lasted way beyond the dispatch of Greek cadets just for Advanced Flight training in USAF. Among the ideas provided by AMAG/AIR to the Chief of the Air Staff General Kelaidis, was the establishment of a Reserve Officer Pilot School (Ekpaideutiko Kentro Efedron Heiriston) to augment the number of Academy pilots needed to fill in the entry of newer jets. During 1952 USAF Instructor pilots led by Greek-American USAF Instructor Pilot Solon Mamalis taught the Spitfire pilots of 337 Squadron how to master the jets. The T-33A entered RHAF when two models arrived in Elefsina airbase in September 1951. Major Solon Mamalis was amongst the team of USAF IPs that took part in the T-33/F-84G jet transition of 337 Squadron. Somewhere in the middle of 1953 started the major regrouping of RHAF Squadrons and aircrew under the influx of the new jet, the T-33A Shooting Star. The introduction of the F-84G found some machines underway for the 348th and four F-84G were converted on-site to carry a photo-camera on their left wingtip. Selecting Spitfire pilots from 335th Fighter Squadron and SB2C-5 Helldiver aircraft from 336th Bomber Squadron as lead-in trainers in “recce” missions the inauguration of 348th Recce Flight was finally done on August 1953 in 112th Fighter Wing at Eleusis airbase. Greek-American pilots in USAF were a great help in the modernization steps conducted in RHAF, evidenced in the transition training on the F-102A Delta Daggers and the selection of the F-4E Phantom much later on!
Above Right: Aviation Cadets (Ikarus) their USAF Greek American Training Officer, Angelo J. Boutselis. In the front row from left to right are cadets Garyfalakis, Agorastos, and Tsamousopulos. On the second row are Tsasakos, Kiosis, and Alevras far right. In the third row are cadets Paterrakis, Delfos, and Keramianidis while on the last desk Ikaros Tsogas is seated alone. (LIFE Magazine)
Middle Right UP: Aviation Cadet Othon Papadimitriou in classic aviators pose, standing on an F-51D Mustang during his operational training in Nellis in 1949. (Othon Papadimitriou family archive)
Middle Right DN: On September 21, 1951, RHAF received the first jets, specifically two Τ-33Α Shooting Stars (s/n 50-435/TR 435 and 50-434/TR 434) which landed in Elefsis Air Force Base. In this photo, the Commander of JUSMAGG, Greek American Captain, Solon Mamalis introduces Major General Elias Koutsoukos to the 50-435/TR 435 cockpit. Facing the camera is Captain A. Tzavaras who was one of the first RHAF instructors on the Shooting Star and later on the F-86 Sabre. Mamalis was a very experienced fighter pilot who fought with the 9th Air Force over North-West Europe, flying the P-47 Thunderbolt. After the war, he was one of the Greek American pilots chosen to help train young Greek pilots of Class-21B in the United States. While serving in JUSMAGG he helped RHAF to transition from the props to jets. He was one of the USAF Officers who had a good picture regarding the potential of Greek pilots to master the new technology and innovations of the jet age. Later RHAF received the RT-33A recee model, that is to say, a T-33A aircraft with cameras on its modified nose. The new aircraft equipped 348 Tactical Reconnaissance Flight, which, upgraded to Squadron. There are indications that Greek RT-33A frequently entered the borders of their northern neighbors especially Bulgaria. On September 9, 1954, Bulgarian fighter pilot Ilia Elensky intercept and fired upon an unknown intruder, at night. The plane he fired upon crashed in Greek territory. There was no official Greek comment on this, but Greek newspapers published memorials for dead pilots, without connecting their deaths to a specific event. (Ptisi Magazine)
Below Left: Mamalis talks with a Edmond Laitmer after a training sortie on a newly delivered Τ-33Α Shooting Star. (Kiriakos Paloulian via Dimitris Stergiou)
Below Right: A historical photo showing 50-434/TR 434 before an introductory flight for the RHAF Commander, General E. Kelaides with Solon Mamalis as a pilot. From left to right: Major A. Frangias, Captain Solon Mamalis, General E. Kelaides and 112 Elefsis Combat Wing Commander, Colonel C. Katsigiannis. (Kiriakos Paloulian via Dimitris Stergiou)
C. THE UNTOLD STORY OF OVERFLIGHTS WITH F-6D
As Greece entered as an allied element of the NATO organization in 1952 Operational needs for Recce missions in the Balkan region were requested. However, right before that, US forces were present as advisors under the American Military Aid to Greece (AMAG) mission. By a careful look at the 337 Squadron archives, it was evident that RHAF used the RAF tactics in recce missions. With the entry of the USAFE influence, a new recce bird was loaned to RHAF in 1952. Greeks were allocated simpler tasks on Recce missions to take pictures of the infrastructure of the satellite countries to the Soviets in the Balkan region. In due course, during interviews of veteran RHAF pilots, it was discovered that a Recce-Mustang was based in Elefsina airbase, devoid of any markings since 1952. A young at that time Pilot Officer Lyperidis assigned to the 339 Fighter Bomber Squadron on F-84Gs revealed that except the above mentioned silver B-26s with USAF markings "a silver Mustang was stationed right by". Both airplanes belonged to a USAFE/RHAF joint outfit based in Hellenikon (7206th Hellinikon Air Station). The silver B-26 was manned by aircrew of Polish background that had served with the RAF during WWII. Hellenikon airport situated at Athens became since the early ‘50s a major hub for USAFE ELINT operational assets lurking on the shy 5th Soviet flotilla that was moving around in more warm waters, alas transformed Greek territorial waters into a hide and seek playground. Three selected RHAF Spitfire pilots with vast experience in WWII were assigned in the use of the two leased F-6D Mustangs flown out of Elefsina. The ex-Boss of 335 Squadron Flt. Lt. Elias Kartalamakis, and Flt. Lt. Marinos Skliris, Another standby pilot was Flt. Lt. Dimitrios Soufrilas a Hurricane pilot of 335 Squadron who had achieved a kill on a Me.109 during a Combat Air Patrol mission in North Africa, providing air cover to RAF 274 Squadron. The transferred Recce-Mustang was operated with no RHAF markings and only the US civilian FAA markings were visible, so if the pilot had to bail out over unfriendly territory this would be logged as a delivery flight to RHAF with a disoriented pilot that got lost. After his service with the 335 Spitfire Squadron as C.O Sdn. Ldr Kartalamakis states:
"It was 1952 and I had graduated from National War College in Thessaloniki. Marinos Skliris, Dimitrios Soufrilas, and I were selected o fly a Photo-Mustang (F-6D) that arrived from A.M.A.G. (American Military Aid Greece). The missions we would carry out were recce, deep into the iron curtain over Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania. It was a silver Photo-Mustang with a bubble canopy and 2 cameras, one oblique and one vertical. Based at Elefsina and sourced from a U.S.A.F.E. (United States Air Force Europe) airbase in West Germany. For us that had 800- 1000 total time on Spitfires, transition on Mustang was easy. On Spitfire we were hotshots. We read the manual and just like that we flew...was very fast about 350 m.p.h. Mustang was roomy while Spitfire was tight as you could even cut your neck into that. Then the Mustang had a sturdy landing gear with twice the space between the main-wheels of the Spitfire, so that made landings much easier compared to a Spitfire. I was selected due to the excellent report compiled by Lt. Col. Parson (USAF) AMAG during the civil war. Fl. Lt. Dimitrios Soufrilas had experience on PR Spitfires with British Squadrons in North Africa. So these pilots took over the overflights logging some 50 flight hours. Meanwhile, Flt. Lt. Dimitrios Soufrilas was a back-up reserve. These overflights were rather uncommon and took place in a rare fashion. The successful conduct of these overflights until 1955 by the Mustangs handed over to the Greeks and the RT-33A of 348th T.R.S. "Matia" ("Eyes") onwards proved to the USAFE Detachment Commanding Officers that Greek pilots passed the “check-ride” and could be entrusted with such missions further on".
Above: Late Marinos Skliris was a sergeant pilot who flew RHAF Breuget in the Albanian front in 1940-41. He was commissioned as an Officer during his training under the RAF/ME and became later on a Hurricane pilot with 335 Squadron. He took part in the modernization of RHAF as an exchange Instructor pilot in the first in history USAF-RHAF co-operation noted in 1949-50. As of that he became the 1st Mustang rated pilot that RHAF had. This rare picture of him in the RF-51D (F-6D) is the only one that has surfaced of a Mustang in Greece. According to his logbook, Skliris flew three photo-recon missions over Albania during September and October 1952. (Kirk Paloulian archive)
Below All: On 5 April 1948, the jurisdiction for Athenai Airport was assigned to a detachment of the 7907th Air Force Base Unit (USAFE), made up of USAF personnel already stationed at the airfield. This detachment served until 1 July 1948 when it discontinued and jurisdiction over Athenai was transferred from USAFE to MATS, which itself had only recently replaced the Air Transport Command. The 1015th Air Base Squadron (ABS) performed mission activities at Athenai during this time from 1 July to 1 October 1948, followed by the 1632d ABS from 1 October 1948 to 23 November 1949, and Detachment 3 of the 1602d Air Transport Wing after 23 November 1949. The MATS activities continued from Athenai until 1 April 1954. A detachment of the U.S. Military Mission to Greece assumed responsibility for administrative and logistic support to the USAF activities on 1 December 1949. However, on 12 March 1951, upon the establishment of the 1191st Foreign Mission Squadron, these activities became its responsibility. Later, USAFE organized the 7206th ABS, a lineal predecessor of the 7206th Support Group, at Athenai Airport on 1 April 1954. This squadron, a unit of Seventeenth Air Force, took over air operations at Athenai. On 1 July 1954, it assumed administrative and logistic functions from the 1191st Foreign Mission Squadron. By September 1958, the 7206th USAF Dispensary remained the only unit assigned directly to the group. However, numerous organizations, including communications, weather, postal, auditing, special investigations, and air transport were attached to the Group for logistical support. Throughout 1958 and 1959, the Group supported various Air Force combat units. Three photos showing a USAF RB-26 in Hellinicon Airfield. These mainly operated by Poles. According to the author, Franciszek Grabowski: "Polish airmen employed by the OPC arrived to Athens in 1950. They were flying a little bit worn C-47 for missions to Albania. B-26 and C-54 arrived later. Also Polish crews from Wiesbaden flew shuttle missions via Athens. There were no other nationals in Greece in the OPC service but Poles". (All three photos from Paschalis Palavouzis Collection)
The F-51 Mustang was a new breed for the Royal Hellenic Air Force cadets and pilots in general. However except the two RHAF Classes which trained in the US and a large number of Greek Americans who flew it in WW2 and the Korean War, few know that the RHAF actually operated the Mustang in reconnaissance missions over the Iron Curtain which laid on the Northern borders of Greece. Recon F-51s / F6Ds with no markings and Greek pilots frequently made runs over Albanian and Bulgarian targets. This Mustang is the one flown by Skliris according to his logbook entries and carry no markings except the civil registration in its tail, November 787. (Copyright Gaetan Marie)
IN THE BLACK PROJECT
Cold war stories like these sound exciting but the next revelation came directly from HAF General (ret. Elias Kartalamakis was rather fascinating:
"I was summoned by the Air Staff all of a sudden with Skliris. It was around 1954 or 1955. It was inconceivable as we didn't know what was all about. They gave us forms to fill out (flight hours etc, HAF Chief of Staff was Margaritis and we were advised that we were selected by J.U.S.M.A.G. (Joint U.S. Military Assistance Greece) just the two of us to travel to the US so as to receive training on the newest spyplane manufactured by Lockheed, the U–2. We would be sent to some airbase in the US to get training. From there we would be dispatched to West Germany to take part in missions. We waited for a month to travel to the US but in the end, the mission was scrubbed. None should know anything about this".
Obviously, the successful conduct of the overflights previously conducted by recce converted Mustangs led to the decision and the subsequent clearance from the US Administration in order to select a few RHAF Reserve commissioned pilots. The very same retired RHAF Academy graduate F-84F pilot that witnessed the silver Β-26 and Mustang commented that Reserve commissioned pilots were selected as they could be separated from RHAF much easier after their 5-year obligatory commitment to RHAF, unlike a pilot exchange program. The reserve pilots had gone threw an OTU on Mk.XVI Spitfires after Harvard's, T-33 jet orientation course, all done in a year and a half time-frame and were mostly sent to F-84G Squadrons. The reserve officers were selected as they had a 5-year contract only, so they could be separated easier than the academy graduate ones. A lead that ties everything together sources from the book published in 2004 «το Πείραμα και η Δικαίωση» Σχολή Αεροπορίας Τμήμα ΕΚΕΧ. A translation follows from page 126 of this book (An experiment and Exoneration):
"During 1955 approximately 10 pilots exclusively from ΕΚΕΧ went somewhere abroad. Most of them returned in 1958 and followed their career paths alongside their classmates. As they carried along with their duties within the Squadrons they served, it was found out that they had knowledge from types of aircraft that had not been allocated by that time in Europe. Meanwhile, they flew the types allocated to RHAF with great skills. The rest that never returned officially is unknown where they live and if they are still alive. Those that returned never said anything about their classified mission and it was characteristically peculiar that when one of these pilots was killed, here in Greece in 1959, his locker at Squadron level was opened up by the Chief of the Air Staff".
A RHAF Flight surgeon who accompanied about 15 reserve pilots that were sent to (USAFE) for the initial high altitude aeromedical exams and later on became a FAA Aero-medical Examiner Haralampos Giannopoulos, had taken part in the selection medical exams:
"I had graduated in 1954 from the Aero-medical course at ΕΤPS (Empire Test Pilots School) in the UK. Squadron Leader M.Kondolefas had graduated well before me in 1946-47, during a Test pilot training course having flown the first British jets DeHavilland Venom, and Vampire. Excluding this training course, I was the only RHAF Doctor with good command of the English language so I suppose why I was handpicked for this. In the summer of 1955, I think, I was delegated in accompanying a team of 12-15 pilots. All of them were fresh 1st Leutenats having graduated from ΕΚΕH. We departed from Hellenikon airbase in Athens with a 4-engined US transport airplane, a C-54 Skymaster. In fact, we all had awakened since very early in the morning but only managed to take off at noon. We landed at Wiesbaden in West Germany where the USAFE hospital was based. This was the very same building utilized by the old Luftwaffe and was in use by USAFE until a few years ago when it was delegated back to the new Luftwaffe. The medical examinations were very strict and were focused on flights at the higher levels of the atmosphere. Everybody passed them but it was never reported back to us who made it or not. I do recall that only one of the pilots, a Lt. from Thessaloniki knew English at a good level such as I, and the rest didn't seem to know. The program was secret and after some time I learned the mission that they would take part in. They would be attached to a spy Flight and take part in overflights over the Iron Curtain. We returned with the same type of airplane after a few days back in Elefsina. We were told that the selection would be for the high altitude recce Flight- with no type assigned yet- as the U-2 was a classified program yet".
Evidence to this stems from this memo on RB-57:
"An existing Air Force aircraft type (the Canberra) is considered capable of modification to give it a ceiling of around 65,000 feet. At such an altitude now, the expectation that it would be detected is very low indeed, and the possibility that it would be intercepted and shot down is practically nil. The possibility of forced landing in enemy territory exists, but the chances of that are low. The repercussions of its falling into enemy hands can be mitigated if the aircraft should be manned by non-official U.S. personnel. To the extent practicable, we would try to man the aircraft with Poles or other non-U.S. nationals. The aircraft itself, if not completely destroyed, would bear no markings that would clearly identify its origin. (The Canberra itself is nearly identical with its British prototype)".
Above: Elias Kartalamakis ready to enter the cockpit of an F-5A Freedom Fighter for an introductory flight in Italy, while serving in NATO. General Major Elias Kartalamakis was born in 1916 in Livadia and was one of the few veterans of World War II with combat hours over the Middle East, Italy, and Greece, before assuming important administrative positions at national and NATO level until 1968 when he was retired. Kartalamakis fought in the Middle East, Italy, Yugoslavia, and the Aegean until the end of World War II. He later participated in the Civil War air operations and was one of the first to be trained in jet aircraft in the early 1950s, following Greece's entry into NATO. He was one of the few pilots who participated in incursions in Warsaw Pact countries in Greece's northern borders flying with USAF RF-51 Mustangs. Because of his experiences, he was the first pilot the RHAF revealed the possibility of going to the United States to train and fly the U-2A before it was decided to use reserve pilots. After his retirement and specifically from 1980, he was diligently engaged in aviation research and writing the history of the Hellenic Air Force, a project for which he was awarded by the Academy of Athens. He. passed away on 06/12/2012 at the age of 98 (Elias Kartalamakis)
Middle UP & DN: To address the shortage of pilots, the Reserve Pilot Training Center or RPTS (Εκπαιδευτικό Kέντρο Eφέδρων Xειριστών - ΕΚΕΧ) was established in 1949 according to British and American standards, with the main mission being flight training. The RPTS operated until September 1958 and during this period, twenty-one (21) Classes of Reserve Pilots were trained. Its graduates would be called 1st Lieutenants (Reserve) and after 5 years of service, they would return to privacy except for a few who would be made permanent according to the requirements of RHAF. RPTS achieved the production of about 600 pilots in its eight and a half years of operation, almost 71 pilots per year on average. This number was sufficient for the needs of the Air Force, which at that time was beginning to be rebuilt and equipped with jets that would form new squadrons to meet operational needs, both national and in NATO. The short period of their service and the fact that they could resign much more easily from the Air Force made RPTS graduates attractive regarding their recruitment by the CIA to take part in reconnaissance missions with U-2 within the Iron Curtain. (Kiriakos Paloulian Archive)
Below: 1st Lieutenant George Tselepidis graduated from the RPTS No.2 Class, and posted for service to the 335 Squadron in Sedes. He was then trained in Elefsis in the Jet Training Squadron with the first Greek T-33As and continued his Operational Training in the 337 Fighter Bomber Squadron equipped with the first Greek F-84Gs. Afterward he transferred to the 339 Fighter Bomber Squadron based in Larisa. He was actually one of the Squadron's core members. He was selected to travel to Wiesbaden with other RPTS pilots to attend the Astronauts' medical test, which was later used by US pilot candidates for the Gemini program. This medical course was more stringent than the equivalent USAF medical and was also used for the U-2 candidate pilots. For reasons not yet known, he returned to Greece, but until today we don’t know if he actually traveled to the United States to qualify for training on U-2. Upon his return to Greece, he was one of the first pilots hired by Aristotle Onassis when he bought the TAE and continued to fly with the Olympic Air Force until his retirement. (Nikolaos Tselepidis Archive)
Above Right: Jim Karnezis was born in Norfolk, Virginia on Sep. 25, 1921, to Greek immigrants, he graduated from Maury High School in 1939 and went on to volunteer for pilot training. Upon graduation in Jan. 1943, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. As a B-17 aircraft commander on his 10th combat mission, he was shot down over France by German fighters while returning from a raid on Stuttgart, Germany on Sep. 6, 1943. Later, as a B-17 instructor in 1944, he set a record of 45 landings in one day and 33 in one night. Fluent in Greek, he later trained Greek pilots and served as the US Air Attache to the Greek Air Force and its Air Academy. In 1968, after 5000 hours in over 30 US and British aircraft, he trained in the F-4 Phantom, setting a dive bomb record, deployed to Vietnam and Korea, managed the development of the F-4 laser guided bomb system, and served with the Alaskan Air Command. He was bestowed as a Count in the Order of St. Constantine and decorated with the Legion of Merit, Air Medal with 2 OLC, the Purple Heart and the Air Force Commendation Medal. After retirement at Mather AFB, he instructed A&P at Sacramento City College and returned to Greece as a Lockheed Aircraft training specialist from 1980-83. Jim passed away on February 5, 2020. The Greeks in Foreign Cockpits team will feature his entire career on the fourth volume of their research. (Alec Karnezis)
Above Left: First Lieutenant Achileas Tzelilis re-enrolled in RHAF, with 335 Squadron on 27/11/57 after his return from the U-2 program. He was killed on January 15, 1959 with an F-84F of 335 Squadron during a training exercise south of Thessaloniki at Posidi point adjacent to Potidaea gunnery range. (http://www.pasoipa.org.gr)
Middle UP: A group photo of RPCS No.9 course having a Spitfire as a background. First Lieutenant Sotirios "Steve" Tsementzis standing on the wing, closer to the propeller. (335 Squadron via Kirk Paloulian)
Middle DN: 338 squadron group photo in front of a F-84G, during 1955 in Larisa. First Lieutenant Sotirios "Steve" Tsementzis is on the second row third from the left, wearing his flight suit. (Σχολή Αεροπορίας - Τμήμα ΕΚΕΧ : To πείραμα και η δικαίωση)
Below: Gary Power Jr. wrote few things in his book about the Greek Pilots however his writings are derogatory comments. The Greek pilots are presenting as the 4 Zorba's who only thought about how to have fun and there were less interested on the job. He even thought that they were just mercenaries without the Greek Goverment having knowledge about their presence in Area 51. It seems strange why Gary Powers Jr. acts like this especially for a man who in his early age grow up in Greece. Powers flew from Incirlic, however his family stayed in Hellinicon American Detachment in Athens. (RIA Novosti archive, image #35172 / Chernov / CC-BY-SA 3.0 and https://lawliberty.org/)
This selection and participation ultimately made a handful of RHAF pilots to join the list of pilots from USAF, RAF, and ROCAF, but this is definitely an untold story. So about 15 young Greek pilots from the Reserve Officer Pilot Center/School trained on late mark Spitfires, T-33s with flight experience on F-84 and F-86s were flown by a C-54 Skymaster in June 1955 into Wiesbaden for strict medical examinations. They were to take part in a highly classified ops project. Alike the RAF team that consisted of 4-5 pilots and 2 Navigators, and 1 Flight surgeon, a RHAF Navigator was delegated also and sent out for an Intel-information school in Texas to back them up. RHAF Flight Officer Thanasis Panagis described his career path. He had graduated as a Bom-bardier/Nav in 1951 and was a Navigator on SB2C-5 Helldiver of 348th "Recce" Flight, before their final retirement in 1957. He moved side-ways on o Dakotas of 355 Transport Squadron and due to his navigation-al expertise and specialty on "Recce" he was sent at Laughlin AFB for intelligence officer seminar training about the same time-frame. The ex-Nav stated:
"I was selected to provide support to our guys at the Flight, read the maps and recognize the film. The project had support from way up.."
In an internal CIA memo dated on 27 December 1955, it is stated that:
"Eight (8) Greek pilots have completed the T-33 Refresher training at Craig AFB Alabama. All of them demonstrated average or above-average qualifications as jet pilots. The course at Craig included day and night flying, aerobatics, instrument flight training, and naviga-tion. They all completed 45 hours of flight plus the complete jet qualification ground school course".
In the meantime Lt. Col. Geary had arranged for a USAF officer of Greek descent, named Dimitrios Karnezis, to assist in their transition training at Luke AFB. The above document carries on and on the following page where it is also stated that:
"If a favorable decision is reached regarding the use of these pilots in project Aquatone we plan to send them to Luke AFB, Phoenix, Arizona for checkout in F84F aircraft and on completion of this course arrange for them to have actual reconnaissance training including long range navigation missions with one of the Reconnaissance Wings of the Tactical Air Command. If It is decided that we are not going to use these pilots in project Aquatone we feel that we must accomplish some token training in advanced type aircraft and there-fore will go ahead with the training at Luke Air Force Base in the F84F as this is the latest plane programmed for.."
During 2019 Jim Karnezis was interviewed by Dimitris Vassilopoulos and he was asked regarding the Greek pilots trained on U-2s:
"Trained some Greek pilots who were going to fly the U2 spy plane. Gave them daytime high altitude long distance navigational training. How to take sun shots, using navigation equipment and books that showed exactly where they were when they took the shots. Used a pressurized reconnais-sance F-84. The training was in Arizona. I was at Moody AFB as Base Operations Officer (where Alec was born) and Col. Leo Geary was at the Pentagon. He sent me to Arizona to secretly train the Greek pilots. In-volved ground instruction and flying, maybe 6 pilots, around 1953 as best I can remember. CLASSIFIED- pilots sworn to secrecy!"
It must be noted that during that time period RHAF had F-84G only, and had received F-86E from RCAF batches stationed in the UK. On August 5th, 1956 the first RF-84F Thunderflash with s/n 28728 arrived in Larissa airbase, so there was no way that these Greek pilots had seen the RF-84F beforehand. The first RF-84F to be used in a NATO country other than the USAF was RHAF! During 1957 the newest version of F-84F Thunderstreaks arrived equipping first the 335 Squadron. The training in the US during 1955 included T-33 standardization and IFR training while Dimitrios Karnezis confirmed all the above of long cross country navigational training flights over the US apparently with both RF-84F, F-84F in 1956, or another unknown "recce" jet type as the U-2’s navigation system was rudimentary, like so much else about the aircraft. Luke AFB was by that time an F-84F mother base and later on was converting to the F-100 Super Sabre combat training, before moving to the Watertown strip known as the "Ranch". While the above seems far fetched half of the pilots were already proficient on North American F-86 Sabres having served with 341 and 342 Squadrons, the very predecessor of the F-100 Supper Sabre, and its almost certain that Greek-American USAF F-100 Super Sabre pilots could assist them in transition phase process. The list of 4 out of 8, or 9 Greek pilots that proceeded forward is the following:
1. First Lieutenant Sotirios "Steve" Tsementzis. RPCS No.9 course, trained on Tigermoth, T-6, Spitfire, T-33 and C-47. He was posted initially on November 1953 in the 335 Squadron at Sedes flying Spitfires, and then in the 338 Squadron at Larissa flying F-84G during 1954. In 1955 he moved in 342 Squadron at 114 Fighter Wing eqquiped with F-86E. He was written off from RHAF personnel list on 20/12/57. Tsemertzis had also flown F-100, and he is among the four pilots that got checked out on the U-2. From RAF and USAAF ace Spyros "Steve" Pisanos describes of Tsementzis when he met up with him around 2000 in San Diego, California, and he confirmed back to him that he had flown in the U-2 project operationally!
2. First Lieutenant Giorgos Tasoulis. RPCS No.6 Course, trained on Tigermoth, T-6, Spitfire and T-33 during 1952-53. After Sedes he was posted in 1954 in 341 Squadron in 112 Fighter Wing at Elefsina and then in Tanagra flying F-86E. He was written off from RHAF personnel list on 20/12/57. He had also flown F-100 and he is among the four pilots that probably got checked out on the U-2. Lived in Washington D.C. and probably graduated from an American university. There are some information for working for NATO in an unknown position.
3. First Lieutenant Ioannis Demopoulos. RPCS No.8 Course. After training on Tigermoth, T-6, Spitfire and T-33 during 1952-53 he was posted in 1954 in 337 Squadron, 110 Fighter Wing flying F-84G. He was written off from RHAF personnel list on 20/12/57. He had also flown F-100 and he is among the four pilots that probably got checked out on the U-2. He lived in Boston.
4. First Lieutenant Achileas Tzelilis. RCPS No.6 Course trained on Tigermoth, T-6, Spitfire and T-33 during 1952-53. He was posted in 335 Squadron flying F-84G. We know of Tzelilis - when he returned back to Greece- describing flying a jet that was not at the RHAF inventory at that time, nor in Europe. From another testimony by a fellow pilot from RPCS, Mihalis Gritziotis a friend and colleague of Tzellilis, after F-84F he flew the F-100 as Advanced stage. A recollection about Lt. Achileas Tzelilis came from his colleuges that passed on later to Olympic Airways. that he had also flown advanced stage on F-100 and he is among the four pilots that probably flew a least once the U-2. Interestingly, Tzelilis was mentioned in a memo as exercising duties as a "third pilot". He had also expressed a desire on attending FAA commercial pilot license multi-engine training on May 1957, so he was keen in flying, as U-2 flew with civilian registration markings. This possibly contradicts an impression expressed about him washing-out of the program as he left. Was re-enrolled in RHAF, with 335 Squadron on 27/11/57 and was killed on January 15, 1959 with F-84F of 335 Squadron during a training exercise south of Thessaloniki at Posidi point adjacent to Potidaea gunnery range.
The others that did return back to Greece were transferred to operational fighter jet units. The remaining four returned to Greece and it is circulated that they were above the norm experienced pilots at the RHAF Squadrons after this interlude in the US but remained tight lipped on what they did. They hardly talked about the training that they received in the US. Their names are withheld until further notice.
The ground school and flight training of the U-2 was organized under wrap at Watertown Groom lake known as the Ranch at the outer part of what is now known as Area-51 in Nevada. Since the program was Top Secret the ground and flight training started in early 1957 as a memo in-dicates about a Greek pilot see below. So far there are three released excerpts about the Greek pilots flying the U-2 in training. One comes from a Skunk Works Lockheed U-2 engineer named Bob Murphy who was an eye-witness:
"You early U-2 Roadrunners probably remember the Greek U-2 pilots. None of them were fully trained. I was furnishing the airplanes to train them and the last straw was one of them was shooting touch and go landings on the lake, making 360 turns with the left wing down all the time. After a number of turns, all of the fuel was being burned out of the right wing to the point on the last touchdown with all the fuel weight in the left wing, it started to drag on the ground. He was unable to raise the wing and collapsed the landing gear. The pilot exited the aircraft, as I arrived at the crash scene, I observed the engine was still running. As the fireman was raising a very large crash ax over the equipment bay, I grabbed his arm and asked him what he was doing. He informed me that he had to get in the equipment bay to disconnect the battery so the en-gine would quit. I informed that had nothing to do with shutting off the engine. I informed him that I was getting into the cockpit to turn on the battery in order to shut off the fuel shutoff valve. He ordered me away from the crash scene as he was in charge. I informed him with the appropriate GET LOST comment. The aircraft only had 6 hours on in total. And it was completely repaired within two weeks".
While Murphy wrote that about left circles, who knows maybe Air Traffic Control instructed Greek pilot to fly making left circuit turns, or his Instructor said so over the radio. As Murphy was an Engineer and not an Instructor there is not as he knew better, and cannot be used as a credible source as he clearly states touch n goes. There is no way that a Student pilot will do touch -n-goes in his first solo flight. Especially without a pogo attached. Also as the U-2 is a hard airplane to land let alone to perform touch n goes unless the pilot's name is Chuck Yeager, or Bob Hoover. Also It seems from the description this guy did a good job in flaring, not splendid in the touchdown but thinking of the lack of the pogos then all landings can go like the above, per Murphy's account. The same could not be said of the non-Greek pilots. As he remembered the fireman more than the pilot it is even doubtful if that was a Greek doing the 360-turns.
According to Chris Pocock two more came from one of the USAF Instructors assigned to the civilian pilots, named Louis Setter, as he recalled during a check-out of the U-2 cockpit to one of the Greeks.
"He sat in the seat, took the wheel, and attempted to move it right and left, instead of rotating it as you would, driving a car. I asked him if he knew how to drive a car and he said he did not. He knew how to ride a bicycle and fly a Spitfire!"
So Setter took the Greek student out onto the lake-bed in the Ford Station Wagon car that was used to chase the U-2 as they landed, and he quickly learnt how to drive a car. Then Setter flew him in the L-20 Beaver high-wing monoplane that was used as a chase-plane, which also had a wheel in the cockpit, to familiarize him with the "bicycle" balancing landing technique. Although Setter helped the Greek pilot to familiarize him with a yoke, this reminds of early instruction days that each instructor had to improvise. Taking under consideration new stand-ardized training with brand new instructional manuals around, plus the fact that there were no 2-seat U-2 around at the time. Apparently, the civilian L-20 DHavilland Beaver was sourced and used by all Instructors to all U-2 pilots under training - not just the Greeks- in order to simulate the characteristically abnormal landing technique of landing a U-2. One of the RAF pilots describes exactly all the above in Mastering the U-2, Paul Lashmar, The U.K. and the U-2, Aeroplane Monthly, August September 1995, on his adventures during transition training. Flt.Lt Robert Robinson was a Pilot on Canberra B.6 called upon in U-2 training during July 1958 entering U-2 training as the no.5 RAF pilot providing a rather objective point of view:
"It was quite a lengthy training before you stepped inside a U-2. This was organized by SAC therefore as you can imagine It was extremely thorough. There was no twin seater version of the U-2 at the time, so we were trained in civilian two-seater aircraft that had similar characteristics. I had been a test pilot all my life really, so I had flown about 100 different types of aircraft. This one was different mainly because of the bicycle undercarriage arrangement. It was no easy to land and unless you landed on both wheels exactly at the right speed at the right time you started bouncing around. And the other thing, of course was that it had no wheels on the wings; you 're balancing the aircraft for landing. Landing and take off were not easy particularly in a crosswind. I must admit that on the first flight, I wouldn't exactly say I got a fright, but it was much harder than I had expected. After a while you got the hang of them , but you can see why there so many accidents during training".
U-2 was a hard airplane to fly, and the U-2 was notoriously difficult to land. Given the difficulty of the airframe, the lack of any tandem trainer at the time and the Instructor Pilot having to train through the radio frequency, the Greeks most-likely did better as non-native English speakers and not being test pilots. The second recount is the following:
"A Greek student pilot completed the standard transition training in the T-33 but flew the U-2 only once: his first solo ride. He had a lot of trouble communicating in English, so radio (instruction) calls to him were quite difficult. On his first landing on the lakebed, he leveled off about 30 feet near the stall speed, with the tail down. The airplane stalled and hit hard, kicking up a cloud of dust. Kelly Johnson (the designer of the U-2 and head of the Skunk Works) personally saw this and decided “no more U-2 flying for this pilot".
Above: The U-2 will "lean" on one wing if it’s not moving. Pylons support the wings for maintenance. During taxiing for takeoff, “pogo” landing gear falls away. The scene shows how much infrastructure was built up in a relatively short time, but the U-2s were still being housed and serviced out in the open. (https://www.airforcemag.com)
Middle UP: A U-2 receives a post-mission check. The aircraft’s wings were patterned after those on gliders, to obtain maximum lift. Early test flights were confined to an area within 200 miles of Groom Lake; a pilot whose single-engine flamed out could make a dead-stick landing back at the secret base. https://www.airforcemag.com
Middle DN: NACA 308 during the pilot's transition in Groom Lake. Flight instructors devised a syllabus consisting of ground school and flight checkout. Before being allowed to solo in the U-2, each student first flew several analog sorties in the T-33 to simulate high-altitude flameouts and restarts, practice U-2 landing approach techniques, and demonstrate near-stall landings. An instructor pilot shadowed the U-2 when each student made his first solo, a flight to 20,000 feet followed by five practice landings on the lakebed. Students didn’t wear the pressure garment until the third solo flight, which was typically a 3-hour flight to 60,000 feet. The next nine sorties introduced trainees to high-altitude navigation and photography, long-duration flight (upward of 8 hours), night flying, and landings on the paved airstrip. Each pilot was declared mission qualified after logging at least 58 flight hours in the U-2 and completing a final 8-hour check ride. (https://www.airforcemag.com)
Below: The U-2 pilot’s pressure suit was so stiff when inflated that another pilot had to perform the preflight inspection, help strap the pilot into the seat, and then serve as a spotter as the U-2 took off, feeding the pilot, by radio, information about the airplane’s attitude.
A U-2A as it looked like during the Greek pilots training in the "Dragon Lady". The U-2 cover story in 1956 was that it was a NACA plane to conduct high-altitude weather research. But various observers doubted this story from the beginning. Certainly, the Soviets did not believe it once the aircraft began overflying their territory. The NASA cover story quickly blew up in the agency's face when both Gary Powers and aircraft wreckage were displayed by the Soviet Union, proving that it was a reconnaissance aircraft. This caused embarrassment for several top NASA officials. (Copyright Tom Cooper)
Although Setter's recount is most probably of Tzelilis stalling the airplane at 30 feet, it goes on to Tzelilis recovering the airplane and only dragging a wingtip. Here is Louis Setter's full reply to the Roadrunner's association:
“The Greek student pilot I had at Groom Lake completed the standard transition training in the T-33 (consisting mostly of dozens of drag-in approaches to simulate the U-2 approach) but, to my knowledge, flew the U-2 only once; his first solo ride. This was not with a pressure suit. He had a lot of trouble communicating in English, making my radio calls to him quite difficult. I remember his first U-2 landing on the lakebed: he leveled off about 30 feet in the air, near stall speed (the tail was down), and the airplane stalled and hit hard, kicking up a cloud of dust. As his IP, was a short distance behind him in our chase car, talking to him on the radio, so saw it all. He did not seem able to follow my instructions. I don't know if Kelly Johnson personally saw this (he probably did), but he decided "no more U-2 flying for this pilot". Please keep in mind that I was the junior U-2 IP in those days and was not privy to the discussions between Gen Bill Yancey, Kelly Johnson, Robby (Ops Officer) regarding the qualifications of anyone. I do know that my student did no more U-2 flying at the Ranch. When I gave a cockpit checkout to my Greek student, I remember very clearly when he sat in the seat and took the wheel and attempted to move it right and left, instead of rotating it as you would driving a car. I asked him if he knew how to drive a car and he said he did not. He knew how to ride a bicycle and fly a Spitfire. A Spitfire has a round doughnut on top of the stick so the pilot can get both hands on it to roll faster. Apparently, the Spitfire has high aileron forces. Anyway, I taught him how to drive our chase Ford station wagon out on the lakebed and he quickly learned how to steer, just like a U-2. Then I took him up in our L-20 (Beaver bush plane), which also has a wheel, and he flew it long enough to get used to the wheel. If my Greek student pilot later flew the U-2 it's news to me. Hank Meierdierck told me that all the Greek pilots we had flunked out of the program and were sent to a "safe house" somewhere in the Newport Beach area. I don't know--. I heard nothing further about them during the program, however, I deliberately avoided learning anything about what any of the detachments did operationally, because I had no need to know, and I didn't want to be responsible for information I didn't need".
An interesting point regarding U-2 difficulties especially on landing is also the following again by Setter:
"Many of the detachment pilots we trained were SAC F-84 pilots, (not F-86). They had all been well trained in a long-range single-engine jet and used celestial navigation, as did the U-2. Training them was relatively easy. We also tried checking out some SAC B-47 pilots but that didn't work. My boss was a B-47 pilot. He ground-looped his U-2 while taxiing out on the lakebed for his first flight. Kelly removed him from the program, I heard. Anyway, he never flew the U-2 but posed as a U-2 expert in SAC later, I heard".
As the Taiwanese had accidents and the British had one fatal accident too over Texas on July 8, 1958, in an operational flight. Interestingly, there were no official accidents or crashes attributed to the Greeks. According to a source, there were nine that went to Craig AFB for T-33 IFR training. One of the nine had air sickness, or motion sickness problems and did not go on to Luke and F-84F. From the Aquatone memos, the Greeks were part of the manning problem. The CIA could not get enough civilian pilots, including the Greeks. The Greeks went from 9 pilots at Craig AFB to 8 at Luke AFB, to 4 at the Ranch. So, if there was any so-called washout, that might be here. Interestingly, from an Aquatone report, the later USAF pilots had a much higher wash-out/failure rate than the CIA-sourced civilian pilots. The report stated that this was due to the higher selection criteria used by the CIA. So it is not clear to the Greeks how many hours approximately did they fly in each training and when, or if the 3 pilots went operationally. While all the official events seem one-sided this could very well be a cover story. According to the son of one of the 3 Greek pilots, referring to his father in an open-source regarding Setter testimonies:
"He has told me of flight training in T-33s, F-84s, and the U-2, fitting his pressure suit helmet at David Clark in Massachusetts. He has told me of a pressure suit malfunction while flying which left a scar around his neck. He told me of pre-breathing oxygen and eating steak and egg breakfasts before hours-long missions. He told me of flying into England, Germany, and Turkey and over-flying the USSR, all in the U-2. His stories seem to contradict what your site says about the Greek pilots all washing-out".
Above: NACA 308 rest peacefully at Groom Lake. (https://www.cia.gov)
Middle UP: A U-2 lands and deployed its drag parachute for breaking assistance. (Laughlin Historical Foundation)
Middle DN: U-2 approach diagram from the aircraft manual (USAF)
Below: During 1954 Louis Setter was called to the legendary U-2 program, a strategic reconnaissance program headed by the CIA. Colonel Setter became the fourth pilot to fly the Lockheed-built U-2 and later became a pilot instructor and began training civilian pilots. One of his more famous students was Francis Gary Powers, an American pilot whose CIA U-2 spy plane was shot down while flying a reconnaissance mission over the former Soviet Union airspace, which became known as the U-2 incident back in 1960. Setter also developed and tested navigational techniques, designed and built cruise computers for long-range jet fighters that were used during the early U-2 missions. That equipment later became standard for the U-2 aircraft. While flight testing the U-2, Setter performed hundreds of air starts and credits the early model pressure suit for saving his life while soaring to altitudes of nearly 70,000 feet. He was awarded the CIA Bronze Medallion for instructing civilian pilots and for the engineering contributions he made later in the program. (https://www.edwards.af.mil/)
The involvement of Greek pilots in the most black program of its time is still shrouded in secrecy. Misinformation is the modus operandi of the intelligence community and of this generation of Cold Warriors, Greek and Americans alike. What has been known so far is fragmented and contradictory so after our 20 year research in this case we know that the reasons that Greeks did not fly operationally the U-2 (at least from what we know so far as our research continues) but only soloed, are complicated and mostly political. The cliches of the language barrier and lack of car driving experience, are minor reasons and seem trivial while the inter-service rivalry between the CIA and the USAF that forced President Eisenhower to act as a referee most of the time was raging. Also the USAF wanted to have its own pilots fly in the program since the high altitude reconnaissance job went to the CIA. At the time (1955-56) the usual amount of egos when pilots from different countries train at the same time and place in a brand new high performance ultra secret jet with no manual and 2seater version, its only natural to brag. The Greek U-2 pilots did not have a fatal accident as the Americans the British and the Chinese had but flew solo, literally and metaphorically. The English also were checked in the DH Beaver so they had a steering wheel problem as well? Of course not! Its just that the Beaver due to its flight characteristics was a substitute for the non existent yet U-2 two-seater. Regarding the hard landing example, no matter the nationality this pilot actually saved the aircraft at the last moment and should be congratulated. The idea to use foreign pilots was Eisenhower's. Richard M. Bissell Jr. did not want them, General Curtis LeMay did not want them, only Lt Col Geary and Col McCaffert recommended for the Greeks to continue. If the Greek government had the authority to order flights like Macmillan's UK government did a couple of years later, who knows. Probably Bissel would've kept them in the program and sent a Detachment to Greece so he could receive mission authorisation from Athens instead of Ike .
Greeks in Foreign cockpits, well it doesn't get higher than those young RPCS graduates who stayed in Cold War secrecy for too long and served with courage and honour! Its about time that their service to Greece and NATO be at last recognised officially by both the Greek and US governments!
In Memory of our beloved friend Umberto Sciacchetano
RHAF P-51 Mustang secret missions - 2os Pagosmios Polemos Magazine, April - May Issue 2007
FIFTY YEARS ON NATO’S SOUTHERN FLANK A HISTORY OF SIXTEENTH AIR FORCE 1954 – 2004 by
WILLIAM M. BUTLER Sixteenth Air Force Historian, Office of History Headquarters, Sixteenth Air Force United States Air Forces in Europe Aviano Air Base, Italy, 1 May 2004
Merlin, Peter W. Unlimited horizons : design and development of the U-2 / Peter W. Merlin.
pages cm. — (NASA aeronautics book series) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-62683-025-7
project Aquatone AIR FORCE Magazine July 2010 Zaur Eylanbekov
Special Thanks to:
Chris Pocock for his research and the join effort. Chris Pocock has been covering the defense beat for AIN for over 30 years. He is a British citizen and a graduate of the University of Cambridge. Chris worked in the air cargo business for ten years before becoming a full-time writer in 1983. He subsequently edited two air cargo journals before becoming AIN’s Defense Editor. He retired from that position in 2018, but still contributes to the publication. Chris has written extensively on aerial reconnaissance, including four books on the history of the U-2 spyplane. He also lectures on this and other topics related to intelligence-gathering in the Cold War. You can also read his article regarding the Greeks in U-2s in the following link: