USAF ROTORHEAD Members
James D. (J.D.) Adams
I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on 17 April 1955 and was sent to AF Basic Training at Lackland AFB, Texas. After basic training, I auditioned for the AF Band career as a Woodwind Musician and was accepted. My first assignment was at Lackland AFB. I was there until Feb. of 1956 when I was transferred to Wheelus AFB in Tripoli, Libya. From Libya, I was transferred to Wiesbaden Germany in July 1956. While stationed in Wiesbaden I was sent TDY to France, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Iran, Moscow, Berlin, England and a lot of other places to perform music.
In August of 1957, I was transferred to London, England. While in London I was sent TDY to Spain, Scotland, Wales and Ireland to perform music. Also while stationed in London, I had the opportunity to study at The Royal School of Music to further my musical education. In January of 1959, I was transferred to Westover AFB in Massachusetts. While there I had the opportunity to perform with the Amherst College Opera Company and played in pit bands for numerous Broadway shows in New York.
In February of 1960, I was transferred back to Ramstein Germany. While stationed there I was sent TDY to Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland and numerous other countries and places to perform music. In February of 1965, I was transferred to Warner Robbins AFB in Georgia. About this time, I was getting real tired of being an E-4. I had 9 years in grade as an E-4 and the promotions were frozen indefinitely for the AF Band career field. So I decided that if I didn’t get into another career field that involved aircraft, I would be an E-4 forever. Besides that, I had a wife and 3 Kids to take care of.
In 1966, I volunteered under a program called “Palace Dragon” to retrain as a Helicopter Mechanic. I was sent to Basic Helicopter School at Sheppard AFB and finished as the Honor Graduate. As soon as I was accepted into the program, I was promoted to E-5. Right after that, they sent me to CH-3 school also at Sheppard. I came out Honor Graduate on that one too.
After that, I was immediately sent to the 48th ARRS at Eglin AFB, Florida. While at Eglin, I was assigned as Crew Chief to one of the 2 CH-53A models that the AF borrowed from the Marines to transition our Aircrews into the HH-53B’s that we were soon to get from the Sikorsky factory in Connecticut. When the 53B’s finally did arrive I was assigned as a Crew Chief on one of them. I also was a member of the Launch Site Recovery Force at Cape Canaveral, staging out of Patrick AFB for the Apollo Program. Also during this time frame, we were asked to support the National Governors Conference with our helicopters, which resulted in a nice TDY to Bermuda.
Somehow during all this activity, the Air Force and I found time for me to attend the HH-53 factory school through a Field Training Detachment sent to Eglin for me and the other HH-53 crew chief to attend. By the way, the other Crew Chief was named Aaron P. (Paul) Hodges and he was one of the guys that went on the Son Tay Raid. In August of 1968, I was sent to the 21st SOS at NKP Thailand as a CH-3E Helicopter Mechanic. When I arrived there, there were too many Mechanics and not enough Flight Engineers. They ask me if I wanted to be a FE. I said yes. They said, “You have to take a written test and then a check ride”. I said okay. I took the written test and aced it. Then took a check ride. They said “Congratulations Son, You are now a Flight Engineer on CH-3E helicopters and Good Luck”. I took my combat orientation ride and the next day (I think it was) I was flying combat missions in a CH-3E Helicopter.
My crew and I got shot down at Muong Soui (Lima Site # 108) on 27th of June 1969. I wasn’t hurt very bad and flew more missions before I rotated back to the States on 9th of Sep, 1969. In October of 1969, I reported to the 1370th Photo Mapping Squadron at Forbes AFB Kansas as a CH-3E Flight Engineer. During my time at Forbes, I was sent on TDYs to Brazil where we had a large contingent of Photo Mapping people mapping the entire country of Brazil. The Helicopters were used to resupply the ground radio triangulation stations on the ground all over Brazil so that the RC-130’s and the RC-135’s could fly a straight line on their camera runs.
Also while at Forbes I was involved in a gravity measurement program utilizing the Helicopter as an airborne platform for the gravity measuring instruments. In October of 1970, I was sent to the 48th ARRS for aircrew transition training into the HH-53C as a Flight Engineer. After my transition training, I was selected as one the crewmembers to fly 3 specially equipped night rescue HH-53Cs to the 40th ARRS at Udorn Thailand. It took us 18 days and a total of 86 flying hours to get there. But we made it with all 3 Helicopters intact all the way across the Pacific. (See Blog about flying these Super Jollies across the Pacific).
After we arrived at the 40th in Udorn, I Flew several rescue missions in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia etc., etc., etc……….On 21 July, 1971 I was a member of the crew on JG-54 in northern Laos that got shot down while trying to recover an unmanned reconnaissance drone that had crashed. (See Blog story on this mission). After being rescued and evacuated back to the States, I spent approx. 4 months in the hospital. The AF Doctors told me my flying days was over and they wanted to put me out on disability.
I said I didn’t want to get out of the service that way because I only had 4 years to retirement. They said I could stay in if I could find another non-flying job and gave me a 30-day convalescent leave. Long story short, I called in a few favors and got myself back into the AF Band career field. By this time I was an E-6. I reported to the AF Band at Offutt AFB Nebraska in November of 1971 and became a member of that organization until I retired from the Air Force in June 1975 as an E-7.
I know this biography is very LONG WINDED but that’s the way it was…..!!!!!
~ Final Flight 08 Oct 2017 ~
James D. Adams, Master Sergeant, USAF (Retired)
April 15, 1938 – October 08, 2017
Mr. James D. Adams – 79 years old
Death – 10-8-2017 at Sun City West, Arizona
Birth – 4-15-1938 at Corpus Christi, Texas
Residence – Surprise, Arizona
Year moved to Arizona – 1975 after he retired from the USAF
Military Career Highlights
Jim was a career military person who spent the bulk of his career in the Air Force Bands, but also spent 6 years in the 40th Aerospace Rescue unit, known as the Jolly Green Giants, as a Helicopter Crew Chief. Jim spent 3 tours in Vietnam from 1967 – 1971. He was shot down twice and received the silver star for valor, 2 distinguished flying crosses, 6 air medals, as well as 2 purple hearts. After a severe injury on his last tour in Vietnam, he was able to complete his Air Force Career in the Strategic Air Command Band in Omaha, Nebraska. Jim retired in 1975.
Civilian Career Highlights
Upon retirement from the military, Jim relocated his family to Phoenix, Arizona. Jim worked as an aircraft mechanic and then transitioned into the Civil Service as an inspector for DOD contracts. He was always proud of his work, which supported the Space Shuttle program. Jim retired from the Civil Service in 1998.
Jim maintained a lifelong passion for music. He was primarily known as a Bassoonist but was a master at all woodwinds. He was a member of a number of bands in the valley including the Scottsdale Community Band, Sonoran Wind Quintet and the New Horizon Band. He was also known for being involved in jazz bands throughout the valley playing the bass.
Jim is survived by his wife Corda Lewis Adams, of Surprise, Arizona
His sons Raymond (Spouse: Nancy), of Plano, Texas; David (Spouse: Maria) of St. Petersburg, Florida and his Daughter Denise White (Spouse: Jack) of Dallas, Georgia.
He is also survived by three Grandchildren, Louisa Adams (Spouse: Jimmy Traum) of Los Angeles, California, Travis Adams of Washington, DC and Nicholas White of Dallas, Georgia
Services will be conducted on October 27, 2017 with a graveside at the Phoenix National Cemetery at 9am followed by a Memorial Service at the Crosswinds Presbyterian Church located at 20125 N 15th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85027 at 1030am.
9:00 AM – 10:00 AM
National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona
23029 N. Cave Creek road
Phoenix, Arizona 85024
Camino del Sol Funeral Chapel & Cremation Center
Integrity, Honor, and Respect
Some of the best things cannot be bought, they must be earned
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