IACE – Sweden
Stephen W. Austen
Copyright by Stephen W. Austen
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In our three-week trip to Sweden there were nine trips by air, and eleven by bus. We visited eight historical attractions, eight major Swedish companies, and another eight sightseeing excursions of various kinds. We stayed at seven RSAF bases, two private homes, and were guests at fourteen formal banquets, and receptions. Moreover, we had a chance to see another, very special, country, and live a hectic daily schedule with guys from four other countries, and from across the US.
Some forty-seven years later (June, 2017) I’m sitting at my laptop, thinking about those guys and of that special trip. The calendar says it happened a long time ago, but my notes and recollections bring back memories of crystal clarity.
For me, the International Air Cadet Exchange was twenty-one days that lasted a lifetime.
Each summer, Civil Air Patrol’s Special Activity Programs for Cadets was one of the big drawing cards in the Cadet Program. In CAP, a Cadet’s summer was chock-full of quality things to do. For a young man like myself, whose best clothing consisted of my CAP uniforms, here was a real chance to get out, go places, meet new people, and experience new adventures.
IACE was a premier Cadet activity. Only about 200 Cadets (out of over 20,000) were selected to represent CAP -- not to mention the United States -- in one of some 44 different countries. Qualification required a solid record of achievement and, usually, the Amelia Earhart Award. The “Earhart” takes about three to four years of diligent effort to earn, and with it comes the rank of Cadet Captain. Typical IACE participants were field grade Cadet Officers, even General Carl A. Spaatz Award recipients (Cadet Colonels). This was no lightweight affair. . .It was about 1965, at my first summer encampment at Keesler AFB, and some IACE Cadets were visiting us. They stood nearby chatting with some of their friends about going to countries in Europe, to England, or to Canada. They wore their Blazer Uniforms with special IACE patches on them. They looked great, and had celebrity status. I decided this IACE thing needed some looking in to. . .
[+ Fall, 1969/Winter, 1970 -- “On Your Mark....” +]
The year I got my Amelia Earhart Award was the year I applied for IACE. I had been very active in Wing-level affairs like summer encampments, SARCAPS, REDCAPS, and Cadet Advisory Councils. I figured it was a long shot, at least.
On February 17, 1970, a letter from Louisiana Wing Headquarters arrived telling me I’d been selected to attend IACE. My jaw hit the floor. I was one of three Cadets from Louisiana that would participate in IACE that year.
In May, a packet from National Headquarters informed that Sweden was to be “The Place”. It also contained information on ordering the required Blazer Uniform and special patches. My excitement really began to build. This was the big league!
“But, where the hell is Sweden,” I wondered, and guessed that researching this important tidbit couldn’t hurt.
[+ Spring/Early Summer, 1970 -- “Get Set...” +]
With that, came the realization there were a lot of preparations to make. I had to get busy; a passport, shots, uniforms, clothing and a job to pay for all of this were top priorities now.
For one thing, quite a wardrobe was needed. A CAP blazer with special crest, patches, tie, along with several changes of white shirts and gray slacks, made up the required Blazer Uniform combination. Also, a dress uniform, and several service uniforms, all with appropriate insignia. Add to the list civvies, and enough personal articles to last for a month. Finally, don’t forget incidentals like a camera, loads of film, and as much spending money as could be amassed. This was the trip of a lifetime, remember.
Without a current job and few resources, rounding all this up was going to be a real chore. My grandmother’s home in Lafayette, Louisiana offered a place to stay and to find a summer job. Traveling from New Orleans on the venerable “Sunset Limited” passenger train, the steel wheels clicking over the rails sounded like a countdown clock.
In Lafayette, I applied at a local offshore oil well service company, and hired-on as a shop hand. Boy, was that an experience!
It was hard, physical work, performed by hard, physical men in the soupy heat of southern Louisiana. We steam cleaned, sand blasted, and painted the heavy equipment used for portable oil well testing. We repaired valves, cleaned drilling pipe, and did just about every shop job imaginable. Each payday, though, purchased this item or that, some clothing here, some film there, and a few traveler’s checks on the side. It was like a real-life Horatio Alger story.
To help spur things on, National HQ sent several packets of information, travel orders, plane tickets, itineraries, and the all-important “IACE Guidebook”. The guidebook was loaded with do’s and don’ts for provincial Americans going abroad for the first time.
From my end, I wrote the Swedish consulate in Washington, and got a package from them. The New Orleans Chamber of Commerce also provided a packet bulging with pictures, Mardi Gras doubloons, and all kinds of info on New Orleans. Likewise, NASA’s Michoud facility sent loads of propaganda about our space program.
My bag of tricks was complete with an authentic Key To The City of New Orleans, and a Certificate of Honorary Citizenship signed by the Mayor himself. I didn’t know whom I’d give it to, but thought it would help to make a great impression. Heck, I felt like a one-man State Department.
[+ Late Summer, 1970 -- “GO!” +]
[+ Monday, 20 July, 1970 -- Home, Washington, DC +]
Finally, the big day came, and I was packed and ready. A buddy drove me to the New Orleans International Airport for the first leg of the journey, a flight to Washington, DC. After landing at Washington National at 1320 hours, arriving Cadets were brought to the Manger-Annapolis hotel, just a block off Pennsylvania Avenue.
The rest of the afternoon was billed as free time for us to look around until that evening’s banquet, the first of many, many, many such meals. I walked over to Pennsylvania Avenue, marveling at the mighty buildings, with the history and power they represent.
Getting back, it was time to change and go to the banquet at 2000 hours. There was a briefing about the departure plans the next day. Also, a full dose about the standards of behavior CAP expected of their hand-selected representatives of the United States. Get out of line, and being shot at sunrise would seem a pleasant way out!
The uniform briefing was also an eye-opener for some. Swagger-roo’s from the several “elite” outfits were stripped of a wild assortment of berets, fourrageres, colored scarves and jump boots. These guys probably felt they looked tough, but to conservative Europeans they would simply look like another bunch of Yankee cowboys, and be a laughingstock.
Upstairs in my room I met our Senior Escort Officer. He was from Goodhue, Minnesota. In the 1800’s, parts of Minnesota were settled by large groups of Scandinavians. He was a second-generation descendant, and even spoke some Swedish. He was a genial gentleman, and we went on to become good friends. A year or so later, he even invited me to spend a summer on his farm. He left to visit with the other Senior Members. I packed for the next day, visited with a Cadet roommate, then turned in.
[+ Tuesday, 21 July, 1970 -- Andrews AFB, Rhein-Main AB +]
After a 0630 wake-up, and togged out in blazer uniform, we went downstairs for the 0830 breakfast. This was to be a day of “hurry up and wait”, and all the while everyone just itching to GET GOING!
Since we’d packed and did not have another briefing until 1130, a couple of us went back out for a walk. We strolled along Pennsylvania Avenue, visited the US Capitol, and took a few pictures. Getting back, we received departure schedules, then changed into 1505 short-sleeved summer service uniforms.
After lunch, we wrestled our luggage downstairs, all the while being herded about by some local enlisted-grade Cadets. These guys really enjoyed gang-bossing the hundred or so Cadet Officers there, but calmed down when a few lessons in military courtesy were dispensed (“Look, it’s ‘Shut-up, Sir’, see!”). They were probably as glad to see us go as we were to be on our way.
It was via Air Force bus at 1400 for nearby Andrews AFB, a stop at the BX to pick up last minute items, and then to the Navy mess hall for a late lunch. At 1715, we went to the Military Airlift Command’s terminal for final airlift arrangements, luggage check-in, etc..
The terminal was near the hanger where one of the President’s Boeing 707’s -- Air Force One -- was kept. The place was alive with security guards. You wouldn’t just walk up and kick the tires on THAT baby without attracting some attention, nossir!
Cadets going to European countries boarded a couple of C-141 Starlifters for the Rhein-Main Air Base near Frankfurt, Germany. The planes had a passenger service configuration. Forward, a roll-on module featured a kitchen, food storage and rest rooms for everyone. Moving aft, seating was eight, maybe, twelve abreast, with seats separated by a tight aisle.
It was clear that this was not going to be a luxury-class flight. The seats were very narrow, and so close that being tall, I had to sit on the last row. My knees wouldn’t fit when I sat down otherwise. Take off was at 1830 for a seven-and-half-hour flight to the Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany. We’d be jumping about six-time zones.
It was at 39,000 feet, with a minus 60-degree’s outside, that I made an important discovery about the C-141. Namely, that it was COLD!!! The heaters in a “141” were at the wing roots, near the middle of the plane. My seat was at the very tail, by the ramp door. About four blankets, plus my field jacket, provided a temporary “fix,” but it was miserable. Even the novelty of an Air Force in-flight meal (a box lunch) was no help. We did get to go up to the “office” visit the pilots, and gawk at the instrumentation, though.
[+ Wednesday, 22 July, 1970 -- Rhein-Main AB +]
Touch-down at Rhein-Main AB was at 0740. The air was foggy and it was 43-degree’s. In July, yet! Heck, I wanted to warm-up!
Our group bussed over to the Transient Quarters, some old Luftwaffe barracks dating back to the Nazi’s in World War II. I was surprised to see an eagle-and-swastika emblem embossed in the concrete above the door. As we entered I saw that the architecture was dated -- kind of art deco -- but, boy, this place was sturdy! Well, I guessed, the Nazi’s HAD intended to be around a thousand years, before the Allies changed their plans.
We claimed our luggage, and I had my first brush with a first-class jerk. Every group has one; and this guy was “The One”.
He was the ranking Cadet in our group going to Sweden, so I tried to make conversation. He was a tall, skinny kid, wearing mirrored sunglasses and a bad attitude; truly an “Ugly American". He let it be known that, since he was the ranking Cadet in our group, I should’ve carried his luggage up to his room. Get this -- he allowed that he could’ve even “ordered” me to do so.
“Who is this…?” I wondered. Cadet rank meant “zero” on IACE. This “One” would clearly bear watching.
After I got into my room, my irritation faded, and I went out for a walk on base. At the American Express office, I exchanged some of my money for Swedish currency. It exchanged at about twenty cents for every “Kroner” (crown), and reminded me of Monopoly money, or something. I went to the BX, then returned to dress for our welcoming dinner at 1830.
“This dressing-up for dinner business is going to take some getting used to,” I thought. But I’d get plenty of practice over the next three weeks.
We were officially welcomed to the Rhein-Main Air Base at the Officer’s Club. Our table had some Cadets from Canada and a couple of Luftwaffe Officers.
After this, we returned to our rooms, got departure times for the next day, and tried to sleep. Thoroughly jet-lagged, but filled with so much anticipation, it was hard to do much more than toss and turn.
[+ Thursday, 23 July 1970 -- Rhein-Main AB, Stockholm, F8 – Barkarby +]
At 0430 -- yep, that early -- we got dressed, and repacked in a scene that would be played out many times as we learned to live out of our suitcases. At 0645, we went to the mess hall for our last American-style breakfast for about a month.
Back at the barracks, luggage was loaded, and we departed for the flight line. Our group, along with the guys going to Norway, would fly in a Norwegian Air Force C-130.
The NAF was to drop us in Stockholm, then the others would fly on to Oslo.
“OK, so where is the air crew?” I wondered, after standing around for two hours. We had new places to go, big things to accomplish, and the grumbling started. In about five languages, too.
The plane’s name, painted on the fuselage, was “Odin”, the Norse God of War or something. Well, old “Odin” needed to toss one of his war hammers up someone’s butt for leaving us standing around like that. Good thing there wasn’t a war going on. These Norwegian’s would have lost the war and not known it, still being in bed or eating breakfast.
There was, though, the chance to meet the entire contingent of Air Cadets making up our happy family going to Sweden. We had a total of twenty; two from the Air Cadet League of Canada; six Air Cadets from Great Britain; two guys from some flying club in Switzerland, and ten Civil Air Patrol members made up the group. We had two Escort Officers; a CAP Senior Member and an RAF Flight Officer to keep us in line.
Finally, we took off at 0930. After two hours, and a time zone change (jet-lag, again!), we landed at the Bromma Airport in Stockholm. As we off-loaded our luggage, we met our Swedish escort Officers, the local TV, radio, and newspaper media. I figured that it must have been a slow news day, but no. We were big news and didn’t realize it.
“Hey, I could get to like this,” I thought as we boarded a Royal Swedish Air Force (RSAF) bus. We drove through the countryside to F8, an air base in Barkarby, outside of Stockholm.
Sweden is a country about the size of California, with about the same population. It is bordered on the North by the Arctic Circle and Finland, on the West by Norway, and on the South by Denmark. To the East lay the Baltic Sea, and the USSR.
We learned Russia is only 60 air-seconds from Swedish soil, and these people really live “under the gun.” Not being part of any defensive alliance, like NATO, they preferred their neutrality. Like the Swiss, they were ready to back it up via military preparedness, the likes of which I had never seen.
Our drive through the Swedish countryside was unremarkable, just gently rolling meadows, kind of like parts of the American Mid-West. Approaching the F8 air base I guess I expected a US-style air base, with huge hangers, and vast concrete aprons all lit up like a shopping mall at Christmas. What I saw was deceptively simple.
Entering the base at a guard post, we saw that these folks were ready for the worst. A blockhouse covered the gate, then the main road wound up to some woods. It looked all the world like a country lane in the middle of a field, but with a few important exceptions.
Each intersection had a camouflaged emplacement covering it. All the barracks and support buildings were situated almost at random around a forest of big tree’s that had been there forever. You would have to know it was there to really see it from the air (or satellite).
“Where are the airplanes?” I asked one of the Flyg-Pojkarna (Swedish Air Cadets).
He pointed to a hill in the distance, “In there. . .”.
We learned later that the hangers were underground. The planes would taxi up curving ramps from below, then emerge from a cave mouth right onto the runway with afterburners blazing.
A late lunch was the first order of business, and our first test of diplomacy in action. We had all been reminded in Washington that foreign food could be different. The ”IACE Guidebook” made it clear that,
Well, the local delicacy there is raw pickled herring. It is served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was easily the foulest, most fishy thing I had ever smelled, much less eaten. I choked down a small piece of it, and smiled but passed on a second helping. Some tea, a rykrisp-like bread, and some great cheese helped to settle things down.
Our barracks, consisting of a large wing, and a smaller one, was separated by the latrine and a shared area. We moved in.
“Let’s get some of our guys in this wing," I said to some of my CAP buddies, and immediately regretted the gaffe. The British Air Cadets started a chorus of disapproval about how the Yanks were segregating themselves -- with this IACE thing being all about international friendship, and on and on -- talk about touchy!
I went over to apologize, explaining that the remark was directed to the one or two CAP guys I knew. It didn’t work, and I would have to remember to be more diplomatic. We all went on to become terrific friends, except “The One”, our ranking Cadet who somehow got on everyone’s nerves.
Anyway, we had to change to blazers, then board our bus for a tour of Stockholm. An ancient city, Stockholm is built on an archipelago of many islands. We crossed a lot of bridges, saw a lot of buildings, some as modern as tomorrow, and some quite old.
We passed the American Embassy that had (of course) an anti-Vietnam War demonstration going on in front of it. The Swedes felt quite apologetic, but we assured them that America had demonstrations back home -- even riots -- all the time.
We did learn that Americans had a tarnished image in the eye of many Swedes. The Vietnam War was still going full-throttle, and was politically controversial everywhere.
Unfortunately, the only Americans that many Swedes saw were various hippies and deserters, that had fled to places like Canada or Sweden. These specimens generally freeloaded from the socialized services, while contributing little beyond an occasional outburst.
At 1900, it was back to the Bromma Airport for a welcoming banquet and ceremonial drinking, sponsored by the Scandinavian Air Service (SAS). I got my first real exposure to REAL Swedish cuisine with a menu of Swedish steak, veggies, rice, beer, wine and multiple toasts with aquavit (schnapps). Our hosts also passed around trays laden with various brands of cigarettes. I don’t recall what the dessert course was because we’d had several convivial toasts by then, each one demanding that you toss-off a shot glass of aquavit.
“Whew, it sure is getting hot in here,” I remember thinking. But it sure beat eating raw, pickled fish.
Later that night we reeled back to our barracks. At about 2200 the British, Swedish, Canadian and Swiss guys all donned pajamas, and went off to bed. Talk about civilized! Ever examples of American culture, we just sat around in our shorts, smoked and played poker until about midnight with that fake-looking Swedish money.
After reveille at 0630, I tried to shave. No easy task since our barracks only had freezing water. Dressed in blazers we went over to breakfast, and to another test of diplomacy at the mess hall. Lining up behind our Swedish hosts, I’d learned not to take any chances. It was better to lay back, checking out the chow before committing myself.
At first glance things looked OK, but no bacon, eggs, SOS, pancakes or that kind of thing. But this WAS a different country, after all. There was a big metal pan of cornflakes, some pitchers of milk, cocoa, bread, marmalade, and tea. Breakfast wasn’t the meal of the day here, that was obvious.
“Damn.” I was ready for a cup of coffee, but the tea would have to do caffeine-wise. Besides, what could be better than a bowl of some of those down-home corn flakes?
The Swedish guys each dished up some corn flakes, then picked up a pitcher of milk.
“Hey, wait a minute,” I thought. The “milk” poured out in chunks and clumps. This was curds and whey!
I didn’t care WHAT the “IACE Guidebook” said about showing “Etiquette and a spirit of adventure. . .”. When it came to groceries, I wasn’t going to douse my corn flakes with soured milk. Tea and bread would have to do until something more substantial appeared.
At 0830, our bus departed F8 for Stockholm. There a Royal Swedish Navy patrol boat awaited. We toured the network of islands that made up the city and the Baltic coastline. Stockholm, we learned, is an ancient city dating back to 1252 AD. The numerous islands provide natural chokepoints, making defense of the city a sure thing.
It was almost lunchtime when our boat moored at a dock near Stockholm’s City Hall. It was neat to just pull up in our own “private” navy ship, and hop out like we owned the place. Regular VIP’s, yessir!
The City Hall was a large building resembling a cathedral, complete with formal gardens and fountains. Though it looked quite old, it was newer. The architecture was designed to blend in with the older buildings around it. A tour of the building led to a luncheon as guests of the City.
From there, we hopped back on “our” patrol boat and visited a site where archeologists were restoring a 16th-century warship the “Wasa”. It sank, becoming encased in mud on the bottom. Between the mud and the icy water, a lot was preserved. The scientists now had the whole ship in a special hanger-like room. The ship was continuously sprayed with a water-based preservative. They carefully removed the mud, piecing the ship back together. The project would take years, maybe a decade.
At about 1600 it was back to F8 for dinner, then three others and I were alerted to pack up for the weekend. One feature of IACE was that you could expect to spend at least a couple of weekends as guests of local families in their homes. You’d get the chance to appreciate their culture and share a bit of yours. An RSAF staff car brought us to a hotel in Stockholm. We’d fly out the next morning.
The hotel was the local equivalent of a YMCA. The room had a lavatory and mirror, but the baths and restrooms were down the hall in the European custom. It was still daylight, and would be until about 2200, so we decided to take in the sights. We ended up at the local Grona Lund “Tivoli” (amusement park), rode some rides and played some games of skill.
While wandering around, I spotted a marquee with posters touting what appeared to be a magic show (Heck, I couldn’t read Swedish!). For seven Kroner -- about a buck-forty -- I bought a ticket, walked in and sat down. Yep, there was a magic show all right. It lasted for about fifteen minutes. It was sandwiched between two remarkable strip-tease shows, Guess they needed the intermission to let the steam out of the room!
Judging by the way their clothing disappeared, maybe the dancers were magicians, too. Well, I’d heard that Sweden was a very liberated country. This was sure a far cry from the Ponchartrain Beach amusement park in New Orleans back home!
It was so impressive that I talked my buddies into coming back with me for the second show. They did, and my reputation rose considerably.
Later, I separated from the group, and learned an important lesson. When traveling abroad be sure to have a pocket notebook, and take notes! I should’ve written down the name of our hotel, its’ address, and the bus number we’d taken to the Tivoli. Maybe made a little map, too.
A language barrier is a real challenge, but very easy to underestimate. All Swedish street names meant nothing to me. I had absolutely no way of asking for directions. Oh sure, many Swedes speak English. But how do you ask for directions to a place you can’t even pronounce, much less remember the spelling of? The bus system was, likewise, a meaningless maze. Talk about a dose of culture shock.
I grabbed a phone book and, of course, couldn’t make out any information of value. Place a call to the hotel? No way! If I’d lucked-out and got the right number, what would I say (in English) that would make any sense to anyone there? Take directions in Swedish? Forget it! I’d never felt so helpless and panicky.
Anyway, I tore out the name of a hotel that looked familiar, and hailed a passing “Polis”. After a bit of sign language, the local cops were only too happy to help yet another dumb tourist. Cheerfully opening the door of their car, they waved me aboard.
My smiling hosts drove through an old part of town, then pulled up at a run-down hotel I’d never seen before. A few friendly gestures indicated that it was time to hop out at “my” hotel, and that maybe a tip wasn’t out of the question either. Who knew. . .
“What the hell is this?” I thought, totally confused. After another round of sign language, the cops gave up, and we ended up at their precinct station. I was probably getting on their nerves, or maybe they were just late for a raw, pickled herring break or something. With an early flight to catch, though, I had to get to the hotel.
Well, they woke up a police officer who spoke passable English (sure as hell better than my Swedish), and figured out where I really belonged. I finally got to the room at about 0100, and hit the sack. My last recollection that night was waking up to daylight streaming in at about 0300. It had something to do with being close to the Arctic Circle, I think. Then, remembering we had to get up at 0500 to catch a plane, I buried my head in the blankets.
[+ Saturday, 25 July 1970 -- Kalmar, Ronneby, Private Hospitality +]
0500 came awfully early. I got ready for the day, but felt like a robot with someone else at the controls. I hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep since leaving Washington four days earlier.
We all were thoroughly jet-lagged, to boot. This being an IACE Ambassador stuff was tough! Nevertheless, our guys rallied, got dressed, packed, and headed for the Bromma Airport with the Swedish Escort Officers. This was going to be our first weekend with private hospitality.
After a continental breakfast, an SAS Convair 660 (a twin-engine turbo-prop, like the USAF T-29) headed south at 0645, our ticket’s courtesy of the RSAF. We landed once, in Kalmar, and dropped off two Cadets (one British and one American). We then landed in Ronneby on the Southeastern coast, where my Canadian sidekick and I got off.
Greeted by one of our Swedish Escort Officers, he guided us to his sporty little Volvo. He would be our private hospitality host, and introduced us to his wife and two small boys. We then drove to his home nearby for brunch.
The family home was situated in a small subdivision and was, I guessed, typically middle class. The main floor was an open plan that featured a lot of light, natural-finished wood. The basement featured a family room, a “bastu” (sauna), and a bomb shelter (no kidding!).
The picture windows in front were double paned and swung open on pivots halfway up each side. Didn’t notice an air conditioner, but the windows were open, and the climate was pleasant. Touring the house, the furnishings were quite nice. Scandinavian Modern was the motif (for some reason). The beds were kind of a platform-type with wooden edges to contain the mattress, like a sleigh bed. Two of these pulled side by side formed a double bed for the parents.
“Guess this is for washing your feet,” my Canadian buddy offered, looking at the bidet in the bathroom.
It was the first bidet I’d seen, too, but I’d done a little reading and knew it was for personal hygiene. There were even neat little towels hanging on conveniently low towel bars nearby. Can’t say I was ever motivated to try that fixture out, though.
Early that afternoon, our host brought us to the summerhouse belonging to his in-laws. It is quite a tradition for Swedes to have a “cottage” for weekend family retreats. The cottage we visited was situated near the Baltic Sea, complete with a Swedish national flag flying proudly above the front yard. We visited, played croquet, had dinner, and then returned to the host’s home.
That evening we watched TV -- a couple of BBC programs in English – then bathed (in the “luxury” of a real tub), and went to bed early.
“You made a big move at about 9:30, and I thought you were going to get up,” reported my roomie, “but then you rolled over, and went back to sleep.”
I was just getting out of bed and glanced at my watch. It was 1130. I’d been tireder than I thought, but now felt a lot better. I hurried, dressed, then made up my bed. Our hosts drove us to some picturesque woods near their house for some mushroom hunting.
My previous experience with hunting for those tasty little guys was limited to supermarkets. It was probably a good thing that none of the candidates I found made it to the kitchen, we might have started hallucinating, or something.
The lady of the house cleaned up our “catch”, turning them into a kind of mushroom soufflé that was excellent. While we waited for brunch the little boys, both cute little fellows with blond hair, wanted to chatter and play. They seemed impatient when I couldn’t understand what they were saying, and Dad had to translate. I also found out that Dad enjoyed jazz. I flooded him with brochures of New Orleans, the French Quarter and, of course, the jazz halls.
Sweden is well known for its’ glassware and crystal, so after brunch the we visited a nearby glass factory where I bought some schnapps glasses. We also met the other RSAF escort, who had the other two Cadets we’d dropped off the previous day. A short drive, with a quick hike into the woods, we all had a picnic among towering hardwoods.
In all that driving around, signs of Sweden’s military preparedness became obvious. A very wide road, that seemed very level and straight, turned out to be a runway. There were aircraft revetments along the sides of the road, back under the trees.
More than once we’d see stretches of highway that doubled as airstrips. Also, little roads led here, there, and off into the woods to concealed groupings of bunkers. These were remote storage sites for military weapons and hardware. The Swedes were clearly serious about national survival!
That afternoon we picked up our luggage, and were chauffeured to nearby Larkaby to visit the Senior Swedish Escort Officer’s home. After introductions to the family, we enjoyed a dinner of boiled shrimp, bread, cheese and, yep, Coca-Cola. The visit was mostly small talk, both sides being limited by the language barrier, but the warmth and friendship were genuine. After dinner, our Canadian Cadet played the piano while we all played some board games in the family room.
After, our host brought us to a rustic little hotel near his home. There, we linked up with two other Cadets, and took a bus to a small traveling Tivoli. It mainly featured some slot machines. It was more like a roving casino.
There were a couple of old US-made nickel slot machines where, instead of dropping a quarter-Kroner piece, I obligingly dropped a U.S. nickel in. The machine promptly jammed. Embarrassed, I left it for the owners to figure out how a U.S. nickel came all that distance to show up in their “nickel” machine.
I got back to the hotel, without help from the “Polis” this time, hitting the sack sometime after midnight.
[+ Monday 27 July 1970 -- F5-Ljungbyhed, Bjuv +]
The next morning featured a drive to the RSAF’s main Flight School at F5. We were joined by the rest of our group, who flew in on an RSAF C-47, and checked-in at our barracks. The barracks featured private rooms, but had the communal showers and toilets we’d come to expect. A novel feature was that the barracks were coed, with women living down the hall.
After talking about it, we decided it was unique to see a culture as free of gender-based hang-ups as this one. It left the responsibility for behavior (and consequences) with the individual. The Swedes didn’t hide behind a lot of artificial taboos. It seemed a lot more enlightened than anything we were used to.
Our group left by RSAF bus to the Findus food processing company in Bjuv. We visited a company-owned pea farm, then back to the food processing plant. There we followed a process that saw fresh, raw ingredients like the peas, come in the back door, and come out the front as fully cooked TV dinners of Hungarian goulash, or whatever.
After receiving information packets and a briefing on the process, we were ushered to a lunch of consisting of Findus products. I even tried the Hungarian goulash, it was really tasty.
It was in all this traveling around by RSAF bus, that our group began to get to know each other. At first, everyone sat in their own national groups, but then began to mingle a bit. Soon everyone was talking about their homes, families, our various school systems, and how governments worked.
Finally, we were singing old drinking songs, and military ditties like “The Rookie Trooper”, “The North Atlantic Squadron” and the ribald “Engineer’s Song” (the British version was much better than ours). Only the Swiss guys, who spoke no English, and were a lot older than all of us, stayed to themselves the whole time. I guessed it was all about that neutrality thing.
Personalities, likewise, emerged. One of our “Brit’s” was really a smooth talker, and his cultured accent lent authority when we needed a spokesman. I became the head “Yank”, we also had our immature “bad boys”, an alcoholic, some quiet studious types, and the rest were just regular guys. Everyone got along well, except for “The One” I mentioned earlier.
While a couple of guys would be quietly talking, “The One” would plump himself down and “horn-in”, trying to dominate the conversation. Talk about the nice Swedish countryside, and he’d assure all that NOTHING could beat his hometown. As if anyone knew where THAT was, much less cared.
He’d ask the Swedish bus driver to stop at a McDonald’s, then look around for the big laugh that never came. Take pictures of the rolling countryside, and he’d make a big deal out of photographing the local fire hydrants or something.
He was truly a “legend in his own mind” and everyone soon got tired of him. “How did this guy get on IACE?” we wondered more than once.
Returning to F5 late that afternoon, we prepared for a banquet in our honor at the Officer’s Mess.
“Not another banquet,” someone groaned. Had to admit, though, we were getting good at it. So, togged out in our blazers (which WERE getting ready for some dry cleaning by now), we dutifully headed for the Officer’s Mess.
It was, to that point, the best banquet we’d had. A band played while we met RSAF Flight Cadets, who had a remarkable capacity for aquavit. They were as cocky as fighter jocks in any country.
The tables were set with crystal and linen. White-jacketed waiters moved about, pouring wine and bringing drinks. The meal was smorgasbord-style, but when I looked over at the buffet table, my mouth went dry.
“Oh no,” I thought, looking at a huge platter with the biggest fish I’d ever seen. Heck, this was Moby Dick’s little brother. It was probably raw and pickled, to boot. “No wonder they served so many drinks.”
As it turned out, the “fish” was crafted from a flaky pastry. It contained a creamy filling of sautéed mushrooms, and other things. It was all delicious!
The party moved to the lounge and social areas of the Mess. We visited with our hosts and several local girls. I went to the bar, chatting with our Senior escorts, getting to know them better, too. After a fine, fun, and full evening we retired to our barracks.
[+ Tuesday, 28 July 1970 -- F5-Ljungbyhed, F17- Kallinge, Baltic Sea +]
0730 came early, but everyone turned-to. After breakfast, came a briefing on the flight school with a tour of the hangers and aircraft. A visit to a nearby city, with its famous Olympic-sized pool, rounded out the morning.
The afternoon schedule called for flights in SK60 jet trainers, but the weather was bad. Instead, we viewed some RSAF movies of their aircraft in action at the Flight School.
At about 1500, we bussed to F17 in Kallinge, home to an attack fighter wing. After a reception at the Base Commander’s house we were farmed-out again to private hospitality. My Canadian buddy and I partnered up again, met a young man, got our luggage, then left for his house. I didn’t know it, of course, but it would be the best private visit of the trip.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, maybe another nice house in the suburbs, but was surprised when we pulled up at a boat launch. Our host explained that we’d be staying at his family’s cottage on a small island in the Baltic Sea, as we shoved off in a whaleboat.
Sweden’s southeastern coastline is an archipelago. A “coastline” formed of many islands and inlets. Peter’s cottage was about a 1/2-mile out into the Baltic Sea. The island was picturesque, with cottages dotting the leeward side of the island. The view over the bay was terrific.
We wrestled our luggage up a hill, to a small cottage we would stay in. It was near our host’s cottage. We went back down to the boat, then motored around to the Baltic side of the island to fish. Our host pointed out several large coastal gun emplacements carved into high cliff walls that protected the various entrances to the bay. It looked like something out of “The Guns of Navarone” movie.
About a half-hour of fishing netted us two pike (I caught one!), and we returned to our host’s cottage. We visited a bit then he retired to the kitchen to cook dinner. I pulled up a chair by the picture window, sipping some wine. While a fantastic sunset faded over the bay, music played in the background. It was sublime.
After a dinner of chicken, bread, cheese, and more wine, we visited some more. Later, my Canadian buddy and I went down to our guest cottage. It consisted of a covered gallery overlooking the bay, a main room with kitchen nook, two small bedrooms, and a small bathroom. It was compact, functional, and rustic, all at once.
Before turning-in for the night, I walked onto the porch and leaned on the railing. The stars were out, lights danced on the water, and laughter floated up from a nearby cottage. I was ready to declare for Swedish citizenship, right then!
[+ Wednesday, 29 July 1970 -- Private Hospitality, Karlskroner +]
After breakfast, we boated back to the mainland. Our host drove us to a nearby town where we joined the rest of the group. Our bus took us to the southern city of Karlskroner, home of the Swedish Navy’s museum.
We learned the Swedish Navy is kind of a beefed-up Coast Guard. They put a heavy emphasis on anti-sub warfare, and are constantly sparring with the Soviets, who use the Swedish coastline for practice. An anti-convoy mission, with a few subs of their own, rounded out the Swedish capability. The museum also had numerous exhibits and intricately handcrafted models of various ships, ancient and modern.
The local press caught up with us. They posed us up outside of the museum for a picture that ran in the next day’s paper. Our hosts saw that we all got a copy as a souvenir, one of many thoughtful touches.
At a nearby pier a fishing boat waited. We motored into the foggy Baltic to some small, obscure island for lunch. The island was interesting because it was, apparently, being fortified as a submarine base.
One theory was that the island was somehow being hollowed out, and the subs would enter only by submerging, then popping up inside. I don’t know about all that, but we WERE “asked” to leave our cameras behind, and not to stray off the path to the mess hall.
I did walk over to what looked like a small excavation. It was an eye opener. The excavation was a gun emplacement covering the pier we landed on and the adjacent beach. There was a door on the back wall. The passageway, all underground, led back toward the center of the island. Looking back in that direction you couldn’t tell that anything was there. All they had to do is drop the roof on the emplacement, rebury it, and it would be invisible. These folks really liked to dig-in!
After lunch, our fishing boat headed out again into the Baltic, this time for some fishing. It was foggy, drizzly, and after a few attempts to catch something most of us went below. We did, though, try to spark some interest by pitching in on a pooled bet. The first guy to catch a fish would collect. Well, the winner was one of the Swedish boat crew who won thirty Kroner. Good thing we weren’t fishing for a living; only three fish were caught. We’d starve.
After the fishing trip, our new friend and host picked me and my Canadian buddy up. We went to his father’s home for dinner. On the way, our host picked up his girlfriend. Dinner was the pike we’d caught the previous day.
After returning to our cottage on the island, we ate ice cream and visited until bedtime. My roomie and I returned to our picturesque little cottage. Our host and his girlfriend stayed at his.
[+ Thursday, 30 July 1970 -- Ronneyby, Royal Swedish Gliding Academy +]
In the morning, Peter’s father met us at the mainland boat launch, and drove us to the F17 base in Kallinge. We met our bus and drove to Ronneby, picking up Cadets along the way. A tour of a local trade exhibit, then a nearby glass factory was the first order of business.
Sweden is well known for its crystal and glassware and we could see why. The factory was run by people of Italian descent. True artisans, this factory specialized in producing intricate glass figurines, all made by hand. They also sold hand-blown decanter sets, glasses, decorative vases, and bowls.
The visit started with a first-hand demonstration of the glass-blowers art. The artisan pulled a taffy-like glob of glowing, molten glass from the furnace onto the end of a long metal tube. He then began to blow with a mighty effort, his cheeks puffing out like oranges. Shortly, a bubble appeared from the glob of glass, which he shaped into a decanter-like bottle. After a bit more shaping with various tools, he cut the bottle off of the tube.
At the end of our tour we came back by the bottle he’d made. Though it wasn’t glowing, he lit a cigarette off the bottle (without touching it to the glass) to show us how hot it still was. I was sure impressed, and didn’t need a further sales pitch. I bought a nice decanter for my Mom, and some little figurines as gifts.
After the glass works a small boat took us for a trip down some canals that wind through the area. It carried us on to a larger excursion boat that carried into the Baltic to an island casino for lunch. The casino area was closed -- probably a good thing, too, since my funds were tight enough -- but we took some neat pictures by the roulette tables.
Returning to F17 that afternoon, an RSAF C-47 transport flew us on to Alleberg, a city in south-central Sweden. Stepping off the plane, we were greeted by the local press, who got some shots of us unloading our luggage bucket-brigade style, and others of us just standing around looking photogenic (and, maybe, a bit lost) in our various uniforms.
We were then packed off to the Royal Swedish Gliding Academy located on a plateau that overlooked the city of Falkoping. No sooner than we landed in our open-bay barracks then it was time to get ready for a banquet, this time sponsored by the City. We ate, listened to music, visited, and danced until after midnight.
An occasion like this that would bring out the best (or worst) in our group. Usually, we would produce a spokesman who would acknowledge our host’s gracious hospitality. I’ve mentioned a British Cadet who was hard to beat with his cultured British accent, and excellent command of the language. If an interpreter was called for, then one of our Swedish Air Cadet buddies would step right in. We were getting this international ambassador thing down pat.
The “One”, however, was still having problems. I think his brain was jammed. Sip a drink, and he’d chug-a-lug his like Kool-Aid. Be a little lightheaded and wave off a waiter; he’d call for more and get drunk. When a handshake was called for, he’d slap a back.
Finally, it got to the point when no one, whether they spoke English or not, would talk to him. He spent the rest of the trip as the “invisible man”, sitting and eating by himself. I almost felt sorry for him.
Everyone, though, really got along well, and each national group policed themselves. We had a couple of the British guys who, judging by their Cockney-like accents and demeanor, came from a more boisterous background. One day they started whistling at the local girls, then riding on the roof of our bus singing drinking ditties.
I don’t know who said what to whom, but a little later they were in their bus seats, all very low-key. We, too, had our opportunities with our resident alcoholic, but more about that later.
However, at midnight in Falkoping, after a bus trip, a plane trip, and a hurry-up appearance at an official banquet, nothing looked better than our humble barracks building at the gliding school. I hit the rack.
[+ Friday, 31 July 1970 -- Falkoping, Royal Swedish Gliding Academy +]
Early (as usual) the next day, our bus took us for a visit of the local sights. At a monastery, we learned that most of Swedes are Lutheran. The building itself was hand-hewn stone with massive flying arches inside, complete with intricate stained-glass windows. It was easy to be awed by the age, symbolism, and devotion it took to build it.
Lunch was courtesy of the local Rotary, with the rest of the afternoon was billed as free time.
The city’s picturesque downtown had been converted into kind of an open-air mall. I was impressed at how clean the city was. The high quality of everyday life was evident everywhere.
After supper at the Gliding Academy, a few of us decided to climb down the face of our plateau. The plateau was ringed with an ocean of wheat fields. In the middle of one field stood some stone ruins that we hiked over to. Couldn’t really tell what they had been, a building of some kind, but bigger than a house. It was overgrown. Due to the altitude, the climb back up to the school was more of a chore than the climb down. In any case, it capped off the day.
[+ Saturday, 1 August 1970 -- Royal Swedish Gliding Academy +]
Today, we crowded out to the grass strip of the flight line, for a day of gliding. Something most of us had never done before.
The two-man gliders were impressively light but sturdy. They were towed aloft by a bi-plane that looked like something out a World War I movie, but quite serviceable. Five or six guys would push the glider out onto the grass strip. A helper supported each wing tip while the others pushed it along on its centerline landing wheels.
Support and balance was important in this phase. Drop a wing on the ground, then the glider would probably spin around like a top, and toss us all off in every direction. No, we didn’t try that. We wanted to leave a good impression. We also wanted to get up in the air. . .
Once lined up, the pilot and passenger boarded then buttoned up the canopy. The ground crew would check the towline (a steel cable) for proper attachment. The wing-walkers on both sides would hold the wings level with the ground. The bi-plane would then ease up ahead, taking up the cable’s slack.
Finally, the bi-plane would apply power and start off. The wing-walkers became “wing-runners” for a short distance until the glider gathered some lift. Then -- WHOOSH -- it was up in the air like a huge toy!
At the appropriate altitude and location, the glider pilot would reach down, lift a lever releasing the towline. Then you were on your own.
My flight lasted about 31 minutes. The sudden lift-off gave you the same feeling as an elevator going way up, then up some more. More impressive, though, was the lack of sound. Just the rushing of air. The pilot dipped and soared on the air currents that swirled around our plateau. Finally, we swooped down for a landing, coming to rest as gently as a bird on a perch.
I spent most the afternoon with the other guys helping the line crew. A couple of us did check out for a while, though, to take a nap. All the late nights and early mornings were taking a toll.
Later in the afternoon, the gliders were secured in the hanger. The evening featured a dinner and dance enlivened by some local girls. They were invited, no doubt, for a closer look at the foreigners. Later, some of the guys went with them to a disco in town, but most us just opted for bed; not party-poopers, just pooped.
[+ Sunday, 2 August 1970 -- F7 - Satenas +]
This Sunday was a “day off”. No tours, receptions, banquets, or other official stuff. Nothing! There was travel scheduled that afternoon, but we killed the morning just sleeping-in, repacking clothes and souvenirs, writing postcards, and similar housekeeping.
After being in country now for about two weeks laundry was becoming quite a challenge. The daily schedule didn’t really permit a lot of free time. Besides, where would you ask for a Laundromat? The blazers were getting a little wilted, and selections of fresh clothing were getting thin. My dirty clothes went into plastic bags, first rolling them to reduce wrinkles and to save space. These “padded” my shoes, souvenirs, etc. but it wouldn’t be many more days before things would be getting out of hand.
Our private hospitality hosts laundered some things, and there was some professional cleaning done once or twice. That turned out to be a bit dicey because we were on the move so much. On one occasion, we ended up in one city with our laundry in another. An RSAF courier had to bring them to us. THAT was some expensive laundry, although it was all complimentary to us.
After a very late breakfast we embarked on about a five-hour bus trip from the Gliding Academy to the F7 air base. F7 was an attack fighter base located in Satenas near Trollhaten, in the Southwest part of the country.
A local hotel (we occupied an entire floor) became our headquarters for the next couple of days. The rooms were typical, clean but plain and functional, with showers and bathrooms down the hall. No swimming pool, tennis courts, nor themed playgrounds with fiberglass animal slides here. None of the “essentials” we Americans expect when traveling.
No, the closest thing to room service was a cardboard box of room-temperature sodas for sale, honor system, on each floor. Well, who said that international diplomacy was without sacrifice?
Dressed in coat and tie, that evening’s dinner turned into a pleasant surprise. At the F7 airbase our bus wound up a long, curving driveway to a stately mansion. This was where the Officers hung out.
“Hey, this place looks like a country club,” I thought. It was the beginning of one of the most elegant parts of the trip.
The base was situated on what appeared to be a plantation. The driveway was gravel and lined by massive old trees. Change the climate a bit, throw in a few cotton fields, and you could be back in ante-bellum Louisiana.
We walked across an acre of porch, and past some columns that would have been at home at the Acropolis. Proceeding through an ornate door with leaded-glass sidelights, and into a hallway with gleaming wood floors, we were greeted then guided into the dining room.
It was clear that this place was no mere mess hall.
The tables were covered with snowy white linen, china service and crystal goblets. There was enough heavy silverware at each place setting for a small family. It was all a formal dinner setting right out of Emily Post. Place cards topped it off, with each person’s name and homeland at each seat.
White-jacketed mess boys served the food, one course at a time. I really don’t remember the menu, I was too taken by the elegance. They could’ve served peanut butter sandwiches, and still impressed everyone.
On an occasion like this, the braver of the Americans would try to master the Continental style of eating. This involves holding the fork in your left hand with the knife in your right as you eat. Just the reverse of what we’d been taught at home.
“Looks like you Yanks just shovel it in,” observed one Brit, when we compared table etiquette.
To cut a piece of meat, for example, we “Yanks” would switch the knife to the right hand, hold the meat down with the fork in the left, and saw off a piece. Then the fork and knife would switch hands, and we’d spear and eat the piece of meat with the fork back in our right. Some thought our switching utensils back and forth, and holding the fork shovel-like was provincial. After observing everyone else’s style, most of us agreed, and decided to try something new.
Our hosts, and everyone else, would simply hold the knife in the right, the fork in the left (but with the curved side up and tines pointed down). That’s where they would stay. None of this switching and shoveling business. Thus, food was speared and eaten as it was cut or the knife was used to push food toward the fork.
Hard to describe, but it had a practical elegance to it. With a little experience, one could even master mashed potatoes and peas without embarrassment. It was just another of those little cultural differences.
After dinner, we “retired” -- this wasn’t the kind of place where you simply “went” anywhere -- to the Officer’s lounge upstairs. It featured a wood paneled smoking room, and sitting area with a hugely ornate billiards table. This was no USAF “O-Club” with jukebox, 25-cent beer, popcorn, and 50-cent pool. This was true billiards, no pocket pool here. An enlisted mess boy busily served up drinks to order, while RSAF Officers in dress uniforms sat in leather wing-backed chairs, smoked, and swapped flying stories.
After visiting with our hosts, some played cards. A few of us were exposed to the finer points of billiards by our British cousins until after midnight. Later, we “retired” to our hotel.
[+ Monday, 3 August 1970 -- F7 -- Satenas +]
After breakfast at the Officer’s mess, characterized by the same service as the previous night, it was time to visit the flight line. There was a static display of attack fighters, the A37 Lansing and J35 Draaken. We also saw a brand new J37 Viggen on the ramp, but they didn’t let us get close to it. The “Viggen” was just coming out, and was the “crown jewel” of the RSAF.
In an auditorium, a briefing of the pilots was going on. They were going out to maneuver against some nearby Army units. They were practicing some sort of sector defense against an armored brigade. Other pilots treated us to an air show of some older prop-driven trainers. The morning was capped off with a tour of the control tower.
At that point, though, there had been plenty of airplanes, ramps, towers, and static displays on the schedule. It was all a little ho-hum. By the time we returned to the Officer’s Club, we were itching to try something new and exciting. We wouldn’t be disappointed.
Both the base letter carrier, and the base Officer of the Day, made the mistake of parking some nifty little Mo-ped motor bikes by the Club. We pounced on these, and spent the rest of the afternoon trying some maneuvers of our own, zipping around the drive, and exploring the base. When they ran out of gas, we carefully parked them where we’d found them. We just knew that NO ONE would ever suspect us.
Dinner that evening was the usual coat and tie affair, complete with band and a social afterward. Several others and I returned to the billiards room to try to figure out the intricacies of the game. Maybe, we hoped, we could beat those Limeys (and win back some of our “Kroner”). This also precipitated an unfortunate incident.
It was our resident Cadet alcoholic. A nice kid with curly black hair, he was always ready for a challenge, especially when it involved beer. Taking us up on a thoughtless bet, he poured down twenty-two beers in a remarkably short period of time, and got totally wasted.
The real problem was that this nice kid from the American Heartland became outrageously obstinate, and even physical, when he got that way. To make a sorry story short, he became very abusive to the whole group on the bus.
It took four of us to restrain him. We then manhandled him into the motel, where he obligingly passed out in the hallway. From then on it was a piece of cake to get him into his room, and onto his bed. I made the rounds, apologizing to the Escorts, and the other guys on behalf of our delegation.
We “Yanks” all vowed to keep an eye on him after that, and really had no more problems. Funny thing, the next morning he was the only one who remembered nothing about it at all. Not even a hangover.
[+ Tuesday, 4 August 1970 -- Trollhattan, Vargon, and Uddevalla +]
Today’s itinerary called for a bus trip to Trollhatten with a visit the Svenska Flygmotor AB (SFA) factory. SFA specialized in making jet aircraft engines for commercial and military applications. The designs were generally licensed from other companies, like Pratt & Whitney. What made SFA unique was how the factory operated.
After an introductory presentation, we walked through several areas where the final assembly of various components took place. The real treat, though, came when we were taken to where those components were fabricated. About 100 meters underground!
Our group was escorted through the plant, down several large flights of stairs, past a couple of massive blast doors, then down again via two flights of high-speed escalators.
Emerging through another set of massive, vault-like doors, we found ourselves in a huge main cavern.
It was shadowy and the place looked HUGE! I couldn’t see far enough down the cavern to gauge its length, but guessed maybe several hundred meters long. Going off to the right and left were other tunnels loaded with machine tools and heavy equipment. There were groups of workers all moving bins and racks of intricate parts through various stages of fabrication. Again, it was impossible to guess how many of these side tunnels there were. I counted about 6 or 8 as we walked along.
“How do you get materials up to the assembly plant?” Someone asked.
Our hosts explained that elevators handled some. Larger items were trucked to the surface up a series of spiraling ramps.
“It would probably take a direct hit from a nuke to shake this place up,” I thought.
From SFA, we visited the Holmens Bruk AB, a pulp and paper factory in nearby Vargon.
As with most paper mills, you could smell the place long before you got there, and it got worse as you entered. The sulfurous chemicals used in the processing made everything smell and taste like rotten eggs.
The Holmens Bruk people set out a hearty lunch in the company cafeteria. The menu consisted of various things that all tasted the same, like “rotten eggs”. Then it was time to tour.
Here was a factory where trees came in one end, and huge rolls of finished paper were trucked out the other. We saw the entire process from beginning to end.
First, the trees were cut into uniform lengths for better processing. These dropped off massive conveyors into a set of mighty crushers, and emerged as ground-up chips or “pulp”. A chemical reduction and cooking process (the “rotten egg” smell) reduced the pulp into paste-like goo. This was extruded under heat and pressure through a series of rollers, and emerged as a continuous sheet of paper several feet wide taken up onto large rolls. Various qualities of paper, from the cheaper newsprint to coated stocks for magazines, could be produced to order.
This day’s excursion was completed with a bus trip over to Uddevalla, a town on the west coast. There we visited a park-like swimming area, picked up a few items in town then returned to F7, about 50 km away, for dinner.
After dinner, a couple of us took our free time at a nearby restaurant, visited and relaxed. It was great to be with a group of guys from all over. There was almost always something to talk about.
Forget school, politics, the weather, or even Vietnam. No, sometimes it was those little cultural differences that were the most interesting. While we had Santa Claus, the Swedes had Father Christmas. Swedish Rice Crispies went “Piff-Paff-Poof”, none of this “Snap, Crackle, Pop” business. The disclosure that Yankee pigs went “oink”, when everyone just knew that they were supposed to go “nurf-nurf” drew gales of laughter.
It was “up bright and early” for this morning’s flight to a fighter wing at F3. Our venerable C-47 “Dakota” transport was comfortably fitted for passenger service. The pilot came aboard, and our RSAF escorts explained in hushed tones that this efficient-looking Colonel was, in fact, the King’s pilot.
Once airborne the Colonel came back for a chat. He confirmed that he flew the King around, but also other visiting VIP’s. Spotting the Americans, he mentioned he’d flown General Curtis LeMay, the “founding father” of our mighty Strategic Air Command, and General Connelly, the Air Force Chief of Staff. These guys were no lightweights. We were suitably impressed.
At F3, there was a hanger/museum jammed with various aircraft used by the RSAF over the years. One of them sported UN markings that had been used in a peacekeeping operation. There was also a small -- about 2/3’rds scale -- “Draaken” that had been used as some kind of test bed during the development of that very capable fighter.
After lunch, we bussed over to nearby Lindkoping to visit the SAAB aircraft factory. This featured another underground fabrication plant, with assembly being done in a sprawling facility at ground level. On the assembly floor, we saw row after row of SK 60 trainers, J35 Draaken’s, and the new J37 Viggen in various stages of production.
Technicians swarmed over each aircraft and access panels were open to reveal sheaves of multi-colored wires, cables, and hydraulic tubing being carefully attached to the airframes. Test panels for checking out various components were everywhere.
One technician demonstrated how he was checking out the landing gear system. The plane was up on supports so everyone could work beneath it, and the landing gear had just been attached. A few buttons on the test console ran the landing gear through its’ extend and retract cycle, while he watched various readouts. You could tell these exquisite pieces of engineering didn’t just happen by magic -- they were the product of a lot of exacting work. This was no mere assembly line chuffing-out Model T Fords.
After the factory tour, we went up for a couple of propaganda films on the new SAAB Viggen aircraft, and another featuring SAAB automobiles.
That evening, SAAB sponsored dinner at the nearby “Olympen” hotel. After, there were a few party games and a social until about 2130. Before adjourning, we were each given a J35 tie clip, a packet of pictures, info on SAAB aircraft, and a spiffy little stainless-steel gentlemen’s knife. I still have them all.
[+ Thursday, 6 August 1970 -- F16/F20 - Uppsala +]
By mid-morning our group was airborne again with the King’s pilot at the controls of “our” C-47. We were off to the combined bases F16 (another fighter wing) and F20, which was the RSAF equivalent of our USAF Academy in Colorado Springs.
I was really feeling miserable with a head cold I’d been fighting for a few days, and the flying only aggravated the discomfort. I read somewhere that a form of torture in the Far East was to “stimulate” the nerves in the sinuses. Well, it was probably incredibly effective, if my experience was any indication.
The C-47’s pressurization system seemed non-existent. As we went up or down, the air pressure in my stuffed-up sinuses produced some memorable pain. Later, I went right to the base hospital for some medications and a nose spray that helped.
As we got closer to the base, the pilot asked us to look out of the right side of the plane.
We glanced over, then scrambled for our cameras. It was a flight of three J35 Draaken’s. They’d come up to give us a fighter escort in to the base! They soared and wheeled about our plane, putting on quite a show before streaking off.
On the ground, and after refreshments, we were treated to our own private air show. Four Draaken’s thundered off the runway with afterburners blazing, then performed some precision fly-bys. A low-level high-speed pass left us with mouths open. It was quite a performance!
A briefing on the Air Academy, and my trip to the base hospital topped off my afternoon. The schedule called for swimming and athletics, but I checked-out of that and went to my room. I also took an informal tour of our barracks building, and ran across some young Swedish Air Cadets there for a summer encampment.
In CAP, our summer encampments were a combination boot camp and field trip. CAP Cadets are treated to a daily schedule of visits to various departments to see a real live USAF base in action. The Swedish Air Cadet encampments had a slightly different “spin”.
I’d walked past some stairs and heard voices below. Descending to the basement, there was a group of Swedish Air Cadets, about 15 or 16 years old. Togged-out in camouflage fatigues, they were stripping and cleaning Swedish K submachine guns! A couple spoke English, and I learned that they’d been out on a field exercise. Apparently, summer camp in Sweden comes with a hands-on dose of homeland defense.
Later, they came by my room for a visit, and a friendly game of poker. Those little cardsharps cleaned us out, too.
We topped-off the evening with a beer party thrown in our honor. Yep, our Cadet alcoholic did get drunk again, but stayed in a “happy” mood this time (thank goodness!).
F16/F20 is located near the ancient city of Uppsala. We visited a cathedral dating back to the 1100’s complete with some Viking burial mounds nearby, nearly a thousand years old. A replica mead hall, complete with hand-hewn timbers, served up samples of mead. We learned it is kind of honey-based beer, a tasty and rich concoction.
After lunch, our C-47, in the capable hands of the King’s Pilot, carried us for a flight to F4 in Froson, in the north-central part of the country.
It was about here, I think, that the group staged a “mini-mutiny”. The schedule talked about a visit a nearby brewery, but we were ready for a break, and we said so. No one intended to affront our generous hosts, but everyone was getting tired.
The schedule had been non-stop all week. A typical day saw reveille at 0630, and usually to bed after midnight, with the time in-between either at a function of some kind or preparing for the next one. After a while, being on display wasn’t always everything it had been cracked up to be. Everyone just needed some downtime, so the brewery tour was cancelled.
That afternoon we were all back in the saddle, with a reception and dinner held by the Base Commander.
[+ Saturday, 8 August 1970 -- F4, Storlien +]
One of our Swedish Air Cadet buddies, woke us up by parading up and down the hall ringing a bell.
“Guess I wasn’t the only one sleeping late,” I thought, foggily.
After breakfast, we were issued hiking gear (boots, socks, coats and slickers) that we’d need for a field trip the next day. Then it was off by bus for about a five-hour trip to a big alpine ski resort close to the Arctic Circle, on the Norwegian border. The Storliens Hogfjallshotell.
The trip, through the north central part of the country, featured a lot of breathtaking scenery. There was a ferryboat crossing of a major lake, then a stop to visit the waterfall “Tannforsen”.
Quite popular with both locals and tourists, Tannforsen is set in a wooded area. The water fall is shut off and on according to the needs of a nearby hydropower plant. When we visited it was roaring beside us, coming from above in a crash of water and white-plumed spray.
Next stop was for lunch at a roadside meadow with a view of mountains, forests and valleys like something out of the movie “The Sound of Music”. Even the box lunches were worthy of a picture (I took one) with gourmet open-faced sandwiches that looked like big hors d’oeuvres. These featured pate’-like spreads, carved radish rosettes, and colorful garnishes all carefully arranged, almost too pretty to eat.
Storlien was a picture-perfect ski resort, but without snow (this was August, after all). The lobby in the main lodge featured a big fireplace, a lot of dark wood, with huge exposed timbers supporting the high-pitched ceilings. A lot of native stone, cozy groupings of comfortable sofa’s and chairs near high glass window walls, completed the picture. To the south and east were sweeping views and a lake, to the north the hillside we were snuggled against, and to the west lay Norway.
Our rooms featured a two-man bunk bed configuration. All was clean, as usual, but small with bathrooms and showers down the hall. I quickly moved in, then turned out to have a look around. A couple of us got together, rented bicycles then played putt-putt for a couple of hours.
“How far is Norway?” I asked a desk clerk after dinner.
“About four kilometers.”
We had plenty of daylight left, until after 2200, in fact. Three others and I decided to make an unofficial visit to Norway. Feeling the thrill of an international adventure coming on, we carefully skirted the main road, and cautiously wound our way through some fields. Getting closer to the border, we talked about keeping a sharp eye out for watchtowers, fence lines, gates, and checkpoints manned by heavily armed troops.
We didn’t really know what to expect at the border. We’d heard that the Norwegians really didn’t like the Swedes since World War II. Despite their neutrality, Sweden had let invading Nazi forces cross their territory to conquer Norway. Just the very thing to piss-off your neighbors.
We finally emerged on the main road, and continued a couple of hundred meters west.
“If we have a problem, we’ll just tell them we got lost,” my British pal contributed with, maybe, a worried note in his voice.
Finally, there was a broad white line painted in the road. Off to the north and south were firebreak-like clearings that ran for as far as the eye could see. No towers, gates, guards or fences, not even a “Welcome To Norway” sign. A few steps across the white line, then we were international travelers again.
A bit further into Norway, the road took a sweeping turn to the right and headed down the face of the mountain to disappear into a vast valley covered with trees. The sun was setting and it was spectacular. The lights of a town twinkled in the distance but it was getting late now. Time to return.
With daylight fading fast, trudging back up the mountain road was more of a chore now. As the headlights of a car wound its’ way up from the valley, we stopped to hang out our thumbs to hitchhike.
“Hope this isn’t some local obscene gesture.” To our relief, the car pulled over.
“Anybody know Norwegian?” Was the next unspoken question.
“Need a ride?” The driver said with a perfect Yankee accent. Talk about luck! The guy was from New York! He was taking a car tour on his own. He had family in Norway and in Sweden. He dropped us off right at the hotel.
[+ Sunday, 9 August 1970 -- Storlien, F4-Froson/Ostersund +]
Still feeling a little rough from my head cold, I “passed” on the morning’s field trip. The rest of the group was taken over to nearby Are for a hiking on the mountain “Areskuten”, which tops out at about 5,000 feet; not the kind of thing I was up to. I slept-in then went down and played some putt-putt to kill time.
The group returned late in the morning, then we all did some packing and generally milled around until lunchtime. After, it was that five-hour ride again back to F4. In all, it had been just your usual relaxing weekend at a nice alpine resort!
At about 1700, we pulled-in at F4 we were just in time to change for a banquet. Our host was the President of the District Council, comparable to a regional governor, I think.
On the way back to our rooms at the base, the conversation stopped almost on cue. Everyone realized that we’d just finished our last weekend in Sweden.
[+ Monday, 10 August 1970 -- F4, F8-Barkarby, Stockholm +]
It was time to turn in our hiking gear, and pack for departure to F8, just outside of Stockholm. F8 had been our starting point a few weeks ago. Now the visit was coming full circle. The International Air Cadet Exchange was fast coming to a close.
The C-47 touched down at F8, and we returned to some familiar-looking barracks. After lunch, we bussed into Stockholm for an afternoon of free time, that sparked-up spirits a bit.
Our Swedish buddies proudly escorted us past several government buildings, then over to the King’s Palace. It was just time for the changing of the guard ceremony. In all, it was straightforward.
“Well, THIS isn’t Buckingham Palace,” sniffed one of the Brits. This disclosure, however true, got a dirty look from one of the Swedish guys.
The palace guards were togged out in plain green Army uniforms and armed with efficient-looking Swedish K’s. No cavalry with chromed helmets, no marching troops with scarlet tunics. It was short on pomp and circumstance.
Basically, the outgoing guard platoon formed up in the palace square, and the new platoon formed up facing them. There was a perfunctory inspection, the National Anthem was played, then came the actual changing of the guards.
On command, the new and old guards simply scrambled past each other to exchange places. Maybe I missed the deeper significance, but it looked like a football scrimmage to me.
We went to an authentic Italian pizzeria for some of the “real thing”, and yet another shot of culture shock. The pizza came out with something of a new look to some of us. It was cut into squares, not the wedge-shaped slices we were used to. Not to be deterred, though, we dove right in. Each guy picked up a piece and started eating, it was delicious.
Suddenly, it seemed like the whole place was quiet with everyone looking at us. It took a moment to figure out, then we put down our pieces of pizza. We picked up our silverware and ate like everyone else was doing; Continental-style, too.
The Grona Lund Tivoli was our next stop. A few rides, some slot machines, and a visit to that memorable “magic” show rounded out the evening.
Back at F8, I just couldn’t sleep. Tomorrow was our last full day in country. After fidgeting some more, I decided to take a walk. The evening air was clear, and the sky was filled with stars. I wandered down the lane toward the main gate, just reliving the last few weeks.
“HALT!!” a voice barked. I didn’t really understand what word was said, but the meaning was clear, so I froze. An armed guard came over while another covered us with a machine gun.
After a short, one-sided discussion in broken English, they figured out who I was. Then, “You will go to bed now, please!”
With no further urging, I trudged back up the road. I followed the instructions to the letter.
[+ Tuesday, 11 August 1970 -- F8, Stockholm, Lindingo +]
The last full day in country was spent with a wrap-up visit to the “Flygstaben”, the RSAF headquarters. There we met the deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Swedish Air Force, a personable ranking Officer. In a receiving line, we each expressed our sincere appreciation for the outstanding hospitality they’d shared.
After another propaganda movie about the RSAF, we were back out into Stockholm for some more free time. After another visit to the pizzeria (we Yanks remembered our knives and forks this time), our bus took us to nearby Lindingo.
Lindingo is the home of AGA, a Swedish conglomerate, known for its’ electronics, navigational aids, and SCUBA-related equipment. There was a film on the company, and a visit an assembly operation. Here the electronic guidance systems for Swedish Navy torpedoes were fabricated and installed. We also went over to an indoor test pool where SCUBA gear was demonstrated.
The banquet that night was billed as our “farewell” dinner. We didn’t really need the reminder that this was our last formal meal in Sweden. My trip notes recalled that it was “excellent” but that “our drinker got drunk again”.
Afterward, everyone was really subdued, but we all vowed to stay in touch. We even swore that we would meet at that pizzeria in Stockholm in ten years (NOTE: I did start a little newsletter for us that lasted about a year. We all exchanged Christmas cards for a few years thereafter).
Back at F8, I packed, showered and shaved, because I figured the next day would be hectic.
[+ Wednesday, 12 August 1970 -- F8, Rhein-Main +]
At 0730, the guys and I went over for the 0800 breakfast. Everyone was trying to make little jokes, but mostly tried to avoid eye contact. This was our last day in Sweden.
We’d all gathered in the common room of our barracks. Our farewell to the Swedish Air Cadets and to our RSAF Escorts was very simple. In turn, we each walked up and gave them little tokens of appreciation. Some CAP Cadets had Wing patches, others offered pins from their flying clubs. We’d tacitly agreed that it should be something personal and from each guy’s country.
I gave the Senior RSAF Officer the key to the City of New Orleans and official proclamation naming him an Honorary Citizen. I’d carried it throughout the trip. For a bunch of guys who’d weathered no telling how many speeches, receptions and banquets, we just didn’t have a lot to say.
“I must go now before I weep,” our senior RSAF escort told us.
Next, it was out to the flight line. We were issued our passports, each officially stamped as having been in and out of the country on the same day (bureaucracy is universal). We shot a few last pictures, then loaded our luggage on a Norwegian C-130 for the flight back to Rhein-Main AB.
I jotted a note in my little notebook that I’d “…left a beautiful land 11:20:15.” I left my watch set on Sweden’s time for over a year after that.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
When the C-130 touched down in Germany at about 1445 local, it was time to get busy. Luggage was loaded onto trucks, and we bussed over to the transient quarters on the base. No sooner did we get settled when, yep!, it was time to change for another banquet.
We were officially welcomed back to the Rhein-Main Air Base at the Officer’s Club (again). The guest speaker was none other than Brigadier General Chuck Yeager, then Vice-Commander of the 7th Air Force.
A world-renowned test pilot, General Yeager was the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound. I was properly awed at being in the presence of this great and courageous man. A genuine American Hero. I even remembered to sneak out, intercept him, and get an autograph. WOW!!!
At the barracks, I repacked and set out clothes for the next day. I suspected it was going to be a long one.
[+ Thursday, 13 August 1970 -- Rhein-Main, Andrews AFB, Dulles International, Home +]
The trip back to the US was almost a mirror to our trip out to Germany, over three weeks ago. However, this was to be my longest day, yet.
Reveille was at 0400 and at 0445 I enjoyed the first American breakfast I’d had in almost a month. No raw fish or curdled milk and corn flakes in THIS chow line! Afterward, it was time to go to the flight line where our C-141 Starlifters waited.
By now there were a lot of CAP Cadets milling around. It was like a class reunion.
Everyone had a story or two to share, from the guy who threw away all his clothes to bring back a suitcase full of German beer, to the remarkable “picture” books available in France and Norway (and Sweden). There were stories about famous sites, historic places, and tales of adventures of all kinds. Moreover, everyone was just certain that THEIR host country had been the best.
At 0820, we broke ground for the nine-hour flight back to Andrews AFB, with a cargo of tired and mostly subdued Cadets. Touching down at 1245 local, we deplaned and hustled through a Customs check that was mostly the formality of filling out a declaration form. Plane tickets for home were issued then an USAF bus took us right to the airport. There was no time wasted in dispatching us for home.
The idea of being home again revived most, we all clamored for a lunch break at the first McDonald’s we saw. Unauthorized side trips weren’t in the driver’s instructions, so he just took us on to Washington National Airport. A few of us discovered that our connections called for later flights out of Dulles International. We were bussed there at about 1600.
Dulles turned out to be quite a novelty. The main building featured a massive upswept roof of pre-stressed concrete. It looked like something from the cover of a science fiction magazine. It was quite modern, even by current standards. Another difference is that the planes didn’t “dock” at the terminal. Instead, you were brought out to your plane by special busses that would “dock” with the plane. A unique concept that probably saved a lot of taxiing around by the planes.
We broke ground for home at 1915 Washington DC time -- my watch said it was 0430 the “next” morning, Sweden time.
- 30 –
NOTE: In putting this little story together it was amazing how easy it was to remember a lot of the details, even years later. I kept a file on the activity with a lot of the original documentation; schedules, the IACE guidebook, etc. There was also a careful daily journal of the trip, plus a lot of pictures to look at. Still, the magnitude of the impact that IACE had on me can be gauged by the clarity of this recollection.
It was a life-changing experience. . .
The usual disclaimer is in order. These recollections and interpretations of events are mine alone, as seen through the lens of a young man of that time. Any inaccuracy in my recounting of events, personalities, actions, motivations or any other aspect of this wonderful Special Activity are my responsibility alone.
Please take time to review “The Paladin Papers” series. Some characters and locations are fictionalized, but the central themes, methods and means are all anchored in fact. The other stories:
“Pave Bolo: Target Iran” – Iran is reeling from the Stuxnet computer virus attack. Their leaders stubbornly refuse to abandon their nuclear ambitions. They are planning a crushing cyber-based counter strike on the United States. PALADIN unleashes a strike of his own, guaranteed to derail Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“411: Cybergeddon” – it is April 11 – “411” – in the near future. Iranian agents launch brutal cyber-attacks that eclipse “911“. PALADIN must track down the perpetrators and deliver swift justice. The story moves from Dubai, to Venezuela, to the United States. The scenarios in the story were adapted from actual industrial mishaps, and SCADA-related security failures. It is an exciting, but cautionary, tale about just how fragile our society truly is.
“Bent Spear: Missing Missiles Over America” – “A B-52 bomber mistakenly loaded with six nuclear warheads flew from Minot Air Force Base, ND to Barksdale Air Force Base, La. on August 30, resulting in an Air Force-wide investigation. . .”— Army Times, September 10. 2007.
“The weapons were always in our custody and there was never a danger to the American public.” – Air Force Spokesman.
But since the usual load-out of twelve nuclear-tipped missiles left Minot AFB, how did six cruise missiles, and their warheads, disappear? Where did they go?
“ONYX OPS: The Global Grab for Global Resources” – Masters of black ops ruthlessly navigate today’s globalization. From World War II, to the Cuban Revolution and the Kennedy assassination, through the CIA’s Operation Phoenix, and the oil fields of Vietnam; it leads into today’s Afghanistan. Must-read, fast-paced fiction with high-impact insights into the geopolitics of global resources. You will think about this one, long after you put it down.
“Tacit Alumni: 9/11” – occurs in a world of Global Jihad. It is September 11, the anniversary of 9/11. From downtown Washington DC, to Area 51, to Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, “PALADIN” commemorate this tragic event in his own special way. Follow masters of global black operations at PALADIN’s Onyx Ops team as they orchestrate new micro-chip technologies in the relentless hunt for terrorists.
As always, Thank you! for your friendship and support. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did in writing them.
Stephen W. Austen
The International Air Cadet Exchange is the premier summer activity for Civil Air Patrol Cadets. Each summer, dozens of CAP Cadets, from across the United States, are selected to visit among dozens of countries represented in the Exchange. For me, the International Air Cadet Exchange was twenty-one days that lasted a lifetime. In our three-week trip to Sweden there were nine trips by air, and eleven by bus. We visited eight historical attractions, eight major Swedish companies, and another eight sightseeing excursions of various kinds. We stayed at seven RSAF bases, two private homes, and were guests at fourteen formal banquets, and receptions. Moreover, we had a chance to see another, very special, country, and live a hectic daily schedule with guys from four other countries, and from across the US.