CHATHAM — Pittsylvania County built-in James Lewis Adkins survived a U.S. Air Force even crash, served in the Vietnam War and lived to acquaint his story. He was additionally a pilot for NASA.
Recalling the 1954 blow that dead two pilots at what is now Pope Field in Cumberland County, North Carolina, he said he cannot bethink how he exited the plane.
“I don’t apperceive how I got out of the airplane,” said Adkins, 83, who was a navigator abaft the co-pilot on the flight. “I accept no idea.”
Adkins batten of his adventures during an account with the Danville Register & Bee on Friday morning at the Pittsylvania County History Research Center and Library in Chatham. He was accessory a alliance for Callands High School’s 1951 admission class.
During the baleful accident, the larboard agent exploded and bent on blaze and the even comatose into the 82nd Airborne Division Breadth at what was again Pope Air Force Base on Oct. 4, 1954. Adkins was befuddled out of the plane, a C-119 Aerial Boxcar.
He remembered rolling in the clay and dust.
“Somebody threw me into the car and took me to the hospital,” Adkins said, abacus that he was “cut up and burst up.”
After convalescent in the hospital for three weeks, he would go on to become a pilot in 1957 and afterwards serve in the Vietnam War.
Born in Sandy Level on Feb. 1, 1933, Adkins grew up on a Museville acreage — which the Yorktown citizen now owns.
He was accompany with William Reynolds Martin, who would become Pittsylvania County’s aboriginal soldier to die in the Vietnam War. Martin was dead in 1964 back the jet he was aerial was attempt down. The Capt. Martin Building in Chatham — which houses the county’s authoritative offices — was called afterwards Martin and committed in 1979.
Adkins advised civilian engineering for four semesters at the Virginia Tech addendum in Danville afore aing the Air Force in February 1953.
He took the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test at Lackland Air Force Base in 1953 and accelerating from navigator training afore actuality assigned to what was Pope Air Force Base in 1954. It was there he was assigned to the C-119 Aerial Boxcars, he recalled.
Three years afterwards the blast that dead both pilots but absolved Adkins, he accomplished to be a pilot. He accelerating from T-33 Shooting Star jet training at Laredo Air Force Base in Texas and was assigned to Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah, Georgia, breadth he flew the B-47 Stratojet.
He was in Strategic Air Command from 1959 to 1962, went on to aggressive airlift command and flew a C-124 Globemaster, a four-engine burden plane.
After actuality recalled from the 124s, Adkins went to Sacramento, California, to re-qualify for the B-47. He went to the Philippines and flew acclimate assay missions for the Air Force Acclimate Service, accouterment acclimate advice for B-52 bombers aerial from Guam to Vietnam in 1967.
Adkins, who had logged alone an hour and a bisected of helicopter hours while he was at Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah, went to helicopter training. He was not happy, he recalled.
“I fought it,” he said. “I did not appetite to fly helicopters.”
He accomplished for 12 months and underwent an added three months of aggression training to serve a year in the Vietnam War.
Adkins did aggression at Nakhon Phanom in arctic Thailand, aerial into the southern allotment of North Vietnam assuming acquiescent reconnaissance. It complex celebratory what was advancing bottomward the aisle into that breadth of North Vietnam from Hanoi and advice headquarters, he said.
His accessories included U.S. Navy A-1 Skyraiders adapted for the Air Force.
“We didn’t accommodated a lot of attrition activity in but it was capricious advancing out,” Adkins said.
For his work, Adkins was awarded three acclaimed aerial crosses, six Air Force medals and a Vietnam action medal.
Somebody had to do it, he said, apprehensive why he survived it all.
“I don’t apperceive why I’m still here,” Adkins said.
He went on to acquire an apprenticeship amount from what is now the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Adkins retired from the Air Force as a above in 1973 and acclimatized in Yorktown. He was activity to become a abecedary but concluded up acceptable a arrangement pilot for NASA, aerial astronauts into Houston from Washington. “[I did] whatever NASA capital me to do,” Adkins said.
He retired from NASA in 1995.
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