Donald Freer
Donald Freer

Donald Freer

AFRH-W Resident Highlight – Donald Freer
By Christine Baldwin, Librarian

Donald Freer was born in Pennsylvania. He had two older brothers, who were drafted in WWII. One was in the U.S. Army, seeing combat in both France and Germany, and the other was in the U.S. Coast Guard. Donald tried to join the U.S. Air Force in 1951, but was told that they were “full”, since the Korean War had started. However, just as he got his draft notice to take his physical, the Air Force had openings and he was able to join.

Donald did his basic training in Sampson, New York (now a military museum) and was asked if he wanted flying status. He did. So he took the flying physical and was off to school for remote control turret systems. Then Donald went to gunnery school at Lowry AFB, Colorado and went to crew training at Randolph AFB, Texas. However, by this time no more crews were needed because the Korean War was ending. Instead Donald went to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho as a B-29 gunner. One of the other bases that Donald flew out of was RAF Molesworth, England. He later had a nice discussion of this base with Prince Charles, when the Prince and his wife visited the Home in 2015.

Donald wanted to be an in-flight refueler (Boom Operator), so after reenlisting in 1955, he went to his first Strategic Air Command (SAC) assignment in Dyess AFB, Texas in KC-97s. Later he went to Castle AFB, California for KC-135 combat crew training. The roughest assignment was when the Cuban missile crisis occurred in October 1962. Donald flew three missions a day refueling B-52s, which were flying 24 hour missions out of Torrejon Air Base, Spain. Later he would have five 90 day tours in U-Tapao, Thailand, where he would only have a break of three days during each tour. Here Donald was refueling F-105s “Rolling Thunder” before and after their bombing missions. In total, Donald spent 19 years in SAC, most during the Cold War. Fifteen of these years were on KC-135A tankers, flying over 5,000 hours and many, many seven days of alert duty.

Donald retired from the Air Force from Plattsburgh, New York in 1974. This is where he stayed for the next 31 years, later moving to Florida. He came to AFRH-W to be near his two daughters, who are still living in New York.