William "Willie" Shives
William "Willie" Shives

William "Willie" Shives

AFRH-W Resident Highlight – William "Willie" Shives
By Christine Baldwin, Librarian

William “Willie” Shives was born on a small farm in south central Pennsylvania. He was the youngest of nine children. He had a twin sister, who succumbed to pneumonia, only 11 days after birth. Willie attended a rural school, which consolidated all 12 grades into one building. He graduated with honors and was the class valedictorian. Willie was always very active and loved anything to do with sports. Attending a small school with a limited sports talent pool allowed him to letter in three sports, despite his diminutive size. It would be later, while stationed at Bremerhaven, Germany, that he would truly find his sport where physical stature didn’t matter – bowling. He hasn’t stopped bowling since. Significant achievements include two 300 games, one bowled in 2001 and the other in 2008. He also holds the house record for the AFRH-W with a 288 game and a 768 series, bowled in 1995.

Willie enlisted in the U.S. Air Force before he graduated from high school and left for Lackland AFB, Texas for basic training two days after graduation. The initial aptitude tests showed him to be well-adapted for survival instructor at Stead AFB, Nevada. But his physical stature worked against him in this field due to the large and heavy back packs to be carried, so he was not chosen for this assignment. After successfully taking a language aptitude test, Willie was called into the personnel office and asked what language he wanted to study, and where. He promptly chose German to be studied at a small USAF detachment at Syracuse University, New York. A few days later, he was notified that he was chosen to study Russian at the Army Language School at Monterey, California. Willie’s class had two distinctions at school: his was the first all-Air Force class, and the final class to take the Russian six-month course, prior to changing to a nine-month curriculum.

After completion of the basic language school in 1958, Willie’s first assignment was to the 6913th Radio Squadron Mobile, a USAF Security Service unit at Bremerhaven,
Germany. His duties included intercepting, recording, analyzing and reporting Russian voice communications. While there, he chose to attend the Russian Intermediate Language School and reenlisted to become eligible for it. Upon completion of his three-year tour, Willie attended the Russian course at Syracuse University. He then was stationed at Goodfellow AFB, Texas for Technical School and to Eielson AFB, Arkansas where the 6985th Security Squadron was activated in 1962, using the RC-135 aircraft. Next, Willie went from Alaska to Rhein Mein AB, Germany. Willie’s assignment at Rhein Mein was to the 6916th Security Squadron, which utilized RC- 130s. After Rhein Mein, it was back to study Russian in the Advanced Course in 1967.

A short TDY to Ft. Meade, Maryland for technical training at the National Security Administration, was followed by an assignment to the 6986th Security Squadron at Wakkanai, Japan and from there back to Germany for duty at the 6915th SS at Hof in 1969. While at Hof, some improprieties on Willie’s part resulted in the loss of his security clearance. He ultimately went into the personnel field, and after completing tours at Darmstadt and Sembach, Germany, along with an assignment to Minot AFB, North Dakota, Willie retired in 1977.

Willie’s current residency at the Home began in July 2015, after a 15 year hiatus. He was previously a Home Resident from July 1986 – October 2001. He worked at the Home, first as a night watchman and then in the ID and registration section of Security. We are glad to have him back!