When he was 23 years old, Billy Batson got his wings.
For the next few years, Batson, who grew up in Fayetteville, Ark., flew all over the world — the Azores, the Arctic, Europe, Southeast Asia — flying tankers that refuel planes in midair. He has refueled jets that patrolled the borders of the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War, refueled fighter jets during the Vietnam War, and in 1979, when 52 U.S. embassy staff were taken hostage in Tehran, was in charge of air refueling training and tactics in preparation for the rescue attempt.
“It was high adventure,” Batson said.
Col. Batson, who lives on Beaver Lake, is now considered a Living Legend by the U.S. Air Force for a career that started with Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker propeller-driven tankers in which he logged 1,500 hours, and included 5,000 hours in the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker jet tanker. He retired in April 14, 1980, just days before Operation Eagle Claw was launched, but clearly remembers the challenges that the night-time desert operation presented.
For the complete story by Jennifer Jackson of the Lovely County (Arkansas) Citizen, click here.