Living a dream, in the ‘wild blue yonder’

Dassel man flew in WWII, Korean,Vietnam wars

Since he was 12 years old, Ken Skalberg, of Dassel, had a dream to one day fly to “the wild blue yonder.”

Ken Skalberg entered the Army Air Corps in November 1942. He was 18 years old at the time. Photo contributed. Right, Skalberg is pictured with his medals. Photo by Tom Hauer

“I used to look up in the air and see a lonely airplane sailing through the sky and wonder what it would be like to be up there. Little did I know that in a few short years that wild blue yonder would be mine for the next 55 years,” said Ken.

It all started when he was 18 years old, and he applied as an aviation cadet to the Army Air Corps in November 1942. He was called to active duty on Feb. 1, 1943. After months of basic and air flight training, Ken was involved in World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War. He went from a fighter pilot in WWII to flying C-133s, the world’s largest airplane, during Vietnam.

Ken with a P-38 Lockheed “Lightning” airplane. Photo contributed.

“In all, I flew 55 combat missions, logging 168 combat hours within and in and out of Vietnam,” he said. He held the record for the heaviest load to be carried on an aircraft. He flew from Danang to Pandang with this load in 1968. On June 30, 1970 he retired from the United States Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel, having served for 28 years.

Upon his completion of WWII service, Ken accepted a position with Lysdale Flying Service at Victory Airport in North Minneapolis as a flight instructor. Then he took over Anderson Airways at the Cokato Airport. After operating his own flight service for a couple of years, he went into the television business.

The Korean Conflict was now under way and in November 1952, he was recalled into the military. It was now the United States Air Force, a full service on par with the Army and Navy. His first assignment was at Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento, Calif. He was married and had two children, who came with him to the air base. His job was to train and teach other pilots to fly the T-29.

After 18 or 20 months at Mather, he applied for Communications School at Scott Air Force Base. Upon graduation he was assigned to a communications unit in Rabat, Morocco, North Africa. Because of his flying experience he met many dignitaries, including the king of Morocco, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, the king and queen of Holland, President Nixon and several movie stars, such as John Wayne.

After two and a half years in Morocco, he was sent back to Scott Air Force Base and assigned to AACS communications headquarters. His job was to be the personal pilot of General Doubleday, the commanding general of AACS. “This was very fascinating as we received the red carpet treatment at all our stops,” said Ken. In April 1961, while at Scott Air Force Base, he received his command pilot wings, which was the highest level of military flight.

Ken Skalberg of Dassel in his military days. Contributed photo

In May 1963 he was assigned to Zaragoza, Spain. He was instructed to check out the C97 Boeing 4 engine converted tanker. His military flying in Europe took him to a lot of fascinating places, such as cities in Spain, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Weisbaden, Munich, Rome, Athens, Tel Aviv, Amman, Jordan, Copenhagen, Venice, Pisa, Ankara, Turkey, Casablanca, Algiers, Saudi Arabia, Geneva, Gilbralter, Lisbon, Stockholm, and many of the islands in the Mediterranean. In addition, he traveled with his family on four European vacations to famous places in Europe, such as the French Riviera, a Rhine River cruise, Switzerland, and resorts in the German Alps.

After three years in Spain, he received his final base assignment before retiring from the Air Force. This was in 1964, and the Vietnam War was in full swing. So it was obvious that he would soon be involved. Six years later, after many war confrontations, Ken called it quits and retired in 1970 with 28 years of service and 17,000 flying hours. He continued flying into the blue yonder by teaching cadets at the Hutchinson Airport for many years. Ken, who just turned 92 and lives in his own home on Lake Washington between Dassel and Darwin, achieved his goal of conquering the wild blue yonder.

The The U.S. Air Force song by Robert MacArthur Crawford written in 1938, is the official song of the United States Air Force. Below is the first verse of the song:

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,

Climbing high into the sun

Here they come zooming to meet our thunder

At ‘em boys, Give ‘er the gun!

Down we dive, spouting our flame from under

Off with one helluva roar!

We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!

Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

#FighterPilot #KoreanConflict #VietnamWar #WWII

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