The Eagle's Last Flight
by Ron Standerfer
Ron Standerfer was born and raised in Belleville, Illinois, a town across the Mississippi river from St. Louis, Missouri. While attending the University of Illinois he took his first airplane ride in a World War II-Vintage B-25 bomber assigned to the local ROTC detachment. It was a defining moment in his life. Weeks later, he left college to enlist in the Air Force's aviation cadet program. He graduated from flight training at the age of twenty and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.
Another defining moment occurred early in his career. In August 1957, he participated in an atomic test at Yucca Flat, Nevada. Standing on an observation platform eight miles from ground zero, he watched the detonation of an atomic bomb code named Smoky. The test yielded an unexpected 44 kilotons---more than twice the size of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. He never forgot Smoky, and the memory of that experience weighed heavily on his mind when he wrote The Eagle's Last Flight, a semi-autobiographical novel about his life as an Air Force fighter pilot during the Cold War.
Ron's twenty seven-year Air Force career spanned the Cold War years between 1954 and 1981. During that time, he flew a variety of high performance fighters including the F-100, F-102, F-105, F-4 and A-7. He flew over 200 combat missions during the Vietnam conflict and was awarded two Silver Stars, thirteen Air Medals and the Purple Heart. The latter was received after he was shot down over Tchepone, Laos in 1969. He retired from the Air Force just as the Cold War ended as a full Colonel after tours in the Pentagon and Tactical Air Command headquarters in Virginia.
He continued to pursue his passion for aviation after retiring. He was a marketing director for Falcon Jet Corporation, a subsidiary of the French aerospace manufacturer Dassault Aviation. In that capacity, he was responsible for launching the marketing campaign for the Falcon 900, a long-range business jet. Later, he was an owner of an aircraft charter and management company in Elmira, NY and also a marketing consultant.
Ron is a prolific writer and journalist. He appeared on WOR TV in New York City during the first days of the Persian Gulf War, providing real time analysis of the air war as it progressed. His book reviews and syndicated news articles are published regularly in the online and print news media, as well as in military journals.
These days Ron and his wife Marzenna, the daughter of a distinguished theatrical family in Poland, spend their time in their homes in Gulf Stream, Florida and Warsaw.
About The Book
Book Genre: Fiction, Military History/Aviation
Publisher:The Pelican Communications Group (A proud Indie publisher)
Release Date: September 9, 2013
Skip O’Neill lies dying of leukemia in a New York hospital, determined to live until the new millennium. His wasted body shows scant evidence of the man he once was—an Air Force fighter pilot and decorated combat veteran.
Skip never forgot his experience at Camp Desert Rock. Years later, he
a Marine at the officers club who had participated in one of the
tests and the two of them compared notes about what they had
‘‘It was the damnedest thing,’’ the Marine said, ‘‘There
we were, almost at ground zero. I mean we were sitting in trenches,
three miles away. Three miles! Not on some piddley-assed platform
eight miles away, like those Air Force and Navy pussies.’’
Skip let that comment pass, based on his longstanding belief that
arguing with a Marine who has been drinking, was not a smart thing to
‘‘And get this…right after the blast we were supposed to leap
out of the trenches so we could be moved up to a point three hundred
‘‘Three hundred yards?’’ Skip exclaimed. ‘‘Why so close,
for God’s sake?’’ ‘‘Why? To set up a mock defensive
perimeter against anyone who theoretically
might have survived the attack.’’
‘‘Yeah right…like anybody would.’’
‘‘Exactly. When we moved into position, there was nothing to see,
much less to defend against. I mean nothing, just a few piles of
molten metal here and there. And, oh yeah, the charred flesh of sheep
that were used in the test.’’
‘‘Yeah, sheep. There I was with my men, tromping around in this
fallout shit…you know…that white ash that crunches under your
‘‘Fallout at three hundred yards, that stuff had to be big time
radioactive.’’ ‘‘Right, but of course I wasn’t afraid,
because afterwards we were gonna get
brushed off with brooms and hosed down. I mean, brooms, man. How dumb
could we have been?’’
‘‘Anyway,’’ he continued, ‘‘about the same time, this guy
shows up over the top of the hill, all dressed out in some kind of
shiny, silver, protective suit with a ventilator and face mask. When
he sees us, he comes roaring over, like someone lit a rocket in his
ass. What are you guys doing here? Where is your protective gear? He
yelled. All the time he’s talking, he’s pointing this Geiger
counter thing at us, which is going click, click, click.
I yelled back, we’re just doing some reconnoitering,
getting ready to kick some ass.
Well, you guys shouldn’t be here, he replied. Are you crazy?
Well, yeah. I told him. We are crazy. I mean…we’re Marines, which
is basi- cally the same thing…right?
It turns out this dude was some kind of technician from the Atomic
Energy Commission. They were the guys who were supposed to be running
the tests. And, get this…he didn’t even know the military was
operating that close to ground zero!’’
‘‘No way,’’ Skip said.
‘‘Yep, and when I got him settled down, I found out that he
wasn’t pissed at all. He was just scared…for us. That should have
been my first clue.’’
‘‘Don’t take this the wrong way,’’ Skip said, ‘‘but it
sounds to me like the gov- ernment was using you guys as guinea
‘‘Guinea pigs?’’ The Marine snorted derisively. ‘‘We
should have been so lucky. The laboratory animals they used in those
tests were washed down with soap and water afterwards, and their
health was carefully monitored. It’s been fif- teen years since
that test and nobody has asked me shit about my health. It’s like
it never happened!’’
‘‘Or like you guys were expendable, so it didn’t matter,’’
‘‘We were all expendable. You, me, and the 250,000
or so troops who partici- pated in all those years of testing. And
that, my friend, is the way it is.