My Story
"Moncla Memories"

Truax Field and Flying the F-89

Gene Moncla T-33Lt. Gene Moncla posing by T-33

Note: Unless otherwise noted, these are purely my "memory recalls" that I experienced like they were my own memories, even though I know they could not be my memories. I have no way of knowing if any of these were experienced by pilot Gene Moncla.

A Strange Dream

Air Traffic Control TowerAir Traffic Control Tower which I think is very similar to the one in use at Truax Field in 1953

This is not a memory, but a vivid lucid dream I had many years before I read about the F-89 which was lost over Lake Superior. It wasn't a long dream, but it certainly left an impression on me. In thee dream, I am on top of a tower with another man, and we are watching falcons through binoculars. The tower overlooks a large grassy field. In some of my lucid dreams, I am both a participant and an observer. As I am watching the dream, I ask, "where am I?".

The response comes, "you are in a past life when you lived in Wisconsin".

Years later, I read about the lost F-89 and learned that the crew was from Madison, Wisconsin. Although I immediately felt "a strange feeling" that I was somehow connected with the pilot, I had no idea why I would think that. It was only later that I started to remember the childhood memories that seemed connected, in particular, the memory of finding the ID badges in the jar when I was seven years old.

And about this time, I though back to that lucid dream of being in the tower and realized that it had referenced a past life in Wisconsin. I wondered if it was just a coincidence or was actually a reflection of some "hidden memory" that was bubbling to the surface.

As far as the memory itself, I realized in the dream I may have also been told that the incident occurred in "Truax Field", but I had not known that such a place existed. I began to wonder if the incident might actually be from some real memory from someones life.

I wondered if the tower might actually be an aicraft traffic control tower from the Truax Field Air Force Base. I eventually did find a photograph in newspaper archives which showed that Truax Field had at one time an old fahioned control tower. I searched through the internet and did eventually find a clear photograph of a similar aircraft control tower. When I found the photo I experienced a "memory recall" of climbing the outside stairs to the top of a control tower and feeling very nervous of the height exposure as I got closer to the top. (Note: I do have a certain degree of fear of heights in exposed settings.)

Another thing I found quite strange is I kept feeling a special importance to the idea of "diving falcons" and "falconers". What seemed to emerge in my mind was that the falcon we were watching in my memory/the dream was a falcon owned by a falconer who was using it to scare away nuisance birds at the airfield. I don't know if Truax Field did in fact use such measures, but I know that some airports do use falcons for this purpose.

Another odd thing is that my mother once bought me a Royal Doulton mug called "the Falconer". I had left it with my parents who kept it on top of the china cabinet. One time I was visiting, she reminded me that I should take my mug with me. I sort of "waved it off" but then she said, "Are you sure? Its a falconer." like it would have some special meaning to me. I am pretty sure that I had never told her about the dr4eam where I was watching falcons diving from the tower.

Flying the F-89

Since 2001, there have been several times where certain memories have come back to me relating to the F-89. I am not certain if all of these took place in Madison or if some of them may have been experienced by Gene Moncla while he was doing his F-89 training at Tyndall Air Force Base.

Aerial MadisonAerial View of Capital Square from Wisconsin State Historical Society Archives

One memory I have of Madison was flying over Madison and looking down at the State Capital building. I remember it as a rather cloudy and rainy day, probably in the fall of 1952. What I remember is that the clouds below me opened up and I was looking down at the Capital Building, which was more or less the only part of land that was visible at that moment. It was a strange sight.

F-89 Foot and Hand GripsF-89 Foot and Hand Grips

I remember that I didn't like the hand and foot grips that were used to climb into the F-89 if there was no ladder in place. I don't know if Moncla got used to these later, but I think that he originally didn't like using them. I think he didn't like the way you had to kick in the doors, and once you got up a few steps, you had to move the left foot in to replace the right foot, which was moved onto the wing, which was all quite awkward.

F-89 Radar Op ConsoleRadar Operator Console

One thing that I seem to remember quite vividly was Moncla flying one time in the radar operators seat of the F-89. I am not sure why he was doing this, I suppose they thought that the pilots should maybe have some radar training I am guessing. The thing which triggered this memory was looking at the shield that the operator rests his facer against when looking at the radar. It looks like it is well padded with this sort of fuzzy furry edging that is supposed to absorb the jerks of the moving plane and prevent bruising of the operators face. What I remember is that it was really quite hard to keep your face up against the shield. because the plane jumped around so much. The rim of the shield kept slamming into Lt. Moncla's face, particularly the high cheek bones. This was most painful and annoying. I think after this experience, that Gene was quite thankful that he wasn't a radar operator and didn't have to do this again.

I have more recently been reading through the F-89 Operating Manual. It provides a lot of very interesting information about flying the F-89 along with a lot of information about the instruments and operating details. One thing I found quite specific was the memory of using the throttle controls. There is a lever used to adjust the tension on the controls. The engine throttles have these little tabs you pull up when you want to move the position of the engine throttle controls.

Truax Field and Flying the F-89

Blue Streak Color"Blue Streak", F-89C from 433rd FIS This was the base commander's plane, photographed on a visit to Dayton, Ohio in September 1954

There are a number of memories and even a strange dream that might be connected to the paint job on the F-89s for the 433rd FIS.

Bird Migration Study

Bird Migration StudyBird Migration Study Printed in "The Capital Times" on August 22nd, 1952

I found this article when I was reading through newspaper archives. When I read it, I could remember that I had read the article out loud to Bobbie, because it mentioned Louisiana State University. What I recall is that Bobbie had suggested that maybe Gene should volunteer. I am not sure why she would suggest this, but maybe it was because she knew he was restless in the Air Force and needed an outside interest to keep him happy. I don't know if Moncla did end up working on this project, but I somehow have a feeling that he liked birds and did get in touch with the Audubon Society.

Bird Watching at Truax Field

Several years before I saw the UFO in August 1999, I had a lucid dream where I was on a high open platform with another man, and we were watching birds. It was in an open field somewhere. Sometimes in my lucid dreams, I seem to be very conscious about finding out where I am or who I am or what the date is, because I seem to think that this information will be useful to me. In this dream I was asking myself, where am I, and I was told that this is me in Wisconsin where I had lived in a past life. I also think that I might have been told that I was in Truax Field, but this detail didn't seem to sink in for some reason.

Over the years that followed, I would often think about this dream, because it was the only one that specifically referred to a specific past life at a specific location. I wondered how it was that I had come up with something like that and I guess I also wondered if it just might be true.

Refit F-89 Arrives at MadisonRefit F-89C Arrives at Truax FieldNote the tower in the background. The number on tail is either 15856 or 15853. Ser. No. 51-5853 is F-89 that went missing over Lake Superior.

After I had started to experience some memory recalls about John Schmidt, I started to remember bits about how we had met and had found it interesting that we both had infant boys that were about the same age. At some point, I seemed to experience a recall when I was with John in a tower at the base, and it was us who were up in this lookout tower looking at some falcons that were hunting.

I often wondered if there had ever been any such tower at Truax Field as I seemed to remember. In my last visit to Madison in August 2004, I found a picture of an F-89 that had just arrived from refit and was one of the first two F-89s to go back on duty at Madison.

When I found this photograph, I couldn't help but wonder if this might be the plane that Moncla and Wilson were in that night over Lake Superior. It is either that plane, or 51-4856 which is the last F-89C plane built.

What I also noticed about the photograph was the tower in the background. This is just like the tower I had in my dream and was exactly what I was looking for confirmation that this may have been based on an incident that might have actually happened. Although this might not sound like a big deal, it certainly was quite a discovery for me.

Painting Blue Streak

Some of the triggering events that bring back memories have been quite strange, and this is one such case.

This memory occurred on January 5th, 2002, which was a wet and dreary Saturday in Surrey. I was relaxing and was thinking about the "blue star" satellite sighting I had while on a dive trip up in Port Hardy. I'm not sure what it was that prompted me to think about this sighting in particular. I think at the time I was pondering a couple of things about it, like how I thought there was significance to the sighting. As I was thinking about this, a Stellars Jay, which has a vivid blue color, flew up and landed on the railing of the balcony. Note that I have had similar sightings before, but rarely more than a few every winter. It seemed like a bit of a coincidence.

Later that day, while I was working on a drawing of the F-89 I was thinking about the "Blue Streak" paint job on the F-89s from the 433rd squadron in Truax AFB. For the rest of the day and evening, I kept having a sense that I was remembering something about the origin of the paint job.

Blue Streak Mono"Blue Streak", photo taken in Madison in 1953

What I seem to be remembering, is that the paint job was inspired by some swallows or other birds that were sometimes seen flying over Truax Field. Acting on this hunch, I looked through the Pederson Guide to Birds of North America, that I purchased many years back. I looked for birds that might have inspired this paint job, and I decided that the "Purple Martin" (which has a very glossy bluish-purple body), was maybe the inspiration. What I remember is one scene in which one of the pilots from the 433rd (I assume this is Moncla, but I am not sure about this), has been working on a prototype paint job on an F-89 that is inside a hanger. He has been working all day and it is now late in the evening. The smell of the oil-based paint is very strong, and I think the man feels very grubby and tired. I am quite sure that this man designed the custom paint job. When he has finished with the paint job, he talks to someone else about the prototype. The other man is perhaps another pilot or perhaps more likely a captain or commander. I think the other man likes the looks of the paint job on the plane. The artist/pilot thinks that the F-89s should be referred to as something like "Bluebird" but the other man disagrees, and comes up with the idea of "Blue Streak". There is some discussion/argument about this, but I think in the end it is agreed that "Blue Streak" is more fitting to the image of the squadron. Part of the reason that I think the bird inspiration may have been a Purple Martin, is the color seems to match the color of the paint in the color photo, and also the way the color is laid out in curves on the front and underneath the fuselage, and on the wingtip pods. This is rather analogous to the places that the male purple martin has its primary coloring. I am not certain about this, but I think that the base commander was maybe Lt. Col. Shoup. I also remember that another man froim the squadron helped with some of the painting but left before the job was done. I think the other man was Lt. Schmidt.

I did later find out that the one color picture of the Blue Streak paint job that I can find on an F-89 is actually a picture of the commander's aircraft for the 560th Air Defense Group that was taken September 1954 (month I was born) at the USAF airfield in Dayton, Ohio

There is only one other picture I know of that shows the Blue Streak paint job on a 433rd FIS F-89. This is a black and white photograph taken in 1953 in Madison. One thing you can tell is that this photograph was taken after April 22nd, because the F-89 has been refit with the little fin on the wing tip tank. The other clue is that there are leaves on the trees, so it must be late spring to early fall.

I know this seems like another strange recollection, but I have a recall that it was Gene Moncla who was in the plane when this picture was taken the day after he had completed painting the prototype. What I remember is that this was sort of a "rollout" for the new design, and the photographer was there specifically to take a photograph of the new paint job. In this memory, the pilot was quite self-conscious about what others might be thinking about the paint job.

I don't know if there is any validity to any of this memory recall. Maybe it is the recall of another pilot. Maybe my mind is just playing tricks on me. Whatever the case, I did find it odd that I had such a vivid sense of the smell of the paint in the hangar when I experienced the recall.

Purple Martins

As I stated in the description of the Blue Streak prototype paint job, I thought that maybe this was connected with purple martins. One thing I seemed to remember is that I had seen purple martins in Madison, and they had left a big impression on me.

One thing I remember was when I was a young boy in Fort William, I was always looking for Purple Martins. I knew that they flew like swallows and that they would hang out in large groups on the telephone wires. One thing I remember is that I would point to large groups of birds on the wires and ask my brothers if they were Purple Martins and my brothers or parents, to my disappointment would tell me, "No, Those are starlings".

It was quite frustrating for me, and it seemed like I was forever failing in my quest to see find the coveted Martins.

Purple MartinsPurple Martins in Crystal Springs, Saskatchewan

After we moved west, I guess we were living in an area where there were no martins, or at least they tended not to congregate in any numbers. It was only this last summer on a trip to Saskatchewan for a family reunion that I finally got to see martins. It happened the morning we drove out to meet our Uncle Roy in Crystal Springs. I had not been to Crystal Springs since our last visit with my family to see my grandmother Osolinski on the farm near Crystal Springs. At that time, there was just Polly and sons Roy and Morris on the farm.

I seem to recall that Gene Moncla and John Schmidt went someplace near Sherman Terrace where they would see swarms of purple martins in the evening. I think that they may have gone to watch baseball games at Burr Jones Field, located in or near Tenney Park. Burr Jones Field has for some years been a roosting site for purple martins. I learned this from reading a neighborhood newsletter on the Internet last year. I had for some years been referring to my memories of Gene Moncla and John Schmidt watching purple martins in Madison. Maybe this happened at this roosting spot, that is only a few blocks from the apartment.