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The Vietnam War – Everett Wallin – Willmar Boy Becomes Airman | News, Sports, Jobs

The Vietnam War impacted many people whose military service never required them to serve in Vietnam, such as Air Force personnel serving at bases in Thailand who supported war operations In Vietnam. Marshall’s Everett Wallin was one such airman.

Everett was born and raised in Willmar. He described how his military service began when he was 17.

“I was still in high school and decided to join the National Guard at Willmar. They were a group of good guys and we were trying to build bridges as an engineer battalion – the 682nd Engineer Battalion. I I liked to wear the uniform and I liked to be with people – the other GIs.

Everett enjoyed his service in the National Guard with people from all walks of life, from local businessmen to guys like Everett who worked part-time at gas stations while in college. When he graduated from Willmar High School in 1954, he chose to continue his military service. He explained, “I had no direction to go to college and the Air Force seemed fine to me.”

Everett visited the Air Force recruiter at Willmar; informed his National Guard unit that he had enlisted in the Air Force; and in March 1955 the Air Force took him to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for basic Air Force training. Everett chuckled as he remembered how life had changed in basic training.

“Tight control was very different. First you got your head shaved and you got what they called the Flying 31. Every one of those $31 went to base exchange for supplies we needed as a recruit . Once you’ve settled in as a rookie and put on your uniform [we were] watching people from New York or elsewhere walk in with all their different colored clothes on. They were called the Rainbow Flights. When they got off the bus, they were all wearing their civilian clothes. They looked really weird.

Everett described his experience as a basic trainee

“It was kind of like being told what to do from then on. A few marches, a few lessons, a lot of barracks inspections, a few KPs (Kitchen Police) and a few PTs (Physical Training). We had thirteen different TIs (Training Instructors) and some of those TIs themselves were going out of Basic, probably the worst you can get. One day we got KP. We didn’t know they were changing our instructors. We came back at the barracks all sweaty. The barracks was turned over. The bunks and mattresses were turned over and [we had] a reserve inspection. A little TI, I had to give him a dirty look because he asked me if I wanted to go to the back room (Everett laughed) and take him out. I said no.’ I was happy to have graduated,” Everett concluded with a laugh.

Then Everett’s fledgling Air Force career took an unexpected turn into the world of international espionage.

“I was supposed to go to Wire Maintenance School in Cheyenne, Wyoming – AC Warren (Air Force Base). I think they had already put us on something else because when we got to Cheyenne they put me with forty-four other people in an isolated part of the base. Then they interviewed us for what I learned was a Top Secret project. We had training areas on an isolated part of the base and ended up by learning how to produce hydrogen for reconnaissance balloons. We did that for about three months. Then we went to Denver, Colorado, to Lowry Air Force Base to train with reconnaissance balloons. We couldn’t use hydrogen in the US so we used helium these balloons were more like polyethylene type plastic they were 120 feet tall with 2000 pound payloads on them and we are trained to nce. Two of them hit homes in Denver. They didn’t go all the way. » (Everett laughs)

It was the fall of 1955 and the Cold War between the Soviet Union and its allied nations of the Warsaw Pact, signed in May of that year, and the members of the NATO alliance were well on their way. Everett and his fellow airmen were about to become Cold Warriors. Once Airmen mastered the process of assembling and launching these huge balloons, the Air Force sent them overseas.

“We went by train from Lowry Air Force Base to New York; got off the train and onto a boat; arrived in Bremerhaven, Germany; and got off the ship on a train to our base. It was an old German base from World War II where they had an aircraft factory. We installed our trailer-mounted hydrogen plant and produced hydrogen for reconnaissance balloons.

The Air Force assigned Everett’s detachment to Oberpfaffenhoffen Flugplatz (airfield) in Bavaria, Germany. He knew the mission was Top Secret, but the Airmen never learned the details of the mission. Everett summarized what he concluded at the time.

“I wasn’t sure, but I was kind of sure what was going on. In front of our small base, there was a sign that said “weather station,“which was not entirely true.”

Their balloons were designed to spy on the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies.

The Departmental Museum of Lyon is organizing an exhibition on the impact of the Vietnam War on the department of Lyon. If you would like to share experiences in Vietnam or help with the exhibit, please contact me at or call the museum at 537-6580.

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