sometimes people listen to me (even my fourteen year old daughter Haley Anne). and, when they, that “collective they” do, sometimes they hear me talk about “remembering the face of my father”.

I do use that “device” for both my earthly and heavenly father. but, today, it’s about Dad.

I’m doing so because I’m remembering him. it’s the best way, I think, to honor someone – by recalling something they did that’s worth comment. and, in the case of the description that follows I think this comes in the form of something I believe happened, and ironically, only a few men would have witnessed, but was likely a defining moment for the man most of us can never be.

over the course of a life, and in this case, it was my young life, we pick up on things about the people around us. I was lucky, just enough perhaps, to have Dad in my life for most of twenty five years. in that sophomoric period of my existence my perspective had to be skewed by perception and lack of some information. but, my sense of circumstances leads me to an image of my Dad in a tough spot.

imagine this… or, this is what I picture the sort of man my father was…

Col. Clifford D. Cork USAF

it’s likely 1969 and Dad is serving one of his tours of duty in Viet Nam. eventually he would become one of the youngest Air Force officers of his era to command a Wing of B-52’s (Stratofortress) /1 under the vaunted Strategic Air Command (SAC), but also do it from the navigators chair. the B-52 was capable of altitudes that exceeded 35,000 feet. it’s monsoon season, so his plane has travelled across the storm-tossed sea dropping down through unimaginable weather, hitting turbulence that lifted and dropped the aircraft 3000 feet at a time, turning the crews stomaches from twisted knots to mush. Dad had to take turns puking into a bucket between his boots that are all but frozen to the deck, and fight his own mind-numbing fear to speak calm commands to his pilot through his air mask/ helmet radio. his primary objective (other than to lead under what he taught me was: “being a steely-eyed-missile-man”), was to use a set of simple tools (i.e. rulers, pencils, and maps) and his brilliant mind to form complex calculations that would guide his crew with pin-point accuracy to drop their payload on the right target – and, not innocent civilians.

B-52 Damaged During Turbulence

Dad once told me, something to the effect: “there were times when we were bouncing up and then down so hard and fast that all I could think of through the screaming groans of the tortured wings was that they would shear right off the fuselage”.

I knew my Dad, sort of. I don’t, and sincerely, believe he was a brave man. in fact, I understand there was much in life he feared (i.e. the loss of my Mom, and poverty). however, his courage is unfathomable. he put himself in that situation countless times, and did it better than most men that shared that chair with him (many of the B-52’s built saw service in excess of fifty years).

peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

brian patrick cork


1/ Dad was one of the few SAC officers that also commanded a Missile Wing (silos). this made him unusual both in his spheres of responsibility, but his incalculatable ability to learn and lead.

by the way…

in January of 1964, a B-52D carrying two nuclear bombs suffered a structural failure in flight that caused a fire to break-out on-board. apparently over the course of emergency maneuvers the tail section sheared off. four crewmen ejected successfully before the aircraft crashed near outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. several crewmen perished. the pilot was unable to eject, and died in the aircraft. both weapons were recovered. this was one of several incidents caused by failure of the vertical stabilizer.

my Dad was part of that crew. so, there is some perspective for you, that my Dad had to carry with him going forward. and, that is another story that’s currently percolating in my head. I remember that day… I was watching television and I saw my Dad’s face appear on the screen just as my Mom took a telephone call from “the wives network”. I recall her hollow: “oooh God, …Cliff”. But, Dad came home. He always smelled good.