Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Uncle Paul: An Enigma And A Gentleman

My Uncle Paul: An Enigma And A Gentleman

December 6, 2012 at 10:59pm

 Paul and Margaret Mellinger

Here is a brief summary of his life from his Ham radio club.

One could say Paul Mellinger, NI6P, was a very fortunate man. He lived in interesting times. He achieved great things, any one of which would have made most men happy. And he was one of us. He was first licensed as W8PWW in 1936.Paul was a member of our club from the early eighties until a few years ago, even though he and his wife Margaret, N6IBE, had moved to Auburn in the mid 1990's. Each year at field day,he was our backbone CW operator. CW was his favorite mode, though he also would work rtty. He was a superb CW op and took great pains to make his operation successful. I remember that he had each lead of his keying paddle made with shielded cable. He was also a member of FISTS, member number 3153, a CW society of Morse Code aficionados.Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Paul graduated from South High School, attended Youngstown College, and then joined the USNCR.

Before WWII started you could find Paul operating from the radio room of the USS Ramsay, a four stack, 'high speed', mine laying destroyer based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.As the United States entered WWII, Paul gained entrance to the Aviation Cadet Corps. He was commissioned and graduated in March, 1942. First chosen as a pilot instructor for twin engine aircraft, he served at Williams Field, AZ, teaching young pilots how to fly the P-38, etc. Paul then flew combat sorties in Europe with the 8th AF, in the 359th Fighter Squadron of the 356th Fighter Group flying P-47 Thunderbolts. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. His outfit operated from Martlesham Heath, in England, from 5 October 1943 until 5 November 1945.

After the war, Paul went to work for Lockheed Aircraft. He worked eight years in Japan in the company's T-33, P2V7, and F-104J manufacturer's programs. In 1964, he transferred to the program which brought him to Beale AFB, and consequently to us. He served as Lockheed's chief 'tech rep' for the famed triple sonic SR-71 reconnaissance plane. As with any Lockheed employee, you would never hear Paul talk about the program he managed at Beale when he was not at work. The SR-71 program was always 'cloaked in secrecy', and a good part of that was fostered by the serious people who worked in the program.

Paul retired in November, 1987. But it was in this capacity that I first met Paul in July, 1983, and Margaret, who was the office manager for Lockheed at Beale.As part of my duties, I met Paul the first week I was on base. We had bought our home from another Lockheed employee, and I guess that is how Paul found out I was a ham. As I recall, once Paul was satisfied I was really a neophyte to reconnaissance, he proceeded to engage me in a conversation about ham radio. You could tell he was really into this hobby of ours.Paul R. Mellinger, NI6P, became a silent key June 25, 2003, at the Kaiser Hospital in Sacramento. He was a fortunate man, but those of us who got to know him and call him friend, were very fortunate.The Current Issue of the Valley Ham, 24 June 2010 [cached]Paul Mellinger, NI6P; change E-Mail to, Phone, 530-889-9012.

My Addendum: Andrew Boydston

Aside from this story I heard with humility, regarding his flying during World War II over Germany; stated not with pride of conquest, but with humility and honor of serving. Even though he played an important part in the effort.

Regarding the SR-71 period of his life he said little and, no more what was reported in the newspaper. Paul traveled around the world keeping this quantum leap of technology flying.  Paul recounted with a smile, just a smile, when I asked him “how fast does it really travel”? The encyclopedia says Mach 3+, he would report.  Never could I get him to budge on that point.  He gave an extensive detail of how the SR-71 nacelle would articulate in and out, changing air flow to subsonic speed before going into the jet compressor. One time he noted that the USSR sent up Mig 25 Fox Bats, the world’s fastest short range interceptor to knock down the SR-71.  He reported the SR-71 pilot hit the after burners and the Fox Bats would disintegrate at about Mach 2.8, blowing its engine and the aircraft up, while chasing the SR-71in its  Idle at Mach 3+, "after all that is what the brochure says it flies and the Fox Bat couldn't fly as fast as the SR-71 brochure speed".  Missiles didn't catch the SR-71 either, because that couldn't fly as high, far, or fast; because SR-71's Mach 3+ would fly out of range, and drop off USSR tracking in pursuit. I asked how fast did the missiles go, and he said not fast enough.

I never knew how fast the plus (+) is, because it was his secret. That was Paul's enigma with me after 20 years of trying to learn.  What he knew, was far more than what I could learn.  What he accomplished is far more than an average person could do in a lifetime. He was a true member of the America's Greatest Generation. Today we find people who ignore honor and humility. I am glad to know my uncle and humbly honor him with his memory.

Paul's Mach 3 + are what dreams are made of:

This December 7, Never Forget, the sacrifice given by all.