Crew Chief to Two of the Air Force’s Fastest Bombers

Updated: Nov 30, 2018

Welby Smith was one of the first to join the newly named United States Air Force. The former Army Air Forces became the U.S. Air Force on September 16, 1947. Army Air Fields were renamed Air Force Bases and new personnel were issued new uniforms with new rank insignias. Welby was born on November 18, 1930 in Boswell, OK. He joined the Air Force at age 17 in December of 1947 and was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The ambitious young man first trained in fire rescue, but couldn’t get promoted very quickly, so he went into the air police. He found that he couldn’t get promoted quickly there either, so he went into aircraft maintenance.


Most of his training was “on-the-job” for fire rescue and air police. He spent three years at Burtonwood AFB, England. Burtonwood was reverted to the USAF in 1948 to support US European bases and it undertook the entire major servicing for the C-54 Skymaster aircraft involved in the Berlin Airlift. From June 24, 1948 to May 12, 1949, the U.S. and her allies flew over 200,000 flights. They provided West Berliners with 8,893 tons of necessities each day such as food and fuel due to a Soviet blockade. With the airlift clearly working, the Soviets lifted the blockade.


Welby came back to the states and went into the air police at Brooks AFB in San Antonio. After a stint as an air policeman, he went into aircraft maintenance school at Amarillo AFB, Texas. After spending time at Hunter AFB in Savannah GA, he was assigned to Nouasseur AFB near Casablanca, Morocco where he was an aircraft maintenance man on the B-47 bomber. The B-47’s distinctive swept-wing design was developed by Boeing from test results found in a German lab in May 1945. The B-47 medium bomber became the foundation of the Air Force's newly created Strategic Air Command. Between 1947 and 1956, a total of 2,032 B-47s in all variations were built. The jet broke speed and distance records. In 1949 it crossed the United States in under four hours at an average speed of 608 mph. The B-47 needed defensive armament only in t