XF-120 TTU Memories

For a movie that is almost 50 years old, it's hard to dig up news on it. However, some of the most interesting stories I hear are from people who were at Edwards during the filming of TTU or saw it in the theater as a kid. This is where I want to share those stories!

If you remember TTU at Edwards or the movie theater, drop me an email with the details and we'll put it on the site.

Esther, better known as Lu, remembers...
I started working at Edwards AFB in June of 1951 and as my first job there was in Base Operations, I was quite familiar with the pilots of the X-aircraft, as well as the flights. Unfortunately, by 1956, I had been promoted to another job, and was actually not working on base at the time of the filming, although I did go to the base and watch segments of the filming on several occasions. I remember that a lot of base personnel appeared in the movie, doing their particular jobs and were very excited about that. It was actually filmed on what we call "the old base" and base aircraft were used in the film, as well as base personnel. My most vivid memory is watching the performance of the Thunderbirds, which I believe was done at the end of the filming. My husband at that time was NCOIC of the Personal Equipment (I think that's what it was called back then - it's Life Support now) and did the fitting of oxygen masks and parachutes for the cast.

Gene M. Remembers...
"I was in the 6516th Flight Line Maintenance Sqdn from 1954-1956.

I participated as an extra in the making of "Toward the Unknown", and I think I actually appeared for a second or two in a couple scenes - the one where Charles McGraw and Lloyd Nolan are talking behind the tailpipe of the F-94C inside the hangar, and the scene in dress blues where we were all lined up in formation on the flightline. Some of the guys in my squadron went to the premier at the Lancaster drive-in movie theatre, and came back and told me to go see the flick, since I was in it; otherwise, I wouldn't have even known about it.

The main reason for writing this is to relate a tidbit that I did not notice in the various "TTU Sightings" info:

The making of the movie was marred by the loss of the XB-51 at El Paso International Airport (shared runway with Biggs Air Force Base), Texas.

Our B-45 had been equipped with one of the big Warner Bros. cameras in the tail gunner position, in order to take airborne shots. It worked pretty well, but the movie crew wanted to get some background clouds in the picture in order to show the relative speed of the XB-51. At Edwards, the sky is clear nearly all the time. So, the Air Force decided to dispatch the XB-51 and the B-45 with the camera in the tail gunner position to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where the clouds are much more prevalent. The two aircraft flew to El Paso, where they were to remain over night (RON) at Biggs Air Force Base. The two aircraft were serviced, and the B-45 took off, circled around and was awaiting the take-off of the XB-51. As it then happened, the XB-51 taxied for take-off, but did not clear the runway. It came close, but overran the runway and ran into a railroad which was at the end of the 10,000 ft runway. Later calculations indicated that the aircraft, with full fuel load for the long flight to Florida, should have been airborne in about 11,000 ft. The aircraft exploded upon crashing into the railroad, and the fire caused the eventual death of all three crewmen aboard. I knew Staff Sgt Savage, and was a close friend of the crew chief who was aboard the B-45. The B-45 crew chief refuelled the XB-51, so felt some responsibility for its heavy take-off weight. However, the XB-51 was basically an old hangar queen at that time, and there weren't any flight engineers around to help with flight profiles. In fact, the aircraft was maintained out of Sgt Savage's toolbox.

The crash of the XB-51 caused the movie-makers to change some of their plans, but since most of the movie was "in the can" by this time, the movie release was not delayed, so far as I know. My recollection is that Warner Bros. left in a fair amount of the takes in which Sgt. Savage appeared. It has been 25 or 30 years since I have seen the movie on TV, so I don't remember clearly."

Ken Remembers...
"My personal interest in the movie was about 1/3 thru the movie. I recognized the scene, William Holden getting in and out of an airplane 4 to 6 times before he got the scene right. A group of us were standing on the sidelines watching the scene being made. Then near the last 15 min. of the movie our squadron was in the movie standing in formation while William Holden was coming to the plane to see Lloyd Nolan off, as he was retiring. We were able to see William Holden walking on a cane in front of us. He was hurt while flying. We weren't able to see any other scenes being shot because they were in the offices on the base or 50,000 feet in the air!"

Larry remembers...
"I was Stationed at Edwards AFB, and had the pleasure of being in the Movie. I was the Base commander's driver, Gen. Stan Holtner was his name. So when they made the Movie, I got to be the driver of the general that played the part. Was on the set and had lunch with all of them every day. I even still have the pay stub of the check they gave me at the end of the movie, Warner Brothers, a big $50.00 check. At that time that was a lot of money. I have a copy of the Movie, my grand kids tell every one I'm a movie star. I am the Generals driver in the movie in about 6 frames. I am now 68 Years old, so I look different now."

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