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(and They Who Take Her Nearer to Heaven)

John D Broughton

In February of 1981, I was part of a Charleston crew tasked with providing logistical and security support for the visit of Pope John Paul II to both Guam and Alaska.

As luck would have it, the assigned specially prepared aircraft was broken and we had to go the backup aircraft, which happened to be 63-8078. The 'stretch' mod had just been completed and it not been fully repainted so paint scheme was a bit of patchwork. It looked like it was made up of old dirty spare parts found in a junk yard. We were ashamed to fly the thing on such a mission. We got more than a few laughs along the way.

When we got to Guam, we were told that we would be spending three days in that lovely place. There's just so many trips to the feed the pig cans of beer, visit Agana (now called Hagåtña), and to the beach that a crew can stand.

We got bored. We went to the commissary and got plastic buckets, mops, dish washing detergent, and anything else we thought we'd need to wash the bird. The Anderson fire department loaned us a water truck with long hoses. On the way to the bird, we went by the NCO club class VI store for some iced beer.

Imagine the picture as it developed. An augmented crew, well lubricated, clad mostly in shorts, bathing suits, shower clogs, and whatever, slathering each other with soapy water and lots of water and beer sprayed everywhere.

In the middle of all this fun came a caravan of vehicles escorted onto the Anderson Field parking revetments by an entourage of local cops on Hondas and Air Force Security Police, all with sirens and lights going full blast .

It seems that somebody had told the Pope about this C-141s history and, having the day off himself, he decided that it needed his blessing. History was made as a result.

On the ramp at Anderson Field on a very sunny day in February 1981, Pope John Paul II, with suitable escort of many dignitaries, and flanked by a wet, disheveled flight crew, blessed C-141 63-8078.

We gave the Pope a tour of the plane, after much apologizing for our condition, and he gave each of us a Papal Medallion.

He was a nice guy, spoke broken but understandable English, and, in his presence, you could feel the power of his charisma. Pope John gave me this medallion personally and I've worn it since that time. I am not Catholic but he impressed me that much. He was that type of person. He was wearing a white turtle neck shirt, white pants, and white patent leather loafers. He expressed an interest in everything and even climbed out the crew hatch and walked down to the wings.


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