The late Major General Don D. Pittman--a Jefferson City, Mo., native and 1943 graduate of St. Peter's High School--took these photographs during the retirement ...of the Air Force's fleet of SR-71 Blackbirds at Beale Air Force Base, California, on January 26, 1990.
The Blackbird cadre was formed at Beale AFB in January 1965 with the first aircraft arriving the following year. In May 1973, Maj. Gen. Pittman became commander of the 14th Air Division at Beale AFB and had under his command several reconnaissance, bombardment, airborne command and control and refueling organizations, some of which were equipped with the SR-71.
For nearly 25 years, the SR-71 performed worldwide aerial reconnaissance operations and broke a number of speed and altitude records. Regardless of its performance, a dwindling defense budget combined with the high cost of maintenance eventually heralded the end of this legendary aircraft.
Jeremy P. Amick is a military historian and author dedicated to preserving our nation's military legacies.