Russ Maheras

Russ Maheras
Chicago area,
Chicago native; long-time public affairs specialist; former electronic countermeasures technician on A-10, SR-71, U-2, RC-135 and C-5 aircraft; professional cartoonist; comics historian; and 20-year Air Force veteran. Lived all over – including 10 years overseas. Hobbies include history, science, technology, cartooning, film and sports. Grew up on the west side of Chicago, and unlike most baseball fans in the city, roots for both the White Sox AND the Cubs.

AUGUST 5, 2009 10:18PM

George Carlin's U.S. Air Force years

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The August 3 entry on cartoonist/artist Skip Williamson’s blog here led off with a quote from George Carlin, and that got me thinking again about a few tidbits of little-known Carlin trivia I shared with folks on another Web site not too long ago.


Carlin, as you may or may not know, was in the U.S. Air Force during the 1950s. As a long-time fan of Carlin’s work, and an Air Force veteran, I’d always been a bit curious about the details of his service. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many details about that portion of his life readily available – at least not that I could find.


I knew the relationship between Carlin and the Air Force had been a stormy one, and that he had separated from the service before his four-year enlistment was up. However, I also knew from a Carlin interview I’d seen that Carlin seemed pretty proud of the fact that, despite his turbulent enlistment, he received a General Discharge instead of something worse – such as a Bad Conduct or Dishonorable Discharge.  In addition, I knew his service specialty was radar technician, and that he had been stationed at Barksdale AFB, La., after his initial training had been completed. Finally, according to various Web sites, he was discharged from the Air Force on July 29, 1957.  


But two months ago, while rummaging through an antiques mall in Chicago, I found yet another piece to his military service puzzle: A 60-page Sampson Air Force Base, N.Y., basic training keepsake book that just happened to include photos of Carlin’s basic training “flight” (“flight” being the Air Force’s smallest unit designation, consisting of roughly 40 people). Carlin’s Air Force basic training photo – complete with his characteristic impish smile – is in the section for Flight 3713 of the 3651st Training Squadron (see below). And according to the records posted on the Sampson AFB Association Web page, Carlin’s flight went through basic training from August through November 1954.

If you’ve never heard of Sampson AFB, don’t be surprised – most Airmen today have probably never heard of it either. The reason is simple: It was only an Air Force base from 1950-1956, after which it closed forever.




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Wow! Carlin in the Air Force. Who knew? Great research. Did you know that Hunter S. Thompson was in the Air Force too?

So was I, but I'm not famous.
Hunter S. Thompson??? No, I didn't know that. Interesting. I'll have to check that out.
Congratulations on your rare find. Goerge Carlin in uniform, yet smiling broadly - priceless!
Wow. This is fascinating.

I had heard that he was in the military. Good job finding the pics.
Very interesting. This just goes to show that no matter how much we think we know about people, there is always something more.
This isn't so surprising. As a vet, Russ, you'll know that the Armed Forces boast as wide a variety of individuals as "civvy street" does.

Why, some Air Force guys were rumored to be cartoonists! Is that nuts, or what?
Yeah, can you imagine that? Air Force people who are also cartoonists! It boggles the mind!!!