TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Phil Burdick was anything but scared when he joined the Air Force as an 18-year-old in 1952. But he was disappointed when his dreams of becoming a pilot were smashed when his peripheral vision didn't check out.
After being trained as a jet engine mechanic, Burdick was sent to Korea where American forces had been fighting since June of 1950. He arrived just as many combat soldiers were being sent back home.
"They were shell-shocked as anyone could be. They'd been through hell."
It was Burdick's first exposure to the realities of war.
"They had to see their friends and buddies shot down."
After an Armistice was signed in Korea in July of 1953, Burdick was transferred to an old World War II airbase in England. It seemed q quiet posting until Burdick realized the base was a strategic air command base and that the bombers stationed there were armed with nuclear bombs on alert from Russian attacks.
"We were on alert all the time. Red alert."
It was a time, later named the Cold War, where Russian leaders were making threats against the U.S.
"We practiced getting them all off, all 48 planes. They couldn't knock them all down. We were nuclear capable and nuclear ready."
But Burdick knew if both sides used their nuclear capabilities, the results would have been as he calls it, Armageddon.
"I really am anti-war, very much anti-war because I could see first hand what could happen."
In spite of his feelings about war, Phil Burdick remains a patriot.
"As far as serving our country, I'm proud of it."