32nd Fighter Squadron the Wolfhounds

Canal Zone – Soesterberg / Camp New Amsterdam – Ramstein

Soesterberg Wolfhounds 32nd Fighter Squadron 32TFS Facebook Wolfhound Camp New Amsterdam USAF USAFE

Home of the Famous
Curator 32nd
32nd WOLFHOUNDS
 

Hall of Fame

Veterans recall one heck of a life

Ben and Butchie Ryan

Ben and Butchie Ryan Soesterberg wolfhounds 32nd Camp New Amsterdam 32tfs 32nd Camp New Amsterdam Slobberinhounds Wolfhound 32d Tactical Fighter Interceptor Squadron Patch 32 32e 32st 32d 32nd 32TFS TDS T.D.S. TIS T.I.S. TFS T.F.S. FS F.S. FG F.G. TFG T.F.G. Tac Tac. Tactical Day Sq Sq. Sqdn Sqdn. Incpt Incpt. Ftr. Group AOS A.O.S. facebook Operation Operations USAF facebook Holland Netherlands Dutch USAF U.S.A.F. USAFE U.S.A.F.E. Air Force Europe AFB A.F.B. CR CNA C.N.A. Wolf F-15 Eagle F-4 Phantom F-102 Delta Dagger F-100 Super Sabre F-86 603rd 603d 603 soesterburg  512 512th 32ndTFS 32ndFIS

 

Together, Ben and Butchie Ryan have spent 67 adventurous years that have taken them from Venezuela to Alaska and many points in between.
Separately, they each served their country in military service.

Ben, 90, flew P-39s with a fighter squadron that protected the Panama Canal during World War II. He survived a midair collision when he bailed out of his plane in the nick of time, landed in the Panama Canal and was rescued by a nearby fisherman.

P-39-Ben-002 Soesterberg wolfhounds 32nd Camp New Amsterdam Soesterberg wolfhounds 32nd Camp New Amsterdam 32tfs 32nd Camp New Amsterdam Slobberinhounds Wolfhound 32d Tactical Fighter Interceptor Squadron Patch 32 32e 32st 32d 32nd 32TFS TDS T.D.S. TIS T.I.S. TFS T.F.S. FS F.S. FG F.G. TFG T.F.G. Tac Tac. Tactical Day Sq Sq. Sqdn Sqdn. Incpt Incpt. Ftr. Group AOS A.O.S. facebook Operation Operations USAF facebook Holland Netherlands Dutch USAF U.S.A.F. USAFE U.S.A.F.E. Air Force Europe AFB A.F.B. CR CNA C.N.A. Wolf F-15 Eagle F-4 Phantom F-102 Delta Dagger F-100 Super Sabre F-86 603rd 603d 603 soesterburg  512 512th 32ndTFS 32ndFIS

Ben's P-39 during WW II
Copyright: Ben and Butchie Ryan & Webmaster

Butchie, 91, was an Army nurse on a hospital ship headed to Okinawa when the ship broke down in the Panama Canal. During the down time, a friend of hers arranged a blind date with Ben.
The rest is history.

“We’ve had a very good life,” Ben said as he and Butchie sat side by side in their room at the Montana Falls.
After Ben retired early from his job with a major oil company, the couple spent 45 years in West Glacier, where they cleared land for an airstrip and Ben built three airplanes over the years.

When Columbia Falls students visited them recently to gather stories for an annual Veterans Day essay contest, the Ryans were among the veterans interviewed.
With minds still razor-sharp, they told their stories.

Ben moved with his family to Three Forks in 1931 where his father drilled a wildcat well that turned up dry. He recalls the intrigue when two airplanes landed on the airfield at the edge of town in about 1932. It was a small boy’s dream and perhaps foreshadowed his long life to come.

Ben's P-39 during WW II  Soesterberg wolfhounds 32nd Camp New Amsterdam 32tfs 32nd Camp New Amsterdam Slobberinhounds Wolfhound 32d Tactical Fighter Interceptor Squadron Patch 32 32e 32st 32d 32nd 32TFS TDS T.D.S. TIS T.I.S. TFS T.F.S. FS F.S. FG F.G. TFG T.F.G. Tac Tac. Tactical Day Sq Sq. Sqdn Sqdn. Incpt Incpt. Ftr. Group AOS A.O.S. facebook Operation Operations USAF facebook Holland Netherlands Dutch USAF U.S.A.F. USAFE U.S.A.F.E. Air Force Europe AFB A.F.B. CR CNA C.N.A. Wolf F-15 Eagle F-4 Phantom F-102 Delta Dagger F-100 Super Sabre F-86 603rd 603d 603 soesterburg  512 512th 32ndTFS 32ndFIS

Ben's P-39 during WW II
Copyright: Ben and Butchie Ryan & Webmaster

“Because I was the smallest boy, the pilot of the twin Lockheed boosted me up on his shoulder to retrieve the mail pouch from the nose baggage compartment,” he said. “This was a one-time event for Three Forks.”

The family moved to Livingston in 1936 as his father drilled more wildcat wells. Ben worked in the oil patch for a short time after graduating from high school and before heading to Stanford University to study geology and petroleum engineering. While at Stanford, he enlisted in the Army Reserve the week after the attack on Pearl Harbor for training as an aviation cadet and was called to active duty in May 1943. He earned his wings a year later.

“The Army, for publicity reasons, flew my mother, then a WAC (Women’s Army Corps) corporal, out from Los Angeles to pin on my wings,” Ben recalled. “I was surprised to see her on stage and I was the first graduate to get my wings, ahead of all the others ...Apparently, this was written up in the L.A. papers and afterwards I received several letters from young ladies whom I had never met.”

Ben joined the 32nd Fighter Squadron in September 1944, flying on patrol from the Panama Canal Zone. The P-39 was a joy to fly, he said, save for Columbus Day in 1945 when he was filling in for another pilot on a mission to intercept a “VIP” plane and escort it to the canal.

As their mission was ending, another squadron was landing.
“The CO [commanding officer] put our squadron in trail formation,” Ben recalled. “The No. 2 plane had a runaway prop. When this happens the prop goes into a flat pitch and forward speed rapidly falls off. I barely slid under the plane in front of me, but the P-38 behind me took my right vertical stabilizer off with his left wing. My plane was left with no rudder or elevator control.

“I didn’t have time to think. I just reacted,” he said. He managed to get himself out of the plummeting plane. As he popped his parachute, he watched the plane descend until he could see only the circle of foam where it splashed into the
water. “After landing in the water, my life raft would not inflate. Here I had been sitting on this thing in the plane for something like 400 hours ... just when I needed it, it would not work.”

The Army gave the native fisherman who plucked Ben out of the water a $50 reward. The next day Ben was back in a P-38 for a formation flight.
Agnes Butchkosky — “Butchie” for most of her life — stood only 5 feet tall when she prepared to sign up with the Army Nurse Corps in 1945. The height requirement was 5 feet, 2 inches, so she styled her hair in a bun of curls atop her head to make up the two inches she needed.
It worked.

Butchie was a nurse at heart. The Hazelton, Penn., native had worked as a nurse in New York City hospitals before she joined the Army.
World War II was still raging when she was assigned to a hospital ship en route to Okinawa. As fate would have it, the ship broke down in the Panama Canal and was under repair for several weeks.

Butchie had a girlfriend who lived in Panama and worked as a private-sector nurse; she was dating Ben’s roommate. It was inevitable that Ben and Butchie wound up on a blind date, a gathering at the officers club.
It wasn’t love at first sight, Butchie said, but the couple faithfully corresponded. The war ended before the hospital ship was repaired, so she was reassigned to a hospital in Denver.

After Ben got out of the service, he came to Denver and married Butchie on June 8, 1946.

Ben went back to Stanford to finish his degree in petroleum engineering and was hired by Richfield Oil Co. as a geologist in 1949. The Ryans then bounced around, spending three years in California, then four years in Wyoming, four years in Venezuela, a year in Los Angeles and five years in Alaska.
Butchie had her hands full those years playing hostess to plenty of parties for oil executives. After Richfield merged with Atlantic Oil Co. in 1965, Ben decided to retire and they wound up in West Glacier, where they bought 153 acres of timber and started building a home. They had contemplated building a rambler, but after seeing all the snow on their property during the winter of 1966, they decided instead on a more sensible A-frame.

Ever the engineer, Ben built his own sawmill and they processed most of their own lumber for the house.

While Ben was taking a winter walk in the early 1970s he noticed the flat benches extending to the northeast and southwest of their home that could be linked together by filling in the low drainage area between them. That’s when it dawned on him the property could be reshaped into an airstrip.
Around the same time, the industrious Ben started building planes — first a tandem seat lowing monoplane.

“Butchie was a big help in the plane’s construction and was not a bit hesitant to go up with me,” he recollected.
That’s true, she said. “I knew how well-built it was because I was there helping.”
Next he built a biplane from a kit, then later conquered a Fokker triplane, a three-quarter scale version of the one flown by the Red Baron in World War I.
About 10 years ago as the Ryans, who have no children, were deciding what to do with their airstrip and collection of planes, they were introduced to the Recreational Aviation Foundation, an organization dedicated to the preservation of backcountry and recreational airstrips across the country.

The Ryans donated the airstrip (known as Ryan Field), their airplanes and more recently their home to the foundation.
Pilot Getaway magazine has written about the Ryans’ generosity through the years.
“Ryan Field is a treasure that we have the opportunity to enjoy for years to come, and the Ryan legacy will continue through their generous donation,” Mike Sidders wrote in a 2006 Pilot Getaway article.

The Ryans have been constant companions in love and life, never afraid to try their hand at things. They’ve both got competitive spirits, too, as was evident during their many years of hunting in Alaska and the Lower 48.
“Butchie likes to brag that she got the largest bighorn,” Ben said, as Butchie added, “I got the bigger elk, too.”

But, Ben noted with a sly smile, “I got two Dalls and a Stone sheep, so I’m even with her.”

 

Ben with his wife and P-39 during WW II Soesterberg wolfhounds 32nd Camp New Amsterdam 32tfs 32nd Camp New Amsterdam Slobberinhounds Wolfhound 32d Tactical Fighter Interceptor Squadron Patch 32 32e 32st 32d 32nd 32TFS TDS T.D.S. TIS T.I.S. TFS T.F.S. FS F.S. FG F.G. TFG T.F.G. Tac Tac. Tactical Day Sq Sq. Sqdn Sqdn. Incpt Incpt. Ftr. Group AOS A.O.S. facebook Operation Operations USAF facebook Holland Netherlands Dutch USAF U.S.A.F. USAFE U.S.A.F.E. Air Force Europe AFB A.F.B. CR CNA C.N.A. Wolf F-15 Eagle F-4 Phantom F-102 Delta Dagger F-100 Super Sabre F-86 603rd 603d 603 soesterburg  512 512th 32ndTFS 32ndFIS

Ben's P-39 during WW II
Copyright: Ben and Butchie Ryan & Webmaster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit and thanks to:
L. HINTZE / The Daily Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Soesterberg Wolfhounds 32nd Fighter Squadron 32TFS Facebook Wolfhound Camp New Amsterdam USAF USAFE