PLATTSBURGH — There are wild things in them there hills around Plattsburgh.
Black bears, catamounts and missile silos — 15 stories deep.
For those of a certain age, their memories are etched by a four-year window when the Atlas F Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) made the Cold War hot and personal, with 12 missile sites constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers within a 50-mile radius of the base.
The 820th Strategic Aerospace Division assigned the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron to Plattsburgh Air Force Base in 1961, the same year Utah resident John Stone was assigned to the 820th Support Group to support the 556th.
Stone is a speaker at Saturday’s grand opening of the Plattsburgh Air Force Base Museum, which features an extensive Atlas Missile exhibit.
He and his bride, Deanna, secured their first apartment at 76 Broad St.
“We rented from a great French lady ... right across from the Plattsburgh Teachers College, where we played tennis and where we lived for at least a year,” said Stone, who co-authored “A History of the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron” with Jeff Stephens, an Illinois-based Atlas F Systems researcher.
“We settled into church services members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints better known as the Mormons. We started attending church almost immediately and were put in positions of leadership in our church rather quickly.”
Initially at Plattsburgh, Stone was assigned to Petroleum, Oil and Lubricant (POL).
“We went out and serviced the bombers, tankers, the fighters and all the aircraft coming into Plattsburgh.”
Several months later, he was assigned to the Cryogenics Shop at Liquid Oxygen Plant, on the northwest corner of the runway.
“I became cryogenic specialist,” Stone said. “We were trained to handle liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen. We were trained to drive 5,000-gallon cryogenic tankers, basically a military tractor trailer.”