CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A former Texas A&M-Corpus Christi professor's pre-teaching career had him at the center of one of the Cold War's most tense moments.
Paul Cameron spent most of his military career on the front lines of war with no real battles. His mission would have started World War III. He's glad he's still here to tell his story, and the world is able to hear it.
“Thank God I never had to fly it,” Cameron said with a chuckle.
Cameron's Air Force career included several flights to the Soviet Union. His aircraft was fully armed with nuclear weapons, just waiting for an order which fortunately never came.
“Once we hit Russia with our nuclear weapons, they would have probably hit us,” Cameron said. “They had long-range aircraft and they had missiles, just like we had.”
Cameron was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force after graduating from East Carolina University in 1954. After training, he flew B-36 bombers. When the B-36 was phased out, Cameron was re-trained in the B-52.
He spent most of his career behind the controls of the B-52, including during the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, he briefly transferred out of the Strategic Air Command to fly over Vietnam. The contrast, according to Cameron, was stark.
“I didn't get shot at while I was flying the B-52,” said Cameron. “In Vietnam I got a lot of bullet holes.”
Those holes were only in his plane. Though there were close calls in the B-52.
Cameron recounts one flight where his tail gunner spotted a Soviet bomber. The gunner kept asking for permission to fire.
“I said no, we don't want to start World War III,” Cameron said.
That bomber eventually caught up to Cameron’s plane. The two flew side by side, waving and snooping pictures until they approached American airspace. Once there, the Russian peeled off and headed for Cuba.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) tried recruiting Cameron for astronaut training. The only catch; his then wife had to be onboard with his blasting off.
“No, that was her answer,” said Cameron.
When Cameron retired from the Air Force in 1977, he briefly considered flying for an airline. After all, he had nearly 10,000 flight hours logged.
“Then I thought about being a taxi driver, hauling people around, and I had gotten all the flying I needed,” said Cameron. “So I decided instead to become a CPA.”
Cameron went from CPA to accounting professor, teaching at TAMUCC for nearly 30 years.
A much calmer life than the one he lived in the clouds.