Meeting Tony Bevacqua for the first time, one will find a demeanor exuding quiet confidence that only a life as he has lived, brings. His many
accomplishments are stellar, and spy worthy. I am proud to share his story, and that he lives to tell it. Here is the rest of his story.
Tony was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 7, 1932 to Sicilian immigrant parents. I asked Tony if his parents had a special interest in cars, and if his
interest in cars was inherited. Tony joked that he was born in the dark ages, and the only family car was a 1931 Chrysler 4 door that his Dad bought
brand new. His dad kept the car until 1950 when it was traded for a 1948 Plymouth. It was nice to know his dad enjoyed Mopars, but “no” Tony did not
have an interest in cars until his senior year in High School.. His first car was a 1936 Ford V-8 coupe with a cracked block, which he bought his senior
year in High School. It ran, and he drove it.
Tony joined the US Air Force February 29, 1952, 19 months after graduating from high school. Kids often dream of what they want to do and be when
they ‘grow up’. Knowing his incredible ‘history’, that I will share with you, I asked Tony why he decided to join the Air Force. Tony’s answer was
simple. He just wanted to avoid being drafted into the Army. He shared that he never rode in a plane or never made a model plane. He just knew that
whatever he endeavored, he wanted to be “The BEST that he could be”.
Tony said he was EXTREMELY fortunate to get into pilot training. The USAF required a minimum of two years college, and Tony had NONE. In his
words, “The first day after arriving at basic training we had a full physical. Half way through, they stopped us to make an announcement that the USAF
needed pilots and navigators (Korea War was on), and the minimum requirement [now] was a high school graduate. I raised my hand, and yes, the rest
is “history”.” Tony graduated from the Aviation Cadet Pilot Program in April 1954, and was rated and commissioned on the same day.
His first assignment was to fly with the 508th Strategic Fighter Wing, at Turner Air Force Base, in Georgia, flying the F-84 G and F-84F. These planes
were the straight-wing Thunderjet, and swept-wing Thunderstreak, American-built turbojet fighter-bomber aircraft. Advancement of technology soon
made the fighter-escort wings no longer necessary, and they were inactivated. Tony shared that he volunteered for an assignment to the 4080th
Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. The aircraft he was to fly was the U-2! A single-engine, very high-altitude surveillance aircraft flown by the United
States Air Force and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency. It provides day and night, very high-altitude (70,000 feet/21,000 meters),
all-weather surveillance. The aircraft is also used for electronic sensor research and development, satellite calibration, and satellite data validation.
(Thrill seekers reading this might be saying “Be still my beating heart”)!!
Tony flew the U-2 from 1957 to 1965. He starting flying the U2 at Groom Lake – Area 51 starting March ‘57. In June ‘57 the 1st 6 U-2’s were flown to
Laughlin AFB, historically the first U2 base. All training was done out of Laughlin until 1963, when his unit moved to Davis-Monthan AFB, in Tuscon,
AZ. After accumulating 2002 flight hours, he left the U-2 program, the summer of 1965. He then went to Air Command and Staff College in Alabama
before arriving at Beale AFB, where he flew the SR-71 and accumulated a total of 738 flying hour between 1966 and 1973. He retired as Lieutenant
Colonel United States Air Force on March 31, 1973.
Tony and his lovely wife Marilyn have been married 53 years. They celebrate full lives with their wonderful family of five children and nine grandchildren.
Upon their arrival in California in 1966 when he was stationed at Beale Air Force Base, they settled into their local community, and Tony still remains
very active. Since voluntarily retiring from the USAF, he worked in Mortgage banking, and has been active with hobbies that include racquetball,
spectator sports, volunteer work, and civic/charitable organizations.
Among the Collectibles cars that Tony owns, is his beautiful 1956 Imperial 4-door Sedan, you see pictured. He received First Place at the Mopars in
the Park 2009, in the Imperial Division. I asked Tony why he was attracted to this Collectible, because when one collects anything, much thought goes
into choosing. Tony says of his 1956 Imperial, “I loved the looks and the condition and the hemi part. It came to me better than it was advertised!! “
WOW! What a story, huh?? Tony Bevacqua, has lived his life “being the BEST he could be”. He gives back to his community, friends and family. We
are pleased that Tony is a member of IOANC.
Tony's beautiful 1956 Imperial which won FIRST PLACE at Mopars in the Park 2009