A Wisconsin man who supplemented his income with farm duties and delivering newspapers as a child grew up to serve in the Air Force troubleshooting some of the most advanced and state-of-the-art military aircraft during the Vietnam War, and chose to make his home in Del Rio after retiring.
James McCauley was born in Superior, Wisconsin in 1938 and served in the United States Air Force from May 2, 1960 to August 1981 for a total of 21 years and four months as an aircraft electrician.
McCauley retired as a master sergeant in Aug. 31, 1981 after being stationed in seven different locations throughout his military career, he later served as a contractor, and retired from civil service in 2004.
Both times McCauley retired during his stay at Laughlin Air Force Base and remained in Del Rio after his second retirement. McCauley chose to stay here because he did not want to go back to the cold weather in Wisconsin.
“I retired from the base here twice actually, which is very unusual. Very few people get that honor,” McCauley said, adding he enjoyed his time in service and reminisced of the air shows Laughlin held.
“I seem to be doing pretty good at the age of 82,” McCauley said.
During his time at Laughlin, McCauley helped repair T-38 jet trainer generator propanels.
McCauley resolved numerous problems on aircrafts that others could not solve, which at one point during his career led to McCauley receiving a letter from the Saudi Arabia Base Commander for rewiring leading edge on C130 aircraft after a hot air valve blew up, burning wiring, he said.
McCauley replaced the complete harness and 135 wires from wing tips to the fuselage to the original splices in 13 days for those aircrafts.
During his time stationed in Thailand, McCauley helped maintain 125 F-105s that flew to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
“We were just very busy. We were working a lot of times 12 hours a day every week, keeping those F-105s flying,” McCauley said.
An F-105 was an American supersonic fighter-bomber and was retired on Feb. 25, 1984.
During his military service, McCauley attended Technical School in Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois, followed by his duty stations Duluth, Minnesota from November 1960 to July 1966; Thailand from July 1966 to June 1967; Anchorage, Alaska from July 1967 to July 1970; Kansas from August 1970 to July 1971; Anchorage, Alaska from July 1971 to July 1975; Beale Air Force Base, California from August 1975 to November 1978; Korea from November 1978-1979; and Laughlin AFB from December 1979 to August 1981.
During his civilian service, McCauley was in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Dallas; Randolph Air Force Base at San Antonio, and Laughlin AFB in Del Rio.
Prior to entering the military, McCauley worked on two different dairy farms from 1956-1960, graduated from high school at the age of 17, and delivered newspapers until high school graduation, a job he began at eight years old.