A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Awards - Rescues - Change-Of-Command - Page 5, 33 and 35 - Naval Aviation News - July 1979..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1979/jul79.pdf [10OCT2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...History and Change-Of-Command - Page 16 and 19 - Naval Aviation News - March 1978..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1978/mar78.pdf [09OCT2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...VP and NAS History - Page 29 and 31 - Naval Aviation News - April 1977..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1977/apr77.pdf [08OCT2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...VP History - Page 29 - Naval Aviation News - January 1977..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1977/jan77.pdf [08OCT2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...02JUL76--Ranger and her escort ships of Task Force 77.7 entered the Indian Ocean and were assigned to operate off the coast of Kenya in response to a threat of military action in Kenya by Ugandian forces. A VP-17 P-3 aircraft visiting Nairobi and a U.S. Middle East Force ship visiting Mombassa further demonstrated U.S. friendly ties and support for Kenya during her crisis with Uganda..." http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/avchr10.htm
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Mayaguez Incident By Bill O'Brien..." WebSite: CenterSeat (CENTERSEAT FORUM - Main Category - Main Forum) http://www.centerseat.net/ [09AUG2008]
I spent about 2 hours today trying to help a CPO Select find an answer to a question regarding the Buno of the P-3 that talked directly to the Whitehouse on "the (red) phone". There is a ton of now declassified info on this incident including the actual conversations between President Ford, Rumsfeld and the rest of his cronies and I found it interesting enough to post for anyone else who may enjoy it.
BUNO: 152168 On the recent 30th anniversary of the S.S. Mayaguez Incident (May 13, 1975), I tracked down old ZE-6 (152168). It was in the boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB slated for FMS (Foreign Military Sale) to the Brazilian Navy. So, I made a pilgrimage out there and visited the plane. I was very graciously hosted by Tim Horn of AMARC. I have attached some digital pictures showing the aircraft with some good close up shots of the tail. Apparently, after service with VP-17, 152168 was flown by VP-69, a reserve squadron out of NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. Anyway, the old faded paint job is theirs and not the old White Lightning.
The amazing thing, as the AMARC guys pointed out to me (two former P-3 Flight Engineers), is that you can still see the metal patches on the vertical stabilizerwhere the three .50 cal. rounds penetrated. The three rectangular patches are just above the section of faded green paint. I was really surprised to see the actual damage repair, since I never thought there would be any tangible evidence of that day. The last time I was that close to the damage was when I was on a "cherry picker" in U-Tapao Royal Thailand Air Force Base, Thailand after we landed, putting metal duct tape over the holes so we could re-fuel and fly back to NAS Cubi Point, Philippines with the film we shot of the Cambodians.
(Check P-3 UPDATES to see what's become of VP-17's other old P-3s)
Here's the story as I recalled it while taking pictures of old ZE-6 that day...
On May 12, 1975, barely two weeks after the fall of Saigon, Khmer Rouge forces seized a U.S. flagged merchant ship, the S.S. Mayaguez.
On that same evening VP-17's Crew 9 was just finishing a 12-day I.O. circuit and were enjoying a few days off in U-Tapao Royal Thailand Air Force Base, Thailand. Most of the crew were "out in town" enjoying the local flora and fauna (especially the fauna). Gary Ruffin (our 3P) and I were attending Harvey Wallbanger Night at the Air Force O-Club. Around midnight we were well into our cups when the duty officer walked in and told us we were flying. After laughing uproariously for a few minutes we realized he was serious. We pooled our money and Gary took a cab into town to round up the crew. I went down to Ops to get the brief. We fueled, filed and took off around 5 a.m.
Our brief was sketchy at best. We were told that a Mayday had been received from the S.S. Mayaguez, but the nature of the emergency was uncertain. We were to search southwest of Cambodia (last reported position) to locate and positively identify the ship and attempt to determine the problem (were they aground, on fire or what). After several hours of searching we received an HF message from NAS Cubi Point, Philippines (CTG 72.3) to disregard CPA restrictions to the Cambodian mainland. This was my first clue that something serious had happened to the ship. I only wish they had told us everything they knew or suspected; that the ship had been seized by several hundred Khmer Rouge soldiers and the crew was being held hostage on board.
At approximately 8:30 a.m. local time Jim Carlson spotted what looked like a ship anchored near one of the Poula Wai Islands (many of you may remember we called them the Peanut islands because that's what they looked like from the air). Radar never picked up the ship at all. We made our first pass up the starboard side from about 500 feet and saw no suspicious activity. We then circled and flew up the port side between the ship and the island. On the second pass, approaching the stern at about 250' altitude, we could read and photograph the name, making positive I.D. However, tied up amidships of the S.S. Mayaguez were two 1950's vintage former U.S. Navy Patrol Boats with deck mounted .50 caliber guns. Aboard the vessel and in the tree line were another 250 Khmer Rouge soldiers. As later documented in two books written about this event, the Cambodians opened fire on us from all points, the boats, the deck of the S.S. Mayaguez and the tree line. We could see the tracers in front of us, could see the rounds hitting the water and could hear three .50 cal. rounds penetrate the vertical stabilizer (the patches in the recent pictures show where they hit - luckily striking no control cables or the rudder).
The noise of the rounds actually woke up our Flight Engineer who was asleep on the galley floor at the time - that's how loud it was! In the seat at the time was Jim Carlson (left seat) and Gary Ruffin (right seat) and our second mech. I was standing behind Gary in the cockpit. Gary had a closer look at the firing and said "Those M***** F*****s are shooting at us, let's get outta here!" He applied max power and pulled back on the yoke.
It seemed to take forever for the engines to spool up and for us to climb clear of the firing. I reported the contact to NAS Cubi Point, Philippines and was quickly speaking with VP-4's XO, Brant Powell. We were told to keep visual contact with the ship until relieved. We replied that we would, once we determined if the aircraft was still safely flyable, and I also asked how high a .50 cal. could shoot. They said they would get back to me on that.
When we returned to the island 45 minutes later the ship and patrol boats were gone. After a rapid square search, we found them heading for the Cambodian mainland at 12 knots! We kept close surveillance from 5,500 feet and they shot at us every time. Eventually we made a few passes across their bow and they pulled in and anchored at Koh Tang Island. This is the island the Marines would assault two days later.
After five more hours of surveillance we were now approaching PLE and STILL awaiting relief from VP-4's Ready Alert aircraft from NAS Cubi Point, Philippines. We were actually told to disregard PLE and remain on station until relieved. We sort of did that (full story to be told only in person over a beer) and landed at U-Tapao Royal Thailand Air Force Base, Thailand. We refueled, developed the film, patched the holes with metal duct tape and took off for NAS Cubi Point, Philippines.
Our route back to NAS Cubi Point, Philippines took us very near the action at Koh Tang Island, which was now under air assault by an AC-130 gunship, Air Force F-4's and F-111's from Thailand, and Navy A-7E's and A-6A's from the Coral Sea. Attacks were also being made at Kompong Song Harbor, and Ream airfield on the Cambodian mainland.
It was this bombing that convinced Phnom Penh to release the crew. They were sent out to sea along with a captured Vietnamese sailor in a fishing boat and would have been blown out of the water by Coral Sea's A-7's had not a sharp eyed P-3 pilot spotted what he thought looked like a beard on one of the crew! The attack was called off and the entire crew was rescued.
The sad epilogue to the story is the extremely high casualty rate of the Marines who assaulted the island. Forty-one Marines were killed within the first few hours of the assault. Of those 41 Marines who gave their lives, only 32 bodies ultimately were recovered and sent home for burial, nine of them recovered only five years ago as a result of the work of POW/MIA teams. However, the greatest tragedy was, of the nine bodies never recovered, three Marines were left alive on the battlefield, still manning their machine gun position—forgotten in the confusion by the Marine captain in the last evacuation helicopter. These three Marines, L/CPL Joe Hargrove, PFC Gary Hall and PVT Danny Marshall were eventually captured alive, tortured and killed by the Cambodians.
LCpl Joe Hargrove, PFC Gary Hall and Pvt Danny Marshall
These names are on the last panel of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The S.S. Mayaguez herself remained in service for only four more years. She was cut up for scrap in 1979.
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...VP-17's Cubi Deployment 1973 Unofficial Journal" by Captain Gerry H. Spaulding, Retired firstname.lastname@example.org WebSite: http://www.ghspaulding.com/VP-17homepage.htm [29JUN2004]Circa 1972
Sun, 1 Apr. Everyone gets knocked royally on their asses during party at CO's house celebrating the return of the Westpac Liaison flight, the end of "Kilo" ops, and giving up the Ready to VP-22. Only significant thing at the party is when someone puts a four-pound bullfrog in Bill "Thundergums" Overend's Cadillac. April Fool's Day!
Crew leave period is nearly over. At this point, most arrangements completed for Ev and boys to go to Olongapo, Hong Kong and Bangkok—passports, visas, tickets, a house to live in, a bed to sleep in, a car to drive and a maid to baby sit and clean house.
Fri, 13 Apr. Another party—big drunk at "Crash" and Emily Crandall's.Sat, 14 Apr. For the second Saturday in a row, Gary Davidson and I go flying in a plane he rents at Honolulu Int. so he can build hours needed for his commercial pilot's license. This time, Ev and Sid Hanisee come too. Ev is hung over and can't hack the bumpy ride, so we terminate flight early after a brief stop for a Coke at Ford Island.
Tonight is the Dining Out, which, contrary to the finest Navy tradition, is marked by only one toast of a humorous nature, that being mine to the ASW Tacco's socks. (The ASW Tacco is wearing black and orange argyle socks, a rather stunning complement to his tropical white longs.) Meanwhile, our plans to trap the President of the Mess in a game of "Zoom, Schwartz, Perfigliano" are foiled by an early adjournment to the bar.
Thu, 19 Apr. O's convene at Bushnells' for a combination housewarming for the Rettigs and "fuck-the-deployment" party. Gets very drunk out. The group presents XO with a plywood plaque inscribed with various Hawaiian sayings. My contribution is, "Hey, mo' betta you no kick a me inna ma ass, brudda, you gonna broke a ma t'umb!"
This turns out to be the biggest grab-ass party I've seen since junior high. Highlight is a "Vertigo Demonstration" with stumbling-drunk duty officer ("Thundergums" Overend) straddling the XO, who is lying face-up on the floor, and dropping trou in his face. Much co-ed grabbing, squeezing, caressing and general familiarization with each other's bodies by all. Dick Blake nearly loses his pants to a trio of frenzied wives; Crash Crandall does.
Wed, 25 Apr. Day of departure for Cubi. Everyone finishes saying goodbye to their families (who are now watching from their cars) and huddles on board our fully loaded P-3A. Just as we commence our plane-side brief, FE Davidson discovers a fuel leak, which hard downs the airplane. Ops-O Bill Boyd directs us to delay our departure until the next day after repairs are completed. I say, "No way—I don't want crew and families to have to suffer through good-byes again. Give us another airplane." He agrees. We preflight ZE-1, reload and go. ZE-4 launches 20 minutes behind us, then loses LORAN. Using UHF-DF, we lead ZE-4, trailing us by 200 miles, all the way to Guam. FOLLOW US!
While refueling at Guam, attempt to file a stop-over flight plan (and get an extended weather brief) -- destination Barbers Point with a 6-month delay at Cubi. Base Ops has no sense of humor and won't go for it. Finally arrive Cubi at 2130 on 26 April, having lost Thursday due to crossing the International Date Line.
Checking in at BOQ, I spot former flight training classmate Jay Beasley Jr. (now flying for VR-21) asleep on the couch in the lobby—in exactly the same place and same position he was in when I last saw him 9 months ago at the end of a detachment to Cubi during our 1972 Naha deployment. Has he been off this couch since then? Is he alive?
Fri, 27 Apr. Take possession of 1961 Ford Bill O'Brien and I have previously purchased for $180 by mail—sight unseen—from someone in the squadron we are relieving. We hadn't paid very much for it and it appears we got our money's worth. Initial observation reveals the following:
-- Left side sags, most pronounced at left rear;
-- Exhaust pipe has more holes than Swiss Cheese. Sounds like no muffler installed;
-- Bad wheel bearing somewhere. Loud thump when driving;
-- Windshield, driver's side, is shattered cobweb fashion;
-- Windshield wiper motor is inop;
-- Brakes virtually shot (some possibly missing);
-- Trunk lid does not latch, but is very heavy and rests in place due to gravity;
-- Doors don't fully close, simply wedge into place;
-- All tires are beyond bald with cord showing through in blotches;
-- Right headlight inop. Left headlight beam points 45 degrees up and left due to prior reorientation—the result of unreported crash into base CO's vehicle by previous owner;
-- Leaks water and burns oil at prodigious rates;
-- No emergency brake;
-- Very hot inside because car is black and seat cover material is plastic;
-- Large hole in driver's seat with sharp-tipped coil spring protruding there from.
Otherwise, she's perfect.
Also today locate the house Beaver and I have rented at 55 Otero Street in Mabayuan, a suburb of Olongapo. Nice four-bedroom, bi-level just across the street from the Po River. I notice several monkeys on the front porch of the house next door.
First crew party of the deployment tonight at the Acapulco.
Sat, 28 Apr. First Ready Alert today. During preflight, Ordnanceman fires loaded retro by mistake. Fortunately, no one nor anything hurt. Move from temporary room without air conditioner to permanent room with air conditioner. No relief as air conditioner is inop. Ready Alert is from 1000 today until 1000 tomorrow. Hope like hell we don't launch, as I have much to do to establish this as a place in which to live and work for the next half year.
Sun, 29 Apr. Launch at 0950 today. Flight duration is 10.9 hours. Find a Russian AGI in trail of the big "E." Upon landing, discover that we have the Ready again tomorrow. Sure hope we don't launch this time.
Mon, 30 Apr. Whattaya know. We don't launch.
Tue, 1 May. Is it still May? In the afternoon, after being relieved by the oncoming Ready crew, give Jim Whatley a NATOPS check, during which we make a low pass at Sangley to see if hangar is still emblazoned with "Quinn's Garage." It is. Wind up bouncing at night back at Cubi right in the middle of some fighter squadron's FMLP period. What an experience!
Wed, 2 May. Quiet day in the office today. Also, get an NAS Admin fam. Like to make a few WAVES up there!
Thu, 3 May. Get our "bennies" for the month today by flying the "Zone" track. Have a good time, although we come home a little skosh on gas (FLIR bird) and decide to shoot a penetration approach to conserve fuel.
Fri, 4 May. Four-day duty cycle for Crew 1 begins today. Whatley has the first 24 hours of CDO, I'll have it tomorrow. Some astonishing news from the Bureau today. Seems as though the Navy suddenly went from rags to riches and now, prior to 30 June, must move everyone who formerly had been extended. Squadron is now faced with losing approximately 30 % of its officers in the next two months. Hopefully, reason will out.
Sat, 5 May. What a fun day standing CDO. Do not launch the Ready.
Sun, 6 May. Work half a day, then play golf at Subic (Binictican) in the afternoon. Strike it pretty well but can't score worth a damn. BOQ air conditioner remains inop. Pay first month's rent (P800) to our landlady, Mrs. Fernandez, and with the help of her daughter, Mrs. Reyes, also sign our five-month lease.
More about the golf. After we hit our drives on the 15th hole, a monkey dashes out of the jungle and absconds with Bill O'Brien's ball. Bill's caddy chases said monkey into the trees and, after considerable thrashing, primal screaming, etc., emerges with ball in hand. Caddy makes P25 for the round. The monkey strikes out, but vows revenge.
Mon, 7 May. Last full day of crew duty cycle. Take "Black Beauty" to the Subic base service station for a few minor improvements—new used tires, extensive patching of exhaust and cooling systems, repair of broken left rear spring, adjustment of brakes (what remains of them) and repair of emergency brake. Total bill, $58. Also pick up a few "go-fastas"—racing stripe, white paint for the roof, Boss 351 stickers, steering wheel cover, etc. When finished, the beast should look much better—like a reject from an Olongapo demolition derby.
Tue, 8 May. BOQ air conditioner remains inop.
Wed, 9 May. Busy day at the office. Pack for U-Tapao, Thailand.
Thu, 10 May. Track our way to U-Tapao. Anticipating a good time for the next ten days. Will Williams loans me his VIP trailer key, as he will be gone to Cocos for two days.
Fri, 11 May. First day in U-Tapao is just so-so. Go to John's International Tailor in Sattihip and order one pair of Bermudas for me and a dress for Mama chosen from Frederick's catalogue. Will's key goes unused as I wind up going to base flick with Jim Whatley to see a $1.98 production called The Dead Are Alive, a real killer of a movie. Almost launch on SAR for Crew 8, which hasn't been heard from since noon. Eventually, they check in. Looking forward to a round of golf tomorrow at Siam Country Club.
Sat, 12 May. Grab my golf clubs and take a 46-km taxi ride to Siam Country Club, which is located in the hills south of Pattaya Beach. Nearing the club, road is very winding with sheer drop-offs on one side. Driver gets my attention when we round a curve and pass a huge yellow Buddha slightly above us on the steep hillside to our left. Without slowing down, driver takes both hands off the wheel, closes his eyes, bows his head and starts praying. He finishes just in time to avoid plunging off the cliff into Never-Never-Land below.
Club is first-rate. However, end up playing as a onesome, behind an extremely slow foursome of Japanese guys, all the while stepping lightly through the lush green rough in order to avoid coming face-to-face with one of the many cobras that no doubt populate the premises. Finally give up the ghost after only nine holes due to extreme heat and dehydration. Club manager, Mr. Poun, suggests a massage, which sounds good at first. But I decline when I learn that the club uses, not a masseuse, but a masseur who also doubles as the resident mechanic. Yuk! Instead, I opt for a shower then guzzle down five mugs of freshly squeezed, iced and heavily sugared orange juice. Delicious!
Sun, 13 May. Fly a round robin to Udorn, Bangkok and back to give Jim Whatley an instrument check. Arrange a crew dinner at the Royal Thai Navy O'Club, which features great French Onion Soup and fork-tender "Kobe" Beef (which we assume is really some caribou that died recently of old age). Always good, but guaranteed to give you a nasty case of the "green-apple quickstep" for the remainder of your stay in Thailand. Anyway, only the crew officers (minus Foggy Bob) and Sid Hanisee show up. Still have not used Will's key. Mobile One tomorrow.
Mon, 14 May. Fly the Mobile One. Uneventful as always.
Tue, 15 May. Nothing significant to report—except for a good "steam-‘n-cream" in Freeland and watching the "fuck-you monsters" that cling to the outer walls of the BOQ catching insects that are drawn into the spotlighted areas.
Wed, 16 May. Local training flight with Ray deGaston today. Forty-five minutes out, tell Second Mech Funston to give himself a fire warning and then to feather #1. He does, but also proceeds to discharge the HRD. Guess he thinks the fire warning he has just given himself is real! Burn down and, given proximity of the big yellow "HRD" parked at the side of the runway, restart #1 prior to landing. Happily, Maintenance has a spare HRD bottle. Crew heads to Pattaya Beach where we have rented two bungalows for the next couple of days.
Thu, 17 May. Pattaya! Davidson, Hanisee and I start drinking at 1130 a.m. Hanisee departs, Davidson and I continue all afternoon. After a Mongolian Fire Pot dinner at the Mai Kai, we join crew at the Sandbox, where a make-believe Air Force major introduces himself as an F-4 pilot. We tell him we are sailors on liberty from the USS Waddlethromp, the "fightingest refrigerator ship in the entire Pacific Fleet." The major says he prefers to drink with us enlisted men rather than with officers. We string him along for two hours as he regales us with fictional tales of his flying heroics, which include several emergency landings aboard aircraft carriers. Right. We convince him it's traditional in the Navy for respected officers to be tossed into the drink and offer to afford him the privilege. He protests vehemently, even threatening to have us thrown in the brig. Several times, Davidson orders him to put his watch and wallet on the table. Finally, he asks Foggy Bob (the only one present who has been introduced as an officer) to intervene. Foggy shrugs his shoulders and says, "You know....when they get like this, there's just not a thing I can do with ‘em. Go ahead, guys." Finally, the major gives up and jumps over the handrail into the Gulf of Siam without our assistance. When he sloshes back onto the veranda, we buy him a couple of beers. His ego is really inflated now and more tall tales ensue. When the Sandbox closes, we thank him for providing an excellent evening's entertainment. Then we inform him that we are a P-3 crew and that I am the aircraft commander. His jaw literally flies open, after which he staggers off, totally dejected, into the night.
We adjourn to an after-hours place and drink until 0330. When we finally leave, some hooker follows Gary and me uninvited back to the bungalow. Outside, we perform "coconut chants" at the base of a couple of palm trees, which, we tell her, is where we live. After getting no response from the palm trees, we go inside the bungalow and the hooker hesitantly follows. I go into the kitchen and come out carrying what's left of a big ham from which many pieces have been torn away for snacks. The hooker must think it's the remains of a human head, because she screams and runs out of the bungalow, never to be seen again. Gary and I laugh till we cry, have a final brewski and turn in. A good day.
Fri, 18 May. Force down breakfast at the La Jean Bart, a French beachfront hotel and restaurant, then return to U-Tapao. Bill Vincent and crew have arrived sans mail. Damn!
Sat, 19 May. Attempt to buy an air conditioner at the U-Tapao Base Exchange, but they refuse to sell appliances to us T.A.D. pukes. Stop by the Nitnoy to pay final bill. J.O. bitch session is underway, with most of the bitching aimed at Will Williams, Dallas Lundquist and Jim Humphrey.
Sun, 20 May. Fly a Mobile-1 track back to Cubi, where, thankfully, mail is waiting. More good news—our BOQ air conditioner is finally working. The bad news is that it's so cold we now freeze at night and the BOQ is out of blankets.
Mon, 21 May. At today's AOM, Will Williams announces that many officers owe back dues to the officers' coffee mess fund. Unless they pay up pronto, they will not be allowed to go on L&L. Further inquiry reveals that the fund has been so mis-managed by the coffee mess officer, no one knows who has or has not paid or where much of the money has gone. The JOs refuse to pay another penny into the fund until order and accountability are restored. Will Williams retracts his L&L threat.
Tue, 22 May. Ready Alert today. Do not launch. Davidson "steals" the old black Ford and drags it into the hangar where he paints the Crew 1 emblem on the driver's door. Now "the Beast" looks like a staff car that's been rejected by the Olongapo destruction derby.
Wed, 23 May. A bunch of us celebrate Mike McBride's birthday at the Cubi O'Club with about a dozen before-dinner drinks and another dozen after-dinner drinks. At least, I think we have dinner.
Thu, 24 May. Ready Alert today. Looks like we'll fly all night.
Fri, 25 May. We do. Fly all night, that is. Back in time for lunch and to catch the C-117 Alpha/Bravo flight to Manila via Clark AFB. Bill O'Brien and I make the trip, check into the Manila Hilton and head to the airport to meet Ev, the boys, Robin and Judy Buckingham. Ev is carrying in her luggage a brand new windshield wiper motor for The Beast. Soon after returning to the hotel, Bill and Robin "retire." Judy, Ev and I polish off a bottle of champagne before doing likewise. A right nice night in the rack.
Sat, 26 May. The seven of us check out of the Hilton (what a rip-off joint that is), then make the 3 ½ -hour trip back to Cubi in a "chartered" micro-bus. With the aid of a little painted-label San Magoo, Bill and I enjoy the ride. The wives hate it.
Sun, 27 May. Take Ev and Robin out to see the house. Despite its sparse furnishings, they like it. We will take one of the upstairs bedrooms, Bill and Robin the other, while the boys and the maid will use the two bedrooms downstairs.
Mon, 28 May. Have the Ready. Do not launch. Spend the day lounging around the BOQ pool playing with the kids. Today is Brian's birthday (he and Scott are now age 6.) Ev's getting hooked on the slots at the O'Club. I'd better win a jackpot soon to keep her going.
Tue, 29 May. Meet the maid today. Her name is Teresa. Not many teeth, but she speaks pretty good English and looks like a good worker. Still looking for that first jackpot.
Wed, 30 May. While I'm at work today, Ev is to haul my personal effects shipment and some groceries out to the house and fix our first home-cooked meal in the "wilds" of the P.I. Unfortunately, at 1630, Crew 1 inherits the Ready and we're stuck on base. After dinner at the O'Club, stick a couple of quarters in one of the slots and hit a $75 jackpot.
Thu, 31 May. Only event of significance today is spending the night at the house with Mama. House is so hot it goes through stages of pre-heat, warm, bake and broil. Seems Mama is always hot.
Fri, 1 Jun. Is it still June?
Not much to report for the entire month. The few exceptions follow.
While flying an operational track, our navigator, Foggy Bob Brooks, initiates an unusual exchange on the intercom:
"This is Flight. Go ahead, Nav."
"Uhhh…just a minute."
Crew adopts a pair of ducklings, Spot and Buckwheat, as mascots. They accompany us on every flight, follow us around the squadron like puppies, wear miniature black paper Crew 1 ball caps on their heads and even attend an AOM. (They arrive after the AOM has already begun. As they waddle through the door, Bill Boyd calls, "Attention on deck, Crew One PPC arriving." Spot and Buckwheat steal the show.)
At an AOM one day, we are told we are using too much of our crew rest time for crew rest and that we are too concerned about aircraft separation and safety of flight.
Dallas Lundquist is relieved as Admin Officer by Larry Croll, who is told he has a big pair of shoes to fill. RRE deGaston is replaced as the Crew One 2-P by Pete Magoun, who is told the same thing. (Ray has given up on flying and is leaving the squadron in hopes of becoming a brain surgeon.)
132 hours total flight time this month. Spot and Buckwheat want more.
And so it goes. Deployment streaks on toward the month of July.
Sun, 1 Jul. Is it still July?
The first several days of the month are punctuated by Crew 1 standing the Ready and having the duty. At this time, we receive the accoutrements we have previously ordered—hats, patches and rubber stamps. The rubber stamps will soon create a stamp "backlash."
Thu, 12 Jul – Sun, 22 Jul. Crew One L&L period. The Spauldings, Davidsons and Hanisees go to Bagiuo, Manila and Hong Kong, where Bob Barclay reconnects with us following his solo excursion from Singapore (where his harbor tour boat sank) to Kuala Lumpur aboard the Orient Express.
Thu, 12 Jul. Up at 0500, load luggage into trusty old Ford and drive through the rain along the chuck-hole-filled streets of the Mabayuan and Kalakalan districts of Olongapo City, through the Kalakalan gate of Naval Station Subic Bay, past dozens of ships ranging from carriers to landing craft and around the bay to the NAS Cubi Point passenger terminal. After checking out on leave and turning in our luggage, depart Cubi aboard the Alpha/Bravo C-117 bound for Lokoan Airport at Baguio City, some 45 minutes flying time north in the mountainous region of Luzon. Our group consists of Gary and Eva Davidson, Sid and Jenene Hanisee, Ev, Scott, Brian and me.
The tiny airport is situated part way up a valley, its 4200-foot runway surrounded by mountain tops—except one end which drops off sharply in a cliff several hundred feet high. The area is dotted with silver mines and is inhabited by a variety of tribes each with its own specialty, from farming to food gathering to weaving to head-hunting. The tribes have names like Ifugaos, Bontoc, Benguets, Kalingas, Apayaos and Agtas (aboriginal Pygmies). Not far from the airport is our destination, Camp John Hay, an American resort maintained by the U.S. Air Force.
When we arrive at about 0900, both the weather and the landing are perfect (kudos to the young station pilots, both JGs, flying the old tail dragger to get their monthly flight time). We are met by armed Filipino soldiers, apparently present to ward off attacks by HUKs or a takeover by hijackers. Today, they succeed. A dozen Filipino boys tote our luggage to a waiting Air Force bus, which transports us up a snaky mountain road to Camp John Hay where we have reserved individual cottages for the duration of our two-night stay.
Day one is spent relaxing and strolling through the hilly, peaceful camp exploring the facilities and gazing at the scenery. In the evening we secure the services of a baby sitter for the boys (which actually proves to be two—a pregnant young Filipino girl and her cousin), go to the main club for dinner with Gary, Eva, Sid and Jenene. Afterward, we grab a taxi and head down the mountain to sample the night life of Bagiuo City. We try two clubs, the Vista and the Tropical, both of which feature Filipino bands playing American rock music. Ironically, the six of us are the only Americans in either place. Although these clubs were obviously established to cater to Americans, they are now frequented primarily by Filipinos. A rather subdued evening lowlighted by the necessity of hassling with our cab driver who insists that, rather than paying him the standard 1.5 peso fare each way to and from the camp, we hire him to wait for us at the rate of 8 pesos an hour! This is a standard ploy perpetuated by Bagiuo taxi drivers against gullible foreign tourists. We decline his generous proposition.
Fri, 13 Jul. Each family strikes out on its own today to visit the standard tourist attractions of the Bagiuo area. First stop is Victoria's, the ultimate in Philippine gift shops. Three rooms filled with native wood products ranging from small vases and salad bowl sets to life-sized statues of head hunters standing over their decapitated victims and hoisting severed heads triumphantly in the air. A healthy contribution to the local economy is made here. And, yes, we do leave with a three-foot high head hunter statue.
Next up, some 5-6 km away, is the Saint Louis High School, a part of which is a college-level trade school. One section specializes in making silver objects which are then sold by the nuns who run the school. We meander through the workshop where silver is processed from bulk form ultimately into fine silver wire about the gauge of heavy thread. The thin wire is then used to make tiny, intricate objects like pianos, furniture, and jewelry. Another contribution is made here, mostly for 96% pure silver bracelets.
Then it's down yet another mountain to the Easter School of Weaving, which specializes in linen making. No significant purchases made here. Back to the camp for a light lunch and a nap. Following a third-rate Mexican dinner at the Halfway House, one of the clubhouses at the John Hay Golf Course, the weather has turned cold and rainy. We avoid the elements by spending the evening in our cottage, trying unsuccessfully to get a fire started in the fireplace, but successfully polishing off a bottle of Cold Duck.
Sat, 14 Jul. Scheduled to depart Bagiuo for Manila today aboard a Philippine Airlines twin-engine turboprop 748. Take taxis to the airfield arriving just in time to watch our transportation circling overhead desperately seeking a break in the rapidly closing overcast. It finally sneaks in as weather worsens. We are told our flight will be delayed 30 minutes, but not cancelled. We spend the next 11 hours waiting in the Ruff Inn, a hotel and coffee shop adjacent to the airport. The inn is operated by Henry Ruff, a sophisticated Filipino gentleman who looks like the actor Curt Jurgens. We and the PAL pilots pass the time drinking coffee by the fireplace, waiting for a break in the drizzle and low clouds that drift by, their bases swooping down into the valley far below the level of the runway. Situation is reminiscent of the airport scene in Casablanca. "Here's looking at you, kid. Take these certificates of transit and get on that plane." Flight cancelled. Descend the mountain by cab and spend a rainy night in the Pines Hotel, courtesy of PAL.
Sun, 15 Jul. Arrive early at Bagiuo Airport, but weather is even worse than the night before. All other passengers have given up on the 45-minute flight and opted for a 6-hour bus ride to Manila. After two more hours huddled over coffee at the Ruff Inn, we are on the verge of doing likewise when the weather suddenly breaks. We hustle to get our luggage and gedunk aboard. PAL pilots are embarrassed when both engines refuse to start. Two hung starts on each before they finally light off. We climb out at a very steep angle to avoid the cloud enshrouded mountain tops surrounding Bagiuo Airport.
Heavy rain in Manila as a typhoon is passing over northern Luzon. We have reservations at the Pagsanjan Rapids Hotel at Pagsanjan Falls, a two-hour bus ride from the city. Our plan is to take a reputedly fantastic boat trip to the falls. Decide to cancel due to rotten weather. Instead, we check into the Manila Hyatt Regency Hotel. Great place for $13.00 a night with plenty of gift shops, several restaurants, a sauna bath/massage parlor and instant baby sitting service. We make use of all these facilities, then strike out to experience the city's night life. Return to the Hyatt just before midnight curfew (Martial Law, you know) and squeeze into a bar with several hundred other folks enjoying one of the best Filipino bands in the country. Good sounds at extreme decibel levels.
Mon, 16 Jul. Gary, Sid and I check out of hotel in the afternoon, grab a cab to the airport and hop on a Navy H-46 bound for Cubi Point at 100 feet AGL. Wives will remain one more night in Manila, then catch commercial flights to Hong Kong (Eva and Jenene on one, Ev and boys on another). We are scheduled to be flown from Cubi to Hong Kong via squadron P-3 arriving on the 17th within a few hours of the girls. However, Typhoon Dot is tracking towards Hong Kong with an ETA that matches ours. Our P-3 hop is delayed one day, but the girls' commercial flights are merely delayed. Ev's flight lands in Hong Kong in the fringes of the typhoon. Landing is extremely rough and virtually out of control. Passengers are petrified. When plane finally reaches the gate, pilots emerge from the cockpit still shaking. Passengers applaud then reach for a change of underwear.
Wed, 18 Jul. Deadhead to Hong Kong with Jim Humphrey and crew. We show our appreciation by stamping "Follow Us" all over Jim's flight helmet when he's not looking. Weather is beautiful when we arrive. We are met at the Kai Tak Airport by our wives and Louis Wong, the Chinese tailor who for two years has hosted VP-17 crews in Hong Kong. Louis drives us in his Volkswagen minibus to the Hyatt Regency Kowloon, where wives are already established, then to his shop for first fittings. Louis will make a skimpy black dress for Ev—so skimpy she's certain she'll never wear it. Australian beer at Kowloon's Waltzing Matilda Inn, followed by dinner at Jimmy's Kitchen, Hong Kong side.
Thu, 19 Jul. Change hotels. Move to Empress due to high cost of Hyatt ($60 per night, $25 for one small bag of laundry) and unfriendly attitude of its staff. Take Louis' grand tour, which includes lunch of raw squid and beer aboard the Kai Tak floating restaurant. We feel guilty for ordering so few clothes from Louis and pay for his lunch rather than allowing him pay for ours as he typically does. Barclay arrives from Bangkok today following his adventure on the Orient Express and catches up with us at the China Fleet Club. Evening is spent stamping "Follow Us" all over Kowloon and once again popping into the Waltzing Matilda.
Fri, 20 Jul. More sightseeing, this time to Mount Victoria and Tiger Balm Gardens.
Sat, 21 Jul. Lunch at the Eagle's Nest today followed by final fittings and clothing pick-up at Louis.' Man, are his prices high now. In fact, because the dollar is down at the moment, everything in Hong Kong is high. The Star Ferry is the only good deal.
Sun, 22 Jul. Our L&L ends today. Unhappily, Eva Davidson must leave us and return to Hawaii. Meanwhile, another crew arrives for the Honk Kong portion of its L&L period. We are to fly their aircraft back to Cubi, where we will remain until heading to U-Tapao on the 27th for a ten-day detachment. Ev, boys and Jenene will press on to Bangkok (again on separate flights) and wait for us in Thailand.
Fri, 27 Jul. Wing our way to U-Tapao. Air Force op-tempo is intense when we land -- B-52s, KC-135s and mud-splattered C-130s recycling at a rapid pace for bombing and re-supply missions in Cambodia. As we taxi in amidst this bustling wartime activity, Ev and Jenene, wearing brightly colored sun dresses, are riding out on the line crew's yellow gear to meet us at our flight line parking spot. What's wrong with this picture? They look smug and sultry (the wives, that is, not the line guys). As is our custom, our Follow Us flag is raised and waving over the plane as we taxi in. Wives and linemen crack up when they spot a pair of Eva's bikini panties also flying triumphantly from our erect flagpole.
Sat, 28 Jul. We are staying in the military rec cottages in Pattaya. Nice pool. Sid and I will join the girls when not flying or standing watches in U-Tapao. Today, we fly.
Jewelry shopping at the U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy O'Club tonight followed by dinner at the Air Force O'Club. Thai waitresses are fascinated by blonde hair. As we eat, they stand behind Ev and boys fondling and examining theirs.
Sun, 29 Jul. While sightseeing in Pattaya today, we take boys to see the baby elephant that resides on the grounds of a big hotel which caters mostly to European tourists. Like most animals, elephants should not be approached while eating. Brian learns this the hard way when Dumbo takes a trunk-swipe at him, just missing his head, but knocking off his outback safari hat. A few minutes later, a French photographer shows up and moves in for a close-upus elephantus. I warn him to stay back, but the obstinate Frenchman ignores my warning and pays the price. A vicious trunk-swat to his gut sends him flying backwards like he was shot by a cannon ball. Line drive, base hit. Qe sera sera, froggie!
Mon, 30 Jul. Scott's 7th birthday. No fly, no duty today, so remain in Pattaya. Before setting off to play tourist, we decide to inventory our ready cash. I think Ev is holding most of it, she thinks I am. We toss all of our baht, Hong Kong dollars, greenbacks, pesos, NT and yen on the bed and are shocked at the meager total—only about $25 U.S.
Houston, we have a problem.
Ev and boys are scheduled, several days from now, to fly out of Bangkok to Manila with a one-night layover in Hong Kong. A hotel stay there will run approximately $100. Obviously, a new plan is in order. I keep only enough cash to pay for a baht bus ride back to U-Tapao, Ev takes the rest. The three of them board a passenger bus to Bangkok ($3) where Ev will attempt to trade their tickets for a non-stop flight to Manila. I watch their bus pull away, then, hopeful that I will see them again one day, return to base.
Tue, 31 Jul. Crew One flies today. When we return from our sojourn into the IO, I call Cubi to find out whether Ev and boys have been sighted. Told they are lounging beside the BOQ pool as we speak. Amazing!
Later, I learn how they make it. The bus to Bangkok ends up at a large hotel in the city a long way from the airport. Ev induces some horny Japanese businessman to allow her and boys to share his cab to the airport, where she succeeds in swapping tickets. Flight to Manila arrives just as a Navy minivan is departing, empty, for Subic. Ev dashes out of the terminal and manages to flag down the minivan. Filipino driver delivers her and boys to our front door in Mabayuan just minutes before midnight curfew. No sweat.
Wed, 1 Aug. Is it still August?
Mon, 6 Aug. Crew One returns via airways/track to Cubi. Finally, 26 days after the commencement of our 9-day L&L period, we are all "home" again.
Regular dated journal entries end at this point. However, other noteworthy events that occurred over the course of the deployment are recorded below for posterity.
The following events took place during various U-Tapao detachments:
Bill O'Brien and Doc Bakken stage superbly choreographed fake fist fights in the main dining room at the Air Force O'Club. They jaw-slug, ankle-twist, toe-bite, groin-kick, eye-poke, rib-tickle and otherwise "pummel" each other—all in super slow motion. Their hilarious slow-motion antics (head-jerks, exaggerated facial expressions, and backward tumbles that seem to defy gravity) draw big crowds of cheering Air Force onlookers who have never seen anything like this in one of their clubs. Most are fully engaged in the spirit of the event. However, when O'Brien takes a "punch" and rolls backwards across the floor, coming gently to rest against the knee of a dour-faced B-52 pilot seated close to the action, the sourpuss contemptuously dumps his mug of beer over Bill's head. Without missing a beat, O'Brien, ever so slowly, shakes his head, fingers the brew out of his eyes and "flings" it away. More cheers and the fight continues.
One very hot, humid day, Crew One is number three in a line of four aircraft taxiing for take-off. First in line is a KC-135, second is a B-52 and bringing up the rear is an Air Force C-130. Despite the oppressive heat, none of the Air Force planes is air-conditioned while on the ground. Their crews must be sweatin' like pigs. Meanwhile, we're flying our Crew One "Follow Us" flag from a sturdy pole shoved up through the open smoke removal hatch. Condensation is forming around the open hatch. On UHF we hear:
"Ground, this is the Charlie-130 on the taxiway. Please advise that Navy P-3 in front of us that he's got a lot of smoke coming out of the top of his fuselage."
We smile and wait patiently for the tower advisory about to follow.
"Alpha Bravo 123, Ground. The C-130 taxiing behind you advises that you have a lot of smoke coming out of the top of your fuselage."
"Uhhh, roger Ground. Please thank the C-130 and advise him that what he sees is not smoke. It's just a little excess air-conditioning."
There follows an immediate chorus of angry voices shouting "Falcon 121!"
(Translation – "**** you and the horse you rode in on!")
"And a hearty Falcon 108 back at ya" ("**** you very much"). Obviously, we have their Falcon codes. We have a good laugh, but the tailgunner of the BUFF in front of us begins waving his gun around in a most threatening manner.
We have a tag-along passenger on a nine-hour flight into the Indian Ocean, six hours of which will entail the rigging of all shipping in our assigned area. Approaching our on-station descent point, I call over the PA for an aft observer as we are about to shut down (i.e., loiter) Number One. Our passenger, an Air Force captain and C-130 pilot, is back in the galley when the PA announcement is made. He literally sprints to the cockpit breathlessly asking what is wrong. "Not a thing. We always shut down an engine to save gas." He is flabbergasted, noting there is nothing but ocean as far as he can see. "You mean you're gonna shut down a perfectly good engine?" "You got it." He takes a seat on the radar console and watches Number One come to a perfect feather. It's like he can't believe we're still flying. He remains there on that console, eyes glued on the feathered prop, for the next six hours until we climb out and re-start the engine. Then he stands, slowly makes his way back to the galley and passes out in one of the racks.
Another night for Crew One at the Sandbox in Pattaya Beach. At first there are only three of us—Davidson, me and our exceptionally loyal In-Flight Tech, AT-1 Steiniki, called "Stinky" by (and only by) his friends.
Stinky is a former lumberjack who would run through a brick wall for his crew. (Come to think of it, he's actually done that on a couple of occasions.) On his way to a crew gathering in Olongapo one night he winds up getting rolled in an alley by a bunch of locals with baseball bats and chains. After they beat on him for a while with minimal effect, he chases them away before proceeding, somewhat bloodied, to the party.
Tonight we're seated at a table on the Sandbox veranda in Pattaya when Stinky excuses himself and goes to the head. While he's gone, Gary and I decide to move inside the covered bar to another table so as to ensure a better view of the floor show about to begin. We're sitting immediately in front of the stage when, suddenly, the music starts and a bare-ass-naked young Thai woman bursts from behind the curtain. She runs straight to the front of the stage and steps down onto my lap facing me. She begins gyrating to the music, pounding my face with her groin. I look up and ask, "Uh…(pow) what time (pow) does your (pow) floor show (pow) really start?" I'm not sure she speaks English.
Her act takes a new twist as she jumps onto the floor and grabs another guy (about 5 foot, 6 inches tall and maybe 145 pounds). She gets him to stand basically at attention, then picks him up and holds him horizontally over her head. Incredible!
This is when Stinky comes out of the head and spots Gary at our new table. He also spots the naked girl with the guy over her head. For some strange reason, Stinky thinks the guy in the air is me. The dancer starts to run, carrying her rigid "volunteer," down the aisle between rows of tables directly toward Stinky. "Oh no ya don't!" he shouts. Then he braces in the aisle like an NFL lineman ready to make a tackle and intercepts her, clenching his arms around her thighs. He picks her straight up, the stranger still horizontal overhead. Stinky is holding both of them off the deck like that when he sees me sitting with Gary at our table and realizes he's committed a social faux pas. He turns beet red, grunts, "Uh oh," and plops both his captives in a heap on the floor. Chalk up another brick wall.
Sid, Gary and I down a fair number of Singhas, then put to sea in rented jet skis. A game of jet-ski chicken ends in a nasty right-angle crash between Gary and Sid. (Imagine, a couple of drunken sailors with a chance to gang up on an officer and instead they wipe each other out. Amazin,' ain't it?) One of their steeds suffers a ten-inch gash in the side of its fiberglass body while the other's motor seizes due to salt water ingestion. Both are towed back to shore. Owner is pissed. He points to gash in fiberglass body and demands $75 in damages. We argue the amount is much too high for a repair that should cost about $5 and refuse his demands. During ensuing standoff, big crowd of Thais gathers around us as owner threatens to call the Thai police. I slip away, take a baht bus to our bungalows, round up all our stuff and return to scene. Baht bus stands by for quick getaway.
Standoff continues, but some of crowd has lost interest and drifted away. Our final offer is $20, which we toss on the sand at the owner's feet, then hustle off to waiting baht bus and escape to U-Tapao, thankful not to have ended up in a Thai jail.
Crew photo today. We decide to form up around the infamous baby elephant. On the way there, everyone buys sarongs, hats and other safari-related clothing items. When we reach the hotel grounds where Dumbo resides, there is no place to change, so we strip down to our birthday suits and change into our "safari" gear right there in the open beside the elephant. Our pose features the Follow Us flag and "Foggy" Bob Brooks—our perpetually lost navigator—seated atop the young beast, wearing a pith helmet, facing backwards and gazing the wrong way. A female reporter for some Australian travel magazine snaps our cruise book photo, then requests permission to interview us. We agree to same. Just Follow Us to the pool! Wonder whether interview is ever published.
It is now midnight. Crew One is to launch at 0600 on a mission that was tacked onto today's flight schedule only late yesterday. But FE Davidson and Second Mech Bill Funston are missing in action. They never checked in with the duty officer at 1800 yesterday as required and so, presumably, do not know about this morning's mission.
Must do something. 2-P Pete Magoun will resume crew rest, while 3-P Jim Carlson and I go to Pattaya Beach, 45 km away, to conduct a geographical square search for our missing FEs. We spend two hours popping into joints of every description in Pattaya. No luck. Finally, we head back to U-Tapao. Still no sign of our missing crewmembers.
Preflight time. Another FE, Snake Stoglin from Crew 3, has been tapped to go with us in Gary's place. We'll have to make do without a second mech. Stoglin is a real trouper. Not a single complaint about being so rudely rousted out of the rack and sent flying on short notice.
Mission is completed without incident. As we taxi in, Davidson is waiting sheepishly on the flight line with a customary bottle of hooch for Snake. We park, shut down and the crew unloads and secures the plane. I remain in the cockpit completing the pilot's post-flight paperwork. Gary is soon standing beside me, waiting to be chewed out. He waits, but I keep writing without looking up. Complete silence. Finally, after several minutes, he says, "Well, aren't you even gonna say you were worried about us?!" No way is it possible to keep a straight face after that.
To my relief, Det OinC "Big Jim" Owens agrees to informally mete out whatever discipline he feels is appropriate in this matter. Davidson and Funston are restricted to base for the remainder of our 10-day detachment.
Once again we have an Air Force tag-along, this time one of the helo pilots from the U-Tapao SAR unit. Radar contacts are few and far between on station, so we're just cruising along at 4,500 feet. The helo pilot is on the controls in the right seat and I'm keeping an eye on him from the left seat. We are approaching a thin scattered cloud deck that lies precisely at our altitude. I suggest changing altitude a little in order to stay out of the clouds. A panicky look comes over the face of our guest helo pilot. "What should I do?" he asks. "Just pull the yoke back—smoothly—and climb 500 feet. Why, what do you guys do when you encounter clouds like this?" His response: "Usually we land!"
The following events took place in Cubi Point. Dates indicated where known.
We and the O'Briens are having a nice time at the Cubi O'Club with several other squadron members. It's getting late and Scott and Brian are fading fast. Time to take them home and put them to bed. Bill and Robin aren't ready to leave, so Bill insists we take the Black Beast. They'll grab a cab later on. Since there exists only one key to the house, we take that as well.
The lock on the front door of our rented home can be operated only with a key. It physically cannot be left unlocked, so whenever the door closes, it locks automatically. Because Bill and Robin have no key at the moment, I prop a broom handle in the front door to prevent it from closing and locking them out. Meanwhile Ev puts the kids to bed. Everything is copasetic. We then retire to our bedroom upstairs, but (significantly) do things other than sleep for some time.
Next morning I am shocked to discover that all of our stereo equipment is missing. It had been there when we went to bed last night, but Bill says it was gone when they arrived home 30 minutes later. Clearly, we'd been robbed between the time we'd come home and the time the O'Briens had done so. Throughout this 30-minute period, the boys had been sleeping on the main floor only a few feet from the scene of the robbery and we had been awake—although otherwise occupied—upstairs. We estimate it must have taken several people to make off undetected with all our stuff in so short a time.
The value of the stolen stereo equipment is several hundred dollars. We know that before we can file an insurance claim for it, we must first report the robbery to the local police and to base security. We do so.
A couple of weeks go by. Bill and I are both out of the country on a detachment to U-Tapao when Ev and Robin are visited one morning by a Filipino policeman. He informs them that he has a suspect in his car and asks them to come out to identify him. The girls decline, reminding the officer that none of us ever saw the perpetrators. They are told the suspect is being taken to the cemetery and has been given only until ten o'clock to talk!
The man also tells them that the Olongapo police always keep close tabs on Americans residing in their city. As examples, he recites a list of things they know about us.
Our names, habits and recurring activities;
The fact that Teresa the maid had taken Scott and Brian shopping at the market one recent Sunday;
That "you ladies" always sleep in the nude!
Comforting to know we have such intimate friends in the Olongapo police department.
While living on the economy, our drinking water comes from an outdoor spigot on base where twice a week or so, we fill a five-gallon jug with potable water and bring it home in the trusty black Ford. However, Bill and I are away in U-Tapao when torrential rains come and cause such heavy flooding that Robin, Ev and the boys are trapped in the house for several days. Naturally, the "bottled" water runs out. To survive, the girls are forced to use water from kitchen tap, the source of which is the aromatic and sewer-filthy "Po" River across the street. The more this water is boiled, the thicker and greener it becomes. Happily, things are back to normal by the time Bill and I return from U-Tapao.
Sep, (date unkown). Time has come for Ev and boys to return to Hawaii as school will begin soon. Their flight from Manila to Honolulu by way of Tokyo and Guam leaves tomorrow. Tonight, it's dinner at the Cubi O'Club and a movie at the base theater. (We'll be seeing M*A*S*H, a 1970 release that we've seen once before and thought was hilarious.) After dinner, while awaiting the start of the movie, we pop into the slot machine room to divest ourselves of our dinner change. Bingo! I hit a $75 jackpot on one machine and, within seconds, Ev hits a $60 jackpot on another. It's her first since coming to the Philippines. Ev and the Filipino woman who tends the room are screaming and jumping around like crazy people—like "Hot Lips" and her cheerleaders in M*A*S*H. Meanwhile, ol' watash has netted something like $450 from the slots since deployment began. Good flick and a good night all around. Tomorrow will be tougher.
Sat, 6 Oct. Crew One is called in early to take part in an immediate flyaway of squadron aircraft. Seems a typhoon has suddenly sprung up in the vicinity and is now bearing down on southern Luzon. Crew One is to fly an operational mission terminating in Tainan, Taiwan. Only one problem—we have no Tacco. Bullet Bob Barclay is in Taipei on L&L with Jim Fields and crew.
Billy Bob Overend is assigned as stand-in Tacco. Trouble is he's so hung over from an all-night piano "recital" and drunk-ex at the Cubi O'Club he can barely remain vertical. Meanwhile, squadron is pressing mightily to get planes off ahead of the storm. One aircraft is towed out of the hangar with maintenance guys hanging all over it, still buttoning up access panels. We preflight and launch in a rush as well.
The operational part of our flight will be a ladder search for a drug smuggling boat off the coast of Vietnam. We arrive on station to find yet another typhoon marking on top of our assigned search area. Rough seas below. However, at 500 feet, visibility is fair and turbulence is moderate, if persistently so. Looking green and sickly, Billy Bob abandons his Tacco station and makes his way on rubber knees to the cockpit. He asks if he might take the right seat for a while until his stomach settles. I have no problem with his request as I have previously flown with him and know from first-hand observation that he is an excellent general aviation pilot. He remains in the right seat for the next six hours, hand-flying the aircraft at 500 feet in a typhoon! Unfortunately, we never do find the drug boat.
In Tainan we are surprised to find that Barclay has arrived from Taipei with Jim Fields and company. We trade Billy Bob (and a player to be named later) for Bullet Bob and Crew One is intact once again.
Mon, 8 Oct. Directed to reposition to Naha for possible operational tasking from there. None is forthcoming.
Tue, 9 Oct. Crew One is directed to return to Cubi via airways. Once within UHF range of Manila Center, we attempt to make the first position report required of us in this non-radar environment. No response from Manila Center even after a half-dozen calls as "AB-123." Certain the controller can hear us but is simply being difficult, we try another tack. I invent a new call sign, change my voice, adopt a heavy Filipino accent and, using the very same radio and frequency as before, make the following call:
"Manila Center, Charlie Delta Seven-Two-Six."
There is an instant response from Manila Center: "Charlie Delta Seven-Two-Six, Manila Center. Go ahead."
"Roger, Manila. Alpha Bravo One-Two-Three is calling you with a position report. Would you like me to relay?"
"Affirmative, Charlie Delta "Seven-Two-Six, please relay."
"Roger, Manila." Now, I call myself, still using the same radio and my adopted Filipino accent. "Alpha Bravo One-Two-Three, this is Charlie Delta Seven-Two-Six. I will relay your position report to Manila. Go ahead."
I proceed to transmit my full position report, which is then "relayed" by the phantom CD-726 and rogered for by Manila Center. Follow Us, mofo!
Deployment is coming to an end. Crews One and Seven have been selected to take a circuitous route home to Hawaii by way of Sydney, Australia, Auckland, NZ and Pago Pago. CDR Ketchum will fly with Crew One, while CDR Rettig will fly with Crew Seven. For weeks, Skipper Ketchum reminds all who will be making the trip Down Under to make darned sure their shots and shot cards are up to date, as this is a rigid prerequisite for entering Australia. Finally it's time to go. We depart Cubi at 2000 on Wednesday 31 October, fly all night and arrive in Sydney the following morning. All hands must remain on board both aircraft until cleared by Australian Immigration. Thanks to CO's persistent reminders, everybody's shot cards are current—except one, that is—his own! While we stand by, CDR Ketchum is ignominiously hauled off to receive an entire battery of painful inoculations. Welcome to Australia, mate.
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...VP-17 In UNITAS XII - Page 23 to 25 - Naval Aviation News - April 1972..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1972/apr72.pdf [27SEP2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...On Patrol - Page 34 - Naval Aviation News - August 1971..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1971/aug71.pdf [23SEP2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...On Patrol - Page 19 - Naval Aviation News - June 1971..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1971/jun71.pdf [23SEP2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...On May 2, 1970, Crew 3 of VP-17, flown by PPC Bill Chamberlain, co-pilot Tim Berwick, TACCO Dan Baldwin, third pilot, Wayne Martin, and crew members, flew from our home base of NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii to NAS Adak, Alaska. On the 5th, we had a mission that was to end up at NAS Kodiak, Alaska. We were to lay a pattern of sonobuoys and monitor them until we were to proceed to NAS Kodiak, Alaska. A plane from another squadron, was to follow us about four hours later. By the time we neared NAS Kodiak, Alaska, it was night; there were windy and rainy conditions, at or slightly above minimums for a GCA. That brought us to a certain runway, but the duty runway was the other. Bill made a good approach but had to maneuver around at low altitude to line up with the duty runway. When he did so, suddenly he went dark, that is, the rain clouds, which he couldn't see. covered the runway lights, He immediately executed a missed approach, which was forbidden within one mile of the end of the runway. All that we knew about NAS Kodiak, Alaska was that it was surrounded in part by mountains and there had been crashes. The radar operator made repeated calls to us because it appeared that our radar image merged with the mountain! Due to the excellent climbing ability of the P-3 and Bill's superb flying ability, we escaped a catastrophe. Bill elected to try another GCA and this time, he made it. The plane that followed us a few hours later, landed at Elmendorf AFB, because the conditions worsen. We walked away from that one..." Contributed by MARTIN, Wayne L. email@example.com [09AUG2014]
A BIT OF HISTORY: Meritorious Unit Citation "...Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Meritorious Unit Citation (Gallantry Cross)..." Official U. S. Navy Records (National Archives and Records Administration) via Fold3 http://www.fold3.com/ [14DEC2012]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...On Patrol - Page 33 - Naval Aviation News - October 1970..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1970/oct70.pdf [17SEP2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...On Patrol - Page 24 to 25 - Naval Aviation News - July 1970..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1970/juln70.pdf [17SEP2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...On Patrol - Page 24 - Naval Aviation News - April 1970..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1970/apr70.pdf [17SEP2004]
"VP-17 History Summary Page"