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HistoryVP-40 HistoryHistory

Circa 1989

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation September-October 1989 "...History - Change-Of-Command - Page 24, 30, and 31 - Naval Aviation News - September-October 1989..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1989/so89.pdf [22OCT2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation March-April 1989 "...History - Records - Page 10, 36, 27, and 38 - Naval Aviation News - March-April 1989..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1989/ma89.pdf [21OCT2004]

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Circa 1988

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation November-December 1988 "...Awards - Change-Of-Command - Page 32 to 33 - Naval Aviation News - November-December 1988..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1988/nd88.pdf [21OCT2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation January-February 1988 "...Change-Of-Command - Page 31 - Naval Aviation News - January-February 1988..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1988/jf88.pdf [21OCT2004]

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Circa 1986

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation July-August 1986 "...History - Change-Of-Command - Page 36 and 39 - Naval Aviation News - May-June 1986..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1986/ja86.pdf [19OCT2004]

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Circa 1987

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation January-February 1987 "...Change-Of-Command - Page 76 - Naval Aviation News - January-February 1987..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1987/jf87.pdf [20OCT2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation January-February 1987 "...Tracing Squadron Lineage - Page 22 to 26 - Naval Aviation News - January-February 1987..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1987/jf87.pdf [20OCT2004]

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Circa 1985

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation November-December 1985 "...Reserves - Change-Of-Command - Page 27 to 29 - Naval Aviation News - November-December 1985..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1985/nd85.pdf [18OCT2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation March-April 1985 "...History - Change-Of-Command - Page 1, 30 and 31 - Naval Aviation News - March-April 1985..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1985/ma85.pdf [18OCT2004]

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Circa 1982

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation October 1982 "...History - Change-Of-Command - Page 2, 44 and 46 - Naval Aviation News - October 1982..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1982/oct82.pdf [16OCT2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation August 1982 "...It's Always Winter Somewhere - Page 9 to 13 - Naval Aviation News - August 1982..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1982/aug82.pdf [15OCT2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation July 1982 "...Awards - Change-Of-Command - Page 2, 44 and 46 - Naval Aviation News - July 1982..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1982/jul82.pdf [15OCT2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation June 1982 "...History - Change-Of-Command - Page 5 and 46 - Naval Aviation News - June 1982..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1982/jun82.pdf [15OCT2004]

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Circa 1981

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation August 1981 "...History - Change-Of-Command - Page 4, 44 and 47 - Naval Aviation News - August 1981..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1981/aug81.pdf [14OCT2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation August 1981 "...Cooperation For Survival - Page 28 to 29 - Naval Aviation News - August 1981..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1981/aug81.pdf [14OCT2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation April 1981 "...History - Change-Of-Command - Page 32 to 35 - Naval Aviation News - April 1981..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1981/apr81.pdf [13OCT2004]

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Circa 1980

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Looking For P-3 Crew - 1980 South China Sea Vietnamese Refugee Rescue..." [27DEC2002]

UPDATE  History ThumbnailCameraFamily "...More good finding for the rescue memoir: I have recently visited the Moffett Field Museum in Moutain View, California and found an article regarding the rescue mission involved the P3 Orion and VP-40 squadron in the Moffett News published on 24 July 1980. You can imagine how happy I am! The volunteers at the Museum were very helpful and friendly. I am now a member of the Moffett Field Historical Society Museum! See the attached jpeg file for details of the writeup..." Contributed by Shelley shelleyngoc@comcast.net [14JAN2007]

UPDATE  History ThumbnailCameraFamily "...Dear Don, Larry and the rest of VP-40, Crew One..." Contributed by Shelley shelleyngoc@comcast.net [09JAN2007]

It's a dream comes true! After 26.5 years wondering and many years of searching I have finally found the crew that spotted my boat in the South China Sea in 1980. There is no words to describe how happy I am and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for saving our lives that day. My name is Shelley McElheny (was Ngoc Giang) and I was 17 at the time of the rescue. Our boat had been drifting for many days (I could not remember exactly for how long) and we had no way of telling where we were at all. The trip that started with 48 people (many of those are young children) and was intended for 3 days ended up adrift for 13 to 15 days. We already ran out of water and food for a while and had lost 4 children toward the end (the 5th child ended up dying very soon after we were rescued by the USS Joseph Strauss (DDG-16). I remember that we saw ships at distance every once in a while without visual aids and we tried to get help any way we could think of but none approached us. It was a hopeless situation until July 15th, when your aircraft spotted us and called for the Strauss to come pick us up. Without your crew's help and the help of the USS Joseph Strauss (DDG-16) vessel we would not have made it. On behalf of the Vietnamese Boat People, group "43", we sincerely THANK YOU so very much for saving our lives! We are forever grateful for your humanitarian act.

Also, thank you all who have been helping me to search for the P-3 aircraft since 2002. Special thanks to Mike Ragole and Jim Ellis who have recently lead me to the right contact.

I could not find email addresses of all the crew members for VP-40 Crew 1 or everyone who's been involving in the search so please forward this email to those that I might have missed. I would also like to have emails of other crew members who were on the plane on the day of the rescue. God bless you all. God bless America!

May you all have a wonderful New Year!

Shelley

P.S. In case you wonder the status of the BP group "43" after the rescue here is a brief summary:

We got picked up by the USS Joseph Strauss (DDG-16) on the same day that you spotted us (afternoon July 15th, 1980). We were treated with nothing but kindness from the wonderful crew of USS Joseph Strauss (DDG-16). We stayed overnight on the ship and were brought to Subic Bay the next morning. Shortly after that we flew to Palawan refugee camp in the Philippines to go through resettlement process. About 3 to 4 months later we traveled by a Philippino boat to Manila to complete the final process before coming to America. A small group of us settled in California in December 1980 and remain here since. The rest left the refugee camp later and settled in either Florida, Canada or probably some other states of America which I don't have knowledge of. Some of us who were still young at the time had the chance to go to school and have become professionals in various fields: 3 that I know of are engineers, one is a chiropractor, one is a college professor, one is a teacher, etc. None of which could have happened without the help of the P-3 and USS Joseph Strauss (DDG-16) crews in saving our lives. Again, THANK YOU! For me, I obtained a BS degree in Electrical at Cal Poly Univ. Pomona in 1987 and worked for Aerojet (now Northrop Grumman) in Southern California for 9 years. During that time I also got my Master Degree from the same school and in 1996 I came to work for Lockheed in the Bay area. I am now happily married with 2 small children (see attached picture) and working half-time for Lockheed in Sunnyvale. My wonderful husband also works for Lockheed and with his help I was able to locate the USS Joseph Strauss (DDG-16) crew/association in 2002 (from which I learned that the aircraft that spotted us was a P-3 and the search for the right one started since.) Please let me know if any of you happens to live close by or if you ever travel this way I would love to meet to personally express my gratitude. My home email address is shelleyngoc@comcast.net. Hope you hear from you soon!

UPDATE "...Contrary to popular opinion it was not a VP-1 aircraft deployed to NAS Cubi Point, Philippines that located this particular boat. VP-1 was flying P-3 Bravo's at the time and the airplane in the picture is a P-3 Charlie (note the pod). So ....... Contrary to a VP-1 crew and aircraft, it was VP-40, crew one, in P-3C Bureau Number 159325. We were on a routine PMB to PMB patrol. I was the PPC/MC, LT Mike (Dobie) Gilles was the Tacco, LT Doug (Dawg)Pinion was the 2P, LT(jg) Larry (Lack-of) Luck was the Nav/Com, LTJG Dave (No-name) Detwiller was the 3P. VP-40 had just relieved VP-19 in Misawa. Al Branch was the CO, Terry Olson was the Ops Officer soon to be relieved by me, Jake Axtman was the XO, Don McArthur was Admin, Jeff Peck was Training, Jim Wyatt was Maintenance and Max Britton was Safety. My crew (Crew One) was on a short detachment to NAS Cubi Point, Philippines to augment VP-1. Chip Landon was VP-1's CO at the time. Tom Morrisey (sp?) was VP-1 XO. I don't think Al Ross was the OIC yet at the PatWing Det, but I'm not sure who was. E.K. Anderson, the Head Laser of Kami-Seya, was CTF-72. Jerry MacKay was CPWP. Although my recollections are a bit fuzzy, it was quite a remarkable event. It was near the end of the mission when the SS-3, whose name escapes me right now, but was a very young and brand new AWAN, spotted a small target. Being the ASW wizards of the west coast, and just knowing the small contact was a Soviet periscope, we dropped down to 200' and set condition one for ASW. We could smell CTF-72 ASW Crew of the Month honors coming our way......The first pass was almost the only pass except for the fact that the aft observer spotted all the folks on the small boat. I was in the left seat flying and put the contact on the right side - I didn't see a thing (what's new?). Because of the observer's call, we did a 90/270 and came back over the boat. We dropped a sonobuoy to mark the position electronically in case we lost the contact visually or lost the radar or in case the boat sank. It was in sad shape (I saw it on the second pass - amazing). We started an orbit, shut down one maybe two engines (I'm not sure now) and began looking for any nearby ships. It was pure serendipity that we located and contacted the Strauss. They just happened to be in the area - I think we initially contacted them broadcasting in the blind on fleet common (UHF/VHF). They diverted and steamed directly over to the boat. The Strauss was a class act in all respects. We hung around on-top until the Strauss had positive visual contact with the boat, and had started its approach. We couldn't stay around to see the rescue because we were low on JP, and besides, I had a date with a waitress at the O-Club. We landed back in Cubi after logging 12.5 hours, debriefed at the speed of heat with the ASWOC, changed in to flower shirts and long pants and headed to town. After all, we were in NAS Cubi Point, Philippines. Thanks for the chance to remember. Cheers Don Hefkin dhefkin@aol.com [09JAN2007]

UPDATE "...I am a current member of VP-66 (in fact I have been there since 1989) and I am also a Program Manager at Lockheed Martin. Attached is an article (SEE: Story Of A Lifetime Below) containing a story from our Company Newspaper about an LMC Engineer who was on a Vietnamese refugee boat in the South China Sea in 1980 that was spotted by a P-3 and later rescued by a Destroyer. She is trying to get in touch with the crew in order to thank them....CDR Matthew Doyle USNR matthew.s.doyle@lmco.com

Story Of A Lifetime - From refugee on the high seas to engineer at Lockheed Martin Ngoc Giang was starving, dehydrated and facing death on the South China Sea when a Lockheed P-3 Orion passed over the tiny river craft that carried her and more than 40 other Vietnamese refugees. At the time, the desperately weak teenager couldn't have cared less about the type of aircraft it was, let alone who built it. SEE: Story Of A Lifetime for complete article.

P-3 Crew Search ThumbnailCameraStrauss' Cruisebook Page 1 of 2

P-3 Crew Search ThumbnailCameraStrauss' Cruisebook Page 1 of 2

Story Of A Lifetime

From refugee on the high seas to engineer at Lockheed Martin Ngoc Giang was starving, dehydrated and facing death on the South China Sea when a Lockheed P-3 Orion passed over the tiny river craft that carried her and more than 40 other Vietnamese refugees. At the time, the desperately weak teenager couldn't have cared less about the type of aircraft it was, let alone who built it.

All that mattered was survival, and the U.S. Navy surveillance plane's fortuitous spotting of the refugee boat was its occupants' first lucky break since they had left Vietnam, 13 days before. The P-3 crew radioed for help, and within a few hours the refugees were climbing aboard a Navy destroyer.

Today, more than 20 years later, Ngoc Giang, now Shelley McElheny, cares very much about that P-3 Orion, because she wants to contact its crew members and personally thank them for saving her life and the lives of her boat mates.

She also has come to know quite a bit about the company that built the aircraft, because she works for it. McElheny is a systems engineer with Lockheed Martin Space Systems-Missiles & Space Operations in Sunnyvale, Calif.

For many years, McElheny thought only occasionally of the harrowing journey that brought her to the United States and enabled her to have a rewarding career working on important space programs.

But even when the events of 1980 did come to mind, and she considered how she could show her gratitude to the crews of the P-3 Orion and the rescue ship, she wasn't sure where to begin.

Then, two years ago, she married Robert McElheny, also a Lockheed Martin employee, and she told him her story. McElheny encouraged her to begin a search for the ship that rescued her group, and that's when she remembered an overlooked detail.

Inside the cover of an English dictionary given to her by a doctor on the Navy destroyer was the name of the ship - the USS Joseph Strauss (DDG-16). The couple soon found a Web site devoted to the Strauss and posted a message. The crew of the Strauss immediately answered with photos of the rescue and news that the Strauss association would soon be holding its annual reunion in San Diego.The McElhenys attended the reunion and Shelley prepared to tell her story and express her heartfelt gratitude, but her emotions wouldn't allow her to deliver her speech.

"There was a lot of emotion and a lot of tears were flowing," recalls Strauss veteran Jim Hansen, a Lockheed Martin Mission Systems employee who was surprised to learn at the reunion that McElheny is not only a fellow Lockheed Martin employee, but they work just a mile apart.

Hansen left the Strauss in 1972, but he says every member of the Strauss association, whether they were serving in 1980 or not, felt tremendous pride in the ship's vital role in the rescue. Only now are many of the sailors learning the details of the events that brought the 45-foot riverboat filled with refugees into their lives.

McElheny says she had tried twice before to escape South Vietnam after its fall to the Communist government from the North. Both times, con artists promising passage had taken her family's money and disappeared.

The third time she tried, she went without her parents and siblings, because the family could afford to send just one child. In the middle of the night, 17-year-old Ngoc Giang and 47 other passengers boarded a craft built for river travel and set out for the ocean.

They managed to evade small arms fire on their trip down the river and emerged in the sea. Their plan was to motor south to Indonesia or Malaysia, a journey of several days at most.

But they lost their bearings, and when they discovered that their boat's engine would not run because they had been sold water-diluted fuel, the refugees knew they could only drift and hope to be rescued.

Their water ran out five days into the journey, and soon the youngest of the group, a baby, died of dehydration. Three more children died, and the desperate refugees began drinking seawater, which only worsened their condition.

"We tried to extract the water from the fuel, and we were able to collect some rainwater, but not nearly enough," McElheny remembers. "We were desperate. We kept hoping somebody would come but, day after day, there was no one."

Finally, on the thirteenth day at sea, the P-3 droned overhead and the Strauss soon appeared on the horizon."

"All of a sudden a giant-sized ship showed up," McElheny says. "We looked up and there were all these people looking down at us."

Forty-four people came off the small riverboat, but one of them, another child, was already too weak to survive. Her body was put into a weighted bag for burial at sea the next day.

The remainder of the refugees were given food, water and medical attention on their way to Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines. McElheny got something else that turned out to be just as precious - an English dictionary from the ship's medical officer, Dr. Mark Brandenburg.

"I carried that dictionary with me everywhere," she says. "It helped me improve my English."

During a relatively brief stay in a refugee camp, she wrote to her family back in Vietnam. They had been sick with worry because her father had heard a broadcast on the BBC that a boatload of refugees had been rescued, but some of the youngest had died.

Eventually, McElheny and eight other young refugees settled in a small apartment in Los Angeles, where they subsisted on stale bread and wore donated clothing.

McElheny continued to work hard on her English, which paid off when she passed an exam and was accepted into a community college. She earned an associate's degree, transferred to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and came away with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.

Later she returned to Cal Poly Pomona for a master's degree, and in 1996 joined Lockheed Martin, where her first program assignment was the IKONOS imaging satellite. Currently, McElheny is working on the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, which is scheduled to launch early in 2003.

"This has been a very important year for me," McElheny says. "It has made me think back about what has happened in my life, about the rescue and also the five people who died."

Now, her goal is to locate the crew of the P-3 who sighted her boat.

"To think we were spotted by a P-3 Orion made by Lockheed, and now I work for Lockheed Martin. That's the way fate comes around."

For more information and photos of the refugee rescue in the South China Sea, visit the USS Strauss Web site at http://www.ussjosephstrauss.org. If you have information about the P-3 crew involved in the rescue, contact Shelley McElheny at 408-742-0643.

UPDATE "...Squadron identified - it was VP-1!..." [17JAN2003]

UPDATE "...Shelly has provided some great data that I think will help a lot including information from Strauss' cruise book. In short they were located by the P-3 on 15 July 1980 and the P-3 had taken off from NAS Cubi Point, Philippines. I would suspect that would narrow down the search considerably. I have had a number of replies to the article, and some of the responders have been trying to help by contacting others, so far no luck. However with this new data, I think we are getting a lot closer. Please SEE: Story Of A Lifetime for latest update. Thanks! CDR Matthew Doyle USNR matthew.s.doyle@lmco.com..." [10JAN2003]

UPDATE "...I have already had a response. Thanks! CDR Matthew Doyle USNR matthew.s.doyle@lmco.com..." [30DEC2002]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation May 1980 "...History - Change-Of-Command - Page 30 and 31 - Naval Aviation News - May 1980..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1980/may80.pdf [11OCT2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation April 1980 "...History - Change-Of-Command - Page 28 and 30 - Naval Aviation News - April 1980..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1980s/1980/apr80.pdf [11OCT2004]

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