Contributed by Steve Riddle firstname.lastname@example.org
Newsletter #21 - April 1998
There Is A Pony in The After Station!!!
During 1952, I was on the staff of the FAIRWING at NAS Norfolk. This was just prior to my going to a seaplane squadron, VP-45, in Panama. One night, as I stood the Staff Duty Officer watch, a group of seaplanes - PBM's - arrived from a deployment to the Scandinavian countries.Part Two
I went over to watch the beaching and the, crews departing their aircraft, very frustrated from their long flight home. I don't remember which squadron it was (Ed. Note: VP-34), but one of the crewmen from one aircraft was about ready to shoot a tiny Shetland pony that he had brought back in the after station of his plane.
The poor animal had been in the after station for more than a week, and the aircraft stunk like a busy horse barn. The crewman was doubly frustrated and angry because one of the Customs Officials that met the planes had told him that the pony would have to be quarantined for at least a month before it could be taken home.
The pony owner asked, "Is there anyone here who wants to have this pony as a present?" I said I would take it, but I wanted to pay him whatever he had paid for it, which was $75. I paid him and he said, "It's yours!" And he went home.
My son, Douglas, named him BUT-TERFINGERS because it was the squadron's voice call. We put the pony in the fenced area around the fuel storage area on the base for one month. It was the area where there was plentyof green grass and had water.
The day before I was to take the pony home to my son, I received orders to VP-45 and we had to sell the pony to one of the officers on the staff. I did get my $75 back.
Now that I think back on it, I don't believe the squadron ever was able to remove the smell from that aircraft.
Contributed by Gordon Barnett
During the late summer/early fall of 1952 my seaplane squadron, VP-49 homeported in Bermuda, joined VP-34 from Norfolk in a massive NATO exercise along the Norwegian coast, in company with aircraft carriers and numerous combatant ships. The exercise involved the simulated invasion of the coast at Narvik, Norway, well above the Arctic Circle. Our PBM's and Royal Air Force Sunderland flying boats conducted antisubmarine patrols, operating from Norwegian fiords and seaplane bases in England and Scotland.Part Three
Our last stop was in the Firth of Forth where we anchored by the large Seaplane Tender USS Currituck (AV 7), near Leith and Edinburgh, Scotland. We went ashore on liberty once when a storm came in from the northeast and the North Sea, and it lasted for three days. The crews aboard the PBM's had to stay aboard the aircraft due to the monstrous waves.
Dawn broke the fourth day and I left Currituck on a launch to pick up crews from the PBM's. As we pulled alongside a VP-34 aircraft I almost vomited from the awful smell. We looked into the plane's after station and there was a pony! "Say hello to BUTTERFINGERS" said one of the crew.
The pony was standing there with pony dung and urine all over the deck and in the bilges. The crew smelled as bad as the pony and aircraft, and they took a ribbing for the rest of the cruise - and probably from their pals back in Norfolk.
One of our crews also had a pony in ' their aircraft but didn't have the smelly problem the VP-34 crew did because of the advanced planning done on how to keep it clean. They built wood stalls into the after station and put hay on the decks. We tied the pony out behind our quarters in Bermuda but couldn't get close to him. He was so feisty and would bite the heck out of you if he got the chance.
To think that my old buddy, Douglas Barnett, wound up with that VP-34 pony was terrific!! (Ed Note: John and Gordon were in PrepFlight at RPI together in Troy, NY and went to their first squadron together.) I forget what our group named our pony, but I think it was also sold to someone in Norfolk. I'm sorry to say I didn't get assigned to the Shetland detachment where they bought the ponies, and there are many more side stories to that cruise - things that happened to the pilots and crews in every port, hilarious, many of them. I wonder what happened to that stinking PBM they hauled that pony to the states in?
Contributed by John Bradley
I was reading Newsletter #20 and noticed the highlighted "In The Next Issue". This brought back some old memories. I was serving on the TJSS Tangier (AV 8) during that typhoon that hit Okinawa in 1945. (See the story later in this issue.) What a mess - ships everywhere! I don't remember the squadrons we were supporting but the aircraft were PBY's, PBM's and Sunderlands from the UK.
I was also aboard USS Currituck (AV 7) from August 1951 to May 1953 and I remember we had a , PBM on deck for a major check during Operation MAIN BRACE in the Northern Atlantic area (Shetland Islands, Norway and Scotland). As usual all the check crews were bussing around - AD's on the engines, AT's and AE's up in the cockpit/flight deck area, AM's inside checking the hull, decking and cables.
An AM2 was assigned to check the cables in the after station and tunnel section to the elevators and rudder. I understand when our AM2 opened the bulkhead door, looked in the tunnel with his flashlight, he saw some BIG eyes. He left the aircraft without the aid of the ladder, down to the AM shop (3 decks down), yelling, "There's something in that aircraft with BIG eyes!" That AM2 was really scared. Well, it was a Shetland pony. I always wondered what squadron that plane belonged to and am waiting to hear who was involved in these incidents. Incidentally, our Air Officer aboard ship was CDR A. A. Cipolat, later XO of VP-45.
Contributed by Lon Gailey