Just click on the one you want to read
Note: When I completed the RAG at Moffett, VP-17 was already deployed to Naha. Therefore, my record of the 1972 deployment does not begin until Feb 10 when I reported aboard. If anyone else kept similar notes (and wants to share them) covering the first couple of months of this deployment, please let me know. -- Ger
Friday, Feb 4 1972
The day has come to check out of VP-31. Normally, this would be cause for joy. However, checking out will also signify the end of $19.20/day per diem. Temporary shipment being picked up today. Pilot friend Jim Schlough (bound for VP-9) and his stew bedmate stop by for a drink.
Saturday, Feb 5.
Still living in Mountain View. Ev and I go to dinner with fellow ex-VT-3 instructor Jim Jarvis and his pregnant wife Sally.
Sunday, Feb 6.
Ev and boys wing their way to Colorado via United out of San Jose. With Ev gone, apartment is very quiet, empty and lonely. On way home from airport, decide to play Good Samaritan and stop to help a lady with car trouble. Out of gas. Drive her to station and back, get car running. Old broad wants me to go to church with her. Bah, humbug!
Monday, Feb 7.
Movers come today to pick up permanent shipment, second installment. Finally finish at 5 p.m. Drive to Travis AFB, check into BOQ. Attempt to check in at passenger terminal for flight to Kadena, but wander into the middle of a bomb threat two minutes before the bomb was to go off. Terminal has been evacuated. Nothing in here but me and my echo. Ushered quickly outside by Air Police.
Tuesday, Feb 8.
Up at 0400. Turn in baggage. Turn in car. Take off aboard a MAC 707 bound for Kadena via Honolulu. Looking forward to returning to Okinawa after having attended Kubasaki Junior High School at Naha AB in 1957, 58 & 59 and playing Pony League baseball for the Kadena Giants. Lived at Kadena then and bussed 30 miles to school every day. This time, will be joining VP-17 in mid-deployment at Naha.
Flight is long. Lose a day en route crossing the IDL. Stews are only fair. Movie is How to Frame a Fig starring Don Knotts. Ralph! Spend 45 minutes in Hawaii. Bad winds en route to Kadena force divert to Guam for gas. Use my recent celestial nav training to “read” the stars and conclude we are heading for Naha rather than Kadena. Inform AF M/Sgt seated next to me, but he thinks I’m nuts. Bad winds at Kadena force divert to Naha for landing. M/Sgt is flummoxed. Air Force refuses to let Naha passengers have their luggage at Naha, but insist on loading it onto trucks, taking it to Kadena and requiring all pax to claim it there. I manage to steal my luggage from them as it is being downloaded from plane. Air Force is pissed. Too bad, muthas!
Thursday, 10 Feb.
Check into VP-17. Even though I arrive with 1,500 hours of flight instructor time, told that I would be designated a “first-tour” pilot, would spend a year on the nav table and go through the entire 24-month PPC syllabus. Like shit! XO, Bill Ketchum, agrees with me. Also told that I will be assigned initially as the E&I Branch Officer, then move to Assistant Personnel Officer.
Friday, 11 Feb.
More check-in. Locate the 440 Club. Nicest Quonset hut I’ve ever seen. Even has slots. Assigned to Crew 2 with former classmate Jim Whatley.
Saturday, 12 Feb.
Launch on subtime exercise, but sub is still in port. Attempt to work him on his way out. No luck. Zero points.
Sunday, 13 Feb.
Marine Captains Davy Jones and J.J. “Squatty Body” Friar, former golfing buddies and fellow flight instructors at VT-3, both now helo pilots at Futema, drive down to Naha. We go to brunch, a movie, look at old cars, go to Miami Steam Bath for a special and then go to dinner in Koza. Completely forget about squadron party that night where I was to be hailed. Oops!
Monday, 14 Feb.
Spend most of the day explaining why I missed the party. Also suffer through a no-fly safety stand down, replete with many film breaks and false starts of the movie projector. Everyone but me badly hung over.
Tuesday, 15 Feb.
Hey, yesterday was Valentine’s Day. No card. Big deal.
Wednesday, 16 Feb.
Another totally forgettable day. NTR.
Thursday, 17 Feb.
Have been here one week today. Seems like a month. I now have the entire front side of the 440 Club’s dinner menu memorized.
Friday, 18 Feb to Monday, 28 Feb.
Nothing significant. Fun sure flies when you’re doin’ time.
Tuesday, 29 Feb.
Now on Crew 1. Fly to Cubi with CO, Harley Stuntz III, for subtime. Nothing works but TACAN, so we work entire exercise on TACAN for nav. Need 8 points to make Alpha crew. Get 12. What a gift! Supposed to RON one night in Cubi. Play a rousing game of shuffleboard with CO. Havin’ some fun now!
Wednesday, 1 Mar.
Not going home today after all. Must fly a track for VP-19. Chips light on #3 during start. VP-19’s ready launches in our place. We preflight one of their aircraft and assume the ready. Damn, is it still March?
Thursday, 2 Mar.
Not going home today either. None of us packed for this trip. Would love some clean skivvies.
Friday, 3 Mar.
Not going home today either. Cubi sucks when you’re stuck here without skivvies and one smelly flight suit! Go to exchange and buy new skivvies.
Saturday, 4 Mar.
Going home to Naha today, but first must test fly our aircraft following engine change. Cubi has not been a total loss, as I bought some unique souvenirs – one-of-a-kind stuff like wooden wings, wooden salad bowls and a ship’s wheel (without clock). Also, bought two cases of painted label San Magoo. With 25 cases of same on board, work hard to grease it on at Naha. Success!
Sunday, 5 Mar.
Crew has the ready today. Preflight, brief, then go to brunch. Drive around the base in the ready truck, but tell the duty office we are in church. Crew sings “Rock of Ages” into ready vehicle radio mic for effect as we sail past the church.
Monday, 6 Mar.
It’s very drunk out at this writing. Highlight of the entire day was telling the CO to “get fucked” while simultaneously flipping him the bird at the farewell drunk-ex for Ralph Loveless at the 440. Starting with two quarters, play the slots for over an hour. No jackpot. Earlier today, flew pilot training hop with Will Williams, who demonstrated (unintentionally) how to do a touch-and-go in the P-3 with only 2,000 feet remaining!
Tuesday, 7 Mar.
Stand first SDO. Two significant events:
S/E 1. Send unclass message to Taiwan announcing that Crew One would be bringing RADM Fowler to Taipei.
S/E 2. Noted log entry that a VP-17 1st Class petty officer (Snake Stoglin) was arrested by base air police for riding his motorcycle without a license. He was placed in the custody of Lt Purdy. The next morning, Lt Purdy is reported to be in the custody of the air police for: a) riding his motorcycle without a license; b) no license plates; c) no title, bill of sale or registration. Purdy is released, the motorcycle impounded.
Wednesday, 8 Mar.
Have been doing nothing worthwhile lately, so take the day off and do even less.
Thursday, 9 Mar.
Naha to Taipei, RO1N to take RADM Fowler to a meeting of some kind. Chinese insist he is a stowaway, as he is not listed on our manifest.
Friday, 10 Mar.
Get RADM Fowler out of hack and return to Naha.
Saturday, 11 Mar.
Fly Fam 2 with Will Williams. Another sightseeing flight. Northern Okinawa is as beautiful as I remember it from 13 years ago.
Sunday, 12 Mar.
Go to Black Market Alley today. Find a $14,000 diamond ring I really like. Try to “Jew” them down to $5.00, but they won’t budge.
Monday, 13 Mar.
Fly Fam-3 with Rapid Robby Rohr. Spend an hour serving as target for GCI-controlled intercepts by AF fighters over Okino. Get AF pilots’ attention by feathering engines, opening bomb bay doors, etc. during their passes. Rohr less than impresses me with the grading of this flight. But, then, he should know. Is it still March?
Tuesday, 14 Mar.
It’s still March.
Wednesday, 15 Mar.
Only one more day to Hong Kong.
Thursday, 16 Mar.
Hong Kong! What a magic city! Have a fantastic time at the Hyatt’s Polaris bar, courtesy of a gorgeous (and stewed) Pan Am stew.
Friday, 17 Mar.
Pan Am stew departs. Hong Kong sucks!
Saturday, 18 Mar.
Louis-the-tailor’s Hong Kong tour is today. Tour is okay. The sexy Mrs. Holder makes it better. Hong Kong is okay. Raw squid and beer on the floating restaurant are okay. Junks are okay. Ferry is okay. Kowloon is okay. Mrs. Holder is okay (although Paul is a bit of a ding-a-ling). Saturday night in Hong Kong without momma to share it with sucks.
Sunday, 19 Mar.
Eagerly awaiting Monday when we will return to Naha. Whacko Paul McGonigle buys antique bugle at a pawn shop, then serenades the Empress Hotel floor-by-floor from the elevator. Chin Chin Piano Bar is a blast!
Monday, 20 Mar.
Depart Hong Kong very hung over. Bugle our way to Cubi to drop off CDR pax. He deplanes shaking. Continue to Naha.
Tuesday, 21 Mar.
Back to work. Must do something significant. What? When?
Wednesday 22 Mar to Wednesday 29 Mar.
Extremely routine. Is it still March?
Thursday, 30 Mar.
Dave Scheffield and I go to Kadena to hustle school teachers. Instead, nearly get into a fight with some seven-foot AF dude. Deposit my cigarette in his drink and we leave sans school teachers.
Friday, 31 Mar.
Yep, it’s still March.
Saturday, 1 April.
Okinawa is really not such a bad place. In fact, it can be truly outstanding. April Fools! Is it still April?
Historical footnote: April 1, 1972, is the 27th anniversary of the American invasion of Okinawa during WWII. In 1945, April 1 was also Easter Sunday.
Sunday, 2 April.
Easter 1972 finds us winging our way across the South Pacific on a D-2 Track. Prepare a message to send to our Ruskie friends: “Zdraftsvitchi, schastlivi Pasxa” (Greetings, happy Easter). We were going to add, “How long can you tread water?” but decided that didn’t fit the spirit of the day. Besides, found no Ruskies.
Monday, 3 April.
Highlight of the day was receiving a letter from five-year-old son Scott. The letter, in its entirety, read: “I fell off the stool. It is cold in our house. Love, Scott.”
Tuesday, 4 April.
Off to Tainan, the furniture capital of the Far East. Think I’ll be different and not buy anything.
Wednesday, 5 April.
Buy $500 worth of furniture, including a bar formerly belonging to Jim Fields.
Thursday, 6 April.
Leave Tainan with two thoughts foremost in mind:
1. Hope Fields isn’t pissed off because I bought his bar;
2. Tainan girls have bad breath.
Friday, 7 April.
Duty today. 14 events. Launch the ready. Two emergencies. CO Stuntz does not play paddleball.
Saturday, 8 April.
A completely forgettable day. Move $500 worth of Taiwan furniture from the hangar to the BOQ. The bar, formerly the property of Jim Fields, makes a nice addition to our suite.
Sunday, 9 April.
Great day! Had the ready and did not launch. Great day for Paul Johnson, too. He is the PPC for the ready crew. At 5:30 this morning, find him passed out, fully dressed, on his bathroom floor. Pour him into a flight suit and drag him to OCR for the ready brief. He fills out and signs a completely illegible skeleton flight plan. Decide it would be better to send him back to the BOQ to sleep it off rather than having him pass out during the ready brief. On his way to his car, he passes out leaning against the wall in the Comm office entryway. Get him started again. This time, he goes to the ready aircraft and passes out in one of the bunks. Get him up, take him to his car and tell him to go back to the BOQ. He passes out in the car. Drive him to the Q and get him into bed, where he spends the next 14 hours unconscious.
Monday, 10 April.
Fly Fam-6 with Will Williams.
Tuesday, 11 April.
Fly a SEAS track with CO.
Wednesday, 12 April.
Fly to Cubi with Bob Rohr.
Thursday, 13 April.
Have a well-deserved day off from flying today.
Daily entries in this diary are discontinued at this point. However, some of the more significant events through the remainder of the ’72 deployment are described below, without reference to the specific dates on which they occurred.
At an AOM one morning, the Admin Officer, Don Schwartz, makes the following announcement: “The ready alert crew that launched from the 440 Club last night….you left without paying your wine bill!”
Paul McGonigle’s wife arrives after (according to Paul) “humping her way across the Pacific.” When I run into her in the Exchange snack bar a few days later, she gives me a ride back to the BOQ, then insists on coming up to my room for a quickie. However, the suite is full of guys drinking and shooting the bull. Whew, that was close!
McGonigle and the CO are bitter enemies. One day when Crew One stands the ready, Paul hangs an 8x10 command photo of Stuntz in the aircraft and drapes it in black. He then goes to sleep in one of the racks while Stuntz preflights the plane. During a flight about the same time, Stuntz makes the takeoff, then heads to a rack. McGonigle gets in the seat and when we arrive on station, yanks the power off and kicks the rudder hard, bouncing Stuntz out of his rack and onto the deck on his backside. Stuntz lets it pass. I never figure out the cause of the friction, but wonder whether it had something to do with Paul’s wife -- or something.
J.O.s establish a tanning salon on the roof of the Pink Palace (the BOQ). Dub it “The Office,” so when leaving the squadron in the middle of the day, everyone could say in JOCODE, “I’m going to the office.”
During a Cold Duck party at the 440: Don Purdy performs a Zorba-the-Greek dance on the dinner table; Betsy Traub tosses a glass of water in my face; Betsy Traub throws a Cold-Duck-soaked, knotted napkin into Dave Tanner’s lap, soaking his crotch; Betsy Traub puts ice down my pants. Betsy’s kinda wild and crazy!
One night when Bullet Bob Barclay has the duty, there is a big drunk-ex, led by Doc Bakken and Don Purdy. Steve Peck passes out on the floor of his room (and as far as I know, remains there to this day). Meanwhile, the “mob” completely strips Barclay’s room, leaving nothing but the bare walls and floors and hiding everything -- clothes, furniture and all -- in other rooms in the Q. Barclay is pissed. He reports to AF Security that his room has been stolen. He even tells them his rifles had disappeared. Security begins a search for the missing room and Barclay’s weapons!
Accrue much practice playing “Zoom, Schwartz, Perfigliano.”
We play a great game of “Z, S, P” during a squadron picnic at the base softball fields. The area is at the foot of a shallow hill at the top of which stand several buildings now used as barracks that used to be Kubasaki Junior High (my alma mater ‘57-‘59) and Kubasaki High School. Weird.
On the way home from a long rigging track, Kent Link demonstrates a zero-g maneuver to his 2P and FE while the rest of the crew is asleep. Everyone and everything in the back of the plane floats. Link breaks off his demo only after all four engine oil pressure warning lights come on. The maneuver empties the urinal over the inside of the cabin and half the crew. After landing, CO makes Kent clean the entire aircraft.
Deployment is extended two months until 1 August following the mining of Haiphong. However, after flying heavily for two weeks, things slow to a crawl and morale goes in the toilet. Ev and boys are set to arrive in Hawaii at our original end of deployment time, 1 June. She will have to accept our quarters and HHG and get moved in without me.
I create and mount an “Ex-Dep Calendar on the graphic arts wall of our BOQ suite. Consisting of manually changeable months and dates, it reads: “Is it still May 1st?” etc. Some of the artwork includes a foldout of a Playmate with two pairs of breasts and a naked woman sitting cross-legged on a plate with the caption, “Betcha can’t eat just one!” As the display evolves to include many additional items of prurient interest, the wall becomes a popular squadron “tourist” attraction.
We begin a series of formation training flights in preparation for our eventual return to Hawaii. Will Williams is in charge of the training. I have considerably more formation experience than Will and quickly realize he knows little to nothing about single-engine or multi-engine formation flying. He proves it when he introduces an IFR breakup procedure that is guaranteed to produce multiple midair collisions. This is scary.
Finish deployment having won approximately $450 net via slot machine jackpots.
Sayonara, Okinawa. Return to Hawaii two months late with a RO1N in Midway. Nice afternoon on the beach, but would rather have continued on to Barbers Point. We arrive in some semblance of a formation the next morning, although hardly anyone sees our early a.m. overhead pass. It takes us three hours to clear customs while our families gather some distance away on the VP-17 flight line. When we finally reunite, we are strangely dressed, as Stuntz orders everyone to wear white turtleneck shirts and white bootlaces. Nevertheless, it’s great to be home and to see momma and the kids again. Aloha!
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 as he begins a sit-up. 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 – “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on!”)
“And a hearty Falcon 108 back at ya” (“Fuck 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:
Center, Charlie Delta Seven-Two-Six.”
“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.
HERE ENDS THE TRANSCRIPTION OF MY JOURNAL
OF VP-17’S 1973 DEPLOYMENT TO CUBI POINT, P.I.
The following short stories found in C-C-COLD WAR SYNDROME
complement related passages in this journal:
“Surviving Pago Pago”
And now available in Kindle format...