VA-15 (1967)
 
Our Second Vietnam Deployment


(Updated August 20th, 2019)


 
I have a few more changes to make and will do updates as I receive new information and edit the text.
Please let me know if you find any misspellings, errors in content, or have any new information to add.

bo_smith@bellsouth.net


The Magic Carpet Flight Arrived NAS Cecil from Cubi Point about October 22nd, 1966

There was quite a crowd of wives and girlfriends to meet our magic carpet flight back home.  There are pictures around somewhere.  I hope they turn up. Most of the VALions walked off the airplane. A few were carried.  The flight attendants had kept the champagne and other drinks coming all the way home. We all went on basket leave various places for a few weeks. We had to be back in Mayport to meet the ship  in late November to fly our aircraft back to Cecil.

Mary, Heather, Laura and I spent some time in Ridgewood with my family and in Duxbury with Mary's family.  Heather was almost three, Laura almost two. It was  the first time since I started flight training fours years earlier that I was able to spend any time at home.  We had a lot of catching up to do.

Intrepid arrived in Mayport about November 19th or 20th.  I think the ship craned our aircraft off.   My log book shows that I flew A4B 145001 from Mayport to Cecil on November 21st.  We took a brief break for Thanksgiving and then got back to business.

I flew four TF9 Cougar instrument flights with VA-45 (November 29th and 30th, and December 1st and 2nd) to renew my instrument card.


The December Flight Schedule

I flew 14 A4 flights in December.  The squadron began flying A4Bs in instrument round robins and weapons training flights.

Instrument round robins were flights that we flew solo or in section where we followed a flight plan to another airfield, flew a TACAN approach and a GCA and then refilled back to Cecil when we completed the approach.  This procedure had a fatal flaw. If you had a radio failure and were flying solo, you were required to land at the airfield.  Normally, the squadron didn't actually file a flight plan so the destination airport didn't know we were coming.  This produced a very humorous but almost  dangerous situation on one flight.

Possum's famous instrument round robin flight and my flight to rescue him!

On December 5th, Possum flew a solo round robin flight to Turner Air Force Base, a B-52 Strategic Air Command (SAC) Base in Albany, Georgia. He had a radio failure enroute so was forced to land. The squadron had not forwarded his flight plan so the Air Force folks were unaware he was planning to land.  As a SAC base, security was especially strict.  Possum had not brought his wallet with him (wallets get sweaty in flight suit pockets).


But Possum had his name tag on his flight suit saying he was LCDR Jerry Terrell and he happen to be flying aircraft 305 with his name on it (he was Rocket #5, the 5th senior pilot in the squadron)

They were not convinced.  They let him call the squadron.  Posum claims they kept him "spread eagled" and under guard near his airplane.

But, I think it was more likely, they kept him
in base ops once the squadron verified his story.

I was called to the ready room and was directed to get an aircraft and file a flight plan (the flight was not on the published flight schedule) to go rescue my flight leader.  Just to be safe, I found Possum's wallet in his locker and brought his and my ID cards along with me. I took off about noon. The weather was clear but a bit cool. It took me an hour to get to the base.  The first question they asked me was whether it was my name on my aircraft.  I guess Possum almost convinced the Air Force guys that navy pilots only flew aircraft with their name on it.  They were hesitant to let Possum take off with an inoperative radio. But, Possum had a special instrument card which allows navy pilots to authorize their own flight plans.

We manned and started our aircraft.  We used a start cart which provides electrical power and compressed air to start the aircraft.  In the changeover from the electrical power of the start cart to my aircraft's own power, there was a power interrupt which caused my ADI (Attitude Direction Indicator) to fail.  As a result, my only attitude indication was the yaw/slip needle. But the weather was still clear so I decided to take off. My radio was fine. 

But, when we approached Cecil, the air temperature had decreased to the dew point which resulted in a low cloud layer over the base.  I decided to shoot a TACAN approach which would allow me to descend through the clouds partial panel.  Partial panel approaches are challenging but we practiced them in simulator and I felt comfortable descending below the clouds and getting visual below the clouds.  The situation became more complicated when we were south of Cecil at about 10,000 feet when Dave Parsons showed up with a radio failure. I probably should have declared an emergency at this point.  But, I decided to make the approach with Possum on one wing and Dave on the other.  I didn't inform either of them with hand signals that I had an ADI failure. What could they do about it anyway?  We made it safely through the clouds and leveled off at 500 feet above the ground about 15 miles south of the field.  When we we had the field in sight, I gave them each the 'Kiss Off" signal and they landed, one on runway 36 Left, the other on 36 Right.  I made a low altitude VFR turn to the downwind directly over the Navy Exchange; 500 feet is only 100 feet lower than the standard carrier downwind altitude.

I landed safely and taxied back to the squadron ramp.  It was about 1700 (5:00 pm) so we decided to debrief the flight at the Rocket 17 bar at the BOQ (Bachelors Officers Quarters).  Once we had or beers (or more probably martinis), I told Possum and Dave the facts.  This wasn't the last time that I waited to tell "the rest of the story" to Possum at a more appropriate time after a flight.  More about that later.


Christmas/New Year's Holiday party at the NAS  Jacksonville Officer's Club


We had a Christmas/New Year's Holiday party at the NAS  Jacksonville Officer's Club on a Saturday night sometime between Christmas and New Year's Eve.  It was a perfect opportunity to celebrate our squadron's very successful 1966 deployment and to reorient ourselves for the challenges ahead in 1967.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures taken at this party.

It was a chance to say farewell to the squadron officers who were leaving:

LCDR Bill Butler- Bolter went on to other things but stayed in contact with the squadron attending squadron reunions regularly.
Lt Dave North (our JO mentor)- I don't know if Dave had another Navy tour before he got out of the Navy. But, when he left the Navy, he began to write for the magazine "Aviation Week and Space Technology" which was the best magazine of its kind in the world. Everyone read it; including the Russians and Chinese.  Dave became an editor and the finally the Editor in Chief; a major major (this is not a typo) accomplishment!  Dave also continued to be an active participant in squadron reunions.
John Hawthorne- I have no idea where John went after VA-15.

I don't recall a change of command, but in there somewhere after the deployment, CDR Gracy left the squadron. The Executive Officer (XO)  Cdr Ike Jones "fleeted up" to be the new Commanding Officer.  I don't know where Cdr Gracey went after leaving the squadron.  Our new Executive Officer, was Cdr Jim Snyder.  I don't recall exactly when Cdr Snyder checked into the squadron.

I'll discuss our new VA-15 Circa '67 squadron officers later.


AOM (All Officers Meeting) Sunday morning after the Holiday Party

All VALion officers received a call early Sunday morning to report as soon as possible to the ready room in the hangar at Cecil. No details were given. Once we were all there, we were informed that CDR Jones had committed suicide at his home after the party.  No reasons were given.  None have since been made publicly.  I have no actual knowledge but heard that he was depressed because he had cancer and would miss his CO tour.

Cdr Snyder would remain as XO and we would get a new CO, Cdr Kelly Carr. I think Cdr Carr reported sometime in January.


January 1967- Big Changes


From the Intrepid 1967 Cruise Bookk

Transition from A4Bs to A4Cs


In the new CAG 10 squadron mix, we were scheduled to have 200 series aircraft numbers. The 200 series tail color is usually yellow.  We decided that our version of yellow would be gold and we would paint our aircraft rudders gold with some black.

Instead of the traditional Valion decal, we designed a Disneyish Lion in black with a gold background.

We were now the known as the "Gold Tails"!



Toward the end of December, we began transferring our A4Bs and began receiving A4Cs. In December, I flew 5 A4C flights and 9 A4B flights. In January, I flew 8 A4C flights and my last 3 flights in the A4B. The A4Cs were a significant upgrade.  Instead on the one black on black ADI (Attitude Direction Indicator) in the A4B, our A4Cs had a larger white over black ADI  and a smaller backup ADI which was black over black. This made  night and actual instrument flying much safer.  Our A4Cs also had the Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) equipment we would need to accomplish our mission on our next Vietnam deployment.  We were scheduled to be the primary air wing Iron Hand (anti SAM) squadron for the air wing. To do that mission, we needed the ECM  equipment to receive acquisition, search, and fire control AAA radar signals and SAM radars and to be able to counter both types of radars that were locked on our aircraft.  We also had the capability to have chaff dispensers installed in our aircraft.  I will go into the tactics we used later.

All my flights in January were MK 76 practice bomb delivery flights.


Light Attack Wing Bombing Derby

It has become traditional to have a Light Attack Wing One annual bombing derby in January. I don't know if Light Attack Wing One (LATWING One) was  established yet at Cecil in January 1967, but there was a bombing derby that all the fleet A4 squadrons that were present at Cecil participated in. There were two pilots at Cecil that were neck and neck to receive the "Best Bomber" trophy; both in VA-15.  LCDR Possum Terrell (Rocket 5) and Ltjg Gene Atkinson (Rocket 18, our junior JO pilot).  Possum provided at difficult challenge with a CEP (closest error possible or median miss distance) of an incredible 25ft or so. (The fleet average was about 100 ft).  Ltjg Atkinson's CEP was zero, zilch- six out of six Bulls Eyes.

The LATWING One Bombing Derby Best Bomber in January 1967 was Ltjg "Wimpy" Atkinson of VA-15

(Note: Possum and I would both win this competition in A7 Corsairs in later years; when Possum was CO of VA-174.
I would win it in 1978 when I was CO of VA-15)


Job Changes

It is traditional that in a typical two year tour in a squadron, a pilot would have two collateral duty assignments;  one for a year; another for the second year. January was the best time to make these changes.  I left my Aircraft Division job working for Jerry Tuttle and moved upstairs (literally from an office on the bottom deck of the hangar where all the maintenance shops were to the Operations Department on the second deck of the hangar where the ready room and the administrative and operations offices were located. My new boss was Pete Schoeffel, the Operations Officer. My new job was the Weapons Training Officer (WTO).  The WTO was responsible for pilot nuclear weapons and loading training and typically to monitor the balance of weapons training to other types of training  in the squadron training plan (flight schedule).  Pete had written a detailed training plan  during the transit  from the Tonkin Gulf back to Mayport (he was assigned as the senior CAG 10 representative). So that part of my new job was pretty much a done deal.  We did the required number of nuclear weapons loading exercises and flew some profile flights. But that was about it for that part of my job.

My biggest responsibility was to design the electronic warfare and anti AAA/SAM tactics we would use on cruise and create a training plan to ensure that we would be prepared to execute that mission when we arrived on Yankee Station in June.  I would also work with Jerry Tuttle, Bob Chaney and our new Avionics Officer, CWO Pilkington in the Maintenance Department to make sure that our new ECM equipment would be as reliable as possible.  It was critical that the pilots flying the bombing and Iron Hand (Anit SAM) missions have absolute confidence that the ECM equipment would be effective.

Another important job change was Miller Detrick moving from the Line Division to Operations as the Flight Officer.  The Flight Officer writes the daily flight schedule which is approved by the Ops Officer and signed by the Commanding Officer. The Flight Officer can be a very political position as every pilot wants at least equal if not more than equal flight time and carrier landings. 


New Officers in 1967


Commanding Officer

Executive Officer

New Heavies


LCDR  Paul McCarthy

LCDR  Ron Gibson

New Junior Officers


Lt Steve Smith

Lt Tony Isger

Ltjg Keith Strickland

Ltjg Ron Gerard


New Ground Officer


Chief Warrant Officer
Pilkington- Avionics

All the photo is from the USS Intrepid's 1967 Cruise Book


February 1967

I flew only 12 flights in February. Most of them were bombing flights both day and night with a couple of live 6 Mk 81 250# (two TERS) flights to Pinecastle Target.
I flew one cross country at night from Cecil to Andrews AFB on February 15th returning in the evening the next day, February 16th. I think I spent the day (February 16th) looking at my records at the Bureau of Naval Personnel. I really don't know why I did that  but I expect that someone advised me that it was a good idea to check your records on occasion.

This was the first of only two days in my entire 28 year navy career that I spent in Washington.  I consider that to be a highlight in my career although it might have not been a benefit when my record was reviewed for flag rank.

Tuttle versus Gerard (actually visa versa)

I'm not sure whether this occurred in March, but it is very likely it did.  Ron Gerard was flying as Jerry Tuttle's wingman on a flight that required some formation flying (as most flights did).  Ron Gerard was executing a rendezvous (a join up for you air force types).  To rendezvous on another aircraft, you get inside the turn of the lead aircraft and while keeping the lead visually on the horizon and with some closure speed, the geometry of the situation will allow you to close the distance in a controlled fashion. As you get close to the other aircraft, you fly your aircraft a little below the lead's altitude and as you slide underneath, you control your excess airspeed to decrease so you slide in to the echelon wing position.

In this case, that did not occur.  Ron's Skyhawk collided with Jerry Tuttle's aircraft badly damaging both planes.  Ron's aircraft was uncontrollable so he ejected shortly after the collision.  Jerry Tuttle attempted to get his plane under control but it was a futile effort as most of one of Jerry' Tuttle's wings was missing.  He lost several thousand feet of altitude during his attempt to regain control and ended up ejecting well below Ron.  As they were both descending in their parachutes toward Earth, Ron was closing on Jerry Tuttle for the second time.  Ron weighed about 200 lbs while Jerry Tuttle was about 150 soaking wet. They nearly collided again as Ron passed Jerry on the way down.  Ron looked over and noticed Jerry Tuttle checking his watch. I guess Jerry Tuttle was gathering data for the accident board.  If you ever knew Jerry Tuttle, you m
ight believe this to be true. Luckily, both were uninjured and were back flying the next day.

It was time to have another squadron party and it was a great one!

All of our new officers had checked in and our underway training was only weeks away so it  was time to have a party.  I don't remember who came up with the idea of an auto rally type scavenger hunt designed to end up at a barn type dance hall, but it was a great one! We met somewhere, perhaps the Cecil  BOQ Rocket 17 bar to pick up the first clue and get underway with an assigned navigator, someone other than your wife.  The idea was to drive to the first check point, pick up the 2nd clue and drive to the 2nd check point etc.  After a few check points, you would arrive at the final destination which was the square dancing barn. I think we started at the BOQ about 1930 (7:30 pm). The instructions read that if you had not arrived at the final destination (description not given) by 2100 (9:00 pm), you should call a phone number.  There were numerous couples who got lost??


The new CO, Cdr Kelly Carr and his wife Pat on the right

The new XO, Cdr Jim Snyder and his wife Joanne

LCDR Possum Trrell and his wife Sarah


LCDR Moon Moreau talking to Miller Detrick's wife Connie

Bob Hamel and his wife Lynn

John Newman and his first wife


New guy Ltjg Ron Gerard on the left

New guy Ltjg Keith Strickland and his wife Marce

New guy Lt Steve Smith



March 1967

The first part of March was devoted primarily to getting ready for our first underway type training period onboard Intrepid in the middle of the month.  We flew some weapons flights but most flights involved doing day and night field carrier landing practice (FCLP) at nearby NAAF (Navy Auxiliary Air Field) Whitehouse.

In those days the some airwings were located at Cecil.  That was the case with Airwing Ten.  The CAG 10 LSO,  LCDR Fred Hoerner who still flew mostly with VA-15 was present for most of the FCLP sessions at Whitehouse.  The  CAG 10 squadrons based on the east coast were VAW 121s E1B Trackers based at NAS Nofolk, VAQ 33 Det 11s AD5Qs at NAS Jacksonville, and VA-15 and our "sister" A4C squadron VA-34 at Cecil.  I don't know how CAG 10 handled the FCLPs for the west coast squadrons (VSF-3 A4Bs and
VA-145 Spads based at NAS Alameda and VF-111 Det 11s F8s and VFP-63 Det 11's RF-8s based at NAS Miramar).  COMVAVAIRPAC (Commander Naval Air Pacific) probably assisted with those squadrons.  The primary emphasis for us and VA-34 was to make sure the new guys were ready.  The rest of us only had about one day FCLP session at Cecil and three night FCLP sessions at Whitehouse Field.

I actually had one very close call during one of my night FCLP flights to Whitehouse.  The outside air temperature was close to the dew point so there was a good chance that fog would form. The normal procedure was that Cecil would keep the LSOs at Whithouse up to speed with the dew point spread so that if it got close, they would send the aircraft back to Cecil before the field became "socked in" (weather too bad to land).  I happened to be on deck at Whitehouse getting some fuel when the decision to return to Cecil was made. In my rush to get airborne, I didn't do my check list thoroughly and I made my take off roll with my flaps up.  When I got to rotation speed for take off, nothing happened. Luckily, I determined that my flaps were up (by the feel of the aircraft not the flap guage), and lowered my flaps (to 1/2) in time to get airborne before the end of the runway. Close call.  I've never told this story before!.

Our First Underway Training Period

Our first underway training period only lasted 10 days from March 15th through March 25th. I flew only 7 flights during our first underway period. Most of those flights probably concentrated on learning basic daytime VFR carrier operating procedures.  I logged only .3 night hours with two "pinky" night landings during the first underway period.  "Pinky" landings are twilight landings which are  technically after sunset but with still a visible horizon available.   I suspect that the west coast squadrons stayed on the west coast for the first underway period because their deployment actually started once they moved to the east coast. 



April 1967

My AGM-45 Shrike ARM (Anti-Radiation Missile) and Practice Firing at NAF China Lake and NAS Point Magu, California Trip





On April 9th I flew A4C #147670 to China Lake with a fuel stop at Shepherd Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. For the next two days (April 10th and 11th), I received training in basic electronic warfare from personnel at the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake. I learned how to use our A4C electronic warfare equipment to identify acquisition radars (low PRF low scan rate), AAA acquisition and tracking high PRF (Pulse Repetition Frequency) S Band conical scan radars such as Firecan/Flapwheel systems, and the Fansong E Band SAM control radar radar with its distinctive raster scan.  I was provided with a set of tapes to use for training our VA-15 Iron Hand pilots to be able to identify these types of radars in the North Vietnam defense system. On April 12th, I flew to NAS Point Magu, California to be briefed on the AGM-45 Shrike missile at the Naval Missile Development Center there.  We also went over the procedures we would use for my scheduled test firing of a Shrike the next day at the China Lake Electronic Warfare range.



AGM-45 Shrike missile

On the morning of April 13th, I took off from NAS Pt. Magu and flew back to China Lake.  After landing, a Shrike missile was loaded on my aircraft and I took off and made eight simulated firing runs against a conical scan fire control radar similar to the Russian built Firecan/Flapwheel AAA radars that were used in the North Vietnamese Air Defense system. After I landed from that flight, we conducted a briefing for my Shrike firing test on the range.
My AGM 45 Shrike scored a direct hit on the target.


Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake

S Band Conical Scan Target

The next day (April 14th), I flew A4C #147670 back from China Lake to Cecil with one fuel stop (This flight is not in my log book for some reason).  This trip to China Lake and Pt. Magu for electronic warfare training and the Shrike firing test was essential for me to be able conduct the training for our squadron pilots in the electronic warfare skills required of a navy Iron Hand pilot. During our transit to the Tonkin Gulf, we all study the tapes I got at China Lake we would develop the tactics we would use  successfully during our deployment.



Our Second Underway Training Period

Our second underway training was from April 17th through April 25th. I think the west coast squadrons may have come east for that one to get some flying with the rest of the airwing before we deployed on May 10th.

I flew 12 flights during that period. I recorded my 200th landing (trap) on the Intrepid on April 17th.  One of my flights was a AGM 45 Shrike training mission.  We had "captive" Shrikes onboard for these training missions.


An Interesting Night Flight

I was flying a night flight with the XO, CDR Snyder. It was about 0100 (1:00am) when we were about to return to the area of the ship called Marshal to set up a holding pattern at individual altitudes to initiate our instrument approach to the ship.  It was on his wing, when he appeared to accelerate ahead of me.  It was too early for us to split up so I added power to catch up.  Even at full throttle (power), I couldn't catch up with him so I gave up and turned toward Marshall on my own.

I was heading toward the ship observing how spectacular the stars were. To add to the magic, St. Elmo's Fire you can Goggle it) was flickering around my canopy when I heard a voice in my head:

" Isn't this a beautiful universe I created"

My communication with God was a one sided conversation


Starry Night

St. Elmo's Fire


After the LSO debriefed our passes in the ready room, I asked CDR Snyder why he accelerated ahead of me. He replied, "I didn't accelerate, all of a sudden you just accelerated ahead of me" so I went to Marshall. After we discussed it a bit more, we decided that I had experienced autokinesis.  Autokinesis occurs at night if you stare at a single point of light ((a star or planet) for long enough, it will appear to move. It turns out that I tried to fly wing on a star.


We flew off from the boat (naval aviators refer to the carrier as the boat rather than the ship)  on April 25th.


We would have only 13 days before we would fly to Norfolk to load our aircraft onboard Intrepid for deployment; not enough time for a quick trip to the Bahamas this time around.  We used the time to get our stuff together with our families for the seven month deployment.

Mary, Heather, and Laura would spend some of that time with Mary's family in Duxbury!









Our Second Deployment



Photo from Intrepid's 1967 Cruise Book


Instead of flying our aircraft onboard Intrepid after they got underway, we flew our aircraft from Cecil Field to NAS Norfolk on May 9th to be loaded aboard the3 ship.



After all the airwing aircraft were loaded onboard, the ship got underway for our 38 day12,000 mile transit to Cubi Point in the Philipines.


Intrepid left Norfolk May 11th, 1967





Photo from Intrepid's 1967 Cruise Book




Shortly after getting onboard, we learned that the Intrepid had been awarded the CONAVAIRLANT Battle Efficiency Award for our 1966 deployment.

VA-15 had been awarded a Meritorious Unit Citation for our participation in our first Vietnam deployment.


The new CAG 10 / USS Intrepid squadrons for the second deployment


CAG Burrows "Eatrthquake" and his staff brought their experience from the first cruise with them for the second deployment

CAG's plane with the gold tail cap, rainbow rudder, our VA-15 "Gold Tails" logo and fancy fuel tanks





LCDR Fred Hoerner CAG 10 LSO flew regularly with VA-15 as he did last cruise.

He even had his name on Va-15 A4C # 205 shown here.


The CAG 10 Operations Officer flew with "Brand X", VA-34

As we were scheduled to fly most of our missions from Yankee Station on this deployment, there was a significant change in our airwing squadrons.
This time we had three A4 squadrons instead of two and only one Spad squadron. The spad squadron would primarily fly RESCAP missions.  To provide some fighter capability, we would have a detachment of F8C Crusader aircraft for the TARCAP mission.  We would also have a detachment of RF8 Crusaders to provide a photo reconnaissance capability.  In addition, we would have a detachment of AD5Q Spad electronic warfare support aircraft (Queer Spads) and a detachment of E1B airborne early warning aircraft to provide coordination with the Yankee Station Air Defense ship (PIRAZ), and BARCAP aircraft in support to our TARCAP F8s.
The ship would have a SAR helo detachment and a Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) aircraft.



The Fighter Mission

The Sundowners of VF-111 Det 11 had four F8C Crusader aircraft for the TARCAP mission.




A significant addition to our capability for this deployment were the Sundowners of VF-111 Det 11 of four F8C Crusader aircraft for the TARCAP mission.  They were home based  at NAS Miramar, California.  They had three infamous pilots; the Detachment Officer in Charge, LCDR Tooter Teague, Lt Tony Nargi, and Ltjg Joe Satrapa and one not so infamous pilot, Ltjg Rick Wenzel.






Four pilots, four aircraft; so they each had their name on an F8. These guys were the best the fighter community could have given us with the best aircraft for the TARCAP mission.  They stayed with the strike group and were not drawn away by PIRAZ (Air Defence Coordination Ship) or by the temptation to leave us in a search for a MIG kill. 
One of them (I do not know who yet) was shot down on August 12th by AAA or a SAM during our second line period but was rescued.

The Attack Missions

We had three light attack A4 Skyhawk squadrons




The VSF -3 (Aintisubmarine Fighter Squadron)  Chessmen were home based at NAS Alameda, California and flew the A4B Skyhawk.  VSF squadrons were created to fly the fighter mission on ASW (Antisubmarine Aircraft Carriers (CVS).

They were added to our airwing to primarily fly as bomber aircraft in major strikes and to conduct road reconnaissance flights and section and division level strikes on targets close to the coast.

VSF 3s A4Bs had side numbers of the 100 series so had the red color as the color on their tail cap.

The cruise book and Google references state that VSF-3 flew A4Bs on the cruise.  I don't know whether they had their aircraft updated with electronic warfare equipment similar to our A4Cs. The way we were able to install the electronic warfare countermeasures equipment (ECM) was to remove the left 20mm gun and most of the ammunition to make room to install the ECM gear. That left us with only a few hundred rounds of 20mm for the right gun to use only in emergency like in a downed pilot RESCAP mission or in self defense if attacked by a MIG.




VA-15 had the 200 series numbers so we had the yellow color.  We chose to change that to gold so we had our rudder painted gold and replaced the VALion decal with a gold and black lion logo.

We were known in the airwing as the "Gold Tails"

The aircraft in this picture is configured for our Anti SAM Iron Hand mission with the AGM 45 Shrike loaded on both wings with a centerline fuel tank.





The third Skyhawk squadron in the airwing was our sister squadron stationed at Cecil Field, the VA-34 Blue Blasters.  They  flew A4C  aircraft configured like ours with updated electronic countermeasures equipment.

In addition to participating in bombing missions, their assigned specialty was as flak suppressors, the anti AAA mission.  They would attack known AAA sites in the target area just before the bombers initiated their attacks with the hope that it would offer some protection for the bombers while in their bomb runs which was the most vulnerable part of their mission. They were usually configured with two LAU 10 Zuni rocket pods on TERs on each wing for  total of 16 rockets to attack the AAA sites.

The RESCAP Mission
We had one A1 Skyraider (Spad) squadron, VA 145 based at NAS Alameda



This is a model of a VA 145 Spad.  Ours had had 400 numbers.

VA 145 was based at NAS Alameda, California.  They assisted in 14 navy and air force pilot rescues during our deployment.


Two VA 145 Spads  returning to the ship with a VAW--121 E1B.  It looks like the ship is getting ready to launch a regular cycle with the COD on CAT 1 with A4s on the port angle, the relief E1B on the port aft corner, two  VA-145 RESCAP aircraft, and VAQ-33 AD5Q spad on the strboard side of the landing area.

The Photo Reconnaissance Mission

VFP 63 Det 11 Rf8 Crusaders




The VFP 63 Det 11 Roadrunners based at NAS Miramar, California provided a photo reconnaissance capability with their RF8 Crusaders onboard Intrepid during our deployment.

They were normally escorted by a section of our VF 111 Sundowner F8Cs on their missions.


A VFP-63 Det 11 RF8 (402)


The Airborne Electronic Warfare Mission






The VAQ 33 Nighthawks based at NAS Jacksonville, Florida provided an airborne electronic warfare capability with their AD5Q Spad aircraft onboard Intrepid during our deployment.




The Airborne Early Warning and Command and Control Mission






The VAW 121  Bluetails based at NAS Norfolk, Virginia provided an airborne early warning and command and control capability with their E1B aircraft onboard Intrepid during our deployment.


"The Angel"   HC-2  Rescue Helo Detachment




The Intrepid's COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) Aircraft






Our transit of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea enroute to the Suez Canal

Replenishment at Sea



We didn't make any port visits during our 38 day 12,000 mile transit from Norfolk to Cubi Point.  Intrepid and all the ships in our group got all our fuel and supplies by replenishing at sea like shown in the  photo here. The ship made a few COD flights enroute to get our mail.

We didn't have to get any weapons during the transit.  But once online at Yankee Station, we were along side an AO every few days resupplying bombs, rockets, missiles, and gun ammo.

We spent lots of time in the Ready Room during the transit

We had some AOMs (All Officer's Meetings) and a lot of briefings in the ready room during the transit.


Take note that during this AOM, the only officers paying attention were new guys Ron Gibson in the front row and Dave Moyer in the back row. Shep was reading a magazine, Bob Cheyne was asleep and Bob Hamel was being Bob Hamel.


We could smoke our cigars in the ready room in those days

We spent lots of time in our staterooms studying the EW tapes during the transit

Those of us who were interested had the opportunity to stand bridge watches during the transit

The transit also provided lots of opportunity to spend time on the flight deck exercising or just relaxing



Miller Detrick on the flight deck with his deployment mustache wearing one of the variations of flight suits we used; a green medium cotton shirt and pants with a belt.



The transit provided plenty of opportunities for JO meetings on the flight deck before the evening movie



We did some flying during the Mediterranean Sea part of the transit



I flew seven flights from May 20th through May 29th; 5 day flights and 2 flights with night landings. We were in range of a bingo field, probably NAS Sigonella on the southern coast of Sicily during these flights.

When we were approaching the Suez Canal, it was totally different than the year before. Israel and Egypt were about to get involved in the Seven Day War. So, I'm sure there was a lot of concern about our transiting the Suez at that time.  But for whatever reason, the decision was made at the highest levels and possibly with consultation with both Israel and Egypt for us to make the transit.  As many of the jet aircraft were moved to the hangar deck and the hangar bay doors were closed. There was some concern that a weirdo Egyptian extremist might take a few shots at the ship as it passed by. The prop aircraft were left exposed on the flight deck (I guess they were more expendable).  We were told to not go on up on the flight deck or exposed catwalks as there due to the same concern that it was possible that we might take some fire from the Egyptian side.  I don't think that we did.



This is a modern map of the Suez Canal.

In June of 1967, the Sinai Peninsula was part of Israel.

So, as we sailed south from Port Said, we had Israel on the left and Egypt on the right.

We did encounter protests on the Egyptian side of the canal where the protesters took off their sandals and held the soles of their shoes toward us; a mark of disrespect.

We were lead through the northern part of the canal toward Great Bitter Lake by an Egyptian (Russian Made) Komar PT boat with it's two Styx surface to surface missiles clearly visible.

They didn't train the missiles toward Intrepid.
They couldn't as the Styx missile tubes are permanently mounted facing forward on the boat.  I doubt if they had any fire control radars active.

Picture from the Intrepid 1967 Cruise Book





This is a Komar Boat. Notice that the Styx missile tubes are facing forward!







As we were headed south from Great Bitter Lake toward the Indian Ocean, charts of Egypt were pulled out in CVIC to look at potential targets in Egypt if were called into action.



But, after a brief pause in the gulf of Suez, we continued our transit through the Indian Ocean, through the Straits of Malacca, and then northeast to Cubi Point in the Phillipines.






Intrepid arrived in Cubi Point June 15th, 1967
(The transit from Norfolk to Cubi took 31 days to complete)




Back at Cubi Point only
seven months after we left after the end of our first WESTPAC deployment.
We wouldn't have much time here though; just a couple of nights at the BOQ and a few visits to the Cubi Point O'Club bar for some Cubi Specials!






A group of combat bound VALions in various type of flight suits relaxing outside officer's housing at Cubi.
Left to right: Gene Atkinson, Moon Moreau, Miller Detrick, the head of Ron Gerard over Miller's left shoulder, XO, Cdr Jim Snyder, Dave Parsons, CO, CDR Kelly Carr, and me, Bo Smith over Cdr Carr's left shoulder







Maybe just enough time for a quick trip outside the gate in Olongapo to have dinner at the Marmont Hotel.








Maybe just enough time for the new guys to get a quickie course at JEST!



Intrepid left Cubi Point on June 19th after only four days in port.
We flew on the ship that day!


Yankee Station




In response to my request, the Naval Aviation Museum Achive Department has located some USS Intrepid associated combat pictures of Yankee Station "Rolling Thunder" operations during the summer of 1967. The summer of 1967 was the most intense combat operations over North Vietnam since the start of the conflict as President Johnson decided to put more political pressure on North Vietnam. I intend to review these pictures as soon as I get the chance to go to Pensacola and then incorporate the most relevant of them in this journal

I flew my first combat mission on our First Line Period on June 21st, 1967


Yankee Station was actually quite a bit further north in June 1967.

Yankee Station was actually east of Vinh in northern Route Package 2 when we were on station.

The Navy flew missions from Yankee Station in Route Packages 2, 3, 4, and 6B and most of the strikes against Haiphong.

The Air Force flew missions in Route Pages 1, 5, and 6A and te majority of the strikes against Hanoi.



Our First Line Period lasted from June 21st to July 13th (22 days)

In the beginning of our Yankee Station line period, we flew most of our missions in Route Package 2 from the area from Ha Tinh and Duc Tho south of Vinh up through Route Package Three (avoiding Thanh Hoa) and Nam Dinh.  Most of these missions were "warm up" type missions such as road reconnaissance looking for trucks on the roads or small bridges on Route 1 on the coast or Route 15.  The standard bomb load for these missions was a centerline fuel tank with 6 Mk 82 500# bombs.




What is it like to be shot at with AAA?

Barrage Fire-  Barrage fire is a mass of usually light gray (37mm) or darker gray (57mm) puffs usually at one altitude generated when the shell explodes.  This is indicative of non radar controlled fire. The shooters hope that they have guessed right at the altitude selected for the shells to self destruct if they don't get a direct hit.  They select the altitude based on information from acquisition radars or on occasion from observing the incoming aircraft relative to targeting balloons.

Aimed fire- Aimed fire is indicated when the puffs (dark gray for 57mm) or (black for 85mm or greater) are linear in nature.  If the radar isn't locked on, the fire normally isn't very accurate.  But solid tone in your headset indicates that the Firecan/Flapwheel is locked on and you can expect accurate fire.  Then its time to hope your ECM gear will cause the radar to lose lock.  But, the wise thing to do is to deploy chaff and change your heading and/or altitude. This is called "jinking".  You shouldn't jink if its barrage fire because the best way to avoid being hit in barrage fire is to get out of the immediate area quickly by maintaining your heading.  Sometimes, that can be difficult to do.

If you are looking at the ground at the source of the AAA, you can see flashes on the ground and if they are using tracer rounds, you can see the rounds coming at you.  If the rounds pass close to you, you can feel the sonic boom of the rounds as they pass by.  Are we having fun yet!

What is it like to be shot at by a SAM?

Normally, your first indication is a missile launch alert "warble" from your ECM gear. However, on big strikes, a single alert is usually accompanied by many alerts as several SAMs are usually in the air.  Then, it's time to have your "head on a swivel" looking out for a trail of smoke heading your way.  Usually, if you can see the SAM coming toward you, you can lower your nose to keep your speed and G available and out maneuver the SAM.  Once, it has passed by, you turn back toward the target and try to gain back some altitude, check your tail and the 6 o'clock position of the other members of your flight for the second or third SAM.  If the whole division is the target, the entire flight may do a split "S" type maneuver as a flight and then recover as a flight. Most often though, the division will loose division integrity.  However, it is critical to at least maintain section (two aircraft) integrity.  It is the wingman's responsibility to do so.


Although there were significant losses due to 85mm radar controlled AAA and SAM missiles enroute to and from the target, most aircraft losses were at the roll in point or during the bomb run or while pulling off the target due to a mixture of aimed radar controlled AAA at the roll in point and dense 37mm/57mm non radar controlled AAA when the bombing aircraft in their runs or when pulling off the target between 4,000 and 10,000 feet.





Captain Fair, CO of USS Intrepid sending a note to the North Vietnamese.

The bomb he is signing is an old non thermally coated 1000# bomb from the Korean War or even possibly the World War II era.

With three aircraft carriers flying major strikes at an accelerated pace into North Vietnam, the production of the new thermally coated Mark 80 series bombs fell behind our usage rate and we had to use some of the old non thermally coated bombs until the production rate caught up.




USS Intrepid Change of Command (June, 1967)
Underway on Yankee Station




Captain Fair

Is Relieved By

Captain McVey


We will miss Captain Fair !!
We JOs weren't so sure during the 66 cruise when we got to see him up close and personal on the bridge.
"The pilot of 306 report to the bridge" Oh no, another tongue lashing from the Captain about a One Wire. He whipped us into shape and had a lot to do with establishing the professionalism of our airwing which would prove invaluable on the second Vietnam deployment.

Now it's Captain McVey's turn!
He's been pretty quiet so far. But, perhaps that is because Captain Fair has handed him a well oiled professional ship and airwing.  Noone that I know of has been summoned to the bridge so far.

But would change for me pretty soon!



USS Intrepid wins the CNO Safety Award




Flight Operations during the First Line Period

Cyclic Operations, probably road recces. We might have been short on MK 82s because we only carried 4 bombs.

June 21st- 1.7 hours, 3 Mk 82's, 1 Mk 81
June 21st- 1.7 hours, 3 Mk 82s, 1 Mk 81
June 22nd,1.9 flight hours, 3 Mk 82s, 1 Mk 81
June 23rd (my 26th birthday, 3 Mk82s, 1 Mk 81
June 24th, 1.8 hours, 6 MK 81s
June 25th and 26th- I did not fly; SDO or possibly a stand down of some sort
June 27th- 1.1, 6 MK 81s- maybe a small strike of some sort
June 127th- 1.3, no weapons load logged, must have been a short cycle strike of some kind ?
June 28th- 1.2,  no weapons load recorded, Iron Hand in support of a strike at Nam Dinh
June 29th- 1.9, 3 Mk82s, 1 Mk 81 small strike on Camera ?

June 29th- 1.4, Iron Hand mission in support of a strike on Haiphong.
I was awarded my 2nd NCM with Combat V for this mission.


June 30th- 1.6, 1 Lau 10, Vinh, 50 rnds of 20mm at Vinh, might have been a RESCAP support mission, Lee Cole was shot down in the vicinity of Vinh




We (VA-15) lost our first pilot 9 days into the First Line Period



Lee Cole was shot down on June 30th, 1967 near Vinh

Lt Lee Cole was shot down on June 30th by a SAM just south of Vinh. 



Lee Cole was listed as Missing in Action (MIA).

His remains were returned by the North Vietnamese On November 3rd, 1988 and identified on March 29th, 1989 at which time he was listed as Killed in Action (KIA).

He wife, Billie Jo Cole was very active in the POW Wives Org
anization both locally in Jacksonville and nationally.


Lee was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on May 5th, 1989



Billy Jo is buried in Arlington National Cemetery alongside Lee.

 
We learned later, the hard way, that Vinh had a very good SAM and AAA defense system.  Vinh became known as a location where you didn't get much warning before a SAM launch or very accurate AAA.  It seems that they used acquisition raiders which were hard to detect before using fire control radars to take a shot. I was very lucky to have survived that day.


D.D. Smith in his book "Above Average: Naval Aviation the Hard Way" described how most pilots reacted to the combat loss of a fellow aviator.

"There was no outward show of sorrow, no reminiscences or eulogies, no Hollywood heart-searchings or phony philosophy- It was not callousness or indifference or lack of feeling for a comrade who had been so vibrantly alive and now was to be a name on a war memorial; it was just that there was nothing to be said. It was part of war; men died, more would die, that was past, and what mattered now was the business at hand; those who lived would get on with it. Whatever sorrow was felt, there was no point in talking or brooding about it, much less in making, for forms sake, a parade of it. Better and healthier to forget it, and look for tomorrow."


 


This combat chart is from the collection of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum  and is a gift from the family of VALion Keith Strickland who passed away from cancer after a long carrier with his wife Marce in Saudi Arabia flying ARMCO VIPs around. Marce has remained active in VALion events and attends VALion reunions regularly with her second husband Bob Kryuter.

After about a week of warm up missions, we started flying strike missions to targets from Vinh to Haiphong including  Ninh Binh, Nam Dinh, and Than Hoa. Yes, the Thanh Hoa Bridge was still standing.

This picture of the Thanh Hoa bridge was taken on May 19th, before we came on Yankee Station.


Image courtesy of the Lawson Collection, Emil Buehler Library, National Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola, Florida




As the line period progressed, we began participating in strikes deeper into the Red River Valley toward Hanoi including Phu Ly and to  Haiphong and  Hai Duong, almost halfway to Hanoi.  We flew Iron Hand Anti-SAM missions in support of these strike missions as they were conducted into major concentrations of radar controlled AAA and Surface to Air missiles.

For example, I flew an Iron Hand mission in support of a strike at Haiphong on June 29th  (My 2nd NCM).

We lost Lee Cole to a SAM near Vinh the next day!



Iron Hand Tactics


This aircraft is actually carrying a big Bullpup missile not a Shrike!

The existing standard Iron Hand tactic was to have the Iron Hand (Anti SAM) and flak suppressor (AAA) aircraft accompany the strike group and react to threats as they came up. 

I thought that we could do it better in the Iron Hand mission if we were out in front of the strike group and engaged the SAM sites before they were able to fire missiles at the strike group.  My concept was based on the assumption that the North Vietnamese Defense Commander would not want to commit to firing his missiles at us. Rather, he would want to conserve his SAMs for the strike group. I thought we could negatively affect his capability by forcing him to not use his Fansong radar if we positioned ourselves to attack the launching site with our AGM 45 Shrikes.  I suspect that they had seen the same video as I had of a Shrike missile exploding just above a SA 2 Guideline Fansong van sending thousands of aluminum cubes at high speed into the radar antennae and the van destroying the equipment and killing any operators in the van.

Our 18,000 foot altitude into the target area was above all the non radar controlled 37mm/57mm AAA guns and at the extreme range of the radar controlled 85mm guns.  Our ECM equipment was capable of breaking the lock on the Firecan/Flapwheel conical scan radars. The only real threat we had at 18,000 feet was from SAMs and from MIGs.  We had BARCAP fighters and PIRAZ to watch over us from the MIGs. The same rationale applied in my mind that the defense commander would not want to commit his MIGs to the six or eight Iron Hand aircraft when he had 40 to 60 aircraft of the strike group enroute.

So, we would fly directly to the SAM sites protecting the target area that our intelligence team told us were occupied with missiles.  The North Vietnamese had both fixed and mobile sites.  We went to the fixed sites first and reacted to the mobile sites as they became active.  Each Iron Hand aircraft had a centerline tank, two AGM 45 Shrikes and LAU 10 rocket pods. We usually had two or three sections of two aircraft each.  Each section was briefed on a specific fixed site to start with.  We descended to about 15,000 feet and circled the site looking to see if they had missiles on the rails.  If so, we reported that to the strike leader with calls such as: "Site number xx occupied, Iron Hand One (or Three or Five) Out. That told the strike leader that not only was a prebriefed site occupied but also that we were overhead the site ready to engage it.

The SAM site commander had to bring the E Band Fansong radar
online in order to control and detonate the missile.  As soon as he did, the Iron Hand leader would commence a dive attack for a "down the throat" Shrike launch.  If the missile commander kept the Fansong radar online, his radar van and the people in it were "Toast".  The SAM would then self destruct harmlessly.  If he shut down his Fansong radar, he cold not control the SAM.


E Band Fansong radar

Fixed SAM Site

SA 2 Guidline Missiles

If we fired both our Shrikes on a mission, we could use a 5" Zuni rocket from one of our LAU 10 pods to simulate a Shrike "down the throat Shrike shot".  Or, if the AAA around the site was not too bad, we could use Zuni rockets to attack the remaining missiles and vans in a fixed site. Our Zuni rockets were also available if there was need for our services as a RESCAP aircraft.  As we had the centerline tank, we usually had more fuel than the strike aircraft and could stay on scene longer.  We could return unused Shrikes and LAU 10 Zuni to the ship and land with no problem making them available for another mission.



The three aircraft carriers on Yankee Station flew different schedules.  One carrier flew a twelve hour daylight schedule from just prior to sunrise to just prior to sunset. Another carrier flew approximately the same schedule from 0700 to 1900 (one pinky recovery). The third carrier flew a night schedule from 1900 (pinky launch) to 0700 (pinky to day recovery).  That meant that there were two carriers always available to fly strikes in the daytime and one carrier to keep the North Vietnamese up at night.  On major "Alpha Strike" days, all three carriers flew the day schedule to be able to bring maximum concentration of our air power for these strikes against Alpha List targets. 

The Air Force flew their F-105 Thunderchief (Thud) strike aircraft and their F4 Phantom fighter support aircraft from bases in Thailand.  The Air Force strike packages would normally inflight refuel over Laos and the enter Route Package Five northwest of Hanoi for their strikes.  The hills northwest of Hanoi are known as "Thud Ridge" because of the number of F-105s lost there to SAMs and MIGs.




The first two weeks in July were very difficult

We knew we were in for a challenging time because we were going to be flying missions in Route 6B, the most heavily defended route package in North Vietnam except for Hanoi itself.  But we were ready.  We had a core group of flight leaders and junior officer pilots each with over 100 combat missions.  Our new CO, Kelly Carr, although an experienced pilot was not combat experienced.  But Kelly's best asset was his great sense of humor and his willingness to let the combat experienced division leaders (Jerry Tuttle, Possum Terrell, Moon Moreau, Pete Schoeffel) take the lead in flying the division leads in the major  strike missions until he gained more combat experience. Our new XO, CDR Jim Snyder was an experienced carrier A4 pilot who was a quick learner in the combat environment. LCDR "Black Mac" McCarthy was surprised that he had to fly wing as Number 4 on experienced JOs from the first deployment as his section leader until he got some combat experience. But that was the rule in VS-15; there was no rank in the air. The experienced JO section leaders were the section leaders at first during our second deployment.  Black Mac and Ron Gibson became section leaders and division leaders with time.
Our junior officers with over 100 missions were the "core" of the squadron. VSF-3 and VA-34 did not have the flight leaders or experienced JOs like we had and the Airwing Commander knew it.  Therefore, we were given the most challenging missions during the Second Line Period.




July 1st- I flew an Iron Hand mission in support of a strike at Ninh Binh

July 2nd- I flew an Iron Hand mission in support of a strike at Hai Duong. I fired one Shrike
I was nominated for a DFC for this mission which was downgraded to my 1st individual Air Medal with Combat V.

                
Ltjg Kasch of VSF-3 shot down on the Hai Duong strike and was not rescued- KIA

July 3rd- I did not fly (SDO ?)

July 4th- I flew an Iron Hand mission but did not fire a Shrike.  I did fire 50 rounds of 20mm indicated that I was involved in a RESCAP



July 4th, 1967- Our LT P.C. Craig did not return from a major strike against the railroad yard at Hai Duong. He was last seen in his dive bomb delivery at the target. His flight leader, LCDR Moon Moreau did not see him resume his normal combat cruise position after rendezvous off the target.



LT P.C. Craig was shot down at Hai Duong on July 4th, 1967

His remains were returned by the North Vietnamese in 1985

He is burried in his hometwon of Oneida, NY

P.C. Craig was unmaried

P.C.'s loss was a real "kick in the gut" for those of us who were with him from the beginning of the new VA-15.  It was even worse for Dave Parsons who was his roomate and fraternity brother at the University of Michigan.  They went through flight training together.  Dave, P.C. and I used to spend a lot of time together on the flight deck after JO chow. P.C. was one of the good guys!  He was an experienced and skilled combat pilot.

PC's loss was personal and it demonstrated to us that if P.C. could be shot down, any of us could.



Do you remember these great smiles on last cruise.
PC's loss changed this! We were in a fight for our lives now. We all knew it but we would never talk about it.

Do you remember this photo of the 100 trap celebration from last cruise?
Two (PC on the left and Lee Cole on the right) of the eight were shot down the first two weeks of this line period!

We had lost that feeling of invincibility that commonly allows young men to perform in risky situations. 
We had to replace that feeling with an aggressive warrior professional mentality to survive the next four months!




 This combat chart is from the collection of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum  and is a
gift from the family of LCDR Keith Strickland


July 5th- I flew as a bomber against the Don Son Fuel Storage Area at Haiphong (4 Mk 82s, 2 MK 81s).
I was awarded my 3rd NCM with Combat V for this mission.


 
July 6th- I flew as a bomber against the Hai Duong RR/Highway bridge (4 MK 82s, 2 MK 81s) (200 th Intrepid landing)

July 7th- I flew as a bomber at Phu LY southeast of Hanoi (4 MK82s, 2 MK 81s)

July 8th- I flew again as abomber at Hai Duong (4 MK 82s, 2MK 81s)

July 9th- I did not fly that day (SDO)

                LCDR Ed Martin, VA-34 was shot down by a SAM . He was captured and spent he rest of the war as a POW.
           He was released in February 1973 and went on to become Commander of the Sixth Fleet and retired from
           the Navy as a Vice Admiral.

July 10th- I flew a bomber mission south of t the DMZ in South Vietnam,  4 Mk 82s

July 11th- I flew a bomber mission and expened 4 MK 82s

July 12th- I flew two missions that day
                   The first was an Iron Hand mission in support of a strike at Hai Duong. I expended 8 Zuni rocktets from two LAU 10 pods
                    The second was a bomber mission. I expended 4 Mk 82s and 2 Mk 81s

July 13th- I flew as a bomber on a strike to Hai Duong and expended 4 Mk 117s. Mk 117s were old non thermally coated fat bombs. (my 130th mission)


Keeping Spirits Positive in the Ready Room


It seems as if Bob Hamel is always the SDO in these pictures. Here he is passing out some information to the next flight: left to right- Dixie Culler, Ron Gerard, Ron Gibson, and Moon Moreau.

Fortunately, we had a professional group of pilots and strong support from the ground officers, Chief Petty officers and sailors.

The atmosphere in the ready room was always positive.

We used humor as a way to keep up our spirits even though we had lost two of our pilots during the second line period.

The junior officers had two objects of our practical jokes, both people who took themselves much too seriously:
Frog Wigent, the CO of VA-34 and
Frenchy LeBlanc, the XOI of VSF-3

CDR "Frog" Wigent, CO of VA-34- Frog was humorless and took himself way too seriously.  We tried to help him be more cheerful by paying him special attention. We had one of those farm sounds play toys that existed in 1967 in the ready room.  It had a frog selection that made a frog sound.  At appropriate times, our SDO would select the VA-34 ready room on the "bitch box" and pull the string and out would come the frog sound.  We also purchased frog toys at the Navy Exchanges and our wives sent a variety of them.  When we got wind (we had an intelligence network) of which airplane "The Frog" would be flying on a mission, we managed to sneak a toy frog  on the seat of his ejection seat ejection seat to greet him when he climbed in. I guess we sort of got under his skin because  he expressed displeasure on occasion. There are two more Frog stories to tell but they will come later.

CDR "Frenchy" Leblanc, XO of VSF-3
- Frenchy was
humorless and took himself way too seriously.  We tried to help him be more cheerful by paying him special attention.  We decided to paint the door of his XO stateroom gold rather that the existing color of VSF-3, red. For some reason, this made him mad.  He expressed his displeasure to our CO, Cdr Kelly Carr.  Kelly enjoyed telling us how upset he was.  Frency had his door repainted and posted a guard (paid a Marine) to watch his door at night. Someone bribed the Marine to leave his station and Frenchy's door was painted gold again. Our slogan "Make Frency's Door Gold Again" (not really, sort of a Trump reference). Frenchy was livid. But, what could he do, tell our CO or CAG that he had paid a Marine to guard his door and those VS-15 JO's painted it gold anyway.  CAG would have laughed him out of his office.

Biweekly Cartoon Newsletter- Somehow a weekly or biweekly cartoon newsletter was distributed to the ready rooms and CAG office. Who were the subjects of the cartoons?  You guessed right; Frog and Frenchy. I don't actually know who was responsible for publishing the cartoon newsletter but my money is on John "Smedly" Newman.

Note:  These morale enhancers continued throughout the cruise and beyond in  Frog's case.

The Blue Shoes Award




We continued the tradition of the awarding The Blue Shoes Award to the officer who "had stepped on it the most"  during the End of the Line parities or on stand down days.  (about once a line period)


The winner usually received it for some incident "on the beach" (on liberty during in port periods) or something related to the traditional competition for the award between the Senior Officers ("Heavies") and the "JO Mafia".

No JOs ever got the award.  But, it was very close on one occasion when Black Mac nominated John Newman. The "heavies" made a concerted effort to flip some of the JO vote.  But Smeds  turned the tables on Black Mac with a brilliant rebuttal speech which resulted in some of the "heavies" voting for Black Mac. I'll give you the "Rest of the Story" a bit later!




We had only one USO show this Deploymen
t that I can remember.
But it was a good one- Miss America and her troup came visiting at the end of the line period


They arrived by COD.
Captain McVey welcomed them aboard.

They performed on the mess decks and visited the sailors in their work spaces



Replenishing Weapons at Sea

We were expending bombs, rockets, and missiles at a high rate while on the line. We had to rearm at sea about every three nights when we were not flying.


AEs are the kind of ships that carry weapons

Assembling thermally coated MK 82s with snakeye fins on the hangar deck

Hoisting an old non thermally coated MK 111 Fat Bomb



July 17th to July 25th- Intrepid's First Port Visit (Yokosuka, Japan)

Intrepid left "the line" about July 14th and  after passing Hainan Island, steamed north for a port visit In Yokosuka Japan.

July 17th- I flew A4C 148440 from the ship to NAS Atsugi Japan. (1.1 hours)
July 25th- I flew A4C 149619 from NAS Atsugi to the Intrepid. (1.3 hours)




The Nippon Aircraft Company was located on Atsugi Base.  All we had lots of corrosion control work done on our aircraft there during our deployment.

NAS Atsugi

Several other squadron and airwing aircraft also flew in to Atsugi during the Yokosuka in port period.  I don't know how many VA-15 aircraft flew in to Atsugi during Yokosuka port visit.  Gene Atkinson remembers flying Jerry Tuttle's wing to Atsugi because he remembers flying around Mt. Fuji.



NAS Atsugi is a little northwest of Yokohama.
Yokosuka Base is a little southeast of Yokohama.

Mt. Fuji is the triangle located west northwest of Yokohama on the map on the left.

On this trip, we took a sample of an aircraft part (flap indicator hinge) that we were having problems with.  These hinges were made out of aluminum and were failing at a high rate.  The flap indicator hinge enabled the pilot to see the position of the flaps on a small guage in the cockpit.  In peacetime, this would have resulted in a down aircraft.  But, as it was a combat situation, we flew without it.  We left the flaps up during taxi on the flight deck  and then lowered them to the 1/2 flap position for the cat shot.  We knew that the flaps were proper for the cat shot because the final checker used hand signals to confirm we had 1/2 flaps for the launch.  We used full flaps for landing.  We knew that we had good flaps for landing by the feel of the aircraft and the pilot and LSO could tell by the airspeed/attitude of the plane on final approach.

While we were in Atsugi, the Japanese Company copied the hinges and replaced them with steel.  We had about 50 of these hinges manufactured which solved the problem.

I don't know how this arrangement was set up but I expect that this work and the corrosion control/repainting work on our aircraft was coordinated through COMFAIRWESTPAC (Commader Fleet Air Western Pacific) which was located at Atsugi.


Atsugi was a nice change from life on the ship.  We stayed at the BOQ and enjoyed beers and steak at the Officer's Club.  Most of us got haircuts at the BOQ.  We also enjoyed getting a "hotsi bath" or two at the BOQ.  It included a steam room, bath by an attendant and a complete massage. 

My attendant's name was Nancy.  She was attractive in her late 20s.  I would meet Nancy again 22 years later during my last tour in the Navy when I was assigned duty at COMFAIRWESTPAC.  As a senior Captain, I lived in 06 Quarters on the base with my family. My wife and two daughters and I routinely  had family "hotsi baths".  Our attendant  was 50 year old Nancy.


After a day or so at the BOQ, I decided to go to Tokyo for a few days.


I took the Yokosuka/Sobu Line (in dark  blue)

I stayed at the Old Sanno Military Hotel in downtown Tokyo not far from the Imperial Palace.  The pilot who flew with me to Atsugi did not join me on my trip to Tokyo.

The Sanno was run by the military as a Field Grade Officer billeting facility. I was able to get a room as a Navy Lt. The Sanno was a western style hotel with a great bar and restaurant with affordable rates and prices. Western style hotels in Tokyo were expensive even in those days.

I decided to call the American Embassy. I learned from the junior pilots in VF-143 on my 1st Class Midshipman cruise on the Constellation that if you wanted english speaking female companionship, the thing to do was to call an embassy or consulate of an english speaking country (US, British, or Australian) in a foreign port. All you had to do was tell whoever answered the phone (if they were female) that there were some Navy carrier pilots in town who were looking for a fun time. The response was usually "how many of you are there and where do you want to meet".

 I called the American Embassy in Tokyo and talked to a young female and she set someone up and a time to meet at the Sanno Hotel Bar.




I arrived a bit early and noticed a young woman at a table near the bar and decided it was the person I was looking for.  But, I was wrong.  She was a reporter for an American newspaper.  The reporter was quite willing to keep me company but I excused myself when I noticed whom I thought looked like the right person entering the bar.  We met, she told me that she was a civilian secretary working for the Air Force at Yokota AFB near Tokyo.  She even showed me her blue civilian employee DOD ID card.

After a tough couple of weeks on Yankee Station, I needed some TLC.  She provided it.  We visited some temples and shrines and experienced some Tokyo nightlife.  We had a great couple of days (and nights).  I got her official work phone number and returned to Atsugi.

You might wonder why I think it necessary to relate some of the details of this relationship.  Well, I think that I would not be honest to not do so.  To be sure, I am not relating all the details; just enough to tell my story.  I'm not going to try to justify these actions, just report them.  I plan to go into this aspect of my life in future chapters because it affected both my professional and personal life significantly.

Also, this is my  story and does not imply that anyone else in the squadron did likewise.  I think most of the guys in the squadron went on normal liberty associated with the Gulf of Tonkin experience.



We flew our aircraft from Atsugi back onboard Intrepid on July 25th

Intrepid must have been about 300 miles or so south of Atsugi because the flight lasted only 1.3 hours. The ship returned to Yankee Station on June 29th and began combat operations on July 30th.




The USS Forrestal (CV 59) Fire on July 29th, 1967

The Forrestal fire occurred sometime on July 29th. I think it was about noon or so.  We were only a few miles from Forrestal when the accident happened. Captain Fair maneuvered Intrepid about a mile or so from  the Forrestal to assist in any way possible.




This is what happened based on what I saw, watching the Navy flight deck video, and discussions with Dave Dollarhide who ejected from one of the A4s directly involved in the fire.

As the aircraft on the flight deck were conducting their prelaunch cycle, an F4B Phantom fighter on the starboard side aft of the island had a Zuni rocket fire across the deck; due to a radiation from one of the ship's radars or being overheated by a starting unit next to the aircraft.  The Zuni rocket hit Dave Dollarhide's A4 aircraft which was on the port side of the ship and was fully fueled and loaded with bombs. Some of the aircraft had old non thermally coated bombs due to the shortage of MK 80 thermally coated bombs discussed previously. Dave had no choice but to eject from his aircraft before it was fully consumed by fuel fed fire and bomb explosions. Several of the other A4 pilots on the port side had to do the same thing.  Johh McCain's aircraft was nearby in the fire zone. But John decided to climb up and to the right of the cockpit and grab the inflight refueling probe and swing down to the deck and run away from the fire narrowly escaping serious injury.  Initially the fires consisted of fuel fed fires.  But, as flight deck fire fighters and supervisors approached the burning aircraft in an effort to put out the fires, the bombs began exploding killing and injuring many of them;  134 people were killed and 164 were injured.




A destroyer from the Forrestal Battle group and a helo helping to fight the fire.


The Forrestal limped into port at Subic Bay after the fire. She returned to the states for repairs and made a Mediterranean deployment in 1968.

VA-15 was one of the squadrons in the airwing for that deployment.

Pilots from the Forrestal airwing were given the option to return to the states with the ship or cross deck to one of the other aircraft carriers on Yankee Station.  John McCain decided to cross deck to the USS Oriskany and was shot down after a few missions and demonstrated exceptional courage as a POW.

LCDR Ron Boyle chose to crossdeck to the Intrepid and fly with us in  VA-15.



Our Second Line Period (July 30th - August 25th) (27 days)

There were three carriers on Yankee Station during our second line period.
USS Intrepid (CV 11), the USS Constellation (CV 64), and USS Oriskany (CV 34)

The Intrepid was the day carrier due to the lack of having a BARCAP capability.  Oriskany and Oriskany alternated as the day and night carriers.

The Intrepid and Constellation airwings had similar tactics for approaching major strike targets.  We believed in the effectiveness of our ECM equipent and chose to fly at 18,000 feet or so enroute to the target avoiding the 37mm and 57mm AAA non radar controlled barrage fire. The Oriskany airwing either did not believe in the effectiveness of their ECM equipment or were not comfortable with the reliability of the equipment.  As a result, they chose to fly at an enroute altitude of 10,000 to 12,000 thousand feet making them vulnerable to the 37mm/57mm AAA non radar controlled barage fire.


USS Oriskany (CV 34)
The Intrepid and Constellation airwings lost about 25 aircraft each during their Yankee Station deployments using the higher altitide tactics.

The Oriskany airwing lost about 80 aircraft during their deployment using the medium altitude enroute tactics.

I don't know whether Constellation and Oriskany used SAM tactics similar to ours. 

We did not lose any Iron Hand aircraft using our Iron Hand tactics.


Second Line Period Flights (July 30th - August 25th)


July 30th-  I flew a regular cycle bombing mission and expended 4 MK 82s
July 31st-  I flew a regular cycle road recce mission and expended 4 LAU 3 pods of 2.75 rockets

August 1st-   I flew aregular cycle mission and expended one pod of LAU 3 2.75 rockets
August 2nd-  I flew a short cycle mission to Cam Pha and expended two pods of LAU 3 2.75 rockets
August 3rd-   I flew two missions on August 3rd:
                     
 In my first mission, I flew a regular cycle mission but did not expend any ordnance. I logged over an hour of actual instrument time.                      
 
I suspect that this mission was a weather reconnaissance flight. When we had bad weather, CTF 77 (Commander Task Force 77-the Yankee
 Station Commander would order a section of aitcraft check out the enroute weather to the North Vietnam coastline and radio back a weather
report.
 
See A Weather Recce Sea Story below

My second misison was a regular cycle mission. I expended 4 Mk 82s


           
A Weather Recce Sea Story

This as good a time as ever to tell a sea story about such a weather recce that I remember flying.  The weather was terrible and there was no chance
that we were going to fly any missions over the beach.  I think the North Vietnamese knew that also.  Well, my wingman on this particular flight was
Bob Hamel normally flew with Pete Schoeffel.  There was no way that the Operations s Officer was going to be assigned a weather recce, so I got 
chance to fly with Bob.

Well, I worked us below the overcast, only about 1,000 feet above the water and  got sight of land.  I figured that  the AAA and SAM  sites would stand
down in the bad weather, so I flew us in over the  rice paddies at about 450 kts  about a mile inland.  I descended the flight to about 500 feet. We flew
over  workers in the field and I thought they actually waved at us (Perhaps they were shoting at us!). Well, I made a turn back to the south and  in a
short distance ahead of us was  a high point of land extending into the clouds.  I had to increase our rate of turn to about 60 degrees angle of
bank  and about 3Gs or so. Bob was on my left wing so  the turn was in to him.  He tucked in to a pefect parade position.  I could see his eyes trained
on me. I remember thinking that only in a squadron that had  this much experience could I have no doubt that he could fly such a perfect wing position
under these circumstances.



A Story about how the warm humid summer weather on Yankee Station affected life on the Intrepid

This reminds me about another interesting aspect about flying on Yankee Station in the summer.  It was hot. It was humid.  The water in the Tonkin
Gulf was very warm, about 87 degrees or so.  The Intrepid did not have air conditioning. So, the coolest you could get the ship was about 87 degrees.

The Captain did his best to drive the ship into any rain squalls that were around the ship as planes were being respotted between cycles so that the
 rain and a little bit of wind might cool the ship down a bit. He got very good at having the ship break out of the weather just in time for the launch and
 recovery of aircraft.

Still, we had to learn how to sleep under these conditions.  We were tired but our staterooms were hot and humid. So, we learned to get into a
shower briefly (so to speak) in our skivvies (whitey tightees and a T shirt) to get wet and then get into our bunk with a small fan evaporating the
water.  The evaporation of water cools the surface of the skin.  It worked.

But, some very strange organisms decided to grow in areas of our bodies we preferred they not grow. Possum had written Sarah about our problem.
One day, a case of House of Fuller foot spray (about 90% alcohol) arrived in the mail.  Imagine this scene. The person with unacceptable growth of
organisms in body creases would get naked and lean over holding himself steady against a bunk with one hand and grabbing his private parts with the
other.  His shipmate would spray the affected area.  I think you could hear the screams from a few decks away.  But, it worked!







A great source of information about the life of a A4 Skyhawk pilot onboard Intrepid during the 1967 cruse from the prospective of a junior officer is this book:

"Tripple Sticks" by Bernard Fipp



Bernie was a pilot in VA-34 in our sister A4 squadron, VA-34.

His tale recounts such details as life in a junior officer bukroom and attempts to cool their living space in the warm and muggy conditions of the summer in the Gulf of Tonkin among other subjects.



August 4th-  More bad weather. I flew a  night flight  under Mk 24 parachute flares and expended 2 Mk 82s and 1 Mk 81
August 5th-   Another night flight. I did not expend any ordnance and flew  an actual instrument night approach and trap

August 6th-  I didn't fly that day (I was probably SDO again)

August 7th-  I flew  a regular cycle mission and expended  4 MK 82s and 50 rounds of 20mm. It must have been a RESCAP situation.( My 140th mission)
August 8th-  I flew two regular cycle combat missions. No mission details.
August 9th-  I flew a bomber mission and expende d 6 Mk 82s

August 10th- It was an interesting day.  There were several major strikes to Hai Duong from all three carriers that day. I flew two missions that day.
                     
I was a bomber on a major strike to Hai Duong on my first mission early in the day.
                      
On my second mission, I expended 8 Zuni rockets (2 LAU 10 pods worth) and 50 rounds of 20mm flying an Iron Hand mission with Possum.
It must have started as an Iron Hand mission but turned into a RESCAP mission because of the 50 rounds of 20mm. What wasn't debriefed in
CVIC at the end of the flight was that only 7 of those rockets were fired at the target. 

I fired the 8th towards Possum early in the flight.  I was flying in combat cruise switching sides during some extreme maneuvering when I
 inadvertently fired a single Zuni.  It went harmlessly below and behind Possum and he never saw it.  There was plenty of action going on at the
 time. I didn't tell him about it until several nights later when we were sharing some Johhy Walker Black in his stateroom.

                        
Also, on August the 10th, one of the VF-111 Sundowner pilots was shot down.  I don't know who or what
                  kind of a mission he was on; escourting a VFP-63 RF8 on a photo recon mission or as part of a section of
                  TARCAP.  Luckily, he was rescued. Perhaps one of the VALions who reads this will tell me more!

August 11th- I didn't fly that day.


This combat chart is from the collection of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum  and is a
gift from the family of LCDR Keith Strickland

This combat chart shows the strike groups' area of ingress over the Red River over SAM site #35 at Nam Dinh ond on to the northwest to Phu Ly where SAM site #88 is located. There were two important targets at Phu Ly; a raailroad yard and the railroad bridge over the tributary of the Red River which flows to the northeast.  Phu Ly is well defended by SAMs located at Nam DInh enroute (Site #35) as well as a radar controlled 85mm AAA site (# 174) north west of Nam Dinh and a SAM Site at the target (Site #88).  Phu Ly is also within the normal range of the MIG threat. Hanoi is located a short distance to the north north west from Phy Ly.  So, significant Iron Hand, BARCAP, and TARCAP support are rquired for strikes at Phu Ly.


August 12th- I flew two missions on August 12th.
                      
                      The first was an Iron Hand mission in support of a major strike to Phu Ly. I expended  4 Zuni rockets on that strike.


This combat chart is from the collection of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum  and is a gift from the family of
 LCDR Keith Strickland

My second mission on August 12th was an Iron Hand mission in support of a major strike to Haiphong.


I expect that we had three Iron Hand sections assigned to that strike; one to the west of Haiphong at site #99.


My section's assignment was to eliminate the SAM threat from sites #137 and #228 at Ken An airfied to the southeast of Haiphong. I expended one AGN 45 Shrike on that mission.  It was on that strike that I observed an SA 2 launch from one of the sites but it was command detonated over the site when I fired my Shrike "down the throat".  It was exhilerating to watch that Guideline missile explode raining debris over the missile site below.




The third section was probably assigned to the south of Haiphong at site #389.


                     
I think we had two VA-15 aircraft shot down during the Scond Line Period in August.  I'm not sure of the dates and times but I'll put tham in here for now and change them later if I get updated information.  In both cases, the pilots got wet but were rescued!


Case One- Ron Gerard:


This combat chart is from the collection of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum  and is a gift from the family of
 LCDR Keith Strickland

This combat chart shows the area east of Ninh Binh in northern Route Package 3 and southern Route Package 4. Ninh Binh is well defended by a SAM Site at the town and a few AAA sites (like #73) between NInh Binh and the coast.
I'm not sure if this is the area wher Ron Gerard's aircraft was hiy but it will do as an example for now.
Ron's aircraft was hit by 37mm or 57mm while conducting road reconnaisance to the southeast of Ninh Binh. The AAA hit the aircraft in the nose blowing it off the aircraft. The radio which was located in the nose was blown away. The only thing between Ron and the wind was a piece of armor plating which saved his life. The aircraft also suffered a hydraulic failure resulting in reduced hydraulic pressure to operate the landing gear and flight controls.
Ron's section leader advised the ship that Ron had no radio and that his aircraft was damaged and that he would be making a straight in approach to the ship.  The flight lead did not know that Ron had limited hydraulics. Ron used a back up compressed air system to blow the landing gear down. For some reason the LSO thought that Ron was a "nordo" (no radio) and did not know that Ron's aircraft was damaged. Ron's aircraft was trailing light brown smoke which wasn't typical of an A4C. It was typical of the A4Es on the Constellation.  The LSO thought that Ron''s aircraft was an A4E from the Connie making a pass on the wrong ship so waved Ron off.  Ron did not have enough manual flight control to execute a turn to the down wind leg so he ejected as he went past the LSO platform. (Wave me off will ya. I'll show you!) Ron landed in the water abeam the ship and was picked up by the Plane Guard Destroyer and returned to the ship by helo (The Angel).


Ron Gerard wet but back on deck.
Bob Cheyne with his red ordnance shirt was always where he should be.



Case Two- Dave Thornhill's Shoot Down:


This combat chart is from the collection of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum  and is a gift from the family of
 LCDR Keith Strickland

This combat chart shows the area which would normally be used for a strike on Hai Duong or on the west side of Haiphong.  The strike group would coast in about where the 03 is on the cost and proceed to the northwest toward the town of Ninh Giang and then head north northwest to Hai Duong or north north east to targets on the west side of Haiphong.  This route would keep the fixed SAM sites on the right or straight ahead.

I don't know which was the target area or the date of Thorny's shoot down. I'm hoping he will give me this information so I can update this entry. I don't know whether he was flying CAG Burrow's wing on the strike which he normally did or whether he might have been flying with Jerry Tuttle. I do know that he credits Jerrry Tuttle with saving his life on this strike so Tut probably was instrumental in keeping Thorny safe during the RESCAP. I do know that when the helo came in to pick up Thorny, it was too heavy to hoover so had to dump fuel to get lighter.  In doing so, the helo dumped the fuel on top of Thorny in the water.  Eventually, he was picked up and returned to Intrepid, wet but happy to be alive!


Thory,wet but happy to be back onboard Intrepid !
Left to right: Bob Cole, Thorny, me, Keith Strickland. Pete Schoefel is over my left shoulder.
Photo is copied from Intrepid's 1967 Cruise Book



August 13th- I flew one regular cycle mission on August 13th and expended 4 MK 82s
August 14th- I did not fly on August 14th
August 15th-  I flew two missions on August 15th:
                       The first mission was a regular cycle mission.  I fired a MK 4 gun pod on that flight. (It was my 150th mission)
                        The second mission was a short cycle mission on which I expended 4 Mk 82 bombs
August 16th-  I flew a regular cycle mission and expended 4 Mk 82 bombs
August 17th-  I flew a regular cycle mission and expended 4 MK 82s and 2 Mk 81s.



Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA)

The strike leader or flight leader gives a debriefs in CVIC immediately after landing which includes what damage he thinks we did on the target; reports like 100% bombs on target".  But how do we know for sure that the target has been destroyed and we don't have to go back and hit it again. There were various photographic collectors outside the ship that provided such information but usually too long after the fact to be useful in the short term.  If the target is important enough and near real time feedback is desired, an airwing RF8 will fly a BDA flight immediately after the strike.  The film is developed and then evaluated by the photo interpreters in CVIC. In this case, the center span of the bridge is confirmed to be broken and the bridge is out of service for now. 



VFP-63 RF8


A photo interpreter at work



Barracks Before the Strike

Barracks After the Strike




August 18th-  My mission on August 18th was an interesting one. After flying my mission, I returned to the ship and entered the break for a normal recovery.  But as I initiated my turn from the 180 position opposite the LSO platform on the port aft end of the flight deck, I noticed that my elevator trim would not increase with my decrease in air speed. I had to hold a lot of back pressure to keep the nose at the correct attitude. I notified the Air Boss in the tower (Pri Fly) about my problem and after consultation with our ready room, they decided to bingo me to the Marine Corps base at Chu Lai.  It turned out that if I should bolter on my pass that I would not be able to rotate the aircraft and would have to eject resulting in the loss of the aircraft.  I needed fuel for the bingo so I found the duty tanker and got a during (wet plug) before leaving the area of the ship.








Chu Lai was located in I Corps in South Vietmam just south of Da Nang and Hue.

The Marines flew A4 Skyhawks there so they ha the
 maintenance capability to resolve the problem.


My brief R&R (Rest and Rrecreation) at Chu Lai on August 18th, 1967:

So, I flew to Chu Lai and landed without incident.  I talked to the maintenance guys there and it turned out that they had only A4Es and did not have the part for an A4C.  I asked them if they could use the A4E part to set the trim to just below landing trim (about 6 degrees nose up) and then disconnect the trim. That way I could fly the plane dirty (gear and flaps down) to the boat at 150 kts or so and then land. The aircraft trim of 6 degrees of nose up would allow me to comfortable fly the aircraft to the ship at 150 kts.  This would be a little under trimmed for landing which would allow me to ease the nose down in close if I needed to.  They agreed to my plan but said they wouldn't have my plane ready until the morning. So, I checked into the BOQ and then went to the Officers Club to get something to eat.  I discovered that I had arrived on steak night.  So, I had steak and a fresh salad with some beer. That was my brief R&R.

I did have a pleasant surprise though. Remember that Marine who drove with me after we got our wings in February, 1965 from Kingsville, Texas to Memphis for Maintenance Officers training? (see Chapter Three) Well, he was there at the Officer's Club in Chu Lai.  He was there for his Vietnam tour.  He spent the first party of his tour flying Skyhawks in support of ground operations.  He was now in the second portion of his tour, being a ground FAC (Forward Air Controller) with Marines in the field.  He was taking a break enjoying steak night also.  What a coincidence!

I got up early (August 19th) and flew with the landing gear and flaps down (dirty) to the ship and landed with no problem at the end of the second cycle time. Our maintenance guys replaced the A4E part with an A4C one and the plane was as good as new.



August 19th-  I flew a second mission and expended 6 mk 81s (This mission qualified me for my 14th Strike Flight Air Medal)

August 20th-   I did not fly on August 20th

August 21st-   A very unusual flight.  I flew a regular cycle flight to a place called Port Wallut near Haiphong.


This combat chart is from the collection of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum  and is a gift from the family of LCDR Keith Strickland






Port Wallut is well northeast of Haiphong on the east side of the Cam Pha peninsula; somewhere to the south of the red circle with a dot on the extreme right of the chart.

I expended a pod of Zuni rockets on the regular cycle flight (1.5 hours).

I suppose the target might have been a boat or two in the Port Wallut harbor area.


August 22nd-  I flew a mission to the Nam Dinh area and expended one LAU 3 pod of 27 2.75 rockets. It was probably a road recce flight.

August 23rd-  I did not fly on August 23rd

August 24th- I went back to Port Wallut. This time though the ordnance was 2 MK 83 1000 # bombs.



Apparently, one of the photo interpreters must have discovered a hard target (a high priorty target qualifying for MK 83 1000# bombs)


It was my last mission of the Second Line Period and my
160th mission.



"Rig the Barricade" - "This is Not a Drill"




Every once in awhile after the last aircraft has landed in a recovery, the Air Boss  will call out to the flight deck crew to "Rig the barricade".

The crew responds in a clockwork like performance to see if they can rig it properly in a faster time than during the last drill.

After the barricade is rigged, the Air Boss will make a call like "Great job, bravo zulu 1 minute and 57 seconds".  Or perhaps, "Airman Jones, what were you thinking of when you ....."

However, occasionally, it is not a drill. Like one day when VSF-3 aircraft 110 could not not lower any of his landing gear.  Perhaps he had a complete hydraulic failure and the back up system didn't work. If he had been able to get only one main landing gear down, the Air Boss would have directed him to eject alongside of the ship because it was too dangerous to try to make a trap or to use the barricade.  But, in this case, with no gear at all, it was safe to use the barricade. When using the barricade, the pilot made a normal carrier approach only instead of getting a wire, the aircraft is brought to a stop with the barricade. The only difference is that you cannot wave off in close because being snagged by the top of the barricade could be disastrous.


VSF-3 aircraft 110 making a gear up approach to a barricade landing.

A barricade landing normally causes relatively little aircraft damage.  In this case, the centerline drop tank and both TERs have impacted the deck.  The airframe damage to the leading edge of the tail and wings is usually repairable in a couple of days.



Jerry Tuttle Makes a Statement about VA-15's Maintenance Prowess and Combat Readiness

Again, I'm not sure on what date this event took place.  But, it is most likely that it occurred a few days prior to our Cubi/Hong Kong port visit at the end of our Second Line Period. The scene; the airwing was scheduled for a major strike sometime after noon.  Every weapons capable/"up" aircraft that wasn't blocked in the hangar bay would participate in the mission. VA-15 was scheduled to fly 12 of the 14 aircraft aboard. 

The first thing Jerry Tuttle did was to make sure that none of our aircraft were blocked in the hangar bay. Next, he made sure that Pete Schoeffel had our 13th aircraft scheduled as a mission spare in case either  VA-34 or VSF-3 had an aircraft that went "down on deck" (developed a maintenance problem that precluded it from going on the strike) and didn't have a spare on deck to take it's place. Then in a show of confidence in our maintenance folks, he arranged for our 14th aircraft to be launched to Cubi for "corrosion control" earlier in the day before the big strike.

Sure enough, during the pre launch sequence, either VA-34 or VSF-3 had an airfcraft go down prior to launch and  they didn't have a go spare available. So, our spare was a go bird and was launched along with all our 12 scheduled aircraft on the strike.  That meant we had all 14 of our aircraft off the ship at the same time.  As soon as the last strike aircraft was launched and the flight deck was clear, our Maintenance Control Officer, Lt Morris E. Shepard, brought a folding  "beach type" chair out on the flight deck along with a newspaper.  The crowd went wild!  Every member of the VA-15 Maintenance Department "beamed" with pride. Jerry Tuttle had made a statement about our high level of maintenance prowess and combat readiness.

I remembered this and when I was CO of VA-15 in 1978 on an ORE (Operational Readiness Evaluation), I followed Jerry Tuttle's lead and had all our A7Es launched on the final big strike mission.  The Commanding Officer of the USS America (CV-66)  got on the mike from the ship's bridge and using the the shipwide communication system (1MC) announced that VA-15 had just launched every one of it's aircraft on the final strike of the ORE.  The morale of our maintenance troops rose accordingly with pride in their accomplishment.


August 28th to September 14th- Intrepid's Second Port Visit (Cubi Point/Hong Kong)


                     
August 27th- I flew off the ship from the Tonkin Gulf in A4C 148446 to NAS Cubi Point (2.2 hours). The other airwaing aircraft may have flown off to Cubi also.

Intrepid arrived at Cubi Point on August 28th or 29th for a day or so and then went to Hong Kong for about a week.  Intrepid  returned to Cubi Point for a day or so before leaving Cubi about September 13th before returning to the Tonkin Gulf about September 15th.  It was typical for an aircraft carrier to go to Hong Kong from Cubi and then return to Cubi before returning to the Tonkin Gulf (some political thing).


This schedule gave Jerry Tuttle the opportunity to play a practical joke on Frog Wigent, the CO of VA-34

Because the ship was required to come into port at Cubi before and after going to Hong Kong, it provided the Maintenance Department the opportunity to leave a corrosion control detachment at Cubi Point while the Intrepid was in Hong Kong.  So, Jerrry Tuttle not only decided to repaint one of our aircraft, but also to execute another more nefarious plan. I don't know who he left behind to coordinate this "nefarious plan, but I suspect it might have been Shep. VA-34 only left a "skeleton crew" behind to provide
security for their aircraft.  As it turned out, their skeleton crew" was insufficient to provide adequate security. Perhaps their people were more focused on liberty in Olongapo than standing the required line security watches.

When the VA-34 security people "had their backs turned", our people drove an aircraft tractor up to one of their aircraft and towed it into our corrosion control hangar. They stripped the existing paint with the VA-34 markings, did whatever corrosion control was required, and repainted the aircraft with the VA-15 pain scheme with side number 313 (the numbers X08 and X13 were not traditionally used for some reason). When the work was complete, they towed the aircraft to the VA-15 line. When it was time to fly to the aircraft back to Intrepid for the Third Line Period, VA-15 flew 15 aircraft back to the ship.  VA-34 sent 14 pilots to fly back to the ship but they were one aircraft short. The 14th pilot had to fly out to the ship on the COD.

Frog Wigent was more than upset. He was livid.  He went to CAG Burrows and demanded that Jerry Tuttle be court martialed.  CAG through Fog out of his office saying that if Frog had better control of his aircraft, it would never have happened!!



I did not participate in the Hong Kong Port visit. Instead, I lead a section of squadron aircraft from Cubi Point to Atsugi via Kedena AFB in Okinawa.



August 28th-  I flew A4C 148446 from Cubi Point to Kadena AFB, Naha, Okinawa (2.3 hours)                   



Kadena AFB, Naha, Okinawa

August 28th- I made a phone call from Kadena AFB to Yokota AFB to arrange a meetup in Tokyo
Then, I flew A4C 148446 from Kadena AFB to NAS Atsugi, Japan (2.7 hours)




Upon landing at Atsugi, we turned the two aircraft in to Nippon Aircraft Company for repainting.
I think I was selected for this responsibility because I was a qualified section leader and because of my experience as the Aircraft Division Officer last cruise.

I don't remember who came with me. But, we checked in to the BOQ  I'm sure we went to the O'Club for a few beers and a steak.
We most likely got a haircut and a "h
otsi bath" or two at the BOQ; possibly with Nancy again.



Atsugi BOQ

Hotsi Bath
The water was very hot!

Hotsi Baths always included a message
and a manicure if you wanted one.

After a couple of days in Atsugi, my wingman stayed in Atsugi and I took the train to Tokyo (probably about September 2nd or so)
to meet up with my American friend I had met during our first in port period.


This time I stayed at her apartment


On some days, she had to work. So, I slept in and then took the subway to some shrine or other touristy location on my own and then met her at a restaurant. We enjoyed both Japanese and western style restaurants and food.   We didn't go out drinking or partying.  I didn't have much cash available and she had to work. So, we usually went to her place after the restaurant.

One night, while we were asleep, someone broke in to the apartment and stole all the cash (dollars) I had (about $200). We discovered the break-in when she was getting up for work. After she left  for work, I decided to report the break in to the building manager who spoke pretty good English.  My friend was very upset that I reported the theft but wouldn't say why. I'll reveal that a bit later.  She loaned me about $100 to get by on during my trip back to Atsugi and the ship.


After a little over a week in Tokyo, I returned to Atsugi to pick up the newly repainted aircraft .

September 11th- I flew from Atsugi to Kadena (2.3 hours) and then from Kadena to Cubi Point (2.2 hours).
Our two aircraft that had flown into Cubi from Atsugi must have been loaded on after our return to Cubi because there is no fly on recorded in my log book.

The ship left Cubi Point and returned to Yankee Station to begin our third line Period.


Our Third Line Period (September 16th - October 12th) (26 days)






I don't know whether we ever had four carriers on Yankee Station during this line period but it does represent the all out effort the Navy and Air Force made during this time frame. We did have three airwings from three carriers participate in Alpha Strikes to Hanoi, Phu Ly, Hai Duong, Haiphong, and the Thanh Hoa Bridge.


The North Vietnamese countered with expending their SAMs freely and sending their MIGs almost to the coast on occasion.


There were several engagements with MIGs including one which involved many MIGs  and twelve A4s during one strike to the Hai Duong Railroad and Highway Bridge between Hanoi and Haiphong.


The Third Line Period was Action Packed!

I flew 22 combat missions and 3 non combat missions during the third lone period.

September 16th-  Regular cycle, bombing mission, 4 MK 82s

September 17th - Regular cycle, bombing mision, 6 MK 81s
September 17th-  Regular cycle, bombing mission

September 18th-  Short cycle, Iron Hand mission, Haiphong, 2 AGM-45 Shrikes, 50 rnds 20mm
September 18th-  Short cycle, Iron Hand mission, Haiphong, 1 AGM-45 Shrike,  4 Zuni rockets (LAU 10)

September 19th-  I did not fly (SDO?)

Daring Rescue Attempt

Somewhere during our time on Yankee Station, a small special forces team arrived onboard Intrepid by helo one evening after our last recovery.  The team consisted of a combination of American special forces and Montagnar tribesmen. They caused quite a stir on the mess decks when they had a meal before their operation.  The team departed by helo during the dark and were inserted somewhere in the vicinity of Thanh Hoa. Their mission; to find and extract an Air Force F4 crew who had been shot down on a Thanh Hoa bridge strike. The team encounterd numerous North Vietnamese army  personnel during their mission. There were many  enemy  soldiers  KIA without any  friendly casualties.  Unfortunately, the were unable to find and rescue the F4 pilots.  The team was extracted by helo and returned to the ship before sunrise.






The Montagnar (AKA Degar, AKA People of the Mountain in French) are an indigenous people of the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

The Montagnar were well versed in the jungle environment (like the Negredo in the Phillipines). The Montagnar were trained by American special forces early in the war and were invaluable in our  efforts against the Viet Cong and North Vietnam regulars.  The Montagnar were especially helpful in the defeat of the North Vietnamese during the Tet Offensive in 1968.


Back to "Routine" Flight Operations

September 20th- Regular cycle, bombing mission, 4 MK82s (my 15th Strike Flight Air Medal)

September 21st- Short Cycle, Iron Hand mission, Haiphong, 1 AGM-45, 4 Zuni rockets (LAU 10).
I was awarded my 1st Navy Achievement Medal with Combat V for this mission.

 

September 22nd through September 25th-- I did not fly (stand down?)

September 26th- Short Cycle, Iron Hand Mission, Haiphong, 1 AGM-45 Shrike.
 I was awarded my 1st Distinguished Flying Cross with Combat V for this mission.



I believe this DFC was in recognition of several Iron Hand missions flown between September 18th and September 26th where I expended 5 AGM-45 Shrikes and numerous Zuni rocktes from LAU 10 pods against North Vietnamese SAM sites in the highly defended Route Pack 6B area. I consider it as a recognition that our SAM tactics were effective!

We had a few days where we flew close air support missions for US Marines at Con Tien and other US military bases just south of the DMZ.




September 26th- a 2.0 combat mission (50 rnds 20mm) with landing at Da Nang Air Base,  "I Corps" South Vietnam
September 26th (my third flight that day), a non combat flight from Da Nang back to Intrepid
September 27th- I didn't fly that day
September 28th- a 1.3 combat mission from Intrepid landing at Da Nang (my 170th combat mission)
September 28th-  a non combat mission from Da Nang landing at Da Nang
September 28th (my third flight that day)- a non combat flight from Da Nang landing back on the Intrepid

Now, back to North Vietnam missions:

A not so routine mission for Dave Thornhill (Thorny) (again)

I am not sure of the date of this mission.  But I remember the important details. Thorny was flying CAG Burrow's wing again on a major strike in Route Pak 6B.  The weather was very marginal.  But CAG decided to descend below the overcast and continue to the target. Of course flying just below the overcast gave the gunners below a good idea of the fight's altitude (they had weather guessers too).  So they could set the 37mm/57mm destruct altitude accurately which provided dense barrage fire at the strike aircraft altitude. Luckily, the strike group managed to get to the target OK.  But, Thorny's aircraft took a direct hit to the cockpit on pull off.  The shell went through the cockpit from the left side  blowing the top of Thorny's ejection seat off and through the right side of the cockpit. The upper ejection seat actuator was gone so the seat could fire at any time.  Thorny managed to get to the coast OK but could not hear anything but the roar of the wind through the cockpit. He successfully returned to the ship and landed safely without the ejection seat firing on landing.  About as close as you can get!  CAG Burrows apologized to Thorny after the flight for putting him in danger!

Let's continue with the more routine stuff

September 29th- a 1.3 combat mission
September 30th- a 1.8 regular cycle, probably a RESCAP mission or Close Air Support Mission to I Corps", 2 LAU 10 rocket pods, 2 LAU 3 2.75" rocket pods , 50 rnd 20mm

October 1st-  I did not fly October 1st

October 2nd- a 1.8 mission carrying 2 Mk Gun pods, probably a close air support mission for the Marines south of the DMZ

October 3rd- a short cycle (1.3) Iron Hand mission to the port of Hon  Gai (well to the northeast of Haiphong).  The Port of Hon Gai consisted of numerous kearst type islands. 
I would fly numerous mining missions to Hon Gai in the summer of 1972.




October 3rd (my second mission)- a short cycle (1.3) Iron Hand mission to the Haiphong area, 1 AGM-45 Shrike, 4 Zuni rockets (LAU 10).

I was awarded my 4th NCM with Combat V for this mission.
 
A VSF-3 pilot was hit on a mission to the Haiphong area. He ejected as soon as he was safely off the coast as as his cockpit was on fire and was rescued.

October 4th- A short cycle (1.3) Iron Hand mission which turned in to a RESCAP mission for Pete Schoeffel

October 4th- A short cycle (1.2)  Haiphong, RESCAP , 4 Zuni rockets, continuing RESCAP for Pete Schoeffel
I was awarded my 2nd NAM with Combat V for this mission.
 


Our Operations Officer, LCDR Pete Schoeffel was shot down on a bombing mission west of Haiphong. His aircraft was on fire. No ejection was observed.   But, the next day, a picture of his military ID Card was on the front page of the Hanoi newspaper.  It was confirmed sometime later that he was a POW.  He survived for six years and five months as a POW (6 months as John McCain's roomate) until his release on March 14th, 1973. Shortly after his release in 1973, he visited Mary and me in our quarters in Bracknell, England while I was attending the Royal Air Force Staff College.



LCDR Pete Schoeffel, Operations Officer
Attack Squadron Fifteen VALions

Shot down October 4th,1967
POW October 1967- March, 1973

Commanding Officer of VA-82 (A7E Corsairs)
1974-1975

Retrired as a Captain US Navy on September 1st, 1982

Pete and I have grown to be very good friends.  He and his wife Jane live nearby in Jacksonville, Florida.  Pete and I ride together to two Navy functions a month; the monthly meeting of RETCAPTS (Retired Captains) on the sccond Wednesday of the month and the Bald Eagle Squadron of the Association of Naval Aviation which is held at the NAS Jacksonville Officers Club on the third Tuesday of the month. We share an interest in reading especially in Naval History. He is an excptionally fine gentlemen.


October 5th, 1967 MK 36 Destructor Mining Mission, Hai Duong Railroad and Highway Bridge
An Exciting Day for Me!

This mission was a major airwing strike flown to the Hai Duong Railroad and Highway bridge.  Hai Duong was located west of Haiphong on the main road/railroad access to Hanoi (circle in the upper left of the map below).  The target had been struck many times and the bridge was destroyed and the bridge parts, road rubble, and railroad tracks were on the banks and in the river. Intrepid had lost two aircraft and one pilot (Pete Schoeffel) in that effort. This bridge was exceptionally important to the Vietnamese. So, the objecive of the misson was to mine what was left so that the North Vietnamese could not repair it. We used a new technology weapon called Destructor MInes. There were two sizes of Destructor MInes; a MK 36 (Mk82 500#) or a MK 40 (MK 83 1000#). We only had the MK 82 version called the MK 36. Destructor Mines had a special infuence fuse whiich could detect metal objects (tools, even nails in work boots) and detonate the mine at the closest point of approach (CPA) of the metal object. We had about 18 aircraft (8 from VSF-3, 8 from VA-34, and 6 from VA-15) each loaded with 4 MK 36s for a total of 72 mines. One of the other carriers provided 4 BARCAP aircraft (2 sections)  between Hai Duong and Hanoi.  Our VF-111 Det 11 Sundowners flying all four of their F8C Crusaders flew two sections of TARCAP. VA-34 provided a division of Flak Suppressors (4 aircraft) and VA-15 provided three sections (6 aircraft) of Iron Hand anti sam aircraft: one section each on SAM site 399 (on the ingress route), 137 and 228 to our right southeast of Haiphong, and site 99 just to the southeast of Hai Duong.  To review, the strike group consisted of 4 BARCAP, 4 TARCAP, 4 Flak Supessors, 6 Iron Hand, and 18 bombers, a  total of about 36 aircraft.  VA-15 flew 12 of its 14 aircraft on this one stike.


Destructor Mines had Snakeye fins which increased the amount of steel fragments over conical fins.

The snakeye fins would open up increasing the angle of the bomb at impact.
 

This combat chart is from the collection of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum  and is a gift from the family of LCDR Keith Strickland. I have modified it a little with my Paint.net paint brush to show the route and draw the circles.

A Message from God?


On my way to the catapult for launch, I heard this message in my headset;
"You shouldn't  go on this mission today"!

Was this a message from God?  Does he know something that I should be afraid of?  Should I down my aircraft and abort the mission? I've never considered aborting a mission before.

I decided to go on the mission.  If Jerry Tuttle found out that I downed a perfectly good aircraft, I'd be in big trouble.

The Bottom LIne: I was more afraid of Jerry Tuttle than God!

The 18 mining aircraft with the 4 Flak Suppressor aircraft just ahead of the mining group flew on the ingress route indicated on the chart above just to the right of SAM site 399.  The 4 two sections of F4 Phantom BARCAP were stationed to the west and southwest of Hai Duong toward Hanoi under control of PIRAZ (the Yankee Station Air Defense ship, a cruiser).  VF-111 Det 11's two sections of F8C TARCAP were on our left between the main body and the MIG threat.  The sections of Iron Hand were orbiting their assigned SAM sites ready to fire down the throat Shrikes should a SAM lift off.  LCDR Jerry Tuttle was the leader of the main body with his 4 aircraft. The VSF-3 and VA-34 miners followed Jerry Tuttle.  I was the section leader of the last section planned to deliver mines on target (Tail End Charlie).  Because we were the last to roll in, I briefed my wingman, Steve Smith, one of the new guys who I hadn't flown with before, that I was going to pull off opposite to whatever direction most of the sections of aircraft used for their pull off.

The flight went well with no SAMs from Site 399 or the two sites near the abandoned airfield (circle to right of our track), 137 and 228.  We had some Firecan/Flapwheel AAA search indications but no lock ons (this was an indicator that MIGs were coming). The North Vietnamese didn't tend to fire when their own aircraft were in the area.  The PIRAZ ship announced the code word for MIGs airborne when we were abeam SAM site 399.  The TARCAP stayed wiith us and did not get distracted away.

When we were abeam the abandoned Ken An airfield (except for AAA) to our left, Jerry Tuttle thought he saw a Beagle aircraft in that direction, sometimes used  for airborne command and control, so he called out  a boggy in that direction.  The TARCAP went to  investigate.  The TARCAP found nothing and by the time they turned back, we were almost to the target.  As it turned out, none of the F8s saw any MIGs!

Then it got interesting.  The division of Flak Suppressors lead by LCDR Eddie Glreath (CAG OPS Officer) were engaged by 4 MIG aircraft.  The MIGs overshot (like they did with our Spads the last cruise) and the Flak Suppressors fired their Zuni rockets at them; no hits. The MIGs bugged out. Two other MIGs engaged a section of the main body sometime in the fray; no hits by either side.  The rest of us descended in to our roll ins and delivered our mines. Destructor Mines do not supply any spectacular BDA, they just hit and stick in the mud. They explode later when the repair workers arive with their tools.

There was a lot of non radar controlled 37mm and 57mm at the roll in altitude and in the bomb runs!

Most of the bombers pulled off to the right toward Haiphong and away from Hanoi.  I pulled off to the left. As soon as I pulled off (about 4,000 ft),  I felt the impact of a AAA shell.  I didn't know it at the time, but it hit just aft of the tail hook attach point, went through the bottom of the engine shroud (tail pipe) behind the engine turbine (thank goodness) and continued through the top of the engine tail pipe and out the tail in fragments.  Some of the hot engine exhaust was routed where it wasn't supposed to go (out the tail) burning the aluminum skin of the aircraft and turning on the fire warning light (the fire warning light sensors are attached to the tail pipe) and master caution light. I did see the solid red fire warning light and flashing yellow master caution light.  I continued my high G turn to the southeast and glanced at my engine instruments; all normal- EGT (exhaust gas temperature) and RPMs (near 100% and steady).  I transmitted that I was hit and had a fire warning light.  Steve Smith said "You're on fire". He saw black smoke from the smoldering aluminum. A4Cs don't leave a smoke trail; A4Es do.  I didn't think I was on fire because  my engine instruments were normal. I reduced power a little to see how it would react and to let Steve catch up.  He was a or two mile back.  After a while, my fire warning light went out. Appparently the sensor bunred up or something). I transmitted that my fire waning light was out. Steve transmitted, "you're still on fire".  I was flying at 4,000 feet because I wanted to stay as fast as I could to get "feet wet" (over the water) as soon as I could. I was doing about 550 kts. I didn't want to gain altitude at the cost of slowing down.

When I was passing a couple of miles to the east of the aboandoned Ken An airfield (position marked by the X in the chart below), I saw two MIG aircraft flying in the oppostite direction below my altitude.
I think they were about 3,000 feet. They were really no threat to me (we had a closure rate of about 900 kts or so) and I didn't think they would want to engage in  a fight that would take them close to the coast. I did call out "Pouncer 2, MIGs at 3 0'clock low".  I had adopted the personal call sign "Pouncer" as that was the Iron Hand mission call sign. I never learned whether all three sections of the the real Iron Hand aircraft looked for the MIGs! In fact, I just thought about this possibility as I am writing this.


This MIG 17 Fresco is on display at the "Mighty 8th Air Force" Museum just off Interstate 95 near Savannah.
There were two MIGs.  One was painted in a cammoflage paint scheme like this one from the 8th Air Force Meseum.

The other one was in the original non painted aluminum scheme; probably a Russian aircraft and pilot or at least a newly arrived MIG.

After my debrief with the Air Intelligence Officers in CVIC, they concluded that they were MIG 17 Frescos.

I don't remember which aircraft had the lead.


This combat chart is from the collection of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum  and is a gift from the family of LCDR Keith Strickland. I have modified it a little with my Paint.net paint brush to show the the area of my MIG engagement.


I thought we were "home free" until I saw both aircraft start a turn up towards Steve who was still about a mile behind me. Steve still thinks today that I was crazy to engage a section of MIGs when my aircraft was on fire. He didn't, an still doesn't buy my rationale that he was the target and that by attacking them, they would have to ignore him and counter my attack. Of course, the MIGs didn't know that I had only 75 rounds of 20 mm and wasn't much of a threat to them.  The engagement lasted about two turns with the MIGs not able to get an advantage.  The momentum of the engagement was to the southeast toward  the water. By the time we were about over SAM Site 399, the MIGs bugged out to the northwest.

As soon as we got about 10 miles or so "feet wet", I started a climb to higher altitude and slowed down so that Steve cold rendezvous with me and check me out. He inspected the jagged holes in the tail of my aircraft; AAA holes were usually bent in from a shell going from outside the aircraft in, not inside out. I was trailing some smoke but no fire.  On return to the ship., I had to wait until last to land because there was some concern that the area where the tailhook was attached might have been damaged by the AAA.  No one ever mentioned that they were considering having me eject by the side of the ship rather than take a chance that my aircraft might come apart on arrestment.

Just "Another Day at the Office"


There is a picture somewhere of the damage to my aircraft. I just haven't found it yet.



I was awarded my second DFC with Combat V for this flight.

I actually received the award on my next tour of duty as an Air Force Exchange F-105 Thunderchief instructor pilot.

They were amazed that it wasn't a Silver Star as it would have been in the Air Force.  Air Force awards were about one level higher than  in the Navy.

To my knowledge, no one in VA-15 was awarded a Silver Star.



My Short Meeting with Captain McVey on the Bridge



I was called to the bridge to report to Captain McVey, not after getting a One Wire.  We were way past that state of training.  The call came to the ready room. So, I went up to the bridge to see what he wanted to talk to me about.  Maybe, he wa going to congratulate me on getting my damaged aircraft back on deck with noone getting hurt. Nope!  He wanted to tell me that he had received a message from an "Intelligence Agency" wanting to know if there was a pilot named  Lt Bo Smith on the Intrepid.  It seems that he (me) was spending some time with one of their analysts in Tokyo.  They just wanted to validate my identity. So much for my friend in Tokyo being a secretary with the Air Force at Yokota AFB.  That was just a cover for her real job, an analyst for "The Intelligence Agency"!



Back to the Combat Missions

October 6th- I flew a short cycle (0.9 hours) on a bombing mission to Nan Dinh, 4 MK82s, 2 MK 81s.
I was awarded my 5th NCM with Combat V for this mission.


October 6th- I flew a short cycle (1.4 hours). I don''t have the bomb load or target. But it required 2 trips to th e tanker. Interesting! (my 180th mission)

  October 7th- I flew an Iron Hand mission to the Haiphong area, 4 Zuni rockets (LAU 10)

October 8th-October 11th- I have no flights indicated in my log book

October 12th- I flew an Iron Hand mision to Haiphong, 16 Zuni rockets (4 LAU 10) probably an Iron Hand mission with no SAM action so the rockets were                                 probably expended against know SAM or AAA sites. This was my last mission of our Third Line Period


With the Third Line Period Over it was time for a Big End of the Line Party



Some Congressman had arranged for fancy juice coolers in the back of each ready room; probably for all the Yankee Station carriers.  During line operations, they had orange or lemon juice.

But for the End of the Line Party, we added rum to orange and pineapple juice and voila,
a 'Cubi Special"

As this was a pretty stressful line period, it required an appropriate level of stress relieving!



I estimate that we left Yankee Station on the 13th or so. I think we probably had an extended End of the Line Party during our transit to Sasebo that included one of our most spectacular Blue Shoes events of all time.



LCDR "Black Mac"
McCarthy

The Blue Shoes
Award
As soon as the Third Line Period was over,
Black Mac began a campaign to garner enough votes to give the Blue Shoes Award to Ltjg "Smedly Gluck" John Newman (AKA "Smeds"). I forget what grievous event Black Mac was using to try to pin the award on Smeds but he was making headway in getting the votes.

The night of the nomination (there was just one), it was conceivable that it might happen. Black Mac presented his case with a long winded speech laden with "fake" but believable data.  All through the nomination, Smeds sat silently in his ready room chair with a writing pad apparently making notes.

When Black Mac was finished, Smeds got out of his chair and ambled up to the front of the ready room note pad in hand. But, instead of notes, the note pad contained a complete one act play with the evil wolf, Black Mac, being an "evil doer" at the expence of innocent little red "Smedly Gluck". It was absolute genius which was met with a standing ovation followed by an almost unanimous vote for the "evil" Black Mac.


Ltjg John Newman "Smeds"
Dartmouth '64




I'm not sure Black Mac ever got over his failed attempt to give Smeds the Blue Shoes Award. Even after, he got command of his A7 squadron or command of his air wing or command of his aircraft carrier.  I'm sure he got tired of being reminded of his defeat by Smeds at VALion circa '67 reunions even after making Flag Officer and being a Carrier Group Commander and eventually Commander of the Seventh Fleet and his retirement as a Vice Admiral.


October 17th to October 25th- Intrepid's Third Port Visit (Sasebo, Japan)





  Intrepid spent over a week in Sasebo.  The U.S. Navy had excellent port facilities in Sasebo including a dry dock.
 Intrepid took advantage of the dry dock in order to get repairs done one of her four massive screws during the inport period.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to observe the Intrepid in dry dock because I wasn't there.



On October 16th I flew A4C 148529 from Intrepid  to NAS Atsugi, Japan (1.3 flight hours) before she arrived in Sasebo.
- I was accompanied by one other aircraft.

Again, I don't remember who came with me. But, we checked in to the BOQ  I'm sure we went to the O'Club for a few beers and a steak.
We most likely got a haircut and a "hotsi bath" or two at the BOQ; possibly with Nancy again.


Atsugi BOQ

Hotsi Bath
The water was very hot!

Hotsi Baths always included a message
and a manicure if you wanted one.


After a couple of days in Atsugi, my wingman stayed in Atsugi and I took the train to Tokyo (probably about October 18th or so)
and met up with my American friend again. (third visit).


This time I stayed at her apartment



This was my third visit to my American friend in Tokyo.  It was similar to last time,. On some days, she had to work. So, I slept in and then took the subway to get to learn more about Tokyo on my own and then met her at a restaurant. We enjoyed both Japanese and western style restaurants and food.  

However, the situation had changed since "The Intelligence Agency" was aware of our relationship. It turned out that now that "The Agency" had confirmed my identity, my friend was able to tell me a little bit about her job an an intelligence analyst.  Also, I was able to meet with some of her friends at "The Agency" ion a social atmosphere.

Another milestone in our relationship occurred during this visit with her.   I admitted to her that I was married. It was a very emotional event; not a pleasant experience.  Although she was dating other people while I was flying from the Intrepid on Yankee Station, we had established a close relationship.
We decided that we would see how this might develop in the future. We made plans for me to visit her one more time before I returned to "the states".


I returned to Atsugi and on October 26th, I flew A4C 149493 from Atsugi to Intrepid (1.3 flight hours). Intrepid was probably located south of Sasebo after getting underway.


Intrepid arrived back on Yankee Station about October 30th or so to be on station to begin our final line period.


Our Fourth and Final Line Period (November 1st - November 21st) (20 days)

My Log Book Entries:

November 1st- I flew a regular cycle (1.7 hours) mission and expended 8 Zuni rockets (2 LAU 10) (my 16th Strike Flight Air Medal)

November 2nd- I flew a regular cycle (1,7 hours) misssion and expended 4 MK 82s

It looks like we must have experienced a three day period of bad weather which precluded flying missions over land. My missions during this period were
probably weather trecce missions.


November 2nd- I flew a regular cycle (1.5 hours) which included one wet plug and 0.2 hours of night time and a"pinky" landing
November 3rd- I flew a regular cycle (1.6 hours) mission
November 4th- I flew a regular cycle extended mission (2.2) which included 0.2 actual instrument time, probably a weather recce misssion
November 7th- I flew a regular cycle (1.4 hours with 1.2 hours of actual instrument time, probably anther weather recce

November 8th- I flew a short cycle (1.2 hours) and expended 4 MK 82s

November 9th- I flew a 1.4 hour mission and expended 4 Mk 82s (This was my 180 combat mission)
November 9th- I flew a  1.4 hour mission and expended 2 LAU 3 pods (2 X 27 2.75 rockets)

November 10th- I flew a non combat flight (aircraft post maintenance test flight)

November 11th- I flew a 1.4 hour Iron Hand mission and expended 1 AGM-45 Shrike and 4 Zuni rockets (1 LAU 10)

We may have more bad weather for three or 4 days:

November 11th- I flew a 1.7 hour combat mission with no ordnance expended
November 12th- I did  not fly November 12th
November 13th- I flew a 1.8 hour mission with  no ordnance expended and 5 plugs (inflight refueling (my 17th Strike Flight Air Medal)
November 14th- I did not fly November 14th

November 15th- I flew a 1.6 hour mission and expended 4 Zuni rockets 1 LAU 10) and had 1.0 actual instrument and 0.5 night time

November 16th- I flew a 1.6 hour mission and dispensed chaff

November 17th- I flew a 1.5 hour mission to Haiphong
November 17th- I flew 1.6 hour Iron Hand mission to Hanoi, 1 AGM-45 Shrike a,d 4 Zuni rockets (LAU 10), observed a SAM missile explode over the SAM site.
I was awarded my 2nd individual Air Medal with Combat V for this mission.


November 18th- I flew a 1.5 hour Oron Hand mission to Haiphong,  *2 AGM-45 Shrike missiles* expended

November 19th- I flew a 1.3 hour Iron Hand mission to Hap Phong, expended 4 Zuni rockets- * my 200th combat mission
November 19th- I flew a 1.3 bombing mission to Ninh Binh, 7 MK 82s

More bad weather

November 20th- I did not fly on November 20th

November 21st- I flew a 1.4 hour mission, no ordnance expended, 1 wet plug
November 21st- I flew a 1.7 hour weather recce mission to Hai Phong, expended 4 Zuni rockets (LAU 10) my final combat mission of the second cruise

November 25th- I flew a 2.7 hour fly off  flight to Cubi Point
 





With our second Vietnam deployment complete, it was time for the Intrepid to head east toward Subic Bay to get ready for her transit back to the states. Notice the plane guard destroyer still in position.


Air Wing Ten flew off to Cubi Point- November 25th, 1967
The Intrepid stopped inport Cubi before returning to the states





Eleven VA-15 aircraft enroute to NAS Cubi Point.





Closeup of the eleven VA-15 aircraft enroute to Cubi Point clearly showing the "gold tails" !



The Intrepid could have left Yankee Station and transited back to the states without coming into port at Subic Bay/Cubi Point. The ship could have refueled and taken on supplies at sea and then headed back.

But that wasn't policy at the time.  The air wing flew off from the Tonkin Gulf to Cubi Point and the ship followed coming in port a couple of days later.


               






The aircraft were then craned aboard for the transit back to the states.  The s
hip probably refueled and loaded needed supplies on board before departing for the trip back.

The Intrepid arrived inport Cubi about November 27th , loaded the airwing aircraft onboard and after a two days of left for her transit back to the states on November 29th.


Our Second "Magic Carpet Flight"

The new post 1966 Oriskany Magic Carpet Flight rules were in affect.  So, we had to hang around in the western Pacific until the Intrepid got out of the Seventh Fleet operating area before we could catch our "magic carpet flight" back to the states. 

But that didn't mean that we had to stay in Cubi Point.  Two weeks was a long time to stay at Cubi.  So, the Seventh Fleet allowed pilots to go on leave in either Hong Kong or Tokyo. It was easy to catch a ride from Cubi or the Air Force Base at Clark in the Philippines to either Hong Kong or Yakota Air Base near Tokyo. In addition, they routed the "magic carpet flight" from Cubi through Hong Kong and Yokota Air Base so that those pilots who were on leave could catch a ride home.  Many guys picked Hong Kong.  I decided to go back to Tokyo.

Our "magic carpet flight" got us back to the states about mid December.  We had about two weeks at home with our families before we had to meet the Intrpid in Norfolk and get our aircraft.

December 31st- I flew A4C 148528 from NAS Norfolk back to Cecil Field


Medals and Ribbons

When Mary, Heather, and I were completing advanced jet training in Kingsville, Texas in January 1965, Vietnam was in it's infant stage. While there were some west coast squadrons deploying in 1965, we were too busy in flight training to take notice. Many of our instructor pilots had flown F9 Cougars in the Navy or Marine Corps during the Korean War. They had lots of ribbons on their dress uniforms.  Mary made the comment one day that it was too bad that I would not get the chance to earn any of those medals or campaign ribbons.  That was about to change!


Most of us started our the first Vietnam cruise with with two or three ribbons on our chests!




The National Defense Service Medal The Pistol Qualification Ribbon Expert The Rifle Qualification Ribbon Expert

Everyone who was in active duty and was breathing wore the National Defense Service Medal.

Some of the pilots had completed pistol and rifle qualification at the Naval Academy.
But, all the pilots were required to qualify expert with a 45 cal handgun in order to be qualified as the nuclear weapons loading officer.




VA-15 US Navy Vietnam Ribbons


Left: the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon
Center: The Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation
Right: the Vietnam Service Medal (one star for each deployment)






Meritorious Unit Commendation

VA-15 was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation (MUC) (center) for the 1966 Vietnam cruise.

The MUC is equivalent to the Bronze Star Medal.



Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon
VA-15 was awarded the very prestigious Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon (NUC) (left) for our performance on Yankee Station on the 1967 deployment. 

The NUC is equivalent to the Silver Star Medal for combat operations or Legion of Merit for non combat operations.


VA-15 Republic of Vietnam Ribbons

The Republic of Vietnam also awarded their version of a campaign ribbon and medals. 
We were authorized to wear two of these.




Vietnam Cross of Gallantry
The Vietnam Cross of Gallantry was awarded to specific mostly army units.  It can be worn with a palm, gold star, silver star or bracket.  My DD 214 says that I am authorized to wear it with a silver star.
Vietnam also awarded a Air Cross of Gallantry and a Navy Cross of Gallantry.  For some reason, we were awarded a version intended for army units. Go figure!



Vietnam Cross of Gallantry
Unit Citation



The Vietnam Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation is supposed to be an army award.  It does not appear on my DD 214.
But, I know that we were authorized to wear it after our second deployment.



Republic of Vietnam Service Ribbon


The Republic of Vietnam Service Ribbon was awarded by the Republic of Vietnam to units which operated in the Vietnam operating area from 1960 through 1973. The new version of the ribbon has an end date of 73.




Individual Medals

We didn't think much about getting medals.  The squadrons had awards boards. Usually the squadron Executive Officer and/or the Administrative Officer made up the board.   When a mission presented an opportunity to write up a pilot for an award, the squadron awards board would write it up and submit it up the chain of command through the airwing.  The pilot was usually not involved in the process.

Navy Cross



The Navy Cross was the highest award that was possible.

It is awarded for combat related missions. It is not worn with a combat "V"

I do not know any carrier pilots who received the Navy Cross with the possible exception of Cdr Byron Compton who may have received one as the CAG of the USS Midway airwing during the summer of 1967.

Some thought that the Midway bore the brunt of the toughest missions to the Hanoi area. They certainly lost the most aircraft. In my opinion, they lost the most aircraft due to lack of confidence in their Electronic Warfare equipment and resultant poor tactics loosing more aircraft to AAA than the other aircraft on Yankee Station.

I think most of the Navy Cross awards went to SEALS and the River Boat guys who fought face to face with the Vietcong in the Mekong Delta.



Silver Star



The Silver Star is awarded for only combat related missions. It is not worn with a "V".

It was the highest award given to anyone I know for a mission over North Vietnam.  To the best of my knowledge, no one in VA-15 was awarded a Silver Star.

Silver Stars were sometimes awarded to strike leaders who lead successful air wing strike packages to very high threat areas such as Hanoi especially during the summer of 1972.  But not so much for strikes in the summer of 1967.

The VA-176 pilot who had the confirmed MIG kill might have received one.

I know of at least one helo pilot who received one for flyiing his helo in to North Vietnam to rescue a down pilot.  His helo was severely damaged but they made it back to a destroyer.


The Silver Star was commonly awarded to Air Force pilots who experienced "exciting Flights" while flying their F-05 strike aircraft, F-105 Iron Hand (Wild Weasel)s, or F4 Phantoms into the Hanoi target area.
The Air Force awarded Silver Stars to pilots who flew missions similar to Navy pilots who received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)


The DFC can be awarded for peacetime or combat related situations. If it awarded for a combat mission, it is worn with a "V".

We had three DFCs awarded during the first cruise.  Jerry Tuttle and Pete Schoeffel as bomber division leaders and Posssum Terrrell for leading the flak suppressors during the very successful strike on the Phu Ly Railroad yard on October 9th, 1966.

However the second cruise provided lots of  "opportunities to excel". As a result, all the "heavies" received at least one DFC for leading major strikes.






Also, most of the JOs received DFCs on the final cruise. There were opportunities that required the wingmen to "take the lead" on a major strike or as section leaders, particularly with the Iron Hand mission.

There were a few JOs that didn't get a DFC, mostly due to the squadron awards board letting it "fall through the cracks"!


The Air Medal


The Air Medal can be awarded for exceptional performance during a single flight or for meritorious achievement in aerial flight.  If it awarded for a combat mission or missions, it is worn with a "V".

During the Vietnam era, in addition to single flight awards, "Strike Flight Air Medals" were awarded based on points accumulated during combat related missions. Aircrew received one point for a combat support mission and two points for a combat mission "over the beach".  A Strike Flight Air Medal was awarded for each twenty points achieved.









During the first cruise, I flew 109 combat missions and was awarded 10 strike flight air medals.

After the second cruise I, I had accumulated enough points for 17 strike flight air medals and had 15 points to carry over to my third Vietnam deployment in 1972.

I think that was pretty standard for someone who made both cruises.

In addition. I received two individual air medals for missions during the second cruise. One was for a mission that was submitted as a DFC but was downgraded somewhere in the chain of command.
(I guess they knew what happened on the mission better than we did!)


The Navy Commendation Medal (NCM)




The Navy Commendation medal is a mid-level decoration which is presented for sustained acts of bravery or meritorious service. If it awarded for a combat mission,  it is worn with a "V". Additional NCMs are indicated by adding gold or silver stars to the ribbon. Each gold star indicates one additional NCM. A silver star indicate five additional NCMs.

A mid-level medal medal means that it is intended for combat missions primarily for wingmen and possibly section leaders.

While the division leaders (LCDRs) are usually put in for DFCs or individual air medals for particularly exciting missions, the best the wingman could expect was an NCM.

I received one NCM at the end of our last line period on the first cruise.  The mission lasted less than an hour and I expended a full bomb load in one pass probably as part of a major strike package, probably flying on Possum's wing.

This was probably about the norm for us JOs the first cruise.



Things were very different the second cruise. Most of the missions that deployment were flown over North Vietnam and wingmen the first cruise became section leaders the second cruise.

I received four more NCMs the second cruise and was written up for several DFCs and individual air medals.

The Navy Achievement Medal (NAM)





The Navy Achievement Medal was intended to recognize the contributions of junior officers and enlisted personnel who were not eligible to receive higher awards. If it was awarded for a combat mission, it is worn with a "V". Additional NAMs are indicated by gold or silver stars to the ribbon. One gold star for each additional NAM. A silver star indicates five NAMs.







I received no NAMs the first cruise and two NAMs the second cruise. 

I think that that was about normal for a Lt on our second cruise.  The JOs junior to me flying wing instead of as a section leader might have received more NAMs than me.




I want to stress that receiving awards wasn't a motivator when flying our missions.
It was the subject of conversation occasionally in the ready room.
Campaign ribbons reveal what the wearer has been doing during his career, whether he has had any combat experience, and whether he has received any personal awards.

This is what my ribbons looked like at the end of the second deployment.  I think it is typical of most of us who completed both the 1966 and 1967 cruises.

 

Top Row- two Distinguished Flying Crosses with Combat "V", two Individual Air Medals and 17 Strike Flight Air Medals with Combat "V", and six Navy Commendation Medals with Combat "V"

2nd Row- two Navy Achievement Medals with Combat "V",  a Navy Unit Commendation, and a Meritorious Unit Commendation

3rd Row- a Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze stars, and the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star

Bottom Row- The Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation, The Republic of Vietnam Service Medal, the Pistol Qualification Expert ribbon


Medals and ribbons are worn according to an official precedence list. The highest award is on the top and left to right as you go down the rows of ribbons.
I would have put an awards precedence chart in here but none of the ones I found were in the correct format.You can google "Awards Precedence" and get all the information you want.


200 Missions over North Vietnam Plaque




Thirteen VALion pilots who successfully completed both the 1966 and 1967 Vietnam deployments received this beautiful plaque. It is not quite accurate as this group flew more than 200 missions over North and South Vietnam during those two deployments. 

They were LCDR Jerry Tuttle, LCDR "Possum" Terrell, LCDR "Moon" Moreau, Bob Cole, Dave Parsons, Dave Thornhill, Miller Detrick, Bo Smith (me), Dave "Dixie" Culler,  John "Smeds" Newman, Dick Nolte, Bob Hamel, and Gene Atkinson.

The plaques were actually presented at the 1969 Tailhook Reunion in Las Vegas.  I think most of us were there to receive our plaques as a group.
I remember that I flew a F105 Thunderchief from McConnell AFB in Kansas where I  was
an F-105  Thunderchief instructor pilot with the Air Force.

VA-15 lost two pilots (KIA) and one POW on our Second Deployment


First Line Period
Lee Cole (KIA)- June 20th, 1967
P.C. Craig (KIA)- July 4th, 1967
Third Line Period
Pete Schoeffel
(POW)- October4th, 1967



Hero's Walk, NAS Cecil Field

In the 1970s, the POW Wives Club held a funding drive to create a Hero's Walk at NAS Cecil Field.


There was a monument and a tree

dedicated to each pilot who was KIA or a POW.

I used to visit Hero's Walk quite often after I retired from the Navy and was teaching high school in Jacksonville.  Even though NAS Cecil Field was closed and reverted to an Industrial Park, Hero's Walk was maintained by Navy veteran volunteers who happen to work at Cecil.  However, I discovered that there was no memorial monument or tree  dedicated to P.C. Craig. I learned that was because the POW wives were not as aware of the bachelor KIAs.  When I discovered this, I made the  VALions Circa "66 and  '67 aware of the situation and asked for donations to have a monument with a bronze plaque exactly like the others constructed and placed at Hero's Walk near the monuments for Pete Schoeffel and Lee Cole. It was impractical to add a tree. The money rolled in and I had more that enough to complete the project.  The overage was donated to the USO in Jacksonville.


Pete Schoeffel

Lee Cole

P.C. Craig's new plaque



Hero's Walk from the back side with the Vietnam casualties on the left
and the Desert Shield/Desert Storm casualties on the right
The monument in the foreground holds the POW Memorial Plaque below


POW Memorial Plaque


This is a curent photo of Hero's Walk (January, 2019)



Happy New Year- Welcome 1968

January, 1968 Flight Schedule

I flew only six flights in January; three A4C flights and three TA4 instrument refresher flights for a total of 8.4 flight hours.  VA-45 had transitioned from the TF9s to the TA4s while we were gone on deployment. I expect my flight record was similar to the rest of the squadron pilots. I suppose some of the officers and pilots began to move on to their next assignments in January.  I'll discuss that in a bit.


VA-34 Change of Command (COC)



Sometime after we returned from deployment, CDR "The Frog" Wigent was relieved by the Executive Officer, CDR Mark Perrault. I feel confident that the VA-34 junior officers who were scheduled to make the next cruise were happy to trade "The Frog" for an ex-Blue Angel.  The COC was held in either Hangar 13 or 14, I can't remember.  They were essentially mirror images of one another.  The stage with its podium and VIP seating was on the runway side of the hangar facing our side of the hangar.  Traditionally after the two principals exchange salutes, the outgoing CO makes his speech followed by brief remarks of the incoming CO.  When  "The Frog" was making his remarks, a large green frog began to descend from the ceiling of the hangar attached to end of a wire. At the other end, Miller Detrick was stationed  on the 2nd deck opposite the podium gradually releasing a little bit of wire.  So, as Frog's speech went on, the descending large green frog got closer and closer until it ceased it's downward movement a foot or two above the outgoing CO.  Of course, the audience began to snicker and then laugh increasingly as the green frog made its descent toward "The Frog".  I think "The Frog" turned green when he realized what was happening.

February, 1968 Flight Schedule
 
My log book reveals that I did very little flying in February (12.9 hours). I flew four local flights for a total of 9.2 hours. The average flight duration for these flights was 2.3 hours indicating that they were some sort of navigation flights.

In additiion to those flights, I flew a cross country to Andrews AFB in  Washing ton, DC. (1.6 up with 1.0 night/actual instrument time to Andrews on February 15th and 2.1 hours on February 19 back to Cecil). That means I spent 3 days in Wshington, probably to visit my friend from Tokyo who had been reassigned by "The Agency" after her western Pacific tour of duty was complete.  My meeting with her in Washington was in response to  a personal meeting/phone call she had  with my wife Mary in January. She either stopped by the house while I was at work or called Mary and told her of our relationship. She was from Aiken, South Carolina and was visiting with her family. So, it was only a half day drive to Jacksonville.  She apparently told Mary that she was in love with me and wnted to get married. They apparently has a "cordial" discussion.  The result was that Mary informed me about some complicated issues that were  involved with our intial marriage and
told me that if I wanted a divorce, she would let me go.  However, I decided to remain with Mary and my daughters Heather and Laura despite the fact that I had very stong feelings for my "Agency" girl friend.

" When it's all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for thruth
Did I live my life for you"


My friend in Japan contacts Mary and they discuss my affair in Tokyo !!!

No kidding!  Sometime in January or February, 1968, my American friend from Tokyo called Mary and told her about our relationship.  She told Mary that she was in love with me and that she wanted us to be together.  I had no clue that this communication took place until I cane back from the squadron one day and Mary told me abut their conversation.

Mary told me that when we got married, she also had another boyfriend in New Haven (Yale) and she was conflicted about what to do after she got pregnant.  She told me that she had decided that I would make the better long term husband so agreed to marry me.  No wonder she was such a wreck the weekend we got married in Ridgewood. It also explained the "miscarriage" that followed.  Mary told me that considering this information, I was free to go.

Learning this information did not make me angry.  In fact, I felt respect for Mary that she had gone through that process to enable us to move on.  We had had a great time my last semester at Cornell when we were married and living in College Town. We had a great time during flight training despite moving five times before getting to Cecil Field in 1966.  We had two wonderful daughters at the time (a third would arrive in 1971).   Mary was apparently willing to move on despite my affair.  Did she understand what was involved in the affair?  Did I?  I think I understand it now much more that I did then.  But, at any rate, we moved on.

But, it wasn't the last time I saw my American friend from Tokyo!



It was time the VALions who reported to the squadron in 1965 or early in 1966
to
move on to their next tour of duty

The Heavies:

CDR Kelly Carr- I don't know where is next tour was but he retired as a Captain. He was a regular attendee to our VALion Circa 66/67 reunions until his
death in the mid 2000s. He attended his last reunion in Naples Florida in a wheel chair from Seattle Washington accompanied by his son.

CDR Jim Snyder- Jim was CO for the next VA-15 deployment on Forrestal CV-59. I think he made CAG (I'm not sure). But, I know he was CO of an
amphibious ship an LPD (Landing Platform Dock). He retired after that as a Captain.  He attended reunions up to the Naples reunion in the mid 2000s. He lives in North Carolina with his wife Jean but suffers from Parkinson's Disease and can no longer travel.

LCDR Pete Schoeffel- Pete was released as a POW by the North Vietnamese in March, 1973.  Later that year he visited me and Mary in England as I was attending the Royal Air Force Staff College in Bracknell. He was later assigned to the Light Attack Wing Staff at Cecil and after completing RAG training in the A7Corsair was CO of VA-82 in 1974-1975. He had various assignments in Washington, DC until his retirement from the Navy as a Captain in September, 1982.  After that, he worked for a logistics firm, Information Spectrum Analysis until his final retirement in 1990. He lives with his wife Jane in Jacksonville, Florida. Pete sand I attend two Navy related lunches; The local Association of Naval Aviation (ANA) squadron lunches and a group called the RETCAPTS (retired officers who achieved the rank of Captain; aviators, surface warfare officers, and submariners.  Pete and I normally  ride together. We have become great friends.

LCDR Jerry Tuttle-  Jerry Tutltle went on to be CO of VA-81, an A7 squadron and CAG 3 on the USS Saratoga CV-60. After a tour on a deep draft, he was CO of the US John F. Kennedy CV-67.  After being selected for Flag, he was Commander Carrier Group Eight and Commander of Task Force 60 in the Mediterranean where he was in charge of air strikes into Lebanon.  He served in a variety of Flag jobs in Washington culminating being the Commander of Naval Communications (COMNAVTELCOM) where he developed the Joint Operations Tactical System (JOTS- Jerry Tuttle Operations System).  After retiring from the Navy as a Vice Admiral he founded and was President and CEO of a consulting firm in Washington. He died on October 30th, 2018.
He was the first VALion to be selected as a member of the Golden Eagles.

LCDR Jerry "Possum" Terrell- Possum was XO/CO of VA-105 (an A7 Corsair squadron) onboard Saratoga CV-60. But while online at Yankee station he was cross decked to the USS  Midway CV-41 as CO of VA 93 where he  flew his third  combat  deployment the summer of 1972.  He flew Iron Hand support missions for B-52s in their famous missions over Hanoi in December 1972 during Operation Linebacker Two which  convinced the North Vietnamese to  end the war. He turned down an opportunity to be a CAG due to a family medical issue and was CO of VA-174 instead from 1974-1976. He was CO of NAS Cecil Field from 1980 through 1982.  He retired as a Navy Captain. After his Navy retirement, he taught Aviation courses at Jacksonville University. He and his wife Sarah attend all VALion reunions. They live in Jacksonville, Florida.  Possum is the second member of the squadron to be selected as a member of the Golden Eagles.  Possum also attends our monthly RETCAPTS and ANA lunches and occasionally rides with Pete and me.

LCDR Paul McCarthy- Black Mac went on to be CO of an A7 squadron, CAG, CO of an aircraft carrier, made Flag, was a Commander of a Carrier Air Group, made two stars, had various Washington Flag level jobs, made three stars, and was Commander Seventh Fleet in the Pacific before retiring from the Navy as a Vice Admiral.  Black Mac was the third
member of the squadron to be selected as a member of the Golden Eagles.

LCDR "Moon" Moreau- Moon went on to be a CO of VA-105 an A7E squadron onboard USS Saratoga and  CAG Eight.  After two subsequent Washington tours, Moon retired from the Navy as a Captain.  He and his wife Marcie regularly attend VALion reunions.

Moon was the selected as the fourth member of the squadron to be selected as a member of the Golden Eagles.

LCDR Ron Gibson-  I do not know what jobs Ron completed before leaving the Navy. Hopefully, someone will fill me in. Unfortunately, Ron has passed away.


That's it for the Heavies; Now the Junior Officers:

Lee Cole
-  Shot down June 30th, 1967, remains returned by the North Vietnamese 1988 and identified 1989, buried in Arlington National Cemetery 1989

P.C. Craig- Shot down July, 4th, 1967, remains returned in 1985, buried in his home town of Oneida, NY. Jerry Tuttle did the eulogy

Only three of the core Jos ended up completing a full tour of duty in the Navy (sort of):

Bob Cole
-   Cozy went to VF-126, the instrument squadron at NAS Miramar in San Diego. After he got out of the Navy after his required commitment,, he sold Hallmark cards or something surprising like that! He soon realized the error of his ways and somehow convinced the Navy to let him return to the Navy flying carrier jet aircraft again. But, this time he went the fighter route instead of flying attack aircraft.  He did so very successfully eventually being a CO of an F4 Phantom squadron. I think he must have been a CAG. But, Im sure he was CO of USS Forrestal CV-59, before making Flag officer. He retired from the Navy as a Rear Admiral USN.  Cozy is a regular participant in VALion reunions with his wife Paula.
Unfortunately,  Cozy is in a fight with cancer and cannot travcel to reunions.

Dave "Dixie" Culler- I don't know where Dixie went for his shore tour after leaving VA-15, but he returned to Cecil Field to fly A7 Corsairs in VA-81 when Jerry Tuttle was CO. (I bet Tuttle pulled some strings to get Dixie in his squadron).  Tragically, Dixie was killed on a Sunday night when returning from a cross country on final approach at Cecil's Runway 09.  Jerry Tuttle watched after Sandy, Dixie's wife, and their son David Jr.  When David Jr earned his Wings of Gold, Captain Jerry Tuttle pined them on.  When David Jr became CO of an F/A 18 squadron, Rear Admiral Jerry Tuttle spoke at his Change of Command.  David Jr and Sandy are regular participants in VALion reunions.

Bo Smith (me)- I know, this is my memoir and if you read it, you will know all this. But, you may choose not to  so I'll bore you with my post VA-15 adventures for continuity purposes if you will.  Most pilots want to get a flying tour for their first shore tour.  Most, if they are lucky go to a Fleet Replacement Squadron (RAG) as an instructor pilot.  I landed a dream job for my first shore duty tour as an Air Force Exchange instructor pilot flying F-105 Thunderchief. My next sea tour was flying A7 Corsairs as the Maintenance Department Head in VA-82. While there, I made a Mediterranean deployment, a short deployment to Rio de Janeiro, and a WETSPAC deployment to Yankee Station back in the Tonkin Gulf in the summer of 1972; all on USS America CV-66. I was in Vietnam for my third combat deployment at the same time as Possum was CO of VA-93 on the Midway. After VA-82, my next shore tour was to the Royal Air Force Staff College in Bracknell England followed by a two year shore tour in Norfolk, VA at Commander Naval Air Force Atlantic (COMNAVARLANT) where I was the A7 Class Desk Officer for a year and the Aide and Flag Lieutenant for VADM Howard Greer fro the second year. After that, I was XO and then CO of the Va Lions of VA-15 back on the USS America CV-66. After that, my