Updated October 13, 2017
USS Enterprise CVAN65
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Photos Courtesy of: Rodney Rogers, John Sees, & Pete Wallace
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INTRODUCTION: This page is reserved for special personal memories of former VFP-62 crew members. Stories which are unique, interesting, funny or sad, but most of all, stories that illustrate what life was like in VFP-62, serving on carriers, and how they transformed teenagers into men.
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A Rescue Mission During the Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis found us in various locations. Some of us had moved on to other duties, and reacted with a prideful "I know those guys" as the pictures showing Cuban missile sites were published in papers around the world. Others, who had not yet reported to VFP-62, were caught up in the events triggered by those photos.
Personnel man Third Class George Montgomery, who reported to the squadron in 1963, was assigned to USS Duxbury Bay AVP-38, an auxiliary seaplane tender, on a training cruise in the Caribbean when VFP-62 sent a detachment to Key West on October 19. The Duxbury Bay, pictured below, was one of three "white" ships in the US Navy, with duty in the Persian Gulf as the Flag ship for COMMIDEAST FORCE. Along with the ship's picture is a picture of its patch, which recognizes the ship's nick name: "The Galloping Ghost of the Persian Coast".
George's memory of that weekend and the trip back to Norfolk follows:
In preparation for deployment to the Mid-East in January of 1963, we were on a "shake down" cruise in October 1962. Having just completed two weeks of training, we were to have liberty in Montego Bay, Jamaica for the weekend. Liberty was cut short for deployment back to Guantanamo Bay where we were to patrol until further notice.
Monday morning, October 22, four ships were assigned to evacuate the dependents - The Duxbury Bay; the USNS Upshur, a transport ship; the USS Hyades (AF 28), a stores ship; and the USS Desoto County (LST 1171), a tank landing ship. Of the 2,800 dependents at Gitmo, 2,400 were boarded on the ships as a second battalion of Marine reinforcements were being put ashore by Navy amphibious ships. The Upshur took 1,700 dependents, the Hyades 290, the Desoto County 96 and the Duxbury Bay 351; and all four cleared the harbor by 1630. The Dux was the smallest of the ships, the slowest and the others had to remain with the Dux until Wednesday, after getting well out of the area.
We had all ages - from babies in incubators to a couple of senior citizens. Most everyone had on summer clothes, some came from the recreational areas - from swimming, playing ball, not from home "clean and neat". While there are some records that say "each was allowed one suitcase" - most were not prepared.
Please imagine how a ship -- that has a "full complement" when there are 15 officers and 175 enlisted on board - adds 351 (one report says there were 357) additional people. We had games, potato peeling, movies, more games, and more potato peeling; and when I say "we" it means that the dependents were working right along with ships' personnel on some of the duties being performed.
The bunks were assigned to the dependents with the exception of one isolated compartment and only one head was available for the crew. Most of us slept topside, were able to get to our bunks for clothes at certain times and just let it happen as the day went along. Ship size: consider that you could probably put 10 Dux on the flight deck of the Forrestal.
It was more than cool before we got to Norfolk. The dependents received some "cold weather" clothing from the Red Cross and support groups when we were close to Charleston, SC. This was transferred over from a supply ship. Everyone was taken care of as far as immediate needs.
It is amazing what people can do when situations arise that are "out of the ordinary". Everyone pitched in to help, attitudes were good. Imagine how a ship that supports 200 per day has to adjust to 550 - meals, water, sleeping quarters, and medical needs.
George Montgomery (former PN3 VFP-62)
Preface and editor: Jim Brumm (Former JO2 and reported on the crisis at Armed Forces Radio.)
The End of a Naval Aviation Career
During inflight refueling, one of our VFP-62 pilots had the drogue (refueling line) strike and shatter the canopy. As was standard operating procedure, he had his helmit visor down, but the sudden pressure loss and the blast of 200-250 kt cold air does make things difficult. To his credit, he was able to make a successful landing.
Having had enough Naval Aviation excitement, he turned in his wings and was off the ship the next day.
Of course, with the Navy's enormous underway aircraft maintenance capability, the VFP-62 metalsmiths changed the canopy and had the aircraft operational in a few days.
Tom Pinkley (former VFP-62 ADJ2)
Larry's Legion Meets the Foreign Legion
While serving with VFP-62 Det. 59 (Forrestal) on the July 64-Mar 65 Med deployment, our detachment was called "Larry's Legion", after the O in C LCDR Larry. The Legion Kepi (hat) and name were on the side of the aircraft and compartment spaces.
Mr Larry was able to arrange for us to visit the Legion Fort in Marseille during our in-port period at Cannes over the Christmas holidays (Dec '64).
On Dec. 31, (New Years Eve) with an early reveille, early chow, and early boat to fleet landing, about 25 of us VFP'rs boarded a waiting bus and off to, seems like the Nice train Station, for the 3+ hour ride to Marseille. We were met by a Legion bus for the short ride to the Legion Fort.
(We) were met by the Legion band with suitable honors and review by Mr. Larry and the Legion Commandant. I think both National Anthems were played.
After another official reception, with remarks, exchange of plaques, and pictures, we were presented with the First Regiment insignia.
The officers then retired to the officers' mess and the rest of us to the NCO Club. There we met, mingled, and talked (with some difficulty), a group of Legion NCO's. Some as I recall had been pilots in the German Luftwaffe in WWII.
After a light lunch, served with beer and several more afterwards, most of us exchanged hats and were able to have our own Kepis. Spent the rest of the time talking, as best we could, until later in the afternoon when it was time to board the bus for the train trip back to Cannes.
If you can imagine about 25+ sailors, in uniform, on the 3 hour trip back, in less than sober condition, on New Year's Eve; wondering through the cars. I seem to remember getting crepes from the dining car (no wonder the French don't care much for us!)
Back in Cannes, the Shore Patrol didn't know what to make of us and there was some consternation at the gangway also (not being in proper uniform: Legion Kepis not white hats).
So ended another extraordinary day and experience.
Tom Pinkley (former VFP-62 Det 59 ADJ2)
Webmaster's note: An article from the French follows.
The following link's photos contributed by George Montgomery:
Click to view photos of this occasion
KEPI BLANC - February 1965
French Legionnaire account of the VFP-62 visit
Everyone knew that the carrier Forrestal was at the anchorage in Cannes and that every good Legionnaire is perfectly aware of the deployment of the Sixth Fleet on the Riviera.
However, no one knew that a photo reconnaissance squadron based aboard the carrier had chosen as its emblem the KEPI BANC. However, the news got out and rapidly took on the aspect of a Legionnaire's event.
It was thus that on 31 December, Colonel Vadot received at the Fort Saint Nicholas the Officers of a detachment of Crusaders known as Larry's Legion derived from the name of its commander, as well as a delegation of the crew.
With the participation of the band and the benefit of interpreters, very quickly rendered useless by the rapid progress in foreign language of some of them, the small ceremony took the style of one of those receptions which the Legion has been famous for conducting since its beginning.
In presenting a KEPI BLANC and an insignia of the First Regiment to Commander Larry, Colonel Vadot told him how well the Legion felt that his squadron had chosen the KEPI BLANC as its emblem and that this was visible, tangible proof of the brotherhood of arms which has always existed between the Legion and the American Army and Navy -- that this has been through two world wars and even simply on occasiions such as the recent Fair Game Maneuvers.
Commander Larry thanked the Colonel and in a few words explained the reasons for their choice of insignia: In addition to choosing a name bringing to mind the European area, zone of action of the Sixth Fleet, it was desired to have an emblem that would symbolize to the eyes of the entire world courage, military valor and esprit de corps: the KEPI BLANC.
A chorus of "Boudin" closed and vigorously cemented relations of the aviators, sailors, and legionnaires in the same "garde a vous" symbolizing also this mutual understanding, of identical views and ideas which makes all the soldiers in the world know and understand each other.
The reception which followed was not described. However, it is possible to assume that some four hours later, our American friends were better informed concerning the Legion and the KEPI BLANC. To be straight forward, we confessed that the Legion was a little ignorant of the customs of the Navy white cap.
Thus, on the 5th of January, in the afternoon, a delegation of officers and NCO's of the Legion came to know the Forrestal, or as much as is possible. After appropriate honors were rendered to LtCol Colin, representing Col Vadot, the tour began. Divided into small groups, well escorted by their friends from the 31st of December, all considerate guides, the officers and men were shown the most modern sights and were given the greatest possible access to the Forrestal and to the airplanes she carries.
And then, everyone wanted to see the KEPI BLANCs painted on the fuselage of the Crusaders of Larry's Legion. Alas!! the cap was "red" with a magnificent white neck-cover. Hollywood was responsible for that! Slightly crestfallen, our host promised to correct that, "now that we know better".
"And that will be done, you can be sure", was the conclusion of the Legionnaires who, pleased and confident, regretfully returned to the shore.
Webmaster's Note: The above article was included in the Legionnaires publication "KEPI BLANC". Translation submitted by Tom Pinkley. Pictures courtesy George Montgomery.
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Created on ... November 12, 2006