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Updated August 11, 2016

USS Independence

USS Independence CVA 62

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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.

Contributions to this page are welcome. Remember, the statute of limitations has run out! - Webmaster.

General Quarters...This is Not a Drill
USS Enterprise Feb 63 fire/Crash

[Webmaster's Note: The following exchange of memories, is between John Sees and co-sponsor, Pete Wallace, was motivated by the recent History Channel Program, "Shockwave", presenting memories and events of the 1967 USS Forrestal fire.]


This reminded me of the fire on the flight deck of the Enterprise (not as bad as the Forrestal), if I recall it correctly, on the 1st few days out headed for the Med (2nd cruise) sometime in Feb 1963.

It was during night operations and I happened to be in the ships library and heard this very loud crash much different than the normal landing sounds you get use to. I left the library to see what was going on and headed out to the cat walk just forward of the LSO. The flight deck appeared to be totally on fire --an A-5 Vigilante had hit the ramp killing both the pilot and navigator.

My 1st thought was my life is over; we will never make it out of this. They started dumping burning aircraft over the side and called GQ. My GQ station was the line shack on the forward cat walk on the other side of the ship which I headed for, where I stayed and prayed until the all clear was sounded. What a mess! Do you recall this accident?

Pete [former ADJ2 VFP-62]

Pete :
Yes I do. I remember how dramatic that night time fire was. I also remember it because it was one of the few times I heard the words "This is not a drill.." There were several other fires with J Birds when the fuel tanks up the middle between the engines would break loose on a cat shot and fall out the back. When the leaking tanks hit the hot Catapult tracks they burst into flames. Got to the point where everybody cleared out when they were going to shoot one. The yellow shirts took the brunt of those fires.

John [Sees, former PH2 VFP-62]

Did Photo Jets fly under the Jacksonville Bridge?

[Webmaster's Note: This exchange of emails between Jim Brumm and Ken Kelly, and John Sees and me, relates to a note I added to Cmdr. Norman Youngblood's (our OinC of the Shangri La detachment) biography in "VFP-62 Skippers" pages. When confronted with the question: "Is it true you flew under a bridge while taking pictures?", we only got a shrewd smile.]

To Ken: [Kelly]:
From Jim [Brumm former JO2 VFP-62]
Do you remember Mr. Youngblood's bridge episode and what aircraft he supposedly used on that flight?

To Jim:
From: Ken [Kelly former YN2 VFP-62] for Youngblood - wasn't he the pilot that took the "mystery photo sequence" ... later determined to be footage of the underside of the Jax. bridge, as he flew inverted under the span with his cameras activated?? One of the pilots did.. I think Youngblood.

To Ken [Jack] :
From: John [Sees former PH2 VFP-62]
Was looking at the picture of Lt. Taylor and was trying to remember if he was the one that got tagged for flying under the Johns River Bridge [Webmaster: He wasn't]. If he is the same one I remember having a brief conversation with him and a couple of other guys in the Photo Line Shack wherein he stated his desire to fly through our hangar.

He was a wild man at the stick. Again not sure but I think it was him that came in the line shack and announced he had won the bet again this month. When questioned he informed us that every month the Navy bet him he would not live to the end of the month. So this particular month he announces he had won the bet.

We were then advised that most pilots called the bet merely FLIGHT PAY. Too bad I can't confirm it for sure. Although during my working career I was with a retired Admiral working for American President Container Lines who at one time was the CO of NAS Jax and we got on the subject of underflying the Bridge. It appears it was an unwritten right of passage for Navy Pilots in and around JAX. Many did it anyway despite the consequences.

Jeff D'Amico (son of John D'Amico, now deceased) writes: "I did get a chance to check out some updates on the site the other day and read the interview about the flight under the JAX bridge. Now I understand that this happened probably 15 years before I was even thought of but, it actually made me chuckle a little because I remember my Dad telling my brother and I about this. I remember him telling us that they developed the film and couldn't figure out what it was until they blew up the photos more and saw that it was the bottoms of cars through the grated bridge.

Herb Gold PH1 VC-62 1951-1955: Did anyone fly under the Main Street Bridge, yes there was talk about it then and when the photos were developed and printed photo interpretation tried to figure out how the shots were made without flying under the bridge. We never did get a clear answer from the pilot.

Ken - As a followup to the daredevil flights under the Jacksonville bridges, I was so fascinated that I consulted my nautical charts and found the following: the Main Street Bridge in Jacksonville has horizonal clearance of 173 feet and vertical clearance of 44 feet in the down position. A more tempting and less suicidal bridge to fly under would have been the Mathews Street Bridge which sits by itself on Commodore's Point in Jax and has vertical clearance of 141 feet and horizonal clearance of 960 feet. It would have been nearly impossible to fly under the Main St. bridge, especially in an inverted position, and come out without hitting another bridge or a building on the side of the St. Johns River, even back then, but who knows. I think it's a great story and must be a fond memory for all who participated.

Tom Boardman

Added 4/21/12: I was stationed at Pensacola when a fellow NAP flew under it [bridge]. They we're a flight of 3 or 4 and they never flew as pilots again.

Rip Collins

A Commisaryman "mole"; Gedunks for VFP-62

To all those Commissarymen out there, thanks for all the chow!

In our VFP-62 photo detachment on USS Intrepid, F8U-1P Crusaders, our Commissaryman was sometimes up on the flight deck with us. What a guy! God Bless You, CS3 Houlne, "Mister Houlne"! He made sure we had "extra" goodies, from who knows where...

"Mr. Houlne" was our Det contribution to the ship's crew. Like we had to supply a mess cook or a coop cleaner. We would sneak him up to the flight deck, give him a little well-supervised training and see how us boys on the roof did things. He would help the plane captains and watch the launches well away from the action. We did NOT want anything happening to our source of gedunks! He was a real salt; a treat to know him. I believe he was from NY or NJ, gutsy wise guy voice, a good shipmate.

Before we returned from the Med in Feb 1961, we had his fellow CS buddies make a cake for him. That cake is all firebrick, with mashed potato "frosting"!

John McKenna

Ed Houlne, CS3

"John Wayne Departing": The "Duke" Visits the Enterprise

John [Sees]
What about this? On the 1st or 2nd cruise John Wayne came on board it seems to me it was one of the Spanish isles and was not a port we had liberty.
Pete [Wallace]

It was the second cruise when John Wayne came aboard. Here is the story and I am copying Ken for whatever he might want to do with it. One of the guys from the photo lab was on the Boat boom sponson and John Wayne tooled up in a cabin cruiser. He hollered up to the guy if he could come aboard. So the guy said sure. John Wayne moored the boat to the boat boom and climbed up the ladder and came aboard.

They went down to the photo lab had coffee and took a group photo. Lcdr. Dutch the photo officer came back from somewhere and walked in on the proceeding. His first question was "Did anybody notify the captain?" Of course they didn't so he calls up to the OOD to notify the Captain who came down to the photo lab to collect John Wayne. The captain wanted to know how he was able to get aboard without anyone knowing. John explained what transpired and left with the Captain.

Later the Captain had John's boat brought around to the Officers Gang way and they announced "John Wayne departing" over the 1MC. I was in the photo lab at the time by just dumb luck. I was not allowed to be in the group photo because I didn't work there. I saw the picture but never got a copy. I seem to recall it was published somewhere perhaps the Cruise Book; I will have to look.


[Webmaster's Note: Marion Swinford remembers this incident:]
John [Sees]
I saw the sea story you had added to the web site about John Wayne and remember the event well. I was aboard the Enterprise (with VA 76) when he came aboard and I remember the story much the same as you do. (July 1964) The exception was that when he said "Can I come aboard?", he was told "No!" and his reply was "Like hell I can't" and climbed the ladder anyway. I did see the cabin cruiser he came alongside in while tied onto the port boat boom. Our berthing compartment was on the port side 03 level above those booms I believe I have a video of the boat and if I can find it will bring it to the reunion. We were in Palma Mallorca at the time.

The story was told that he owned a villa there.

Smooth sailing
Marion [Swinford]

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Created on ... November 29, 2007