Updated October 8, 2015
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) at Gibraltar
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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.
Falling Off the Carrier Angle Deck in the Dark
by Dave Stokes
It was about 3 AM on a Med cruise aboard the Essex 1958 and I was a plane captain of F9F-8P photo plane. They spotted my plane just behind # 2 cat for early morning launch.
We didn't do much night flying and had been parked all night on flight deck so I wrote a letter to my mother and had put it in map case and would mail it after flight quarters secured.
I was tired and after tie down of aircraft I made my way below to my bunk. Walking past the post office next to our quarters I remembered I forgot my letter that I wrote and wanted it to go out in the morning mail plane so, I headed back up to the flight deck.
On my way to flight deck I stopped by camera repair just under the flight deck behind the angle deck but it was locked. The white lights were on and I should have had my red lens on my goggles so my eyes would be adjusted to the dark but I didn't.
I climbed out on the cat walk and couldn't see a thing for the flight deck was pitch dark. Not realizing I was walking on the wrong way to my plane, I stepped off the flight deck on the angle and into the net made out of heavy steel cable.
Falling 8-10 feet into the net and all I could hear was water below me. My heart was pounding and called for help but there was no one left on the flight deck. Some how I make it up on deck after about 10 minutes and had scrapes on me from the steel net.
Here's the other reason for going after that letter to my mother who I had not written in a few months: While working on the flight line before we left on cruise the leading chief, Red Owens, called for me to his office. Why I didn't know but would soon find out.
As I stood in front of the chief's desk, he asked me if I ever wrote my mother as he pulled a letter from a drawer addressed to him. "Yes," I said. "How often did I write my mother," he asked? Responding I said, "Once in awhile."
The chief said, "It's been over 6 months and I don't like getting these letters from families worrying about their sons" the Chief said. "You will write you family once a month if only a post card do you understand son?" "I don't want another letter like this again to come across my desk do you under stand?" "YES CHIEF!"
Then he reached in the drawer again and pulled a handful of report chits for wearing white socks! "WHY are you wearing white socks?" I said, "My feet sweat working on that hot tarmack and between my toes they crack." All he said was, "Wear black socks over the white ones, now get out of my sight! I don't want to see you up here again." "YES CHIEF!"
Now do you understand why I had to get that letter mailed?
I was afraid of the long arm of the chief reaching out to me at sea. I was 20 years old.
HORROR Stories of "The Gator"
Don't let this one get you!
[Webmaster's note: This section collects stories on how dangerous it was to work around the Crusader's huge intake. ]
From John Dwyer ADJ VFP-62 Det. 37-59:
Ken, I was the assigned AD on the flightdeck for our Det. Our RF-8 always used burner and my position was between the cats and forward enough to make eye contact with the pilot and when he would go to burner I would give the quick look at fuel venting and good burner and give the thumbs up. On this launch on starboard cat when he (Tal Bagget) went to burner the nose kicked left and the launch crew came to the inboard side to push the plane back in line with the cat.
On the third try (not sure about this part even though I was right there but looking aft) the flightdeck Chief went close to motion his guys to get in the cat walk, at the same time the pilot went full power and got the "5-sign" to go in burner and then the plane had a massive compressor stall. The pilot pulled power and opened the canopy and motioned me up. He said "something went down!"
When we got to the number-one elevator and I went down the intake and found the Chief draped over the engine cone. There was nothing I could do and came out and got some lights. A Doctor asked if there was any way to see in and we went to the left wheel well and I removed the 4-in cover where the inlet temp prob went and and the doctor was able see him. Three guys went in and were able to remove him by making a three-man line by holding each other's feet and [all] being pulled from outside. I think the three who went in were AD2 Al Bellavance, Randy Lusby and Bud Moore. This was just off the east coast in Dec. '58 or Jan '59 on FDR [USS Franklin D. Roosevelt CVA-42] and the Chief was transported to the hospital where he died that night. The Chief was soon to retire.
[Webmaster's note: After receiving this email from John, a discussion between us developed. Here is some of that conversation:]
Ken Jack to John:
Quite a story! In May 1960 I reported to the photo-line shack, Chief Blake got all of us rookies together and warned us to "not get close to the intake," and "not get close too close to the exhaust." Obvious, I guess, but for those of us who never saw a fighter jet, yet work close to one, it was requisite information. Being sure he got our attention, Chief Blake added, "Recently a guy got sucked into the engine. . . He didn't make it. . . The plane bled for days." The incident below was surely the accident Chief Blake referenced.
This incident had lots of ramifications. When I got to my first det on the Shangri La in 1960, we had lots of flightdeck folks walk carelessly in front of the intake. So, I made a "tiger's mouth" design and the metalsmiths painted the teeth motife on the intake to warn folks off. (Also related, is our O in C, Lt Cdr Norman Youngblood, had a previous detachment called "Youngblood's Tigers." You'll see photos of it on Page 1 of Guest Log. and above. I write in our book "Blue Moon Over Cuba" about the dangers of working around the Crusader. I wish I had this story before it went to press.---Ken Jack
John Dwyer to Ken Jack:
I guess I've wanted to tell this for a long time; my family has heard it a lot. Remember this was Dec. 58 or Jan 59 and you can guess the clothes he had on: Yellow shirt, leather jacket, shirt, t-shirt, flight deckers, pants, ear protection, and watch---all that was left: SHORT PANTS, and I think he was out on a stretcher in 5 minutes.
Since you are familiar with flightdeck ops. you know the position we took during launch. Our RF8s were always positioned on the cats first thing in the morning and we stayed until our guys launched, then went below. When the doctor got to the left wheel well, he was able to get a pulse so things started moving fast. Yes there was blood on his [the chief's] elbow that was near the cover opening, but we removed the engine that day and most of anything was in the engine, very little in the plane, but in the intake there were many boot marks on the top of the intake.
I was in only one meeting during the investigation and was told the Chief was slightly behind and below the intake when it happened. Another incident in early 1960 happened in the fuel pit at Cecil when the pilot went to 70 percent prior to shut down and a plane captain went down the intake. He was not VFP-62 but a VF squadron that shared the fuel pit. He was in the chow hall that afternoon with bruises and welts.
Tal Bagget is the same guy that had the mid-air with Lt. Offerman returning from Gitmo near Orange park and I was part of the clean up crew near railroad tracks. That was late 1959 after FDR 37-59 got home in Sept. [Webmaster's note: Lt Offerman survived but was burned badly. In my first months on the photo line, I remember seeing him and he had very serious scars. He was killed later on a launch from a carrier. More details are on "Crusader Mishaps" linked from "We Love Crusaders."]
One more less serious incident at Cecil: I was assigned to the engine shop and any time a plane needed to be run, the shop sent someone out to run it. Lt. Spider Johnson was our Maint. Officer after C.C.Smith and a call to the shop for a run-up on the line and Spider said, "I'm going out; I'll do it." Several minutes later Spider was at the shop door and asked me to go with him, cause "something happened." He helped me into the duct and I found the remains of a Duct Cover/Plug against the engine. The way the planes were parked the tail was looking at you when you came from the hangar and the spot to his left was empty and a duct cover was over near the one he was going to run. He moved it away and thought it was a plug for the one he was getting in. My recollection is he lost his wings and went to Fasron 9, next door. He indicated everything was normal until the 70% prior to shut down. Thinking back Stuff was happening all the time. John Dwyer
"Opps!! Where are the Brakes?"
I do remember we lost one of our planes overboard when a blue shirt tried to "ride the brakes" during a flight deck repositioning of aircraft. The yellow shirt did not wait for a plane captain. They disconnected the tow-bar to reposition the tractor and told the blue shirt in the cockpit to hold the brakes. He pushed down on the rudder pedals, not the top part of the pedals that were the brakes, plus he probably did not hand pump the hydraulic press beforehand. He jumped out of the cockpit and landed on the flight deck while the plane went overboard. Anyway, I also did a Med. Cruise on the Forrestal, so maybe it was Det. 59, which was a year later that this happened. I will forward this e-mail to you and others to see if others can correct my memory about the plane going overboard. I may have "made my 1st mistake, again!"
We did lift it back aboard by crane, but the plane was ruined quickly by salt water and remained in the rear of hanger bay #3. We think we were in port at the time, somewhere in the Mediterranean Det. 65 in 64'.
Does any one remember one of our pilots ejecting by catapult #4 when I think it was rough weather and very slippery and the plane was going overboard? Can't remember which cruise or which carrier qualification cruises.
Robert King ADJ3 1963-66
Fate and The USS Forrestal Fire
An interesting aside regarding Forrestal was that in 1967, I was assigned to PFCCG [Combat Camera Group], Det Saigon. We provided mopix coverage all Navy and some Marine Corps activities: In -Country Vietnam and on Yankee and Dixie Stations off-shore. One of the jobs we always did was to send a crew out to any new flat deck that came on station to shoot stock footage for Chinfo press releases. Since, I had been aboard Forrestal before, I volunteered to take the crew out to the ship when she came around from Norfolk.
I was in the Forrestal COD revving up to take off to fly out to the ship. Looking back, I cannot remember if we were on Tan Son Nhut, in Danang or Cam Ranh Bay. However, it was only going to be a half-hour or so flight out to Forrestal. The plane revved up and then revved down. It seemed like the longest time and I do remember that we were hot as hell.
The COD finally returned to the operations building and we off-loaded. I asked the pilot "What's going on?" he replied, I don't know; something has happened out on the ship. I missed the great Forrestal fire by less than an hour. Looking at the plat camera footage [link below], I know that I would have died shooting that fire if I had been aboard the ship. It still gives me chills. It would have been ironic to have been serving on the ground in Vietnam and then dying on a carrier off-shore.
Richard Crowe PHCSM, Ret. (VFP-62 1960-63)
[Webmaster's Note: Even though this sea story is after Dick's tour with VFP-62, it is a great story that these pages are intended to convey. See Dick's message on Guest Log Page 4. The link to a video of: The Forrestal Fire ]
Errant Peanut, & Twilight Zone Encounter
I have a little story that is amazing. On the 63-64 Med cruise we had a fuel line that had to be changed on the three aircraft. which meant around the clock work schedule. Mean while the ship's store made a trip to the Omega watch factory and had picked up this strange watch that did not have any hands on it. After 36 hours straight I raced to the store to find out it was sold and they only had one. Went back to sleeping compartment only to see the watch in the original box on the table.
It turns out AM3 Charles Kenyon had purchased it and now was selling it. It turns out that his son had sniffed a peanut up his nose and an emergency lung operation was required. They were selling raffle tickets for the watch to give to Charlie ($$ to have on his emergency leave). I asked how many were left they said two. I then said I'll take them both and then someone else piped up and it only left one. I bought the last raffle ticket and went to sleep. You guessed it I won the watch.
Now comes the best part. In October 1971 I was traveling with my family from SF Bay area to Washington state then across country to Mass. I had a travel trailer and was near Mt Shasta when I went above 3000 feet--it was snowing. So for safety I pulled into Castle Craigs State Park. The sign said make your self at home and the Ranger will be around sometime. I was the only one there until this RV from Oklahoma pulled in.
The two couples were Post Masters for some small towns in OK. The one couple asked me, after seeing my bumper sticker gate pass, if I knew their son that was in the Navy . I said no and we continued to talk. Then the woman said proudly that her son received a Medal from Pres. Kennedy for the Cuban crisis. I stopped immediately and said what was your son's name? She told me and I responded, "How is his son that sniffed a peanut up his nose." Then I showed them the watch that I was still wearing some 8 years later.
I got Charles Kenyon's address, who was working for OK Air National Guard. We traded XMAS cards for a few years. Both parties left the camp ground early the next morning.
It still is amazing to me.
Bob Merritt Brennan ADJ2 VFP-62 1962-65
[Webmaster's Note: Bob's last name was Merritt during his tour in VFP-62. His message is on Guest Log Page 4. This is the type of story that I intended for Sea Stories. If you have one, submit it.]
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Created on ... January 21, 2009