VFP-62 Shipmates Guest Book- PAGE 5
Three RF-8As Over NAS Cecil Field
The lead RF-8 has new ventral fins, later installed on the RF-8G
Updated January 8, 2016
Most recent entries are added to the end of the list. Click thumbnail pictures to enlarge.
Thank you for visiting our site.
Please Recommend Us To Your Friends
Email the Webmaster
We invite you to click this link - VFP-62 Webmaster to email a question, comment, correction, or contribution to this page.
- 101. Hello Shipmates, PH2 Bruce Nason, VFP 62 April 1960 to August 22, 1962. Ken Jack has been after me to get something posted since the reunion in Mobile. However, the first thing I'd like to state is that I have no idea what an RF 8 is, while I lived
the adventure VFP 62 flew the hottest jet in the Navy, the F8U-1P Crusader
Like many things in my life, duty in VFP 62 is borderline fate. Actually
I didn't even want to enlist in the Navy but was talked into the buddy plan by my best friend in High School and after boot camp I never saw him again. He went to AD(A) School in Memphis and I
got orders to PH(A) School in Pensacola. Around 10 weeks into school we had the aerial photo segment. I can recall the Chief saying, "Don't worry too much about this because A school students almost never get assigned to aviation units." Eighteen of the 30 members of Class 44-59 got orders to either VFP 62 or VAP 62.
So in Spring of 1960 the adventure began with the Shangri La detachment, "Youngblood's Tigers" Our Leading [photo] PO was PH1 Donald Bartholomew. Professionally we were "all Navy" but having Bart as a role model on liberty gave me a unique start to my Naval career. Ken Jack and I could probably entertain you for hours with sea stories from a NATO cruise to South Hampton, England, lots of Caribbean shake-down cruises to Gitmo with liberty in Kingston and St. Thomas and of course the Med. cruise which was, at times, like a trip to Disney World.
I was discharged in August of 1962, just weeks before the Cuban missile crisis. After seeing TV coverage and reading about the events in the Milwaukee newspapers I actually called a Navy recruiter to see if I could volunteer to return to the squadron. I was told no. My Navy career seemed to be at an end about then. However in 1974 a friend, again, talked me into enlisting, this time in the 'knee-deep' Navy, the Coast Guard Reserve. They actually gave me a stripe, all I needed to do was complete the Public Affairs correspondence course. They gave me a time limit of a year, ha, I did it in a month! Suddenly I was a PA1 (Coast Guard didn't have Photomates). Unfortunately in three tries I couldn't make Chief, even though I placed 1st and 2nd on the in the country on the
service wide exams.
In 1981 I was talked into (it didn't take much convincing) transferring to a Public Affairs unit in the Navy Reserve. I made JOC first time up and had fantastic time working projects on board ships, with Marines, Seabees, a NATO joint forces landing in Norway, CICNAVEUR, the JIB at the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, commissioning of several ships including the battleships Missouri and Wisconsin (I followed the Wisconsin from mothballs to commissioning and was the first enlisted man to ship over on the Whiskey at sea...Captain Blesch made me, a Reservist, a Plankowner).
I also worked on the News Desk at CHINFO during the IOWA explosion and the first week of Operation Desert Storm. In 1993 I left the Public Affairs unit for a staff assignment with an Admiral at Great Lakes hoping that could shield me from that evil new Navy program called High Year Tenure. It
didn't and in 1996 my Navy kicked me out.
All in all after showing up at Cecil Field, a naive 18 year old, I credit the Navy adventure as laying the foundation for my 28 years as a television news photographer and 15 years as the Assignment Editor at a Milwaukee television station. (Ironically, one of the News Directors I endured was the Navigator on board the Shangri La a year or so after I left active duty). I've been the President of the Wisconsin News Photographers Association, Milwaukee Press Photographers Association and voted into the Milwaukee Press Club Media Hall of Fame. Presently I'm the Commodore of the largest Yacht Club in Wisconsin. My free time is now spent sailing, a little
travel, trying to keep up with eight grandkids and just trying to 'stir the pot a bit.'
Oh, Oh, I think Ken only wanted me to write a few lines, well I guess I just get carried away.....sort of like going on liberty with Bart.
Bruce Nason JOC [Chief Journalist PO]
My email address is: Click to email Bruce: firstname.lastname@example.org
Click to see VFP-62 photos of Bruce : Pic #1: Circa 1960Pic #2: USS Shangri La-Pic #3 VFP-62 barracks steps--Found on "Faces of VFP-62"
- 102. James B. Linn AN to AE1 1956 to 1960. Made Blue Nose Cruise in CVA 11 1957 and Med cruise 58 - 59 Forrestal.
My email address is: Click to email Jim: email@example.com
- 103. Gary Iverson YN3: I served in VFP-62 from 1962 to 1964, and ran the main office after my boss became very ill.
I recall that we had a fellow standing inspection during the Crisis (guns with no bullets) on the flight line. The guy got tired and crawled into the intake of the F8U. Someone seen him and covered the intake with the metal protector, and started up the engine starter; but DID NOT hook it up. The guy screamed bloody murder as he thought he was history. Moral: stay awake on duty. I'll bet this fellow still remembers that frightful early morning.
My memories are from the times, day and night, spent in the Admin office working with Cmdr Ecker and
many Top Secret photos; and descriptions of the Cuban Missile Crisis... thought we would see nuclear
missiles heading into the country at any time.
I turned down a request for the Academy and returned to SE Minnesota to marry and raise 4 boys; none
of them are in jail or are on drugs... great kids. I wore out the wife after 24 years.
I am now 68 and retired, living in NE Arkansas; lots of recreation and low taxes. A great place to retire if low taxes are important. Ask me.
Hardy, AR 72482
VFP-62 - Always the Best !!!
My email address is: Click to email Gary: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or, find me on Facebook.
- 104. My name is Edward L. Prikryl and I just found this web. I served with VFP-62 from Jan. 1963 to Jan 1965 as the squadron legal yeoman. In fact, found my picture as a member of a color guard. Noticed a get-to-gather in Sep. Will keep my eye on that date.
Thanks to being able to look in the past.
I"ve had a good life and looking for a bunch more years. I married a girl from Jacksonville, we had two children (girl and boy). My son, his wife and children live here in Orlando.
My daughter has two children and her husband is a Navy Seal. I do know Gary Iverson, Don Kuehl,
and Jerry Harvey.
My email address is: Click to email Ed: email@example.com
Click to see VFP-62 photos of Ed : Pic #1: Circa 1964-It'd be nice to be that skinny again?
- 105. Ken Keber: I was assigned to VFP-62 in 1967 after completing A School in Millington, Tenn. I was assigned to the Line Division and was deployed on the next cruise, a Med cruise aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, CVA-42 (1967 -1968) While deployed, VFP-62 was decommissioned and the detachment became assigned to VFP-63 based out of Miramar, Calif. Upon returning to Florida some squadron members remained with VFP-63 and reported to San Diego. I was assigned to VF-194, also in San Diego, and did a West Pac cruise on the USS Oriskany, CVA-34 (1969). There were a few of the VFP-62 /63 crew members from the Roosevelt cruise deployed on the Oriskany.
Thanks for your great work.
Ken Keber ADJ2 1966 - 1968
My email address is: Click to email Ken: mailto:Kenneth.Keber@alyeska-pipeline.com
- 106. Hello: I came aboard VFP-62 in 1962, made the WORLD shortest MED cruise aboard Enterprise as a AE2. I was aboard the Enterprise during Cuban Missile crisis. In 1963 made my second med cruise aboard The Big 60 from Dixie SARATOGA. VFP-62 was the start of a very good NAVY career for me. I left the squadron Dec 1965.
VFP-62 was a large squadron, for sea duty most of the chiefs never went to sea, only a few did.
I learned to be an electrician from the other AE's there. I advanced from E4 to E6 because of the excellent training I received there.
I moved from DET-62 to DET-60 in 1963. I still remember a PT who painted two Fighting Cocks on hanger bay one doors of Saratoga and did a fantastic job, made me proud that he was in our DET.
Pete Nunnley and Bill Newby live here in Pensacola. I retired form Navy in Feb 1981 as a AVCM.
I have very good memories of my tour in the Squadron.
Take care and GodBless
My email address is: Click to email Lacy: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 107. I reported to VFP 62, Feb 1957, as a new graduate of PH "A" school.
Being from Pennsylvania, Jacksonville, FL was an appealing assignment. Upon reporting to the squadron I was assigned to the "Photo Line". Not the first choice for a new PHGAA -- I really wanted to be a photographer.
Over the next few months the PH Leading chief saw a lot of me as I requested any assignment that would get me off the "line". The line PH1 had another plan for me, and laid it out. He was taking a few weeks of leave and upon his return he wanted me fully checked out on every camera configuration on both the F2H-2P Banshee and F9F-8P Cougar aircraft. I conceded and learned as much as I could and really began to love the work. So much so that I volunteered for a fall cruise on the Saratoga for a six week north Atlantic exercise with a detachment of Banshees.
1958 had another opportunity for a "Sara" detachment of Cougars. This cruise was a 9 month summer cruise to the Med. Then a 6 month summer Med Cruise in 1959 on the FDR with F8U-1P Crusaders.
I would have to say that VFP 62 set my course for the love of the Navy that had seen me through the next 40 years as a naval air reservist with the major portion of that time as an aircrew photographer. It continues on today as I introduce the public to life in the Navy as a tour guide on the USS Blueback, SS 581
Daryl "Flip" Phillippi PH1
VFP-62 Feb. 1957 - Oct. 1959
My email address is: Click to email Daryl: email@example.com
Click to see VFP-62 photos of Daryl : Pic #1: L:R Ken Tuel, Daryl Cannes 1958Pic #2: Det 43-58 Daryl 5th from left-Pic #3 USS Saratoga Daryl 4th from left-Pic #4 Daryl on right-Pic #5 Daryl on left-Pic #6 Aboard Saratoga Det--Found on "Faces of VFP-62"
- 108. Capt. Mo Hayes: I reported to VFP-62 in September 1964 from the Crusader RAG (VF 174), at Cecil Field, following a year at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
I was soon scheduled to become OinC of Det 42 on the FDR, and subsequently deployed to the Med as such in 1965.
Shortly after return from that deployment I became Executive Officer of the squadron in "66, then in "67 relieved Norm Youngblood as C.O.
As you know, In early '68 we decommissioned the squadron.
[Webmaster's Message: Mo's biography is on "VFP-62 Skippers" Page. Email the webmaster for contact information.]
- 109. Bruce G. Wall: I was attached to VFP-62 in 1960, 61 & 62. I was a AM3 & AM2 during that time. I did a Med Cruise on the Independence. I also was part of the Cuban missile crises.
I was in the det that first went down to photo the Cuban Isles. [Webmaster's Note: Bruce is referring to the Bay of Pigs invasion which happened in April 17-18, 1961.] I was a AMS2 at that time, I remember the planes painted completely with paint used to paint the ship by the ships sidecleaners. The only task that I had was to make sure all the camera windows were masked off. When they finished painting the A/C I made sure that all masking was completely off the Camera windows.
I'm 71 now and have been retired from the Navy since 1980. I think we were aboard the Independence, but not sure. I went to the Med on the Independence before the Missile Crisis. I left the Navy while in VFP-62 in 1964 for a short time. Lost contact with all squadron members, because when I reupped I went into the VP Navy.
Bruce G. Wall
My email address is: Click to email Bruce: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 110. Jimmy Horgan I was a PH-3. First, congrats on the terriffic web site. Got a lot of smiles after viewing the site. I was with Fightin Photo from 12/66-5/19/68. Joined with det-42, second to last of the 62 detachments, and after seeing Ken Keber's submission of our det cruise photos, I really had to write. I actually begged to go on the cruise as an extra having no sea-duty under my belt, and due to get out Jan. 68. I extended for the duration of the cruise and was released when we returned to Mayport.
We had some of the greatest officers, namely Dave Sjuggerud, Ed Andrews, Otto Erz, Ensign Johanson. Would like to send out warm hellos to all of them in addition to Terry Mulligan, Bob Vickers, Rich Crawford, Jim Rios, Warrant Officer Billy Kensler, PH-2 Peters, Rich Bregoli, John Cooner (The Kentucky Colonel). John C. Woody, Kenny Cates, Jimmy Clayton, Parrachute Rigger Brown, Chief Sunday, Rodney Vowell, and any whose names I've forgotten after all these years.
A great tribute to the honor of Capt. Dave Sjuggerud, God I wish I could have saluted him when he made Captain. Y'all on the detachment remember the "atta boy" awards he gave to the guys when they did a great job getting those old RF-8's off the catapults as scheduled. He's the guy that made you proud to be in the Navy & especially in VFP-62. His memorium actually made me cry to think that he was living so close to me when he died & I never had the chance to see him again. Had a great conversation with his wife not too long ago. She is fine, has a great family with very succussful sons. Mr. Sjuggerud introduced her to me in Italy when she came to the Med to meet up with him & get married in France.
Ah the memories..... A special tip of the hat to him for the experience he had on a landing on the FDR when his tailhook snapped after grabbing the #3 wire and went over the angle deck. He recovered by hitting the afterburner and barely skimmed over the water, and ultimately flew into Sigonella to await the airframes crew to install a new hook. Standing Ovation when he arrived back at the ready room.
I'd love to hear from anyone that remembers me. I'm in South Fl., near Ft.Laudrdale.
Thanks again for the great site. Your the Best.
My email address is: Click to email Jimmy: email@example.com
Click to see VFP-62 photos of Jimmy : Greece circa 66-67.
- 111. Jack Covington: Ken, I just came across this site and these pages take me back to my days with VFP-62. I have a few photos taken around the barracks area. I reported in December 1966 fresh out of basic as a "PSI" , waiting on AE school. I was in the squadron six or seven months before going over to NAS JAX for school. I did make two carrier qual cruises one on the FDR to Rossevelt Roads, and then one on Independence (CVA62). Don't remember much other than Chuck Pugh was the guy I was assigned to help. He was a plane captain and I was his gopher as such. I owe him a lot for watching after me while on the flight deck. Anyways, I'll try and post some photos as soon as I figure out how to do it. Great site you have going here.
Jack Covington ( I was a AEAN )
My email address is: Click to email Jack: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 112. I saw your address in the Legion magazine. I was an AE on the Tarawa 1953/1954 part of the detatchment of VC 62. Do you have any knowledge of those who served on that ship at that time? Or anyone who served in VC 62 at the same time? I was stationed at Jacksonville NAS in VC 62 1953/1954 and then in FASRON 51 at Sanford NAS in 1955/1956.
I was originally from Tavares, FL, but now live in Wildwood, FL.
My email address is: Click to email Gerry: email@example.com
- 113. I just saw the article in my VFW magazine about "Operation Blue Moon" by VFP-62. What a surprise. We got a presidential commendation & I never even knew it. I was in det 33-61 Fang Lberato was skipper, on USS Intrepid & USS Independence. I was in 1960-62. It was great to see the old photos of 50 years ago. Please show the citation on the web site. [Webmaster's note: see Cuban Missile Crisis page this site.]
I was a plane captain when Lt Curry's plane crashed on the USS Intrepid. His nose gear collapsed. He had a back ache for days, the plane was patched up & flown over to Nas Naples Italy (1961). I got flown over on the mail COD to babysit the plane while it was repaired. I had 4 weeks shore duty! I thought I died & went to heaven! When I got flown back on the mail COD, the ship looked like a postage stamp & gave me a deep appreiciation for our pilots.
Ray Meurer, ADJ3
My email address is: Click to email Ray: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 114.Hello Ken... My name is Lawrence Plourde (Larry) PH2/VFP-62. In 1961 I just finished two weeks in a Fallout Shelter Test in Maryland. The test was for "Project Greek Island" In the event of Nuclear War the government wanted to know how the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives might react at a relocation facility under The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. Let's do the math... it's about a three and half hour ride from DC to The Greenbrier and Cuba could have a nuclear missile ready to go in two hours. Well !!! I did my job and the Navy gave me my pick of my next duty station. I picked Key West. 90 miles from Cuba, weekends in Havana, girls, and Rum for breakfast, oh can't forget Shrimp.
I checked into VX-1 at Boca Chica. I worked the Line for awhile and got a hands on with the latest aircraft before it was released to the Fleet. Then it was time for SS... "Do you want to peel potatoes or paint the barracks?" I said, "I can swim ..." "Well it just so happens we have a opening." I was TAD to the Heloport in Key West and checked in with a woman I called Little Bit. Within two months I was Senior Lifeguard at the Officers Pool. Life was good and then in October of 1962 things started to change.
VX-1 moved out of Boca Chica to Norfolk VA without me. 50 thousand civilians left the lower Keys and 120 thousand troops filled Duval Street in Key West. The Overseas Highway was full of trucks with big signs that said Explosives on the side, and the Pool was empty.
About 4 days into the 13 days I realized I might be able to go on liberty. I checked with the OOD and he said, "It looks like you can, and your the only one. You must wear your Dress Blues." I found them and headed out. At the gate the Marine wasn't too happy to see me. I showed him my card and he said, "Nobody has liberty." I asked him to call the OOD, he did and the look on his face I will never forget. Key West was a ghost town completely dark. As I was walking down Duval St. I heard a Jeep pull up to me. An Army Sgt. asked where I was heading? I said, "The Key Wester." "Hop in I'll take you there." As we came up to Smathers Beach I couldn't believe my eyes. The beach was lined with bails of 6 foot tall razor wire, on the other side of the wire were the Hawk missiles... They covered the whole beach and where dug in deep with only the tips sticking out. I looked at the Sgt., and he said, "We are ready."
Across the street from the razor wire was the Key Wester. I could hear loud voices as I got closer, now at the door I saw more Brass then you would see in a parade. The noise stopped... as everyone looked at me. Jose Baso was the bartender and he broke the ice by yelling, "Larry come over I need some help." It was a fun night. I often wonder if any VFP-62 officers were there that night?
It took me 11 more months after the crisis to get what I joined the Navy for. PH "A" School 16 sep 63- 03 feb 64. After school my orders were to VFP-62, NAS, Cecil Field,Jacksonville, Florida. Wait a minute... RECON !!! I want to take pictures,nice ones.
[Webmaster's Note: I felt this way, at first. But, as it turned out, it was the best thing that happened to me in my Navy career]
Now that the Cuban Missile Crisis was over, as we knew it, things started to go back to normal. My squadron VX-1 finally found me and cut my orders to PH School in Pensacola Fla.
"A" School was just what I needed... 24/7. My granddaughter just processed her first roll of film, so I told her about my first time in the darkroom: I lined everything up. I turned the lights off and started to roll the film on the reel, and I dropped it on the floor. Now on my hands an knees with a cool sweat on my forehead, looking for it.
I could hear people running out side the door. My first thought was, is it a fire !!! I banged on the door until someone stopped... I yelled, what in the hell is going on? The voice said... "The President has been shot, and we have to muster outside." Still dark, I found the film on the floor put in the Nikor tank and went outside. The whole school was out front when they announced that President Kennedy was dead. Flashback: Less than a year earlier, President Kennedy presented Capt. Ecker the Navy Unit Commendation for VFP-62, for their outstanding job in "Operation Blue Moon". This took place at my old hangar at Boca Chica in Key West... School started up again a few days later and was over on Feb. 3. 1964. My orders were to VFP-62 at Cecil Field, Florida. [Webmaster's Note: Larry's arrival story is placed on "Sea Stories" page 7 where I'm collecting stories of arriving at VFP-62.]
A shakedown cruise or two out of the way, we started to put a team together. The photographers were Ron Perrymore, myself, David Bluestone, and Carl Sittle. The cruise... USS Shangri-La Det. 38 VFP-62/64-65. We had three aircraft, 903, 919, and 915. Headed by LCDR Lindsay an four pilots, one photo interpreter, and 30 enlisted men. We were a small group, but large enough to be the "The Eyes of the Fleet". On this cruise we were known as "Sooper Snoopers". [Webmaster's Note: Check out Larry's Det 38 photo album on "VFP-62 Memorabilia."]
After a few weeks at sea we were able to work out most of the bugs and a routine was the norm. I found that I was running the show almost from day one. Ron Perrymore PH1, I saw the day we boarded, but never saw him again in six months. I worked out of a area called "Camera Repair" located between the flight deck and the hangar deck on the port side. I set up all film and cameras for the missions. Bluestone (The Trouble Shooter) and Sittle (The Beach Boy) cleaned all camera bays, installed cassettes, and retrieved them after the mission for processing. A couple of times I had to retrieve cassettes that were "Sensitive". The quickest way to the Photo Lab was to go down the up escalator the pilots used to get to the flight deck. Overall the system we had in place worked well.
Most of my down time was spent in the Photo Lab. The Staff Photographers an Lab Technicians were great to me. I was finally learning how to shoot, process, and print. The time was flying by... then "The Occurrence at Cannes": 3000 gallons of black oil on the beach of Cannes at the height of the tourist season. Bad... Just a month later on Aug. 27 we had a "Collision" with the destroyer Newman K. Perry (DD-883) while at sea. The Shangri-La received temporary repairs and after turnover with the USS Forrestal, headed back across the Atlantic towards home. Feeling a little sad about leaving all the "Ports of Call" behind, but feeling good about going home... Sittle was tuning his radio for the latest "Beach Boys" song, and then we yelled... What the Hell is That? It was "Hang on Sloopy" by the McCoys. The country moved on without us. We were home.
I was now a PH2, and back at Cecil as a short timer, with duty in the Photo Lab. My job was running the darkrooms, processing, print rooms, and a small shooting area. This I liked. Then word came down that I was getting a involuntary extension of four months. It seemed that there were not enough qualified Photomates to fit the need. During this time I was working between two Labs. VFP-62 was flying a lot. On sensitive missions I had to go to the line and retrieve the cassettes and drive them over to the Jax Photo Lab to have the film run trough the Kodak Versamat. I thought the Crises were over... The four months flew by.
On 08/Mar/66 it was time to leave the Navy. With my discharge papers in hand and in Dress Blues I started down the long road to the front gate. Then I heard someone yelling... Larry, Larry, Larry. It was the Chief. He said that a VFP-62 plane was coming in... what do I do with the film? I like to think he was pulling my leg. I told him I had a plane to catch... I was going home.
Within two weeks of leaving the Navy I started a Commercial Photography Studio called Hartford Photo with all the photo books through Chief and the Mamiya C3 I bought while on the Shangri-La. My dream came true... In 1995 I got my Master of Photography Degree from the Professional Photographers of America in Denver Co. 44 years later I retired... I haven't put the camera down. I now travel when I can, and have traveled to many of the Ports of Call while on the Shangri-La.
In retrospect... The Navy, "A" School, VFP-62, and yes Life guarding taught me everything, and I ran with it. It was just those 13 Days in Oct. of 1962... that was scary.
Larry Plourde, PH2
My email address is: Click to email Larry: email@example.com
Click to see photos of Larry in VFP-62: Larry on Cecil Field line
Also, click to see: News article about Larry's two-week sequester
- 115.Hello Ken,
I really like what you have done with the web site. It brings back a lot of memories of our youth. The Navy really did help us to mature, if I had stayed in I might have grown up by now.
I made the first Med cruise on the Enterprise (short cruise) then to Cuba on it's return.
Later detached to the Shangri-La from 1963-64 and made many shakedown and midshipmen cruises then on to the med. I was discharged July 1964.
I spent 45 years in the Elevator Industry throughout Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Texas, and Florida. I'm trying to retire without a great deal of success. The wife doesn't really want me underfoot
and I'm really not ready to hang it up.
Keep up the good work on the site and if I can help in any way please let me know.
Jerry Smith (AKA Smitty)AE3
My email address is: Click to email Jerry: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 116. Being part of VFP-62 was a great period of my life that I have learned to appreciate more with each passing year - especially since I met my wife while stationed at Cecil Field.
I was on the Forrestal as part of Det 42-60 with Mac Warnell. vfp62.com takes me back to the good old days of spinning turbine blades & the pervasive aroma of jet fuel.
Daniel Ward Schryver (AT2)
My email address is: Click to email Dan: email@example.com
- 117. My name is Rick Maioriello, I came to VFP-62 in Dec 1956 after photo school at Pensacola and fresh out of flight training as a naval cadet. I was a 20 year-old ensign and did not know what a great opportunity this was and how coveted an assignment it was among Navy pilots. I remember like yesterday being called into the training commander's office in Beeville, Texas and being told that I was selected to go to photo school. I was in my last days of flight training and was still unassigned when a fellow cadet who had this assignment, "bought the farm" a few days earlier. The commander was surprised when I responded that I would rather be a fighter pilot and then told me he was sending me anyway. I answered something like in that case, I volunteer.
When I arrived at Pensacola the officer of the day looked at me, a new just-hatched ensign naval aviator and jealously stated that he had been trying for years to get such an assignment. My photo class consisted of pilots that were World War II and Korean War vets and senior enlisted men who were experienced in photography. There was one other junior officer right out of flight training and OCS in our class. Terry Cantrell was his name and he was recently married. He did not eject after declaring MAYDAY on a photo-training flight is his F9F-6P. We never found out what actually happened.
At photo school, the older pilots informed me how fortunate I was, as a new aviator to join a photo squadron, where I would lead flights and complete missions, as opposed to becoming "tail end charley" in a fighter sqaudron. I can certainly reaffirm how my experience with VFP-62 accelerated my growth as a pilot and officer. VFP-62 was a large squadron in 1957 and 1958 at NAS Jacksonville with over 50 pilots and had both Banshees and Cougars. I was assistant communications officer under Lt Charles B Sturm (2/2/25-3/3/07). He was a Korean War vet who flew off the USS Boxer and was in photo school with me and kept me out of trouble. Being an ensign had its good points however. The Miss Jacksonville or Miss Florida beauty contest wanted a group of ensigns to escort the contestants and of course all the bachelors wanted in on this week of partying and fun. A small group from VFP-62 were selected. It started with a mixer where we were told to pick the girls we wanted to escort...this sparked a mad dash to pick your lady. The VFP-62 group were good judges. We picked the 1st and 2nd runner-ups. I got the talent show winner and Ted Mendenhall married the winner. I hung out with the bachelor group and recently talked to Bucky Walters, Charlie Counter and Dennis Looney, who was the PI on my detachment cruise. Mike Sullivan was another photo interpreter that was in that group.
Later in Nov. 1957 I went with det 45-58 on the USS Essex. Ward Berkey was detachment commander, Eugene "BZ Bezore [see In Memoriam], Paul Corrigan [see In Memoriam], Deke Dieterich [see In Memoriam] were the other pilots. On this cruise the Essex was the sister ship to the USS Saratoga. It was a merger of the oldest and newest carriers at that time. Essex being CVA-9 and Sara CVA-60. My friends Charlie Counter and Bucky Walters were selected for the Saratoga and were very excited about that. As it turned out I was the lucky one. The Sixth Fleet Flag was aboard the Saratoga so they were subjected to all the formalities like dress blues for meals, extra ceremonies etc. We got to hang out in our flight suits all the time and were just in the business of flight operations.
When the Marines landed in Beirut we were in the eastern Mediterranean at Athens and the Sara was somewhere near Naples Italy. So the Essex and our detachment supported the landing and the Saratoga showed up 3-4 days later. That operation really pulled the men of the ship together with us flying round the clock for over 45 days with Captain Christopher the ship's skipper telling us on the ship's radio every evening: what great pilots and ships crew we were, breaking all kinds of flying and mission records. In February before Lebanon we had suffered a severe fire when an AD collapsed his right gear on landing and the prop turned him off the angle deck and carried him into the pack of previously landed aircraft. We lost over 20 planes but no one was killed and only the pilot suffered some burns but he continued on the cruise. I remember vividly seeing only the two molten engines of what was left of a fully fueled Banshee that did not make the launch.
The Essex got its next win over the Saratoga when we were sent instead of her through the Suez Canal to the WESTPAC to support action at Quemoy and Matsu. The draft of the Saratoga was 3 feet deeper than the allowed depth to go through the canal at that time. That cruise earned two Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals.
When we finally flew our planes off the Essex back to JAX in Nov. 1958, I was most impressed when Essex skipper, Captain Christopher climbed up each of the Cougar ladders to talk to us. He shook my hand and said "goodby Rick, goodby and good luck." Unfortunately the cruise was not without cost as we lost 3 pilots including my friend and liberty buddy Deke Dieterich and a Navy chief when he was hit with a flying light cover on the flight deck.
I left VFP-62, went back to Philadelphia, graduated college and went to medical school, while still flying with the weekend warriors at Willow Grove, first FJ-4s later S2Fs. I was approached by the Air Force to re-enlist as part of a pilot physician program, flew F-102s, F-105's and finished with F-4D Phantoms. I retired from the Air Force in '79 and went into private practice as an ent surgeon in Canton Ohio. I retired again in '98 and then adopted two baby girls from Guatemala who are now 10 years old and dictate my daily life's activities.
I am indebted to VFP-62 for such a life-broadening experience and the great friends I have made there. Thanx for letting me log on and share a sea story or two. My phone is (330)866-2210. I would like to hear from you.
Rick [Colonel USAF (ret)]
My email address is: Click to email Rick: tigerich1@aol
- 118. I was in VC-62 from 1953 till 1955. I was onboard the USS Bennignton when the starboard cat blew up and killed over a 100 good men. Would like to hear from any one else who was aboard at that time .
My email address is: Click to email Herb: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 119. Served with VFP-62 from Jan63 to Jun65. Did Carrier Quals on CVA 38, 42, and 62. Did one Med on CVA 62 in 1963. My rate was AME...typically we sent one AME on the detachments. I see a pic of our officer crew for the Indepedence on our 63 cruise...anything out there for the enlisted crew?
My email address is: [Webmaster: email address requested]
- 120. Hi guys ,I was in JAX with VP-62, VFP-62 from 1955 to 1957 as plane captain and AE3. Seems you don't have any pictures from that time. Also went to sea on the Lake Champagne in 1956. Thanks for all the great pictures and memories. Keep up the good work.
Mike O'Connell Palm Coast Florida.
My email address is: Click to email Mike: email@example.com
- 121. In the [Bulletin Board] note from Harley Willis you mentioned that Del Willis and myself had not been in VFP`62. You didn't go back far enough . We both were in VFP-62 in 1956 -1957-1958. We were there with Banshee,Cougars and the F8U-1P. We were on the line and the photo lab at Jax. Keep up the good work on the site. I caught up with Harley here in P-Cola.
Sincerely yours , John Starkey, PH1 USN Ret .
Unfortunately, John is deceased. See memorial on "In Memoriam."