On August 4th 1964, I was at home in Country Lakes, NJ and was on alert status as a co-pilot, of a C-130E aircraft crew. I listened to President Lyndon Baines Johnson speak on TV just before midnight about the ship confrontations in the Tonkin Gulf, of North Vietnam. I had been there, on my ocean going minesweeper, MSO USS ENGAGE 433. We had ships run in on us when I was there in 1961. But that did not matter now, I went into my bedroom and packed a bag for the trip that was about to start, because President Johnson said war maneuvers would begin.
We were called out and we left before dawn on August 5th from McGuire AFB and we flew to Shaw AFB, in South Carolina. We picked up a field hospital and headed west. We went to Travis AFB, in California and then to Hickham Field, in Honolulu, Hawaii. From there we continued to Wake Island. By the time we got to Wake Island, we ran into a problem with the oxygen tank that held crew oxygen which we might need in a loss of pressurization. So, we had to wait for parts to get to us. We arrived in Wake on August 8th after crossing the dateline and we were there on August 9th. So, here we were on Wake Island looking at the field from our bunkhouse and seeing a parade of US aircraft landing and taking off every few minutes. It was a very real show of how much force gets moving once war plans are executed and we saw it with our own eyes.
On August 10th, we flew to Kadena AFB on Okinawa, removed the field hospital and then flew to Midway Island, the western most island in the Hawaii chain. I had been to Midway on the Engage. As we were steaming into Midway, there appeared to be a ship in the channel. Captain Zook asked the Operations Officer how much speed it was making and was if it going into port or coming out of port. Ensign Stephen Phelps Henderson III answered: “Making 5 knots and steaming out of port, sir.” But when we got there, it was and old wreck, fast aground to the right of the channel.
Midway is a place where the Albatross gather in large numbers and it is instructive to watch them land and tumble to a stop and to see how they take off from the ground. They are beautiful in flight but they are strange to see on the ground.
The albatross are all over the island. This photo was taken by someone who lived on Midway for several years. it is an albino albatross.
From Midway, we flew to Hickham AFB in Honolulu and to Travis AFB in California and then back to McGuire. That was the first, of many flights that I took to the western Pacific, in my flying for VR-3, Naval Aviation Transport Squadron 3.