We left McGuire and went to Pope AFB in North Carolina. There, we picked up troops from Fort Bragg, who just completed basic military training. We were to bring them to the killing fields of Vietnam. As the aircraft commander, I was the last of the crew to come onboard after filing the flight plan. When I entered the plane, I looked into the cabin and saw all these 18 year old guys looking up the plane at me. I can still see those eyes looking at me.
We left and went to Travis, in California, Hickam, in Honolulu, Wake Island, then Guam. We laid over on Guam. Andersen Field, on Guam was the home of the B-52s. The B-52 planes stood on a large ramp and were guarded by airmen with rifles.
The B-52s had a hell of a start to their war on Vietnam. Here is a quote from US military history re B-52s: Andersen would play a major part in the Vietnam conflict, when 27 B-52 bombers were launched from its runway June 18, 1965. The aircraft initiated Operation Arc Light, bombing missions over North and South Vietnam to strike Viet Cong base operations and enemy troop concentrations and supply lines. Arc Light missions continued for eight years.
First losses were operational (non-combat) mid-air collision 2 B-52F 57-0047 and 57-0179 (441st Bomb Squadron, 320th Bomb Wing), 18 June 1965, South China Sea during air refueling orbit, 8 of 12 crewmen killed.
Well, when the layover came to it’s end, I was in the flight office filing our flight plan for our next leg. I was dressed in a flight suit with a fore and aft cap. The telephone in the office rang and I was called to the phone. It was from the General’s office. Brigadier General Robert H. Gaughan, was in command of the B-52 aircraft at Andersen AFB. They requested that I come to the General’s office immediately.
I got in a car and was taken across the base to the General’s office. As a Navy pilot dressed in a flight suit, I was uncomfortable and had NO IDEA why I was there. After about five minutes, I went into the General’s private office. He told me that “VR-3” was written on the noses of 13 B-52 aircraft. Well, VR-3 was the name of my squadron at McGuire. He said it was written with a crayon and that made me think of my loadmaster. He always used crayons on pallets when he was loading a plane. The loadmaster with me on that flight was black. It happened 55 years ago and I can’t remember his name.
The General told me that I had to leave the man responsible for this, on Andersen for discipline. I told the General that all the men on my crew were in the United States Navy. I told him that we were a crew and I could not leave anyone behind. I also told him that the Navy insisted on disciplining all sailors by the Navy. Then, I told him he could call Captain Montunas, the Commanding Officer of my squadron. He did not say anything.
Then, I said:”It is good that you only got VR-3 written on your aircraft instead of bombs from the Viet cong. Some of your officer’s will surely get in trouble over this, won’t they?” At which point, he ordered me out of his office and told me to leave Andersen and told me not to say anything about this incident to anybody.
Well, I did discuss it with my loadmaster. He told me that they would not allow him into the acey/ducey club for petty officers. That happened because he was black, so he went to his room, got his crayon and went to work on the aircraft. I can’t understand how he avoided the guards. So, it goes …..