Today, 10 March 2021, there was an obituary for, Allan McDonald, one of the Morton Thiokol engineers, who worked so hard to keep the Challenger from being launched. There was a problem with the O ring design of the missile.
Here is an image of the missile they were using:
The solid-fuel booster rockets whose failure is a cause of the Jan. 28 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger were made by Morton Thiokol Inc. at a sprawling mountain production site a few miles east of Brigham City, and 10 miles from Promontory Point, where the western and eastern legs of the transcontinental railroad were joined in a historic ceremony May 10, 1869.
These solid fuel rockets were transported on railroad cars. And, the tunnels for these cars were built to cover the tracks that were built, the way the English built tracks. The English used the ox-cart tracks left by the Romans when they invaded England. Julius Cesar invaded in 55 BC and the Roman Empire was in England from 43 BC to 410 AD. So, the missiles were built to the width of ox-carts.
These missiles had O ring seals that could not be accurate when the launch occurred after an extended period of cold weather. These seals shrank too much to offer the protection that was needed to keep the missile together. The engineers and the scientists all knew that. NASA knew that.
The scientists and engineers could say what they wanted to say, but nobody was listening. It was like Trump with: “the pandemic will go away”. The politicians wanted that teacher in space so Reagan could show the world how COOL he was.
Because, the REAL cause of the disaster was that President Ronald Reagan intended to speak by radio to the teacher that NASA had placed on the astronaut’s crew, during his State of the Union speech that he intended to give on national TV on January 28th. I know that because WBAI reported it when this disaster struck. You can’t find it in the history of the disaster but the kids know how to do the hacking. They will find it!
The five astronauts and two payload specialists that made up the STS 51-L crew aboard the space shuttle Challenger in January of 1986. Crew members are (left to right, front row) astronauts Michael J. Smith, Francis R. (Dick) Scobee and Ronald E. McNair; and Ellison S. Onizuka, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis and Judith A. Resnik.
Christa McAuliffe—Payload Specialist, Teacher
As the other payload specialist, McAuliffe was a social studies teacher at Concord High School in New Hampshire when she was selected from more than 11,000 applicants to join NASA’s Teacher in Space Project in 1985. She received a bachelor’s degree in history and education from Framingham State College in 1970 and eventually received her master’s in education, supervision, and administration from Bowie University in 1978.
While in space, McAuliffe was planning lessons to teach her students from the shuttle. Among the lessons, she was slated to give a presentation about space travel titled “Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why.” After the explosion and her death, several honors were bestowed on her posthumously.
The most serious impact of Ronald Reagan on education was his failure to affirm public education as an essential need for strengthening the nation. He wanted to talk to Christa McAuliffe on national TV to boost his image.
VR-3 assigned me to be an instructor aircraft commander in February of 1966. I did all kinds of training. I did annual training, aircraft commander upgrade training, tactical training and instrument training. Here are a few tales of the training I did.
We would go out on paratroop drops and we did that at low level. We would leave McGuire and fly at 500 feet across the Delaware river, turn left and flying up the coast over the Atlantic, parallel to Seaside Heights, NJ and then head in for a drop at the Lakehurst drop zone. We would raise up too 1200 feet and the Navigator would give the jump sign and out the paratroopers would go. One of the Majors who we dropped brought some cornstalks back to VR-3 for the navigator who put him in the cornfield. Below a C-130 dropping a test dummy at Lakehurst.
The Tactical Air Command gave us orders to train our pilots to come into Vietnam airfields at 1200 feet above the airport’s altitude and make a breaking turn over the approach end of the runway in order to prevent ground machine gun fire hitting our planes on the approach. To accomplish this maneuver we would close our throttles over the runway and make a descending turn. We would hold off putting our gear down until we got slow enough to extend them for landing. With the throttles closed, when the C-130 went through 1000 feet above the ground a warning horn would sound to indicate the throttles were closed and the gear was not down. We briefed our pilots to allow that horn to keep blowing as a reminder to lower their gear.
I did this training with many of our pilots, including the Four Stripe Commanding Officer of VR-3, Captain Montunnas. I gave him the briefing NOT TO SILENCE the horn. Well, when we hit the end of the runway, he went into the turn and started slowing down and descending. When we went through 1000 feet the horn started to sound. He said: “Silence the horn.” I didn’t because of my briefing but he said it again. This time, I silenced the horn. I reached across and turned off his radio reception with the tower. Then I told the tower I was an instructor and knew the landing gear was not down and asked them not to say anything about that on the radio. Then, I turned his radio back on. We kept coming in for the landing and when we got to about 150 feet above the ground, I said: “I have the airplane. Look at your gear.” So, we had to go back out and do it again.
I went out one Sunday morning with several pilots who needed to make some instrument approaches. To do that, I would go to Atlantic City airport where there were two runways and various navigational radio facilities. We were too heavy for landing when we first got there, so I asked the pilot flying to enter a holding pattern. As he did that, which he did correctly, I started setting the ADF radio for an ADF approach. I was looking down at the ADF tuner. The plane was at 20,000 feet and we were 20 miles out over the Atlantic. We were working Atlantic City radar control. All of a sudden, I felt a large bump and looked up. All I saw was the side of a Navy P-3 airplane. It was a turbo prop like the C-130 and was also at 20,000 feet. He was heading from Navy New York to Jacksonville, Florida and he was east of his flight path by at least 10 miles. I got through the flight work with the first pilot flying and then called it off and went back to McGuire. That was as close as I ever got to having a mid-air collision.
SHORT FIELD LANDING
I had to demonstrate that the C-130 could be stopped in 800 feet. To demonstrate that I went to the Willow Grove Naval air station in Pennsylvania. If you look at the image below, you can see the first taxiway to the right. That was 800 feet from the end of the run way and I would land on the end and taxi off on that taxiway, to prove that not could be done.
AIRCRAFT COMMANDER UPGRADE
I was asked to upgrade a 1st pilot to be an aircraft commander. The pilot was a graduate of the Naval Academy and was a full Lieutenant. He was a wonderful guy and really great to be around, but he was not a very good pilot. The most demanding maneuver in the aircraft commander upgrade training was to make an approach to an airport with two engines inoperative on one wing and then making a circular landing to another runway, as if the approach got you to the airport but you had to circle to land into the wind on another runway. Normally, I would do that at Atlantic City, but to make it easier for him I decided to do it at McGuire where there was only one runway. So, we had to make the approach to one end of the runway and then fly up the runway, turn around and face the opposite end of the runway for landing.
I briefed him that the pilot would not put the gear down until we were facing inbound to the runway for landing because you can not control the C-130 at slow speeds on only two engines. Well, we made the approach and arrived at the airport and started down the field to the opposite end of the runway. When we got abeam the end of the runway, he called:”Gear Down.” At this point we were not facing the run way, we still had to turn 180 degrees. I did not put the gear down. He had the #1 and #2 engines working and he had to turn to the right into the “dead engines”. As we started into the turn, he called for the gear again. This time, I put the gear down. As they came out, it was harder and harder for him to keep the turn going. By this time we were at about 400 feet above the ground. He said: “We can’t get turned to the runway.” I said: “What are you going to do?” He said: “Go around.” I said: “Good.” At which point he pushed the 2 “good engines” throttles up. The left wing raised high in the turn. We were at about 200 feet above the ground. I said:”I have the aircraft.” I pulled the power off the two engines and then added power on all four engines and climbed out of there.
He asked what we were going ton do next and I said we are going to land and we are going to have a debriefing. As we were leaving the airplane the mechanic who was sitting between us whispered in my ear “Mr. Pateas, you don’t mind if I never fly with you again.”
When we did the debriefing I told him that nI would not recommend him for upgrade to aircraft commander.
What happened at the Capitol today was disgusting and a shock to American democracy. Trump was the actor in this show but he didn’t event the idea of the “stolen” election. It has been around since the civil war and has to do with white supremacy. Here is an article written in the NY Times on Saturday the 16th of January 2021. It was written by Jamelle Boulle. Everybody who reads this blog should read this article and understand it’s impact on life in America.
To explain the attack on the Capitol, you can’t just turn your focus to Donald Trump and his enablers. You must also look at the individuals and institutions that fanned fears of “voter fraud” to the point of hysteria among conservative voters, long before Trump. Put another way, the difference between a riot seeking to overturn an election and an effort to suppress opposing votes is one of legality, not intent. And it doesn’t take many steps to get from one to the other. Conservative belief in pervasive Democratic Party voter fraud goes back decades — and rests on racist and nativist tropes that date back to Reconstruction in the South and Tammany Hall in the North — but the modern obsession with fraud dates back to the 2000 election. That year, Republicans blamed Democratic fraud for narrow defeats in New Mexico, which George W. Bush lost by just a few hundred votes, and Missouri, where the incumbent senator, John Ashcroft, lost his re-election battle to a dead man. Ashcroft’s opponent, Mel Carnahan, was killed three weeks earlier in a plane crash, but his name was still on the ballot, with his wife running in his stead. Shocked Republicans blamed Ashcroft’s defeat on fraud. At Ashcroft’s election-night party, the state’s senior Republican senator, Kit Bond, said, “Democrats in the city of St. Louis are trying to steal this election.” In 2001, as the newly minted attorney general under President George W. Bush, Ashcroft announced a crackdown on voter fraud. “America has failed too often to uphold the right of every citizen’s vote, once cast, to be counted fairly and equally,” he said at a news conference that March: Votes have been bought, voters intimidated and ballot boxes stuffed. The polling process has been disrupted or not completed. Voters have been duped into signing absentee ballots believing they were applications for public relief. And the residents of cemeteries have infamously shown up at the polls on Election Day. The Republican National Committee supported this push, claiming to have evidence that thousands of voters had cast more than one ballot in the same election.
Over the ensuing years, under pressure from the White House ahead of the presidential election in 2004, the Justice Department ramped up its crusade against voter fraud. Of particular interest was ACORN, a now-defunct advocacy organization that was working — as the presidential election got underway — to register hundreds of thousands of low-income voters. Swing-state Republicans accused the group of “manufacturing voters,” and federal prosecutors looked, unsuccessfully, for evidence of wrongdoing. Later, Karl Rove would press President Bush’s second attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, to fire a number of U.S. attorneys for failure to investigate voter fraud allegations, leading to a scandal that eventually led to Gonzales’s resignation in 2007. ACORN and voter fraud would remain a bête noire for Republicans for the rest of the decade. Conservative advocacy groups and media organizations produced a steady stream of anti-ACORN material and, as the 2008 election campaign heated up, did everything they could to tie Democratic candidates, and Barack Obama in particular, to a group they portrayed as radical and dangerous. ACORN, Rush Limbaugh said in one characteristic segment, has “been training young Black kids to hate, hate, hate this country.” During his second debate with Obama, a few weeks before the election, the Republican nominee, John McCain, charged that ACORN “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.” And his campaign materials similarly accused Obama, Joe Biden and the Democratic Party of orchestrating a vast conspiracy of fraud. “We’ve always known the Obama-Biden Democrats will do anything to win this November, but we didn’t know how far their allies would go,” read one mailer. “The Obama-supported, far-left group, ACORN, has been accused of voter-registration fraud in a number of battleground states.” McCain and the Republican Party devoted much of the last weeks of the election to a voter fraud scare campaign with ACORN as the villain. And while, in the wake of the election, these allegations of illegal voting never panned out, the conservative fixation with voter fraud would continue into the Obama years and beyond.
Not that this was a shock. As an accusation, “voter fraud” has been used historically to disparage the participation of Black voters and immigrants — to cast their votes as illegitimate. And Obama came to office on the strength of historic turnout among Black Americans and other nonwhite groups. To the conservative grass roots, Obama’s very presence in the White House was, on its face, evidence that fraud had overtaken American elections. In 2011, Republicans in Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin capitalized on their legislative gains to pass new voter restrictions under the guise of election protection. Other states slashed early voting and made it more difficult to run registration drives. One 2013 study found that in states with “unencumbered Republican majorities” and large Black populations, lawmakers were especially likely to pass new voter identification laws and other restrictions on the franchise. The 2012 election saw more of the same accusations of voter fraud. Donald Trump, who had flirted with running for president that year, called the election a “total sham and a travesty” and claimed that Obama had “lost the popular vote by a lot.” According to one survey taken after the election, 49 percent of Republican voters said they thought ACORN had stolen the election for the president. ACORN, however, no longer existed. It closed its doors in 2010 after Congress stripped it of federal funding in the aftermath of a scandal stoked by right-wing provocateurs, whose accusations have since been discredited. The absence of any evidence for voter fraud was not, for Republicans, evidence of its absence. Freed by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which ended federal “preclearance” of election laws in much of the South, Republican lawmakers passed still more voter restrictions, each justified as necessary measures in the war against fraud. Prominent Republican voices continued to spread the myth. “I’ve always thought in this state, close elections, presidential elections, it means you probably have to win with at least 53 percent of the vote to account for fraud,” Scott Walker, then the governor of Wisconsin, said in a 2014 interview with The Weekly Standard. “One or two points, potentially.” Rank-and-file Republicans had already been marinating in 16 years of concentrated propaganda about the prevalence of voter fraud by the time Donald Trump claimed, in 2016, that Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote with millions of illegal ballots. If Republican voters today are quick to believe baroque conspiracy theories about fabricated and stolen votes, then it has quite a lot to do with the words and actions of a generation of mainstream Republican politicians who refused to accept that a Democratic majority was a legitimate majority.
The narrative of fraud and election theft that spurred the mob that stormed the Capitol would be unintelligible without the work of the Republican Party, which inculcated this idée fixe in its voters. “Stop the Steal” wasn’t a Trump innovation as much as it was a new spin on an old product line that, even after the violence on Jan. 6, Republicans are still selling.
Richard Apelt has been my friend for many years. We ran into one another while I was living in Greece. He had been a corpsman with the Marines in Vietnam. He got caught in a shoot out and got wounded. He was working on a man’s chest wound when a sniper hit the man’s head. Richard played dead for many hours while the Viet Cong were there and finally got back to American lines.
When he got back to the States he worked in shipyards and painted boats. He went down ro Florida, lived on Stock Island and fished for lobsters. He knew Jimmy Buffett before the world knew Jimmy Buffett. Later he went back up in Virginia and was digging ditches for Con Ed. He went to his new girl friend’s house after work. She was sitting on the porch with her girlfriend. That girl said: “Is that Richard? He looks like a Grave Digger.” That name has stuck by him, for many years.
When we met on the island of Crete, in 1972, he and a friend of his were living on the beach at Sitia. Grave was into traveling as far as he could get, to see the things that the young kids who died in Vietnam could never see. The beach was pretty full of hippies from all over Europe.
I was flying for Pan Am and was on some free time. I was there with my wife Joann and our two kids, Alexis (6) and Damon (4). We were staying in a hotel in Sitia and would come out to the beach everyday, with three liters of wine. One evening, as we were leaving, Alexis said she wanted to stay on the beach and Grave said he would look after her, so she stayed. The next morning, when we arrived she was playing with some French kids down by the water. She saw us and waved at us and then got in a little boat and went for a ride.
During this time, Greece ws being run by a group of Colonels that were put into power by the American CIA. Before he left Greece, Grave wrote an article to the Prime Minister about taking down the militaristic symbol they were using to identify themselves.
Well. Joann got really frightened by that letter and there was nothing I could do, to calm her down. We had been on a small island and had been flying a kite. When Damon brought it down, the rope got completely tangled. Grave and I sat there and spent several hours untangling the rope, but I couldn’t untangle her fear.
Well, Grave set out on a long journey — through Turkey, across the Shah’s Iran, into Afghanistan and down into India and into Australia. He had bought a small cotton backpack and a hunting knife and he told Damon that if anything exciting happened with the knife, he would write Damon about it. As he crossed India, he saw some Elephants, but they stayed at a distance and Grave wrote a card Damon saying they must have known he had the knife and they didn’t bother him.
Over the years, Grave and I have stayed friends. He says that the books I gave him when he left Greece helped him on his personal journey, especially Krishnamurti’s The Flight of the Eagle. Well, eventually Grave became a postman in Tulsa, Oklahoma and soon got transferred to St. Petersburg, Florida. There he got married to Susan, an American Indian woman. I was at that wedding and visited him in St. Petersburg.
When he retired, he sold his house in Florida and came up to New York. He now lives in Jay, NY. On the 18th of December in 2019, he and Sue left their cabin in the woods, to go to town. On the way home, there was some snow on the ground and Grave got sideways on the road. Soon, a car being driven by a young woman hit his car and killed Susan. He has continued to live in Jay and is getting better, all the time. He has started hiking with a group of women who have been hiking for many years. He is the only male on their hikes. After the Trump attack on the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., Grave wrote this piece. I asked him if it was OK with him for me to put it on my blog and the said: “OK”. So here it is:
Yesterday I enjoyed my finest day yet winter hiking in Eden. Eight others and I under the spell cast by the essence of the earth and sky. There was only room for love. That is what is possible in this Gaian world of infinite possibilities. It is time to search our soul, to rummage through all of our learned wisdom, to look for clues for our existence from the shambles that existence has left scattered throughout the Garden and the mind of man. We have had a bit of chaos recently, chaos that caught the attention of every facet of our population, each facet a universe unto its own. Consider this idea of what it is or may be. Change is a daily occurrence, it is met differently according to the conditioned state of each being. Change sweeps across the plains leaving clumps of this here and that there. The bigger clumps get the most attention and predominate. But there are many smaller clumps, oddities that we can scarcely imagine, lying disenfranchised out of sight out of mind, dormant, festering, awaiting the right conditions to awaken and express themsves. Humans use and abuse every nook and cranny of our Gaian World. I hope the use of that word doesn’t scare you. Maybe just the tiniest sip of kool-aid will spark your mind. Many little clumps of humanity, each a delusional universe of its own can be brought to a fever by the alchemist also of the most delusional sort. Now you have to cognate a moment and understand that universal physical laws apply to humans also. In brief, the Donald fanned these clumps, used them, became almost a God to them because he gave them meaning and life and he said he loved them. I think a great many could be manipulated into our greatest nightmare. We need to remember that these clumps are aspects of ourselves. If we can overcome some of our conditioned thought process and get in touch with that bit of our DNA, that dormant spark within that allowed us to evolve to the tipping point where the journey downward spirals and take a breath, if that then there is not only hope but answers. And so I ask you what is love.
As an instructor at VR-3, I did several sessions of training 1st pilots to aircraft commander status. One of those pilots I worked with was Warren Scoville. He was a very wealthy young man and was a very capable pilot. We did the local training at McGuire and then I took him out through a trip to Vietnam. Actually, he took me on a trip out through Vietnam, because I allowed him to act as aircraft commander, so he could get ready for his check ride.
All of my training went well with him, but he didn’t get an enroute clearance before takeoff at McGuire. He only had half a clearance and then I failed the intercom system on him and he couldn’t talk to anyone on the radios. When he realized what had happened, he went into a holding pattern at the facility at the end of his clearance and squawked 7700 on his IFF equipment that indicated that he had a problem and then made an approach back to McGuire. He never accepted half a clearance again.
On our west pac trip, we laid over on Wake Island and Warren fell in love with a stewardess from a commercial airline. He also, snuck a large rock that marked the path to the Drifter’s Reef bar into my duffel bag that held my arctic gear.
As that trip went well, he got a check ride and became an aircraft commander. In December of 1966, I was in Tachikawa and tried to leave for the States. We climbed to altitude and when I tried to trim the rudder, the trim did not function. I returned to Tachikawa and was just about to leave my plane when I watched a C-130 make a very LONG landing on the runway and they had to do a touch and go, to come around for another landing. I knew it was Warren.
When we got to the officers quarters I put up a sign about the long landing and invited the crew to my room for a briefing. Well, they came to my room and it was Warren’s crew. When they came to my room, I started giving Warren a lecture about the long landing and his co-pilot spoke up. He said he had made the long landing. I knew for sure that he had, but I said that is not possible because Warren needs 100 hours in command before he can let co-pilots make a landing.
Warren spoke up and said: “Get your arctic bag.” I did and he said: “Turn it over.” When I turned it over, that large rock came out and all of us had a great laugh.
Just before I left VR-3, Warren came to my Country Lakes house at 8AM. I was off for the day and he lived close by. He was in a flight suit and held five bottles of whiskey and king crab legs in his arms. He came in and said: “Can you make some Martinis.” I said: “Sure.” I poured some gin out of his fifth and added a little vermouth. Now the whole bottle was a giant Martini. He asked me to put the crab legs on the stove and I did that. Then I said; “What happened.”
Warren, who was on his third wife at 26, said: “I just got back from Vietnam through Elmendorf. I got to my house and my wife wanted to make love, right there, in the hallway. But I said I couldn’t because I had caught the gonorrhea. Well, a disaster is going on over there. Glasses, dishes are flying everywhere. What did she want me to do, not tell her.”
When I worked for Pan Am, in 1968, I was on a trip that overnighted in Brussels. Warren was then a Navigator for Pan Am. He had come with another crew to Brussels and was to navigate my crew back to JFK. Well, we went out to diner with the Captain and the co-pilot. I was the Flight Engineer. I went to bed early and the next morning Warren was knocking on my door. He asked me if I had some money and when I gave him what I had, he went across the street to a bar where he had spent the night and paid them what he owed them. Then we met outside the hotel for the ride to the airport.
Well, there was a flight attendant on my crew who was very beautiful. When Warren saw her, he asked me how I could allow him to go out to diner with the Captain when this woman was on my crew. He talked to her all the way to the airport. On my crew, there was a Check Captain. He wanted to check the First Officer’s ability to navigate the aircraft using an inertial navigation system that Pan Am was testing, for use on the 707s. In the end, that system was not used.
So, there was the Captain, who owned a Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania, the First Officer, me, the Flight Engineer and this Check Captain in the cockpit. The Check Captain was a General in the US Airforce reserve.
Warren did not have to navigate, so he was sitting in the forward lounge, talking to this beautiful stewardess who was working the first class galley. At some point, Warren came up to the cockpit. The Check Captain asked Warren if he had put all our names in the log book. Warren looked around the cockpit and said: “The Captain is busy flying this plane and is worried about the weather at JFK and at his alternate. The First Officer is busy as he can be, trying to navigate this aircraft on the inertial system, my friend Ted, is busy with the fuel system, the electrical system, the pressurization system and sundry other systems and I am hustling the Flight Attendant in the first class galley. Your the only one not doing anything, I thought you had filled out the log book a long time ago.” Then, he walked out of the cockpit.
After a few minutes the Captain told the Check Captain to go back into First Class, to have his lunch and asked him to have Warren come back to the cockpit. Warren came up and sat in the check captain’s seat. The Captain gave Warren a rather long lecture on how to get along on a career in Pan Am. Warren having been raised in Kentucky by very wealthy parents was very polite and listened to everything the Captain said, attentively.
Then, when the Captain was finished, Warren said: “Captain you own a Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania don’t you. How often do you move those trees before you sell them?” The Captained answered: “Three times.” Warren said: “No wonder your wife keeps you in the basement and slides your food down to you on a board. Three times to make $2.25.”
Warren never wanted to make a career out of flying for Pan Am, he just wanted to have some fun. He had fun and lasted about four years before he quit. Then, Warren became a successful lawyer in Kentucky and later still, he called the Sheriff and gave him an address. When the Sheriff got to the address, he found that Warren had shot himself and committed suicide. So it goes ….
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 …..
We started out from McGuire and went to Scott AFB near Belleville, Illinois and from there we went to Forbes AFB near Topeka, Kansas. Then we went to Travis AFB. We punched out from Travis and we went to Hickam, in Honolulu and then to Wake and on to Guam.
From Guam we went to Mactan, in the Philippines. It was there at Mactan where Ferdinand Magellan was killed in a battle with the local chief, in April of 1521. From Mactan we flew to Cam Rhan Bay, in Vietnam. You can see incredible photography of what that war in Vietnam looked like in films like “Apocalypse Now” that was made by Francis Ford Coppola in 1979. But here is what Cam Rhan Bay pilots made into a film, in 1966.
From Cam Rhan, I took off with four soldiers who had some leave time, we were headed to Tachicawa AFB in Japan. We plowed threw a bunch of cloudy weather from Cam Rhan to Okinawa. When we got over Okinawa, they asked me what about Formosa. I said: “What about Formosa?” They said:”You were supposed to stop in Formosa on this trip.” I answered: “This is the first time I heard about Formosa, today.”
They said: “Hold over Okinawa, until we get you clearance to Formosa.” So, we started holding over Okinawa. I requested holding on the east side of the radio beacon, going into Okinawa on a westerly heading but that was not allowed. So, I held on the west side going into Okinawa on an easterly heading.
After 20 minutes of holding they gave me a frequency for Formosa. I called that frequency and I was talking to an American radio operator, He said: “Airman XXXX clears you to fly to the Taoyuan Air Base.” I rogered the message, and allowed the plane to continue flying to the east over the OK radio facility. In just a couple of minutes we flew into a clear sky. I looked at the heading and realized I was flying to the east. I said to my navigator:”Do you think we have enough fuel to fly to Formosa, on this heading?” He realized we would have to fly around the world on this easterly heading to get to Formosa, he said: “Turn around, I will make up an excuse.” He told the Japanese controller that he had had a compass problem and we flew back over the OK beacon and westerly towards Formosa.
It was a pitch black night when we made the approach into this base and we were flying in heavy rain. Finally we got my C-130 on the ground and taxied to a stop. After a couple of minutes, two guys in civilian clothes showed up. One of the two of them got VERY EXCITED that I had these four soldiers with me. I had NO IDEA who these guys were. But I told them that when I left from that airport the soldiers were going to be on my plane. It became clear to me in just a few minutes that these guys were from the CIA. I didn’t”t know anything about it at the time, but the CIA was running a squadron of Chinese pilots flying the TOP SECRET U2 airplane. Below is a quote from Wikipedia:
“In January 1961, the CIA provided the ROC with its first two U-2Cs, and in April the squadron flew its first mission over mainland China. Other countries were also covered from time to time by the 35th Squadron, such as North Korea, North Vietnam and Laos, but the main objective of the ROC 35th Squadron was to conduct reconnaissance missions assessing the PRC’s nuclear capabilities. For this purpose the ROC pilots flew as far as Gansu and other remote regions in northwest China. Some of the missions, due to mission requirements and range, plus to add some element of surprise, had the 35th Squadron’s U-2s flying from or recovered at other US air bases in Southeast Asia and Eastern Asia, such as K-8 (Kunsan) in South Korea, or Takhli in Thailand. All US airbases in the region were listed as emergency/ alternate recovery airfields and could be used besides the 35th Squadron’s home base at Taoyuan Air Base in Taiwan. Initially, all film taken by the Black Cat Squadron was flown to Okinawa or Guam for processing and development, and the US forces would not share any of the mission photos with Taiwan, but in late 1960s the USAF agreed to share complete sets of mission photos and help Taiwan set up a photo development and interpretation unit at Taoyuan.”
Well, after 30 minutes they came back with an engine on a roller trolley. It was all covered with blue plastic wrapped around it and the loadmaster fastened it to our cargo deck. These guys had papers in their hands. They wanted the soldiers to sign them. I told them that the soldiers had NO IDEA where they were and if they made them sign these papers it would be worse than doing nothing at all. In the end, they agreed with me and we soon left for Tachikawa, Japan.
When we got there, some other guys in civilian clothes came to our airplane. One of them asked me to forgive the kind of treatment we got in Formosa. I told him I realized that it was a high priority mission. I told him if I had known about if in Cam Rhan Bay, I would not have had the soldiers with me, but I only learned about this mission by radio over the OK beacon.
I got married in February in New York City, with a cocktail party at the Plaza Hotel on 59th street. I took my bride to Greece for our honeymoon. When I decided that I had to get back to VR-3, I told my new wife to stay in Greece for a while because I thought I would have to go out on a trip to Vietnam. It didn’t turn out that way, because instead of going west, I got sent to the east.
We left McGuire on the 6th and we flew over Lajes to Rhein-Main and got there on the 6th. On the 7th we flew to Chateauroux and back to Rhein-Main.
On the 8th we flew to Wheelus AB and then to Athens for a layover. On the 9th we did a Turkey trot. We went to Istanbul, Yalova, Incirlik and Ankara before we got back to Athens, for another layover.
On the 10th we went to Iraklion and Souda Bay, on Crete, then Wheelus and then Chateauroux. We were there on the 11th and on the 12th we started the Italy trot. Aviano, Pisa, Naples and Brindisi. From there we went to Athens for a layover. It was the 13th.
On the 14th we left Athens for Nicosia and Tel Aviv and we got back to Athens for our layover. The next day we would make a trip to Iraklion, Crete and I wanted to take my wife on the trip. So, when we came out to the airport on the 15th, I let her ride with the loadmaster and he got her on the plane.
Tom Stringer was my navigator and we filed to go to Crete via Visual Flight Rules (VFR). As we left Athens, we went down to a low altitude and flew to Crete. My copilot got a little bit scared about our running into an island, but Tom was on the radar and that was not going to happen. Well, when we got to Crete we realized that the unloading of the airplane was going to take a long time because of the cargo that was on board. Tom and Joann and I took a cab to see the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis.
When I was a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, RPI, I wrote a thesis on “The Concept of Individualism as Portrayed by the Odysseus Figure in Literature.” On of the books that I used in that thesis was: “The Odyssey a Modern Sequel” written by Kazantzakis. Here is a picture of his grave:
It says: I don’t hope for anything … I’m not afraid of anything… I am free.
We got back to the plane and left for Athens. Dropped Joann off and we went on to Brindisi and Naples before we got to Chateauroux. We spent the 16th and the 17th there and we left on the 18th. We went out to Tehran and Karachi, Peshawa, and Lahore in Pakistan. We had a longish time on the ground in Lahore, so we went to the airport restaurant. Sitting outside on the patio deck, I looked at the menu for something to eat. With the years that Britain had spent out there, the menu said: Fish and Chips. With that I drank a mango squash. While we were eating, a bagpipe band was marching on the airport apron and practicing their marching and playing their instruments. Oh, Britania.
Well, we got back to Incirlik on the 19th and we left on the 20th, with the intention of going to Chateauroux. As we were climbing out of Incirlik, at about 20,000 feet, we had a problem with one of our generators. The generators on a C-130 could not be de-coupled from the engine, so, when you had a generator problem, you had to shut down the engine. Well, I did that, while still in Turkish airspace, but I didn’t report it. I continued on the flight plan and flew into Greek airspace. Then, I told the controller that we had shut down an engine and that we wanted to divert to Athens. Which we did, for another Athens layover on the 20th.
They put a new generator on the plane and we were scheduled to go to Cigli, in northern Turkey. I had gotten a line check from a Check Pilot, from McGuire to Rhine-Main on the 6th of March. I had a set of his check papers with me in Athens. Well, I have a first cousin named Nick Karis. His mom and my mom were sisters. Well, Nick had a first cousin from his father’s side of the family named George Vavides. George was born in America, but living in Athens at this time, studying how Greek Ancient Theater plays were produced. I called him and asked him if he wanted to come for a flight with me. He said: “Sure”. I gave him a flight suit and a hat to wear and the check captains orders to carry and told him not to say anything and just stand around and watch me do what I did in the office, at the airport in Athens. He was a professional actor and theater person, so that was not a problem.
Well, we went over to Cigli and got off the plane to refile a flight plan to go back to Athens. Unfortunately, there was a lot of hydraulic fluid leaking under the left hand wheel well and it took the mechanic some time to get that dealt with. Meanwhile, Tom Stringer had come down with a cold and we headed to the officers club at Cigli. I didn’t need a navigator to get to Athens, so I told Tom he should have a drink. We were all standing at the bar with a US Air Force Colonel. We were in our flight suits and Tom shot down a couple of glasses of whisky. The Colonel didn’t ask any questions and we left for Athens.
As we were approaching the old Athens airport, down by the water, we were going to fly over Cape Sounion. Well on Cape Sounion there is an Ancient Greek temple to Poseiden, the Greek god of the sea. It is a Doric temple built 444 – 440 BC. As we were overhead the temple, I lowered the wing so George could see it and we were talking about it. Here is an image of it in the setting sun:
Well, caught up with the sight seeing, I forgot to start my descent into Athens. I quickly got going, on getting down for the landing and Athens told us to call passing over the radio beacon at Bouligeameni, just 2 miles from the airport. When we passed the facility, my copilot reported it and the Athens tower said: “I don’t see you.” I told the copilot to say: “Look up.”
With the C-130 you can do interesting things and getting down for a landing is tricky but easy enough to do. I pointed the nose of the plane at the beginning of the leading lights for the runway and just waited till I got to the altitude to stop the descent. I pulled up a little and made a very good landing. The tower operator said: “Wow.”
On the 22nd we left Athens for Ankara. Here is an image of the old Athens airport:
If you look carefully at this image, and if you know it, the commercial terminals were close to the road that runs along the sea. On the far side of the airport are the military hangers. When the runway was elongated, the military side built a taxiway to the end of the runway. On the civil side, there was a taxiway that made you go onto the runway, taxi to the end and turn around for takeoff.
On our last takeoff from Athens we were at the end of the taxiway at the end of the runway. In the taxi block on the civil side there was a Lufthansa flight wanting to leave. The Lufthansa copilot called in for permission to taxi on the runway, to go to the end and turn around. The Athens tower screamed: “Hold your position.” About a minute went by and the tower told Lufthansa they could now taxi on the runway. As they were coming down the runway to the end, the Captain, in a deeper voice asked the tower: “Can you tell me the difference between now and a minute ago.” My copilot hit the mike and said: “60 seconds, Captain.” The tower gave Lufthansa takeoff clearance and he left. That happened 55 years ago, but I have never forgotten how quick witted that copilot was.
We went to Ankara and then to Chateauroux. We continued to Lajes and Charleston and then back to McGuire. We got there on the 24th.
We first landed in Chateauroux and laid over there. The next day we landed in Germany at Rein Main Airport in Frankfurt. We went up to Fornebu airport in Oslo, Norway. Here is a view:
We came back to Rhein-Main and then went back to Chateauroux. We were there until the 20th and then we went through Athens to Tehran. We got back to Chateauroux on the 22nd.
We left Chateauroux on the 24th and we were going to make a series of stops in Italy enroute to Athens. My wife was in Athens at this time and my crew knew that. Well, my copilot was Jingels Devine. We went into the Aviano airport and we left for Pisa. When we were ready to leave Pisa, Jingels was ready for takeoff and he briefed that if he lost an engine on takeoff he would leave the gear down and circle back for a landing back into Pisa.
Well, we started down the runway and just as we were ready to lift off, we got an engine fire warning and had to shut an engine down. The fire light went out and the engine was stoped.
I told Jingels to clean the airplane up, that means lift the gear and take in the flaps, and told him to fly into some clear sky towards the west. I re-filed the flight plan to return to Chateauroux. So, instead of putting the aircraft down in Pisa with an engine problem we got it to the main base in Europe. The Air Force was very happy about that.
Then, when we got to the Airlift Command Post, the Officer in Charge said we had two choices: Go into a layover for eight or more hours or continue with our trip to Athens with a stop in Naples. I left it up to the crew and they all voted to go on to Athens. That’s what we did and we laid over in Athens on the 25th.
On the 26th we flew to Istanbul and Brindisi and back to Chateauroux. We layed over there on the 27th and on the 28th we left for Spain. We went to Madrid, Moron, Rota and Torrejon and then we went back to Chateauroux.
We did the Italy trot: Aviano, Pisa, Naples and Brindisi. Then we went to Athens and laid over again. On August 1st we went to Nicosia, on Cyprus and then to Tel Aviv, Israel, back to Incirlik and back to Athens for another layover.
We left Chateauroux on the 3rd and went to Pisa and Naples and back to Chateauroux.
On the 4th of August we flew to Lajes in the Azores and then back to McGuire. Here is a view of Lakes:
“In September 1969 King Idris I was overthrown by a group of military officers centred on Muammar Gaddafi. Before the revolution, the US and Libya had already reached agreement on US withdrawal from Wheelus. This proceeded according to plan, and the facility was turned over to the new Libyan authorities on 11 June 1970.“
We went in and out of Wheelus AB pretty frequently, but I never laid over there. This time I left Wheelus for Athens. Enroute, I had a five year old boy sitting on my lap when we passed over an Aircraft Carrier. I rolled up the plane so he could see the carrier. I asked him if he wanted to land on it and he said: “Yes!”
We flew in and out now Athens and around the Middle East for several days and we landed in Yalova. We had to fly low over the field to drive the sheep or goats off the runway. There was just a single runway in 1965. Here is an image of Yalova today.
You can see Istanbul to the north, across the Sea of Marmara. One night, I was in Istanbul and I needed to fly to Yalova. The ceiling was 700 feet. There was only an ADF navigational radio at Yalova and the minimum you could descend to was 1100 feet. I could not fly there on an instrument flight plan. I decided to go VFR, that means Visual Flight Rules and went into the IST operations office to file for a VFR flight. The Major looked at my papers and said: “Don’t you know you can not fly VFR at night from Istanbul? You have to file for SPECIAL VFR flight.”
I said, “How do I do that?” He answered, pointing to my paper, “Put Special here.” So, I added SPECIAL in front of VFR and he approved my flight.
So, I flew a Special VFR flight from Istanbul to Yalova at 500 feet and landed at Yalova at night.