Sea Stories - Recent!!

This sub-page is available for stories of the recent past or even of the distant past. If you think of an incident that you want to share with your Classmates, here’s your chance!! Submissions will be placed in reverse order of their arrival for ease of keeping up! Your WebMeister has “primed the pump” with a few tales. J. Percival Googe has submitted the tale of the Legend of Bill the Goat. Please, Gents, Please!! Sit down and write about something or else you will have to see this space filled with excerpts from my forthcoming E-Book!!

A Flight to Remember

The below saga came to me from Frank Parker who received it from one of Doc Dugan’s children. This is the story of the events that changed Doc from an Aviator to a Surface Sailor. Likely some of it has been known to many of us but here is the whole nine yards from Doc himself.

It was a beautiful day at the U. S. Naval Air Station, Oceana, Virginia. The day was Tuesday, March 21, 1961, and I was preparing for my flight to the U. S. Naval Air Station, Pensacola. Florida. After arrival in Pensacola, I, a U. S. Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade and six other Naval Aviators were going to qualify ourselves and our aircraft in carrier take offs and landings in the plane we had been flying for the past 5 weeks. One of our aircraft carriers was loitering in the Gulf of Mexico to provide the platform for our Carrier Qualifications.
We were attached to the Replacement Air Group VA-43, whose job it was to train aviators in transitioning their flying skills to the state of the art aircraft – the Douglas A-4D, Skyhawk. This transition training was necessary because we replacement aviators had come from squadrons equipped with other types of aircraft, which handled quite differently than the A-4. The Skyhawk was a single pilot, single engine swept wing jet attack bomber whose primary mission was low level (tree top level at around 350 knots) nuclear bomb delivery using several unique delivery methods. The A-4 is well suited for conventional weapons delivery missions. On that morning, the flight line crew was working eagerly with a noticeable degree of enthusiasm. Six of their well-maintained A-4’s were being readied for the flight to Pensacola. Soon their ‘birds” would become a crucial ingredient of their pilot’s qualifying in one of the most challenging, elite, and rewarding aspects of Naval Aviation – flight operations from one of the country’s formidable aircraft carriers.
Background. Before being assigned to VA-43, I completed my first tour, after receiving my Naval Aviator wings, as a Primary Flight Instructor at Pensacola’s Saufley Field. This “plow back” tour, as it was called, lasted 18 months teaching prospective aviators the primary skills of flying. The plane used at that time was the Beechcraft T-34 “Mentor”, a very basic, forgiving propeller driven aircraft, powered by the Continental, 85 horsepower reciprocating engine. A “toy” compared to the fleet’s operational craft. At the end of this tour, I was given a choice in assignment to another squadron. I chose the front line A-4D, and hence was assigned to VA-43 based and the Naval Air Station, Oceana, Virginia. My family was excited after receiving orders to Virginia, and in anticipation of what the future held. At that time, we didn’t realize how exciting the future would be!
Leading up to that day we were departing for carrier qualifications, I had completed transition training in the A-4, and had developed a sincere fondness and respect for this compact little “bird”. The transition from the T-34 to the A-4 was complex to say the least. Retraining your flying habits from the “toy” T-34’s slow speed, slower reaction times, and simple instrument visual scan was not an easy task. It took serious concentrated effort. It required a quantum jump accelerating all senses to successfully fly the A-4 … a real challenge!! Having met this challenge, I arrived at the point where I was ready to become carrier qualified. For several weeks prior to this point, we spent hours practicing Field Carrier Landing Practice, both day and night. These flights simulate the exact low level pattern and final landing approach used when landing aboard a carrier. My confidence and spirit were high.
I was ready on that Tuesday, March 21, 1961. I kissed my wife, Jane, goodbye as I left home for the Oceana Air Station. She was leaving, with our 27 month old son “Chet” and 5 month old daughter “Tiernie”, to stay with her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Carol Stevens, in Baltimore during my brief absence.
Upon arrival at the squadron’s briefing room, we attended the pre-flight briefing, assigned our flight/formation instructions, given en route weather prediction, and assigned aircraft for the flight. I was assigned the left wing position in a formation of three planes. We suited up, wearing our usual bright orange flight suits, heavy boots, gloves, etc, and were instructed, for some reason, to leave our 38 caliber pistols in our lockers. Ready to go, I walked to the flight line. On this brisk and sunny day, I put my dress blue uniform, my dop kit, and two bologna sandwiches in a small compartment below the cockpit. I then conducted a careful preflight inspection of my aircraft, an A-4D2N, tail number 310. This version of the A-4 was equipped with the AJ3B, a new navigation and weapons delivery electronic system. Number 310 was routinely flown by our squadron commander, and had about 32 hours on its flight log. Now, however, 310 would be my closest and trusted “friend” for the next six days. She was freshly painted, sharply treaded tires, oil free and glistening oleos (landing gear shocks) glistening in the sun. The paint around the tailpipe was a clean gray. Not yet scorched by the intense heat generated by the blow- torch intensity of the jet exhaust.
Preflight completed, I ascended the ladder to the cockpit and was assisted into the seat by the plane captain. I was 6 feet one inch tall at 204 pounds, which made for a cozy but comfortable fit. The plane captain helped me strap in, adjusted my shoulder harness, and handed me my helmet. As I donned my helmet, and checked my oxygen system, I could see that my flight leader was ready to start his engine. The plane captain performed his last task before descending the ladder. He showed me the ejection seat safety pin. The seat was now armed for ejection, should it be needed at any time. This seat was the RAPEK seat. A rocket propelled seat which was designed to allow safe ejection at ground level from a plane traveling 100 or more knots. The captain descended the ladder and took a position in front of my plane … ready to give the signal to start my powerful Curtiss-Wright J-65 turbojet engine. I switched the start engine toggle to ON. The start was normal with engine revolutions steadily increasing to its idle RPM. Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT) was normal, no fire warning light, electrical system OK, oil pressure normal, gyro coming up to speed, horizon ball lazily tumbling and vacillating as the gyros stabilize to represent the true horizon. Everything checked out satisfactorily. Time to get rolling. I gave my salute to the plane captain. He returned my salute, and removed the chocks from “310’s” tricycle landing gear. I released my brakes and set my throttle at 85%. “310” began to roll smoothly toward the taxiway, falling in line astern of my flight leader and number two in our formation. While proceeding to the takeoff runway, I stayed well to the left of number two to avoid ingesting any debris that his jet blast may stir up. Even though my air intakes were well above ground, it was possible to suck in something that would cause serious damage to the J-65.
We positioned our aircraft on the duty runway, ready for independent take offs. My call sign for this flight was “Raven Three”. We received clearance for take off from the control tower. Weather en route predicted to be clear under VFR (visual flight rules) conditions. After the leader and number 2 lifted off and clear, I positioned 310 straight down the runway, advanced the throttle to 92% to check engine performance. All indications normal. I advanced the throttle to 100%, released the brakes, and began my roll down the runway. 310 accelerated smoothly like a fine tuned watch, reaching speeds of 95knots…. 105 … 115 at which time I eased the stick back to raise the nose to the take-off attitude. Shortly thereafter we broke ground, became airborne, and entered the “floating” world of flight. Retracted landing gear and wing flaps, and searched the sky for our leader, who was in a gentle left hand turn to facilitate our rendezvous to join up and assume our positions in the triangle formation. My position was on the leader’s port (left) wing. Number Two and I reported to “Raven Leader”, over our UHF tactical radio channel, that we were in position and all was well. Raven Leader acknowledged. We continued our climb in a loose cruising formation to our cruising altitude of 24 thousand feet. Upon reaching altitude and on signal from our leader, we throttled back to a cruising speed of 210 knots. Off to Pensacola.
With a two hour flight ahead of us, there was little to do except for the important routine of checking engine status instruments, your position on the leader’s wing, and your navigation instruments. Our flight continued normally following a ground path south along the Atlantic Coast. After about an hour, we altered course westward heading for our destination. Since we were in a loose formation, I was able look around, check the skies, the ground, and my instruments as well. This visual freedom is not possible flying in close formation where you devote 100% of your attention to keeping your craft within 3-4 feet of the leader’s aircraft.
While scanning in this loose formation, I noticed that my TACAN and UHF direction finding needles oscillated a bit, but settled down quickly. Raven Leader radioed that we were “….. altering course to the right to 210 degrees. How is everything ……..” I acknowledged saying “Say again. My radio cut out. Over”. He repeated and I acknowledged. Must have been atmospheric static electricity disrupting our communications and flight instruments. Not unusual, particularly if thunderstorms were in the area.
During my scan of the skies, I noticed build-up of cumulonimbus clouds ahead, along our planned flight path. This wasn’t supposed to be. According to the weather forecasters, flight conditions were to be Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited (CAVU). Normally, these clouds would not have overly excited the average experienced Aviator. But, my experience was a bit different. I was still a “novice” aviator having flown the A-4 for about 25 hours, and I had never flown alone in clouds ….Instrument Flight Rules (IFR)… conditions. Well, no bother, I thought. What has to be done will be done. I had been trained in instrument flying. There has to be a first time, and no better time than now.
Raven Leader came up on our tactical network “Hey guys, we have a thunder boomer ahead of us. Let’s start a climb to top it out”. I pressed my mic button saying “Roger”. It didn’t sound like my transmission was successful. Raven Leader came back: “Raven Three did you copy”. I replied: “Affirmative”. He acknowledged “Roger”. With a nod of his head, Raven Leader advanced his throttle to 100% to gain altitude necessary to top out the storm. We followed. Shortly thereafter, Raven Leader announced that we were not going to make it. We were at 26 thousand feet and the top of the boomer was a good 10 thousand higher. At this, Leader instructed us to close in to a tight formation. I did, and after a few minutes we entered the top section of the storm. Upon entering the clouds, initially I was not very comfortable. My control of 310 was a bit erratic, but safe. Again, this situation was a first for me. However, after a few minutes and serious confidence talks to myself, I settled down and was able to maintain a close position to the Leader. Number Two was solid in his position. My baptism of “fire”... clouds …was here and I survived.
Flying tight formation in the clouds was not that unusual. The only difference was the absence of seeing a horizon, which you were not supposed to pay attention to anyway while in tight formation! You are glued to every bit of relative movement between your aircraft and the leader’s. You can be up-side-down, in a vertical dive or climb, or straight and level, but the only condition you care about is your rock solid position on the leader. There is no place for the pilot’s concern for his plane’s attitude or position relative to earth and sky!
While keeping position on the leader, I became a bit cold, so I reached down with my right hand and turned on the cockpit heat. Immediately my canopy frosted over!!!! I lost sight of the leader and any reference to determine the attitude or position of my aircraft. I quickly shifted attention to my flight instruments to maintain control of the plane. Instruments appeared OK, no off flags dropped in any instruments, which would have signaled out of order, unreliable readings. I radioed the leader: “This is Raven 3, canopy frosted over, taking heading 3 degrees to port, decreasing speed to avoid collision, Over” No reply. I repeated my transmission, no reply. My radio was dead.
Alarmingly, I noticed my airspeed falling off rapidly to 185 knots – stall speed at that altitude. Other instruments showed wings level. I immediately added power, and dropped the nose attempting to level off. No help. Now the altimeter started to unwind, slowly at first, then very rapidly. Airspeed picking up - passing 300knots! I attempted the prescribed unusual attitude recovery procedures twice, to get the aircraft in a wings level position, thereby stopping the loss of altitude. These procedures involved pushing the stick to one side, bringing it back to center then pulling back. The idea was after repetitions, you would bring your aircraft to an attitude that would stop its decent, gain altitude and decrease airspeed. Nothing changed. The Turn and Bank indicator, located below my knees, was sweeping side to side. No help anywhere. Confusion and noise filled the cockpit. As “310” approached 11,000 feet and 450 knots, I made the decision to eject. I couldn’t save myself or the plane. (On a clear day, if you rolled the A-4 on its back and pulled back on the stick with a force of 4 G’s to perform a vertical split ”S” (to recover level flight), it would take just about 7,000 feet to gain level flight). I had no time left. I had to go. I pressed the Mic button for my ARC-27 UHF radio, and transmitted, (I hoped) “Mayday! Mayday! This is Raven 3 bailing out”. I then positioned myself in the ejection seat, reached up above my head with both hands, grasped the ejection seat curtain and pulled it firmly over my face plate. NOTHING HAPPENED!! (At least I thought that nothing happened. Actually that first 18 inches of curtain travel unlocked the canopy exposing it to the rush of air, thereby tearing it off of the cockpit clearing the way for the ejection seat and me to safely leave the aircraft. But in all of the noise and confusion, I didn’t realize that the canopy was clear of the aircraft. Bewildered, I grabbed the curtain with my right hand, leaned a bit to my left, yanked the curtain downward, with the belief that death was eminent. BOOOOOM! I was ejected from the A-4 in that rocket propelled seat.
Hurtling through the air at speed and altitude unknown, my helmet, oxygen mask, and flight gloves were all ripped off by the blast of air. I recall being blinded by the rush of air with my hands extended over my head thinking that I could blunt any collision with anything in the air or on the ground. The next thing I knew, I was dangling under my parachute in the relative silence inside the thunder storm; rain pitter patting on my chute; no real claps of thunder. The extreme force of the parachute opening, at such a high rate of speed, rendered me unconscious. Thank God, the ejection seat functioned properly. Its automatic functions released my shoulder and seat harnesses, inflated a bladder at mid back to push the seat away from me, and opened the parachute. What a blessing. However, my emergency oxygen bottle, normally attached to my parachute seat pack, had separated from my harness and was dangling on a nylon web strap at my feet, hissing away all of its contents. I tried to reach down and retrieve it, but hanging from the chute made that impossible. I could not access the oxygen which would be needed, if I ejected above 10,000 feet, the altitude at which sufficient natural oxygen is available for survival. I left “310” above that level, I thought. I would need supplemental oxygen.
With my arms extended above my head grasping the right and left parachute risers, I looked up to check my parachute and risers for possible tears in the nylon chute, or twists in the risers. No problem there, but I did not see my left arm. It felt like it was there, but it wasn’t?? Looking around, I found it swinging uncontrollably at my side with no feeling or ability to lift it. Apparently, when I ejected leaning a bit to my left, my arm hit the canopy rail upon ejection breaking it just below the shoulder. I did have slight control of my fingers on that arm. So to prevent further trauma to my arm, I tucked my hand behind my waist mounted life preserve, and tried to hold on to the preserver’s belt. I lost my grip and had to reposition my hand several times.
I thought that I ejected at or above the altitude that contained life sustainable oxygen level, and possibly was being carried to higher altitude by the storm’s up draft. I was familiar with the experience of a U S. Marine pilot who ejected in a thunder storm and then spent over 40 minutes being swept up and down thousands of feet inside of the storm. He was able to survive because of the oxygen provided by his emergency oxygen bottle. Not having the emergency oxygen bottle, I began to take deep breathes to say alive as long as possible. I began to feel faint. I thought to myself, I’m not going to make it. My immediate thought was regret. I’m only 28 years old, too young to die, and with great sorrow, I would not again see my wife, my Son, and my little girl.” Shortly thereafter, I lost consciousness.
Well, I didn’t die. I was hanging lifelessly in my harness when I awoke. The good Lord was not ready for me, just yet. I just hyperventilated myself into unconsciousness. I lifted my head and looked around. Thankfully I was descending. Amongst the pitter pat of rain on my chute`s canopy and a few claps of thunder, I thought I saw a flash of orange below me, as I was swung left to right, in my decent. Suddenly, I broke out of the clouds and noticed the dark surface below me. Couldn’t tell whether it was water or land. I descended toward whatever it was very quickly! Survival parachutes are fast in their decent and not steerable. Realizing that I would land swinging left in chute, I stiffened my left leg and put it out to protect my helpless left arm upon impact. This was a cardinal sin for any parachutist to do. You are supposed to “relax and roll with the landing”. Nevertheless, I landed in a freshly plowed field like a “ton of bricks”, tilling a “nasal trench” in the field for a few feet. I struggled to release my riser clips from my harness to collapse the chute. Tough to handle these convenient, easy to release “rocket clips” with only my right hand, but I succeeded. The chute carried free in the wind before collapsing 30 or 40 feet away from me. Wow, I thought to myself. What a ride! Two brushes with death, I thought! Here I am safe on earth. I was bleeding slightly from my mouth. Sign of internal injury? I don’t know? How serious? I sat up, took a deep breath, and made a promise to myself that “I will never get in an aircraft again”.
I surveyed my position in the field, bounded by a barbed wire fence. The farmer’s home just 500 yards or more up the hill to my left. Light rain still falling with a cloud layer just above, say 150 feet. On the opposite side of the field from the farmer’s home, the field sloped upward and met the low lying clouds about 900 or more yards from my location. I could hear the beat of a helicopter’s blades in that direction. Possibly attempting to locate me, I thought, but unable to clear the trees shrouded by clouds at that end of the field. It was up to me to get out of that field. I decided to head for the farmer’s home.
With a great surge of hope, I tried to spring to my feet, but I couldn’t. My left leg was numb. I had broken it on impact, attempting to shield my left arm. Now what? I yelled for help for about 10 minutes hoping the farmer would hear and come to my aid. No response. I thought to myself, I’ll put a few tracer rounds close to the home with my .38 caliber pistol. That’ll get some attention. Oh, that’s right. We had to leave our pistols in our lockers back in Oceana! How unfortunate!! Probably how “fortunate”, in retrospect. My only option was to crawl out of the field, through the barbed wire fence, up to the farmer’s house.
I started my “crawl”, and quickly discovered that trying to crawl using only your right arm and right leg was not an easy task! However, I did make progress. I encountered a brief hang up on the barbed wire fence, but was able to break free after thinking to myself, “after all I survived so far, I’m going to bleed to death hung up on a barbed wire fence”. I wasn’t sure how serious was the bleeding from my mouth.
Breaking free of the fence, I continued up the hill toward the house, yelling for help at frequent pause in my crawl. My progress toward the house was extremely slow. I was losing strength. As I approached a barn like structure, I spotted a tractor. Great, I thought! I’ll mount that tractor and drive to civilization where I can get help. I reached the tractor and attempted to mount it. To my surprise, I was unable to lift my body off of the ground. Well, that took care of the tractor ride! So, I continued toward the house, yelling at every pause. As I approached an overgrown fenced in area, I heard a kind of a rumble coming from the area behind the fence. That noise became louder as I crawled close to the fence. Then, I discovered the source of that rumble. It was the sound of hoof beats from a huge horse, excited by my crawling and yelling. It would take a galloping turn around its enclosure and come roaring and snorting stopping just short of jumping over the fence …. and trampling me, I feared The horse repeated its maneuver several times. Again, I thought to myself, “After all I’ve survived so far, now I’m going to be trampled to death by an enraged stallion.” Well, that did not happen, thank God.
I continued my journey past the farmer’s home and spotted a gravel driveway leading to the property’s entrance some 400 yards away. I could see cars passing the entrance. Although I could not see a road, I could see automobiles traveling left and right in front of the entrance. I moved a bit closer to the entrance, and began waving to the automobiles as they crossed the entrance. Only a few noticed my wave, and they politely waved back as they proceeded on their journey. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t stop and at least investigate my reason for waving. What is going on here? After a short while, I watched one pickup truck, after I waved to it, proceed a bit further down the road, stop, turn around and drive up the farmer’s road toward my position. The truck stopped by me and the driver ran around and excitedly asked “What happened? Here let me help you into my truck.” I briefly told him what had happened, and asked that he not move me. I was not sure of the seriousness of my “internal bleeding”. I asked if there was a hospital close by. He replied “Yes” and said that he would go straight to the hospital to have an ambulance dispatched. I did ask him why he stopped at my waving and others did not. He said “Oh, I know Ed (the farmer at that address) and he doesn’t have an orange suit like yours!”
Within 10 minutes or so, an ambulance arrived. I was loaded safely and transported to the hospital in Ashburn, Georgia. The doctors x-rayed my leg and arm, put me in plaster casts from ankle to thigh, and shoulder to wrist. I was given a sedative (pain management drug – Demerol) and placed in a private room. My bleeding from the mouth was incidental.
The Doctors notified the State Police, who notified my squadron of my location and condition. As this whole incident was unfolding, my wife was notified only that I was missing and my condition was unknown. It was only when I arrived at the hospital that she was notified by my squadron that I was alive and in a hospital in Ashburn Georgia.
I will admit that throughout my entire ordeal, I never experienced any pain! The shock of my fractures apparently deadened those local nerves. My only discomfort was mental – thinking several times that I was going to die from a plane crash, oxygen deprivation, horse trampling, internal bleeding, or whatever.
Shortly upon arrival in that hospital room, a very kind woman, blind in one eye, pulled up a chair beside my bed and assumed the self-appointed role as “visitor gate keeper”. She would decide who and how long visitors were allowed to see me. I was somewhat of an oddity in this quiet little town, just having survived an enormous crash just a few miles away. There were several instances where visitors would peek into the room, and my “gatekeeper” shooed them away. I remember a small group of Cub Scouts who peeked in the room for they had never seen a “real jet pilot”. I was truly touched by them, but regrettably my “gate keeper” would not allow them to visit. I was “flying high” on the pain medication, and didn’t attempt to override her control.
After several minute, she allowed a Georgia State Trooper to interview me. “310” had crashed just feet off of a new highway being constructed close to the hospital. He began asking questions about my name, where I was from, what type of aircraft I was flying, and “what was the name of my cop-pilot?” I gave him my name and said, “There was no co-pilot”. Okay, he said. How are you feeling? What was my destination? What is your wife’s name? How old are you? And, what was your co-pilots name? I answered his questions and repeated “I had no co-pilot.” That line of questioning continued for several more minutes. The Trooper was determined to get the name of my co-pilot. He knew that I was quite “relaxed” with the pain medication, and thought that I was not quite aware of what I was saying. Much later I discovered why he was convinced that I had a co-pilot. The Trooper, upon investigation at the crash site, saw in the crater alongside the engine, the tattered remains of my dress blue uniform (with my aviator’s wings pin attached) and what he thought was human flesh. The latter was, in fact, the “remains” of the two bologna sandwiches I had stowed in a compartment prior to take off from NAS Oceana!!!!
I found out later that a local newspaper hailed me for my courage steering my crippled aircraft away from a school and hospital, crashing one quarter of a mile between the two. Then, on the other hand, another paper criticized me for bailing out without regard to where my aircraft crashed. In truth, I had absolutely no control of “310”. I thank God that it missed both. Had I remained with my plane, I would have joined my “copilot”!
Incidentally, the trooper was told by a truck driver traveling along the highway where “310” buried itself, that this “strange fire ball made two passes at him before he lost sight of it”. Wow, that would have been quite of ride.
I had been in the hospital just overnight when my wife arrived at the door. She had flown from Baltimore, where she was visiting with her parents. After getting the proper clearance from my “gatekeeper” we were allowed to embrace each other, and again, thank God that I was alive.
The following day, my wife went home and I was to be transported temporarily to the Army hospital at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Here the doctors were quite experienced in dealing with injuries suffered by their jump school parachutists. Doctors there were thorough, and strict. I was put in leg and arm tractions. It was almost impossible to sleep, being pulled to the foot of my bed by the tractions. Couldn’t even get an aspirin for my pain. One injured Army Colonel, in a bed close to mine, had the solution. His girlfriend smuggled in a fifth of vodka, which he used as his bedside “ice-water jar”! That worked. After a two day stay at the Fort, I was put on a Stokes Stretcher (one used, among other things, to transfer patients at sea from one ship to another), placed in the back of a Navy twin engine SNB Beechcraft, and flown to the Portsmouth, Naval Hospital. There, close to my family, put in traction again, and remained there for about 30 days in recovery.
After my release from the hospital and recovery at home, about four months after my accident, I reconsidered my vow of “not getting in an aircraft again”. I felt pretty good, and said to myself, “I think I’ll try it again”.
I returned to my squadron, VA-43, and requested permission to continue my transition. Permission was granted. I flew about another 8 hours of instrument training in a swept wing F9F-8T,“ Cougar” under the hood (which provides no outside visibility to the training pilot in the back seat). The instructor occupies the front seat with full visibility. This instrument training was followed by my return to the A-4D2N, “Skyhawk.” Unfortunately, after about 3 hours in the Skyhawk, I became unnecessarily aware of noises and reactions by the plane. Distractions that I didn’t notice before the accident. Instead of enjoying the challenge and thrill of flight, I became apprehensive. I recognized that it was time for me to admit to myself that I shouldn’t - couldn’t continuing flying . This was one of the hardest personal decisions I have ever made. Admit to myself that I failed. I could not do what I wanted to do. I could not continue flying. A particularly onerous decision for a proud Naval Aviator “jet jockey”. So, after a flight with two other aviator friends, burning off fuel and “dog fighting” in aircraft that were scheduled for Field Carrier Landing Practice that evening, I went to the Commanding Officer of VA-43 and told him of my decision.
I wanted to continue my service in the Navy, so I decided to serve my country in the capacity in which I could survive. I shifted my warfare specialty to Unrestricted Line, Surface Warfare. After a brief tour with the amphibious Navy, I attended Destroyer School in Newport Rhode Island, graduated, and spent the rest of my deployed Navy career in the Destroyer Navy. I eventually commanded the destroyer USS Johnston (DD-821).
Post Script:
My wife, Jane Elizabeth, and I raised four more children, Mary Macgill, Jennifer, Patrick, and Philip, and travelled across the United Stated, to Puerto Rico, and Germany and landing, after retirement, in Alexandria, Virginia. My wife, Bobbie, a Fitness Coach at the YMCA, and I now own a small art gallery, The Left Bank Gallery, in Hague, Virginia.
Final Comment:
It is my firm belief that U. S. Naval Aviators, who operate from our aircraft carriers, are the most fearless, talented, and confident pilots in the world. Their self-confidence and ability to cope with the extreme challenges posed by open ocean combat and peacetime operations is unsurpassed.

Ferdinand C. Dugan III
Captain, USN Retired
USNA Class 1957

An Overnight Sail!

Frank Parker
Eighth Company

On the 4th of July, 1970 my wife Nina and I invited another couple to sail with us from Seabrook, TX to Galveston on our Cal-30, where we planned to anchor out overnight and sail back to Seabrook the next morning. Well, we sailed back to Seabrook the next morning, but not exactly in the manner we had planned.

After a lazy afternoon sail down the bay to Galveston, we headed out between the jetties marking the entrance to Galveston Bay. We rounded the north jetty, where we would anchor for the night, on the lee side of the jetty, sheltered from the southerly wind. It was about 5 pm and we had furled the sails on deck, put up the awning and were having a sundowner, when we noticed flashes of lightning through the hazy sky toward the North. From that moment, until the north wind was so strong that we could only hang on and pray, no more than fifteen minutes had passed. The sky parted and a big black squall line headed for us. We tried to get the awning down, but it was too late. The wind took it down for us, and threw it over the side. We headed below, to keep from being blown overboard. I started the engine and put the motor in low gear, trying to keep the tension off our anchor line, since we were now being blown in the direction of the jetty rocks - about 100 yards behind us. The wind, according the Coast Guard station, measured 90 mph at the height of the squall. While we were being tossed about on the anchor line, the wind snapped the ties on our sails and hoisted both the main and the jib to full height, proceeding then to whip them back and forth until they were ripped to shreds and carried away. All that was left of the jib were the brass jib hanks that slide on the head stay. The spinnaker pole was also wrested from its stowage on deck and lost overboard. We thought the mast would go, but after the sails carried away, the mast was spared. At one point I saw a 44 ft. ketch go sailing by with no sails, but heeled over with the rail in the water, just from the force of the wind on the mast. Later I would learn that the skipper of that ketch saved about 20 people who were clinging to the jetty rocks after their cabin cruisers had been destroyed. Luckily for us our anchor line held, and we only suffered damaged nerves, and for the girls aboard - empty stomachs due to all that tossing about. The boat looked like a hurricane had hit it, which is exactly what had happened, if you look at the force of the wind. We got underway around 9 pm and motored back to Galveston, watching the storm march off out to sea, with lightning playing all over the night sky. We tied up at a marina and got off the boat for the night, (luckily there were motels nearby) having no desire to begin the cleanup until we could see what we were doing. The next morning it dawned bright and sunny, and we motored back up the bay to Seabrook, noticing several sunken boats along the way, with their bows sticking up out of the water. The newspaper said that over 50 boats were sunk that day in Galveston Bay by a killer thunderstorm which formed over Baytown and rapidly moved down the bay and out into the Gulf of Mexico. What a day we picked for an overnight outing!! Galveston hasn't had another squall like that in the 51 years since it happened. I figured I would never get my wife to go sailing with me again, but I was wrong. We put that experience behind us and continued to enjoy the boat on day sails in the bay. My insurance got me back in business with a new set of sails.

Blind Dates

George Philipps
Seventeenth Company

As our Link Class” (2007) was nearing graduation, they held a celebratory party in Hubbard Hall and invited us to join them. As an added incentive, as if we really needed one, they asked us to participate in a sea story contest, the winner of which was to receive a prize. As I recall four of us entered the contest, I being the last to tell my tale. The first three all told stories of their experiences from their time in the Fleet. While all good, I observed through body language that the Mids were not relating to the finer points of the stories. I therefore went back to my Midshipman days, second class summer to be exact, and told the following sea story.

We were undergoing amphibious indoctrination, courtesy of the Marines at their base in Little Creek, VA. We were billeted in non air-conditioned WW II Quonset Huts. The thought of spending any time in those saunas after being in the sun all day did not appeal to me. So when a class mate (name long forgotten) approached me with “… I have a date tonight and she’s bringing a friend, would you like to join us?” I immediately said yes. The ladies were to pick us up and we would be going to the O’Club for happy hour, dinner and dancing. What could be better? Then I began to think, if this girl needed help getting a date in a male rich environment, then what had I gotten myself into?

Our dates arrived in a convertible, top down, a good start, and to say the least, my date was a 4.0. Her name on introduction did ring a bell with me at the time. We got along great, and as the club was closing for the night, she suggested we adjourn to her home where there was plenty of beer and left over fried chicken in the fridg. And off we went! Upon arrival we were told to make ourselves comfortable, so off came the khaki uniform blouse, shirt and tie as well as shoes and socks. We were sitting on the floor of the kitchen drinking beer when a car came up the driveway. My date said, “… that would be my parents, they’ll go straight to bed.” As the door opened in walked Admiral Pirie in dress whites, easily identifiable as the only person in the Navy authorized to wear a beard, (Plebe knowledge). I snapped to attention, beer still in hand, not knowing what else to do. The Admiral very graciously put us at ease, as his wife went off to their bedroom. He turned to enter a day room where we had thrown our uniforms blouses etc, As we scrambled to retrieve them he told us to leave our belongings as they were, we would not disturb him. With that he said, “good night!”, and went off to bed.

At that juncture, with the atmosphere completely altered, I thought it best to call it a night and asked the girls to take us back to the base. We tip-toed into the day room to retrieve our uniforms to find the Admiral sleeping on his bed dressed in his tee shirt, boxer shorts and white socks, garters still attached.

What I could not fathom at the time was, while this was my first date with an Admiral’s daughter, it would not be my last. Six years later “Doc” Daughenbaugh, our class anchor man, fixed me up on a blind date, with his boss’s (Admiral O.D.Waters) daughter, my wife of the past 58 years.

Admiral Arleigh Burke and the Class of 1957

Jim Gallagher
Fifth Company

Note from your WebMeister: These are very long documents and so, for space reasons, I have produced them as PDF files. As is the case with the Deceased Lists and depending on your browser, you might have to “Drag ’n Drop” the high-lighted title to your desktop. For others, a single click will open the file as a browser page.

9-2019 31 Knot Burke and the Summer of 1954

Adm. Burke 1954 letter to Adm. Boone

USNA Anecdotes ’53-’57

Bob Strange
Nineteenth Company

1. REINA MERCEDES breaks mooring during Hurricane Hazel
Reina Mercedes, a prize ship acquired from Spain during the Spanish American War was a station ship at USNA for many decades, permanently moored at the piers near Santee basin. In older times Midshipmen who had committed certain disciplinary infractions were punished by having to live aboard the ship for a period of time while continuing to attend classes in the Yard. During my era, I did not know of any Midshipman who committed an offense in which he was relegated to the ship. Rather it was used as berthing space for the Stewards and Cooks who prepared and served us meals in the Mess Hall. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel was on track and destined to come close to Annapolis. As a result all preparations were made in anticipation of the storm with all outside activity curtailed in the Yard. At the heighth of the storm, Reina Mercedes mooring line parted and the ship swung out into the Severn River with only one line under a heavy strain still attached to the pier. If the final line had parted, there would have been nothing to prevent the ship from crashing into the Severn River Bridge. A Naval Station tug braved the elements and was able to gain control of the ship and safely return it to its pier with no injuries. Needless to say there were a lot of frightened stewards mate that weathered the storm onboard and we did not have their services in the Mess Hall for the evening meal that night. The Brigade turned out the next day for clean up of all the debris left in the Yard from the storm

2. Tale of the RASPUTNIK
In the ’53-’57 era the Uniform of the Day for most academic classes was the Service Dress Blue uniform other than labs or gym. The uniform included a white shirt with a detachable collar. The collar was fastened to the shirt with fore and aft studs. The collars needed to be changed daily whereas the shirt could generally be worn for two days. When the USNA laundry returned your shirts each week there was a wooden stud that secured the collarless shirt after it had been laundered, ironed and folded. The wooden stud was known as a “Rasputnik” and were collected by many midshipmen for whatever reason. Many Plebes, when given a “come around” to an upper classmen’s room, were told to bring a certain number of Rasputniks as payment for their transgression.

3.Seagull Thief from Bancroft Window Ledge
One year we were living in a Bancroft Hall room with our wing fronting on what was called Goat Court. There were Squash/Handball courts in the quadrangle and folklore had it that the Navy Goat was sequestered there at times. When the weather turned cold, we sometimes stored perishables on the window ledge. One day my roommate received a care package from home and stored the perishable cheese on the ledge. Unfortunately a seagull was attracted by the scent of the cheese and by the time we discovered the seagull thief it had consumed most of the cheese. He escaped but with all the cheese in his gullet ,was unable to gain sufficient air speed and altitude to clear the building. After flying in circles without success , the bird finally vomited the contents of the cheese all over the roof of Goat Court before making good his escape. Needless to say we learned our lesson on not storing food on the window ledge

Swimming Ashore after Midshipmen’s Cruise
On Midshipmen’s Summer Cruise, the Battleships, Cruisers and Destroyers that would embark us , would anchor in Annapolis Roads, the larger ships a good distance from USNA due to their draft. We would embark by motor launch which was about a 30 minute boat ride from the USNA piers. Upon returning from cruise some 6 weeks later , we would disembark, stow our gear in our cruise boxes in the hallways of Bancroft Hall and be off for summer leave. We arrived back in Annapolis Roads aboard USS MISSOURI (BB63) in the afternoon and it was announced that we would not disembark until the following morning. A midshipman in my class decided he did not want to spend another night aboard ship and after acquiring a 5”/38 empty powder can as a flotation device decided to swim ashore. The nearest land was not that far from the ship and he made it to shore successfully, caught a ride to USNA and spent the night in a Bancroft Hall room. Needless to say when higher authorities found out about this escapade it did not go well and he was ultimately discharged for his infraction

5 Radiator Squad Chores and Antics
Long before the current era of air conditioning in Bancroft Hall we relied on radiators in each room during the winter months and opening the windows for cooling in the summer months. Each company had what was called a “Radiator Squad” that was comprised of plebes responsible for the rooms in their company on turning on the heat and closing the windows. There were signs posted on doors of what the occupants desired. Some occupants just preferred to have windows closed whereas others wanted windows closed and the radiator turned on. Normally the plebes would make the rounds of the rooms between 30-45 minutes of reveille, so that the rooms would be comfortable. In some instances plebes would get up earlier for these chores for whatever reason. Unfortunately if you turned on the radiator too soon the rooms would become sweltering as there were no thermostats to control the temperature. Needless to say the wrath of an upper classman awakened in a steam room did not bode well for the errant plebe

6.P-Rade Bayonet Incident
Following a Fall P-Rade on Worden Field we were returning in company formation to Dahlgren Hall to store our rifles in the gun racks located in the building.. After each company was halted the command was given to order arms, unfix bayonets, followed by dismissal. There was an individual in the company immediately ahead of my company that was experiencing difficulty in removing the bayonet from his rifle and was trying to exert brute force in removing it. The bayonet suddenly came free from his efforts and the ensuing force carried the bayonet into his armpit where it pierced a vital artery. The location of the wound did not lend itself to applying a tourniquet and blood was gushing out of the victim Fortunately there were medical personnel who were able to get him to the hospital to save his life.

The Demise of the Army’s Coast Artillery

Charlie Hall
The Glorious Seventh Company

This story was told to me by an Army Colleague with whom I served on one of my Joint Staff Tours, SAGA at the Pentagon. SAGA – Studies, Analysis, and Gaming Agency was an interesting agency that looked at the effects of various options for draw-downs by both sides in the then-current negotiations with the Soviet Union about MBFR – Mutual Balanced Force Reductions, Politico-Military stuff that always eluded me, and finally how to run a conventional war with the Soviet Union using expected conventional-force residuals about 180 days after the Great Nuclear Exchange which seemed preposterous to me but nobody asked my opinion.

I worked with the group that did various analyses of the effects of those draw-down options. Our work was staffed up the chain in the Building and then sent to one Colonel Haig who read it on the overnight plane to the Nixon California White House where the Colonel would brief Mr. Nixon on the analysis and then give instructions to the negotiators in Vienna as I understood things back then. We were about equally divided by service and a very congenial group. So, one day over lunch in the Pentagon Cafeteria when we were more-or-less resting on our oars waiting for the next emergency call from somebody in the White House, we sat and talked about various things, such as how the Army wound up with more airplanes than the Air Force and more boats than the Navy and the demise of the Coast Artillery. The boats and airplanes history is a story for another day but the short form of the Coast Artillery story is that the Army Poobahs had been trying for years to get rid of the Coast Artillery because its mission had faded away after the Civil War. But, as is often the case, the Coast Artillery Mafia had connections to Congress and Congress saw jobs being lost if reason and efficiency held sway. But the Army PooBahs were relentless and when WW II came along they saw their chance and took it.

Now the Army was ramping up for the Two-Theater War and the standing Army was way too small for that. So the PooBahs saw their chance and took it with a vengeance! One critical need that was immediately apparent was for more, and lots more, artillery for fighting a land war against Germany. So agents were sent to the various Coast Artillery bases and units to talk with the various Officers. If the Officer Corps could be lured away the enlisted would just go where they were told and think nothing of it. So these agents probably bought a few drinks at the local O’Club and extolled the virtues of transferring to Just Plain Ole Artillery. Conversations likely went something like this:

“Well, Captain X, we have a position open with the XX Artillery for a Major and I can see that your file indicates that you are totally qualified for that position. Would you consider an immediate transfer?”

“Well, I’d have to think about it, my career has been, and I thought always would be, Coast Artillery.”

“I see, Major, I mean Captain, I need to know right soon because I’m leaving for Fort Resume Speed, South Dakota tomorrow morning where I’m interviewing other possibilities for that position.”

“I see, well, on second thought, I think that my duty is to my country and with the war build-up happening so fast, I believe in my heart, that I should go where I can best serve my country. So please sign me up right now!”

And that conversation was held in some manner with almost every Coast Artillery Officer that was worth his salt. And so the Coast Artillery Officer Corps transferred almost en masse to the various Artillery units that were either in existence or were forming up using a small cadre of existing Artillery Officers plus the Coast Artillery Officers scattered about amongst them.

So off they all went to war, some in Europe and some in the Pacific. The Coast Artillery Officers melded in with standard Artillery Officers quite well because, what the hell, shooting cannons and other big guns is about the same, no matter whether the targets are ships or some other poor souls, maybe easier for land targets because they do not move quite so much. And the war progressed and, because of the expanding size of the Army, promotions came rather easily. Recall the jokes about the AF Colonel who was so young that his voice had not yet fully changed?

And so the Coast Artillery Officers were being promoted along with everybody else and so, by the end of the war, that Captain had become a Full Bird Colonel and was quite proud of his stature and claims to fame. He had a chest full of medals and had adjusted to his pay grade quite nicely. The only drawback was that he did not have his twenty years in and so could not request retirement. BTW: A little known fact is that an Officer does not have a right to retire at twenty years but can only request retirement at that point.

As the war wound down the various ex-Coast Artillery Officers began to request in some form or another to be transferred back to their First Love, the Vaunted and Heroic Coast Artillery. That Branch had not really disappeared but was still on the books but as a more-or-less temporarily defunct Branch of the Army. So now the conversation went something like this:

“General, I have served my country in the Artillery during the war and now that the war is about all done, I am requesting transfer back to the Coast Artillery whenever such is convenient.”

“Well, Colonel, the only opening in Coast Artillery is the same position that you left, a Captaincy. But I can start the paper work today if you want to return to Coast Artillery.”

“Actually, General, I would hesitate to move my family at this time, my daughter is in the middle of her Senior year in High School and has just been made Head Cheerleader. So I think that I’ll just stay where I am as I feel that I am making a real contribution to the Army of the Future based on my combat experience in Artillery. Thank you, sir, for your time and have a nice day!”

And that conversation was being played out all over the Army in one form or another until the word went out that the former Coast Artillery should keep their shoes shined and their mouths shut and all would be well as they could soon retire at their present rank. Now it is true that had they insisted on returning to Coast Artillery, whatever was left of it, they could, if they stayed in long enough to retire, retire at the highest rank satisfactorily attained. But somehow spending several years at their Coast Artillery rank was really so unappealing that essentially none did so. And so the Coast Artillery was just a shell of its former great self and nobody wanted to join that withered branch. So it just was left on the vine, so to speak, to dry up and disappear forever. With no cadre to ask Congress for funds, there was no money, and with no money there was no Coast Artillery. You can still see the gun emplacements along the California coast and elsewhere. Fortress (or Fort, if you please) Munroe is a remnant of that Glorious Past but the Coast Artillery has vanished, a victim of WW II.

And that’s the story that an old and grizzled Army Colonel told me one day over soup and pie in the Pentagon Cafeteria of how the Army PooBahs used WW II to get rid of a thorn in their sides that had far outlived its usefulness!!

Now somebody buy the next round and ask me about the how the Army wound up with more airplanes than the Air Force!

The Legend of Bill the Goat!

Jim "Percy" Googe
The Glorious Seventh Company

As best I can remember, here is my part in the legend of Bill the Goat.

In the winter of my second-class year, during my exchange week at West Point, I was admiring the large equestrian statue of George Washington on the parade ground. I noticed that the horse was anatomically correct, and prominently so, and was told by a cadet that the horse's not so private parts were colorfully painted by cadets on important occasions. Among the many dark memories of that cold and dreary place, that was a brighter one I brought back to Annapolis.

Fast forward to June week of that same year. Back in Annapolis, a magnificent bronze statue of Bill the Goat, the symbol of Navy athletics, had just been erected at the west entrance of McDonough Hall, the home of Navy athletics. The dedication of the statue as a gift to the Academy from the Class of 1915 was to take place on Saturday morning at the beginning of June week. The ceremony would be attended by many dignitaries including the President of the Class of 1915 and the Superintendent, Admiral Smedburg. All captains of varsity sports teams chosen for the next year would also be there. As captain of the varsity sailing team, I would attend.

The statue of Bill, like the West Point horse, was also anatomically correct, and his posture, lunging forward and upward, made it abundantly clear that he was a real RAM ready to smash into his foe.

The day before the dedication, the statue had been carefully covered with a tarp. It was then that a light bulb went off in my head. How wonderful it would be if all those dignitaries at this important ceremony were surprised at the unveiling by a goat having one testicle painted blue and one painted gold.

The plot quickly hatched, key members of the varsity sailing team were recruited to rendezvous in the shadows near the statue, after midnight in dark clothes and watch caps, with flashlights, brushes, and paints: blue and gold. We hid as the Jimmylegs drove by on their nightly patrols, then dashed out, and quickly under the tarpaulin, the deed was done. Safely back in our rooms, what joy!

Early next morning, what a disappointment! Workers had come to set up the venue. When they removed the tarp to install a fancy blue and gold striped unveiling shroud, our handiwork was uncovered. For the next hour or so they worked diligently with steam lances and wire brushes to remove all traces of Navy's proud colors from Bill's nether regions.

But the time had come. The dignitaries had all said their piece. I was glumly sitting and waiting for the aide to pull the drop cord to reveal an un-resplendent Bill, but I had failed to anticipate what all that steam and wire brushing would do to burnish Bill's gonads so brightly against the contrasting dark green oxidation on his bronze body. My utter delight was complete when I saw Admiral Smedburg point at Bill's underside and exchange whispers and chuckles with the Class of 15's president.

I have since learned that the Plebes, from that time onward, have been required to polish Ole Bill where it counts before important games and events. It wasn't exactly the tradition I envisioned, but I'll take the credit (along with my teammates of course) for starting it.

All the above is absolutely true, because I was there. The following is hearsay, but I like to think it is true. My oldest granddaughter is married to an Army officer and VMI graduate. While at the Army Staff College at Fort Leavenworth about four years ago, she and her husband were exchanging academy tales at the club, when she told my story without attribution. She asked a Naval Academy graduate in the group if he knew who started the tradition. He said, "I don't know; I think it was some guy named Googe". She replied, "He's my grandfather." So I'm famous!!!

PS: It must bring good luck to do what we did. The sailing team won the National Championship three weeks later. And the year after that as well!!

Additional Info from inside the Yard by a Member of Class of 2021, in response to a query:

We all know the statue just as "Bill the Goat" or "Bill" (I'm sure this must be the same one). It's located right inside Gate 1, in front of the Lejeune Natatorium (which I assume wasn't there when you were here). It's common for Midshipmen to use it as a rendezvous before some sort of adventure into Downtown Annapolis, i.e. "meet at Bill the Goat in 20 minutes and we'll head out." It is also a common Army week activity to have plebes go polish Bill's balls, and something of a right of passage to come back late and drunk and take a picture either riding Bill or kissing his testicles. Now legend has it that some Midshipmen have ridden Bill in the nude, but I have not personally experienced this or known anyone who has actually done it. Hopefully that answers your question. I'd love to hear the story of his introduction to the yard!

The Great and Grand Tear Gas Adventure

by Charlie Hall aka Seawolf 96 (OinC, HAL-3, Det Nine)

This adventure started out with some tales that my guys gathered from a guy that knows a guy! And as is often the case, there is a mixture of BS and BM (Bullshit and Black Magic) but they came to me with an idea and we hatched that baby into a plan and then into an OpOrder. Where it started I have no idea but one of my guys came to me and told me that he had, from a reliable source that tear gas (a) comes in droppable canister bombs and (b) that if a known VC hangout were bombed with tear gas while the VC were underground they would endure the discomfort and stay underground or in their bunkers until the gas cleared but if they were above ground they would not be able to get into their caves or bunkers due to the tear gas debilitating their senses and so they would be targets for small arms fire such as we carried.

So that led us to go talk to our US contacts in our OpAreas and zero in on known VC living areas. We chose one such as a target: a wooded and brushy area reported to be concealing a number of bunkers and hootches occupied by the local VC elements. We then set about getting our ducks in a row for a glorious assault on the bad guys when and how they might least expect it. One of my pilots went after the tear gas canister bomb and instructions on how to deliver it manually from a Huey. Another worked on the tactics for the assault flight. And still another worked on the weather conditions for the next few days.

So the plan evolved as follows: First we needed to get clearance from the proper RVN authority and we did that through our US Army POC in the chosen area. That was not hard at all and so we moved ahead. My guy came back with the ordnance and instructions. He briefed us all on how to deploy manually and that part seemed simple. So now we had to check the weather for wind conditions. We wanted winds light and STEADY since we wanted the gas to stay put on and near the ground where we deployed it. And that was the forecast for the following day in the area! Tactically the lead ship would fly a crosswind leg at about 2000 feet just upwind of the target area and deploy the weapon at about the center point of the target. The trail ship would be prepared to provide cover fire if necessary. Then both ships would set up in an oval pattern similar to a holding pattern near a US airport. Once the bomb detonated and the gas dispersed the gunners would put in fire as the target bore in their sights. That way we expected to (a) catch the VC above ground and keep them there and (b) deliver considerable firepower on them while they were unprotected. All seemed fairly simple.

Now it was getting close to Go-No Go day and time and all looked good. I decided to lead the flight and chose one of my most experienced Helo Aircraft Commanders to man the trail ship. The morning came and still everything looked fine for this mission that was designed to bring death and destruction on hordes of the VC enemy who deserved anything we could inflict upon them. Hell hath no fury like a couple of fully armed Hueys with tear gas canister and enthusiastic gunners. So, we launched, called the appropriate US Liaison Officer, got our clearance meaning that no friendlies were in the area, and proceeded to out mission area. I identified the target area and we proceeded to set up the drop. My gunner would unsafe the weapon and arm the radar fuse to detonate at about 200 feet. That would allow the major weapon to deploy the sub-munitions as the canister fell the rest of the way to the ground.

So here we came, not really full of rum, but certainly looking for somebody to put on the bum, the Armored Huey Detachment! The day was CAVU to the moon, the winds were light and steady, and we approached the target from the upwind side. I flew the crosswind leg and my Head Gunner deployed the tear gas canister on my command. We watched it fall and the trail ship called detonation as they could see the white cloud indications. The smaller munitions scattered out from the canister just as advertised, and all was going well!! We were just a moment away from dealing that death and destruction to our enemies! We set up in the oval pattern just upwind of the target and got ready to open fire.

But as a colleague one told me, ‘Nothing ruins an operation like the order to execute!” Just as we began our first firing run, the dastardly wind shifted almost 180 degrees and picked up a bit. All of a sudden, the gas is blowing in our direction and, since it is colorless, we had no warning and both ships got a huge dose of tear gas. Now I have never been in a demonstration turned riot where tear gas was employed to control the crowd but I became well aware of the effects of a dose of tear gas in a huge hurry. So did all the other crewmembers of both birds!! I had trouble breathing, my eyes were stinging, and my orientation skills were debilitated. All that in a New York second (the time between the light turning green and the cab driver behind you honking his horn!) and I was immediately more concerned with maintaining control of my bird that doing anything about any assault on the enemy!

But, after a few very scary moments, things began to clear up and I was almost OK again, just some nasty, stinging eyes that kept me blinking quite a bit. I was in control of my bird, my trail ship commander was in control of his bird, and we were headed home, a bit disconcerted about our failure to execute our planned mission and wondering how come the wind shifted so fast? Damned Weather-Guessers!! Wind and weather, as all pilots know, can be very devious and tricky, especially when you least expect it. We decided that we would not try that plan again but we all thought as often is the case after events like that and also after a Liberty in a strange port, “At the time, it seemed like a pretty good idea!!”

And another tale of more recent vintage!

Swimming in Georgia

Swimming in Georgia in March 2016!!
by Charlie Hall

It was March of 2016 when I went down to South-eastern Georgia to visit my Classmate and old friend and fishing buddy, Jim Paulk, on what had become an almost annual pilgrimage. I arrived on Saturday, March 19, 2106 and was glad to see Pat and Jim and to see that they were aging like me but hanging tough to mobility and activity. Jim, through one of his Farming Buddies, had been given access to a private pond a number of years before this visit. Jim and I had fished this pond many times before and had taken some very nice fish. Jim and I had each caught large-mouth bass over nine pounds by the scales in previous years. Jim had caught several fish over the years that weighed more than five pounds. So we knew well that the pond held some very nice fish. We were hoping to do even better this year that our existing records.

Before I arrived Jim had acquired a new boat that was a little larger and even fancier than the one we had used in previous years. The boat was designed for comfortable fishing with seats that sat on pedestals about a foot tall. The boat was light and easily maneuverable with the trolling motor that Jim ran from the stern seat. All our trips were, at least in part, shakedown cruises for the new boat as every new mobile acquisition, on land or sea, requires some getting used to. And so we were in the process of learning about the boat and how it handled as well as fishing for some potential trophy Bass. We fished on Saturday afternoon, searching for bass, not only large in mouth but large in size.

Saturday afternoon brought us some fish but nothing of any size, mostly small ones in the one to two pound range. Sunday rolled around and the day was windy from the start. We chose to sit around the house and visit while we waited to see what the day’s weather would bring. Around 3 PM, the wind began to die down some and we decided to give the pond a try. And so we loaded up Jim’s Jeep and off we went in search of the monsters we hoped to find. When we reached the pond the wind was still not as quiet as we would have liked but there were lees (out of the wind) on the far side and so it appeared that we had fishing opportunities near the bass beds that we had seen on earlier trips. For those who do not know, bass beds are places in fairly shallow water on the bottom where the fish have swept away the vegetation and debris with their tails so that hat’s left is a shallow depression in the bottom where the females can lay their eggs and the males can come in and deposit their sperm to fertilize the eggs. Of course, other species think of the eggs as dinner so the males, and sometimes the females as well, will stand guard the keep invaders away. Bass beds are prime fishing spots during the Spring when procreation is under way. And so we headed off across the pond to those sites with hope in our hearts and aggression in our souls.

We fished up and down the far bank working our baits over the beds and the nearby places that looked like where we would be if we were bass. We were using plastic worms that are Jim’s preferred lure for this pond, especially at this time of year. The water temperature was not yet as warm as it will be later in the year and the cooler water tends to make the fish a trifle sluggish. We cast and cast, getting some bites and bringing a few fish to the boat, never even thinking about using the net since the fish caught were way too small to need a net. We just pulled them in close to the boat, grabbed the line and hoisted them aboard to remove the hook and send them on their way to grow up and come back in a few years to be our trophy catches. I recall giving each of them instructions to remember that I had not hurt them and to eat well, grow large, and bite my hook a few years from now when he would be a lot bigger. And so that’s the way the afternoon went until we decided to give up, surrender the pond to the trophy fish, and head for home.

Now a little information is needed here to set the stage properly. The boat gets launched and recovered from the beach by hand and the water just offshore, for a few feet, is shallow. However, it gets deep fast after the first few feet so that 10 yards out the water is normally maybe 12-15 feet deep. That’s important and critical to this tale.

Coming home the boat needs to be driven fairly well up the beach if the First Mate (That’s Me!!) is to get ashore with dry feet to pull the boat up a bit more so that the Captain (That’s Jim!!) can debark gracefully. It helps if the weight in the boat is more to the stern than to the bow so that the bow is angled up a bit to allow the boat to slide up the shore nicely. And so I got out of my seat to move back to where Jim was sitting and running the motor. I was standing up which I lived to regret later on. And so we were moving toward the landing site and about 20 yards out, for some unknown reason, the boat lurched a bit and I lost my balance. At that point, physics took over.

Now, please step over here where the Lord High Executioner can’t hear us while I pontificate a bit about those physics. A floating boat has three centers of interest to us now but not seriously considered at the start of this episode. The Center of Buoyancy is the centroid (central point, so to speak) of the mass of water displaced by the boat and its contents. The Center of Gravity is, for practical purposes, the point at which all the mass can be considered to be located. The Metacentre is the point at which a vertical line above the Center of Buoyancy intersects the line perpendicular to the beam of the boat above the Center of Gravity. The distance between the Center of Gravity and the Metacentre is called metacentric height. All that is important for this discussion is that metacentric height is a measure of stability, large being better than small. When metacentric height, which changes with the heeling of the boat gets too small the boat tips over and does not right itself.

When I stood up and moved aft, the boat Center of Gravity was moved upward, thereby reducing the metacentric height and decreasing the boat’s stability, meaning that the boat was apt to tip a bit under small forces. And that’s what happened. Something caused the boat to lurch and the lurch caused the boat to tip a bit and, since my own center of gravity was definitely higher than the side of the boat, over I went. I think I grabbed at Jim to try to steady myself before I fell in but what happened was that I dragged him off his seat a bit. The boat rolled back the other way after my weight was gone and then rolled again in the direction that I had gone over the side. That happened fast and caught Jim way off balance and over he went. So we were both in the water, the motor was running with the tiller off-center a bit, and the boat was running in circles.

Oh, by the way, neither of us were wearing flotation devices and there was nobody in the boat to throw out the floatation cushion.

I went in head first like Scuba divers entering the water and so I don’t know how far down I went. I next recall working to get upright and get to the surface. I opened my eyes and saw the bottom of the boat directly over me and so I had this flash of fear about the propeller hitting me and slicing me up. It was a new motor and the blades were sharp, indeed!! So I somehow got away from the boat and struggled to the surface, thinking that it took forever to get there and get a breath of air. While I was working on getting to the surface and some much-needed air, I must confess that I was as scared as I have been in a very long time. At the surface I was not able to do very much and I thought that I was going to drown since I did not seem to be making any progress toward swimming and was barely keeping my head above water. After a moment of flailing about I settled down a bit and was able to make swimming motions. My fear abated somewhat since I seemed to be able to make some progress toward forward motion. Then I looked off toward the center of the pond for the boat hoping that Jim would pull me out or, at least, tow me to shore. But immediately I saw that the boat was empty and so I looked for Jim. Off to my left I saw a nose and some sunglasses and so I hollered at him and started toward him, thinking that I not only had to save myself but Jim also. I was not very agile since I was dressed for the cool weather and was wearing my Timberland ankle-high barn boots, jeans, and shirt. Before I got to him he got his head out of the water and started to make swimming motions so then I looked for the boat. It was running in circles and the wind was pushing it toward the shore at the place where we expected to land. The motor worried me because I had thoughts of one of us being hit by the propeller. I managed to swim a little toward the boat, and after a bit, I was able to grab hold of the railing. Then I looked for Jim and saw he was making some progress toward the boat and he was shortly able to get a hold on the boat railing. About that time I felt the bottom as the wind has pushed all of us shoreward while we were flailing about trying to survive. Jim was behind me holding on to the railing and as soon as I could stand up, I pushed the boat closer to the shore. When we were almost there, Jim could stand up and he was able to reach the motor tiller and shut off the motor. Then I could control the boat better and got it beached a little. Jim was able to crawl ashore by holding on to the boat and crawling forward. He got to the beach and, using an older overturned boat as a helper, he got to his feet. I called to him to get to the car and start blowing the horn for help. I was just trying to hold the boat in place and move it up the beach a bit so it would not float off. Once I thought that I had the boat well beached ashore I started moving toward the beach to get out of the water. I fell once while trying to get up and out of the water but that was only a minor setback.

Now the private pond belongs to David Brazell and his family, and luckily, it was late afternoon and David was home. The horn soon brought him down to where we were huffing and puffing, just glad to be out of the water. He took over and helped us to get ourselves together. He told us that he would take care of the boat, our gear, and everything. He said that he would charge the battery so that we could fish again when we were ready and sent us on our way home. However, he also delivered a strong ruling saying that we had been fishing for the last time without wearing a flotation device. WEARING, he said. Jim and I were easy to convince and we swore an oath, even more powerful than blood or pinky-swear. We swore on our wet clothes and soggy shoes that we would never venture aboard any boat smaller than a Destroyer Escort without actually wearing a flotation device.

What we got back to Jim’s house we had to face Pat. If we even thought about making up some story to explain our wet clothes, we soon dropped it and fessed up to our mis-adventure. Pat collected our wet clothes and put them in the washer. I rinsed out my barn boots that were muddy inside and out and set them in the garage to dry. A reasonable estimate was that I would be able to wear them again about the Fourth of July!!

And so us Boys in our Eighties managed to survive what was a very harrowing experience. I was both scared for myself and terrified for Jim, especially when I first saw him in the water and nothing but nose and sunglasses were above water. Later I was far less than confident that I could swim to the boat that was being driven away from me by the wind. Second Class endurance swimming at the Academy came to my rescue because I learned back then that I could do a whole lot more even after I thought I was exhausted. After I got to the boat I thought that I would have to swim out to get hold of Jim since he was having trouble getting moving toward the boat. He did manage to get going and got to the boat OK. We did make it to shore and I have no idea how long the whole thing took but it was a really bad time for me until we were both out of the water. And so the Second Battalion Fishing Team finished up that Sunday afternoon, a sadder but wiser bunch. We had a long think and a short talk about landing the boat techniques. Needless to say, nobody stands while the boat is moving anymore. We fished more later on and set on-going records for continuous days without anybody falling overboard and that record continues to climb, perhaps not suitable for Guinness Book but clearly good for us.