Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The List 4951 TCB "Hoser"

The List 4951TGB 
To All,
I hope that your week started well.  Today the list is dedicated to Joe "Hoser" Satrapa with a stirring remembrance by a close friend Jimmy Barnes.
This is so well  written and captures "Hoser" as he lived and enjoyed life to the fullest. A true friend.
Joe "Hoser" Satrapa

Editor's note: Joe "Hoser" Satrapa passed away this weekend. A legendary fighter pilot, he went on to fly air tankers for CAL FIRE. Hoser spent years at the Grass Valley Air Attack Base, flying Tanker 89. He lived off Purdon Road and was frequently flying in the Yuba Canyon, banking over YubaNet HQ. He is survived by his wife Pamela and his daughter Kasandra, many friends and colleagues to whom we extend our sincere condolences.
The following is a remembrance by Jimmy Barnes of Associated Aerial Firefighters.

March 18, 2019 – Thirty-three years ago, I was a Co-Pilot for Chuck Bartak on a DC-6 at Chico Air Attack Base. On the first day of the contract we had our pre work meeting With Chief Don (Bigfoot) O'Connell presiding. Sitting quietly on the couch was a tall, lean gentleman in a tailored orange flight suit. His appearance was so dapper that I naturally assumed that he was a U.S. Forest Service Lead Plane Pilot. Then I noticed that on his name tag, in addition to his name, there was one word in big bold letters. It read, HOSER, with a set of Navy wings affixed to the tag. I introduced myself;
"Hi I'm Jim Barnes, I'm Chuck's Co-Pilot on the six, who are you with"?
"Just call me Hoser, I'm flying with that big fucker over there". He pointed to Bigfoot and I realized that he was our new Air Attack Pilot.
"Why do they call you Hoser"?
"Well when I was a new pilot in the Navy, during training in the gun pattern, I rolled in on the target and shot all my ammo in one pass. The instructors called me Hoser after that and it became my handle for the next twenty years".
"Where did you go to flight school for jet training"?
"Kingsville in Corpus Cristy".
"Kingsville is Wingsville and at Beeville you attrite with the best"?
"I've heard that one before, what's your story"?
"I fell on my sword in A-4 training for bad procedures and busting an AN-10 instrument check at the wrong time of the fiscal year. I was so close to the end of training that I was slated for C-130 school in Littlerock".
"C-130s, that's where all the bottom feeders go. You would have been a shitting post for some grizzly old Major, you're lucky you flunked out. Flying instruments in an A-4 is hard, I had trouble with it too".
I thought, this guy is putting me on. A fighter pilot who has both humility and empathy for the less fortunate, how could such a travesty occur?
What he said next convinced me that he was the biggest bullshit artist that I had ever encountered and there was no shortage of bullshit artists in the tanker business.
"I don't know how long I'm going to be here, the Secretary of the Navy called me and he wants me to come back in the Navy and teach fighter tactics and gunnery as a Flight Duty Officer".
I had been around the Navy for quite a while and I had never heard of such a title. He continued on.
"I told him that I would only come back in if I could keep collecting my retirement pay and if he would promote me to full Commander".
Now I was convinced that this guy was smoking dope.
A while later our phone rang. Chuck, my Captain, picked it up.
"Hoser it's for you. Somebody from the Department of the Navy".
For the next half hour, we listened to Hoser negotiate with the Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, for the conditions under which he would accept an appointment as the Navy's first Flight Duty Officer. Turns out that Secretary Lehman, also a Naval Flight Officer in the reserve, had flown with Hoser as his back seater on some training flights. After what seemed like a conversation with an old friend Hoser hung up the phone and said;
"It's all settled, after fire season I'm going back in the Navy".
We were all flabbergasted. Beyond all belief this guy was for real.
"Holy shit Hoser, I thought you were putting us on for sure. That sounds like a great deal".
"Yea, he offered me a deal I couldn't refuse".
After that Hoser and I had many long discussions about his experiences in the Navy. His career pattern was also about as unlikely as one could get. Combat experience in Vietnam as both a Fighter Pilot in an F-8 Crusader and a Photo Reconnaissance Pilot in an A-5 Vigilante. He had done the bomb damage assessment mission on Snuffy Smith's successful raid on the Thanh Hoa bridge deemed the bridge that wouldn't go down by Air Force and Navy Pilots. It was in an area called the Dragon's Jaw by the Vietnamese because it was so well defended.
I was enamored by Hoser's war stories and when I mentioned to him that he had really been through some shit, his comment was;
"Yea but nothing was as tough as bringing the Vigi aboard ship at night."
"Did you ever fly an A-3D"?
"They tried to make me fly that piece of shit at Key West when I checked in to the Squadron. After a few fam flights in it I decided that a carrier plane with no ejection seats and an air cycle machine in the cockpit that a had a bad habit of coming unglued and frying the crew was not my cup a tea. Besides it weren't no fighter".
"I always wondered why Navy Pilots called the A-3D all three dead".
"To get out of it I made a deal with the Skipper. They were looking for somebody to fly the Squadron's EC-121K, (a command and control ship that was there for training exercises). I told the Skipper I would fly it for him if he would keep me current in Fighters".
Only Hoser could have negotiated such a deal. It ended up that he loved flying the big four engine airplane and he loved his crew. He had a ring side seat on all the training hops and being Hoser he couldn't resist fucking with his brother fighter pilots. He would get on the tactical frequencies and give the Fighter jocks bogus vectors and fake bogie reports. One of his old Fighter buddies recognized his very distinctive voice upon receiving one of his fake instructions and his reply was;
"Nice try Hoser".
We had a great time that year and between Hoser, Bigfoot, Chuck and the crew it was a barrel of laughs.
Bigfoot had a deal with the gas vendor at the airport a guy that was also named Joe. For every one hundred gallons of gas sold at the tanker base he would give us one steak. By the end of the week we had enough steaks for a barbeque. They weren't the best steaks but there were lots of em. Then Hoser decided that we were tired of eating steaks. Joe the gas man came over to our weekly barbeque and Hoser made a request.
"Hey Joe, were getting tired of steaks could you get us something else like Lobster tails maybe".
Gas man Joe's lower lip dropped.
"I can get you some fish".
Hoser accepted Joe's counter offer.
"Ok, fish then".
The next week the gas man brought us buckets of fish. I couldn't identify the species, they were about four to six inches long with fins, gills and a tail so we deep fried them up and ate them. They were OK but we opted to go back to steaks the next week. The thing was he brought us too many fish so we had lots left over. Those fish ended up being distributed all over the tanker base. Joe the gas man got two under the seat of his 52 Chevy gas truck. He must of thought that his colostomy bag broke when he climbed into the truck the next morning. Bigfoot the ranger got a handful on top of the engine intake manifold of his pickup truck so he had fried fish after he drove home that night. The worst case was that Joe but about a dozen fish under the seat of Major Aviation's Pickup truck that was only rarely driven. The average temperature on the ramp was in the high nineties most days. After about two weeks my Captain Chuck used the pickup to pick his wife up at the airport. Mercifully the terminal was only a couple hundred yards away and when Chuck and his wife Shari drove into the parking lot both their heads were sticking out of the side windows. It was all great fun but I thought I'd never get that smell out of M.A.O.'s truck.
Hoser had a unique way of answering our company phone. He was working for Hemet Valley Flying Service and we were working for Major Aviation. On our phone was a tape label with "Major Aviation Only" written on it. Hoser turned Major Aviation Only into an acronym. When our phone rang, he'd pick it up and answer with what he would call great panache;
"MAO, do you have anything to do with fighters or tankers"?
When the person on the other end of the phone tried to respond confused by Hoser's antics his next words were;
"Never heard of ya".
Then he would hang up. When some of the folks from our company got perplexed and a little upset by Hoser's humorous shenanigans my Captain would tell them;
"That's just Hoser, he's trying to improve moral around this place".
Strangely enough that seemed to satisfy them and after all, it was pretty funny.
Hoser and I found that in addition to flying we had a lot of other interests in common like drinking, shooting and hunting. We did do a lot of drinking some nights and some shooting before tanker time and he was a deadly shot.
One day Hoser's beautiful blonde wife and a gorgeous little girl appeared at the base. I thought, this guy has led a charmed life. He's got it all, flew fighters, got a beautiful wife and kid and now he was going back into the Navy to fly fighters again. I couldn't help but compare and contrast his life to mine which up to that point had been a series of unfortunate events. We had a great summer and as Hoser would always state with great eloquence "copious amounts mirth and levity were had by all".
After that fire season Hoser went back into the Navy and he was gone for a couple of years. We kept in touch and he gave me reports from time to time. Like when he shot the all-time record score for the most strafing hits on the target at Dare County target range in an F-14. He told me about a pass that he made where he pulled straight up over the range, jettisoned fuel, then hit the afterburner causing a towering vertical column of flame that really inspired the ground troops.
Then I heard that he blew his thumb off. He had made a special gun out of a 20mm cannon barrel that he was using to test a new round that he was experimenting with. The aim was to extend the range of the 20mm by wrapping the bullets with Teflon tape and loading them up to attain higher velocities and delivering a longer range. His goal was to fill the gap between the maximum effective range of the guns and the minimum effective range of the missiles. He had designed and built the receiver and the trigger group but he always fired it from behind cover with the use of a lanyard to pull the trigger because he knew the action was unsafe. The accident occurred when he was loading it and it accidentally went off blowing up the gun and blowing his thumb clear off. For most pilots that would have been the end of their flying career but not Hoser. With a miracle of micro surgery by his friend Dr. Harry Buncke, Hoser's big toe was successfully transplanted on to Hoser's hand. Before the surgery Hoser had painted a happy face on his toenail. When he woke up the first thing he was saw was that Dr. Buncke had erased the happy face on the toenail and drew a sad face on Hoser's new thumb nail. It wasn't a total loss though. Hoser told me that the Navy was considering adopting Joe's new concept and calling it the Hoser round. After a tough recovery process Hoser was reinstated to flight status.
Eventually Hoser retired for the second time and came back to fly with us. As luck would have it Hoser went right into the S-2 training program. Fate would intervene again in his life when both tanker pilots at Grass Valley passed away within the same year. It left an opening at the base which was about ten miles from his house. So Hoser got Grass Valley Air Attack Base as his permanent base where he served for the rest of his career.
Around that time, I was flying the prototype S-2T, Tanker 180. It was my goal to get every S-2 tanker pilot that I could to fly it. The tanker pilots loved it because it was such a dramatic improvement in performance over the radial engine S-2. When I finally got a chance to put Hose in the left seat on a fire, I pointed to the airspeed indicator while in-route to the fire. I thought he would be very impressed that it was indicating 250 knots.
"Hoser, can you believe how fast this thing is"?
He gave me a quizzical look.
"Yea, everything is a blur".
I suddenly felt pretty silly. I guess I forgot who I was flying with, to me 250 knots was a space ship. To a fighter pilot who flew the Crusader, the Phantom and the Vigi it was approach speed. He did a great job on the fire with it and he was very enthusiastic about the prospect of having it as our new airtanker.
I was in seventh heaven in those days flying the turbine. Then during the winter Bill Dempsay offered me a job flying a DC-4 in North Carolina during their early season. I thought to myself this couldn't be better, flying an old vintage DC-4 in the Spring and the most advanced turboprop airtanker for CDF during the summer. I was sure that it was going to be a good time. My Co-Pilot that first year was a very fine one but he got offered a job as a SEAT pilot back there for the next year so his job was up for grabs. I told Hoser all about it and he asked if he could take the next spring. I asked him why in the world he would want to do something like that? He answered with the typical Hoserism;
"I gotta get my four-engine box checked".
"I'd be glad to have you but the pay is low and we have to do a lot of our own maintenance. The average flight time for North Carolina on the State contract is usually only about ten hours".
He was undeterred.
"That's OK, sounds like it will be a lot of fun".
I wasn't so sure. I was a DC-4 pilot with less than 100 hours as Captain in it. My new Co-Pilot would be a top gun Fighter Pilot with a whole career flying the most high-performance aircraft in the Navy and he had been a Connie pilot too. Since I had been a lackluster jet pilot that washed out of A-4s I was concerned about how this unique combo would work out.
We were the oddest odd couple to ever climb into a cockpit. As it worked out Hoser was just the best Co-Pilot you could ever hope for. He was a great help in the cockpit even when we lost all four engines and dead sticked it into Sherman Field in Texas. He was a tireless worker and helped with all the airplane washing and maintenance that we had to do when we weren't flying. We didn't fly much that year, only about 5 hours of revenue time but we did do a lot of drinking. It was sort of like a paid vacation going to pig pickins and oyster barbeques washing it all down with beer and whiskey.
Hoser became an instant hero at the Kingston Airtanker Base when he got his old F-14 partner to fly into Kingston, to do a low pass, and land. Hoser had previously asked the Forest Service boys if they had a certain type of power unit (he gave them all the numbers) to start an F-14. Wearing his camouflaged cover decorated with a flechette, a dirty T shirt and cammo pants they thought he was an escapee from the luny bin. They informed him that no they didn't have that type of APU. Then the earth began to rumble. An F-14 appeared right on the deck, streaked down the duty runway, did an immelburger turn, came around and landed. He taxied up to our ramp and the canopy opened. It was Hoser's old Squadron mate Captain Dale Snodgrass, call sign SNORT, who was now the Commander of the Navy's whole Atlantic Air Force. Hoser climbed up the side of the jet with the engines running and SNORT handed him some posters for the Forestry boys. The canopy closed, SNORT made some hand gestures pointing to the DC-4 challenging us to a dog fight. The big fighter then taxied out to the runway and blasted off like a rocket ship. After that Hoser could do no wrong. All those guys were also in the National Guard and that was about the coolest thing that ever happened at Kingston.
Over the years Hoser and I flew fires together, hunted together and shot guns together almost always followed it by a couple whiskeys together.
Every couple of years we went to Montana to hunt with our old friend Vern and the great Vito Orlandella. Vern was an old tanker pilot who had been a Marine Pilot in the Korean war. He flew birddogs calling in Naval gunfire for the Army and Marines at places like the Chosin Reservoir. Vito was not only a famous tanker pilot he was a champion competition shooter. There was also nothing he didn't know about an airplane. Once again, we did a little hunting and a lot of drinking and eating. We shot most of our deer off the deck of our cabin in the little Snowy Mountains. I never laughed so hard as when I was with those guys. I once asked Vern if he had a call sign like HOSER did.
"Yea, it was magnet ass".
He explained to us that flying over a couple thousand Korean and Chinese troops he would get a lot of bullet holes in his Birddog on every mission. They would pass right through the fabric cover and leave the plane looking like Swiss cheese. To prevent him getting shot in the ass they put sand bags under and around his seat. Fortunately, they never hit anything vital. Vern said that calling in 18-inch artillery shells from the Missouri that blasted the little bastards to hell really made them mad.
As time went on Hoser had second thoughts about even shooting a deer. On one occasion Hoser shot a beautiful white tail four-point buck and he looked so sad I thought we were going to have to have a funeral for the sonofabitch. I guess it was because of all his deer pets back at his compound in Nevada City where he would spend hours feeding them and talking to them and he had a name for every one of them. They would walk right up to him and they would let him pet them. Hoser was tough as nails but he was also a very sentimental guy with great compassion for animals and most people. A few years later our friend Vern died. I always knew that he had lied about his age because when he was in Korea, I was one year old but somehow, he ended up only being ten years older than I was.
On our last hunting trip, we both felt the loss of our pal Vern and things weren't quite as chipper as they once were. One thing was he seemed to be recovered from any inhibitions about shooting deer caused by remorse. We stayed in Don's big beautiful house out in the wilderness with Vito and his wife Sandy along with Vito's son Pat and his wife. In the mornings we all scattered in different directions and went hunting. Hose and I, being all stove up, moseyed down to one of Don's other houses surrounded by mostly grass land facing a steep slope. We were sitting on a deck that went all the way around a little cabin. While we were sitting there, sipping whiskey, Hose spotted two whitetails coming up the gulch and motioned to me to get ready. They were about two hundred yards so we both took leaners on the deck railings. We both fired simultaneously and it sounded like one shot. Both dear dropped at the same instant. Hose was elated;
"A double spank".
We drove my van right up to the dear, gutted them and loaded them up. We returned to the porch and had another whiskey and Hose proclaimed;
"Now that's what I call a gentleman's hunt".
That was the last time we went hunting together. We talked on the phone almost every week mostly about flying, hunting and shooting and sometimes about communists".
About two weeks ago I called Hoser and got no answer. I called again the next day and got the same result. I had a bad feeling but I told myself that they just went on a trip somewhere. Then Hoser's wife Pamela began to message me and the messages got progressively worse. First it was that Hose had fallen and he was in the hospital. I called her cellphone and finally got through to her. We talked about preparing a room on the lower floor of the house for Joe to convalesce in. Then I got the message that he was in a rehab facility and that he was in too much pain to undergo therapy. The next message from Mrs. Satrapa was that that Joe's condition was far worse than they first thought. The doctor told her that he had a wide spread infection and would probably not survive emergency surgery. He also told her that if he did survive and he would be severely impaired for the remainder of his life. Mrs. Satrapa made the courageous decisions to do what she knew would have been Joe's final wishes. Her last text message to me was that Joe had only a few days or weeks left and if I wanted to see him one last time now would be that time. That night Pamela got a phone call from the hospital at midnight. She thought that it would be that solemn notification but no. The nurse told her that Joe just wanted to tell her that he loved her. The next day I went to the hospital and when I walked into his room Mrs. Satrapa was sitting dutifully by his side. Joe was semi-conscious drifting in and out. We told him how much we loved him and we talked for hours about what a great man and great pilot he was. When I mentioned that the boys at the ready room at McClellan Tanker Base sent him their love, he gave me a little smile. When I told him how proud he would be of all his young tanker pilots he smiled again. His wife Pamela talked to him softly and lovingly reassuring him that he had been a great husband and a great father. It seemed to give him great comfort. Then his daughter came in the room to help support her mom during this terrible ordeal. The little girl that I first met so many years ago at Chico Tanker Base is now a beautiful young woman. She was so close to her Dad that the pain of his loss is almost overwhelming. In spite of that Cassandra and her Mom stayed by Joe's side supporting each other and showering Joe with love. For me this was one of the hardest goodbyes I ever had to endure.
Commander Joe Satrapa was one of the greatest Fighter Pilots the Navy has ever produced. When he came into the tanker world, he brought that warrior spirit with him. He was a magnificent airtanker pilot and when he became a tanker instructor pilot, he brought all those years of teaching and inspiring all of his young Fighter Pilots to the job with him. Joe had a strong code of honor. He never judged people by who they were but by their conduct and their competence. He spent much of his time with his students inspiring them and helping them achieve their goal as he had done for a generation of Fighter Pilots when he instructed them.
Yes, Joe was a magnificent Fighter Pilot and Airtanker Pilot but he was a lot more than that. He was a loving husband and father. He respected and had great affection for all the people on the team that made everything work.
For me Joe's friendship was a great gift and I will carry him in my heart until the end of my days. On one of my darkest days as we were leaving the Naval Air training base at Beeville, Texas we passed a movie house on the way out of town. On the marquee were the words "God Bless You John Wayne". He had just died that day and I felt as if I had died with him. If on that day anyone would have told me that one of my dearest friends would be one of the Navy's finest and best Fighter Pilots, I would have believed it inconceivable. It is not often in the course of a lifetime that you find yourself in the presents of a truly great man. Commander Joe Satrapa was such a man. His wife Pamela messaged me this morning to tell me that Joe Passed away at 10:00 AM this morning.
May God Bless and keep Joe Satrapa always and May God Bless his wife Pamala, his son Vance and his daughter Kasandra and give them the strength to endure the terrible pain of his loss.
Love and Respect
Jimmy Barnes

This day in Naval History
This Day In Naval History – March 19, 2019
March 19
1898 - USS Oregon departs San Francisco for 14,000 mile trip around South America to join U.S. Squadron off Cuba
1917 - Navy Department authorizes enrollment of women in Naval Reserve with ratings of yeoman, radio electrician, or other essential ratings.
1918—Ensign Stephen Potter is the first American to shoot down an enemy seaplane, a German plane off the German coast during World War I.
1924—Curtis D. Wilbur takes office as the 43rd Secretary of the Navy, where he gains his greatest achievements in enlarging and modernizing the fleet, and establishing a naval air force that would become an overwhelming force during World War II.
1942—Secretary of Navy James V. Forrestal places the newly-established construction battalions, later called Seabees, under the command of officers with the Civil Engineer Corps who are trained in the skills required for the performance of construction work.
1944—TBF and FM-2 aircraft from Composite Squadron (VC 6) aboard USS Block Island (CVE 21) sink German submarine U 1059 west-southwest of Dakar.
1945—Submarine USS Balao (SS 285) attacks a Japanese convoy and sinks one troopship and three fishing vessels and damages another off the Yangtze estuary about 90 miles north-northwest of Shanghi.
1945—As Fast Carrier Task Force 58 planes bomb Kure and Kobe Harbors, Japanese aircraft single out the U.S. Navy carriers for attack. USS Wasp (CV 18), USS Essex (CV 9), and USS Franklin (CV 13) are hit. After struck by a second bomb, Franklin suffers subsequent explosions on the flight and hangar decks. Heroic work by her crew, assisted by nearby ships, bring the fires and flooding under control. For their actions during this occasion, both Lt. Cmdr. Joseph T. O'Callaghan and Lt. j.g. Donald A. Gary receive the Medal of Honor.
1969—While serving with Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, at Phu Loc 6 in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam, Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class David R. Ray is killed in action while providing medical aid to injured Marines during an enemy attack on his unit. Petty Officer Ray is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism in that action.
1994—USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) is commissioned at Long Beach, CA, where then-Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton was the keynote speaker. The Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer is currently homeported in Yokosuka, Japan.

Thanks to CHINFO
Executive Summary:
National headlines include reports of Nebraska cities issuing emergency declarations amid historic flooding, and reports of Pentagon disclosing military projects that may be affected for possible border wall funding. 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer told the Associated Press that the U.S. Navy will not alter its freedom of navigation operations in the wake of dangerous maneuvers by a Chinese navy ship. Russian defense officials say they are deploying Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers to Crimea in order to counter U.S. Navy Aegis Ashore missile defense installations in Poland and Romania reports USNI News. Additionally, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer announced that DDG 130 will be named after Medal of Honor recipient Hospital Corpsman Master Chief William Charette reports USNI News.
Today in History March 19

The French explorer La Salle is murdered by his own men while searching for the mouth of the Mississippi, along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

On the death of William III of Orange, Anne Stuart, sister of Mary, succeeds to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Boston is incorporated as a city.

Jim Currie opens fire on the actors Maurice Barrymore and Ben Porter near Marshall, Texas. His shots wound Barrymore and kill Porter.

The U.S. Senate ratifies the Cuban treaty, gaining naval bases in Guantanamo and Bahia Honda.

The First Aero Squadron takes off from Columbus, NM to join Gen. John J. Pershing and his Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa in Mexico.

The Adamson Act, eight hour day for railroad workers, is ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Congress authorizes Daylight Savings Time.

The U.S. Senate rejects the Versailles Treaty for the second time.

U.S. troops are rushed to Tegucigalpa as rebel forces take the Honduran capital.

The state of Nevada legalizes gambling.

The British fire on 20,000 Muslims in India, killing 23.

The Soviet Union signs a pact of assistance with Mongolia against Japan.

The German 352nd Infantry Division deploys along the coast of France.

Adolf Hitler orders a scorched-earth policy for his retreating German armies in the west and east.

Chiang Kai-Shek's government forces take control of Yenan, the former headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Soviet People's Council signs the constitution of the German Democratic Republic, and declares that the North Atlantic Treaty is merely a war weapon.

In Costa Rica, President John F. Kennedy and six Latin American presidents pledge to fight Communism.

One technician is killed and two others are injured during a routine test on space shuttle Columbia.
Thanks to THE Bear 

March 17, 2019Bear Taylor

Good Morning. It's Monday, 18 March 2019.  Humble Host remembers WEEK SIX of OPERATION COMMANDO HUNT I — 17 TO 23 DECEMBER 1968…
HEADLINES from The NEW YORK TIMES (17-23 December 1968)…
THE WAR: (17 Dec) U.S. EXPECTS  PILOTS' RELEASE…  "United States officials said today that they believe the reports that North Vietnam was preparing to release some captured American pilots during the Christmas season… Robert J. McCloskey, the State Department spokesman, said that 'we welcome news from Moscow that appears to confirm earlier reports.'… U.S. SENDS 7 BACK TO NORTH VIETNAM–Civilian Prisoners Released In Boat 13 Miles at Sea… "The United States returned seven North Vietnamese civilian seamen to North Vietnam today. They had been in custody in South Vietnam for more than a year. The seamen were put aboard a 45-foot motorized junk 13 miles off the coast of North Vietnam."…  (18 Dec) ENEMY AMBUSHES AMERICAN CONVOY–Swift Counter-Attack By Artilley, Airstrikes, Gunships and Pursuit Prevents Heavy Losses… "…several trucks in the convoy of 50 trucks were damaged but all reached their destination, a combat base 42 miles from Saigon."… ALLIED POSTS SHELLED… "…outpost five miles northwest of Tamky was pummeled by 45 mortar shells."… (19 Dec) 14 OF 44 ON U.S. PLANE DIE IN VIETNAM CRASH (see below)… (20 Dec) U.S. WAR DEATHS PUT AT 222–Up 30 For Week–Total Since 1961 Is 30,279–Allies Bombard Jungle Northwest of Saigon… "…A total of 523 Americans were wounded and 676 suffered minor wounds…2,059 Viuetcong and North Vietnamese soldiers were killed by Americans and South Vietnamese during the seven day period…About 198 South Vietnamese troops were killed…" … ENEMY ROUTES POUNDED… "American officers said here today that constant air and ground attacks on infiltration routes had seriously affected North Vietnam efforts to mass troops for a new offensive against Saigon."…"Elsewhere in South Vietnam United States infantrymen killed 61 North Vietnamese 55 miles north of Saigon. B-52 bombers fly nightly missions against the routes and suspected North Vietnam troop concentrations between Saigon and the Cambodian border."… (21 Dec) TWO JETS BOMB ENEMY GUNS IN NORTH AFTER ATTACK… "Two United States jets dodged a hail of antiaircraft fire in North Vietnam Thursday (19th), then dived against the guns with bombs…Air Force Phantoms… The incident marked the fourth time that United States aircraft had attacked in North Vietnam since President Johnson halted the bombing on Nov. 1… Seven days ago a Navy Skyhawk fired an air-to-ground missile at a surface-to-air missile site near the North Vietnamese city of Vinh."… (22 Dec) U.S. JETS AGAIN FIRE AT ENEMY IN NORTH… "Both attacks came after foe fired on photo reconnaissance flights."… (23 Dec) FOE HITS BASE IN VIETNAM NEAR P.O.W. BASE…… "North Vietnamese troops tried for seven hours this morning to take a small base near Saigon without success… leaving 81 bodies behind. The Americans lost 17 dead and 12 wounded."… (23 Dec) FOE HITS BASE IN SOUTH VIETNAM–Shell U.S. Air Bases–Blast Near Ambassador Bunker Home–30,000 G.I.s In Vietnam Turn Out For Bob Hope And Ann Margaret… "An Army of 30,000 men was waiting in the broilinjg sun today when Bob Hope opened his fifth Vietnam Christmas tour here (Long Binh). 'I'd planned to spend Christmas in the States, the comedian told the laughing troops, 'but I can't stand violence.'"
THE VIETNAM PEACE TALKS IN PARIS: (17 Dec) CLIFFORD ASSAILED BY KY FOR STAND ON LAG IN PARLEY–Vietnamese Rejects Remark Implying Saigon's Position On Seating Causes Delay… (18 Dec) HARRIMAN AND KY ACT TO AVOID A RIFT–Confer In Paris–Saigon Firm On '2 Sides' Issue… McGOVERN CONDEMNS KY AS A 'TINHORN DICTATOR'… (19 Dec) KY BERATES CRITICS IN U.S. AS IRRESPONSIBLE… (20 Dec) U.S. AND VIETCONG TO DISCUSS POWs–Americans Accept National Liberation Front Bid On Vietnam Meeting… (21 Dec) THIEU WARNS SAIGON MAY QUIT PARIS TALKS IF VIETCONG ATTACKS CITIES… (22 Dec) CLIFFORD APPLIES PRESSURE–The Paris Charade Goes On… (23 Dec) KY RETURNS TO SAIGON AMID HINTS OF REAPPRAISAL OF THE VIETCONG… "Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky of South Vietnam returned home today for consultations amid hints that the Saigon regime might re-examine its posture toward the Vietcong."…
THE REST OF THE NYT HEADLINES: (17 Dec) NIXON IS NEUTRAL ON EARLY ACTION TO RATIFY A-PACT–Takes No Position… CRIME RISE OF 19% REPORTED BY F.B.I.–All Categories Are Up–Every Region Effected… SUPREME COURT BACKS CURB ON DRAFT APPEALS–1967 Law Restricting Right to Bring Challenges Against Local Draft Boards Upheld… (18 Dec) NIXON SEES THANT AT U.N. VOWS TO HELP U.N. IN PEACE EFFORTS–Pays Courtesy Call In N.Y…. JETS FROM ISRAEL STRIKE IN JORDAN–Blow Believed To Be Reply To Arab Commando Attack… CURB ON F-111 MAY DIE IN SPRING–Air Force To Receive New Version Of The Fighter Plane… JAPAN FEARS RIOTS OVER VISIT OF U.S. SUBMARINE–The nuclear submarine Plunger is due to arrive at the harbor of Sasebo tomorrow… (19 Dec) ACCORD ON RELEASE OF PUEBLO CREW SEEMS TO BE NEAR…After 11 months of deadlock, a formula that might permit the early release of the 82 surviving crewmen of the intelligence ship Pueblo appears to have been found at the secret talks with North Korea in Panmunjom… CAMBODIA TO FREE 11 G.I.s–Kissinger Has A Parley Plan… (20 Dec) SOCIALIST NORMAN THOMAS DIED–He Ran For President Six Times… CAMBODIA FREES 12 U.S. SOLDIERS–Sihanouk Describes Move As Christmas Present… NEGOTIATORS MEET FOR 5-HOURS IN PANMUNJOM ON PUEBLO… FINAL COUNTDOWN ON FOR MOON SHIP TOMORROW–Commander Of 3 Astronauts Reports They Are Ready… 'Colonel Frank Borman of the Air Force, the Apollo 8 commander and his two crew mates, Captain James A. Lovell and Major William A. Anders spent the morning reflecting on the mounting tension of the launch.'… PEKING SEES VICTORY BY VIETCONG IN WAR… "Peking's implicit reservations about the expanded Paris talks on Vietnam reflected today in a message expressing the belief that the Vietnamese People's War would win final victory."… (21 Dec) APOLLO 8 CREW SET FOR START TODAY ON MOON VOYAGE–7:51 A.M. Launching Slated For First Manned Flight Toward Lunar Orbit–Six Day Trip Planned–Borman, Lovell and Anders Retire Early As Saturn 5 Spacecraft Is Fueled… TIGHT SECRECY ON PUEBLO IS MAINTAINED IN SEOUL… (22 Dec) U.S. ASTRONAUTS SPEED TOWARD MOON ORBIT–Apollo Leaves Earth At 24,600 MPH–Flawless Liftoff–Craft Is Headed For Lunar Rendezvous On Christmas Eve… NATION UNITES IN HAILING FEAT WITH AWE AND PRIDE… (23 Dec) ASTRONAUTS GIVE TELEVISION SHOW ON WAY TO MOON–Apollo On Target… 82 IN PUEBLO CREW FREED–U.S. Gives North Koreans 'Confession,' Disavows It–U.S. General Repudiates Document Before Signing It– 11 Month Ordeal Ended–Skipper Bucher Cites Beatings And 'Pretty Vivid' Threats…
OPERATION COMMANDO HUNT I… One of the preferred sources for my posts will be VIETNAM CHRONICLES: THE ABRAMS TAPES, 1968-1972… Therein are the notes from General Abrams' Weekly Intelligence Estimate Update (WIEU). These sessions constituted increasingly wide-ranging discussions on all aspects of the war. Once a month the meetings expanded to include commanders from throughout the country; these were: "Commanders' WIEUs… Pages 91-334 of the 900+ page volume cover 1969… Page 91 provides a summary of the year 1969… quoted here…
"Early in 1969, again during the Tet period, the enemy made one final stab at coordinated countrywide attacks. Once again he suffered heavy casualties, apparently leaving him at long last to reevaluate his approach and map out a change of direction. The new approach, described in COSVN Resolution 9 of July 1969, involved a shift of emphasis fom urban to rural areas with the mission of disrupting pacification. Large units were to be broken down into smaller ones employing sapper tactics so as to preserve strength and protract the war. Menawhile, large number of troops infiltrated from North Vietnam continued to shift the balance of enemy forces in the south from predominantly Viet Cong to more and more NVA.
"The policy of 'Vietnamization,' progressively turning over more and more of the responsibility for conduct of the war to the Vietnamese themselves, was continued. Pacification progressed, aided by major increases in the Regional Forces and Popular Forces and by establishment of an armed People's Self-Defense Force, both contributing to increased local security by providing the 'hold' in 'clear and hold.'
"The major development on the U.S. side was redeployment during July and August of the first increment–25,000 troops–in what would become a continuing unilateral withdrawal of forces. At year's end the authorized strength was 484,000, down from a peak of 543,000 in April. For the first time, fiscal constraints began to impact on the U.S. effort, reflected most notably in reductions in sortie rates for bombers and tactical air.
"In early November President Nixon made an address to the nation in which he asked for support from the 'silent majority' for his Vietnam War policies, an appeal that met considerable success. In Paris, peace talks between the contending parties continued, but without success."…
AIRCRAFT LOSSES 17 THROUGH 23 DECEMBER 1968, Week Six of Commando Hunt I …References: Vietnam: Air Losses by Chris Hobson and other sources… Eight fixed wing aircraft were lost and nine intrepid aviators (and thirteen passengers in a C-123 crash) were killed in action serving their beloved country…
(1) On 17 December a C123-K Provider of the 309th Special Operations Squadron crashed shortly after takeoff from Chu Lai Air Base as a consequence of fuel transfer and engine failure problems. The three man crew and eight Army passengers were killed in the crash. The USAF crew: Aircraft Commander: LCOL RICHARD A. BROWN, a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam: Co-Pilot 1LT ROGER H. STROUT; and Flight Engineer SSGT JESSE J. BRADSHAW. The USA passengers: 1LT JOHN A. BLANCO, JR; PFC BRADLEY J. BOURQUE; SGT RAMON CASTRO-MORALES; CAPTAIN RICHARD C. DREWES; CAPTAIN JOHN K. HAYWARD, CWO JOHN P. KOOB; 1LT JOHN D. KROUSLIS; SSGT WALLACE F. SIMPKIN; and, CAPTAIN MORTON H. SINGER. Five other passengers died of their injuries subsequent to the crash: Marines SGT MANCOL R. CLIFTON (18 Dec) and PVT GEORGE W. BROWN (13 Jan 69); SP4 DENNIS G. BENSON (23 Dec); SFC RICHARD H. SWEGER (2 Jan 69); and SP4 HENRY E. RUSSELL (7 May 69)… Glory gained, duty done, they rest in peace and are remembered 50 years later….
(2) On 18 December an A-6A Intruder of the VA-196, "The Main Battery", embarked in USS Constellation was lost on a COMMANDO HUNT mission about 15 miles southeast of the A Shau Valley. Four Navy aircraft were striking a target under FAC control when the A-6 piloted by LTJG JOHN RICHARDS BABCOCK and B/N LT GARY JON MEYER was hit by ground fire as it rolled in on the target. The aircraft burst into flames and never recovered from the dive. No ejection or parachute were observed, or beeper or voice transmission heard by other aircraft in the area. The possibility of a premature detonation of the Intruder's bomb load was also considered a possible explanation of the tragic loss of two young warriors. LTJG BABCOCK rests in peace in the Winterset Cemetery, Winterset, Iowa. Inexplicably, the remains of LT GARY JON MEYER have not been found and his name is not listed among either those still missing or those whose remains have been recovered and identified, as of 25 February 2019.
(3) On 18 December an F-100D of the 136th TFS and 31st TFW out of Tuy Hao piloted by 1LT H.W. ROBERTS was hit by small arms fire on takeoff. 1LT ROBERTS opted to fly his striken aircraft to Danang for an emergency landing. He didn't make it, and was forced to eject at sea off the coast where he was rescued by a USAF helo to fly and fight again…
(4) On 18 December an A-1H of the 22nd SOS and 56th SOW piloted by MAJOR GREGORY INMAN BARRAS was downed on a night COMMANDO HUNT mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail near the village of Ban Sang, 10 miles west of the MuGia Pass on Route 12. He died in the crash, but was carried as MIA for several years, and was promoted to Colonel in the interim, before his remains were found and positively identified in 1998. COLONEL BARRAS' is buried at the USMA cemetery at West Point where he rests in peace… He was among the bravest of the brave: the Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with seven oak leaf clusters, and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm… Then there is this "Remembrance" left on the VVMF Wall of Faces nineteen years ago;
"The Corps! Bareheaded, salute it! with eyes up, thanking our God…that we of the Corps are treading where they of the Corps have trod! They are here, in ghostly assemblage! The MEN of the Corps long dead! And our hearts are standing at attention! While we wait for their passing tread! We sons of today, we salute you! You sons of an earlier day! We follow, close order, behind you, where you have pointed the way! The Long Gray Line of us stretches through the years of a century told! And the last man feels to his marrow, the grip of your far-off hold! Grip hands with us, now though we see not! Grip hands with us, strengthen our hearts, as the Long Line stiffens and straightens, with the thrill that your presence imparts!! Grip hands, though it be from the shadows! While we swear, as you did of yore! Or living or dying to honor… THE CORPS!! AND THE CORPS!!! AND THE CORPS!!!!  We the people of America, salute COLONEL BARRAS, whose devotion to DUTY, whose devotion to HONOR.. And ABOVE ALL!!! …whose devotion to GOD and our COUNTRY!!!…the land that he loved…the land of the free and the home of the brave…will never…I say again…will NEVER be extinguished from our minds!!!!!!!… Unknown…
(5) On the night of 19-20 December an A-6A Intruder of VA-196 "The Main Battery" embarked in USS Constellation piloted by LT MICHAEL LORA BOUCHARD with LT ROBERT W. COLYAR in the rightseat as Bombardier/Navigator was downed on a night COMMANDO HUNT STRIKE near Savanakhet in Laos. Their Intruder was hit in the dive and exploded. LT COLYAR was able to eject and was subsequently rescued by an Air Force helicopter and RESCAP team the following day, barely escaping capture by the large force of North Vietnamese troops in the area. It is not known whether of not LT BOUCHARD was able to eject. He was listed as Missing in Action. Over time, three Bright Light Teams were dispatched to search for LT BOUCHARD without success. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency assesses LCDR BOUCHARD's case to be in the "analytical category of Active Pursuit." He is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. He remains where he fell on the battlefield fifty years ago…
(6) On 20 December an F-100D Super Sabre of the 306th TFS and 31st TFW out of Tuy Hoa piloted by MAJOR FORREST B. FENN was downed on a dusk COMMANDO HUNT strike on a target near Ban Kate northwest of the DMZ. AAA hit his aircraft in the forward fuselage requiring an almost immediate ejection over the target. He was hard pressed to evade searching enemy troops through a long night, but he did. And at dawn the next day an HH-3E of the 40th ARRS piloted by LT I. EGAN, United States Coast Guard (on exchange duty), made the rescue. It was the 1,500th rescue made by the SAR forces in Southeast Asia since the beginning of the war. OOHRAH…
(7) On 21 December an F-105D of the 354th TFS and 355th TFW out of Takhli, piloted by CAPTAIN RICHARD KENNETH ALLEE, was lost on a COMMANDO HUNT mission while attacking enemy troops near Ban Senphan, a few miles south of the MuGia Pass. CAPTAIN ALLEE was hit as he rolled in and continued his diving attack to deliver his bombs on the enemy concentration. He did not recover from the dive and was assumed to have been critically wounded at the top of his dive. He was not seen to eject and was carried as Missing in Action until 17 August 1979 when his status was changed to Killed in Action. During the interim he was promoted to Colonel. His crash site was excavated and his remains recovered and returned to the United States in December 1996. He rests in peace at Arlington Memory Gardens in Oklahoma City. COLONEL ALLEE was among the bravest of the brave and was awarded the AIR FORCE CROSS (Posthumously) for his extraordinary heroism….
(8) On 22 December an RF-4C of the 11th TRS and 432nd TRW out of Udorn piloted by CAPTAIN TERRY LYNN GREENHALGH with 1LT R.E. HOFFMAN in the rear cockpit was hit in the port wing while on a COMMANDO HUNT photographic mission over southern Laos. CAPTAIN GREENHALGH was able to fly the crippled aircraft back to Udorn but was killed during the landing. 1LT HOFFMAN survived the crash with minor injuries to fly and fight again. CAPTAIN GREENHALGH is buried at Lower Valley Memorial Gardens in Sunnyside, Washington. He rests in peace, glory gained and duty done fifty years ago…
RIPPLE SALVO. The COMMANDO HUNT areas of southern Laos were well defended and crawling with bad guys. Survival as a downed pilot was in the hands and guts of the Search and Rescue forces stationed in Thailand and South Vietnam. Capture was almost certain death. There were very few aviators downed and left behind in Laos who came home. Hundreds of aviators remain MIA, presumed Killed in Action, body not recovered, who parachuted into the jungles along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Humble Host's plan was to avoid capture at ALL costs. I carried a belt of extra ammo. If the Air Force A-1s and Jolly Greens were unable to make the rescue, I was determined to wage a private war.
I wasn't alone. Air Force LT GORDON BREAULT, an F-4D backseater is on record on the subject (CHEATING DEATH by Col. George Marrett, page 169): "We believed the enemy had bounties on our ears. Most of us made the determination that we were going to be rescued, not captured. Everyone had a sidearm with about ten rounds. We always said we'd never be taken alive."…
In my weekly COMMANDO HUNT postings it will be apparent how vital and active the intrepid aviators of the Search and Rescue units were in the air campaign to kill trucks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail… the following is snipped from an Air Force Report — SEARCH AND RESCUE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, 1961-1975 by Earl H. Tilford, Jr– on the campaigns fought in Southeast Asia, including COMMANDO HUNT…
SEARCH AND RESCUE… The recovery tactics employed on each rescue mission required innovation and the application of aerial firepower. Rescue operations generally took preference over normal strike missions and aircraft were often diverted from their assigned targets to support the A-1s and rescue choppers. "On one mission in December 1969, 336 sorties were flown over a three-day period to help rescue forces recover a navigator evading capture new Ban Phanop, Laos, just outside Tchepone (a main stop on the HCM Trail). In addition to the A-1 and Jolly Green sorties, the Air Force used fifty F-105, forty-three F-4, four F-100, plus assorted O-1 and O-2 sorties. The Navy contributed a number of A-6 and A-4 sorties.
"Any friendly airplane in the sky might be diverted to drop bombs to support a search and rescue mission. Colonel William M. Harris, IV, commander of the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Reccovery Squadron in 1971 and 1972, noted, 'During my tour rescue efforts have called upon every conceivable military resource as …  Air America, special ground teams, clandestine operations, frogmen, aircraft carriers, tanks, and so on. There is no limitation on tactics or concepts to be employed to effect a rescue.'
"In the summer of 1969 the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service's strength in Southeast Asia peaked with a high of seventy-one rescue aircraft operating in four squadrons under the 3rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group (ARRG). The 37th and 40th squadrons, at Danang and Udorn, respectively, were responsible for aircrew recoveries over North and South Vietnam as well as Laos. The 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRSq) had its headquarters at Tan Son Nhut. Within detachments at fourteen bases throughout South Vietnam and Thailand, they were responsible for local base rescue with aircrew recovery as a secondary mission. Finally, the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron operated eleven HC-130Ps from its base at Tuy Hoa.
"Force levels remained steady into 1970 when withdrawal began as politicians sought a negotiated end to the conflict. There were technological improvements to be made, as the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service strived to achieve a truly working night recovery system. Nevertheless, in the period between 1966 and 1970, Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service units saved 980 aircrew members from captivity, suffering, and death in Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam. In other rescue efforts, ranging from evacuation of the Citadel at Hue during the Tet offensive of 1968, to picking up battlefield casualties, an additional 1,059 lives were saved. It added up to a grand total of 2,039 human lives– 635 Air Force warriors, 550 Army, 322 Navy, 317 Marines, 157 civilians, and 58 other souls."…SAVED…. OOHRAH…
Lest we forget…   Bear…

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