Copy of letter to Editor 12/23 BIT

Well anony, here is the letter so that YOU can state your answers to my liking or not. It would be nice though if you were to leave a name other than anonymous so that we can all differentiate you from all the other mice(mouses)?
Messer’s Spier and Wood et al,

What? Only two weeks to prepare? That is not enough time! It takes me that long to rub and massage a few disparate thoughts, and or ideas into some sort of a cogent reply. So I guess I am going to have to pass for now.

“Another blowhard”? Moi? A “blowhard” by definition is a “braggart”. I don’t think it exactly fits or falls in line with the content of your diatribe as I wasn’t bragging about anything. Was that intended to grievously lacerate my psyche? If so it only partially succeeded, as I have found no blood leaking from any mysteriously appearing cuts etc. After examining my psyche more in depth, I had a revelation and I became exultant as I realized I had been raised high beyond mere mortal men, raised to the heights required to join two of the most exalted in the business! As your sentence was constructed, it appeared to include you as the writer, and Herr Spier by inference, as one of this elite club also. If you are thinking of giving up your position, then I would gladly suffer to have you confer the mantle and title of Blowhard of Block Island on me! I will endeavor to do my utmost to uphold, and yea, to even supercede the exceedingly high standards of the office that you have set for yourselves!

I don’t think you can, with any sort of reality in mind, consign me to the trash bin where all the right wing whacko’s reside. Just how far Mr. Delay has journeyed in that direction I have no inkling and further, I have no inclination to find out. I know for a fact that deep in my withered and shriveled little heart and mind, that I do not adhere to, nor subscribe to their espoused line of craziness. I’ve never burned a cross, and I am not a John Bircher. If you accuse me of that because I believe in continued freedom for all of our citizens, safety from attacks by any and all enemies of our way of life, and backing our military to the HILT in any endeavor in which they are legally engaged, Iraq for instance, and it is a legal operation as virtually all the members of the House and Senate voted “FOR” the action. Albeit many of them are now experiencing severe memory loss as regards their vote. And if that accusation includes defending and upholding the Constitution of the U.S. as IT WAS WRITTEN? Then yes, I plead guilty to being some small distance to the right of center in my leanings.

Two last things. One: It is a damned good thing the “Bushie” government is not upholding the letter and spirit of the law concerning acts of sedition during a war, as that word was perceived and applied during WWII, or there would be a wholesale decimation of the population on the left side of the aisle in Washington. Two: Mr. Wood, we all know the high esteem in which you hold yourself as regards being the Scrivener, Arbiter, Guardian, and Protector of the English language here on old Block Island. In that vein, I hope you won’t skewer me too thoroughly and publicly for my poor sentence structure, syntax, spelling errors, and punctuation. After all, what more could you expect of a graduate of only twelve years of school starting and ending here on the Island along with Mr. Gaffett. We really do know how low on the ladder of erudition we are held by some folks of your ilk with a lot of letters after their names. Oh yeah, I just LOVE starting a sentence with prepositions and conjunctions and ending them with exclamation marks! WFB would be sorely tried.

MERRY CHRISTMAS to you Sir’s, and to all my other detractors as well. Have a wonderful holiday and, ah, get well soon!!!!

As Ever, Everett R Littlefield


My Five Little Christmas Treasures!

Verna and I wish for ALL of you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and a happy New Year! Trite though the exclamation may be, it is from the heart and meant sincerely. Those five faces in the picture above, are what the season is all about as far as I am concerned! Peace to All, and to all, Goodnight! Posted by Picasa


Iraq and The USA,circa 1863

I was watching the movie called, "The Blue and The Gray" a few days ago and it finally came to the part where Lincoln began to give his Gettysburg Address. As it began, I wasn't paying too much attention, but then he came too the end of the second paragraph, and then the third paragraph, both copied below. Read it closely and imagine it applying to Iraq. Lincoln was dedicating a cemetary. []are my additions. ()are used to delete his words.

"For those who here gave their lives [so] that (the)[this] nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground [called Iraq]. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought so nobly advanced. It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God shall have a new birth of freedom; and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
So with this post I am sure to have pissed off a lot of people for daring to equate our Civil War with a country where we are trying to avoid one from beginning. Read it again sentence by sentence and I can't believe that anyone could be "put out" by it. It is striking to me that seven score and two years ago, what someone said applies EXACTLY to what is going on today. TIFN


A Christmas Poem for ALL

The following was sent too me as an Email, and I thought it was so good it should be shared with a larger audience. Please enjoy it!

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light, I
gazed round the room
and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest, My daughter
beside me, angelic
in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a
winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe, Completed
the magic that was
Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep, Secure
and surrounded by
love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem, So I
slumbered, perhaps I
started to dream.
The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near, But I
opened my eyes when
it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of
footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear, And I
crept to the door
just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night, A
lone figure stood,
his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old, Perhaps a
Marine, huddled
here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled, Standing
watch over me, and
my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear, "Come in
this moment, it's
freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at
home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift, Away from
the cold and the
snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he
said "Its really all right, I'm out here by choice.
I'm here every
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line, That
separates you from
the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me, I'm proud to
stand here like my
fathers before me.
My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December," Then
he sighed, "That's
a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam', And
now it is my turn
and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while, But my
wife sends me
pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag, The
red, white, and
blue... an American flag.
"I can live through the cold and the being alone, Away
from my family,
my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a
foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another, Or lay down
my life with my
sister and brother.
Who stand at the front against any and all, To ensure
for all time that
this flag will not fall."
"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright, Your
family is waiting
and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I
asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done, For
being away from
your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret, "Just
tell us you love
us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own
watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead, To
know you remember we
fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust, That
we mattered to you
as you mattered to us.

If that didn't make you leak a tear or two, you have a harder heart than I do!
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Thanksgiving Day 2005

One of the things that I will always be thankful for is the fact of THIS forum/venue.It is truly one of the wonders of the modern world in which we live. I read way to many of these blogs, but it has become the best way I know of keeping in contact with old friends, friends I never knew I had, and the new friends I have made since I started my small contribution to the blogosphere. Nice name BTW! So I would like to wish each and everyone of you a wonderful Thanksgiving day and hope that as I am, you are sourrounded by friends and most importantly, family, on this day. It is raining and blowing a little here on, "Gods Little Island, but nevertheless, it is a beautiful place to be on a day such as this. Take care all and don't each so much that you explode, as I probably will! TIFN Posted by Picasa


A Letter From Iraq

When you click on the link below you will be brought to a letter written by a soldier in Iraq,(2nd tour). When you read it,here, read it slowly, stop and digest just what it is he is saying and see if it means ANYTHING to you! This letter too his Mom is about as eloquent as it gets. When you are done, look around your house, your town, your country, and then look at the members of your family, and recount to yourselves just what this FREEDOM thing is all about and what it allows you to do and say every damned day of your life. There are over two thousand guys who have already give THEIR lives, just in this venue, so you could continue to live YOURS as you see fit. Maybe I'll also send this too Mr.Murtha. He needs a reminder apparently. TIFN


Does the BIT follow the MSM's Lead?

What I'm talking about is, do they follow the lead of the Main Stream Media in that they are going to allow nothing into their sheets that might have a positive outlook on GWB? I sent an email to them in response to the ongoing,(and just ended, apparently), discourse between John Foster and myself, hoping to get one more chance at rebutting his last submission. But, no go on that idea I guess. Maybe I'll wait one more week and see what happens.
In the mean time, has anybody had a chance to check out LittleGreenFootballs and the new OSM blogs? Being a conservative blog, it is amazing that they include in their postings, links to some of the more vociferious lefty blogs! There were a couple of kind of nasty ones up there this morning!
Is there anything on the MSM this morning about the vote last night in the House of Reps? Those "Nasty, double dealing, posturing, political animals" the GOP, put a question to the whole mob of them last night and had an immediate vote on it. The vote was on a resolution that said in effect, that we should pull out of Iraq immediately. Well for the last few months, all of Bush's critics have been screaming for him to get out of Iraq and now here was their chance to do it! Guess what the vote was? 403-3 AGAINST the resoultion!!!! Jeez, I wonder what happened to all the rethoric of the last fews weeks? Here was your chance all you two faced bastards! No standing by your convictions for these guys! No sir, we don't want our constituents to know what we 'really' stand for. Oh yeah, midterm elections are coming up next year and there just might be a lot more people out there that want us to continue to support our people in Iraq, than there are dissenters despite what "the polls" say. Funny how all these polls are comissioned by left leaning organizations and then touted to the roof tops by the MSM as an absolute inidcator of every single persons feelings in the whole USA! I take all these polls with so many grains of salt I can't swallow them and neither should anyone else with half a brain!! Have I completely pissed off everybody who reads this! Oh well. TIFN


"OSM" a new kid on the Net

If you just can't stand any more of the biased and spun news stories that dominate all the major news services, try this new one for a different view. It is called Open Source Media and is run by a few of the bloggers who brought out the real truth about the story that got Dan Rather canned from CBS. They have twenty five of the best known bloggers from around the world on board as the people who will get and post the "other side" of the story. They will be able to immediately refute or confirm whether the story as reported was and is true, or whether salient points are being left out of the story by the MSM. SO if you are interested in what is really going on out there in the world, log on and check them out! If you think they are wrong or are putting their own spin on an item, you can click on the comments section and call them on it right then and there and get a reply pretty quickly! You can't do that with the TV news or the papers. In fact THEY, won't EVER deign to answer you using either email or snail mail! I know, I've tried many times.
Duh! I thought I put the address on as a link. Here is the address again, I hope: www.osm.org Sorry about that.Then again maybe I can get it to work here.


Navy Chronicles Chapter Six-- Final One!

There was a good-sized hill outside of Naples on the road to Rome. It was in the little town of Pozzouli, where Sophia Loren was born and lived. They called it Cuma Mountain, but was not much bigger than Beacon Hill here on the Island, only a lot steeper to get up. There was only a foot trail that we could see, so of course that just begged us to try and cram our bikes up there. We finally succeeded one day only to find ourselves in the middle of a good -sized vineyard. After talking to the guy who lived there for a while, he invited us into his house, which was built in the mouth of a cave in the side of the mountain. In the back, he had barrels and barrels of wine all made and ready to go to the city for sale. He broke out a few old glasses and dipped them into a small barrel he had right there in his kitchen and passed them around. We immediately lived up to our reputations as drunken sailors. When we got ready to leave and were about to start down the winding and dangerous trail, the old guy says, “why don’t you go down the road on the other side of the vineyard?” DUH! There wasn’t one of us, smart enough, to have wondered how he got those big-assed barrels down that small trail to go to the city! Smart boys we were!
At the bottom of that self-same mountain, there was a set of railroad tracks that ran between Naples and Roma. They were set up on a raised roadbed or berm. Again, it was an obstacle that just begged for us to do something stupid and dangerous. We backed off a little ways and started up the side of the berm at a good clip intending to jump over the tracks and land going down the other side of the berm. In theory and in actual practice it should work and did. The only trouble was figuring out just how fast you had to be going when you hit the top of the hill at the takeoff point. The first try didn’t even get us too the tracks. The next try landed the flyer right in the middle of the tracks to the huge detriment to his bike! Bent wheels. The next guy to try, not wanting his wheels to suffer the same out-come, cracked it on pretty good. He looked good flying through the air all the way over the tracks. The only trouble he had was on the landing, because he completely missed the taper of the berm on the far side and landed on the front wheel mostly, on the flat ground. This separated him from his steed in a most uncomfortable manner. Eventually we figured it out, that the optimum speed was just 35 mph, and thereafter we would scare the hell out of the engineers on the trains, by jumping across the tracks in front of the slow moving trains.
Through out Naples and the rest of Italy, there were a lot of fountains in the main piazzas, or squares of the city. One day while riding around on our bikes and looking at the big fountain in the main square of Napoli, the Piazza Munichipio, we got the bright idea that the local populace needed a little more color in their lives. So back to the base we went and on to the parachute loft. There we obtained about six packets of the US Navy’s best shark repellant. When this stuff is put in water it turns a beautiful shade of fluorescent green. Off we go back downtown to brighten the drab lives of all those people forced to live in drab old Napoli. Man, after throwing in the dye packets on a couple of circuits around the fountain, we pulled over to the side and stopped at the only place in Napoli that made pizza. It took a few minutes, but eventually the color started to show. As more and more of the dye got into the water, it turned a lot darker than we had anticipated. It was a closed water system and after all the dye dissolved, it wasn’t a nice fluorescent green, it turned a dark forest green! Virtually every car on the road and around the square came to a stop and the people all got out and went over to the fountain to feel and look at the phenomena. Needless to say I suppose, that the excrement hit the rotating airfoil over that little trick. The next night someone who shall remain nameless dumped a whole bottle of liquid soap into the same fountain, and now there were thousands of cubic feet of green bubbles all over the main piazza. They eventually had to drain all the contaminated water out of the fountain and refill it. The “word” was put out at the base, that if this occurred again someone on the base would be getting Court Martialed and spending some time in the brig! That pronouncement brought about an immediate cessation of water coloring.
Another night, another try at getting thrown in jail. This one occurred because it was a rainy night and we didn’t want to get wet walking from the car to the barracks when we got back to the base. So we just rode around till we saw a likely prospect standing on the sidewalk waiting for a bus. He was right at the edge of the sidewalk, and had his umbrella in his hand in the open position. I’m driving, so I swoop right close to the walk, while my partner in crime reaches out the window of the car and rips the brelly right out of the guy’s hand! Woosh, off we drive with our prize in our hand. Only trouble was, he couldn’t get the damned thing closed, and as I’m going at a pretty good clip now, it managed to turn itself inside out. Oh well, there must be someone else out there waiting to part with their umbrella. We didn’t find him though and had to be satisfied with our everted one. Remember those great big license plates that I mentioned before? They were also good for giving away who you were, when you were trying to be a beginning crook. Anyway, the next morning about ten in the AM, I get a summons from the Exec. of the base, requesting, nay, demanding my presence at his office forthwith! Not only did our big red and white plates give us away, it also made it easy for the Mayor of Naples to locate the two dastardly people who stole his son’s umbrella right out of his hands, right in front of the La Scala opera house! Whoops, BIG no-no. We were directed to take the offending object directly back to the office of the Mayor and to suffer whatever punishment he deemed it necessary to inflict upon the two of us blackguards! The first stop was at a shop where we could buy one that was of at least the same value as the one we stole and broke. Then off to the Mayors office to face the music. All in all, he was very gracious, and understanding of young people’s hijinks. After apologizing profusely, we beat a hasty retreat and went back to the Exec.’s office to report on our humiliation and punishment. When he found out the Mayor did little more than verbally chastise us, he immediately put us both on two weeks restriction to the base and docked us $50 apiece! That was a most unsatisfying and expensive experience! $50 dollars was about three weeks pay back then, plus the cost of the new umbrella!
One day my future wife, myself, and about three or four other guys, were on a little excursion in the backcountry. Two guys on a Vespa motor scooter, came up alongside of us, and were doing some fierce ogling of the rear end of the only female rider in our bunch. Granted, it was unusual to say the least, to see a female astride of a motorcycle. Even more unusual was the fact that she was driving the thing! Unheard of in those days in Italia. Women always rode on the back of ANY motor scooter or cycle, and absolutely NEVER astride! They always sat side-saddle. Well these two guys just couldn’t believe what they were seeing and kept edging in closer and closer. Finally I goosed my bike and cut in front of them and behind Verna’s bike. Well, they didn’t like being relegated to the rear of our entourage and again they came abreast of her and cut right in behind her. Only this time they decided to take a few more liberties with this uncouth and “low” woman. The driver pulled right up close and the passenger guy reached out and gave a good firm pat to the derrière of “my woman”! Well, how dare the little snot! At the moment, we happened to be going along the top of a long low hill with a fairly steep down hill embankment to the right of us, all nice and grassy. So I pulled right up along side of them again and reached out with my foot and gave the handle bar grip of the scooter a fairly stiff kick. The wheel immediately snapped hard right, and the last I saw of the two and their scooter; they were tumbling head over heels down the side of the hill. No more pats on the po-po from those two!

After I had proved to the powers that be, that I could fix virtually any problem with any of the Navy’s big round engines, and that I was a rather resourceful sailor, I got a huge step up! The guy who had been 1st wrench, (head mechanic) on Admiral Browns R4Y-5Z Convair was transferred back to the States. The 2nd wrench moved up to take his place and they needed a replacement for #2. It was up to Chief Baker to assign him, and somehow I got the job! Now this was going to get me to all those ‘nice’ places to go on an RON. No more carrier trips, no more weeks of living like an animal in the belly of a small plane. On this baby, we went to wherever there was a United States Embassy, on a regular basis! The only bad thing about the whole job was the fact that whenever we landed in a foreign city, when you walked down the stairs of that plane you had to be wearing a dress uniform! Huge pain in the butt. Trying to keep an all white uniform spotlessly clean while working around an aircraft was a task that I was not good at. They used to call me Pigpen around the hangar, because I attracted dirt just like a magnet. I used to keep six sets of brand new “whites” stashed on board the aircraft at all times, just in case! But right after the Admiral and all the “Digs” (dignitaries) had left the area, we jumped right back into our dungarees. Then it was time to service the aircraft with fuel and post flight it. We would fix any minor discrepancies that the pilots had noted on the yellow sheet. Those big old R2800 hundreds managed to leak out oil from various orifices and so we would wipe it all up so that the plane shown like a diamond. Once our “baby” had been attended to, we were free to go exploring in the city where we were. Over the course of the next year and a half, I went to virtually every major city in Europe and a good part of the ones in Africa and the Middle East. I would send my folks a post card from each one of the city/countries, and they would track me on an old Atlas they had. There were some of those cards that didn’t get back to the States until after I did! A few of these cities that we visited were in the Soviet Bloc and when we would go to them we never wore a uniform, not allowed by the local powers that be. When and if we did get to go into the city, it was in civilian clothes and then only to designated places. There were also ALWAYS, two guys who followed you where ever you went. In most of these places you hardly ever saw people just walking around have a good time or fun. Everyone and everything looked grim and foreboding. Places like Warsaw, Poland and Split, Yugoslavia were particularly unhappy looking places. Once in a while some brave soul would come up to us and try to talk to us about the US. All the while your two tails would edge up close and listen in. I often wondered what happened to those people after they had the temerity to talk to us.
After having spent three plus years gallivanting all over Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, one of the countries that I liked to visit the most was Greece. As was always the case in a foreign country, as far as I was concerned, the local people in the villages were absolutely delightful to deal with! It was only when you had to deal with the bureaucrats that it became less than satisfying! One of the Greek Isles that I had the good fortune to visit was the Island of Rhodes. It was kind of bare and desolate in the outlying areas, but the little village on the water was absolutely beautiful. I spent about two hours one day, at a small outdoor restaurant trying to explain to two people that the name of the State in the US where I lived was named after this particular little Island. I’m not even sure that that is true, but I can’t imagine where Roger Williams got the name for our patch if it wasn’t from there.
In each one of these countries, I’d wind up with some of the local currency in either coinage or paper form. After three years plus over there, I had quite an exotic mix of money. I kept it in an old shaving bag and it added up to about $500. I could have traded it in for American green, but I wanted to bring it home to show my Mom and Dad. On the way back, we were routed through Port Layutey in French Morocco where we had a two day layover. Well, one of the times we were all out of the barracks at chow, a gang of the local hoods went through the place like a scourge of locust and cleaned out every damn locker in the building. So there went my coin collection and a Kodak Retina Reflex camera with a 70 mm telephoto lens and a good wide angle one as well. That was about $2000 worth of camera and lenses back then. It put an abrupt end to my photography career! A few hours after this, we were all on one of those newfangled Boeing 707 jet airliners that MATS had recently acquired, on our way back to the good old US of A and the end of my tour in Bella Italia! Ciao everybody! Now on to the hinterlands of the State of Maine for my next duty station that had absolutely nothing to do with airplanes!


AD-5N Tow Plane had The reel on the center station

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Navy Chronicles Chapter Five

Even before I had bought my VW car, I had bought a Triumph Bonneville T-650cc motorcycle within a month of arriving in Bella Napoli. This was an English bike that was about twice the size of ANY motorcycle in existence in Italy at that time. It cost me right around $1500 if my memory serves me correctly. I didn’t have a clue how to ride the thing so a friend of mine let me keep it at his house right down the street from me. He also taught me how to ride the thing on the beach out in front of the house. I was getting pretty good at doing the, “up-shift” but not to swift at doing the “downshift”. Well, one day I’m out there on the beach going at a pretty good clip when I notice this big Boxer dog making a beeline for me. I was trying real hard to stop when he decided to take a big bite out of the front wheel! I was still doing about 15 mph when this obstruction glommed onto my trusty steed and we all crashed in a heap on the beach. Now the dog is howling to beat hell because his mouth hurts and me and a 600 pound motorcycle are lying on top of him. He keeps biting at anything he can reach and occasionally gets a piece of me. I’m smacking at him and trying to get the hot exhaust pipe off my leg when the dog owner arrives and commences to scream at me for running over his stupid assed dog. A huge fight is about to ensue when along comes another guy who saw what happened and calmed everyone down. I say everyone, cause about 15 people immediately showed up to participate in whatever was going on, as always happens in any situation in good old Napoli! The only down side of owning the bike, was that the Commanding Officer of the base would not let us bring one on the base. So we had to take our big time investment and chain them to a lamp post out side the main gate of the base. We used lots of chains and a couple of case hardened locks on each one of them. I am still amazed that the chains weren’t cut and the bikes stolen by the locals, but it never happened. I had the misconception that everyone in Italy was a member of the Mafia. Apparently, not so with the people of our local area. I was in fact, to become friendly and totally in love with an older Italian couple. They were to become my mentors and surrogate family for the last two years of my sojourn in Napoli. Their names were Maria and Roberto Guilio. He ran a small motorcycle repair shop, which we had gone to strictly by chance, to get some crash bars made for our bikes. They would correct my poor Italian, and endeavor to set me on the right word usage path. While I lived with them in their house for the last eight months I was there, I was treated to some of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. It was simple stuff, and I really enjoyed living like, and eating like the local people. Every night just before dinner, Roberto would get a couple of mugs and go over to a fifty gallon wooden barrel in the corner of the kitchen and take off the lid. Inside was some of the best Chianti wine I’ve ever had. He’d bail out two mugs full and come back to the table. Whereupon, I would begin working on my nightly buzz. Man that stuff was powerful. At that time in my life, I still weighed in at a scrawny 145-150 lbs. It didn’t take too much alcohol to get me totally besotted. I asked Roberto one time how they got that big barrel of wine into the house when the last one had gone empty as it was on this particular night. He said to come home early, by five o’clock the next day and I would find out. Well I arrived by the appointed time the next day and up pulls a huge wooden barrel on a truck. This barrel was at least big enough to hold a thousand gallons of liquid. The guy driving it pulled right up on the sidewalk of Roberto’s house and passed a long hose in through the window and right to the wine barrel in the corner! Viola! Instant refill. The three of us would sit at that table and talk about everything under the sun for an hour or two after supper. They had a friend who lived in the same complex and who was a devote Communist. He would occasionally stop by and join in on the conversation. He was forever trying to engage me in conversations about how great communism was for the common man, and how decadent the US was. I told him that I was about as common a man as there was, and after watching what was going on in all the communist controlled countries that I knew about, I didn’t want a damn thing to do with his type of politics! I would love to talk to him now to find out his views on the total decline and fall of that “wonderful” doctrine of his!
Supper usually took an hour or more to eat as there were always four or five courses. Not a lot for each one, but it still had to be cooked and eaten one at a time! By the time dinner was over and my mug had been refilled two or three times I was ready for bed. There was no such thing as central heating in that apartment house either. Each tenant had to supply his own heat source. When in the kitchen, it was a kerosene fired cook stove. Also there was a big heavy tablecloth hung almost all the way to the floor and contained the heat right under the table, because there was a big charcoal burning brazier under there! I used to get the damnedest headaches while I lived there and finally figured out that it was from the fumes of the charcoal being burned and contained right in the room and under the table! I am amazed that we all didn’t die from carbon monoxide poisoning! We all sat around the table with your stocking feet propped up on the edge of the brazier. After a lot of wine, it was prudent to remove your feet from the rim and put them on the floor, where the danger of catching your socks on fire was a lot less! When you went to bed, you crawled under about three or four heavy quilts, and snuggled up in the middle of a big feather bed. I will have to say though, that I did bring quite a lot of the staple foods into the kitchen. Old Roberto just loved American peanut butter once I had introduced him to it. It was another of those idyllic times in my life, living out there with them. It was in the little town of Caserta, just a mile or so from the base. When it came time for me to leave to come back home, I left them my 24’ day-sailer and my motorcycle. He was the only Italian in the whole city of Naples, and probably all of Italy, that had a 650cc souped-up English bike! I also made sure to buy as much peanut butter as I could, so it would last him for a long time. It wasn’t something you could buy on the open market back then. It was strictly a US Navy Commissary item. The day before I was to leave was one of the saddest days of my life, as we knew that we’d never see each other again. There was a lot of crying and hugging and then it was time to go. I felt worse about leaving them then I had my own family, as I knew I would be seeing them again soon.
The biggest police motorcycle at that time, was a 350cc Gelera. The police had a little paddle that was colored red on one side and green on the other that they used to control traffic. They never could catch us on their bikes if they thought we were speeding, so they would wait till they found us stopped somewhere and come up and assess a fine for speeding. They said they knew we had been speeding at some time in the course of our trip, so they were collecting while they could! A bird in the hand don’t you know! Sometimes though they would stop you on the road by holding out the red side of the paddle if they saw us coming and we’d be obliged to stop and fork over a little more of the green stuff. You couldn’t just blow on by them, knowing they couldn’t catch you, because there was that big fat license plate advertising who you were. Beside that, they were empowered to stop you anyway they could, and that included shooting at you! Which did happen on one occasion to a friend and me. After having been stopped to have your pockets picked by the local constabulary a few times, we took to keeping most of our money wrapped around our ankles under the socks. You would keep about 2-3 mille, about $5 in your pockets in small bills and change, and when they demanded payment; we’d turn out our pockets with all the small stuff. They were usually happy with it, when they figured they had just taken all we had. Ha Ha on them!!
Almost every where we went for that first year was on the back of that bike. Even after getting the car, the bike was the preferred mode of transportation. It was the best for negotiating downtown Naples, as you could weave between cars, and even get right up on the sidewalk with all the other Vespa motorscooters, and the rest of the Neopolitian populace. Virtually every scooter was up on the sidewalk, because it was easier to make people move out of the way than it was to get a car to move over! Man what a madhouse that town was to drive in!
I was there when it snowed in Naples for the first time in about 80 years! They had no such thing as a snowplow, and after about a million accidents had happened because none of the locals knew how to drive in the snow; some “brain” had a storm in his head! They decided to have the fire brigade break out the hoses and wash all that nasty white stuff right down the sewers. It worked great for a little bit, but then all the water froze on the streets and they were worse off than with the snow! I have never seen so many wrecked cars in one place before or since! God what a mess.
These motorcycle trips were a regular occurrence on every weekend that was fairly warm. We’d put a bunch of money in our pockets, roll up a blanket and a poncho and strap them to the bike and off we’d go. We would leave as soon as we could on Friday afternoon and just pick out a direction and go. Usually we stayed off the main highways and went by way of the back roads. Some of the places we’d find were like stepping back three or four hundred years. Using our Neapolitan Italian, we could just barely communicate with the people out there in the sticks. There were a lot of nights that we slept on the floor of some small trattoria after having supper with the owners. Leaving un mille, 1000 Lira per person for the food and the use of the floor, was more cash than most of these people had seen in years if not their whole lives. That L1000 was worth about $1.60 back then. $6.40 (four guys) wasn’t much to we rich Americans but was an unimaginable windfall to these people.
Supper at these little, out of the way places covered the gamut of plain old country-food. Lots of pasta and veggies, various types of soups, minestrone turned out to be the kind I liked best, and occasionally some kind of meat. There always appeared on the table, lots of bread and copious amounts of Chianti type vino. Eating and staying the night with these people was a lot like being right back home. They were always unfailingly generous to a fault and polite as could be. They didn’t know about the Ugly Americans in the “outback”. They were for the most part still grateful to the US and others for being freed from Mussolini and his ilk, unlike their neighbors to the north in France! When we were on the road during the day, the drill was to find a small store and buy a stick of salami or some other kind of preserved meat, a loaf of bread and a bottle of the ubiquitous vino. That was lunch, taken on the seat of your bike or just sitting by the road watching the people go by. The military used to tell us not to eat any of the produce that was available at stores and roadside peddler carts unless they had been soaked in a mixture of one part bleach to ten parts water. This was to kill the hepatitis germs that abounded because of the use of human waste as a fertilizer. Well we didn’t give that to awful much thought while on our weekly excursions and after three years of eating “off the economy” I never contracted any sort of problems. Even the “gelati”, ice cream was supposed to be off limits.
There was a group of us sailors who owned these pretty high performance motorcycles, and of course we all thought that we had the fastest one. Naturally this led to competitions of a sort. There was an old unused WWII airport outside Naples that was the site that the local Italians used for the same thing. They graciously let us race our bikes there too. They never competed against us because as I said before, the biggest cubic inch displacement bike in Italy at that time was 350cc. We would line up on the start line and at a signal, take off for the finish line. After shifting into third gear, you would lie out flat on the seat and the rear fender in order to cut down the wind resistance. After crossing the finish line, you would pull yourself back up to a sitting position. At the end of one of my runs I did just that only to have the throttle assembly come off in my hand. This immediately yanked both carburetors wide open and left me hanging off the side of the bike and beginning to accelerate frighteningly. Well, it’s a good thing there was a pond right at the end of the runway, cause that is where I wound up going about 85 mph! The cold water and my hot engine did not like the close contact and immediately made the engine separate into a few pieces. It was no danger to me though because I had departed into the air and was tumbling ass over tincups well ahead of the machinery. It was fortuitous that the pond was only three or four feet deep or I most likely would have expired right then. Shortly after that incident I gave up racing motorcycles on the drag strip and took up scrambling around in the bushes with it instead. We used to have these things called Hare and Hound races too. One person would be designated as the “hare” and off he would go. With a five minute head start, it was then up to the rest of us “hounds” to go find him. We set limits of just how far into the hinterlands he could go, or we’d never catch him! This was great fun and kept us out of the barrooms for a while.
In Italy in the 50’s and 60’s the buses that were used, sat high off of the ground on huge wheels. You had to climb up three or four steps to get on board and that was a lucky thing for me on one other occasion. I had been out with a couple of my friends attending a function at one of the local bars. It was called drinking to excess. Well I lived up to my end of the bargain and was pretty well inebriated when we left to return to the base. There was a long stretch of straight road leading up the hill from downtown Naples to the airport. Then you came to two or three ninety-degree turns before the final leg of the trip to the front gate of the base. Of course it always became a race to see who could get to the first turn first. On this occasion I was winning until I hit a slick spot in the road and down I went doing about 45 mph. At the same time around the corner came one of those gigantic buses going the opposite way. Through some sort of fluke of perfect timing, I slid under the bus right behind the front wheels and came out the other side before the rear wheels had a chance to squish me. Right after emerging from under the bus, I had lots of thoughts of thanks to the Commanding Officer of the base for demanding that anyone owning and riding a bike under his command, would have a set of crash bars installed on the front and back of his bike, and had to wear a safety helmet to. It saved me from the worst case of road rash you can imagine. Not one piece of “me” touched the road throughout this escapade as I was hugging the bike pretty tightly! All the other guys behind me, saw me go under amid a shower of sparks, and assumed the worst. They were all standing there by their bikes, expecting to have to start crying and carrying on about my demise. Then imagine their surprise when I emerged unscathed from the jaws of death! Stupidity did reign supreme at times in my life!


Navy Chronicles: Chapter Four

After being indoctrinated by my new friends into the vagaries of the whole place and time, I started going to some of the wonderful places located around the Naples area. After having been there for about a year, I attempted to buy a car. This was an undertaking that you wouldn’t believe. I had the money all saved up from my business at my previous duty station. I was what was called a ‘Loan Shark” in polite company. I used to loan out $5 for $6, $10 for $12, $15 for $18, and $20 for $24. This was never for more than a two-week period. Then every body paid up and I started all over again. I think it is called “Usury” and it is frowned on mightily by the Navy. Anyway, that is where I came by my stash as I arrived in bella Napoli. It turned out that none of the Volkswagen dealers in Naples, make that “the” VW dealer, would sell me a car, because of all the regulations required by the military and the civilian government. I wound up flying up to Germany with three friends, and two of us went to the Volkswagen factory where they were only too happy to sell each of us a brand new 1959 VW for the grand total of $1050! Each that is. We then went to the nearest Army base and got a set of temporary plates to get us back to Naples. Once there, we were able to get our two vessels registered with the local controlling military authority, i.e. CIC AFSOUTH. That means, Commander-In-Chief, Armed Forces, Southern Europe. They were nice big plates too. About two-foot long and 8-10 inches high, white with red letters and a red border all around the outside edge! There was therefore, absolutely no doubt in any ones mind that here comes an American serviceman! Money on the hoof!
Now this next statement is no lie, as any person from that era can attest. As you drove through traffic in downtown Naples, it was usually at about 5 to 10 MPH, and people had no compunction about crashing into the front of your car and falling into the road screaming and thrashing around on the ground. When the Carribinary (State Police) arrived, there were always about fifty people who would come out of nowhere and all would most vociferously attest to the fact that you were speeding along and deliberately ran the poor person down! Never mind the fact that the traffic was almost dead stopped! Well, after about an hour of “negotiations” between the Carribinary, the victim and the driver, wherein they each received about L10,000 Lira, that was $16 bucks back then, the victim would miraculously be healed and cured and off every one would go, happy with the outcome. The other two parties because they had once again duped the “stupido Americano’s” out of their money, and the driver, because he wasn’t going to the notorious Napoli jail! After a while, you’d get real smart about watching people who looked like, “jumpers” and slamming on the brakes before they could commit the deed. In the course of the three plus years I was there, I managed to divest myself of about $300-$400 dollars in donations to the people of Napoli!
That little VW had about 8o,ooo miles put on it running all over Italy. One of my favorite places in the whole area around Naples was a little town called Sorrento. It was about 15-20 miles to the south of Naples, and it looked to me as though it hadn’t changed in the last five hundred years. It was at the end of the Amalfi Drive that ran from Napoli to Sorrento. This road was cut right into the side of the cliff and followed every curve that the cliff made. It was the best place in all of Italy to ride a motorcycle, because you were weaving back and forth around all the corners constantly. It was kind of scary though because the “guard rail” was about two feet high and would stop nothing from going over the edge to the bottom about 250 feet down!! It did make you a more cautious driver than you might ordinarily have been!
The streets in Sorrento were cobblestones and narrow, to the point that two small cars had to maneuver real cautiously to get by each other. We would go down there on a Friday afternoon and rent a small pensione for two days. The car would get parked for the entire time we were there. The pensione that we always rented had a little balcony that hung out over the street and you could sit there and watch the people go by under your feet, which I did by the hour. We took all our meals in a small trattoria (restaurant) right at the end of the street, which ended right at the waters edge. There was a small stone wharf that always seemed to have a couple of boats tied up as some fishermen worked on them or their fishing gear. Having come from a fishing village myself, it was a comforting feeling to just sit and watch them. After many weekends down there, and having become somewhat proficient in the use of pidgin Italian, they let me help a little with the nets they used when they found out I could use a mending needle. We would sit at the tables, set outside the door, and have a few glasses of vino during the times we weren’t out exploring the surrounding area. All meals were eaten al fresco at that place, and it was always what everyone else was having. Half the time I never knew just what it was I was eating, but it was always without fail, something really good. During the summer months when I was actually in Naples and not flying all over the European continent, I would spend at least two weekends a month down there in Sorrento.
I know this sounds really laid back for a USN sailor, but it was a wonderfully romantic and beautiful place. I’d love to go back but am afraid it wouldn’t live up to my recollections. I know we went there on some pretty cold and blustery days, but all the ones I remember are the balmy summer ones with the smell of the flowers in the air. The flowers seemed to grow right out of the rocks and their perfume scented every thing around, and the assortment of colors was absolutely astounding! The place to me is the quintessential location when I think of romantic interludes, and beautiful nights.

There are two other towns near by that we spent a few days exploring too. They are Pompeii, and Herculeaneum. Both were buried in the great explosion of Vesuvio back in the ????? Century. It is amazing how the towns were reclaimed from under all the ash and magma that was rained down on them on that fateful day. You could even see the ruts worn in the cobblestones by the passage of wagons and probably legions of Roman soldiers too, over the centuries. When you walk around those two small towns, you really get a sense of the passage of the previous two thousand years. It really makes you think of the number of generations of families that have passed.
Those Old Italian “nobles” from that time period were a bunch of lecherous old dudes, ‘because they had local artists paint very graphic pictures on the insides of their houses. It wasn’t just the naked form that was painted. It was the naked form in all sorts of shall we say “compromising positions”. They would have pictures of themselves, with certain parts of their anatomy grossly exaggerated! Talk about people with swelled heads! During the time period that I was there, women were not allowed to even enter those houses. I guess the head guy up in Rome, Mr. Pope and his minions, had convinced the populace that the naked form was something not to be viewed by the ladies!

Another nice place to visit was the Island of Capri. Whoever reads this should really try and take a trip to Italy and go see this Island! It was about 15-18 miles out from the Bay of Naples. About the best way to get there was on one of the then, new hydrofoil boats that ran between the two ports. They were called “Aliscarfi” in Italian, and would make the trip in about 30 minutes. Upon arrival we would take a taxi up to the top of the Island where all the hotels and most of the shops were. It was strictly a tourist trap place even back then in the sixties, but I thought it was just plain beautiful. You could go walking all over the place or hire one of the little donkey carts to take you on a tour. Those poor little donkeys were so small though, that we’d get out and walk up any sort of an incline so the poor little cuss didn’t have to work so hard. The owner of the cart thought we were all nuts for doing that. I guess there wasn’t much love lost between man and beast.
On one excursion over there I went with a young lady who was to become my wife in the near future. It was early in the spring and we had decided to take a tour of a place called the Blue Grotto. It is a rather famous cave in the edge of the Island, where the ocean flows in and out. Its main attraction is the cerulean blue of the water inside the cave. I never was able to find out what made it look like that, what with only my pidgin Italian to converse with the locals. Anyway, there we were in a boat with the guide, with our swimsuits under our clothes. When we informed him that we were going to get in the water, so that we could tell all our friends that we went swimming in the Blue Grotto, he looked at us as though we were completely nuts and kept muttering about the “crazy Americanos”. Back then we were just the “crazy Americans”, we hadn’t metamorphosed into the ‘Ugly Americans just yet. Well we jumped in, and immediately back into the boat, as he was right when he said it was too damned cold to be swimming in April! Well, we had our swim and in the ensuing forty odd years, I’ve never run across another single soul who had done the same thing. I guess there just aren’t as many nuts out there as you’d think. We used to stay in a pretty nice hotel there on the Island and they didn’t want you to be dressed like a street urchin. So I went out and bought myself a nice dark suit with some kind of sparkly threads running through it. It was the “in” thing back then. I also had bought a Homburg hat and a cane, and thought I looked the right proper English gent. So now I could get into any of the nicer hotels wearing that getup. Although when I wore it into the Loundres Hotel one evening to “do a deal” with Mr. Lucky Luciano, he told me I looked like a high class pimp! I guess it was all in where you decided to go when “dressed to the nines”!
Two other guys and myself, had taken a lease on a house about four doors down from the one my future wife lived in out past Pouzzouli, home of Sophia Loren, on the beach at Licola. At about the same time I had bought a 24’ day-sailer boat from another guy who was headed back to CONUS, Continental United States. It was a nice little wooden boat in great shape, and we kept it right on the beach in front of the house. We would sail it right up on to the beach where we had positioned a couple of round poles to act as rollers. After coming ashore we’d pull it up on them a little so the tide didn’t take it out in the middle of the night, and I’d tie it up to a pipe driven deep in the sand. Well after having it for a while we decided to take it on a long weekend sail over to Capri which could be seen in the distance. It was about 16-20 miles out into the big Bay of Naples. So off we go on a nice bright sunny Friday afternoon and in about four hours and just at dark we arrived at the Island. We spent that night and the next generally drinking and ogling the women, uh, people, and then decided we’d head back to Naples the next morning early. We left Capri about six AM and had been out for about an hour when in rolls this dense fog bank and the wind quits blowing. Now here we sit, right in the middle of the shipping lanes into Naples with no outboard motor, and worse than that, NO COMPASS! Nor any kind of signaling device! Well, we wound up sitting out there all day and most all of the next night till a breeze came up about three in the morning and we could see the lights of Naples and we managed to make it back to port in time for quarters that morning. When we explained where we had been and why, we were let off the hook because we had been declared AWOL, (absent without leave) and were subject to arrest by the Shore Patrol or any local Italian cop the saw us. I’ll tell you though; it was some damned scary sitting out there in the fog listening to those big assed ships going by in the night. If one of them had run us down, no one would have ever known what had happened to us! I only took one other trip across the water with that sailboat and it was over to the Island of Ischia, which was right out in front of our house about 3 or 4 miles distant. We went there because it was where they were filming the movie “Cleopatra” and we wanted to get a look at Liz Taylor if possible! Richard Burton? Who the hell was he?


AD-6 (A1E)

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Navy Chronicles: Chapter Three

As a graphic illustration of just how dangerous it was on a carrier flight deck, I’ll relate this story. Whenever we were scheduled to fly and tow some targets, we were always positioned on the very aft end of the flight deck with our tail feathers hanging over the edge. All the other planes in this particular launch cycle would be lined up in front of us, tied down and ready to start the engines. There might be ten rows of three or four planes abreast across the flight deck waiting to launch. An auxiliary starting cart was used to get each plane started. This was no more than a giant battery on wheels with a steering wheel and a seat for the driver and a long power cord to plug into the aircraft. They always started at the back of the pack and got each plane going as they moved forward. This was to keep all the whirling propellers and sucking jet engine intakes behind the cart driver. All was proceeding according to plan one day. We were the first to fire up and the cart moved forward till he had most of the planes turning and burning. For some reason or other the plane directly in front of us had stalled his engine and he called Prifly on the radio and requested the start cart to return to him and get him going again. Well the plane in front of him was doing his pre take off engine run-up where the throttle is pushed up to 30 inches manifold pressure and about 2000 rpm in order to check out the magneto operation of the engine. The cart driver had gotten the word to go back and start the plane in front of us. He turned his cart toward us and drove right through the prop arc of the plane doing the engine checkout! Sitting in the right front seat of my airplane, I had just happened to look up and out the canopy and was watching as the cart driver made his fatal turn. When he hit that 16 foot prop turning that fast, he in effect disintegrated into a cloud of blood bone and small pieces of meat. They immediately covered the windscreen of our plane and my arm that had been hanging out the side of the canopy. Whereupon my stomach revolted at what I had just witnessed and all my previous meal was deposited on the instrument panel, my lap, and the deck of the cockpit! The pilot, who had his head down checking out his flight plan, looked at me and yells, “what the hell did you do that for”? I just pointed at the remains of the cart driver and he then proceeded to help me cover the inside of our trusty steed with puke! They shut the whole flight deck down and cancelled flight ops for the rest of the day while all the mess was cleaned up and as much of the victim as possible was recovered. I spent the next two days trying to get all the puke and smell out of my plane.
Whenever we were out on one of the carriers, they were always conducting some kind of operations with some of our Allied forces ships and planes. These ops would go on for up to ten days at a time twenty four hours a day. So you would be up on the flight deck sitting in your plane waiting to be re-spotted or getting ready to go flying. There were times out there that I never once got to sleep in a bunk for the usual two week tour on board. They would assign you a bunk with the particular squadron that you were hooked up with, but half the time I wasn’t able to go below decks long enough to find out where the hell mine was! I probably spent a couple thousand hours of my tour in Italy, sleeping on the deck of various airplanes! When we weren’t flying or moving planes around, there was specified maintenance that had to be done on my plane, so I was kept constantly on the go for the total time I was out there.
Being a prop driven plane, we usually made deck runs in order to launch us into the blue. One time though we had pulled into Barcelona Spain and dropped anchor in the bay. Then some of the powers that be decided they wanted the AD-5N tow plane on the beach. They called down to the flight deck and told me to get ready to launch my bird. Oh boy, here comes my first cat shot. “Cat shot” means a steam catapult launch. They usually do this while steaming along at about thirty knots in the open ocean. This gets a lot of wind under the wings and helps mightily in sustaining flight. Well this was to be a shot from a dead stop! The “Airboss”, CAG, (Carrier Air Group commander) was going to be the driver to deliver me to the beach. He was also an A5D Vigilante pilot and all the cat crew and associated people saw his name come up quite regularly on the flight schedule driving one of those big-assed birds. It was about three times bigger than my AD-5. See where I’m going here? It, the A5D was probably the heaviest plane on board except for the “Fords”, F4D Skyrays. Anyway they took the “ready plane” off the starboard cat and loaded us up with the “bridle” to connect us to the steam cat and made us ready to depart the premises. The pilot had the engine at takeoff power and the cat officer signaled that we were off! Man, I have never before or since, gone from standing completely still to 120 mph in about three seconds! That was a literal “kick in the ass”! Just as soon as the cat fired, the CAG started screaming at me and anybody else listening to be ready to ditch!! He had realizes as soon as we started moving that we were moving way to fast for this particular plane and that the cat had been set for the much heavier A5D! As soon as we passed over the deck edge he hollers at me to look at the wing root and see if there were any wrinkles down there. I responded that there was a whole line of them all the way to the tip! So he calls Prifly on the radio to apprise them of what had just happened and then called the beach to request an immediate straight in and low approach to the active. We got it and after he had put her down oh so gently, and taxied to the ramp and shut down, we got out and looked her over. There were wrinkles in both the horizontal and vertical stabilizers, in the fuselage sides and both wings! That was the last flight for that plane as it had to be completely dismantled and sent back to Quonset Pt. For a total overhaul! After that, and on other carriers, I was able to wrangle a few rides in the various big jets. It was still a thrill, but didn’t really compare to that first ride. There was always a big adrenaline rush every time though as you wondered if the plane was going to fly or turn into a submarine as they sometimes did!

On the second day of the very first trip out to a carrier, I was forward of the Island watching the planes being launched when I saw what I thought was a guy committing suicide! Right after a plane had been launched; he ran over the leading edge of the deck and disappeared! I was just getting ready to start screaming “man overboard” when he comes miraculously back up over the edge! He had this big piece of cable in his hand. After watching a while longer, I was able to figure out that he was retrieving the bridle used to hook the planes to the cat shuttle in the deck. There was, and is, a huge steel cable safety net that caught the bridle and the guy sent to bring it back. Boy was I glad that I hadn’t had time to start screaming about a man overboard. That Flight Deck Officer probably would have thrown me overboard after the shenanigans of the night before!
There was one man overboard instance while I was aboard the USS America. A sailor will lie down and go to sleep anywhere at anytime when they are involved in one of these twenty four hour a day, seven day a week evolutions. In this instance, a mechanic had decided to crawl up the tail pipe of an F8U Corsair while it was spotted in the middle of the deck. After he had fallen asleep, the deck was re-spotted and the plane he was in was positioned at the edge of the deck with the after part of the fuselage hanging out over the water. They used to put the main landing gear right up against the little ridge that ran all around the deck. They did this to gain as much space as possible out there on the deck for maneuvering purposes. Now it comes time to start the engines for the upcoming launch. The noise finally woke up the sleeping beauty and he proceeded to back out of his hidey hole and right into space and shortly after an eighty foot drop, into the loving arms of Davy Jones locker! Unbelievablely, the starboard wing lookout on the destroyer following the carrier during launch happened to see the guy fall into the water, and they were able to put a small boat in the water and retrieve his lucky dumb ass!
So this was pretty much my life for the next few months. I’d get back to Naples from one ship and then off I’d go to another one, or to some airport in another country close to where ever these ships were to be operating, for another sojourn. It was a great job and I loved it, but better things were a-coming!
Whenever anyone would take a plane out to a Carrier, the guys who had been out there previous to your trip would come up to you and give you their “cigarette card”. This was a piece of cardboard about the size of a nowadays credit card. It allowed you to go to the ship store and buy 2 cartons of cigarettes a week. These were rationed Items at the time on board ship and also at the Navy Exchange in Naples. They cost us $1.50 a carton. On the black market in downtown Naples that same carton would sell for about $200! You see where I’m going. You couldn’t just walk down town and look for someone to buy them though. There were the State Police and various other law types looking to confiscate them themselves for their own nefarious purposes. So you had to find a middle-man who would take them off your hands for a somewhat smaller but much safer profit. It turned out that the person we would wind up selling all of ours too, was a recently deported from America hood, by the name of Luciano who owned two of the bars that we frequented. He would give us $5 a carton, no danger involved. The thing that amazed me though, was that they would open each pack and hold all the cigarettes loose in their hand. Where upon Luckys henchmen would stand on the street corner and sell those butts one at a time for $1 apiece! Now he’s making $200 dollars a carton! So back on the ship on my first trip out there, I have acquired six of these cards and I’m only going to be there for two weeks. Every time I would go up to the window to get my two cartons and get my ticket punched, I’d have on some kind of disguise so the guy who was the dispenser of cigs wouldn’t recognize me. I’d wear different colored flight deck shirts and either wear my glasses or not, sometimes I’d wear my flight deck helmet and other times just my hat. I was paranoid that I was going to get caught and tossed in the brig. It never dawned on me that the one guy who ran the place couldn’t possibly remember 5000 faces and names! All this messing around for the grand sum of $60 bucks when I got them back to Naples and sold them. So I decided that it wasn’t worth it for the money I got, if I got busted. Although $60 was a lot of money to have in your hand back in ‘59-’60.
This was the beginning of three of the best years of my then young life. I may not have realized it then, but looking back now, I wish all of my kids could have had the same experience. I hung around with a bunch of guys that looked and acted just like the characters on the TV program, “Happy Days”, you know, Ritchie, Potsy, and The Fonz. Seeing as this part of my life was taking place in the last of the fifties, I guess it is only fitting that we were unknown role models for these guys. I think the writers were following us around and storing material for twenty years later!
There were a few mishaps in the course of my flying career over there. On one occasion just after we had made our deck run for takeoff from the carrier, the engine had a terminal seizure and quit just after we had made our turn to the left after lift off. This was a good thing because now we were not in the path of that gigantic ship as our not-so-trusty AD-5 steed settled into the water a couple hundred yards ahead of it! This was another reason to keep the canopy open on takeoff and landing. By the time the “Angel”, read that, rescue helicopter arrived, I was standing on the wing of the plane with my brand new flight boots hanging around my neck. They never even got wet! You seem to do strange things when under sudden stress.
On another occasion, we had just left the island nation of Malta and were on our way back to Naples. We had just finished climbing to 10,000 feet when the pilot decided to change from the main fuel tank to one of the drop tanks hung under the wing. On goes the fuel boost pump and then he turned the selector handle. Right then our troubles started. For some reason, it wouldn’t draw the fuel, so he immediately switched back to the main tank. Now the only trouble was, it wouldn’t suck from that one either! Major problems now. That big old fan out in the front had stopped generating any wind on its own and it definitely made the sweat start in the cockpit! He then hollers at me to prepare for bail out over the intercom. I just kind of looked at him and said that I don’t want to do that! He said that if I didn’t go when he told me to, I’d be up here in this flying brick all by myself. That kind of changed my attitude real quick. He mean while had been broadcasting a Mayday signal all the while our Skyraider was making a bee line for the water. The glide ratio for the good old AD series of Mr. Douglas’ airplanes was about ½:1! That’s ½ a mile forward for each mile down. From our initial altitude of ten thousand feet, that meant we were NOT going to reach anything resembling dry ground. All this took place pretty fast and as we passed “angels 7” the pilot said to go! The procedure was to unstrap yourself and stand in the seat with one hand on the front, and one on the back of the canopy. You then pulled/threw yourself at the trailing edge of the wing and hopefully you would miss the horizontal stabilizer as you went by! Well that all went as advertised and I made the frantic grab and pulled the ripcord from it’s socket whereupon the canopy blossomed above me. Right then I was thanking my buddy Bill Tkacz, for packing that ‘chute just right! For some reason or other I noticed that the front of my flight suit was all wet, but I didn’t remember going through any rain on the way down! Shortly thereafter I notice the water was coming up to greet me pretty fast. I just had time to deploy my raft package and get hold of my nose when I hit the water and went down about six to eight feet. I immediately yanked the two strings that inflated good old Mae West, and I popped right to the surface. Again, just as advertised in all the training I had received before getting my AirCrewmans wings! As I was climbing into my raft, I noticed the pilot in his and paddling toward me using his hands, so I did the same and very soon we were joined up. He then told me that he had received a reply from the base at Malta, and that a chopper was on the way. In about forty minutes we heard a helo in the distance and we both popped an Orange smoke flare so they could locate us a little easier. Shortly, an RAF rescue helo was over head, and they promptly winched us aboard and returned us the place whence we had so recently departed!
My next to last departure from normal flight, occurred in Athens, Greece. This time we were in an SNB-5 Buno. 10115. It was one of those “pilot proficiency” flights where all we did was go round and round the airport making touch and go’s for four hours. Well, as there was nothing for me to do during this time period, I was lying on the deck between the two rows of seats in the back. All of a sudden it got real quiet and this is not a good thing when you are aviating! I woke up from a sound snooze to discover the two pilots frantically trying to start BOTH engines at once! Some how or other they had managed to get the fuel selector handle broken off while it was being turned from one tank to another! I was pumping to beat hell on the wobble pump handle trying to get some fuel to the engine. But having not gotten a tank selected fully, the engines were only getting a minimal amount of fuel, and kept revving up and then backfiring as the pilots had both of them fire-walled! By then the ground was approaching at a terrific speed and they turned their attention to putting us down in once piece hopefully. We actually slammed down with our wheels up onto the side of a big hill going uphill. There was one hell of a cloud of dirt, dust, and grapes flying thru the air as we made our unscheduled arrival in some guy’s vineyard. I had just managed to get into the front seat of the passenger cabin before we hit. The two front seats were facing to the rear so I really didn’t have to be strapped in. All I got out of the incident was one hell of a headache when my head slammed against the forward cabin divider! No harm done there though as it was, and is pretty hard.
My last departure from an in-flight aircraft came a couple months earlier than the above one and the details will be found in another document called “Medals” suffice it to say.
And so ends page 11 of a total of 24. Hope you can stand it!! Ciao.


Navy Chronicles: Chapter Two

I think I'm going to put up four pages to make this go a little faster.

Old Sam Baker sent you out to do whatever job was deemed necessary. He was also the guy who assigned people to be plane captains and aircrew members for each a/c. These were the two coveted jobs in Naval Aviation for an enlisted man, and was what I wanted to do! After having been there for a couple of months, a vacancy came up for a P/C on one of the AD5-N’s and I got the job on a probationary basis! This was only after the Chief had read my record and found out I had been in VXE-6 and had wintered over on the ice in Antarctica, and that I already had my Aircrewman wings. Every morning after quarters, you would go to your plane and do the preflight on it, and make sure it was ready to go flying. Now, seeing as I was the junior Plane Captain on the flight line, my plane was put as far from the flight shack as it could possibly be and still be on the airfield. So off I go dragging my toolbox on wheels after me. I had almost gotten to the plane when the chief’s voice comes over the loudspeaker system and say’s, “Littlefield, report to the flight shack on the double!” Well I didn’t think too much about it and went hustling back to see what was up. When I get there, Old Sam Baker says to me, “Go preflight your airplane.” I said that’s where I was and took off again. Well this routine went on every day for about two weeks and I was getting madder and madder every time it happened. Finally one day I was really torqued and when I got to the flight shack and got my usual order, I hollered OK! At him, and slammed the door of the shack good and hard on my way out. Big mistake! The pane of glass flew out of the door and landed right on Chief Bakers desk where it immediately shattered into many little pieces, most of which landed in his lap and down the front of his shirt. I didn’t see it happen, but the next thing I knew, he had jumped over his desk, slammed open the door, and grabbed me by the back of my shirt and lifted me right up on my tippy toes. He then marched/pushed me out the back door of the hangar where upon he proceeded to read me the riot act, and to deliver a short hard shot to the gut as a reminder of just who was in charge. If you didn’t like being physically assaulted by a “higher up”, well that was tough! Back then, the Navy hadn’t yet degenerated into Admiral Zumwalts prissy little canoe club where you weren’t allowed to cuss out a subordinate. A couple of days later he took me aside and told me that he used the same sort of harassing techniques on all new P/C’s to see where the tolerance level was for putting up with different types of adversity. Seems like mine was way up there ‘because I lasted a lot longer than most guys, but when they finally spoke back, they didn’t cause a lot of broken glass to fly into his lap. He then told me that where I’d be going, I’d be on my own, and he wanted to see how I handled things.
After I had proved to Chief Baker that I could handle being a plane captain on one of Uncle Sam’s birds, he sent me on my first trip with an AD-5N aircraft. It was to be a two week stay aboard one of the Aircraft Carriers that was always in the Med. We were to take the plane out to the carrier and whenever they scheduled us, we would go up and “stream” a target for the surface ships to shoot at. This target was a nylon rip-stop sleeve about 30 feet long and about two feet in diameter. We would let out about 5000 feet of armored ¼ inch cable, and then the pilot would put the plane through some pretty weird gyrations to cause a ball of cable to form on the end. Then we would clip on a target and chuck it out a hole in the deck of the plane put there just for that purpose. Then it was back and forth for about three or four hours, while various surface ships would take turns shooting at it. They weren’t using popguns either. They were banging away with 5” 38 shells! Plus various types of anti-aircraft guns. Most of these guns were kept on target by using a radar signal to track the target. One time that I was out there flying around about half asleep, one of the ships managed to knock the target off the wire. The gun radar then proceeded to lock on to the cable and was tracking forward faster than we were flying! By the time we figured out what was going on, they had shot off ALL the cable. The next two rounds of 40mm AA went through the tail of the plane, and the next was destined for somewhere in the vicinity of we operators, just as the pilot took violent evasive maneuvers and proceeded to scream on the radio to “KNOCK IT OFF”. Just another form of saying cease fire please! Only our request was delivered with a lot more verve and gusto! (tie downs, hot bunking, sleeping in catwalk waiting for plane to come back, )
This was my first time aboard a Carrier and I had absolutely no idea of the organized and mass mayhem that I was about to descend into. As we arrived over the ship at about 6000 feet, it looked to be about as big as a postage stamp. I’m thinking to myself that there is no way in hell that this plane is going to be able to fit on that little thing! We moved into the marshal point and the pilot told me to cinch up my parachute harness and seatbelt really tight and to open the canopy on my side. You always did this in the old prop planes whenever landing, carrier or ground. As I found out over the next two weeks, we were always the last plane to land because we were able to stay up the longest with two 300 gallon drop tanks hung under the wings. Well finally it is our turn and as we got closer to the ship it grew magically in size ‘til it filled the whole of the windscreen! We came over the fantail and caught the number 3 wire, arresting cable, and we taxied up behind the last airplane. The pilot shut down the engine and jumps out and tells me to get into his seat to ride the brakes as they were about to re-spot the deck for the next launch. Little did I know that this is where I would spend almost all of my time for the next 2 weeks except when flying.
Some guy in a yellow shirt comes up to the plane and bangs on the side of it to get my attention, and hollers at me to get my butt out of the plane and get it tied down quickly. I jumped out and went into the wheel wells where there were two ammo cans located in the wing root. We stored all kinds of stuff in them when they weren’t full out bullets. I took out my usual three number six thread manila lines and proceeded to fasten my aircraft to the steel deck, just like I had every day back at good old Napoli. No sooner do I get it done, when here comes that yellow shirted guy again and proceeds to scream at me for being the dumbest SOB in the USN! He says to me, “How the hell long have you been on this ship, not to know that you don’t tie planes down with rope?” I looked at him and said, “About five minutes”. That deflated him for about 2 seconds whereupon he then explained to me just what a Hurricane tie-down was and where to procure nine of the little devils. That’s how many you installed whenever a plane was re-spotted on the deck. That is three on each of the landing gear. Just after I got it all figured out and done, I climbed back into the plane for a little rest. By the way, a Hurricane tie down consists of a 12 foot length of 3/8” chain with a hook on one end, and a nifty little device that has a hook on one end and a quick release chain restraint mechanism on the other end. The chain weighed about five pounds and the quick release about the same. So a full compliment of nine complete tie-downs weighed about 90 to a hundred pounds!
Bang, bang, bang on the side of the plane is the next sound I hear, and here is that guy with the yellow shirt again telling me to “break it down”, i.e. untie the plane again. So I did and they moved me to a different spot about three feet away, and then I went through the whole tie down procedure again. Well, this went on for the rest of the day and into the nighttime hours. Out there on the flight deck at night it is pitch black, as there are no white lights allowed. The only light is natural light supplied by the moon. This is so that when the pilots come on deck to go night flying, they have already had their eyes adapted to the low light by wearing red colored goggles in the ready room and up on to the deck where they can then remove them. So now it is time to re-spot the deck for a night time launch and they move me again! I jump out of the plane and because it is so dark I can’t see a damn thing. Into the wheel well I go again to get my trusty flashlight. Man, when I turned that thing on and was moving around untying my plane, it was like the wrath of God had descended on me! Two guys jumped on me and were wrestling with me trying to steal my flashlight. I’m thinking to myself, “Jeez, you’d think they had enough of these things for everybody out here so they don’t have to fight over them”. One of them finally got it away from me and I proceeded to scream at him and call him all the nice vile names that I had learned since joining the Navy. This got me a hand around the neck and a fast trip across the deck into the Island to a place called PRIFLY stenciled on the door. When he pushed me in the door, I could see that he had the words, Flight Deck Officer stenciled on his yellow shirt fore and aft. Well, in actuality here WAS God as far as anything concerned with the flight deck of that carrier was concerned! This man has, for all intents and purposes, the power of life and death out there in that mass of whirling propellers, screaming jet engines, and planes moving all over the place in the dark. He was the conductor of that milieu and you had best be paying attention to him or you would soon be dead! He then proceeded to ream me out for using that white light and asked me what squadron I was from so he could banish me from HIS flight deck. When I told him I was from the Naval Air Facility, Naples Italy, he looks at me as if I were a bug under the rug and says, “Oh yeah, the tow plane, how much instruction on flight deck procedures did you get before you came out here he asked”? When I told him none, he just shook his head and muttered something about them, “trying to get one of these damned kids killed out here”. He then directed one of his henchmen to give me a crash course in just what the hell was expected of me, and my aircraft while I was on board that vessel. That was when I found out about red lenses on flashlights and all that other night adaptation vision stuff.
After moving me all over the ship for the rest of the night, they found a more or less permanent home for me right behind the Island unless I was scheduled to be flying. Now I didn’t have to be moved every ten minutes and I could do some of the maintenance work on the plane I was supposed to be doing. I will have to say though, that was the best place on the flight deck to be. I would sit on top of the canopy and watch every plane being launched and recovered. It was a grand stand seat for something I never tired of watching. The only problem with my location was, when ever they would “blow the tubes” me and my plane would be covered with a fine soot, inside and out. Blowing the tubes was something the people in the engine room did to the boiler tubes to keep them from being clogged with the soot. So they just shot a charge of high-pressure air in there and blew it up on deck and then it was our problem to clean up. Usually the ship was moving directly into the wind and going like hell right after a launch whenever they pulled off this trick, so most of the stuff went right overboard.
After having been on board for a week or so, and it became necessary to get my clothes washed. It was a free service while on board ship. Everybody just put their dirty clothes in one huge bag and off to the ships laundry it went. It would reappear in your berthing compartment that day and was dumped in a huge pile. Then it was up to you to retrieve your own gear from the pile. If you had fortuitously stenciled your name on each and every piece of clothes, including socks, underwear, and handkerchiefs, you would get it all back. If no name was on a particular piece, it was fair game for whoever came across it first! I had observed a few times as we came back aboard with our plane that there were a lot of manila lines trailing off the stern of the ship and decided to go down to the hangar deck and find out what they were for. When I arrived there I found out that there was a swab, (mop) tied to most of the lines. They were dragged behind the ship for a few minutes which did an outstanding job of getting them perfectly clean! I guess if I was dragged behind something that big at 30 to 40 mph for an hour or so, I’d be clean too! I noticed this one guy pulling in a line and lo and behold there was no swab tied to the line, but rather two pair of dungarees. (pants) The guy said it did a great job of getting them clean too. So of course I decided to do a couple of pairs of mine the next time they needed cleaning which was every day. So down I go with my two pair of nastiest looking dungarees and proceed to tie them to an unused line and pitch them over the fantail. Then I went back to work for a few hours. When I went back down to retrieve my pants at noon chow time, the line I had tied them too was being used for a swab! There was a guy standing there watching me and asked if I was the one who had left the dungarees on that line. I said yes and did he know where they might be? He nodded his head yes and pointed behind me to a real small pile of denim colored rags. I picked them up and was surprised to find only the belt loops and waist band and a few inches of material hanging off of them. I looked at him and said, “What the hell happened to my pants?” He asked how long I had left them in the water, and I replied, “About four hours”. Well said he, if you leave them for more that fifteen minutes this is what you’ll get back every time! Well, that was an expensive learning curve


Navy Chronicles

This post/story is twenty four pages long and so I am going to put it up in two page increments. It covers the three and one half years I spent in Naples Italy. After this one has run it's course, there will be other ones concerned with side trips and adventures embarked on with in this same time period. As other items of interest come to mind, I will post them, interspersed with the above adventure. Enjoy if you will!

Landing on foreign soil

Well here I am, following in Charles Lindberg’s steps winging my way across the Atlantic Ocean on my way to Paris France. The only difference between my self and “Lucky Lindy” was that I was flying courtesy of the US Navy with a civilian airline, Pan-Am, instead of piloting my own aircraft. But this one I’m on is one of the most beautiful airplanes ever constructed. It is a Lockheed Super Constellation. It is a giant gleaming silver bird with four engines and the distinctive triple tail feathers that made this plane such a beautiful sight.
After about ten to twelve hours of playing non stop games of cribbage with my seat mate, we arrived at Orly Field about ten o’clock at night. After collecting our sea bag’s and our wits, we were whisked off to a hotel in down town Paris for the night. The hotel people showed us to our rooms and at that time I became aware of the Parisian’s haughty attitude and disdain for Americans. After having saved the French people’s collective asses from the domination of the Germanic tribes twice in the first half of the last Century, I have never been able to figure out why they look down their pointed Gallic noses at us! Maybe we should have left them to their own devices on both occasions. Maybe they would have preferred having to learn to speak German instead of our form of bastardized English. But I do digress.
The room we had for the night was beautiful, and while exploring the whole place, we came across an odd looking device in the bathroom. It was sitting right next to the toilet and looked like one somewhat. It had the same shape of its neighbor, but had no seat to speak of. It also was minus any sort of a tank to dispense water for flushing. Also, it had two knobs on the back of it that looked like those found on the sink. Hmmm, what is this? We looked at it for some time trying to determine just what it was and what it was used for. After standing directly over it and turning one of the knobs, and getting a forceful jet of water right in the face, we finally figured out that it must be for washing your feet if you didn’t want to take a full bath! Problem solved, that’s what it was, a foot-bath. Ingenious people these French! Well it wasn’t for another month, that I found out just what a “bidet” was and what it was really used for! Imagine my surprise! We didn’t have anything like that on good old Block Island!
Right after finishing our inspection tour, we decided that we should go out and see some of this Parisian night-life that we had heard talked about on the trip over the big pond. So out the door we go and start walking down the street looking for this “night life”. It turned out that we were in a residential district, and the good old US Navy put us out there in the sticks on purpose. Don’t put temptation in their path and just maybe they will not stray off the straight and narrow and cause any diplomatic bumps in the road. Hah! We did finally manage to find a bar and commence to get slightly inebriated. We were due to leave about 0900 the next morning so we headed back to the hotel. The only trouble now was, that we didn’t remember the way back and couldn’t ask anyone either. All the smart folks were home in bed at 2 AM. Even if there had been anyone to talk to, we’d have been out of luck! Non parlous vous Franchise.
After wandering around up and down a few dozen streets, we finally came upon our abode about three hours before we were to leave from the airport. After getting all cleaned up, we were just in time to get breakfast and get on the bus for the airfield.
We had our tickets in hand to get us to Naples Italy, so all we had to do was find the Alitalia gate and climb aboard the plane. Just finding the gate was another of the adventures I was to undertake over the next three years. Back in the fifties there were no signs in the various languages for travelers. We hadn’t as yet become the mobile society that we are now. French was the universal language back then, at least as far as travel and the diplomatic Corp was concerned. If you couldn’t read it or speak it, you were at the mercy of all the little dictators of their fiefdoms. Even finding the location of the head, (bathroom) was an excersise in futility! A few graphic hand signs and motions always seemed to do the trick though.
After an uneventful trip of a couple of hours, we arrived right on the door- step of my new home for the next three years. Il Capo Di Chino was the name of the airport there in Naples, and it was shared by the civilian airlines as well as the Italian Air Force, and the good old United States Navy. Stepping off the plane, the very first thing that caught your eye was the volcano, ‘Vesuvius’ dominating the whole landscape. It appeared to loom over the airfield as well as the whole city of Naples. It was then and still is a beautiful sight.
At the end of my first day at la aeroporto Capo Di Chino, I had been assigned a place to live for the next three years, and was all checked in with the people and places that really mattered. You know who, the chow hall, the paymaster and the chief on the flight line. The next morning bright and early I go down to the flight line and meet some of the other guys and my new boss Chief Sam Baker. This guy was about six foot three and had a face that looked like it was carved out of granite, but had been shot at with steel ball bearings, and hit too! He was from somewhere in the South and had a really easy-going demeanor until you got on the wrong side of him.
Well, I was assigned to one of the crews performing routine maintenance on all the planes that we had stationed there. We had four SNB-5’s, three R4D-8’s, one R4D-3, one R5D-6Z, one R4Y-5Z, four AD5-N’s and one HUP-2 twin rotor helo. These were just the station aircraft. In addition to them we performed all the scheduled maintenance on every R4D-3 & 4 that belonged to an embassy throughout the whole of southern Europe, the Mid East, and all of Africa. This came to a huge amount of a/c and we were busy all day long every day, as well as a night shift that worked from 1600 to mid night. This was just grunt work, but it was the main reason that I had joined Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club in the first place. To be continued.