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.


Gifts from the sea

Next time you are out walking along the beach, as you go along take the time to look at each of the piles of seaweed and trash that are just lying there. Go over and move them around a little bit with your foot to see if there is anything interesting in there. It might be a message in a bottle from Gilligan or Mr Carosue(sp). But then again it might be something a lot more interesting and needful of your help.
That is what happened to Jamie Johnston the other day. After a couple of days of the NE wind we have had, he was out either fishing or just walking and passed by a bunch of seaweed and deitrus and thought he saw it move, all on it's own. When he went over for a closer look he could see that there was indeed someone on distress. After extricating it from a ball of monofilament gill net and other assorted junk, he held in his hands, a leather back turtle that from the size of him, was probably eight to ten years old! So after calling a friend to come and take a few pictures of him, they put him back in the water and sent him on his way to wherever he was going. Hopefully, he will manage to avoid anymore of those loose nets out there floating around in the ocean. NICE JOB JAMIE!!! Maybe the pix will show up in the paper so we can all get a look at him !TIFN


Two Tough Questions


Question 1:
If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had 8 kids already, three who
deaf, two who were blind, one mentally retarded, and she had syphilis,
you recommend that she have an abortion?
Read the next question before looking at the response for this one.

Question 2:
It is time to elect a new world leader, and only your vote counts. Here
the facts about the three candidates.

Candidate A.

Associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologist. He's
two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 8 to 10 martinis a day.

Candidate B.

He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in
and drinks a quart of whiskey every evening.

Candidate C
He is a decorated war hero. He's a vegetarian, doesn't smoke, drinks an
occasional beer and never cheated on his wife. Which of these candidates
would be your choice? Decide first... no peeking, then scroll down for the

Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Candidate B is Winston Churchill.
Candidate C is Adolph Hitler.

And, by the way, on your answer to the abortion question: If you said YES,
you just killed Beethoven.

Pretty interesting isn't it? Makes a person think before judging someone.
Wait till you see the end of this note! Keep reading...

Never be afraid to try something new.
Remember: Amateurs...built the ark.
Professionals...built the Titanic

And Finally, can you imagine working for a company that has a little more
than 500 employees and has the following statistics:
* 29 have been accused of spousal abuse
* 7 have been arrested for fraud
* 19 have been accused of writing bad checks
* 117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses
* 3 have done time for assault
* 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
* 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
* 8 have been arrested for shoplifting
* 21 are currently defendants in lawsuits
* 84 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year...
Can you guess which organization this is?

Give up yet?
It's the 535 members of the United States Congress. The same group
that crank out hundreds of new laws each year designed to keep the rest of
us in line.

No Truer Words!!

I received the following as an e-mail this morning and just felt I had to pass it on. They are not my writings, but they do express my feelings on the whole New Orleans disaster/fiasco. So read and enjoy!
Been sitting here with my ass in a wad, wanting to speak out about the bullshit going on in New Orleans. For the people of New Orleans...

First, we would like to say, Sorry for your loss. With that said, Let's go through a few hurricane rules: (Unlike an earthquake, we know it's coming)

1. A mandatory evacuation means just that...Get the hell out. Don't blame the Government after they tell you to go. If they hadn't said anything, I can see the argument. They said get out... if you didn't, it's your fault, not theirs. (We don't want to hear it, even if you don't have a car, you can get out.)

2. If there is an emergency, stock up on water and non-perishables. If you didn't do this, it's not the Government's fault you're starving.

2a. If you run out of food and water, find a store that has some. (Remember, shoes, TV's, DVD's and CD's are not edible. Leave them alone.)

2b. If the local store has been looted of food or water, leave your neighbor's TV and stereo alone. (See 2a) They worked hard to get their stuff. Just because they were smart enough to leave during a mandatory evacuation, doesn't give you the right to take their stuff...it's theirs, not yours.

3. If someone comes in to help you, don't shoot at them and then complain no one is helping you. I'm not getting shot to help save some dumbass who didn't leave when told to do so.

4. If you are in your house that is completely under water, your belongings are probably too far gone for anyone to want them. If someone does want them, let them have them and hopefully they'll die in the filth. Just leave! (It's New Orleans, find a voodoo warrior and put a curse on them)

5. My tax money should not pay to rebuild a 2 million dollar house, a sports stadium or a floating casino. Also, my tax money shouldn't go to rebuild a city that is under sea level. You wouldn't build your house on quicksand would you? You want to live below sea-level, do your country some good and join the Navy.

6. Regardless of what the Poverty Pimps, Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton, want you to believe, The US Government didn't create the Hurricane as a way to eradicate the black people of New Orleans; (Neither did Russia as a way to destroy America). The US Government didn't cause global warming that caused the hurricane (We've been coming out of an ice age for over a million years).

7. The government isn't responsible for giving you anything. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave, but you gotta work for what you want. McDonalds and Wal-Mart are always hiring, get a damn job and stop spooning off the people who are actually working for a living.

President Kennedy said it best..."Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
Thank you for allowing me to rant. George Carlin


The Best Retirement Account in the World!

I was reading another blog the other day, one that gets a lot of exposure, and had it revealed to me about a retirement plan that I want to get in on. It is the one that our Illustrious Senators and Congressmen have voted into law, strictly for themselves! If they serve for only two, or six years, or go on for forty or fifty years like Senator Byrd of Virginia( I think). They will go on receiving from the government a check equal to the amount they were receiving on the day they retired or lost an election, UNTIL THE DAY THEY DIE!!! This amounts to millions of dollars for each and every one of them! On top of that their spouses will receive about $275,000 until they pass on. I want some of this! So I'm going to run for Congressman and then quit after two years so that one of you can get in on the gravy train to!

What needs to happen in these two hallowed halls of crookedness, is for the electorate to vow NOT to vote for any incumbent the next time they come up for election. It is the only way to stop the good old boy back room dealings that go on now. And if they had ANY balls, they would institute term limits at the next session of Congress. With this crew that is in there now, virtually all lawyers, they will never do the "right thing" for the people of the US because they are to damned greedy. Breaking this chain of shame, by getting rid of these, "henchmen of the Sheriff of Nottingham", is the only way to start over with a some what clean slate.
So that's what I'm doing next year, care to join me? TIFN


This Won't Take Long, Did It?

I saw on the news tonight at six, that the moped operators of the State and BI got to that Judge Rubine early. He decided to let them keep on doing as they have for years in defiance of an existing State Law. I almost fell off my chair when I heard him say, "what's the urgency in enforcing this existing law?" I now wonder if he feels the same way about many of the other state statutes. I guess if your pockets are deep enough you can get anybody you need, bought. Wasn't it Mr. Hagopian's father that inflicted these things on us in the first place? I am not against mopeds as I own one and ride it every day in preference to my 1100 cc motorcycle. If this judge continues to let these people do just as they damned please, then it is up to the legislators of this mostly crooked state to write a law with some teeth in it that WILL make them comply with the rules. While we are on the subject of enforcement of the laws of this State, why is it that virtually NO ONE does anything about enforcing the muffler laws that pertain to the operation of full sized motorcycles? Mine has a regular muffler just as the laws prescribe, and it came from a foreign country. You look and listen to nine out of ten Harley Davidsons that come over here on the boat and they all are in defiance of those laws as they all run straight pipes that can raise the dead!Whats up with that? TIFN