10/23/2005

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.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I saw a great bumper sticker on an battered Ford Ranger today on I95. It said "Who is going to fight if your son won't?". The guy driving the pickup was an old, bespectaled E-7 in marine fatigues whose CT plate read, "Gunny". He looked so old and weather beaten he may have been a China Marine. Or at least someone who knows that the Frozen Choisen isn't a drink at Sharky's.

The Gunny must have been coming home from a weekend drill. Nobody in their Volvos and Beemers gave him a second look as they flew by him. For a bunch of self professed, bright people, they couldn't make the connection between their prosperity and the contribution of the Gunnys of the country to it. I wished that I had the power to flip all the smug people in their German sedans into 15 year old Ford Rangers and put the Gunny into a Ford SuperDuty of his choice!

Anonymous said...

Everett you are missing the point the french don't like anybody. The british ,germans, spanish, italians. I'm not even sure they like themselves. They are entitiled to their opinion just like you are to yours. They did help us out in our war for independence. I think you also remenber the other countries who fought in those wars and whose people surffered greatly. We have been luckly that those conflicts stayed off our shores. Unless you think it would have been better to fight the germans on cresent beach.

Ex-Manissean said...

Always enjoy your service stories. I am reminded of a quote from an American General who was asked about French help in fighting the war, his response: "The French participated in many battles during the war, some of them even against the Germans". I also enjoyed your smackdown in the BI Times editorial. I also get annoyed by people who try to blame Bush for everything from global warming to their toothache.

warbler said...

What? W ISN'T responsible for my gingivitis????

Everett said...

Hey Sam, Here are the civilian equivalents of the planes mentioned. An SNB-5 was very similar to the plane Amelia Earheart went missing in. An AD-5N was strictly a Navy plane.It was a Douglas Sky Raider. No Airforce equiv. until VN where they used the -6 as the close in support plane called a "Sandy". The R4D-8 was a variant of the old DC-3 only it had two nine cyl. engines as opposed to the two 14 cyl. engines used on all the other R4D variants.
R5D's and R6D's were the military verisions of the DC-6's and DC-8's. The R4Y-5Z('Z' denotes a VIP plane) is the Convair 440. A twin engine with a couple of P&W 2800's to drag it around. The HUP-2 was a Pisackie (sp is absolutely wrong). It was a twin rotor and looked like a flying hot dog!

Sam said...

Thanks, Everett. Hey are some of those aircraft related to the "Otter" still used by the NOAA hurricane hunters? They sill have two and usually one works OK. Darn thing, sometime the electrical generator would make electricity, the pumps wouldn't pump, and the pistons wouldn't ... OK, better stop there!

As to the older service fellas on the Island, I remember a few houses east of the Police Station (this was like 1974) there was a sign saying
LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS.

Best regards, and hi to Ex-Manissean
-sAM

Everett said...

Hi Sam, The only Otter that the Navy had that I can recall was made by DeHavilland and was a single engine,(9 cylinder radial) high wing monoplane. We had a couple of them in VXE-6 that were equipt with ski's for using "On the Ice" in Antartica. I don't believe they would have fared too well as a hurricane hunter type. Although the AirForce may have called their C-130's Otters. I'm not too well versed in their plane designations or names. TIFN