Posts Tagged ‘Cubi Point’

I travelled a lot from six to eleven, but not as a vacationing child of rich parents. So for this article, we will just leave that as a maybe blog down the line. For our purposes we will concentrate on my travels overseas courtesy of the Marine Air Wing commands. (By the way, all pictures are in Gallery format, so if you click on them they will enlarge and then you can arrow back and forth.)

My first stop after a year of boot camp, infantry training, Avionics school, and a short stint in a training squadron was landing on the Island of Okinawa. Now all of the marines I came over with were grunts, or infantry, with the exception of one other guy. They were all shipped out the next day, but they left me and this other guy, both of us to be assigned to an air wing somewhere, dangling for a week or so. This is where I met my best friend for my Japan deployment, he taught me how to play tennis, his name was Doc Holliday. To this day I do not know what his real first name was!

After a week and couple of days we both got orders to Iwakuni Japan. I was, at the time, a navigation computer tech, he worked in the photo lab of a different squadron. We kept in touch however. I eventually got myself transferred to his squadron by a lucky coincidence. They needed avionics techs on the flight line, and I wanted out of the windowless computer van that was my home 10 hours a day. I loved working on the actual aircraft. It was not long before I moved out of the barracks and into a small house with a couple of other Marines from my new squadron. This is where I met my other best friend, Neal Regan. We were not best friends yet, that did not happen until we went to the Philippines and Nam together.

Doc and I spent our time in Japan travelling. I was licensed to drive pretty much any tractor, jeep or 6×6 truck the squadron had. They also got me a license to drive outside the gate in Japan proper, so I bought a car. I don’t even recall the model; I just know it had a two-stroke motorcycle engine for power. It was a little miniature station wagon. Had to fuel up with mix gas, which back then was available at all gas stations. Ecologists would be aghast now! I was the only person in the squadron, enlisted or officer to have a license and car that was legal outside the base. Made me a popular guy. Mostly picking up officers wives at the airport in Hiroshima. They would even give me time off work to go and pick them up. They had some kind of agreement the officers wives could get a three month visa. We enlisted didn’t rate diddly.

This car allowed Doc and I to explore the country around Iwakuni and travel to places like Hiroshima regularly, and basically just get lost on a duty free weekend. We both had critical MOS so did not get assigned but the minimum duty required. (MOS is a job designator)

We made friends with a farmer by scrounging up a pump from the base, rigging up a transformer to make it work on his electrical grid and installing it at his water supply. He was a rice farmer packing water by hand. He spoke no English; we spoke basically no Japanese beyond hello, goodbye, excuse me, and thank you! The only other word I knew at the time was koko, which would get a taxi to stop and let you out! It means “here”. He had a niece that spoke English and he would invite her whenever he had us for dinner. Dinner was usually rice, fish, and a lot of Sake! At first we had stopped and proceeded to help him haul water. He had a fit. But we refused to go away, and when we installed the pump, well we were family! He turned us on to a little sandy beach we could pitch a tent next to a stream that had fish in it. I don’t know what kind of fish they were, they resembled perch. Cooked up well and had very little fishy taste to them. We fished by sitting legs spread in the shallows at the downstream end of a pool while someone else went to the upstream end and started slapping the surface vigorously and wading towards us. Fish would appear between our legs and we would scoop them up and throw them onto the bank.

About this time, Reagan and I had just made L/Cpl and got orders to the Philippines and then missions run out of Danang Vietnam. It turned out that we were both scheduled to go home, there were no NCO’s trained in our particular MOS, so they meritoriously promoted us to Corporal to extend for a second tour, which we did. They then bribed us again with meritorious promotion to Sgt if we would extend again. Best thing that had ever happened to either one of us! We were inseparable as much as possible, watched each others backs! We ran missions out of Danang, but due to reasons I will not go into now; we fixed the aircraft in the Philippines. Broke our little hearts.

When I was in Cubi Point in the Philippines I rented and lived in a three-bedroom house, one bath, complete kitchen. It came with a live in maid, gardener, and security. There were three of us sharing rent, Regan being one of the others. All included with groceries, I spent forty dollars a month. We lived in one of the nicer areas of Olongapo. Normal housing had no running water or toilet facilities. Were one or two rooms mostly, apartment houses were a little nicer, but had community bathrooms, but no bathing facilities. Our maid, unknown to us for a while, slept in a big round chair in the living room. She would stay in the kitchen until we all went to sleep before bedding down, and up and cooking by the time we got up! We increased the food allowance to include her and gave her a raise when we discovered this. We had no place to put her, so we just left the sleeping arrangement as it was. She was around 16, I think. We all treated her with respect, she was not flirted with nor were any remarks made. I had friends with morals, so did not have to police their actions. She cried when Regan and I had to rotate back to Japan and home. We tried to find good people to take our place with her employment guaranteed. It was all we could do. We were never able to find out who her parents were, or even if she had any. So back to Japan, everyone we knew was gone, then back to the world, that is what we called the U.S..

Had some leave in Australia, short hops and stays in China, S. Korea, and a few over nights in Europe, but very short, so I might include them in another blog, but I have let this one run to long as it is!

I am from a small logging and cattle town in central Idaho. It was a wonderful place to grow up, no one was rich, but no one lived on the streets or was starving either. The population in the fifties and sixties was almost entirely conservative and Republican. When I graduated high school and headed off to college I was a dyed in the wool conservative also. 1044980_576397282410598_1565005557_n

No, college did not cause me to change my attitude or become a liberal. I was the guest of the town doctor, lived in his home when I graduated high school. His eldest son and I were both co-captains of an undefeated football team, best friends, and Doc was a fan. During my first year of college I started running low on funds, although the Doc later told me he had every intention of paying my way through college, I was too proud to ask and joined the Marine Corps under a guaranteed electronic aviation school agreement. This was in 1968, the draft was active, Vietnam was raging, and I knew the minute I dropped out of school I would be drafted, in which case no guarantee of anything except cannon fodder eligibility! Click here for look at my hometown webpage!

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(on your left standing)

So I went to boot camp and the Infantry Training Regiment. From there I went to the Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida and attended the Aviation Electronic School provided by the Navy. I then went to a Marine training squadron at Cherry Point in North Carolina briefly before being sent to West Pac for over two and half years. Spent 10 months in Japan, with side trips to South Korea and Taiwan to train their troops in electronic countermeasures. After ten months I got a two-hour window to report aboard a C130 Hercules for duty a tad farther South. Although we were officially labeled as a detachment in and around Cubi Point in the Philippines, we were actually running daily missions to the north out of Danang! For political reasons we were not allowed to admit that at the time. I was an E2 or Pfc a month before we left Japan, so was a rookie L/Cpl when I started my first combat tour. Three months later I was an E5 Sgt and was the NCOIC of one shift of the Avionics Electric Shop supporting the Grumman Intruder EA6EA computer warfare bird for VMCJ-1. There were two of us. I got out of the Marines after four years, worked for the same employer for 30 years. No union, so no retirement or work sponsored 401k. A little late, then went to work for another eight years for a company that had at least a co-pay 401k and insurance, profit sharing, so managed to put some cash away the last few years. Click here for a link to info on VMCJ-1, my combat squadron! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(again, on your left and 30 years)

I give you this background because I was covering a lot of ground and being introduced to many different cultures, and I wanted to demonstrate that I was never a taker, ever! It became clear to me that I needed to rethink some of my conservative ideas. Some of these countries were doing fine as far as big business was concerned, but none of that well-being was trickling down to the masses. Japan was the only country in the orient that even appeared to be trying to develop a middle class. For the most part, there were the rich, the filthy poor, and the crooks in between. Without unions child labor was rampant, and older workers still lived in poverty. The only people getting ahead beside the ruling class who owned the industry, were the whores, pimps, gambling and drinking establishments, and criminals in general!

I was a good student in high school, loved school, and knew it was my way out. I had run away from a broken home at the ripe old age of eleven, never wanted to go back that life ever again. So I started to remember my history classes. I signed up for more college classes through the Corps, and tried to see what was what. According to history, before unions, children worked and died in mines and other industry, yes right here in America. The adult workers, especially in mining, were tied to and required to buy all of their goods from a company store. They were not paid enough to live on, but were allowed to charge, so they were basically slaves, as they were not allowed to leave employment unless they were square with the company store, which they never were. There are many more examples, but I think you see where I am going. Unions changed all that; all big business ever did was assassinate union organizers! Then I started to notice our education in America was not all it was cracked up to be. I started hanging out with foreign students at coffee shops and other venues when on leave, or when I would have any time after travelling to foreign soil to fix an aircraft that had been forced to land and seek repair. As almost every square inch of our aircraft required a secret clearance, techs who could work on it had to be flown in, I was in that lucky few. Anyway, the people from Europe, Australia, the Orient, or the Mediterranean on average knew way more about American history and politics than American students did! Believe me, I checked! As our education started to get more and more expensive, countries like Germany who were becoming very successful in the technological age, and had a very savvy and educated work force, offered absolutely free college education. So my notions of how things need to be started to shift.

In the fifties we had strong unions, we were building an ever-larger middle class by leaps and bounds! We built huge amounts of infrastructure, for example practically all of the interstate freeways, bridges, and overpasses that went with them all started in 1955! Our national debt was manageable, certain social acts to protect seniors were enacted and worked just fine until politicians robbed Peter to pay Paul, Paul being another word for pet project, or another would be pork belly. So there was my attitude being adjusted again. Every state that has large populations that are convinced government is to big and we just need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, well those states without exception take the biggest chunks of help from the big bad government to survive, ever single one, my home state included. I now live in California, and it takes a bad rap all the time, but it is not a major taker, like say Idaho for example, or almost any state in the geographic south, so go figure! Click here for more information on the history of unions.

Then in the eighties we were told unions were bad, just leave big business to thrive and the money will trickle back down to the middle class and others. So unions were weakened, nothing trickled anywhere, and now we make less per hour across the board adjusted for inflation than we did forty years ago. It trickled all right, but not in the direction we had hoped! So my attitude was further adjusted. Right now the bottom 80 percent of Americans own a meager 7 percent of the wealth, or, to look at it another way, the wealthiest 400 Americans have the same combined wealth of all the nation’s poorest – more than 150 million people, which is almost half the population. So, no matter how you slice it, when it comes to income and wealth, the rich get most of the pie and the rest get the crumbs.

Now you could argue that these are not true facts, however they are really not being disputed by anyone, on the right or the left. Of course the blame game is rampant and ongoing. You know those taker states that I talked about? Well if you take a poll and ask people questions about what they want, leave out party or ideology, the answers invariably align with a more liberal democratic view, yet every one of these people from these states will vote a conservative ticket, voting away the things they just said they wanted, if they bother to vote at all. So this kind of thinking made me adjust my attitude even further.

So now we are back to a basic change we need to make before we can start to make this any better. We have to get the money out of politics. We have to quit allowing money and the influence it buys tell us what is good for us, what we can have, and telling us how we should vote. We need each politician to be limited by term, money, and no cushy job offer after his or her term is over for a set period of time. I would like that to be a decade, but that is just me!

So are there problems with government handouts, you bet. Some people use a helping hand to do just that, use it as a way to get out and back into a productive life! But others, sadly, begin to depend on these handouts as a way of life and think they are entitled to them without any effort to get up and out of their particular predicament. In these instances the conservative adage is correct, get up and help yourself as soon and as often as you can!

Now I am going to tell you something you are not going to like, I am going to give you a link so you can see the pretty graphs and colorful maps, but suffice it to say the numbers, for decades now, have been quite clear: With some exceptions, what we regard as red states are sent a whole lot more of your hard-earned tax dollars than the traditional blue states. In effect, supposedly indolent, “tax and spend” liberals actually subsidize the individualistic, pure, and hard-working lifestyle of our conservative countrymen. Did you get that, my conservative friends and classmates, you are the takers, you are the ones sucking at the teat of big government, while we liberals pay for it! That is the hard truth! Click here for a link to the pretty graphs and maps. Pretty illuminating!

A VIETNAM EXPERIENCE

I found some declassified documents, which gives a snapshot of our missions and just how busy we were during Linebacker 2&3. We were deployed to Cubi Point in the Philippines from Iwakuni Japan, our home base. We flew all missions out of Da Nang, but for two reasons we kept our main base of operations in the Philippines. Reason one; President Nixon had made the statement that all combat Marines had been pulled out of the Da Nang area of Viet Nam. So we were told to grow our hair and mustaches long, basically a loose form of Navy regs. We could wear any combination of Army and Marine jungles we could lay our hands on.  No dog tags, no insignia, ID card in boot, no covers.  Reason two; the NVA had put a sizable bounty on our jets because besides electronically protecting all the fighters and B52 bombers going up north to wreak havoc on their ability to wage war, we were also very good at finding SAM missile sites and directing strikes to within yards of where they were sitting. So every black pajama clad lad around Da Nang was lobbing rockets at our flight line. As a result we were not popular with our neighbors! We were not allowed liberty in Nam; we were required to stay in our operational area, no gabbing with strangers. We could go to chow in the Army Mess once a day, our choice. We could not have any barracks, chow hall, or supply, because we were not actually there! The rest of the time we ate whatever we could scrounge. If we were asked by anyone who we were we instructed to tell them we were Army truck drivers. This did not fool anyone, but the basic reason we dressed and looked like we did is so a photographer could not take a picture and slap it on the cover of Life Magazine showing Marines were indeed in Da Nang.  Our jets did have Marine in big bold letters down the side, but hey, it was the military, what can I say! Once the jets had run all the missions and hours they could handle without falling apart, we took them back to Cubi, and a new crew with fresh jets headed for Da Nang.  The crew coming back stayed on the flight line in the PI and repaired the jets they had brought back until they were ready to roll, after a good meal of course in the Navy chow hall. Then 12 hours off, then repeat. We usually had worked a 48 hour shift or better, but it was a 3 hour flight to and from Da Nang, and I would be asleep as soon as wheels up on the C130 both ways.

These jets were EA6A Grumman intruders. There were several versions of the A6, the EA version was an electronic warfare bird, very advanced back then. Everything on it was Final Secret, the other Sgt. from Avionics, Sgt. Regan, was the only other person I know of beside myself to have this clearance. We both were Sgts working out of Avionics electric shop. Except for countermeasures, radar, and the radio, we were responsible for everything else that had electrons running through it in the aircraft. All of the wiring, flight instruments, fuel systems, flight computers, visual display consoles, engine wiring, landing gear, anything that had a wire or an electric actuator or switch, and on and on. This aircraft carried no conventional weapons. Where other versions of this jet would carry extra fuel to act as an emergency refuel stations, on ours this  was a computer room. All of the skin on the top of the fuselage came off and was full of computers, huge wire looms, and signal feeds. Basically we were the first ones to check out any gripe on the aircraft, and then once we determined it was not our equipment, or the wiring or power supply going to someone else’s equipment, we could tell them to pull their equipment and repair or replace it. I had also been trained in how to test and repair the ASN-66 flight computer, but I hated sitting in an air-conditioned van with no windows fixing the same thing all day. So I was never so happy as the day I got transferred to Avionics. Much harder and more technical, but never boring, I loved my job!  By the time I was a L/Cpl I had a license for everything in the squadron with wheels. Trucks, jeeps, tractors, support equipment of all kinds, you name it I was licensed to drive it. Then I got the only one I really cared about, a seat license for the EA6A. This meant I could climb in, fire it up, and test engines, cockpit equipment, and the like. I could go to the compass rose and set the remote compass and transmitters to spec, the compass rose was a big huge plate that you took the jet to out and away form any metal buildings or other aircraft that could possible disturb the electromagnetic fields. It turned and was incremented and set for magnetic north at it’s starting point. All compass settings had to be done with all systems on and engines running to be accurate, as both the cockpit compass and flight computer used a signal from a remote compass transmitter located in the top of the tail section. I loved this part of my job. Anytime anyone fixed anything in the cockpit or anything that required the jet to be fired up to test, I got the call. I was the only tech who went to Nam and the PI to have a seat license, so I got to play a lot.

When we first got there and started combat missions, we had no support systems in place. We did however have, what was called fleet marine force priority one.  This basically meant that if any other A6 squadron on a carrier or anything that landed either in Nam or the PI, if it had anything on it that we could use, we were allowed to take it, as long as we gave them the broken piece of equipment so they could have it repaired. All A6 aircraft shared a lot of the same cockpit instrumentation. Both times the carrier Enterprise came into port on a liberty run we stripped both the aircraft and their supply depot down to the bone. The second time they came into port they refused to give me or the marines I had brought with me access to the liberty boat so that we would not be able to come aboard and wreak havoc. The result was that they received an order from the Admiral in charge of fleet marine forces in Westpac that I was to be treated as though I were he. It turned out that since we had started our electronic protection of the flights going to Haiphong harbor and other strategic places in North Vietnam they had not lost a single aircraft to SAM missiles. The month prior they had lost 21 aircraft, or so I heard. Anyway, I got all my broken junk carried on board; all the new stuff carried off and loaded in my 6×6 and the way we went! The two officers were yes sir, and no sir, and packing and carrying and yes, saluting me. I never did anything but stand by. I had on my rain hat with a Sgt. chevron in plain site on the front panel, so I was sure they knew my rank. Of course I did not know what orders they had been given, actually did not find out for months, but that was about as scared as I have ever been. You would have to be in the Corps to know why. I would rather have had to dodge rockets.

We stayed busy for months on end. I was nearing the end of my tour in Westpac when I went on the Cubi detachment and on to Da Nang. I had just picked up L/Cpl just before we left Japan, so as an incentive to extend they gave me and Regan both a meritorious promotion to Cpl. They needed us to run avionics but we had to be an NCO in order to do that. When we started getting short again, they gave us both meritorious promotions to Sgt., of course with the proviso that we extend again. So in a about a six month period I went from PFC to Sgt., a bump of three ranks!  A few months after that, or maybe less, I never knew what month it was and did not care, but the CO, Major Carlton, got orders from Command to send us home before we became unstable from being overseas so long. To late for that! We had both got in trouble, which I won’t go into, but the CO knew about it, so he just gave us open orders and we took off for Japan. Since we had open orders we did not have to report anywhere at any specified time, so we just went to dispersing, drew pay, and went out in Iwakuni and partied for a month, then we checked in, checked out, went home and took 30 days leave before checking in to our last duty stations.

Now some of this had been told in other articles I have written, but I was on a roll, so you got what you got. I am going to try to paste some pages I downloaded from the Internet, secret documents about our missions that have recently been declassified.  I will try and highlight anything I think may be of importance, but they are historically interesting, at least to me.

Keep in mind as you read the parts documenting our lost pilots that we knew our pilots intimately. In the air wing the pilots want to know who it is that will be keeping their aircraft in the sky. So they talked to us willingly and wanted to get to know our capabilities and us. So I knew both pilots who went down off the coast of North Vietnam. Because I had licenses to drive so many kinds of vehicles on base, I qualified to go to school and get a license to drive in Japan off base, which was very hard to get. As a result I was the only person, enlisted or officer, who had a car. So I was asked to pick up a lot of officers wives at the Hiroshima airport, some who had places not far from my place out in town. So I had a good cry when no one was looking.

The first two pages are our orders to Vietnam, describes our first combat missions in which I was the ranking NCO in Nam the first day of strikes. Further on down you will see mention of our MIA, our mission sorties, hours of operation and missions. Please pay specific attention to the last page of documents where I have put the brackets. When they are talking about maintenance and how well we performed, the supervision was primarily Sgt Regan and myself, however that is probably not who they meant. If you could take a snapshot of the flight line in the PI or Da Nang on any given day the highest rank you will ever see is Sgt, except for pilots of course, and the only two of those you will ever see is Regan or myself. The other Sgts rarely went in country, and in PI were too busy drinking coffee and hanging out in the Avionics hut polishing their chevrons. The support squadron that joined had Sgts that outranked both of us as we had just been made Sgts, but we were the official Sgts in charge, which pissed some of them off. However two of the Avionics techs that came with the support squadron turned out to be two of the best men we had. ImageImageImageImageImageImage