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INTRODUCTION: This page is reserved for special personal memories of former VFP-62 crew members. Stories which are unique, interesting, funny or sad, but most of all, stories that illustrate what life was like in VFP-62, serving on carriers, and how they transformed teenagers into men.
Contributions to this page are welcome. Remember, the statute of limitations has run out! - Webmaster.
Emergency Repairs for a Damaged Photo Crusader
and Memories that Last for a Lifetime...
...and that's NO BULL
[Preface by the Webmaster: This great story has all of the elements that capture how enlisted men "save the day", "have fun doing it", and "secure memories for a lifetime". Remember that these guys were very young men, and given the responsibility of rescuing a very expensive plane. Nowhere but in the military do you get that chance.
LT Skip Staub's obituary can be read in "In Memoriam".]
Talking about SEA STORIES, ------- I finally got all the facts straight, so here goes.
One of the first things that I learned when I checked into VFP-62 was when ever you told a TRUE SEA STORY you should always start the story off with ------ Now this is no BULL SH--. SO, ------Here we go !!!!!!!!!!
This is NO BULL !!! The year was 1965, Det-59. Just three days before we were to leave on the 8 day crossing back to the good old USA. We found ourselves still engaged in a Multi Force training exercise. Now at this time, no-one wanted to take any un-necessary chances, or even think about anything that would remotely resemble any circumstances that might jeopardize our chances of holding up our departure back home. So with that in mind, ------ of course every thing was going to turn upside down.
Some how during some in-flight operation, [LT]Skip Staub blew the emergency generator, the in-flight refueling probe, and the tail hook. He could not land on the ship with everything sticking out in all directions, so he had to make on emergency landing at a small French Air Force Base in Corsica.
That's when, James Rominger, (ADJ-3), Lester Holst, (AM/H -3) and myself, Barry Hertzog, (AE-2), were elected to go to Corsica and make the aircraft Flyable enough to make it back to the ship.
The up side of all of this was that it was going to be a great adventure. The down side was, we had no idea what kind of mess we were going to find when we got there because we were told that he had an electrical problem and that was all.
So, off we went. The CAT shot was great. We only sank down to 10 feet off of the water before we started to pick up enough speed to out run the front of the ship. When I was able to peal myself off of the back of the seat and look over at Les and Jim, and I could see that they both had already inflated their May West life vests and had canoe paddles in their hands, I think they were ready to row. It was one of those times that no words had to be spoken, but we all knew exactly what we were all feeling and thinking. Now that wasn't my first cat shot, but for a while I was sure it was going to be my last.
When we got to Corsica, we had a much better landing. The color was starting to come back into our faces, and our knuckles were starting to be able to function again. We could see that we were going to have our hands full. The situation was far more complicated then we were lead to believe. We had only taken a few quarts of Hydraulic Fluid, a few quarts of motor oil, a starter probe, a tail hook wrench with one socket, our toolboxes, and the shirts on our backs.
We could see that during that landing Mr. Staub had over shot the runway, which was far to small for our aircraft to land on, and in the process, blown a tire. Not to mention that the tail hook after dragging the length of the runway, was wore down to the nut and bolt, which was a real problem in itself.
We got to the Bird before Mr. Staub was able to meet with us, and dug right into trouble shooting as many problems as we could. They had parked the Bird off to the side of one of their flight lines, so we had to work outside. That was O.K., because it gave us a little elbowroom to bleed off the hydraulic lines that got locked up during the landing.
So there we were, dirty, covered with engine oil and hydraulic fluid, out side with no hats on in the middle of no where, when who walked up but Mr. Staub and several French officers. Of course Mr. Staub was outraged because we didn't snap to and salute him as he approached, but after he calmed down, we reminded him that with all due respect, NAVY regulations stated that enlisted personal did not salute when they were not covered. That went over big time, but all was forgiven. We told Mr. Staub that we would have a better assessment of the situation when we were able to stow all of the blown gear. We went back to work and stayed until dark trying to get the tail hook nut off so we could replace the unit, and ended up breaking the socket. Now we had no oil, no hydraulic fluid, and no tail hook socket.
Now we had to go into the second day, which didn't give us much time to get this bird back into the air. BUT FIRST--- we had to P-A-R-T-Y !!!!
We were given an interpreter to stay with us and help us communicate for whatever needs we might have. We had about $80.00 between us; so we were able, through the help of our little French friend, [to] secure a couple bottles of wine for us, a couple bottles of wine for our friend and a couple cases of beer. A few of his friends came over, we had a few beers, and then they left, after telling us where the chow hall was.
We were isolated from the rest of the base, and had an entire barracks to ourselves. The base was located at the foothills of a mountain range, and it got a little cold at night. The water in the sinks was so cold that we stopped up the drains in a couple of sinks with paper and put some of the beer in them. When we returned from a late chow call, only about forty-five minutes, we had ice-cold beer.
Mr. Staub came over for a little while and we sat around, drank a few beers, told a few sea stories. He was not only a great pilot, but one of the good guys as well. When he left, we finished off what was left of the rest of the beer. After all, that's what any good self-respecting sailor would do. We were thinking the whole time, if we missed the ship going back home, we might have to stay there for a little while longer, maybe even another eight months. Well maybe not that long, but we had to have a good reason to feel sorry for ourselves, and drink the rest of the beer. ----- Or maybe not.
Now the second day was not all that bad, except, we had to take ice cold showers. The war games now went into radio silence and we needed supplies. What else could go wrong? The French hydraulic fluid and motor oil were non-compatible to ours. Our landlines of communication went from Corsica to Cannes to Barcelona to Naples and then to the Forrestal. We were Desperate. Even Mr. Staab felt very uneasy.
We were able to get a socket from the French Maintenance Department, but of course, we broke that one as well. Now we were really getting concerned. Mr. Staub said radio silence or not, if we could get the bird ready for a test turn up with the French fluids, he would put his neck on the line and try to reach any aircraft from the ship that was flying overhead. Les and Jim knew that the fluids were not likely to last long, and would blow out in a very short time, but, hey, anything was worth a try. We would purge out the systems if or when we got back to the ship.
So we made a list of all of the equipment and supplies that we needed and gave them to Mr. Staub. Now all we had to do was wait for the next aircraft to fly overhead. And behold, a nice big fat Crusader just happened to be Johnny on the spot.
We got a turn up in record time, but got no response on the first fly by, but then, he made a wide turn, and responded by rocking his wings. Mr. Staub gave him the list that we needed, and asked for a confirmation. Again we received no verbal response, but he made another wide bank, and rocked his wings again, hit afterburner, and disappeared into the horizon. Just like in the movies.
About three hours later, a C.O.D., Guppy, or Whirly Gig what ever you wanted to call it, landed right in front of us and brought everything we asked for.
We changed out the fluids, got the tail hook point replaced, Stowed the blown Probe, the emergency generator, and re-stowed the tail hook. Mr. Staub climbed into the cockpit, cranked her up, hammered down the runway, and flew off into the wide blue yonder. Leaving us there to wonder if we were going to be able to get back to the ship in time.
We waited around a few hours more, when out of the blue, a sight to be hold, they sent another C.O.D. to pick us up. We all thought we were home safe.----- But not so!!!!!
We now had a lot more equipment then we came with, and that made the aircraft a little top heavy on the weight side, but we loaded her up anyway.
We had a little labored take off, but all seemed to be ok. Now all we had to do was get back on board, and all would be peaches and cream. But, that's not how it happened.
On the first pass, we had to take a flight deck wave off, and almost didn't get back in the air. We chugged, we shimmied, and we shook. We lost altitude, and we said a lot of prayers in a very short period of time. We all wished they would have had DEPENDS back then, I'm sure that we all could have used them.
On the second attempt, we really hit hard, caught a wire and were home free. We never found out what really happened, but the Flight Deck Officer was in that aircraft yelling, cussing and shaking his fist before the pilot ever had a chance to shut down. He followed that pilot all the way to the island, and never stopped yelling. We found out that later that the pilot had more flight hours than any other pilot on the ship, so whatever he did, must have been monumental.
And that's no BULL.
Lester Holst, James Rominger, and Barry Hertzog
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