Updated October 28, 2017
USS Shangri La Homecoming
Contributed: Bill Faber
USS Shangri La CVA-38 '63-'64 Med cruise homecoming (Mayport, Florida May or June 1964)---Photos Jerry Smith
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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.
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by Tom Satterlee (ENS. AI/PI, CMC Det. 65)
The emergency sortie of the USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) for the CMC was, as you might expect, a little hectic. However, by the third day or so at sea the ship's routine had settled down with recon air ops being conducted. (We were headed to the Windward Passage to take up our position off of Santiago de Cuba for the duration.) One returning recon pilot had reported a small unidentified boat close to our course some miles ahead. Threat, yes, no? Was it a KOMAR (PT type with surface to surface missiles.)? The recon planes didn't seem to know so, "send a photo bird to get a pic" sez the Admiral.
Word came down to the VF-33/VFP-62 Ready Room and, I think, LTJG George Gaughran got the call. Somehow any hint of the importance, emergency or possible threat of this boat to the Enterprise never reached the photomates or myself. George launches, does his job and makes a nice three-wire recovery.
The Admiral and staff had all eyes on the photo bird as it was positioned forward. Bob Tanner, AN, new to the flight deck and wearing his spit shined shoes, didn't have a clue as to the importance of this mission to the Admiral. He finds his way to the photo bird, visits with George about the equipment, etc., pulls the film canisters (no hurry in any of this) and stops to visit with some of his buddies as he starts back to the Island and the lab. Probably somewhat puckered by an unknown and possible threat to his command which was by now a couple of hours old, the Admiral found Tanner's casual attitude, can we say, troubling? I'm not sure if the flight deck bullhorn was used to speed things up, but even if it was, the Admiral sent his photo officer, LCDR Fuller, down to escort Tanner to the flash lab.
Tanner, duly impressed by all the attention, heads smartly to the island with Fuller on his heels. (Remember, at the bottom of the ladder is Captain's Country and WHITE TILE, not to be walked on by flight deck personnel!) So, with the flash lab to the right, what's an AN to do? When you hit the 02 level you break left, that's what. This Tanner does with Fuller right on his tail and chewing all the time. They proceed over a couple of knee knockers, make a right turn heading to the port side, break right again heading forward for a dozen or so knockers where they again break right bringing them (Fuller breathing hard) to - you guessed it- WHITE TILE! A left turn and a couple of knockers later they are at the flash lab. By this time Fuller is in high dudgeon wondering why Tanner was leading him in circles when speed is of the essence, a possible threat to the force, Admiral's orders, etc. etc.! Tanner tells Fuller that "flight deck personnel are prohibited from walking on the white tile and this is the everyday route we take to the flash lab, Sir".
This was no time to discuss the stupidity of this route in view of the short fuse on getting the film out, so Fuller, in a high-pitched voice, starts issuing instructions about rushing out the prints. They are in the outer space of the flash lab at this point where (PH2 Milton? PH1 Bofto?) quickly picked up the flavor of Fuller's attitude. Being a touch salter than Tanner, he tells Fuller to wait there while they process the film in the "dark room". Now Fuller had been around so he knew how film was processed, but by God, he wanted them ASAP. "Don't waste time drying them, give them to me wet!" "Yes, sir" was the response as they shut the door to the "dark room," snapped the film magazine into the processor and leaned back to enjoy the peace and quiet. When the roll was finished they cut several pictures out of the roll, carefully ran water over them, turned out the lights, cracked open the door and with a wet hand and arm, handed the dripping prints to Fuller.
As soon as they finished with Fuller they banged on the access hatch to the PI spaces to get my help as they thought they were in it deep. Other than laughter, I don't recall that there were any repercussions from this event. The "boat" in question was apparently a research vessel of some sort. Hey, you have to get up early to beat a '62 photomate.
PS: Fuller turned out to be a very pleasant and generous officer as we got to know him on the subsequent Med cruise. The "wet prints" incident was never mentioned.
"Dunking the Skipper"
by George Rodgers
[Webmaster's Note: Ed Kiem was the first CO of VFP-62 in 1958. See "Squadron History" Page for his scrapbook photos.]
Ed Kiem was a Commander in charge of the Photo School in Pensacola when I went through and he became skipper of VFP-62 just before I got orders to that squadron. He made Captain after he arrived at NAS JAX (on his 40th birthday). There just happened to be a big inspection that day, dress whites and all. Some of the young pilots thought it would be fun to wet down his new stripes by throwing him in the pool (dress whites sword and all). They/we did it but when he was in mid air, we had second thoughts. But he came up to the surface, bubbling and laughing, seeming to enjoy the joke, thank God.
How young and dumb, and also lucky we all were in those days. As a matter of fact I feel pretty lucky now to be here, and be able to tell you these stories.
"Wild Ride in a Photo Beech Craft"
by Dave Stokes
A story about that photo beech VFP62 had: I checked in the squadron on Jan. 1957. I worked on the line as a plane captain on Banshee's, F9's and photo Beech since I was already checked out on it.
There was a 1st class named Neal who got the flight pay for the Beech and I never received any flight pay because he kept it all. In the morning I did the preflight and turn up on the Beech and two
pilots came out to fly it. They were going to do instrument approaches to Mayport and needed an observer. The CRD asked me if I was the plane captain and I said yes so he ORDERED ME to fly as observer. I told the pilots Neal the 1st class was getting the flight pay and I would go and get him to fly with him. He said NO and for me to get into the plane. Who was I to say no to a CDR so I climbed into the plane and sat behind the CDR.
We took off and headed for Mayport. He put the blinders down in front of him and made a few approaches to Mayport We took off after landing at Mayport and headed out to make another approach and out of nowhere flew 11 AD 6's. We flew right through them and they split formation as I warned the pilot and they missed us by 25 feet.
He did not remove the blinders and kept saying where are they. I told him we flew between the formation and all of a sudden one AD 6 who was trying to catch up to the group flew directly in front of us port to starboard. All the time the pilot kept saying where are they as I almost wet my pants.
After that flight I told Neil I didn't want to work on the Beech anymore. At the time I was 19 but I think I aged 5 years.
"The Case of the Wayward Dog Tags"
by Greg Engler
[Webmaster's Note: In creating these pages, I was hoping to receive such a story as this. If we're all honest, we have done things that could have gotten us into trouble, but by good fortune, and in this case, shear creativity and connections, the result turned out fine. Kudos Greg for testing the premise of this page: "The Statute of Limitations has Run Out".]
I believe it was in 1963 that this occurred: One evening while working the night shift line at Cecil Field I was on top of an RF8 taking a radio pack out of the aircraft. The radio packs were the size of a wash drum and they were held in place by two pins underneath that also had safety wire on them. To remove the wire and pins you had to lie down on top of the plane behind the canopy and reach under the radio pack. I had cut and pulled the safety wireand while pulling the pins I hear a noise like something had fallen into the compartment with the radio. I removed the radio and looked down into the space where it came from and saw two colored lens that go with the flashlights we used. For some reason I had put two of them in my shirt pocket. I then realized that earlier in the day I had received a brand new set of dog tags and that I had put them in the shirt pocket as well. Had they fallen into the A/C with the lens or had I dropped them somewhere earlier in the day or put them somewhere??
I looked and looked and couldn't see the tags in the compartment so that meant if they had fallen inside then they must have fallen down though the openings along the sides of the compartment and ended up in the belly of the plane. At first I didn't think it was much of a big deal as no one would find them. Later I thought "what if the plane goes down somewhere and my tags were inside". Any investigation as to the cause might turn up my dog tags if they indeed were in the planes belly and the tags might be ruled as to the cause of the downing. My name and serial number were on those tags of course so it would be easy to find who they belonged to.
I thought that I had better tell someone but the plane was due to fly to Norfolk the next day and go aboard the Enterprise which was getting ready to deploy to the Med for 8 months. To remove the tags would have meant that several dozen rivets would have to be removed to pull apanel to get inside the belly of the A/C. Then the rivets and the panel would have to be replaced and there would be tons and tons of paperwork. I figured that the plane then would not be ready to take its trip the next day to Norfolk if I reported the incident. So....................................................., I didn't say anything.
What I did do though was write a letter to my brother who was attached to a fighter squadron that was going with the Enterprise to the Med . My brother was an ATN 2 as well. I told him that I suspected that a new set of my dog tags might be inside one of the planes which I identified by tail number and
asked him to talk to the VFP AT's to be on the lookout for them.
About three months later I received a letter from my brother and inside were my dog tags, still taped together. One or more of the pilots had done a few rolls and the tags had slipped back up into the compartment and had lodged on the topside. Then when the radio pack was removed at some point
one of the AT's spotted them and gave them to my brother.
I was greatly relieved about getting them back as I had searched and searched for them in the line shack and the barracks and in my locker and anywhere I could think of and the tags never showed up. Anyway, it all turned out okay. I had my new tags back, the plane was still flying and apparently no one reported finding them and I didn't get my azz busted.
Greg Engler, former AT2
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Created on ... November 29, 2007