Thursday, August 28, 2014

Vittles and Deep Thoughts

The view from our table, looking upriver. The Warren River.
Back in July we had the opportunity to visit the Wharf Tavern in Warren, RI. I did write of that pleasurable lunch time experience, but there were very few pictures of my own accompanying that epic tale. In fact only one. Today I intend to remedy that lack of photographs. Sadly, our re-visitation of the place was marked by the food being much less tasty than on our previous visit.

As The WSO was heard to remark, "How can you possibly screw up lobster mac and cheese?"

Someone found a way. It was truly unremarkable.

The Nuke's scallops were actually quite good. My swordfish was, well it was swordfish. Let's leave it as that.

But you just can't beat the view from the Wharf Tavern. (Well you can, but not without paying an arm and a leg OR having to use paper plates at a clam shack. Fighting the seagulls for each tasty morsel.) Prices at the Wharf are reasonable, though sometimes the quality of the dining experience leaves summat to be desired.

While I'm no gourmand, I do expect consistency from visit to visit.

Oh well, there was still Guinness to be had. Though it be the canned variety, it's still Guinness. (Besides which, I like the little plunger in the can, it's like a wee keg in there!)

Moi et Guinness numéro un.
The view looking downriver, towards Narragansett Bay.
"Angry clouds" (as Little Bit calls them) across the water, though they amounted to naught.
At least where we were sitting. Can't speak for those folks under said clouds.
So we all went out to eat last Saturday instant. The weather was lovely.

Which was fortunate as we arrived at the restaurant sans reservations. The hostess seemed to react to our answer of "No, we don't have a reservation" much the same way (I expect) as if we'd walked in and said "Hi, we just all peed on the carpet in the entryway, you might want to clean that up." Or some shocked and appalled look of a similar nature.

Meh. We are perhaps at times overly spontaneous.

As to the weather, the hostess asked if we'd like to dine outside? As the weather was gorgeous and the breeze off the river tends to keep the insects further inland, we said "Why not?"

(Just now I learned that whereas we say "al fresco" for dining in the open air, the Italians don't. They will use all'aperto or fuori instead. And yes, al fresco is Italian and literally means "in the cool (air)". It's educational we are!)

A few of the boats and houses which are rather out of reach of my current circumstances.
I console myself by saying "I'd hate to live there during a hurricane!"
Still, I might like to try.
What you'd call a "working boat". Probably a lobsterman.
(Were I to hazard a guess, which I just did.)
The evening approaches, another day in Little Rhody draws to a close.
I thought the ducks were a nice touch.
Hhmm, vittles and deep thoughts. I mentioned the vittles already, adequate at best. Our waitress, while very friendly, was not on the whole very efficient. I remarked upon this very topic to The Nuke, saying that I prefer friendly over efficient. The Nuke's rejoinder was "Why can't we have both?"

I thought her attitude somewhat harsh, until it took over 30 minutes for my second Guinness to arrive. In her defense, there was a wedding reception in the upstairs party room, keeping the barkeep rather busy. When I mentioned this to The Nuke she indicated that perhaps management should hire more staff. I couldn't disagree. First world problems, neh? ("I say Muffy, just where is my second aperitif? Sorry excuse for a staff, do pass the caviar would you?")

As to deep thoughts...

Maybe later this week. The National Weather Service is calling for a rant by me any day now. The conditions are perfect for such an event. High pressure building between my ears and such.

A second squadron of ducks hove to and awaiting sunset.
Orange sky with contrails.
Night falls and the festive lights come on.
I had a great time with the daughters and the senior granddaughter, though it was far too short. We ate lots of good food, much of which was prepared by The Missus Herself, when the kids come home, the first question is always, "Where's the Korean food?"  I did imbibe a couple of adult beverages from time to time (always "a couple", one is never enough) and was regaled with tales of the Naval Service.

As always, Little Bit was spoiled terribly. It's what we grandparents do. It's in the job description.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014


U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Alan D. Monyelle. (RELEASED)
USS Ogden (LPD-5), an Austin-class amphibious transport dock, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for Ogden, Utah. Ogden was laid down on 4 February 1963 by the New York Naval Shipyard. She was launched on 27 June 1964 sponsored by Mrs. Laurence J. Burton, and commissioned at New York City on 19 June 1965 with Captain Floyd M. Symons in command. Wikipedia
As some of you may know, The Nuke, The WSO and Little Bit have been visiting since the middle of last week. I have been absent from the blogoverse in all that time.

It's time to make that up to you. While Tuna and Juvat are amazing, incredible and talented guys, who tell amazing tales, etc., etc., they ain't the Old Air Force Sarge. (And I'm sure they are truly thankful for that!)

So, I'm back and I bring pictures and some very crudely edited video shot by our very own LUSH from the back seat of her jet. That footage features the demise of the ex-USS OGDEN.

When I first saw the footage, it rang a number of bells. Recently, Juvat told us the story of his days at sea onboard USS CORONADO, I thought that the silhouettes of OGDEN and CORONADO looked very similar. So a-Googling I went, there to discover that Ogden was an Austin-class LPD. So was CORONADO originally...
USS Coronado (LPD/AGF-11) was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named after the city of the same name in the U.S. state of California. She was designed as an Austin-class amphibious transport dock (LPD), one of seven fitted with an additional superstructure level for command ship duties. Wikipedia
So my eyes didn't deceive me! (Today at any rate...)

So with all that being said and without further ado, some RIMPAC pics and a video. All courtesy of the Bullets of VFA-2, specifically LUSH.

The view astern of USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN-76)
(LUSH framed the shot nicely between the Rhino tails!)

JS ISE (DDH 182) with the USS PELELIU (LHA 5) just aft

A nice shot of JS KIRISHIMA (DDG 174) trailed by two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and an
Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate. There is another ship behind the fig but she's obscured.
(I believe that's the USS CHAFEE (DDG-90) to the right of the photo)

That's the view out of The WSO's office, on her way to work.

Like I said, I had to do some editing to get the original video down to a size and format that Blogger was comfortable with. The original is kind of "bouncy" in parts as The WSO was zoomed way in. And she was in a jet. Circling a ship being bombed.

So the "bounciness" is from the original video, the choppy edits are all mine.

That's what comes of getting a cheap tool to convert video formats. (Think "free", nothing cheaper than that. And I never claimed to be anything but cheap frugal.)


I talked with The WSO today, turns out it was her camera, but a fellow Bullet (Donnie) actually shot the footage.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Guns, Eagle Style

A while back, Murphy’s Law was pining away about how he was going to spend his lottery winnings and buy an F-86.  A worthwhile expenditure to be sure, but MSgt B joined the discussion with a comment about knowing a guy on Okinawa that had one that he used to tow targets for the F-15s. 
This would be that Jet
Photo copied from Here
And that comment fired the synapses that bring forth this story.

So, There I was……*  I’m at Kadena having been checked out in an F-15 in the short course  at Luke AFB, 3 months and probably about 50 hours. Soloing in a jet on your first ride is thought provoking that’s for sure.  At least they save the AB takeoff until a little bit later.  Release brakes and punch it is eye opening.  Even on a hot Arizona afternoon, by the  time you’ve checked the engines, (Why?  I’m mean really, it’s quite obvious to the most casual observer they are functioning beautifully), anyhow, by the time you check the engines, you’re at rotate speed.  A small touch of the stick and you’re airborne, you keep pulling on the stick to keep the airspeed under control (yeah right) and avoid overspeeding the gear.  Slap them up, and you’re still pulling back on the pole waiting for the gear light to go out.  You’re now about 45 degrees nose high and tower tells you to contact departure.  (Phoenix is a busy place airspace wise).  You’re still pulling as you contact departure and they tell you to level at 18000’.  You think, piece of cake, until you look at the altimeter.  A quick increase of the g, and your vertical climb turns into an immelman and you’re level, inverted but level, at 18000’.  You’re first cognitive thought is “Gawd, what an airplane!”

So, anyhow, I’m at Kadena, been there a couple of months, deployed to Kwanju for Team Spirit, so kind of settling in.  My flight commander, in a rare turn of events, happened to be one of my students at Holloman.  He’d been an F-4 WSO and been selected for Pilot Training.  Got an F-15 as his assignment, gone through Holloman and had been at Kadena for about 2 and a half years. Pretty good guy and a decent stick. Let’s call him Jeff.  The schedule has been posted and I’ve got the first go flying on Jeff’s wing for a Dart ride.

Juvat, what is a Dart ride?  Words do not convey what a Dart Ride is.  Take all the awesomeness of flying the F-15, break out your awesomizer ray (you have one of those don’t you?) and run it completely out of awesomizer stuff, and you might have a description of a Dart Ride.  Ok, I might have gotten a little carried away on that.

A Dart Ride is an opportunity to take a pair of F-15 Eagles and shoot the  M-61 Vulcan 20mm 6 barrel cannon at an airborne target!  6000 rounds a minute.  A 100 rounds a second. 954 rounds on board, well, fully loaded. We get 200.

I’ve fired on the Dart before and frankly had a problem.  Coming from an Air to Ground background, I’d learned to strafe and shooting the gun in a strafe mission is different than shooting the gun on an Air to Air mission.  In a strafe mission, killing the bad guy is a good thing, but there are usually a lot of them, so keeping their heads down and disrupting their plan is also important.  So, in a strafing pass, you usually try to fire as few rounds as possible.  20 rounds or so is desirable, all on target of course.  Not so in air to air.

In Dan Hampton’s book “Lords of the Sky: Fighter Pilots and Air Combat, from the Red Baron to the F-16” (a great book, you should read it)   his description of the various aircraft includes a description of the firing rate, number of guns and weight of the round and adds a number that tells you the total amount of metal the aircraft throws at the opponent. That took me a while to learn.  Strafe, you squeezed the trigger and released, then the gun fired.  Here, you needed to squeeze until you heard the gun and then release.  You really wanted about a hundred rounds each time.  Bullet density is going to get you the kill.

Jeff and I have the first flight of the day, we’ll actually take off before sunrise, so our brief starts about 0400.  We’re about ready to step to the jets, and I copy down our tail numbers.  I notice that the tail number assigned to me is the jet with my name painted on the side.  (“My jet” is not acceptable vernacular around here and calling it "The Crew Chief’s Jet" while technically true does not convey the meaning I desire.)  It is a great jet, Radar works well, it flies well, straight and true which is not always the case.  The crew chief and assistant crew chief are good at what they do and I have a good relationship with them.  Things are just falling into place.

It’s starting to get light as we start the jets and it looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, light winds, and good visibility.  We’re in the arming area, with the gun safety pin and warning  flag showing, telling the arming crew that we’re going shooting. On more normal missions, the safety pin is inserted inside the gun door, so doesn't interfere with flight.  Guns hot, master arm switch triple checked off,  we take the runway.
Departure from Kadena was easy.  Take off, put the gear up, turn toward your assigned airspace and once over water, cleared all altitudes.  We’re taking off about 10 minutes ahead of our target as we have to perform the safety check and make sure there are no surface vessels in the area.  Typically, we would climb to a medium high altitude ~25000’ or so, but not today. 

Today, as soon as we get feet wet, Jeff sends me out to tactical spread formation, about 9000’ line abreast and with an altitude split of a couple thousand feet.  I move out and start to climb a bit, but he’s pushing over and levels off at about 500’.  In a low level situation, the wingman does not take an altitude separation so as to not highlight the formation, so I level off with Jeff on the Horizon.  I notice that Jeff has not pulled the power back either, we’re still in military power, so the ocean is passing by at a great rate.

We’re approaching the eastern edge of the operating area, the sun is beginning its climb and we hear the target check in on the frequency.  Today, we’re not using any GCI, to help us with the intercept, we’ll be relying on our own  radar to handle that.  Jeff has briefed that first radar contact will run the intercept and first visual gets first shot.  Not all flight leads are that lenient. 

The target calls that he’s in the area and we are cleared to turn hot.  Still headed east, I notice Jeff’s burner’s light.  This is not hard, as it is still dark enough to see the bright white streak coming out of the back of his jet.  I light mine and am instantly through the Mach.  I watch Jeff begin to pull and I match him in a gigantic accelerating immelman, rolling out headed west at 38000’.  I glance at the radar and have a contact about 70 miles on the nose, check the squawk and it’s our target.  I get to run the intercept.

He’s at 20k and as we get to about 40 mile range, I get the "Reno" (I've got a target formation breakout on my radar) on the actual thing we’re going to shoot, the dart about 1500’ in trail of the F-86.  That’s a great advantage, since when we get to lockon range, I can lockon to the actual target and the target box on my Heads Up Display will appear over it instead of the F-86.

We’re still in the high 30’s when we get to lockon range.  I lock and my jet’s systems are spot on.  I catch a flash of sunlight off the dart and can make out the F-86 also.  I call visual, Jeff and the target call No Joy.  I talk Jeff’s eyes on the target and am starting my vertical conversion and tell the target to start the turn and look up.  I pop a flare.  (We can’t shoot unless he sees us)  All have a tally and we’re cleared hot.  

Master arm hot.  Finger off the trigger (Rule 3 applies).  I’m now almost vertical in my dive and he’s slightly off the right side of my nose.  He’s got two choices, turn into me, which would put him on Jeff’s nose or turn away from me, putting him on my nose.  At this point it really doesn’t matter, I am pulling lead by rolling the jet and he can’t deny me turning room as I’m well above him.  He turns away from me, I make a small roll to establish lead and begin the pull out of the dive as I close the range.

The pipper is settling down and the range is closing rapidly, I’m in gun range ~2500’, but pause.  I’d been making that mistake before, and didn't intend to make it again.  1500’, one last check of master arm.  It’s hot, finger on the trigger. 1200’ Squeeze and hold.  The pipper is dead steady as I hear the Gun fire.  Release the trigger and pull on the stick, still have a lot of overtake, so immediately roll to keep the target it sight.  Look back high to find Jeff and prepare to reattack when out of the corner of my eye, I see an amazing array of flashes.  The target had disintegrated and all the tinfoil parts were fluttering in the sunlight like little mirrors as they made their way to the ocean. 

Tow pilot calls “knock it off”, and we clear out of the way.  Without the aerodynamics of the dart to stabilize the cable, he needs to jettison it quickly before it has a chance to do anything bad.  He lets it go, and we head home.  Jeff does a quick battle damage check of me,  nothing, and because it’s required, I do one on him.  Not surprisingly, he’s fine. 

I, however, am higher than a kite.  I’m ready to take on anybody and everybody.  We pitch out, land, dearm and debrief the jets with maintenance.  Pull the VCR Tape and invite the crew chief and assistant to the flight debrief to watch some “really cool S**t!”.  Walking back to the Squadron, Jeff tells me I owe him a beer since he didn't get to shoot, but , he says, “I just wanted to do that once with someone who didn't start in an Eagle, someone who might recognize just how much better this jet is than anything flying.  Guess I did!”

*What's the difference between a fairy tale and a war story, a fairy tale begins "once upon a time.  A war story begins "so, there I was".

Friday, August 22, 2014

"Welcome to Oregon. We hope you brought a fire extinguisher."

Sorry for the lousy shot.  It's hard to snap a picture at 75mph.  I had to blow it up to display it here.

Oregon used to take a little heat from their old border sign stating "Welcome to Oregon.  We hope you enjoy your visit" which was a subtle way of saying please visit, but just don't stay. Now it's the more inviting "Oregon Welcomes You."  I recently returned from a quick trip up there to visit family on the occasion of the wife's little sis #1 turning 40.  When my father retired from the Navy, we moved from San Diego to a piece of property in Selma Oregon.  I’m using the term “property” vice “home” because we were moving to 5 acres of unimproved land that my father had purchased while on leave from the Navy.  He was stationed at Alameda Naval Air Station in the Bay Area and decided to take a drive up the 101, eventually finding his way up the Redwood Highway into Southern Oregon.  He fell in love with the beautiful green tree-filled landscape of the Pacific Northwest and wanted to have a share in it.

Ye Olde Oregon Homestead.  My father and grandfather built this.

What you see in that picture is a lot of green surrounding the home in the previous photo.  That’s how I remember Oregon, thick green woods filled with pine trees and former logging roads.  Except now, as you can see in the intro picture, it’s not all that green.  Sure, the trees are all still there (Environmentalists saving the Spotted Owl have pretty much killed the timber industry in the area), but the hillsides not covered in trees are all dry and brown.  Years of drought have led to the driest countryside ever seen in the PacNorwest.  And that means perfect fire conditions.

It seems like the entire state is on fire.  Not quite, but close.  So close that my brother, an Oregon Army National Guardsman was busy driving a water tanker truck into the area near this fire:
Old Blue Mountain Fire in Southern Oregon
This is the "Old Blue Mountain Fire", but  there are several others.  As I researched this post, the websites couldn't even keep up with the news reports as new fires were popping up as old ones like this were being contained.  Many due to lightning, some to unknown causes, still under investigation, which unfortunately means arson for a couple of them.

It's a little disconcerting that at least for my family, they’ve gotten very used to the smoky air, the fire reports, and the sound of the firefighting aircraft flying over.  That last one surprised me.  Due to my aviation background, I almost ALWAYS look up when I hear aircraft fly over, but it didn’t even faze them.  During dinner in the backyard of my sister-in-law’s place, both an Ericson AirCrane (formerly the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe) and a Bell 412 (UH-1 Huey) flew overhead, probably on their way to Lake Selmac to pick up another load of water.

My original intent for this post was to discuss the military aircraft that have gone onto civilian use in various roles, or to other militaries.  My inspiration for this idea came from my last post about the S-3's heading for Korea.  I got to thinking about the S-2 Tracker and how the Navy sold them to many other countries, of which some are still in use.   However, in the middle of my effort to gather pictures of those second-life aircraft, I drove into Oregon and realized there was another story to tell. 

The S-2T barely resembles its Stoof/Tracker roots, with new turboprop engines and a nosejob.
CAL-Fire, or the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has a fleet of 23 S-2T 1200 gallon airtankers.  My wife's uncle flew S-2s for the Navy, then later for CAL-Fire.  These Trackers aren't operating in Oregon, but they do great work in also-fire-ravaged California.  There are quite a few former Navy aircraft in the firefighting biz as they are well qualified for the rigors of the job.

"After World War II ended, an abundance of surplus military aircraft found their way into the fledgling aerial firefighting industry.  The combination of a large payload and the high performance of many bombers, attack aircraft, and transports allowed enterprising companies to modify airframes with large tanks for carrying borate and water for dousing wildfires.  Some of these modifications were straightforward; large tanks were inserted into existing bomb bays and after the bomb bay doors were opened, the payload was released by opening valves.  Other aircraft were fitted with tanks within the fuselage, with plumbing inserted through the floor to allow for the release of the fire suppressant underneath the aircraft."

The Tracker and a buddy

The Tracker is obviously not alone.  The P-2V Neptune, P-3 Orion, and even my beloved PBY Catalina have been put to use fighting fires.

Aircraft* attacking the Rogue River Drive fire in Southern Oregon last week.
(Photo by Jamie Lusch, Medford Mail-Tribune)

These airplanes have gone from dropping torpedoes to dropping water or fire retardant on their enemy.  There are several others in the game, not just the bombers.  Tankers obviously have a role as well. 

DC-10 operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, on deck in Medford Oregon 

10 Tanker Air Carrier on the job
Coulson C-130 Air Tanker

They've followed other aircraft such as the B-17, B-25, DC-3, PB4Y Privateer, F7F Tigercat and Grumman TBM Avenger.  Some of these aircraft didn't wait to be civilianized before joining the fight.  The C-130, UH-1, MH-60S, CH-46, CH-47, CH-53, (and probably others) have played a role in firefighting while still on active duty.

An Oregon Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter returns to the Madras Airport after successfully dumping water on a target area in the Logging Unit Fire.

Video Links here and here.  Turn your volume down for the second one.

These aircraft need some airborne command and control and fire-spotting to aid in their fight.  The AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter and the OV-10A Bronco assist in that role.  You probably noticed the Bronco earlier in this post.  Here's another shot.

The AH-1 surprised me.  I had no idea these had transitioned to a firefighting role.  More specifically, a fire-scouting role. 

These were being preflighted at the Weed Airport (no, not that kind of weed) in Northern California.  Probably heading for one or more of several wildfires raging in the region.  The US Forest Service has two dozen in their livery, which are used around the country.  With multiple sensors onboard, their mission is primarily Firefighter Support using an infrared thermal imager.
With the FLIR System IR camera's ability to see even the smallest of surface temperature change, areas of concern that are hidden due to smoke are now visible from the air. Using an air-to-ground frequency, the FireWatch Cobra can have a 'bird's eye view' of the fire below while the firefighters on the ground can be directed to areas of concern.
While the air attack capability is awesome and an outstanding force-multiplier, these battles can't be won from the air alone.  It takes a ton of courageous men and women on the ground to clear brush, create firebreaks, and cool down hot-spots.  In fact the young man that grew up in my room after my family sold it to his father, stood on those fire lines for a few summers while going to college;  Later graduating to become a member of the thin blue line in Benton County Oregon.

As for the fire closest to home?  As of the time I'm posting this, my brother was still on the job, but not nearly as busy as he had been.

Thousands of gallons of helicopter-borne water was poured on the Old Blue Mountain Fire Tuesday, significantly knocking out numerous hot spots within the 99-acre blaze that broke out late Monday during a thunderstorm. Early this morning, Incident Commander Steve Wetmore (ODF) reported “Old Blue is one hundred percent lined and one hundred percent plumbed,” meaning the fire line was completed overnight and a system of fire hoses now encircles the burned area. The fire is 30 percent contained. The firefighters’ objective today is to mop-up hot spots 300 feet inside the fire line and patrol outside of the fire line to watch for spot fires. Helicopters and air tankers are available, if necessary.
 I'm sure glad they're available and I'm thankful for all the firefighters keeping my former home safe.  I know they've given my Oregon family some peace of mind, they don't even look up anymore.

*Can anyone help with the make and model of this one?  Lockheed Electra?  P-3A? C-118 Liftmaster?  I'm stumped.
Authors Note:  Confirmed by Uncle Skip in the comments- DC-7 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I Can Relate

Anna Nalick
by MBTrama on Flickr
 Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
The first time I heard this song, it was played for me by one of my daughters. (Can't remember which one, I'll ask. The memory, the second thing to go.)

I liked it from that first piano chord.

The lady can sing.

Oh my word, can she sing.

Enjoy. I'll be hanging with The Nuke, The WSO and Little Bit for a few days. Posting could be sparse. We shall see. No promises. No regrets.

Just breathe folks.

Just breathe...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Witness to History

The Blue House (청와대 - Cheongwadae)
by somedragon2000 -
Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
I came out of a very deep sleep, slowly, ever so slowly. Seems that The Missus Herself was trying to wake me up.



You need to wake up...

"Um, huh, what is it? What's wrong?"

The President has been assassinated...

Sitting up quickly, "Who's President?"

The Korean President, Park Chung-Hee...

Ah crap!

With that bit of knowledge, a number of things went through my head, should I shave before I go to work? Do I need to go to work? What the Hell is going on and what happens next?

It was a Saturday morning in October in the Land of the Morning Calm. Truth be told, things were anything but calm on that particular morning.

It was 1979. I had been stationed in Korea since September of the previous year. We had a two month old baby (our first child who would grow up to be The Naviguesser) and we were living in Kunsan City (군산시), "on the economy," as they say. I was a young (26) Weapons System Control (WCS) mechanic at nearby Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea and life was good.

Though I had a line number for promotion to Staff Sergeant, I was still a three-stripe member of the E-4 Mafia. At the time I was called an E-4 Sergeant as opposed to an E-4 Senior Airman. Said lofty position being attained only just before leaving Okinawa back in '78. (E-4s nowadays are just Senior Airmen, they eliminated the E-4 Sergeant position a while back, I think while I was in Germany. I don't rightly recall as I was not asked to chime in on that idea. It made sense to me at the time to get rid of that title for an E-4.)

Now I had been looking forward to this assignment for quite some time. I'd been trying to get assigned to Korea since 1976. In fact, I had extended my 18-month tour on Okinawa twice, six months each time, in order to get this assignment.

Of course, there's that old saying "Be careful what you wish for..."

So there I was*, something like 15 minutes flying time south of the 38th Parallel, a member of one of the finest fighter wings to ever take to the skies, awakened from my normal Saturday rack time and faced with the distinct possibility that I might be about to partake of an actual shooting war.


This had occurred earlier in my Air Force career while assigned to the second best fighter wing to ever take to the skies on the fair isle of Okinawa (沖縄県). That "almost got to take part in a shooting war" was in August of 1976. I'd been in the Air Force all of fifteen months and on Okinawa for all of seven months. I was still fairly inexperienced at my chosen profession when we were recalled to duty in the wee hours of Thursday, August 19th.

Upon reporting for duty, we were informed that two U.S. Army officers had been murdered by the North Korean Army in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ, roughly the 38th Parallel). I always remember this as the Tree Cutting Incident which you can read about here. I won't go into the details.

After hearing one of our superiors telling us why we were recalled, one of the E-4 Sergeants in the room stated, "Oh boy, we're going to war!", in a rather jocular tone. The rest of us all turned and stared at him. I heard at least one reference to fire trucks and idiots (or something to that effect). When we faced front once more, our Tech Sergeant (Billy, a great leader, smoked unfiltered Pall Malls, uniform was starched to the point that if he ever died on duty, it would be a few days before he would actually fall over) had this look like Death come to dinner on his face, staring at the fool who offered up the "Oh boy."

"Do you understand what happens in a war, you asshole? People die. Their people, our people. They die. Do you understand that? Asshole. Now get the eff outta my briefing!"

Said idiot departed.

Within two days the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing had deployed two full squadrons of F-4 Phantoms up north to Korea.

That's right 48** F-4 Phantom II fighter bombers, each capable of carrying up to 18,650 pounds of weapons on nine external hard points.

Within a few more days we could have had another squadron's worth of old Double-Ugly on station and ready to kick some serious butt. Not to mention the multitude of Phantoms stationed in Korea and what the Navy always brings to the party in terms of aircraft carriers and such (back then we had battleships boys and girls, battleships!)

In the face of such force, the NORKs backed down, war was averted and life returned to "normal" on the Air Force's unsinkable aircraft carrier, Kadena Air Base.

To return to our story, there I was, three years and change later, on the brink of war. Again.

So, The Missus Herself had awakened me and brought me up to speed as regards current events. Not good. Not good at all. What better time for the NORKs to make trouble and perhaps launch themselves on their oft stated mission of reuniting the Korean peninsula?

With the government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) in disarray, it might be the break the a-holes to the north of the DMZ were looking for.

Later, we found out that a number of ROK army units had actually pulled out of their positions on the DMZ and moved south to the capital of Seoul, ya know, just in case. It looked and smelled like a coup was in progress. Who could blame them?

Excepting of course the guys left behind who had to hastily fill those vacated gaps. Because...

NORK1: "Hey Comrade Chong!"

NORK2: "What is it Comrade Kim?"

NORK1: "You know those running dog lackies of the Imperialist Westerners who normally man that outpost across the way?"

NORK2: "What about those capitalist stooges and enemies of the Proletariat?"

NORK1: "Well, they've boogied, pissed off, headed South."

NORK2: "Seriously, Comrade Chong?"

NORK1: "Seriously, Comrade Kim?"

NORK2: "Say let's ask Commissar Moon what we should do. Now might be a good time to liberate the oppressed members of the working classes down in the South!"

Of course, that last bit was all artistic license. In real life there would have been invocations of how wonderful the North was, yada, yada.

Bottom line though is that nothing happened.

I did get dressed in full Air Force battle rattle (think steel pot and flak vest, nothing to menace the enemy with other than grimaces and fist shaking) and headed on into work.

A large number of Korean soldiery were present on the streets of our fair city. Mostly manning sand-bagged machine gun emplacements presenting very war-like faces at the passers-by. (And trust me, no one can make a war face better than a Korean. Ask the Viet Cong, they were terrified of the Koreans. Hell, I'm married to one, I'm terrified of angry Koreans.)

I also noted a larger police presence than I was used to. Every intersection had a policeman. Armed with a submachine gun. Again, sporting a look suggesting that trouble would be met with deadly force. So move along, nothing to see here!

We spent the day in our shop, wondering what was going to happen next. We had no aircraft in our hangar with a radar requiring calibration, nor did the flightline weenies require our assistance in getting our jets ready to go anywhere.

So yes, the pinochle deck came out. (Don't tell the lieutenant!)

During our "vigil" (war or no war) one of our number mentioned, "Jeepers, isn't Dave up in Seoul this weekend, getting married?"

Sure enough, Dave was in the capital for his nuptials.

When he returned (once travel was again permitted) he told us of his honeymoon.

There were tanks in the streets.


Along with the ubiquitous machine gun emplacements. Can't have a coup without tanks and machine guns can you?

Things settled down. Life returned to "normal" at Kunsan Air Base, home of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, the mighty Wolf Pack.***

Though I never saw a shooting war, the VFW says that I'm a "war veteran" based on my assignment to Korea. (There was never a peace treaty after the events of 1950 to 1953, just an armistice. Technically the two Korea's remain "at war.")

The state of Rhode Island also says that I'm a "war veteran." My license plate says so, therefore it must be true. Right?

Not hardly. I was on active duty for Grenada, Desert Storm and that whole Balkans thing. Closest I got to any of it was Germany.

But I was never really in harm's way. Though two of our guys from the 8th were gunned down by some kind of Filipino commie in Angeles City, the Phillipines, I have never heard a shot fired in anger myself.

So I don't consider myself a war veteran.

Just a witness to history.

As it were...

*Check any of Juvat's posts for an explanation of what that phrase implies.
**Until 1992, the Air Force predominantly organized its active fighter aircraft in wings of three squadrons, with 24 combat aircraft in each squadron. (Source)
***That would be the best fighter wing to ever take to the skies. Others might disagree. But bear in mind, the 8th was once commanded by Robin Olds. 'Nuff said.

NORK is, of course, an acronym for NORth Korean.