You Are the Greatest!

This article was originally printed in the Wings of Gold magazine Winter 2013 edition.

There were 160 people present at VP-4’s reunion held in Seattle, Washington 4-9 September 2013. Asked to be the Reunion’s banquet speaker was CDR Gordon Barnett, USN (Ret.). Fifteen of CDR Barnett’s shipmates from yesteryear were also in attendance. Following is a summary of his remarks.

I am “Dragon 13,” 89 years old, and exceptionally proud of having been the CO of VP-4 51 years ago when we were home-ported in Naha, Okinawa. Among our achievements back then were:

1. Two Battle Efficiency E Awards
2. Two CNO SafetyAwards
3. Two Arnold J. Isbell ASW Awards.
4. The highest first term re-enlistment rate of all 25 VP Squadrons at the time.
5. We out-flew all25 VP Squadrons in the world.
6. We transitioned from P2V-5 [Neptunes] to P2V-7s on Okinawa without missing an operational commitment.
7. The only way you knew it was a Sunday was that there were no doughnuts in the ready room.
[8]. Our troops maintained 12 aircraft out in the open, through typhoons and many storms, because we had no hangar.
[9]. We had the most beautiful wives among all the VP squadrons.

I received unsolicited letters from the skippers of two nuclear powered submarines while in command ofVP-4. Wrote the CO of USS Grudgeon (SS-567) on 7 April 1963:
“For the second time this WestPac tour it has been Grudgeon’s extreme pleasure to have rendered her services to your outstanding squadron. Your aircraft were on station the entire operating period. The attacks made were from excellent to outstanding. I wish to state that, in my submarine experience over a 14-year period, I have never had the pleasure of working with a finer airborne ASW outfit. The spirit and eagerness which your pilots displayed and the manner in which they conducted the exercises are exceptional. We congratulate you on winning your second Battle E, and, from our viewpoint, consider that you are well on your way to a third one. We hope that if we ever go to war that you guys will be on our side.”
W W. McKenzie Jr.

A quote from commanding officer USS Razorback (SS-394) dated 17Aprill963:
“It is always a pleasure to work with a group who know what they are doing, and having worked with most of the VP squadrons in the Pacific, I know how rare it is. Good hunting!
M. E. Davis”

I know of no other VP squadron that received a letter of commendation from the CO of a nuclear attack submarine. To be the skipper of VP-4 during 1962-63 was like driving 410 Mustangs, all at the same time. The ride was rough, but it was fun. I had served in four VP Squadrons and all were awarded the coveted Battle E. But none of them could hold a candle to VP-4.

My greatest fear in those days was that I might have to send a death notice to a next of kin. I had a sample that I personalized in my center desk drawer. I thank God I never had to send it.

After retiring from the Navy I went into business and was successful although, for a time I had health issues that took their toll. I became an alcoholic, had terrible family troubles but eventually recovered, and even spent time as a lay missionary. My wife, Elida, and I have been married for 35 years. I turn 90 in two months.

In all my time I have never seen a group of officers and men work with such high morale as those in VP-4 in the early 1960’s. I trust that today’s VP-4 personnel, under the command of Dragon 64, CDR Brent Strong, are surely like those it was my good fortune to command five decades ago.

All of you, then and now, men and women, are the greatest!

CDR Barnett and COs

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