Author Archives: Ronald Moore

We Walked Away

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Sometime in the summer of 1959 I flew on one of our assigned missions as a member of a U.S. Navy Patrol Plane aircrew. Our mission was to locate and tag shipping traffic in or around the East China Sea. To tag was to identify the ship, note its deck cargo, take its picture, identify the rigging such as masts, kingposts, funnels (smokestacks), and note the architecture of the deck structure. Our home base was at the U.S. Air Force base, Naha, Okinawa. Just before dawn, that morning, we took off from Naha, and were to return that evening. Some of our flights terminated in places such as Japan, Luzon, Taiwan, or other locations. On this one, we were to return to Naha.

We flew north, that day, up to southern Japan, then over to the Yellow Sea, and back down the China coast to Okinawa. The trip took ten hours. I don’t recall anything special about the patrol itself. Our problem started when we arrived back at Naha. At that time, we were at the point of starting to use our fuel reserve. That was a term used to indicate that we had about two and one half hours of flying time left before we ran out completely. There was absolutely no reason to worry, until we were told by Naha Control Tower that the field had just been closed because of dense fog and inclement weather. Naha told us to go up to Kadena Air Force base, which was about twenty miles north of Naha. We called Kadena on our radio and asked for landing instructions. Kadena said we’d better hurry because their field was becoming socked in also. It took only about five minutes to get to Kadena, then they informed us that their field had just closed, We called Naha again to see if there was any change. Naha told us that the weather had let up a little. They said they were moving the GCA (Ground Controlled Approach) unit to the other end of the field, and that they could probably bring us in when it was moved. Naha had us circle for a few minutes while they moved the GCA unit.

In the meantime, we informed both Kadena and Naha that we were just beginning to use our fuel reserve. The nearest other place to land, in the entire Pacific Ocean and East China Sea was in southern Japan. That trip would take us two and one half hours. So, it was a tossup whether or not we could make it there. If we did not land soon, the pilot said we would probably have to ditch at sea. Naha then told us they had successfully moved the GCA unit, and that they were at borderline landing conditions. They started bringing us in. Before we even got close, Naha informed us they had, again, gone below the GCA minimums for landing. We could not land there. We were just about ready to attempt to make the trip to Japan, although we probably would not have made it, when Kadena called us and said we could land there. We headed north again, and Kadena Ground Control started bringing us in for landing. We were in heavy fog, and could not see anything. Listening to the UHF radio, I could hear the GCA person bringing us in. If you have ever heard one talking, you will think he was vaccinated with a phonograph needle. During the final few minutes, you are talked down with constant, almost uninterrupted dialogue. It sounds something like, “You are now on the glide path, keep your nose up. You are drifting left, turn right two degrees. Your heading is proper, you are fifty feet high, bring it down. You are now on proper heading and glide slope. Keep it there. You are now three miles from the end of the runway, doing well. Your nose just went high, bring it down. You are two miles from touchdown. You’re drifting right. Bring it back. You . . . etc. etc.” The directions and corrections keep coming and coming.


Finally, at some point, the controller tells you that you are over the end of the runway, and that you should be able to see it. Well when he told us that, we couldn’t see anything. For what seemed like minutes, but was probably only seconds, we still failed to see anything. I was thinking we would be colliding with something very soon. Soon the pilot said to the copilot, “I don’t see the damn runway, do you? The copilot said, “I don’t see it either” The controller said that we had to see it by then. Suddenly the pilot said, “I see it!” We were all relieved, whew! But the copilot said, “That’s not the runway, that’s a taxiway.” Pilot said, “Let’s land on it anyhow. If we crash, we might survive.” I think everyone in the crew was happy with that decision. In a few seconds I could feel the touchdown. We still couldn’t see too well, but could determine that it was very narrow and bumpy. We had a roller coaster ride while the propellers were thrown into reverse pitch to slow us down. We still couldn’t see very far ahead, but finally we slowed enough to perform a normal taxi down to the parking area. Everyone in the crew thanked the pilots for the wonderful job of bringing us in. There is an old saying in military aviation. It goes, “Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.” We walked away. That was one of the best landings I ever experienced.


Mao Tse Tung’s Airspace

YD-1In March of 1959, I was on my second mission as a Combat Aircrewman in a large U.S. Navy patrol aircraft. I, and ten other men comprised the crew. I had been an aircrewman in a previous squadron of smaller aircraft, and had many hundreds of hours as a search-radar operator, along with several other aircrew jobs. My first mission with the new squadron was uneventful, so much so, that I don’t recall anything in particular about it. On this day’s mission I was to serve as radar operator, the long-range eyes for the entire flight crew. Our mission was to leave our home base at Naha, Okinawa, patrol an area of the East China Sea up toward Japan, then back down past Okinawa, and through the Formosa Straits to southern Taiwan. The mission started off in an ominous manner, however, because the navigator told me as he sat down at his table beside my position, that I was not to talk to the pilot about anything, without going through him first. This was not standard procedure, but I could not argue with him, as he was a Lieutenant Junior Grade, and I was a mere first class petty officer. I had bad feelings about that deal, even before we left the ground.

Our leg up to Japan was routine. We scoured the seas looking for, and plotting the presence of shipping traffic. The radar usually picked up the ships at a range of one hundred miles or more, long before anyone could see them. Then the radar operator would vector the pilot toward the ship in question so we could take pictures, record data about deck cargo, plot the position, speed, etc. On this mission, the only way I could talk to the pilot, without going through the navigator, was if he contacted me first. Occasionally, the navigator would ask me for a “radar fix” to some prominent point of land, so he could cross-check his dead reckoning navigation, or his skills at using a device called LORAN. Sometimes he would use a sextant to observe the stars through a plexiglass dome above our heads. We finished our northbound leg, and headed south down past Okinawa, and on to Taiwan. After about nine hours of flight time, we entered the Formosa Straits, a channel separating Taiwan from mainland China. Scattered all along the China coast were very prominent rock formations that presented very distinct radar presentations. If you have a map of the coast, and the radar is functioning, you get an absolute fix on your location.

About half way down the straits, the navigator asked me for a fix to “point Chevrolet”. Those prominent rock formations were called, by our American crews, by the names of American automobiles. There were Oldsmobile, Ford, Plymouth, etc. Each had its own unique radar presentation which exactly matched the visual presentation on the navigation charts. I maneuvered the radar bearing cursor around to Chevrolet, and ran the range strobe out to its distance. Then I told the navigator the range and bearing to “point Chevrolet”. He grabbed his dividers and compass and applied them to his big navigation chart, then with an air of superiority, gave me a supercilious look of disbelief and disdain. He was too good a navigator, in his mind, to believe my precise location, which did not agree with his superior navigation. At that time we were too far from any land to see anything, and we had also encountered thick fog. We were flying in the “soup”, as aviators like to say. We were supposed to be heading almost due south through the straits, but I could see we were drifting west toward the China coast. There was no immediate worry, however.

We were bound by international rules to observe the twelve-mile limit on approaches to China, as well as other countries in the area. As we continued on through the straits, five or ten minutes passed, and the navigator asked me for a fix to “point Plymouth”. I obtained that fix, and reported it to him. He plotted it on his chart and just shook his head. I looked very determined back at him, and he said, “You’re wrong. We’re sixty miles from there.” He showed me where he thought we were. A person who had no experience at all could see by the radar that we were not located where he said we were. But he could not see the radar scope from his position. Well, there was still no immediate concern, as we were still about twenty miles from the China coast. We were still in dense fog, otherwise the pilot would have seen the coast. But, I could not tell him, due to my orders from the navigator. We flew on some more, and when we were about to cross the twelve-mile limit, I told the navigator that we were about to cross. He just shook his head, feeling sorry for that poor incompetent radar operator.

A few more minutes went by, and I was getting scared. China would shoot us down if we got too close. As we approached the three-mile limit, still in dense fog, I shouted to the navigator, “We’re three miles from the coast. We’d better tell the pilot to turn away.” Again, he ignored me. About that time, I panicked. I jumped up and told the navigator, “Sir, look at this radar scope. If you don’t tell the pilot to turn, I’m going to bail out.” The navigator casually got up, slowly stepped to the scope, and looked. Then he jumped back to his seat and hastily called the pilot on the intercom. He tried to say in a calm voice, “Pilot from Navigator. Sir, there seems to be a controversy between the radar operator and myself. Please turn ninety degrees to port for a while.” The pilot immediately turned away from the coast. By the time we got turned away, we had flown one half mile inland into Red China. Even then, the fog was too thick for the pilot to know we had overflown the mainland.

It was only about thirty seconds after our turn that our radio operator picked up a message for us directly from the Pentagon Building, relayed via San Francisco, Honolulu, and Iwakuni, Japan. The radio operator told the pilot that we had an urgent encrypted message from Naval Headquarters at the Pentagon. The pilot said, “Well, decrypt it and read it to me.” The pilot still did not know of our close call. We were still in the fog. The radio operator decrypted the message, then read it to the pilot. It said, “The United States of America has just received its one hundred and fifty-first serious warning for violation of Chinese Communist airspace. You violated that airspace. China informs us that you would have been shot down in another thirty seconds, if you had not veered away.” Well, you can’t believe how irked the pilot was, at the radar operator. He came back over the intercom and asked me, “Radar, what in the hell is the matter with you? I can’t believe you didn’t see the Chinese coast on the radar. I’m going to have your butt. Why in God’s name didn’t you tell me?” He also used a lot of cuss words, vernaculars, etc., and I couldn’t blame him a bit.

I was glad to tell the pilot about my orders from the navigator, and that I had tried to convince him of our situation for more than thirty minutes. The pilot came back on the intercom with, “Oh, I see now. Radar, I’m sorry I jumped all over you. I understand your dilemma.” I said, “Thank you sir.” The pilot then added, “Radar, whenever you’re flying with me, you have my permission to talk to me anytime, anyplace, for any reason, regardless of anything anyone else says. Do you understand?” I told him I did. That was good, because we stayed together as a crew most of the time. He reestablished my faith in our ability to function properly. Then the pilot said, “Navigator, I’ll see you in my quarters immediately after we land. Do you understand?” The navigator meekly said, “Aye aye, sir.” We landed at our destination, Tainan, a small Chinese Nationalist Airbase in southern Taiwan. As most of the crew was caring for our aircraft, we could see the navigator following the pilot to his quarters. Of course I do not know what the pilot, a Lieutenant Commander, had to say to the navigator, but I can make a good guess. That navigator stayed with our crew for quite a while longer, and he never again caused me any trouble, or doubted any of my radar observations.


Ronald Moore

The Mountain Looms

P-2 NeptuneSometime during the summer of 1959 I was on one of our missions as a Combat Aircrewman in a U.S. Navy patrol aircraft patrolling the East China Sea. Our mission, that day, was to depart our home base at Naha, Okinawa, patrol thousands of square miles of ocean to plot shipping traffic, and land at Tainan, Taiwan. After ten hours of patrol, we were approaching our destination of Tainan. About an hour before, we had encountered scattered clouds, and as we got within approximately seventy-five miles of our destination, we flew into broken clouds. Visibility was very poor, as we broke out of the cloud cover only occasionally. Our pilot called Tainan Approach Control for a radar guided approach to the Chinese Nationalist airbase at Tainan. The person who responded to us was a Chinese controller who spoke broken English. This was not uncommon, and usually caused no problems. This time, it was different, however. The controller then asked us to shut down our radar as it interfered with his. I, as radar operator, did not like that, but it couldn’t be helped. We were then flying blind with our only eyes being many miles away at the control site.

The Chinese controller first told us to transmit a certain code on our IFF, which was a means of identifying certain aircraft on his radar scope. He then told us to turn left and transmit a different code. After a few seconds, the controller said he had our location spotted. He then told us to descend from twenty-five hundred feet to fifteen hundred feet, and take a heading of 180 degrees. We were in dense cloud cover as we descended, and were still in it when we got there. The controller let us fly 180 degrees for a few minutes, then told us to turn left to 095 degrees. We were to fly that heading for ten minutes, at which time he would give us a new heading. We had flown the heading about five minutes, breaking out of the cloud cover once or twice for a few seconds. We had another five minutes to fly, when we broke out of the cloud cover again. We were headed directly for a collision with a five thousand-foot mountain which was about one quarter mile ahead. I was looking through the cockpit, and could see the mountain directly ahead, It looked like we couldn’t possibly miss it. The pilot turned the aircraft violently to the left, as we pulled five Gs, just barely missing some rocks and trees. It’s really difficult to say how close we got, but it was close enough to see individual leaves on the trees. Then we were back in the clouds again.

As we pulled out of our close call, the pilot called Tainan Approach Control, told them of our mishap, and asked for an American controller to bring us in. Quickly, an American speaking controller took over, and began locating us. He had us send our code over the IFF again, three times, with course changes in between. The new controller said he had us located, which was a spot about fifty-five miles from where the Chinese controller said we were. Our pilot asked him if he was sure, because he said, “We can’t afford another close call with a five thousand-foot mountain.” The American controller assured us that he had us located. Indeed he did, because he brought us into the control of GCA, which is Ground Controlled Approach, who brought us in for a successful landing under the adverse visual conditions.





Radar ScreenIn October 1959 I was the radar operator in a U.S. Navy Patrol Plane aircrew, consisting of myself and ten other souls.  We were performing a routine, night patrol in the East China Sea.  Our location was approximately

200 miles north of Taipei, Taiwan, and 150 miles east of the China coast. We were flying in scattered clouds at an altitude of 2500 feet with broken clouds below. The time was a few minutes before midnight. We had been flying for two to three uneventful hours when we were “intercepted”. Interception was a term used when we were closely approached by aircraft from an unfriendly or unidentified source. Interceptions were not frequent, nor were they rare either. Within the realm of general   knowledge, this was the first incident of a nighttime interception. Whenever an interception occurred, we were required to make immediate notifications to several of our military superiors via radio communications.


We had endured many minutes of humdrum silence punching holes in the sky when the incident started. The pilot broke the silence when he casually asked the copilot “Did you see that light?”. The copilot responded “What light?”. “It just passed across the bow from left to right” said the pilot. “No, I didn’t see any light” said the copilot. A minute more of silence passed, when the copilot stated “I see a light.  It’s at one o’clock right now.” The pilot responded “I see it also.”  The light then disappeared into some clouds.


I had been constantly monitoring radar and had not seen anything unusual until the copilot located the light at one o’clock.  At that time, I picked up a small radar blip at one o’clock at a distance of eight miles from our aircraft.  From that time until the end of this incident I had constant radar contact with this item.


As the contact had disappeared into the clouds at the one o’clock position, visual contact was lost, but I still had radar contact.  I kept telling the crew exactly where it was at all times.  It flew from one o’clock to two o’clock to three o’clock, etc. When it reached a position of five o’clock, it broke out of the cloud cover and was spotted by our aft observer. The observer said “I see the light at five o’clock.”  Several other crew members also spotted it at that time. It was at this time that our pilot decided that we did have an interception.  He ordered our radio operator to send the appropriate messages; then we took some evasive actions.


We descended deep into the cloud cover to an altitude of 200 feet and increased our speed from 200 knots to 325 knots.  The contact followed us down and continued to circle. As we were in dense broken clouds, we emerged only occasionally.  Whenever we broke out, the contact would be visually located by various members of the crew exactly where the radar located it. There was never a disparity between the radar and the visual sightings. The contact was flying complete circles around us in a time of 30 seconds while maintaining a distance of eight miles.  This calculates to a speed of about 6000 miles per hour.


Immediately upon the realization that we had been intercepted, we headed south toward Taipei. The contact continued to circle us while maintaining an eight-mile distance. The complete encirclements continued to take 30 seconds. Visual sightings and radar locations continued to reinforce each other.  After 20 minutes of attempted evasion, we were about 50 miles from Taiwan. At that time our radar picked up a squadron of Chinese Nationalist F-86 Sabre-jet fighters that had been dispatched to our aid. I could see the F-86s and the unknown contact all on the radar scope. As the F-86s approached us to within 10 miles, the unknown contact veered off and headed toward the China coast. The F-86s apparently had some kind of awareness of the contact, as they attempted to follow, but it was hopeless. I had radar contact with the unknown target for only a couple more sweeps.  The contact’s departure speed was calculated at an incredible 25,000 miles per hour. It is stressed that during this incident, every member of the crew saw this light numerous times, and that every visual sighting agreed with the radar location.


That was the end of the incident except that on the following day, the Pilot, the Navigator and I had to meet with the Admiral’s staff aboard his flagship, be questioned, and be talked into the concept that we had experienced nothing at all.


Ronald C. Moore ATC USN (Ret.)


SERE PatchSERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape. I lost 16 pounds which I could not afford to lose that week. I was only @ 135 pounds when it started.  I don’t recall how many of us were in the class, but I would guess the number was somewhere around twenty. The senior student was a Lieutenant Commander whose name I never knew. There were a couple other junior officers also. I was a First Class Petty Officer among several others in the class. There were two Chief Petty Officers if I recall correctly. The remainder of the sailors were PO2s, PO3s, and a few Airmen. During the classroom portion of the course we had several lectures pertaining to our survival if we were captured by an enemy. We saw two or three movies based upon actual P.O.W. experiences in WWII and Korea. We were fully convinced by those films that anyone could be broken if the enemy concentrated upon him. The point was, that if caught we should put up as much resistance as possible, especially during our first few interrogations. The enemy would most likely concentrate upon the weaker of the prisoners, particularly those who might have the knowledge they desired.


After a half-day of classroom lectures at North Island, California, we were transported to Warner Springs to start the field-training. We were put into an area of @ ½ mile wide by 1 mile long, with “Freedom Village” at the end of the mile. There were high cliffs on the right edge, and a tall barbed wire fence on the left border. The course itself was comprised of thick brush, dense trees, rocky out-croppings, and a few open spots. They told us not to go out of bounds, or we might regret it.  To the right of the course you would have had to have been a mountain goat to scale the high cliffs there, so no one did that. I later learned that two of our fellow students crossed over the barbed wire fence to the left. They were immediately arrested by two armed guards who were attached to the California Penal Colony there. No, we were not told about the prison. The guards knew what was occurring, but they acted as if they had captured two runaway prisoners. The navy let them remain in prison custody for a day or so.  They learned their lesson.


I was a couple hundred yards down the course when I heard someone coming toward me. I crawled down behind a bunch of rocks covered with thick brush. They had told us in the classroom to NOT respond to any voices that said something like, “Come on out! I see you!” They said that the enemy would say something like that even when they saw no one.  They said that in the past, when some instructor said something like that, five or six guys would pop up, thinking they had been spotted. Well, I did not take the bait. I stayed where I was. I heard the voice a couple more times, but remained hidden. Suddenly I felt the rifle butt crash into my ribs. It was then that I knew I had been caught. The instructor tied my thumbs behind me, and they transferred me to the prison camp.


They threw me into the prison compound yard with many others who had been caught. In the end we learned that all but one of our fellow students had been nabbed. There was one CPO who made it through without getting apprehended.  Unless he had the training previously, he probably missed out on the true intent of the class. We milled around in the prison yard, not knowing what to do. We had a muster every fifteen minutes or so. I don’t know why I was the one who was picked, but a CPO, who was supposedly one of our fellow prisoners told me that there was an escape tunnel under the toilet in the outhouse. He said that all I had to do was to lift the loose boards in front of the one-holer, and sneak out the tunnel. He said that it had an exit which was about 100 yards outside the prison yard.  Well, I went into the outhouse to determine if that was true.


Just as the Chief had said, there were a couple of loose boards in the floor.  When I lifted them away, I could see the tunnel entrance. Quickly I scooted into the tunnel, and began to crawl. About ten feet from my entrance I heard something go “speeewww”.  Then I could see some kind of fuse being consumed. Soon the tunnel was filled with dense, orange smoke. I was too scared to go on, and too scared to exit, but I could not remain in the terrible smoke.  So, I came back into the outhouse.  While I had been in the tunnel, I could hear a muster going on outside. When they got to my name, no one answered. I heard voices saying things like “I wonder where that S.O.B. went.” By the time I returned, that particular muster had been completed several minutes before. A few minutes later they held another muster.  That time they had one more person than the muster before. One of the instructors said, “I wonder who is here that was not here before.” They looked down the row, and guess what?  I was covered from head to toe in a bright orange dye of some kind.


The instructor asked, “Hey you, how did you get all that orange color?” I made the mistake of being a “wiseguy”. I told him that I was Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  That did it for me! They took me to the torture box which was a box just large enough to cram a person into. Since I was not very large, they placed a large wooden spacer atop my back. They closed the lid, and told me that when I was ready to talk, to holler out.  I could not move my body, head, legs, or feet. I did have a little freedom to move my hands a sight amount.  I had always had claustrophobia, so the confines of the box just about panicked me. The only thing that might have kept me sane was that there was a slight crack between two planks of the box. I could see some of the outside surroundings.


I stayed in the box an hour or so, I think. I could hear what sounded like people being tortured. Every so often someone would come by and ask me if I was ready to talk. I told them no, but if they had blown some cigarette smoke into the box, I would have cracked. As I said, I have claustrophobia, but I was not about to tell them that.  They kept me in the box for a while longer, then someone came by and let me out.


I was directed into a small building which was the interrogation center. When I got there, many of my fellow students were already there watching the interrogation of the class’s senior student from the visual side of a one-way mirror. He was the LCDR that I mentioned. They were beating him, spitting on him, calling him names, calling his wife a whore, and all kinds of other things. I did not know how long they had been at the task. I watched it for only about fifteen minutes before they broke him.  He started crying, and telling them ANYTHING and EVERYTHING they wanted to know.  All of us who were watching felt very sorry for him, but at the same time grateful that it was not one of us.  It seemed to me that because of his breakdown, he would probably never go much higher in rank.


I can’t remember much else about the mountain phase of the school. Shortly after that, they took us back to North Island for the water phase which involved swimming tests, grunion hunting, deep-sea helicopter water rescues, and several other activities.  That’s another story.

RC Moore

The End

Soviet Battleship


Not the actual ship

Not the actual ship

We were on a routine patrol in the East China Sea. I was the radar operator in a U.S. Navy patrol aircraft which had ten other members. Our job, that day, was to patrol thousands of square miles of ocean and record data about shipping in the area. The usual routine was that the radar operator first picked up surface ships as blips on the radar, then vectored the pilot to intercept them. We then got as close as we could, and took pictures, recorded information about deck cargo, number of masts, number of smokestacks, and the architecture of the deck structure. The radar usually picked up these ships about one hundred miles or more from our aircraft, much farther than anyone could see.


Most of the day was routine. We were in clouds part of the time, then we ran into an area of dense fog. Bad weather and fog were no problems for the radar, however. We could still pick up the shipping targets and vector in on them. We had been flying in the dense fog for a little while when I picked up the largest radar blip, except for land masses, I had ever seen. The target first appeared at a range of one hundred and fifty miles. I informed the pilot about it, and he told me to vector him to it. This was standard procedure in our patrol operations. I gave the pilot a heading to the unknown large target, and he turned to intercept it. We were still in dense fog, but occasionally broke out for a few seconds of short visibility. I kept giving the pilot heading information on this large target, which became even larger as we got closer. At approximately fifty miles, I could see certain interference of the radar scope, indicating the target was emanating some kind of electromagnetic radiations, probably from a radar of its own.


We kept flying toward the large target for about fifteen minutes. As I was telling the pilot about this being the largest shipping target I had ever seen, he said that it must be a large military ship. We knew that there were no friendly military ships in the area. We had to determine what it was. We kept flying toward this target, knowing that we were not supposed to approach any country’s man-of-war ship within three miles. If we did, we could be shot down. At ten miles, our Electronics Countermeasures Operator reported that a fire-control radar had locked in on us. Still we kept going. At three and one half miles, we broke out of the fog, and saw it immediately. It was a Russian Battleship. Every gun on the ship was aimed at us, and was tracking us as we moved. My radar scope was saturated with spots, blips, hash and snow, caused by electronic radiations of some description. We immediately broke away before entering the three mile limit.


We reported this to our superiors via radio. They informed us that the Russians did not have a battleship. But there it was, a battleship flying the Russian flag. We did not have time to take a picture, as we had to get away before being fired upon. I do not know, to this day, if our superiors ever believed us or not. We were very lucky that we did not enter the three mile limit surrounding the battleship.


First P-3 loss

Hey all: (this will probably be as boring as hell for some of you, but may be of interest to others)
I don’t desire to drive a subject dear to me into the ground, but I have been asked several times about my good buddy & VP-4 shipmate Alvin G. Reeder (AT1 in VP-4, later retired as ATCS). Several of you know that Al & I were the very best buddies for forty years from 1958 to 1998. I met Al in September of 1958 at NAS North Island, CA. We were both on our way to VP-4 in Okinawa, but had to attend a few maintenance classes (and SERE School for me) for avionics equipment in the P2V-5F.
After we completed our training at North Island, we were sent to Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay to await transportation to Okinawa. We were there for about two weeks before we were assigned a flight to the far-east. We spent Christmas of 58 at North Island. At the time that was the worst Christmas that I had ever spent. Al felt the same way. The next worst was exactly nine years later while on deployment in 1967 to Keflavik, Iceland. While we were at Treasure Island both Al and I had a few mid-watches in what they referred to as the “Queer Barracks”. That was a barracks in which they housed about 15-20 sailors who were awaiting discharges for homosexuality. We were told to NOT let any two of those sailors go to the head at the same time. Fortunately for me, I did not have to confront that event. A few days after Christmas we were on our way. We flew on a C-121 (Super Constellation) belonging to an outfit named “Slick Airlines”. We stopped off in Honolulu & Tokyo before terminating our air journey at Kadena AFB in Okinawa. — It was about 2-3 weeks later that we learned that the same C-121 had been lost in the Pacific Ocean while making one of those flights from the U.S. to Japan. All aboard were lost. We never heard just what location was the origin of the flight.
Both Al & I spent 2 1/2 years in VP-4, then got orders to the same place, Naval Air Maintenance Training Group headquartered at Northside at NAS Memphis. They placed both of us & about thirty others (VP-4 vet ATC Orlin S. Nelson among them) as plank-owners in the new maintenance training program for the P3V-1 (later re-designated as P3A) aircraft. We attended Instructor Training in Memphis, APS-80 radar school in Norfolk, and spent about four months attending several avionics courses at the Lockheed factory in Burbank. Then we ended up at Patuxent River, MD as members of Naval Air Maintenance Training Detachment 1011. We wrote the training courses for the P3 avionics systems, and then taught maintenance to people who would be maintaining those equipment throughout the navy. Since part of my training was on the navy’s first dive into the realm of SSBSC (Single SideBand Suppressed Carrier) communications, the Bureau of Naval Personnel sent some people down from D.C. to have me supply a few questions on that subject for the AT & AX rating exams. Later, I learned that several of my questions were incorporated into some of those exams.
After approximately seven months of preparation we started our instructor duties on or about January 1962. One year later the first P3A (as the P3V-1 had been re-designated) was lost in the Atlantic Ocean. All aboard were lost. No wreckage or bodies were ever found. That particular aircraft belonged to VP-8. Both Al and I had several or our ex-students aboard that a/c. One of those lost was the younger brother of one of my high school female classmates. I knew the girl fairly well, but did not know the brother until he showed up in my class one day. This first graphic depicts the loss or mishaps of P3 aircraft. Note the very first one. I do not know if this list is up-to-date. I can see that at least two of the P3s are missing from this list. Those aircraft were lost in combat off the coast of Viet Nam in February & April of 1968. They belonged to VP-26 (Al Reeder’s squadron at that time). More about that in a little while. Note that they are not included in the list below, and should be listed right after the VP-8 loss.

P-3 notable events accidents and incidents

We spent five years in our instructor duty, then we both got orders. Al went to VP-26 in Brunswick, Maine. I went to Advanced Avionics “B” School in Memphis. After 30 weeks of the 32 week training I got a phone call from Al in Brunswick. Al was the Avionics CPO in VP-26. He told me that VP-26 had recently transitioned from the P2V-7 (SP-2H) to the P3, and that the VP-11 skipper paid him a visit. VP-11 was to transition in a few months, and that skipper wanted to know if Al knew any ATCs who had P3 experience. Al told him about me, and that I was just about to graduate from “AVB” School, and that I had five years experience in course preparations & maintenance instructions on about 70% of the avionics systems in the P3. It was a few days later that I received orders to VP-11. They were the hangar-mates of VP-26 there in Brunswick. So after a 32+ week separation, Al and I were together again in the same hangar.
I think it was in February or March of 1967 when VP-26 (entire squadron) & VP-11 (three aircraft) were sent to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico for some kind of fleet preparedness operation. Al was sent in his normal job as Avionics CPO, and I was sent as the 3-aircraft Maintenance CPO for VP-11. We sent only three aircraft because we were in the middle of our transition, and we actually had only about 5-6 of our new P3s. We remained in Puerto Rico a couple weeks, then returned to Brunswick.
I get lost in the time element now, but sometime later VP-11 made two deployments to Iceland. We had four hours notice to deploy to Iceland on that first trip. VP-26 had been scheduled to make that deployment, but they suddenly got a short notice to deploy to Sangley Point, P.I. We had been scheduled to make the Sangley deployment. VP-26 even had to pull out some of their people from the Cold Weather Survival & SERE School in the mountains near Brunswick. I think that the “brass” made the decision that VP-11 had not enough experience in their new P3s to be effective in that dangerous Far-East deployment, so they switched us. None of our people got to attend that Cold Weather Survival School. Iceland was much warmer than Brunswick but I believe the Cold Weather School was for the benefit of the flight crews who might somehow (accidentally) fly up around Northern Russia. Al attended that school. He told me that he had never been as cold as it was up in those snow-covered mountains. VP-10 was the only other Brunswick Patrol Squadron which had the P3s at that time, and they were already deployed to Argentia, Newfoundland. VP-21 & 23 still had the SP-2H aircraft.
VP-11 had been in Iceland not too long when we heard over the Armed Forces Radio that a U.S. Navy Patrol Plane home-stationed in Brunswick, Maine had been shot down by Cambodia or Laos. The radio did not mention the squadron number, but of course that could be only ONE squadron, VP-26. The other four Brunswick Patrol Squadrons were elsewhere (VP-10, VP-11, VP-21 & VP-23). I was worried about Al for a couple of weeks before I learned that he was not aboard that missing P3. He was not flight crew, but he did occasionally fly with them. It was a couple months later that 26 had another P3 shot down. Both crews lost their lives on those missions. Below is another graphic that tells a little about those VP-26 losses. As you can see VP-26 lost their two P3s on or about February & April of 1968. They are not shown in that first graphic above.

Vp-26 graphic

VP-10, VP-11, & VP-26 all returned to Brunswick within a couple weeks of each other. When we were all back in Brunswick the entire station and the five patrol squadrons had several funeral services for the two lost VP-26 crews. There was much sadness then. Many of us in all the squadrons knew several of the missing sailors. Some of us in VP-11 had those typical mixed feelings of guilt & relief that those VP-26 crews had taken our place.
Just before my tour was completed in VP-11, Al got orders to NAS Pensacola. He had been gone a couple of weeks when I got TWO sets of orders the same day. One of them was for Instructor Duty at AVB School in Memphis while the other was to attend the ADCOP (Associate Degree Completion Program) at Pensacola Junior College. Neither I nor our Personnel Office knew exactly what to do so they called BUPERS to ask them. BuPers gave me the choice. I opted for ADCOP, so I ended up here in Pensacola.

Al and I were together again, and we stayed so until his death in 1998 except for almost a year when I was in VAQ-135 which was homeported in Alameda but made a Mediterranean Cruise on the Forrestal. My family remained in Pensacola, so I ended up right back here. We had both retired from the navy prior to 1974. We both worked together as electronics technicians and computer technicians for several years at Pensacola’s first Radio Shack. Al’s first wife, Georgia, died of heart problems in 1975, and Al was never the same. He remarried, but that did not seem to ease his pain. Sad to say, but he drank himself to death. One of the saddest days of my life was when I acted as one of his pallbearers. He is interred at the Barrancas National Cemetery at NAS Pensacola. Both his daughter and I cried at his funeral. Shame on me? Al was the smartest & nicest person that I ever personally knew well enough to know about such things. I hope that his bucolic, Missouri, southern drawl did not fool many of you, but unless someone knew him well, I’ll bet that he did fool quite a few people. Actually I KNOW for certain that he did.


P.S. Please forgive me if this is boring. I just had to get it out of my system. I still miss the best friend I ever had.