B/G Ben King’s ACA submission to have the refurbished theatre named after him is at AFSOC headquarters awaiting a decision. It was approved by the members last reunion to have the ACA submit this request through channels to have something named after B/G King, the original founder of the Vietnam era Air Commandos in 1961, on Hurlburt. We are hoping that after 48 years that it will be approved.
Larry Harwood had pictures of two deer he raised when they were born and the mother was killed. He showed pictures of these wonderful animals and Larry is to be commended for being such a caring person for God’s little creatures as well as producing some great pictures.
Bryant Ruhman, an A-1 pilot who lives in Chicago, attended the reunion and the stories about this Commando were legendry. We had some great stories to share about Quientin Evans A-1 being knocked down by a U-10 FAC throwing toilet paper to mark a target. The toilet paper got caught in the oil cooler and the A-1 had to make an emergency landing out at the Eglin range. When the accident report was sent to TAC it came back saying that you can’t say toilet paper downed the aircraft and it had to be changed to target marking paper which downed the aircraft. Other names that came up were Glenn Frick, Buzz Curry, Art Calloway and Jack Wallace. The fights in the snack bar behind the club were amusing where Dave Wrobleski flattened Jack Wallace one night. Someone says Jack is still alive and Bill Palank says he saw his obituary in the American Legion Magazine years back. Bill Palank had a high regard for Barney Farmer who took off in a T-28 in high blower and immediately landed the aircraft and told Bill what he did and that the engine might have to be replaced. Bill really liked his honesty for telling him that and not letting it be a surprise later. Bill also remembered Doster, Sgt Cherry , CMSgt Connors and Jim Boggs and wanted to know where they were. Bill is in Northern California and can be reached at Tel 916-961-9618.
Charlie Brown sent his money to attend but had to cancel out later and wanted his money to go to the MTF charities. Thank Charlie.
John Vaslik complained that the Spooky rooster was not on the ACA home page. It was inadvertently left off when some changes were made and now it is back on. Thanks John for letting me know.
Dr Grant McNaughton, of Tehachapi, CA and a flight surgeon at Sam Thong, Laos in 1965, attended and swapped stories from his time in Sam Thong. Fred Platt had him in tow and so he met many of the old hands from Laos. Grant would like to get hold of VP and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org. He is still practicing medicine in Tehachapi.
I visited Kessler AFB, MS before arriving at the ACA reunion and toured both Maj Howard Cody Hall (B-26 driver) and Maj Hoss McBride (a Raven FAC killed in Laos)Library who were old Commandos, KIA as Commandos, and came from Mississippi. Cody Hall needs a model of a B-26 (any version will do) for his display and any pictures of him and the B-26. McBride Library is going to be turned over to a contractor at the end of this year to run. Again pictures, O -1 model airplanes or books on the Ravens/FACs/McBride would add to our heritage at the library. If anyone has anything to offer please email me and I will provide contacts at Kessler to send them to.
Donna and Bill Brown from the Village in Florida said they were not able to attend the gathering of 60,000 people who came to see Sarah Pelin when she visited the Village. He says the one golfer who is in the Village TV adds, who looks like Bill, is not him. I still wonder about this.
Paul Tobey with his jokes and funny stories at the bar kept us laughing.
Marge and Ron Workman took a three month leave from the Currumbin Palm Beach RSL Club (a super veteran’s club which is a combination of our VFW and American Legion when they were in their glory) which he manages (23,000 members) on the Australian Gold cost to attend conference in the US and visited his daughter in Canada and on his way back attended the reunion. For those who may not know it we have 4 Australian s who are members of the ACA. Ron has some great stories as at one time he had several RSL clubs in New Guinea but quit this place after natives got mad at his party for killing a pig with their car and attacked them with spears and arrows. If you are ever in Australia visit his club (great atmosphere, food, and sitting right on the water) and you will be treated like a king. I was there in April 2008 and I am going to return again.
Dick Secord told me to tell Bill Palank in Northern Calif that he has two airplanes and has passed his flying physical. Bill retorted with that he is 83 this month, owns two airplanes, flies in air shows and still has perfect uncorrected 20-20 vision. Bill is mentioned in the Navy Press book “The Rescue of Streetcar 304.” He helped in the rescue of Ed Leonert, an A-7 Navy pilot, and just recently found out about being in the book. Bill was sent to Africa about 1964 when The Cubans were flying T-28 and B-26 and he was wondering if any were still alive. Bill hob-knobbed with the mercenary Hoare. Bill has some great stories and still has fond memories of all his old flying friends as well as the maintenance troops who supported him. His mind is very crisp on old war memories.
Heinie stills goes to the gym at 0500 in the morning and works out. He is currently working on renewing his pilot license. He speaks well of the new CSAF—one of our own. Dick and Heinie still banter each other in meetings and it is really something to see a friendship like this last all these years. When Heinie first met Dick he wasn’t too sure of this brash young officer but Heinie knows how to get the best of his troops and to develop friendship which we all admire and are envious of. Heinie gives high praise to Ann for taking care of him and he says he eats one meal a day and a lot of water. His store hasn’t slowed down and it seems bigger now than before and has some fine furniture in it.
We had a discussion at the bar about Don Maxwell and our Chief VNAF NCO TSGT Thanh Nguyen who managed the 72 VNAF who flew in the aircraft with us so that if an airplane went down we could claim that we were training VNAF pilots. Thanh was fondly remembered as the best English speaking VNAF who never attended an English school. When we wanted something Vietnamese Thanh was our contact from the day I arrived in Vietnam in early 1962. Ken Lengfield, as well as a number of other members, remembered him well and thought very highly of him. Bill Palank said they had recommended him for officer navigator training but the VNAF turned it down. Don Maxwell, who couldn’t make it this year because some girl hit him with her car on the Autobahn last year and only comes for the B-26 reunion, sent me some pictures of Thanh when they were flying with the VNAF NCOs in Dec 1962. Don will sign Air Medals for these men if we can find them. I have been looking for Thanh for over 10 years and if anyone knows where any of these 72 VNAF backseaters are please let me know. Don is a historical expert on the WWII Air Commandos and the Carpetbaggers and is thinking about writing a book on them. If you ever need information on these groups contact him. He has researched and have most of the books written on these groups and many come from England. Don and I have had a number of telecom with each other and one of his best stories he told me was that when he was up at TAC HQ Lt Col Creech, later General Creech, came in with this beautiful 22 year old doll. Don eventually convinces her to leave with him. Later Don worked for Creech. Don has the finest Commando silver tongue.
Dick and Jo Ann Secord were at all the events. Dick said they needed to get some documentation for Maj Edward M. “Mick” Jones, a T-28 and A-1 driver who was with the Commandos in Vietnam, to show the VA he had feet on the ground to get Vietnam veteran benefits. Mick’s records were destroyed in the NMPRC in St Louis when they had a fire sometimes back. Mick’s wife says he only has his DD Form 214 and it doesn’t mention being in Vietnam. As those of you who were there in early 1961-1964 our orders for Vietnam and Laos (went up to 1970 and beyond for Laos) read something like to “APO 143 SF, CA as further directed by Cmdr 13 AF.” Nothing was said we were in Vietnam. Bob Gleason and others helped one of our young members who were dying of Cancer who was in Vietnam with us but couldn’t prove he was there by orders acceptable to the VA and was being denied VA Vietnam veteran benefits for him and his family. Bob got this corrected through a lot of effort and a month before he died he was able to be treated by the VA (a little late) and his family received VA benefits. Mick needs the same things to get VA Vietnam veteran benefits. An internet search was made to all our ACA members who might have been with Mick in Vietnam (he received an AF Cross in Vietnam which VA doesn’t show his feet on the ground). Jim Elliott, Tom Schornak, Bill Chambers, Don Maxwell, Bill Palank and Jimmy Ifland remember Mick and would research their orders to see if any of their Vietnam assignment had Mic's name on their orders. Anyone who can help on this please contact me. Even a letter saying he was there with you would help. I wrote to Gen Mosley CSAF and asked for help and he never answered my mail. This is a problem for our troops who were there in the early days and I would like to see something done to help our troops. More will follow.
Paul and Sue Marschalk came from Tennessee without their red Stearmann Red Baron. Both are enjoying retirement and flying the Stearmann. Their old friend Rick Morrison who owns and flies the A-1H Skyraider (one of 4 which Heinie was able to get back to the US from SEA) was at an air show with the bird at Los Alamitos ANG Base, CA. The A-1H tail number is USN BU 126959. They would like to communicate with anyone who flew or maintained this aircraft and has any records on it. Rick Morrison tel # is 619-569-5030 and email email@example.com. The aircraft is well kept and looks like a beauty. It is stationed in San Diego, CA. Rick is a former Naval Aviator and the managing director of California Warbirds. A pictue of the aircraft was in a magazine some years back.
John Connors and his wife Kitty were in attendance. John had been working with Sam and me in getting the BG King documents to the base to try and get some facility named after King.
Bob and Carol Beiber came from Kansas to attend the reunion. Carroll has a sister living in Destin which gave Bob time to relive old times. Bob was supposed to sit at Jim Boney’s table which had been arranged several months ago. At the last minute the table arrangements were changed—sorry Bob but we did plan for your presence at Jim’s table.
Joyce Harrington had the store humming and wasn’t in her leg braces which she had last year. She had everything running smoothly and some interesting articles to sell.
Jim Spears an old CCT attended this year.
George Bush 41 does not have the reputation that our Bill Page has. Parade Magazine and other news article said that George Bush 41 was the youngest pilot in WWII. It turns out that the youngest pilot is our own Bill Page. Bill got into aviation cadets when he was 15—lied like a mother but smart as hell. He was a military pilot at 16 flying P-38 in the Pacific. Bill has all the military IDs to back up his claim. Bill circulates between his farm in Tennessee and FWB. He still looks wiry and young as always but says age is creeping in.
Someone told the story on BG Ben King when he came down to Soc Trang to fly with the old crowd of T-28s. Apparently during an alert the T-28s didn’t get off for some reason and Gen Harkin wanted to court martial theT-28 pilots on alert. BG Ben King sent a note down to Saigon that he was part of the alert crew and that he didn’t take off either. The court martial threats were dropped. The statement was made that no one ever recognized King for his part in protecting the troops.
The story was told that the Air Park had to have the airplanes tied down for a hurricane. The regulars were a little rusty on these old airplanes and Lamar and other old Air commandos were called to help to preserve our heritage aircraft. Well done guys.
Darell Whitcomb has been appointed to write the Pave low history by the AFSOC history office. He would like to contact anyone who was involved in the Pave Low project to obtain information in writing the history. His email is Pavelowhistootry@aol.com and is available at Tel 850-884-2209 or Fax 2877. Darrel is an ACA member, old Nail and Raven FAC, a graduate of the AFA and flew for the airlines.
Peg Simpson attended with a group of Commandos widows. It is always good to see these ladies to remind us of the price we sometimes pay for defending this nation.
The Spocky gunship troops are always in attendance and I don’t think the bar could exist without them. They had some great colorful Spooky T-shirts this year and I had to get one.
Roby and Dee Roberson attended and they are always a great joy to see every year.
Dee also has some great email she sends out. Enjoy them all.
Bobby Dixon didn’t bring his moonshine this year. He has some medical problems but that didn’t stop his attendances.
Chuck Keeler, our new president, was there with his wife and made the rounds. Chuck and I were at Det 2A Bien Hoa in 1962 and there were some exciting times with missing Vietnamese chickens and some heavy drinking on the Vietnamese water tower. Doctor Baker was there looking out after the troops and caring for their needs. LtCol Mueller wasn’t too sure of Dr Bakers cure but the doctor always seemed to have enough medical alcohol around, if not for the troops, at least for him.
The Aging of the Air Commando Association. Someone gave an approximate average age of our members as 71 year old. The reunion this year had a lighter attendance and the bar at the Hospitality Room did not have the business that it has had previously. The ACA needs to establish a committee to come up with who we would like to inherit our organization which includes a lot of money, a thriving newsletter, facilities, a long standing cultural and a large membership. It should look for similar organizations which has the Commando spirit, cultural and a younger group who can carry on with our tradition. The process should include an organization which we can start integrating in our Association, who can hold offices, who can help manage it and will uphold our values. The organization needs to be in the Eglin complex and continue the organization with younger talent, leadership and new ideas supporting our cultural and who can accept us as we are. We need to be planning for our transfer of our organization and not wait till we are in the old folks home.
“Joseph Holden",firstname.lastname@example.org. The versatility of the C-47 and O-1 in Commando hands
Yes it's true I talked to Hap at the reunion and he told me that he quit telling people about using the C-47 as a bomber as they didn't believe him. I can vouch for the fact that an RLAF C- 47 was used as a bomber, over the Ho Chi Minh trail yet. Air Commando load masters rigged it so bombs could be rolled to the door and dumped. I cannot vouch for the accuracy but know it is a true event. Doc Fitzpatrick also told me people didn't believe him when he told them we dropped bombs from the O-1. Since I was the pilot I can vouch for the accuracy of his claim. In 1966 the Mekong River flooded and covered the bomb dump, when the river went down it left a coating of mud on all the ordnance. Among the ordnance were several 20# frag bombs, they were usually mounted on a bar in six bomb clusters but were removed for cleaning. There were only a dozen or so bombs and there was no effort made to restore them to the bar and they were sitting in the bomb dump. I had flown with General Kouprasith a couple of times and he had pointed out places where the PL was in control. Doc flew with me often and I was glad to have one more eye to look for bad guys. We had observed some activity at a place where Kouprasith had pointed out to me as PL controlled. We decided to take a couple of those 20# frags and see what we could do. The first time out we didn't have much success and didn't hit anything. The next time out we decided to use the O-1 like a dive bomber, Doc would hold the bomb and when I signaled him would chuck the bomb over the side. We were getting a lot closer. We finally actually hit something on the third try, it was a hooch and people started running all over the place. Eventually the FAR mounted an offensive in the area and we used our AOC T-28s to support them. We used all the frag bombs and didn't try to use anything bigger than the frag bombs. Joseph Holden