.:: History and More! ::.


  • Aircraft Load Adjuster
  • Aircraft Profiles
  • AirCrew Wings
  • Bob Hope's Viet Nam Christmas Show (1968)
  • Christmas Letter from CDR Dunnan (1968)
  • Concrete Pad for the Ordnance Shop
  • Culver City Hole
  • Dancing in the Moonlight (Doing the Mekong Mambo)
  • Earthman 01
  • Evolution of TRIM/VAH-21
  • First and Last Combat Flight
  • First Combat Mission
  • Free Fire Zone
  • Gunship Rendezvous
  • Installing New Tailguns
  • Laughing Chaplain (1968)
  • Low Level Fly-By
  • Military Payment Certificates
  • One More Hairy Flight
  • Ordnance Shop Critters
  • Rebuilding Soui Vinh
  • Restoration
  • TRIM Cruise Book
  • Trolling and Trapping
  • Turret Operation Plate
  • Vietnam Gift Pac
  •  


     

    .:: Aircraft Load Adjuster ::.

     

     

    This particular AP-2H aircraft load adjuster was placed on e-bay by Aviation Artifacts, Inc., around March or April of 2002. After myself and another VAH-21 member realized that we were bidding against each other I dropped out and Stephen Todd managed to add this AP-2H A/C# 135620 load adjuster to VAH-21's possession. "Welcome Home"


    History - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail


    I had the opportunity on several occasions to check it when we added something new to the plane. Determination of the center of gravity range was a big factor in figuring our how the bird would land and take off. As I recall the bird was a bit nose heavy requiring more aft trim especially on landing. The effect could also cause a nose up pitch if the pilot had to take a waveoff and was slow using the varicam. We determined a lot of these data points during the flying qualities test program at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland and trained the guys on what to expect.

    Email communication from Captain Ed Forsman
    Commanding Officer
    Heavy Attack Squadron TWO ONE


    History - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail



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    .:: Aircraft Profiles ::.

     

     

    Profiles were done by Jeff Cultice.


    History - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

    SL 135587 #5


    Used to transport personnel and supplies between NS Sangley Point, Philippines and Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam.

    SL 148337 #3


    "Napalm Nellie"



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    .:: AirCrew Wings ::.

     

     

    An AW rate is a flying rate and one of the responsibilities is to earn your Aircrew wings and become a member of the crew. In order to earn your A/C wings one had to know emergency procedures of the aircraft you were flying in, the equipment of your rate and pass the A/C tests.

    The TRIM planes had a lot of special electronic gear that I had to learn how to not only operate, but how to repair. I spent hours with the Tech Reps going over electronic schematics, tracing wiring paths, learning how to trouble-shoot problems and operate and interpret the Foward Looking Infrared (FLIR), the Low Light Level TV (LLLTV) and the Black Crow (a sensor for truck ignitions). I also became a radio operator and played with the M60's out of the aft windows.

    As we were flying over the jungles of Viet Nam we were also required to take a jungle survival course which was given out of NS Sangley Point, Philippines. Our small group was dropped off in the Philippine jungles with our Negrito guide/instructor. He was the only person who had a rifle. (This was in the event that while in the jungles we met with Hucks. Hucks were the remnants of the WWII Phillippino freedom fighters who fought against the Japanese and who after the war remained in the jungles and later became bandits). The rest of our group only had their survival knives and a little salt. Our Negrito instructor taught us how to trap, make rope from vines, obtain water from vines, obtain a soap-like substance from vines and generally how to survive if we ever had to bail-out over the jungles of Viet Nam. We spent about a three days in the jungle surviving on what we could harvest, catch and cook.

    One day we came to an area that had a medium sized stream running through the jungle. Our guide cautioned us to be quiet and crouch down and crawl towards the stream which had a large overhanging bank on the far side. There appeared to be at least a dozen holes about six inches to a foot in diameter in the bank. Previously, our guide showed us how to make small bows and fire-hardened arrows. The picture now becomes a little clearer as our small group crawled, bows and arrows in hand, towards the stream through the dense jungle foliage. As we got closer we could see large lizards lounging part-way out of the holes. Our guide picked a large lizard and told us all to aim for "that one." Rising as one, we let loose our arrows, a few actually coming close to the lizard, one actually hit the lizard in the foot. Our guide immediately jumped into and crossed the stream, ran up the bank and stuck his arm, up to his elbow, into the hole and pulled out the lizard. There were wild cheers of success until it finally dawned on us that this was our dinner. "Gourmet lizard" in the jungle prepared over an open fire is something one has to experience.

    Story submitted by Eric B. Shyer.



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    .:: Bob Hope's 1968 Viet Nam Christmas Show ::.

     

     

    Shortly before Christmas 1968, the squadron had a rare day, with no mission scheduled. As it happened, it was the same evening that Bob Hope would be presenting his Christmas show to the troops. So, I told the Ordnancemen, if they would expedite the multitude of cleaning and weapons maintenance activities they were doing, that we’d go to the show. I told them we’d leave plenty early so we could make sure we found good seats on the sand.

    Taking a blanket, some reading material, a cribbage board and a deck of cards, those of us that could, went to the NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam US Army base for the ‘show’. We whiled away the afternoon of a beautiful day in what we thought were the best seats in the ‘house’, right in the middle, not far from the stage. All was well, until about thirty minutes before show time, a crew showed up with the makings of a huge platform for television and movie cameras – and began assembling it about five feet in front of us. We, and the folks behind us were going to be completely blocked out!

    It was looking to me that the Bob Hope Show was not really for the war fighters, but for the folks back home to watch on TV. So, we continued to sit there in the sand, grumbling and figuring we could at least listen to the music and a few jokes and then return to the Naval Air Facility. All the while, I was planning to take pen in hand, and write some ugly letters to the USO and to anyone else I could think of, as soon as I got to the barracks.

    The show started with what was likely several hundred folks who were not able to see anything except the shroud around the TV platform. About half way through his monologue, Mr. Hope must have noticed what had happened, as we heard him say, “Stop the show!!!” We also heard someone else say, “Mr. Hope, you can’t stop the show. You have a plane to catch.”

    Bob Hope replied that the show would not continue until everyone in the crowd could see the stage. The folks to the sides made room, we repositioned, and the show began again when everyone could see. Sitting there all jammed together was a little cozier than I liked, but we could care less. I told myself then that I would still write some letters about the show, but they would have a much different tone from my earlier plans. I would thank everyone involved with the show – except for the scaffold builders, that is...

    The show was simply the greatest! Near the end, some dignitaries, including the Commanding Officer and the mayor of the Vietnamese village near the base made presentations to the members of the show. Mr. Hope then asked everyone to stand and to join him in singing “Silent Night.” The stars and the moon were shining bright as we began singing. Just then, storm clouds appeared and the hardest rain I’ve ever seen started. It simply poured until the song was over – when the rain immediately stopped and the stars reappeared. No light showers to begin – just water pouring from the sky. No tapering off at the end – it simply stopped! Coincidence??? I don’t believe so.

    Well, after thirty-six years, this note will have to suffice for the letters I intended to write. So, I thank the USO, Mr. & Mrs. Bob Hope, his entourage and anyone else involved with that, or any other entertainment ever put together for the troops – except for the platform builders... Mostly though, I thank God for bringing Mr. Bob Hope to us. There has never been – nor will there ever be – another like him.

    Story submitted by AOC Robert J. Holdman.



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    .:: Christmas Letter from CDR Dunnan (1968) ::.

     

     

    HEAVY ATTACK SQUADRON TWO ONE
    FLEET POST OFFICE
    SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA 96652

    MESSAGE FROM THE COMMANDING OFFICER

    Dear Families

    Please forgive the informality of this letter, but it is the only way that I can send my message to all of you. I feel that a Christmas message from the Commanding Officer is appropriate at this time to present my views on the squadron as a whole and to send my personal "best Wishes" for the Holiday Season and the corning year to each of you.

    I took command of VAH-21 on 22 November 1968, after having spent approximately three weeks observing and participating in the squadron's operations both at NS Sangley Point, Philippines and NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. I can only say that I am highly impressed with the individual performance of all hands and I am both proud and happy to become a part of such a fine operational unit. Our problems are many and varied, but, surprisingly some problems that I anticipated are practically non—existent. For example, the relatively high morale, while performing duties under trying, adverse conditions and long family separations, is best indicated by the lack of disciplinary cases encountered. I can truthfully say that there are no chronic "troublemakers" in VAH-21. For this I am very happy.

    Many of the original TRIM detachment will be returning to the States in the very near future. Unfortunately, those of us who are now replacing the original cadre are facing family separations for possibly longer periods. In either case; being away from loved ones during this Holiday Season is especially difficult, but you can be justifiably proud that your Navy man is doing his part in protecting our rights and freedom. It is a vital and difficult commitment which demands daily sacrifice and hardship if we are to finally achieve the goal of lasting peace. While the unit s contribution to the efforts in Southeast Asia might be considered by some to be small, we are definitely a part of the overall team dedicated to work toward the ultimate goal of "Peace on Earth".

    To date, 104 Air Medals have been earned by the flight crew members. Recommendations for individual meritorious, commendation, and achievement awards have been submitted to higher authority for several officers and men of the squadron. Isn t that proof that your guys are doing their part?

    To each of you; wife, father, mother, son, daughter and sweetheart, I extend Best Wishes at Christmas. Help me to pray that 1969 will bring peace to us all.

    Sincerely yours,

    L. D. DUNNAN
    Commanding Officer
    Heavy Attack Squadron TWO ONE

    Original letter in the collection of Eric B. Shyer.



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    .:: Concrete Pad for the Ordnance Shop ::.

     

     

    Our biggest maintenance problem was caused by sand. Bob Hope had said in a recent show that NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam is the world’s biggest sand trap. He was surely correct about that. The Naval Air Facility executive officer had his ‘weeds & seeds’ program; where Bermuda grass flown in from America was planted to hold down the sand. I’m sure the current occupants of CRB still appreciate that effort.

    The Ordnance Shop was a hootch, with sand right up to the doors. It would blow or be tracked inside and head straight to anything mechanical or with lubricant on it and begin a never-ending grinding process. Sand was especially hard on the grenade launchers, the mini-guns and the 20 mm guns, as it not only wore the mechanical parts down, sand on the ammunition caused wear and tear to the inside of the chambers and barrels. Attempting to keep the guns and equipment clean was never-ending.

    I mentioned to the Ordnance Officer one morning that we needed a concrete pad in front of the shop, not only to cut down on the amount of sand getting into the shop, but also to give us a place to stack the ammunition before ‘belting it’ or any of the other multitude of things we had to do with it. He agreed and promptly boarded his aircraft to go to the Philippines. I went to see the Sea-Bee Chief and told him of our need and asked what we needed to do to get the pad built. He too agreed that it was imperative that we had a pad built, and told me the biggest thing we could do for him was to give him a set of ‘aural-protection devices’ (Mickey Mouse ears), as one of his heavy equipment drivers was suffering from shell shock and the noise from the diesel engines was keeping him off the equipment. I replied that the ears were on the way, returned straightaway to the shop, picked up two pairs of ears and delivered them. The next morning the concrete crew was on site, building forms and ‘prepping’ the area. A few days later, the cement truck and the finishing crew arrived and the project was completed.

    After a few more days, the Gun Boss returned from NS Sangley Point, Philippines. I met him at the Maintenance Office, before he’d had a chance to visit the ‘shop’. He immediately handed me several official supply documents and asked me to return the completed forms along with design information and funding requirements to him soonest. I asked him what the information was to be used for. He replied they were to get the concrete pad I’d mentioned that we needed, and the sooner the documents were completed the sooner the pad could be constructed. I immediately asked him to join me at the shop. “Shocked”, would be putting it mildly concerning his condition when he saw that the well broken-in pad had already been in service for several days.

    Sand remained a challenge, but with the pad it was at least manageable, thanks to a mighty fine Sea-Bee Chief and his hard-working crew.

    Story submitted by AOC Robert J. Holdman.



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    .:: The Culver City Hole ::.

     

     

    This story resurfaced when Eric Shyer, at our thirty-year reunion, was asking me questions about this event that happened in February of 1968. At the time I could only remember five men who were on the flight. As I called and e-mailed, I finally came up with the whole crew ! That was something to do after nearly thirty-two years ! Reed Phillips and Dave Lances were the pilots. John Bourdo, Bill Driver and Vic Calise were the B/N's (Bombardier/Navigators) and Al Doggett, Linley Taylor, Jim Britts and Sam Gore made up the enlisted crew. Now here's the story...

    Late one night, returning from a test flight, we landed at Huges aircraft plant.  We had been flying out of there for about four months. Hughes made some of the systems we were to use in Vietnam. After landing we had to taxi through the dark and in some tight areas. The plane captain would get out and direct the pilot through these spots and park the plane. We had done this many times over those four months

    The plant has a pit with an inclined lip around it. The pit was used to drop a Phoenix missile from the F-111. Huges made the system used to drop the missile and the pit was filled with foam so the missile would not be damaged. The pit was covered with a plywood cover and then a thick metal cover at night. Every night we had to taxi over the pit. After our last test flight disaster struck.

    As usual I was directing the plane to our parking area. We had to add power to get over the lip of the pit. As the plane rolled over the lip, it went thru the plywood cover ! The prop hit the concrete and shattered. The starboard jet pod was crushed and the body of the tail hit the concrete ! The pilots shut down the engines. Linley Taylor, who was at the rear hatch, was the first man off the plane. That was really moving ! I was struck by a flat part of the prop in the chest which knocked me down. After the crew got out we secured the plane and checked out the damage. It sure looked bad to me. Al Doggett and I sat on the ramp and talked until dawn. I was worried that I would be thrown out of the Navy. That was a long and lonely night for me. Years later, I found out that two lieutenants were worried too.

    We called NAS Point Magoo and had them send us some air bags and an air compressor. They got to Culver City about noon that day. While jacking up the plane with the air bags one of the bags was punctured by the bombay racks. We let them down and placed plywood between the wing and the air bags. This time it worked. The proper covers were installed over the pit and we towed our plane to the parking line.

    Lt. Dave Lences was the maintaince officer and he told the admirial if he got us a fully built up jet pod and a new prop that the plane would be flying in one week ! The adimiral said he would give us ten days. Project TRIM had the best ground crew that I have ever worked with. Two days after we got the plane out of the pit it was on a test flight ! Lt. Phillips later told me that NAS Patuxent River, Maryland investigated the incident and determined the cause as Huges Aircraft Facility error ! Thirty-two years later it still gives me goose-bumps to think about that day.

    Story submitted by ADR1 Steele S. "Sam" Gore,
    Plane Captain
    Crew ONE



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    .:: Dancing in the Moonlight (Doing the Mekong Mambo) ::.

     

     

    Flying a low-level attack mission at night is not a relaxing experience in any aircraft, but combat in the AP-2H brought new meaning to the old memories of rock and roll. To begin with, the 8 barrels of 40 mm. mounted in the bomb bay were synchronized, that is they all fired at the same time and at the same rate. When they got started they imparted a vertical rhythm to the entire airframe, somewhat like riding across a plowed field in a pickup truck..

    It was not unusual for the tail gunner to engage ground targets off to one side of the aircraft with the dual 20 mm cannons. When the deflection angle was high the recoil would push the tail around quite a bit, and the rhythmic 3-second bursts would start a wagging motion.

    For particularly juicy targets the bombardiers used to program a Mk-82 fragmentary bomb and a high-drag Mk-77 naplam to land in the same place about the same time. If all worked well, the napalm would just start to roll out when the frag came in and spread it like a starburst. The two bombs were always carried on opposite wings and came off about half a second apart producing a noticeable wing-wag in the middle of everything else. Throw in the flashes from the explosions behind and the tracers flying by up front and it made for quite an exciting ride.

    Story submitted by Captain Ron Whittiker.



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    .:: Earthman 01 ::.

     

     

    "Earthman zero one, this is Paddy - go ahead with your BDA, over." We were 'feet wet' off the cost of Vietnam and climbing through the black night to the cooler air above when Paddy called. The mission was basically over and in the cockpit we turned our attention to getting back home, concerned now with more mundane matters such as fuel and weather. The crew had removed their helmets and flack-vests, preparing for the 2-hour ride back to NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, while the B/N called in our Bomb Damage Assessment to Paddy, the GCI controller for IV Corps.

    It had been another good mission. We arrived at our initial point south of the Mekong just before midnight and started our search of the canal system below. Using the low light level television system, the B/N spotted a clump of bushes at the intersection of two canals, but the forward looking infrared sensor showed that the area was 'hot' - a camouflaged emplacement of some sort. As we turned-in to investigate, the Plane Captain stationed in the Plexiglas bow started to call-out ground fire locations, but the streams of tracer arcing past the cockpit had already gotten our attention. The B/N announced his intention to put a 'nape' on the target and the flight director on the pilot's instrument panel jumped to life giving the pilot steering commands to the release point. The 500-pound napalm released automatically after a brief run-in, and we extended for 60 seconds past the target before starting our turn. The dark sky behind us burst into an orange glow and the plane shook with a staccato rhythm as the tail gunner squeezed-off a series of 3-second bursts with his dual 20 mm's.

    Our arrival had been a rude wake-up call for the VC down below. For years it had been common knowledge that the ARVN support forces controlled the countryside during the day, but the VC owned the night. They concealed their caches during the day and remained hidden from the Swift boats and aircraft that patrolled the rivers and canals, then resumed their activities after dark, unmolested and uncontested. All that changed with the arrival of the invisible airplanes that could see at night.

    For the second pass the B/N selected a couple of Mark 82's, 500-pound bombs with snake-eye fins and daisy cutter fuses. The flames from the burning napalm made an easy aim-point and the B/N held his crosshairs right on the center of the target as we started our run. They were ready for us this time, and as we passed over at 1500 feet everybody on the ground who had ammo opened-up on us. We countered with a long burst from the downward-firing 40 mm's and both window gunners joined the tail gunner in spraying the area as we extended once again. We felt the reassuring concussions from the two bombs exploding behind us, and the 'whoops' over the intercom told us that the bombs had found their target.

    Normally we would have left the area at this point and gone looking for other targets, but the crew was calling 'secondary explosions' and we knew from experience that a well defended position usually indicated a major supply point. We decided one more pass was in order and positioned ourselves to come in from a third direction. This time the B/N used 250-pound Mark 81's. As we approached the burning area we started the wing-mounted SUU-11 gattling guns and walked them into the middle of the flames, nudging the rudders to spread the lead around a little. The bombs released cleanly and we finished-off with another long burst from the 40-mikes as we passed over, followed by a parting salute from the 20's. Another cache of fuel and ammo had been destroyed and there would be a few less Viet Cong in the morning.

    The aircraft described above was an AP-2H flown by men of Heavy Attack Squadron 21. VAH-21 was commissioned in September 1968, in NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam and decommissioned in June of the following year. The unit, first known as Project TRIM, went "in country" as an operational evaluation of a night interdiction system while assigned to Weapons System Test, Naval Air Test Center, NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The system was so effective that the Navy decided to form a new squadron around the TRIM group. A total of four SP-2H's were modified by Lockheed at the Burbank, California, facility and accepted into Heavy-21. In addition to the armament and sensor systems described above, the heavily armored planes were fitted with state-of-the-art electronics systems, air conditioning, and a special escape system. No planes were lost in the squadron's brief history, but battle damage from ground fire was a routine problem. Earthman-01 has been restored and is on display at the Pima Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona, site of Heavy-21's 30 year reunion this September.

    Story submitted by Captain Ron Whittaker.



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    .:: Evolution of TRIM/VAH-21 ::.

     

     

    The Evolution of TRIM/VAH-21
    By
    Captain A.E. Forsman, USN (Ret)

    "LCDR Forsman, the skipper wants to see you pronto!" - Came the voice of the Chief Test Pilot, CDR Bill Murphy, over the squawk boxes. It was early fall 1966. I remember I was preparing for a P-3 test flight. My, how life can change. As I trudged across the tarmac to the Weapons Systems Test Hangar on the Naval Air Test Center (NATC), NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. I wondered what prompted the "right now" summons? When I arrived at the skipper’s office I was surprised to see all the brass at Weapons System Test. I knew something important was up. CAPT Len Reinhart, the skipper, asked me to sit down and proceeded to tell me about a project that he was going to ask me to lead at the Test Center.

    VWOW! Little did I realize how the program over the next two years would shape my life, the lives of almost 100 other officers and men and build a foundation for significant weapons systems sensor technology advancement for the navy. The program was to form a detachment at NATC and accept for the navy four P-2Vs, which were being modified with the newest night-oriented technology at Lockheed in Burbank, CA. We would devise and conduct an exhaustive and comprehensive test program on the heavily modified P-2s, and take the four aircraft, redesignated as AP-2H, and the detachment to Vietnam for a "Limited Combat Operational Evaluation".

    The term "Limited" turned out to be "Full". The mission was low level, night attack. This Navy gunship program had the highest national priority and was classified at the secret level with some of the program top secret. Wayne Mutza’s book "Lockheed P2V Neptune, An Illustrated History" very accurately describes the weapons system we took to Vietnam and operated within country and in Laos and Cambodia for the next couple of years. I must say we succeeded only because of the dedication and perseverance of the people in the detachment and later in the squadron and the technical representatives from Lockheed and other companies that supported us. Collectively they enabled us to write another chapter in the history of naval aviation advancing technology in the crucible of combat.

    After accepting the responsibility for what was soon named Trails, Roads, Interdiction Multisensor or TRIM I made the rounds in Washington to meet the sponsors. CAPT Jack Davis, USN was the OPNAV sponsor. LCDR (later CAPT) Dick Brecken, USN, and LTC (later General) Phil Schutler, USMC, were our Naval Air Systems Command sponsors. Later CDR Wally Born arrived at NATC as onsite liaison with NAVAIR. Mr. R. D. "Tommy" Thompson was our NATC engineer. Tommy was later joined by Mr. Lou Koeniger who became our Infrared and LLTV specialist to round out the test team. Tommy and I with help from many created and devised the shell of the test program. We left room for many changes without sacrificing the main goals of the program. The program included both aerodynamic tests as well as weapons systems evaluation. Without Tommy’s vast knowledge of the intricacies at the Test Center and his unparalleled knowledge of electronics testing I am convinced we would not have navigated through the test program and deployed successfully.

    In the mean time the detachment people started to arrive at NATC. Among the first were ADR1 Sam Gore, a top mechanic, and LT O.P. Burch, who had an RA5C background. They were immediately assigned to Crew 1, Sam as crew chief and O.P. as bombardier/navigator (BN). The Navy really supported the project as we were assigned an exceptionally well qualified cadre of officers and men.

    As time went on each assumed a vital role in the development of the detachment and the execution of the test plan leading to deployment. LCDR John Vermillion and LCDR Perry Winn became the Ops boss and admin boss, respectively. LT Burch led the tactics development team. LCDR Ed Dorsey, USN, was the maintenance officer for the detachment. His experience was invaluable in overcoming the unusual challenges thrust upon him and the detachment. For me there were many challenges but only two showstoppers early in the development program. These were to get air conditioning "for the equipment" and a tail turret to protect our backside.

    I had fired a tail turret in VAH(M)-10 a P-2 squadron I had served in the 50’s. I remember telling CAPT Davis that I would not take the guys in harms way without the turret. It was a survivability issue. HUZZA! it became part of the modification. At Burbank we had to cut a deal with the union so our guys could help with the installation and learn the ropes of maintenance of the turret. Air conditioning just happened, somehow, after all of the early arrivals griped loudly. Along the way Lockheed began development of maintenance vans to support the special equipment. LTJG Gerry Giordano worked closely with Lockheed and other contractors under Ed Dorsey’s direction to insure the vans were ready.

    The acceptance of TRIM 1 at Burbank was another milestone. We moved the detachment to Burbank in the late spring/early summer of 1967 to commence the test program. I flew the first flight of the AP-2H with John Christianson, the Lockheed chief test pilot, on June 7, 1967. He checked me out on the flight characteristics of the airplane, which were considerably different from the fleet SP-2H. I had flown with John as a LT when I was stationed at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. He taught me, among other things, how to make a short field landing and how to use single engine reverse. Both of these skills had come in handy before and definitely came in handy later in Vietnam. I believe that every P-2 pilot who flew the airplane had to make considerable adjustments in technique because of the unique drag characteristics, center of gravity location and power/weight characteristics of the airplane.

    Bob Tyler was the Lockheed engineer responsible for all engineering aspects of the modifications. His knowledge and dedication I will always remember. The test program at Burbank consisted mainly of getting used to the airplane, its sensors, which were new to everyone, and flying the airplane safely at night at low level against targets in the desert at NWC China Lake to get data points for the test program. We hosted a parade of flag officers and other dignitaries who wanted to see first hand the new technology in the airplane. One of my personal challenges was to get comfortable with the terrain following/terrain avoidance radar. This radar was adapted from the A-7 Corsair program for the P-2.

    When we returned from Burbank to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland I checked out in an A-7 and flew several flights through the Shenandoah Mountains to gain familiarity and share it with the pilots. We all learned from that experience and it later saved crew one from catastrophe in Elephant Valley in Vietnam. We picked some vegetation from the underside of the airplane one night from the mission as the terrain rose faster than expected and Sam yelled "J– C– That was close" from the nose observation post. After a successful test program the detachment returned to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland for the next phase of pre-deployment activities. O.P. Burch led many discussions on initial tactics development that included both pilots and BNs during our Burbank vacation. These discussions drew on his combat experience in the RA5C as well as the Burbank test flights.

    The next phase of the test program was conducted at Eglin AFB, Florida. We flew against the Vietnam village that was set up there for other reasons. Our bombardiers and navigators had a chance to hone skills that would later serve them well. We used the Burbank experience and exercised our weapons release systems fully without releasing ordnance. The bow observer (usually the plane captain) and the tail gunner had the opportunity to use their starlight scopes on real targets. These skills were honed and turned out to be enormously valuable in the later combat missions flown in country. In fact, I can say with confidence that both contributed substantially to the success we enjoyed in later combat missions. I remember this was when we all began to really see the benefits of real time infrared imagery. Up to that point the LLLTV was the favorite of the bombardiers. However, the scale began to tilt. The Hughes Infrared in TRIM 3 and 4 had higher resolution than the one supplied by Texas Instruments installed in TRIM 1 and 2 and was used more effectively. Even though the LLLTV worked better with the bombing system the potential of infrared targeting became more and more apparent as we progressed through the test program. The down looking infrared (DLIR) imagery on film also proved valuable for post flight evaluation and later proved its worth in Vietnam by recording and confirming bomb damage assessment.

    On the lighter side we hosted the NATOPS standardization team from the COMNAVAIRLANT Staff. Their mission was to determine if we were standardized enough to deploy. I remember suggesting to the chief evaluator that the standardization flights be conducted at night since that when we were going to be operating. "AT NIGHT?!" He said. "I have never conducted one at night before." I insisted, so we went at night with his team on board. I explained the unique flight characteristics of the airplane before we took off. On takeoff I had Sam cut an engine. We went through the emergency procedures and continued the flight at low level against the village with the whole crew involved and the standardization people looking over their shoulders. The senior evaluator never said a word. After the flight asked me if all crews were trained as well as crew 1. I said OF COURSE! With that they left and didn’t return to give full standardization rides to the other crews. They did give day standardization rides to the other pilots. Another milestone passed! We dutifully reported our success to OPNAV the day they left and had a whopping good happy hour that evening.

    After the Eglin evolution the detachment returned to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland to prepare to deploy. It was late 1967. The maintenance vans were completed and left with LCDR Dorsey and a part of the detachment after Christmas. We went to Burbank for final tune up. It was during that time we had a hiccup in the program when one of the airplanes operating at night out of the airfield at Hughes Aircraft taxied across a ramp area and broke through a wood reinforced hole in the taxiway. We had done the same thing many times. That hole, which was used for missile drop tests, had had a metal plate covering until that day. See the web site for pictures. Murphy’s law was at work! This delayed the arrival of Crew 4 to NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam for over three months.

    Crew 1 left Alameda, CA in Buno 138353, later named "Deuces Wild", on January 8, 1967 and arrived at NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam on January 14, 1968. An enthusiastic crew met us. We soon got about the business of maintenance and preparation for flying combat missions against the Viet Cong. First, however, came the tasks of checking in personally with the chain of command, with the Air Force and Army and with the South Vietnamese forces we were going to initially support. And then there was Tet. I was in Saigon at the Brinks hotel the morning before the Tet offensive began. I flew down to IV Corps headquarters and met with the South Vietnamese army for the day and retired to the riverine patrol headquarters for the night planning to ‘chopper out the next day. Because of the offensive it took me three additional days to arrange for transportation to get back to NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. My introduction to war consisted of watching mortars fly over our base into the Ben Thuy airfield.

    After gaining clearance from headquarters we commenced orientation around South Vietnam offshore on February 3, 1968. We were fired on repeatedly by Viet Cong gunners who could hear us but not see us. After a month of orientation and getting frustrated with not receiving clearance we flew our first overland combat sortie on March 1, 1968. The difficulty was the USAF who granted clearance for all sorties. They apparently did not believe we could navigate, hunt and strike targets as we had advertised. We quickly proved them wrong quickly.

    The first sorties taught us some good lessons. We removed all tracers from the 20mm gun in tail turret right after the tail gunner, AO-1 (later AOC) Al Doggett, heard the first return fire round hit on an AP-2H occur right above his head on the rudder. He said the sound was like he was inside a barrel and someone hit the barrel with a sledgehammer. All gunners quickly adapted to "walking" their rounds into the targets using the starlight scope sight. It was right after this that someone suggested we go to "San Miguel" debriefs which I enthusiastically endorsed. Another change we made was to the bombing system. The change was to enable the BN to drop a Mk-77 napalm and a MK-82 snake eye with a 36" fuse extender on a run and have them impact simultaneously.

    The explosion created a ring-of-fire and shrapnel that was awesome to observe and very effective. During the next few months the nose observers using the starlight scope were gaining confidence in their bomb release skills and target detection skills. This capability came in very handy one night when we lost our primary bombing system. ADR1 Sam Gore directed us for bomb release in the free fire zone in which we were operating. As I recall that night Sam got two secondary explosions with his releases. Things became relatively routine for the next few months as we expanded our field of operations up to Danang. During that time we also supported the Special Forces Company that provided protection for the base on the mainland. It became routine for us to fly where they were going to patrol to give them an idea of where the enemy campfires might be along their patrol route.

    Major John Boardman was the C.O. of the company. Also during that time we resolved some ongoing equipment and maintenance problems. We removed the SLAR pods from the airplanes because we weren’t using the sensor and it was creating a problem landing the airplane. The pods created a "flat plate" on the bottom of the airplane causing it to float in ground effect when landing, not a good thing for a short field landing. We also successfully petitioned COMAIRPAC to allow us to use the J-34 jets for their normal life rather, than removing them for overhaul based on the published maintenance cycle. Searching for coolers for the IR presented a challenge for the TECHREPS. That was solved when Jack Syfrig (later Jack Baxter) found a good source at an army base just thirty miles from NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. I never did find out what he bartered for the coolers.

    I learned in July that TRIM was going to become a squadron. We, therefore, had to start planning for our replacements. It was about that time that we had our first departure. LT Burch was combat limited and had to return to the States. We had had many discussions in the detachment. I had determined that the TRIM squadron impacted on the roles and missions of both the army and the air force. We had also learned that the navy was planning to modify 25 additional P-2s for the very successful gunship role that we had been proving every combat mission. I asked LT Burch to take back my personal recommendation to OPNAV through the chain of command that the dollars slated for TRIM be placed in a carrier-based aircraft. The A-6C resulted as the first with others right behind. TRIM proved the concept! It was now time for us to put this technology to use in the environment the navy was most used to operating.

    In the mean time the most destructive weapon we had in our arsenal arrived and was installed in the bombay — the eight battery 40mm grenade launchers. I had fired the 40mm grenade launcher on several helicopter flights with the Special Forces in the hills on the mainland next to NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. It was a destructive weapon! The problem with the installation was the launchers were all pointed straight down. After a skull session we did the math and angled the launchers so the lethal range against an exposed person covered a football field with a three-second burst with very few holidays when fired from 1,250ft altitude above ground. I remember one night up around Danang we were giving a demonstration flight to now Col. Phil Schutler when we took out three antiaircraft batteries with a three-second burst. He was impressed with the progress the weapons system enjoyed.

    The Detachment was commissioned VAH-21 on September 1, 1968.

    The last forays before I left the squadron were our incursions into Laos and Cambodia. We were tasked by COMNAVFORV through OPNAV to investigate flying against the Ho Chi Min trail in southern Laos. This caused consternation within the squadron because of the more hostile environment. This was not "limited combat evaluation" in the views of several. I decided I had better find out about the terrain and the challenge so I arranged to fly with the forward air controllers (FACs) flying O-2As operating out of Pleiku. I flew two daylight missions with the FACs (they never got above 1,000 ft above ground level) in September to see what we would be facing in terms of terrain and the Trail. It was my introduction to karst, rock that rose vertically out of the ground to about 1,500 ft and could easily ruin one’s day if unseen at night.

    Operating in Laos offered the opportunity to exercise our ignition detector system, which didn’t work too well. After several flights the tasking was abandoned because of limited success and the increasingly hostile environment. My most rememberable experience was returning from a flight one night after all our ordnance had been expended and seeing a line of truck lights below the fog on the ground which we could not attack. Our flights into Cambodia were less hazardous but more colorful. One night we were operating as a two-plane detachment near the Cambodian border with one plane dropping flares and the other seeking targets with the LLLTV in a no moon environment. I remember the flare dropper (with his rotating beacon on) edging over the border. From my perspective it looked like he was in a wall of tracer bullets. We stopped the Cambodian effort immediately!

    The officers and men of the TRIM Detachment and VAH-21 should have enormous pride in their accomplishments. We proved technology concepts that had never been tested and did it under combat conditions. We had no combat casualties. We inflicted many on the enemy. We set the stage for future advancements in infrared and low light level TV technologies for the Navy. All this was done with aging airplanes. We experienced many combat related hits on the airplanes but kept them all in service. The maintenance and ordnance gangs provided the highest continuous level of maintenance possible and did it in a hostile weather environment. We had time for charitable projects very much appreciated by the local population. We had fun and worked hard. I am extremely proud to have been a part of the organization.



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    .:: First and Last Combat Flight ::.

     

     

    First Flight

    We had been flying in-coutry for about six weeks and still hadn't dropped a bomb in combat. We were flying out of Da Nang and tracking about 5,000 NVA troops from the DMZ to Charlie Ridge outside of Da Nang. A marine colonel ( later the Commandant) was flying as an observer with us. Every night we had taken ground fire but didn't fire back and we dropped our bombs out over the sea before returning to base.

    One night we started taking ground fire and the colonel, who was in the forward nose section with me, asked why we didn't fire back ? I told him we didn't have permission to return fire. He went up into the cockpit and we soon had permission to return fire. We dropped our bombs and fired on Charlie ! That was the first combat strike for the AP2-H.

    Last Flight

    The last strike of the AP2-H was up in IV Corps, down by the Cambodian border. We were making our runs on the enemy and took several hits. Starting back to Cam Rahn Bay we tried to get clearance to fly over land, but this was denied because of heavy artillery fire and there were heavy thunder storms on the coast that we couldn't fly around.

    Commander Neville D. Dunnan requested clearance to land at an Air Force base above Saigon at Binh Thuy. We landed about 2:15 in the morning and while the pilots went to the BOQ, the crew worked on the plane. The plane was gassed, oiled and we did a post-flight inspection. During post-flight inspection we found several hits in the starboard wing. Opening up the hit section of wing we found the push-pull rod for the ailerons almost shot in two. The push-pull rod is an aluminum extruded tube about 1.25 inches in diameter and there was only about 1/2 to 3/4 inch left holding it together. We called Cam Rahn Bay and told them to send us a new rod. The rod was sent to us on a jet.

    The next morning I showed the skipper the shot-up rod and told him a new one was on the way. We installed the new rod and flew back to CRB. The next day we held an all hands meeting and the skipper said we were supposed to fly five more combat flights. He asked if there was anyone who wanted to fly them to get any medals. No one was wanted any more medals!

    The squadron then started to pack up at CRB and regroup at NS Sangley Point, Philippines. That was our last combat flight. I was on both, the first and the last combat flights of VAH-21.

    Story submitted by ADR1 Steele S. "Sam" Gore
    Plane Captain
    Crew ONE



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    .:: First Combat Mission ::.

     

     

    My first mission with Heavy 21 was very memorable for two reasons. One was rather humorous. It tapered off quickly after that. It sure shows some of the problems with training in daylight, then fighting at night.

    First, I just couldn't get enough of that old 'relief funnel'. I must have visited it five times on the way to the target area and the free fire zone... I just couldn't stop -- or figure out where all that fluid was coming from, since we'd sweat buckets the whole day. It went unnoticed by the rest of the crew, but I was embarrassed anyway.

    In no time, the other waist gunner went hot (for the life of me, I can't remember who he was), and I was waiting for all hell to break loose on my side of the aircraft, when suddenly a large fire broke out under the wing near the jet engine. The wing appeared to be disintegrating and a hellatious noise was coming from that area. I knew then and there that we were goners! It would be a matter of seconds for us to drop out of the air and into the jungle. Not a good scenario, especially as it was our first run on target and we still had a full load of napalm and bombs aboard. I started hitting the other waist gunner in the ribs with my elbow, trying to get his attention. Why? I don't know -- I guess I just wanted to share the bad news. I know I hit him plenty hard, because I was excited, but I still couldn't get get a rise from him. He was in the middle of some pretty serious business, with plenty of ground fire from automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades coming up.

    I soon noticed we weren't dropping from the air. Then I recognized the 'debris' falling from the wing was spent 7.62 cartridges. Metal that I was much more than familiar with. That was when I realized the fire and commotion was simply the mini-gun firing -- not the wing coming apart as I had first thought. With the window open and the wind whistling through my flight helmet, I couldn't understand what was being said over the radio, so I just didn't realize we were just making a mini-gun run. Good thing I'd made all those visits to the potty, because I had nothing left to mess my pants with...

    On the way home, the other waist gunner asked why the hell I'd been jabbing him in the ribs. I told him I'd forgotten, being too embarrassed to tell him -- or anyone else for the 36 years since that night. The only reason I'm telling it now, is another squadron gunner told a similar story at the 2005 Combat Aircrew Roll of Honor inductions. I'll never forget that incident. Humorous after the fact, but very frightening while it was happening.

    On another night, as we were proceeding to the 'guns hot' zone, I was preparing my M-60, when a fellow crewman told me I was wanted on the flight deck. This unnerved me, because I was flying with crew 1 that night -- the Skipper's crew. I'd never met any of the people on the flight deck before, due to the differences in rank and profession. I thought this could only mean I'd messed up somehow and was in deep trouble. What for? was the real question, but I just knew I was going to catch it!

    The plane captain caught me before I got to the pilot, and told me the Skipper thought I'd enjoy a ride in the forward observer's position for a mini-gun run. Sam Gore was the p.c., and I really think it was his idea... Either Sam's or my pal in the tail turret, AO2 Perry Young's, that is. I'm sure they both wanted me to see the results of a lot of hard work on the SUU-11F/A mini-gun pods. I really appreciated being given that opportunity. This mission was turning out much better than I'd anticipated!

    In the plexi-glass bow of the AP-2H, the plane captain lay on a pile of flak vests to protect his important parts from enemy fire, as he passed the relative position of incoming groundfire to the other crewmembers -- and sometimes even verbally directed the pilot to the best targets, by use of a starlight scope. PC in this combat aircraft was an extremely important position.

    We were flying through a valley and the moon was bright. Laying in this plexi-glass nose gave me a sensation like never before. Something like Super Man flying.

    As I was looking for enemy tracers, the pilot made a mini-gun run that was just spectacular! The very large ball of fire coming from the nose of that mini-gun pod, and the chain saw noise amplified ten times over, was a sight and sound that put the adrenalin into action. With every fifth round a tracer, and firing at the rate of 4000 shots per minute, nothing could be seen but a spectacular red ribbon coming from each wing, swaying and undulating according to the pilot's flight commands. WHAT A SIGHT!!! One that I'll never forget and that I'll never see again. A wonderful memory due to some wonderful combat aircrewmen. Sam Gore & Perry Young. Thanks guys.

    Story submitted by AO3 Mike Slavin.



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    .:: Free Fire Zone ::.

     

     

    The Seventh Air Force ran the air campaign in SEA (South East Asia)and passed us our targets in a fragmentary portion of the daily Air Operation Plan or 'frag'. Sometimes we would get very specific targets based upon reconnaissance or intelligence, but usually we would get a 'free fire zone', an area several kilometers square in which there was known or suspected enemy activity and no friendly forces or civilians. Supposedly it was our private hunting ground and anybody we found in there were bad guys. The local GCI site kept track of traffic and warned us when anybody was getting too close, usually. Our confidence was shaken one night when an Aussie Canberra zipped right past our nose, both ships completely dark. All we heard on the UHF was "Opps--sorry mate. Just taking a little short cut". The GCI controller gave the other pilot quite a stern chewing when he figured out what had happened, but it was a very near miss for us.

    Another night we were working a target when a huge bolt of lightening came down from above passing right between the fuselage and the starboard engine, so bright it nearly blinded us. Actually, it wasn't lightening but a long burst from the AC-47 'Puff' working the same target from about 1000 feet above us. The 'lightening' was a stream of tracers from one of his gattlings, and they may not have been as close as we thought, but they were definitely close enough to give a couple of pilots nightmares. It turned out he was working with another controller on a different frequency.

    On a third mission we really got lucky; we had discovered a string of seven WBLC's in our free fire zone. They were in the middle of a long straight canal with little cover and nowhere to go. We marked the first craft with a napalm then positioned ourselves to come right down the canal using the downward-firing 40 mm's and the 20 mm's in the rear. As we passed over successive craft, the secondary explosions indicated that they were laden with fuel and ammo, just what we were looking for. As we neared the end of the procession we heard a lot of screaming on the VHF-FM and the seventh craft started launching flares of every color. A Navy Swift boat from the Riverene Forces was following the 6 WBLC's to find their weapons cache and we nearly smoked him.

    Each of these incidents resulted in higher levels of coordination and communication and each was a stark reminder that in war the enemy is not the only danger.

    Story submitted by Captain Ron Whittiker.



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    .:: Gunship Rendezvous ::.

     

     

    One night we had stayed a little too long in the target area down in IV Corps, and it was apparent that we would need to stop for fuel on the way back to CRB. Our routing took us close to Bien Thuy, so we decided to stop there rather than go into Saigon. As we neared the airfield we called the tower for landing clearance and were told to follow the C-130 turning final. We were searching the night skies near the airfield for the other aircraft when we saw something incredible: the C-130 was still about a mile from the runway and he had just turned-on his landing lights.

    The runway at Bien Thuy ran south from the banks of a river and it was common knowledge that the area to the north of the river was 'Indian Country', especially at night, but apparently this crew had not been briefed. Before we could key the microphone to shout a warning, the jungle beneath the big plane erupted into a bright display of muzzle flashes and tracers. The landing lights went out in a hurry, either extinguished or shot-out, and we heard the pilot declare he had been hit and had lost an engine. We saw the stricken C-130 land and roll-out, clearing the runway at the end, but there had been no further radio transmissions from the aircraft. The tower cleared us to land, and when we touched down on the steel matting the plane started to skid like a car on ice. The runway was awash with jet fuel. When we finally got stopped and turned onto the taxiway we could see the darkened C-130, all four engines stopped and JP pouring from numerous holes through the wings.

    When we pulled into the transient ramp area we saw that we were in good company: an AC-47 "Puff" was parked next to an AC-119 "Shadow". As the fuel truck worked its way towards our plane, the crews mingled on the ramp, going from one plane to the other looking at each other's stuff. We later learned that the aircraft sitting at the end of the runway surrounded by fire trucks was an AC-130, an early model of the "Specter" gunship. It would have been a rare opportunity to gather together crews from all the gunships operating in SEA but her crew apparently didn't feel like socializing that night.

    Story submitted by Captain Ron Whittiker.



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    .:: Installing New Tailguns ::.

     

     

    It's a sad site to see a "war bird" without is guns or armament. A few of the men of VAH-21 took it upon themselves to at least have some replications made of the 20mm tailguns used in the Neptune AP2H's flown by VAH-21.

    AZ3 Franklin H. Parker, had the tailguns duplicated as close to the originals as possible. He had a friend of his machine the barrels out of solid aluminum bar for weight purposes. He also made the suppressors out of aluminum exactly as the original that he got from Perry.

    Click below to see the installation of the 20mm tailguns and interior pictures of the last remaining AP2H Neptune from the squadron. This Lockheed AP-2H Neptune, BuNo 135620, is the last remaining example of its type.

    All photos taken by Perry Young unless otherwise noted.

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    Special Attack

    Lockheed AP-2H Neptune BUNO: 135620.

    Perry Young Working on installing the replica 20mm tailguns.

    Alan from Pima Air Museum putting some final adjustments on the 20mm tailguns.

    Tailguns for Lockheed AP-2H Neptune.

    The nose section is where the forward observer sprawled while on night missions directing flight and calling out the location of ground fire which was directed at the plane.

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    The nose section is where the forward observer sprawled while on night missions directing flight and calling out the location of ground fire which was directed at the plane.

    Looking through the tunnel going into nose besides the front wheelwell.

    On the Flight Deck looking forward toward the cock-pit and hole going down to the nose area.

    Pilot and co-pilot's seats and instrumentation.

    Close-up of the Pilot's seat.

    Looking forward over the Auxillary Power Unit in the aft of plane.

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    Aft station looking forward into the radio room.

    Looking forward from the radio room towards the wingbeam.

    Looking aft from the forward flight deck towards the wingbeam. Notice the astrodome in the upper left of photo.

     

     

     



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    .:: The Laughing Chaplain - 1968 ::.

     

     

    One evening Jerry Tripp and I had occasion to visit 'the club' at the SWIFT Boat Base in NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. As the two of us and four or five SWIFT Boat Sailors were gathered around the table, partaking in the beverage of our choice, the Base Chaplain came in, laughing about as hard as was possible without blowing his teeth out. We invited him to sit down & tell us what was so funny. He quickly obliged.

    NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam beaches are some of the most beautiful places on the planet. White sand, peaceful water as clear as clean glass, with spectacular coral and all manner of sea critters swimming about. The Chaplain said he had received a letter from one of the base mess cook's Mother, who had said the young Sailor was writing 'all sorts of lies' about his tour in the combat zone. He quickly invited the youngster in for a chat, asking why he was telling his Mother so many lies. Sailor told the Chaplain that he would NEVER lie to his Mother. Chaplain showed him the letter and asked for more information. He asked why his Mom would think he was lying to her. Sailor told him he just didn't understand why she would accuse him of such a terrible thing. So, the laughing Chaplain continued, he asked what he'd been writing to his Mom...

    Sailor told him, "All I tell her is how much I love and miss her and what I do when I'm off-duty." Chaplain asked him to continue. Sailor said he gets up early in the morning, goes to work in the galley, gets off and spends the rest of the day fishing or lounging about the prettiest beach he'd ever seen. Dear Mom believed he was only telling her that to ease her concern about him being in combat. But he was merely telling it like it was. Of course Mom thought he was suffering the strains of combat, and trying to keep her from worrying so much.

    Jerry and I joined the Chaplain and the others in a good laugh while we finished our soda pop, and returned to the Naval Air Station to prepare for the next mission.

    Story submitted by AOC Robert J. Holdman.



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    .:: Low Level Fly-By ::.

     

     

    Squadron personnel were rotated on a regular basis between NS Sangley Point, Philippines and Cam Rahn Bay, Viet Nam (CRB) to give flight crews a rest and keep everyone in top shape. Upon returning to NS Sangley Point, Philippines VAH-21 planes started to do low altitude fly-bys. A way to announce that "we're back!" One of the low fly-bys, by aircraft # .5, was captured on 8mm film (ca. 1969) & then transferred to VHS (ca. 1999) by Terry Koenig, and converted to a streaming video.



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    .:: Military Payment Certificates ::.

     

     

    Military Payment Certificates (MPC) were issued by the U.S. in Viet Nam in the hopes of limiting black market activities and illegal dealings with U.S. Green-Backs. They were issued and withdrawn in regular intervals and once withdrawn could not be used after that period. Pictured below are two series, 661 & 681. Series 661 was issued 10/21/1968 and withdrawn 8/11/1969. Series 681 was issued 8/11/1969 and withdrawn 10/7/1970. Series 661 was in use during VAH-21's tour. Series 681 MPC and the 20, 100 and 200 Dong notes were contributed by Marine Corporal Richard Hautala, a friend and Viet Nam vet.



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    Series 661 25 Cents

    Series 661 25 Cents

    Series 681 5 Cents

    Series 681 5 Cents

    Series 681 10 Cents

    Series 681 10 Cents

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    Series 681 25 Cents

    Series 681 25 Cents

    20 Dong Note

    20 Dong Note

    100 Dong Note

    100 Dong Note

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    200 Dong Note

    200 Dong Note

       



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    .:: One More Hairy Flight ::.

     

     

    June, 1969: After finishing our combat flights in Vietnam , I thought my time of danger was over. Little did I know that I had one more hairy flight left ! We were leaving NS Sangley Point, Philippines on our way to the USA. The bomb bay tanks had been installed to give us enough range to get home. Cdr. Neville Dunnan and Lt. Ron Whittaker were the pilots. Lt. Catalano and Ltjg. Avallone were the navigation Officers. I was the plane Captain and AE1 Mello was the electrican. Leaving NS Sangley Point, Philippines and climbing to about 1500 feet we found the bomb bay tanks had come loose. The plane started filling with fuel fumes. The pilots opened the bomb bay doors and cut the electrical power. We flew around for awhile trying to decide what to do to fix the problem. The fuel was still pouring out of the tank ! If we had an electrical spark, we would have been blown out of the air ! I climbed out in the bomb bay on top of the tank. The bomb bay doors were open. I was on top of the tank with no harness nor parachute ! Try as I might, I was unable to get the tank hooked up. I was being washed down with fuel. My flight suit was soaked. I climbed back into the plane unable to stop the fuel from spraying. We headed back to the Phillipines and landed at NS Sangley Point, Philippines. After the problem had been fixed and I changed my flight suit, we finally headed for home ! That was my last hairy flight!

    I brought number one gunship to Vietnam and brought it back home.

    Story submitted by ADR1 Steele S. "Sam" Gore
    Plane Captain
    Crew ONE



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    .:: Ordnance Shop Critters ::.

     

     

    As the Crash Crew monkeys were tethered closer to the Ordnance Shop than to the CC spaces, most of their care and feeding came to us... The first was a Philippine monkey, who had mysteriously arrived in Vietnam, apparently in someone's bomb bay. All it did was show its teeth to anyone who came around. Once a month or so, the Crash Crew gave it a bath with a fire hose. Monkey didn't seem to think a lot good things when that happened, making plenty of hissing noises and teeth gnashing throughout the event.



    And there was Charley, the female rock ape that looked like a midget chimp. Charley was most appreciative to anyone bringing her food from the galley, especially if she could sit on his shoulder while eating. When the groceries were finished, Charley loved to pick & eat stuff from the Sailor's scalp. When USO girls came around (not very often), I'd take them to visit Charley so the AO's could do what needed done -- namely fix guns, test aircraft and load bombs & bullets. Charley really enjoyed the girls' long hair and shiny jewelry.

    Shortly after I arrived in NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, Chief Doggett took me for my first visit to Charley, with me still wearing khaki's. Charley jumped onto my shoulder and happily started picking in my hair. Al backed away, to what appeared to be a spot he apparently knew well, and said, "Kill, Charles, kill!" Charley promptly threw my p-cutter hat to the ground and bit me on my head -- hard! Doggett laughed, while I silently planned revenge. Charley finally tired of eating my head, and hit the end of her chain trying to get to Doggett. Sure enough, Al had known exactly how close he could get, to stay out of harm's way.

    When Crew 1 went to NS Sangley Point, Philippines later that week, I went to the Crash Crew hootch and got the key to the Conex box door where Charley was tethered. I lubed & polished the hinges and door latch so they worked as well as a door knob back home. Then, I moved Charley's tie-down to that latch, left it unlocked, measured & marked how much farther Charley could get when the door opened -- and patiently waited for Al's return. A day or so after his crew returned to CRB, I returned his favor, with even greater relish than Al had shown when he had out-smarted this rookie. The open door gave Charley an extra three feet of maneuvering and eating room. Revenge was so sweet!

    Then came the dogs... Someone found a black chow puppy and brought her to the shop, saying he'd named her Fido or some such. I promptly put a stop to that, saying the dog would be named either Gunner or Ordy, but nothing else. "Gunner" it was, and the galley cooks graciously added rations for her, to what they generously gave us for Charley and the PI monkey.

    A few days later, Bill Laur brought the skinniest mongrel puppy I'd ever seen to the shop -- who quickly became "Ordy". Bill and Rick Barth had freed the pup as he was trying to escape from a big pile of dirt left by a bull dozer.

    The AO's made a quick visit to the galley and brought back enough food for a squadron party. The starved Ordy started eating and didn't stop until his feet couldn't reach the ground! He looked like a beach ball with ears. And so it was, until Ordy was no more... Charley hugged and protected those puppies as if they were her very own. Gunner really enjoyed that. Ordy would rather eat.

    Some weeks later word came down, saying the thousands of strays on base would be killed, and that all pets must receive rabies & distemper shots and tags... I asked AO3 Barth to take the dogs to the vet for the required shots. When he returned, Rick told me that there was only enough distemper vaccine for Gunner, so Ordyhad to return the next week for the shot. The following week I asked an AO to take the dog back for his innoculations. He mistakenly took Gunner again, so Gunner had double shots, Ordy had to go again for his. It wasn't enough, as both puppies came down with and died from distemper before we decomissioned...

    I was told Charley was put down a year or so later, after giving a Sailor a serious bite to his hand. No words about the Philippine monkey. Maybe it started a new Vietnamese breed???

    Story submitted by AOCM Bob Holdman.


    History - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

    Charley
    Female Rock Ape

    Gunner and Ordy



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    .:: Rebuilding Soui Vinh ::.

     

     

    After being in Viet Nam for about two months, we heard about helping displaced families near the base. We looked at some of the nearby villages. Houses were made of mud and sticks with straw roofs. Others were made of heavy waxed cardboard, flattened beer cans and other throw-away materials. Our squadron adopted the Village of Soui Vinh..

    On days we didn't fly we worked on the village. We always had part of the crew guarding us with M-16's. Sometimes after a flight we were very hyper and couldn't sleep. We would get a truck from Crazy Cat and get a load of wood from the dump. The wood was dunnage from ships cargo holds. The dunnage was lumber that was used as bracing to keep the cargo from moving. Every day they burned the dunnage from the day before. We had to be out of the dump by 7:30 A.M.

    Our houses were built on concrete slabs. The whole village was low and muddy. We built our slabs about eighteen inches above the ground. First we poured a slab for every house. 'Next we worked on one house at a time. As we finished each house a family would move in. Afterwards, they move their old hut and hook it up to the new house !

    We would take the lumber out to the village. Sometimes we would work all day with the villagers; other times, we just delivered the lumber. Finally, we had a house for every family.

    Sam's "Maybe" Village

    On our way back from the village to Cam Rahn Bay we met five nuns with thirty children who were hitch-hiking along the road. We gave them a ride back to their camp. It was a long canvas covered lean-to. They cooked on the ground and had no sanitation facilities. The Mother Superior said her government had given them land for their orphanage and promised more help. About ten other agencies had also promised them help, but no help came. I told her that our squadron couldn't promise for sure that we would help. I said "maybe" we could.

    After that the crew really got things moving ! That was about July 1968, by Christmas we had a chow hall, living quarters for all, a hand dug well and a church going up. The crew gave a big Christmas party for the kids. We had a parachute for a tent. The well was just finished and I sent a hand picture pump from the Philippines. The kids almost wore it out. That was the first running water they had ever seen ! I had missed the party because crew one was rotated to NS Sangley Point, Philippines.

    Before we left Viet Nam, Cdr. Dunnan (the new Skipper) asked me to take him out to the orphanage. Mother Superior showed us around the buildings. It was almost finished ! We had plenty of materials to finish the job. Standing in front of it all she said to Cdr. Dunnan, "This is Sam Gore's Maybe!"

    Story submitted by ADR1 Steele S. "Sam" Gore
    Plane Captain
    Crew ONE



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    .:: Restoration ::.

     

     

    This Article was published in the Summer 1997 edition of "Skywriting" a publication of the Pima Air Museum, Tucson, Arizona.

    RESTORATION
    A Blast From The Past
    By Kirsien Tedesco

    As part of the constant cycle of renewal and change of the Arizona Aerospace Foundation and its collections. there is an average of five simultaneous aircraft restorat ion projects in progress. The most recently completed restoration project is the Lockheed AP-2H Neptune, BuNo 135620, the last remaining example of its type.

    Manufactured at Lockheed. Burbank construction number 7052, this aircraft was accepted by the USN as a P2V-7 on September 26. 1955. It served with various units until November 30, 1962 when it was modified into an SP-2H. Again, serving with various units, it was modified into its final, gunship configuration of an AP-2H on May 11, 1967. Tested throughout the rest of 1967 and early 1968 at Naval Air Test Center (NATC) NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, this aircraft was assigned to the TRIM (Trails Roads Interdiction Multisensor) Project on March 15, 1968.

    Heavily modified from SP-2H's, only four AP-2Hs were constructed. PASM's example, 135620, became aircraft #1 and had no nickname. The other AP-2H's, which were scrapped at MASDC in 1975, were:

    Aircraft #2 BuNo 148353 "Deuces Wild"
    Aircraft #3 BuNo 148337 "Napalm Nellie"
    Aircraft #4 BuNo 145902 "Iron Butterfly"

    Examples of the extensive modifications are: the removal of the MAD boom and its replacement with a twin M24 20mm cannon tail turret, the replacement of the standard reflector gunsight with a Night Observation Scope in the tail turret, the replacement of the ASW radar with AN/APQ-92 search radar. the addition of real-time FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed and LLLTV (Low Light Level TeleVision) unit under the chin. Both of these systems were tied to an Automatic Bombing System which could be manually locked on target and the system would then solve the attack problem and release the weapons.

    The major reason for the modifications was the AP-2Hs participation in the TRIM Project whose mission was to develop and test airborne, real-time, multisensor weapons delivery and reconnaissance systems for night counter-insurgency operations. The need to test these systems in combat initiated the establishment of VAH-2 on September 1, 1968. From its home port of NS Sangley Point, Philippines and its Detachment at NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. This squadron conducted the US Navy's first night interdiction mission. Flying over the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh Trail, Laos and Cambodia, the AP-2Hs intercepted both road and river traffic. Owing to its primarily night missions, these aircraft carried a splinter pattern three-tone gray scheme and had exhaust shields/flame suppressors on both the recip and jet engines.

    Heavily armed, the aircraft could and did carry a variety of armament with a typical load as follows: two forward—firing SUU 11A/1A minigun pods, two Mk 82 500lb general purpose bombs, two Mk 77 incendiary bombs, two 20mm tail cannons, XM—149 40mm grenade launchers in the forward bomb bay (a three second burst would cover a football field) and after February 9, 1969, two 7.62mm waist guns. With the addition of the waist guns, the crew complement increased from seven to nine.

    The mission of the AP-2Hs ended on June 16, 1969 with the disestablishment of the squadron. Factors leading to this decision included the fact that the technology was by now well-tested and that these aircraft presented large, slow targets which were receiving an increasing amount of hostile fire. Much of the equipment was transferred to A-6C's which were faster and more maneuverable. On June 22, 1969, the aircraft arrived at MASDC and stayed there until June 25, 1975 when it was put on loan to PASM from the USN.

    Repainted for the first time since its return from Vietnam, 135620 proudly wears its livery (including battle ribbons) from the period February - June, 1969. Several TRIM Project and VAH - 21 members have been located including then Cdr. A.E. Forsman, the first squadron commander, whose aircraft this was until he left the unit in January 1969. Thanks to TRIM and/or VAH - 21 members Captain Forsman, Richard Miller, Rick Cameron. OP. Burch. Tommy Thompson, Al Vinson: Lockheed Tech. Rep. Dennis Davis and Harry Errington of the USN Test & Evaluation Museum for their contributions of information and photos related to this aircraft and its mission. Hopefully, most of these men will meet again in September 1998 at PASM during the planned reunion commemorating the 30th anniversary of the squadron s establishment.

    Note: Aircraft #1 BuNo 135620 was assigned to TRIM on 3/15/67 instead of 3/15/68. Information received from Cdr. Ed Forsman**



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    .:: TRIM Cruise Book ::.

     

     

    The pages of the book (PDF Format) are listed individually to facilitate downloading and viewing. The Cruise Book was graciously loaned by CDR John E. Vermillion for scanning.



    Cover

    Dedication

    CO

    First Flight

    Presents for Charlie

    Building Bunkers

    Flight Crews

    Flight Crews 2

    Crew Lounge Opens

    Crew Lounge 2

    TRIM Goes to the Beach

    Beach 2

    TRIM Helps Rebuild
    Soui Vinh

    Soui Vinh 2

    TRIM Plays Ball & Wins

    Rating Day

    Rating Party

    The Firing Range

    Air Medals for the Men

    Medals 2

    Adm. Moore; CNO Visits TRIM

    Adm. Moore 2

    TRIM Cartoon

    Aircraft Washdown

    Commissioning of VAH-21

    Commissioning 2

    Administration

    P.R. Shop

    Supply

    Supply 2

    Maintenance Control

    AE Shop

    Ordnance

    Avionics

    Avionics 2

    Avionics 3

    Operations

    Operations 2

    Airframes

    Airframes 2

    Airframes 3

    Power Plants

    Tech Reps

    Tech Reps 2

        



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    .:: Trolling and Trapping ::.

     

     

    Once in a while we would get a target area that appeared to be completely devoid of enemy activity. Before an area could be designated a free fire zone by the Air Force, the civilians had to be evacuated and the friendly forces withdrawn, so any VC in the area had ample warning that something was going to happen soon, they just didn't know when. If we had worked nearby areas before, they probably knew we would be coming at night and that we had ways to find them. If they remained camouflaged and didn't use their engines or start any cook fires, we might fly around all night and never see them.

    This was very frustrating to us because (1) we had a limited time in the area before we would be forced to refuel on the way home, prolonging the mission, and (2) we were not going to dump ammo or jettison it into the ocean. Instead we would start trolling. First we would turn on the bottom rotator, a flashing red anti-collision beacon. If that didn't work, the pilot would squirt the gattlings a few times, shooting a stream of bright red tracers towards the ground. That was usually enough to tempt some VC into taking a shot at us, and when we saw his muzzle flash we had a target. He and his buddies would get the full 4000 pounds of bullets and bombs.

    It is impossible to know what the VC understood about our tactics, but we do know that after we had been operating for a while they developed a few tricks of there own. A gunship would enter a free-fire zone at night and commence a search, finding nothing but a lone sampan sitting in the middle of a canal. Finding nothing else interesting, the gunship would set-up for a pass on the sampan, and as they passed overhead heavy groundfire would open-up from all quadrants. The VC had set a trap and we had walked into it. They probably couldn't see us coming, but they could hear us pass overhead and all of the pre-aimed guns fired into the skies overhead on the command of their leader. Our worst threat in these situations was the ZSU-23, a quad-mounted .50 that could put a lot of lead in the air and do a lot of damage to an aircraft. We learned to approach such obvious targets with a great deal of caution.

    Story submitted by Captain Ron Whittiker.



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    .:: Turret Operation Plate ::.

     

     

    Part of fuselage panel from P2V-7 BUNO: 145902 redesignated AP-2H. "Iron Butterfly" of VAH-21 1967 and Turret Operation Plate.

    By Wayne Mutza wmutza@wi.rr.com
    Author of Lockheed P2V Neptune An Illustrated History

     

    VP History Thumbnail



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    .:: Vietnam Gift Pac ::.

     

     

    Shortly before Christmas 1968, I was reading a 'Life' Magazine and noticed an advertisement asking folks to send money to purchase a thing called a "VietNam Gift Packs." The article said that for a $20 donation, an 'in country' serviceman would receive a gift pak through the mail. Jerry Tripp and I cleaned our lockers out and came up with something like $8.75 Military Payment Certificates, $2 US, $3.65 Viet Nam dong, and about $4 in Philippine pesos. We enclosed that in an envelope with a letter saying that while we thought this was a commendable program, we were yet to meet anyone who'd ever heard of a 'VN Gift Pak', much less receive one. We said we realized that what we sent was inadequate for such a fine gift, but we wanted to do our part so some poor front line soldier could receive a gift pak.

    A couple of weeks later we received a letter with our money enclosed, thanking us for our concern -- and then the gift paks started arriving!!

    Each pak had something like a handkerchief, a half dozen envelopes, a tablet, a ball point pen, a bar of soap, a tube of shaving cream & a deck of cards -- all in a nice little ditty bag. Each of us received a couple dozen of the things, that we promptly passed out to our troops -- and were still getting them when we left NAF Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam for NS Sangley Point, Philippines to decommission.

    We gave a sackful of them to some beggar child in Cavite City before we left the Philippines. She thought she'd struck gold.

    I've never met anyone else who ever heard of the things. They were a mighty fine conversation piece with the two of us though. I often wonder if the 'paks' are still going 'over there' addressed to the two of us...

    Story submitted by AOC Bob Holdman.

    Note: The group got its start in 1968 when Roger Chapin, a former San Diego real estate developer, organized the Vietnam Gift Pac project. Over a three-year period, Chapin raised $3 million and distributed 600,000 gift packs to troops in the field. The packages contained items such as medicated foot powder, WD-40, nylon boot laces and first aid medication.



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