What led you to join up?
I was probably destined to be in the Navy from the looks of all the navy suits my mother dressed me in. Anyway, after flunking the Navy physical just out of high school, I was resigned to sitting out the Big War. I was nailing 2 x 4s on a house my Dad was building, when Jim Hendrix came by with a deal I couldn't pass up. We hitch hike to LA after submitting applications for the V-5 program … get free room and board … visit my Aunt Kay and Uncle Carl … and live it up for a few days while Jim joins up and I flunk the physical. Lo and behold, we were among the five out of 50 applicants who made it. (I finally figured out that my original turn down was because some corpsman had left a thumb print on my chest x-ray.)
What was your V-5 college? What (and who) stands out?
We were sent to Arizona State College at Flagstaff, currently Northern Arizona University. As the first V-5's at ASU we were treated like third class citizens by the V-12 engineers. There was no love lost, either way. Incidentally, most of the V-5 and V-12 students were from California and had a hard time adjusting to life in the woods. When the word came down that the Naval Unit was being decommissioned, rumors were rampant as to where we would go next.
It was one of the most emotional experiences of my young life when the Skipper crowded all of us in the lounge to announce the news … some good … some not so good. First, the V-12's were to be transferred to the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque … dead silence. And the V-5s are to go to … drum roll … USC! Bedlam from the underclassmen! We'll it changed my life … as you'll see!
One day, as I was studying at USC, my roommate, Dave Cobb, suggested I go with him to Doheney Library and meet one of his English Composition classmates. Fortunately, I was willing to tear myself away from the books and was introduced to his classmate … a cute blonde named Barbara Johnson and, as they say, the rest is history.
Where did you attend Selective Training? What fond memories and! or unusual events?
From USC we were sent to N.A.S. Los Alamitos for our 10 hours in Stearmans [N2S], where I almost flunked out. It wasn't difficult to do as my good friends Bill Burlem and Les Berg found out. Anyway, I drew the C.0., CDR Chamberlain, for my check ride and almost drove him into a tree. Not good! Four more hours of training on how to avoid trees and a check ride with Ens. Art Konas.
I had been a gym rat and, since Ens. Konas was in charge of physical fitness, had developed a good enough relationship that he lobbied to be my check pilot and give me a final chance. It was a very windy day and Art reluctantly got out of the Yellow Peril and sent me on my way. I survived the touch and go landings as he kneeled and assumed a prayful attitude. Thanks, Art. That took guts! As a footnote, I never received another down check throughout my flying career.
Pre-Flight … what event or occurrence will you never forget?
Arriving at Ottumwa, Iowa, in January wearing a lightweight Navy jacket. The snow was coming down horizontally and I couldn't believe this was to be my home for the next three months! But what fun we had suffering together … swimming at 8 am … marching and sliding along the icy roads to class … P.E. with Mighty Mouse … having to wrestle. (I'm drawing a blank on my partner's name. No, it was Ponds.) He was 30 pounds heavier and six times stronger … and who will ever forget hearing Peggy Lee every morning at 6 am belting out on the local radio station "It's a Good Day!" Yes, they did have radio in Iowa in 1947!
Describe your hairiest experience at Corpus or Pensacola?
Nightflying. Always an adventure. We were making touch and go landings at Cabiniss Field one pitch black night. I was landing on the right side of the runway when I was surprised to see another SNJ parked off the runway to my right. I found out that Leo Reagan had landed on the left side of the runway ahead of me, had ground looped and passed right in front of me. Miraculously, we avoided a fiery confrontation. Stuff you have nightmares about!
Where did you go for Advanced and in what aircraft? Describe the highlights.
Went back to Corpus for training in PB4Y-2s. Not my first choice. Bill Rankin and Russ Baurn and I had been accelerated through carrier quals and wanted to be fighter jocks in the worst way. Since no VF billets were given the class ahead of us, at the last minute, we changed our requests to VA. As it happened everyone who applied was given VF and we were the only ones picked for VP. Tragedy of all tragedies! It changed, and perhaps shortened, Russ's life and turned Bill into a commercial pilot. As for me … read on.
On to the fleet … where did you go and what was it like being a Flying Midshipman?
Went to VP-20 at Whidbey Island. No money … not sunny … "what's this midshipman doing here?" Roomed with Alex Dunn. Learned to play squash.
How did your life progress … marriage … Korea Viet Nam … civilian occupation … family … retirement … etc.
Married Barbara in LA the day after I became an Ens. USN. Three glorious days honeymooning in Santa Barbara then back to Whidbey only to find that our squadron was to be decommissioned. I was ecstatic to find that I had been reassigned to VP-22 in Hawaii. But, hold the presses … VP-22 was scheduled to deploy to Guam for six months … without dependents. So, after being on Guam a short while I was anxious to reconstitute my marriage. The first stateside school available was Navy Justice School at Port Hueneme just 50 miles from LA where Barbara resided. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity. Hence forth, I was the Squadron Legal Officer, a job I thoroughly enjoyed.
Was not selected for retention contrary to promises of the Holloway Plan. We were offered six more months of active duty when no one knew what was happening in Korea. Said, "You had your chance!" and headed back to USC only to be diverted once again. Visited Barbara's sister and brother-in-law in Palo Alto and Tom talked me into going to Stanford. (They moved to Southern California three months later, but living our lives in Palo Alto has been a blessing. Muchas gracias, Thomas.)
Flipped a coin between architecture and the law and it came up heads! Graduated with honors … went to work as a flunky and wound up president of Spencer Associates, Architects and Planners. At Stanford a fellow student, Tito Seigel, talked me into joining the Navy Reserve … it didn't take much, we needed the cash. Flew SNJs, F4Us, TV-1s, F2Hs, S2Fs and wound up as the skipper of P2V Squadron VP-874 at Alameda … full circle. Left the Reserve in 1967 after 20 years of service. The Navy was a great experience!
All the while we had three children … Curt who studied baboons in Africa for three years and is currently a computer guru in Puerto Rico … Jan who studied art at UCLA and is currently a graphic designer in San Francisco … and Matt who is a soil microbiologist in Redding, California. If you are curious about the details, visit our family web site at www.bbusse.com.
Had a great career in architecture and retired in 1988. Since then Barbara and I have been living the good life. Lots of traveling … baby sitting with assorted granddaughters … building furniture … gardening … attending reunions … making video movies and doing computer graphics … all the while working with other volunteers to save the world.
We look forward to doing more of the same.
One of my favorite songs was popular when we were at Los Alamitos … Johnny Long's rendition of “A Shanty in Old Shanty Town!” Not too romantic, but great lyrics!
* Busse, Bill, FMA West Coast Reunion 2002; © 2002.
“In the Teeth of a Booming Gale”
One of the verses to the poem, "A Capital Ship", includes “The Captain's Mate was very sedate for he sat on the after-rail and fired salutes to the Captain's boots in the teeth of a booming gale!"
It was during typhoon season in late 1949 when Bud Hower (15-46) and I flew. with VP-22 Commanding Officer, Art Farwell, from Agaña, Guam to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Shortly after landing the Duty Officer had a request. "'Would we hop back aboard our trusty PB4Y-2 and try to locate a typhoon that was bearing down on the East coast of Mindanao." In those days we used to casually answer, “Oh, very well" to almost any question ... which, without hesitation, was what the Skipper said.
Bud was flying right seat and I was relegated to the nav table. My job was to navigate us around the storm and make sure we didn't run into the cliffs when we approached landfall. No problem! A big problem … we flew around the gale at plus or minus 150 feet over a sea that was churning like water boiling .on a hot stove. All the while water was pouring in around the dome over my nav table while I used the drift sight to give the cockpit "turn times" … then back to the wet chart to try to plot what was going on.
It occurred to me later that had we gone down it was all over. Fortunately, the four R1830s kept cranking and I gave the Skipper a hard light turn shortly before we came to the coast.
Then back to Clark Field with a reasonable good location of the "booming gale." As a result, the folks in Mindanao had advance warning as to approximately where and when It would make landfall. With the typhoon's 150 mile an hour winds we heard there was a great deal of damage. Certainly our good deed for the day ... or possibly a lifetime!
LIFE DOESN’T GET MUCH BETTER *
There were three emotional highs in my early Navy life. The first was when high school buddy, Jim Hendrix, and I hitch hiked to LA from Prescott, Arizona, to try to enlist in the V-5 Program. I had earlier flunked the physical exam for the boot Navy and was going to LA merely for the adventure. And then, lo and behold, Jim and I were among the five out of fifty who made it. Unbelievable! "How would you like to go Arizona State College at Flagsaff?...and here are your V-5 pins!" Wow, life can't get any better than this! But it did!
A semester at Flag, a mere 100 miles from home and all of the lonesome young ladies, but that was not the emotional high. We were treated rather shabbily by the ensconced V-12 folks at ASU, but it all evened out. The Skipper had us assemble in the lounge where he announced that the Unit was being decommissioned and the V-5s and V-12s were being reassigned. First, the V-12s are going to the University of New Mexico (silence) and the V-5s to the University of Southern California! (BEDLAM!) I can still relive the absolute joy of the moment. And while at USC Dave Cobb introduced me to the lovely co-ed I married the day after receiving my commission. But one of the most exciting events happened a bit later.
Barbara and I had been married for three days when I found myself on Guam with VP-22. Needless to say, six months apart in our young lives was not tenable. So, 1 asked our Skipper, CDR.Art Farwell, if there were any schools stateside I might be able to attend. "How would you like to be our next legal officer and spend six weeks at the Navy Justice School in Port Hueneme?" Would I? That's only 50 miles north of LA where my bride is living with her mother! And so, our lonesome ensign arrived "unannounced" at her doorstep…only she was out ice skating. Her mom showed me Barbara's bedroom and I climbed in awaiting one unbelievably surprised young lady. We both relive the experience whenever we want to juice up our romance.
* The Aviation Midshipmen LOG, Winter 2011