“Re: LOG Articles on Thule” *
The recent comments of Jack Brewer and Norris Roberts awakened a few of my VR-6 memories, circa 1951-52, of Thule during "Operation Bluejay". When VR-6 was anointed, they ran us thru a short course in Grid Nav, winterized our R5Ds, gave us 2 parachute bags of Arctic gear and sent us off via Goose Bay and West 8 or Frobisher Bay.
The initial landing area at Thule was a 4,000' dirt strip which began over a 150' cliff and ended at the foot of a very rocky hill. It had a pronounced negative slope toward the hill and we had to land down slope and takeoff up slope regardless of the wind. It was also strewn with small boulders the size of turkey eggs and lemons. Shortly before VR-6 arrived, the combination ops, admin, mess and bunk room burned and we stayed in a hurriedly erected big square plywood box and dined on C & K rations.
After the MSTS convoy arrived in early Fall, a village of insulated canvas-covered Quonset hts appeared which provided the crews with a separate bunking hut, a shared 4 holer w/urinal, a steak-every-meal mess and a bath/wash house. Because of permafrost, the outhouse had a hinged door in back which allowed cut-in-half fuel drums to be used as receptacles. Later on, a 2 mile AF runway, a big hanger and permanent refrigerator-like quarters were built. They even brought up round-eyed women - WAFs and nurses. I don't recall seeing any Eskimos but their village was not too far away and their huskies had free gangway.
On one trip before they built the club and golf course, I was in the 4 holer at the urinal and talking to a crew member who was seated on the throne. All of a sudden, the gent jumps into the air with a screech followed by some yelling about something that was "in there". After he calmed down and pulled up his breeches, we discovered the back door askew with a broken hinge which had allowed a roving husky to stick his head in and poke his cold nose against the gent's warm backside - in the vicinity of the 'male handle and satchel'. Fortunately for him, the husky must have just dined.
Joe Preston (14-48), who drew great cartoons of the operation, and Mac Smith (15-48) were squadron mates during this period and are encouraged to write to "JOCK" and elaborate on other experiences of the "Fair Weather Fly Boys" of VR-6.
There were strange things done in the midnight sun
by the guys who toiled & flew
who all were in hopes of funnier
jokes and a Rhein Main trip or two.
* Flying Midshipmen LOG, summer 2003; © 2003.
“We’d Catch the ‘Ball’ on Final” *
In the mid-50s, enroute to becoming the "World's Greatest Aviator", I was a LT instructor/check pilot in VR-22 at NAS Norfolk flying R6Ds. On occasion, at the end of a 4 hour training/check flight, if NAAS Fentress was open for FCLPs, we'd call up "Paddles" and if they were done with the "Spads" and "Stovepipes", we'd request a few cuts. If cleared, we'd dirty up, put on 2400 turns slow to a comfortable notch above Vmc and slide into downwind at 800 feet. On calling down wind, there would frequently be a pause and a request for AlC type. When told, another very pregnant pause, then “Roger, call entering.”
An empty R6D is right nose heavy, especially "dirtied up" and it took a lot of back tab to keep the yoke from pulling your arms off trying to maintain altitude and attitude. We'd catch the "ball" on final, and come dragging over the threshold at about Vmc, chop the power, haul the yoke, touchdown, ease the nose, push the levers and go roaring around again. Occasionally the duty LSO would be a former paddle waver and he would wave us thru a few "Roger" passes. The looks of amazement on the "paddles" crew as we went by was wondrous to behold and worth the previous 4 hour grind correcting the shortcomings of transitioning tailhookers and other nuggets fortunate enough to be in R6Ds in VR-22.
VR flying was said to be hours & hours of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror. That happened on a black & frigid winter night south of Greenland when a jug blew off an engine, the airfoil heater died, icing began, fuel consumption got above the forecast line and both destination & alternate went below minimums. It made life in the VR world very interesting!
* From the FMA LOG winter 2010. © 2010.
“A FEW OF THE MORE ENJOYABLE EVENTS”
A. Landing an R6D in 6 inches of new unplowed snow at Atsugi with 67 pax who had to be told we were on the deck! I later learned how to routinely "whisper kiss" it on to dry runways day or night. Ah, such finesse!
B. Having an open air breakfast with cold vin rose atop a 5 star hotel in Madrid in spring in air so crystal clear you could almost see Gibraltar. That was after socializing with beautiful raven haired ladies of the evening the night before. They and some wives of Iranian naval officers in the early 70s. They were the most strikingly beautiful women I ever saw anywhere.
C. Landing in and seeing London, Prestwick, Shannon, Palris, Frankfurt, Madrid, Naples, San Juan, Rio, Honolulu, Manila, Tokyo, New Zealand and with a bit less enthusiasm, Argentia, Goose Bay, Bluie West Eight, Thule, Frobisher, Keflavik, Malta, Adana, Lajes, Port Lyautey, Bermuda ... Recife, Johnson & Canton Islands, Kwaj, Nandi, Wake, Guam, Sangley Point, Cubi, Saigon, K-1 [Pusan] & K-3 [Pohang, South Korea] and Midway. [Ed: Wow! What a trip!]
D. And in the late 50s, averaging 120 hours a month with 3 consecutive months of 150-155 hours. I never felt 1 had to back up to the pay window! My five log books totaled over 13,000 hours.