Letter to Lou Ives
4 May 2011
Lou, old friend, where to begin—promised you a background “summary” of this old guy a couple of years ago. I prefer to keep it short and simple but hard to do looking back about 84 years. Fortunately for me you were an important player in some—no—many of these years.—From V-5 in Colo College (1945 to the present !)
Here’s trying: Grew up in So Pennsylvania, Small town (West Park/McKees Rocks, Pa.)—6-8 miles NW of Pittsburgh. Graduated June 6, 1944 (Stowe Twp High School) and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps (A.A.C.) (@ 17 yrs, 2 wks of age). Sent to Lehigh Univ, Bethlehem, Pa, to an ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program—Like USN/V-5 Program). After 3 Qtrs (not Semesters) with European War winding down, AAC cut back on “Flight-Trainees-In-Waiting” !
For all 17-yrs old, given 3 options-(1) Aerial Gunnery Training; (2) “Pool”—Fill any need?; (3) Honorable Discharge—Took #3 ! Two months later, living with relatives in Santa Monica, learned USN re-opened V-5/flight opportunity—joined immediately (before 18th birthday)—DNOP/LA [District Naval Officer Procurement] (Pershing Square !). About June/July ‘45, off to Colorado College @ Colorado Springs—you know well that 1-year “drill.”
Next, Selective Flight Training @ Livermore & N2S (10 hrs)—You cut my only good black tie (‘Solo’ award). You know bal.—Pre Flight at Ottumwa 1946 when Fly’g Mid’n Program began. Think the program once was 12 weeks—then extended to 30 by the 26th week conversion Mid’ns & so it all began !
I was in Class 10-46 (you probably feenagled a slot in 9-46, somehow). After being “winged” @ JAX 1 July ’48--sent West Coast for a series of “What-The-H-ll-Do-We-Do-With-These-Strange-Aviators?”
First, it was FAETU/Fleet Airborne Electronic Training (radar nav in Calif. Valleys), done @ nite. Nxt Amphib Warfare @ USMC & Ldg Boats at Coronado; FAC [Forward Air Controllers] with Radios in hills N of San Diego; next, School of Naval Justice, Port Hueneme—(“Sea Lawyers”!). Then-- --! Believe we got orders to Air Group 21 (VA-213) at NAS Seattle ! A TBM squadron (active duty “rejects”). But the birds still worked. (Only connection with G.H.W. Bush who “lost” his in Asian Sea). At some point in time, 4 or 5 of us were volunteered to ferry F6F Hellcats to the Marines at El Toro, CA. They failed to tell us the F6s would be stripped & given to USMC for target drones. I discovered this enroute when we found out the underseat relief tube gone--over the mountains of Oregon! (Flight gloves—never worn—came in handy, but left a “green” icy canopy on right side!). This was the same flight that Bob Ramsey said he spun out of the clouds (alt?) & recovered in a valley & headed to NAS Oakland for refueling (I think the rest of us stopped at a SAC base (Merced?) and got machine gun/Jeep escort to refueling & a quick “goodbye.”
Forgot—earlier at San Diego, I got Temp assign’t to VR-21 to ferry TBMs Corpus.
You’ll know timing for Decommish of VA-213 & transfer to VA-134 (Air Group 13) @ San Diego & transition to F4Us for some of us. Transf JAX—You flew, I drove your car along with Momento of a generous flight surgeon (“Organized Athletics”) & a sneaky roommate (You!), also recall your mix of my toothpaste & shaving cream (can’t trust U.S.C. guys).
Then a stop @ FSU [Florida State to see] Danny, then too short a tour at JAX [VA-134 F4Us]—requalled @ F4U on [USS] FDR off JAX. Later, recall bad engine on take off “attempt” at JAX @ learned the bird had been downed just the flight before for same reason @ yellow sheet showed squawk never worked off—Thrill for me.
“On The Beach”: After Air Group 13 decommissioned Dec/Jan ’50,--took couple part-time jobs in Santa Monica until GI Bill got approved @ UCLA. Joined Reserve Unit VF-776 @ Los Alamitos for 1950-1953 and full-time job @ Contract Administration North American Av’n, LA. NAA transferred us to Contract & Logistics Field Office at McClellan AFB, Sacramento. Spent 10 years in Marketing & Logistics there--one interesting event—the coordination/parallel rehab lines (F-86s back from Pacific) at McClellan & Fresno Plant (North American vs. USAF)?. Short 1-year transfer to Autonetics Anaheim, CA as Program Administrator for Radar/Fire Control Sys (Lockheed birds). Washington DC/NAA office asked me to open a Field Marketing office (as Senior Sales Engineer) in Hampton-Newport News, VA, to support Langley AFB on F-111 fire control, radar, INS (inertial), etc. Later expanded to cover NASA Langley, Ft. Eustis, Ft. Monroe, and Navy Amphib Base, Norfolk.
Again, area “grew.” South East District Mgr (Autonetics) to cover 5 southeastern states including Florida (Eglin). After another 10 years, company closed the office and asked me to open another Marketing field office at China Lake, CA, (Naval Weapons Development Center) Navy’s equivalent of Eglin (VX-6, A-6 a/c). Primary weapon was the Condor TV-guided missile. Later added IR [Infra-Red] guidance. Unfortunately, we lost the Gov’ts $s to a competing McDonnell weapon. And 3½ years later closed that Navy office. Next—Asked to take over the Eglin Marketing Field Office @ Ft. Walton Beach, FL, (Prev. a Corporate Office). This time for the NAA Missile Systems Division of Columbus, OH, & later Duluth (Atlanta) GA. Primary Weapon was an advanced stand-off TV-guided (toss-type weapon—600# warhead 10-12 miles). We brought Aerojet on board for an “underslung” type jet propulsion system—more or less. Doubled the range and accuracy capabilities. (Eglin ranges cover 25 miles/N&S, 50 miles /E&W.) The GBU-15 (2,000# warhead) modified became AGM-130 & ultimately used to shut off some of Saadam Hussain’s oil wells leaking into the gulf (Persian). Also *supported the U.S. Army’s Long Range test (final) of the Hellfire missile which is being used even today  with great success in Afghanistan. (Off the record, Lou—these two weapons programs AGM-130 & Hellfire “helped” us put our four kids through college—salarywise)! Later some grandkids, too.
Retired with 35 years service (NAA/Rockwell) & 20 USNR)(some overlapping). Took a short-term consulting job (Eglin/Ft. Walton Beach) with Dick Smyth’s technical firm Milco Int’l (Huntington Beach, CA). Then lots of travel & Gr’kid visiting ever since.
Had plenty of business travel & product (weapons) experience. Enjoyed all military activity—both active and reserve—Now for clean-out, sorting “Stuff”!
P.S.—Lou, The previous notes had most everything to do with military, business—life; etc., but in no way could summarize great emotional, spiritual, and physical activity that really defines my family & personal life. It would take a book to do that!
Sixty-one years with Danny & the youngsters that followed; friends, neighbors, co-workers and especially church friends everywhere we lived, made it outstanding. We did everything together & loved it. I’m sure you could say much the same thing. Seems like I’ve done most everything I’d hoped for
--- Except, maybe, climb a taller mountain and—fly wing on you in those early ’50-51 years o’seas. I take my hat off to you, ole Buddy—you’re a real hero!
Very Best Regards,
Yeh, fly wing—remember that day in Seattle, we were flying wing on Marty Lloyd in a 3-plane Turkey (TBM) section—he signaled us to reverse wing positions, and we screwed it up so badly that he broke radio silence and hollered at us to shape up?
Or, that day in JAX when we were in a 4-plane F4U division (Marty Lloyd again) and he signaled for a tail-chase. Marty and Bill Hoyman did all kinds of dingbats—too much for us lowly ensigns—so we pulled out and watched two pros at work?
[Note: I’m not the FMA historian. After some members of the FMA Board tried to tell me how to manage the history project, I disengaged from the FMAssociation and set it up as The Brown Shoes History Project—also to include the AvCads, instructors, squadron mates, whitehats, all those who otherwise kept our noses clean, and with supporting background information. Those who got their wings 1945-1950 were, indeed, Flying Midshipmen—and these are their stories.
I hope to continue this project, collect the stories, put it on the internet, link it to interested historical entities, and keep it as a viable interactive source for historians, scholars, families, and rubberneckers. No one else will do it.]