“Returning Celebration” *
[On 30 June 1950] Due to Sec of Defense Louis Johnson cutbacks, 19 of us from Air Group Five (all ex flying middies) were waiting to be released to inactive duty … when the Korean fracas broke out on 25 June. Our squadrons on the Valley Forge [USS Valley Forge (CV-45)] were in Hong Kong at the time and were immediately dispatched to Korea but needed replacement planes for those that had been lost during carrier ops. The Navy decided to send the planes plus an Air Force group of P-51s over on the Boxer. The idea was to fly the Navy planes from the Boxer to the Valley Forge. Since we were the only carrier qualified pilots on the west coast at the time, we got a telegram from Washington the night of the 29th (at the BOQ bar at North Island) requesting we stay on [active duty] for 30 days to deliver the planes. Almost everyone accepted and halfway across the Pacific were given the choice of returning to our squadrons. The Boxer, by the way, made a record run from San Francisco to Tokyo which held up until recent years.
For some reason when we reached Tokyo, it was decided that only the props would be flown to the Valley Forge. Dave Tatum (killed in Korea in 1952) and myself (the only jet jocks) were shipped back and forth across Japan and to Okinawa a couple of times trying to catch up with the ship for three weeks, that’s a story in itself which I will save for another time. In our travels however we ran into Norm Dunbar in Okinawa, also trying to get back to the Valley.
The next time out we were on the Essex [USS Essex (CV-9)] when the Navy decided they wanted to try out the Banshee in combat so they replaced us (VF-52) with an east coast Banshee squadron (VF-172) in Hawaii. [We] spent 2 months at Barber’s Point flying in the morning and down to Waikiki by noon. Rough! We made 12-plane formation takeoffs from Barber’s Point which may be a record for jets. Anyway the reason I bring it up is that we were transported back to Conus on the Princeton [USS Princeton (CV-37) with CVG-19] returning from Korea.
We were to fly from the ship to North Island while the returning air group came in with the ship. When we landed at NI we taxied to the end of the runway and changed into Hawaiian lava lavas (wrap-around male skirts), leis, and straw hats. In the meantime, the bands and other groups waiting [at the dock] to welcome the [carrier and the] returning air groups had seen the carrier aircraft landing, and since there were no carrier air groups at NI at the time, assumed we were the returning combat air group Not everyone was amused when the bands welcomed us at the flight line in our Hawaiian dress while the ship—with its returning air group-- docked without a welcome.
* Excerpt from Luther Duncan letter of 1 March 1989 to Lou Ives. [from Redondo Beach, California]. © 1989.