Tue, 25 Sep 2007 SUBJECT: GREEK RECOVERY OPERATIONS
In January of 1967, the Tuslog courier, a C-47, was lost in the mountains of Greece. As it turned out, it had crashed on Mt. Helmos, an extinct volcano and had landed in the large crater. At that time, there was approximately sixty feet of snow in the bowl, and the fuselage, mostly intact, came to rest there. There were several survivors, all of whom were injured except for one Air Force captain. Having no communications and no other choice, he managed somehow to walk down off that mountain at night in the dark, in a snow storm to a small village. To be honest, after seeing the route that he took, I wouldn't want to do it in the summer in the daylight. It was unbelieveable. To make a long story longer, he managed to somehow make it understood what had happened and secured assistance from the villagers who accompanied him back up the mountain the next day and rescued the last two survivors.
The winter weather was such that it was impossible to even try to locate the remaining bodies although a recovery effort was attempted, and so, in May, our LBR was tasked to send one H-43 across from Turkey to Greece to assist in the recovery operations. We loaded up the trusty 55 gallon drum of fuel in the cabin, and with our bags packed, off we went. We had to land on a Greek island to refuel, and not having any Greek speakers among us, wondered how we would get along with these country folks. On landing in a stubble field, the first person we met was a near double for Anthony Quinn whose name, of all things was Nick (Nick the Greek). He greeted us with "hello, how are you" in English. Nothing would do, but he wouldn't let us pump our own fuel, but insisted that he do it himself. In the interest of Anglo/Greek relations, (and the fact that it was hot), I felt that it would be best to allow him to do this. All that he wanted was the empty drum.
From there, we crossed to the Greek mainland and landed at Athenai airport in Athens. We were there only long enough to refuel and pick an Air Force interpreter. With good directions, we flew down the Peleponesus to the little village of Kalavrita over the Corinth canal and past monasteries built right into the side of mountains. A really interesting trip.
An on scene headquarters had been set up in a field outside of the village from which we operated, flying Greek mountain troops and US Special Forces troops to the top of the 9400' mountain when weather permitted. It took us about two weeks to recover most of the bodies, but there was still one unaccounted for when we ceased operations. He was later found by a shepherd in August. We were quartered in a small hotel that had no running water, and ate our meals either in the hotel or a small restaurant in the village. The normal breakfast was steak and eggs which as I recall was dirt cheap. We did get to spend a few days seeing the sights in Athens though and enjoyed that. I got to fly left seat all the way back and had the controls for just about the whole trip. Flying over water with an indistinct horizon is great instrument flying practice. (JOHN DORGAN)
Wed, 19 Sep 2007 SUBJECT: COMBAT TATICS
After the first mission in 65 when we went in at 10,000 ft trying to stay at least 5 miles from known AA sites and above the clouds with no parachutes. Being single engine, and not knowing where we were going to come down thru the clouds, we got chutes smuggled in from the fighter guys, IN CASE of flame out the next time up. As you guys know the H-43 would go higher, but with no OX, not a good idea! Even in 67 on my second time around in SVN, we stayed above 3500 ft, the supposed effective range of a 50 Cal. When I hit Saigon in 72, we in H-3's climbed out as fast as we could to 3500 circling above the field. Then autorotated back down circling over the field while the fixed wing guys were flying normal patterns. After the Strellas cranked up before the mission to AnLoc, I lead in again at !0,000 ft above the clouds, found a hole, and we both autorotated down to make the pickups! Going out we stayed in the trees until max speed and clear of the area and climbed ASAP back to above the clouds at 10,000 ft. I sort of got my butt chewed for green stains on the fuselage. I told the boss, no sweat there's ten feet between the bottom and the rotor blades! Like my grandfather told my dad, when you plant a crop and it works, don't plan on it working in Kansas the next year! But remember how you did it as it might work again. I felt the same way about so-called Tactics! (JOE BALLINGER)
Tue , 11 Sep 2007 SUBJECT : HELICOPTER BOMBER
I remember when the Wing Commander of the 56th SOW wrote an authorization for the 21st SOS helos to carry napalm. It was shortly after he went on a 21st SOS mission in the jump seat. He was an A-1 pilot and said he thought our missions were no big deal compared to the fighters. He was little shaky when he got back from the mission. During drinks at the Penetrator Inn, he said he had been shot at by 12.7 mm guns before, but that he had never heard them going off before. He wrote the authorization on a napkin after a few (or more) drinks. I don't know who his pilots were.
Mon, 10 Sep 2007 SUBJECT: HELICOPTER CRASHES
I can remember 3 Helicopter crashes. One was in Japan with an H-21A trying to land on a Helo pad originally built for H-19s at a radar site on Mt Suberama at Det #3. I don't remember to well but think pilot lost his foot. Don't remember if it was Smallwood or Youngblood, long time back. Then we lost an H-19 down at Eniwetok Det 4 in 1958, one passenger lost his life, opened 20 man life raft in cabin in about 7 feet of water at night. Then we lost a H-21A at Keesler over the back bay while on a test flight for a engine change. Capt Taylor was flying and Sgt Evers was in CP seat. Landed in water and helicopter was complete loss with no injuries. (CHARLIE NACHBAR)
Mon, 10 Sep 2007 SUBJECT: BOMBS AWAY
Speaking of flour marking, in our early Red Flags, like Red Flag 01, back in Nov late 70s (I have the patch put up somewhere), we used to irritate the agressor sites off by flying over them and dropping small sandwich size bags of flour on them to mark them as a hit. That was when I was with the Fightin' Five-Five ARRS at Eglin. Great trips and all the same great the guys are writing about now. Sometime I have to tell you about our Moonbeam flights, and our Madam Beverley's drop in while waiting for range time. (TOM GREEN)
Mon, 10 Sep 2007 SUBJECT: HELICOPTER BOMBER
I know this will not count as a "bomber" but in the early 1960's we were TDY from Stead to Luke AFB for the TAC Gunnery Meet. We were out on the range where the fighter/bombers would come in for their LABS bomb drops. After the dummy bomb hit we would zip out to the impact site and drop a 5 pound bag of flour on it so we could find it to score later then scurry back out of sight for the next one. We tried "eyeball" bombing from 500 feet with the left over flour and did pretty darn good. (K V HALL)
Sun, 9 Sep 2007 SUBJECT H-43 BOMBING TESTS
When we were with Det 3, WARC at Kirtland we worked a lot on projects with the Special Weapons guys. They'd have us fly weapons shapes up and down their range every now and then for testing. Whenever we asked what we were doing, the slip-stick guys would just tell us we didnt have the need to know! But one of the strangest was when they came over in 64 and asked if we could fly with the clamshell's off. When we said yes, they measured the back with the same dont ask attitude. Then came back in about two weeks with an apparatus you wouldnt believe! It was an aircraft seat made to fit over the back step with an old Norden Bomb sight attached to it. After we took the clamshells off, they fit it in with the seat facing backwards-(also attached was a rack for 5 finned smoke bombs and a toggle lever). I was the lucky guy who took them out over the range and try it out. The learning curve of the bombardier??? in giving me heading corrections in reverse from the bombsight was a hoot! When we finally got some what close to the target from 3000 ft AGL, we went back to base. When I told them one of our Flight mechs could do better out the side of the door with Kentucky windage, they took it out and we never heard from them again. So I guess that's why we never got to drop bombs with the H-43. (JOE BALLINGER)
Sat, 8 Sep 2007 SUBJECT: HISTORY ITEMS
It's these little bits of our history, along with all the other stories we are trying to preserve on our web site that we share that helps us add to our history. Great stuff John D., hope you can find the slides and share them with us.
The tid-bits of our history like the grenades in the water glass mentioned by John K., the mini-grenades in the shot glasses mentioned by Harvey M., the HH-43 FSK 'bombing' mentioned by John F (I've been involved with two or three of these myself-see the attached photo) are those little bits of our history that make our history and our web site live. (JIM BURNS)
Sat, 8 Sep 2007 SUBJECT: HELICOPTER BOMBER
May not qualify but it seems I remember the 21st rolling a 500 lb. bomb off the aft ramp at NKP. If I remember correctly an A-1 had crashed in the Mekong and was blocking the channel so it was decided that the 21st would try to roll the bomb out the back. Needless to say it played havoc with weight and balance and the crew had a joy ride. If memory serves me SSgt. Larry Dryer was one of the FE’s on the mission. Maybe Jim H. can remember more about this mission, I believe it was in ’68. Like the rest of the people in my age group I also suffer from CRS. (RICK ESTEP)
Mon, 3 Sep 2007 SUBJECT: HOMESTEAD AFB H-21s
I believe 4402 was with us at Homestead. The one I crewed was 4391 but I can't remember the other aircraft numbers. Capt. Skinner and I flew 4391 to a facility near Elizabeth City North Carolina when we were phasing out the H-21s. We were told that the aircraft was going to be used as a practice target and destroyed. Still remember being very upset about that decision. One of the other H-21s (4402 ?) was flown to Mobile Alabama where it was on display with the battleship that was positioned for public display. I believe another went to a trade school or college in North Carolina. Wish I had kept better records, but at that time it didn't seem to matter. Now, information such as this subject really does become interesting at my age and I can't remember. I recall that one of our aircraft made an emergency landing in shallow water in the bay and we lost one in the everglades when a main gearwheel hung up in the coral during an attempt to lift off and went on its side. As I said before it was a good tour there and I gained a lot of respect for the H-21. (LES BUNTING)
Mon, 3 Sep 2007 SUBJECT: PROJECT GNOME
Jim, dont have anything on the referenced program. However I was one of two H-21 crews to participate in an underground shot at Indian Springs near that time frame, possibly "Plowshare". We flew close to the site during the shot to watch for "leaks" and I remember the ground kinda poofed and then sunk into a big hole. (K V HALL)
Mon, 3 Sep 2007 SUBJECT: HISTORY
What a great history of a Coast Guard Aviator.
If we had all kept records of our service, as Capt. Prindle did, it would be easy to compile and preserve the history of the "USAF Rotorheads" family. But since most of us did not keep records like this of our service, (including me) and ever advancing CRS (again, including me), it is much more difficult for us to accomplish our goal of preserving our history. All the more reason for each of us to take the time and effort to record our stories to preserve them for our families and send into Jim M. for entry on our website to be shared with all the USAF helicopter family. (JIM BURNS)