Ready Room

Stories and comments received by those who care.


Did the Heavy Two reunion people see the peacocks?? See below for the rest of the story. It was our own Frenchy who brung 'em.
    You made mention of the peacocks on display at the Naval Postgraduate School grounds.  I can provide the background on how they got there.
    In October 1966 my class was graduating and I was the only member who had finished work on his thesis.  The class leader appointed me and one other fellow, who was settling for a bachelor's degree and not writing a thesis, to procure a tree for our class to plant somewhere on the school grounds.  That was the ongoing tradition at that time, and may still be so.  My partner in crime, one LT
Donald C. Witt USN, killed in Vietnam riverboat action a few months later, suggested we do something more constructive than plant a tree for dogs to pee on.  We mulled it over some, and came up with the thought of peafowl, believing they would go a long way in lending color to the place.  A search of the want ads (no e-Bay yet) disclosed a farmer out Carmel Valley about 30 miles who had some for sale.  We motored out to his place, explained our needs (wants) and he agreed to donate two peacocks and two peahens to our project.  We figured four would be sufficient.
    Next step was to approach the admiral to see if  our intended class gift would be appropriate.  The flag secretary was pessimistic but the admiral was quite the reverse.  We planned to bring in our peafowl on a Saturday morning and he had the Public Works folks working well into the night Friday building a suitable enclosure.  Said enclosure took in the tops of two eucalyptus trees!  Definitely not your typical bird cage.  Saturday morning Don and I retrieved the birds, stuffed them in gunny sacks and put them in my new Volkswagen Squareback Sedan (which never smelled new again after that transport).   We hauled the sacks into the enclosure, amid much hoopla and fanfare, including Monterey Peninsula Herald shutterbugs and reporters, and emptied the sacks.  The admiral was most pleased and our traditional departing gift to the school was delivered.
    I was back in the area TAD to Fleet Numbers in the summer of '69 and noted that the peafowl had multiplied.  The huge cage was left open so the birds roamed (and crapped) all over the place.  I was sitting in the barber chair, the window was open, and a beautiful peacock flew into a live oak tree right outside the window, spread his tail, and let out a loud raucous call.   I commented to the barber on what a pretty sight it made, hoping to lead up to the fact that I was one of the folks who were instrumental in establishment of their presence.
   The barber responded with "Yea, some goddam class graduated a few years ago and left them bastards here, and now they're all over the place, squawking and yelling, even into the night".    I decided he didn't really need to know of my role in the peafowl procurement, and not wanting to jeopardize the outcome of my haircut, I merely muttered something along the line of "I always wondered where they came from". 
Frenchy sends with Warm Regards


16 January 2008

Another true-life sage by Frenchy Corbeille

In January 1955, after a one-year  tour on the island of Adak in the Aleutian Chain, I was assigned to NAS Whidbey Island, WA.  I was elevated to the lofty rank of AG3 the day I reported aboard, and naturally enough, I was assigned to the Aerology Division, Air Operations Department, as were all other Aerographer's Mates (AGs).   The Air Operations Department was then housed in a World War Two era building of frame and clapboard construction, designed to be quickly built and meagerly functional.  So, even though space was provided for the Aerology crew, there was no balloon inflation shelter.
    We were scheduled to launch four pilot balloons (PIBALs) daily and mostly used 100-gram balloons.   When properly inflated, a 100-gram balloon is somewhere around 40 inches in diameter and can be tracked with a 25-power theodolite many thousands of feet into the atmosphere, or until it enters a cloud layer.  Tracking data are then used to compute upper-level winds, information which is helpful to both the weather forecaster and the aviator.
    Having no special balloon inflation facility at our disposal, the erstwhile AGs who preceded me had developed a pretty workable scheme which involved running a hose from the helium tank outside through a partially opened window and hooking it up to the inflation equipment inside the office.  Then it was a simple matter of having one man on the valve outside and one inside to signal when the balloon was full and tying the stem tightly shut. 
    To preserve the balloons in storage, they were packed in talcum powder, with a liberal sprinkling internally to prevent the balloon from sticking itself shut.  So once inflated and tied off, one then had this rather awkward powdery orb which was in the weather office and needed to be taken outside for release.  The doorway out of the Aerology Office was something less than three feet wide, so this 40-inch sphere had to be compressed slightly.   This was not as delicate an operation as one might think, because these balloons were pretty 'thick-skinned' critters.  Being dimensionally challenged in arm length, it was a bit tricky for me to get my arms around the beast, but I could do it.   Then I would back carefully through the doorway out into a 6-foot wide passageway which led to the great outdoors - through a double door.
    The last time I was asked to perform this particular task was a memorable one for me, and for at least one other Navy person.  Unbeknownst to me, as I was backing out of the Aerology Office, carefully keeping the balloon from scraping on the doorframe, the Air Operations Officer, a Navy Commander whose name I no longer remember, was backing out of his office, while conversing with someone still inside.  We emerged about simultaneously and turned together to head down the passageway, he clockwise, I counterclockwise.  He had a cigar in his mouth.  The resulting explosion was not deafening but the cloud of dust was certainly overwhelming.   The Commander's "Aviation Green" uniform now had a very chalky appearance, as did his eyebrows and hairline.  His black eyes were fairly snapping fire.  I quickly envisioned my new AG3 "crow" flying away with my return to the rank of AGAN!   What saved the day, especially for me, was the uncontrolled laughter of my division officer, the late George Berrian, then  Lieutenant-Commander Berrian.   He could see the whole thing unfolding, but, in his words, it was kind of like watching a freight train de-rail.   One could see it happening but was powerless to do much about it, so one might as well enjoy the show.   Enjoy it he did.  He literally doubled up in mirth, and soon the Air Operations Officer saw a bit of humor in the whole thing himself.   At that point I departed the area, with not so much as a "By your leave, Sir".  I was transferred to Fleet Weather Central Yokosuka, Japan a few months later. 
    My fascination with weather balloons was not to end there, however.  Epilogue follows:
 In 1962, while assigned to Heavy Attack Squadron Two, I was aboard the USS Coral Sea, moored to a pier at Cubi Point, RP.   The reason I was aboard was because I was LTJG Corbeille then and I was Squadron Duty Officer (SDO); the rest of the squadron was enjoying a squadron picnic at the base recreation facility.  There is no space more dead than a squadron ready room when everybody save the SDO is at a squadron picnic.  With time on my hands and lots of room for stray thoughts,  my mind kept playing through some of the Executive Officer's  (XO) favorite sayings:  "Let's get the ball pumped up!", or "Keep the damned ball pumped up!"   On my way back from noon meal I happened right by the passageway off which was the XO's stateroom; I could see that the door was slightly ajar.   I also noted that there was a low pressure air line in the passageway right outside his door.   One thought led to another and in no time at all, I was in the Coral Sea Weather Office requesting a large weather balloon.   They gave me a 700-gram size, which is akin to the Graf-Zepelin, or maybe the Goodyear blimp.   So, now outfitted with a really nice balloon and a length of inflation hose, along with some string for tying off the inflation nozzle, I returned to the XO's stateroom.   After making all necessary connections, I inflated that hummer right there in his room.   It completely filled the place!   When I got all done and had returned all equipment, I  hung a fairly large sign on it that read "Keep this damned ball pumped up!"  Then I returned to my duty station in the ready room from where I awaited developments.
    The XO, Commander William D. Fries, was one of the first returnees from the picnic and he dutifully checked in with the SDO to inquire whether or not all was well.   It was, and he left for his stateroom.   In less than a minute he was back, very excited, and says "Come on Frenchy, you gotta see this".   So I accompanied him down his passageway, and even innocently asked him how the hell he got that thing in there.   He was more concerned about how to get it out.   The ever pragmatic one, I suggested poking a hole in it, an idea he quickly vetoed, because he wanted to save the thing for a souvenir.   I almost suggested just getting a brand new one from the weather office, but thought better of it.   I told him instead that there must be an inflation spout on the thing somewhere; if it can be inflated, it can be deflated.  He got down on the deck and discovered the nozzle (right where I had left it), and proceeded to remove the string.   I probably should have told him about the talcum powder, which had, for the most part, settled down near the nozzle.   When he got the string off, there was a gout of dust the likes of which are seldom seen.  He should have been further from the source.   He had snapping black eyes just like the Air Operations Officer at Whidbey Island, all surrounded by a chalky mask.  What he said sounded good, but it doesn't look good in print.
 What amazed me is that he still had not identified me as the perpetrator of the deed.   It was some weeks later, on a Sunday afternoon at sea, standing down from air operations, and again I was SDO.   Commander Fries kept looking at me and looking at me, and then suddenly shouted "YOU DID IT!".   Then he went on to explain his deductive reasoning which involved the fact that I was an Aerographer's Mate when I was an enlisted man, that I would know about weather balloons and where to get one, etc., etc..   No one could have taken it all in better stride and just last year he sent me a copy of the official Navy photo he had taken of the balloon in his stateroom.
    So there's the rub - once a balloon blower, always a balloon blower!  We just can't get it out of our system.   


17 February 2006 - Chuck Anderson
This was Gene Foster to the rescue
In flight re-fueling
 In August of 1964, while flying of the USS Ranger CVA 61,  and over North Vietnam in an F-8 crusader Photo Bird I had a generator failure. I lost all of my navigational aids, plus I started having radio problems, so I had to head for Danang AFB..By the time I got to Danang I was low on fuel and ready to land...However there had been a crash on the runway and the field was closed. I asked them if I could land on the Taxi way. They said it would take 10 minutes to clear the area.. I circled at 15,000 feet and watched the fuel gage get lower and lower. When all of a sudden off of my right wing one of our A-3 tankers appeared (he had over heard my fuel problem and had come to my rescue)...He gave me the "take fuel" signal and I gave him a thumbs up. He then headed out to sea toward the carrier and deployed the hose and drogue. I flew up along side of him and shook my head and gave him an "orbit" signal as I didn't want to get too far away from Danang and a runway if I could not plug in. Well the tanker started to orbit to the left and I made my approach but being in a turn caused the drogue to drift out to the right every time I got close..I over shot once and slid under the drogue and it bounced off the canopy and banged a complete circle around the cockpit before I could back out; I made two more tries at the dancing drogue and missed. By this time my fuel was really low and I made another approach..Just as I got close to the drogue it started to slide out to the right again so I pushed in right rudder and goosed the throttle and bang I hit the center of the drogue and drifted under the tanker with a big loop in the hose..By using my considerable skill as a pilot I manage to ease the plane back into position with out hitting the tanker and started to take on fuel..Watching that fuel gage start to climb was a great feeling. We then flew back to the ship and landed A-OK.



18 February 2005
SEA STORY - A true one experienced by Frenchy Corbeille USN(Ret)

It was Sunday afternoon, early in the month of August, when USS Forrestal (CVA-59) was making her 
way through the Western Mediterranean during the early part of a 7-month cruise.
I was Officer of the Deck (OOD) on the 1200 – 1600 bridge watch, there were no ship’s evolutions 
ongoing, and things looked like a “ho-hum” Sunday afternoon at sea. We were hosting the prospective 
Commanding Officer of USS Independence and our CO had gone with him to the Captain’s In-Port Cabin. 
Prior to departing the bridge the CO and I had conversed briefly and one of the subjects breeched was 
that we had been in the Mediterranean for more than a week now and we had not yet seen one of those 
pesky Russian trawlers. Our Navy had come to hope not to see one because they had a way of getting in 
the way whenever we had things to do, such as flight operations, or underway replenishment. This lack 
of encounter was about to change.
At about 1500 I called the CO to advise him that we had picked up an unidentified surface contact 
on radar, range 22,000 yards (11 nautical miles). It appeared to be on our reciprocal course at a speed 
of 8 knots and in the absence of any changes, the closest point of approach (CPA) would be 6,000 yards 
on our port beam. “Very Well” and the customary “Thanks, Frenchy” constituted the CO’s response. 

I had no more than hung up the phone when the contact changed course. I could identify 2 sticks over 
the horizon, looking through the 7X50 OOD standard equipment Bausch & Lomb’s, but could make out 
nothing of the vessel. However, the two sticks bore a strong resemblance to the pictures we had on 
the bridge of known trawlers that had frequented these waters. I called the captain back to advise him 
that the unidentified contact had indeed made a 90-degree course change, was still doing 8 knots, and 
his present course/speed would take him across our bow at 6,000 yards (3 miles). We were doing 20 
knots, on some kind of a “sustained speed exercise” for the engineers, and preferred to alter neither 
course nor speed unless absolutely necessary. I advised the captain of my suspicions concerning the 
vessel’s identity and advised him that I had ordered the Intelligence sighting team to the bridge. It 
being a Sunday stand down with little to occupy the idle time, we soon had the entire Intelligence staff 
scattered about on the bridge and the signal bridge, with a few photo types thrown in.

The contact was still hull-down over the horizon but the visible masts more and more took on the 
resemblance of our Russian trawler pictures. I also advised the captain that, in accordance with the 
International Rules of the Road, Forrestal was the privileged vessel; the vessel crossing our bow was 
coming from our port side and was therefore the “Burdened” vessel. In accordance with the Rules, 
the privileged vessel is REQUIRED to maintain course and speed. The Burdened vessel is responsible 
for maneuvering as necessary to avoid collision. The Captain said “Very Well, Call me back if he does 
anything funny, and let me know what the intelligence folks come up with.”

Only moments later I was back on the phone, advising the Captain that we had positive ID on a 
Russian ELINT (Electronics Intelligence) trawler, and he had indeed done something “funny” – He had 
reached our intended track at a range of 6,000 yards, and had then executed another 90-degree turn 
to port; he was now on the same course as Forrestal, dead ahead, at speed 8 knots. So we had a 
12-kt speed advantage, and 3 miles to contact. That meant that in 15 minutes one or the other of 
us must turn or he, the Russian trawler, would get run over. I advised the captain that in accordance 
with the International Rules, he was burdened when he came in from our port bow. Now that we are 
on a course to overtake him, he would like us to believe that Forrestal, as the overtaking vessel, is the 
newly ordained BURDENED vessel. I reminded the captain of another clause in the rules that says once 
a vessel is burdened, it may not maneuver to shift the burden to the other vessel. He stays burdened 
until danger of collision is past. The captain agreed with my assessment and asked what I 
recommended we do. I recommended we hold course and speed until “EXTREMIS” – that sketchy point 
at which somebody has to do something or there’s going to be a crunch, then order up “All Back 
Emergency Full”, “Right Full Rudder”, and we would miss him. I had identified that point as 400 yards 
astern but threw in 100 yards for cushion. The captain once more came back with his cheerful “Very 
Well” and added “if he’s still there at 1,000 yards, give me a call back.” “AYE AYE, Sir!” 

Now we’ve eaten up about 1/3 of our cushion and the squawk box came to life. “Bridge, Flag Bridge” 
“When does Forrestal intend to maneuver to avoid that Privileged vessel ahead?” There was no race by 
other members of the bridge team to answer that one, so I got it myself. “Flag Bridge, Bridge -This is 
the Officer of the Deck speaking. That vessel ahead is not privileged – he approached from our port 
side, therefore is the burdened vessel, and he can no longer maneuver to shift his burden to Forrestal.” 
“Flag Bridge Aye”! I could envision some hot shot flag watch officer digging the Admiral’s shoe out 
of his ass, and smiled inwardly. I didn’t hear the Admiral’s voice, but I knew he was watching from 
his favorite perch.

Somewhere about then I had the signal gang close up “Uniform” on both halyards – “U” is the 
international signal that says “you are standing into danger”. Then our navigator got into it. 
First he told me I was going to have to turn the ship and he was working on our new course. Since 
he was a commander and I was a lieutenant, I explained as tactfully as I could that we were not going 
to turn, leastways not to a pre-planned course. We were the privileged vessel, and as such, were 
REQUIRED to hold course and speed. Next thing I heard from him was “Mr. Corbeille, I’m ordering 
you to turn this ship.” With no attempt at tact, I advised him “Commander, you cannot order me 
to turn this ship. If you believe the ship to be sufficiently endangered, you, as Navigator, can 
summarily relieve me as OOD. Then you can turn left, turn right, or come dead in the water. But 
you cannot order me to turn. Do you want to relieve me?” Rather truculently, he then asked if the 
Captain knows about all this. I told him yes indeed, and at contact range of 1,000 yards, I was to 
notify the Captain again. “You better call him again – right now!” “No Sir, we still have a few 
hundred yards to go.” 

At this stage, I don’t recall the exact time, the bridge relief crew was coming on deck, but no one 
was ready to be relieved. I spied my relief OOD waiting in the wings and he wanted nothing more 
than to stay out of the way. Admittedly, I got a bit nervous, and I called the captain back when the 
trawler was 1,100 yards ahead. His only response was “I’m on my way up”. He arrived momentarily
with the PCO of Independence following in his wake. He hopped up in his chair, says “Boy, he is 
pretty close, isn’t he.” Then he asked “and when do you plan to make your big move?” I told him 
that if it closes to 500 yards, we can order up All Back Emergency Full, Right Full Rudder, and we will 
miss him. He asked: Is that what the book says? I told him “No Sir, The book says 400 yards, but I
was leaving in a little cushion. He said “We need only to maneuver in extremis to MINIMIZE DAMAGE”. 

That is a slight departure from international rules, but was our standing order, arrived at specifically 
to contend with harassment vessels. This is kind of a delicate point here because International Rules 
of the Road says the “privileged vessel must maneuver when in extremis to avoid collision”. U.S.S.R. 
(Soviet Union) was not signatory to the International Rules of the Road, therefore her vessels were 
not bound by them. It must be pointed out that Russian ships, merchantmen and men-of-war alike, 
followed the international rules of the road anyway, and knew them well enough to “play chicken” 
with U.S. ships, mostly to our embarrassment. That was a game that our Navy had long since tired 
of, hence the new guidance to maneuver only in extremis to minimize damage. Naturally, it behooved 
one to be absolutely certain that he was absolutely right, if he were going to take a Navy man-of-war 
down to the wire in a potential collision situation. I’m sure there are readers who have more 
background concerning our maneuvering instructions, but we believed we understood them perfectly. 
I still believe that we did.

Having thus indicated his intentions, the Captain then asked “So how close can we take her?” I 
told him 400 yards would provide a grazing situation, and then ordered the engine room to stand by 
for Emergency Backing Bells. We were still closing and had reached the 500-yard mark when the 
trawler put in left full rudder. His rudder was not the size of a barn door – It had to have looked like 
the side of the barn itself! That guy turned 90 degrees left in a heartbeat!

We never flinched, never wavered, and the trawler passed close aboard to port – so close, if fact, that 
the hull was not visible alongside our flight deck. All that was visible from the vantage point of our 
bridge were the two masts as they went rapidly down our port beam. Then we launched a helo for 
some photo work and a big sigh of relief went up from the bridge. The navigator started lobbying
for us to file a harassment report, but since we had altered neither course nor speed to accommodate 
the trawler, it was hard to make a case for harassment. I wanted to make out a harassment report on 
the navigator but the CO calmed me down on that score.
The Prospective Commanding Officer (PCO) of Independence, bless his soul, took in the whole affair 
after arriving on the bridge with our Captain, and never interjected one word. When it was all over, 
he moved directly in front of me and said, loud enough for almost everybody on the bridge to 
hear, “No one could have done better.” Our CO joined right in and said “Frenchy, You handled that 
perfectly”. At that point I realized I wasn’t going to be a lieutenant forever, my advice to the 
Captain had been sound, and I knew our Captain appreciated it. My breathing gradually returned 
to normal. For his part, Captain Hill, for that, as I recall, was his name, went on to become CO 
USS Independence. He assumed command while anchored in some Sicilian Bay, and when 
Independence stood out to sea “under new management”, there was a Russian ELINT trawler, 
just outside territorial waters, making slight way on Independence’s intended track. 
A friend serving on that fine vessel told me that the new CO’s order to CIC was “Combat, give me a
collision course on that trawler at 30 knots!” I heard the same refrain from several other people 
and I believe it to be what happened. For our part, we spent the remainder of our cruise 
unhampered in any way by any Russian flagged ship. We continued to see an occasional trawler, 
but when we came into the wind to launch and recover aircraft, they vanished as if by magic. The 
word seemed to have leaked out that this carrier has an attitude problem – he’ll run right over you! 
And the Chief Engineer was happy because he got his uninterrupted 4-hour sustained speed run at 
20 knots.

Life was not the same for me after that. Our captain made me “Command Duty Officer Underway”. 
I was already the General Quarters OOD and Sea and Anchor Detail OOD, so I wasn’t sure what this new 
designation would lead to. I soon learned that I was to be on the bridge whenever Forrestal was in 
formation with other major combatants, (destroyers didn’t count, but cruisers did), and that I was 
to provide training to all prospective Command Duty Officers. Anytime there was underway 
replenishment, there was a “formation”, so I got to spend a lot of valuable time on the
bridge, learning all I could absorb.

Our great captain, nameless up to now, was Robert Bemus Baldwin, born in Bismarck, North Dakota.
He was promoted to RADM upon leaving Forrestal, and the last time I spoke with him he was 
Vice Admiral Baldwin, COMNAVAIRPAC. I believe he lives in or near San Diego, and remains 
the most admired man of my 30-plus year Navy career.

Castle Rock, WA

Can’t tell you how happy I was to find my old squadron’s website. The discovery was made as I was looking for information on the status of Spade Cooley’s crash. Google eventually revealed everything I was looking for. Remarkably, I believe I may have been the last Hatron-2 person to see Spade.

I served with Heavy Two from early 1960 to late 1963. Within that period, I made three cruises on the USS Coral Sea. My last job was Plane Captain, TN: 147665, 665 and 668 as I recall. I was discharged in the PI during my third cruise as ADJ2 and went right to work in the aircraft maintenance industry.

In mid 1967, Lockheed Aircraft Service Corporation sent me to work at Takhli RTAFB Thailand to help modify RB-66’s for the USAF. Imagine my complete surprise in early 1968 when I literally bumped into Spade at the entrance of the officers club. This was days after the first six F-111’s arrived at Takhli.

Over a drink, Spade told me that he was attached to the air force squadron, doing combat evaluation for the USN as it was undetermined at the time whether the USN was going to buy the birds. He told me that John Hauck, a fellow PC and good friend, was still with Heavy 2 and that he was happy to know I was in off to a good future as a tech rep.

Sadly, Spade was in one of the first three crashes, the third I think. I was shocked, and to this day, I’ve always felt a close bond with Spade, hence my search for info. All of us enlisted guys at VAH2 loved him. He was such a charismatic and down to earth person. He was greatly admired and we always felt very comfortable in his presence. I personally feel very privileged to have spent those few minutes with him at Takhli near the end of his life.

If you do mailings to the registered members, I’d sure like to make my presence known. I would especially like to make contact with some of the flight deck guys. I already see a few names that I recognize so I’ll get some emails off soon.

I’m sending you a few photos.


Jerry Holman, ADJ2
956-565 Potpattana Condo
Soi 187 Ramkhamhaeng
Minburi, Bangkok, 10510
Tel: +66.7926.4098

PS – I never left Thailand. I married a wonderful Thai lady. We have 6 kids and 13 grandkids.

30 Dec 2002
Here are some names to add to the Taps section:
     1. William P. (Bill) Yarbrough
     2. John W. (Bill) Turley
     3. Gerald W. (Jerry) Rogers
     4. Francis (Larry) Gilmore
1. VA85 shootdown 01/19/67, MIA, (pilot Brady POW , returned.) (H2 BN in 60-62)
2. Died on active duty, brain tumor, in 70's. (H2 BN and pilot 60-62)
3. Died as O5 on active duty, cancer, in 1980. (H2 BN and pilot 60-63)
4. Unclear as to date of death - was retired O5. (H2 BN in 60-62), but was deep selected for 06 and passed away as an 06.
Lots of memories of these folks as Yarbrough was my roomate on 60-61 cruise, Rogers (A6 combat time) and I crossed paths several times - had gone to Bethesda to visit him the day he died. Larry Gilmore was married to Nancy (Mechling) Tull when he died.

Jim Harre
15 Dec 2002
Charlie, Shortly after Spade was lost, I flew a KA3B into Udon from the Bonnie Dick when I was on my last 
cruise before getting out. I was on a very important and hush-hush mission (to pick up Shit- Hot Flight suits for the entire Air Wing which had been special ordered and handmade incountry by some very low-paid Southeast Asians). We ordered them for a Dining In to be held in the Ships Wardroom upon my return. I talked to several of the pilots who knew Spade well. He was in the right seat operating the radar and other nav equipment- the Lt Col was driving- they rotated seats from mission to mission I was told. There was absolutely no one who knew any of the details of the loss and I believe they were candid with me. At that altitude and speed, especially at night, they had little chance to survive if hit. Spade was a favorite of his Squadron mates there as he was in Heavy 2. His songs and outgoing personality, coupled with his fondness for imbibing, made him somewhat of a Navy legend and an Air Force hero. One of the last GOOD GUYS.
15 Dec 2002
Name: David Leo Cooley
Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy
Unit: Detachment 1, 428th Tactical Fighter Squadron, (On exchange duty from
USN; Squadron Safety Officer), Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand
Date of Birth: 03 August 1934
Home City of Record: Warwick VA (family in Arizona)
Date of Loss: 22 April 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 163000N 1062000E (XD423246)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 4
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F111A
Refno: 1139
Other Personnel In Incident: Edwin D. Palmgren (missing)


Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 1998.

SYNOPSIS: The F111 was first used in Southeast Asia in March 1968 during Operation Combat Lancer and flew nearly 3,000 missions during the war despite frequent periods of grounding. From 1968 to 1973, the F111 was
grounded several months because of excess losses of aircraft. By 1969, there had been 15 F111's downed by malfunction or enemy fire. The major malfunctions involved engine problems and problems with the terrain
following radar (TFR) which reads the terrain ahead and flies over any obstructions.

Eight of the F111's downed during the war were flown by crews that were captured or declared missing. The first was one of two F111's downed during Operation Combat Lancer, during which the F111 crews conducted night and all-weather attacks against targets in North Vietnam. On March 28, the F111A flown by Maj. Henry E. MacCann and Capt. Dennis L. Graham was downed near the airfield at Phu Xa, about 5 miles northwest of the city of Dong Hoi in Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam. Both MacCann and Graham were declared
Missing in Action. Graham had been a graduate of Texas A & M in 1963. The crew of the second F111 downed during March 1968 was recovered.

On April 22, 1968 at about 7:30 p.m., Navy LCdr. David L. Cooley and Air Force LtCol. Edwin D. Palmgren departed the 428th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Air Base, Thailand to fly an attack mission against the Mi Le Highway Ferry over Dai Giang along Route 101. They were to pass over very heavily defended areas of Laos at rather low altitude. Although searches continued for four days, no wreckage was ever found. The loss coordinates are located near Quang Bien, in Laos, although the two men are listed as Missing in Action in North Vietnam.

As a result of the loss of the Cooley/Palmgren F111A, the Air Force suspended use of the aircraft for a limited period to investigate the cause of the losses and make any necessary modifications. After the aircraft returned to the air, the crashes resumed. When the 15th F111 went down in late 1969 because of mechanical failure, all F111's were grounded and the plane did not return to Vietnam service for several months.

In September 1972 F111A's were returned to Southeast Asia. On September 29, 1972, the F111A flown by Maj. William C. Coltman and commanded by 1Lt. Robert A. Brett, Jr. went down in North Vietnam on the Red River about 10 miles southwest of the city of Yen Bai. Inexplicably, the National League of Families published a list in 1974 that indicated that Robert A. Brett had survived the downing of his aircraft, and that the loss location was in Laos, not North Vietnam. Both men remain Missing in Action.

On October 17, 1972, Capt. James A. Hockridge and 1Lt. Allen U. Graham were flying an F111A near the city of Cho Moi in Bac Thai Province, North Vietnam, when their aircraft went down. Both men were listed as Missing in Action, until their remains were returned September 30, 1977.

On November 7, 1972, Maj. Robert M. Brown and Maj. Robert D. Morrissey flew an F111A on a mission over North Vietnam. Morrissey, on his second tour of Vietnam, was a 20 year veteran of the Air Force. The aircraft was first reported lost over North Vietnam, but loss coordinates released later indicated that the aircraft was lost in Khammouane Province, Laos near the city of Ban Phaphilang. Both Brown and Morrissey remain missing.

On November 21, 1972, the F111A flown by Capt. Ronald D. Stafford and Capt. Charles J. Caffarelli went down about halfway between Hue and Da Nang in South Vietnam. Both the pilot and backseater were thought to have died in the crash into the South China Sea, but no remains were ever found. 
On December 18, 1972, LtCol. Ronald J. Ward and Maj. James R. McElvain were flying an F111 on a combat mission over North Vietnam when their aircraft was forced to ditch in the Gulf of Tonkin near the coastline at Hoanh Dong. It was suspected that these two airmen may have ejected. They remain Missing in Action.

The last missing F111A team to be shot down was Capt. Robert D. Sponeyberger and 1Lt. William W. Wilson. Sponeyberger and Wilson were flying a typical F111 tactical mission when they were hit - flying at supersonic speed only a few hundred feet altitude. They were declared Missing in Action.

In 1973, however, Sponeyberger and Wilson were released by the North Vietnamese, who had held them prisoner since the day their aircraft was shot down. Their story revealed another possibility as to why so many F111's had
been lost.

Air Force officials had suspected mechanical problems, but really had no idea why the planes were lost because they fly singly and out of radio contact. Capt. Sponeyberger and 1Lt. Wilson had ruled out mechanical
problems. "It seems logical that we were hit by small arms," Wilson said, "By what you would classify as a 'Golden BB' - just a lucky shot." Sponeyberger added that small arms at low level were the most feared weapons
by F111 pilots. The SAM-25 used in North Vietnam was ineffective at the low altitudes flown by the F111, and anti-aircraft cannot sweep the sky fast enough to keep up with the aircraft.

That a 91,000 pound aircraft flying at supersonic speeds could be knocked out of the air by an ordinary bullet from a hand-held rifle or machine gun is a David and Goliath-type story the Vietnamese must love to tell and

As reports continue to be received by the U.S.Government build a strong case for belief that hundreds of these missing Americans are still alive and in captivity, one must wonder if their retention provides yet another David and Goliath story for Vietnamese propaganda. The F111 missions were hazardous and the pilots who flew them brave and skilled. Fourteen Americans remain missing from F111 aircrafts downed in Southeast Asia. If any of them are among those said to be still missing, what must they be thinking of us?

Robert Mack Brown was appointed to the United States Air Force Academy in 1963.
Charlie The Bomber
CDR. Hal King 
12 December, 1931 ~ Cat Shot to The Other Side: 0230 hrs., 8 November, 2002.
Status: Adavanced Recon. Our Trusted Best Went On Ahead. 
He has been called: "The boy who never grew up"; "A size nine head in a size seven cap"; "A dirty shirt, a fifth of whiskey, and an uncontrollable sex urge"; "One of those idiots who fly off a postage stamp"; and on rare occasions "The nation's first line of defense." He has been found on exchange duty with the French and Royal Flying Service as well as anti-submarine patrols and convoy escorts during World War I; supporting Army and Marine operations during the "Banana Wars"; in Marine Green flying, fighting, winning and dying at Wake Island and Henderson Field on Guadalcanal; turning the tide of war from Navy carriers at Midway and in the Coral, Philippine and Japanese Seas; risking his life from "Jeep" carriers in the North Atlantic and during the invasions of North Africa, Italy, Sicily and France; being the first to carry the war to the aggressors in Korea, and involved in every major operation in that action; carrying the fight to the would be conquerors in Vietnam and all of Southeast Asia and making the "Tonkin Bay Yacht Club" one of the most exclusive and honored groups in the world; the first American into space, the first American into orbit and the first man on the moon. You will find him where the action is from the South China Sea to the wilds of South America to the storm tossed Atlantic to the blue of the Mediterranean to the empty wastes of the moon. The names with which he is associated are watchwords of America's proud history - Langley, Yorktown, Enterprise, Midway, Forrestal, Freedom VII, Intrepid, Yankee Clipper. Warrior - Yes. Warlike - No.

Scratch that hard, dedicated exterior and you will find the biggest softy in the world. He always has time to help. His capacity for lending a hand to the less fortunate is probably the only thing that exceeds his bent for a good time. Check him closely and you'll more than likely find a tear in his eye at a Little League baseball game. He is tough, but he cares. No rocket will replace him. No American can do without him. You may not appreciate him but you can't ignore him. You may heap abuse on him and call him names, but the next time you need him, he'll be there. And though he may not understand why, he will keep his dedication, his courage, his desire to serve, after all, he is a Naval Aviator.

Presented to Harold W. King
upon his retirement
Nice website.  11/19/02

I was a plankowner in VAH-1 on the "right" coast at NAS Jacksonville FL, coming to it from Heavy Attack Composite Squadron VC-8, when CO Paul Stevens and XO Charlie Frohne brought a contingent of AJ Savage/P2V-3C sailors with them to bring some carrier experience to the re-designated VP squadron which formed the basis of VAH-1.

VC-8 had operated off the USS Coral Sea in the 6th Fleet in 1955, before she went to WestPac, so the ships' crew had some experience with "heavys" prior to Heavy Two embarking.

Chuck Huber (VC-8, VAH-1, FAITC, VQ-2)

PS: Website URL devoted to the first Heavy Attack Squadrons follows: 

Great site great job. I had the pleasure of flying with a few Heavy 2 people. 
Don Mckenzie
VAH 123,VAH 10,VAQ 130
Dear Mr. Cook,  11/18/02

No, I was not a member of the squadron. I was with the RA5 test program at NATC.

Spade Cooley was test pilot at Pax River on the Navy's tests of the F-111B. When the Air Force was ready to deploy the F-111 to Vietnam he was requested to join the 428 TFS. He transfered to Nellis in 1967 for the "Harvest Reaper" workup, then to Taklhi in February 1968 on the "Combat Lancer" deployment. He was AC of an F-111A and disappeared on a strike mission 
against a target near Dong Hoi on 24 April 1968. I have researched his disappearance and wrote a summary. If interested you will find it at www.F-111.net. Spade was LCdr at the time of his disappearance, and was promoted to Captain by the time they issued a presumptive finding of death.

It would be nice to see him recognized in the squadron history. Again, I can't swear that he was with hatron 2, but that is my recollection.

There was one other Navy pilot TAD to this squadron, LCdr Bruce Ashley, but I don't know his background. Presumably from heavy attack.

best regards-Doug Loeffler
Dear Mr. Cook,  11/18/02
I just took a look at your website, nice job. I flew as a Crewman Navigator with VAQ-132 from late 1968 to early 1971. I wondered where the call sign "Folder" came from, now after reading your history on VAH-2
I know. It was also nice to read the history of a great squadron. VAH-2 was redesignated VAQ-132 in November of 1968 and moved home base to NAS
Alameda. We deployed to "Yankee Station" onboard CVAN-65 USS Enterprise in 1969 and on CVA-66 USS America in 1970. In January 1971 our KA3B's
and EKA3B's were retired and the squadron transitioned into the present day VAQ-132's with EA6B's. Any way the call sign "Folder" was used
through the "69 cruise" but was changed to "Swamp Fox" for the "70 cruise". This tour of duty was the highlight of my twenty years, even better than my tour with VAP-62.

Roger "Snake" Eidenschink