So, There I was….* Kunsan AB, ROK about 4 weeks before my DEROS (Date Estimated Return from Overseas, Hey, I don’t make the acronyms). Under the leadership of the second worst president ever, I’ve got almost 100 hours of operational time in the F-4 and can manage to at least hit the ground with my bombs and not myself, although that issue has been in doubt. My next assignment will be to Moody AFB, GA where further adventures will abide and at least one life changing ceremony will take place, but that’s all in the future.
For now my task as defined by my Squadron Commander, Lt Col Dick “Batman” Swope, is to plan and provision a Thanksgiving dinner for the 80TFS Pilots, WSOs and enlisted and the 80AMU, our maintenance personnel.
|Batman takes Command of the Juvats|
Now, Batman does not want cucumber sandwiches with tea for this soiree. No, he wants Turkey, Dressing, Mashed potatoes, Pies, the whole 9 yards (which actually is a fighter pilot saying, Sarge should be able to tell you what it means). There’s one teensy weensy problem with this plan. Kunsan’s “commissary” was comparable to an understocked 7-11 in what it carried in inventory. On a good day, you might be able to purchase some peanut butter, no bread, but crackers (old, stale) to make yourself a snack. Sodas were rationed more heavily than Beer. Lunchmeat was generally green in tinge. Finding the fixings to feed a couple of hundred folks might be hard. Osan AB, the next closest base wasn’t a whole lot better. What to do?
We had a new guy join our squadron just prior to this whose previous assignment had been Okinawa. He reported that the commissary there was very well stocked and he could probably get someone to procure the groceries if I could find a way to transport them to Kunsan.
I checked with the MAC detachment and they said they could not transport victuals (they actually used that word) intended for private functions on Military Aircraft. (I wondered if they knew about Air Force One?)
I then realized that I was a pilot of an aircraft with the ability to carry a significant payload. Now if I could just find a baggage pod. I knew they existed, but hadn’t seen any around. My Dad had always told me if you need information, find the oldest NCO around. They know everything. So, I found the guy driving the maintenance truck on the line, he looked ancient like he might have been 35 or so. I asked him about baggage pods. He asked why so I told him about Batman’s party. He said if I’d save him a pair of Drumsticks, he’d get them for me. Done.
|Note baggage pod under left wing. We had one under each on both. Not an 80TFS bird, but TX ANG, given the copyright restrictions, almost as good.|
Now, I've just got to convince Batman to let me have an airplane for a weekend. Realizing that, one, this is during the reign of the second worst president ever, so flying hours are scarce and two, that I have a very limited number of them under my belt, this is going to be a hard sell. But this is HIS party, so I've got that going for me.
After a 5 minute meeting during which I described the logistical problem in great detail, he interrupts me and says why don’t I find a flight lead and a couple of WSO’s that want to take a trip to Clark with a stop enroute at Kadena to order supplies, a day at Clark to rest and recuperate, then a return stop at Kadena to pick up the supplies? What a great idea! Wish I’d have thought of Clark in my version!
All of a sudden, I've got LOTS of friends in the squadron!
I get a flight lead, a Captain from Alabama, who speaks with a very slow, very deep drawl. My WSO is also a Captain, usually rambunctious, but competent. Lead’s WSO I have no recollection about. We brief the mission and the supply requirements and get ready to launch.
Now, back then there were things like ADIZs to contend with. Air Defense Identification Zones. Radar Flight Tracking wasn't anywhere near as complete as it is now. One would be out of Radar Coverage and Radio coverage for long sections of time. I had never done anything like this and neither had my flight lead. The WSO’s had however, so we were comfortable.
Launch out of Kunsan and exit Korean Airspace south of Cheju Do. Very quiet for a while and then we start to approach Japanese Airspace. Lead calls for a radio change and attempts to contact the Japanese air traffic control at Fukuoka. Now, let me explain this. Their callsign was Fukuoka Control, pronounced Foo Koo Oh Ka. Lead is from Alabama. He can NOT say this in a manner recognizable to the Japanese! This is a family blog, but it shouldn’t take much for you to imagine how he was trying to pronounce it. And the guy on the other side was not having any of it. Lead would make an attempt and the controller would say “No! Foo’ Koo Oh Ka! With the accent being on whichever syllable Lead screwed up. This went on for about 15 minutes. My WSO and I are laughing so hard, I am having a hard time flying formation for the tears in my eyes. Finally the controller gives up and passes us off to some other sector controller with a much more pronounceable name.
We land at Kadena, get checked in to the VOQ, call our contact and pass them the list, and then race out Gate two for a little time on the town. First time with Kobe Beef. Marvelous stuff that.
Next morning, we blast off and as we pass Miyako-Jima, lead calls and tells me his centerline tank isn't feeding. He won’t have enough gas to make it to Clark, so he’s turning around and going back to Kadena. Why don’t I go on ahead to Clark, and oh, by the way, would I pick up his crocodile skin boots while I’m there?
He turns around and disappears back to the north. I look in and the TACAN is searching for a lock on and will continue that, unsuccessfully, for the next hour and a half. I’m driving on, looking around at a whole lot of not much to see, and notice that my WSO was unusually quiet. I ask him what’s going on, and he says he’d called home last night to talk to his wife and she had informed him she wanted a divorce. As nonchalantly as I could, I asked him if he’d mind switching the radar to air to ground mode and run it out to max range. I figured a dead reckoning heading would get me close enough to find Luzon on the radar.
My R and R at Clark consisted of escorting a highly inebriated WSO around various locales, to include a boot shop and the Nipa Hut, and then finally carrying him to his rack at Chambers Hall. It’s what we do.
Sunday morning, he’s surprisingly chipper, hale and hearty. We blast off, and make our way back to Kadena. Land, Dearm and get directed to park in front of the tower. As I pull into the parking space and shut down, I notice a small Nissan station wagon pull up under one of my wings. I get out as the crew chief begins refueling the jet. Walk over to the Nissan and Lead is there setting up a conga line passing turkeys from the car to the pods. We load a dozen turkeys into each of the baggage pods. All the rest of the groceries are already loaded in Lead’s pods.
Dinner loaded, Dzus fasteners tightened, Fuel in the tanks, Lead runs over to his jet, straps in and gives me the fire up signal. Dash-60s roar and soon, so do we. Blast off, get handed off to Fukuoka Control. I’m waiting for the encore, but Lead comes through. (Later found out, that his WSO had spent his R and R buying beer for Lead all the while conducting diction lessons on how to pronounce the name, not wanting to restart WWII after all.)
We’re met in the dearm area by the maintenance bread van and several maintainers. Dzus fasteners opened and another conga line from pods to van. The NCOIC says the Security Police had heard about the party and were looking to confiscate the “contraband”.
Pod empty of all but our skivvies and a pair of crocodile boots, we taxi back to the shelters. Shut down and are met by the SPs and the drug dogs. Dogs sniff all around and start howling at the pods, we open them up for the cops and show them they’re empty. Clearly disappointed, they leave empty handed. Some of the turkeys were dispersed to all the O-5s since they were the only ones with ovens in their quarters. The remaining turkeys were taken to the O’Club where we've
bribed negotiated with Mr. Kim the manager to allow us to cook them. I think the cost was two cooked turkeys to serve to the other, uninvited, wing personnel.
Thanksgiving arrives and my clan, warriors all, has gathered. The two reserved drumsticks are paid to the Maintenance NCOIC, prayers were said, the appropriate toasts were given and dinner is served.