Friday, January 16, 2015

Bric-à-Brac

New Snow, 15 January 2015
Another week comes to a close. Second week back at work after the long Christmas break...

Yeah, I need another vacation.

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I'm still researching the T-33 crash I witnessed as a lad. (See here and here.)

I had an e-mail from one of you, my faithful readers, giving me the name of the other crewman who was on board that aircraft.

He searched through West Point alumni records for any record of an alumnus, other than Major Smith, dying on the 19th of August in 1964. He found one. I managed to find a copy of the man's death certificate issued by the state of Vermont. Which indicates that this West Point grad did die in my home town on the same day as the T-33 crashed. The same day that another West Pointer, Major William Smith, USAF, Class of 1949, died.

The other crewman was Captain Robert L. Wessel, USAF, USMA Class of 1957.

At the time of the crash, Capt. Wessel was living in Watertown, Massachusetts, not that far from Major Smith in Lexington. As Major Smith was stationed at Hanscom Field, Capt. Wessel must have been stationed there as well. Not a definite fact but one which, I believe, we can assume.

Capt. Wessel was originally from Nebraska where he was born on the 17th of May, 1933. Making him 31 at the time of his death. He was the son of Joseph and Minnie Wessel. He left a wife behind.

Another interesting thing I read in Major Smith's memorial page on the West Point site was this:
A woman wheeling her baby that day saw the plane overhead and thought it would come down into town. Instead, she watched as it veered off toward Mt. Ararat. She sent a letter to <Major Smith's wife> explaining how grateful she was; she felt the pilots deliberately swerved to avoid the city.
Now growing up in Springfield, I know of no such place as "Mt. Ararat" near my hometown. However, Capt. Wessel's death certificate indicates that he died on "Mt. Arrat." Map searches revealed no such place (other than a middle school and a high school having the name "Mt. Ararat" all the way over in Topsham. Maine!)

I always thought the aircraft came down on Cherry Hill. Then again, my parents weren't native to Springfield but had moved there from New Hampshire after they got married. "Mt. Ararat" or "Arrat" might have been a name the locals gave to what I knew as Cherry Hill. I don't really know. While I was a local, I was only eleven.

But that place name definitely ties the event of the jet crash to the place of Capt. Wessel's death.

I wish I had a picture of the man. But for now, I am certain that I know the names of the two airmen who were flying that T-33 on that fateful day. (Another detail from the death certificate was that the "accident" which took Capt. Wessel's life took place at 2:45 PM. Some of those old records have a rather quaint feel to them. I guess most small towns back then were quaint. So it seems now, 50 years later.)

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So another week in the books. Life proceeds with an almost agonizing sameness but I am really okay with that. Same is comforting, same is good.

Though it can get boring, I remember the old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." Nope, no thank you. At my age I'll stick with boring.

Found a couple of pictures in an old yearbook. Not high school or college mind you but from Kunsan AB, Korea. The 8th Component Repair Squadron's year book. Yes, we actually had those. Kind of like a cruise book. As assignments at Kunsan were supposed to be only a year long (I stayed nearly four) the year book was something of a keepsake, I guess. But Kunsan was the only base I ever saw with a year book.

Your Humble Scribe

You could say that I was the "Young AF Sarge" back then. Only a Staff Sergeant. Hair was still dark and I still had most of it. Notice how I rock those 1970s spectacles.

Notice how I apparently don't own a comb!

Your Humble Scribe, wielding a half-yard stick and wearing his chapeau indoors. Bit of a no-no there!

In this exquisitely natural photo (heh) I am apparently threatening my shop chief, Charlie, with an unsharpened wooden implement. Which appears to be about 18-inches long. A fairly non-standard thing to have around an avionics shop. No doubt we jolly jokers cut a yard stick in half at some point for some lost-to-history reason.

Oh, that guy to my left, that was my best bud Tank. Tank and I drank a lot of beer together.

A. Lot. Of. Beer.

I think he was in Korea for about 3,000 years. At least it seemed that long. Many Koreans thought Tank was Korean as well, though an odd-looking one. Tank, if you couldn't tell, is Italian. His nickname is based on his actual last name. (Not clever, but practical.)


The other guys' names escape me. Not because they weren't memorable guys but because it was a long time ago. And I'm old. And forgetful. I could look it up but then I'd have to walk back over to the book case. And it's getting late. And...

My but I do go on, don't I?

Did I mention that I ran into Rumbear in DC? At the Smithsonian? Here he is...

He's wearing his winter coat. He's from Sandy Eggo ya know. Not used to DC in January.

I was going to go over and say hi, but this elephant was in the lobby making a ruckus.

Okay I know, it's not a real elephant. And yeah, that wasn't really Rumbear in the previous photo. One of his cousins I think.

Your Humble Scribe, enjoying a Guinness
at Joe Theismann's Restaurant

We didn't go to the restaurant until after, mind you after, we went to the museum. I only had two Guinness.

Really.

Enjoy the day. The weekend is nigh!

22 comments:

  1. I've been meaning to ask for a while, what is the Shed in the back yard used for? Man Cave? Storage? Leftover Play house for the kids? It looks like my wood shop with a different paint scheme. (I've got a desert camo kinda feel to mine, your's is more urban camo style)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, it's your basic issue garden shed, one each. The lawn mower lives there plus all the myriad things The Missus Herself has to maintain the grounds.

      Nothing fancy. The paint scheme is meant to match the house. I wanted to go all "barn style" with a red shed with white trim. I was outvoted on that.

      Sigh...

      Delete
  2. Your crash story is fascinating, keep digging, interesting to find they were probably unsung heroes by avoiding damage to civilians.

    Time tends to bury memories of these heroes and history does not always tell the story. I am currently reading Unbreakable (could not bear to see the movie) The courage of those bomber crews was just amazing, and though the book does not address it, I think of the amazing work the ground crews did to keep those planes in the air, while working on deserted islands which had a big bulls-eye on it for the Japanese air force.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will dig until there is nothing more to know.

      Great book!

      Delete
  3. Very illustrative of the difference between the Army and Air Force, like starch and barber shops. One shudders to think what the boots hidden under those unbloused trousers looked like. I see the man to your right is wearing one half of his Air Force mittens. The individual on the far right is in obvious need of physical conditioning as he hasn't the strength to hold up his arms.

    50+ years later and I am still brainwashed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We were aircraft maintainers, not infantry.

      Starch has no place on the flightline. There is dirty dirty and there is "clean" dirty. Hydraulic fluid will stain a uniform and it won't come out.

      All the Air Force cared about was getting jets into the air. We never did give a damn for parade ground stuff.

      Delete
    2. I don't know whether the "Air Force" cared about getting jets into the air, but I and others of my ilk sure did. Even more importantly, we cared about getting them back on the ground, in one piece. Getting them on the ground was a given. The parade ground stuff was for personnel wienies. Sorry, Mrs. Juvat, I meant to say personnel personnel.

      Delete
    3. The ability to re-use our aerospace vehicles was high on the lost of "good things" to have. I should have made that point.

      Heh. Personnel personnel, I like it.

      Delete
  4. Hmm, seems I touched a few nerves. General Patton had some views on the subject. But, credit where due, without the Air Force, the Red Bear would have came out of his cage.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. In the Air Force we were expected to have a great deal of self-discipline. Without it, you wouldn't last.

      I knew a kid who joined the Air Force, had an awful time of it. Seems he couldn't do anything right. Got out, joined the Army, where he thrived. The boy had no self-discipline. Leave him be, he'll wander off and do whatever. Ride him like a rented mule and he'd get the job done.

      Different strokes I suppose.

      Delete
  5. Probably should ad, one of my nicknames Is Maytag; always agitating.

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  6. The closest thing I have to a cruise book is the thing I bought upon leaving boot camp.
    Everywhere else we were all too darn busy for compilation and organization of such stuff.
    Too bad, too... I'd like to have a narrative of our WestPac experience.
    It would be fun explaining why there is an entire month missing from the time we steamed out of Keelung until we returned, and what those CTs who embarked TAD were doing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And there's probably a good story there, which will, no doubt, someday be declassified!

      Delete
    2. No it won't. Not if CT's were in the mix.

      Delete
  7. Every flying squadron I was in had a Squadron Doofer book. In it were stories of the foibles and follies associated with flying. No one was immune and nothing contained in it was allowed to be read by anyone outside the squadron. Probably gone the way of the Dodo in the new PC USAF (PCAF ?). Would sure love to find one of those.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have heard of the mystical "Doofer" books. Haven't those been banned in the new politically-correct Air Force?

      I mean, didn't you guys use (shudder) profanity and such?

      "Oh my, I need to sit down, I'm having the vapors." sayeth the modern (Air Force) major general.

      Delete
  8. Hey Sarge, I have been barely "lurking" for the past several months, trying to finish our move. The picture of the T Bird snapped something inside me and made me want to comment. Great picture, BTW, that guy Public is some kind of photographer. I never flew the bird much (Basic was T-38 experimental class), but I have fond memories of trying to learn some guys how to fly the range pattern in the thing. They had a problem with the speed over the ground in the Phantom and so we cut all of the pattern speeds by about half, put guns back in the T-Birds and learned to strafe at 250 instead of 350-400 or so. I remember the ta-pah-ka-tah of the guns compared to the growl of the GE gatling pod. And! The smell of cordite in the morning!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Guns in T-Birds! What a wondrous thing!

      Lurk all you want Dave. We'll leave a light on for you. I have been following you at your place. Still (patiently) waiting for Part 2 of "On Night Flying."

      I'm glad you fired up the stove at your blog and try to post whenever you get the chance. Good stories, well worth waiting for.

      Delete
  9. In the biggest part of my RA life I was a radio maintainer (33B/C). We always kept two Trick log books . . . the official and the unofficial.
    The official was a record of significant issues that occurred in the course of a given 8 hour shift. The unofficial was the recorded thoughts
    of the individual maintainers during the same given shift. The unofficial book was kept hidden from anybody in a position of authority. It's
    existence was only revealed to a FNG after he'd been vetted by time. To read the unofficial log was interesting and very funny. The observations
    were truthful and, often, brutal. I'd love to find one floating around today somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those were the best kind. I've seen a few in my day. They were funny, brutally honest and sometimes downright insulting.

      As the truth often is...

      Delete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)