Monday, June 20, 2016

Sabres!

Have you ever thought of life as a Venn Diagram?  The various circles representing interests, activities, people, places, thoughts, comments and even Blog Posts?  So, I've got all these circles in my mind's picture of my life and as I ponder them and what they mean and what the intersections mean.  I wonder whether I might be able to scrape together a blog post out of them.  So, here I sit, it's Sunday, and it's Father's Day.  Mrs Juvat and I are fixin' to go on Vacay next week.  (I know Sarge,  "about to go on vacation", )  We're going to hit Wisconsin for a little familial business and pay respects to Mrs Juvat's Uncle who passed away back in May.  Seems he'd been an Airman and served a tour in the Post-Korea Pre-Vietnam Air Force.  Served a tour in Morocco, nothing heroic, but he'd done his duty.  Came home to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and taught history until retirement.  So, I made him a box to contain the Flag that covered his casket.  
Still got a few more coats of finish to apply, so there's a plastic coating over the front.
 Peruvian Curly Walnut

Once that's been completed, we'll take a little hike over to Dayton and see what there is to see at Wright Pat.  Heard there's some kind of museum there or something.  We'll see.  And, oh by the way, Little Juvat has loaned my HIS camera for the adventure.  Now if I can just figure out how it works!

But, see, that museum thing is one of the Venn Diagram circles in my life.  So, I've been reading the last few posts over at Lagniappe's Lair.  Murph decided to stop in at the Eglin Air museum, which, up until that time, I never knew existed.  Of course, I've never been one to shy away from looking at pictures of airplanes.  He had a great post on the Thud, which prompted a echoing post from here.  Most comments I've ever had on a post, which was gratifying...Thanks!

Murph then followed up with one on pre-Century birds.  I'll confess, it took me a moment to figure out what he was referring to in the title.  I mean, even the Raptor was built in the 20th century.  But, astute as I am, I was able to ascertain he was talking about the lineage of the aircraft and the fact that they were all pre-century series jets.  Among them was the, always popular, F-86.  

Now, the F-86 has always been a favorite of mine.  During my first tour in Korea, and even on my first post-Kunsan Korean TDY, the ROKAF was still flying F-86s.  
Source

Since, at the time, virtually the whole of South Korean Airspace (less the area around the DMZ and over Seoul) was virtually free fly, impromptu engagements were frequently happening.  Sharpens the visual lookout, you see.  

The first time I got jumped by an F-86, my WSO saw him and called the break.  When I looked back over my shoulder and saw him,  I'll confess I wasn't exactly sure if it was a Sabre or a Mig-17.  That thought, coupled with the NK saber rattling after the assassination of the South Korean President, got the adrenalin flowing.  Break Left, force his nose into lag.  Burners, unload and extend, through the Mach and leave him in the dust.  Later, in the bar, I feel a tap on my shoulder, and a ROKAF Major is standing there.  "If you'd have waited about 2 more seconds, LT, I'd have made you a movie star!"  "Yes, well....I'm having a little Johnny Walker on the rocks, would you like one, Sir?" "Indeed!"  And a friendship was started.

But that was only one of the F-86 Sabre Venn Circles.  As I said, I'm writing this on Father's day.  One of my favorite pictures of my Dad, who passed away in 2008, is this one.


As Mom told me, this was taken at Hamilton AFB.  That would have meant, at best, I was less than a year old.  I was born at Hamilton, but celebrated my first birthday at Naha AB Okinawa. 

 I was reading Sarge's post about his father, and looked at the two pictures of him in uniform and thought two things.  Sarge looks like him, and "My was he young back then".  Then my eyes went to Dad's picture.  "My was he young back then."  

Oh, by the way, he's in the cockpit of an F-86 Sabre.

His squadron had an aerobatics flight. 

(This was before the Thunderbirds became THE show squadron...in the AF).  Dad flew the slot.  

Date on the photo is December 1953.  18 months before I was born, however I wonder if that Venn Circle and this one overlap?


Was I fated to fly a four ship of Eagles over the top?  

Earlier this month,Sarge posted about marching (yes, in the Air Force!)  Reading that post, brought another Venn Circle into the convergence.  Growing up, I'd always wanted to be a fighter pilot, even to the lengths of studying the effects of physics on a body in motion.  But when I got to college, I got a bit of cold feet.  The POWs had just gotten home in January, and the war protesters were still a PITA even at the redneck school I was attending.  

I was hesitant.

Fortunately, the ROTC Detachment had a program where you could "try" ROTC without the commitment and without the uniform.  You took the class and worked the leadership lab, but weren't committed.  You hadn't taken the "Queens Shilling".

Not surprisingly, I found I liked it (of course, my Father having laid down the law and said I had to find a scholarship of one form or another as the paternal gravy train was coming to an end in May might have encouraged me).  But now I've got to figure out a way to make up for past mistakes. I was a semester behind the my classmates who had gone whole hog in the fall.

I talked it over with my instructor, an ancient Captain of about 30 who'd flown F-4s in Vietnam and been grounded due to injuries in an accident.  He agreed that I had some ground to make up, but that it could be done.  The key would be the things I did over and above what the Corps and the College required.  He recommended I join the Drill team, Saber Flight.  So, I did.  I mean, how hard can it be, walk around in circles and so on?

 Well, I showed up for practice the first night, wanting to get off on the right foot.  Which I did...Literally!  Which was bad...

 Huh?  What do you mean I'm out of step?

 Pushups?  Why?  Nevermind, One! Two! Three!...

 After a while, I actually got pretty good at it and was entrusted with the team's weapon of choice, a Saber!

 Now, I was pretty cool!  I had a Saber!  The chicks must dig that, right?   Eh, not so much.

 It was fun, and we practiced a lot with them.  I learned the hard way why it's important when presenting arms with the Saber, the blade comes up from the left to the vertical position.  We're practicing in formation at attention.  The squad leader bellows "Preeee....Sent. ARMS!"  and 15 Sabers flash from the left to the vertical.  One, directly behind me, flashes up straight ahead to the vertical.  I hear a ripping sound, feel a cold rush of air on my back and out of the corner of my eye see my shirt unfold around my front.

 Well, at least it's not me counting and trying to push away the ground.

 It's now about March and we're at an evening practice.  It's pretty chilly, and we're practicing the razzle dazzle with the Sabers.  This maneuver involved twirling it and then throwing it in the air.  The trick was to catch it flat bladed in your hand.  (Yes, while the point was very sharp, the edge was actually quite dull.)  Suffice it to say, we have dispersed a bit while practicing this action.  In any case, one of our intrepid performers throws his weapon into the air and as it comes back down and hits his hand, his hand is sufficiently cold that there is a delay between when the weapon hits and when the hand signals the brain that the weapon has arrived.  That causes the brain to delay the close hand command until after the handle part of the weapon and the tip of the weapon have bent around the hand, and then straightened out again, launching the Saber into a wobbly flight away from the hand.  

All are looking in horror as the wobbling Saber reaches apogee and begins its descent towards an unsuspecting cadet whose back is turned.  Said cadet is busy twirling his Saber as the incoming Saber sticks in the ground between his shoulder width spread legs with the handle softly tapping him on the inside of his thighs.  Our relief descends into hysteria as wide eyed he turns around to see what had happened.  

The squad leader wisely decided practice was over.

Late spring, we went to our first competition at Ft Bliss.  We were the only non-Army team there, and we were the only team that wasn't marching with Rifles.  Part of the competition involved the inspection prior to marching.  You know, where the inspecting officer (NCO in this case), grabs the rifle spins it around, checks it for all sorts of stuff while asking pertinent questions about the weapon?  Well, we had Sabers.  Our front right guy was a 6'6" farm boy from West Texas.  250Lbs and not an ounce of fat.  Great guy, eventually received a DFC for rescuing some crewmen off a foundering freighter in a typhoon. (I tried to find the details of that, but couldn't.  Thought it was in AF Magazine in the late 80s).  Anyhow a great guy.  The NCO walks up and takes his Saber.  "Cadet, what's the effective range of your weapon?" "About 6' Sergeant!"  "What's the max range of your weapon, Cadet?"  "As far as I can throw it, Sergeant!"  

The crowd goes wild!  The Sergeant is seized with a sneezing fit as he spins around quickly and can be seen with his shoulder's quivering.

The Sergeant returns the weapon, and steps to the next cadet.  "Cadet, what is the effective range of your weapon?"  Being a quick study, I replied "About 6' Sergeant!"  No further questions were asked.

We didn't win the competition, but we didn't come in last either.  For our first competition, we were happy with the results.

But, all the members of the team who weren't already on scholarship were awarded them in May, so it was worth it.  And it all revolved around Sabres (Sabers?)

By the By, Saber Flight is still in operation at AFROTC Det 820, Texas Tech University, although it appears they no longer drill solely with Sabers.
Source


It's interesting how life's little events seem to be interrelated, or maybe the universe is collapsing instead of expanding.  Who knows?







32 comments:

  1. GREAT POST JUVAT!

    Yes, I went all caps, to underscore what an awesome post this is. I mean F-86s, cool Dads wearing the old Steve Canyon style flight helmets while sitting in an F-86, Korean F-86s (I remember those little birds very well, thought it was awesome to actually see an F-86 in flight) and swords! Sabres and Swords! Love it.

    Though I was reminded of this as well...

    You can't expect to wield supreme power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!

    Not even if it's an AFROTC cadet who is doing the flinging...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Sarge.

    The ROKAF 86s were very hard to see, even harder than the F-5s the Aggressors flew, and since they were about the same size and shape as the Mig-17s, were great training aids. We weren't supposed to actually fight when jumped, just turn 180 degrees and give a wing rock. But some 180s seemed to take a bit longer than others ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. The only arms I've ever drilled with is the 1917 Springfield.
    Seems like we marched everywhere with that puppy at NTC.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You probably did. Every account of Navy, Marine and Army Basic I've read indicated that. Probably changed nowadays. Kinder, gentler doncha know.

      Delete
    2. Yeah I hear they even have graduation indoors now... and give out medals for completing basic training.

      Delete
    3. Well, the Air Force has been giving out Training Ribbons (Sarge calls them the "Battle of Lackland" ribbon) for years. The rest probably got the idea from us.

      Delete
  4. Nice blending and confabulation of topics...a post for the archive, indeed.

    BTW, scroll farther down on my Eglin posts--the first one on Monday, June 6, has your name all over it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I saw that and was trying to come up with some pithy comments (about boarding steps most likely), got wrapped up at work and the opportunity slipped away. Wanted to ask, are the displays actually on Eglin or outside the gate?

      Delete
    2. They're outside where anyone can visit. Worth the drive if you're nearby.

      Delete
    3. I'll keep that in mind. The SPs aren't as bad as TSA, but they have their moments.

      Delete
  5. Got no aircraft to write of . . . but do have a tale that involves a sword.
    Vint Hill Farm Station, Warrenton, Virginia. 1972. Retirement ceremony for post commander.
    The entire compliment of personnel assigned all standing in formation, dressed in ultra-starched khaki uniforms.
    The only people excused were those sitting positions in the ops building. We still had an active mission going on.
    (You gotta understand . . . we were the most un-military military outfit in the U.S. Army. We loved our jobs but
    hated the spit 'n polish stuff.)
    The review begins . . . the music coming from out the speakers is NOT Sousa but, rather, The Beatles. Seems that the
    troopie assigned to the job of setting up the PA system was only told to supply appropriate music for the ceremony and
    ya know . . . different strokes for different folks and all that. When that little burble was straightened out, the parade began
    again. The commander of one of the companies marching was of small stature. (With the accompanying attitude. He was not much loved
    by his subordinates.) As an officer, he carried a ceremonial saber (wearing the sash and scabbard and all). The salute was performed
    by raising the weapon, blade up, with the hilt at chin level, then snapping the blade down towards the ground, sharply, before returning
    it to the shoulder-arms position. Well . . . the blade happened to be longer than the captain was tall. The point sank into the ground
    several inches and the saber's hilt somehow caught up in the sash and the good captain had to do a little dance, right in front of
    the VIP section. It couldn't be helped . . . the bulk of the troops began to twitter, then chuckle, then guffaw, then belly-laugh.
    The angrier the captain got, the funnier it became. When we got a look at the Sergeant Major's and First Sergeant's faces, it became
    a laugh riot. 'Twas a day to remember (and lives on in the memories of those who were there).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, now THAT'S funny there! It is extra delicious when the officious get their comeuppance. Great story, Thanks!

      Delete
    2. That's a great story. I would offer cash money to see anyone's film of that.

      Paul L. Quandt

      Delete
    3. Oh yeah, I would pay good money to see that.

      Delete
    4. Perhaps if we were to offer enough money, the film would emerge from the woodwork.

      Paul

      Delete
  6. The F-86 is my favorite sub-sonic jet fighter. The USAF was still flying them when my father was stationed in Alexandria, Louisiana. One of the most beautiful birds in flight, second only to my aircraft. the C-141B.

    Paul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've got a lot (okay, an awful lot) of time in the back end of a 141. All, in all, not a bad jet. One of my most restful sleeps was stretched out on the ramp using a roller for a pillow. Course I'd been up 72 straight. Laid down when we leveled off at altitude. Woke up on descent into Hickam.

      Delete
    2. I call the C-141 my aircraft, not because I flew or crewed them, but because I maintained them. I am proud to say that I was a 7-level crew chief in the USAF Reserve. Got my second National Defense ribbon for Gulf One. It's the only one I wear unless absolutely forced to wear the others as I never merited anything higher.

      Paul

      Delete
    3. I can understand that. Think I'm authorized 16 ribbons, there's only one I care about, a humanitarian service medal.

      Delete
    4. I've ridden the mighty Starlifter a few times in my day. Best C-141 takeoff (ever) was an amazing elevator ride coming out of Taegu. That big bird could climb like a homesick angel when she had a mind to.

      Delete
  7. That's a LONG way around to tying the venn diagram together, but it was funny! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Man, those things look a lot like FJ Furies! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps if they said ROK Navy on their side!

      Delete
  9. Juvat, Bourbon and Blanton's infused cigars are "on the house" in Alemaster's Army Aviation Bar and homage to hisveryownself if you motor three hours south of Wright Pat to Louisville. regards, Alemaster

    ReplyDelete
  10. Army, Germany, circa 1960's other than in garrison it was ammo belt, two ammo pouches with four magazines, first aid pouch, bayonet, M-14 with magazine, steel pot, and a gas mask strapped to our left leg. Our marching? Probably looked like a Coast Guard Change of Command Ceremony (speaking several hundred miles inland). Should we have irritated some of the powers that were (hey, it happened) then we added an entrenching tool with carrying pouch. Best part? Being laughed at by the APs at Rhein Main gate when we dropped off/picked up someone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. APs/SPs/SFs nothing good to say. Being laughed at by them, no blood, no foul.

      Delete
  11. WSF:

    Watch your language about Coasties. Them be fightin' words there.

    Paul L. Quandt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Coasties are sooo sensitive about certain things.

      Delete
    2. Yes, we are. So there, naa (tongue sticking out and thumbs in ears with fingers wiggling).

      Paul

      Delete
  12. Let me just echo a day late, GREAT POST!

    ReplyDelete

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