Sunday, July 15, 2018

Well, It is Summer...


So, The DIL, Big O, and The Owl are in town for a cuppla days before heading back out to sunny California. Which means that for the first time ever in recorded history, all four of the grand-progeny are under my roof.

As you might imagine, with ages ranging from my grandson at nine, almost ten, down to the junior granddaughter at two, going on three, (all told - 9, 7, 5, and 3), we're not talking gentle civilized conversation, nope. Lots of hollering, running about, and bellowing for "MOM!" whenever things go south. So yeah, things are a bit "lively" at Chez Sarge. The feline staff have gone into seclusion, but not before Sasha hissed at me to indicate her displeasure at my "allowing" all these people into "her" house.

Right, like I get a vote...

Anyhoo, what this means for you gentle reader is, yup (sorry) a rerun. A tale from my days on the flightline. A tale wherein Your Humble Scribe thought, for a moment, that he was in the front lines for The Korean War, Part Deux.

So, without further ado...

(Photo by Gary Noon Source)
Recently, while perusing one of Shaun's most excellent posts, I was reminded of a story. A couple of stories actually, but one in particular. It happened long, long ago on a cold, blustery day in the Republic of Korea (대한민국, South Korea, ya know, the good guys).

There I was...*

Shortly after the last glaciation period, not long after the last wooly mammoth had plunged into a bog in Siberia (to be preserved therein for centuries), I was an aircraft mechanic, responsible for maintaining the weapons control systems on the mighty F-4D Phantom II aircraft. Affectionately (?) known to her crews as the Rhino (I didn't know this until many moons later) the Phantom was deployed at four bases in the Western Pacific in my day.

Now I know to the youth of today the Phantom has all the relevance of the Sopwith Camel, a great aircraft in its day but long obsolete in these modern times. In my day, she ruled the skies. Osan (in Korea) and Clark (in the Philippines) had the E-model (which had an internal gun), Kunsan (in Korea) and Kadena (Okinawa, part of Japan) had the D-model (no gun). Kadena had the C-model as well, a number of which were Wild Weasels. (Chase that link and learn grasshopper...)

Now during my 8-ish years as a maintainer (six and a half of which were actually around aircraft) I worked on the C and the D-models at Kadena (first) then Kunsan. It is at that latter location where our story unfolds.


It was a brisk day out on the line. Now in Korea we didn't really have a flight line per se. As we were not more than 20 minutes flying time from the evil henchmen of the Kim family, we couldn't just line up the aircraft in neat lines à la Pearl Harbor or Clark Field in 1941. Nope, not a good idea. So our aircraft were dispersed in what we called Whiskey Arches, not sure why, but that's what we called them. The photo below depicts some of those at Hahn AB in Germany, circa 1977.

The layout of the shelters in Korea wasn't quite as compact. The next photo is an overhead view of part of Kunsan, my stomping grounds for nearly four years.

Google Maps
Some of the stuff in the photo wasn't there when I was, times change, new things spring up, but to the right of the shelters you can see a lot of green, those are (for the most part) rice paddies. There were a lot of small farm dwellings out there too.

I remember one little home just on the outside of the perimeter fence. There was an older guy who would stand out front and just stare at you while you were outside the arch, taking a break from all that maintaining. (One of the reasons I took up smoking was all the down time waiting for parts, waiting for someone to come pick you up, etc. At Kadena there was no place to smoke on the flightline, in Korea you just stepped outside the arch, where old Korean guys would stare at you. We were advised not to interact with them. Perhaps they were slightly pissed about having an airbase smack dab in the middle of good crop land. After all, an airbase has to be on a flat surface, Korea is a land of very few flat surfaces. People like to eat, crops are easier to grow on flat surfaces, you do the math.)

As you might could tell from the overhead view of the base, there were some pretty isolated aircraft shelters. Far from the beaten path as it were.

Now by this point your head is probably spinning with this talk of Whiskey Arches and maintenance, rice paddies and disgruntled old farmers and just what the Hell does that picture of a pheasant have to do with the price of tea in China, as "they" like to say. Well, let me enlighten you.

Kunsan the base was quite a ways from Kunsan the city. (Overseas the bases tend to get named for places they are near, in the States they generally get named after famous guys.) It was right on the coast and out in the middle of all those paddy fields. Other than the noise of the aircraft at all hours it apparently was a good place for certain types of wildlife to settle down and raise families. Pheasants were one of those kinds of wildlife. The base was crawling with pheasant. (Okay, yes, I'm exaggerating the pheasant population, but if you didn't notice them it's because you weren't paying attention.) Lovely birds they are, I'm told they're also good to eat.

So there I am, taking a break from cannibalizing parts off of a broken Phantom to install on the bird we had in the Radar Calibration barn (wasn't really a barn, it was actually a hangar, we liked to call it a barn, I don't know why, though I have theories...). Sometimes this was necessary, perhaps the jet out on the line had a busted engine, or fuel pump, or some other  magical framistat and couldn't be flown. Whereas the bird in the barn could be, or could be as soon as we (my mates and I) were done aligning, tweaking, and adjusting its radar set and associated other weapony things. Sometimes we found things that were broken, unadjustable or otherwise recalcitrant items which prevented our progress, keeping Mister Flying War Machine in the barn for longer than normal. (Normal was approximately 48 hours.)

So the folks in Job Control would search out an aircraft in a non-flyable state and send us out to take the part we needed to continue our calibrating activities. That's about the only time you'd find Radar Cal guys and gals (we had a couple) out on the flight line in the cold and gloom. We didn't have our own truck so we had to rely on the kindness of strangers. Actually it was usually other weapons control guys and gals who spent their entire miserable lives out on the flightline in the cold and dark. Jealous? No, I don't think they were jealous. Just spiteful. Or something.

So we relied upon them to take us to the aircraft to be violated and returned to the warmth and coziness of our shop. Yeah, they thought it was funny to dump us out there and make us wait for what seemed hours and hours. In the cold and gloom.

So on those occasions, we'd have our part(s) ready to go back to the shop and we'd have to wait. So the smokers of our clan would hie to the back of the arch for to have a cigarette and to be glared at by disgruntled old Korean farmers. One day I was out there. It was cold, but it was dry. As I settled in, I lit my cigarette and got comfortable, or as comfortable as one could get leaning against steel-reinforced concrete on a cold Korean afternoon.

As I took my first puff, to what should my wondering eyes should appear was two guys behind the next arch, apparently sneaking up on something. Two guys carrying firearms and wearing caps much like the manikin in the next photo (on the left, don't mind the glare.)
 
Korean War Uniform (Wolcott photo Source)
If you look real close (or chase the source link) you might note that those are "the bad guys," North Koreans. That winter hat with the ear flaps is something I've always associated with two things: hunting in New England and Communist infantry in the winter. The former I like, the latter, not so much.

So I drop my smoke and crush it beneath my boot heel (no little irony there) and watch these two armed and suspicious individuals creeping up on my position. I am sort of blending in with the aircraft shelter in my olive drab fatigue uniform so they haven't seen me yet. They seem to be focusing on the perimeter fence, which is not that far from me.

Needless to say, I'm a bit concerned. These two fellows are carrying weapons, I have a cigarette lighter and a pencil. No doubt if I were MacGyver I could have quickly built something with which to incapacitate these two nefarious fellows using nothing more than the pencil, the lighter and perhaps some pocket lint. But MacGyver I was not then and am not now. So I used "rabbit technique," that is I froze in position and hoped they wouldn't notice me.

As I sat there, all deer in the headlights-like, I noted that one guy was Caucasian, the other Asian. First thought, "Dammit, one of 'em's a Rooskie! Commie bastards are ganging up on us." Second thought, gee that "Russian" kind of looks familiar...

Then it strikes me, as a pheasant breaks from cover off to my left and I see two shotguns swing in that direction, that's the base commander, er, commanders. The American one and the Korean one. After all, we two staunch allies share the base, the Koreans own it but they let us play there too.

Apparently the two officers shared a love of hunting. Hunting pheasants that is.

Well, long(-ish) story short, they didn't bag the pheasant. What's more, they didn't bag the staff sergeant huddled by the Whiskey Arch using rabbit technique to not get noticed. My rabbit fu was strong that day. The two hunters reversed direction and they never noticed me.

But yeah, when you're way out there on the edge of the empire and you see armed men wearing winter caps with ear flaps, you see Commies, not hunters.

Well, I do, don't know how you might have seen that. Then again, sometimes when I hear hoof beats I think "zebras," not "horses." Yup, over active imagination, that's me. It can be entertaining at times.

Other times? Not so much.






*SJC


I wonder how the wedding went...
No, that comment wasn't in the original post, I mean it's the weekend of Juvat's MBD's wedding. That's the wedding I meant. And oh yes, the original post is here. In case you wish to peruse the original comments.

40 comments:

  1. It only makes sense that the perks of office would allow them to thin the pheasant population. In the navy, we took lobsters from the restricted zones because you never knew when one of the little red bugs was talking to Moscow.

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    1. Well someone has to keep those little buggers in line.

      (Lobsters and commies.)

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  2. Wildlife stories. Dark and wet German night walking guard, heard a noise. "Halt! Who goes there?" I shouted as I turned on my flashlight. Who goes there was a monstrous (it seemed) boar with tusks. I deserted my post in favor of a seat on top of the nearest 5 ton truck.

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    1. Discretion is oft the better part of valor.

      There is no reasoning with a pissed-off boar.

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    2. Some early German orders of Knighthood required the candidate to have single-handedly killed a German wild boar.

      I have great respect for any who goes after boar alone.

      And then there's the cop-Marine guy I know, he and his guys go chasing after wild pigs with just knives. Good, old-fashioned Florida Crackers. Gotta love them. (No, seriously. He's from a Florida Cracker family. It's not an insult when it actually describes someone descended from Florida Ranchers who were known for riding Florida Cracker horses and who used whips to drive cattle through the scrub (thus the 'cracker' sound that resulted in the label 'Cracker' and also gave the short-legged horses their names, too) (Now, if you call me a Cracker in a hateful way I'll break my CoonAss-Buckeye (Cajun-Ohio) boot up your keister. Them's fighting words, bub. And a serious racial 'hate-word' when slung at me for my whiteness.)

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    3. My sixth grade teacher, a descendant of good Scots lineage, had previously taught in Hawaii.
      One of his coworkers, a Kamaina took him on a pig hunt where only hand tools (read, knives) were used.

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    4. Beans- So that's where that term came from, I learn something new everyday here on the blog!

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    5. Skip - I like bacon but, no, no thank you.

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    6. Thanks. Don't call a Cracker a Red-neck. The educated Cracker will lecture you for about 4 hours just on the basics of their history. The uneducated Cracker (okay, and some, well, most educated Cracker) will gladly drag you through palmetto scrub after removing your teeth with their fists. Rednecks come from the North, suh!)

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    7. For those more northernly members of this blog who have never had to tromp, move, get near or even worse, cut and trim, palmetto, there's a reason why they call it 'saw palmetto' as the edges of the palm stalks (not the fronds, the stalks) are very sharp and somewhat saw-edged.

      On the other hand, after knocking off that sharp, jagged edge, they make excellent pseudo-swords for little children to whack the crap out of each other (little children being a state of mind and sometimes not related to age or sobriety.)

      Palm fronds with stalks, when dry, make excellent torches (for about a minute or less,) by the way. Again, fun levels related to mental age or lack of sobriety or both.

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    8. A walk through a corn field will Alice you up quite efficiently, too!

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  3. I’m kinda curious about the wedding, too.
    I’ve heard about how cold and nasty it can get during Korean winters.

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    1. Along the coast it got pretty nasty, but compared to the mountains in the interior? We may as well have been in Miami.

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    2. A very good friend of mine is South Korean. I asked him once about the winters there. Since he knew I grew up in the Chicago area, he related it thus: "The worst winter day in Chicago is a Hawaiian vacation compared to Korea".

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  4. It's rather a wonder that you didn't need a change of underwear.

    Yes, juvat, if you are not as limp as your wallet, let us know how the nuptials went.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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    Replies
    1. Yes, yes indeed. Gave me a bit of a start that did.

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    2. Could you imagine the start that you would have given them if you had done the whole "Halt, who goes there?" in your best Sarge voice?

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    3. I can see it now -

      1) Two shotguns swing my way and dispatch me to Sarge heaven.
      2) Two colonels swing my way and dispatch me to Airman hell.
      3) Two colonels pee their pants and I point into the distance yelling, "The bastard went that-a-way!"

      Only #3 has a happy ending.

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    4. What? They wouldn't have immediately congratulated you for your willingness to defend the base and put you up for promotion?

      As one of my friends would say, scaring two colonels like that would result in your premature eject-ulation from service to Uncle Sugar (apparently sideswiping the base commander's wife's car with a Bradley while doing donuts on ice is a fast track to separation, or transfer, or both.) (I unfortunately missed doing stupid things while in service to Uncle Sam. Like the bubblehead I knew who put a rubber glove over the periscope for 'fun' in order to 'get' the XO (apparently the Captain thought it was funny so his ass was saved, though at a temporarily reduced rate)(Captain must have really had it for the XO.))

      (Sorry about the deleted comment. Apparently Blogger Auto Correct didn't like my eject-ulation word and replaced it with something else entirely which since I am actually trying to be less vulgar would have violated my self-vulgarity and the blog's vulgarity levels, except about certain political figures who will not be named....)

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  5. My father, when he was at Taegu, besides being a SHWFFP, was also assigned to inspect South Korean ammo bunkers along with a British Major. Dad, being a Cajun, and the Brit, being old-school Brit, both enjoyed ground inspection of terrain features around the said ammo bunkers, in other words hunting, the Brit with some fine Brit shotgun, my dad with some fine post-war Japanese shotgun (which my eldest brother now has, sigh.)

    So, Dad was stalking the wily Korean infiltrators, or pheasants, when he managed to find himself in a field that was strung with barbed wire in grids. Upon noting that there was wire in his path too heavy to get over (he had already gotten over several strands,) he hollered out to the Brit that he was kinda trapped and the pheasants he was tracking were moving in X direction, so kindly head them off at the pass and dispatch them, please. (Though, knowing dad, it involved some more choice words that the tender ears of Tuna wouldn't be able to handle.)

    The Brit, apparently somewhat concerned about him more than the pheasants that were now heading North, told my dad to, "Freeze in Place, Bob. Just Freeze in place." (actual words from dad). Dad asked why, the Brit said basically to just stay still and he'll go radio up some help to get him out of the field. Dad was somewhat suspicious as both of them were rough and tumble country boys, but the Brit finally fessed up and told dad he was about 100' into a very dense minefield.

    Several hours later, after much diligent work by a local Korean unit, Dad was extricated. I think the Korean officer was a hunting buddy of the Brit as Dad suffered no penalties for hunting on duty, the whole thing being passed off as an inspection of a mine storage site.

    Apparently my dad walked right next to several mines, and was finally standing about half a foot from one that would have left him forever known as Stumpy, if he survived.

    In comparison, I like my nice boring life. Adventure sucks...

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    1. Dang!

      "Hey, don't move! You're in a minefield!" Are words I never hope to hear directed at me.

      Dang!

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    2. Yeah, I'll keep my nice boring life. With my luck and clutziness I, and my body parts, would have managed to set off every damned mine. Seriously. I can't even begin to count the number of doorjambs I've hit with my body, almost like I was a Navy helmsman...

      Dad liked "Kelly's Heroes" just as much as I, except for one scene. Guess which one...

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    3. That scene saddened me greatly. Everything was going well up to that point.

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    4. Except for some fighter pilots shooting up their rides. If that hadn't happened, they never would have stumbled into the mine field.

      Dumb air-heads, can't see the big white stars... under the trees... in the shade... covered in camo netting... behind enemy lines... okay, good job, air-heads!

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    5. Beans, the Golden Dragons will let the copyright infringement slide this time, but don't let it happen more than a few dozen more times.

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    6. Plenty, I just don't remember SSHWFMS (Mighty Shrikes) patches! The Hobos was their tactical call sign by the way. Not sure where that came from.

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    7. I don't think they ever had "Super" in their name either.

      ;)

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  6. A pheasant hunting trip to Cheju-do island was the holy grail of trips when I was in Japan in the early 60's. Never got to go, sigh...

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  7. I'll tell you, us Navy types were always jealous of you Air Force pukes getting rides in from the flight line. We'd fly in to one of your flight lines at zero dark whatever, torrential downpour, 320% humidity, or what-have-you, and there was a young man or woman there to help us by driving our crew and gear in to base ops. Didn't realize that service wasn't always timely enough to keep you more occupied. Glad you're no longer sucking on those cancer sticks, as I'm sure the grand-progeny would be too.

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    1. And the odd thing is, I don't miss smoking, not at all.

      I guess I'm completely reformed, even the smell annoys me.

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    2. I look at the smokers out in the company courtyard and think back to when I was one of them.

      Makes me feel just a bit pathetic. Then there's all that money wasted, literally up in smoke. Who knows what the long term damage to my health might be.

      It's odd remembering when I was young and stupid. Yeah, yeah, now I'm old and stupid, but not as stupid. So I've got that going for me. ;)

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