Saturday, February 12, 2011

Yankee Station

As we’ve aged, retired, and started reflecting on some of the things we’ve experienced over the past, nearly 50-years since EH, the net has come along at a propitious time. As no other generation has ever had available to them, we have the tools to ask long, unanswered questions and have a reasonable expectation of finding answers. It amazes me nearly every day.

Someone mentioned the F4 Phantom recently and that started my mind going. This was the plane most young pilots wanted to fly, but few got the opportunity. It had a reputation for being powerful, somewhat unwieldy, and dirty with respect to throwing out a lot of black smoke. We used to joke that a Phantom didn’t land as much as it arrived as it came aboard a carrier. They hit hard and emitted a lot of smoke from burning rubber as their heavy frames arrived on deck.

As so many others are going through their old picture files, a lot of old Vietnam material is beginning to appear in online venues such as Flikr and other sites. If you have a specific memory of something you saw, but never photographed, there is now an opportunity to find some of those pictures you never took.

This story is illustrated with a couple of shots I frequently saw but never photographed. Unlike the WWII veterans, we have a marvelous communication tool available to us in the net. For those with an interest in the subject, all you need to know is how to ask the question. I recalled the boiling smoke from the Phantoms coming aboard (arriving) and the close calls they often had with a pitching deck as they made their final approach.

If you were Navy, this is the kind of stuff you saw on Yankee Station, if you were Army or Marines, you saw something different, and if you were Air Force, you saw something different still. I think Navy had the most exciting jobs but since they were done in locations remote to news media, there wasn’t much of a record created of their duties. Only pictures like these, taken by some of the sailors themselves can do a good job of telling their story.

The last picture is an aeronautical chart marked by a carrier pilot for his use in flying a mission into North Vietnam. This is the kind of thing that is essentially unique and rarely seen by others. However, as we clean out some of the old boxes and trunks, this is the kind of thing we are finding.

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