Friday, December 30, 2011


I have always had a love for machinery and cars.  I first learned to drive tractors as a kid working on the dairy farm I described in an earlier post.  At that time I was introduced to an old WWII Dodge Power-Wagon. I learned to drive this truck where every shift required double clutching because the transmission had no synchromesh.  During my 17th summer I terrorized the back-roads of Chester County, Pennsylvania in my brother's 1959 VW Beetle.  I was "caring for it" while he was touring Europe.

I bought my first car just before graduating from College.  The dealer let me have it with no payments due until I started flight training in the Summer!  Of all the cars I have owned I think this is the one I would like to have back!   She was a sea-foam green Mustang-289 with the standard 3-speed on the floor.  She was decked out with an 8-track with  box of great tapes such as Johnny Rivers and Merle Haggard.  I soon replaced the bias-ply tires with the brand new technology: Michelin Radials!  Check out those driving lights in the grill.  These were 400,000 candlepower aircraft landing lights from J.C. Whitney! You could feel the heat from them through your jeans standing 3 feet in front of the car.  They would light up the highway for miles which was a good thing because it was fairly regularly she saw over 110MPH returning to Whiting Field from Pensacola on a barely used new section of interstate.  At that time most of us didn't worry that smoking and speeding were hazardous to our  health..... We thought we were all headed to 'Nam probably with  one-way tickets.

The Mustang carried me from Vermont to Florida to California accumulating over 60,000 miles in  18 months.

Of all my cars this was the best... costing about what my Specialized Roubaix road bicycle costs today!


While stationed in Okinawa and Japan I ferried helicopters between the two islands.  We usually bought a couple of motorcycles in Atsugi, Japan and "brought" them to Okinawa on the aft ramp of our CH-46-s.  If we developed engine problems - the bikes would be the first things tossed overboard into the sea.  My bike was a Yamaha-250 Enduro.  We would ride these dirt bikes all over the Northern Training areas of Okinawa which were set aside as tank and artillery training areas.  I sold the 250 just before I rotated home. I bought a Yamaha-360 which I shipped home.  I rode it a week before selling it - knowing it was more than I could handle... I got rid of it before it killed me!

 Heading to the BOQ at MCAS Futema, Okinawa

Before returning from overseas I took advantage of a special deal for returning GIs.  I ordered a beautiful Red MGB with a black removable hard top and fog lights - direct from the manufacturer in England.  I would pick up the car at Boston harbor when she arrived.  It is a sad story.... The delivery was about 2 months late so I had to rent a car at my new duty station, Cherry Point, NC just to get around.... but I new the wait would be well worth it!  Finally the big day came. I drove up to Boston and went down to the docks.  I checked in at the trailer where the stevedores worked at unloading all the cars.  The supervisor asked me what my MG looked like so he could find it quickly in the dock covered with newly unloaded MGs.  I described the red car and black extra roof.  Oh Shit! was his response. "One car was smashed against the side of the ship due to a mishap with the crane - it was yours. It is totaled."

To make a long story short, I traded my wreck and a few bucks for a new British Racing Green MG at a sympathetic dealer in  Wellsley who had been at the docks when I learned of the disaster!

I was soon back in North Carolina in my new MG!

A car similar to my MGB.  Mine did not have the classy wire wheels.

The MG did not last past its first oil change!  While at the MG dealer I lost my heart to a used Lotus Europa even though it was an ugly yellowish color.  It had a Renault double overhead cam engine with dual Weber carbs.  The story was the steering wheel had come off the car Jim Clark drove at Indy.  (I now doubt this)  This mid-engine car was quick and handled like it was on rails.
The Lotus came to its demise when a carburetor bolt sheared off while driving down the main drag at MCB Quantico.  The carbs jammed at full throttle and I finally pulled over and jumped out as the RPMs passed through 11,000, about to blow up! Some Marines in the Motor-T shop at my squadron rebuilt the engine. 

My First Lotus

Hale's Lotus Europa John Player Special Commemorative
Of course I did the only logical thing and traded it for a brand new Lotus John Player Special, a black car with gold pin striping commemorating Emerson Fitipaldi's recent Formula-1 Championship driving a Lotus F-1 car.  This car had all the British car quality problems so I bought a VW Super Beetle as my back-up car!  Remember the bumper sticker:  All the parts falling off this car are Genuine Lucas!
Emerson Fittapaldi in the Lotus F-1

In recent years I have attempted to rekindle the feeling of some of the higher performance cars of my past. 

FORD FOCUS S.V.T.  Built by Ford's Special Vehicle Team
MINI COOPER S ... A high performer built by BMW

Both of these cars were high performance vehicles due to modern technology: Electronic controlled systems, performance suspensions and 6 gear gearboxes.  However, the reliability and performance could not match the emotional feel attached to the early Mustang, MG and Lotuses.

Stay tuned for a blog about my very 
early love for sports car racing to recent experiences at the 
Bondurant  School for High Performance Driving


Sunday, November 6, 2011


As I have mentioned before the helicopter I most liked to fly and new the very best was the CH-46 Sea Knight built by Boeing-Vertol in Morton, Pennsylvania.  You used to be able to see the Plant and Helicopters below you as you drove West on the Ben Franklin Bridge headed for Philly from New Jersey.

At HMX-1 we had four "46s".  There numbers were  MX-19, MX-20, MX-21 and MX-22   These were great aircraft that were flown on numerous missions from carrying Secret Service and support staff along with the Presidential birds.  We had a cool  squadron-made  VIP module we could roll in the back should we want to carry a small number in relative comfort.  The module had a couple of airline type seats, carpet and extra sound proofing.  The same aircraft were used for combat support on training missions for officers attending the Marine Officers Basic School at Quantico.  We also used these on testing equipment and technology in conjunction with the Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River or the Navy Weapons Center at Dahlgren, Virginia.


When we flew these aircraft our call signs would vary depending on the current mission.
  • When flying in support of the White House or flying in the Washington area we were: NIGHTHAWK-19.
  • When flying in support of troops at Quantico we were called SHORTSTUFF- 20 by the "grunts on the ground.
  • When flying outside of the area on an FAA flight plan we would be known as MARINE HELO MX-21
What made it more interesting was the need  talk to the various units or organizations with whom we communicated on different radios and frequencies - all at the same time:
UHF  (Uniform) for the tower and Air Traffic Controllers,  FM  (Fox Mike) for the troops on the ground or other aircraft in your formation.  Fortunately we had ADF Radios so we could listen to good country radio stations all the time - as background!

The most memorable mission I flew in the CH-46, or in any aircraft for that matter, took place when the Prisoners of War were released from North Vietnam.  These men were flown from Hanoi to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.  From there the were flown to bases near their homes in the United States.  I was the aircraft commander waiting late at night at Andrews Air Force base for the return of a Navy Commander who had spent seven years in the Hanoi Hilton.  (I am so upset that I have lost my log books and my memory fails me on recalling his name.)  After the briefest welcome as he stepped off the Air Force jet,  he boarded our "46", MX-19. He shook our hands and we welcomed him home.  I recall that he was cold, having not an ounce of natural insulation left on his body, so I lent him my flight jacket.  With tears in my eyes I lifted off of the tarmac at Andrews and headed toward DC.  I called Washington Tower and requested clearance  for the helicopter route to Bethesda Naval Hospital.  I told them that Commander "Anderson" was on board, returning from 7 years in the Hanoi Hilton.  The response was:  "Nighthawk-19 you are cleared anywhere you want over Washington. Welcome the Commander home from all of  us in Washington Tower."  This was unprecedented in an area of numerous restricted areas and busy commercial traffic.  We gave our hero a beautiful flight right across Washington,  an unbelievable sight at night from a slow moving helo flying at 1000 feet.  If I was not choked up enough I was really in tears after we landed on the Bethesda Helo Pad.  He thanked us again,  returned my jacket and stepped off the bird into the arms of his wife and two young children - Home  at last -after seven years in Hell!....

More Tales of CH-46 Missions will follow in the days to come................ over.

Monday, October 17, 2011


We have now really bonded with our wonderful cat.  He has now been officially named Speedy, Sammy Sanchez the Ridge-backed, Ring-tailed Red Cat.  At informal occasions he is known as Sammy.


Sammy Sanchez checks out Kate's Clay Cat
Notice the large snout and ringed tail which characterize the the Eastern Red Ringtail.

Look what I found in my In-Box.
Sure prefer finding Sammy instead of more bills!

Now Squirrely is out front!

The Padre with his white collar

Hard at Work

While not watching the real Blackfeather, Sammy rests with his Raven pillow

Saturday, October 1, 2011


I had the remarkable opportunity to serve as a pilot in Marine Helicopter Squadron-One.  When I checked into the squadron on 17 April 1972 I was the youngest and most junior officer, a First Lieutenant, on board!  I think our C.O., Lt/Col. Richard Kuci, was a bit concerned about the kid who escaped the boonies of Cherry Point, N.C. and  showed up driving a Lotus!  Lucky for me,  he never found out I was stopped for speeding on my way north to Quantico and had to drop a bit of cash with the local sheriff to continue on my way.


As most people know HMX-1 is known best for its glamor mission of providing all helicopter transport for POTUS (President of the United States).  However, there are other very important missions  which include Research and Development of systems and tactics relating to rotary wing aircraft, providing transport for lesser dignitaries such as the Vice President, Foreign Dignitaries,  Admirals and Generals of all kinds.  In addition we got the exciting flying involved in providing helicopter support in combat training for new  Second Lieutenants attending the Marine Cops Officers Basic School in regular fleet combat type aircraft.  One day you could be flying the president, who in my day was Richard Nixon, from the White House Lawn to Andrews Air Force Base where he boarded Air Force One.  The next night you might be flying a CH-46 inserting a squad of Marines into a dark and tiny LZ in the tihck forests west of Quantico.  "Spit and polish" to "down and dirty" in 24 hours!
Unlike every other Marine Squadron where there is only one type of aircraft assigned, HMX-1 had four different types and a couple different models of one.  While I was there I was an Aircraft Commander and Post Maintenance Test Pilot in the CH-46, SH-3, and the UH1E twin engined Huey.  I also sometimes flew as copilot in the CH-53 Sea Stallion - the first bird to fly over 200 MPH.  Flying the huge and cumbersome "53", to me, was like driving a pig!  There was never time for anything to become routine!

A quote I recently heard from a current HMX-1 Commanding Officer was: "This Squadron is a group of unremarkable Marines performing a remarkable mission."

I will be relating many of my memories of my tour with HMX-1.

A look at this video will prepare you for the sea-stories that will follow.

Official Photo of Marine-One leaving the White House

Unofficial shot of an alert bird going out for its daily exercise.
Every co-pilot on Marine-one was required to have minimum of 1,000 flight hours.  Because I had spent my previous year flying a desk at Cherry Point I was bit short of flight-time;  I was assigned to fly every mission possible so I could quickly become qualified as a Presidential Co-pilot.   I then went through "Saturation Training".  At the time the country  was  living under the threat of the H-Bomb and the Cold War.   There is nothing quite like being jarred awake by a siren and  lights flashing on - jumping into your flight suit and boots- running down the stairs and running to one of the three aircraft which were being towed from the hanger.  Anyway,  the result is a heart rate of around 185 B.P.M. and the realization that you are now  awake and flying an aircraft at about 150 feet  and 130 knots over Haines Point  in route to the designated pick-up point!  We joked about the black tire marks our birds would make on the Washington Monument as we cranked in a sharp steep turn headed for the Capitol building.

As you know "the bomb" never went off but we were all ready to play our part in the ridiculous scenario should it have! 

It has a different feeling in the black of night - barely awake from a sound sleep - before the SAS, stabilization equipment, warms up and comes on line!

In addition to the normal activities of flying my experience was made more memorable by the stresses and variables created in the White House due to the Watergate Scandal.  I remember a friend flying John Erlichmann and HR Halderman to Camp David where the President fired them!  I flew the President and Pat Nixon back to the White House Lawn late the night after he fired Special Watergate Prosecutor, Archibald Cox.  The President's world was crumbling and I could see the weight in the way he and his poor wife walked alone from the aircraft across the lawn to the White House.

 Enough for now. .....More later

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Well, it's back to work, part-time, working as an outside contractor doing the same work I did before I "retired".  I do also hope to catch up on my blogging!

Click this link!

Merle telling it as it is!

Friday, July 15, 2011


Hard at work doing his day job!
Susan and I are proud to announce the adoption of a fine feline family-member!  He has not been named yet.  He is as stealthy as an F-117 Wobbly Goblin and quick and agile as  an F-15 Eagle.  We will keep you posted as we get to know him better an select a name!

Monday, July 11, 2011


Our extended family of Blackfeather and Blackbeauty have brought their newly fledged children to our woods!  

Blackfeather and Blackbeauty

We have been feeding this pair of ravens for about 12 years!  At Christmas, years ago, we put a turkey carcass out in the snow of our backyard to feed the birds.  Soon Blackfeather and his wife swooped in and worked together devouring the meat off the carcass,  One raven would hold the carcass while the other picked and pulled the meat from the bones.  Of course they got a bit greasing doing this so they waddled up to the top of the small hill in our yard.  They then lay down and rolled down the hill in the snow.  After rolling in the snow three times they cuddled in the sunlight with their necks intertwined.   Ever since then we have put out chicken eggs, scraps, and any treats we have for them to eat.  They come every day and sit in our trees croaking or cawing until we come out and feed them!   If they are not waiting when we put out the food a few human "caw, caw, caws" will bring them in.  These guys are smart and efficient.  If they find a bunch of crackers scattered on the grass they will carefully stack them up so they can carry a large beakful off to their stash.   If Blackfeather finds two donuts he puts his beak through the doughnut hole of one and clamps down on the second one so he can fly away - at max gross weight- hauling both doughnuts.

The Juvies; Larry, Curly, Mo and Maureen
We have been privileged and proud that our friends bring their children to our woods every June.  These guys are real terrors as they are just learning to find food and live outside the nest.  This year Larry, Curly, Mo and Maureen grace us with their raucous squawking as they buzz around the edge of our yard and woods.  They are always under the watchful eyes of Blackfeather and Blackbeauty who croak and caw to them as they try to keep them under control.  The dignified manner of the parents is strikingly contrasted to the wild "teenagers".

Here at Molly Supple House we are blessed by many wild creatures who must know this is a safe place where they are loved.  They must know their visits are more welcome than visits from the human species.

We have had visits from Cowinkle the Moose and her Baby,  Cubby and her two cubs, countless deer and fawns,  Tom Turkey with his harem of hens, and visits from Woodsy the Owl are common.  Of course, those masked marauders of the night, Raccoons stop by with their young as do the Hummers who return every year on May 5th! Susan even saw a catamount one afternoon several years ago.

Tom and one of his harem

Woodsy Owl

Cubby and her two yearling cubs


Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Frank Irwin, Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, November 1943
My father, Henry Franklin Irwin Jr. was born on July first 1914 in Newark,  New Jersey.  My first real memory of him was when he took my brother and me fishing in a creek  or pond near our new tiny house in Virginia - an area that has now been over-run with urban sprawl.  At the time he was working in Army Intelligence at the Pentagon.

Frank was a typical man of the Greatest Generation.  He seldom or never talked about himself or his past.  What I know I have gathered  from various conversations or stories from my Mom, Josephine,  or an anecdote or two from him.
He graduated from Dartmouth College  in 1937 and soon earned a PHD in English from Princeton. He wrote his thesis on John Milton, arguably the best 17th Century English author.  Somewhere in these younger years he worked in the railroad yards keeping track of railroad cars and their loads.  I am not exactly clear of his activities during World War II.  While he was training, teaching and in combat my Mother lived in base housing at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland with my aunt and their young children.  My brother, Terry, was one of 4 cousins living in that household.  In 1945, at the end of the war, I was born at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Dad and many of the Dartmouth men at that time were recruited  into the 10th Mountain Division because of their familiarity with skiing.  He was sent to Camp Hale in Colorado for training.  This camp was in a valley surrounded by several mountains where all the coal smoke from their stoves settled and polluted the air.  My understanding is the bad air brought on a relapse of TB.  Because of his health problem Dad was transferred out of the 10th Mountain Division.  All he ever said to me is that if he had not been transferred the likelihood of my birth would have been very doubtful because of the horrible losses this unit took fighting  heroically through Italy.

At some point I know he taught English to Spanish speaking troops in Puerto Rico.

Somewhere he saw action in North Africa.  This is something he never discussed or talked about.  All he ever said in reference to this was his hearing problems were caused by artillery barrages.  I do not know if he was the sender or receiver of this arty.  I believe this experience  to be such that he did not want to discuss it, or for that matter, ever remember it.

Dad, President Johnson, Secretary of State Dean Rusk
My father as, many of the men of that time, were motivated by god, duty and country. Unfortunately, the responsibility and stress of his duties did not leave him much time or energy to give in the family department. At the end of his military career Dad worked for the United States Information Service and later became a Foreign Service Officer and served in various capacities in U.S. Embassies in Scotland, Honduras and Costa Rica.  He was a Latin American Advisor for Adlai Stevenson at the United Nations.  He later served as Senior Watch Officer at the State Department in Washington.  In this position he was the first State Department contact when  crises exploded around the world.

Throughout his life Frank was active in his church. converting from Catholicism, he was confirmed an Episcopalian in the Washington National Cathedral.

Let me recount a few anecdotes I recall hearing about.
  • Just prior to the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba there was an Organization of American States meeting scheduled to be held in San Jose, Costa Rica. President Kennedy would attend and their would be discussions of how to deal with the new revolutionary in Cuba, Fidel Castro.  Dad was to carry a briefcase of secret and classified documents to the meeting.  Of course he was scheduled to fly directly to San Jose from Miami.  Unfortunately The LACSA Airways DC-6 had an engine problem and the pilot announced they would be making an emergency landing in Havana.   Dad took the briefcase into the lavatory and removed the most dangerous documents and slid them under his shirt and suit coat.  Passengers deplaned and waited for several hours while repairs were made to the aircraft.  Upon becoming airborne it was obvious that Castro agents had rifled through the documents left as a decoy.  We always wondered what would have happened if Castro had found the secret documents beneath Dad's shirt.

  •  While stationed in Costa Rica my father and a colleague, Mr. Bill Jones, who supposedly was the U.S. Agriculture Attache'  took a tour by jeep through northern Costa Rica into Nicaragua.  This was at a time when Nicaragua feared an invasion or infiltration of the country  by Castro.  It just so happened on their ride that they met a local town leader who invited them in for lunch.  They got to know each other.  Several days later while driving back on these back roads or trails Dad and Mr. Jones were ambushed by Nicaraguan militia.  Their plan was to hang them!  They were marched down the path to a tree.  attempts to show U.S. Identification were thwarted by the young Nicaraguans - they thought Dad was reaching for a pistol.   However, as fate would have it, the Nicaraguan gentleman that fed Dad and Bill several days earlier came along and explained that these two strangers were Americans not Cuban spies!
Wherever we were stationed we were never sure who did what in the embassy.  A question of what does Jimmy's dad do would often answered with the euphemism, "he works upstairs."   As far as I know my Dad was a regular Diplomat representing the United State to foreign countries.

Frank retired from the State Department when I was in College.  Mom and Dad moved to Middlebury Vermont where he became Director of Admissions at Middlebury College.  In the years to come he served as President of both Lyndon and Castleton State Colleges.  He finally retired for real and moved, with his new wife to live near Dartmouth, the college he loved so much.  He actually taught a course on John Milton for the English Department in his late years.

Unfortunately, my father succumbed to the great fog of Alzheimer's.   I lost my Dad about 3 years before he died on June 30, 1992 - one day before his 78th birthday.  A scholar and a true intellect no longer recognized his son. I regret that I did not have those years to get to know him better and learn more details of his past.

I believe that the values of my father have influenced who I am more than I ever realized until recently.  I inherited his honor and dedication to service and duty.  Never one to look for a job where the goal was making money; I have always been drawn to work that served others.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011


After serving with the Fuji Detachment in Japan  I returned to H&MS-36 in Okinawa.  Here my primary duty was as a PMIP (Post Maintenance Inspection Pilot) on CH-46s.  Every time maintenance is done on an aircraft a PMIP must flight test the bird and sign it off before it can be assigned back to the regular flight schedule.
We also received damaged and tired aircraft from the combat zone in Vietnam.  These aircraft were shipped to Okinawa on barges and rolled off on a beach about 15 minutes flight time from our base at Futema.   These birds had all the windows broken out of them so the grunts could shoot out of them.  Heaters had been removed to get rid of extra weight  All the birds  were covered with lots of little tin patches on the fuselage covering holes made by AK-47s, shrapnel and other such harmful devices! Rice was found beneath the floor panels among other things revealing the rough history of these birds and the Marines that had flown in them.  We held our breath, prayed, and flew these aircraft to Futema hoping the fuel gauges worked and the engines would run for the required 20-30 minutes!  I recall one time flaming out one of the two engines as we taxied off the runway to our flight line due to faulty fuel gauges.

Over the next weeks the aircraft were checked over as best they could be  to prepare them for a five hour over-water flight to the southern tip of Japan.  As a test pilot I lead at least three two-bird flights from Okinawa to  Atsugi Japan where they would undergo major overhaul.  We would then fly repaired helicopters back to Okinawa.  We worked very closely with the weather-guessers to choose a day where the winds would be favorable.   We joked that the weather prognosticators could not even predict rain if they looked out the window and saw it raining.  However, they gave us very detailed wind estimates for various altitudes.  It was the command pilot's decision when to go. The flights were done by dead-reckoning  (SWAG) because at our low altitude we could pick up no navigational aids.  The aircraft were loaded with two huge auxiliary internal fuel tanks that, with luck and good winds,  would provide us adequate fuel to reach a Japanese base at the Southern tip of Japan.

CH-46 Loaded with Fuel Tanks for Flight to Japan - Hope we got enough!

One time we landed with less than 15 minutes fuel remaining!  The tough part of these flights was we could not smoke with the internal tanks on board and we were COLD - flying in the winter with no heat, missing windows wearing summer flight suits!

After a layover at MCAS Iwakuni, we topped off our tanks and flew East - turning North around Mt Fuji to land at Atsugi about 10 miles inland from Yokohama.  We  turned over the aircraft to NIPPI, the Japanese Contractor doing heavy overhaul work for FAWPRA: Fleet Air Wing Pacific Rework Activity.

After "cheating death" on at least 3 of these round trips I was transferred to Atsugi to be a test pilot working with NIPPI  (Nippon Aircraft Corporation) as they overhauled Marine and Navy aircraft.  This was an exciting job working with the Japanese mechanics testing the helicopters after they underwent total tear down and rebuild.   These people did outstanding work. After a month an aircraft that looked like it should be headed to a junk yard rolled out of the factory looking brand new.

No - not headed to the junk yard
Our responsibility was to flight test them and make sure they flew like new!  My sign-off was the official acceptance of the aircraft back to to the Marine Corps.  It was an awesome responsibility and I made every effort to be sure everything was perfect because the lives of others would be held in the balance for years to come.

A month after leaving Atsugi and returning to the States I was shocked to hear about a horrible crash in one of the birds I had tested.  The aircraft was air taxiing at Yokota Air Force base after picking up passengers.  As it hover taxied in front of a Transport Airplane the CH-46 suddenly came apart, and self destructed in mid air,  killing all on board.  Evidently, a part in the rear transmission was installed improperly, the transmission seized, the rotors inter-meshed and that was all she wrote.  Unfortunately this was something no amount of test flying could reveal.

The author with two Nippi Mechanics on Flight Line at Atsugi
Nippi Flight Line Mechanics  Removing and Engine

My 13 month tour overseas was over.  I had done some hairy mountain and over-water flying in Japan and Okinawa.  I had learned the CH-46's workings as well as I new my own body.  I understood the electrical systems, hydraulic systems, the engine parameters and the the balancing of rotor systems.  I really loved the single pilot flying as a test pilot; the detail and accuracy required and the great responsibility I had been given.  I may not have flown in Vietnam but I certainly had done my best to support the aircrews that did.


Little did I know that my next year at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina would be the exact opposite as I learned to fly the standard grey GI Mark One, Mod.2 desk..... I was pushing paper!
I did not like it

A year of administrative work prompted me to write my detailer at Headquarters Marine Corps and ask for an "early out".  I asked to leave the Marine Corps early before my regular 3 years would be up!

Stay tuned - the best was yet to come.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Upon completion of training in the CH-46 at HMMT-302 in California I was a "qualified" co-pilot with orders to the First Marine Aircraft Wing in Danang, Vietnam.  My expectations were simple. I expected to fly medevac, resupply, and recon team extraction missions.  The scariest thoughts were associated with flying night  emergency  medevac missions.

I also never expected to see my 25th birthday.

At a stopover at Camp Courtney in Okinawa where we were to get more shots and jungle utilities I learned that my orders were changed to Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron-36 based in Futema, Okinawa.  The Marine Corps was drawing down forces from Vietnam.  Squadrons and troops were beginning to pull out.

I never did go to Vietnam. I never flew any combat missions.  I have never, over the past 40 years,  lost that twinge of guilt for not serving in Vietnam with my brother Marines. 


Cpl. Deckard, 1/Lt. Irwin,  Sgt. Jones  FUJI DET

Maj. Hank Kunkel, THE HEAD HAULER
I was soon transferred to N.A.F. Atsugi, Japan where I flew with a three bird detachment that provided logistical and medevac support for a Marine Artillery Training Base at the base of Mount Fuji.  The Fuji Detachment was a great place to learn and grow.  There were 3 Ch-46s, seven pilots and approximately 12 mechanics all working in a very close team. 

Our O.I.C. Major Hank Kunkel,  was one of the most outstanding men I had the privilege of serving under.  With a great sense of humor and a great trust and respect for all of us he gave us all - all the responsibility we could handle.  He taught us how to really fly the Phrog and be good Marine Officers.  The Major was an example of the leader I wanted to become - where the troops come first.  With his training I soon became an Aircraft Commander.
Our great love and respect for this man brought about the unit"s nickname: HANK'S HAULERS - YOU CALL WE HAULOur patch depicted a Marine 6X6 Truck with rotors flying in front of Mt. Fuji.

In researching for my blog I was saddened to learn that this fine man, who had now retired,    succumbed to Cancer after serving 4 tours in Southeast Asia.

Hank's Haulers at a Hail and Farewell Picnic

While in this Detachment we had the opportunity to fly throughout the Tokyo, Yokohama, Mt Fuji area of Japan.  One day we might fly senior officers to and from Hardy Barracks - a headquarters in the middle of downtown Tokyo.  The next day we would be supporting artillery Marines at Mt Fuji.  We saw "Mother Watanebe's fort,  a fort protestors had built in the northern impact area of one of the ranges to keep the Marines from using that area.  We raced the Bullet Train which could outrun the "46" at it's max 150 MPH.  Whatever needed to be hauled or delivered - the Fuji Det did it.  You Call - We Haul!

PHROG at Camp Fuji
Ready One!

Mt Fuji with rice paddys in the foreground

Mother Watanabe's "Fort"

View on way into Tokyo from about 500'
Looking out flying to Camp Fuji.. ..Hope he's wearing ear plugs! -

One of Hank's Haulers headed to work