Thursday, June 9, 2011

WESTPAC 1970

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. 

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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



3 comments:

  1. Hello,

    Not sure where to start, but a sincere Thank you seems to be appropriate. While doing some internet searching on my father's duty stations, my brother came accross your blog and was stunned to see a picture of our father, Gary Julius. In the picture captioned "Hank's Haulers at a Hail and Farewell Picnic" he's in the center, background. My father passed in 2011 and this was a very pleasant surprise. As for the Hank's Haulers patch, I have seen this over the years in a frame with a picture of Mount Fuji. I will look through his stuff and see if I can find it. I'd be happy to send a quality image your way if I am successful. My father was a proud Marine and this blog would have brought a smile to his face. Thank you again.

    Best Regards,

    Kris Julius

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    Replies
    1. Also, here's my email address: kristopherjulius@gmail.com

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  2. Hi,
    I was a member of the 1st. Fuji det. We arrived on Dec. 28 1969. We had two CH-46's. We flew search & rescue and VIP's. I was a Cpl. and was the airframes person. I was the one who made the Tori and made and painted the Det. sign you are kneeling by. This was the best duty I had during my 4 year enlistment. Maj. Stansfield was 1st. C.O. He was there only a short time and was replaced Maj. Smith. Also at this time some of the pilots were changed. After that the regulars were J. Pruden, R. Penland, P. Kranker and T. Holden.
    I went to Vietnam with HMH 462 in August 68, After 6 months I was moved to MAG 36. I entended for a second tour. MAG 36 was moved to Futenma Okinawa around Nov. 69. And at the end of Dec. we went to Atsugi Japan.

    Semper Fi
    William Lucky Cseke
    cseke@sbcglobal.net

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