Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hong Kong 1965-66

As a pilot in the Air Force, I have flown to many interesting and exotic places, from Beirut to Bangkok. Most of the time I was unable to exploit the opportunity because of flight schedules or the need for crew rest before continuing on a mission. Another factor was, that in a rapidly growing family there was little “extra” money for sight-seeing or shopping. Hong Kong was different.

During the 60s, there were Americans imprisoned behind the “Bamboo Curtain” Twice a year the American Red Cross was allowed to give these prisoners packages. However the protocol was very strict. The packages would be loaded on one specific aircraft at Tachikawa AB (near Tokyo). The aircraft would depart at a specific time and date, and arrive at Kai Tak airport in Koloon (near Hong Kong) at a specific time and date. Exactly two days after arrival, a single Red Cross representative (the same one each trip) would take the packages to the middle of a bridge and hand them over to the Chinese authorities. This was before China had control of Hong Kong.

In 1965, I was attached to the squadron that had the only designated aircraft for that mission. The aircraft was a C-54 (DC-4) and I was to be the aircraft commander. All the seats were removed from one side of the aircraft to make room for the packages. The seats on the other side were available for military and dependents who were winners of a lottery. These passengers normally had a long shopping list from their friend and neighbors, and would be able to bring back their loot in the empty side of the aircraft.
The flight down was uneventful, but the approach to the airport was a little tricky. There was only one short runway. One end extended over the water and the other end was perilous close to a mountain. We were directed to use the latter. It was called the stone-cutters approach, because you had to fly directly at a stone mountain and at the last minute make an abrupt turn and steep descent to line up with the runway. An orange and white checkerboard was painted on the stone to help in judging when to turn.

This later picture shows the checkerboard.

You can see how hard it was to line up and get down to the runway.

Since there was only one runway, crosswinds were frequently a problem, even after the runway was extended further into the water, as can be seen in the following more recent picture.

He just caught an engine and wingtip.

We made it OK. We were always met by a chinaman who called himself "Chan". He was a real hustler, but smart and a nice guy. He would have transportation ready for the crew and take us to a "free" hotel and then treat us to dinner, the first night. He did this because he got a kick- back from the vendors. However, he got us the best prices and if we had tried to shop on our own, some other chinaman would have walked into the stores behind us and claimed the kick-back.
I had a list of purchases for others that I gave to Chan. He wanted to
know what I wanted. I told him I wasn't going to buy anything for myself this trip, but
my wife had thought about an emerald ring. He shook his head and said Hong Kong was not the place to get emeralds and if they could be found they would be very expensive, even if only the size of two rice grains.
The next day while we were shopping we stopped by a clothing store, Lee Kee's.
Some of the crew bought things, but I kept insisting that I wasn't going to buy anything
for myself this trip. They wanted to make me a suit, for free. I said it wouldn't be fair to
accept it, but they said people would admire the suit so much that they would insist on
looking at the label and see that it was made by Lee Kee and then order it from them. I still declined.

One year later, I returned to Hong Kong. Chan rushed up the stairs of our plane
and told me he had my emerald ring. It was very pretty and very inexpensive. It cost $20 and was appraised a few years later at over $200. How he knew I was on that plane is a mystery to me, but a testament to the Chinese intelligence system.

The next day we went to Lee Kee's. They built me a beautiful Thai silk suit and tie, and two hand-made white dress shirts, all for $25. Next we went to a shoe store where a couple of crew members bought some shoes. I didn't need any, but they made molds of all of our feet, and we could order shoes from them for only $10 a pair. We would just need to cut out a picture of any shoe (no matter how fancy) and send it to them. I never did that because they showed us their “sweatshop”. There was one “apprentice” that was only nine years old.

The hotel room were excellent and the food was fantastic and cheap, but the best deal in the world the boat ride across Victoria Harbor in the Hong Kong-Kowloon Ferry.

It cost ten cents Hong Kong (1 cent U.S.) for the 20-30 minute ride. The harbor was very busy in those days and filled with junks and sanpans

The whole experiences of these two trips were wonderful, but this was before the Chinese took control. I often wonder what happened to Chan, and Lee Kee when that happened.

All Saint's Day

I think our servicemen should also be honored on All Saint's day. After all it's also Air Force week. So thanks to the Air Force.

and to the army

and the marines

The navy....
Oh! they can go suck an egg

Now to halloween

Greatest Halloween Card Ever ...


Or here:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Questions About Lawyers
Q: How many lawyer jokes are there?
        A: Only three. The rest are true stories.

Q: What's wrong with lawyer jokes?
        A: Lawyers don't think they're funny and other people don't think they're jokes.

Q: What do you call 25 skydiving lawyers?
        A: Skeet.

Q: What do you call a lawyer gone bad?
        A: Senator.

Q: What’s the difference between a lawyer and an onion?
        A: You cry when you cut up an onion.

Q: What do you call a lawyer with an IQ of 70?
        A: Your honor.

Q: What do you throw to a drowning lawyer?
        A: His partners.

Q: What do you have if three lawyers are buried up to their necks in cement?
        A: Not enough cement.

Q: What's the difference between a lawyer and a vulture?
        A: The lawyer gets frequent flyer miles.

Q: What’s the difference between a shame and a pity?
        A: If a busload of lawyers goes over a cliff, and there are no survivors, that’s known as a pity. If there were any empty seats, that’s a shame.

Q: What's the difference between a lawyer and a leech>
        A: When you die, a leech will stop sucking your blood and drop off.

Q: How do you get a group of lawyers to smile for a photo?
        A: Just say, "Fees!"

Q: How many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb?
        A: Three. One to climb the ladder. One to shake it. And one to sue the ladder company.

Lawyers and Alligators
        Two alligators are sitting on the edge of a swamp. The small one turns to the big one and says, "I don't understand how you can be so much bigger than I am. We're the same age, we were the same size as kids... I just don't get it."
        "Well," says the big alligator, "what have you been eating?"

        "Lawyers, same as you," replies the small alligator.
        "Hmm. Well, where do you catch 'em?"
        "Down at that law firm on the edge of the swamp."
        "Same here. Hmm. How do you catch 'em?"
        "Well, I crawl under a BMW and wait for someone to unlock the door. Then I jump out, bite 'em, shake the crap out of 'em, and eat 'em!"
        "Ah!" says the big alligator, "I think I see your problem. See, by the time you get done shakin' the crap out of a lawyer, there's nothing left but lips and a briefcase..."

Minister and Lawyer in Heaven
        A minister and a lawyer arrived at the pearly gates, Saint Peter greeted both of them and gave them their room assignments.
        "Pastor, here are the keys to one of our nicest efficiency units. And for you, sir, the keys to our finest penthouse suite."
        "This is unfair!" cried the minister.
        "Listen," Saint Peter said, "ministers are a dime a dozen up here, but this is the first lawyer we've ever seen.

Three Wishes

        A man walking on the beach came across an odd-looking bottle. Not being one to ignore tradition, he rubbed it and, much to his surprise, a genie actually appeared. "For releasing me from the bottle, I will grant you three wishes," said the genie.
        "But there's a catch," the genie continued. "For each of your wishes, every lawyer in the world will receive double what you asked for."
        First, the man wished for a Ferrari. POOF! A Ferrari appeared in front of him. "Now, every lawyer in the world has been given two Ferraris," said the genie. "What is your next wish?"
        "I could really use a million dollars." replied the man, and POOF! One million dollars appeared at his feet. "Now, every lawyer in the world is two million dollars richer," the genie reminded the man, and then asked him for his third wish.
        The man thought for a minute and said, "Well, I’ve always wanted to donate a kidney."

The Truck Driver, Priest, and Lawyer
        A truck driver used to amuse himself by running over lawyers he saw walking down the side of the road. Every time he saw a lawyer walking along the road, he swerved to hit him and there would be a loud "THUMP". Then he would swerve back on the road.
        One day, as the truck driver was driving along the road he saw a priest hitchhiking. He thought he would do a good deed and pulled the truck over.
        "Where are you going, Father?" The truck driver asked.
        "I'm going to the church 5 miles down the road," replied the priest.
        "No problem, Father! I'll give you a lift. Climb in the truck." The happy priest climbed into the passenger seat and the truck driver continued down the road. Suddenly, the truck driver saw a lawyer walking down the road.
        Instinctively he swerved to hit him. At the last moment he remembered there was a priest in the truck with him, so he swerved back to the road and narrowly missed the lawyer.
        Certain he should've missed the lawyer, the truck driver was very surprised and immediately uneasy when he heard a loud "THUMP". He felt really guilty about his actions and so turned to the priest and said, "I'm really sorry Father. I almost hit that lawyer."
        "That's okay," replied the priest. "I got him with the door."

Not All Lawyers Are Thieves
        A group of dinner guests were blaming all of America’s troubles on lawyers when a woman said, “They aren’t all so bad. Why, last year a lawyer gave me $1000.”
        “I don’t believe it,” the host responded.
        “It’s true, I swear it,” said the woman. “I had a complicated personal injury case and what with the lawyer’s fee, the cost of expert witnesses, the expense of the appeal and so on, my bill was $41,000. When the judgment only amounted to $40,000, my lawyer simply forgave the difference.”

An airliner was having engine trouble, and the pilot instructed the cabin crew to have the passengers take their seats and get prepared for an emergency landing. A few minutes later, the pilot asked the flight attendants if everyone was buckled in and ready.
"All set back here, Captain," came the reply, "except the lawyers are still going around passing out business cards."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Aircraft accident

My friend Ralph just sent me this emergency message.

My ex-wife started taking flying lessons about the time our divorce started and she got her license shortly before our divorce was final, later that same year.

Yesterday afternoon, she narrowly escaped injury in the aircraft she was piloting when she was forced to make an emergency landing in Southern Tennessee because of bad weather.

Thank God our kids were with me this weekend.

The NTSB issued a preliminary report, citing pilot error: Judy was flying a single engine aircraft in IFR (instrument flight rules) conditions while only having obtained a VFR (visual flight rules) rating.

The absence of a post-crash fire was likely due to insufficient fuel on board.

No one on the ground was injured.

The photograph below was taken at the scene and shows the extent of damage to her aircraft.

She was very lucky.

I don't care who you are, this was funny!!!

Life explained by graphs

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Operation Birmingham began on April 24, 1966, just 11 days after the first attack on the Tan Son Nhut airfield mentioned previously. The Operation involved 3 Brigades of our 1st Infantry Division and the Vietnamese (ARVN) 5th Division. The purpose was to catch the Viet Cong 9th Division in a hammer and anvil maneuver. I was assigned as the C-130 Mission Commander, at Tay Ninh 3, which was near the Cambodian border. This was to be the anvil. The hammer was to originate at two other airfields to the east.

I'm not sure why I was assigned this mission, since I was a C-118 pilot and was assigned to the 315th Air Division headquarters, instead of one of the 130 squadrons. However I flew with them during my off-duty time while



in-country, so I could better understand their problems at different locations.

I like to believe it was recognition of decisions I had made on other occasions that prompted my appointment, like actions during the mortar attack. In addition, I had authorized three engine take offs twice. The first required Hq 315AD headquarters approval, but I pre-empted it for a plane that was loaded with casualties. Later the rule was changed and required approval of the Commander 315 AD. However, a pilot called in from some remote strip and said, “It's getting dark out here”. I approved that three engine take off, because we had just lost 3 aircraft at An Khe in similar circumstances. I fully expected harsh discipline after reporting my action, but I never heard a word. The other reason I could have been made mission commander was they didn't mind risking a headquarters “weenie”. (Just kidding)

Here is an account of the operation, written by Col. Ray Bowers, in the October 2003, Air University Review.

Operation BIRMINGHAM, the four-week invasion of Tay Ninh province, was launched 24 April 1966 and involved all three brigades of 1st Division. Movement to the operational area was entirely by air. Planning initially called for delivery of five infantry battalions, five artillery batteries, and two brigade headquarters, all in 75 C-130 loads on D-day. Concern for possible saturation at the 4600-foot laterite dirt strip just west of Tay Ninh caused changes: some units were positioned by C-123 at two dirt strips (Soui Da and Dau Tieng) east of Tay Ninh. On D-day morning the initial four C-130s arrived at Tay Ninh in close trail formation, landing with textbook precision at 30-second intervals and depositing 400 troops. During the first day, C-130s made a total of 56 sorties into Tay Ninh, with none of the feared congestion. Flights originated from the base camp strips (Lai Khe, Phu Loi, and Phuoc Vinh). Weather was ideal; the only delays came from several instances of tire damage. Ground fire hit one ship, wounding two men.”

Col. Bowers was obviously along on the initial flight of four.

As we approached Tay Ninh 3, we were supposed to be cleared in by two green ball flares (one red, if unsafe) from a Special Forces camp, about a mile away. We didn't get anything, but activity looked normal at the camp so we landed. I was impressed by how quickly the 400 troops disembarked and disappeared into the woods, to the west. However, I was a little surprised they didn't set up a defensive perimeter to protect the remaining arrivals (and me). Sgt Langston, was the only one with me, and we quickly set up our table, chairs and radios. Sgt Langston had a bad cough, aggravated by the activity on the landing strip, so I sent him back after about 45 minutes. Traffic of 130's was pretty heavy for a while and I had to make a couple 130s make 360 degree turns to provide clearance for departing aircraft. Other than that things went smoothly.

After about an hour, a green beret sergeant came strolling over from his camp. He just wanted to know what was going on, then strolled back. I didn't broach the subject, but there was a breakdown in communication about the flares.

During the afternoon, traffic slowed considerably, but on two separate occasions,an army Huey came by and deposited about a dozen 55gal drums of fuel on the middle of the runway. I was unable to contact the Huey by radio (the Army used completely different radio frequencies from the Air Force). I was unable to wave him off and had to run a couple hundred yards to move the drums to the side of the runway then race back to man the radios. Another breakdown in communication.

Late in the afternoon, it got real quiet and I had a chance to reflect on the operation. The aircrews and the troops did a great job of maintaining the schedule and unloading of personnel and equipment. I had only heard about four widely spaced shots and speculated somebody was looking for target practice. When I found out later about the two casualties on an inbound flight, I surmised it was friendly fire.

Just before dark a 130 came and picked me up. (I had hoped they would remember me).

That night, before going to sleep, I thought---The troops from my site went to the west and the troops positioned at the other two sites were east of me. That meant I was between the hammer and the anvil---hmm. Well, I was well armed, with a 38 and 18 cartridges. That was probably a little short of what I would need to take on a full Division.

The well planned Operation Birmingham was only able to account for about 100 VC, but large caches of ammunition and supplies. Apparently the VC Division was able to slip back into Cambodia. That happened a lot in Vietnam.