Home Another Vietnam Story Cherry Point Windsock/Informational Services Office | Next | Previous

Sunset refueling exercise over the skies of Eastern North Carolina. Aircraft are part the the 2nd Marine Air Wing. Photographer was in a second Phantom F4, part of VMFA-513. The dangling refueling pod was waiting for us. By the time we actually did the refueling it was to dark to photograph. C-130 refueler is from the VMGR-252 squadron. The F4 in the above photo is number '00'.

There was also a color photograph made of this scene and it was used in recruitment brochures. This black-and-white version was published widely in newspapers up and down the east coast.

VFMA-513 was part of MAG-24. In 1965 and 1966 it was Vietnam flying out of Da Nang in support of Marine ground troops. The squadron is now in Yuma, Az flying AV-8B Harrier jets.

MAG-24 also had training squadron, VMT-203, of TA4Fs, a new two-seater version of the A4 Skyhawk. With the long nose that resulted from the extra seat the plane actually looked pretty good.

That TA4F was a lot of fun. This photographer went on a training mission with the Training Officer as my pilot. He wasn't happy I was along. The pressure to train pilots for Vietnam was great. And with me in the back-seat one less fighter pilot was getting trained. Only problem was my ride was requested by Headquarters Marine Corps. They wanted a formation shot of three or four TA4s.

My pilot didn't give a shit what Headquarters Marine Corps wanted and didn't provide me with adaquate time to photograph the other three TA4Fs in formation until after the training session was over and we were headed back to the base. After sunset. Kinda hard to use a flash strobe up there. No photos.

I had a great time though. We went through a couple of dog fights. Just like the ones that used to happen all the time before the heat and inferred air-to-air missiles came to dominate air battles.

After all the ups and downs, the sharp turns, rolls and spirels were done one of the other pilots asks the my pilot how his back seat, me, was doing? He said, "Probably puking his guts out all over my plane."

That was it for me. Pissed off that I wasn't going to get my photos I located the hot mike switch and turned it on. This gives me communications with all the aircraft. I started singing the Marine Corps Hymn.

After getting a couple of lines out the pilot told me to shutup. He was actually polite to me after that. He even apologized for not giving me a chance to get the photos I needed for Headquarters Marine Corps.

A few months later a Headquarters Marine Corps movie crew was on the base and trying to get some filming done at this same training squadron. The squadron commander called the ISO office and asked for me. One of the boys behind the green door (That would be the OIC or the AOIC) said I wasn't available and could he help him.

The squadron commander said, "No! I want that skinny photographer. I need him over here. That dam film crew is driving me nuts and I want him to talk to them."

"But I can do that for you sir."

"I want that photographer. I know he can handle them. He handled my Training Officer!"

The boy from behind the green door was totally confused but someone did locate me and I did go over there to see what was going on.

Turns out all the film crew wanted was for the planes to be a little closer together. So I asked one of the plane captains for the change. The squadron quickly manuvered the planes together before sunset. The shot was gotten and everybody was happy.

Turns out I went to Photo School with one of the members of the film crew, Bill Bradly. He was also looking for me to talk to the squadron commander about the same problem.

I never could figure out what all the fuss was about. The only thing I could think of was that the director for the film shoot was a true Hollywood shit. He managed to piss off everyone in the squadron and on the film crew. All the squadron wanted was for someone other than the director to ask for the change in the planes.

This was one of the few times I was the pease keeper and not the trouble maker. Kinda boring. Rather be the trouble maker.

Getting the ride in the TA4 was only possible because I had gotten that back seat certification. No other photographer on the base had it. So even though the assignment to photograph the TA4s should have been done by a base photo-lab photographer I was instead selected.

I may have been that ass-hole ISO photographer to some but I got the rides in the back seat not them. Sometimes you just gotta be lucky.

note:

  • July 1, 1947 Marine Training Squadron 1 (VMT-1), Fleet Marine Forces, Atlantic was established at Cherry Point, North Carolina.
  • November 30, 1951 Marine Training Squadron 1, Fleet Marine Forces, Atlantic was disestablished at Cherry Point, North Carolina.
  • July 1, 1967 Marine Training Squadron 1 (VMT-1), was re-established and assigned to the Second Marine Air Wing at Cherry Point, North Carolina.
  • December of 1967, VMT-1 was disestablished and re-established as Marine Training Squadron 203, (VMT-203).
  • May 1, 1972, Marine Training Squadron 203, (VMAT-203) was redesignated Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 (VMAT-203 as the squadrons mission was changed to light attack jet training.

[next]

-30-