Bob McKay, AQ-1, USN (Ret)
VAH-4 - VAH-123 - CAG-21- 1962-'66 - A3D - "The Whales"
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Bob Mc Kay, AQB1 overlooking Repulse Bay, Hong Kong, 1967 with inset of him today (2008) - See below for Bob's story
I was a "Whaler" from mid 1960 until late in 1966. I started with VAH-4 then went to VAH-123. I worked in the AQ/Fire Control shops and in the early "AIMD" central repair shops that did component level repair. The first Whales (A3D) I worked with still had tail guns (Aero-21B) systems. A couple years later we converted them to "Dove-Tails" that housed ECM equipment (Secret Squirrel stuff) then later we converted them to Tankers and Spy planes (The Original "Black-Birds").
I first boarded the Hanna in Jan or Feb 1962 in preparation for the West-Pac '62.
Upon departing for the cruise, the first day out I was sent down to the Coffee locker for a round of coffee for the Shop Chief and the senior POs. Since we were far enough out to engage in Aircraft Recovery and the coffee locker was located close to one of the arresting cable brake drums and had just completed filling all of the cups to order and had them neatly balanced on the back of a clip board, I was about to step over the Knee Knocker when a plane was trapped... The sudden jolt startled me and caused me to spill my cargo, scalding me and the coffee locker and adjoining passage got an emergency field day clean-up.
I never forgot that first experience with a trap. Later that day since I was non-rated, I was assigned to the Ship's Laundry. I spent the first half of the cruise in the Laundry.
The Chief (who was responsible for the TAD personnel) and I were not on the best of terms. When I was supposed to be relieved, he tried to leave me in the laundry. Being a Kid, I fought back the only way I knew and refused to follow any further orders. This, plus an incident involving bringing a bottle of booze back across the brow in Kobe, got me a Special Court and resulted in 30 days with the Marines in their special little hotel.
Once out of the Brig I rejoined the Squadron's AQ Shop up on the 02 level for the duration of the cruise.
I recall an incident when we pulled into Kobe where the "Anti-Nuke" nationals were demonstrating on the pier where we tied up. The Demonstration went on for a couple of hours; all the while the Skipper would not permit the liberty party to cross the brow. One of the Gun crews proceeded to man one of the gun tubs and trained one of the big guns on the Demo crowd which disbursed post haste.
Before any of the Brass could find the responsible parties the gun had been properly secured and the Liberty Party was now permitted to make their way on shore.
On another occasion I recall that, by the time we left port (A major Marine R&R Port), an incident involving an appropriated Cattle car (Liberty personnel carrier) and a slight disturbance at the Marine Enlisted Club had some of VAH-4's junior officers and about half of the E5 and belows, on "Sun-downers".
So Much Fun ... So Little Time. I will eventually get to go through my collection of 35mm's and if I have any from that interesting and savored part of my growing up I will be happy to share them with all of you.
Keep up the great work,
Bob McKay, USN Retired
Jake: Bob gave me more on his Navy Experience - especially during his Hanna Stint...
I came on board as an AQB-AN Designated striker in either Jan or Feb of 1962, and departed when we returned from cruise in Sept or Oct of 1962 as an AA (results of my hardheadedness). In both of the Squadrons, when not in a laundry, coop cleaning, or mess cooking (Pre-3rd Class days), I worked in the Fire Control Shop (Bomb Director equipment ..ASB, ASB-1, AERO 21B,the tail guns); at times I worked in the 'Line Trouble-shooter' section and at others, I worked a designated bench for the receiver/transmitters; the BDC control panels, and the MD-106 Modulators... all subcomponent parts of the ASB Bomb Director system.
VAH 123 was a "Relief Air Group...RAG" outfit that was primarily concerned with training Pilots, Crew members, and Maintenance personnel for future transfer to line Squadrons. To my knowledge 123 was never detached to any ship other than for very short Car-Qual operations (War Games and Strike X ops included).
Bob's Encounter with a Raging Typhoon...
One of your notes refers to you going through a typhoon I believe in '63..... In 62 we (Hanna) ran through the Straits of Taiwan in front of a pretty good blow... the 1MC constantly blared out "Stand Clear of all weather decks... Hold all trash and garbage on station ...The Fantail is CLOSED." WELLLL originally being from Florida, I had lived through a few rather hefty hurricanes Sooooo I had to see these High Winds and Seas. I cautiously made my way up into the island structure and onto the 07 level - also known as "Vultures Row."
Making sure that there was no one around, I released the Dogs and opened a hatch and stepped half way out. I was greeted by Hurricane force winds and, at that moment, Hanna nosed into an oncoming wave that washed green water all the way back as far as I could see toward the island. I jumped back inside and lost no time re-securing the dogs and then considered what I had seen... The Bow is 60+ feet off the water in calm seas ....green water is at least 15 to 20 foot thick (Deep).....in my mind that equates to 80 foot of water.
After the next blink of the eyes we find our "hero" in his rack with a float jacket securely nestled beside the pillow. I was too scared to be sea sick. I had never seen water that Mad!!
Jake: I had asked Bob if he knew Patrick McNally †††- AQB2 VAH-123 1962-1964, since they both worked in the same Squadron. This was Bob's interesting response:
Yes I knew Pat. We crossed paths a number of times between assignments with VAH 4 & VAH 123. We worked in the same shops and divisions and have mutual friends. We weren't closely associated but we did know each other. I was a non-rated kid running around with a crowd of the same always hanging out some where down town. Pat was rated and associated with a more settled (Or at least more sophisticated crowd). We had common supervisors as well.
During the '62 Cruise the Special Services Dept. put on a Smoker † held in the forward hanger bay on the forward elevator (lowered to about 6-8 foot from deck level to create a stage) - By the way I believe that the Hancock class Carriers were the last to have an elevator in the center of the forward flight deck -
Back to the tale... One of the participants in the Smoker was a young sailor from VAH 4 named Joe Flood †† He is a legend himself among the Whaler Community.
I know that he was on board for the '62 cruise. (By the way, Joe's opponent was taller than Joe... out weighed him and had at least a 4 to 6 inch reach advantage.
They danced about for a while then the big guy thaunted Joe. Joe hit him with 3 lightening fast left hooks that put the big guy out like a light!
Bob also adds his own recollections of Hong Kong's Floating Restaurants, along with Wayne Durfey of the Hancock Association and Jake here.
He also helps with another Shipmate's Story regarding Coco's Coffee Shop and Bar in Honolulu, Hawaii as well as the King Ranch here.
* Bob McKay's Email address pending and will be posted here* - If you wish to write Bob before it is posted write to Jake
† For those of you who don't know what a "Smoker" is, it's a Staged Fight and usually took place in the Hangar Bay.
†† For Joe Flood's Email send request.. write to Jake
††† Are you looking for Patrick McNally? Request his Email from Jake