I don’t live in the past.
It has been said that when you die your life flashes in front of your face; and if that is true my death will be delayed, for my movie will have to be a double feature or perhaps a triplet.
I would not choose to relive most of my life as it existed, and I spend very little of my time dwelling on my past. I have had adventures aplenty; but like the sound of one hand clapping, they amount to nothing – a memory – a flash – an electric discharge in an old computer.
I do not keep in touch with family – by choice. I have known and worked with many people, but my one true friend died some thirty years ago. My existence is my wife and our life together – perhaps the only thing in my past I would not change.
I spent 22 years in the military: a lot of that time in special units. I feel a comradeship with military vets, but you will not find me in the VFW or AMVETS crying in my beer about imagined heroism. The men I served with were good people – they were used and abused by the politics of government and many were maimed or died for nothing.
That is why it felt strange to run across two pictures on an internet search yesterday.
Early in my Navy career I was in an anti-submarine patrol squadron. I was a combat air crewman and radio operator aboard a P-3 Neptune bomber.
The pictures are of LK-4: LK being the tail insignia for the Squadron VP-26, and the number four was our crew: We were CAC-4 (Combat Air Crew - 4)
In the mid 1960’s the crew concept changed and people were loosely assigned to air crews. You would come into Operations one hour before your flight and get briefed. You would be assigned an aircraft for that mission. You would preflight and fly your mission and then return to Operations for debriefing, dropping off a list of maintenance problems that occurred on the flight at the Maintenance Department desk. Then you would hang up your flight gear and go home. As a result you would have a very impersonal relationship with crew and aircraft.
This in not the way it worked in the early 1960’s when I was a crew member of CAC-4. There were eight men on our crew: three officers and five enlisted. We not only flew together, we worked together, lived together, and partied together. The aircraft – LK4 – was given to us: it was our bird. No one else flew it – no one else touched it. We did all our own maintenance: if there was an engine to change our five enlisted would be on the platform turning wrenches. Electronics, electrical, hydraulic, weapons loading…we did it as a crew. We knew every inch of that aircraft. We were proud of its readiness and our record. We would fly our missions, return, clean the aircraft and debrief. We would note our discrepancies on the maintenance board, and the next morning we would be back on our bird repairing and cleaning – gassing and oiling.
We flew anti-submarine patrols and surface ship identification out of
Cuba, Porto Rico, Florida, Sicily, Spain, Greece,
Libya - we were arrested in . We sometimes put down on third world islands
with short airstrips. Often on a
layover we prepared our own food and slept on the floor or on the wings of our
The pictures of this aircraft – LK-4 – were our aircraft - my aircraft, and the crew on board was my crew. I was probably a 22 year old third class petty officer operating radio behind the wing spar (it was a solid wing that went all the way through the aircraft) when this picture was taken.
I have not thought of this crew in years. I have no idea how many are still alive. But, we were a true band of brothers.