A squadron of these babies appeared on our C-130 flight line in Cherry Point the day after Kennedy was killed. Ready for war with Cuba or Russia. Every Air Force crew chief had a full, brand new tool box whereas us poor Marines were lucky to steal (or rather com-shaw)
Foreword by Dave Trojan, Aviation Historian
These stories were collected, compiled and edited over several years. Some of them have appeared in the Sgt. Grit newsletters at grunt.com, however this is the first time they have been gathered together to give readers a firsthand account of what life was like at MCAS Kaneohe during the early 1960s. Norm Spilleth was a Marine Corps Corporal and Plane Captain from 1960 to 1964 who served in VMA-212, the Devil Cats.
When it came to assignments in the Corps I never caught much of a break. Out of boot camp I got Aviation Ordnance School. (not many civilian uses for that knowledge). I finished 2nd in the class but never used the skills. When I made my 1st muster with H&MS-24 at Cherry Pt., the Capt. asked if anyone could type.
I visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps this year. I just stopped and stared for a few minutes… Amazed at this Beautiful sight… the closer I got the more tears I had. I could have turned around right then after these photos and walked out being totally at Peace with the Museum.
Boot Camp San Diego ’69, trained as a jet engine mechanic, arrived in country Sept. ’70 assigned to the HMM-364 Purple Foxes, never got to work on one engine… assigned as a door gunner, and crew chief in training, reassigned to HMM-165 at Futema MCAS and qualified as crew chief, after an overseas tour I was assigned to HMX-1 from ’71 to ’73, served 4 years, and reached the rank of SGT E5.
Reference Mr. Paul Jones' BAM story, my Mother was also a WWII "BAM", stationed with my Father at MCAS El Toro with Air Base Group 2 performing depot level maintenance on F4Us. She made it quite clear to us as we grew up that BAM stood for Beautiful American Marine while my Father would take us on the side and say it stood for Broad Axled Marines. It wasn't until I entered Boot Camp that I learned that "axled" wasn't quite the correct word. Take note that hanging on the Brass WWII marker next to her gravestone is a F4U in all its glory.
JP4 jet fuel used in Naval Aviation was so volatile we used it as fuel for our Zippos. Sometime in the early "60's" the Navy switched to JP5 which was less volatile and thus much safer on carriers. After the switch to JP5 we had to go back to PX lighter fluid because the JP5 mix needed more than a spark from a flint to light the flame. The jet fuel was delivered to our flight line in 8,000 gallon tanker trucks full of JP4 on the night of the fire on the VMA 212 flight line.
Here's a short walk through memory lane for those of us that were at MCAF Marble Mountain on 28 October 1965… Ron Jennings and George DeChant were both wounded in the Ready Room (Operations?) Tent by a Sapper. Our Corpsman (actor Tab Hunter's brother) was blown up in the MedEvac bird and a few more squadron mates were killed or wounded. I have a sh-t pot full of colored slides with better shots of the whole scene including dead Charlies stacked in trucks with some missing their faces. They patched Jennings up in Japan (Yokuska) with humorous tale about his "adventures" in the Ville… Last photo was leftover Charlie grenades.
Although the Marine recruiting stories glamorize everything we do, some jobs in the Corps are about as exciting as watching paint dry.
One of those jobs was flight line avionics repair for helicopters.
I was with the reserve air wing unit, HMM-764, in the late 1960’s and we had metal fatigued UH-34’s that had made their way back from Viet Nam complete with bullet holes and worn out avionics.
Here are two photos that are essentially 50 years apart. The more recent photo (color) was taken in July 2015 at MCAS Cherry Point. The two civilians in the photo are former Sgt. Kurt Helm (on the left) and former Cpl. Ed Barewich (on the right) standing with the crew of Cherry Point’s Search and Rescue unit. The black and white photo comprises then PFC Kurt Helm standing in the back row on the left, and then PFC Ed Barewich standing in the back row, middle, with Cherry Point’s Search and Rescue unit in December 1965.