1966-1969

The ship I was on and the aircraft it carried

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The USS Ranger CVA-61, 1,080 feet long, 252 feet wide, 97 feet from the flight deck to the water line. It weighs 80,000 tons fully laden, and can move through the water at speeds greater than 55 MPH. It carries about 5,000 people, and between 75 and 100 aircraft. Below are photos of the types of aircraft it carried during the three years I spent aboard it from 1966-1969. My job was to help launch the planes from the catapults.

Day after day, night after night, the planes would roll up onto the "cat", laden with bombs, rockets, missiles, napalm, and thousands of rounds of bullets, their engines screaming in my ears as I crawled under them, between the bombs, to hook up the launching gear. We worked on a reverse rotating schedule, an hour earlier each day, and flight ops were practically always 12 hours from the first launch to the last recovery. Prep time and secure time always took another 3-4 hours, especially if we had maintenance or repairs to do.

I think the one single thing that got to me the most was Christmas Eve, 1967, when they were playing Christmas Carols on the ships speaker system, and dropping bombs at the same time. "Joy to the world", and here's another bomb. It took me many years to understand that one. How could a person/government say they want peace on Earth, and kill someone at the same time? Perhaps there's a lesson for us all here, in claiming our dark side. If someone was inflicting bodily harm on one of your family members, COULD you kill that person to keep peace and safety in your family? Yes, you could, although you might not choose to.

"Ol' Slowpoke" AD-1 Skyraider

We called this plane Ol' Slowpoke because it was the slowest plane in the Navy during the Vietnam War. It was also known as "Spad". Slow as it was, it could carry its own weight in armament, and because of its rotary engine, it was invulnerable to heat seeking missiles. It could also out maneuver almost any jet, and could take off from the deck without the aid of a catapult.

A4 Skyhawk

This aircraft was especially suited for air to ground missile attacks and light bombing runs. During the USS Pueblo incident in 1968, this plane carried nuclear warheads and had designated targets in North Korea.

F4 Phantom

The phantom was the cream of the crop as far as fighters went. It was highly maneuverable and extremely fast for that era, making it a formidable offensive and defensive weapon.

F8U Crusader

This aircraft was light and fairly fast, though not nearly as fast as the Phantom. It sailed with us on my second tour, and was phased out afterwards.

A6 Intruder

The A6 was the beginning of electronics-supported aircraft in Vietnam. It was technically a bomber, but was also used for radar jamming of Vietnamese missile sites. Some of these were so specialized that machine guns and cannons were never installed.


See the person under the left wing of the plane? That was my job.

A3 Skywarrior

The A3 was designed to be a bomber, but was modified to be a refueler, an electronics warfare aircraft, and a surveillance aircraft.

Memorial
My Den