A Dawn Like Thunder: In tribute to the men of Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8)

Only 30 copies of this movie were made and they were given to the families of Torpedo Squadron 8. The Youtube version comes from the wife of squadron commander John Waldron.

Fly Navy, the best Always Have

These good men will never be forgotten.

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What kind of war was it? – “How do I know, I saw the whole thing backwards!” June 4-7, 1942 at Midway

Battle of Midway, Commanding Officer, USS Enterprise, Serial 0133 of 8 June 1942

At Sea June 8, 1942
From: The Commanding Officer.
To: The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Via: Commander Task Force Sixteen.
(Rear Admiral R.A. Spruance, U.S. Navy).

Subject: Battle of Midway Island, June 4 – 6, 1942 — Report of.

1.) The attack delivered upon enemy carriers by the torpedo squadrons of our forces is believed to be without parallel for determined and courageous action in the face of overwhelming odds. These crews were observed to commence their attack against heavy anti-aircraft fire from the enemy carriers and supporting vessels while opposed by enemy Zero fighters in large numbers. The enemy fighter opposition was so strong and effective that ten torpedo planes out of fourteen of Torpedo Squadron SIX did not return. It is recommended that the Navy Cross be awarded to each pilot and gunner of Torpedo Squadron SIX who participated in this bold and heroic attack. A separate letter containing details of all aircraft attacks and specific recommendations for awards will be submitted. …
7.) It is extremely difficult to determine the extent of the damage inflicted upon the enemy by Enterprise, as the air groups of all carriers, as well as land based aircraft at Midway, participated in continuous attacks on enemy units throughout the three days action. Based upon reports available to Enterprise, it is estimated the following damage was inflicted upon the enemy:

3 CV’s sunk.
1 CV on fire and badly damaged (probably sank night of June 5).
1 CA wrecked and abandoned.
3 CA heavily bombed.
3 DD sunk.

As a very young Lieutenant Junior Grade, I often kidded LCDR Pat Patterson that I didn’t know anyone so old they’d been in the Battle of Midway, so could he tell me what it was like. His reply – “What do I know, I was 19 years old and saw the whole thing backwards?” When he retired, I was the good humor man for his dinner. I got a copy of the Victory at Sea episode (3 parts) on Midway and ran it backwards. Continue reading

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June 4th 1942 – It begins

First in a series: The evolution of fighter, attack, and strike warfare

All days come from one day, that much you must know.

You  cannot change what’s over, but only where you go…

The road that leads to nowhere, the road that leads to you…

Will you find the answer in all you say and do, will you find the answer in you?

Each heart is a pilgrim, each one wants to know, the reasons why the winds die and where their stories go

Pilgrim in your journey you may travel far, for pilgrim its a long way to find out who you are

Pilgrim by Enya


Naval Aviation marks its birthday as 8 May, 1911, but the single day that matters most is June 4th 1942 at the Battle of Midway. If one wears Wings of Gold, therein resides the metric to which you must always aspire. Continue reading

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Year of War- Reflection


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Operation Homecoming Part 9: The POW 40th Reunion

If as Ev Alvarez offers in the interview from Part 8, the POWs have held their last reunion, I want to preserve for further reference the panel discussion.

POW Panel at the Nixon Library

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Operation Homecoming Part 8: The First and the Last

Beginning on 23 May, many of the Viet Nam POW gathered for a reunion in Southern California centered around the Nixon Presidential Library to celebrate not only their 40th anniversary of regaining freedom but also of their night in the White House as a guest of President and Mrs. Nixon, May 24 1973.

As first POW Ev Alvarez notes in the interview below, this may be the last reunion.  The Viet Nam generation, particularly those from the earliest days of the war are well into their seventies. The interview includes Alvarez as the first POW and Al Agnew as the last POW released from Hanoi. Al was my first jet instructor at Meridian. We did not see each other after I left for VT-4 at Pensacola until the commissioning ceremony for the USS Stockdale at Port Hueneme California 18 April 2009. I owe him much. Welcome home.

This seemed an appropriate post as I finish up this series. The first and the last…


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Operation Homecoming Part 7: Lady and the Flag

When Carole Hickerson’s husband was missing in action during the Vietnam War, she started a movement of families frustrated by a lack of information on their missing loved ones.

RememberSky Note: Carole and Jim Hickerson are great friends. Jim was Vice Commander at Pacific Missile Test Center when I was in flight test and Bill Thomas and I did a 2-plane A-7 Corair II fly-over/departing man for his retirement ceremony. He returned the favor being the speaker at my retirement.  Jim was one of the first test pilots for the A-7 and unfortunately was the pilot of the first A-7 shot down over North Viet Nam, spending over 5 years in the Hanoi Hilton. This series on Operation Homecoming began with telling the story of Jim and myself talking to high schoolers at Rio Mesa and the “story of the ropes.”

Carole  was married to a Marine CH-46 pilot shot down in South Viet Nam on 3 June 1967. She became one of the early fighters in “the war of the wives” back in the states to spread the word on the treatment and lack of knowledge about the POWs. In this capacity she designed a letterhead for the POW-MIA organization. She’s quick to point out and asked me to emphasize that she had nothing to do with designing the flag itself. Below is a story I found by Steve Murray published in Midweek in July 2010 prior to an award for Jim and Carole. I am most appreciative to Steve for allowing me to publish on Remembered Sky. It is my way of telling their story and recognizing the “above and beyond” efforts of the National League of Families of American Prisoners of War and Missing in Action in Southeast Asia.

Lady and the Flag

By Steve Murray

There are some people history just won’t let us forget – many of them more infamous than famous. Then there are the countless others who go unnoticed or disappear into everyday life to be unfairly forgotten once the mission to which they have dedicated their lives has finished. Continue reading

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Operation Homecoming Part 6: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton

Naval Proceedings Magazine – November 2009 Vol. 135/11/1,281

By Peter Fretwell and Taylor Baldwin Kiland

The USS Stockdale (DDG-106) was commissioned in April 2009 in Santa Barbara, California. The man for whom the destroyer is named, Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale, left the U.S. Navy an inspiring legacy. During the Vietnam War, he was the senior ranking prisoner-of-war officer at the Hoa Lo Camp, Hanoi, better known as the Hanoi Hilton.

Vice Admiral James Stockdale’s principles can inspire any organization’s leaders. Continue reading

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Operation Homecoming Part 5: Always Leading and Always Will

by Orson Swindle (USMC, Ret) Prisoner of War in North Viet Nam

(Orson Swindle was shot down on November 11, 1966, released on March 4, 1973)

Reproduced with permission of USNI and the author

… for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while Senior Naval Officer in the Prisoner of War camps of North Vietnam on 4 September 1969. Recognized by his captors as the leader in the Prisoners’ of War resistance to interrogation and in their refusal to participate in propaganda exploitation, Rear Admiral Stockdale was singled out for interrogation and attendant torture after he was detected in a covert communications attempt…

 … Sensing the start of another purge, and aware that his earlier efforts at self-disfiguration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes had resulted in cruel and agonizing punishment, Rear Admiral Stockdale resolved to make himself a symbol of resistance regardless of personal sacrifice. He deliberately inflicted a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate. He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated in their employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the Prisoners of War. By his heroic action, at great peril to himself, he earned the everlasting gratitude of his fellow prisoners and of his country… MEDAL OF HONOR citation

The country, the Navy, the Stockdale family, especially his beloved wife, Sybil, and those of us who were POWs in North Vietnam suffered a terrible loss with the passing on 5 July (2005) of Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale. Husband, father, patriot, mentor, author, and dear friend, he touched our lives profoundly. Distinguished graduate of the Naval Academy, Medal of Honor recipient, courageous warrior, brilliant leader, almost bigger than life, he never stopped inspiring us. It is difficult to accept that he is gone. We recognize how fortunate we are that he came our way. Continue reading

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Operation Homecoming Part 4: The Bracelets

(Note: This piece was originally published on the Project White Horse Forum for Veterans Day 2010.)

In high school, Joleta McNelis was never far away from a man she had never met. She carried Lt. John “Jack” Ensch in her heart — and on her wrist.  Aside from his name, the only thing McNelis knew about Ensch was the date his fighter jet was shot down over North Vietnam: 8-25-72. It was etched under his name on the metal bracelet she bought when she was 14.

Three months earlier, on the day Jack Ensch and Mugs McKeown became double “MIG killers” - the 23rd of May 1972 - I logged my 25th combat mission as one of the strike aircraft they, with flight school buddy wingman Rookie Rabb in their F-4 Phantoms, were protecting. Ensch’s squadron,VF-161, were readyroom next door neighbors to my A-7 squadron , VA-56 Champs.  Mugs would move on shortly to be commanding officer of TOPGUN and Jack would become a POW that August.

When Ensch arrived there (Hanoi Hilton) in August 1972, he brought news that he passed along to his fellow prisoners through tap codes between cells: People across America were wearing bracelets with their names on them. “They were dumbfounded,” Ensch said.

Continue reading

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