Glad to get to meet you even though there wasn't much chance to talk.
I had hoped to meet some of the other
guys we've communicated with, but
failed in that too I'm afraid.
I guess a list of those who attended
will be on the web site. I'll keep a
lookout for it.
Again congratulations on a job very well done.
Gentlemen, it is not possible
for me to express the full extent of the
emotional power of this event. From the moment I walked through the doors
of the Holiday Inn at 2PM Thursday and saw my oldest AEW buddy, Doug Payne,
sitting in the lobby, this was a homecomming I will never forget! That
first day, it seemed that at every step we took, we were either greating
another brother, or eagerly chatting and getting to know a new friend we
just had not met before. The commradeiery amoung all 450 plus attendees
was the greatest!! The ONLY thing wrong, was that some of you were not
able to be there too. We truly missed you!
The seas stories were free flowing
every place you looked! In the Duty
Office, the corridors, the meeting rooms, the memorieabelia
displays. - - It simply never stopped for 4 days! While each full
day of activities officially ended around 10PM, there was never a Lights
Out impossed. SOoo, each evening, we radio types sent our wives to bed,
then reasembled at the lounge to hoisted a few brewskies to the health of
those of you at home. LOL
The job that Wes, Pete, Danny &
Sam did for us was nothing short of
Outstanding! Not only did they provide us with meaningful memories of
our AEW days, but excellent programs, and accomadations as well. These
4 men busted their tails to make sure it all happened for us. And Happen,
it Did! Thanks guys!! . . . Even our wives were caught up in this this
A chuckle moment:
At the banquet on Saterday evening, a PAX sailor
Piped the festivities to order. During the long sounding "weeeeeeeeeeee"
of the Bosin Pipe, one old AEW sailor snached his hearing aid from is ear
and franticly began to fiddled with it, then sheepishly replaced it as he
realizied it was the piper. LOL
There were many moist eyes this weekend
also! To be with my crewmates
Monte Clark & Tony Spencer again was very special. Yes, we will have
I't hard to beleive the reunion is
over and and I have put in a 10 hr work
As PJ Menard said to me earlier this
year (,after my reserection), "Those
were the days my friend, we thought they would never end!" As we broke
up Sunday morning at 2AM, grown men hugging and thumping each other on the
back, we did not want this reunion to end either. With only a few hours
sleep, some cought early flights on Sunday, but those of us who drove,
lingered and talked then slowly left by late AM. We got home in NJ at 7PM
last night. POOPED!! But, for a few days I was 25 . Let's do it
Fantastic, Great, Out of this world!
It was really something to meet up
with the guys after all theses years. Events were good and lots of good
"Sea Stories". The radio guys got together on Sat morning and called Luke
from Bob Hodes room. Lotsa of memorabilia on hand. Newspaper articles,
equipment handbooks pieces of equipment. Don't have much time as I have to
go to work, am sure more will come out this week.
Just wanted to drop a note telling
you that we really apprecaited all of the
effort and planning that went into this fantastic event. I didn't meet anyone
there that wasn't looking forward to the next one.
God bless and thanks again,
Dick & Teresa Caliendo ................
Hello Wes, Pete, Danny and Sam;
You three and all the others who participated and organized the WV
Reunion did and wonderful job. I cannot concentrate on other things
after such a grand time. I hope to keep in touch especially with the my
VW-15 shipmates and add to that list for the next reunion if and when it
occurs. I brought Capt. Otto Finley who is 87 years old and it was much
more than he expected. It was something just see his face and those
under his command when they walked up and said, "you were my CO or
Skipper", and "could I have your autograph in my log book." Otto has
the sharpest memory of anyone that age I know and he said that he has
been keeping some notes over the years and will attempt to now write
them up. He also recently got a computer for word prosessing.
Will it be possible to get a copy of
President Bush's and NAS Pax River
CO's letters to the Willy Victor Reunion group? Maybe posted on Wes'
Also, will it be possible to get a CDROM copy of Sam's presentation?
Will anyone be following up on CDR Staffords effort to get a copy of
that News Film on the Barrier?
Again, thanks for all your hard work.
Jim Newton, VW-15
PS Let us know how the finances
came out so that we can contribute if
you all come up short.
Jo Anne and I got home Sunday evening
and we both have a hard time realizing
that The Willy Victor Reunion has come and gone. Jo came to appreciate what I
had told that we did in those years flying the Barrier. It's importance was
pointed out in the many speakers present at our Reunion. She certaimly has a
different perspective than before.
On a personal plane, what i experienced
at Solomans Island can not be
described easily. The atmosphere about the hotel was electric, powerful.
Everone there with a reunion badge would welcome a handshake and a greeting.
We woul immediatly have something in common and a bond betwen us. I've never
experienced than comradship before.
As to the Pacific guys. The late night
brewskis were great. I had never seen
a Big Oilman from Conroe, Tex look so used the next day. You sense that no
one wanted to leave the group Saturday night or rather Sunday morning. The
hugs and pats on the back ment a great deal to me. It was a few days that
will stay with me forever and the friends made and shipmates renued will last
Thanks to all of you.
Roger that, Jack.
We're sorry there were a lots of guys who were unable to make it to the
reunion. I hope there will be another one where there will be a larger
representation of Pacific Barrier people. It would have made the reunion at
Solomons Island even better.
Doug mentioned the special quality of this gathering. He said he wasn't a
sentimental type, but this reunion was something he couldn't quite put into
As I was on the plane going home (I hope everyone made it hope without any
mishap), I was thinking about what Doug had said and Jack's email. I've never
attended a high school reunion, for high school was not a great time for me.
There were people who were involved in sports, cheerleading, ROTC, clubs, etc.
had a few friends in high school, but you know that there are a lot of people
had a blast in high school and made lifelong friends. Well, that's not me. I
dropped out of high school and later found the Navy.
It seems like being part of the Barrier was like being a member of a
fraternity. But a college fraternity is a bunch of young guys in college who
study, party and get drunk. Well, as young kids we all had our share of good
times on Oahu and Midway. I think what made the difference was that we had a
It wasn't a make-work job or a nothing job. As we all know, during the Cold
many men died doing their jobs.
It was serious business, but we some good times while we performed our
As we performed those jobs, there were certain expectations. We were kids who
were treated as men. As such, unlike college fraternity brothers, we formed a
different kind of fraternity. Like fraternity brothers, we ate together, slept
together and played together. So we formed a bond that I believe is unique to
military units. Since we have shared similar experiences, we can easily talk
other Willy Victor squadron people, and we can understand what they did.
As an example, after the banquet, a bunch of us BARRONPAC guys got
for a few beers (like the other nights). We were listening to a guy talk to us
about his days as a young pilot in AEW, when he was a Ltjg. He didn't have to
explain anything. We all knew what he was talking about. We have the gift of
As a teacher, I've spent most of my life trying to teach my subject
matter-sociology. One effective way to teach is to try to get your students to
walk a mile in another person's shoes. Well, we've got all those
and we all wore brown flight shoes.
Another matter. When we were preparing to head home on Sunday, I met a guy
named Orville A. Hemphill. He said he spoke to Doug one evening. Anyway,
was the leading chief of our squadron, and he has lots of squadron stories.
going to ask him to write some of those stories for us. In just a brief
conversation, I really enjoyed some of the stories. Here's his address:
One story about our reunion, I can count the number of times I've been
in my life on two hands. Because I'm allergic to alcohol (like lots of other
Asian people), if I drink too much, too soon, I will usually get sick and not
On Thursday night, a bunch of radiomen got together and had a few beers.
primary culprit was Doug Payne, for he was the one who got me to consume more
beer than I can ever remember drinking (beer can stay in my refridgerator
it gets skunky!).
After all those beers, everyone went to bed. When I got to Holiday Inn and
met everyone, we went out to dinner and drank, so I hadn't unloaded my
There I was at around 2 in the morning, cruising up and down the parking lot,
pushing a luggage cart, trying to find my car. Weaving around for about 10 or
minutes, I finally found my car.
I believe I didn't get sick because I wasn't drinking the beers too fast,
but I also wasn't nursing them.
What a great time!
What a great reunion! Many thanks to
you and the Reunion Committee for such
a fine job. It was well organized, well run, and quality all the way.
I have had a chance to run your videos
again at home and what a lot of
emotions they stir. You have put the whole experience into those videos. A
lot of family members will get a better idea of what it was all about and
maybe they will appreciate why this reunion was so important.
I have a question about the video sound
track. Who was the female vocalist
and what was the name of the song (Yesterday, when we were younger?). It
sounded like Shirley Bassey, only smoother.
Again, thanks for a great occasion and a lot of new memories.
Note: it's Shirley Bassey..."Gold Finger" and "Diamonds are Forever."
DEAR WILD BILL,
IT WAS OVER A YEAR AGO WHEN I FOUND THE AEWA WEB SITE. MY REQUEST WAS
FOR NAVY AEW GUYS,ESPECIALLY OF THE WV2 SUPER-CONNIE ILK, AND WHO WERE
INTERESTED IN A REUNION TO WRITE ME. I RECEIVED MANY E-MAILS FROM WV SAILORS
WHO WERE HUNGRY FOR SUCH AN EVENT. I THEN FOUND OTHER GUYS WHO HAD VALUBLE
INFORMATION. ONE MAN, WES MORTENSON,"TOOK OVER A WEB PAGE WHICH WAS STARTED BY
A FALLEN COMRAD. "THE WILLY VICTOR PAGE."
THREE OF US PETER LAWRIE, CAPT USNR(Ret), FORMERLY VW13,
SAM LEACH,AT2 RADIOMAN VW11, WES MORTENSON AND MYSELF MET 2 TIMES THIS PAST
YEAR IN ST.LOUIS TO PLAN THE REUNION. MAY ,MANY E-MAILS BETWEEN THE 4 OF US
AND OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES WERE MADE. SAM LEACH, BY VIRTUE OF HIM LIVING IN
THE PATUXENT RIVER AREA, DID THE LEG WORK. PETE WAS THE LEADER, ALWAYS
WORRYING IF WE WERE DOING THINGS RIGHT. WES WAS THE GRAPHICS/INTERNET/ET AL.
INTERFACE WITHOUT WHICH WE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH WHAT WE DID.
LAST WEEK, OCTOBER 14,15,16,17, THE FIRST WILLY VICTOR REUNION WAS
HELD AT THE HOLIDAY INN SELECT, SOLOMONS ISLAND MARYLAND. IT WAS A PERFECT
SETTING, LOCATED ACROSS THE PATUXENT RIVER FROM THE PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR
STATION WHERE IT ALL BEGAN 45 YEARS AGO.
ONE OF THE HIGH LIGHTS WA A LETTER OF THANKS AND APPRECIATION WAS A
LETTER FROM PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH, A FORME NAVY FLYER AND SHIPMATE.
YOU CAN READ THE LETTERS OF MANY OF THE OVER 400 VETS WHO ATTENDED
THE RENION ON: www1.minn.net/~weslee/ReunionLetters.html
There are other sites that can be located from the weslee site.
TO YOU AIRBORNE EARLY WARNING ASSOCIATION, MANY THANKS FROM A LOT OF
FROM THE COMMITTEE, THANK YOU WILD BILL.
SINCERELY DANNY SMITH
Well I ask about the reunion and
did I ever get some wonderful
replies. I will not miss the next
one. Sounds like you guys had one
heck of a time.
I have a suggestion for the next
one though, Don Lee should head up
the committee. After going through
about a page of jokes tonight it is
obvious that he has entirely tooooo
much time on his hands.
My Navy pictures have been removed
from my website. Would you please
remove it as a link on the willy victor website. I am going to put all my
slides on a CD. They will include pictures of Argentia, Pax River, Lajes,
and Goose Bay, 57-59. I will also incude slides of my trip in 1979 when I
flew my plane to Sidney, Nova Scotia and took the ferry to Argentia. I
would be willing to share any of these.
Thanks for a great reunion. There was talk about a cold war certificate
available to those of us who served during that period. Do you know who
we would contact? Earl
It was so nice to finally meet you and your wife in person. I have heard so
much about you from Sam over the past year or so.
I just wanted to fire a FLASH MESSAGE
your way to let you know how much my
wife and I enjoyed the reunion this past week. I was simply GREAT. It was
so well planned and executed too. Must have been all the NAVY training and
experience in you and the other three leaders' past.
I believe you said once, "all of us
VW Sailors were brothers", and I found
that to be very true. The particular squadron we were from did not seem to
make much difference during a conversation. No one seemed to care where we
served, but that we did serve together doing the same overall mission.
There was a lot of healing too. It was during the Cold War, but there was a
significant amout of danger that went with the territory so to speak. My
wife noticed just how many planes and guys didn't come home. After all
these years of hearing me talk about my Willy Victor days and experiences,
I truely believe she has a much better insight for what we all went
through. Many tears that flowed during some of the conversations or
presentations were the result, I believe, of the release of a lot of
memories kept inside us for a lot of years.
Believe me, Monday as I copied my flight
clearance from Navy Patuxent
Departure while on the ground at St.Mary's Airport, I had a BIG lump in my
throat. I kept thinking of all the Willy Victor crews who had done the same
thing (just a few miles away at PAX). They are all gone now...but not
Again Pete, I commend you and applaud you with a HEARTY WELL DONE SAILOR!!
Larry "LT" Rush
Sam let me tell you, I think you, Wes,
Pete and Danny did an
OUTSTANDING JOB,planning the reunion. The wife and I really enjoyed the
whole thing, also I feel like everyone had an outstanding reunion.Also
thanks for the picture.You people need a Medal for your efforts.
Sam I have called everyone that I know
bragging about the reunion, so if
it is decided that we have another one I will be more than happy to help
in any capacity that is needed. Like I said before I have exp. in
reunion planning ,belong to RTN(reunion planning network)Fully retired
and need something to do to keep me out of trouble.
Again Sam let me say WELL DONE, was
nice meeting you and the wife, we
had an outstanding time,looking forward to the next one.Also if you want
I can look around for some preposals and forward them on to you.(We are
going to Branson Mo in Nov if you want I can check things out while we
are there.Just let me know.
Joy and Bill Elrod
This is just a note to express my personal thanks to you for a job WELL
DONE with the festivities. I hope everyone appreciates the time you and
the rest of the committee put in to get the thing off the ground and
then keep it flying. Has the acid indigestion leveled off?!?
I particularly enjoyed the time spent
with Larry and Kaye, a couple of
great folks. I know we'll keep in touch with them and get together in
the future. That's what the whole thing was about, Roger?
I assume that the e-mail address for
you on the VW roster is a good one?
This one appears to be your work address.
I'll keep in touch. Keep the ice out
of your carb!!! (And the troopers
off your ass!!)
Yep, acidity is about back to normal!
I was by the Holiday Inn a couple times
this week...It doesn't seem possible
that the event is behind us. Where are all of those wonderful Willy Victor
sailors? And the duty office...instant museum, what a great collection of
stuff that was!!
You keep your radar clean and ... pointed the other way!!
Great to meet you guys...Zip Zip ...Buzz
(sounds only an ECM guy can
Now, here's this mornings Torbay Weather (St. Johns)NF
CYYT 251041Z 251111 VRB03KT P6SM SCT008
TEMPO 1116 3SM -SHRA -DZ BR OVC008
FM1600Z 26012KT P6SM BKN030
TEMPO 1620 P6SM -SHRA BKN020
FM2000Z 25020G30KT P6SM BKN040 RMK
NXT FCST BY 17Z
Hello, my friends. For those of you
who attended the reunion, I thoroughly
enjoyed getting reacquainted with those who I knew in VW-12 and making
friends with those I didn't quite remember. Thanks for being there. For those
of you who didn't attend, I regret missing the opportunity to see you all.
In my mind, and it seemed to be the consensus of all, the reunion was a
rousing success. For me, at least, I could have wished for nothing better.
The camaraderie, sea stories and catching up exceeded my most optimistic
projections. At best, I hardly remember many of you from the squadron, but
the past few months has given us the opportunity to get acquainted. It was
gratifying to put faces with Emails and phone voices. Someone once wrote in
and said that if we kept telling all those sea stories through Email we would
have nothing to talk about at the reunion. I assure you no one was at a loss
for words. It was almost as if we had been sitting in the elephant hut at
Barber's Point only last week. One story triggered another, and besides we
had forty years of memories and individual lives to catch up on. If anything,
the Email network that we have, I think, better prepared us by resurrecting
in advance long buried memories of people and incidents. I know that I felt
that I knew many of those attending, even though I have no memory of them
from Barber's Point. I do have memories now. I said repeatedly that I know
more people from VW-12 now than I did in 1958, and I see what I missed by not
getting to know you better then. I surely hope we keep this cyber chatter
going, and that we get to do this again before too many years.
We were well represented. There were approximately 400 in attendance, and at
least 20% were VW-12/14 from our era. There were about 50 shipmates strong
plus our wives or significant others. Among those attending were CAPT. Chevy
Chase and his charming wife Clara, and CDR Nat Toulon and his equally
charming wife Mary Jane. Nat has been on this Email network, knew what was
coming and joined in the festivities with an exuberance. But, I think that
CAPT. Chase was totally overwhelmed and gratified that his command had such a
large and enthusiastic contingent on hand. It was our pleasure, both to be
there and to see and talk to him.
I had some slides digitized and put on a CD. Attached is one of my favorite
photos that I have ever taken. I think that all the terns and gooneys will
bring back memories and remind you of the special danger of potential bird
strikes. It is in JPEG format. I will send others over time.
Let me end this book with a quote that one of our then JO's, CAPT. (ret) Walt
Pankratz, sent to me and which I hope he doesn't mind me passing on. His
friend, Cdr. Vern Goodman (now deceased) used to say, "the crewmen you flew
with are very unique and specially trusted friends; at one time or another
you probably owe your lives to them."
Amen to that, shipmates.
That was a great reunion you and the group put together at old Pax River.
was one VW-2 pilot that I forgot to mention to you. That was RADM Jerry
Denton, later a
prisoner of war at the Hanoi Hilton for a number of years (5?). He was the first one off the airplane,
and kissing the ground..He was a LT. at the time was a CICO on the first WV-2s that we had.as well
as a pilot. I was his ACICO on one crew and I was a navigator on another crew But our operations
types figured out a way so that I and one other JG could be able to fly on both crews. If I wanted
cockpit time, I go over to the test center as a copilot on flight test work.
That was the same as when I was at Pax test center and doing P3 testing, We were always looking for
Actually, I would have been probably the only one there who was with Jerry in VW-2 at the
time. Jerry also became a republican senator from Alabama for six years. I imagine he still lives in
Alabama. He left VW-2 and then later flew spads(AD'S). Then He transitioned to A6 attack jet
bombers. He Was the CO of his squadron. at the time. It was pretty rough at the Hilton, but a little
better off some of the WV crews that didn't come back
I'd like to thank you guys for having
the same thoughts, as many of us for a
long time, to have a reunion, but to actually have gone out and done
something about it. I know that I probably speak for almost all of the VW
sailors that were there when I say it was one of the greatest get-togethers
I've been to. At 63, that few days actually had me feeling as though I was
in my late teens and early twenties. I wasn't a career Navy man, only 3
years on active duty, but it's amazing how close people can feel to their
squadron mates and those times after 40+ years. I retired from my home town
City Fire Department 12 years ago, after 26 years working with the same guys
and I don't have anywhere near the same feelings as I do for those 3 years.
Again, THANKS for a great reunion, you did a terrific job, so others like me
could really enjoy ourselves, renew old friendships, and at the same time
meet others that did the same job.
Not only were three of us ACW's from
the same crew (12 Goldenchain)
but I got my original "Skipper", Capt Otto Finley to autograph my old Navy
Flight Logbook after a very long and great chat. On top of that, we got
together with three other close buddies from the "Original 13".
Even my wife enjoyed helping in the
"duty office". I really was worried
she would be bored, but she sure wasn't.
I wanted to send a letter of thanks to you ,Capt. Lawrie, and Sam Leach.
Your choice of location and
program content could not have been better.The meeting with old squadron mates and the making of new friends
will long be remembered. My wife and I both appreciated the help given when we firstarrived and recieved the news
of her Mothers passing. I met my wife in Baltimore on Sunday and we spent a couple of days traveling home.
great to have had the opportunity to meet and talk with Capt. Finley. In
our short conversations he stated
twice "we had a great group." It was a time of reflection and remembering our younger days and doing the job in
Dave Casner VW13, Vw11..
I still can't get over just how great the "Reunion" was. It seem as
If I just checked in and then all to soon it was time to leave. You and
everyone else involved in putting this together did a job well beyond words.
I will remember it for a lond long time. I hope to keep in touch in some way
shape or form. If there is ever going to be another one and i hope there
be please let me know.
Again many many thanks Bob Orsini ADR-3
Wes;I have been back from the reunion
two weeks almost, yet feel like I am still there with all of you great
people. You and the rest of the committe did a tremendous favor for all of us by putting it together and
conducting it in a most professional way. This old keypounder thanks you from the bottom of my heart. I
hope some hardy shipmates take up the torch and stage another one before many more of the crew go to
be with the supreme commander. The warmth of our fraternity must be passed on to our children and
grandchildren and the future historians of our great nation. They must know of our fun times and our
serious times. That we were real people doing a job that our leaders in Washington deemed a vital
necessity in those periosly dangerous years of cold war with the Soviet Union. A shot sea story or two,
and I will get off this page. Cdr Ed Stafford, in his story to us about the flight to Nebraska, told us about the
trip back with a plane load of drunken Officers from the wedding party. He stated that there was only three
sober men aboard that plane on the way home. When the cerimonies were over and I had the opportunity, I
just had to correct him on that point. I told him there was four sober aboard, and one of them was me, his
radioman. His gracious and beautiful wife took our picture together. Iam waiting to see that. I just realized
today, we live in the same town and I never knew it. One other story . I read a story on 'Letters" from
shipmate Gib Pierce badmouthing the ART-13 transmitter. I want to go on record as a radioman that loved
that old powerhouse. I flew with it in VR-3 in the R5D, during the Korean Conflict ,attached to MATS,
several thousand hours of the Barrier , with times I could not get out of my seat for four hours because the
number of messages being sent back to Argentia, and never had a serious problem with it. I often tweaked
the antenna load with a flourescent bulb. History: I believe that I first saw it in NATTC Memphis where I
graduated from ARM A school Class R46 in the fall of 44. In Operational training in Ft. Lauderdale that
winter I found it in the TBM's we were flying. It was built by Collins Radio, the first autochannel changing
transmitter built.Give me one, along with an LM crystal controlled BFO, and I will go flying again. No such
luck for me Old shipmates.dida didadit
Just a word of appreciation to you and the rest of the committee for the
great job and hard work that you did on the WV Reunion.
It brought back lots of great memories just to sit around and talk to
Willy Victor sailors. I appreciated all of the speakers (many of whom made us
see the importance of what we did many years ago). I realize now what a great
thing memories are and how important it is to write them down for our
Santayana (sp?) said it best-" Those who forget history are doomed to
repeat it." I would hope that when people see pictures of WV-2s, the crews
,and items like the "Midway Memorial" they will ask "Why?" and after they ask
the question, they will get an answer that is accurate and descriptive.
The last thing that I want for my grandchildren is another Cold War
confrontation of the kind that we faced.But if they do, I hope and pray that
there will be young people who will be willing to take up outposts in the far
reaches of the globe to protect our cherished freedoms in the same manner
that we did so many years ago.