wingsMobile, AL 2012

The Patrol Squadron Forty-Five Association held its twelfth biennial reunion 18-21 October 2012 in Mobile, Alabama.  It was very well attended with over 170 members and guests in attendance.  Dick Gray, the Association Vice President and the man in charge of the reunion, was the person most responsible for this event being a resounding success.  Thank you, Dick!

The reunion was headquartered at Mobile’s Ashbury Hotel and Suites and commenced on Thursday evening with a “Meet and Greet” happy-hour which was held in the “Ready Room.”  Complimentary beer, wine, soft drinks and snacks were provided by the Association.  Though there were many veteran reunion attendees, quite a number of “first timers” came this year, reuniting with old friends they had not seen in decades.

The next day, almost everybody boarded buses and headed out for Pensacola and an all day tour of the historic National Museum of Naval Aviation.  If you had never been here before, you were totally unprepared for the scope of this huge Museum.  You felt like you had been transported into a segment of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.  The photo gallery (click navigation link above) has some shots taken during this tour.  Friday night was unscheduled so we all had an opportunity to gather with old friends at places of our choosing.  The “Ready Room” was available for those that wanted to stay close to the Hotel.

Saturday allowed a choice of tours between the USS Alabama (BB-60) Battleship Memorial Park and the Bellingrath Home Garden tour.  The Garden tour provided a couple hours touring the largest flower garden in Southeast.  Words cannot adequately describe the beauty of this place...perhaps some of the photos in the gallery can.  The Battleship tour was very popular and allowed us to step back, for a couple hours, into the decade of the 1940’s.  After just a few minutes on the USS Alabama you understand why “stairs” in the US Navy are referred to as “ladders.”  The impressive 16 inch guns on this huge “battle wagon” are nothing short of massive.  Like all large ships of this era, the decks were of teakwood. Also available for touring were a small air museum, a B-52, USS Drum (a WW-II submarine) and a number of other tanks and aircraft.

The main event was the banquet held at the hotel Saturday night.  After an hour of social mingling, over 170 people were seated for a delicious dinner.  VADM Wally Massenberg, USN (ret), one of our members, was the master of ceremonies.  The election of three new association officers was announced; Doug “Pooh Bear” Mitchell became President, Jack Keane became Secretary and I was formally appointed WebMaster. We replace Buck Jones, Wally Massenburg and Steve Riddle; thanks to them for their outstanding performance these past years.

The highlight of the evening was the unveiling of Peter Wenman’s stunning original oil painting: “Orion’s Game.”  I gave a brief account of the project genesis and timeline, and then Wally presented the painting to Mort Eckhouse who is an association member and a volunteer at the National Museum of Naval Aviation.  Mort accepted the painting on behalf of the Museum as a donation from the VP-45 Association. 

Following that ceremony, Wally presented two signed and numbered limited edition prints of “Orion’s Game” (print numbers 1 and 2 of 145) to the widows of two of the crewmembers of LN-9, a squadron P-3A that crashed at sea, in 1964, off Agentia.  The painting was dedicated to this VP-45 crew, who all perished.  Additional prints were presented to RADM Brian Prindle, a former Pelican and current Commander of Naval Safety Center, and CDR Mike Vitali, current skipper of VP-45.  The squadron’s framed print was Number 45 of 145.  CDR Vitali provided an update of the squadron’s operations and then introduced the guest speaker, RADM Brian Prindle. Brian’s father, the late RADM Charlie Prindle was the P-3 wing commander in Jax in the mid 70’s and after promotion to flag rank, commanded Patrol Wings Pacific.  Brian’s son is also a VP aviator.

The evening’s formal schedule ended with the drawing of four prizes: A free night at the hotel, two “Orion’s Game” prints and a cash prize of half the money collected from door prize sales ($240.00).  The remainder of the evening was spent socializing and getting ready to say goodbye until next time.  Like many others, Becky and I drove to Mobile and after having a great breakfast at the hotel (provided with room), said our final goodbyes and hit the road early Sunday morning.  This was our third reunion and though the 2006 reunion in San Antonio was previously our favorite, this one was by far the best…because of Dick Gray’s superb planning and execution, and because of the great people who attended.  Next reunion will be in 2014 at a location to be determined.  Be there, Aloha!

Bill Hobgood (WebMaster)

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