VP-45 Change of Command - Adak 1965


Contributed by Tom Golder

Naval historians can look up the exact date, but it was winter in the Aleutians and Mr. Bill (better known as Willie) Waw, was working hard, battering the Naval Air Station with 40 to 50 knot winds and dumping ice, snow, sleet and anything else he could muster up on the runway, taxiways and ramps around the hangars. Most of the aircraft parking areas were covered with two or three inches of pure ice and on top of that the snow was accumulating rapidly. This wasn’t the best of times to be tooling up to Adak, but several visiting P-3’s were inbound from the lower 48 to witness the Change of Command when Commander Jim Chapman (JHC) was to relieve Commander Dave Hume.

Luckily the wind was close to being down the runway but the clouds were low and the rules were that the Command Duty Officer had to be in the tower when the weather was at or near minimums. I was CDO that day thanks to my good friend LCDR Brad Bradley, the Flight Officer. Now Brad had each of our twelve flight crew’s future and destiny plotted on a device of his making; a two foot high "scroll" with dates across the top and flight crews down the side. It was a conglomeration of glued- together graph paper sheets, laid out over a drafting table, which could be rolled back and forth from handles on either side.

As close as reality would allow, each flight crew went through a scheduling routine of squadron duty (when the PPC would be the CDO, the PP2P the SDO and right on down the line), ready duty (when the crew would stand-by all day and night in case a "flap" arose, a routine patrol day (when the crew would fly an out-and- back eight hour ASW {Airborne Shipping Watch} patrol, and a training day where the crew would try to keep up with the ground training requirements imposed by COMNAVHIGHERAUTH.

Brad’s scroll was legendary and there wasn’t an aircrew member in the squadron, from the PPC right on down, who didn’t, at one time or another, come waltzing into the OPS Office to view his future or to argue with Brad that he or his crew was somehow getting shafted or not getting a good trip off the island somewhere. Brad could always argue them down, and I bet he still has those scrolls somewhere in his house. If his house was burning you would probably see him coming out of the garage clutching those darned rolls of paper!

One day, several weeks prior to the C of C, I was pointing out to Brad that by giving Crew 4 the duty he had shafted us out of the party sure to follow. Brad, however, allowed that he was actually doing us a favor in that we would not have to get suited up in our dress canvass for the ceremony and for that the crew would be eternally grateful. With that he rolled the scroll onward to ponder some other future event.

Anyway, there I was in the tower when "Big Al" Jensen broke out of the overcast right at minimums with about 90 knots of ground speed thanks to the fifty knots coming from the other direction, slid the bird down runway 23 in a cloud of reversed snow and then bumped slipped and skidded the plane to the apron. "Big Al" was never one to miss a party! I think one of his passengers was a Navy Captain sporting a full length leather flight coat (you couldn’t call it a jacket) with a big fur collar who was the center of awe and attention to the J.O.s for quite a while. No one in our generation had seen one of those flight coats other than in pictures in Approach magazine!

LCDR Dan Peckham was still out on patrol and the weather was getting worse as darkness was approaching rapidly. As the ceremony concluded and the festivities began up at the BOQ, we had everything in the barn or chained down securely except for LN-6 which finally broke out of the howling gloom, landed and taxied to the ramp. The wind had increased to about 60 knots and we slapped on the two wing tiedowns. LT Gerry Livingstone, the Line Officer, myself and a few linemen, all decked out in our "Adak Minks" (full length, Korean War vintage, foul weather gear with a built in hood) were searching in the black ice and snow for the padeye sunk in the concrete to secure the nose gear.

Gerry swore that a padeye should be right in the vicinity of the nose gear tires but we sure couldn’t find the darn thing. Then suddenly, to our horror, the nose gear began bouncing up and down on its oleo strut and the aircraft started walking away with the wind! I thought, there goes my short but illustrious Naval career! I’m sure Gerry was thinking the same. How in heck could we explain LN-6 resting over in Finger Bay? I’m thinking, everyone else is up at the BOQ partying and here I am in sixty knots of wind as LN-6 is being twisted around on the wing tiedowns headed for who knows where! Thank goodness that someone, I don’t remember who, had the smarts to look at the spot where the nose wheel tires had been before the plane began its unauthorized journey but lo and behold, there was the elusive padeye!!! Some furious chipping of the ice and we snagged the wandering airplane with a tie-down!

Later, when I went up to the "Q" to report all secure on the line, I found, upon removing my Adak Mink, that my Aviation Winter Working Greens were soaking wet up my back, right to the base of my neck. To this day I say it was snow being blown up there by Mr. Waw, but maybe it was sweat generated by the possibility of having one of VP45’s P-3s blown off the ice and into a ditch during my watch! I don’t remember if either the outgoing or incoming Skipper knew what went on, I didn’t break into the party to tell them.

Note: I could be a little "off’ in my recollections and anyone who wants to correct me feel free, but I’m here first with the story no one can deny that!

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