Memories of the past - Unforgettable faces w/forgotten names
I have always wished to be classified as a "BLACK PONY" plankowner. With orders to VAL-4 via VS-41,
I was busy romancing the girl that has been my wife for the past thirty years. It was within a week of
the commissioning ceremony that I arrived at NAS North Island. Only to informed by AMH-1 Jean Vargo
that I had just missed a "day to remember".
I was very thankful that day in January of 1969, to join a group of men, that to this day personifies the
meaning of the words - "Brotherhood" - "Dedication" - "Party". I salute all of the Plankowners.
Most of the names from thirty years past escape my memory - faces and original "Black Pony"
projects do not. The enlisted "Black Pony" class of 1969 at NAS North Island were for the most, a
bunch of nuts. The female population of the base considered them a "Touch of Class", to the guys
in other squadrons, your basic enemy. Allow me to relate a story that has never left my heart/mind.
VAL-4 was honored to have as a "PLANKOWNER", Parachute Rigger First Class Ernie Withers.
Ernie made the first "Black Pony" drinking flag and it was ceremoniously displayed at the North
Island EM Club each Monday thru Thursday, before,during and most days after Happy Hour. There
was a base wide challenge - try to capture our flag. The last guy to hang at the club was responsible
for the integrity of the flag. I am proud to report that it was never taken from the EM Club by an
outside party, it was however returned to our group one Monday by Nancy A..
~~ She was a WAVE and the flag was inside of a 10# block of ice.
I've more tales to tell - one at a time helps the mind. I wish to continue with the concept of
"DONNELLY'S'"memories until the memory malfunction or the stories end. I spoke with Dave
Stockley on the telephone one night and he graciously asked if I still had the "FLAG". I don't
nor did I ever say that I knew NancyA.. And I honestly don't recollect what happened to that flag.
Chapter 2: "PETE RUSSELL - THE MAN I'LL NEVER FORGET"
The second episode/recollection of "DONNELLY'S" is a bit selfserving as I am going to relate a tale
of two lost comrades - LT. PETE RUSSELL & ADJ1 JOHNNY JOHNSON and myself on an arduos
trip from NAS North Island to Binh Thuy. The United States Air Force designated these "Three Black
Ponies" as official cargo couriers, honored with the task of guarding the "Officer Plankowner Corps"
air conditioners and other personal items.
We were told we would have to sleep on the plane throughout the 4-5 day trip by our U.S. Air Force
hosts (the flight crew). My friend, the man that I still cry about, LT. PETE RUSSELL had other plans.
Through the rest of this remembrance it is Pete, Johnny, Doug - we became lifelong friends, I regret
that they're not here to share my memories.
Hickham AFB, Honolulu,HI - Short overnight before going on to Midway Island
Pete has the three of checked into the BOQ in no time ,with the Hawaiian Air National Guard
protecting this aircraft as if the President were sleeping on board. Partying in the "O" Club was
unique to Johnny and myself. Midway Island - Land and miss the gooney birds on the runway,
do we really have to stay here for a night. The Air Force crew is finally accepting the fact that we're
on this flight with them. I wonder if Pete may have had something to do with the fact that the Aircraft
Commander invites the three of us to the "O" club. Next morning, A.F. Security truck flies out to the
runway just prior to our takeoff to the Phillipines. The problem, ----Someone stole a towel from the
BOQ ---. Prime suspects, Johnny and yours truly. Defense Attorney Pete Russell has us remove our
seabags from the aircraft and be ready to dump them on the tarmac. A 2nd LT. (navigator) hands
over the towel. What bullshit by assholes, what trust by my eternal friend PETE RUSSELL.
We spent some time in the Phillipines after that on the way into Viet Nam - another story for those
that new or want to know Pete Russell. Pete was also my friend in NAM, we helped procure the
Maintenance Jeep for LCDR. Bill Bartlett.
To many memories can hurt. Later...