1967 Intrepid ‘Trap Record’

I was a rather naive 20 year old (I turned 20 the day I arrived) when I went to boot camp and pretty much took everything they told me seriously and to heart.  It was drilled onto us that “loose lips sink ships” and we were never to tell anyone where we were or what we were doing.  This included writing home, and keeping diaries or journals being a big no-no.  So the event I am about to relate is lacking detail for dates or specific numbers…This is how I remember it:

We were on our second scenic cruise of the tropical Gulf of Tonkin in 1967.  Working in V-3 Division, pushing planes and brooms, kept everyone on the hangar deck busy. Sometime during the cruise I was trained to operate the center-line aircraft elevator located forward also known as Elevator #1 or El-1.

During launches, El-1 was secured and locked in place on the flight deck.  During recoveries, if there was room on the hangar deck, the first planes trapped would be taxied to El-1 and brought down to the hangar before flight deck blue shirts started stacking planes on the bow.  This was the standard operating procedure and happened on most recoveries. And then there was the standard respotting between flight ops.

One warm and muggy morning, we had launched almost every capable bird on the ship, save the angels and “Operation Bear Claw” ready aircraft.  I don’t know what the number of aircraft were given that designation, but it was a very low number.  And, of course the queens were left behind.  Neither do I know how long it took to launch everything but there didn’t seem to be a big rush to get them off the deck.  I do know, from the cruise book, we had (4) A-4 squadrons, (2) A-1 squadrons, (2) F-8 squadrons, plus an E-1 and some UH-1 Angels.  This is 90+ aircraft as the Navy likes to say in ship specifications.

After the launch was complete, the hangar deck crew was assigned the normal “busy” duties.  It would never do to have an NCO or above see a blue shirt idle for more than five minutes.  We all had a trusty broom or rag and Brasso in hand and either pushing dust and salt around or polishing everything made of brass.  And there was a lot of brass.

After the deck was swept a couple of times, word came down that the squadrons were returning all together and some of the planes were pretty low on fuel.  We had to do some major shuffling to get ready for them.  Everything on the hangar deck was moved as far back into Bay 3 as possible.  What was left on the hangar deck did not fill Bay 3.  I was told to man my elevator all three hangar deck blue shirt crews were told to stand by in Bay 1.

aircraft trap‘Trapped’ Aircraft

 As the first recovered aircraft was released from the wire, it was directed ‘hot’ to El-1. Once on, Fly-1 raised the flight deck stanchions and gave the all clear through our sound powered phones for me to drop the elevator.  With the elevator at hangar level, Crew 10 climbed on and started pushing the plane to Bay 3.  As soon as they cleared the elevator, it was on its way up for the next bird.  Before Crew 10 had gotten the first one to Bay 3 and tied down, Crew 11 was climbing on the elevator to push the second one off.  Crew 10 was on their way back when Crew 12 was pushing the third one off.  Until we were about mid fill in Bay 2, as soon as each crew had the current plane tied down, they were at a dead run to return to El-1 for the next one.  This continued until the entire hangar deck was completely filled.  A lot of hustling…I mean a lot of hustling.  The flight deck blue shirts took over from there and stacked the bow.

Once we secured from flight ops, the 1MC came alive with the bos’n’s pipe and a “Now hear this!”.  The skipper (I don’t recall if it was still Captain Fair or Captain McVey who took command in June) came over the speakers and congratulated us for a job well done and I have a vague recollection of him saying he was proud to be commanding such a fine crew. We had broken a service wide record.  He went on to tell us how many aircraft we had ‘trapped‘ in whatever the time frame was.  No other carrier in the past had accomplished such a feat.  But keeping with my training, I did not write down the specifics.  Perhaps someone out there who was on that cruise has a better memory than I or maybe kept a journal (as I am now aware that others did) and can fill in the blanks.

FCM Fred Woods, AN, AMS striker, at the time of the event, CVS/A 11. Email:xfredwwoods@yahoo.com

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4 Comments

  1. Fred Woods

     /  March 2, 2013

    Still looking for someone to comment on this piece. Anybody out there who can shed some light on the dates and numbers?

    Reply
    • Hi, Fred…apparently no other former crewmembers (FCMs) of yours have read your story yet. Hope you are doing well. – john

      Reply
  2. Steven

     /  January 16, 2016

    Hello. My father Frank Allen was a Aviation Storekeeper on The 1967 WESTPAC Cruise. His shell back, order of the rock and safari to suez certificates were lost. Could anyone help me with the crossing dates, etcetera. I want to get them replaced for a Father’s Day gift. Any help or advise on where to get the information greatly appreciated, Steven Allen.

    Reply
    • Steve, I am copying your comments to a few other Intrepid Former Crewmember (FCM) who may be able to help you with your query. Good Luck. John Simonetti, past FCM Association President ’03-’05

      Reply

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