Old Timer War Story from 1960s Japan
Editor’s note: Doug Moore,
reminiscing with Jeff Grider about their tour in Japan, all but overloaded,
with one detachment flying patients fresh from Vietnam to five different
Army hospitals in Japan, tells about the fun weather on the island.
Jeff, I remember the
day well. Dave Dryden looked like a dog crapping peach seeds because the
weather was right down on the ground at Zama, and you had five-stars on
board. We could barely see the runway, and the Med Command staff was
demanding to know where you were. We were fumbling for answers.
I believe that
mission was the reason Gail Bowen developed a homemade IFR approach to Zama
using the old Sagami beacon. Remember the hand drawing we posted on the
flight operations board?
Not long after that,
I got a mission about ten o’clock one night to run 24 boxes of blood over to
Tachikawa because they needed some on a stat basis to put on a plane that
was going to the States. The weather was not bad, and I thought it would be
a short flight. I believe Tom Roberts was the crew chief, and I know
Majewski was the medic. Majewski sat up front with me because he wanted to
go to flight school.
Just after we lifted
off from the 409th Medical Laboratory,
I ran into a solid wall of fog at about 200 feet. The only choice was to
climb out high enough to get over the high tension wires and head for
Tachikawa. I called Tachi Tower and requested a GCA because McGowan and I
had gotten into a similar fix a few days earlier. The tower told me their
glide slope radar was inop, but the ASR could put me on the centerline, and
they did a perfect job getting us down.
I asked the tower to
check the weather back at Zama, and they said it was still VFR. So I asked
to take off and skirt around the edge of Yokota and stay as far west as we
could, hoping we could beat the fog bank that was moving toward the west.
As soon as we cleared
that ridgeline south of Tachi, we went IFR again. I can still remember the
drawing Bowen put together. If my memory is correct, you had to fly 142
degrees off the Sagami beacon for about 14 miles. I let down to about 400
feet and tried to fight that blooming ADF needle. You remember how hard it
is to stay on track going away from an ADF station.
I think Majewski and
Roberts were beginning to wonder about me when, all of a sudden, Majewski
blurted out, “There’s the tower!” Bowen’s approach brought us about
three-fourths of the way down the runway near our operations shack. Like
you, I bottomed the pitch and got on the ground like I knew what I was