VPNAVY VP-5 Mercury Capsule Recovery
VPNAVY Address

HistoryVP-23W-6 HistoryHistory

Circa 1970

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Brief history of VP-64 for 1970. I have included two crew pictures (they are already in the crew history section of VP-64) to illustrate the change in attitude before VP-64 and after it was formed. I have also included a list of the SARs assigned to the squadron at the start (plank owners)..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired larobidoo@comcast.net [19SEP2006]

On 1 November 1970, VP-64 was established at NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, using selected personnel from VP-66W-1, VP-66W-2, and VP-66W-3 and from three fleet support units (VP-21W-4, VP-26W-5, and VP-23W-6) that were already at NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. The squadron consisted of 323 enlisted men and 60 officers. There were 249 enlisted Selected Air Reserves (SARs) and 74 enlisted Training and Administration of Reserves (TARs). The TARs were full-time active duty reservists. There were 14 aircrews formed of which 12 were SARs and 2 were TAR personnel only. This flexible organization allowed the squadron to conduct normal operations (training, test flights, etc.) during the week when there were usually no drilling SARs on duty.

The newly-created, structured, squadrons (VP-64 and VP-66, which was established at the same time as VP-64) were headquartered in Hanger 15 which was located at the south end of the field. Hanger 15 was a large wooden structure with doors that were operated manually at the East and West end of the hanger. It had maintenance and administration spaces located in two-deck structures at the other two sides of the hanger. Roof supports divided the hanger into two bays; each bay could accommodate two P2Vs (SP-2Hs) comfortably. VP-64 was assigned the spaces and hanger bay on the north side of the hanger while VP-66 was assigned the spaces and hanger bay on the south side of the hanger. VP-66 was formed using personnel from similar support units from NAS New York, New York (NAS Floyd Bennett Field, New York), which had been relocated to NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. The members of VP-64 soon referred to VP-66 as "Brand X" and a friendly rivalry developed between the two units across Hanger 15 and years later, along side each other in newly built Hanger 175 where they both moved in 1977.

VP-64 was assigned twelve SP-2H (P2V-7) aircraft and the tail designation of LU (Lima Uniform). The squadron painted the LU on the tail slightly offset as an indication of their individuality. VP-64 and VP-66 divided the parking spots on the ramp for their 24 aircraft in a way that was equitable for each squadron (distance to maintenance, etc.). Some of the parking spots were on the old cross runway (6-24) that was no longer used. Thus began the first time that VP-64 functioned as a squadron(comparable to fleet squadrons) with the department heads assuming all maintenance, training, operations, administrative, and safety duties of a regular squadron. (Previously, NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania had provided the aircraft and much of the flight training, maintenance support, etc.)

The squadron was divided into two wings for drill purposes. Wing A included the odd-numbered aircrews and was under the Commanding Officer, CDR J. W. Danaher. They drilled on the first weekend of the month. Wing B included the even-numbered aircrews and was under the Executive Officer, CDR E. C. Neuman. They drilled on the third weekend of the month.Aircrew members were given an additional 48 drills to maintain their proficiency. These crews came in on off-weekends to perform these extra drills for flight training missions, weapons system trainer (WST) periods and similar exercises.

The aircrews, who had been flying together for many years in VP-66W-1, VP-66W-2, and VP-66W-3 retained many of their original members during the transition to VP-64; however, there were a few a new officers assigned to the crews My old crew, VP-66W-3, Crew 3 became VP-64, Crew 4, which was typical of the transition, consisted of:

		VP-64 Crew 4			VP-66W-3 Crew 3

		PPC	LCDR Art McManus		PPC	CDR Bill Oehrle
		2P	LT Lynch			2P	LT Ziercecki
		NAV	LT Hayes			NAV	LT Hayes
		Jez	AXC Larry Robideau		Jez	AXC Larry Robideau
		Julie	AW3 Ron Smith		Julie	ATR3    Preston Moyer
		MAD	AE2 Andy Nazak		MAD	AE2     Andy Nazak
		Ord	AO1 Joe Hughes		Ord	AO1     Joe Hughes
		PC	AMS2 Dave Hughes		PC	ADR2 Sam McNulty
		Radio	ATC Clyde McFee		Radio	ATC     Clyde McFee

A whole new attitude seemed to invest members of VP-64. New issues of flight gear were distributed to almost all fight crews. Green Nomex flight suits replaced the orange and tan ones. A view of crew photographs previous squadrons (VP-66W-1, VP-66W-2, and W-3) reveal a disparity of flight equipment including a variety of helmets, flight suits, and flight jackets. Equipment such as flight equipment bags and helmet bags were unavailable to aircrewmen until the creation of VP-64. Pictures of those earlier crews appeared to be a disorganized scramble while later VP-64 crew photographs display a marked improvement in military bearing and appearance. No longer were the reserves being treated like an orphan; the coffers were opened and many aircrewmen even got a leather flight jackets.

 History ThumbnailCameraVP-66W-3 Crew 3 VP-66W-3 Crew 3 - Late 1960s Note the Assortment of Flight Suits

 History ThumbnailCameraVP-64 Crew 6 VP-64 Crew 6 - Middle 1970s Note the Uniformity in Appearance

The training routine continued in a manner similar to that which was in effect for VP-66W-1, VP-66W-2, and VP-66W-3. This included night LIGHTEX exercises to Tangier Island, in Virginia, ROCKETEX exercises, JEZEX exercises, MADEX exercises, SNIFFEX exercises, and ship rigging and photographing missions were conducted in the operating areas (warning areas) off the New Jersey coast. The "roof top" facility at NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania was a radio station that broadcast simulated ASW missions to aircraft orbiting over the NAS; these missions aided team coordination in solving ASW problems. There were Weapons System Trainers located behind RESASWTAC where tactical crews and flight crews could conduct simulated ASW exercises including search, localization, tracking, and attack phases. Another training resource available to the squadron were the OP-5 (80 hours) and OP-11 (40 hours - refresher) courses that RESASWTAC made available for squadron sensor operators.

Roof-top flights were generally started about 1630 hours and continued to about 2000 hours on Saturday nights. The flight crews then logged several night landings doing touch-and-go landings and finishing about 2100 hours. There were also evening flights with minimum crews to give flight crews night landings and other routines so they could maintain their currency. This made some enlisted aircrewmen late for the Saturday night muster at the enlisted club. We always had a pitcher of beer ready for them after they landed.

Operations in the warning areas off New Jersey became a standard routine. We would leave NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, proceed to Sea Isle, NJ, and go "feet wet" on the 135 radial out of Sea Isle to the operating area. When we operated outside the CONUS Air Defense Zone (ADZ), we had to enter at the correct point or we would be intercepted by USAF fighter aircraft as we approached the coast. I remember at least one occasion that we were met by a F-102 (I think it was a F-102) who made a visual identification of us and didn't have to shoot us down. If our Navigator got us lost, it would have been embarrassing to say the least. We would return from Sea Isle, proceed to Coyle Field (a satellite field of McGuire AFB about 35 miles North West of Atlantic City, then to North Philly airport, and then to NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.

The first winter (Dec. 70 to Mar. 71) was a very cold one, and getting flight time required using pre-heaters during the preflight and exerting a great deal of effort just to get a SP-2H in the air. Since the squadron drew several members from NAS Niagara Falls/Syracuse areas, we continued the airlift that left NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania on Friday evening to pick up squadron members on a round robin flight to Syracuse and Buffalo and back.. On Sunday afternoon, we had another round robin flight to return the members. This Sunday night flight was sometimes uncertain and sometimes left a crew and aircraft to RON (remain overnight) with a problem at one of the stops. If you were a SAR and had to go to work on Monday morning, you sweated out the flight. In the winter, even after launching, the aircraft heaters were often unusable so it required the aircrew to dress accordingly (long underwear, thermal gloves, etc.).

In 1970, at the time that VP-64 was formed, the regular Navy VP squadrons required that all sensor operators (in the P-3s - SS1, SS2, and SS3) to be in the Anti-Submarine Warfare Operator rating (AW). At this point, VP-64 had a variety of ratings operating their SP-2H sensor stations (MAD/trail, Jezebel, Julie/ECM). We had AT, AX, and AE, ratings flying in those sensor seats. New aircrewmen that were sensor operators coming in from the fleet and B schools were in the AW rating. This inconsistency was resolved a few years later when all sensor operators who were qualified were permitted to make a lateral transfer to the AW rate. If they did not want to change, they could revert to the department where they were assigned and work in their own original specialty. AT and AX ratings were later given the opportunity to train for the Radioman (COM) seat and the In-Flight Tech (IFT) seat in the P-3A if they wished to continue in a flight status. I, personally, didn't change from AXC to AWC until 1 March 1972, almost 18 months after the squadron was formed.

So, 1970 closed with two months worth of experience for VP-64 under its belt. The squadron was slowly taking shape. Word was received from Reserve Patrol Wing Atlantic (RESPATWINGLANT) that VP-64 would be conducting its first Active Duty for Training (ACTDUTRA) cruise with their SP-2Hs in May 1971 in Rota, Spain. VP-64 would be the first of the newly formed wing to be deployed with SP-2Hs. At that time, the Black Hawks of VP-68 in NAS Patuxent River, Maryland had already moved up to the P-3A and would be cruising at NAF Lajes, Portugal. Also, VP-62 was beginning transition to the P-3A and would not cruise overseas in 1971. Four short months to prepare for our first European Deployment.

The initial draft of 249 SAR enlisted men for VP-64 (plank owners) was prepared in a directive and distributed to affected personnel on 5 October 1970 informing them that they had a pay billet in the squadron. The following is a copy of the original letter heading with a list of those in that initial draft of enlisted personnel, reproduced with the Service Number left out for personal security reasons. Note that the letterhead (NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania); subsequent squadron directives would be made under the Patrol Squadron Sixty Four letterhead. All AW ratings were on flight orders (DIFOT); other ratings in aircrew positions that were authorized for DIFOT have a designation (AC) after their name and rating.

Modification of inactive duty for training orders...
History - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Land-based Naval Reserve Patrol Squadrons..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/avh-vol2/chap3-11.pdf [13SEP2004]

VP Reserve Squadrons

"VP-23W-6 Summary Page"