Of Frosty and Pitching Decks
When I entered the Navy It was 2 years after the war had ended, and I met a lot of guys who served during the war. One stands out to me, and I always remember him during memorial day and veterans day. He was the only friend I lost during my 4 years in the Navy. He was Lt Commander MacDonald, call sign Frosty. He flew A6 Intruders in the war, and later switched to S3 Vikings and I had the pleasure to control him on several occasion during anti-sub operations.
Frosty was the CAG, or Commander of the Air Group and he was also from Colorado. He grew up in Vail, so when we met up off ship we got along well, even though he was an officer and I was an enlisted guy. Frosty flew in Nam on several missions, having been shot down twice and eventually rescued. He told a story of hiding in a large bush waiting for a rescue helo while Viet Cong were probing the bushes all around him looking for him. He said a bayonet passed just in front of his head and then right behind him as he laid there hunkered down praying for rescue.
They moved on eventually and his helo found him and pulled him out. His second time shot down he made it out over the gulf of Tonkin and ejected into the water. He was picked up shortly without any problems.
After surviving all that, he was killed on a simple exercise in the Indian Ocean. The sea state had deteriorated into a nasty mix of wind and huge waves and the Kitty Hawk was recovering all it's aircraft. Despite being low on fuel, he orbited while the rest of his squadron were recovered before him. That was typical of him, leading by example. On final approach the back end of the carrier was heaving up and down due the enormous waves and he was matching it by going up and down with it. The carrier pitched up and stayed up on the wave as he dropped.
He couldn't correct fast enough and flew right into the back end of the Kitty Hawk.
So here's to you Frosty, I hope you are someplace better now.
I told all that again so that I can show you two videos that I came upon. They are part 1 and 2 of a PBS documentary series "Carrier" - Rites of Passage. The videos are both 10 minutes long, and well worth the time to view them. I didn't catch the name of the guy that took the place of the pilot on regular rotation to go up and fly the tanker to make sure all the other pilots had enough fuel to get back down on the carrier. But he reminded me so much of Frosty that it brought a lot of that stuff back.
Night recovery on a carrier that is really moving like the Nimitz is in these videos is one of the most stressful things a pilot goes through. They did a study on some of the guys who flew in Nam, and it showed they stayed pretty steady while flying over Nam, doing their bombing mission, getting into a dogfight, then their heart rate went through the roof when they came back to recover in the dark.
Check this out...