Back Then

I remember when I was on the Big E, (1971-72), some where in the South China Sea, maybe the Gulf Of Tonkin, that a Huey gun ship landed on our flight deck with a wounded gunner. I assisted the Chief Of Surgery that night in removing small bits of shrapnel from this gunner's legs. His surgery was successful and he recovered well in Sick Bay with both legs intact and functional in spite of his wounds. And later was air evac back to the PI for continued therapy. But what kinda confuses me, even after all this time, is why this chopper landed on our flight deck so far off the coast of Vietnam? I thought carriers never got closer than 50 to 60 miles off a combat zone coast? And why, the chopper didn't head for a southern base on land? I'm glad though, that the pilot picked the Big E for medical help that night. Our Sick Bay was well equipped with state of the art medical equipment, surgery operating rooms, and experienced physicians and corpsmen. Sorry I can't narrow down the time frame. Too long ago. Anyway I was never up to what was going on top side. I was below decks most of the time. 5000+ sailors, a large air wing, and a 93 thousand ton sailing war machine makes for a busy Sick Bay. And my memory file cabinets are a little rusted too.
Thoughts and speculations welcomed. Thanks.

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  • You were especially busy after a leave in PI. The clap line went from sickbay to the mess hall to the hanger bay. I worked flight deck with Heavy 5, but I do not remember the chopper.

  • William, 

    Very interesting.  Who won the toss?  Can't remember that particular episode.  Too many cases.  But you would have been lucky to get me.   I was pretty good at suturing because I did a lot of it on the Big E.   My patients had no post surgery infections, minimal to negligible suture scaring.  I removed scar tissue, moles, cysts, etc..  I put in at least ten sutures in a crewman's scalp once or twice.  All minor surgeries were inspected by a senior corpsman and even by the Chief of Surgery himself for more complex cases.   

    Yes the photo was taken on the '71 WESPAC.  Don't know the Big E's location at that time.  But looks like no Flight Ops.  Maybe holiday routine?

    • Adrian,

      Not sure who won the toss because they had my face covered except for a small hole between my eyes.

      You can see the US flag flying from the superstructure which means we were at sea, but all the planes are not onboard. Where you were standing in the picture was the #4 elevator.  There was always at least 3 F4s and one A3.

      I remember that because it looked like our A5 wing missed the nose of the A3 by only inches sometimes when landing.3439450526?profile=original

    • It must have been very hard to land a big aircraft like that.  Even on the Big E's large flight deck.  I seem to remember a time when that huge catch net was set up.  What happened there? 

      Remember this?   I'm attaching an incredibly old decrepit photo of the time the Russians were playing tag with us in the Indian Ocean.  We were on our way to the Indo-Pakistan war to rescue americans caught in the middle of it.  VF-142 was the squadron I was attached to.  

      Were you one of the ones waving?


    • Adrian,

      It was really the A3s (The Whale) and E2s (Eye in the Sky) that were too big, but the "Bell of the Ball" (the A5 vigilante) left the deck at 65,000 lbs.  We had a lot of reconnaissance equipment. We could tell if the targets were hit, missed, and how many live bodies were left. We had a lot of spy toys. 

      I wore a green shirt with a big "P" on the back. No, it does not mean that, it means photographer. And, yes there is a good chance I am in this photo, but I am pretty sure we were waving with only one finger.

      That was our plane that later became the hanger queen (spare parts).  I was one of the deck crew that set up the net.

      Here's a little reminder photo composite for you.


  • Adrian,

    I know this is an old post, but I need your memories of an injury that the Big E sickbay treated in 1971. I was knocked out when an A5 camera station closed and hit me in the head. I remember you guys flipping a coin to see who was going to stitch me up. I got three stitches between my eyes.  Any recollection?

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