RADM Charles Hunter, USN (Ret) Passes

February 26th, 2017 by xformed


Rear Admiral Charles Bryan Hunter, USN (Ret)

RADM Charles Hunter passed away 2/24/2017. Memorial service will be held at 1 PM March 4th, 2017 At the Gross Funeral Home, 6636 Central Ave, St Petersburg, FL.

I made a post back in 2009 about ADM Hunter here, and what follows is a little more about this man, one of my friends.

I met Charlie (he told us to not call him “Admiral” or stand when he walked in all these years – but we ignored his request out of respect) in 2009 by being invited to have breakfast with several veterans, mostly Naval Academy graduates and pilots (he was a 1954 USNA Graduate). Even with a table full of veterans, not a lot of details of real combat gets mentioned, but from a man who was awarded a Navy Cross, and as noted in the picture, the Distinguished Flying Cross as well, over the years, I heard him speak briefing of his single plane mission into Haiphong Harbor on the moonless night of October 30th, 1967.

He had arrived aboard USS CONSTELLATION (CVA-64) to replace the VA-196 CO that had been shot down. His orders to replace were delivered to him one morning at NAS Whidby Island, where he was a Replacement Air Group instructor for the A-6 Intruders. He had gone to work for a normal day, commenting he regularly he and his Bombadier/Navigator (BN) walked into the CO’s office and indicated they wanted to get in the game. They were regularly told to shut up, get back to work training crews….but on this particular morning, they were called in and told to gear up for a TransPac flight and get headed west. Arriving aboard, he was now the new CO of VA-196.

Three months later he was flying up the Red River at night at 200 ft, inbound to the target. I didn’t catch the entire telling, as several conversations are always going around the table, but I overheard “There were 5 SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) coming at us, 2 from (???) and three at 2 o’clock, so I barrel rolled to evade. The we set the radar altimeter to 50 ft and it alarmed 3 times before we got to the target.”

Consider that statement for a moment, and parse out the important real details. First off: 5 SAMs headed your way all at once. You’re low, altitude gives options when playing the physics of flight. Not much of it limits you. Now, he’s inbound and we know his 9.5 tons (a fully loaded A-6 capacity) was delivered to to the location of the mission. While I’m not a pilot, I know this: Even fighters, let alone attack aircraft, almost always jettison their external stores when it’s time to fight, or in this case, evade. He barrel rolled beginning at 200 ft with 9.5 tons of ordnance still on his wings, and didn’t end up impacting the Red River surface doing close to Mach.

I’m also not sure of the details in the radar altimeter alarming, but I suspect it was to alert the pilot of an all-weather attack aircraft, designed to fly to target in basically zero visility, that he was going lower than the parameters set into the system to aid the low visibility capabilities. So there he and his BN were, zorching (tip o the hat to the long departed Neptunus Lex – another fine aviator) towards his assignment just short of 600 kts at 50 ft off the water with a now alerted air defense network, at that time, the best one on the planet…. He popped up, delivered the ordnance, and high taled it back to the CONNIE, with he and his BN intact.

His comment was the USAF airborne asset counted at least 22 SAMs being fired at his aircraft. 22….let that sink in. Other than that one snippet I overheard and then listen intently for the rest after I heard it begin, he never really mentioned it. He never mentioned his Navy Cross, and until finding his picture (above) on the funeral home site, I had no idea he had a Silver Star as well. Humble. Just a good old boy from the Panhandle of Florida, who worked hard, having many times mentioned his teacher who made a point to make several of them very good in math, and was accepted into the Naval Academy.

More details I managed to collect: He was Commanding Officer of VA-85 (Assuming command 9/6/1968), an East Coast Squadron, and while in that position, I found a passing note on the web years ago about GEN Curtis LeMay coming to the carrier he was flying from, and Charley briefed him. I did ask him ,having found that bit of history, what that was like. He brushed it off like “he was just an average guy” (meaning GEN LeMay). UPDATED: I just found this clip of him, with Gen LeMay in the pilot’s seat of an A-6A, giving his the details of one of his VA-85 aircraft:



He skippered the USS SARATOGA (CV-60) 11-Sep-76 to 4-Feb-78 and had the highest operational performance rates for all the East Coast CVs.

Besides being good company at breakfasts every other Saturday mornings for the last 7+ years, he was just an average guy in being around everyone. No need for special treatment and seemed a little embarrassed by our rank recognition when he or we walked in to our meeting place.

After absorbing the stories of a great man and leader above, to see him physically, you’d not then a bantam weight 5′ 6″ man could have been a warrior who would have earned top awards for heroism under fire. No matter, he had whet it took when the time came to get the mission accomplished, and also to lead crews to excellence.

Other personal stories: As an Ensign, he began at the RAG learning to fly the F-7U CUTLASS. One of our other breakfast attendees flew with him and later did a deployment to the Med as roommates flying them.

He punched out once: He was getting a mid-air refueling and he ended up with fuel in his A-4 SKYHAWK engine (and not inside the combustion system), causing the plane to begin burning up. Smoke in the cockpit stuff, so he fell back from the tanker and used the ejection seat, without noting any injuries.

There’s more to this story about ADM Hunter: The mission of such historical value was the basis for the movie starring Danny Glover: “Flight of the Intruder.” The differences: It wasn’t a rogue mission and he wasn’t shot down over enemy territory. In this case, Hollywood partially modeled real life.

Full text of his 30 Oct 1967 Mission Citation:


Hunter, Charles Bryan

Commander, U.S. Navy
Attack Squadron ONE HUNDRED NINETY SIX (VA-196), U.S.S. Constellation (CVA-64)
Date of Action: 30 October 1967

Citation:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Commander [then Lieutenant Commander] Charles Bryan Hunter (NSN: 0-584531), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism on 30 October 1967 as a pilot in Attack Squadron ONE HUNDRED NINETY-SIX (VA-196), embarked in U.S.S. CONSTELLATION (CVA-64). Exercising exceptional professional skill and sound judgment, Commander Hunter, planned and executed an extremely dangerous, single-plane, night, radar bombing attack on the strategically located and heavily defended Hanoi railroad ferry slip in North Vietnam. Although the entire Hanoi defensive effort was concentrated upon his lone bomber, he flawlessly piloted his aircraft to the target area and commenced his attack. Seconds before bomb release, six enemy surface-to-air missiles were observed to be tracking on his plane. Undaunted by this threat to his personal safety, Commander Hunter took swift and effective action to avoid the missiles and then proceeded to complete his attack, releasing all weapons in the target area with extreme accuracy. After release, he guided his plane through the intense anti-aircraft-artillery fire and four additional missiles which were fired at his aircraft. In spite of this intense enemy opposition, Commander Hunter completed his mission and was directly responsible for dealing a significant blow to the North Vietnamese logistics efforts. His indomitable perseverance and conspicuous gallantry were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Fair winds and following seas, ADM Hunter.

Category: "Sea Stories", History, Leadership, Military, Navy | Comments Off on RADM Charles Hunter, USN (Ret) Passes

A Date with Destiny – Part IX

April 24th, 2014 by xformed

Since 2009, I’ve had a nagging voice in the back of my head that says “You should try to get recognition for LT Ray Everts. It’s been very insistent and persistent this past week. This year, I’m asking for an effort of the greater group of shipmates, who may be able to find some puzzle pieces. Keep reading, I’ll get to it. First a little background:

I began this story in 2007, 19 years after the fact because I realized it was a story worth telling of the professionalism of my shipmates on USS CARR (FFG-52) and the sailors from USS KENNEDY (CV-67) who saved those men in peril on the sea on April 24th, 1988. I wasn’t there, I reported aboard USS CARR (FFG-52) in late September that year, but in time for the awards to flow in. During that time I heard the first person stories of my crew.

For many years, it was an integral part of the history of the ship, but that ended as a story among a crew March 13, 2013, when the USS CARR (FFG-52) decommissioned. The story is alive around the web. Part of it here. As I sought out first my shipmates via Navy: Together We Served. I later reached out to those who may have been there, by dates listed aboard the USS BONEFISH (SS-582), USS KENNEDY (CV-67) and USS MCCLOY (FF-1038). While got some dry holes, I found LCDR Pete Wilson, USN who provided a detailed, multi-page input. All those stories, from the several sailors and officers who took the time to provide their view of history, added more context to the day.

Again, I began to tell a story of professionalism, but found a story of heroism, one that had not been reported for the record: It came first from a comment left by Jim Chapman in 2007: He had been the aircrewman in the back of Dusty Dog 613 right on top (they had been practicing dipping on BONEFISH when the fire occurred). Jim lives right near by and we met and he told me what was happening in the helo. They knew sailors were in trouble and needed help, and they did more than the helo was supposed to do, nearly resulting in a crash while trying to hoist more men. That takes guts to keep working a few yards off the water in extreme conditions. Thankfully they and the sailors they pulled aboard all are here to tell the story. In the April 2008 annual post, I recorded Jim’s story to share. He added to my view (and if you read his post, you’ll see he was clear about making sure I had the story right). Jim: BTW, I called CAPT Johnson about 2 years ago and pointed out you and your crew knew exactly what you were doing.

On April 15th, 2008, FT2(SS) Bill Baker left a comment on the 2007 post that told a story of heroism beyond even what the helo crew: LT Everts died in his lap, having safely gotten the boat to the surface, ensuring he didn’t add a collision with a surface ship to the already chaotic, deadly situation. He didn’t put on an EAB, as it would have obstructed his use of the periscope during surfacing. I emailed Pete Wilson, the former XO, and he said that was never related at the debriefings. That began the little voice in the back of my head. The April 2009 anniversary post quoted Bill Baker’s comments and put what history of Ray Everts I could track down via the internet.

Here’s my request to my shipmates and family members who may wander by here, it’s also three parts:

  • I’d like to find out how to contact LT Evert’s family. Sounds like he wasn’t married by the many comments, so I’m assuming his parents would have been the NOKs.
  • I want to mount a campaign to complete a virtual 1650 for the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, to acknowledge his selfless sacrifice for his shipmates, the 89 who survived.
  • Help to figure out who to submit this to in DoN, or possibly via the serving Congressional senator or representative.

Who’s in? Spread the word, reach out to commenters on other blogs (that’s another part of the story), let’s see if we can crowd source the answers and move forward to get this medal in the service record of Ray for the ages.

Leave your comments here, so it can be a group effort. eMail is nice, but this space can be the virtual bulletin board to share anything someone knows.

To those who have, here, and on other blogs, added to this entire story, thank you. The connection of the internet has allowed this moment in time to become a fuller story than any one person has, and also has connected a few sailors from that day.

And to those, not on the sub, or the helos, or the whale boat, who scrambled to comfort and care for the sailors of the BONEFISH, your efforts were greatly appreciated (go back and skim the comments that have appeared over the years). BZ.

Category: "Sea Stories", History, Leadership, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | 3 Comments »

Conviction, Courage and Devotion 65 Years Ago

May 4th, 2010 by xformed

First reported by me at the 60 year anniversary here.

Cpl Desmond T. Doss performed in combat at the level that earned a Congressional Medal of Honor.

Today, I’ll complete my connection to this event, which occurred 47 or 48 years ago. I noted in the May 2005 posting this bit of personal connection:

Somewhere in a box, I have a picture. It is three elementary school children and a blonde German Shepard-Elkhound mix puppy standing next to a monument. The picture was taken in 1962 or 63, and it is my two sisters and I, and our dog, Scooter.

I had forgotten, until my older sister found and scanned the long lost family photo, that our Okinawan neighbor had accompanied us into the sugar cane fields that day.

Click for the full sized image

It was here my father told us a story of a heroic act by a man who had vowed to never kill, yet he would serve his fellow man by ensuring he entered combat, as a medic. Obviously, the story stuck with me, but it was not until about a month before 5/5/2005, that the basic details came pouring back into my head. I searched the net and found I had time to create the post and do it justice. Along the way, I read of a man who not only held to his convictions that day, but since he had been a young boy, and then until (while not at the time) to the day he died in March 2007.

Rather than repeat myself, if you’re so inclined, chase this link to all I have posted about a hero I came to admire from afar.

Category: Army, History, Leadership, Military, Military History | 1 Comment »

65 Years Ago Today in History: USS FRANKLIN (CV-13) is attacked

March 19th, 2010 by xformed

USS Franklin (CV-13) approaches New York City,...
Image via Wikipedia

50 miles off the coast of Japan on 19 March, 1945, the crew of the USS FRANKLIN (CV-13) got a close up look of hell.  A Japanese bomber made it through the defenses and sent two bombs into the flight deck full of armed and fueled aircraft.  The resulting death and devastation, and heroism were beyond belief.

I have written on the subject before, in more detail.  SteelJaw Scribe did an excellent job with his post in 2008:  “The Crucible.”

Today, in Branson, MO, the crew members and family and friends are gathered for a reunion and holding a memorial ceremony.

I also had the privilege of posting a memorial to Omer Dee Simms, thanks to the trust of his son, Richard.  Omer died saving his shipmates on this day 65 years ago.

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Category: Military | 3 Comments »

Conviction, Courage and Devotion – 64 Years Ago

May 5th, 2009 by xformed

On this day in 1945, on the island of Okinawa, a young man saved his comrades o nthe battle frield…and had never carried a weapon.

Details here buy Alice in Wonderland : Cpl Desmond T. Doss, USA, CMOH Awardee, one of my personal heroes.

Quite a man, quite a story. His personal believe drove him and carried him through his life.Bone Trouble hd

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Category: Army | Comments Off on Conviction, Courage and Devotion – 64 Years Ago

A Date with Destiny – Part VIII

April 24th, 2009 by xformed

21 years ago, the USS BONEFISH (SS-582), while operating to simulate a Soviet diesel submarine, experienced a fire in the battery well.  The fire spread quickly, resulting in the surfacing and abandoning, while at sea, the boat.  The prior post in this series discuss the lead to, and operations on that day, to rescue the crew at sea.

Lt Ray Everts, Jr, USN

In this post, I’d like to ensure the story of LT Ray Everts, USN, is highlighted.  It appears that LT Everts, made a decision that cost him his life, but made sure the conditions he and his shipmates were facing, was not compounded by a collision with one of the two ships using them as a training target.  Last year, a former crew member, FT2(SS) Bill Baker, on the BONEFISH had found the posts by accident, and left this comment, with more details, specifically about LT Everts, and also about other details of the conditions of the equipment, and what it was like to be in that fire.  He ends with some well deserved some BZs for his shipmates, all of this not reported elsewhere:

—————————-

Reason and Emotion video

Update 4/24/09 PM: Some other commenters at Bubblehead’s blog add more detail the post’s comments.

Update 4/25/09:  Hayball’s comments on the US Naval Institute blog shed more light on who Lt Everts was, and a more detailed role he played in this story.

—————————

Bill Baker FT2(SS) said:
April 15th, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Lord of the Flies download

Funny, I was looking for something else and came across this.

Mirror, Mirror 2: Raven Dance psp

I have read Richard’s recollection of it many times. I will give you some of my remembrances:

I was on watch as messenger of the watch at the time of the accident (we didn’t run a full time FTOW -Fire Control Technician of the Watch because it was the old Mk101 system).

Ray download

When the call came out “Fire in Berthing, Fire on Third Street”, I sounded the general alarm. I then got out an EAB for me and one for the officer of the Deck (Lt. Ray Everts). The OOD disregarded the EAB to take the ship to PD. If anyone has ever been on a scope with an EAB on, you know that you can’t really do a good search. I believe he disregarded it because of the Carr and Kennedy being in the area, he wanted to get to PD quickly but more importantly, safely. While the boat was on the way to PD, I heard what can only be described as the sound you hear when you throw an old wet decomposing log on a fire. That crackling sound. At that point, smoke entered the control room. I have never believed in smoke as a living thing, but the smoke looked like a hand closing around Lt. Everts. At that point, things are a bit fuzzy. Things I do remember are my EAB getting filled with warm smoke (which I later found out was the dirt, oil, dust from the MSA filters installed in the system burning off). The entire ship went black and literally, you could not see your hand in front of your face.
The next thing I remember was a couple of hands raking down my arm and someone wheezing “Help, I can’t breathe”. I didn’t know who it was but found the persons head, took my own EAB off and put it on his face. Immediately his hands flew to the facemask and I realized he didn’t want to give it back. I forcibly took it back, took 3 breaths and gave it back to him and told him we were going to buddy breath while I secure another mask. When he had the mask, I got out another one. We buddy breathed till I got the mask setup. During all this, the CO came into control and stated “XO, it’s not worth it. Abandon ship”. I know that the word went out on the 1MC. I later heard that people aft of the engine room door didn’t hear the word.

I lost track of Lt. Everts at this time. I know from other accounts that he went to the bridge (without an EAB), tried to open the bridge hatch, but couldn’t. It was known on-board that the dogs were misaligned, but Lt. Everts came from our sister ship Barbel (SS-580) and was already qualified the ship. Squadron also knew that the hatches were messed up but when the TM1 who transferred to squadron tried to do hatch inspections and they started failing, he was ordered to stop. The inspections were later nowhere to be found. Anyway, I saw Lt. Everts on the deck nearby. I grabbed him, got out another EAB and put it on him. I will never forget the next events. I had Lt. Everts head in my lap and I was sitting cross legged. Lt. Ellsworth had gotten the hatch open and the smoke was starting to clear. Lt. Everts proceeded to go into convulsions from smoke inhalation and looked me directly in the eyes. Just thinking it caused a picture of it in my mind that was as vivid as the day it happened. I heard someone calling for people by station to leave. I distinctly heard helmsman, planesman, etc. What I never heard was messenger. The control room got deathly quiet. I called out “is anyone there” and got no response. I did it again, and then lifted the mask thinking people couldn’t hear me because I had the EAB on. Again, I heard nothing. Lt. Everts breathing became very shallow and he was unresponsive. I looked down at him and thought to myself, I can stay here and die with him, or I can get out. I chose the latter. I stood up, and then did the stupidest thing in my entire life. I took the mask off and then attempted to get it free of my belt. In my panic, I ended up pulling my entire belt off. While attempting to locate the bridge trunk, I found the chart table next to the DRT table had come down blocking the ladder. I climbed over it and got about half way up the trunk when I heard my wife’s voice “they aren’t going to do anything about that boat till it kills someone”. My response was always “I’m not going to leave you a rich widow”. I then made it to the upper level and told someone up there I was the last man alive out of control. Funny thing was, Tony Silvia was behind me coming out of the hatch and he had the connection of an EAB in his hand. Tony was in distress. On the other end was Bob Bordelon. Shawn Glappa dropped down to the nav level and was attempting to push Bob up. I had hold of his “poopy suit” at the collar. None of the three of us was able to pull Bob up. Bob was not a big guy, but our strength was just sapped. I can still hear the sound of his body tumbling down the trunk.
Tony was taken off from the fairwater planes by helo. I ended up on the aft deck just past the sail. When the boat would go down in the wave, it would lift us up and when the boat would come back up, we would scramble back to the center and attempt to hold onto the safety track and each other.
When it was my turn to go, I go up, went to the side of the sail and threw my new sneakers into the water. When the lifeboat got close and the boat was up and going down, I jumped on top of the raft and pulled myself inside. The next 2 hours were some of the worst in my life. I was seasick and the only place I could throw up was to unzip my poopy suit and throw up into it. I was by a hatch but couldn’t lean out. I remember just wanting to close my eyes and sleep. TMC Blackburn grabbed my hand and told me I could close my eyes, but I had to occasionally squeeze his hand to let him know I was still alive. I appreciated that. After a while, a diver came to the hatch and we were taken out one by one to a helicopter. I remember when I was in the water with the guy holding me, telling me what was going to happen, I threw up on him [ed: I suspect this was the wet crewman from the HSL-44 helo, AW Brian Hendrix]. To his credit, he just washed it off and kept going. He later ended up on the Kennedy on a makeshift bed next to me. He had rescued about twice the number of people he was supposed to.
From the helo, I was deposited on the Carr and I remember a gung ho corpsman (he had just finished a tour with the marines) [ed: HMC(SW) Mentzer – a superior HMC!] came up to me. All I wanted was to get horizontal. They took my clothes and gave me a dry poopy suit and I lay down. I got an IV and then transferred me to the Kennedy. When the chopper started to take off, the door was open, I was strapped into a stretcher and the stretcher moved. I grabbed the post holding the seats and held on for dear life.

While aboard the Kennedy, they had a fire. I remember having trouble getting to sleep (couldn’t breathe well and throat was sore). On the CCTV was a Captains mast when the fire alarm went off. No one moved. I questioned what I was to do and they told me to go to bed, the fire department will take care of it.

The next day, we go on a helo and were taken to the hospital. En-route, I was allowed to put on a harness and look out the open door. It was cool.

Once at the hospital, they did triage and it was determined that I had pretty extensive smoke inhalation. I ended up on oxygen and albuteral. I was finally able to get in touch with my wife and family. Maybe another time I will tell you what she went through during all this. Suffice it to say, squadron was very unprepared for something like this to happen.

I was discharged a few days later and went home.

There were some definite heroes that day:
Lt. Everts – For getting the ship safely to PD and the surface.
Tony Silvia – For trying to save Bob Bordelons life.
??? Ledbetter – For jumping in and getting the life rafts to the boat when they were dropped off.
Rescue swimmers – For going above and beyond.
Jim Yates – For telling squadron about the hatches -though they shut him down on this.

A Night at the Roxbury video

TMC ??? – Who tried like hell to get squadron to allow the hatches to be inspected.
Lt. Ellsworth – For getting up there and getting the hatch open.

If you haven’t read that entire comment thread, then you’re missing some other first person info, too.

Jim Chapman loaned me the December 1988 Approach magazine, which his parents had saved all these years, so I could scan two articles, one by the SH-3 Helo pilot, CDR Waickwicz (later ADM), and the other by Jim. Click on the cover picture below to get to the .pdf of those pages from Approach.

Well done, LT Ray Everts.  Rest in peace.

Other shipmates of the BONEFISH crew who were lost 4/24/2009 were:

YN3(SS) Marshall Lindgren, USN and RM1(SS) Robert W. Bordelon, Jr, USN

If anyone has any info regarding this disaster, particularly on the salvage operations, please leave a comment and let me know how to contact you.

Category: Public Service | 7 Comments »

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