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Guest Air1

USN Memories

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On a visit to the Saratoga around 1964 or earlier.., one pilot put me in his Skyhawk and shut the canopy over me---the space was so small, I got the impression I could not move. I will never forget those A-4s on the deck of Sara, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Forrestal, and even the Shangri-La, that I visited as a kid. The American carriers used to come to Piraeus Harbour very often and I would just take the train and go to the Fleet lannding and ask the sailors or officers going back to the carrier on the launch if they would take me aboard---by the 2nd or 3rd try, someone would take take me for a tour...In those days, when each carrier released 28oo sailors on liberty, the people of Piraeus made money by the sackload in 3-4 days--from bars to hotels to girls for the sailors, etc...The sailors would also come to Athens center, and spend a lot of money there too. Also, in those days, the carriers had Skyraiders and Crusaders and Demons, and later, the first Phantoms.The crusader, seeing it for real and not from pictures, had the best shape... No plastic model or photo ever managed to capture that quality of its lines...The Demon was awe-inspiring, sitting high, and got first place as far as look-at-it time was dedicated by visitors to the deck. Once, I was taken below decks and my guide sailor showed me a workspace where they had some sort of long, rectangular water bin made of of metal where they used to wash cartridge or empty shells recuperated from some gunpod--it was a mechanical contraption that had water jets running and parts for holding and moving the shells....I had also seen Zuni rocket pods at the time...Sometimes there were basketball games going on in the hangar bay between the carrier's teram and the local Piraeus team, the latter losing each time..And all vistors were buying zippos and American cigarettes like crazy--treasured commodities at the time. (I bought my first zippo lighter 2 weeks ago--many years late...and it has the USN wings on it).I had no camera then, though my father was a professional photographer and used to earn his living enlarging and decreasing the size of topographical plans and architectural plans to scale, from black and white negatives, with a cammera he had made himself moving up and down on a screw post and projecting on the floor, to a size of 70 by 100cm. I used to help him developing the large plans in the chemicals bin, and we would hang them to dry with clothespins on a string strung across the two oppoiste walls of his lab--a space about 20 by 15 feet large. That little workshop earned him enough money for us to buy our own apartment and move off the rent situation.When I got home, and even on the motor boat going back to shore after each visit,and somehow realizing in my kid's mind that I had seen something important, I would try to remember and sketch the Squadron insignias I had seen on board,lest I forget, using colors at home later and improving on them from memory...I distinctly remember having sketched a smoking lion with a cigar puffing a cloud of smoke of smoke upwards (a Vigilante Sqn), the top hat of VF-14, Felix the cat of the VF-31, and a weird looking insignia of VF-41 of a devilish looking creature, which I found again now in my books and will use in a Demon repaint...

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Love your story. I was in the USAF stationed at Korat Royal Thi AFB when this A6 stopped by. You can see that all the "Mir" (multible ejector racks) are empty. I don't remember the reason for the visit but it was unusal to see a Navy aircraft on the flightline. We operated F-105's and EC-121's at the time. A

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