Sunday, June 13, 2010

More Rains and Looking Back at Dover AFB 1968-69


The 15th annual Ottawa Run American Legion Baseball Tournament came to an abrupt end last night. My young veteran umpiring partner, Jason, and I were in our second game of the evening session(and his 4th of the day) when the loudspeaker cracked a warning from the press box that heavy rains, wind, hail, and lightning were heading for Ottawa. The announcer advised folks to leave if they wanted, or to take shelter in the block and concert swimming pool building. We finished up the 3rd inning of our game and delayed the contest....a good move, because the storms came, big time.

Another day of heavy rains for the Midwest in general, and our area of Western Ohio, finished off the tournament...diamonds to wet to get back to baseball today, so the rest of the the schedule has been cancelled, and we are finished. In addition to baseball, the adjacent park had a festival going on, and the Ottawa Police had to come and make sure that activity was cleared out as well....Jason, I, and another couple, along with 2 from the Ottawa PD waited out the storm...and I finally headed south towards Celina about 9:45....arriving home as the fast moving storms ended, at about 11pm. The weather before the storms had been hot and very humid, setting the stage for the storms that followed.

Tonight and tomorrow, as well as probably Tuesday look wet and wild...the late Spring from Hell(weather wise) continues unabated.
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Dover AFB, Delaware______

I have written many times about my experience with the Air Force Security Police in Vietnam, first at Nha Trang, then at Saigon(Tan Son Nhut)....but not so much from my days leading up to the Summer Vietnam trip, when I was stationed at Dover, Delaware...or my last 2 years in the AF at Griffiss AFB in Rome, New York. The call from my old roommate, Jack Gates, got me to thinking about some of those days...the photos he and his wife sent me last night helped spark some old memories.

I arrived at Dover after spending the summer of 1968 in Texas. First at Amarillo for Air Force Basic Training, then following that up with a couple of months training to become a Air Force Cop...Air Police that was changed to Security Police sometime in early 1968. I arrived at Dover, green as grass, a 19 year old SP assigned to Security at the MAC Base not far from the Atlantic Ocean, in the home state of my mom, who although born in Pennsylvania, considered Wilmington, Delaware, her home...having grown up there during the Depression and World War II years. Since her brother, my Uncle Bill DeVore, and his family still lived in Wilmington, that would give me a place to visit on my days off, and I took full advantage of that, getting off the base as often as I could, by heading the 5o miles or so north to stay with them.

My time at base security was usually spent guarding the "Mounds" ...a stock pile of Nuclear Weapons surrounded by concussion mounds for protection, which was the job of the 416th SPS to provide security protection...a thankless job spent in the cold and snow of the winter of 1968-69, along with a prick of a Tech Sergent named Jack Adkins, that convinced me to volunteer for Southeast Asia early in 1969.

When I first arrived at Dover, I was assigned a room with a kid from Virginia named Robert W. Little the 3rd...Bob was, or at least maintained, he was a child of privilege. We got along, but his pension for neatness and me being clean but not as much as a neat freak led me to hooking up with the old man of the Squadron, 23 year old Jack Richard Gates...and moving in to the room with him. 2 men to each room was the story with the 436th...and Jack and I remained roomies until I headed back to Lackland for AZR School in Spring and Summer of 1969...next stop Vietnam. I headed over in late June of 69, Jack would follow in September, he was assigned at first to the 366th Combat Security Police Sq. As mentioned in last weeks story on Jack, we would meet up one time in Saigon in the Spring of 1970...that would be our last contact until late last week.

There were other caricatures at Dover....Lippencotte, Walsh, Pritchard, Turcotte, Hochendoner, and a few dozen others...these guys I got along with, others, not so much. There are always cliques in Military Squadrons, and Dover was no exception....Jack Gates and I were pretty much a Clique of 2...although we did hang around with Pritch, Turcotte, and even Bob Little...I believe all of the above mentioned ended up in Vietnam....Walsh near Nha Trang an Hon Tre Island, the rest, other than Gates, I'm not positive....I know not what happened to any of the others beside Steve Walsh who lives in Florida, and Bill Hochendoner, who was murdered nearly 40 years ago near Pittsburgh by his girlfriend's ex-husband....A long story that I found out from some of his friends I met at a Bengals-Steelers football game some 20 years after the fact.

Dover had it's moments.... and I'm glad I found Walsh in Florida, and that Jack Gates contacted me, but when I left Dover for Vietnam, it was probably the highlight of my Air Force days....I hated the base, the duties, and especially a couple of my supervisors...I was glad to get the Hell out. It was the worst assignment of all those I had, despite the good time off duty and the friends I made.

When I left Dover and headed for Nha Trang, my life and me as a person would change forever....I got a dose of reality and a chip on my shoulder, I would no longer be the kid that backed down, that was no longer in my makeup, and still isn't, even today...I thank the days and time spent at Dover for that.
back later>>>>
Photos-Thanking Jack "Richard" Gates and his wife Lisa for the photos, except the one with me guarding the "Mounds" which is from my collection...top left: Robert W. Little III, Howie Prichard, and Jack R Gates...(2)Jack Gates and Pat Houseworth, (3)Pat at the Mounds,(4) Gates and Ron Turcotte,(5) and Jack R. Gates at his gateshack at DaNang AB, RVN in 1969.

3 comments:

Sarge Charlie said...

I am sure that old Jack Gates waved me through the DaNang Air Base I was there for 3 months in late 1969.

Shrinky said...

You look so young and tender there - so sad you had to grow up so fast, it just doesn't seem right.

Hope the rains are letting up.

PRH....... said...

I'm sure he probably did Sarge....worked the gates at Nha Trang, pretty boring duty, I much preferred Jeep Patrol, you could hide out from the Brass...

Yep, Shrinky, young but not so tender :) As far as the rains? At least a couple more days...sigh!