Stories and Rememberances
are stories told by men who where there. These are events that
can haunt or bring pride for the effort that was accomplished.
By any stretch of the imagination, these are human stories.
also Oddities Page and
Captain Bustard Makes a Bet
is one story, or incident, that was mentioned by many of our
shipmates at the 2002 King reunion. The incident with the loss
of the pilot from the carrier Oriskany still sticks in a lot
of peoples minds.
December of 1961 we were on operations with the Oriskany. During
daylight flight-ops a pilot had a flame-out and had to ditch
his plane. The pilot ejected and landed in the water with no
apparent problem. Then a series of instances occurred that caused
the problems that resulted in the loss of the pilot. The pilot
did not, I repeat did not, disengage himself from his parachute
nor did he take his helmet off. He was floating in the water
with his life jacket inflated. The King had approached the pilot
for pick up and the ship backed down in the water and shut off
the propellers. As the pilot drifted toward the King it was
noted that his chute was floating toward the ship and was going
under water. Still the pilot did not disengage his chute!
I was a radioman, and not an engineman, I can only repeat that
I heard later that the chute was being sucked under the water
by the Main Intakes and the pilot was being dragged closer to
the ship. Grappling hooks were being thrown over to try and
grab the chute, but, none of this worked. Then shipmates went
into the water, wearing life jackets, and tried to grab the
chute but the life jackets prevented them from going under water
after the chute harness cords. Still the pilot did not disengage
his chute harness.
was on the bridge with the Captain and I said that we needed
someone in the water without a life jacket so the swimmer
get under water and try to cut the cords of the chute. Capt.
Bustard agreed and I grabbed a knife from one of the signalmen
and jumped off of the O-1 level into the water. The pilot
now next to the ship where a ladder had been thrown over the
side, and the pilot was actually being drawn under and was
on to the ladder. I managed to cut about half of the chute
cords and then, and this I will never forget, the pilot said "don"t
let me drown kid". I said I was doing all that I could but
then the pressure of the chute pulling was too great and the
started going under the ship. Afterwards I had finger nail
scrapes on my body from the pilot trying to grab me.
the incident, approximately two months later, we were shown
how to hit a chute harness in the middle of the pilots chest
and this would disengage the harness from the pilot. To this
day I do not know why the pilot did not get rid of the chute.
There was little said about my efforts to save the pilot until
the reunion and I'll bet five or six guys talked to me about
I will never forget the accident nor will I ever believe that
the loss of the pilot was a problem with the way the King performed
in the rescue operation.
Mike "Shags" Shagena
King had a neat routine for downed pilots. When our helo
them back to the ship, upon landing I took a picture of them
egressing the helo, then he was met by the Corpsman, Supply
Officer and Stewardsmates that would escort him up to sick
The Supply Officer took his flight suit and all undergarments,
the Stewards too his flight boots and helmet. As soon as
pilot was checked over, he was given a bath robe and escorted
to the wardroom for a steak dinner with all the trimmings.
time he finished that, his clothing had been washed and pressed,
his boots and helmet dried and polished, and before he climbed
back aboard the helo for the trip back to the carrier, I
him an 8 X 10 picture of himself. No kidding, one time I was
listening to the radio to a pilot that was going down, the
gave him a course to the closest SAR Ship, and his response
was " the hell with that, I want a Course to Buccaneer,
I want my steak".