I obtained the original copy of this article when I was at Cam Ranh Bay in 1971. To say the least, it became and entertaining article around the company. I have inserted the headline and the article for your viewing pleasure. I am sure any of you fellow Crazy Cat members will deny any knowledge of such happenings.
By BRENT PROCTER
Copyright 1971 by The Overseas Weekly
CAM RANH BAY, South Vietnam - U.S. warplanes have been engaged in highly classified missions in Southeast Asia as long as the Indochina conflagration has been notching up endurance records, and the Army's 1st Radio Research Company's P2 Neptunes continue to fly hush-hush sorties. But none of the activities of the "Crazy Cats," as the outfit is otherwise known, has been kept more secret than their boondoggles to the Phillppines.
To be sure, there's an official explanation as to why each of the 1st RR Co's 13 twin-engined Neptunes must make one trip a month to Sangley Point, about 25 miles from the capital city of Manila.
|"We take the planes there to be washed," explained one officer.
"The water in the Phillippines is better," the officer continued. "Here at Cam Ranh, the water contains corrosive chemicals. That's why the birds are taken to the PI. Costs Uncle Sam $35 bucks a wash. That's pretty cheap, Don't you think?"
Has anybody ever ordered a chemical analysis of the airplane washing water at Cam Ranh? "Not to my knowledge," the officer replied. "Nobody wants to."
The bird bath sounded reasonably priced at $35. How long did it take for a P2 Neptune to have a dip? "Three days," came the response. "Sometimes loinger, say if there's engine trouble. Eleven days have been the most."
Probing further, OW learned that flying the P2 Neptunes costs the American taxpayer around $800 a hour. And, since it takes three hours each way to Sangley Point, the tab for one "uncontaminated" water wash increases to a shocking $4,835!
How long has this been going on? "Since the unit came here in 1967," the officer told OW.
In fact, OW learned, the wetdown flights to the Phillippines have been going on for so long that nobody bothers to question their legality. And, as any serviceman knows, once a regulation is bent a little, it can easily be twisted some more - which is what happened with the P2 Neptunes and the "Crazy Cats" of the 1st RR Co, 224th Avn Bn, 509th Radio Research Gp, United States Army.
Impeccable sources at the 1st RR Co related to OW that not only were the wash runs to Sangley Point a shady fringe benefit for hard-working air crews, but the brass cashed in on the bandwagon long ago.
"The P2 is not authorized to carry passengers and, according to the book, there's only supposed to be a crew of four aboard when we go on wash runs to the PI (Philippines Islands)," explained one pilot. "Would you believe that for as long as I've been with the First RR Company every bird going to Sangley has had up to 13 passengers aboard?"
Earlier this year, a hitch developed in the system and there was a clampdown for two months. The three-day-plus R&Rs had gotten out of hand and were suspended. But on March 11, the "Crazy Cats" battalion commander, Lt Col Robert L. Swanson, withdrew all objections in a policy letter and Neptune rides again flourished to the Phillippines."This headquarters is again going to institute PI trips for selected individuals from each battalion," Swanson announced in his edict.
"In order to prevent any embarrassing situation from arising," Swanson continued, "the following guidelines are provided."
The guidelines stated that "deserving individuals" would get first preference for seats provided they had been "three months in-country," and that there was only to be "one trip per individual." Civilians, Swanson ruled, were "no eligible" for the highly irregular vacations.
A clearly-worded preface to Neptune flight manifest to Sangley Point states that everyone aboard is on specific "official 1st RR Co business." Yet, in his March 11 policy letter, Swanson said this:
"Travel orders will be published by the 224th Bn. Individuals will pick up their orders at the 1st RR Co, Cam Ranh Bay."
In view of the passenger manifest heading about "official company business," wouldn't the travel orders be bogus, and therefore illegal?
"They're official as far as the colonel is concerned," said a pilot. But what are they official for? "You don't even have to be a member of the 509th Group. All you've gotta be is in with the in-crowd."
The practice of flips to the Philippines became so blatant that in the May issue of the battalion's official publication, Ringer, a one-paragraph story on Page 6 had this to say:
"Numerous personnel of the unit, including Sfc Clayton C. Willsey, Sp4 William L. Harding and Pfc John R. Stonesypher, have been able to make threeday trips to the PI. Transport for these trips is provided by the 1st RR Co, Cam Ranh Bay. All concerned, especially Sfc Willsey, report having a great time in the PI. The friendly courteous attitude of members of the 1st RR Co also contributed to the enjoyment of the R&R."
There's no doubt in anyone's mind at the 1st RR Co that Swanson's policy letter got the organized pleasure piracy of P2 Neptures down to an even finer art.
"We used to take civilians," said a captain. "Now we don't." So manifests to Sangley Point will no longer read like the manuscript of Sept. 27, 1970, when two civilians, "A. C. Brow" and "George Miller (GS13s)" joined three staff sergeants, four Speedy Fives and Speedy Fours along with a full bull on that particular mission. The bird was listed as "Colonel Joseph F. Dougherty," and in the section marked for identification, Dougherty was put down as being a member of "operations."
Showing OW a photocopy of the Sept. 27 manifest, a 1st RR Co officer noted: "The company operations officer is usually a captain, but on this occasion he was a full colonel. Explain that!"
And, in complete accordance with battalion boss Swanson's new ground rules " to prevent any embarrassing situation from arising," no female entertainer friends of the 509th Radio Research Gp's higherups are entitled to naughty trips to the Philippines.
Two pilots gave an example of brass frolics with the fair sex, saying that during July of August last year, an attractive booking agent from Saigon was smuggled to Sangley Point without going through any Vietnamese customs or immigration formalities "because her passport had been seized by the authorities in Saigon."
But she went to the Philippines nonetheless.
However, the two pilots continued, when the femme fatale was boarding her Neptune flight to return to Cam Ranh Bay, "a Navy captain saw her and wanted to know what the hell she was doing on a military airplane, and ordered her off the base."
What happened to the damsel in distress? "They had to send a special mission down to pick her up," the pilots said. "Man, there were some red faces around here, I can tell you They managed to stop it getting out, though."
These days, however, life at the 1st RR Co isn't spiked with such amorous adventures as rescuing stranded pussy from the Philippines. Instead, circumstances have taken plunges for the worst and the "Crazy Cats" at Cam Ranh Bay are perhaps now better described as "Embittered Cats."
The backdrop to the plight of the 270-man strong company is the Milo Mindbender Philippines "three-day f --- off flights"; the central figure is one junior office and his long fight for justice.
Next week OW will tell this man's painful story and why onetime 1st RR Co clerk, former Sp4 William B. Lewis, feels dutybound "as a citizen of the United States" to initiate a Congressional investigation to expose a history of brass bungling, abuse of authority, coverups of suspect activities and, most of all, to ask why 1st Lt John Fruin Ward Jr. is their scapegoat.