|Here is a place for everyone to record the memorable deeds of heroism and courage so common in the annals of the history of VS-29. Unfortunately Beard never had any, so he had to start this page off with some memories that at least were a little uncommon. Hopefully these pitiful stories will prompt (and shame) people to submit more significant tales, so these can be deleted. Warning - If no one submits any good war stories he will post some even more inglorious memories, like how he got kicked out of VT-4 (to VT-2) before his first flight, or the rainy night he got 6 bolters and 3 wave offs before he got the necessary 6 traps!|
Lt. Elmer Beardshall
|My first connection to VS-29 was being SOA (senior officer
ashore) while in VS-41, and for several weeks after finishing VS-41,
waiting for the squadron to return from the 62 cruise. This was my
first and only USN command, and consisted of one Ltjg (me), one
ensign (Melancon), two enlisted, and half an empty, dirty, hangar.
We reported to (and I was copilot for while in VS-41) the incoming
CVSG-53 commander (CAG). He directed us to get everything in shape for the
squadron in our spare time. We did a lot of sweeping, requisitioning
furniture, a car, a truck, etc. I got a letter from CAG which I
used to shortcut the bureaucracy. I remember one commander warning
me that he found it hard to believe that a jg could be so ignorant
of proper procedures and the letter would come back to haunt me.
Unfortunately CAG was killed in a helicopter crash a few days before
the air group returned.
We cleaned up the spaces, did some painting, and set up the phantom squadron. We had all the furniture arranged the way we visualized the squadron would want it, welcome banner up, etc. The planes finally flew in. We looked forward to turning over the keys and responsibility. But after some salutes, handshakes, and milling around we shortly found ourselves still in charge, and now officially on watch for the weekend, with 13 planes to keep an eye on also.
But at least I was checking in at the same time as an Ensign, so I was sure I would not get stuck with being mess officer, right? Wrong! They gave Melancon the assignment to go out and buy a used trombone and clean it up, which probably took him half a day one weekend. I was mess officer for a year!
Lt. Elmer Beardshall
|Take this story with a grain of salt. I definitely don't believe
it could be true. I told this story to John Wurth at the 2006
reunion and he told me I was no longer his friend!
One weekend (I think it was a Sunday) I was Squadron Duty Officer (SDO), and all alone in the hangar except for the line watch.
There was some kind of a readiness report that the SDO called in to ComFairSanDiego weekly or daily (?). It was cryptic, something like "Alpha - 13 (planes mission ready), Bravo - 2 (planes that could fly but were not 100% mission ready), Charlie - 130 (personnel assigned), Delta - 18 (personnel on leave, in school, TAD, etc) and so on. I think the various department heads prepared the report and left it for the duty officer to call in.
Long before the report was due to be called in, I got a call from the CFSD duty officer about a change in the reporting procedure. They were moving to a new control center and there was a new phone number to call. The new procedure would start the next day (or week?). He had picked out a half dozen duty officers to help him spread the word about the new procedure. He sent me (via messenger?) a list of about 30 commands to call and brief on the new procedure. So all afternoon I sat and read the script to duty officers all over North Island and even some ships. It took quite a few calls to catch them all at their phone and brief them. By the time I finished, I had the script down cold, memorized. Soon it was time to call in the report, each DO had a 5 minute window to call in. The person receiving the report seemed startled and had trouble copying the data. I could hear people shouting in the background. He kept trying to ask questions so I knew he did not know what was going on, and told him to just listen and write it down. This was strange as usually they were very professional. As soon as I hung up, I realized that I had used the new procedure, which was not supposed to start until the next day. So I immediately picked the phone back up and did it correctly, still within my time slot.
I did not think anything further about it until I began to hear stories the next day (I forget how, but I suspect from black shoe friends in my apartment complex). According to the stories, CFSD had gotten a call from an unidentified source (this was before the days of caller id), maybe the pentagon, maybe PacFlt, in a code the duty officer had trouble interpreting, which had sent them into a panic. They thought it was probably a drill to test their readiness. They put some shore units on alert (they did not call me) and actually scrambled every Navy ship in SD and ordered them to clear the harbor immediately. Most of the ships had about 25% of their crews on board. Ensigns and jgs were getting ships underway. Some ship captains made it back, but some stood on the dock and watched Ltjg Newguy go past in their command. Some anchors were jettisoned and had to be retrieved later with divers. Many ships never got underway before it was called off, but some made it out of the harbor. Some ships never got the word to pull out. It was chaos. No one was killed, and no ship was damaged that I know of.
There was a huge stink about how unprepared some ships were to carry out the drill. My black shoe friends talked about the episode for weeks. All kinds of communication channels were changed and procedures were updated.
I of course found it hard to believe that I had anything to do with it. In hindsight I should have immediately called CFSD back and told them I had called the wrong number. But I was more concerned to get the report in on time to the correct number (you had to keep trying till the line was not busy). But if the gendarmes had shown up the next day I would have not been surprised, and organized my loose ends to turn over to someone before my sudden departure. I never did hear who had really initiated the drill.
Lt. Elmer Beardshall
|My best chewing out: On the 64 cruise one of the exercises we
did was a demo for the heads of all the SEATO countries. All the
elements of a task force exhibited their tools and weapons. There
was a CVA, a CVS, a submarine, and all the support ships. We demoed
all our ordnance, sonobouys, and even dropped 500 lb bombs. VS -29
had 4 planes in the VS demo, and since I was the junior plane
commander, was in the #4 position. After we made our final bomb run
along side the CVA I was supposed to break out of line, do a 270,
and make a searchlight run on the grandstand the dignitaries were
sitting in on the flight deck. The first practice was done with the
Kearsarge standing in for the CVA. I felt like I had a license to
steal - buzz the K!. I came around the 270 and went to full rpm and
power. The ship was making good speed, moving from our right to the
left. I was eyeball to eyeball with everyone on the flight deck so
they could see the searchlight. Remember the S-2 had a spoiler,
which was used to dump some lift when you rolled, and if you did not
compensate you naturally lost a little altitude as you rotated
around the wingtip and not the fuselage. I knew this but the
deckhands did not. I planned to roll left until my wings were
parallel to the front of the island, which would put me slightly
below the flight deck, and pull just hard enough to clear the deck
and then the whip antennae on the island. It worked perfectly, and I
chuckled as all the deck crew dove to a prone position as we went
overhead. I was a little surprised at how hard I had to pull to
clear everything. My copilot said the short prayer he used on
all special occasions, "Jesus!".
During the debrief we were surprised to see the Admiral's Chief of Staff, a Captain, come in. We all jumped up as the SDO ordered attention on deck. He dispensed with all pleasantries and left us at attention, asking in a very loud stern tone "Who did the searchlight demo?". "Lt. Beardshall, Sir!" "If you ever pull a stunt like that again, you'll walk off this ship in the next port, and you'll never fly in this man's navy again!" (Exit and door slams). Cdr. Huff turns to me and asks, "What was that all about?". I shrugged. Snickers came from the cheap seats in the back. Later Cdr. Huff told me I owed the Admiral a new pair of dress khaki trousers, as he had ruined a pair (and bloodied his knee) when he dove off the high chair on his bridge. My next practice run was a little higher. P.S.: I had never actually dropped a 500 lb bombs before and it was an eye opener. We were probably way too low, and too close nose to tail. When the first bomb went off there was a plume of water (and presumably shrapnel?) at least 4 times as tall as our altitude, and horizon to horizon. Planes 2, 3, and 4 scattered like leaves. I flew through at least two of the bursts and have no idea where I dropped my bomb as I was IFR at the time.