Reunion in Pensacola went well and was attended by 56 TOMCATS, wives
and guests. The Hilton Gardens Inn was a gracious host and did an
outstanding job in handling our daily needs and covering the banquet
on Saturday night.
Everyone showed up by Wednesday and we all prepared for our trip to the Naval Air Museum on Thursday morning. At the museum we were escorted by none other than a former TOMCAT pilot Col. Dick Upchurch who was an A-4 driver from 1969. How’s that for a guide? Terry Tiernan remembered him and recalled Dick’s name being stenciled below the cockpit on the Skyhawk. A small reunion in of itself. Of course, the Naval Air Museum is a must when visiting Pensacola. (Fred Townsley remembers that Maj. Upchurch assigned him to VMA-311 when he checked into MAG-12 in Sept 1969.)
Friday we toured the city of Pensacola and stopped off at Veteran’s Park to conduct our memorial service at the Marine Corp Aviation Bell Tower. Tom McKean, who owns and operates Beach Bum trolleys, worked overtime in lining us up a Marine Honor Guard and bugler from the NAS. Everything went really well with Cecil Cheeka doing the service. We honored those of our VMF/VMA-311 family who have passed since last reunion. We finished off Friday with a stop at McGuire’s Irish Pub which is also a must see when visiting Pensacola. They indicate that there is a a million signed one dollar bills hanging from the ceiling and walls. Quite a site. If you go to McGuire’s make sure to take an appetite.
auction went well on Friday night. As always, Jim Davis and Ralphie
Reed, our auctioneers, did a performance worthy of an Oscar. We
raised enough money to keep the group afloat and continue to support
the VMA-311 Family Support Group out in Yuma. Did I mention that our
auctioneers can sell anything? Well, they can!!
was our business meeting in the hospitality room. With the exception
of our webmaster, Fred Townsley, the officers remained the same.
Another 311 alumni, Dave Gonzalez (2000) has indicated that he would
be willing to take over management of the web site so we will be
making that change in the coming year.
Some of our group signed on for the dolphin tour on Saturday afternoon but got into some rainy weather although I guess some of them got out on the bay. Only the second day we have been rained on in nine reunions.
Saturday evening was our banquet. We deviated from our normal sit down dinner to try a buffet style dinner. Everyone seemed to think that the buffet went over really well. Guests were satisfied with the selections and the fact that they could try a little of everything with there being more than enough food to satisfy the big eaters. The buffet might be a keeper. Not only that, the buffet ran less money per person.
Between the tour on Friday and the auction Friday night we loaned out our hospitality room to an author, Jeanette Vaughn, who was promoting her new book “ETERNALLY AT WAR” which highlights the life, service and PTSD problems of Capt. Robert G. Lathrop (1968-69). The book signing was supposed to draw media attention and other 311 pilots for which she really decorated our hospitality room and put out some food and drink. Bob Scar, Jerry Holleran and Bill Leese opened the ceremonies by presenting the colors and reading the introductions. I felt bad for her because I’m sure that our group was the only ones in attendance. I think pretty much everyone did end up buying the book and also some others that she had authored including another book of poetry by Capt. Lathrop entitled “The Far Side of Darkness”. Jeanette graciously donated a number of books to the auction and left all the décor up for our banquet. She was also our impromptu guest speaker on Saturday night. Her books may be purchased through Amazon or contact www.ageviewpress.com A number of alumni from our group are mentioned in her book.
Side note from the banquet: Greg Cain (1970-71) Para Rigger/ Seat Shop somehow was reassigned when in Vietnam to be a Combat Photographer. Not serving in a combat capacity he did however take a multitude of pictures. One of those pictures was of Capt. Bob Scar shaking hands with the C.O commemorating him flying the squadron’s 45,000 combat sortie. This was Greg’s first reunion so what are the odds of him carrying that photo to the reunion? So Greg finds a place that will do a quickie silk screen to which he makes a T-shirt with the photo on back. He presented it with the adage “I was there, I did it, I have a t-shirt to prove it”. That was great! Greg also took a couple hundred pictures at the reunion and I think Fred may have put them on the web site. But if you contact Greg at email@example.com I’m sure he’ll send you the link. I have it also and I can send it to you.
Side note to “Eternally at War”: A number of 311 Marines were interviewed and interwoven into the book. My personal contribution is on the bottom of the first page which I endorse the book. In reality I did not read anything except my own input which shows up in chapter 13. To set my story into light. I don’t remember ever sitting down with an officer and having a drink, seeing any USO or USO girls, slot machines or dominoes on the table. My thoughts about the death of Capt. Porterfield are essentially true to text. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about that launch. The rest, well, I guess in book writing there must be allowed a certain amount of literary license afforded the author. One other point . Supposedly Capt. Lathrop mentions that that was a “useless war” to which I agreed. I would have never agreed with that. Still don’t agree with that. All that aside, the book is a good read. In my opinion, a tragic story.
…..TO CHATTANOOGA, TN 2018!
At the business meeting the attendees choose and vote for the site of the next reunion. Numerous cities were nominated and we voted to return to the great city of Chattanooga. Boston, by a couple votes, ran a close second. We held reunion 2008 in Chattanooga at the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel and they were very gracious hosts and everyone had a great time. The city promotes cleanliness, a free trolley that takes you anywhere in town, a beautiful aquarium, numerous night spots and museums, civil war tours, Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls, Manassas is close by. There are many things to do and see including an authentic English Tea House where you can eat cucumber sandwiches along with Tea and Crumpets. There is also a great steak house next to the hotel.
Next year we’ll head on down to Chattanooga and check out a few hotels to see who can give us the most bang for our buck. Usually we look at three and decide after we’ve done the site inspections. I have already notified the CVB and the Choo Choo and warned them that the TOMCAT invasion is on its way in 2018.
wrapped up reunion 2016 on a good note and extend our thanks to all
who attended and helped make it a success. We look forward to seeing
everyone again in 2018. Join us if you can. You’ll have a great
donations were made prior to or right after the reunion.
Ed Stepnowski (66) Naples, FL:
Morris and Millie Liebhaber (1943) Bronx, NY:
Tom Griffiths (64-66) Del Mar, CA:
Ray Eckseth (69-70) Hampton, SC:
Jerry Bradley (64-66) St. Peters, MO:
Ken Urban E. Durham, NY. Thanks Marines!
LOST IN THE MAILS…
DON ECKHARDT LKA Ocala, FL
ERNEST GILBERT LKA Brunswick, GA
DAVE ROSOWSKI LKA Yulee, FL
BILL SMOREY LKA Pittsburgh, PA
ALBERT ALBERTELLY VMA-311, Chu Lai, Mechanic. In Florida 2002.
DARREL BJORKLUND General, 2016 in Pensacola.
JOHN GLENN VMF-311, Pilot, Astronaut, US Senator, Korea. In Ohio 2016.
RYAN LeJEUNE VMA-311, Ordnance, 2016.
GEORGE ZABOROWSKI VMF-311, Roi-Namur, 1943, Transportation. In Ohio 2016
ADDRESS, PHONE AND EMAIL CHANGES…
ANDY ANDERSON 405 SE 13th Ave., Apt 172, Aledo, IL 61231-2014
HOLLERAN 15738 12th
Road, Whitestone, NY 11357
KELLY 3896 Wakefield Hall Square SE, Smyrna, GA 30080
SIMMONS 121 e. Paseo Chuparosas, Green Valley, AZ 85614
SCOTT 4408 Colby Ave, Everett, WA 98203
KOTMEL 216-407-7947 (C)
LOVELESS 319-389-1444 (C)
PARKER 801-725-6134 (C)
DAVID GONZALEZ 860 Brodie Lane apt 238, Austin, TX 78745
2010-11, Para Rigger. Dm1988@msn.com
GREG CAIN 134 Countryside Lane, Bessemer, Al 35022
1970-71, Da Nang, Seat Shop
BRUCE SCHWANDA 205 Mizzen Court, Merritt Island, Fl 32953
Pilot, Da Nang
RICHARD HINSHAW 353 Harmony Lane, Lafayette, IN 47909-2855
Chu Lai, Ordnance
TIMOTHY (CARTWRIGHT) HICKS, 222 Miracle Landing Drive, Maryville, Tn
FROM THE TROOPS….
GEORGE SCHRIENER (K-3 Korea), ROSCOE, IL: “My address is still the same as it was last year. However, my activities have slowed down quite a bit. I voluntarily gave up my driver’s license and sold my car in June. This naturally takes away my flexibility and freedom almost entirely. I am now dependent on others to provide this for me. My son, Brad, and I have breakfast once a week on his day off. He drives me around to do my chores, errands and doctor visits. Not driving anymore has certainly made a major dent in my activities calendar. Aside from breakfast with my son on Fridays, I spend the rest of my time at home reading my bible, watching TV and playing Free Cell. Shortly, I will turn my check writing chores over to my son. I have a severe tremor in my right hand, which is quite bothersome and affects my ability to write. I am 87 ½ years young, but as noted above, “senioritis” has slowed me down. My activities are pretty much centered on the facility I am living in. One building contains residential living quarters and the other houses the Health and wellness Center, which is where the exercise facility, swimming pool, and doctor’s offices are located. The non-residential building is part of the Beloit Health and wellness system. I became aware of the possibility that the University of Wisconsin at Madison may buy this building. Time will tell.
You may or may not remember that last year I did not publish a letter or send out Christmas cards. Sorry about that. I hope that you all enjoyed a happy, healthy and safe 2016, and hope that your 2017 will be filled with God’s blessings. Sometime in the next six months, I hope to activate an email address. I will let you know when that occurs. Until then you have my address and phone number. So, in the meantime, please keep in touch.”
SCOTT STRAWSER: “I’m trying to find out information about my uncle Donald B. Messerschmidt who fought in Vietnam and died in 1969. He is buried in Arlington Cemetery and can’t get any records of him through the National Archives. Thought you could please direct me to someone who has information on this war hero in our family. Sadly, not much is known, so anything would be appreciated. He graduated from Annapolis in 1959 and a Master’s degree from Naval Postgraduate school in 1967 (Marines) and was killed 29 July 1969 in a routine training flight in Quantico, VA. His co-pilot was Major Anthony A. Yatske, age 29, who also perished in the crash. Don is buried in Arlington, section 13, grave 9604-1 and was 32 when he died. He was looking forward into the space program with NASA had he lived. (EDITORS NOTE: Evidently, Don Messerschmidt flewA-4s with VMA-311 at Chu Lai. I do not recall the name but as our roster is loaded with alumni from the Chu Lai era maybe some of you may recall seeing him. Any info you can pass on to Scott at (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DAVID GONZALEZ, (VMA-311 2010-11), AUSTIN, TX: “I’m mostly looking to redesign the 311 web site and improve the readability and its features. I have designed a web site for my fraternity here in Texas that includes photo albums, member information, contact information, an about page, and even a member log in. it would be nice to take a lot of the content from the Facebook group and have it available on the web site so the content would be a little bit more permanent.
I know the current web page has some important information for upcoming events such as reunions and this would be an important feature of the web site.
Once the site is available, maintaining it, making edits, and adding content would be fairly easy. I’m not sure what host y’all are using, but I can create web sites using HTML, CCS, Java Script, php, ASP and I also have used MySQL for databases. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Dave has voluntarily agreed to put together a web page for us relieving Fred Townsley. Fred has been doing the web page since the 1996, among his other HAM operations. He is everything on a computer that I am not and that is quite a bit.)
MIKE HEARNE, (VMA-311 63, 65-66), CARMICHAEL, CA: I believe I had told you previously that when the squadrons at Chu Lai that first year mixed up their personnel to enable individuals to PCS back to CONUS. This mixing up personnel to different squadrons allowed the various squadrons to remain as fighting units and remain “in-country” and ship their personnel home when their rotation dates arrived. I was transferred to VMA-211 just down the ramp a ways from VMA-311. So I went from the Fighting Tomcats to the Wake Island Avengers.
I have just learned from my VMA-211 Reunion Assn. that my Maintenance Officer at Chu Lai, a Captain Billy Womack, had passed away. We called him “Captain Billy” but not to his face, and he was a Marine’s Marine as well as being a “mustang”. He was a giant of a man and I would think way too big to fit into the cockpit of an A4E. Captain Billy stayed with the corps and retired as a LTC. I later learned that captain Billy was a school teacher down in Texas. Not sure if that’s correct, might just be “scuttlebutt”. Our fellow shipmates are passing over the “Rainbow Bridge” and reporting to St. Peter. Most of us are in our late 60s and 70s now and the “tide” is an outgoing “tide”.
I cannot get over the habit of always putting E-5 after SGT. Because I served in the corps during the transition period of SGT E-4 to SGT E-5. That was when the CMC changed over from General Pate to General Shoup back in 1959-60. Also, I was there for the transition from the M-1 Garand to the M-14. Lots of changes from the Old corps NCO stripes to the new “crossed rifle” stripes.
with the squadron I was there for the loss of a brave Marine, 1st
Lt. Augustus (Gus) Xavier
was “KIA” while on a bombing run on and around the army special
forces that were being overrun by the Viet Cong and the North
Vietnamese Army. I believe the Maintenance Officer was a Captain
who was my immediate supervisor.”
TERRY TIERNAN (68-69) LETTER FROM DICK UPCHURCH (1969 PILOT): “I was honored to be able to provide a Museum tour to members of my old squadron. We shared a unique experience.
Enclosed are photos of my Skyhawk. One as you remembered it in your letter and the other after the big rocket attack on March 29, 1969. Looking at the effective date of your orders, March 23rd, you almost missed it. A week later I went to Tokyo and ferried a rebuilt A4 back to Chu Lai and soon had my name painted under the canopy rail.
hope all your VMF/VMA-311 gang enjoyed the Museum tour as much as I
enjoyed being their tour guide. I see some of the Chu Lai pilots at
reunions of the Marine Skyhawkers and sometimes they show up at the
museum. Sadly, some were killed in aircraft accidents not long after
they returned to CONUS. Most of us are in our late seventies and
eighties now, so every time we get together the numbers are fewer.”
GREG CAIN, (1970-71), BESSEMER, AL: “I had no idea there was a reunion organization for 311 or I would have been involved long ago. I found it looking for a VMA-311 patch to put on my motorcycle vest. I ride with the Patriot Guard and was updating my leather vest.
During our time at Da Nang I became friends with one of our pilots. Our officer/enlisted friendship was established because both our wives were expecting. Lt. Bernard Plassmeyer was lost on September 11th 1970 and his son was born on September 27th 1970. Over the years I have tried to get information about his child and finally made contact with Lt. Plassmeyer’s aunt who connected me with Carol (LT. Plassmeyer’s widow). We have been communicating occasionally for a while now.
We lost two pilots that month. Lt. John D. Lawson on September 1st and Lt. Plassmeyer on the 11th.
COMMANDING OFFICER, VMA-311, LTC CRAIG E. SCHAFFER.
LTC Schaffer graduated from central Missouri State University in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science degree in aviation Technology and Power technology. In 1998 he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U. S. Marine corps. After completion of Basic School, he proceeded to Naval Air Station Pensacola as a student in the Naval air Training command with a follow-on training at NAS Whiting field and NAS Meridian. He was designated as a Naval Aviator in February 2001.
After earing his wings, he was transferred to VMAT-203 as a student in the AV-8B Fleet replacement Squadron. At the conclusion of the AV-8B Harrier training in 2001, he was assigned to Marine attack Squadron 311 (VMA-311).
He held a variety of billets within the VMA-311 operations department. In 2003, he deployed as a member of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and participated in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH and Operation IRAQUI FREEDOM. Upon his return from deployment he attended Weapons and Tactics Instructors course and served as the squadron WTI. In 2005 he deployed again as the Operations Officer for Det 1 of the 31st MEU.
In 2006 he reported to 3rd battalion, 7th Marines where he served as battalion Assistant Operations Officer, Battalion Air Officer and the 7th Marines RBE Air Officer. In 2007 he deployed to Ramadi, Iraq in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
At the conclusion of his Air Officer tour, in 2007, he transferred to Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 where he served as Administrative Officer and Maintenance Officer.
In 2010 he was assigned to VMA-214 and worked as Assistant Operations Officer, Maintenance Officer, and Operations Officer. In 2010, he deployed as the Detachment Officer-in-Charge for the 11th MEU.
In 2012, he attended the Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Upon completion of resident school, he was transferred back to Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 to serve as their Executive Officer.
In June 2015, he was assigned to MAG-13 Headquarters where he served as the director of Safety and Standardization.
His personal decorations include Air Medal with 4 Strike Flight Awards. Navy Commendation with four gold stars, and Navy Achievement Medal, selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal and numerous unit awards.
WRAPPING THINGS UP
Searching my subway conscious mind I find that I indeed remember some women in Chu Lai. There were some Vietnamese women who worked at the PX and did other jobs around the base. I also seem to remember that there was some Red Cross or Salvation Army girls passing out donuts and coffee one night down on the flight line. That’s the only time I can remember they were there, one time. I remember there was a laundry of some kind that we took our stuff to. There must have been mama-sans working there. I remember it being lucky if you got back the same stuff you sent.
To give good friend Cecil Cheeka a plug. If you tune into Z-NATION on the SCI-FI channel you will catch his smiling face. He’s not a zombie yet but the last time I seen him he was flying a plane and threatening to do a water landing. He plays a character named Uncle Kaskae. 311 Ordie makes good.
With the advent of Fred Townsley retiring as web master for our group I have wondered over the years what one room in Fred’s house looks like and I envision it as thus: Door with a skull and cross bones and a Marine Corps emblem saying “Enter at your own risk”. Inside one wall is covered with HAM operators mics and, amps and whatever other electronics. The other wall is got all his “I love me” things hanging on it. Another wall has a desk covered in computer equipment and monitors. He might have a chair that transfers him from one side of the room to another and it is my guess that his wife, Ethel, has never been inside and has on numerous occasions threatened to call the bio-hazard team in because of all the radio interference on her TV set. Am I close Fred? Thanks for all your help over the years. Semper Fi, my friend.
On behalf of the Group officers, Cecil and Chris Cheeka, George and Jackie Phander, Ralphie and Anita Reed, Fred and Ethel Townsley, Sue and I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Health for everyone in 2017. That we may have peace and good will towards all.
For the Reunion Association Semper fidelis Jim Galchick
AIR, ON TIME ON TARGET!