Cold War Samurai – The 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 1987 – 1991

This site's the panther's roar! Photo of 549 courtesy of Mr. Akira Watanabe of nabe3saviation.web.fc2.com


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Sam Samurai Remembers on National POW/MIA Recognition Day

National POW MIA Recognition Day 2015

Friday, 18 September 2015. National POW MIA Recognition Day in the United States.

150917-D-TE668-005From the Defense POW MIA Accounting Agency, this information on the observance:

“Observances of National POW/MIA Recognition Day are held across the country on military installations, ships at sea, state capitols, schools and veterans’ facilities. It is traditionally observed on the third Friday in September each year. This observance is one of six days throughout the year that Congress has mandated the flying of the National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag. The others are Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.

The flag is to be flown at major military installations, national cemeteries, all post offices, VA medical facilities, the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the official offices of the secretaries of state, defense and veterans affairs, the director of the selective service system and the White House.”

Sam Samurai remembers the POWs and MIAs of the 14th in all designations, PRS, TRS, TFS and FS. Remember the following six former prisoners of war, listed alphabetically:

Acosta, Hector M. On 9 December 1972, First Lieutenant Hector M. Acosta, 14TRS, was a Photo Systems Operator in the back seat of RF-4C 68-0597 was shot down on his 90th mission by a surface-to-air missile just north of Vinh, North Vietnam was captured and spent some months in the Hanoi Hilton before being repatriated on 29 March 1973.

Dixon, Robert J. Circa 15 February 1945, Capt. Robert J. Dixon, 14PRS Commander, shot down by flak on a recon mission in Spitfire PR Mk XI, serial number PL866 (MACR 12324) to Merseburg, Germany. He stayed in the Air Force after the war and eventually rose to four-star rank, and saw combat again in Korea and Vietnam.

Gauntt, William A. On 13 August 1972, RF-4C pilot Captain William A. Gauntt, 14TRS, was nearly done with his combat tour and on a recon mission in RF-4C 68-0604 over the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) when he was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery. He was repatriated on 27 March 1973.

Hillborn, Robert B. On 5 September 1944, Lt. Robert B. Hillborn, 14PRS, was shot down by a Luftwaffe Me-262 jet fighter while flying Spitfire PR Mk XI PL782 (MACR 6687) on a mission to obtain bomb damage assessment pictures of Stuttgart, Ludwigshafen and Karlsruhe. He was attacked by two Me-262’s near Stuttgart, hit, and bailed out of his stricken aircraft near Feurbach. He was a POW at Luft Stalag I, Barth, Germany.

Ruhling, Mark J. On 3 November 1968, RF-4C recon systems operator Captain Mark J. Ruhling, 14TRS, was shot down in RF-4C 66-0445 near Dong Hoi while on a recon mission against a Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) site in North Vietnam.

Van Wart, Franklin I. On 1 March 1944, Lt. Franklin I. Van Wart (or Franklyn K. Van Wart), 14PRS, was shot down in Spitfire PR Mk XI MB945, named “Lu Mar II.” (MACR 2744)

The squadron also remembers the following 14 aircrew who remain missing in action to this day:

Bergevin, Charles L., 1Lt, 14TRS. MIA on 23 Aug 1968 in RF-4C 66-0466; shot down by fighter at night over Route Pack I, NVN. Postwar determined dead.

Brown, Donald A., Capt, 14TRS. MIA on 29 Jul 1970, in RF-4C 66-0436; shot down by fighter over Laos. Postwar determined dead.

Chavez, Gary A., Capt, 14TRS. MIA on 29 Jul 1970, in RF-4C 66-0436; shot down by fighter over Laos. Postwar determined dead.

Edgar, Robert J., 1Lt, 14TRS. MIA on 4 Feb 1968, in RF-4C 66-0443; shot down by fighter at dawn over Laos. Postwar determined dead.

Gist, Tommy E., Capt, 14TRS. MIA on 18 May 1968 in RF-4C 66-0442; shot down by fighter during day over Route Pack I, NVN. Postwar determined dead.

Hicks, Terrin D., Capt, 14TRS. MIA on 15 Aug 1968 in RF-4C 66-0447; shot down by AAA during day over I Corps, SVN. Postwar determined dead.

Ott, William A., Capt, 14TFS. MIA on 8 Oct 1970 in RF-4C 68-0610; shot down by fighter at dusk over Laos. Postwar determined dead.

Palmer, Gilbert S., Jr., Maj, 14TRS. MIA on 27 Feb 1968 in RF-4C 66-0431; shot down by fighter during day over Route Package I, NVN. Postwar determined dead.

Potter, William T., 1Lt, 14TRS. MIA on 4 Feb 1968 in RF-4C 66-0443, shot down by fighter at dawn over Laos. Postwar determined dead.

Setterquist, Francis L., 1Lt, 14TRS. MIA on 23 Aug 1968 in RF-4C 66-0466; shot down by fighter at night over Route Pack I, NVN. Postwar determined dead.

Shay, Donald E., Jr., Capt, 14TRS. MIA on 8 Oct 1970 in RF-4C 68-0610; shot down by fighter at dusk over Laos. Postwar determined dead.

Sneed, Warren B., Capt, 14FS. Lost at sea on 13 Nov 2000 in Misawa-based F-16C 90-0801; in mid-air collision with another F-16 west of Hokkaido, Japan, during Exercise Keen Sword.

Townsend, Francis W., 1Lt, 14TRS. MIA on 13 Aug 1972 in RF-4C 68-0604; shot down by AAA during day over Route Pack I, NVN. Postwar determined dead.

Wright, Thomas T., Capt, 14TRS. MIA on 27 Feb 1968 in RF-4C 66-0431; shot down by fighter during day over Route Package I, NVN. Postwar determined dead.

Let us always remember the brave warriors of the 14th Fighter Squadron from all eras who fought for our country against totalitarian forces. On this day we honor the six former POWs and 14 missing men of the Samurai, who have the lineage and honors of its predecessors, and this the responsibility to remember them on days such as this. May we always honor them as well as those who serve and sacrifice for our country today, because freedom isn’t free. Hand Salute!

pow_mia_poster_2015

References:

National POW/MIA Recognition Day, poster, at: http://www.dpaa.mil/Families/Posters.aspx

https://14tfs.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/national-powmia-recognition-day-19-september-2014/

https://14tfs.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/sam-samurai-remembers-the-14th-and-national-former-prisoner-of-war-recognition-day/

American Battle Monuments Commission Database, at: https://www.abmc.gov/search-abmc-burials-and-memorializations

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Grand Poobah Leads from the Front!

It’s not everyday you run across a picture of your esteemed Commander, preserved for posterity in the National Archives, but when you do, it’s worth a posting!

Lieutenant Colonel Dave Hamilton, commander, 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron (14th TFS), briefs pilots from the 14th TFS and from Marine Fighter-Attack Squadron 323 (VMFA-323) during Exercise COPE NORTH 89-1 (Courtesy National Archives)

Lieutenant Colonel Dave Hamilton, commander, 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron (14th TFS), briefs pilots from the 14th TFS and from Marine Fighter-Attack Squadron 323 (VMFA-323) during Exercise COPE NORTH 89-1 (Courtesy National Archives)

The full caption gives a little more info on the date and time of the event, indicating it was taken 15 December 1988, which would have been a short time after that notorious Operational Readiness Inspection by PACAF that year.  A briefing to both 14TFS and VMFA-323 (The “Death Rattlers”) would probably have been held in the main briefing room in between the 14th and 13th sides of old Building 918.

Various interpretations of this photo have come in from squadron members, attempting to explain what is seen. The possibilities so far are as follows, as of 111215Z June 2015:

“…right here, H.A. is saying.. “And I don’t know what the hell Duck Perry was doing off over here”!! opined Duck.

“The answer to HA’s question, “…dragging Sledge to the merge,”” thought Sledge.

“I think HA had that look on his face because he couldn’t get the taste of the dog jerky treats that Sledge and I left on the duty desk in a beef jerky bag off his mind,” said Sluggo.

“Actually he was trying to describe one of Frymo’s elaborate “cloverleaf” maneuvers for the strike package,” remarked Spanky.

As for the apparent incongruence of the calendar date (1988) and year designation of the exercise (89), that’s a little fiscal year (FY) military madness inflicted on everyone in DoD.  The new “money year” began on 1 October (still does from what I know), and events like this COPE NORTH exercise, COPE THUNDER, COBRA GOLD, etc., received the fiscal year designation in their title, which could cause confusion to those not familiar with the custom.  Fiscal Year 1989 began 1 October 1988, hence COPE NORTH 89-1 happened to be scheduled in December, 1988.  Makes sense, right?  Maybe, maybe not!

References

Record Group 330: Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1921 – 2008;
Series:  Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files, 1982 – 2007
VMFA-323, Wikipedia entry, at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VMFA-323


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Put out to Pasture

A recent photo feature on aircraft in the “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, captured in one image what appears to be a former Samurai jet currently being preserved, serial number 85-1558.

F-16's rest in the Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ.  Former Samurai jet 85-1558 rests to the right, in 457FS livery.  (Courtesy  )

F-16’s rest in the Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. Former Samurai jet 85-1558 rests to the right, in 457FS livery. (Courtesy Lili Sams at Mashable.com)

She is seen to the right, in markings of the Air Force Reserve’s 457th Fighter Squadron, the last unit she served with before entering the Boneyard on 2 August 2010.

Tail number 558 first arrived for duty at Misawa AB in June, 1987, as the 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron equipped with brand new aircraft.

Link to 558 in 14TFS

She served in the 14TFS until October, 1990, when she transferred back to the CONUS and to the 72nd Tactical Fighter Training Squadron in the F-16 RTU at MacDill.

She left MacDill in August 1992 and joined the AF Reserve, first in the land of the Cajuns, serving with the 706th Fighter Squadron in New Orleans before transferring to the 457th FS at Carswell/JRB Ft. Worth in July 1996. She was with the 457th for just over 14 years before “Big AF” decided it was time for her to rest in the summer of 2010.

Hopefully the ground crews at D-M will keep her in good condition. With the chaos around the world, Middle East, Eastern Europe, South China Sea, etc., we need some good jets on the bench in case we get into a situation that we need to get out of. So keep 558 ready to answer the call to duty if/when it should come!

References
Ghosts of aircraft past lie in wait at the ‘boneyard’, at: http://mashable.com/2015/06/07/ghosts-of-aircraft-past/?utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Mashable+%28Mashable%29&utm_cid=Mash-Prod-RSS-Feedburner-All-Partial&utm_medium=feed&utm_source=feedburner

F-16C Block 30B 85-1558, in the F-16 Database at F-16.net, at: http://www.f-16.net/aircraft-database/F-16/airframe-profile/1914/


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On Memorial Day

Monday, 25 May 2015. Memorial Day. Not just a holiday, but Memorial Day. It is a time to remember those men and women of the armed forces who died while on duty in service to our nation.

memorial-day-hours-of

Too many people confuse it with Veterans Day and think it is for honoring all veterans. And probably vice versa too.

Far too many American citizens think Memorial Day is about a day off, or the start of summer, BBQ grilling, picnics, sales extravaganzas, etc. Those who think so shallowly of the freedom they enjoy ignorantly trample on the graves and memories of our fallen heroes. Is it too much to ask for a remembrance of those who gave their all for the rest of us?

memorial-day

Do you ever wonder what people really mean when they say “Happy Memorial Day!”? Have they, have we, really thought that through? For another veteran’s perspective on that, read Jennie Heskamp’s viewpoint published in the Washington Post on 22 May 2015, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/05/22/im-a-veteran-and-i-hate-happy-memorial-day-heres-why/

Memorial Day should not to be confused with any other holiday. It is to remember those who were lost in service to our country. They paid the ultimate price to help ensure the freedom and liberty which we enjoy today. And for which so many take for granted.

How can we remember such patriots? There are many ways to do so. The only thing they require is some initiative, some small effort.

Remember a family member or friend who was lost in the service. Speak their name. Share a memory about them.

Look around you at your family, friends and community, and appreciate all of what they mean to you, that you are able to do that because someone else laid their life on the line to defend it.

Visit a veteran’s cemetery and read the names, units and dates on the headstones. Find some for a unit you served in or a conflict you fought in.

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Participate in a Memorial Day ceremony or event in your community, or create one of your own.
Pray for the fallen, their families and loved ones.

Fly Old Glory in their honor.

Take an active role as a citizen of the country and your community, and express yourself to your elected representatives – too many of who have no idea of what they are doing getting us into some of the foreign messes they have. Too many of these scoundrels have been elected, and even re-elected by ignorant citizens.

There are consequences to any involvements, no matter how worthy (or not) the cause. Some of our men and women in uniform don’t walk away from them; forever more they don’t walk away.

Citizens should not be silent or indolent lest they lose what freedom and liberty they enjoy. For freedom isn’t free, as we all should remember, on Memorial Day…

Remains of F-16C serial number 87-0257 from the 614th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the 'Lucky Devils', shot down over Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.

Remains of F-16C serial number 87-0257 from the 614th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the ‘Lucky Devils’, shot down over Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.

F-16 image from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Dynamics_F-16_Fighting_Falcon_operational_history


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Sam Samurai Remembers: The 14th and National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day

April 9 is National Former Prisoner of War Day in the United States, by presidential proclamation:
https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/04/08/presidential-proclamation-national-former-prisoner-war-recognition-day-2

In the history of the 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron, there were no Cold War combat engagements that resulted in aircraft loss and pilot capture by hostile forces, thankfully. And the same applies for the 14th Fighter Squadron in the modern era.

Having said that, there is cause to remember earlier wars the 14th was engaged in, World War II and the Vietnam War, in which there were aircraft losses, and some aircrew became prisoners of war. It is they whom we remember on this day.

Although there is no handy summary available to show how many POWs there were from the 14th in these two wars, initial research indicates names for six men can be found, three from each war. There may be more found as research continues.

In World War II, when the unit was designated as the 14th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, the following men were shot down and became guests of the Luftwaffe:

1 March 1944, Lt. Franklin I. Van Wart was shot down in Spitfire PR XI MB945, named “Lu Mar II.”

First Lieutenant Franklin I. Van Wart, of the 14th Photo Recon Squadron.  (Courtesy Scott Blyth, via Flicker)

First Lieutenant Franklin I. Van Wart, of the 14th Photo Recon Squadron. (Courtesy Scott Blyth, via Flicker)

5 September 1944, Lt. Robert B. Hillborn was shot down by a Luftwaffe Me-262 jet fighter while flying Spitfire MK XI PL782 (MACR 6687) on a mission to obtain bomb damage assessment pictures of Stuttgart, Ludwigshafen and Karlsruhe. He was attacked by two Me-262’s near Stuttgart, hit, and bailed out of his stricken aircraft near Feurbach. He was a POW at Luft Stalag I, Barth, Germany.

Second Lieutenant Robert B. Hillborn of the 14th Photo Recon Squadron (Courtesy Scott Blyth, via Flickr)

Second Lieutenant Robert B. Hillborn of the 14th Photo Recon Squadron (Courtesy Scott Blyth, via Flickr)

Circa 15 February 1945, Capt. Robert J. Dixon (14PRS Commander), shot down by flak on recon mission to Merseburg, Germany. He stayed in the Air Force after the war and eventually rose to four-star rank, and saw combat again in Korea and Vietnam.

General Robert J. Dixon, USAF, who commanded the 14th Photo Recon Squadron during world War II.  (Courtesy Wikipedia)

General Robert J. Dixon, USAF, who commanded the 14th Photo Recon Squadron during world War II. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

During the Vietnam War, the 14th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron lost aircraft with surviving aircrew who became POWs in North Vietnam. These men were:

23 November 1968, RF-4C recon systems operator Captain Mark J. Ruhling was shot down in RF-4C 66-0445 near Dong Hoi while on a recon mission against a Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) site in North Vietnam.

Captain Mark J. Ruhling, of the 14th Tac Recon Squadron (Courtesy Ejection-history.org.uk)

Captain Mark J. Ruhling, of the 14th Tac Recon Squadron (Courtesy Ejection-history.org.uk)

His pilot, Bradley G. Cuthbert, was considered Missing in Action for many years. His remains were recovered on 4 August 1993 and he was identified on 16 December 1998, though his family disputes the DoD finding on the case.

13 August 1972, RF-4C pilot Captain William A. Gauntt was nearly done with his combat tour and on a recon mission in RF-4C 68-0604 over the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) when he was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery. He was repatriated on 27 March 1973.

Lieutenant Colonel William A. Gauntt, of the 14th Tac Recon Squadron (Courtesy Veterantributes.org)

Lieutenant Colonel William A. Gauntt, of the 14th Tac Recon Squadron (Courtesy Veterantributes.org)

Unfortunately, his pilot, 1st Lt. Billie J. Williams did not survive the aircraft loss or initial captivity – his remains were returned 20 December 1990.

9 December 1972, First Lieutenant Hector M. Acosta, Photo Systems Operator in the back seat of RF-4C 68-0597 was shot down on his 90th mission by a surface-to-air missile just north of Vinh, North Vietnam was captured and spent some months in the Hanoi Hilton before being repatriated on 29 March 1973.

First Lieutenant Hector M. Acosta, of the 14th Tac Recon Squadron, after repatriation in 1973.  (Courtesy Ejection-history.org.uk)

First Lieutenant Hector M. Acosta, of the 14th Tac Recon Squadron, after repatriation in 1973. (Courtesy Ejection-history.org.uk)

Unfortunately his backseater, 1st Lt. Francis W. Townsend did not survive the shoot-down, or captivity, and did not return. His remains were eventually recovered on 13 July 1999 and identified on 13 June 2002.

On this National Former POW Recognition Day, we remember these brave men who served our country in uniform, and in prison camps. They should be honored by a grateful nation for their service and sacrifice. Let us remember them and be inspired by their example, for if we do not remember them and learn from their experience, who else will?
References

14PRS aircraft, page 1, at: http://www.littlefriends.co.uk/7thprg.php?action=list_records&sort_order=ASC&order_by=Squ&recs=50&next_page=2#tabletop

14PRS aircraft, page 2, at: http://www.littlefriends.co.uk/7thprg.php?action=list_records&recs=50&sort_order=ASC&order_by=Squ&recs=50&next_page=3#tabletop

Information on loss of Lt. Hillborn, at: http://forum.armyairforces.com/Help-needed-Loss-data-on-Spitfire-PL782-please-m182142.aspx
Pictures of Van Wart and Hillborn, in Flickr, at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/24554019@N06/3686468686/in/set-72157613174468298/

Robert J. Dixon, Wikipedia entry, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_J._Dixon

Info on Mark J. Ruhling, at: http://www.talkingproud.us/Retired/Retired/Lavelle_files/rf-4cs-of-432nd-trw.pdf

Image for Capt. Ruhling, at: http://www.ejection-history.org.uk/project/Biographies/R/Ruhling_Mark_john/RuhlingMark.htm

Bio on Bradley G. Cuthbert, at: http://www.pownetwork.org/bios/c/c072.htm

Bradley Gene Cuthbert, ABMC Database entry, at: http://www.abmc.gov/search-abmc-burials-and-memorializations/detail/Vietnam_1435#.VSYh7JP3i7M

Biography for William A. Gauntt, at: http://www.pownetwork.org/bios/g/g078.htm

Image for Lt Col Gauntt, at: http://veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=1726

Biography for Hector M. Acosta, at: http://www.pownetwork.org/bios/a/a079.htm

Image for Hector Acosta, at: http://veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=581 and at: http://www.ejection-history.org.uk/project/Biographies/A/Acosta_Hector_Michael/AcostaMA.htm

Francis Wayne Townsend, ABMC Database entry, at: http://www.abmc.gov/search-abmc-burials-and-memorializations/detail/Vietnam_2023#.VSYqYZP3i7M

14th Fighter Squadron History Factsheet, at: http://www.afhra.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet_print.asp?fsID=9807


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Samurai Heritage: Spitfire 944

Hat tip to Major General Arthur Clark, USAF (Retired), for Spitfire 944 documentary information!

Back in 2007, a short documentary film by William Lorton was released to the public, telling the story of Spitfire 944 and its emergency landing in Great Britain during World War II. It was received well, and garnered several film awards.

Spitfire 944 Festival Poster (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Spitfire 944 Festival Poster (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Few realize, however, that among the many Spitfires, numbers and units, that Spitfire 944, a Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk XI, belonged to the 14th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, lineal ancestor of the 14TFS.

Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk Xi 944 at rest during Woirld War II.  (Courtesy sgblyth on Flickr)

Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk XI 944 at rest during Woirld War II. (Courtesy sgblyth on Flickr)

Piloted by Lieutenant John S. Blyth of the 14PRS on 12 September 1944, Blyth brought the aircraft back to his homebase at Mount Farm Airfield after a photo recon mission.

American Photo Recon Spitfire Pilot 1st Lt. John S. Blyth flew with the 14th Photo Recon Squadron, 7th Photo Group, Mount Farm, Oxfordshire, UK.  (Courtesy Fearoflanding.com)

American Photo Recon Spitfire Pilot 1st Lt. John S. Blyth flew with the 14th Photo Recon Squadron, 7th Photo Group, Mount Farm, Oxfordshire, UK. (Courtesy Fearoflanding.com)

But due to an inadvertent problem he completed the mission with a successful wheels up landing of Spitfire 944 as seen in the 14-minute documentary.

Samples of Lt. Blyth’s wartime photo recon handiwork, which helped the success of Mighty Eighth Air Force in the air offensive against Nazi Germany, can be viewed in sgblyth’s album “Aerial Photos WWII  High Res 2” on Flickr, at:

ALG B3 (Advanced Landing Ground) Sainte Croix sur Mer June 12, 1944

You can view the “Spitfire 944” documentary at the link below:

References

“Spitfire 944,” Wikipedia entry, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spitfire_944

“Supermarine Spitfire (late Merlin-powered variants),” Wikipedia entry, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermarine_Spitfire_%28late_Merlin-powered_variants%29#PR_Mk_X_and_PR_Mk_XI_.28types_387.2C_365_and_370.29

“American Spitfire Pilot in 1944 and 2005,” at: http://fearoflanding.com/history/american-spitfire-pilot-in-1944-and-2005/

Picture of Spitfire 944 at rest at:  sgblyth’s album “7th PRG Set 2” on Flickr, at:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/24554019@N06/sets/72157619911531715/


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The Samurai Table

Every unit likes to place its emblem in prominent places around the base, and the Samurai certainly did so.

The emblem of the 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron

The emblem of the 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron

Whether it was the patch on a uniform, flight suit or an F-16, a plaque on the wall, a zap left just about anywhere, there were all kinds of places one could find the Samurai emblem. This included the Officers’ Club, the Club Mutsu in old Building 22.

The Club Mutsu circa 1976, looking similar to how it did in the 1980's.  (Courtesy Misawa Japan.com)

The Club Mutsu circa 1976, looking similar to how it did in the 1980’s. (Courtesy Misawa Japan.com)

There, in the lounge and bar on the lower floor, resided the Samurai Table, a place squadron members could rally around and claim as our own on club sorties.

14TFS 1Lt "Spider" and the Samurai Table featured in a public service advertisement in the May 1988 MWR magazine at Misawa AB.

14TFS 1Lt “Spider” and the Samurai Table featured in a public service advertisement in the May 1988 MWR magazine at Misawa AB.

There’s no doubt 1Lt “Spider” caught a lot of flak and razzing over this picture circa May 1988, but it was to his credit for a public service advertisement in the base MWR monthly magazine. It clearly shows the Samurai Table. The table likely came from the Philippines, made of that superb mahogany wood, with the squadron emblem hand-carved into the top by Filipino craftsmen. With the many TDY’s to Cope Thunder exercises at Clark Air Base, there were ample opportunities to acquire such hand-made goods, and the Philippines was a large source for unit going away plaques and scale model aircraft painted up nicely, among other things.

The table lasted at least to the end of the Cold War as far as this web log writer knows (May 1989), though not without wear and tear. And abuse. Memory is a bit vague at this point but it seems like the table was assaulted and the top broken completely in half while we Samurai were away TDY, at the Cobra Gold exercise in Thailand during the summer of 1988.

We returned from the exercise to find our table busted, reportedly by a rotational US Navy P-3 Orion patrol squadron, which may have been VP-40, the Marlins, who were deployed to Misawa between February and August 1988.

Insignia of Patrol Squadron 40.  The motto "Laging Handa" is Tagalog for "Always Ready."  Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Insignia of Patrol Squadron 40. The motto “Laging Handa” is Tagalog for “Always Ready.” Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a good thing the Marlins left when they did because there were some pissed-off Samurai on RTB. If they were the guilty ones and if they are ever in Misawa again they deserve the Tohoku snow treatment like this VP-46 Orion:

A VP-46 P-3 Orion maritime patrol/anti-submarine warfare aircraft frozen on the winter ramp at Misawa Naval Air Facility.  (Courtesy of  TogetherWeServed)

A VP-46 P-3 Orion maritime patrol/anti-submarine warfare aircraft frozen on the winter ramp at Misawa Naval Air Facility. (Courtesy TogetherWeServed)

As for why anyone would want to destroy the table, who knows? Maybe a P-3 was cut out of the pattern by an F-16 inflight emergency. Maybe the 13th did a South Park to the 14th for a deed of their buffoonery. Jealousy, spite, envy, ignorance, any number of factors could have impelled the perpetrators.

Hopefully the Samurai Table, though battered in that (un)friendly fire incident, has survived, or at least found a good home, what with the change in unit designation at the end of the Cold War and the move to a new club building in February, 2002, in the area where the old base hospital was at. (It was kind of a swap in new construction, so much of it in Misawa, as it seems the new base hospital went into the area where the old Mutsu Club was at.)

References:

VP-40 history, at: http://vp40.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/VP-40-History.pdf

This Month in 35th Fighter Wing and Misawa Air Base History: February, at: http://www.misawa.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123437254

Photos from:

Old Club Mutsu, at: http://www.misawajapan.com/aboutmisawa/facilities.asp

VP-40 emblem, at: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vp40_insig.jpg

Frozen P-3, at: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/usn/servlet/tws.webapp.WebApp?cmd=ShadowBoxProfile&type=AssignmentExt&ID=101066