MICHAEL R MAYS
Name: MICHAEL R MAYS
Entry Date: 1/5/1960
Exit Date: 6/?/62
Status: D: 06/11/2006
“I was born in a U.S. Post Office building (great aunt was a rural post office mistress) in Rolla, Arkansas, Jan. 17, 1940. Attended kindergarten in a Japanese Concentration Camp near Lake Village, Arkansas in 1943. My father was the Agriculture Adviser for the relocated Japanese-Americans. He was drafted into the US Navy in 1944. Served in the Pacific.
Started grade school in 1945 at Lono, Arkansas. Graduated from high school in Malvern, Arkansas in 1957. I drove a school bus my senior year (16 years old at the beginning of the school year). I had a rural route picked up and delivered grade school children to Lono elementary and high school kids at Malvern. I did pretty good. Only had three accidents over the school year. The school district couldn’t convince anyone else to drive the bus. The only injury was a broken nose of a very beautiful girl. I visited her in 2002. Didn’t affect her looks at all after 45 years.
I spent the summer of `57 digging ditches, baling hay, and picking boysenberries in Los Banos, CA. My Dad offered to send me to college and it took me about 30 minutes to pack and grab a bus back to Arkansas. I attended Henderson State Teachers College (now Henderson State University) for two years. Tuition was $86 a semester. Discovered I had no long term goals. Figured I was wasting my family’s money.(I was the first member of my family, either side, to attend college).
I enlisted in the Navy in June of 1959. Took all those test and the Navy was going to send me to Naval Cadet School to be a pilot. Blew that one. I’m color blind, not much, had something to do with pastels. Attended ADJ school at NATTC, Memphis, TN.(After three months of mess cooking).
Got orders to VP-21 in Brunswick. Arrived there several days before I had to check in so I got a room in the Bowden Hotel and explored Brunswick. Met a local gal in a restaurant. We ate, went to movie, and I attempted to learn Down Eastern speech. I checked into the squadron and met Chief Watt. He reminded me of an English bulldog. He must have been having a bad day, or maybe it was normal orientation. He immediately had my utmost respect. Reminded me of my company commander in boot camp, Chief Coker (He had been a POW during WWII and was mean as a snake). That is another story.
It only took two weeks for me to find out that Chief Watt had a heart as big as all outdoors. The first payday I did not get a paid. I headed up to Disbursing to find out what the problem was. It seems that the local girl I had met was a very close friend of a sailor in one of the other squadron on base and he was on deployment. The head disbursing clerk was a friend of that particular sailor. Well, the disbursing clerk figured he was going to put the fear of God in me. He did a pretty good job and I still didn’t have my pay. I went back to the squadron and told Chief Watt of my problem. He was HOT. I accompanied him back to Disbursing and talk about the fear of God, I believe Chief Watt originated that particular situation. I got paid and maintained my association with that girl until 1965.
Of course the Chief took an interest in me and assigned me to compartment cleaning for awhile with some guy named Sayre. Weird way to spell a name.
I finally discovered that he was in the Power Plants shop in VP-21. Yeah, ADR1 Al Acker was my new boss. Sumps and strainer was my task in the Navy. I learned how to spit shine dishpans and how to properly safety wire under his instruction. A couple of my A school buddies had been assigned to the squadron also. ADR1 Acker had his hand full with the three musketeers: Mike Mays, Bill Studebaker, and Buddy Stevens. Actually Buddy was the quiet type. We were getting into the swing of things. Buddy was from Norway, Maine and felt sorry for the poor fellow from Arkansas and invited me to go home with him on occasions. Bill had relatives in Portland and invited me along for visits. Bill introduced me to the fast life in Portland
Buddy introduced me to the Norwegian steam bath ( thats where you run half naked thru two feet of snow to the bath house and pour water on some hot rocks) and a young lady. No names. She was going to become a nurse. She promised to write when I deployed.
Thank the Lord for deploying VP-21 to Sigonella, Sicily. We stopped over in Port Lyautey, French Morocco. Bill & I got chased by a Moroccan grass cutter wielding a machete for taking a picture of a very attractive Moroccan lady. We escaped by running into the PX.
We got to Sigonella and my feet swelled up. Something called cellulitis. I wrote that young lady from Norway, Maine about my condition and I haven’t heard from or seen her since. Couldn’t figure that one out. Must have been the old saw about a girl in every port. Oh, well I wasn’t too good at the polka anyway.
Bill and I couldn’t wait to explore the new world of the Old World. Our first discovery was white wine. The first and last time I drank white wine. Then pizza, Italian style, from a big brick oven. Then the night spots. Catania was a big town. We wound up in Club LaGara. They had an outstanding male singer, Genio by name, there and somehow we got to meet him. Don’t know why but he must have thought Bill and I were entertaining. Anyway he introduced us to a group of young people aspiring to become entertainers. Tall Tale Studebaker thought up this idea that we should pass ourselves off as American talent scouts. We did. That lasted about two days. We did make friends with some of the group. I was especially attracted to a young lady who attempted to imitate Elvis with a rendition of “You Ain’t Nothing But A Hound Dog”. Her name was Carla Cosentino. I was offered an invitation by her older sister to meet the family. That was my introduction to the local culture. Nice people, but they couldn’t speak English and I stumbled thru the evening thumbing thru my Italian-English book. I was still partial to the younger of the two sisters. Got nothing but dagger eyes from the older sister. I couldn’t explain why I didn’t drink wine without projecting a bad picture. They served me beer with the many meals that I had with them. Funny thing, I was never alone with Carla. I was invited to many family outings on the weekends. They toured the whole island. Wrote to her awhile after the deployment. Still have a picture of the family.
Bill fell into a friendship with an Italian nobleman. I’ll let Bill tell you about some of the outings we had at a villa near the Ilse of Cyclops.
I was still a grunt in the Power Plants shop in Sigonella. 30, 60, 120, 240 hour checks in the hanger. Yeah, I was still pulling sumps & strainers. That got me into a situation where I darn near killed a flight crew. I was assigned to help with a 120 hr. inspection in the hangar. A big ARD2 by the name of Tony Lanzarotta shook my leg and wanted to know when I was going to be through with the sump tools. Can’t remember what I said but he TOLD me to go pull the strainer from the port engine of his bird, I believe it was LH-8. I dragged a ladder and the sump tools out and removed the dishpan and popped the strainers on the port engine. Laid the strainer in the assy section. Took the bucket of oil, ladder and the sump tools back to the hangar. Nothing was said about breaking the strainer down and cleaning them or reinstalling. I happened to be outside the hangar when the plane took off. White smoke was trailing from the port engine and the engine went into feather. Oh Lord. I high tailed it straight to the Maintenance Office and told the tale to Harry Dunlap, our Maintenance Officer. He turned kind of pale, then shook his head and walked back out to the line. I knew Tony was going to KILL me. As it turned out Mr. Dunlap having heard my side of the situation chewed Tony out for not pulling a proper preflight. Seem like he slapped the dishpan back over the assy section without inspecting the airman work. ADR1 Zubiate, the plane captain, didn’t want me working on his plane the rest of the deployment.
And the second most important event was Mt. Etna erupted while we were at Sigonella. We lost PN2 Brooks during the deployment.
I made ADJ3 on return to Brunswick. Chief Watt still liked me and made me barracks chief for the upcoming ADMAT. The barracks Officer, Ltjg Hungerford, Chief Watt, and AD3 Mays got a very favorable writeup on page 45 of the ADMAT summary, 1961. I still have that page. First good thing attributed to me in VP-21.
Somehow I got back to the Power Plants shop. Must have done something good because ADR1 Stewart Hampton, plane captain on LH-1 asked me if I wand to be his 2nd Mech. Hey, that was $65 more a month in my pocket. I won’t go into the Arctic Overland Survival course. That is another story also. Remember, in Boot Camp on my second physical exam, why I didn’t become a pilot. That never occurred to me when I was offered a 2nd Mechanic slot. I took the flight physical but the Ophthalmologist was on leave. It was three months after I started flying on LH-1 that I finally got checked for vision. I must of have done something good during that time because Cmdr Mackey submitted a request for wavier for me to fly. I think Hampton didn’t want to waste all the time and frustration he had expended training me. I’m here to tell you he was a taskmaster. I may be strrreeetching this a bit but my color blindness help pinpoint a lost Portuguese fisherman’s boat on a short deployment we made to Argentia, New Foundland. Bruno Tyborski was there when I thought I saw a white sail under the water. Ski and I smoked it. The crew at the time was: Cmdr. Mackey, Ltjg Hungerford, AT1 “Bull” Durham, AT1 Allen, AO2 “Ike” Isenberg, ATC Holmscheck, ADR1 Hampton, AMS2 Tiborski, ADJ3 Mays and some more crew. Check with the Historian on this. I may be fantasizing in my old age.
I have Stewart Hampton to thank for the work ethic I developed that carried me through the next 26 years of military service. A very unique individual. He literally took me under his wing, into his home and family, and regularly humiliated me while playing checkers and then salved the wounds by applying the defeat to the things that would be slapping me in the face the rest of my life. I still call him on occasions. He still lives on Hennessey Ave. in Brunswick. Margie, his wife passed away about seven years ago. She was a very good woman.
There must have been a dire shortage of plane captains in the squadron in 1961 because I was assigned to LH-2 as Plane captain. I had sewed on 2nd class strips during this period Lt. Bill Betts & Ltjg Charles Brune were the flightdeck officers. ATC John Holmscheck, AT2 Lennard Nadeau, and AT3 J.T. Cobb, AMS2 Bill Kearney, ADJ2 Carl Agen, AO2 Jerry Folts, & AE2 Sloat rounded out the crew..
I knew nothing about the traditional first flight of a new plane captain. One of the things that Stew Hampton forgot in my training. I was very nervous, as most people are, when I suddenly realized that I was responsible for everything mechanical that can happen on the plane. First, I left the yellow sheet on the nose wheel, I need that to write up a major gripe discovered on take off. The whole darn crew was screwy, from the PPC down. A conspiracy was in the making way before I got on the plane. Lt. “Wild Bill” Betts had unlatched his overhead hatch and we are going 120 knots down the runway and the darn thing pops open to the first indention of the brace. I had never heard the likes of the roar that was created. Don’t asked me exactly what I did. I know my lower jaw bounced off the flight deck. This was not a situation covered in any of the training material that had been presented to me. I had to wing it. Lt. Betts looked back at me and asked “What’s going on Mays?” I replied “I’m not sure”. He says “Well, get that hatch closed and figure it out when you can hear yourself think”. I did notice a grin on his face after the last question but that didn’t register until about 30 minutes after I got the hatch closed. I grabbed the hatch and moved the hatch latch out of the first indentation. The hatch further extended and stabilized in the air flow natural to design of the fuselage. My terror level was at its height. Mr. Betts suggested I get a tie down rope and use it to secure the hatch. Agen was behind me with a grin on his face. I finally got the hatch secured with a little help from everyone on the flight deck. Yeah, I finally figured out it was a set up. The rest of the flight was normal.
I could go on: the time that four crew members almost had their flight status revoked due to alleged criminal activities, that’s another story. Or when I couldn’t find a squadron member after the vehicle he was driving collided with a house. I left the squadron the middle of June, 1962. Went to VP-30 for 13 months. Worked for ADR1 Dick Gray in the Power Plants shop. Got transferred out to VP-49 in Pax River after 13 months. That’s another story. Worked the shop for a while and started to Flight Engineers School, P3C.
Got yanked out and drafted into Nuclear Power School (academics) in Bainbridge, MD. Then to West Milton Nuclear InHull Surface Site, near Saratoga Springs, NY. Transferred to USS Enterprise CVA 65, June 1965, home ported in Norfolk. Medically reverted from MMN2 to ADJ2. Worked in V-6 Division repairing every thing from air conditioning units to diesel engines. Became a Golden Shellback after a tour off Vietnam. The `Big E’ changed home ports to Alameda NAS, CA. Met the woman I was to make my 1st wife. Got orders to Quonset PT. NAS sometime in 1966. Married my first wife. Worked in Power Plants there. Ran into ADR2 John Pater, VP-21 person, & Lt Betts,(my old PPC) then in VR-6. Went to data analysts school and was transferred to VA-195, Lemoore NAS, Hanford, CA. Made PO1. in October, 1967. Divorced my 1st wife. Went on leave en route to visit parents in Arkansas. Severed the bone in the three outboard toes of my left foot with an axe (helping my dad clear land). Delayed transfer en route for 2 months. VA-195 was then aboard the USS Oriskany. I caught up with them in Subic Bay, P.I. Left foot didn’t heal properly walking on steel decks. Checked into Cubi Point hospital after one line period. Had my injured toe bone re-broken and reset, tendons spliced and re-attached to toes. Went back to VA-195 for 5 more line periods off Vietnam. Returned to Lemoore NAS. Met and married a woman in 1969. Made another South East Asia tour with VA-195 in 1969. Had a line number for chief during tour. Second wife threatened divorce. We were married for 6 weeks before the SE Asia tour. End of Navy career Nov., 1969. 10 years 6 months.
Worked for Pacific Gas & Electric, San Mateo, CA. For 2 ½ years, Electrical Overhead & Underground Estimator.
Entered the USAF in Oct.,72. SSgt. (E-5). Went to Carpenter A school for three weeks. Should have been a full 12 weeks. Transferred to Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas Nov., 1972. I was there for 3 months and was made shop chief. Darn lucky I had a good crew. They kept me out of trouble most of the time.
Transferred to 554 Heavy Construction Squadron, U Taepao Air Base, Thailand in Sept.,1973. Tore down bases in NKP, Korat, & Ubon. Packed buildings for shipment to Clark Air Base, P.I. In-squadron transfer to Clark Air Base in Jan.,1975. Escorted 3 Vietnamese orphans to California in 1976 and went on home to Arkansas and divorced my 2nd wife. She had sold our house and my dog. Lost my faith in women.
Did some good work in the Philippines. All those steel building we had disassembled in Thailand were scheduled into construction projects in the PI. I was Project Chief in re-assembling 6 buildings. Crowning achievement was the construction of a Satellite Communication Station from a chunk of land and a set of blueprints. It was used for triangulation of the Moon shot in 1966. There were two more somewhere in the world. Had 6 months to complete it. I had a crew of 36 G.I.’s and Filipino civilians working for me and we completed the task in 4 ½ months. I received a Meritorious Service Metal for that. I weighed 130 lbs. when we finished that job. Usually a tour in a Red Horse squadron was only for 1 year, I extended twice for a total of three years. Liked the job. Very satisfying.
Met and married my 3rd wife in June 1977. Yeah, I’m still married to her. Transferred to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Great Falls, MT. In Jan., 1978. Made TSgt (E-6). Shop chief of the carpenter shop.
Our 1st child, a girl, was born Aug., 1978. I made MSgt (E-7) in 1981. Our 2nd child, a girl, was born June 1981. Got orders to Kadena AB, Okinawa in Dec. 82. Shop Chief of Scheduled Maintenance and Repair. Made a trip back to the States to deliver one of my crew to prison at Ft. Lewis, Washington. Became shop chief of Metal Fabrications and Structural Superintendent. Served a stint as First Shirt (Leading Chief) shades of Chief Watt . I found out the reason for that scowl he carried around at times.
Ordered back to Malmstrom AFB, Montana. Made SMSgt (E-8) I became Superintendent in a Minuteman II missile squadron. Had my heart attack in 1989 and put in my papers for retirement. Retired in May, 1990.
After retirement, I held odd jobs around town for two years. Yeah, minimum wage. I didn’t want to be boss anymore. But my back gave out. I’m 80% disabled. Anyway I returned to college in the Fall of 1992 and graduated in May 1996 with a degree in computer sciences, Informational Systems. Entry level at 56 years of age was not a given. I tried to get a job here in Montana for two years and gave up. No one wanted to hire a 56 year old at an entry level. I officially became Mr. Mom in our household. I build computers and do volunteer work at the Senior Citizen’s Center and AARP.
Our children, Patricia, the elder, is 27 now. Patricia graduated high school as 5th in a class of 389. Graduated from Montana State University in 2000 and is a microbiologist working in Bozeman, MT. Ida, 24, graduated 15th in her high school class in 1999, graduated from the University of Montana in 2003 with a degree in Human Biology. She is currently in college again at Montana State to become a nurse. Recessive genes. Both girls are married. My wife Gay is a Filipina, 53 years of age, 25 years with me, and loves the weather here in Montana and out fishes me constantly. She retired about a year ago.
I suppose it is the advanced years, but I yearn to see my old friends from VP-21. The wife and I were planning to make the reunion in Pensacola 2003. Unfortunately I started having breathing problems in October. I was diagnosed with lung cancer, right lung in Nov., 03. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks before I was diagnosed. Gay had her left breast removed in late November and went into chemotherapy. I went into chemo and radiation treatments for a period of two months. The cancer shrank and I had a partial lung removal on April 2, 2004. We were both in remission for two years. I returned to Chemo treatment for four months after my physical recovery from surgery. We made the `05 Reunion and had a very good time enjoying the East and Gulf Coast before the hurricanes hit. Gay caught a 10 lb Red Fish . That was the highlight while we visit close relatives in New Orleans. I had visited several times over the years. We gave her a good Cajun and seafood feed for 4 days.
We continued the good life in Montana. That means catching as many walleye as the law allows. We slipped into winter. I started getting the blahs, or so I thought. I had been making my 6 week and 12 week appointments. I had been doing taxes for low and middle class people. I started running out of gas. We increased appointments. And went through all the x-rays again. My pulmonary doctor isn’t noted for his bedside manner. Unfortunately, Gay was with me while he stood there and said “ You have become terminally ill.” I remained upright. I asked what my options were, and he said “Chemo or no chemo, no other.” I consider myself a very strong person and will elect the method that will give the most time with my family. Here’s a kick in the butt: my eldest daughter told me that she will be having a baby in December. One of the daughters will keep Dale Woods in the loop as to the exact time of my passing. I got hit with Agent Orange the next to the last day I was in DaNang. I was on my way home. Don’t know why it hid so long.
I’m going to live a long as I can.
A little advice……Love your real friends, patch up old feuds.. Make that last flair a squeaker.
See you on the other side.
Webmaster’s (Frank Balogh Jr., deceased) note: “”May God bless you Mike. We’ll see each other again someday at that final reunion. Keep ‘er trimmed and level, and keep the beer cold”””