Shipmate Column
October 2005

Pres:  CAPT W. Spencer Johnson IV, USN (Ret.)
Sec'y: Michael H. Shelley
25 Sweetwater Lane, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
h: 828-862-4245  e:
Web site:

For any classmate you can go to the Classmates Page and enter his name to read his current biography if available.

        Well, so much for the summer of '05. When this issue of Shipmate reaches your hands autumn will be in full swing and many of us will have happily stowed the lawn and garden tools and machinery away until the approach of spring. Let's fire up the grill and splice the mainbrace!

        Congratulations to Paul Tobin, who became the new Director of Naval History and head of the Naval Historical Center on 25 July. The official history program of the Department of the Navy, the Center is located at the Washington Navy Yard. It includes a museum, art gallery, research library, and archives as well as research and writing programs. Pay a visit to its fascinating web site at

        Earlier this year, I was contacted by Fred Howe '57, who had seen a memorial to our late classmate Rick Rohrbach at the former Charleston Navy Base. He noted that the long-closed base was probably no longer a proper location for such a memorial. I agreed that we should investigate whether or not the plaque should be relocated and, if so, how we would effect the change.

Fortunately, our classmate Ben Cole is a long-time resident of nearby Summerville. A civic leader and former County Commissioner, Ben was a key player in the planning for the transition of the base to its new uses. He graciously agreed to be the action officer for this new project. Here is how he described the outcome this July:

     To make a very long story short, I was finally able to obtain the plaque through my contacts with the Naval Base Redevelopment Authority. (Most of the property has now been sold to a private developer which added to the steps involved.) I called this week and had a very nice conversation with Rick's wife Sally, and I mailed it to her today. I am glad that I could help do that. Sally was extremely appreciative and said her daughter Sarah would really like having the plaque as she was very young when Rick passed away.

So, some things do have a happy ending!

        Chris Munger says he has entered the political arena:
     I am now running for Mayor of the City of Stamford, CT, on the Republican ticket. The election will be held in November. My involvement came out of the blue since I have never been in politics. I was asked to run, based on my USNA, USMC, and FBI background and my involvement in training police in Anti-terrorism/criminal matters over the past ten years.

        Mike Cronin has written to inform us about an exciting element in the ongoing restoration of USS MIDWAY as a museum ship in San Diego.
     Classmates, I am asking your help to finance a worthy project. As you may know, MIDWAY has been made into a museum and is moored in downtown San Diego. Much restoration work has been done and more is planned. Of course, this costs money.

I am asking for your help with one small part of the restoration effort. One of the squadron ready rooms is being renovated so as to depict a Vietnam era light attack ready room. The pilots who flew in these squadrons were then the business end of the Navy and bore the brunt of the Navy combat losses during the Vietnam conflict. The restored ready room aboard MIDWAY will give visitors a good sense of what it was like to serve on the Navy's longest serving carrier (49 years) during the Vietnam conflict. We need $12,000 dollars for this project, of which $2,500 has already been committed. The work is being organized and done by unpaid volunteers, mostly Navy veterans. I think that is a very small cost to recognize those who were a part of the struggle in Vietnam. As you know, that effort had a big impact on our class. It was a long and largely thankless effort in our struggle against communism, but every man did his duty and quite a few lost their lives. I hope you will support this modest effort to recognize these men.

Checks should be made out to: San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum. Write "VA/VMA ready room project" in the memo section of the check. You may send your check either to the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum, 910 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101 or to CAPT Michael Cronin, USN-Ret., 13121 Esworthy Road, North Potomac, MD 20878. Thanks for your consideration and support !

Here are a few statistics that may help illustrate what I am saying: USNA63 classmates lost in Vietnam (total KIA) - 13
USNA63 classmates lost (KIA) in Vietnam flying A4 Skyhawk - 6, A6 Intruder - 3, A1 Skyraider - 1
USNA63 classmates taken prisoner in Vietnam - 2, both while flying A4 Skyhawk.

I don't know the statistics for other classes, but I believe they are similar. Admiral Stockdale (USNA 47) and Senator McCain (USNA 57) were both flying the A4 when they went down.

Statistics for the Navy as a whole are even more dramatic:

Type Number lost KIA POW
A4          271          98    48
A7          99             30    7
A1          65             34    3
A6          86             92    23

Almost all these losses were to ground fire or SA-2 missiles. Migs got only 3 A1s and one A4. A1s and A4s each got one mig.

The Marines lost an additional 91 A4s with 2 fatalities and one POW. The Marines operated primarily in South Vietnam in direct support of ground forces where rescue efforts were both more feasible and more likely to succeed.

That makes the total A4 combat loss 362 with 100 fatalities and 49 POWs. Quite a few more were lost in accidents related to combat operations, but not in direct combat. The fires on the Forrestal and Oriskany are examples of this. Ordnance being readied for use in combat started both fires. Many lives and aircraft were lost in both cases.

The Navy lost more A4s than any other aircraft type by a wide margin. The second greatest losses were suffered by the F4 with 128 lost with 65 fatalities and 42 POWs.

Just for comparison, the Air Force lost 397 F-105s with 150 fatalities and 103 POWs. Combat losses are nothing to boast about. I simply make the point that attack squadrons, especially the A4 squadrons, bore the brunt of the Navy action and suffered the greatest losses within the Navy.

MIDWAY made three combat cruises during the Vietnam conflict. Ready 3 aboard MIDWAY will commemorate the efforts and the courage of the men of the attack squadrons who flew these dangerous and thankless missions. As much as possible, it will be restored to be as it was during the Vietnam war. Those who lost their lives will be listed by name. The details are still being worked out.

As you may have already heard, there will be an A4 placed on board MIDWAY and dedicated on September 17th this year. The aircraft was assigned to VA-23 during the war and it has been repainted in squadron colors. VA-23 made one cruise on MIDWAY during the war. (April-November 1965). Two of our classmates, Dan Moran and Stan Smiley, were KIA while in VA-23. I was captured while serving in VA-23. Our classmate Ron Machens also served in VA-23. I encourage all of you who are able to attend to do so. MIDWAY is worth a visit even though the ready room and some other restoration projects will not be complete by then. It sure gave me pause to stand on the same flight deck I stood on in May of 1965 when I first reported for duty in VA-23 in the Tonkin Gulf.

        Frequent traveler and faithful correspondent Phillip Marsden covered the length of the West Coast this summer and reported from each extremity.
     In July, I had the good fortune to see two of our classmates on a trip to visit my mother who lives in the Seattle area. Lya and Mal Wright live in the Poulsbo area north of Bremerton. They and their daughter, Sarah, joined my mother and me for lunch on the water in Edmonds.
Mal Wright and Phil Marsden

Lunch group in Edmonds, WA

Mal is looking forward to retirement from his job at Hanford and the long bi-weekly commute. Fortunately I was able to grab a quick lunch with Meredith Musick on my way back to the airport. Meredith and Laurie live in Lofall just north of Poulsbo. He is leading a team that manages the inactive reserve fleet at Bremerton. On my next trip maybe I will be able to get all these "neighbors" together.
Marsden and Musick

In the Coronado park

In early August, some classmates gathered in Coronado to welcome new arrivals Sybil and Clyde Van Arsdale. This picture of the group shows (top) yours truly, Donna Kaup, Dave and Lana Moore, Charlie and Nancy Helsper, (bottom) Clyde and Charlie's amazing 97-year old mother enjoying the weekly Coronado concert-in-the-park. (Sybil was off schmoozing many old friends.) Clyde and Sybil have just returned to Coronado after a number of years in Amarillo, TX. We are glad to have them back.

        The latest addition to the photo gallery of '63 vanity license plates and their owners is Floridian Ollie Donelan. Send me your photo this week and we'll make you famous, too!

        Tom O'Brien checked in to tell us about a summertime outing afloat.
     On July 30th, Ann and I were treated to a wonderful afternoon boat trip on the Potomac by Fran and Tom Reemelin. A leisurely cruise from their place at Mason Neck up to Mount Vernon and back gave us new and interesting perspectives from the river. After the boat had been docked (with a beautiful, one bell landing that delighted several neighborhood partyers observing from the boat ramp's pier), Tom put the boat away. Back at Tom and Fran's beautiful home, we resumed a USNA '63, 18th Co. Alaskan cruise "Grand Strategy Planning Session." After several glasses of excellent wine and a feast prepared by Fran, Tom and I agreed that the grand strategy ought to be: "Fly to Seattle and get on the ship."
Strategic planners Reemelin and O'Brien

This photo shows us modestly receiving accolades from our spouses on developing this strategy after six hours of hard labor. The negotiations were tough, but, in the end, we developed a magnificent plan. A report of the outcome will be forthcoming in September.

        Several of our classmates have told me about their residential moves to new locations. Here are reports from four guys who checked in to make appropriate changes to their contact info in the Class of 1963 roster and on our web site.

Longtime Pensacola resident Jack Hood pulled up stakes and relocated well inland. His news tells us about his past, present, and future.

     I retired in 1987 and returned to our house in Pensacola that I bought during my tour at the NARF. I used my GI bill to get a teaching certificate and was certified in high school physics and math. I got a job at the school four blocks from the house and spent the next 13 years building the program from 42 to 190 students in physics. I retired three years ago at age 62, started drawing social security, took my three checks each month, and did whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it. Ginger took off on the volunteer wagon and became very active in Hospice and Alzheimer's Family Services.

After watching Pensacola be hit by two major hurricanes and two tropical storms in 11 months, Ginger and I decided we had enough of it and will be moving back to my hometown of Mason City, IA, in August. Our new address is: 296 Willowbrook Dr. Mason City, IA 50401. My new email is After deciding to move, in the space of a week we bought a new house in Iowa, sold our Pensacola house, set up movers, sold my truck and bought a 4WD truck in Iowa to get me through the snow. Pensacola still resembles a disaster area with piles of debris everywhere and many temporary FEMA trailer parks for the 8,000-plus homes lost to storms. The beach is nothing you would recognize with only a couple of hotels and eating places open, many demolished homes, no dunes, and a lot less beach. A good portion of NAS is being demolished, including most of the old NARF (NADEP) buildings and the houses on "Admirals Row." Winds of 130 mph and a 20 foot storm surge can do a lot of damage. We are looking forward to anyone coming through but figure we will be well off the beaten track.

        Also relocating recently was Ed Hartford, who said,
     We have sold our house in Los Altos and bought a very nice townhouse in Mountain View not too far from Jerry Huss! Caroline graduated from UCLA in June 2004 and has been working for the Triage Consulting Group for the last year. They are headquartered in San Francisco, but most of her assignments have been in the Los Angeles area. Gail is working as an Admin Asst. for Frank, Rimmerman & Co., a CPA, Tax, and Financial Services company in the San Francisco Bay Area. Teddy will be a Sophomore at CalPoly San Luis Obispo this fall and John will be a junior at Los Altos High.

I have been supervising the remodeling and fix-up of our new place and it looks great, so with that task done, I will be looking for work if someone will hire me!

        Norm Shackelton is inching closer to official "gypsy" status.
     I'm "On the Road Again," as the song goes. I have been assigned by Lockheed Martin to join our Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) team in Marinette, WI, to help oversee construction of the lead ship, FREEDOM (LCS-1). Every so often when I feel like it's time to hang it up, I get a new fun task. This one will be hard but I think I'm going to get a great deal of enjoyment from it. This is a temporary assignment for maybe six months, a year or two - who knows? We still have our land in Annapolis that we plan to build on.

        Hugh Schall left California for a while but has returned.
     Georgia and I moved in December 2004 to Novato, CA. We had just completed building a home in Bend, OR, when Keith, our son-in-law, received an nice offer to run a charitable foundation in Northern California. With our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson moving, we decided to sell the new Bend house and buy a home in the Bay Area. Our home is in Novato, about 22 miles north of the Golden Gate bridge. It is near the wine country and is within five miles of where we lived in San Rafael prior to moving to Central Oregon. This picture is of Georgia and me in Maine on vacation this July.
Georgia and Hugh Schall

        San Francisco attorney Jim Penrod has been elected to the California State Bar Board of Governors. A civil litigator, he is a partner in the San Francisco office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Jim is a past chairman of the Bar Association of San Francisco. He was named California Lawyer of the Year in litigation last year and is listed in three categories of the book, "Best Lawyers in America." He has lectured and taught law in Bolivia, El Salvador, Tunisia, Greece, and Jordan.

        That wraps it up for this month. We have a nice variety of contributors in this issue's news exchange, and I hope you enjoyed reading about them and their activities. I keep saying that "It's your turn" to submit some news. Come on now, guys, give me some help! In our electronic age that will take only a few minutes of your time and require no addressing of envelopes, no postage costs, and no writer's cramp. Just use the e-mail address at the head of our column. You will feel SO much better. Thanks!

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   October 2005 
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