Duty in VR-24 afforded its members many and varied opportunities for adventure. Flying as crew on the squadron aircraft exceeded most other assignments as a vehicle for enhancing oneís sense of the "world order". But being "sent TAD" also yielded experiences rich in "cultural diversity" and "self-enlightenment". "TAD", short for Temporary Additional Duty, was the catch-all phrase used to describe duty other than that normally assigned within the squadron. TAD could mean being assigned away from the squadron for periods from one day up to some upper limit of time (six months rings a bell), beyond which permanent orders were required. VR-24 personnel were most often sent TAD to the base hosting the squadron (NAS Port Lyautey, Rota, etc.). TAD orders were cut (issued) to detail individuals to mess-cooking, Shore Patrol, Base Master-At-Arms (MAA), or the base fuel farm, air terminal, crash crew, etc.). TAD orders were also issued to personnel assigned to support squadron detachments (or "Dets") temporarily operating somewhere other than the home base. Assignment to a Det often meant living in remote locations under less-than-ideal, if not downright primitive conditions. Sometimes, however, the opposite was also true. In either case, the experiences from such forays made for memories that have almost always gotten better with their recollection and upon being shared with others over the years.
The photos and articles below reflect the experiences of Al Capel when sent TAD from Port Lyautey to Soudha Bay, Crete to support VR-24 operations there in 1958. His account captures the essence of some detachment sites from which the squadron operated.
Additional pages will contain photos and articles covering other squadron operational detachments.
Anyone who has photos, stories, and material they wish to share is encouraged to send them to Dick Prather, editor of the VR-24 website.
|In the summer of 1958, VR24 was using Soudha Bay, Crete as a supply point to support the ongoing U.S. Marine operation in Beirut, Lebanon. The squadron asked for volunteers to go to the Talbot County (LST-1153) then at Soudha. Armed with a set of TAD orders for a fifteen day stay - off I went. That 15 days turned into six months! In that time I saw two R5s, a bunch of C1s, around fifty SeaBees, and about a million Marines. Every day was a new experience.|
|The 'infamous' Talbot County LST (later designated AVB-1 for Aviation Advanced Base) was beached about seven very winding miles down the side of the mountain from the little village of Sternes. Sternes was about a mile outside the gate (of the airfield). It had one barber shop and one bar/cafe and the only telephone was in the cafe. We called it Pappas because that was the manís name and he was older than all of us.|
|Until we had a big influx of Marines, all meals were prepared on the ship. I was the mess driver and made six round trips a day to the ship. Pick up food in heater stacks, take it to the field and serve it, then take dirty trays etc. back to the ship and go back to the field. Between meals I ''chased'' the telephone line between the ship and the hangar. Goats and donkeys were always breaking the phone line and I would go out, find the break, and repair it. The line mostly laid on bare ground as it was only ''temporary''. Toward the end we had a cook and started to live off the local economy. That meant bread runs to Kania every two days as there was no refrigeration and the Greek bread went hard very fast. We even bought bread for the ship.|
|Our berthing space, galley, comm station, garage and recreation areas were all sections of the hangar deck at the field. Offices or small rooms were for senior SeaBees or all night card games. When winter came there was no heat and the wind whistled through that place. Our corpsman had it made, he lived in the ambulance and had heat when needed. Snow on the mountains surrounding the bay was beautiful, until the temperature dropped at the field. Thankfully there was no shortage of blankets. But, the only heat we had was at meal time when 'Cookie' fired up the field stoves. The temperature ran about 70 - 80 in the day and dropped to damn cold at night. Hot water, when we got it, came from portable kitchen stoves. Each man got a gallon to shower in and to do his laundry. Just before we closed down and left, the SeaBees got some flowing hot water going as well as heat in a few office spaces. Sick Bay was an ambulance and corpsman. The corpsman lived in the ambulance the whole time I was there. Heat in winter and cool in summer with no fuel restrictions.|
| At first our liberty was a movie and two Fix
beers. There were two movies on the ship and they were both "The Great
Train Robbery". There was a beer tent down on the beach where an enlisted
man could buy a chit for two cool (not cold ) Budweiser's in Olive
green cans. The problem was transportation which the SeaBees controlled
and thankfully , they liked the Fix better. We had water for showers
when the generators would run and sometimes it was hot. Laundry was a
hit and miss proposition, mostly miss, and we did our own as water was
available. That laundry soap ate dungarees faster than a garbage grinder.
We made some good friends in the little village of Sternes. The SeaBees supplied just about the whole town with kerosene 'Coleman' type lanterns. Only 'Pappas' bar / store had electricity, and a telephone. When hauling the chow I would make three trips empty. On these I could give the locals a lift back up the hill. Soon I was in the olive hauling business as well as people and goats. The locals would stash bottles of wine along the road so I could ''stay warm'' in my open truck. One time I returned after the evening trays were done and was 'nice and warm'. The cook started searching the truck after every trip to find out where I hid the wine. He finally agreed to secrecy and I took him on a dirty dish run. We got along real well after that.
|We were all issued cigarette ration cards. The U.S. Navy was concerned about black market dealings. What they didn't know was, a deck of plastic coated playing cards ( not rationed ) was worth a lot more than tobacco. Camay or other fragrant bath soap was a big item too. At least, that is what I heard.|
| The field and operations were closed down
before Christmas that year. I rode the Talbot, now known as AVB-1,
from Crete to Malta. When it finally became time to get underway, they
found that she had big cracks in the hull. Once afloat, welders were kept
busy 24 hours a day just to keep her from taking on too much water. This
was the situation all the way from Crete to Malta. To make thing more
interesting, we were in a storm of some sort all the way. You can throw
a toothpick over the side of an LST and the damn thing will rock like a
cork in maelstrom when it hits the water. Talk about seasick. I've
never been so sick in my life! Guys were crawling around with buckets
hung on them to puke in. I did fine until a guy lost it across the table
from me one suppertime.
They somehow got the AVB-1 from Malta to Naples where she was given to the Italian Navy in about 1962. It took me about three days to get a flight from Malta to Naples and another week to get back to Lautey.
| I made two more TAD trips to Soudha with
CODs in 1961 when I was in the Naples Det. Living conditions were about
the same, only I didn't stay as long. This time I knew what to expect,
and having a First Class "Crow" on my sleeve didn't hurt any. |