Saturday, June 16, 2007

Happy Father's Day Dad

A Pic of My Dad (on the left) in 1958. This is one of the prototype (YH-40 #7) Iroquois "Hueys" on a layover at Bell Helicopter coming back from desert testing and on the way back to Fort Rucker. Dad flew on a lot of the exotic Army helos of the 'nifty-fifties', including all of the Huey prototypes, the U.S.'s first (a Boeing or Lockheed bird-I can't find the pic right now)[Correction 10/25/09- finally found the pic. it was a (should'a known)Sikorsky YH-39] and first U.S. production turbine helicopters (Kaman), and he even survived a hairy in-flight emergency on a prototype Cessna helicopter (I know, I had never heard of one either until he told me about it).

At the time of the photo, he was an 'old' Spec 2, having already done a hitch as a Navy 'plane captain' on PB-4Y anti-submarine warfare aircraft (a flying job in those days) over the Gulf of Mexico during the Korean War (looking for Russkie diesel subs, I guess-kidding! Corpus Christie was a training base) .
About two years after this photo Dad would be out of the Army (Spec 5 pay didn't cover the necessities of a family of 6-going-to-7) and shortly thereafter he would start a career as a "go-to" Tech Rep for Lycoming Gas Turbines: travelling the globe to keep food on the table for what would eventually become a family of eight. His travels included spending most of 1965-eve of '69 (my formative teen years) in Vietnam. He was home most of the time between 69-72 straightening me out. I'm sure his thumbprint is still on my back... and Thank God it is because Heaven knows I needed it.

I remember first seeing this picture a few years ago - right after my Dad passed away. As the oldest of six kids my mind's eye view of my parents is as they were when they were younger and this photo best captures how I will always remember Dad. He had two natural stances his whole life: this one and "Parade Rest".

I didn't think much about the other gentlemen in the photo until my Mom casually mentioned a month or so ago that Dad sure 'loved flying with that pilot'. Well, that got my attention fast. Dad was not too generous with praise when it came to pilots and there were very few he would ever say he 'loved' flying with, so I tried to find out more about the CWO pilot on the right.

The pilot's name is Cliff Turvey, and it was easy enough to find information about him. He was the Army Aviator of the Year in 1959 and was awarded the DFC for some of his flying on the Huey Test Program. He retired as a Major. I made contact with one of his sons, who wrote to tell me Maj. Turvey did one tour of Vietnam and was awarded a second DFC to boot. Like a lot of military pilots, after he retired, he never flew again.

I wonder now if Dad ran into him 'in-country'. I know, I know -- it was a big place and there were a lot of Helo pilots. But there were very few Lycoming Tech Reps, and Dad actually ran into a lot of guys from his early days in the Army. He was based out of wherever the biggest number of helos might be found, so he was usually living in a tent with the (and became "beloved" to him) First Air Cav, but travelled anywhere a helo powertrain might need some TLC.

IMHO, these guys are the 'original' Air Assault Troopers.


Happy Father's Day Dad!
(updated 7/19/07 to correct some poor sentence structure and clarify some points)

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