I SHARE THIS NOT IN A PRIDEFUL WAY BUT TO FOREVER BE THANKFUL TO OUR LORD AND SAVIOR FOR WHAT HE DID IN THE LIFE OF A YOUNG NAVAL AVIATOR 54 YEARS AGO, 18 JULY, 1967.

I WAS FLYING THE DUTY TANKER SAFELY OFF THE COAST OF NORTH VIETNAM OVER THE GULF OF TONKIN SINCE STANDING ORDERS WOULD NOT ALLOW TANKERS TO FLY OVER THE FLACK AND SURFACE TO AIR MISSLE AREAS OF THE NORTH BECAUSE OF THEIR SIZE AND CRITICA, L FUEL LOAD. THE PILOT AND TWO CREW MEMBERS WERE MONITORING THE EMERGENCY RADIO CHANNEL AS SEVERAL FIGHTER AND ATTACK AIRCRAFT WERE ATTEMPTING TO PROTECULYT A DOWNED ATTACK PILOT FROM BEING CAPTURED BY THE NORTH VIETNAMESE MILITARY. WITHIN MINUTES FROM TAKING STATION, WE HEARD AN EMERGENCY MAYDAY CALL FROM A FIGHTER PILOT WHO HAD SACRIFICALLY REMAINED OVER THE DOWNED PILOT TOO LONG AND WAS GOING TO HAVE TO EJECT OVER THE NORTH. WITHIN SECONDS AND WITH A THUMBS UP CONFIRMATION FROM MY TWO CREWMEN, WE MADE THE DECISION TO BREAK STANDING ORDERS AND ATTEMPT TO MEET THE FIGHTER PILOT OVER THE NORTH.

WE TURNED WEST AND IMMEDIATLY WENT TO FULL POWER AND WITH VECTORS FROM THE US NAVY CONTROL SHIP, HEADED INTO THE FLACK FILLED SKYS OVER THE NORTH. AS WE TURNED, LT RICHARD SCHAFFERT IN HIS F-8 CRUSADER WAS APPROXIMATELY 38 MILES INSIDE THE NORTH. AT ABOUT 25 MILES MY CREWMAN NAVIGATOR SPOTTED THE CRUSADER AND WE IMMEDIATELY TURNED TOWARD THE GULF SLOWING TO A TANKING SPEED OF 250 KNOTS AND EXTENDED OUR REFUELING HOSE. LT SCHAFFERT, CALL SIGN “BROWN BEAR”, WHO BY THE WAY IS A RETIRED NAVY CAPTAIN AND LIVES IN UTAH, FLEW DIRECTLY INTO OUR REFUELING BASKET AND THE CREW REPORTING HE WAS TAKING ON FUEL. ALL DURING THE REFUELING, 57MM SHELLS WERE EXPLODING IN THE VICINITY OF BOTH AIRCRAFT ALONG WITH OUR MISSILE WARNING EQUIPMENT INDICATING LAUNCHED MISSILES IN THE AIR. THIRTY MINUTES LATER WE BOTH RECOVERED SAFELY BACK ON BOARD THE USS ORISKANY.

HOWEVER, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT TOOK PLACE THAT DAY WAS DURING THE ON BOARD DEBRIEFING WHEN DICK TURNED TO OUR CREW AND SAID WHEN HE CONNECTED HIS FUEL GAGE WAS READING ZERO. HE THEN EMOTIONALLY CONCLUDED BY SAYING, TOM, I HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND THAT GOD WAS IN TWO COCKPITS TODAY. SO TODAY ON THE 54TH ANNIVERSITY OF THAT TRIP I OFFER WITNESS AND PRAISE TO OUR LIVING LORD AND SAVIOR FOR NOT ONLY PROTECTING OUR CREW BUT FOR PLANTING GODLY SEEDS IN THE HEART OF A YOUNG AVIATOR WHO AT THE TIME DID NOT KNOW THE LORD JESUS AS HIS PERSONAL SAVIOR.

THE P.T.L. ENDING WAS THAT NOT ONLY WAS A FIGHTER AND PILOT SAVED BUT THE ATTACK PILOT WAS RESCUED.

I WOULD LIKE TO CLOSE BY SHARING THAT ABOUT ONE YEAR AGO A REMARKABLE AMERICAN PATRIOT, MR. GEORGE FEHER, A PROFESSIONAL MODLER, FROM FLORDIA WHO HIMSELF HAD ESCAPED COMMUNIST HUNGRAY WHEN HE WAS NINE YEARS OLD OFFERED TO BUILD A DIORAMA MODEL OF THE FLIGHT OVER THE NORTH. THE MODEL HE SO BEAUTIFULLY BUILT WAS ESCORTED HOME FROM FLORIDA BY HAND WITH THE HELP OF MY SON AND FAMILY. MAY OUR LORD BE GLORIFIED THROUGH THIS EVENT.

CAPT. TOM MAXWELL (USN RETIRED)