USS Midway - A history in itself
For those who have read even a smidgeon of Navy history, you have heard of the USS Midway. Former Navy Marine Crash Connor tells vividly of his time in the Navy and experiences on the USS Midway. “As most Midwayman know, on 30 April 1975, during evacuation operations, Midway was circled by a South Vietnamese Air Force Cessna 0-1 “Bird-Dog” piloted by Major Bung Ly. With him were his wife and five small children. Major Ly had flown from Con Son Island out to sea in an effort to find freedom for his family. Captain Chambers declared an emergency and ordered the angle deck cleared. Major Ly was given landing instructions through a Vietnamese volunteer interpreter. Major Ly’s approach to the ship was low and slow. He touched down once, bounced, and rolled to a stop well short of the end of the angle deck. Despite a rain soaked deck and without the benefit of a tail hook or arresting barricade, this guy was a determined neophyte carrier pilot who brought his plane to a safe landing. His extraordinary display of airmanship was met with wild applause, from flight deck crewman and personnel throughout the ship watching the dramatic event on the plat.”
Connor said Major Ly won the hearts of many Midwaymen by his heroic act which symbolizes very well the determination of the people of South Vietnam to escape the scourge of Communism. Action had been initiated to trace Major Ly and his family to determine their whereabouts and ultimate destination. It had been suggested by many Midwaymen that there might be many personnel who would be interested in making a small donation which, when combined with the contributions of shipmates, would provide Major Ly and his family funds with which to have started a new life.
All Departments appointed Divisional Bird Dog Fund Kaymen who was responsible for accepting voluntary contributions for Major Ly and his family. Donations were strictly voluntary.
Keyman maintained a ledger of contributions received indicating amount contributed and donor. This ledger was kept subject to inspection, and the collected monies subjected to audit by Department Head Division officers at any time.
All monies collected were turned over to the Administrative Assistant on the 10th and the 20th of each month. A receipt was issued by the Administrative Assistant for all money collected. This fund was subject to inspection and audit by the Executive Officer or appointed Auditing officer at any time.
Crash Connor told of another incident aboard the USS Midway, “An event unique in the annals of naval aviation occurred while the attack aircraft carrier USS Midway was participating in the evacuation of Vietnam. There were thousands of stories concerning Operations “Frequent Wind,” the Vietnamese evacuation, but one in particular will always stand out in the minds of the men of the Midway.”
Connor said, “Amid a bevy of helicopters escaping the threatened city of Saigon on April 30, a tiny speck appeared on the horizon. That speck turned out to be a small Cessna 0-1 Bird Dog observation plane piloted by a South Vietnamese Air Force Major. In a daring attempt to save himself, his wife and five children, the major piloted the single-engine aircraft from Con Son Island seaward in sight of a safe haven.”
It is believed the pilot circled the Midway and attempted to drop to crewman on the flight deck. His first two attempts were futile, but on the third try, his note was intercepted. It read, ‘Can you move these helicopters to the other side? I can land on your runway. I can fly one more hour. We have enough time to move. Please rescue me.”
Connor said, “The Midway’s Commanding Officer, Capt. L.C. Chambers, assessed the situation and ordered the flight deck cleared. Crewman worked feverishly to clear the landing area of South Vietnamese UH-1 Huey helicopters which had been landed earlier by other evacuees. A volunteer Vietnamese interpreter manned a radio to help guide the tiny plane to safety. The major’s approach to the flight deck was low and slow. He touched down once, bounced, and rolled to a stop well short of the end of the carrier’s angle deck. Without the benefit of a tail hook or barricade, the neophyte carrier pilot brought his plane and crew to safety. The landing was greeted by enthusiastic applause from the thrilled crewman who surrounded the small aircraft.”
Connor said, “Of the 3,000 refugees who were brought to safety, the seven who came aboard the ‘Bird Dog” will be the best remembered. The dramatic landing so inspired the crew of the Midway that a fund was established to help them start their new life. The Major and his family had been adopted by the men of the Midway.”
Through peace and war, adversity brings opportunity. Thank you to the men and women who give their life so that we may live in peace.