MEET OUR VETERANS:
Jim Hayes USMC, Canton, Tx.
Jim Hayes was born in Enid, Oklahoma on June 11th, 1935. He had one older brother and one older sister. “My sisters name was Erma and my brother, Ernie, was in the Air Force in 1944 just getting in on the tail end of WWII. I was ten years younger than him,” said Jim from his home in Canton.
“My dad, Ernest, worked in the oil fields in Oklahoma. We lived in the oil field shacks, which was basically tar paper and four walls. My mother Edna was a housewife and later worked as a secretary at the High School,” said Jim recalling his early childhood.
“I remember one time, I was in the 7th or 8th grade, I played hooky from school and my dad beat the crap out of me and I never played hooky again. I played on the Catholic baseball team including football and track and I lettered in all three. This was at Hoisington High School in Hoisington, Kansas. During the summertime I worked in the oilfields.
I eventually received a college scholarship to play basketball at Emporia State University. In those days it was called Kansas State Teachers College at Emporia. It was halfway between Wichita and Topeka.” Jim played guard, #30 and was captain on the team. Fifty years later he was inducted into the Emporia State University Athletic Hall of Fame and was named Player of the Year in the Conference. He also received his BS degree in Education which he later used in teaching.
JOINED THE NATIONAL GUARD
“I, along with a friend of mine, joined the National Guard and because we missed too many drills, we were told on 1 October you are going in the Army,” said Jim. “We were drilling every Monday in the guard and that got old after a while.”
“I was told I would join the military when I graduated.” That was the deal Jim made with a friend named Joe, who was the Adjunct General of Kansas. He was in charge of all the National Guard and emphatically told Jim he would have to join some form of military.
“This guy comes along in his dress blues, tennis shoes on and this red stripe down his pants leg. That really looks good, I like that,” said Jim. “This Marine recruiter had all these pictures. One of them showed a Navy plane called an FJ with a beefed-up landing gear and a tail hook. I told this captain, looking at the picture, I want to do that,” explained Jim. He said, “sign right here.” That is how Jim joined the Marines. One, he liked the uniform and two he wanted to fly a plane like the FJ.
ATTENDED OCS AND FLIGHT SCHOOL
“After I got my flying wings, I was obligated for two years of active service in the Marines. I went to Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, Virginia. This friend of mine, Larry Larkin for over 60 years, and I, drove up in my car to Virginia. We also went to flight school together for eighteen months in Pensacola, Florida. I flew the fixed winged Beechcraft T-34 Mentor and the North American AviationT-28 Trojans. I went to Ellison Field near Pensacola and that is where we flew the H-34 and the H-19 Helicopters. I like the fixed wings but you can sight see a whole lot better flying the choppers,” laughed Jim.
“I was starting to live my dream of flying that FJ. My biggest fear of learning to be a Marine pilot was to “WASH OUT.” If that happened I would have been sent back to Quantico and become a “GRUNT.” In Vietnam, my war was completely different than those guys fighting on the ground. I did graduate from Flight School and got my wings. Been flying for fifty years,” boasted Jim.
“From Pensacola I went to the old “Dirigible Blimp Base” in Tustin, California. We had two big Blimp hangars and the helicopter base. El Toro was about five miles away. This was 1959 and Vietnam was not on the radar yet. I stayed there and trained as a military pilot until 1961 when I was released from the Marine Corps.”
TEACHING AND COACHING HS BASKETBALL
“After getting out of the Marines, I decided to use my BS in Education to teach school and coach basketball. I was the High School coach at Stigler Oklahoma. Coached both baseball and basketball. I was also teaching a math class. I stayed for one year. I was five minutes late for hall monitoring and was called on the carpet for it. I decided right then, I don’t need this anymore,” said Jim shaking his head.
CROPDUSTING IN GUATEMALA AND THE NORTHWEST
Next stop, Guatemala to crop spray the banana fields. “My adventure side of me came out. I was flying the F9 which was a jet and working in the Marine Reserves once a month. I sprayed in Guatemala for six months. We were working under a tourist visa, not a work permit.
I was in Guatemala City one day, eating lunch, and here comes this shiny 727 and the big AA on the side. I said to myself, Lord why can’t I fly that too?” Jim asked himself. “Maybe one day,” he answered.
“I then worked for Weyerhaeuser Timber Company in the state of Washington and was probably the last one to spray the banned chemical, DDT. This little worm, the hemlock looper, was boring holes destroying their trees. They caused billions of dollars in damage. When spraying we always flew into the wind so the spray would trail behind us. Never was exposed to the chemical. Also sprayed the oyster beds. This was 1964,” said Jim.
“My brother was an engineer on the Boeing 707’s. The FAA had these ground stations that put out a signal and airplanes pick up this signal. We were at McChord Air Force Base and flew down to Mexico, turned around and flew back. Making sure all these signals worked properly. A nice three-hour cush job. My brother told me at the time, “Why are you crop-dusting? you need to make me proud of you.” He was right.
BACK IN THE MARINES
“I joined as a Standing Written Agreement or SWAG for a five-year stint with the U.S. Marines as an officer. They sent me to New River, Ct. The first thing they asked me was, “Do you want to go on a Med Cruise?” It was July 1964. “Yeah, why not. I was the Maintenance Officer aboard the USS Shadwell (LSD-15). We had six H-34’s on board. It was built in 1942 to make one landing on the Japanese mainland and throw it away,” said Jim. Twenty years later Jim Hayes is an officer on that ship. “I was on the Med Cruise for six months. I remember one time I flew up beside the ship but I was below the deck and that pissed the Captain off. So, I got put in the hack. Go to your room and stay there. No movies for me.” I am still laughing at that story.
R&D WITH THE H-34s
“In March 1965 the military was looking for someone super qualified on the H-34 Helicopters. So, they sent me to the Army Corp of Engineers in Vicksburg, Mississippi for about six weeks. The H-34 weighed about 12,500 pounds maxed out. They wanted to make a pad that would float on the rice paddies. They did have a prototype and wanted to make sure it would hold the H-34s. They did. It was about 20 x 20 and made of metal and Styrofoam to make it float,” explained Jim.
YOU ARE GOING TO VIETNAM
“While I was in Mississippi they needed to fill a quota for (GCI) School, or Ground Control Intercepts. The school was in Brunswick, Georgia. After I finished school there, they said you are going to Vietnam. So, in December of 1965 I went to war. I was the Operations Officer of Marine Air Control Squadron 7 in Kyha, Vietnam. They had a Huey and three H-34 squadrons near us. We had a radar control squadron at the top of the hill. We mostly went out and dropped off and picked up troops from the field. We were up in (ICOR), Infantry Combat Regiment.
The first time I landed, this tree line just lit up like fireworks. So, I knew the bullets were coming at us. I had a lot of faith in God. I just had a job to do and went and did it. I just didn’t bring it home,” said Jim.
COACHING BASKETBALL FOR ASIAN GAMES
“The 5th Asian games were about to kick off in Bangkok, Thailand in 1966. They were looking for people with sports experience, including basketball. I went to Saigon to help coach the South Vietnamese basketball team,” recalled Jim. From a combat pilot to coaching basketball for the South Vietnamese national team. “My tallest player was 6’1”. We did beat Salon and Burma. When the Asian games were over I went back to Marine Air Control 7 in Vietnam. I am not the Operations Officer anymore. I ended up extending another six months while I was there. For that, I received the choice of duty station, and 30 days free leave.
I wanted to fly the A-4, (Douglas A-4 Skyhawk). I had already had Jet time in the F-9 and ended up at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma. I came down with ear blockage and had to have both eardrums punctured to relieve the pressure,” wow that hurt recalled Jim.
“I wanted orders to VMA-311 in Chu Lai and asked the Colonel to honor my wishes since it was part of the deal to stay on for another six months. I had orders the next day. I had six weeks to get checked out in the A-4.
We came back to Vietnam and started running missions. We were doing some strafing and bombing around the country. I remember dropping a bomb on Ho Chi Min Trail. We had a thousand pounder under each wing. We would drop them both. One would explode and the other had a 12-hour fuse on them. So, at about 3 o’clock in the morning when everyone is running up and down the trail, kaboom. I went in on June 1st and left in September from Vietnam. This was right before the TET Offensive in 68,” said Jim pointing at some pictures laid out on the table.
FLYING THE HUEY GUNSHIPS
“I then went back to Beeville, Texas and instructed in a training command for thirty months. I got orders that said, you are going to fly helicopters. I hopped into an A-4 to Andrews to plead my case but they didn’t listen to me. They did tell me they had guns on the Huey. All right, I said, at least now I can shoot back. I will fly the Huey gunships,” said Jim laughing at himself.
INFO: During Vietnam, the Huey was used for a variety of purposes. Huey’s tasked with the ground attack, or armed escort roles were equipped with rocket launchers, grenade launchers, and machine guns.
Because of their versatility, the Huey was able to assume many roles and functions. Given a certain function, they came to bear different names based on the role they assumed.
By 1962, the Huey became modified locally by the companies themselves who started to fabricate mounting systems on their own. Gunships became known as “Frogs” or “Hogs” if they carried rockets.
Huey’s that only carried guns became known as “Cobras” or “Guns.” Troop transport Huey’s came to be known as “Slicks” due to their lack of weapons pods. (SOURCE: www.warhistoryonline.com )
“I am heading back for my third tour of Vietnam. I spent 34 months total in country of Vietnam in my career. I did mostly gun cover for the CH-46.”
INFO: The CH-46 Sea Knight was used as assault transport, carried supplies and equipment. Additional tasks included combat support, search and rescue, forward refueling and medical evacuation.
The Sea Knight has two tandem rotors and two engines. The CH-46A is fitted with two General Electric T58-GE-8 turboshaft engines. Engines are mounted on each side of the rear rotor. The engines are coupled and in case of emergency the Sea Knight can fly with only one engine operational.
The CH-46 has a crew of 5, including 2 pilots, 1 crew chief, 1 aerial gunner/observer, 1 tail gunner. The Sea Knight can be also operated by a crew of 3, depending on mission requirements. This helicopter accommodates up to 17 troops in its cargo compartment. Alternatively, it can carry litters and medical attendants. This transport helicopter can carry various loads (up to 1 850 kg). It can also carry up to 4 500 kg loads underslung externally. The Sea Knight has a rear loading ramp.
The Sea Knight is armed with two 12.7 mm machine guns on each side and one 7.62 mm machine gun for self-defense. However, these weapons are fitted optionally. ( SOURCE: www.military-today.com )
There was an extraction technique used recently on the hit TV series, “SEAL TEAM” where they hoisted up several seals via a hook line and hoisted them away from imminent danger. It is called Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction or “SPIE” system. It is an adaption of the Vietnam War-era STABO rig.
“I was doing gun cover when we went into the jungle to pick up some guys who were in trouble. You could hear their desperation on the radio chatter. I got about eight of them out and the Ch-46 lifted straight up. We were just west of Da Nang. It was the first time I had ever seen this technique before. Watching that Seal show made me feel like I was right back there in Vietnam. I said, I have seen that before,” grinned Jim.
“I remember I dropped a bomb too low one time. I was fifty feet off the ground. Shook the plane on that one. You learn as you go, I guess. When I was the CO of the 267, I flew the 60,000th accident free flight hour. I went out on over 700 ops in Vietnam. I used to keep a log of all my operations. In a fixed wing you had to go out, come back and land. In a helicopter you would do one mission and then you would go off and do another mission. That was called the “flight strike system.” You got one point for a mission and 2 points if you got shot at. I got shot at a few times,” said Jim.
“I remember up in Khe Sanh they were shooting these big artillery shells at me. They sent us there to try and knock them out. I thought I was in WWII. I saw all these puffs of smoke. That was different than a 50 cal shooting at me.”
“There was another time when about 400 Marines were pinned down. I was making a run and every fifth round, was a tracer. There was so much firepower you could walk on them, they were so thick. I was dropping Napalm and I saw the smoker. I dropped it right on the edge. It was a perfect shot. There were about 30 guns shooting at me. There was nothing but divine intervention that day. I could see all the tracers go by on my right side. I should have been promoted to Colonel after that mission. I missed it by one vote,” said Jim, again shaking his head.
EXPOSED TO AGENT ORANGE
“I was looking for a place where I could go Visual Flight Rules (VFR). All of a sudden, I had an Army C-123 in my windscreen. He was spraying the tree line with the chemical Agent Orange. I thought we were going to hit crunching metal. We were that close to a collision. The doors were open and the windows down. We all got soaked with Agent Orange from the spray. You don’t have to set foot in country to get exposed to Agent Orange,” Jim told me.
INFO: (Bill H.R.299) This bill was recently passed and extends the presumption of service connection for certain diseases associated with herbicide exposure to veterans who served: (1) in the territorial seas of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, or (2) in or near the Korean demilitarized zone between September 1, 1967, and August 31, 1971. Under a presumption of service-connection, specific disabilities diagnosed in certain veterans are presumed to have been caused by the circumstances of their military service. Health care benefits and disability compensation may then be awarded. (SOURCE: Congress.gov)
“I was diagnosed twenty years ago with exposure to the defoliant chemical Agent Orange. People for years told me I needed to go to the VA and I said no, I don’t need to go,” said Jim looking down.
“Now I have a hole in my heel and complications from diabetes. All attributed to Agent Orange exposure. When they went to clean out my heel, my heart stopped for two minutes.” So, you were clinically dead? “Yes, I have had a lot of Divine Interventions in my life,” he said.
“I have congestive heart and kidney failures. They try to fix one thing and it effects another part of my body,” said Jim.
“My fondest memory of serving in the military is the comradery. There is NOTHING like being with your friends and getting shot at.”
“I received 39 air medals, Meritorious Bronze Star with the Combat V, Field Grade Good Conduct Ribbon, Meritorious Service Medal and a bunch of I WAS THERE ribbons.
If I had a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), I would have made Colonel. I feel really strong about that,” said Jim.
“I retired in 1984 as a LT. Colonel.”
MOVING TO VAN ZANDT COUNTY
“I always wanted to raise cows. We had sixty acres and I leased another 170-acres. I was running sixty commercial cattle at the time. 30 cows eat one roll of hay a day. Then bad times hit. The Mad Cow disease, Opra said beef was bad for you and we went thru a drought. I maxed out my credit cards and finally in 2005 I sold everything. Out of the cattle raising business,” said Jim shaking his head.
“I started a Bed and Breakfast for my wife in Athens. We had that business for eleven years. It was called Pine Cone Country Inn. It was fun. We met a lot of interesting people from around the world,” said Jim.
“My secret to long life is to Honor your father. One of God’s Commandants is to honor thy Father and Mother and your days will be long upon the Earth. My dad was the custodian of our church and every Saturday I went out and helped him. I was sweeping, mowing or shoveling snow.”
“I went to work as a pilot for Air Cal until American Airlines bought them out. I flew for American for ten years, the last three as captain. It was the best job I ever had. Thirty years later, there I am, flying that big shiny 727 for American Airlines. God answered my prayers,” said Jim with a big smile on his face.
Jim, you have had a long-blessed life, full of adventure. It is sad to hear you fought the battle in Vietnam only to come back and now battle Agent Orange exposure. Thank you for your service to our country. You served with honor.
GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
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