Joe Ballinger   Woody Freeman   Harvey Meltzer   Joe Ballinger  

During the younger part of my life I was in the US Navy (Oct. 1960 - Feb 1970). I was a flying Crew Chief/Rescue Swimmer during most of that time. In 1965, I was attached to VX-1 Operational Test & Evaluation Squadron at Naval Air Station, Key West, FL. The squadron had two P-3A Orion, Three S-2F, Two P-2V-5 and Three SH-3A/D helicopters.


It wasn't unusual to come to work every day to find a object, antenna, scope, gun, or something else either hanging off of or installed in your aircraft for testing. One of the test I was involved in was the development of the ASROC and SUBROC Torpedo's used in U.S. Navy Submarines and that are dropped from Navy ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) aircraft. We developed the launch platforms for these torpedos by manufacturing attachment devices that could be hooked on bomb shackles to enable the air drop of the torpedos. I helped work on these devices for over six months and when they were ready for testing, I was one of the helo crewmen that went with the helicopter to the Atlantic Fleet Test Range in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. It was cheaper to use the helicopter as a launch platform instead of the P-3 Orion.


Getting to Puerto Rico was a epic challenge. In those days the helicopter was not allowed to go out of sight of land over the open ocean. To solve this problem, we left NAS Key West and flew North, hopping from base to base up the Eastern seaboard until we finally got to NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island. We had to wait out a winter storm for three days to be able to fly out to the aircraft carrier USS Wasp. They had been doing big circles off Rhode Island waiting for us. (It was snowing big 1" - 2" snowflakes HORIZONTALLY). When the weather broke and we were able to fly aboard, I had them tie my chopper down way back in the corner of the hanger deck and told them that I wouldn't be doing any flying until we got within sight of land in Puerto Rico.


When the Wasp got off the coast of Cape Hatteras, NC we ran into a winter storm that caused the officers ward room overhead to sink 4 inches, broke a main spar in the engine room and caused one of the COD SP-2E aircraft to loose the outer portion of it's (folded) wing overboard. Needless to say, This was the first time I had ever been seasick in my life. (and I think probably 80% of the entire ships company too). I filled the pockets in my flight suit with Saltine Crackers and that's what I ate for the four days as we rode out the storm. Once we got within sight of Puerto Rico we launched off the ship and I spent 69 days at Rosie Roads helping with the loading and dropping the torpedos off the side of the SH-3.


My story looses a bit of the thrill of the entire saga when it's told, But I can assure you the living of it was an experience I will remember the rest of my days.........CRS or not.