by Michael Thomas
You'll recall all the stories about the abuse laid upon poor "Sub-Conscious"
(the VP-6 Blue Shark mascot). Well, more than one Squadron had their "pets" to protect, and one outfit didn't do so well. Kind of a long story.
Towards the end of our deployment, 1962, VP-22 arrived on the scene to relieve us, maybe April 30. The lead plane belonging to the CO taxied up to be greeted by CFAW-6 and Captain Leonard.
Michael Thomas 1961
The Captain in his dress whites met the VP-22 CO upon deplaning. The VP-22 CO was a big, gruff and loud fellow who took the Captain's hand and slapped him on the back with his dirty hands leaving a light impression somewhere between his shoulder blades. Around the CO's neck was this very long and gaudy white silk scarf, ala the Red Baron.
In the bow of the aircraft was this large ornate Buddha! It was too big to be ivory, but it was very impressive, maybe very old too. The story begins...
The following morning at 0400 some of us met at the Coffee Shack to preflight PC-1, load it up with our personal effects and keepsakes, the chow, and anything else in loving memory of downtown Iwakuni... That morning, however, the Captain and Billy Spinks showed up at the Shack to do some preflighting of their own. Red Madaris, the Plane Captain, saluted the Captain and asked if he needed anything special for the return flight. He said, jokingly, "Yeah, you can get me a Buddha for my bow." Everybody laughed for we new all too well that the Captain didn't like being roughed up as he was by the arriving VP-22 CO.
I didn't laugh too loudly. Now, I'm not one given to petty theft or grand larceny, but I was a little annoyed at that CO too for being such a jerk. So, I quietly left the shack, walked towards the hangar and then suddenly did a right turn and slowly angled back behind the line of VP-22 aircraft careful to avoid the guards on duty, stopping a few times behind two of them until the guards passed by the bow of the aircraft. In the dark, I soon located the "Buddha Plane." I climbed up into the aft station hatch, made my way forward through the radio/ECM compartment, over the wing beam, down the flight deck and then slipped snake-like down the wheelwell into the tunnel before crawling into the bow. I stuck my head into the bow over the observer's footrest and located the Buddha. It was bigger than it looked at first, about 20 inches high. I took out my wire cutters and began doing surgery on the wrapping until the statue came loose. I was sweating clinkers trying to get the Buddha free, feeling all around it in the dark trying to locate all the wires that attached it to the foot rest. After about 10 minutes it finally came free. It was really heavy. Maybe it was ivory! Then the guard came by and I froze holding the Buddha at arms length so it would appear to be still affixed to the footrest. The guard finally passed by and I was able to back up and relax holding the statue in my lap. I then back-tracked the way I came in and made my way to PC-1 where I hid it under the radio table.
Later, after we departed and about two hours out, I called flight and told them I had a message coming forward. Over the wing beam I passed the statue where Red, laughing like carnival clown, carried it up to flight. The Captain roared, "Holy Cow."
Four months later I was paying my adieu to everyone as I got ready to depart with an early out to return to school for the Fall semester. I went to the Captain's office to pay my compliments. I shook his hand and saluted and did an about-face but not before noticing that the Buddha remained squarely in the middle of the Captain's credenza.
As I left the hangar I had the biggest grin in the world, fully content with my larcenous behavior. Ha! It couldn't have happened to a better VP-6 CO.
Michael Thomas, September 2003