Clangs and Bangs

by kfrego

Tropical storms and typhoons are very common during the rainy season in Okinawa. The rains are very warm compared to what we get in most of the United States. The storms always have very heavy rains over extended periods of time. The military cancelled all liberty, shut down everything not deemed essential, and restricted most personnel to their barracks for these storms. For large storms the restrictions might last several days. As soon as it got dark on the first night of storm restrictions we would go on a booze run into the local towns. The base perimeter was patrolled by guards with dogs. When the time was right there were many places to get over or under the perimeter fences. We stayed off main roads and preferred the small off limits villages not normally patrolled by military police. Four of us could pack in enough booze for a pretty good party.

During a big typhoon we were assigned three men to a crash truck and put inside the hangers to provide fire watch. The huge old metal framed hangers didn’t have any leakage problems, but as the winds increased in intensity the noise was deafening. The hanger creaked, rattled, and clanged until we thought it was going to blow away. We spent two nights and two days in the hanger with sustained wind speeds of over one hundred miles an hour and gusts to one hundred and forty miles an hour. We slept on the deck of our crash truck between the clangs and bangs. We thought the huge sliding doors would be blown away or fall off from self destruction. The two cases of beer which happened to find their way into the water tank of our truck were used to wash down our C rations at meal times.

A short time after the big typhoon we had an incident with a C-130 Hercules cargo plane. The C-130 is a four engine turbo-prop with reversible thrust capability when landing. The empty plane weighs around 76,000 pounds and maximum take off weight is under 155,000 pounds. An incoming C-130 made a normal touchdown on the runway. The planes roll out was a little faster than normal, but not dangerous. The pilot will reverse thrust on two engines to assist slowing down while applying the brakes. We observed the landing from mid field position in our crash truck. Suddenly the C-130 veered sharply to the right. The pilot locked up the brakes and immediately blew several tires. The plane was almost ninety degrees to the runway when the brakes released and sent the plane hurtling onto the grass. The landing gear cut ruts as the plane slid to a stop on it’s belly in a large bog of grass and water. We were rolling before the plane stopped and realized chances of fire were slim. Mud engulfed the whole bottom of the plane. The pilot had reversed two engines on the same side of the plane. The mud from the recent typhoon saved the plane and the crew.

It took two weeks to extricate the C-130 from the mud………….the pilot was never seen again.