CDR F. Hugh Magee US Navy (Ret) (1952-1974)
CDR F. Hugh Magee
US Navy (Ret)
Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/379088
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WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
I was most influenced to join the Navy by my father. Although he was 36 years old with 5 children between 11 & 2, he enlisted in the Navy in 1943. After Boot Camp in Sampson NY, he was assigned to GM “A” School in Biloxi MS. Then assigned to the Armed Guard as a GM3, reported to the merchant ship SS Art Young home-ported at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in NY, as a member of the 5″ 38 gun crew.
Dad served on Art Young making multiple round trips between Brooklyn & Hull, England delivering badly need supplies to England, until the war ended in 1945. We grew up in Fairfield, CT only 60 miles from Brooklyn, so Dad got home to visit whenever the ship was in port loading.
Just before the war ended, his ship was in port and he had to return for a duty day, so he asked me if I would like to go back with him and spend the night aboard. I was 11 at the time and I was thrilled. Had a great time, except I nearly got sick after his shipmates plied me with Hershey bars, which were in short supply for civilians, but plentiful in the military.
I told him on the way home that I wanted to join the Navy when I was old enough, make it my career and maybe some day retire as a CPO. Well, I never made Chief, but I did manage 22 years and what a ride it was!
BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
I joined the Inactive Reserve in Feb 1952 while still in High School. After graduation, I did boot camp at NTC Bainbridge, MD, In Jan 1954, I started ET “A” School at NTC Great Lakes, IL, graduating in Dec designated ETSN (R).
Then I headed to Sub School at NSB NewLondon, CT graduating in Feb. 1955. Assigned then to the WWII diesel Sub USS CAVALLA (SSK-244). In Jul 1956, transferred to sub USS BARRACUDA (SSK-1) undergoing overhaul in NSY Philadelphia, PA, while awaiting orders to Flight Training.
As an ET-2 (SS), reported to Pensacola and started Pre-Flight as a NAVCAD in Oct 1956. Primary flight training at Saufley, Whiting & Barin Fields Jan to Dec 1957. Advanced Jet Training NAAS Chase Field, TX Jan to Jul 1958.
Wings & Commissiond ENS 3 Jul 1958.
Reported to my first Squadron VF-94 at NAS Alameda, CA in Aug 1958.
Transferred to VA-55 at NAS Miramar, CA in Mar 1961. In Sep 1962, transferred to VA-125 at NAS Lemoore, CA.
Reported to VA-146 also at Lemoore, in Sep 1965, then transferred to VA-44 at NAS Cecil Field, FL in Jan 1968.
*Photo: Congratulated by USS CONSTELLATION CO, CAPT T. J. Walker upon making the 5,000th arrested landing aboard CVA-64. Aug ’62
Jan 1970 reported to USS MIDWAY (CVA-41) for my Ships Company tour, then in Jul 1972, reported to Staff COMLATWINGPAC at NAS Lemoore, CA.
Retired from active service at Lemoore on Aug 1, 1974.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
Yes, I took part in the early years of Operation ROLLING THUNDER as an A-4C Skyhawk Attack Pilot in VA-146.
We flew combat missions from USS RANGER (CVA-61) Jan-Aug 1966 and USS CONSTELLATION (CVA-64) Apr-Nov 1967. I ended up with a total of 247 combat missions, of which 200+ were over North Vietnam.
As Ordnance Officer then Weapons Dept. Head on USS MIDWAY (CVA-41), made 2 combat deployments in 1971-72. On the 1972 cruise, the USS MIDWAY/CVW-5 team were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC) for our participation in Operation LINEBACKER II, which brought the air war to an end, and the POWs back home in Mar 1973.
I would have to say that the multi-division coordinated strikes (Alpha Strikes) we flew in 1966-67, were the most significant. They were conducted in the Northern Provinces of NVN, where the air defenses were the heaviest, and our aircraft/aircrew losses and casualties the greatest.
*Photo: A photo of a painting of “Busy Bee 604” as she was configured when shot down on 25 June, 1966. Painted by commission in 1985.
WHICH, OF THE VESSELS OR DUTY STATIONS YOU WERE ASSIGNED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?
Of the 2 Submarines and 4 Aircraft Carriers I served on, the USS MIDWAY (CVA-41) is without a doubt the finest vessel in which I served. I joined MIDWAY as a “Plankowner” in the Recommisioning Crew at NSY Hunters Point in January, 1970. She was in drydock just completing a 4-year modernization overhaul.
My initial assignment was as Asst. Weapons/Ordnance/”G” Division Officer and C-1A COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) Pilot with the “COD Squad”. The ship’s COD was utilized to fly Personnel, Parts & Mail on/off the ship.
We spent the rest of the year operating on a daily/weekly basis out of Alameda completing post-overhaul sea trials and underway training with our Airwing (CVW-5). MIDWAY departed Alameda in the Spring of 1971 for WestPac and Yankee Station. During this deployment, the 4 year bombing halt over North Vietnam was still in effect and CVW-5 was engaged in close air support (CAS) for ground troops in South Vietnam and reconnaissance missions over Laos.
MIDWAY returned to Alameda in time for Thanksgiving. As we transpaced on the way home, the Commander promotion list came out, and much to my surprise, I had been selected for promotion.
After the Christmas holidays and on into 1972, MIDWAY/Air Wing FIVE began workups and training for the next deployment scheduled for a June departure. Shortly thereafter, with the Paris truce talks with the North Vietnamese still deadlocked after several years, the President ordered a resumption of full-scale bombing of North Vietnam. Our deployment departure was moved forward six weeks and we left Alameda in mid-April after an accelerated training and exercise schedule and hasty fuel, stores and weapons loadout.
Heavy combat operations for MIDWAY and CVW-5 commenced upon arrival on Yankee Station and continued through summer, fall and into December of 1972 During this period Midway air strikes were instrumental in breaking the sieges at An Loc, Kontum and Quang Tri in South Vietnam. Scheduled to leave for home in early December, MIDWAY was extended on station indefinitely when the President ordered an intensive bombing of the industrial heartland in the Hanoi/Haiphong area by the Navy and Air Force (including massive B-52 strikes) just prior to Christmas. Called Operation Linebacker II, despite heavy losses especially to the lumbering B-52s, the massive bombardment brought the enemy back to the peace talk table and a truce agreement was finally signed, the fighting halted and the POWs returned in February and March 1973. MIDWAY/CVW-5 returned to Alameda in February. The Ship and Air Wing were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC) for this extended deployment.
MIDWAY was a great ship with a fine crew. The two combat deployments were long and tough, but it was a most fulfilling and satisfying 2 year assignment for me. Although decommissioned in 1998, MIDWAY lives on as a Naval Aircraft Carrier Museum in downtown San Diego harbor. It has become the most popular tourist attraction in San Diego!
USS MIDWAY was definitely “A FIGHTER, A FEEDER, AND A BATTLE GROUP LEADER!”
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
It would have to be the events of Jun. 25, 1966. I was launched from RANGER on a major “Alpha Strike” on the oil storage facilities at the Port of Haiphong, North Vietnam. While enroute to the target, the strike was cancelled due to limited visibility at the target. Our (VA-146’s) 8 aircraft were diverted to provide cover for the SAR of an A-6 Intruder (from VA-65) down in the vicinity of Vinh. It’s crew was in the water just offshore and under mortar fire from a line of bunkers along the beach.
While pulling off of a bomb run on the mortar emplacements, my Skyhawk “Busy Bee 604” was smashed by an 85mm AA shell. the engine quit and with fire streaming, I was forced to eject. I and the Intruder Pilot were rescued from under the enemy’s noses by a helo from RANGER. The Intruder Bombardier/Navigator (B/N) was never located. He was listed as MIA for years, then declared KIA, presumably killed by a mortar.
If any of my Shippies or any other NTWS Members may be interested, I’d be happy to e-mail as an attachment, a copy of the first hand account of that mission titled “The Loss of Busy Bee 604”. I wrote it myself, several years after I retired. It covers in detail the launch, shoot-down, rescue operation & return to RANGER.
Just drop me an e-mail request at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
*The photo shown here is of a painting by noted Aviation Artist Ron McCarthy, of 604’s last moments.
WERE ANY OF THE MEDALS OR AWARDS YOU RECEIVED FOR VALOR? IF YES, COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW THIS WAS EARNED?
Distinguished Flying Cross (3) – Various (photo)
Purple Heart – shrapnel wounds received on 25 June 1966, North Vietnam.
Air Medal (25) – 24 strike/flight, 1 single mission award.
NMCM (5)| – all with Combat “V”.
NMAM (2) – 1 with Combat “V”.
*This displayed Citation is a short description of my most productive and satisfying mission.
OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
My Navy Wings of Gold! A close second is a tie between my Silver Dolphins and Navy Good Conduct (didn’t get caught) Medal.
Why? Because they took the most time, concentration, and work to qualify. The GCM because it always reminds me of where I came from, and the fine Enlisted Shipmates with whom I’ve had the privilege of serving.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
I would have to say TMC (SS) Stan Chalecki. He was the Chief of the Boat on my first Submarine USS CAVALLA (SSK-244).
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?
After my Navy retirement in 1974, I entered College on the GI Bill, and received my BS in Geography from Fresno State in 1978. After my graduation gift to myself (six months of living in and touring Australia and New Zealand), started my 2nd career when I was hired by the Garrett Division of Allied-Signal Aerospace Company in Phoenix, AZ.
I started as a Turbojet/Turboprop Technical Publications Writer for the Garrett TFE-731 Turbofan and TPE-331 Turboprop series of aircraft engines. Technical Pubs generated included Illistrated Parts Catalog (IPC), Engine Maintenance Manual (EMM) and Engine Overhaul Manual (EOM) for each model engine. After several years I was promoted to Technical Editor, Supervisor of the TPE-331 Tech Writers.
In 1983, I was granted a 6-month leave of absence and returned to Australia, visiting old friends and living the beach life at Bondi Beach, a world-famous surfing spot, a suburb of Sydney. Over the 1983 Christmas holidays, I flew my Son Michael (a Junior @ SDSU on holiday break) down under to join me. An avid surfer, he had a ball at the beach. I practically had to strait-jacket him to get him on the plane back to start the spring semester. Today Mike is a CDR Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer (AEDO) in the USNR. He has served two tours in Iraq and one in South Korea.
I returned to the US and Garrett in March 1984 and was offered the job as Writer//Editor/Publisher of the Garrett Technical Customer Service Newsletter, a monthly publication called “CONTACT”! It was a great job (a 1-person operation).
In 1979, the company offered me a slot in their Advanced Degree Program to attend Embry Riddle Aerospace University which offered grad level classes in branches at Luke AFB, Williams AFB, ansd Sky Harbor Int’l Airport, all in the Phoenix area. Garrett paid for tuition/books. I had to take all courses at night and work a normal 5 day/40 hour week at Garrett. I received my Masters in Aerospace Science (MAS), in 1989 at the ERAU Campus in Prescott, AZ.
I had started to have signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis in 1985 in most major joints and by 1992 I had reached the point where I could no longer perform my job to MY satisfaction. I applied for and was granted Medical Retirement on Disability. Garrett kept me listed as an employee until age 65 (1999) for retirement computation purposes.
I underwent hip replacement surgery in 2001, which greatly improved my mobility. In 2006, I decided to sell the beautiful golf course home which I had built in 1985, so I could live in San Diego close to my sons and 6 of my grandchildren. Unfortunately, just as I was finishing up a 3-month remodel/upgrade, the real estate market crashed in Arizona and I could not sell my home for what it was worth to me, so I have it leased to good tenants. Someday, the market will come back.
At present, I am living comfortably in a beautiful Assisted Living Home in Lemon Grove, CA. Close to, but not a burden on, my two sons and their children. I have the freedom to come and go as I please, a new sports car to drive and I’m looking forward to attending the 2011 Tailhook reunion with my son Patrick, in Reno in September.
*Photo: Son CDR Michael H. Magee, Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer (BS Aero Eng. SDSU ’87; MS Aero Eng. SDSU ’91). Retiring as CDR USNR in 2012. Mike is also a NTWS member.
I am a lucky Sailor, always have been. Life is GOOD!
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
My Military Association Memberships are listed in my NTWS Profile.
I am active in both the VFW Post #2082, Lemon Grove CA and The American Legion Post #201, Lemon Grove CA.
I do volunteer work, within my disability limitations, for both Posts.
HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
When I was in High School I was not particularly motivated to excel. I knew I couldn’t afford college, so I skated through HS working only hard enough to pass. After entering the Navy, I soon realized that there were unlimited opportunities available and if I worked hard and did my best, I could succeed.
I studied the leadership styles of my seniors as I progressed in the early years of my career. Trying to draw from the best of these traits, I came up with a style that worked best for me and served me well ever since, even after retiring from the Navy.
Much of this I learned from my Dad. Just before I was commissioned, Dad told me to always listen to your Chiefs and your primary duty as a Division Officer is to TAKE CARE of your Enlisted Men and never forget where you came from. I always tried to follow this advice.
*Photo: Young ETSN “BusyBee” at ET “A”School barracks, NTS Great Lakes IL in 1954.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?
The big thing I would emphasize and has often been mentioned is to do the very best you can with every task or job assigned to you. If it’s cleaning heads, compartments or mess cooking, simply perform to the best of your ability. Your Supervisors and Shipmates will take notice and GOOD things will happen!
One of the biggest mistakes I made in my Navy career was that I didn’t take enough photos related to my Navy adventures (Cruises, Shipmates, Ships, Squadrons, Military Social events, etc.). I did get lots of family photos, but not near enough on the military side.
Invest in a good digital camera and shoot, shoot, shoot! It’s so much easier today with no film/developing requirements saving time and money, with computers to store, file and album your photos. Digital cameras are available today in the $100-$200 range that provide clearer, more color-true photos than finest 4-figure cameras back in the day, and they never crack/fade! Much later on in your post-Navy life, you’ll be glad you did.
Also, if during your Navy/hitch/career, you get to go on cruise, be sure to invest in a “Cruise Book” or two. I always ordered an extra one for my parents. You’ll thank yourself later on in life.
*Photo: USS MIDWAY (CVA-41) Cruise Book – 1971 Vietnam Deployment.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?
Actually, I have reunited with at least 10 former Shipmates through NTWS. But more than that, I have made dozens of more new friends on this site.
The feature giving names of NTWS members who served in your unit at the same time period, is a great help in locating former Shipmates.
*Photo: My Pre-Flight classmate, NAVCAD “Nick” Nickerson, taken 55 years ago at NAS Pensacola FL. Nick is now a retired CDR USNR and a retired Northwest A/L B-747 Captain. We have remained in touch and Nick is also a current member of NTWS.