I Really Hate Jaywalkers

The very first person to read my autobiography, “SEX WITH CHICKENS,” said to me, “You sure do hate jaywalkers, don’t you?”  Me declaring war on jaywalkers was, perhaps, .01% of the book, but it impressed her a lot.  There are several reasons why I hate the bastards; the #1 being that jaywalkers NEVER stop for pedestrians who are in the street legally.  NEVER, unless forced to, by the likes of me.  One time, on a beautiful late afternoon in Lake Tahoe, I was cruising eastbound (and down), on Highway 50, towards Nevada, in my taxi-cab when, what to my wondering eyes should appear?  Standing in the absolute middle of the two-lanes-in-both-directions-with-a-2-way-left-turn-lane-in-the-middle, major transportation corridor, during what passed for ‘rush hour’ in South Lake Tahoe, was a visibly pregnant (about 7 1/2 months) nice looking young woman, pushing a baby stroller which, one could presume, contained a baby, standing in a clearly marked crosswalk, and NOBODY WAS STOPPING.  I glanced over my right shoulder, to see if I could change lanes,  cut the wheel HARD, and SLAMMED on the brakes.  I straddled both lanes of traffic, stopping traffic back to the “Y.”  NOBODY honked at me; they knew better than to fuck with an enraged MF like me.  I sat there, along with 100 or so other cars, until she was safely on the sidewalk, then drove off.  A sarcastic ‘tip of the hat’ to those wankers behind me:  I don’t think there was a single rear-ender back there, which was amazing.

One time I was driving an ex-Nevada Highway Patrol cruiser, with two elderly couples in it, when about a dozen assholes stepped off the curb, about 50 feet away from a marked crosswalk, and commenced to jaywalk right in front of my taxi-cab.  I immediately slammed the pedal to the metal, and aimed for the middle of the mob.  That ex-cruiser had a 360 cid engine, with a 4-barrel that, when punched, sucks air like a mo-fo:  WHOOSH.  A red-lined engine, with a sucking carb, alerted those assholes that something was afoot.  They all started screaming and running.  It wasn’t even close; they all moved very fast.  I noticed that there was a black couple in the mob who, I’m sure, believed that it was a “racist” thing and that I was targeting only them.  No way, Ho-zay.  A nice old lady, close to 80 years old, said to me, from the back seat, “Boy, young man, those people sure were asking to be killed.”  I LOVE little old ladies, especially those who give me straight lines.  I replied, “Yes, ma’am, and I’m the ANGEL OF DEATH.” Those folks (all four of them) laughed and cackled like they hadn’t done in, probably, decades.

Another time, in a different ex-police car, which had the same engine, I punched it and headed for the middle of a group of at least 30 people who were jaywalking, in a crosswalk, but against a red light.  They all yelled, flipped me off, and ran like hell.

I almost ran over an asshole who stepped right in front of my moving cab.  He might have been looking to make a bogus insurance claim.  I slammed on the brakes, the cab stopping less than one foot away from the asshole.  If there had been a push-bar on that cab, I would have hit him.  I honked and he stood, right in front of the hood ornament, and gave me the finger.  I had two even older couples in my cab, this time.  I put the cab in park, turned off the waiting time on the meter, took off my seatbelt, picked up Mr. Crowbar off the floor, opened the door and got out.  The jaywalker hadn’t moved.  I looked back, in the cab and, I swear, all four of those geezers, none of whom had a sense of humor, were all clutching their chests, with their mouths wide open, gasping for air.  I looked at the asshole, who looked like a deer in the headlights, then back at my passengers, and thought, “If I beat the shit out of this asshole, I’m going to have four cardiac arrests on my hands,” and got back in my cab, while the asshole sprinted across the street.

All these stories are just an introduction to my first encounter with an asshole jaywalker, whom I tried, with every atom in my body, to kill, after I gave him a sporting chance to save his life.  3 am, in the “dark” side of town, ADT car (POS ’63 Plymouth, 6-cylinder, 3-speed stick shift), 60 mph in a 25 zone, very wide street, nigger steps into the street on my left.  The moment I see the asshole, I do several things; hit the high beams, downshift to second gear, jam the pedal to the floor, and aim my hood ornament at him like a rifle sight.  The darkie stopped, almost turned back, which he should have done, but decided to cross the street anyway.  As he moved, I moved, keeping that hood ornament centered on him.  He quickly was running full-tilt, for the other side of the street, a good 50 feet away, as I was bearing down on him, maybe 200 feet away.  That POS car topped out at 58 mph, in second gear.  If  I had left it in 3rd, I would have hit him before he made it halfway across.  As he neared the parked cars, on the right, which offered him protection, I lined up about 6 inches from the parked cars and continued to race at him.  I would have hit him if he had not dived, like Superman, for the parked cars.  My car passed by the soles of his shoes, doing 58 mph, missing him by about 6 inches.  I shifted to 3rd, turned off the high beams, flipped the mirror to the “day” position, and looked back.  He didn’t get up.  He must have done a face-plant on the asphalt or a header into the curb.  Fuck him; if I would have hit him, I would have kept going.  No witnesses and, if he had lived, absolutely no description of the car.  Yes, I TRULY hate jaywalkers.





A Demon Almost Killed Me

The F-3 Demon was the worst POS airplane that anybody has ever made.  It was grossly overweight and horribly underpowered.  The guys who flew them had to fool themselves that they were “fighter jocks.”  A Sopwith Camel could take a Demon, in a dog fight.  In the late ’50s, the use of computers to design airplanes was started.  The engineers thought, “Let’s run the complete plans, for an existing plane, through the computer, and see what it says about that plane.”  I don’t know why, but they ran the plans, for the Demon, through their computer, and the machine said, “IT WILL NOT FLY.”

Skip forward to the Fall of ’62.  On my first 10 day car-qual, on the Ticonderoga, I was the dedicated “field nigger” that had to work as a “troubleshooter” on the flight deck.  Not a single one of the other squadrons had a troubleshooter assigned thereto.  But I was the lone “Reserve” in my squadron, so I got all the shit jobs.  When our electronics shop got its first Negro, many moons later, HE immediately became the new field-nigger-on-the-flight-deck, and I became the new house-nigger-on-the-hangar-deck.

That first 10 days and nights, working on the flight deck, weren’t too bad, although I had to work 20 hours each and every day.  The absolute worst part of it was the bone-numbing cold, at night.  The air temp was probably around 50 degrees but , with a 30 knot wind, the wind-chill was around 20 degrees F.  Wearing four layers of clothes (15 layers wouldn’t have helped) didn’t keep the wet, salty air from penetrating to your body.  To try and keep warm, 40 or 50 guys would stand in a big circle, huddling together.  This wasn’t some homo-inspired group-grope, it was a basic survival technique.  The guys on the inside were, of course, warm, and didn’t want to exchange places with the guys on the outside, who were cold. and wanted to get inside.  I figured that there had to be a better way to handle the cold, and decided to bring some BRANDY out with me, on the next cruise.

A couple of weeks later, on the next 10 day car-qual, my bottle of cherry-flavored brandy was tapped twice a night.  Once at 8 pm and again at 10 pm.  One shot, and I would be toasty warm for two hours.  For a couple of nights, I stayed on the outside, keeping other guys warm.  On this one particular night, I had just been down to my locker, to take a shot, and was standing on the forward flight deck, a few feet away from the mob, watching the planes land on the angle deck.  It was neat, being able to watch the action, and without being really cold.

A Demon, which landed at 160 knots, compared to an F-4 Phantom, FA-18, or any other jet fighter, all of which landed at 130 knots, touched down, missed all the wires, which probably saved the pilot’s life, and took off (boltered) again.  In it’s short time on the deck, it managed to lose its entire starboard main gear.  The wheel separated from the strut, the latter bouncing end-over-end down the angle deck, and going into the ocean.  The wheel, a monster that stood about 4 feet tall, weighing about 400 pounds, and doing about 180 mph, bounced 2 or 3 times, then settled down, hauling ass directly (like an arrow) towards the 40 or 50 guys in the group hug.  NOBODY, except me, saw what had happened, and I yelled out, “There’s a wheel coming down the deck.  Everybody scatter.”  Everybody did, in fact, scatter, and that wheel went right over what had been the exact middle of that mob of men, shot out over the forward edge of the flight deck, and landed in the water, about 100 yards in front of the carrier, sending up a huge plume of water.  Not a single one of those assholes thanked me for saving their life.

About an hour later, we got to see the pilot of the Demon eject from the plane, only about 1/4 mile off our starboard bow, at 2,000 feet.  That was way cool.

If it hadn’t been for that shot of brandy, I would have been part of that hug-a-thon, and probably killed, along with a bunch of other bluejackets.  I never took brandy out with me again, weighing my comfort against a possible court-martial for having booze aboard the ship.  It’s OK for the officers, but not the enlisted men.

(That was N-D experience #5)




Near-Death Experience #6

I actually had a few more close calls with death, than the six on which I comment; there are actually another 2 or 3, along with a few experiences that came THIS CLOSE ][ to being one of those nasties.  This one was the last of the six, which took place on a night, in Long Beach, California, that was raining like I would imagine it would be in Bombay, India, during the Monsoon season.  It was the heaviest rain that I’ve ever had to drive in.

I was working the night shift at ADT’s Station 9, at the corner of Wardlow and Santa Fe, where I had practiced drawing, firing, and reloading my personally-owned gat, a museum-quality Smith & Wesson Model 27, .357 Magnum, with a 5″ barrel, for scores of hours.  I worked that station first, after I started working in the field.  Besides training myself in the fundamentals of pistolcraft, I also schooled myself in what I should do, in hundreds of different situations, in which I might find myself.  I had speedloaders on my Sam Brown belt, something that a lot of cops didn’t have, even many years later, when every cop-shop  in the country, went to semi-autos.  Some were still using drop pouches, in the 70s, and I was proficient with MY speedloaders in early 1965.

The Long Beach Station was usually slow, and sometimes VERY slow.  Thankfully, this night was so slow, that I had been in the station since 4:30 pm and, around 9 pm, I got my first call.  It was something in Hawthorne or El Segundo or I don’t know where, but I had to take the San Diego Freeway, the on-ramp to which, was about 100 yards from the station. As I said, it was raining hard, but I had no idea just HOW hard.  I got on the freeway and this, boys and girls, was THE GOOD OL’ DAYS; I’m talking NOBODY on the freeway.  There were probably 5 cars, total, on the entire freeway, between the Long Beach Freeway and the Harbor Freeway, which are about 5 miles apart, but the fastest I felt that I could go, on this particular deserted freeway, was 25 mph.  With the wipers set on FAST, it was still almost impossible to see .  I was heading west and the end of the storm was heading east and, as I drove to the west, it quickly lightened up in the intensity department.  I moved up to 35, 45, and finally, to exactly 50 mph, when I had passed the storm.  It had totally stopped raining, but the roadway was still wet, of course, and 50 was a safe speed under those conditions.  I could see two cars, about a mile behind me, as I approached the interchange with the Harbor Freeway.  I was continuing on the S.D. Fwy, and was driving in a straight line, with both hands firmly grasping the steering wheel, when the back of that Plymouth 2-door’s rear-end started to come around, to the left, in a clock-wise rotation, as viewed from above.  Two things happened:  Time slowed down.  It actually happens, and there’s even a scientific name to describe the phenomenon.  And the other thing was actually something NOT happening.  I did not panic.  I was in a state of Zen consciousness.  The car had come around 180 degrees, in a pretty short time, and stopped turning, but still sliding, now backwards, at 50 mph.  As I was curious as to the direction in which my car was headed, I looked over my left shoulder, and saw that I was headed directly at a metal pole, about 5 feet in diameter; one of those babies that hold up the inverted “L” signs, which hang over the freeway, with catwalks on them.  Those poles could anchor Mount Rushmore.  Not just the car was headed toward that stronger-than-Gibraltar pole but, more specifically, the driver’s door was on a collision course with that thing.  Micro-seconds after hitting that thing, I would have been completely dead; no brain, heart, or any other system in my body would be working; dead.  I had cranked that wheel, while in the initial spin, from lock-to-lock several times, with no effect, so I knew that turning the wheel was useless, but I had to find some way to change the direction of my car or I would die.  I had never even thought about using the brakes, when I was in the spin, but thought that maybe the brakes could do something; anything.

I started pumping that pedal, as hard and as fast as I could, as I was getting closer and closer to that pole.  I must have pumped it 15 or more times, with no effect, when suddenly the car started to spin again, doing a 360 this time, ending up still backing towards that pole, but slowed, just enough, by the spin, not the brakes, that no part of the car hit the pole.  Instead, my rear bumper cleared that pole by just a foot or two; the side of the car taking out a bunch of very cheap-ass guard-rail, but that’s all that was needed there.  The guard-rail was twisted around the big pole, at a 90 degree angle to the direction of the freeway, pointing in the general direction of the Goodyear Blimp, which was moored just a couple of hundred yards away.  Three or four 6 X 6 wooden posts were pulled out of the muddy ground, still attached to the metal guard-rail.  I rolled down a 75 foot, almost vertical, muddy-ass hill; left side, roof, right side, wheels, rinse and repeat several times, coming to rest, UPSIDE DOWN, hanging from my seat belt.  The engine had died and I turned off the ignition switch.

The only thing that concerned me was fire. I hung, upside down, for 2 or 3 minutes, surveying the scene.  The roof was smashed down to within about a foot of the front passenger seat.  Someone sitting there would have been killed.  There was no way to get out of the car through the right-side door.  The windshield was still in place, and was unbroken right in front of me, while it was all broken-up, but still in place, in front of the passenger seat.  That left my door and the rear window as the only two avenues of egress.  My window had popped out, leaving enough room to crawl out the window, but with the roof resting on some very mushy mud, which partially blocked the window opening, I would have gotten covered, completely, with mud.  The driver’s door was jammed shut.  Not getting all muddy had a certain appeal, so I released the seat belt, dropped onto the roof, got on my hands and knees, and crawled to the back of the car.  The rear window was completely undamaged, so I thought that as kicking it would probably not work, I would have to SHOOT the sumbitch.  I took my gun out of the holster, cocked it, aimed it at the window, and was just about to pull the trigger, when I looked through the muddy, streaked, dirty window, and saw that my bullets would be hitting the slow lane on the Harbor Freeway, and I thought, I’d better not do that.  I put my gun back in the holster, and tunneled through the mud that was partially blocking the window, then played slip-and-slide on that fucking 75 foot hill.

It took about 5 minutes to get up that damned hill.  About 2 minutes after I reached the level of the freeway, I was sitting in the back of a CHP car.  The driver was an older guy who must have had 20+ years as a copper.  The other guy had to be a jew.  What a fucking asshole.  “Were you scared?”  Fuck no, I wasn’t scared.  It took two tow trucks to get that car up onto the freeway and the older cop immediately checked the tire pressure on all my tires.  The left rear one had SEVENTY pounds of pressure in it and a one-inch bald spot, right down the middle of the tire.  It was a brand-new tire, being only one week old, and that’s what caused me to aquaplane.






#1 Most Disgusting Chimp-Out

I lived in the middle of a large black ghetto, in Long Beach, California, from 1973  to 1975.  Twice a day I had to pass by the corner of Anaheim Street and Walnut Avenue where, on the north-west corner of that intersection, was the “stroll,” for all the pimps and hoes.  I’m talking a lavender Cadillac, with Long Horn Steer horns affixed to the front of the hood, owned by the knee-grow standing in the street next to it, who was wearing a pimp suit that was the exact shade of lavender as the car, and a ginormous lavender pimp hat.  He was probably packing a Walther PPK, but I was packing a snubby revolver.  On a Monday, in the summer, my only day off, I had driven somewhere and was heading home at about 8:30 pm.  The sun had gone down but there was still a lot of light.  I was in the left turn lane and, to my right, was a vacant lot, which had been vacant since the big earthquake in ’33.  I noticed around 25 darkies milling around in the lot.  All but two of them formed a circle around two of them, both women, who were in the middle of the circle, engaging in mortal combat, with baseball bats.  People in the crowd, men and women, were yelling encouragement to their personal champion, things like, “Kill dat bitch,” “Hit dat motherfucker upside her haid,” and other, even more colorful remarks.  From some of the comments, it was clear that the fight was over a MAN.  It’s too bad that I couldn’t stay and watch the festivities, but I would have had to shoot my way out of there, leaving a few niggers dead.


So far, it’s just your standard, garden-variety nigger chimp-out, but the two combatants were fat, middle-aged black women whom I’m positive were both GRANDMOTHERS.  Two women that looked like Hattie McDaniel, and they were trying to kill each other.  Who knows, the man could have been the preacher at their church.   Never date a black woman, even if you’re a black man; they be crazy.

Near-Death Experience #2

In February, 1958, I witnessed the mid-air collision of two planes over Norwalk, California, that killed almost 50 people.  It involved a DC-6, which had just taken off from the Long Beach Municipal Airport, and a Navy P2V, which had just taken off from Los Alamitos NAS.  I found out, after I started corresponding with Harold Grimsley’s widow, that Harold, the guy who died in my place in 1960, was supposed to be on THAT plane, but was late and missed the flight, being a near-death experience for Harold.

In the summer of 1961, my squadron “cruised,” for two weeks, at our home base, Los Al.  I had just been assigned to a new crew, with a real estate salesman for a pilot.  He was an idiot who almost got all of us killed.  We were going out on a “barrier patrol,” lasting 8 hours, and were going to rendezvous with a U.S. submarine, to practice finding and bombing a sub.  We carried 24 practice bombs.

I was nominally the radio operator, but I was also in charge of the ordnance, which consisted of a “smoke-light,” which I was to drop out of the camera hatch.  It would land in the ocean, sending up a plume of smoke, which we would bomb.  I was to score the bombing accuracy, and report my observations to the pilot, who was keeping score.  I had absolutely no duties to perform for several hours, and could have been reading the latest issue of PLAYBOY magazine, which I had with me, or even sleeping in one of the bunks in the tail.  I chose to become an observer in the tail, and notified the pilot that I was going to be an observer on the port side of the tail.

Our radar operator, the only person who has ever thanked me for saving his life, and the “MAD-man,” or Magnetic Anomaly Detector operator, which detects submarines when they are completely submerged, had to calibrate their equipment, so the pilot took us to the Long Beach Naval Station/Shipyard, to fly over a ship.  He found a minesweeper, that was entering the breakwater, and made two passes over it.  After the second pass, both guys reported their gear was 100% calibrated and ready to go.  The fool-assed pilot decided to make “one more pass” over the ship.

I was lollygagging in the tail, smoking a cigarette, and looking out the porthole, from which I had taken out the Plexiglas bubble.  At the precise moment we passed over the minesweeper, for the 3rd time, I saw a DC-6, which had just taken off from the Long Beach Municipal Airport, heading straight for the side of our plane, just a few hundred feet away.  As Robin Williams used to say, “Deja fucking vu;” it was Norwalk, all over again.  I had my microphone in my right hand, which was resting in my lap.  I raised my hand, keyed the mike, and said, “Aircraft 10 o’clock level, closing on collision course.”  About 2 or 3 seconds later, we did a hard right turn, like a fighter plane.  The fucking idiot should have just pushed the control column forward, and the other plane would have flown over us, because if the other pilot hadn’t reacted, the DC-6 would have plowed into our belly, instead of our side.  I was completely calm, and watched how the other plane continued to fly straight at us.  2 or 3 seconds after WE turned right, the other plane turned hard right, and we passed, belly-to-belly, about 30 feet apart.  Not a word was spoken, in my plane, for about 20 minutes, and I’d bet there were some soiled flight suits up front.  The radar operator, one of only three men in the crew who couldn’t see the other plane, even after I sounded the alarm, because he was on the starboard side of the plane, didn’t know what had happened until I explained it to him, several hours later, after we had landed.  He thought about it, for a few seconds, then stuck out his right arm, to shake hands, and said, “Thank you for saving my life.”  About three weeks later I went on active duty for two years, where JFK was my Commander-in-Chief for the entire time.

January 9, 1960 – My First Near-Death Experience

I was sworn into the Navy Reserves on May 30, 1959.  I attended the craziest boot camp, that has ever been seen, at Los Alamitos Naval Air Station, in southern California.  My mates and I were in the MISS UNIVERSE PAGEANT PARADE, in Long Beach, the last year it was held there.  I pushed MISS SWEDEN’s float in the parade.  Whatta butt she had.  We were also in the Huntington Beach 4th of July Parade, which had JAYNE MANSFIELD as the Grand Marshal.  I, personally, got within about 5 feet of her gargantuan TA-TAS.  Then I went to DISNEYLAND, and I was in BOOT CAMP.

After that remarkable experience, I started “drilling” with my squadron, VP-774, which flew P-2V Neptune anti-submarine patrol bombers.  We drilled one weekend a month.  We were called, by some, “Weekend Warriors.”  I attended an electronics class, all day Saturday, and half a day on Sunday.  Sunday afternoon I could do anything I wanted.  I gassed the planes, stood behind them when they started up on the line, and smelled the beautiful exhaust fumes from those R-3350 radial engines; the same engines that were on the B-29s and Super Constellations.  I found out that if you approached the pilot of a plane that was going on a flight, and asked if you could go on the flight, the pilot would always say yes.  THAT was my Disneyland.  The coolest seat, in the plane, was in the nose.  You sat in a very comfortable, padded seat, with padded armrests.  You had a panoramic view through the plexiglass nose, and you could put your feet up on a steel mounting bracket on which a Ma Deuce .50 caliber machine gun could be mounted.  Ray Ban Aviator sunglasses, and I was ready to rock.

I’d been on 3 or 4 flights and was HOOKED.  On this particular Saturday morning, just before muster, I found out that a particular pilot, with whom I had flown before, was making a NIGHT FLIGHT, a rarity.  I went up to the pilot, and asked him if I could go on the flight.  He told me that because we made so few night flights, that everybody wanted to go, and the crew was filled to capacity.  But then he told me that one of the regular members of his crew hadn’t been at the morning muster, he was a guy who never missed a “meeting,” and that if he didn’t show up, then I could go on the flight.  Hip-Ha and a Coup de Gras.  I went to class and, at the afternoon muster, he still wasn’t there.  I went up to the pilot and he told me that it was really strange, because this was the first time that his crewman had ever missed a meeting, and he knew there was going to be a night flight.  He added that if he wasn’t at the evening muster, I was on the flight.  Bitchin’.  He wasn’t at the evening muster, so the pilot told me to get some chow, check out some gear at the paraloft, and be ready to board the plane at a certain time.

I was in the ready room, ready to go, with all the other guys.  The pilot came in and asked me to accompany him to the counter, behind which were guys who handled the paperwork.  He asked for the manifest for his flight, which was on a clipboard, and the clerk handed it to him.  He took his pen, and crossed out a name near the top of the list, and inserted my name at the bottom.  I was now officially on that flight.  I went back and sat down in the ready room.  Some of the guys on the flight began to drift out, to walk down to the plane.  I was savoring the moment so much, I was suddenly alone.  A few minutes later, the pilot walked by the room, saw me and said, “Let’s go, Gearon, it’s time.”  “Yes, Sir.”  I walked out of the ready room, and the pilot held the door open for me to walk outside, onto the flight line.  As I started to walk through that door, the door at the other side of the building BANGED open, and both of us turned to see a guy standing there, out of breath, who said, “Am I too late to make the flight?”  The pilot said, “Where the hell have you been?”  The guy said, “I’ve been taking final exams all day, I’ve driven like a maniac to get here, speeding and running red lights, and am I too late to make the flight?” The pilot looked at his watch and said, “You’ve got 2 minutes to get your gear at the paraloft and be out at the plane.”  The pilot then walked up to where the clerk was and asked for the manifest again.  He crossed my name out and wrote his crewman’s name, HAROLD GRIMSLEY, under my crossed out name.   He said, to me, “I know how disappointed you are, but I promise you, you will be on the next night flight, even if someone else is the pilot.”  “Yes, Sir, thank you, Sir.”

I turned in my gear and headed for the Enlisted Men’s Club.  I was only 17 years old, so I just drank sodas.  I think there was a small band and dancing.  About 10 PM the word was passed that one of our planes was down in the ocean.  As far as I knew, there was only one plane flying out of Los Al, and it was the one I was supposed to be on.  We found out more about it the next morning.  One month later, at our next meeting, one of the crewmen who survived, Nunez, told me the whole story.  Meanwhile, two or three weeks after the ditching in the ocean, I attended a memorial service for the one man who went down with the plane, Harold Grimsley.  Three others, including the pilot, were killed by “exposure,” or hypothermia as it’s now called.

For just about 50 years, I knew most of the story, but then I found out Harold Grimsley’s name, a lot of new facts about the mishap, and a whole lot about 3rd Class Aviation Ordnanceman Grimsley’s personal life.

Around 2010, wanting to find out more about the incident and the name of the man who died in my place, I went online and started to search.  There’s a website, vpnavy.org, that pretty much covers everything about Navy patrol squadrons, the “P” in VP-774, stands for patrol.  They had never heard of the incident, nobody had ever heard of the incident, and people must have thought I was a whack-job, because their extensive files didn’t have an incident as I described it.  I checked one or two other websites and still no luck.  Meanwhile, at just about exactly the same time as I was seeking information on this ditching, Harold Grimsley’s grandson was seeking to find out more information about his grandfather’s death.  He knew that he had gone down in a P-2V, off Dana Point, in Orange County, but he sought more information.  The grandson had seen a TV documentary, on the Discovery Channel I believe, about a group of people finding a WW1 German U-Boat which was sunk off the coast of California.  He contacted ub88.org, which found and photographed the boat, UB 88.  The founder of that group told the grandson that he would try to find out something for him.  He contacted vpnavy.org, and was told they didn’t have any information, but that another person, me, had asked about the same incident, and was given my email address.  I was contacted, and so began an odyssey that nobody could have predicted.

The following is an amalgam of Nunez’s eyewitness account, the official U.S. Navy Accident Report, and my own experiences with the asshole who MURDERED Harold Grimsley:

The crew chief/plane captain was a Chief Petty Officer named Manuel, whom I believe was probably Portuguese.  He was a flaming alcoholic, but one who maintained his composure very well, indeed.  It used to take 3 guys, all working together, to take off in a Neptune.  The pilot had things to do, the co-pilot had things to do, and the plane captain/crew chief had things to do.  The latter individual sat on a canvas “seat,” that was stretched across the opening to the cockpit, and manipulated the fuel switches, transferring fuel around and feeding it to the engines.  During the flight, he would also monitor the fuel situation, along with the pilot.  The asshole, as I will now call him, shut off pumping fuel from one tank, but didn’t tell the pilot.  He swore, under oath, that he told the pilot that he had stopped pumping from that tank, and told him that it still had lots of fuel still in it.  He was lying through his fucking teeth, but the pilot was dead, so he was believed.

To get from the main part of the plane, the flight deck, to the nose, there is a hatch in the floor, which I have never seen closed, unless someone was sitting on it for take-off, landing, or ditching, which allows you to drop down into a narrow tunnel, which leads you forward, as you crawl on your hands and knees.  There is a device which locks the hatch in the open position.

It was a dark and stormy night.  It had been raining for most of the flight, and everyone was probably bummed out, because the big thing about night flights was seeing the lights of Los Angeles.  At one point, the pilot called for a practice ditching drill.  It was discovered that the hatch was down, and stuck; it could not be opened.  The pilot secured from the drill and directed that everyone get that hatch opened.  There is a rather large fire axe on the bulkhead, and that had to be used to pry the hatch open.  The pilot then expressly ordered that the hatch was to remain open, so that the bow observer, Harold Grimsley, could get out of the nose, if they really had to ditch.  Otherwise, he would be a goner.  The asshole testified that he had originally closed the hatch because a cold wind was blowing out of it.

Ten minutes later, both engines quit running at the same time, and the pilot looked down and saw that one tank was turned off and assumed it was empty.  Had he known there was still a lot of fuel in it, he could have gotten an air-start, and they never would have had to ditch the plane in the ocean.  He called for ditching stations, and the hatch had been closed again, so Harold couldn’t get out.  For 50 years I considered that to be 2nd degree murder, on the part of the asshole.  Then I read his testimony in the accident report.  He lied again, stating that he didn’t close it the second time, and he didn’t know who did.  I expected that, but then he testified that he SAT ON TOP of the hatch, as they were going into the ocean.  The motherfucker didn’t want anyone else to hear or feel Harold trying to kick the hatch open.  That, by God, Makes it FIRST DEGREE MURDER.  His seat, at his radar scope, was his primary take off/landing/ditching station, because it had shoulder straps, as well as the lap belt, so he could go in facing forward.  Much more comfortable and SAFER than sitting on the cold steel deck, facing backwards.  And that was HAROLD’s ditching station.  Eventually, a new crew was made up, that I was assigned to, along with the asshole.  I had to fly with that fucker many times, and that was just one reason I decided to go on active duty when I did.  I didn’t want him to kill me.  Wouldn’t you know, just before my active duty came around, I was assigned to a different crew.  That pilot damned near killed me (near-death experience #2), but the enlisted crew chief was really cool, and was the only person to have ever thanked me for saving their life.

I’ve got side-scanning sonar pictures (courtesy of ub88.org) of the tail of the plane, which rests on the flat sandy bottom, at 1,080 feet down.  Harold Grimsley’s remains are probably still in the nose/fuselage section, which isn’t visible, and is probably hidden in a gnarly, narrow, steep and deep canyon, just a little N-W of the tail.