Junior “Jay” L. Chase, Maintenance
18th SOS, Phan Rang, 1969
I was born in December 1918 in Chappell, Nebraska. I grew up in Lakeland, Florida and graduated from Lakeland High School in May 1937. I joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 to avoid the draft. I was discharged after WWII and was recalled to active duty in May 1951.
I served with the 18th SOS at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio as a maintenance line chief starting in May 1969. In October ’69, I was serving at Phan Rang Air Base, Vietnam. I don’t recall much excitement; however, I do have a couple of incidents to comment on. Shortly after my arrival at Phan Rang (along with other personnel), we experienced our first mortar attack. The explosion was about fifteen feet from the Airman Quonset hut with shrapnel passing through the window. As I recall, it was a Sunday morning and guys were lounging and moving about. It was a miracle that no one was hit, except one man on a bunk. The shrapnel had hit a wood window and fell on the poor guy, breaking his skin just enough for a Purple Heart.
Later, as one of our first aircraft was arriving from the U.S., we had selected a revetment for it to park. As it was taxiing in, the Colonel interceded and led it to a different spot. Just moments after the crew had off-loaded, a mortar landed right where we had first planned to park the aircraft. Had the Colonel not made the change, we would have lost the aircraft. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
I remember while we were in Ohio, we were having trouble keeping a supply of tiny red bulbs that acted like a fuse in some of the systems. Base supply couldn’t seem to get them and it was slowing our training. We learned that the bulbs were manufactured locally and we checked out our staff car, drove to the factory, and “scrounged” enough bulbs to get things going again.
Another thing that sticks in my mind was our maintenance office, a screened-in tea house near the runway at Phan Rang. Needless to say, it was dusty and noisy. When our first aircraft arrived, our maintenance officer had a window air conditioner onboard. My next task was to board up and install the air conditioner (with the aid of our clerk). It was nice to have the cool air and less noise and dust.
I managed to find most of my work in the tea house. I spent most of my 51st year there. My other claim to fame was I was assigned to make the “Stinger” signs at the revetment entrance. Now at ninety years of age, I don’t remember names very well, however, one always comes to my mind, Metcalf. Second Lieutenant Douglas Metcalf came right out of ROTC to the 18th SOS at Phan Rang as our Assistant Maintenance Officer. He was sharp and eager to learn, just a regular guy. He deployed to Da Nang as Maintenance Officer and I didn’t see him much after that. I always wondered what happened to that “shaved tail.” Well, a few years back I got his e-mail address from a newsletter and contacted him. I learned he was a Brigadier General in the reserves and lived in Winter Park, Florida. Sometime later, I attended the pinning of his second star and we have enjoyed lunch on occasion. He is now retired.
I retired at McCoy AFB, Orlando, Florida in 1974 with twenty-seven years active service. The base was closing at the time and there were not enough people left for a ceremony. I currently live in Lake Placid, Florida.