I’m Greg McIntyre and I’m here with Hayden Soloway and David Rose who is Hayden’s cousin.
So, Hayden, what do you know about your cousin’s military service?
HS: Mostly what he sent me. David was older than me so he was a BMOC before I went to high school. He was well known among the students, fantastic baseball player, he had a status there. He was someone I admired from a distance, so I am interested to hear about his service.
GM: What’s BMOC?
HS: Big man on campus.
GM: I’m sorry I did not know that. I’m looking at a picture here of an L20 U6A Beaver. So, you were in the Air Force?
DR: No, I was in the Army.
GM: You went from BMOC to being in the Army, to working on flying Beavers in the Air Force? But the Army had them too?
DR: Right. The Army and Air Force had Beavers, the Air Force called them U6A Beavers and the U stands for Utility. It could hold six people or you could take all the back seats out and fill it up with cargo. DeHavilland built it in Canada and initially was used by bush pilots for people going in and out for fishing expeditions. Most had floats so they could land on water. Their strength was being rugged, very dependable and could get into areas where there wasn’t much room for take offs and landings.
GM: And you were a tech inspector? What does a tech inspector do with a U6A Beaver?
DR: When I joined the Army, I joined for the aviation or to be an aviation mechanic because my brother Joe was in the Air Force and he guided me towards the aviation part. I did like airplanes and was also mechanically inclined. So, we went for basic training to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for eight weeks and then to Fort Worth, Alabama for mechanic school. The Vietnam war was just getting cranked up.
GM: What year was that?
DR: I went in August of sixty-three. I know we were there when Kennedy was assassinated, so right up to end of March nineteen-sixty-four. All of us at the graduation of aviation school were going to be sent to Vietnam, and I didn’t want to go to Vietnam, so a friend and I went around to some of the other branches, the Rangers, Special Forces, the guys who jump out of airplanes, not thinking that they would be the first ones to be sent to Vietnam. But we were turned down, so we were all sent to our facilities and I went to Fort Riley, Kansas.
GM: I have a question for you. You were a baseball player, what was your position?
DR: I played short stop, third base and left field. I had a paper round and I’d gone out for the American Legion team and had someone substitute for my paper round, and my dad came out to the field and said, Dave you need to be working, so I didn’t get to play. I played in the Army, that was where I really played baseball.
GM: So, you come out of high school, you know you are going to be drafted and you get ahead of the game by joining up, is that correct?
DR: Well, I went to college in fifty-eight at Marion College in Marion, Indiana. I lasted up until Christmas and I had a stomach problem so I came home. I worked back in Shelby, then in sixty-one to sixty-two I went back to college and then came back and knew I was going to be drafted. Initially, I wanted to go into the Navy into the nuclear submarine program, and the Navy recruiter had taken me to movies and basketball, and lunch and dinners and I was sure I was going in, and then the USS Thresher sank. I think they had two nuclear submarines sink in that era, so the night before they were supposed to pick me up and take me to Columbia, I called and said I’m not going. So, I joined the Army to get in the aviation program.
Your question was about the tech inspector.
‘GM: It was but you’re coming from Shelby, North Carolina, you’ve been to college then join the Army and go to boot camp, how was that experience?
DR: It was wonderful. In high school I was in the band, and in the band you march, in the Army you march. At Fort Jackson we were put in a company. We were in the presence of the Drill Instructors and they took us upstairs into a barracks, beds two high, and said, we need to get these beds lined up. Well, nobody really wanted to do it, so I said, come on guys we need to get this done because we have to do it, then we can go off. This Drill Sergeant was on the stairs listening and heard me for lack of better words, take charge, and for that and the fact that I knew how to march, I was made a squad leader. I didn’t have to do KP, I didn’t have to do guard duty, I didn’t have to do any of the functions the others had to because I was their leader.
GM: I had a similar situation in boot camp where I was the A-Rod, and that was the second in command of the division and that person marches everyone around. I was a young kid from the South, we were in Chicago, Great Lakes for boot camp and I could sing and I got fed up with people messing up the first week so I stepped up, and that gave me rank coming out and leadership possibilities and got me off certain duties.
DR: Squad leader had what we called ‘acting jacks,’ which were bands on our arms with corporal stripes on them so they were temporary. I still have those.
GM: So you enjoyed boot camp? I did too. Most people don’t say they enjoyed boot camp.
DR: I may not have enjoyed it as far as what everybody else had to do, KP, guard duty and things like that.
GM: You graduate from there, then what?
DR: Fort Rucker, Alabama Aviation School and then to Fort Riley, Kansas. We were supposed to be able to work on the airplanes when we graduated as the school was thorough and I was first in my class at tech. There was a guy there from Florida and he had gotten an air frame and engine degree from Emory University and we were just neck and neck the whole time, I was first he was second, he was first I was second. In the final exam, the question he missed which put me in first place was, if the engine has fluctuating oil pressure what does it cause? And it had, low oil levels, bubbles in the oil which was the answer, and I think he answered low oil which gave me first, that was one of my claims to fame.
GM: How did you get assigned to a squadron of Beavers?
DR: At Fort Riley we were just mechanics. We weren’t assigned any particular airplane. The unusual thing at Fort Riley was there were a number of civilian mechanics and those mechanics didn’t want us Army guys infringing on their time, they didn’t want us to take their jobs, so we did other things. I shot on the rifle team for special troops, I played baseball for special troops, I drove the jeep for the company commander and hardly ever worked on an airplane until orders came to go to tech inspectors school at Fort Eustace, Virginia. From tech inspectors school I was sent to Korea and that’s where the Beavers were. My airplane was five-one-one-six-eight-four-zero (5116840), it was Army green and later on they started camouflaging them with tan, green, blue and things like that.
In Korea, basically all we had at our facility were Beavers and the L19 which was called the Bird-Dog which was a two seater single engine aircraft, one person in front and one in back. We had a lot of Beavers and Bird-Dogs, and on the other side we had helicopters. I just became infatuated with the Beavers and choose the aircraft to be mine. Finally, I was made crew chief of that airplane. The funny things is, when they flew my airplane they would say, why does your airplane fly faster than the other ones we fly, something like seventeen hundred and fifty (1750) rpms for cruising, and there would be an indicator for speed and it might be ten to twelve miles an hour faster than another one, and I said, I wax the leading edge of the rails. At the school, TBAVN7 technical bulletin aviation seven says, you do not wax airplanes, and I said, I know that, they said, TBAVN7 says you don’t wax them, and I said, why does it say it, you don’t need to know that, that’s the law. Instead of waxing the airplane, I just waxed the leading edge of everything, the landing gear, the wings and it made it fly faster.
GM: Do you know why you can’t wax an airplane?
DR: I don’t because TBAVN7 said you can’t.
GM: How was your duty in Korea?
DR: Korea was good. The thing about being in aviation is you always have to be close to an improved facility. You have to have water, electricity, air compressors, whatever you do in the field. We did on occasion have to bivouac like the regular soldiers, once or twice a year. There was a grass strip behind the hangar and we would pitch our tents there and they would come over and drop flour bags to simulate bombs and bring food out to us, so that was our tough living.
GM: Did you have any experiences in Korea that were memorable?
DR: Yeah, one of them is tough. At my base I was crew chief and they sent me down to Daegu to a facility that was a Korean Air Force base with the US Air Force and the US Army. In that facility we would take the airplanes apart, disassemble them. You have to do this every few years, or after so many flying hours, then check everything, put it back together.
GM: Did you ever put it back together and were left with one part?
DR: No, there were no left over parts. So, it was payday on the last day of the month in September sixty-five, and the Koreans on the other side had just finished rebuilding an F80, the T33 which is the trainer version and carries two people. Well a Korean guy came in my office and said, Rose, they’re about ready to test the T33, you wont to go fly in a jet? I said, yes I do. I got my helmet and was all ready to go and they left me by myself as the airplane was gone through and I thought I probably shouldn’t go, so I said, tell them to go on, maybe some other time. In about twenty minutes there was sirens and all hell broke loose. The plane had taken off and was supposed to make a left turn after take-off but instead it took a right turn and crashed into a mountain and the pilot was killed of course. I called my headquarters and told them what had happened. They brought the pilot down and someone who was there said, glad you didn’t go. By doing my duty and staying there it saved my life.
GM: That’s a powerful story. Glad you didn’t make that flight.
DR: Exactly. That was the worst thing that happened. Everything else was wonderful.
The good thing is, and I like to tell this story, all the planes I worked on or inspected, I never had one that couldn’t take off when it was supposed to, couldn’t complete its mission or had to make a forced landing. That was perfect, I like that.
GM: And as a tech inspector that’s your job to make sure the aircraft works properly.
DR: If you were to work on say, the prop, or do something with the end of the flight controls, that’s known as a safety flying condition, I had to go behind you and look at your work and then sign off on it by signing my name that everything was okay. When you sign your name, you really want to make sure everything was okay.
GM: How long were you in the Army?
DR: Three years.
GM: During that time you played baseball?
DR: That was when we couldn’t work on airplanes because of the civilians, I had nothing else to do and I was on the special troops baseball team.
GM: And you got paid to play on the special troops baseball team?
DR: Well, Army pay, yes, and we were undefeated, but I hurt my knee sliding, and I hurt my hip sliding so I decided I wasn’t going to slide anymore. I was so fast I could steal second base and not slide.
GM: So, you go to Korea, work on the U6A Beaver and you had a spotless track record there and an eye for perfectionism and being meticulous which I guess you have to be. Then you come out of the military, where do you go in civilian life?
DR: Well, there’s still Vietnam. When I came back from Korea, I was sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia as a tech inspector. They were starting a new aviation company in Thailand and I was the only single unmarried tech inspector at Fort Belvoir, so I got volunteered to go to Thailand for four hundred and twenty days TDY (temporary duty). I think I sent Hayden a copy of the letter of commendation that I got for two engine changes, which is pretty technical on U6As. One night in the company area, one of the Captains said, Rose pack your bags for ten days we’re going to Saigon, and go to the supply sergeant and get yourself a pistol. I’d never shot a pistol before in the Army, and the supply Sergeant said, are you qualified to fire one of these? I said, no, and he said, well, you can take the pistol but I can’t give you any ammunition, so I said, what do I need a pistol for if I don’t have any bullets? One of the Captains said, here I’ve got bullets for everyone, and he had a whole flack bag full of bullets and we got on the airplane.
The deal was, we were flying two airplanes to Saigon and leaving one there. There was another plane that came in from Corpus Christi Texas in a box. It had been delivered to Saigon and we went over to put it together, test fly it and fly it back to Thailand. It took us ten days to do that. I didn’t get out of Saigon to look around but it was a pretty place. One night I was on the roof of the USO building watching a movie called ‘The Ugly American,’ and while we watched that movie you could hear in the distance, boom, boom, from the sound of artillery, it was an unreal situation. That was my Vietnam experience.
Another thing, there was this fellow I knew who was a helicopter mechanic at Fort Eustace and we got word that he was killed in an accident in Colorado. When we pulled up after landing in Saigon, there was a guy giving us the signals to come in and it was that guy, it was fake news. I said to him, hey you’re supposed to be dead, and he said, what? I said, we got word you were killed in an accident in Colorado. It was obviously false news. He came up to me later and said, would you like to go out on a mission tonight as a gunner on a hughey, that’s the UH1 helicopter that they used in Vietnam and I said, yeah, that sounds like fun, then I started to think, if I’m shooting at somebody they’re probably going to be shooting back at me, so I declined.
HS: I didn’t realize you had that many decisions to make. I thought you went where they told you to go?
GM: I always tell people this, anything you have in the civilian world, the military has it. We interviewed a guy recently called Martin Mongiello and he had been to hotel management school in the Navy and was a cook in the Navy. He ended up cooking at the White House and Camp David. Anything you want to do in the civilian world you can learn in the military and they will pay you for it. I could have come out of the Navy working on electronics or aviation electronics. I could have gone private sector and come back as a contractor or gone to work for Boeing or someone like that. I decided on a different direction. So, what did you do when you got out of the military?
DR: I should have continued in aviation but I didn’t. I went to work for a life insurance company in Virginia. My Dad was in the insurance business all his life so he sort of lead me that way, but I knew quite quickly that that wasn’t for me. I started in August of sixty-six until May of sixty-seven, when I started working for Nabisco and worked there until seventy-nine. That was a good job, it was very labor intensive. Then I worked for a company out of St Louis, Missoura, and then worked for Panasonic from eighty-four until ninety-one.
GM: So, how do you think the military shaped your life?
DR: My job as a tech inspector gave me more confidence. I thought when I came out I was a changed person. I was more confident, I interacted with people better and I seemed to grow up I guess you would say. It did me good.
GM: It is amazing the responsibility the military puts on the shoulders of young kids.
DR: I think every person should spend some time in the military, whether it be a year or two, I think everybody needs that experience.
GM: Get away from home, grow up a little bit, take more responsibility, you learn about yourself more than anything. Whether you stay in for the rest of your life or not is not relevant. You could but you don’t have to. You will carry that confidence with you, and you can learn it. I thought, these military schools are there for me to pass and do well if I put my time and effort into it and apply that to college or law school or anything, and you have the confidence to do it. I could live on my own without having to rely on my mom or dad all the time. Kids live at home now until they’re thirty.
HS: My grandson came out of the military an entirely different person. He was one of those who just got carried along through school and didn’t make great grades. He was first or second in the competitions he was in when in the military and just came out totally different. He’s goal driven and he wants to be a teacher and a coach. He never would have had the confidence or the inclination to do it otherwise.
GM: I think there is a misconception about being in the military. You can complete your education and come out with money and continue in further education. There is a lot of benefits to being in the military.
DR: Everything is available to you in the military, just pay attention and take advantage of what they offer you.
GM: I think getting outside of your town, whether you live in Shelby or a larger place it doesn’t matter, and learning that it’s a great big world out there. It adds to the way you think and how you see the world. That’s important.
DR: Going from Shelby, North Carolina to meeting someone from California is strange. And if you’re from North Carolina and you’re in Korea and meet somebody from Fayetteville, you think of them as brothers.
GM: I spent a lot of time in Asia when I was in the Navy and we went to South Korea but never made it out to where you were. We were in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and hit Australia a couple of times, and the Middle East we were at Bahrain, Abu-Dhabi and Dubai.
DR: So, you have seen the world.
GM: It’s an eye-opening experience just to get out of town and see the world. Thank you for talking with me today it has been a pleasure and thank you for your service.
I’m Greg McIntyre of McIntyre Elder Law. If you have any questions call our office at 704–259–7040.
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