Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Helicopter Heist

I always liked this picture.  I took it because the peaceful sunset it has and the "Horse" helicopter in the foreground.
The helicopter represents a story:
Our squadron, HU-4, mostly flew the "Horse" kind of helicopter.  It seems there were always one parked out front of our hangar, like this one.
On my first day (Sept 1963) assigned to HU-4, after being assigned a bunk and a locker I met my new Cube Mate Marblow.  Marblow was a short little guy, sure of himself, that looked like Michael Myers.  He was from Maryland.  That must have been on a Friday.  Marlow asked me if I had seen New York City yet.  I said no.  He said, "Well lets go!"
We took a bus to New York City.  We got off the bus at Port Authority on 42nd Street.  The first thing we did was take a series of subways over to the Bronx or Brooklyn, and visited an old time friend's wife.  I think his friend was away in the service too.
Then we went back to Manhattan around the tourist traps such as Times Square and 42nd Street.  To make a long boring story short a man bought us drinks in a bar.  He came over an joined us.  He was very dignified.  He asked where we were staying and we told him we were taking a bus back to the base.  He said, "Nonsens!"  It was too late.  He had room for  only one of us and he would pay for the room of the other one of us.  He suggested Marlow stay with him.  That sounded good to me.  We walked to the William Sloan W.M.C.A. House and at the front he paid the desk man for me a room.

The next morning I walked all around the tourist area of Manhattan taking it all in.  Sometime in the late afternoon I went to meet Marlow at the Port Authority.  While in their bar I tried drinking a Manhattan, then another one.  Then I got my courage up to go to the telephone booth, look up to see if Harvey Kurtzman's name was in it, and surprisingly it was.  I was tipsy enough to call my hero, the creator of MAD, Harvey Kurtzman.  He lived in Mount Vernon.  We talked.  I was very polite and distant.  I'm sure fans call him a lot.  Marlow finally came and we took the bus back.
  Neither one of us ever mentioned what he and his "Sugardaddy" did.

 When we returned to base I walked up the hill to the EM Club.  The personnelman who checked me in was at the club.  He was always smiling and had a penetrating stare.  He invited me to sit at a table with him.  He introduced himself  as Don Lash.  He told me he was from Chicago and was on two years active duty, the same as I.
I told him about going to New York City for the first time.  He knew just the questions to ask to make me squirm.  I didn't want to get Marlow into trouble, but Don kept asking direct questions.  Finally we were getting loaded and Marlow's "surgardaddy" was getting to me an old subject.

The more we drank the more we talked and before it was over the beer was doing all the talking.
We, or the beer, decided we could probably fly a helicopter, we wouldn't know until we tried.  We knew there would be a "Horse" in front of the Duty Office at the hangar.  We decided we could probably climb inside and find the start button before someone noticed us.
We started walking towards the hangar, about three quarters mile away.
I thought, "How the hell am I going to back out of this without looking like I am backing out?"
I think Don was thinking the same thing.
Before a block away from the EM Club we walked by a someone in the Squadron Don knew.  We stopped to talk to him and walked with him back to the barracks. 
Don skillfully changed our target without even mentioning it.


Don and I remained close friends for about a dozen years after our Navy time together.


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