F4 Stuff

Recently I was looking at all the things I had collected that had to do with the F4.

The Phantom II mascot was called the Spook.    He appeared on a lot of things from patches — to letter head that I used to write home during the war — to the Spook in an arctic parka that my wife got in Alaska on a 43rd Squadron ceramic tile trivet.

arctic        phantomii-3

Then there were other obvious things:  unit patches from the 310 TFTS, 13 TFS, and 43rd TFS — TFS was a Tactical Flying Squadron.


F4 other things  include  belt buckles, mugs, cups, photos, and models  and special patches that were worn on party suits.  Below is a 13 TFS Christmas Card from 1973.

air-p     13tfstac              gib-2

While I was in Thailand, I got a model of the F4 that had my name on the rear cockpit.  I still have nearly 50 years later.

F4 Model

Below commemorative patches and fighter related mottos.






My wife Bonnie even did an oil painting of the bird I flew in Arizona.









Probably the most important memorabilia about my flying I no longer have.   After visiting the Air Force museum in September, I decided to donate my 8 mm home movies of combat and a tape recording I made of the last F4 mission of the Vietnam War that took off from Udorn Thailand.   I  did this because I wanted to make sure that they were preserved as important artifacts of the war.  I had previously transferred them to a Cd and a DVD and knew that they would probably just be tossed someday.    That still leaves me with a great deal of F4 “stuff” to deal with in the future.  But I am sure that given time I will find a good home for it all.

Posted in 13 TFS, 43 TFS, American History, Cambodia bombing 1973, F-4 Phantom II, F4 emergency, F4 Phantom II, F4 PhantomII, Fighter Aircraft | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fake News”


The topic of “fake news” has been in the media of late. Many Americans may believe that this is a new phenomenon; sadly, it is not. Fake news has long been one of the center pieces of American political life.   And lest anyone out there thinks I am pointing fingers at any particular politician, both parties do it.

In 1807, my great-great-grandfather John Norvell, then a 17 year-old boy, wrote a letter to President Thomas Jefferson asking him about his opinion of journalism as a future career. JNorvellThe letter went in part: “It would be a great favor, too, to have your opinion of the manner in which a newspaper, to be most extensively beneficial, should be conducted, as I expect to become the publisher of one for a few years.” Today is it hard to fathom anyone writing the President of the United States for career advice, let alone a 17 year-old boy from Kentucky. Yet Jefferson answered his letter in what has become his most famous pronouncement on the role of newspapers in American life and politics.

In a very long letter to young Norvell, in which he discusses history, and politics, Jefferson sadly noted: “I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens who [have the] belief [reading the press] that they have known something of what had been passing in the world in their time….” Jefferson was clearly dismayed by what he saw as a politically motivated press filled with lies, errors, and in many cases fabricated news designed to hurt him.

This practice did not end when Jefferson left office. Dirty tricks, misinformation, false claims, distortions, half-truths, error-filled stories, misleading reports, and fiction became prime tools in American politics. Opponents spread the news that Andrew Jackson’s wife Rachel was an adulterer. In 1864, during the Civil War, Lincoln was reported as having signed a fake order to call up an additional 500,000 men – many less kind things were said about him– in the opposition press. Later in 1884, Grover Cleveland’s foes called him a philanderer, and charged that he had fathered an illegitimate child. In 1898, fake news pushed the country into the war with Spain. During the Second World War, some sources reported that Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a destroyer to the Aleutians to pick up his Scottie dog Fala at a cost to US taxpayers. Some later asserted that presidential candidate John F. Kennedy conspired to install the Pope in the White House. The list goes on and on to the present.

What is different today is the speed at which these stories propagate and spread. Whereas in the past, perhaps only a few people in Buffalo might have heard of Cleveland’s alleged love-child, today it would be all over the media.

Fake news is alive and well. It will continue to be with us, until people begin to take stock of the sources that they are getting their information from and really begin to think about what they read and hear.

Perhaps Jefferson had it right more than 210 years ago when he commented on the phenomenon of fake news in the political press: “The man who never looks upon a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind in filled with falsehoods and errors.”

Posted in American History, John Norvell, Journalism, politics, Thomas Jefferson | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

In the Country

In 1952 my father was ordered overseas during the Korean War.
At the time, we lived in Troy, New York, where I was born, and where my father was in the Army at the Watervliet Arsenal.   besaw-house

With my father’s impending move,  my parents decided it was best that the family relocate to upstate New York and live with my grandparents on their small farm.
I had never lived on a farm before and it really was an amazing place for a small child.  My grandfather had cows, pigs, and chickens.  Today kids live on farms, but my farm experience was different.  I  went to a one-room school and used an outhouse.

First the one-room school and then the other — perhaps– less delicate story.

The small one-room school contained kids in grades 1-8.  There were at least one or two kids in each class and the older kids helped the younger one with reading and other subjects.  Each morning we gathered at the school, which is still there today in Dexterville, NY, and waited to be let in.  If it were winter, our teacher had to get there early and build a fire in the wood stove.   school Then the day’s activities commenced.  My year there 1952-1953 was the last for this type of school in New York as centralized districts became the norm. But that year was special, and I think I never got to know a teacher as well as I did Mrs. Cosgrove.


If going to the the school was a pleasant experience, using the outhouse often was not.  When we arrived at my grandparents farm in the winter of 1952 it was, like many of those in rural areas at this time, without indoor plumbing.   Located behind the house about 30 feet from the back door was the privy.

Now we really didn’t use it much in the winter. First of all, it was much too snowy in that part of New York to brave it.  Secondly, my grandmother had chamber pots in the bedrooms for nighttime use.   outhouseI really don’t remember using them, as I must have, but I do remember seeing them.

When the warm weather returned in the spring we did use the outhouse.  This wasn’t too bad at first. But when it got hot it became a trial to use it.   It smelled and to add to the misery there were mosquitoes,flies, and spiders and occasionally snakes — which my grandmother was deadly afraid of.  Which, of course, brings me to the time I locked my grandmother in the outhouse.

I am not sure what motivated me to do so other than I was an “active” child.  I remember going up to the door while she was inside and turning the piece of wood that effectively locked the door from the outside and then hiding to see what happened.   When she finished her business she went to leave.  To her dismay the door wouldn’t budge.  I could hear her yelling my grandfather’s name: “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.”

The outhouse was there for a few more years — one other time I locked my cousin Patty in  it, for a joke, which she too didn’t appreciate — and then it was gone.

Where it had been, my grandmother planted a flower garden.

Its said that on that spot the best flowers grew.




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For many years we wanted to go to Jamestown Island.

Jamestown Island today is a relatively well-manicured park where tourists can visit the remains of the original settlement.

Yet, if one looks behind the reconstructed area, the essential wildness of the place is still visible: Swamp, wooded thickets, which coupled with the hot, humid air of the Virginia summer must have been unbearable at first to the English settlers. And this indeed is where it all began.  Trip 020

Sometime before 1660 the Norvell family arrived in Virginia. The records are now lost. There are several Norvells (Nowells) on the early manifests. The name could easily be confused as Norvell in script often looked like Nowell.

As we walked around the park, we could imagine these newcomers and what it must have meant to them to be there.   We could stand on the shore and see across to the beckoning land see the promise it held for them.

Below, the shore of the James River.jamestown

Later the family would established a foothold at Skiffes Creek, below,  one of the first Norvell grants.

Skiff's Creek Va

Others settled along the York River to the right.

Riverview Plantation York River

A John Norvell or Nowell arrived on Ship Margaret and John in 1624 and was a principal of the company – according to Land Grants in Virginia 1607-1699, initial grants were made for each principal and then additional acreage could be purchased for 12 pounds for 50 acres. John Norvell arrived and disappeared almost as quickly as he came. Most likely he was a gentleman as other records indicate that he had a firearm. Other early arrivals included George Norvell, Thomas Norvell, Lydia Norvell, a widow of a John Norvell who died before 1665.

The precise location of these places is not possible today.  But from the descriptions that have been found, we can get an idea of the approximate locations.

wbLike so many of their time, they came here for new lives and opportunities.  Some succeeded, some did not.  It was a difficult time.

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Long Ago, In a Galaxy far far away…

Over the last few months, since I visited the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio and sat in the cockpit of an F4 again, the Phantom II has been almost continually on my mind.
And as I thought about all those hours I sat in this cockpit so far away and long ago, I realized that I too, like the mythical Luke,  was a Skywalker.    F4 1972

This was further brought home to me in December when after a long, long  time my wife and I finally set up a Facebook page in order to see our grandsons’ photos.

One of the happy consequences of this was that I discovered a group devoted to the F4 Phantom II.  It was a group that loved this aircraft .   As one who had flown it so long ago I quickly joined in their discussions and viewed the many pictures people shared with great interest.   And in the course of time, I too shared some photos and videos.  And  something unexpected happened.

People thanked me for flying the F4.  Now people have thanked me for my service, but never for flying the F4.   Somewhat humbled by this I simply said I was blessed to have flown it.   

Flyers take joy in flight and flying is the ultimate, and somewhat mystical experience.   High Flight, a poem by John Magee,  captures the feeling:

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds –
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of –
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.”

Late in my time in the F4 I came to a special kind of flying:  Functional Check Flight.   udn35

The FCF crew takes planes that have been grounded for mechanical problems and after they are “fixed” takes them up and tries to break them again.  And as the poem above says, we did a hundred things you have not dreamed of.   We pulled G forces in excess to try to rip off the wings, we flew at the height of the envelope on the edge of space at over 50,000 feet and were as free as anyone can ever be.  We swooped and turned on a dime, as the adrenline and speed built.  We pushed the bird to more than Mach 2.  Then we landed.

“OK, she’s fit to fly,”we told the crew chief, and signed off the forms.

And yes I was blessed to be a “Skywalker.”

Posted in 13 TFS, 43 TFS, Alaska, Alaskan Air Command, American History, Anchorage, Arizona, Cambodia bombing 1973, F-4 Phantom II, F4 emergency, F4 Phantom II, F4 PhantomII, Fighter Aircraft, Fighter pilot lingo, Fighter pilot slang | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Home Repairs ???


The time after the holidays is always a good time to regroup. We put away the decorations and get back to those projects and repairs that have been neglected. So it was when I was younger as well.

My father always fancied himself as a great home repairman. It seemed that there was no project that he didn’t undertake. He did a lot of his own auto repairs, and tinkered with many of the appliances. Sometimes this took an unexpected turn.

In the 1950s we had one of those humongous black and white TVs – big in the sense of the case. I don’t think the picture tube was larger than about 17 inches. But the case was really big. It sat on a table and was made out of wood. The insides were a maze of vacuum tubes and wires.

Now my father came by his interest in fixing things naturally.  In 1929 when he joined the army he became a blacksmith for a cavalry unit, and later moved into the armored division where he repaired vehicles. So I guess he thought that the could fix a TV.

About 1958, he got a “box” so he could test the tubes in the TV and then all he would have to do it get a new one, when one burned out. I don’t know where he got the box or where he expected to get the replacement vacuum tubes in that pre-Amazon era. The sources of these things, like many things adults did, were a mystery to me – a 14-year-old boy. I don’t think he ever successfully fixed our TV and one night he almost did himself in.

He was monkeying around after dinner in the back of the set and suddenly there was a loud pop and a flash and the odor of ozone filled the air. When my mother and I got into the living room he was on the floor, looking kind of dazed. Mother asked what happened. And this is what he told her. He had been using a screwdriver in the set and inadvertently touched the capacitor and when he did, it discharged the electrical current that it had been storing. It blew him across the room. That ended his TV repair days, and the tube box was exiled to the back storage area.

One other time one of his repair adventures took another bad turn.

In the late 1970s, one day my father decided to replace the muffler on his car. He enlisted my sister’s husband to help him. Now this is where the story gets a bit fuzzy. In the process of removing the old muffler, which he was under, either my brother-in-law dropped it, or it “fell” on his head.  It was then a race to the local hospital’s emergency room as he was bleeding profusely.

My sister later relayed what happened next. They took him in immediately and administered some local anesthesia around the cut to sew him up. But before they could begin, an ambulance pulled up with a serious emergency, so they left him to attend the other case. It was about two hours before they could get back to him and by then the local anesthetic had worn off. Of course no one thought about that as they stuck in the needle to sew him up. As my sister put it later, they had to peel him off the ceiling. My sister, who was a nurse, said she couldn’t help it and smiled.  But it wasn’t funny to him.

But these stories did provide a smile to those who heard them and they became part of family lore.

And like most family lore, once you do something they NEVER LET YOU FORGET IT.

Posted in American History, Norvell Family History, NY, NY History | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Happy New Year

New YearsIn 1969 two of my friends and I went to welcome in the future in Times Square. This is something that everybody has seen on TV year after year, but few have experienced. In those more innocent times there were no metal detectors, no bomb sniffing dogs, and for the most part no restrictions on anything. It was a WILD AND CRAZY TIME. It was the 1960s, but more on that.

I actually had no idea to what to expect. I had grown up in the 1950s and the most exciting thing I remember about New Years Eve was watching Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians and then seeing the ball drop. For those of us, of a certain age, that really was all there was to New Years Eve. If you lived in a small rural town, as I did, there was nothing to do except stay home and watch the festivities on a black and white TV. For me as a kid, the future was 1970 and to find myself in Times Square to welcome the new decade was a great thing.

I had a good friend from college who was teaching high school math on Long Island, so I took the train to New York from Washington DC to be there for New Years. I had often driven up to New York, but the train took the same amount of time and had the advantage of leaving you in downtown Manhattan, without having to drive in traffic there. So there I was in Penn Station meeting my friends on December 31, 1969 to welcome the future.

It was an extremely cold New Year’s Eve, about 10 degrees and clear. We decided since we had some time to kill to stop at the bar in the old Americana Hotel for a drink and then it was on to Times Square. We got there about 10 p.m.; the crowd was large but not huge. Once we got there, however, there was no leaving. I guess I had better bladder control in those days as more and more people began to arrive and we literally were trapped there.

Now a funny thing happened: while it was about 10 degrees outside the area, the temperature quickly rose it seemed to about 90 in the Square. We had our heavy winter coats on and we ditched them; some folks stripped down to bare skin. I never thought I would be standing in Times Square at 11:45 at night with half-naked people. It was now a mob, people yelled and screamed and the mob grew and grew. Bottles were passed around, yes it was more innocent time. With no crowd control, people continued to press into the area until you could not move even if you wanted to.

Another funny thing, I don’t remember seeing the ball drop. I think there were so many people it was hard to see the top of the Times building. The crowd roared and then it was over.

Almost as quickly as people pressed in to fill the square — they left.

The temperature dropped.

It was 1970.

The future was here.

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