I received a call from Bob Steinberg last Saturday night. He had been in contact with former Major O.C. Baker who asked about his gunner the day he was shot down, April 14, 1969. The gunner was Corporal King....my question about the Pilot was now answered. I contacted Mr. Baker and he sent the attached reply. I called Mr. Baker and asked that I be allowed to share the note with the squadron. He agreed, and has revived a lot of my memories.Please read Mr. Baker's letter and add it to our squadron memories for 1969. It means a lot to me to know he was my pilot that day and even more to know he remembered me.
It was an absolute thrill to arrive at Ontario, CA, and be met by Col. Gene Brady, Richard Bianchino, and Ernie Gomez. Col. Brady presented me with a squadron watch which means more to me now than any decoration I have earned. This was my homecoming parade after all these years. It was great!
It was such a relief to see Richard Bianchino and Ernie for the first time since the crash of April 14, 1969. I had truly believed Richard had lost his arm in the accident, but the hug I got convinced me differently. I had hidden from reality for 30 years and refused to ask any questions for fear of the answer I might get.
We had a great time and a lot of good conversation. A lot of old wounds were healed.
I now know that I did all I could to save Lyle Sperb and that his wounds were fatal as explained by Richard and Ernie. The Corpsman at Da Nang who said we should have taken better care of Sperb was probably reacting at the loss of a friend. I understand his grief and hope he has found peace. My guilt over Sperb's loss was a burden which is now lifted. With the help of my friends I have accepted the loss of those great men that day and life goes on.
Ernie also reminded me about the cold spam sandwiches
we used to get on guard duty. That too is behind me now!
Did HMM-364 win all the awards or just most of them?
When we returned to MMAF we filled out reports, reviewed the incident, etc. While we were in the hangar area, a call came about YK-5. A volunteer crew assembled, me included, for the recovery. Arriving at the site, we saw Capt. Bianchino's tracer rounds and first thought it was ground fire. I volunteered to go down on the hoist first. I saw Cpl. Gomez and LCpl. Burdick, both in fairly rough shape. The first two wounded were hoisted out and a second unidentified Marine came down to help with the rescue. After Capt. Bianchino, Cpl. Gomez and HM2 Sperb were hoisted aboard, I looked at the other crew members and confirmed they were dead. There was nothing we could do for them. The decision was made to leave them for later because we had to get the survivors back for medical attention. The weather was deteriorating and it was getting dark in that zone. I and the other Marine were hoisted aboard and we headed for Da Nang. HM2 Sperb died enroute to Da Nang.
Cpl. "Gooie" Gomez called me by various names such as Bob, Larry and Dave. I guess he really only knew my last name or as in some cases he simply referred to me as "Hey Asshole." I didn't use my first name much, most everyone just called me King. As for the earlier incident that day, it was set aside over the tremendous loss of Lt. Nickerson, Cpl. Gendron, LCpl. Banister and HM2 Sperb. I especially carried a lot of guilt about losing Lyle Sperb, he was a good man.
I'd like to know who the crew members were on the earlier incident, and who was crewing the rescue bird at the YK-5 crash site. John Gruenwald was the crew chief who sent me down the hoist. The "Purple Fox" web site has stirred my memories and now it's hared to shut up.
Cpl. James V. King's Squadron Histotry Index
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