Jun 22, 2017

Jim Seamon MPHS 66 Rest in Peace

It is with a broken heart that I tell you that Jim Seamon has passed away. He died peacefully in his sleep Monday night after some health difficulties the last few months. Our love goes out to his wife Kim and son Jeremy. 

Jim was a wonderful guy and great friend with a wicked sense of humor. Thanks, Jim for bringing such joy to our lives. 

Frank Tourangeau


Very sad to hear it. Jim was a fine man.

Craig Hullinger

Written by Jim on http://vietnammphs.blogspot.com/

When I was a high school teacher, my students would sometimes bring up Vietnam, usually because they’d heard from someone that I had served there. When they asked me why I went to Vietnam, my standard reply was “Because I was a coward so I took the easy way out.” They usually laughed at that, but I explained that my only other options were to leave the country and possibly never see my friends and family again, go to prison, or lie outrageously enough to get “conscientious objector” status by telling them I wouldn’t even use violence to protect my grandmother if she was being attacked by a rapist, which was the kind of question they tended to ask back then. So I took what I figured was the easiest way out. When it became apparent that I was going to be drafted I joined the Navy Reserves and ended up on an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.

It was never my intention to go to Vietnam and I had been a participant in several anti-war protests, including the massive November, 1969, gathering in Washington. I was a senior in college when the first draft lottery was held and was my number was bad enough that I was called for a physical fairly quickly, but since I was studying to be a teacher, and teachers had draft deferments, I never really worried about it. Then in the middle of my student teaching, having actually received a couple of job offers already, President Nixon surprised everyone with an executive order ending all new teaching deferments and I was suddenly officially screwed. So as I said, I took the easy way out.

And in many ways I did have it easy, at least a lot easier than those poor guys who lost their lives, their limbs, or their minds in the jungles over there. The few times I was actually in country I felt fairly safe most of the time. And even though aircraft carriers aren’t the safest places to work because of the danger of fires and explosions, my job as a journalist didn’t expose me to too much of that stuff. The U.S.S. Midway, now a floating museum in San Diego, was an efficiently run machine with a crew of good hard-working people. Sleeping on 3-tiered bunks in a room with 70 other men was a little claustrophobic, eating powdered eggs and drinking powdered milk every day was not my idea of a good time, nor was working long shifts seven days a week for 45 days at a time without ever seeing a woman or even a bottle of beer. But I know I could have had it a lot worse. I look at it more as a couple of years of my life when I had to take an annoyingly long detour. The detour itself had a few surprising advantages--some interesting experiences and some good friendships--but all-in-all I could have done without it.
If our pilots reported that they killed a water buffalo, we were supposed to report it as a WBLC (water-borne logistics craft). Absolute truth was another casualty in Vietnam.

I once got put “on report” for taking too long of a shower.

After the peace agreement was completed in January, 1973, we stayed for a few more weeks flying more sorties, probably technically illegal (although it’s hard to believe our Commander-in-Chief Richard Nixon would approve anything illegal). Our Commanding Officer would come on every morning with his daily announcements and would always start with something like, “Sorry, I still have no information about when we’ll be returning home, but I guarantee I will let you know as soon as I learn anything.” We were all anxious to get back to our home port of San Francisco since we had already been out at sea a lot longer than they told us we would be. Then one morning, in place of the CO’s daily announcement, the intercom system started playing the song, “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” We all started cheering, both because we knew that was the signal that we were going home, and also probably partly because our Captain gave us that signal by playing a hippie song--very cool, really.

Because we got back to the States a couple of months after the war ended, we didn’t have people celebrating our return or spitting on us and calling us “baby killers” or anything like that. When we returned, everybody just seemed to want to pretend all of it never happened.  That seemed to be fine with most Vietnam vets I knew, since they really didn’t want to talk about it with anyone who hadn’t been there. Unfortunately, some of them wanted to get involved in veterans’ organizations, but many of the organizations didn’t want to have anything to do with Vietnam vets. While I had a few unpleasant conversations with some old anti-war acquaintances, my most unpleasant ones were actually with WWII veterans who ranted about us Vietnam druggies who destroyed our “undefeated” war record.  I told them I had done my duty, earned medals, ribbons, and commendations and had received an honorable discharge and asked what more they wanted. One of them said, “To win, damn it--that’s what it’s all about!”  

USS Midway

An aircraft carrier is a floating city, with 5,000 men and 90 jet airplanes and a number of other aircraft. We had a daily newspaper and closed circuit radio and television.  We did our television and radio news live and had a number of volunteer disc jockeys who did much of our radio shows, including a Marine corporal, “Sweet Daddy” Lincoln Ware, who was named AFRTS Soul DJ of the Year in the early 70s. One day he said he had received a new record from AFRTS and wanted us to call in our opinions on it. It was “Candy Man” by Sammy Davis, Jr., and I called him and said, “Jeez, Linc, you call yourself a soul disc jockey? Even I’ve got more soul than this song.” From then on he played it every day, saying it was “a request from petty officer Jim Seamon, because it’s his favorite song ever,” People started stopping me when they saw my name on my work shirt and asking me to stop requesting the song because they hated it. I don’t think they believed my protests that I, too, hated it.

Occasionally when I was working nights on the ship and I was waiting for the final proof of the newspaper to read I would go down to the studio and play some tunes for the night crew so they didn’t have to listen to elevator music all night. One night I went down and put on “Gimme Some Lovin” by Crazy Elephant and turned the volume up. Within a minute the phone light lit up and I figured it was somebody on the night crew thanking me for putting on some good music. Instead, it was the Admiral’s orderly. Apparently, the Admiral had fallen asleep to the easy listening crap on the radio and I had suddenly awakened him at 3:00 a.m. with a very loud rock song. His orderly called to with the admiral’s demand to know who had done that and why. I said, “Well, I really don’t know. Let me ask Linc.” Then I waited a few seconds and said, “Sorry, he says it’s none of your business,” and then got the hell out of there. A couple of days later, Linc came into my office and said, “I had a meeting with the Admiral yesterday.” I said, “Wow, that’s the big time--you must really be proud.” “Okay,” he replied, “I figure you’re involved in this, so if you promise me no more admirals I promise I won’t play that song any more. I can’t stand it either.”


Two years after Jim served on the USS Midway the ship was involved in the evacuation of Saigon as South Vietnam fell. The interesting story below.


 Vietnam 1975
Rear Admiral Larry Chambers (USN, Ret) 
by Christopher White 

Continuing our commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, our July luncheon speaker is another American hero. Rear Admiral Larry Chambers (USN, Ret.) commanded the USS Midway (CV-41) during the final days of the U.S. presence and evacuation of South Vietnam.

RADM Chambers was the first African American to command a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and the first African American graduate of the Naval Academy to attain flag rank. While a Captain in command of the USS Midway during Operation Frequent Wind, RADM Chambers gave the controversial order to push overboard millions of dollars worth of UH-1 Huey helicopters so a South Vietnamese Air Force Major could land a Cessna O-1 Bird Dog on the aircraft carrier with his wife and five children, thereby saving their lives. 

In April 1975, while in command of the USS Midway, Chambers was ordered to “make best speed” to the waters off South Vietnam, as North Vietnam troops overran the country, to take part in Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of US and South Vietnamese personnel. At the time the Midway was in Subic Bay Naval Base with the engineering plant torn apart. 

Chambers has stated that he received no official order to start the operation, which began on April 29th. Instead, when Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, the Vice President of Vietnam, landed on the flight deck, Chambers figured the operation was going on. Soon the carrier's flight deck was full of helicopters carrying refugees from the fall of South Vietnam. 

On that same day, South Vietnamese Air Force Major Buang-Ly loaded his wife and five children into a two-seat Cessna O-1 Bird Dog aircraft, and took off from Con Son Island. After evading enemy ground fire Major Buang headed out to sea and spotted the Midway. The Midway's crew attempted to contact the aircraft on emergency frequencies, but the pilot continued to circle overhead with his landing lights turned on. 

When a spotter reported that there were at least four people in the two-place aircraft, all thoughts of forcing the pilot to ditch alongside were abandoned - it was unlikely the passengers of the overloaded Bird Dog could survive the ditching and safely escape before the plane sank. After three tries, Major Buang managed to drop a note from a low pass over the deck: "Can you move the helicopter to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly for one hour more, we have enough time to move. Please rescue me! Major Buang, wife and 5 child." 

RADM Chambers ordered a number of Vietnamese Helicopters pushed over the side to provide enough room for the small plane to land, thereby saving the family.  Many years later Chambers spoke at the dedication of the US Midway as a Museum in San Diego. A photo of the Vietnamese American family who was saved and RADM Chambers below.

Buang-Ly and Family with Admiral Chambers

Interesting video of the evacuation and landing


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