Picture this: You’re a doctor on an aircraft carrier. You’re awoken and told of an emergency on the lowest decks of the ship. You rush down staircase after staircase and find a sailor, his legs crushed by an elevator that’s stuck. You need to amputate or he’ll likely die. You don’t have time to go get your full kit. All you have on you is a pocketknife. This was Hank Davis’ reality, as he shares in this second part of his conversation with host Sean Mobley. In honor of the new temporary exhibit at The Museum of Flight, Stranger Than Fiction: The Incredible Story of Aerospace Medicine, Hank shares this and other stories from his time aboard the USS Coral Sea.
Welcome to the
Flight Deck Podcast
Listen to all of the Museum’s best aviation and aerospace stories on the Flight Deck Podcast, a podcast that makes history personal. Episodes released every other Tuesday. We hope you enjoy it!!
Naval Dentist Tom Davidson yearned to score a spot in the back seat of one of the fighter planes of the flight group he was assigned to. After patient waiting, his opportunity for a joyride finally came. After landing from the exhilarating experience, he started writing a letter to his family detailing the thrill of flight…but he never finished or sent that letter. Tom shares a deeply personal story about his aviation experience in this episode of The Flight Deck, immersing us in the world of someone on the fringes of military aviation during the Vietnam War and explaining the story of his unfinished letter.
The Green Berets are a special operations task force known for executing covert missions under dire circumstances, but even they need a little help sometimes. Enter Jerry Coy, USAF pilot, who ended up saving a group of them during the Vietnam War.
Sometimes the story of how we acquired an artifact is just as interesting as the artifact itself. Such is the case with the Soviet-built MiG-21 that stands in our Great Gallery. Bruce Florsheim, one of our docents and an active player in getting the MiG to Seattle, explains the historical significance of the MiG and how it ended up in our Museum. “In its time, the MiG 21 became the most produced supersonic jet in aviation history and the most produced combat aircraft since WWII,” says Florsheim. The Soviets loved it because it was rugged—it could easily take off from unprepared fields—and inexpensive to produce: you didn’t have to be a mechanical genius to build it or maintain it. Back in 1994, the MiG caught the eye of Boeing VP Jim Blue as he was touring an aircraft factory in the Czech Republic. Blue saw that a large group of them were covered in a tarp, and he asked his host what the plans were for the jets. “They will be scrapped,” said the Czech guide, and Blue, then a Museum trustee, knew that he had to acquire one. At first the Czechs refused to sell the plane, but Blue persisted, and eventually the plane was disassembled and embarked on a months-long adventure across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, and up to Seattle, where it was rebuilt and displayed in the Museum. The two Czech mechanics who were flown over to help rebuild it experienced an adventure of their own when Blue introduced them to American-style supermarkets.
Hustling in and out of a Huey helicopter is one of the most vivid memories of Platoon leader David Waggoner and crew chief Jerry Sousa: it took 10-15 seconds to load and unload the helicopter, and their journeys took them to hot zones where they were vulnerable to enemy fire. The Huey and those who flew in it were fearless, reporting to every call no matter how dangerous, and ended up transporting over 90,000 soldiers during the war. Ultimately, Waggoner and Sousa want listeners to know that Huey pilots “fought against the odds to save soldiers’ lives,” and they look forward to sharing more stories about Vietnam by giving tours in our new exhibit.