It was November 1970, the end of the last line period in a long, nine plus month, all expense paid round the world Westpac cruise on the USS AMERICA (CV-66). Our line periods were filled with strikes against the Ho Chi Minh trail and in South Vietnam and occasional escorted RA-5C sorties over the north.
Much was being made about who was going to get the cruise’s last trap on Yankee Station. If I remember correctly, one of the fighter squadron COs made his desire to make the last trap well known. The reasons why it was a big deal are lost somewhere in history.
Throughout the cruise AMERICA had night duty so it was near sunrise when we called the break just after the CO’s F-4J. By the time he entered the groove the HAC of our UH-2C, Lieutenant Lonnie Loren, made sure we were at 325 feet in the abeam the LSO platform. As the co-pilot, I pulled a newly installed lever on the side of the instrument panel and called Paddles, Angel 40, hook and wheels all down. State 1.2.
There was a pregnant pause from the LSO platform before we heard, Paddles roger, Angel 40, call the ball. Later, we found out that someone on the LSO platform actually looked at the UH-2C through binoculars and saw our freshly made and properly painted tail hook hanging behind and below the tail wheel.
As we rolled into the grove on November 7th, 1970, the LSO dutifully gave us a lineup and a very loud power call as we slowed below 40 knots crossing the round down. After all, none of us had any arrested landings since our traps in the T-28C when we went through the training command.
The UH-2C touched down just short of the three wire and at a leisurely 5 – 10 knots rolled to a gentle stop with our hook snared the wire. We were, of course, on the centerline for the last trap of the cruise. The LSO showed up in our ready room to debrief Lonnie on his pass. He gave him an OK pass with a grade of 3.0!
Back then, I was a salty, bearded Lieutenant (junior grade). The attached photo wound up on the cutting room floor when the cruise book was printed after we got back to Norfolk documents the event.
Marc Liebman, Captain USN (retired)