VQ-1 – Gulf Tonkin – 04 January 1961 – Hatless’ Wonders – EC-121 by Ronald Schneider, CTRCS  USN (ret)

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CTI2 Ronald Schneider while stationed at NSGA Kami Seya, Japan

“I was a CTI2 (RuLing) from NSGA Kami Seya and flew with the VQ-1 during my tour.  One day, my Chief asked me if I wanted a TAD trip to Shu-Lin-Kou Station in Taiwan via VQ aircraft….I said sure….and off I went….landing in Taipei, Taiwan.  The CO had a vehicle waiting to bring me out to the base.  When I arrived he welcomed me and directed me to spaces filled with electronic equipment that needed repairs.  I responded that I was not a maintenance (M-Branch) man….surely some mistake had been made along the line.  Well, the deployment was to be about 10 days.  The CO Commander Carl Duberg loaned me some ‘money’ and turned me over to a Chief Garrity.  I think the man was half Chinese because he had been in the Far East for years, spoke several dialects and ate and drank nothing but fried rice and Scotch or so it seemed.  He took me to his home to meet his wife and their adopted Taiwanese son.  We had a grand time and then he took me to a BEQ downtown.

The next day I was asked to ride on PR-24 (EC-121) over the Gulf of Tonkin to search for information within my specialty…found out later it was a request from UN Ambassador Stevens who wanted confirmation that Russians were operating in Laos.  Off we went with Chief Garrity in the supervisor seat, I was sitting next to him (facing aft) and a Petty Officer (ChiComLing) named Plum and another Chinese linguist in seat four (facing forward) of the ‘Four-man CT Console’.  I was doing my job and monitoring the other positions when Petty Officer Plum reported to the Chief that he just discovered MiGs taking-off from Canton, China….shortly followed by me observing Petty Officer Plum was now manning the fire control console throwing down his headset running forward yelling “they got us locked-on.”

The Willy Victor (EC-121) engaged in a rapid descent…the only defense we had….i.e., getting down on the deck.  Chief Garrity reached up and unsnapped his parachute and I immediately followed his action.  I happened to turn around and saw a tall thin LT frozen in place with the front of his orange flight suite very ‘wet’.  I realized the ‘boss’ had the aircraft under control and began monitoring the cockpit…they had requested assistance from Patrol Squadron VP-40 Sangley Point (P5Ms) to respond to our flight.  This request was shortly cancelled as all systems were under control and we were headed back to Taipei.

As we approached base, the air traffic control asked the cockpit if we were the ‘super connie’ that took-off several hours earlier….positive response….followed by “what in the world happened to the big dome you guys had on the top”…followed by “what do you mean”….”well, it’s not there!”  Silence…after we landed there was a lot of scrambling around including a large tarp tossed over the top of the aircraft.  The following day the VQ-1 Executive Officer Howard Kenton flew down from NSGA Atsugi to evaluate the situation.  We were all sworn to secrecy.  The ‘top hat’ was gone and there were numerous holes in the tail assembly.  The MiGs had come in high at our 6 O’clock.  The official response was that we lost the ‘top hat’ because of the pressure exerted during the rapid descent….no mention of the holes in the tail.  The holes were actually on the leading edges and were from the broken up radome.

I was asked by the Shu-Lin-Kou CO (CDR Carl Duberg) if I wanted to go out again…did I really have to?…no, you can go back to Kami Seya….Sayonara Taiwan!!

PR-24 (EC-121) CO was a Commander Phil Dahby and EW Chief was Ed Rush

The flight crew that day became known as the “Hatless’ Wonders” complete with ball cap.”

CTRCS Schneider’s Bio:

CTRCS Ronald E. Schneider

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Originally from Ephrata Pennsylvania, Ronald Schneider enlisted in the U.S. Navy on January 2, 1957 as electronics field Seaman Recruit and received his basic training in Bainbridge, Maryland.  Following boot camp, Seaman Recruit Schneider transferred to the Naval Communications Training Center, Imperial Beach, California where he attended the basic manual Morse operator’s course.

Because there was a shortage of Russian linguists at the time, CTRSA Schneider volunteered to attend Russian Language training at the Russian Language Office of Naval Intelligence in Anacostia, Washington D.C.  Following his manual Morse and Language training, CTR3 Schneider transferred to his first shore duty station in Karamürsel, Turkey in November 1958.

While serving 18 months in Turkey, CTR3 Schneider advanced to CTR2 and then transferred to Kami Seya, Japan in May 1960 where he was assigned to Fleet Air Reconnaissance One (VQ-1).  After 30 months as a direction support operator, CTR2 Schneider transferred to Sidi Yahia, Morocco in November, 1962.  While stationed in Morocco, CTR2 Schneider was advanced to CTR1.

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CTRC Ronald Schneider and his wife the former Angela Cutungo

In November, 1967 CTR1 Schneider transferred to Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico.  While there CTR1 Schneider advanced to Chief Petty Officer.  After five years serving in Puerto Rico, Chief Schneider transferred to Misawa, Japan. CTRC Schneider was officially designated a NSGA Misawa Plank-Owner under the command of CAPT G. Patrick March, former CNSG (1974-1978).  While serving in Misawa, Chief Schneider was advanced to Senior Chief Petty Officer.

After serving in Misawa, Senior Chief Schneider transferred to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland at the National Security Agency. While stationed at the “Fort,” Senior Chief Schneider was selected to Master Chief Petty Officer, but he declined the promotion for family considerations and retired on January 3, 1977.

Following Senior Chief Schneider’s retirement, he continued to serve the Navy as a Liaison Officer for the Office of Naval Intelligence at Fort George G, Meade Maryland.  After 38 years of combined active duty and civilian naval service, Mr. Ronald E Schneider retired on January 31, 1995.

In addition to his assignment in VQ-1, Senior Chief Schneider served as a surface and subsurface direct support operator and supervisor on the following platforms: USS Diodon (SS 349), USS Wahoo (SS 565), USS Newport News (CA 48), USS Tringa (ASR 16), USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA 42), USS Saratoga (CVA 60) and USS America (CV 66).

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Ronald Schneider and his son CWO4 Kevin Schneider

Note: On June 1, 1986 Senior Chief Schneider official transferred to the Fleet Reserve as a Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician Collection.  Before this his rating was Communications Technician Collection.

Mr. Ronald Schneider is married to the former Angela Cutungo of Sicily, Italy.  They have two children Karen and Kevin, three grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Ronald Schneider continues to serve the naval service through his son CWO4 Kevin J. Schneider.

A special thanks to CWO4 Kevin Schneider for sharing this story about his Father!