Remembering a Chinese Threat

By Guest Contributor April 24, 2017 11:36

Remembering a Chinese Threat

By Bill Edwards

In 1962 I was serving as a naval aviation engineer for NAESU (Naval Aviation Engineering Service Unit) instructing aircraft maintenance and flight crew members on the operation of aircraft electrical generating systems on the Navy’s P2V-7 anti-submarine warfare aircraft at NAHA Naval Air Station in Okinawa. I accompanied a routine patrol with one of the crews to Taiwan.

As we were flying over international waters, we were photographing the comings and goings of ships as the Navy was interested in who was visiting or leaving Chinese waters. The aircraft had two removable panels on the fuselage similar to “gun ports” on armed bombers, which had been removed to circulate the hot and humid air; however, these aircraft did not carry any armaments. There was an elevated seat at each port and I had occupied one.

I guess I was dozing when the aircraft commander spoke my name over the intercom headset I was wearing. “Mr. Edwards, look out the right side of the aircraft!” I was a little shocked to see a Chinese fighter jet about thirty or forty feet from me staggering through the air trying to match our slow, propeller-driven aircraft speed. The pilot was grinning at me.

I glanced to the other side and saw another communist Chinese jet on our other wing tip. The aircraft commander said, “Mr. Edwards, wave your non-combatant ID card at them so they don’t shoot us down!” This was followed by a chorus of laughs as this apparently was a routine occurrence of being hassled by Chinese fighters, even though we were over international waters.

Suddenly the jet on my side raised up and passed very closely over us and the other jet passed very closely under us and both headed back to the Chinese mainland.

We were scheduled to join a Nationalist Chinese anti-submarine exercise off of Taiwan. There were several destroyers which were waiting for us to drop a pattern of sonobuoys to aid in the search of an enemy submarine. When the sonobuoys hit the water, they activate and send out sonar-type signals which reflect off the metal structure of the submarine and allow triangulation to pinpoint its location.

We could actually see the Nationalist Chinese resting clearly on the bottom of the ocean but could not be visible to the ships on the surface. Just after we dropped the sonobuoys, one of the destroyers had to return to port due to an overheated boiler. Coincidentally one of the sonobuoys failed to activate which, it was concluded, we may have dropped it down the destroyer’s smokestack.

The runways at Tainan were closed for repairs so we flew south to Kang Shang, a little-used airfield about 30 to 40 miles from Tainan. The runways were built with steel landing mats during World War II.

As we shut down the engines, a U.S. Navy crew cab approached driven by a U.S. naval officer and carried two Nationalist Chinese soldiers who would guard the aircraft overnight while we drove to the naval facility in Tainan. There was a 40-gallon garbage can in the truck portion of the cab so I took the lid off to deposit the remains of my box lunch, but it was full of ice. The naval officer had iced down San Miguel beer for our hot and humid ride to Tainan.

Bill Edwards, 86, is a Sonora resident and pilot who has walked away from two airplane crashes, earning him the nickname “Crash”.

By Guest Contributor April 24, 2017 11:36
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