THE HOOK –Journal of Carrier Aviation, Fall 2002, Volume 30 Number 3
by Lcdr. Rick Morgan, USN (Retired)

Ok, JOs, you think you have it rough because the auto-dog is out on your nuke? How ‘bout a nine-month cruise, 120 days of which were in combat, flying tired attack aircraft that are ground one entire line period because two birds went in the watch on launch. Consider the loss of six air wing aircraft and two pilots during the trip, only one of which was combat related. Add into this mix a ship that is on almost continuous watch hours, suffers frequent systems causalities (little things like the ACLS, radar, cats and steering) and has berthing areas pushing temps in excess of 120 degrees. What you end up with is the infamous “CasRep-70” Vietnam deployment of USS Shangri-La (CVS-38).

Lcdr. J. J. McBride was the safety officer for the A-4C Skyhawk-quipped Clinchers of VA-12. McBride kept a meticulous cruise diary which, when combined with some excellent historical research, has been turned into a fascinating book that details the entire deployment on a day-to-day basic.

Shang was a World War II-era 27-Charlie Essex-class carrier that, despite its “anti-submarine” designation, was making its last deployment with Attack Carrier Air Wing Eight embarked. CVW-8 was an East Coast outfit with three quarters of its squadrons coming from AirAltant, in this case “old” Crusaders, Skyhawks and Fudds and not the then-glamorous Phantoms, Intruders and Corsairs. To cap things off, the ship was scheduled to be decommissioned and three of its squadrons disestablished immediately after its return home.

Yankee Station operations involved a lot of combat missions in lousy conditions. The pilots were flying their aircraft into South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, frequently at night against an elusive and indistinct enemy. There’s no system bombing here-just pilots using the old iron bombsight and carrying only three to five Mk-82s on most missions.

The SHANG LOG is about a close-knit squadron of men who did their best with what they were handed. The book offers a fascination first-person glimpse into what was certainly one of the more obscure carrier deployments of the Vietnam War.

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