Monday, February 15, 2010

Will Rogers Tower #18, Winter of 1969-70, by Terry Flanagan, LACo O.L., Ret.

(The Photo above shows Will Rogers Tower #18, present day, posted here for story support only. All photos courtesy of Will Maguire).

The winter of 1969-70 was one of the wettest ever...major storm after major storm. The creek at Will Rogers 18 was full of, trees, dead deer, even a Ford Mustang all washed out and littered the beach. Eventually it was all bulldozed and spread out on both sides of the creek bed making it unusable for sun bathers ... which turned out to be very fortunate. Bear in mind that this was at the height of the war in Vietnam. Earlier that winter, a naval helicopter had flown south down the beach, hovering over the few stations that were open, lowering a sign on a rope that said "Peace Now", and flying off to the next one for a repeat performance.

(Photo shows close up of mouth of Santa Monica Canyon and Will Rogers State Beach, circa mid 1940's; the same area as the incident described herein the summer of 1967.)

(Photo above shows Will Rogers Lifeguard Headquarters in foreground with Towers #17 and 18 in background at mouth of Santa Monica Canyon, present day, and shown here for story support only.)

The following summer, the beaches were packed and at WR 18 the only open space was along the creek where no one wanted to sit. One hot Sunday in early August, in the middle of a crowded day, a helicopter came flying up from the Hughes secret research center by La Ballona Creek and started stalling out over station 18. I was at T 17 at the time and everyone could hear the engine sputtering. The chopper dropped down almost on top of T 18, then somehow did an air bounce and managed to land on the only clear space the creek. I ran back to help as did Herb Thacker and Mark Thompson from T 18. When we got to the chopper, the pilot jumped out screaming that the CIA had sabotaged his helicopter and was trying to kill him.

We were trying to calm him down when two Sikorskys flew overhead, with one of them landing! A captain jumped out with two other soldiers and demanded that the pilot go with them. He of course started screaming louder that they would kill him and begged us not to let them take him. Just as the captain grabbed his arm and tried to force him into the Sikorsky, Bud Clark, Captain Cuss himself (RIP), drove up and asked what was going on. The captain insisted he was taking the pilot, and the pilot kept screaming that he didn't want to go. Bud assessed the situation for all of five seconds, walked up to the captain and in his trademark menacing voice said , "You ain't takin' him nowhere!" The captain gulped, got back in his chopper without another word, and the two Sikorskys flew away. The pilot stayed with his chopper until a tow truck came, winched it onto a truck, and he and his helicopter headed back to Hughes. The story never made the newspapers and we never heard anything more about the incident.

Just another day at State Beach!

Terry Flanagan,
Westlake Village, Calif.,
Feb. 13, 2010
Copyright Terry Flanagan 2010. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission.

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Many Thanks to Flanafish for sharing this Classic Vietnam era Will Rogers State Beach story !

Until next time.....

Will Maguire, Editor
"County Recurrent" News

Service • Training • Commitment

*** Keeping the County Recurrent "in the loop"..... whether he/she likes it or NOT ! ***

DISCLAIMER: County Recurrent is not affiliated with nor sponsored by LACOLA or LACoFD.

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