Iwakuni Deadman

Back in 1956-57, I was an aircraft mechanic with MARS-17 at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. We had a variety of aircraft, one of which was an AD-6 Skyraider. This aircraft was a Douglas-built attack plane with a tail wheel.

It also had a 14-foot, four-bladed prop driven by an engine producing almost 3,000 horsepower. When standing near an AD-6 running at full power, you could feel that sound in your very bones—it was that powerful. Its engine was the R3350—Wingers understand such technical talk; Grunts will just have to roll their eyes and keep reading.

Space available for aircraft maintenance and parking in the MARS-17 area was tight, so the high-power turn-up spot—known as the "deadman"—was next to the road that ran between MCAS Iwakuni's Wing side and Main side, located near VMR-152's nose docks.

The deadman had a ring sunk into the deck's concrete to chain down an AD's nose for full-power checks of its engine. There was also a tall blast-deflector fence located behind a chained-down aircraft. The fence was made from welded planks of Marston Matting.

Because the blast fence was not built wide enough, mechanics soon learned that if we parked an AD at an angle, when at full blast part of its prop blast went past the blast fence's side and would literally knock over people riding bicycles (and even move small vehicles) passing by on the nearby road. Japanese riding bicycles learned real quick to stop when they saw an AD turning up its engine. Marines, however, usually just pedaled right into the prop blast (probably Grunts).

Now, most of you recall that old homily, "Corporals are sly and crafty, and bear watching at all times." One Saturday morning this other corporal and I had parked and chained down an AD at the deadman. It had rained the night before, so standing water had accumulated on the concrete apron.

It was the other corporal's turn to crank up the engine, so he was in the AD's cockpit and I stood on the deck by its wing, holding a clipboard—making myself look important. He had warmed up the engine and was beginning to use a check list when I saw a jeep approaching our area as it headed Main side from Wing side. The jeep's canvas top was up and its sides were open.

I got the corporal's attention and, on signal, he revved the AD's engine to its full power. The sudden blast of prop air lifted all that water lying on the deck in one huge, splattering sheet and soaked the jeep's driver and its inside. The blast was so strong that it almost ripped the jeep's canvas top off. Spectacular!

Unfortunately for us—the driver was a lieutenant colonel. I watched as the soaked colonel drove to our squadron's hangar and stormed inside. I knew we were in trouble and, sure enough, shortly thereafter our squadron's maintenance chief caming barreling in our direction with fire in his eyes.

He signaled for us toshut down the engine. Then he stood us both by the AD's wing and let us have it with both barrels. In those days master sergeants must have gone to some sort of school for ass-chewing because he was good! By the time he finished our hair and dungaree jackets were smoking.

He had us get a tug and reposition the AD on the deadman, then he warned us (again!) about watching for passing traffic on the road. That ended our fun, but I'd bet that others later discovered the same possibility and used it on other unsuspecting travelers along the road between Wing and Main Side. 

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The author: Thomas Mix joined the Marine Corps in Sept. 1952 as a 16 year old. Served mostly with Marine Aviation. Vietnam in 1965 with H&MS-16, again in 1966-67 with HMM-165. Marine Security Guard with the American Embassy, Copenhagen, 1954-55. Married a wonderful Danish girl then; still happily married. Commissioned as a Warrant Officer 1962, retired with the rank of Captain, October 1972.

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