Roger "Kahuna" Wharton

Home Squadronmates Past Reunions History Operations Homebase Homeplate Aircraft Liberty Call Memorabilia

1969 Cruisebook photo

  1969 Cruisebook photo - Roger Wharton pre-flights the main gearbox  
Roger enjoys a little sun during the 1969 cruise Arne Bruflat enjoys the food while others enjoy the sun during the 1969 cruise.   L-R: Arne, Ken Burns, Hi Bronson, Rudy Cartwright (hidden behind Hi), Bill Wraith, Jim Rooney, Roger and Bruce Casey


My First Flight in HS-6 - with Bill Medley, July 31, 1968 - was soon thereafter reassigned as copilot to fly with Jim Payton.

My Last Flight in HS-6 - with Gordy Thomas, October 10, 1969 - was subsequently transferred to HS-8 which was just being formed.

HS-6 Tour - July 1968 to October 1969,


Faces and Names that Stick Out in My Mind


Jim Dunwell – we were bunkmates on the Kearsarge for about 9 months.  He had the upper and I the lower. 


Rick Tessada – our paths crossed in 1976 in Tehran, Iran.  Small world....


Howie Wheeler  - who contacted me about this reunion, and...


Jim Hughes  - who was transferred to HS-8 with me.   And of course my HAC...


Jim Payton - who acquired the nickname “Sweet Kilo” during that infamous cruise on the Kearsarge.  I think it was Sweet Kilo, had to do with those codes we had to use during radio silence.  You remember, Oranges sweet, Oranges sour.  Which reminds me, we (the junior officers) used to also use special coded acronyms to pass crude messages back and forth between the helicopters.  Nothing like flying around in the middle of the black and silent goo and suddenly hearing someone say something like Kilo Mike Alpha.  After scrambling through the code book to no avail you finally realized it meant – “kiss my ass." As I recall there were some very creative ones out there, none of which were in any book.

Most Impressive Figure at HS-6 – Newly assigned to HS-6 I went to the Officers' club for Happy Hour where I meet my Commanding Officer, F. X. McCarthy along with other squadron mates.  Later that evening he proceeded to do something that I’ve only seen done once in my life.  He stood on his head and chugged a beer upside down without spilling a single drop or allowing any of it to drip back out of his nose.  I was impressed!    

Flight that Made Me “Pucker” the Most -    As a part of a flight of three we were dipping out in front of the task group.  You remember those days when they turned all the navigation aids off and you had use dead reckoning with that cumbersome board (and a flashlight under your chin - or was it in your mouth?) you used in the cockpit to track your position and the carrier's so you’d know how to get home, which is nice to know when you’re in the middle of the Pacific.  GPS would have helped back then.  Anyway, our flight leader (I’m not sure who he was although he will probably remember) came to the realization that we may be further from the carrier than we thought.  Conferring about our fuel status confirmed that we needed to get back to the carrier ASAP.  Now we are getting vectors from the fixed wing above.  Now the carrier is steaming toward us to close the distance.  Now we’ve got fuel low warning lights going in all three aircraft.  Of course, we all know that there is no way of really knowing how much fuel you have left when those low fuel lights come on.  Could be another 15 minutes, could be another ten minutes.   NATOPS doesn’t give you any guarantees.  Now we are flying real low, almost hover taxiing at a brisk rate.  The strategy being one engine will hopefully fail before the other and when that happens we just gently set down into water which by the way in the middle of the Pacific is mighty deep and full of sharks and sea snakes while we still have power provided by the second engine.  Of course both engines could fail at the same time in which case you will be making a rougher water landing but from a low altitude and will subsequently pop the floats on the aircraft.  You remember how many of those we practiced.  And everyone knows that those floats will only keep you afloat upright in a calm sea which it never is in the middle of the Pacific. You can bet that aircraft will tip over and you will find yourself swimming in the cold (it is Winter) water with the sharks and sea snakes. Now the Kearsarge is in sight.  I’m feeling much better as I reason that they should be able to see us as well and at the least will know were to send the rescuers to fish us out of the water.  Now the Kearsarge looms in front of us, we hold our breaths and climb up to the flight deck level, and breath a sigh of relief when the wheels touch down.  That is the story as best I can remember it.  I know there are others who were a part of that flight and can tell this story better and give a more accurate account of the event. 

My Worst Watch -  On 3 June 1969 I was the Squadron Duty Officer in the ready room.  You remember the ready room back then.  Half the room was always engulfed in a haze of smoke from cigarettes and pipes. I wonder how they handle that smoking issue today.   It’s about two or three in the morning.  The standby crew in the ready room are asleep. In fact most of the squadron are asleep.  I was sitting there making mundane log entries.  The phone rings – Operations: "There’s been a collision at sea, prepare to launch all available helicopters..."

Current Status -  I left the service after 7 years in an attempt to become an airline pilot. Ended up working for Bell Helicopter for 27 years and am now retired. See you in San Diego!

Updated: 09/18/06