May 25 2015

WorWorto: Remembering Hotshot

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May 25 2015

Captain John West’s Last Letter

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John sent a letter to his father-in-law on December 14, 1969.

The war over here, i.e. Laos, is serious…. I feel that I need to let you know that things are a lot more active than I project in Donna’s letters… What I want to point out is that aircraft loss in Laos has been heavy…

On my 7th mission I had to make a pass only it was along a river with high karst (very jagged stone formations) on both sides. This pass is extremely well protected by guns as it is one of the main routes from North Vietnam to Laos. The lead airplane went through and as he called off the target … he excitedly warned me of the AAA fire. I had a little over 500 knots with 900 of bank and dodging karsk in order to get through. Finally I leveled off only to see air bursts to my right and tracers going by. After we landed I had a nice hole in the right leading edge wing flap and one of my bomb stations was missing.

…Two days ago we were in a flight of four F4’s up in northern Laos going after NVN storage areas and AAA guns. I was number 4 in the flight and “#4” always seems to be the best target. I was delivering special anti-AAA ordnance and the bad guys decided that since I was last one in “on the gun’ that they’d discourage me.  Well, after all the air bursts of 37 mm AAA going off my right wing, one gun position is no longer. My leader had to continue to tell me to junk (take evasive action) as the gunners were still tracking me as I was climbing through 10,000 feet.

The day after I took a hit, a 558th F-4 … was shot down in the exact area I traversed. The two pilots were able to eject but they landed right where they were most vulnerable. The AC couldn’t get to cover and the gunners simply shot him. The back seater took cover and 52 hours later after every AF strike mission was diverted to the recovery operation, he was finally rescued. One para-rescue man was killed and 4 rescue droppers were shot up…

His F-4 Phantom II was shot down over Laos on January 2, 1970 and he was never recovered.  His wife, Donna (my husband’s sister) was expecting their son in April and she delivered without his support. A life and future were cut tragically short.


May 25 2010

84th Annual Memorial Day Celebration

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Memorial Day Concert and Ceremony

When:   Monday, May 31, 2010 1:30 PM

Where:  Evergreen Washelli Memorial Park

1111 Aurora Ave North
Seattle, WA 98109

Band Concert at 1:30pm
Ceremony at 2:00pm

On Monday, May 31, 2010, Evergreen Washelli will host their 84th Annual Memorial Day Commemorative Service. Please join fellow citizens to honor America’s fallen and salute the flags on the ‘Avenue of Colors.’ The Seattle Pacific University Symphonic Wind Ensemble will perform, as well as soloist Maria Kesovija. The concert begins at 1:30pm and the ceremony will commence at 2:00pm. A guided tour of the Medal of Honor Recipients to follow the ceremony.

More info here: