Retired Navy Captain Dave Leue’ was our speaker for the December meeting. He is a 32 year veteran of the Navy who started as a senior in high school and worked his way from apprentice seaman to Captain, with a long history of Naval combat and commands. He received flight training and was assigned to fly Corsairs.
On one occasion he was flying and pulled 5 g’s with the resulting vapor formation off his wingtips and remarked that it looked like war. He had believed that there would be no more wars after what had been experienced in WW-II, but was immediately informed that we were at war again. This time it was the Korean conflict. Prop aircraft were needed so his unit was engaged. They fought for 3 years with most of the pilots being Ensigns. Now that has changed and most pilots are at least Lieutenants. They did lack experience but that came with their participation, and the quality of their performance improved. Their first strike was at Inchon in September of 1950. This was the event that established the Pusan Perimeter that began to limit the ability of the North Koreans to freely invade South Korea. Shortly after the Pusan victory, the Chinese became very active, aggressively supporting the North. Dave commented that it was the Chinese who killed most of his squadron buddies. We took little action against them.
As things lead up to the Viet Nam conflict, he was aware of the coming conflagration. He was flying the A-4 Skyhawk, a light weight and very nimble attack jet. He stated the tremendous frustrations that arose from the political control of the war rather than military control that we have all heard about. They were forbidden to attack the Russian ships that were delivering supplies and munitions to the north as well as other restrictions that severely compromised the war. He discussed the torture and killing of Americans in Hai Phong and then the pulling out of all troops: a real disaster! After his military career, he went to school in science and engineering and ran a very successful business in the field of solar energy. After his talk, Dave’s wife Stella spoke about his past and present including having been recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, presumably from the asbestos used for insulation on the Navy ships. We were delighted to hear from Capt. Leue’ and Stella and many of our members spent a great deal of time asking questions and discussing his career at the table where his two books were available for sale. They are “Korean Conflict” and “Viet Nam Conflict”.
Editor’s note: CAPT Leue’ and I were part of the Naval Aviation Midshipman program that was started in 1946 and was to supply the Navy with college trained aviators. The program included an Anapolis-like collage at Pensacola. Congress didn’t fund the program after the third year. Leue’ and I earned our wings in November of 1949. That left us out in the fleet on pay of fifty dollars per month plus $25 flight pay for eight months until we were appointed ensigns in June of 1950. My mess bill was $42 per month!