(Contact Info: larry at larryblakeley.com)
Important Note: You will need to click this icon to download the free needed to view most of the images on this Web site - just a couple of clicks and you're "good to go." For reasons why - go here.
A listing and access link to all:
song lyrics and mp3 audio files http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/ (all of which are a part of this Web site) can be accessed simply by selecting the "htm" file for the song you want;
quotations http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/quotations.htm; and
essays written by Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/articles_larry_blakeley.htm,
all of which are used to tell the story in this Web site, can be accessed by going to each respective link set out above.
My son, Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/larryblakeley_photos_jpeg.htm manages this Web site.
Major Roy James Blakeley (December 10, 1928 - July 22, 1965) - USAF (KIA)
When I was young my dad would say
Come on son let's go out and play
No matter how hard I try
No matter how many tears I cry
No matter how many years go by
I still can't say goodbye
- "I Still Can't Say Goodbye," Performer: Chet Atkins
MP3 audio file/lyrics http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/still_cant_say_goodbye.htm
For a larger image click on the photograph.
"American paratrooper, South Vietnamese and Australian soldiers slogged through Viet Cong infested jungle and swamps today in an attempt to force the Communists into a major battle.... But, in this first major combat offensive by American troops in the Viet Nam war, the guerillas thus far appeared to have eluded the pincer attack and only light contact was reported.... In fighting yesterday, four U. S. Marines were killed in a battle with Communist guerillas near Da Nang. U. S. jets flew to within 65 miles of the Communist Chinese border in their deepest probe into Communist North Viet Nam.... In the air attacks yesterday, military spokesman said the United States lost three planes. One, a Voodoo jet, was downed at low altitude by ground fire over North Viet Nam. The pilot was presumed killed.... Two others, a B57 Canberra jet bomber and a F104 Starfighter, crashed in South Viet Nam. The B57 pilot was killed and the co-pilot was missing. The fighter pilot was rescued. - "Main Cong Force 'Vanishes,'" Saigon newspaper report, 1965. http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/saigon_news_first_combat1965.djvu
"Maps show how the Viet Cong guerrilla forces have tightened their hold on South Viet Nam. Maps at left and in center were made from information collected by Associated Press staffers from the best available sources. Map at right was made from a map distributed by the Communist Chinese government in Peking." - "The Situation in Vietnam," AP Wirephoto Map, The Abilene Reporter News, Abilene, Texas, Thursday Evening, July 29, 1965, pg. 6-C http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/abilene_news19650729.djvu
"We have been doing air to ground for the last two weeks & wish we would switch to escort for a while. It's hell of a lot safer!!....The bad thing is on air to ground missions we make 2 dive bomb runs & 3 strafe passes but the crazy Viet Cong don't try to hide or get into fox holes, they just shoot at you until they get shot. We pull out 2,000' higher than normal now!!" - Roy Blakeley, letter dated July 18, 1965 http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_rblakeley19650718.htm
"I dive bomb and strafe targets as per higher headquarter's instructions. Hope we go back to escort up in North Viet Nam pretty soon as that's where the MIG's are." - Roy Blakeley, letter dated July 19, 1965 http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_rblakeley19650719.htm
"Operation Cross Switch saw the 436th TFS assuming the 476th commitment in Da Nang on 11 July, and the 436th began flying combat sorties the next day. From the outset however, the overall mission of the 436th was of a different flavor than the 476th's. Although a small number of MiGCAP and escort sorties were flown in July, the great majority of the sorties initially flown were of the CAS type.
Beginning in late July, the 436th was fragged to maintain four F-104s on fifteen-minute alert to provide quick-reaction close support of friendly ground troops. This alert commitment was not dropped until the end of September when the escort missions again took precedence.
By the end of their three-month deployment, 56% of the combat sorties flown by the 436th were of the ground attack type. Although the F-104's high speed and small size made it a difficult target for AAA gunners, questionable missions such as strafing AAA sites inevitably had an impact. Aircraft began returning from CAS missions with battle damage. On 23 July, Capt. Roy Blakely (Blakeley) attempted to crash-land his battle-damaged F-104 at Chu Lai. Blakely (Blakeley) successfully set his aircraft down gear-up, but died when his F-104 swerved off the runway into a sand dune. PACAF headquarters apparently took notice of Blakely's (Blakeley's) death, because mission fragging took a more realistic turn soon thereafter. - - "The F-104 in Southeast Asia (SEA)," Tom Delashaw and Bovankovich, http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/delashaw_bovankovich_f104_sea.htm
"On July 23, Capt. Roy Blakely (Blakeley) attempted to crash-land his battle-damaged F-104C at Chu Lai. Blakely (Blakeley) successfully set his aircraft down gear-up, but died when his F-104 swerved off the runway into a sand dune." - "Lockheed F-104C Starfighter," Joseph Baugher http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/joseph_baugher_f104cStarfighter.htm
"The 436th TFS had a bad day on September 20, 1965. F-104C pilot Major Philip E. Smith managed to get lost while flying an EC-121 escort mission over the Gulf of Tonkin. After several equipment failures and incorrect steering commands, he managed to wander over Hainan Island and was shot down by a pair of Chinese MiG-19s (J-6s). He ejected and was taken prisoner. While the rest of the squadron was out looking for Major Smith, two other F-104s had a midair collision while returning to their base. Both pilots ejected and were recovered unharmed.
A week later, another F-104C was shot down by enemy AAA, and its pilot was killed.
After these four losses, the remnants of the 435th were rotated back to George AFB in November of 1965 and the F-4Cs of the 390th TFS assumed the 435th's escort mission at Da Nang." - "The Lockheed F-104C Starfighter," Harry Luijkx, http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/harry_luijkx_f104cStarfighter.htm
Roy James Blakeley, "America's youth" - here)
(Roy James Blakeley, "America's teenager" - here)
(Roy James Blakeley, "America's son" - here)
I'm learning to fly
But I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing
Well, the good ol' days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn
I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing
- Learning to Fly, Tom Petty
MP3 audio file/lyrics at http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/learning_to_fly.htm
My flight experience: My last renewal of my Flight Instructor Certificate was on January 14, 2001, but I have since let it lapse since I am not instructing. I still hold a Commercial License in Twin and Single Engine-Land with an Instrument Rating, Ground Instructor certificate, and an Airframe Maintenance Certificate. I have a little over 1,000 hours total time - with 350 hours in a Twin Comanche.
"....And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadows on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!" - "The Raven," Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven and Other Tales, A Glassbook Classic.
"Larry, wake up ....."
"Larry, wake up ....."
"Larry, wake up ....."
"there's some bad news about your father"
Adagio for Strings, Samuel Barber MP3 audio file (12.2 MB) http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/adagio_for_strings_barber.mp3
Life can forever change in one awakening - mine did.
My Grandmother Violet and Granddad Blakeley were visiting David Blakeley in Colorado - they received their phone call around midnight mountain daylight savings time.
So, I was awoken around 1:00 AM in Texas with this unbelievably, terrible news. In fact, I wasn't even at my mothers' parents house. I had traveled to Irving, Texas on a bus to visit my mother's sisters and their families.
Department of the Air Force's interim Report of Casualty dated July 22, 1965 http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/casualty_report.djvu;
Department of Air Force's Morning Report Casualty Accounting dated July 27, 1965 (final report) http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/morning_report_casualty_accounting19650722.djvu
My father's pilot log entries for July, 1965 http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/af_form_12_vietnam.jpg
The First Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Sgro dated July 23, 1965 written to my Grandmother Violet describing preliminary details of my father's death.
Text http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_anthony_sgro19650723.txt (right mouse key, save as)
The Second Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Sgro dated August 4, 1965 containing the results of investigation into the death of my father.
http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_anthony_sgro19650804.txt (right mouse key, save as)
The following is a letter dated July 27, 2006 from an eyewitness on the ground, Michael E. Holmes (L/Cpl USMC), describing my father's heroism while attempting to make an emergency landing at Chu Lai.
27 Jul 2006
I was on the runway at Chu Lai the day Captain Blakeley crashed.
He reported to the Chu Lai Tower that he had a "dead stick" and no oil pressure.
There was an ammunition dump on his approach.
He could not get the aircraft centered on the runway which ultimately caused his death.
He used power to ensure that he did not land short and hit the ammunition dump.
It is believed that he cut power (several of us heard the power coming off the aircraft) in order to avoid crashing into the Chu Lai tower area. As a result of the lack of power the aircraft's nose probe hit a sand dune and exploded.
This very brave man could have bailed out but instead stayed with the aircraft ensuring no friendly casualties. He has had my respect all of these years and while talking with friends about Vietnam heroes, he is at the top of my list.
From a ground observer of the incident,
Michael E. Holmes
Chu Lai 1965
Hang Dong, Chiang Mai, Thailand 50230
This letter dated July 26, 1965 from Lt. General J. H. Moore, USAF http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_jhmoore_19650726.htm, Commander, 2nd Air Division, 13th Air Force, San Francisco, California. Short, and quite surreal. I presume the higher up the chain of command the more unfamiliar they are with the deceased and therefore a distance tone of language. ....."Roy made the supreme sacrifice in the service of his country for the cause of freedom. His loss will strengthen the resolve of those of us who remain to assure the victory he sought so gallantly." http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_j_moore19650726.djvu
What was unique about Chu Lai? In July, 1965 it was a temporary short field takeoff and landing runway constructed with interlocking aluminum and built literally on sand - go here for more information.
It wasn't the first time he was forced to divert to a alternate airfield in an emergency. In April, 1956 he had an in flight emergency in a flight in an F-84F and had to make a dead-stick landing on an abandoned airfield with a 4,300' runway. He was recognized as the pilot of the month.
"As the MiG threat abated, the 476th TFS was tasked with some weather reconnaissance and ground attack missions. A few of these were against targets in North Vietnam, but most of them were close air-support missions against targets in the South under forward air controller direction. The F-104s were fairly successful in this role, gaining a reputation for accuracy in their cannon fire and their bombing and capable of quite rapid reaction times in response to requests for air support. During this period, the 476th F-104s maintained an in-commission rate of 94.7%, a testimony both to the quality of 476th maintenance personnel and to the simplicity and maintainability of F-104 systems. However, an F-104 went down during a sortie 100 nm SSW of Da Nang on June 29. The pilot was rescued with minor injuries.
The 436th TFS assumed the 476th's commitment in Da Nang on 11 July, and the 436th began flying combat sorties the next day. Although a few MiGCAP missions were flown, the majority of the missions were quick-reaction close-air support missions in support of ground troops. On July 23, Capt. Roy Blakely attempted to crash-land his battle-damaged F-104C at Chu Lai. Blakely successfully set his aircraft down gear-up, but died when his F-104 swerved off the runway into a sand dune.
In those days, the Air Force wives would get that unexpected and dreaded visit from military personnel in the blue Ford.
This visit was made by Colonel Darryl Cramer (who retired from the USAF as a Brigadier General, then Commander of the 479th Tactical Fighter Wing and Dean Arriaga, wife of Major Eusebio Arriaga, commander of the 436th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TAC), both of George Air Force Base
Colonel Darryl Cramer
He very often requested my father to fly with him when he had somewhere to go. According to my mother that he was very impressed with my father and trusted his flying abilities and judgement. Colonel Cramer did not fly enough to stay current.
Moms (and Dads) http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/violet_blakeley_sitting.djvu get the dreaded "Western Union Telegram from hell" http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_western_union19650722.djvu
Pictures while exiting the plane at Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene, Texas.
My mother and her parents, John Louis and Edna Ashton here. http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/dyess_mema_gd_mother.djvu
The Memorial Book cover http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/memorial_book.djvu
Food Record http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_food_record.djvu
Friends Who Called http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_friends_who_called.djvu
Flowers and Telegrams http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_flowers_telegrams.djvu
Relatives Who Attended http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_relatives_attending.djvu
Sympathy Cards and Letters sent to my Mother (Note: every single card, letter, and envelope was saved (and there are many). As a tribute to each and every one of those precious and sympathetic souls, each and every one will be scanned and placed here for viewing - in due time, as I jump around from section to section of this story - Larry Blakeley, August 26, 2004)
"I always thought of Roy as a true, quiet gentleman of which there are so few." And, further, "I know you had something special as you always seemed to be together. Our thoughts are with you and the children - Nancy Tofferi, wife of Charles E. Tofferi, August, 1965. http://www.royblakeley.name/tofferi_sypathy.djvu
Charles "Chuck" Tofferi was shot down and killed on Thursday, October 20, 1966. Chuck Tofferi had won the 1962 William Tell fighter weapons meet at Nellis AFB, NV, flying an F-104 in September of 1962. http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/tofferi_william_tell_scores196209.pdf
"Though I did not know Roy well, knowing you and the children I can appreciate your loss. He had a marvelous reputation and will be missed by all." - Pat Nevers, wife of Joseph R. Nevers, August 17, 2004. http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_nevers_sympathy.djvu
"We thought so much of Roy - I always remember how proud he was of his pretty wife and sweet children." - Barbara Garey , wife of George F. Garey, July 22, 1965. http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_garey_sympathy.djvu
"I personally feel that my own life was richer and I learned some true object lessons in human sincerity as a direct result of having known and associated with Roy. Perhaps you have found some spiritual consolation in knowing that when people say Roy was a fine man, they say it from the heart because he as truly a wonderful person." - James T. Dore, August 19, 1965 letter and card here. http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/george_436th_fighter_squadron/directory_dore_sympathy.djvu
"I regret I didn't know Roy better; Dick had a great admiration for him - not only as a pilot, but as a man. We shall miss him." - Patty Alexander http://www.royblakeley.name/alexander_sympathy.djvu, wife of Dick Alexander, July 23, 1965.
"It was such a shock to me when I heard about Roy. Your whole family have been so dear to me. Little old Larry will have to be the man of the house now." - sympathy card from Modena Davis here http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_card_sympathy_mdavis.djvu
"It seems that we both were so happy but guess that's how God works. Love, Ouida" - Ouida (Fillingim) McSpadden, July 23, 1965. She was one of my mother's bridesmaids. A photograph of her on the beach here http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/ouida_fillingim_beach.djvu. Her husband, Doyle McSpadden, had died only a few months prior to her letter. First part of note here http://www.royblakeley.name/fillingim_sympathy1.djvu and second part of note here http://www.royblakeley.name/fillingim_sympathy2.djvu. Envelope here http://www.royblakeley.name/fillingim_envelope.djvu.
This envelope had never been opened by my mother. I suspect that she just handle opening this one up at the time. Ouida, had been one of her best friends in her high school years at Rotan. Here (http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_ouida_fillingim.djvu) are some high school photographs of Ouida that she gave to my mother - along with notes to my mother she writes on the back of each one. And, she probably just overlooked all these years. I've asked her, but she doesn't remember why this envelope was never opened by her.
"I've thought about you and the children so many, many times these last few weeks and will continue to think about you in the future.....I would like to place a book in the Rotan or Roby Library in Roy's memory." - Gladys Graham, wife of W. P. Graham http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/graham_sympathy.djvu
Betty Harris, wife of Walter B. Harris (AFSN A02228133), one of the three other pilots of the flight group that participated in the engagement on July 15, 1965 when the Marines were ambushed and requested "AIR" support. http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_harris_sympathy.djvu
Jeannette Olson, wife of John D. Olson (AFSN A03065381), one of the three other pilots of the flight group that participated in the engagement on July 15, 1965 when the Marines were ambushed and requested "AIR" support. http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_olson_sympathy.djvu
The Abilene Reporter News article appearing in the July 29, 1965 edition announcing the funeral here http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/abilene_news19650729.djvu.
Also, included there is a map and short overview of the transformation of the Viet Cong guerilla forces from the spring of 1964 to the summer of 1965.
According to information available at that time, during this time period the Viet Cong tightened their hold on South Viet Nam and, as my father mentioned in his letters, they surrounded Da Nang Air Base completely and where everywhere else.
Hockley County Herald, Levelland, Texas apparently re-published articles on Hockley County families' losses in Vietnam. Violet (Vickery) Blakeley was originally from this area. She and Louis Blakeley moved back to Whitharral, then later over to Levelland. Here http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/rblakeley_hockley_paper19730427.djvu is the April 27, 1973 article posted "1965." They used the photo http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/Extra_Photographs/rblakeley_bryan1953.djvu taken of my father upon graduating from pilot training at Bryan in 1953.
The funeral was held at the First Baptist Church of Rotan on July 30, 1965 with the Reverend L. L. Trott from Stamford, Texas officiating. The reason why is contained in this letter from Mac Weathersbee, Weathersbee Funeral Home, dated July 30, 1965 here http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_mweathersbee19650730.djvu
Why? Because my mother wanted him buried there. That's where their life together began - and that's where it will end for both of them - with my father next to my mother. She felt like Rotan was his home, too.
The Services at Rotan, Texas http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/services.djvu
"In The Garden" (James Carter) MP3 audio file/lyrics at http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/in_the_garden.htm
"What A Friend" (Bobby Gruben) MP3 audio file/lyrics at http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/what_a_friend.htm
"Friday, July 30
Dear Johnnye, Larry, Karen and Sharon,
Our thoughts have certainly been with you since you left, especially today.
At 1:30 this afternoon many of us gathered at Chapel #2 and paid tribute to your fine father and husband. The memorial service was attended by many of Roy's friends and associates. We all share your grief and sorrow and hold Roy's memory in high esteem." - Barbara Shassetz, wife of Capt. Larry R. Shassetz (A03066266), one of the three other pilots of the flight group that participated in the engagement on July 15, 1965 when the Marines were ambushed and requested "AIR" support. http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_shassetz_sympathy.djvu
George Air Force Base held a Memorial Service http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/memorial_service_georgeAFB.djvu on July 30, 1965. Flower arrangement at the chapel here. http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/memorial_georgeAFB.djvu
Chaplain: Lt. Colonel Claude L. Chilton
Organist: Mrs. Cathryn Conrey
The squadron at Da Nang Air Base held a Memorial Service and flyover of the Chu Lai airstrip:
"Your son was a very likable person, and a very good and experienced pilot. Everyone was very grieved. A flight of 104's passed over the site in formation. It was a beautiful yet very sad sight. Also a memorial was held in the base Chapel. My sympathy to you and his family." - Doctor W. L. Brawley, my father's cousin located at the Chu Lai hospital facility. Original letter here http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_letter_wlbrawley19650817.djvu
The Bearers, Burial, and Flyover at Rotan, Texas http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_burial_bearers_flyover.djvu
Capt. Frank J. Klonosbi, Capt. William A. Whittingt, Capt. Billy J. McKihben, Capt. Daniel W. Oswald, Capt. James O. Tracy, Capt. William Berry (Note: due to the difficulty of reading this handwriting, there may possibly be errors in spelling), Military Honor Guard, Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene, Texas.
Colonel Ed Mc Neff and Capt. George Garey, Luke Air Force Base http://www.luke.af.mil/public.htm, City of Glendale, Arizona, present home of the largest fighter training wing in the Air Force and the only active duty F-16 training base in the world. http://www.ci.glendale.az.us/LukeAFB/
George Garey, Lt. Colonel, Retired wrote this email to me dated July 28, 2005 here. http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/email_from_george_garey20050728.htm
Colonel Darryl Cramer, Commander of the 479th Fighter Wing, George Air Force Base, Victorville, California.
Photo of Colonel Darryl S. Cramer http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/darryl_cramer_cmdr479.djvu, saluting during the 21-gun salute and missing man fly-over by F-104 Starfighters at my father's funeral. He retired from the Air Force as a Brigadier General http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/cramer_darryl_commandar196508.htm
For additional information see http://www.hill.af.mil/museum/history/cramer.htm
"I flew 9300 miles and 12 in flight refueling's getting here. Landed 3 times in route. My tail was really sore - Ha, think I will ride a transport back & sleep all the way." - Major Roy James Blakeley, July 5, 1965 letter.
My father's cousin, Captain Brawley "helped place my father's body in the casket and accompany it back to the Philippines. He then returned to Vietnam duty" - Gilmer, Texas Newspaper article http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/rblakeley_gilmer_paper.djvu
Captain Brawley wrote the following letter to my grandparents about he meeting with my father and the services at Da Nang Airbase and flyover of the Chu Lai airstrip http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_wlbrawley19650817.htm [DjVu original letter] http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_letter_wlbrawley19650817.djvu
Western Union Telegram http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/western_union.djvu
Sent by the Mortuary Officer at Travis Air Force Base, California notifying my grandmother, Violet Blakeley that the "remains of her son," Captain Roy Blakeley accompanied by Captain Harris Wendell Kirk (AFSN 03066336), 436th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TAC), USAF, George Air Force Base, California, were being shipped to the Weathersbee Funeral Home, Rotan, Texas - "remains" departing San Francisco, California at 8:00 a.m., July 29, 1965 arriving at Love Field, Dallas, Texas at 12:02 p.m., July 29, 1965 on American Airlines Flight 352.
A plea from the youngest of the three children of my father, Sharon and her letter to our father asking him to come back http://www.royblakeley.name/daddy_come_back.djvu