Ray Jasica, who now lives in Punta Gorda, Fla. was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in Marine Corps Aviation after graduating from training at Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1954.
After he got his wings, he was sent to a squadron of F9F “Panther” jet fighters based at El Toro Naval Air Station in Southern California.
“One of the sad things that happened while I was in El Toro, we were trying to get some flying time in. Four of us in F9Fs took off from El Toro for a flight to Glenview, Ill. It was in November and the weather was filthy,” the 82-year-old former aviator said. “There was a 300 foot ceiling and there were rain storms on and off.
“Our senior lieutenant took off first and ground control vectored him on a certain heading. They told him to report back when he got on top of the weather. I was second and took off in a different direction. I reported back to ground control when I cleared the weather.
“But no one ever heard back from out leader who took off first. No wreckage of his plane was ever found. He must have crashed into the sea.”
After El Toro, Jasica flew for a Special Weapons Delivery Unit. It was part of VMA-261 flying out of Atsugi, Japan, They were flying AD-6 “Skyraiders.”
“We were a small detachment comprised of six officers, four airplanes and the ground force to take care of the planes,” he said. “It was a big beautiful single-prop airplane that cruised at 160 to 170 knots. We were being trained to deliver a nuclear weapon.
“My targets were the submarine pens at Vladivostok, Russia. The Marine Corps used the AD-6s to deliver an atomic bomb because none of its jet fighters were large enough,” Jasica explained. “This was 1956.
“During my mission I was to fly my AD-6 50-feet off the deck to evade enemy radar. The problem with flying a prop plane, we didn’t know if we could escape the atomic blast.
“We were to use the ‘Loft Maneuver’ to drop the bomb. With this maneuver you flew your fighter 50-feet off the ground at 150 knots until you got close to the target. At that point you climbed to 5,000 feet. You continued on course a specified distance from the target and then went into a dive to pick up speed. When you almost reached ground level you were flying at 350 knots.
“At that point you pulled up the nose of the plane and released your bomb manually. When the barrels of our guns on the wings of our AD6s passed through the horizon we pushed the bomb release button. The bomb flew out of the bottom of our plane. We continued our loop and went screaming down toward the deck once more to pick up speed and reached 350 knots again.”
Luckily for Jasica, he was never put in a position to worry about escaping the blast of a nuclear bomb.
At the time he was a 24-year-old lieutenant and said, “I never gave the problem much consideration. This was our job and this was what I was supposed to do in the Marine Corps if it got down to nuclear war.”
What hit closer to home than a nuclear bomb blast three years later was a RIF (Reduction In Force) in the Corps. The Marines were retiring officers who had flown in World War II and Korea because it was running out of money.
Jasica realized he could be next in line to be retired if he didn’t figure out something to do that was more important to the Corps than flying fixed-wing fighter planes. He discovered helicopters. They were his future in the Marines if he could switch from fighters to choppers.
“My first day of helicopter training was in August 1958 at Pensacola,” he said. “I took two months training and I became a helicopter pilot.
“In 1966 I went to Vietnam and flew H-34 Sikorsky helicopters from Marble Mountain Naval Air Station, a few miles south of the DMZ. We carried troops or wounded. They would carry 12 Marines and their combat gear.
“We made a number of Medevac flights to pick up wounded and fly them to a hospital ship off shore,” Jasica said. “I remember the first time I recall being in combat.
“We flew out to pick up a wounded Marine in a rice paddy. We were sitting there waiting for them to load the Marine and I could see enemy bullets skipping along the paddy’s surface toward our helicopter. When this happened you tended to crunch down in your armored seat,” he said.
“Another time we were trying to pick up an injured Marine who was on a spit of land in a river surrounded by tall trees that made it impossible for us to reach him,” Jasica explained. “On our copter we had a boom hoist that stuck out from the chopper’s side. I told our crew chief to drop the hoist cable down and swing it back and forth like a pendulum. The ground crew grabbed the cable and attached it to the wounded Marine’s stretcher. We extracted him without incident.”
While in Vietnam he courted his wife, Joann, a school teacher in Okinawa. The couple got married after they both returned to the States from the war zone.
Jasica served a tour in Hawaii on the general’s staff. His daughter Jana was born there. His son, Anthony, was born in North Carolina.
Jasica wrapped up his 20 year career as a Marine Corps major. He was the commander of a CH-46 “Sea Knight” helicopter Squadron, HMT-301, based at Marine Corps Air Facility, Corpus Christi, Calif.
The Jasica’s moved to Punta Gorda in 1983. He was the manager of a local Savings of America saving and loan for a number of years.
Name: Raymond Anthony Jasica
D.O.B: 7 Feb. 1931
Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
Currently: Punta Gorda, Fla.
Entered Service: 4 June 1954
Discharged: 4 June 1974
Unit: Helicopter Marine Training Squadron 301
Commendations: Meritorious Service Medal, 12 Air Medals, Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V”
Battles/Campaigns: Vietnam 1966 – 1967
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 and is republished with permission.
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