Lessons from my Father
A story about the Crew of the “Night Affair,” and lessons learned by a son of a Father’s service during the Korean War.
My Father, Lawson Dana, was a pilot for the United States Air Force during the “Forgotten Intervention” that occurred in Korea and, later, as a part of Strategic Air Command during the “Cold War.” One would think, if based solely on the names of these conflicts, that my Father never saw combat or knew of the horrors of War. He died in 2006 at the age of 75. My Father was a good man, who worked during the day to support his Family as best as he could, while finding time in the evenings to play baseball or teach his only son the game of chess. However, my Father was a very quiet man; he never shared much of his past, and very few stories of his service in Korea.
Growing up in the 1970’s, I would remember my father taking phone calls from his buddies during his years in the Service. One gentleman would routinely call my Father, in the early morning hours after spending a night drinking, then oblivious to the time difference between his home State of California and my Family’s home located in the Eastern Time Zone of Northeast Ohio. We did not mind as my Father’s face would light up, and he would laugh about long-lost stories and the obvious camaraderie that he shared with his fellow Airmen. That, and the one gentleman who called from California, who I only knew in my youth as “Charlie,” would send an assortment of California nuts to us each year from his Family’s farm during the Holidays. Despite these late-night calls, and other communications with his Crew, my Father would still only provide brief insights into his service.
This past year, my Mother passed away, and the Family is engaged in the unenviable task of sifting through a household with eighty plus years of memories. Between shredding bank records that existed at a time when dates of birth and social security numbers were prevalent in these documents, I found a green cardboard box. Within this green time capsule was my Father’s complete military record, with copies of what appears to be every order, even training records, of his Service in the Air Force. The box also contained letters that my Father sent home during his time in Korea. For the first time, I could know my Father’s complete service record, and his thoughts in his own penmanship, about his time during the Korean War.
Further search of the Family home, turned suddenly into a time machine, and revealed photographs that my Father took of the Crew of a “Night Affair,” an old B-29 left over from World War II. The front nose of this particular B-29 painted with a scantily clad young woman sitting in a rather provocative looking pose.
My Father, in his early letters home, lamented the recent loss of his own Father, and the struggles the Family faced in paying bills. At one point, my Father suggested sending home high quality cameras, available and reasonably priced at the PX, for resale. I am not sure if my Father engaged in this questionable arbitrage, but in addition to sending money home, he obviously purchased a camera for his own personal use. Here, in this envelope of the past are pictures of the eleven man crew: Whitten, Left Gunner; Euell, the A/C; Mike – Radio; Allen – the Right Gunner; Pete – Engineer; Charlie – Bombardier; Bentley – CFC; Joyner – Tail Gunner; my Father, Pilot; and, obviously from the notations on the back of these particular photographs and their greater volume, two of his closest friends, the self-described “Colonel,” and “Crappie” or “Crappiesan.”
The records that my Father kept of his service provide the complete names of his fellow Airmen and how the Crew of a “Night Affair” was assembled. For my Father, Lawson Dana, who would later change his name to Richard Lawson Dana, his journey to become a pilot began when he enlisted with the Air Force on March 21, 1951, initially for a four year commitment. There was no question that my Father would join the Air Force as his Father, Deane Dana, Sr., learned to fly as part of the Army Air Corps preparation for service in World War I. My Father’s elder brother, Deane, Jr. also joined the Air Force. Prior to his enlistment, Lawson Dana studied Mechanical Engineering at The Ohio State University in Columbus, and participated in that school’s Reserve Officer’s Training. The following week after his formal enlistment, my Father was awarded Aviation Cadet status and was briefly sent to Lackland AFB for training. It is apparent that the number of Aviation Cadets was large at that time, and Lawson was sent that spring to Sheppard AFB where he participated in an Honor Flight for the 3740th Training Squadron, likely to give students their first taste of flight before more formal training could occur.
From Sheppard, Lawson was sent to a privately owned flight school in the State of Mississippi operated by Graham Aviation at the former Greenville Air Force Base previously used to train pilots for service during World War II. A yearbook created after my Father’s six month stay at this facility, learning to fly T-6 Texans, reveals that he was assigned to the Class of 52-D. Just as in Elementary School, where children are lined up to take a seat in alphabetical order, Dana must have been seated just before Pete M. Darakis in the Class of the “Old Dog,” their Service Numbers literally one digit apart.
Graduation from initial Flight Training at Greenville AFB occurred on December 31, 1951. One can imagine how the students may have felt as they looked up their names on the final class rankings that would determine their future training and path into the War. Would they be sent for training in more of a support or transport role? Perhaps as a bomber pilot? Did Lawson Dana, the son of a World War I era pilot, have dreams of becoming a fighter jock? If that is what he wanted, his letters home do not reveal a preference. Rather, these letters revealed that my Father was lovingly given the nickname of “Curly” by his fellow classmates. Just as a person of larger size might be named “Slim” by his friends, my Family would immediately understand the nickname based on my Father’s finely trimmed hair he preferred throughout his lifetime both before and after his military service.
“Curly” was commissioned into the United States Air Force Reserves and sent to Vance Air Force Base for Advanced Pilot Training with the 3575th Training Squadron. He would become a bomber pilot, and some photographs of this era suggest that he was trained at Vance Air Force Base to fly the multi-engine B-25, with its distinctive tail-wing. His records reveal that he was rated “Excellent” both in his character and efficiency ratings.
For Lawson’s friend and fellow classmate, Pete Darakis, the news that final day of 1951 was that he would become a Fighter Pilot. He was the best of the best of the Class of 52-D. Pete would be assigned to the 6148th Tactical Squadron.
Upon earning his Pilot Wings at Vance AFB in the summer of 1952, Lawson Dana was assigned to the 344th Bomber Squadron, 98th Bomb Wing. It is apparent from my Father’s service records that, in the Fall of 1952, the Air Force was in the process of assembling a crew for service in Korea aboard a B-29. Most of the pieces of the puzzle, consisting of a Crew of eleven, were assembled at Randolph Field, TX by October 20, 1952. However, like the 5th Beetle, there were some parts of the Crew that were still being assembled. All of the Commissioned Officers and the most experienced Non-Commissioned Officers were in place. A few persons were bounced around, and the crew went to Fobes AFB in Topeka, Kansas, on November 7, 1952. Fully assembled, the Crew that would man the “Night Affair” was as follows:
Left Gunner: A2C Ronald R. Whitten
Aircraft Commander: Capt. Euell Frazier
Radio: A2C Michael D. Bernosky
Right Gunner: A2C James R. Allen
Engineer: T Sgt. Arlone “Pete” W. Friebert
Bombardier: 1st Lt. Charles Inman Chastain
Central Fire Control Gunner: S. Sgt. Douglas E. Bentley
Tail Gunner: A2C Robert E. Joyner
Pilot: 2nd Lt. Lawson Dana
Navigator: 2 Lt. William Haus
Radar: 2nd Lt. John “Crappie” R. Jaycox
Finally complete, the Crew was told in January of 1953 that they were headed to fight in Korea. In early February, the Crew was told to prepare for an undisclosed base in Japan. Except for the Navigator, all Crew were limited to carrying 75 pounds in luggage including their normal gear. Those personal effects in excess of this weight would be shipped to their final port of call at a later date. The Crew had one final stop at Camp Stoneman in Pittsburg, CA, utilized as a final staging area before deployment overseas. Lawson Dana kept the customer satisfaction survey that he received upon leaving Camp Stoneman, asking about the accommodations. Father kept to himself that the accommodations were less than ideal, although he reported that the food served was plentiful and edible.
Lawson Dana’s first letter home revealed that he was able to meet up with his older brother, Deane and his Family for a “couple of minutes” in California, and that he and his brother were doing alright. Promises were made, but seldom fulfilled, to write often. The reality of War made these letters both infrequent and relatively short as he would express being “beat” from regular combat missions. Records indicate that Lawson Dana’s first Foreign Service in the Air Force occurred in Korea between Feb 19, 1953 to August 14, 1953, the last six months of the Korean War.
The Crew of a “Night Affair” was stationed at Yakota AFB. My Father’s letters home, in the early part of his Service in Korea, reveal that the Crew was engaged in regular bombing missions sometimes hitting strategic targets in the North, other times in support of ground troops with specific mention made of “Mt. Baldy.” These letters are filled with the vim and vigor of a young man believing that he was saving the World for Democracy, while encouraging his younger brother to continue to study hard in school and prepare for the day, soon, when the War would end. My father told his younger brother, Bill, to keep his golf game sharp for his return, and that he looked forward to taking Bill out flying. However, as the War continued, my Father began to wonder what each side was trying to accomplish, especially as news of Peace persisted. If Peace was just a few days away, why are their Missions taking them closer to the Yalu River?
Reference is made, both in my Father’s service record and his letters home, that the Crew was given its first R & R on April 16, 1953, six days in Nikko, Japan, although Dad took some of the time to see some cultural sites in Tokyo. There is a picture of him with a young woman named Chicko who “works at the club” and that he took along as an interpreter and date to visit the newly re-opened gardens at Shinjuku.
When the Crew returned from leave, he, Frazier, Haus, Friebert, Bernosky, Allen, and Bentley were sent to K-8 to retrieve a B-29 that had lost an engine and landed in Korea. They were flown into K-16 Field, or the “Seoul City Air Base/Passenger Terminal.” He mentions in a letter home about this encounter of meeting up with Bob Hare who was stationed at this Terminal, as well as some other Members of the “Old Dog,” a reference to his graduating class of 52D from Greenville AFB. My Father also shared some photos of the tents at this facility that look like something out of an old episode from the television series M*A*S*H. He described the tents as “rather homey,” and had his first experience in seeing the City of Seoul. I think it is fair to say that 2nd Lt. Lawson Dana was not impressed with the scenery.
However, my Father letters turn much darker after this visit to Seoul, and, in an undated letter after retrieving this aircraft in Korea, he reveals that he is “a little drunk,” as he just learned of the loss of his friend, Pete. On May 10, 1953, 1st Lt. Peter M. Darakis, a young man from nearby Amherst, Ohio, with the service number but one digit from my Father’s, was shot down while providing ground support to his fellow Servicemen. Pete, to this day, is still officially listed as Missing in Action, presumed dead.
After Pete’s death, my Father would begin to question in his letters home why America would remain in a War at the cost of $5B per year, not including the loss of many good men. In his opinion, based on what he saw, there was nothing worth fighting for in Korea. In photographs that My Father had taken in Seoul and sent home, he noted the signs plastered throughout the City in the hundreds of thousands saying some sort of “nonsense” about “Unification or Death.” He was convinced that the South Koreans wanted war as a means to enhance their economy. So what, at the loss of a few lives in bombing, when the economy is moving and we are more prosperous than ever? For Lawson Dana, and I suspect many of his fellow Airmen, he just wanted to return home.
By June 20, 1953, as Peace Talks progressed, things improved. The entire crew was awarded the Air Medal and again given leave to visit the shrine town of Nikko, Japan for 6 days. Assignments later came out approving the Crew for test flights and instructor flights. My Father’s letters home noted that, as peace talks continued toward the final days of the War, the Crew started to do more single plane missions dropping leaflets. The War finally came to an end, and, by August 5, 1953, “Curly,” the nickname assigned to my Father in Flight School, was re-assigned to Lockbourne AFB in Columbus, OH. Joining him would be the self-described “Colonel,” Bill Haus, and John Jaycox, who was given the less inviting name of “Crapper” or “Crappiesan.” Capt. Euell Frazier and 1st Lt. Charles I. Chastain were re-assigned to a training unit in Texas, with the rest of the crew sent to an AFB in New Mexico. The Crew of the “Night Affair” was finally home. The information that follows about the Crew is accurate to the best of my knowledge. Any errors are solely the fault of the Author.
Left Gunner, Ronald R. Whitten passed away in 2009. His obituary states, humbly, that he served the USAF in Korea.
Captain Euell Frazier served his country in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. His enlistment record lists his civilian occupation as “Mechanic and repairmen, airplane.” He started his career as a private in the Civilian Air Corp and rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel. Born in 1923, he passed away in 1984 and is buried at Andersonville National Cemetery in the State of Georgia.
The pictures of A2C Mike Bernosky from Korea establish that he was quite the character, posing with his hand on his head and acting as if he was a monkey in my Father’s picture of the entire Crew in front of their aircraft. He passed away in 1994, and is buried at the Rock Hill Baptist Church, Belmont County, Ohio.
Right Gunner, James R. Allen was born in the State of Minnesota before moving to California at a young age. He passed away in 2015 and was listed as the owner of the J.R. Allen Process Co.
Engineer, Pete Friebert proudly wore on his hat during the War, as depicted in photographs, that he was born and raised in Kentucky. He enlisted in the military during World War II, and is likely the first person of the Crew to have passed away in 1974, at Robertsdale, Alabama. My Father had a notation in his records that Pete was awarded his second oak leaf cluster for Service to our Military in June of 1953.
Bombardier, Charles “Charliesan” I. Chastain was born in Hartwell, Georgia in 1920. He was likely the “old man” of the crew, roughly three years older that Capt. Euell. He passed away in 1992 in High Point, North Carolina. His very simple obituary makes mention that he retired from the Air Force as a Major, and was a member of the Lions Club of High Point. In addition to the Medals earned in Korea, his obituary states that he earned a Bronze Star for Service in Vietnam.
I regret that I know very little about Central Fire Control Gunner, Staff. Sergeant Douglas E. Bentley. From my Father’s records, back in 1953, I know that he was from Milford, Michigan and that he was awarded his Fifth Oak Cluster in June of 1953, establishing that he had a long and distinguished career in our Armed Forces.
Tail Gunner, A2C Robert E. Joyner passed away in 1989 and is buried in West Point Cemetery, California. He was a carpenter for 33 years.
Navigator, Bill Haus, was originally from Battleboro, VT. It would seem, from the pictures of Bill, that he was the life of the party. The name “Colonel,” a rank he never quite achieved in the military, was self-given. Pictures exist of Bill standing with his hand on his hips at various locations throughout Japan and Korea, “in charge,” next to imposing signs that admittance was limited to “authorized personnel ONLY.” While I never had the pleasure to meet Bill, I have the distinct impression that he was not a fan of authority. Photos taken from my Father reveal, however, that Bill also had a serious side. One of these photographs depicts Bill wearing glasses and holding a book with a caption from my Father stating something to the effect that “the Colonel said the ‘hell with it’ and sat down with a good book.” On the “Colonel’s” hat is the motto of the 344th Bomb Squadron, “Hell from the Heavens.”
Bill would study Law at the University of Virginia, and open up a general practice in the State of Arizona. He passed away in 2012. His obituary notes that he flew over 30 missions in the Korean War, and was known to his dying day as the “Colonel” or “Wild Bill.”
John “Crappie” Jaycox passed away on August 25, 2015, literally, and based on my research, the last man standing from the crew of the “Night Affair.” In a recent conversation with John’s wife of 59 years, Judy, she remembered her Husband talking about the “Crew” and specifically the names Lawson Dana and Bill Haus. In her memory, she remembered her Husband telling her that he and these two other men lived together in Columbus, Ohio immediately after the War. She further recalls that they all studied to take the entrance exam to law school while playing golf as much as possible. For my Father, I am sure that he was interested in playing golf, but questioned his interest in attending law school. However, the idea that these three men lived with one another for a period of time certainly makes sense, and corresponds to where they were all stationed. Of all the persons Dad took photos of in the service, it is apparent that Bill and John were his closest friends during the War. There are even a few photographs of later reunions, and one of Dad’s photos has a notation that John spent one Christmas with the Family at a time before he married Judy or your author was born. One senses that these three men, forging bonds of friendship in War, attempted to keep a portion of the Crew together. Family and responsibilities back home prevented this from occurring, facts that both Judy and your author, in hindsight, appreciate.
Both Bill and John were accepted into the Virginia School of Law. John soon realized that law school was not for him and he returned to New Jersey where he had a long career with AT&T. John utilized his skills learned as a radar operator in the USAF within the communications industry, his position on the old Superforts in front of the plane’s chemical toilet. In my conversations with Mrs. Joycox, I was able to learn that the location of the plane’s toilet was ultimately responsible, perhaps appropriately, for her husband’s own colorful nickname. I will leave it to the reader’s imagination to consider how your author would ask an Airman’s widow about how her husband received the nickname of “Crappie.” I appreciate Mrs. Jaycox’s laughter in recounting this story, insights into the life of my Father, as well as the stories of the life well-served by her Husband.
After returning to New Jersey, and finding the love of his life and starting a Family, John became frustrated with the game of golf, and took up tennis. Upon his retirement in 1994, John enjoyed fishing and sailing, making frequent trips to Martha’s Vineyard.
While Bill and John would leave the Air Force, and began careers out of the military, my Father’s time of living in Columbus, Ohio and flying transport planes from Lockbourne AFB in between rounds of golf, would come to an end. By June of 1954, he was reassigned to Connolly AFB with later training, not in the propeller planes of old, but by entering the jet age. In the days before the development of the more familiar B-52’s still flown today, Lawson Dana was trained to fly the B-47’s, a relatively short lived aircraft called the “widow maker” by some pilots for alleged difficulty in the plane’s flight characteristics. My Father would remain on Active Duty as part of Strategic Air Command, with another tour of Foreign Service at Guam from January 8, 1957 to April 10, 1957. He was discharged from Active Duty on September 30, 1957 while stationed at Altus AFB as part of the 96th Bombardment Wing. He would remain in the Air Force Reserves until December 21, 1965, achieving the rank of Captain. He was awarded the Korean Service Medal, the UN Service Medal, the Air Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.
Outside of his military service, My Father worked principally for Kaiser Aluminum and the United States Ceramic Tile Company. He helped to develop and patent a “fast fire” technique for making ceramic tile, and consulted with a number of companies until his retirement. He continued to play golf, was a scratch golfer when he played regularly, and could still hit the ball over 300 yards with accuracy into his 70’s. He passed away in 2006 at the age of 75.
My Father would never talk about his military service unless he had a few beers in him where he might describe some of the missions that he flew. More often, if he did tell any stories, he would talk about his service during the Cold War, with aircraft engaged in refueling and flights lasting long periods of time to ensure nuclear weapon readiness as part of Strategic Air Command. Korea was never discussed except that my Father stated near the end of his life that flying in a bomber, miles from earth, was a rather antiseptic way to wage War. He never knew if their bombings achieved the desired effect. Yes, he saw MiG jet fighters, especially when missions took them closer to the border with China. Yes, he saw constant flak. Yes, he had a situation where an engine caught fire and desperate actions were taken to save the Crew from “buying it.” Instead, my father would discuss those pilots who provided ground support. Whenever he got in trouble, be it flax or fighters, he could always call in someone to provide close tactical support. He was always amazed that there would be fellow Airmen, persons like Pete Darakis, who would risk their lives to save his. Those, in my Father’s eyes were the real heroes. My Father, during his lifetime, never mentioned Pete’s name specifically, or that of his fellow Crew Members. That would have to await the re-discovery of a green cardboard box saved for a son to learn the exploits of young men going by the names of “Curly,” the “Colonel,” and “Crappie,” among others.
As I have had the chance to now review items related to my Father’s service records and photographs, I am now beginning to realize the true nature that the Korean War played on his psyche. Now I could better understand my Father’s quieter demeanor, reluctance to talk about his experiences during the War, and a lifetime fear of flying. I suspect shared experiences by anyone seeing combat. Today, the Dana Family, many of them with their own former or current military service, wear a blue colored bracelet, the color bestowed to those Missing in Action from the Korean War as a reminder of Lawson Dana and as a Thank You to those who served including the Crew of a “Night Affair.” All of our bracelets contain the following words: ”1LT PETER M. DARAKIS, USAF, MAY 10, 1953, MIA/KOREA, AMHERST, OHIO.”
© 2017 by Richard L. Dana. The author is an Attorney and a part-time Instructor of Criminology and Justice Studies, The Department of Sociology, Kent State University at Ashtabula. While I have no personal knowledge that my father planned to study for Law School after his service in Korea, did the “Colonel” and “Crappie” play a part in the author’s career choice?