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Smokejumper Magazine

Oct 2013

Luke Sheehy Remembered

by (Tributes from friends and fellow jumpers) |

Luke was born in Susanville, California. He did it all. It's no surprise that he ended up pursuing the adrenaline-filled career of smokejumping. He was a machine-it didn't matter if he was on the 25th rep of the 25th set of push-ups-he still had that smile and easy manner. His personality and over-sized grin were infectious.

Jul 2013

Smokey’s Rock Pile And Uncle Kenn

by Guy Hurlbutt (Idaho City ’62) |

There was a time when “smokejumping” was a foreign term to me. My introduction came through Tall Timber Pilots, a book about the Johnson Flying Service whose aviators flew smokejumpers for many years. The book, published in 1953, eventually found its way into the library of the high school I attended in South Carolina.

Apr 2013

Brinkley Leads Farewell To DC-3 At Ceremony

by (Editor’s note – The following was given by McCall Base Manager Joe Brinkley (MYC-98) at the Oct. 24, 2012, retirement ceremony for the R-4 DC-3.) |

First and foremost, I would like to recognize Stan McGrew for his vision of a turbine-powered DC-3. His persistence extended the operational effectiveness of the aircraft for at least 20 more years.

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Jan 2013

The Weight Of Desire - She Had The Look

by Cameron Chambers (North Cascades ’04) |

When she came through the door for the first day of smokejumper rookie
training, everyone saw she was tiny. When she went to the weigh-in, the
foreman rolled the heavy metal fireproof door shut so no one could watch.
Outside the door they didn’t need the scale to know she was tiny.

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Oct 2012

Cliff Creek Fire - A Most Memorable Series of Events

by Rob Shaver (McCall '67) |

It was a busy fire season when I rookied at McCall, Idaho, in 1967. I was fortunate to have 14 fire jumps, which included four in Oregon. It was jumper number 13, on a small Oregon blaze, that was most memorable.

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Jul 2012

Remembering The Norton Creek Disaster And The Deaths Of Two Friends

by Gary M. Watts (McCall ’64) |

I am sitting here, in my home in Southern California, poring over a map. The map is a product of the United States Department of Interior Geological Survey. It is a 7.5-minute (topological) titled “Pungo Mountain, Idaho.”

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Apr 2012

Operation Bolo: Smokejumper Shoots Down MiG-21

by Fred Donner (Missoula ’59) |

On Jan. 3, 1967, I was the Air America airline station traffic manager at Danang, South Vietnam, for just over a year. In 1964 I spent the last of my five years as an Air Force lieutenant as commander of Detachment 5 of the 8th Aerial Port Squadron at Bien Hoa Air Base, South Vietnam, doing essentially the same kind of work.

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Jan 2012

Going Full Circle: A Jump Home

by Cameron Chambers (North Cascades '04) |

I woke in the sterile hotel room at 6 a.m. – day five of a boost and sore after a three-day fire on the Lewis and Clark. By seven I stood in front of the box for roll call.

Oct 2011

Glory Days

by Don Havel (Fairbanks ’66) |

Often on a fire jump I would stand looking over the country and tell myself that I was standing on a spot where no one had ever stood before

Jul 2011

Athletic Excellence – Olympic Gold

by Ed Booth (Associate Editor) |

while no smokejumper of whom we’re aware has been an Olympic athlete, three of them have had children who have not only competed at the Olympic level – but have excelled.

Apr 2011

For Jerry Dixon, The Dancing Never Stopped

by Doug Abromeit (McCall ’71) |

The bags were unwieldy, uncomfortable, bulbous and heavy. Our task was to put these monstrosities on our backs and carry them five tortuous miles back to the jump base in one hour; the trainers, of course, slipped rocks into everyone’s bag.

Jan 2011

Poor Old George-(An Interview With Bob Nicol)

by Gayle Morrison (Associate) |

When the sick scientist heard the Skyhook plan, he said, “You’re gonna get me out of here, how?!? No way am I leaving like that!”

Oct 2010

Jumping Into Helispots

by Ray Farinetti (Cave Junction ’64) |

Well…the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes turn to rat #$%& !

Jul 2010

Apr 2010

Early Smokejumper History

by Earl Cooley |

In the fall of 1939 a group of "barnstormers" dropped into timbered areas near Winthrop, Washington to determine the feasibility of dropping firefighters by parachute to combat forest fires. The experiment proved successful and the program continued in 1940.

Jan 2010

Oct 2009

The Birth of Smokejumping - Notes Of The First Forestry Parachutist - Part 2

by Giorgy Alexandrovich Makeev (Leningrad 1949) |

In Part One (April 2009) Makeev told of his efforts to develop a smokejumper program in the Soviet Union in 1934 and to convince the Head of Forest Protection that it could be done safely and effectively. The project was approved for further experimentation in 1935. In spite of negative reports from his superiors, Makeev was given approval to further develop the smokejumper program in 1936. Thanks to Bruce Ford (MSO-75) and Tony Pastro (FBX-77) for their translation of this historic document.

Jul 2009

The Birth of Smokejumping - Notes Of The First Forestry Parachutist

by Giorgy Alexandrovich Makeev (Leningrad 1949) |

I remember that with pleasure I let go with my tired left hand and then came to my senses hanging by the risers of an open parachute in full silence and solitude in the midst of the sky's expanse. The wind rocked me strongly. I flew over the aerodrome. This minute of parachute descent was one of the happiest of my life.

Apr 2009

The Start of the Fall of Long Tieng

by Ed Dearborn |

In the fall of 1971 the North Vietnamese Army launched a full-scale attack on all the fire bases. I had a chance to talk to Jerry Daniels (MSO-58) at Long Tieng. He said, "We aren't making it down here. I don't think we can hold out much longer. If it goes bad, I'm going to have to walk out of here." I would never see Jerry again.

Jan 2009

Oct 2008

Jul 2008

Eight-Mile Ridge Fire

by Douglas Baird (North Cascades '58) |

The following account of a tragic plane crash is an excerpt from the personal journal of Doug Baird written during his rookie year at NCSB.

Apr 2008

"Rescue Dawn"-A Big Disappointment

by Denny Breslin (North Cascades ’69) |

After reading the critical comments by Gene DeBruin's family, it is clear that Werner Herzog went beyond the bounds of "literary license" into what amounts to mean fiction.

Jan 2008

Oct 2007

A Tribute To Fred Brauer

by Ron Stoleson (Missoula '56) |

One historic mission that Fred flew was the dropping of the 101st Airborne troops at 0115 on D-Day the 6th of June, 1944.

Jul 2007

Who Are Those Guys?

by Troop Emonds (Cave Junction '66) |

Troop, Jerry and The Pirates vs. Chinese Slave Traders

Apr 2007

The Remarkable Yuri Yushkov

by Bruce Ford (Missoula ’75) |

Veteran smokejumper Yuri Yushkov first strapped on a parachute at age 18 in 1943 as war raged against the invading Nazis.
Out of the 6,000 dropped, "Only a handful of us survived."

Jan 2007

Prisoner In Laos: A Story Of Survival-Part II

by Phisit Intharathat (Associate Life Member) |

Arriving at an intersection of several trails, I checked to make sure it was clear and started to run across the clearing. Halfway across I heard someone yelling, "Yute, Yute!" I turned my head and met the cold steel gaze of an M-1 rifle, pointed at my face."

Oct 2006

Prisoner In Laos: A Story Of Survival-Part I

by Phisit Intharathat (Associate Life Member) |

I climbed out first, followed by the others. The guard was still snoring loudly. I moved to the outside fence, pulled in wide enough to squeeze through and signaled for my friends to follow.

Jul 2006

Russian Smokejumpers: The Pre-War Years

by Bruce Ford (Missoula '70) |

At its height, AFPS was the largest aerial fire service in the world, employing thousands of smokejumpers and rappellers and hundreds of aircraft. Its history parallels and often anticipates developments in the West.

Apr 2006

Jan 2006

Fire and Ice: U.S. Jumpers Tour Russian Bases, Warm to Russian Hospitality

by Bruce Ford (MSO-75) |

Queuing up to the door of an airplane is all in a day's work for a smokejumper. But it's January and minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit outside. The jumpers in front of you are 14- and 15-year-old boys and girls, many on their first jump. The 17-year-olds already have several jumps under their belts and sit nonchalantly waiting their turns. That's because this is Russia, and being tough is all part of growing up.

Oct 2005

Members of Missoula Elite Unit Recruited for CIA Mission to Taiwan

by John Q. Murray |

Because the smokejumpers represented the most advanced parachute technology in the world at that time, with elite men like Jim Waite (MSO-40) and Frank Derry (MSO-40) pushing the state of the art with their innovations, the CIA turned to the smokejumpers for help with a secret mission after the war.

Jul 2005

To The Moon!

by Jill Léger (Associate Editor) |

Former Jumper Made History Aboard Apollo 14

Apr 2005

Smokejumpers to the Ravens (Part Two)

by Gene Hamner (Missoula '67) |

The pilots spoke of colleagues who had vanished into the highly classified operation codenamed the 'Steve Canyon Program.' Insiders who worked with them knew these pilots as the Ravens.

Jan 2005

Smokejumpers to the Ravens (Part One)

by Gene Hamner (Missoula '67) |

As the war dragged on, so the myth grew. Apparently, there was another war even nastier than the one in Vietnam. The men who chose to fight in it were handpicked volunteers, and anyone accepted for a tour seemed to disappear as if from the face of the earth.

Oct 2004

Shep Johnson: A More Than Interesting Life

by Chuck Sheley (Cave Junction '59) |

"I was wounded February 14, 1971, at General Vang Pao's secret base, known as Long Tieng, or Lima Site 20A. I always felt it was a Valentine's gift from Ho Chi Minh."

Jul 2004

Smokejumper Awarded Medal of Honor

by Chuck Sheley (CJ '59) |

Lt. Sisler realized that two of his [men] had been wounded and left behind. Racing back alone into the jungle, Sisler picked up one man and was running with him when the NVA launched a second assault, headed directly for him.

Apr 2004

I Wish I Could Have Met Willi

by Chuck Sheley (Cave Junction '59) |

Tackling the West Ridge was an enormous undertaking. Dodging avalanches and contending with 100-mph winds, the climbers set up camp at a biologically brutalizing 27,250 feet.

Jan 2004

An Interview With A Pioneer Smokejumper

by James Budenholzer (Missoula '73) |

A member of the first smokejumper force in 1940, Jim "Smokey" Alexander is a true pioneer. Alexander recently sat down with James Budenholzer (Missoula '73) to share his recollections of that first season—and what it was like to make history.

Oct 2003

The Story Behind The Picture

by John Culbertson (Fairbanks '69) |

I was kind of wild then and often had one wheel spinning loose in the sand. I guess I was telling myself to get serious. Somebody took a picture while all that was in my head, capturing what, for me, was an important moment in time.

Jul 2003

Jerry Daniels (Missoula 58-60) Remembered

by Fred Donner (Missoula '59) |

The enemy was at the gates and thousands of Hmong expected to leave, a repeat of Vietnam the month before. By every account, Jerry was the glue that held things together until the final bitter moments when he and Vang Pao had to pull the plug...On the last airplane out of Sky, Hog broke out a case of Olympia - a true blue smokejumper.

Apr 2003

Spaghetti-O's vs A 30-30 At Fort Yukon

by Larry Welch (Cave Junction '61) |

One of my fellow jumpers was a Southern California boy. He had a can of Spaghetti-O's and was in the process of eating them with a plastic spoon, when in walked a young native man armed with a lever-action 30-30 rifle.

Jan 2003

On Becoming a Smokejumper

by Deanne Shulman (McCall '81) |

True ecologists and proponents of chaos theory will say everything and everyone is connected. With a gentle half-smile, they will explain how the slight air movements made by the flitting wings of a butterfly in China will have effects around the globe. Pondering such fundamental connections, I know with certainty that a man I never met influenced the course of my life.

Oct 2002

Interview with John McLean

by Steve Smith (NSA Historian) |

In the following interview with John Maclean, NSA Historian, Steve Smith talked with Maclean about the October 28th History Channel special, which is not to be missed.

Jul 2002

The Humbling - (Early 1950s)

by Reid Jackson (McCall '49) |

As we all know - one of the more enjoyable sports pursued by second-year and older jumpers is badgering new jumper candidates (NEDS). Scare stories of all types are passed around. Most of these stories center around various types of parachute malfunctions all the way from line-overs (Mae West's) to full blown streamers, etc.

Apr 2002

Women Celebrate 20 Years of Smokejumping

by Tara Rothwell (Redmond '92) |

Everyone was invited! If you didn't make it, you missed one hell of a good time. On December 7th and 8th the women of smokejumping, their friends and families came together in Sun Valley, Idaho for their 20th reunion.

Jan 2002

Rookie Training 2001-Day by Day

by Michael Blinn (Redding '01) |

I woke up this morning at 6:30, looking forward to my first day of Rookie Training at the California Smokejumper base in Redding, Calif. I didn't get much in the way of sleep last night, mostly tossing, turning and second guessing.

Oct 2001

Fallen Friend

by Mike McMillan (Fairbanks '96) |

"Get Ready!" The spotter's hand came down on Dave's shoulder and he threw himself into the wind stream. Seconds later he pulled the green handle from his harness, sending his parachute to the sky with a loud crack.

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Jul 2001

Jack Ridgway Story - Smokejumper Training Thwarts Hijacking

by Chuck Sheley (Cave Junction '59) |

The armed man had not seen Ridgway come down the staircase behind him. Operating under the premise that it was a military coup, Jack retreated quietly up the staircase to the flight deck where he opened one of the cockpit hatches to see if there were any vehicles and activity by the military. There was no activity on the ground outside the 747!

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Apr 2001

The Ride of My Life

by Paige Houston (Fairbanks '95) |

On July 27, 1996, I made my 37th jump on a fire in Northern California that turned out to be my last as a smokejumper. This 52-second ride should have put me in a pine box six feet under.

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Jan 2001

1958 Trip to Redding - Really Tall Trees!

by Wild Bill Yensen (McCall '53) |

We all made it to the ground except Bill Weaver. Bill had a Mae West and had to deploy his reserve. Naturally he landed in the top of one of those huge sugar pines.

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Oct 2000

The Jump at Red Dawn

by Leo Cromwell (Idaho City '66) as told to Jason Greenlee (Redding '99) |

A little voice told him things were not right when the spotter said, "Oh, just spot yourself." Maybe we weren't supposed to hear that but we did, and it definitely gave us all pause to think.

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Jul 2000

Some Casual Reflections on Early Jumping

by Neil Shier (Cave Junction '46) |

When we arrived at Missoula, we were trucked to Nine Mile Camp and joined a large group of trainees in what looked like Civilian Conservation Corps barracks. Most were vets, many from airborne outfits.

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Apr 2000

8-Mile Ridge Crash

by Bill Eastman (North Cascades '54) |

Streamers indicated no more than a breeze, but when I went out, a strong wind took my chute at a 90 degree angle from the ridge and away from the fire. For the first and only time, I pulled down lines on one side until my canopy collapsed, then fell free for about 1,000 feet.

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Jan 2000

. . . And If You Find Out, I'll Have To Kill You

by Don Courtney (Missoula '56) |

There was a time when certain jumpers coming back in the spring for another fire season were greeted with, "Where ya been? Secret mission for the CIA?"

Oct 1999

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Jul 1999

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Apr 1999

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Jan 1999

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Oct 1998

Jimmy Pearce

by John Culbertson |

Jimmy's idea of a good deal was rolling down the road in his Mercury convertible to pester the waitresses at the Beacon Coffee Shop in Alturas after the jump season was over in Alaska.

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Jul 1998

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Apr 1998

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Jan 1998

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Oct 1997

The Unsoeld Story

by Jolene Unsoeld |

Willi's great love was mountaineering. At the age of 12 he was climbing mountains and through 1946 had scaled peaks in the Washington and Oregon Cascades, Yosemite Valley and the Tetons.

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Jul 1997

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Oct 1996

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Dec 1993

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Aug 1993

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