The Rolly David Grounds Collection

Rolly David Grounds was a pilot with the 361st TEWS at Phu Cat from 28 June of 1970 to 21 June of 1971. After his tour in Vietnam, Grounds served as an instructor on T-37s at Vance AFB, Enid, Oklahoma. He left the Air Force as a captain in late 1973, a move he later described as “the biggest mistake I ever made.” Grounds passed away unexpectedly on 10 July 2017. (Click here to view David's obituary.) Only five days earlier, he'd contacted us regarding donation of several rolls of 8mm film and various artifacts from his time at Phu Cat and elsewhere. After his untimely passing, his son, Rodney Downs, shipped those items to Tom Nurre. Below are links to a sampling of some of the documents in the collection. We're grateful to the Grounds family for allowing us to preserve these bits of EC-47 history.

4412th Combat Crew Training Squadron

Among the donated artifacts were training materials from Grounds’ time at England AFB, Louisiana, home of Tactical Air Command’s 4412th Combat Crew Training Squadron (CCTS). The 4412th was one of several squadrons responsible for training USAF aircrew destined for Southeast Asia. Many of the younger pilots had never flown a tail dragger, and some of them had probably never seen a Gooney Bird.

According to the 1968 CHECO history of the EC-47,

The “front end" crews (two pilots, a navigator, and a flight mechanic) for the EC-47 are assigned to each TEWS on a 2.0 crew/aircraft ratio in support of an 150-hour-per-month utilization rate/aircraft. Prior to assignment to RVN, the crews receive Phase I training from Tactical Air Command at England AFB, Louisiana. Since all operational EC-47 aircraft are in SEA, crews can receive only familiarization training in the basic C-47 at England. Phase II training or actual work in the EC-47 occurs on combat missions at the assigned TEWS. The training covers some 13 hours of ground school, plus a minimum of five Phase II missions with a qualified instructor.

Click here to view C-47 Phase Training Manual and Lesson Plans, Pilots Course Number 104102 Z and 104107 Z. And for all you former Goon jockeys, take a look at the C-47 Pilot Master Question File. See how you do on the quiz forty-odd years later! Also of interest are the pages devoted to piloting the AC-47 "Spooky" gunship.

With the 361st at Phu Cat

David Grounds went on to log almost 1,100 hours in the EC-47 while with the 361st. Click here to check out the “Welcome  to  Phu  Cat” booklet issued to newcomers, ca. 1969-1970. Strangely, neither the 361st nor Det. 1 of the 6994th appear on the list of units based at Phu Cat. The booklet is undated but the welcome page was signed by Col. Harry B. Kimble, who was base commander from 1 May 1969–31 Mar 1970. Both the 361st and Det. 1 relocated to Phu Cat from Pleiku on 9 September 1969. Evidently the booklet had not been updated or replaced when David arrived. Or perhaps it was passed along by an earlier arrival; we have no way of knowing.

The rest of the collection

There are several other artifacts in the collection; the images of some will eventually appear here. David's "movies", shot while on actual EC-47 missions, are of major interest. However, converting ancient "Super 8" film to a format suitable for website display is somewhat of a challenge.

Survival kit  addition, 3 March 2018

Among the artifacts in David's trove was half of a two-piece, pocket-size aircrew survival kit, the contents of which were basically intact. (Click here to view a gallery of these objects.) Tom Nurre uncovered some interesting trivia about this type of kit, which was made by Fraas Surgical Mfg. Co., Inc., located in New York City. Fraas, among some 150 others, was doing business as a surgical dressing and supplies manufacturer during World War II. Fraas continued as a government contractor for tropical survival kits right into the Vietnam era. These survival kits were made up, in part, of material furnished by the U.S. Government, with the remainder purchased from other sources. (As indicated by the packaging of some of the components shown in the gallery.)

On 9 January 1967 the Fraas facility was almost completely destroyed by fire which consumed a quantity of government-furnished property (GFP) awaiting incorporation into survival kits. The government contracting officer subsequently demanded reimbursement in the amount of $126,220.38 for GFP lost in the fire. In 1967, Fraas paid the proceeds of a $75,000 insurance policy to the government. The remaining $51,220.38 of the government’s claim would be recouped by withholding progress payments on a contract already in place. (Grounds' kit may have been produced under this contract.)

This was a classic case of being underinsured. In 1973, Fraas brought suit against the government in the United States Court of Claims, arguing that the Armed Services Procurement Regulations in force at the time the contracts were signed called for a clause relieving the contractor of responsibility for loss or damage to GFP except in cases of “willful misconduct or lack of good faith” on the part of the contractor. Since the fire was accidental Fraas, so the lawyers argued, should be entitled to a refund of the entire amount garnished by the government. The three-judge panel didn’t see it that way. Fraas was held responsible for the entire loss, and fared no better in a 1978 appeal. The company later emerged as Fraas Survival Systems; if it still exists it apparently has no website.

If you recall these survival kits, please chime in below.

Comments (2)

  • Tom Nurre Sun, 11 Mar 2018 at 11:07 AM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    Rolly Grounds noted that he carried the pictured 2-part kit with one part in each of his lower flight suit leg pockets.  Personally, I don't remember carrying an extra kit besides the one that was an integral part of the personal equipment survival vest.  Again, to the best of my recollection...I did carry a separate E&E map and water and candy/granola bar in my lower pockets, but not an extra survival kit or kits.  Here is a link to the standard vest we were issued prior to each mission at NKP 1970-1971.
    What say the rest of you guys?
  • Thomas Hutchings Sun, 11 Mar 2018 at 12:02 PM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    I recall at the beginning of a mission, drawing issue from the 360th TEWS supply: what I suppose was the SRU-21P survival vest, a .38 revolver, and an E&E packet that we would put into the leg pocket of the flight suit. I don't recall what the contents of the vest were, as it was heavy and bulky. We'd carry it over one shoulder to the aircraft, put it over the back of the seat, and it would stay there until we returned and get turned back in. Those were memorable days!

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