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Stoof Tales

Terry McGinnis(Aviation Machinist Mate 3rd Class) has good memories of the Tracker. He served in VS-35 and deployed aboard the USS Hornet in the time frame 1965-1968. He made two Western Pacific cruises and was plane captain and engine mechanic on the '65 cruise. In 1967 he was Flight Deck Troubleshooter for Powerplants. He send us pictures about flightoperations from the USS Hornet. Click here

On the pictures above, left Terry McGinnis in with shirt prepared the CAG-bird (152818/NV-00) for launch and right the catapultcrew hooking up the Stoof. One memory he will never forget.Terry McGinnis:" I remember when a US-2C from VR-? at Cubi Point went into the drink after he lost an engine and missed the wires on landing (Photo). 700 lbs. of our mail at the bottom of the South China Sea. I stood and watched it all with my mouth open and a camera hanging around my neck. Never took a picture. Damn!". A rescue helo picked up the downed flyer who were wet and discouraged but otherwise unhurt (Photo).

In front of a VS-35 S-2D (code NV-16) are Lt.jg R. L Landkamper, Lt. ? Frost, Frank Kurzhals ATN2, and Terry Caulfield AK3. The picture is from the 1965-1966 Hornet Westpac cruise. (photo: Terry Caulfield via Terry McGinnes)

Mr. F.R. Wade (now P3/CP 140 Aurora Pilot, 407 Sqn, Comox) flew Trackers with MR 880 from 1981 until 1984. He send us a remarkable story: "My boss, Major (then Captain) Eric Burke at MR 880 had a very interesting experience one dark and stormy night going into St. John's, Newfoundland (CYYT). He flew an NDB approach to runway 16 but used the minimums for runway 16 back at Shearwater (CYAW) which were lower than those at CYYT. Consequently, he flew into spruce and pine trees on a ridge a couple of miles short of the runway. He applied full power and the aircraft climbed away. However, the spruce and pine needles clogged the cooling fins on the cylinders and so he was getting overheating engines and the trees had knocked off his pitot booms. He was thus at night, in cloud, with overheating engines, unreliable airspeed indications and tree trunks hanging off his airplane. He attempted an ILS approach to runway 29 and landed safely, but when he landed, they say a cord of wood fell off the aircraft onto the runway. The aircraft was in bad shape with six inch diameter trees lodged in the leading edges as far back as the main spar. However, it was given a field repair and ferried home for major repairs. Surely this is a testament to the strength of this old girl".

Mike Ray was a Tracker pilot and has some memories about the Vietnam War. "Sometimes people ask me, "What airplane did you fly in the Vietnam War?" They seem suprised when I tell them, "The Stoof". Few persons seem to be aware that the Grumman S-2 Tracker was there. I want to tell you of an incident that happened to some very good friends of mine. We were stationed onboard the USS Hornet. The mission they were flying was simply this: There existed several SAR (Search and Rescue) destroyers that cruised in designated areas off the beach of North Vietnam, so that when the attack and fighter people would egress, these ships would be there to assist a cripple or pick up a pilot who had to punch out or ditch. During the night hours, when the strike activity would ebb, these SAR destroyers would steam around in their small areas waiting for the next days air activities. It was during these night and early morning hours that high speed surface radar contacts would probe the ships position. One mission of our squadron was to be on station to provide air cover for these guys.
The tactic was simple: A ship needing assistance would vector the S-2 out over the suspected enemy surface target. Flying over at ten thousand feet or so, the airplane would drop a parachute retarded flare: then start a descending turn so as to wind up about 300 feet off the water and about a mile out, inbound the target. Our airplanes were loaded with pods containing clusters of 2.25" rockets, sort of a big shotgun. The idea was to use the flickering light of the para-flares to positively identify the target and if it proved to be unfriendly (Like it was shooting at you), you were supposed to engage and destroy.
On the 22nd of January 1966, in the dark of night, Lt. Bill Forman, Ltjg Erwin B. "Skip" Templin jr., Chief Edmund Frenyea, and Petty Officer Bob Sennet, started their run-in on a unidentified bogie. The Destroyer CIC was controlling the evolution, monitoring their progress on radar. At some point prior to reaching the target, their return disappeared form the Destroyers radar. We were on station before sun-up. The weather in the OP-area was clear and without a puff of wind. The sea, that day, took a becalmed look; and one could pick out stuff floating for great distances, but we found no trace. The sea had seemingly swallowed them. We continued our search for the remaining months that we were on station. We found nothing.
Later, I heard a rumor that some debris was found floating in a backwater bay, stuff that could have been part of their airplane, specifically a piece of a helmet that had some markings like our squadron had. It was inconclusive evidence at best. Like everyone else, I had just accepted the whole situation: after all, there had been so many others".
Mike Ray flew for the US Navy until 1967 and since then was an Airline Pilot with a major air carrier until February 1999. If you want to read more about this incident
Click here
Peter Cleaver was a member of 851 and 816 squadrons from 1968 to 1976. He was an Airframe/Engine Mechanic. Peter loved working and flying in the Trackers. His last bird was the 844, now part of the flying display of the Fleet Air Arm at NAS Nowra (NSW) Australia. On the picture you can see the 844 from 816 squadron on the cat about to launch. Peter is facing the camera while fixing the bridle of the Stoof to the catapultshuttle.

Tery McGinnis (VS-35) remembered: "Once a CVS carrier reached the South China Sea and entered "Yankee Station", we flew 24 hours a day. Seven days a week for as long as the carrier remained on station. The attack carriers were at Flight Ops only when they had a strike going. We had 24 hour Flight Ops. This meant one of the 2 VS squadrons aboard had a 4 plane flight in the air at all times. VS-35 would launch four planes for a four hour flight. Shortly before they were due back VS-37 would launch four planes, and so on. The longest time without a break was 63 days. Usually with every four Stoofs launched, VAW-11 would launch an E-1B to coordinate. It flew high. The Stoofs flew low. While at sea the aircraft Maintenance Departments stood no shipboard watches. We worked a 12 hour on, 12 hour off shift for as long as we were at flight ops. The only time I remember launching more than four aircraft was when NV-12 was missing and everything on the ship was in the air looking for it. Also when we would return to the States and all aircraft were flown off. I'm sure there were other instances but that's all I remember".

Do you have Tracker stories or adventures? Please let us known!
Send us also a snapshot to underline your story