|1972 TILL NOW|
|PACIFIC NORTHERN AIRLINE|
|DRIVING TO PANAMA|
|MY TRIP TO CHINA|
|FLY TO SHANGHAI|
|EAST CHINA NORMAL UNIV|
|GREAT WALL TRIP|
|TIANIMIN SQUARE TOUR|
|YUAN AND BANKING|
|FLOATING THE YANGTZE RIVER|
|HONG KONG AND HOME|
|MILLIE AN I GO TO THE FAR EAST|
|FOOD AND THE BULLET TRAIN|
|ON TO KOREA|
|GUAM AND SPACE A|
|WEEK IN TAIWAN|
|NATIONAL COLD WAR MEMORIAL/MONUMENT
One day I was chatting with my mailman and mentioned that I wished that I had a salesman's job since all my life I had an urge to sell. He said that a friend of his owned a burglar alarm company and needed a salesman. Great, I went to their office and got a commission job.
Selling was fun at first. It took me over a month to make my first sale. I found that the biggest problem that I had was to stop the car and go into a business. After entering, I was OK and could sell. That lasted a few months and then I got tired of doing that and quit. The owner didn't want to pay me all my commissions, so I took him to court and collected. (That is the only court case that I have ever won).
I saw an ad in the paper [I forget what it said] but I applied and got a job attracting businesses to Vegas and telling people that we could manage theirs. I was paid all expenses, had two airplanes that I could use on trips and $1500 a month, if and when we had some cash flow. I had fun but soon realized that they really were con men out to cheat the general public, so I left when the landlord padlocked the office door. I sued for my back pay and won but there was no place to collect. So it goes!. One can always learn from experience.
PACIFIC NORTHERN AIRLINES
Again, I saw an ad in the L A Times, this time for a C-47 pilot. When I applied for it they accepted me but then I said that I can do a lot more than pilot an airplane. They hired me as Vice President of Operations and I moved to Salem Oregon. The other principals thought that all we had to do was to buy an airplane and fly. Not so. FAA said that we could fly when we were 100% ready, not 99 and 44/100%. I noted their remarks. The first thing that we had to get were operating manuals. These had to detail every facet of how we were going to operate. When we were finished, we would have the same amount of manuals as any other airline. We bought a set for a D C 3 but FAA said 'NO' write your own. Here we go. A momentous task.
I had a crew hired to do this and a secretary for my office but things progressed very slowly and the President didn't have much money. It was very difficult to get the money to meet each payday. I spent a lot of time flying our proposed routes and briefing the Civic clubs and Chambers of Commerce at each proposed stop. My plan was to fly only in the interior of Oregon and I had mail, film, and vehicle parts, supply contracts.
Things looked pretty good. The manuals were coming along, we had an airplane [wide door D C 3] a couple pilots, two stewardesses, etc,. The other V P and the Pres. had a meeting with me and wanted to move the operation to Portland from Salem Or. I objected for many reasons. They did move and the other V P came up to manage the operation. They found an 'Investor' who gave them $1,000,000 and I got a letter asking me to resign. They paid me all the money coming to me and I went back to Las Vegas. With the million dollar investment, they hired 61 people to finish the manuals, paint the plane, inspect it etc,. and were given a permit to operate.
But they had changed the operating concept from subsidized contracts and flying to several places in Oregon that did not have air service, to two flights a day to Seattle from Portland. There already was some 60 flights a day between these two cities and they wanted to support a staff of 61 people with the one airplane. They flew two days and had three passengers one day and one the next and that was the end of Pacific Northern Airlines. I got out at just the correct time.
DRIVING TO PANAMA AND BACK
Back in Las Vegas things were very quiet. I had a yearning to drive the Pan American Highway all the way to Panama. Millie didn't want me to go alone. She was probably right. Then I noticed that an RV tour company was going to take a 71 day, trip to Panama.I drove over to Calif. and talked to the owner of the company. He said that he had an opening for a mechanic to accompany the trip. I told him that I was a great mechanic and got the job. We were to leave from Harlingen Texas with 25 different RV s.
I was to get free insurance, all parks, tours etc, plus $ 1500 when the trip was over. My job was to bring up the rear of the group and help anybody that had a problem, fix flats and in general, herd the group along. I also received $15 an hour for any repairs that I did for the people. I had to pay for my own gas and food. GREAT. We met in Texas, I inspected all the rigs and off we went. It was a great trip. I met some nice people, saw lots of interesting things and places, solved a few problems and returned home safely.
That is about the end of my attempts to secure employment. Since then I've been content to take my trailer on trips, fish and grow old. Lately it seems that Millie and I spend most of our time in Drs. offices but we are still hanging in there.
Recently I have been giving talks to groups that are interested in aviation. I talk about the days at area 51, how we trained the pilots, some of the problems and end it with a film on the U-2 plus telling them of some harrowing experiences, commonly called 'war stories'. I also have been asked to be the speaker at the 31st Fighter Officers Reunion and the 12th Bomber Group Reunion but I have had to cancel both of them.
MY TRIP TO CHINA
Gail's son Gregory Shane Giles Klatt was majoring in Asian studies and could speak Chinese quite fluently. He decided to go to Shanghai to the East China Normal University to study for a year. I told him that I would come over for a trip during the summer. After he arrived there he found out that they were only teaching the Chinese language and he didn't need any more than six months. So I went over in the winter.
To prepare for the trip I took two semesters of spoken Mandarin Chinese, since this is now the accepted language in China. Well I tried to use the words that I had learned like Dow Shaw [not correct spelling but it is pronounced this way ] which means, 'How Much'? I would say this when I wanted to buy something and the people would smile, turn their head, laugh, ignore me so I finally said 'To hell with it' and did as all Americans do, raise my voice, wave my hands, point etc, and I got along quite well.
FLIGHT TO SHANGHAI AND THE UNIVERSITY
First I had to get a visa and have confirmed reservations at a hotel. China had only been open to American tourists for a few months when I applied. It wasn't easy but I did get reservations at the Shanghai Hilton and they sent me my visa from the Chinese Embassy in Wash. D C. I promptly canceled my Hilton reservations because I planned to stay in the dormitory at the university.
I was able to get a flight from San Francisco nonstop to Shanghai on China Airlines 747-SP for $413, Not too bad but I had to do a lot of conniving in SF to find the place to get the special fare. It was a long flight but the plane wasn't crowded so I was able to lay down on three seats and get a little rest. On the plane I met a man that had gone through the USAF flying program and I planned to see him again in Chonching, China. I missed New Years Eve and landed in Shanghai on 1 Jan. 1988.
I had a small problem getting a bourbon on the plane. I finally searched through the drawers in the planes kitchen and was able to locate a few bottles. We arrived in China late at night and now I had to find the college. I had the name and address written in Chinese and lucked into a cab driver who knew the exact place of the foreign students quarters and dropped me off at the front door.
The students were still awake when I arrived so after a few beers, I got to stay in Greg's bed and he bunked in with a friend. Not too bad considering that it was free. Every morning at 0645 they played the Chinese National Anthem on the loudspeaker system. You really don't ever want to hear it. Then you heard a 15 minute lecture on Communism. This was a great time to take a shower.
Greg and I took two bicycles and went to the local market and I took lots of videos. Note; The videos are available if you are interested, see Hank.
While he was in school I would ride the busses into town. You can't imagine the crowds and the shoving and fighting among the people trying to board the busses and the general mess in Shanghai. They actually had two men with a rope and used it to herd the people to the front door.
I took a sightseeing boat up the river to the ocean and saw the foreign ships and the Chinese Navy, such as it was. It seems that there wasn't any maintenance or painting on any of them. I used the local Yuan to shop and I bought a wonderful down lined coat for practically nothing [$28.57]. A crowd gathered to watch me buy the coat and when I was finished, I gave my old one to the clerk. The people watching couldn't believe it.
Traveling back and forth to town was a real chore. The buses were always overcrowded, taxis were very hard to come by and were very cheap. Each driver tried to overcharge me but they didn't know Hank.
Went to a local museum but it was mediocre. Worked on tickets to Beijing and helped Greg send telegrams to go home and lectured him on spending money and his temper!!.
The food at the college was pretty bad so Greg and I ate out most evenings. Our best meal was at the Hilton Buffet.
I was able to get a sleeper train to Beijing and it wasn't too bad a trip [it used to be called Peking.] and I knew that I had to have a Peking Duck for dinner. They are all force fed and end up being 95% fat. I ordered a whole one and I don't think that I got 5 mouthfuls of meat out of it. I can't remember the number of ducks that they eat in one day but it was in the millions.
On the train I had to wait till all the Chinese had eaten before they called me. I was the only foreigner on the train. One well dressed Chinese man ate at the same time. I had dumplings, shrimp, soup, chicken, vegetables and beef and it only cost me $ 4.50. No heat on the train but there was a potbellied stove at the end of the car that burned soft coal.
Got some sleep at night and had a very good breakfast after they awakened me at 6 A M. I got a pot of hot water so I made some coffee and had a couple cookies. At 0715 they took me into the dining car and I had three eggs, toast, butter, jam and coffee. The Chinese were eating noodles and soup.
I got a hotel at the Bie Wei hotel at $17.00 a night. Not too bad. Called the elderly lady friend of my Las Vegas Chinese teacher and she will take me through the forbidden city.
TIANAMIN SQUARE TOUR
My Chinese teacher here in Las Vegas knew some people that lived in Peking. I visited these people and was invited to dinner at their apartment. Luckily the Lady of the house could speak English. The next day she accompanied me on a tour of the forbidden palace and Tianamen Square. It was very enjoyable to have this elderly Chinese lady as a guide. After the tour she took me home and she had her husband and family in for dinner. She balked when I wanted to take a cob back to her house and we had to ride the bus. The dinner was pretty good considering their economic standard. And I was able to take a bus back to the Universary.
When I had to leave Peking, I took a taxi to the airport. I told the driver that I had not seen Maos tomb. He drove me right up to it, I got out and the police on duty led me to the front of a very long line and I was able to go through the tomb and view Mao lying there in a glass coffin. You might want to take a look at the lengthy video that I took on the trip, kind of interesting.
THE YUAN AND BANKING
The currency in China is called the YUAN. International law says that a country is allowed to have only one currency. China has two. Tourists are allowed to spend the special Yuan and shopkeepers are not allowed to take the local currency from you. BUT If you go into a bank and give them $100 U S they will give you the special Yuan in return. Then you can walk outside the bank and almost anybody will give 200 of the local currency that you can spend on food, clothes etc,. Then you can take 100 of these back into the bank and they must give you $100 US for it. I did this only once because I was afraid that I might be caught and end up in their jail.
A transaction in a Chinese Bank is unbelievable. You go up to a long marble counter and give the clerk your passport and $100 U S. He makes a note on a piece of paper, puts a rubber band around it and shouts something and throws it through the air. Somebody catches it, does something else and he too throws it in the air. This happens three or four times and then it comes sliding along a groove in the counter and stops in front of you. Amazing performance.
I wanted to see a Chinese fire drill but didn't get the chance. I did see their engines roll and that was kind of exciting.
THE GREAT WALL TRIP
One day I took a tour of the Great Wall. I didn't know that I was on a Chinese speaking tour bus so I didn't understand any of his explanations of what we were seeing. We did get to the Wall and I climbed up on it and it really is an amazing place. Not all of the wall is still standing but the area where I was able to climb was complete. Of course, I had to buy a T shirt with the 'I climbed the great wall on it'.
That night I was able to buy a bottle of Bourbon in one of the better hotels in Peking. The only brand that is sold in China is 'Four Roses'. It's better than nothing and it helped me through the river cruise.
CIAN AND THE UNDERGROUND ARMY
I bought a ticket on the airline to Cian. Got to the airport and it was crowded and the whole country was fogged in or had so much pollution that nobody could fly. I had them sign my ticket that the plane was delayed, went back into town, got my money back and bought a train ticket. I also lucked into getting a 'SOFT' sleeper. Kind of reasonable and now I was on a 21 hour trip on my way to Cian, to see the underground army. I had some jam and crackers so I survived the trip. Got a room at the Remnin hotel for $17.50 a night.
The underground army excavation is truly an astounding sight considering that buried there are thousands of soldiers, horses, carriages, weapons, etc, and it is only partially excavated and that the whole project only started a few years back. Cameras were forbidden but I put my video camera under my coat and tried to take a few photos. I was caught and they took my camera. When I finished my tour I found the soldier that had it and I tried to get it back. He wouldn't give it to me so I tried a bribe. I gave him all my change, probably worth less than two cents and I got my camera.
Believe it or not I was able to buy a bottle of Jim Beam and some seven up. Ate some more dehydrated soup and off to bed. It seems that I am living on soup and crackers.
FLOATING THE YANGTZE RIVER
Another long 30 hour train ride along the Yangtze river to Chongching to catch a boat to ride down the river through the Three Gorges. Again I was able to get a 'Soft Sleeper'. The hard ones are boards. At ChengDu, I went out on the train platform and watched the people debark. I couldn't believe the number that got off. I also saw at least 200 porters carrying double baskets full of pork carcasses.
I spent several days in Chongching sightseeing. All the hotel rooms that I had were very reasonable and fairly nice. I was paying about $10 to $14 per night. Then I booked a stateroom on a ship to go down the Yangtze through the Three Gorges. This wasn't easy because the ticket agent would not take our Rems. ''It took a long time to solve this problem. Its a good thing that I had gone first class because all other classes slept like a row of logs on a board that was the width of the ship. The boat was crowded and made many stops along the way to load and unload freight, mostly carcasses of large dogs and pigs.
Meals were something else. The dining room was very small, had a buffet line and they would scoop stuff out of big pots and put it on your plate. Not too tasty. Besides, it seemed that everyone smoked and talked in a loud voice. The atmosphere and din were unbearable so after two meals, I gave it up and went on a hunger strike. Nobody cared.
Whenever anybody came aboard that could speak a little English, they would look me up and start a conversation. This was interesting. One day I was lamenting the fact that I was living on some cookies, marmalade, candy and bourbon. He was astounded and said 'But Sir, you are first class and can order anything that you wish. 'Lets go' I said and we headed for the dining room. He was to be my interpreter. We found the gal who was in charge and he explained my problem. She asked 'What would you like?' I didn't know what to ask for so I said, 'What do you have.?' We were at a standstill so I said 'OK I'll have some soup, some rice and some chicken'. She nodded agreement and I went back out on deck.
A few minutes later she found me on deck and took me back to the dining room but it still was too smoky and noisy for me so I told her to forget it. I was then told that they would deliver it to my cabin. Great, up I went to my room. In a few minutes there was a knock and a delivery boy brought in my food. The soup was clear with a few greens but tasted good. The rice was white and also tasted good. Now for the chicken! Remember that they do not use knives and forks and everything is cut up in bite sizes. There on my plate was either the right or left leg of a chicken, from the first joint to the end of the toes, neatly cut in small pieces and put back in the correct order and covered with a brown sauce. Yes, the yellow leg and not the thigh. You can see that there was no meat on it. The neat part was that you could pick your teeth with the toenails. End of dinner!.
The boat proceeded and I found that we would go through the Three Gorges at sometime after midnight. Just what I wanted, come 10,000 miles and have to get up at midnight to see some rocks along the bank. I did and it was very unimpressive since you couldn't see anything of the scenery in the dark.
The stops were interesting due to seeing the different cities and the varied cargo that was brought on board. Meat was one of the main cargo that was put on board. Many big dogs, only the carcass, and lots of pigs too. There were some Mongolian students on board and I got to talk to them for awhile.
Another thing that is very noticeable along the Yangtze river is the pollution that runs into the river from the streams. Some were white with the chemicals and none of them seemed clear.
HONG KONG AND HOME
It was getting close to the end of my visit to China so I took a flight to Guangzhou, but first I was on standby for two flights. Met a Swede and a Chinese business man and we sort of waited together. We finally got the flight and then a train to Hong Kong. I found a small room to stay in. Took a ride in a Junk around the harbor and that was very interesting. I also visited several of the magnificent large floating restaurants. I went to a good seafood restaurant and was able to have a large crab for dinner that I had pointed out in their tank.
My plan was to go to the Philippines for a few days and go up the Malaysian Peninsula and on into India. But that next morning I saw a sign that said Travel Agent. I went inside about 8 A M and at 10 A M I was on a nonstop flight to Seattle for only $358.00. A further flight to San Francisco, An Air Force bus to Travis AFB and I picked up my trailer and I was ready to go home. And I did. Note-there is a video that I made and Jay would have a copy if you are interested in the trip.
MILDRED AND I GO TO THE FAR EAST
Mildred and I decided to try a 'Space available' flight with the military. We took our trailer to Travis AFB, parked it at the trailer park, and put our name on the list for the far east. In a few days our name came up, so we brought our bags to the terminal, emptied the trailer refrigerator and put the trailer in storage.
We had seats on a C-5, the USA's largest cargo plane. It was scheduled for a non-stop flight to Okinawa, with air refueling over Hawaii. It was a beautiful clear day and when we arrived over Hawaii, the tanker was nowhere to be seen. Typical. I don't think that I ever flew a refueling mission when the tanker was on time. I did a lot of the development work for air to air refueling but I never dreamed that I would be with my wife in a plane and get a maximum onload. A reserve crew was doing the flying and they did a perfect job. Not a tremble the whole time. On we went across the big ocean.
At Okinawa we were given the VIP quarters at the air base and noticed on the lodging book in our room that one of our good friends had stayed in the same room a few months earlier. The next day we got on a flight to Tokyo Japan.
At the Air Force base we were lucky to get temporary quarters. We traveled around the town for a few days and saw a lot of interesting sights but I remember everything seemed so strange, Pagodas, the signs, meals etc.
Of special note was that while standing on the steps of a hotel, I saw some very strange lights in the distance. There were 13 of them and they didn't seem to move. [very similar to the lights that were seen over Phoenix one time and classified as UFOs] I had the hotel call the airport to query them about the lights, they didn't know what they were either. I showed them to Millie and some other people that were nearby. After about ten minutes, they suddenly disappeared. Were they UFOs? In my book - YES - That is my only experience with that sort of thing during my whole life.
FOOD AND THE BULLET TRAIN
It's easy to order what you want to eat in a Japanese restaurant because they have a copy of each item on the menu made up in wax and on display in the front window. All you do is take the waiter out front and point to what you want to order.
From Tokyo we took the Bullet Train to Shimonoseki, which is at the southern tip of Honshu island. We passed through Nagasaki, which has been completely rebuilt from the atomic bomb damage. The train went about 120 mph. and was quite comfortable. At the terminus we boarded a boat for Pusan Korea.
ON TO KOREA
I don't know what held the ship together. Everything was rusted and one could stick their finger right through it. At the dock there were many Korean women returning and each one seemed to have several 'Rice Cookers' plus a myriad of articles all tied up in a large piece of cloth. We had a cabin that slept 8 but luckily, no one was assigned to our room. The Koreans slept everywhere and almost completely covered the deck. We made it across safely and docked at Pusan Korea. It made me think of their college song that went something like this 'Oh Pusan U, O Pusan U' etc,.
I think that we spent the night there and the next day took a train to Seoul, their capital. In Seoul the Army had a GI hotel that we could stay at. The room was quite comfortable but there were signs everywhere 'Don't look out the windows' Why ?, we were right next to the headquarters of the Korean Department Of Defense. The North and South were still at war, since no peace treaty had ever been signed and security was very high. We were a little frightened late that night when I heard a heavy rumbling in the streets. I looked out the window and saw several jeeps darting into the side streets and along the main street and then about six heavy tanks came along. I thought sure that we were being invaded but it turned out that they were only changing the guard and were moving tanks to different locations.
The next day we took a tour of an old time native village. That was very interesting and gave us an insight of how the Koreans lived in years past. We also took a tour north to Panmunjung and the North Korean border. This is the heavily fortified area where the two sides meet to discuss terms. This is the most heavily defended border, on both sides, in the world. Kind of scary.
I guess that we spent at least a week in Seoul. We also noticed that the Army had tanks dispersed all over town. Hidden in the most unexpected places, but the threat from the north was real and they were ready. It was getting about time to return home.
GUAM AND SPACE AVAILABLE ?????
After checking at the Air Base, we were able to get a flight on a small plane going to Guam. On Guam we were given very nice quarters and put our name on the list for a flight to the States. I checked every day and the list seemed to get longer and with our very low priority, it looked like we could take up residence there. It was June and the children of the military, the teachers and other government workers had a higher priority and I guess they all wanted to go home too.
There was a travel agency on the base but the fare to San Francisco was ridiculous. If I remember correctly, several thousand dollars each. I talked to the clerk several times and about a week later she had an offer for me. If we would fly to Taiwan, stay a week and then fly nonstop to the USA, she could arrange it for $500 each. I couldn't get the money to her quick enough. We had wanted to see Taiwan anyhow, so off we went the next day.
A WEEK IN TAIWAN AND THEN HOME
In Taiwan we stayed at the hotel Roma. About a block from the famous Grand Hotel. We didn't know it but the price would have been about the same. Oh well. We had a nice room but Mildred wasn't feeling too good. She did do a little sightseeing, but spent a lot of the evenings in the room.
The most interesting places to see were the Chiang Kai Shek memorial, it's a replica of the Sun Yat Sen Memorial in China, and the National Museum. I don't think that I can adequately describe the wonders that we saw in the museum. It seems that when Chiang Kai Shek was being driven out of China and heading for the island of Formosa, he looted all the museums of their treasures and brought them to Taiwan. This museum is truly unbelievable, an absolute 'MUST' if you ever get to Taiwan.
After about a week there, we boarded our flight to San Francisco. It was a 747 SP, [the long range 747] and it was the plane that was outfitted for Madam Chiang Kai Chek, truly beautiful and not very crowded. We took a bus to Travis AFB and retrieved our trailer.
I also spend a lot of time
keeping track of old military friends. These past two years [98&99] I've
been president of the Roadrunners Internationale, a group of test pilots,
contractors, support people, security etc,. that were associated with the
testing and development of the U2, YF12A and SR71 airplanes. Our reunion was
here in Las Vegas in Oct. 99 and I had more than 200 people attend
for four days. That took a lot of time and effort.
I am also writing this history and I don't think that I will ever finish it. I have 30 VHS videos that I have taken of the family over the years. Lately I've been invited to join a committee to acquire a National Monument commemorating the Cold War and the people that were involved in it, mostly the U-2 group. Also a very time consuming duty.
COLD WAR MEMORIAL /MONUMENT
|Cold War Memorial Monument Logo
|Chairman Cold War Memorial Monument|