By Norm Darnell
This goes back to the early 1970’s when the GEMS (Goodyear Electronic Mapping System) system was in operation. Basically it was a modification of pieces from the APQ-102A/R/T/RT and the system used in the SR-71. The system put in the French Caravel was first used to radar map Venezuela and then move on to Brazil to radar map the Amazonian region of north west Brazil. During this time we found rivers, rivers going in the wrong direction, a very large meteor crater, and with the data collected established the dividing line between Venezuela and Brazil. The Correlator was under the wing of the SR at the Pima County Museum the last I saw of it.
Joe Mills and the Dual Passport
We had many things happen that brings back fond memories of the people and situations. Joe Mills (who was part of the first installation of the laser on the 5 inch correlator and part of the film selection when Harold Campbell and I got to be the 5th and 6th case of laser eye burn recorded) and his wife traveled all over the world, but they were on the same dual passport. When Joe tried to leave Belem, Para, Brazil to come back to the United States, he could not clear Brazilian Customs due to his dual passport and it would take three weeks to get a new passport. Simple (as I knew the Brazilian Officers). I just found a young lady at a shop in the Airport Terminal and she became Joe’s wife to get through customs. Then I walked over to say goodbye to Joe and she walked back with me. This was a big story and Joe’s wife told me later, “It is a good thing she did not get off the plane with him. I would have blamed you.”
When I went and got lunch for the crew that came down to fix the radar, I brought back beer for them to drink. OH BOY was that a problem. So they drank bottled water with ice. They all got sick and later they switched to cold beer. Also the story of Lee sleeping in my room with air conditioning is very interesting, but we will not elaborate here because Lee still has his 1895.
The oil companies paid for the mapping of Venezuela and the Government for the radar mapping of Brazil. In Venezuela we always had an armed guard on board and could not fly without him. He made me very nervous with his 1911A1 so I helped him and field stripped it to clean it properly and then gave it back to him. Well it was that way for the entire flight and when we landed I put it back to gather and then put the magazine back in and told him to leave the chamber empty because it would deteriorate the 1943 steel cased 45 ACP ammunition. Several time we got hit with lightning, lost an engine, lost A/C power, pressure dropped to altitude which was 39,000 feet, and other minor things. The people who would fly with us as a publicity endeavor was great and I got to meet a lot heads of state, governors, CEO’s of major international companies, secretaries and stews. Guess who got the most attention, especially after I took a lighting hit. In an attempt to get maps, I met a Russian Night Witch and a Sniper at Copacabana beach.
Danger: Soccer Game has Ended!
In Venezuela one morning we could not go from the hotel to the aircraft because they machine gunned some rowdy students. However, in Ipanema Beach they would be more selective: they just used sub-machine guns and took out a very limited number. But, the most dangerous times were after a soccer game and they would kill up to two dozen.
The first two attachments are of my badge and the last is Norm at the GEMS controls somewhere before it became Brahma time.
On Another Note
I even know a pilot who saved an F-4 after forgetting to look at the fuel indicator and did the impossible. One who has both the Paratrooper wings from the 101st and Italian Military, one who heard and saw the first shells from WWII hit Danzig, saved those in Dachau/Japanese POW camps, were interred by the Russians after landing their B-17 in Russia after a bombing raid, and other people of interest. Most I met on the 1,000 yard line during competition or at the end of a shooting competition when we divvied up the money.
Norm Darnell . . . June 2017