Captain Allen Brady | Conversations with Jeff Weeks | WSRE

Captain Allen Brady | Conversations with Jeff Weeks | WSRE


– [Announcer] This original
WSRE presentation is made possible by viewers
like you, thank you. – A history lesson from
a man who has lived it, Captain Allen Brady, on this
edition of Conversations. (upbeat music) Captain Allen Brady has
seen a lot of history up close, and in many
cases, too personal. As a youngster he
watched the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor
and as a Naval Aviator he experienced a
terror that most of us could not imagine. The Naval Academy
graduate was shot down over North Vietnam and
spent six years as a POW. He is now sharing his
remarkable experience in his book, Witnessing
the American Century, via Berlin, Pearl
Harbor, Vietnam and the Straits of Florida. We welcome to Conversations
Captain Allen Brady, Retired United
States Naval Aviator. Thank you my friend
for joining us. – You’re welcome,
good to be here. – It’s a real honor to
have you on the program. – Thank you. – First of all let me just say thank you for your
service to our country. And it’s really kinda
neat, as we got ready for this interview
some of our crew coming up and
saying that to you. – That seems to be a
typical thing they do today. I feel good about it
because I felt so bad about a lot of the
young people coming back from Vietnam were
not treated that way. I think when the POWs came home, it kind of, everybody was fed up with the Vietnam War
and we kinda gave it a shot in the arm. I know that Jerry Denton,
who’s from Mobile, and he died a couple years ago, he made Rear Admiral
when he got back. But Jerry was the
first guy to be basically released of the
four groups that came home and he gave a little
speech that he jotted down and it was really
very well done. I don’t have it memorized
now, but he finishes up the end by saying, God
bless America and so forth. And, it just kinda went
through the country as an amazing thing,
that these people that have spent,
he spent like eight and a half years over
there, and people that were coming back
from that were so positive and so forth. We had our, I guest motto,
if you wanna call it that, was to return with honor. – Return with honor. Tell me about that experience. What was, set the stage for us. You were shot down
over North Vietnam. What was the day like
leading up to that? – Well, I was over there
in the winter time, December and January
and the weather was bad. The A6 Intruder that
I was flying was basically truly a
all weather airplane. In other words you could
go to a target somewhere and drop a bomb on a
target like a bridge and come back to the
ship and never see the ground or anything, you’re just lookin’
at your instruments. You have a bombardier
navigator sits right next to you and had an
inertial navigation system and two different radars
and so forth on it. So, all during this time
when the weather was bad we’re the only ones
flying over North Vietnam. It’s just the way that
the weather pattern works in Vietnam is that time
of year that down south, in South Vietnam, the
weather was pretty good, blue skies and puffy clouds, and we were just
horrible weather. But, for us that was good. We couldn’t really see. And so, that particular
day we talk about it is that the weather took
a break, or changed, it suddenly turned good and they get all
excited about that, the Generals and so forth. It’s good weather, so
let’s launch a big strike. So, they sent the word
up that we were gonna, we had two carriers there
and we had big strikes. Each carrier had two
strikes, I believe it was, so there were at least, it might have been
more than that, but probably had 20 to
30 planes in each one and each one cycled three times. So, there were six
strikes on the same area, but the weather was good
and to us A6s, that’s bad, ’cause they can see you
and they’re lookin’ at you. And so, that’s what
happened to me that day. Usually the A6 led the
strike because of our navigation system. So, we always had what they
called the navigation lead. We were the ones that
would take ’em in, but somebody else might
be the strike leader. In this case we had a
Commander who was an F4 pilot and he was in the strike. If you were assigned a
job as a strike leader you gave the total
briefing, laid out the plan where everybody would rendezvous
and go in and so forth. But, the A6 leader
there led everybody in, everybody followed you. – And, once you were hit what
was that experience like? – Well, it’s, this
again, I’ve always been a little frustrated
that we were, to me we were in sort of what
was known as a tonnage war. We’re tryin’ to drop
as much weight of bombs as a show of progress in the war and that’s not really progress. – Right. – So, going in that day as I was actually on
the first strike I guess of the day leading on in
and so, what we would do, as you approach the
coast we would drop down to a lower altitude,
the whole strike group would go in at low
altitude, where small arms are shooting at you, but
usually not something big as we were avoiding
the big stuff. But, as we approached
the target area they apparently did
launch a missile, a surface to air
missile, because we get a warning light that
comes on saying a missile. Actually, when the
missile is launched once it starts getting
guidance, we have this little thing up
there that says missile. It goes (buzzing sound). And so, we all, the
strike leader said everybody break left
and so we did that. And then, in the A6 as
we got to our target we pulled up, so we pull
up to get some altitude so you could roll over
and get into a little dive and then I dropped the bombs. I had a flight of four A6s, three of ’em behind me and as I pulled out I
just took a hard turn to the left and
that’s when I got hit. The first chapter
in the book I think is called, Flash of
Orange, ’cause you have little side view
mirrors that are inside. I got this big flash and a bang and the control
stick was just ripped out of my hand and
then, the airplane just started to tumble and after I got home,
six years later, I talked to one of the A6 guys that were on this strike
and he saw me get hit and he said he saw the
flash, saw the airplane break into two pieces,
burning pieces, going down, so it’s
somewhat of a miracle that I survived. And, unfortunately my bombardier
navigator didn’t survive. He, all they knew
is the people behind saw, they said, one good
‘chute and one stream and I think it was
just that his ‘chute hadn’t fully deployed
when he hit the ground and so he was killed. But, yeah it all happened
in a flash, basically. One minute you’re sittin’
on the ship havin’, I think I had French
toast that morning. The next thing you were
standing in a rice patty and pretty upsetting,
to say the least. I had no place to go, no
place to hide and so forth. – What were you thinking
when you were captured? What was going
through your mind? – Well, you sorta
have mixed emotions. One of ’em is that
you’d survived. I mean, you’re racing
along at 400 nauts and there’s a big bang,
the airplane blows up, I had to go through the
canopy because I couldn’t reach the canopy release. And so, fortunately the seat
is higher than your head, so you don’t lead through
the canopy with your head. And so, this all takes,
next thing you know I mean, one minute, one second
or so you’re racin’ through the air in your airplane and the next thing you’re
standing on the ground. And so, 100 yards
away is a smoking hole where the airplane went in. And so, it’s somewhat of
a miracle that I survived. And then, you start
thinkin’, well, maybe I’d have been better
off goin’ in the hole. In fact, if somebody
had told me I was gonna be there six
years I probably would have thought
differently about it. Fortunately, we didn’t know
how long we’d be there. – What kept you,
what kept you alive during that period of time? Because you talk
about in the book, and I’ll save some
of those details for folks who read the book, but the agony and terror
that you gentlemen endured, but what was it
that kept you alive? – Well, there’s
probably a lotta things. But, I don’t wanna say this as though we are superior
beings or anything, but when you really
get down to it, both Air Force and
Navy carrier pilots, the country’s entrusted
us in these multi million dollar airplanes
and we probably had as much training
as anyone could. And you take a lot of, you
take psychological exams to see if you’re suitable
for this kind of business. So you are prepared for it. It’s not like you’re
out there flying, havin’ a good time
and all of a sudden, why did this happen to me. It’s just, we were
taking a fair number of casualties as it was,
so you just do your job. You’re trained enough
so you can concentrate and just do your job. – During your time in captivity what was the most
challenging part for you personally? – Well, as you’re
there for a long time, at first you’re by
yourself for awhile and then I got a roommate,
a cellmate we call ’em, and then a second one. And then, they were always
shifting people around. Then they moved me to
another one and eventually, within the first probably
six months or so, I ended up with a Air
Force Lieutenant Colonel by the name of Fred Crow. He was just amazing
guy, he was a great guy and we just were
the best friends you could ever be it turned out. And that helps a lot. I mean, there were even cases
I heard of where two POWs in the same room actually
had a fist fight in there. Got so mad at each other. And so, if you have someone that’s kind of like you. He’s a funny guy and we
had all these stories that we told 100 times I guess, and we figured
that we could tell all our sins to each
other because I had enough on him that
he wouldn’t dare tell about my sins. (laughing) – Right. – So, I think that
was the big thing. If you had a cellmate
and then again, there were other things
that happened to people. At the end of the book, the Cuban program
was one and some of these different things. They have a crackdown
one time and we had names for all the camps. There was one called Alcatraz. That, by its very
name, sounds like one you don’t wanna go to. And so, there were
certain people that ended up in there
and that was really bad. Those guys were like
in irons for 19 months and really mistreated. And so, it’s faith in your country, too. I mean, I knew that
my country would try to get me outta there if
there was any way possible. Maybe some other countries
they don’t feel that way. They’re not expecting
me to commit suicide or do anything like that. They’re gonna try, I had
faith that if it’s possible I would get outta there. And I think that helps a lot. – What was it like
when you found out you were going to be released? What kind of emotions? – We had times when we thought
we were going to leave. I hadn’t been there but
a few months really, when they started
the Peace Talks and we said, my God, we’re
going to be going home soon. And then they had this
little box in the cell where the Camp Commander
could say something to you or you could listen to
the Voice of Vietnam that they had, their thing. And so, they started talking
about the Paris Peace Talk. Now, this went on and on for a month or two and what they finally decided is what kind of table they
were gonna sit around. Was it gonna be oblong,
square or round? And Fred and I
looked at each other and said, it’s gonna
be a long time. If it took ’em three
months to decide what kind of a
table to sit around. So we knew it was gonna be long. But I never dreamed
it would be that long. And, it always
seemed like we would. And there were
politics involved, too, in a war that was
sort of upsetting. I know they, Johnson,
President Johnson, stopped the bombing
just before the election and it didn’t do him any good because Nixon got in anyhow. But, Nixon was the guy saying,
I’ve got a solution to this. I can end this war. And then they take
that away from him. You know, we finally got
out because, a big part of it was the B52s,
bringing them in, and he was the only
person that had the, I was gonna use a
word I probably shouldn’t. – I think I know where
you’re goin’ with that. (laughing) So, once you were released,
what was your life like once you were released and
sent back to the States? – It was just surreal really. They flew us to
Clark Air Force Base. They released us in four groups, I was in the second group. And, they put us
on the airplane, they checked in one
person at a time. We had a C141 for my
little group there. And, everyone just sat
down, nobody said a thing. We just sat there and
the plane taxied out and took off and
is cruising along and still no one said a word. And then, the pilot
came up and said, we’ve just cleared
North Vietnam air space. And then it was bedlam. You couldn’t believe
this was happening. You’re still in North
Vietnamese air space, they still wanted to send
a missile to get you, but once we got clear of
that, then we said, my God. And then we got to
Clark Air Force Base and some of the
families that were there came out to greet us. They had little signs
they’d made and so forth and we sorta got
the idea that people were welcoming us. And, they let
everybody call home, make a phone call home. It took a while. They didn’t have
that many lines. And then, they had, you could eat just
about anything. They opened up the geedunk. If you want a banana
split for dinner that’s what they’d give you, anything you wanted. But, you couldn’t drink. No booze. – No booze. – No booze. And, kind of a little
side story I talk about is Jack Fellows, an A6
pilot, he was sittin’ next to me and
after we left Clark in a few days we landed
at Hickam for refueling. They let us off the airplane. And then, it was time to
get back on the airplane. We get back on the
airplane and Jack is sittin’ next to
me and, you know what a flower lay is in Hawaii? – Yes. – He says to me, he
says, how do you like this nice flower lay? And I said, that’s
really nice, Jack. It’s green like your teeth, something like that. He said, take a real look at it. People had come down to
see him, friends of his, and he pushed the flowers
aside and there were a bunch of little
miniature bottles of booze that were all tied
around the string. (laughing) – So, the party was on, huh. – Well yeah, we saved ’em til we got there and
pretty much got home. – I don’t think most
people can imagine what you went through. How were you able
to be so resilient and to come out of that and have a successful life after that? – Well, you have
to define success. I did end up getting divorced which was really very sad. It was all my fault. But anyhow, it’s, I don’t know, I just think it’s the way
that a lot of military people are built, it’s the mindset and it’s just different. – It was different
then than it is today. – No, I think it’s
different than just the normal civilian life. – Okay. – I mean, people, I guess I’ve never
really been a civilian. Well I mean, I was as
a kid and so forth. My dad, I was brought
up in the military. A lotta military people had. But still, it’s different, the
way the military does things. – But, you’re made
of tough fabric to be able to survive that. – Well, they used to always
say there’s a right way and there’s a wrong way and
there’s the military way. (laughing) – I understand, I understand. I wanna cover, because
fascinating stories in the book for sure
and now, you were also at Pearl Harbor
as a child, right? – Yeah, well I was 12 years old when the Japanese attacked, so I wasn’t a tiny kid. And we had been out in
the Philippines earlier, back when I was young
and we had gone back to Connecticut. My dad, being a
submariner, they had the sub bases in New London. And so, in 1939 he got
ordered to Pearl Harbor. We said, gee this is great. We’re goin’ out to
Hawaii and so forth. So, we got there in
I think July of 1939 and we ended up, we
stayed a Waikiki Beach during that so, but
you know, back then there were no airplanes
flying in and out. There were no airliners. They did have the China Clipper which is a sea plane. And so, people came in by ship. They had the Matson Line,
they had three ships, the Mastonian, Lurleen and
I forget the other one. People would come in and
as you came in by ship they had Helo Haiti
and she sings Aloha Oe and the Helo Hop and all that. That was the thing
that went on every week as a ship would come in. These ships went back and forth. One ship would continue
on to the South Pacific. But so, it was
really really cool and then we bought a
house up in the valley, up in Juan Valley and
just up towards the Paia. I don’t know if it
makes any sense to you. Paia is a road that went
up over the mountain to the windward
side of the island, otherwise you had to go
around the mountain range. Back then, now
they have a tunnel, but back then it was
a very windy road goin’ down the other side. But so, we lived there and it’s just, it was very safe. My brother and I
being fairly young, we could get on,
like on a weekend we could catch a bus, regular commercial little bus, and come down and it
would take you downtown and make stops and so forth down to King Street,
I think it was, the main drag, get a transfer and get on a trolley
bus and go down to Waikiki and go out
there on the beach and mingle, have a good time. Two kids. – Just a very
comfortable place to be. – We didn’t worry about, your parents didn’t
worry about you and you could do things
and things like that. – So, what was that day like that Pearl Harbor was bombed, as a 12 year old
child, do you remember? – Well, absolutely. They had been having
a lot of maneuvers within the preceding
months and so forth, so we were used to
airplanes and noise and military trucks
going back and forth. But anyhow, my dad, this
was a Sunday morning, he had the duty, whatever
it was, the Duty Officer, at the submarine base that day, so he was up and in his uniform and the attack actually
started at 7:55 Sunday morning. And the phone rang about
8 and he was supposed to be there at 9, they were
still having breakfast. And I heard him say,
good Lord, and he hung up and then he told us that
we’re being attacked by the Japanese
and I’ve gotta go and he ran out
and jumped in his, we had a second car, a
jalopy, and off he went. That was on December 7th
and we didn’t see him til the 26th of December. – Tell me, and I’m getting
a little short on time, have a couple minutes
left here, but, tell me, what do you hope people
take away from this book? Why did you write it
and what do you hope they take away from it? – Well, somebody,
this friend of mine I sold a sailboat to,
he’s a very good friend of mine now, he’s a
lawyer and he’s the one that told me I
should write a book. And I said, yeah, I’ve heard
that before and so forth. But then again, so I started
thinking about it and I thought if I write this
there’s so many details that I’m going to need and
then, as I got into it, I said, why didn’t
my dad write a book, ’cause it was hard to
go back and remember all these things. I think I did a
fairly credible job. There were a lotta things
I wanted to get in there. So, I thought I’m gonna
leave something for my kids so they’ll know what
their young life was like. – What is any one core
message you would like for people to take
away from the book? – Well, I write at the end that, that I’ve seen the
country change so much. Like I mentioned, a man’s
word, you shook hands and that was it. And so, I used the term,
honor, that I think that we’re sort of
lacking that now. I think we’ve
gotten away from it. I think it’s very important. And, we all stuck together
and we like I said, we came up with
Return With Honor. We didn’t wanna
ever do something that would disgrace
us and so forth, or our country. – What are you most
proud of in your life? – Oh gosh, it’s hard to say what’s most. Well, I think I wanted to
go to the Naval Academy. My dad had gone, he was
in the class of 1923, and I was class of 1951. I wanted to go there,
but when I was old enough to know more about it
it certainly wasn’t a sure thing that you
were gonna get in. I found out a lotta
people were wantin’ to go in there, too. So, I think getting there
and making it through there, and I think that helped
a lot as a POW too. You’d think about, my
God, I don’t wanna shame my classmates and people
at the Naval Academy and so forth and
so, that helped. – You are, you were tellin’
me before we went on air, you’re about to be 90 years old. – Be 90 in August, yeah. – 90 in August of 2019. – Exactly, born in ’29. – Wow. – I’ll be 100 in 2029. (laughing) – Any secrets to stayin’
in this great shape in about 30 seconds? – It would take longer
than 30 seconds. – It was a pleasure. – Thank you for having me. – I wish you all the best. Thank you again for your
service to our country. – Thank you. – Captain Allen Brady,
United States Navy, Retired Naval Aviator. The name of the book,
Witnessing the American Century via Berlin, Pearl
Harbor, Vietnam and the Straits of Florida, also co-written
with Don Quarles, who is a educator
and also an author and who actually has been
on this program before. She has written
a book of her own and you can find
that and many more of our Conversations online
at wrse.org/conversations, as well as on
Facebook and YouTube. I’m Jeff Weeks. Thank you so very
much for watching. I hope you enjoyed
the broadcast. Take wonderful care of yourself
and we’ll see you soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *