Spy Planes Essay, Research Paper
WHIDBEY ISLAND NAVAL AIR STATION, Wash. (Reuters) – The 24 Navy crew members of a U.S. spy plane detained in China for 11 days arrived back at their home base to a hero’s welcome from thousands of relatives and supporters.
About 5,000 people, many waving “Welcome Home” posters, American flags and yellow ribbons, gathered at the Naval air base on Washington state’s Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, as the crew stepped off the military plane that flew them home after a debriefing in Hawaii.
Politicians and top military brass as well as relatives, friends and colleagues gathered Saturday on the tarmac outside a hangar bedecked with flags and balloons for the homecoming ceremony where a red carpet was rolled out for the crew.
The crew members — 21 men and three women — hugged their relatives, shook hands with dignitaries and then marched past throngs of admirers to a reception where politicians and high-ranking Navy officers hailed their “exemplary” behavior during their detention in China.
“Your actions made us all proud to be Americans,” said Rear Adm. Michael Holmes, who commands the Navy’s Pacific patrol and reconnaissance force.
Home For Easter
Arriving home a day before the Christian Easter holiday, several of the crew members thanked God for their safe return home and described their fear as their EP-3 surveillance plane, badly damaged in a collision with a Chinese F-8 fighter, made an emergency landing on China’s Hainan Island.
“It was scary. At the time, I thought hey, I’m 20 years old, I had a good life,” said Cryptologic Technician Jeremy Crandall. “But the crew was tight and everybody looked out for each other.”
Armed Chinese soldiers quickly made it clear to the crew that they had to leave the plane, though one crew member said their actions were “not very aggressive.”
The Americans calmly ran through a checklist, disabling the plane’s advanced electronic listening devices and destroying sensitive data before the Chinese boarded the plane.
At a press conference after the reception, the crew described their crippled aircraft’s descent and a not very comfortable stay in Chinese custody.
Asked what was the first thing the Chinese said to them, Lt. Patrick Honeck quipped: “It wasn’t in English.”
Chinese officials repeatedly demanded an apology from the crew members, as they had from the U.S. government, for causing the accident and for landing in Chinese territory without permission.
However after a U.S. embassy official told them that President Bush (news – web sites) had refused to take the blame for the accident, the crew repeated his words to the Chinese.
Bush eventually expressed regret and sorrow at the death of the Chinese fighter pilot whose plane struck the underside of the slow-moving U.S. spy plane. The U.S. crew said they had radioed repeatedly to request an emergency landing on Hainan.
Honeck described the shock he and his companions felt just after the collision, but said the group later pulled together and made the best of the situation. “Our treatment was fair. We were fed pretty well,” he said.
Rice And Coca-Cola
Other crew members said their rations were limited to rice and bread, with little meat or vegetables, though the Chinese did supply them with Coca-Cola.
“Basically they fed us rice,” said Aviation Machinist’s Mate Wendy Westbrook.
Perhaps the most romantic moment of the day was provided by Cryptologic Technician Josef Edmunds, who introduced his fiancee, Sandra White of Fort Worth, Texas.
Edmunds proposed to White by telephone Friday, after the crew left Hainan for their initial return to U.S. soil in Guam.
“I wanted to wait for the perfect moment, but sometimes the perfect moment never comes,” Edmunds said.
Pilot The Biggest Hero
The loudest praise went to Lt. Shane Osborn, the pilot and commander of the mission, who landed the plane despite extensive damage, saving the lives of the crew.
Navy officials rejected criticism of Osborn’s quick decision to try to land, instead of bailing out or ditching the plane in the South China Sea to keep its ultra-secret eavesdropping equipment from falling into Chinese hands.
“Mr. Osborn made the right decision, and I credit him with saving the lives of his crew,” Holmes said.
Earlier Saturday Osborn rejected official Chinese claims that the U.S. plane caused the crash.
“I am here to tell you we did it right,” Osborn told reporters in Hawaii before boarding the flight for Whidbey Island. “There are no apologies necessary on our part.”
Many in the crowd had moist eyes amid the flag-waving and emotional images of reunited families and the show of support was not lost on the arriving crew members.
“I’ve never felt so proud to be an American in my whole life,” said Lt. Jeffery Vignery.