A Facebook page has been started, along with efforts to find family histories in order to remember and honor the 16 Navy servicemen who perished on June 21, 1977, when the EC130Q Guam-based communications plane assigned to VQ-3 Squadron crashed shortly after take-off and plunged into the North Pacific Ocean. Official Navy reports into the tragedy indicate the plane was found by a deep submergence vehicle in about 1,600-feet of water less than one mile from the end of the Wake Island runway. Only one body was recovered immediately after the crash and all seamen on board died.
A Navy helicopter serviceman with Geneva and Thayer County roots was on board the EC130Q this fateful day. AE1 Monte C. Nichols, who enlisted in the Navy at the age 18 soon after graduating from Bruning High School with the Class of 1968, was one of the 16 seamen who died in the crash. Nichols completed basic training in San Diego, Calif., and earned a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam. His wife, Eve, and son Steven were living in San Diego at the time of his death.
He was only 27 at the time of his passing and was planning to visit his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harley Nichols of Geneva, when he had leave in September. A June 30, 1977, story in The Nebraska Signal details the events of this tragedy.
Nichols graduated from grade school in Carleton, where his parents formerly lived, before attending high school in Bruning, where he lettered in both football and basketball. The Nichols family was informed in Geneva of their son’s death by an official telegram from the U.S. Navy. The reason for the crash was listed as a loss of power, according to the telegram report.
Several historians have actively been pursuing Monte Nichols’ roots because the seaman and his 15 other shipmates have been recently honored as the inaugural class of the TACAMO Hall of Fame. TACAMO stands for “Take Charge and Move Out” and the newly-created hall of fame is located in Herc Park on the Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Okla.
In June of 2012, U.S. Navy personnel announced the 16 members of TACAMO PAC Crew 4 would be the original hall of fame inductees. Since this time, researchers have been working on locating the family history of Nichols and two other Crew 4 members, RM2 William Juergens of Montana and AT2 Daniel Miner of California. With the help of Signal publisher John Edgecombe, himself a former Navy serviceman, researchers were able to contact a niece of Nichols and her mother, which would be Monte’s sister. Nichols’ mom also remains living in this area.
On June 7, of this year, the TACAMO Hall of Fame was unveiled in front of the nose wheel of the plane that went down carrying Nichols, which is on permanent static display in Herc Park in Oklahoma. At the first-ever hall of fame ceremony, Vern Lochausan, president of the TACAMO Community Veterans Association (TCVA), noted the largest group of hall of fame members are “those fine gents of TACAMO Pacific Crew 4, who had the intention to assume the guard and fly another mission linking national leaders to the submarine forces. They are remembered today for their dedication for they gave all to the mission. By their actions, they made sure TACAMO thereafter operated and trained to be sure no crew was ever lost again.”
The TACAMO Hall of Fame has long been a vision of Lochausen and Captain Charles “Chocko” Baker. “This ceremony is about the vision that several of us had for recognizing those folks associated with the TACAMO mission—who had a vision that they turned into intentions and acted those out well in dedicated service and lasting value,” said Lochausen at the hall of fame ceremony in June.
Pavers were placed into the TACAMO Hall of Fame to honor its inaugural members, which included the 16 members of TACAMO PAC Crew 4. Efforts were also made to show these men respect and show their families appreciation for their loss. Google “TACAMO Crew 4” for more information on the hall of fame induction or the general history of this tragic event.