Wayne E. Poland
U. S. Navy
Dates of Service: 11/03/1961 - 04/16/1966
Material Maintenance/storekeeper, U.S.S Constellation

One of seven children of Claude C. Poland, a painting contractor, and Edna Raye Smith Poland, Wayne was born in Princeton, Louisiana, now part of Haughton. At ages "eight or nine years old" he and his brothers began working with their father in painting, scraping and sanding. "Then we had to join the union and that's four years of night school," he recalls. His wages helped with family expenses. Meanwhile, Wayne developed a talent for singing. (His cousin was James Burton, who would become a guitarist for Elvis Presley and others.) Wayne finished Bossier High School at age 16 in May of 1961. "I didn't even go get my diploma because I had a job at a bowling alley in Monroe, Louisiana, singing," he recalls. Enlisting in the U.S. Navy on November 1, 1961, he completed boot camp in San Diego and was assigned as part of the maintenance crew of a fighter squadron at Miramar Naval Air Station in California. In March of 1962 at Barbers Point, Hawaii, he was assigned to squadron BF-192, the "Screamin' Demons," a unit of F-4 Phantoms on the USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) aircraft carrier. Meanwhile, on shore, Richard played in a band, "The Corvettes." In October of 1962 the ship served during the blockade of Cuba. By then, Wayne was plane captain of his crew, with duties "to keep the plane clean, to un-chock it, you know. Get it ready for take off," he recalls. In early 1963 he was transferred to the USS Constellation (CV-64). Aboard he worked material maintenance for a fighter squadron, serving as a storekeeper in "something like an auto parts house," he recalls. The ship was in the Gulf of Tonkin when the Vietnam War began. "We didn't know what Vietnam was," recalls Wayne, who would serve three tours in that conflict. "The funny thing about war is your spirit goes up, you know. Man, we were going to go do something else. We were so tired of practice and practice and practice," he recalls. In action on August 5, 1964, his ship lost a pilot, LTjg Richard C. Sather, killed in action. Another, LT JG J.B. Alvarez, was the first pilot in the conflict to be captured by the North Vietnamese. He would remain in captivity until 1973. In December of 1964 the Constellation returned to San Diego. By spring of 1965 Wayne sailed again to the Gulf of Tonkin. He spent 31 days at an airbase in Da Nang as a storekeeper in support of battle-damaged aircraft of his CAG Group 14. In July, the Constellation returned to San Diego. On October 29, 1965 he married Bernice Ruth Billiott. (They would have seven children and 14 grandchildren.) Soon after his marriage he left again for Vietnam, this time spending three months on temporary duty in Da Nang. Upon returning to the States he was discharged on April 16, 1965. Four days later his wife gave birth to their first child in New Orleans. Wayne worked briefly for Arlington Aircraft Company in Arlington, Texas, then returned to New Orleans. He worked briefly in Shreveport, then joined the Baton Rouge Fire Department. Returning to the painting trade, he worked at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska and spent several years in Las Vegas. He and his son, Chad, own Father & Son Painting in Shreveport.