Captain Alfred (Fred) Gerald Platt,
Captain Alfred (Fred) Gerald Platt, USAF Retired, passed away at his home in Houston on April 17, 2016, at age 75. Fred was born in Houston to Sol and Mollie Platt on 04 February 1941; throughout his life, many coincidences occurred on his birth date. Fred attended San Jacinto High, then joined his brother at The University of Texas as a member of Tau Delta Phi fraternity, where his claim to fame (among other things) was having a slot machine in his room, a harbinger of things to come. After attaining his BBA from UT in 1963, Fred wanted to slip the bonds of earth and dance among the clouds. He was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force on 04 February 1964, and was assigned to Air Traffic Control duties. Not happy with watching others fly, he volunteered for duty in Southeast Asia, but his commander refused to forward his request. So, he wrote a report about talented young officers being thwarted by their bosses which impressed several higher-ups. Also, while on duty as air traffic control, Fred corrected the flight pattern of 2 generals to keep them from crashing into a mountain. They thanked him for saving their lives, and the end result was that Fred got to enter pilot school at Laredo AFB.
After graduating 04 February 1967 and the awarding of his wings, Fred was assigned as a B-52 co-pilot. He was good enough to be assigned to the new model of the B-52, but that was not the model being used in Southeast Asia, so it was not the dream job he aspired to. Again, Fred volunteered for duty in Southeast Asia, and got his wish in 1968. In Nam, he received a Special Air Warfare Course and began to fly the O-1s (Bird Dog propeller aircraft). He would explain that the O-1 is the air boss who controls all air sorties, flying around at low altitude and at speeds of only 60 mph finding targets.
In December 1968, Fred was accepted for volunteer special assignment with the Thai Border Police, but when that program was cancelled, he volunteered for and was accepted into the clandestine operation in Laos and Cambodia known as the Ravens (Steve Canyon) Program, Project 404. His buddies originally dubbed him "Cowboy", but because he took so many hits in the aircraft he flew, he became known as "Magnet Ass" as his colleagues swore he had a magnet in the seat of his pants. There were only a dozen or so Ravens in the country at any one time; only a handful (approximately 200 in 7 years) flew as pilots. They flew only a few hundred feet off of the ground so they could spot enemy troop movements and radio back targets/positions to the bombers, but because of that, they were vulnerable to ground fire. Thus, Fred's planes were hit by gunfire multiple times, and he became a bit of a legend, having been shot down 11 times. The first time he was shot down was 04 February 1969. In his own words: "The Ravens were a group of guys who were organized to fight with the Meo (Hmong) tribe in Northern Laos during the Southeast Asian war. We flew anything we could beg, borrow, or steal from anyone and fought with the forces of the Hmong leader, General VangPao, to keep the Kingdom of Laos a free nation. Most people thought the Ravens were crazy or weird people because they lost a third of their men to enemy action every three months. But the job had to be done and so we volunteered. We fought for freedom, we fought for the Meo's and what they believed in, which is what every American believes in - freedom to exist on the land as individuals. The Ravens wore plain clothes, we were pilots divorced from the military who worked with the American Embassy in Vientiane Laos and the C. I. A. We were Forward Air Controllers, but we actually did what was necessary Any Time Any Place to preserve the freedom of Laos. We were Air Force pilots who were 'sheep dipped' so we could stay in the Air Force and not be identified as such. Ravens worked closely with the Air America people, but were considered a separate Black Operation and not under direct Air Force control." Ravens were assigned to the various military regions of Laos. Fred worked first at Lima Site 20 Alternate, a small patch of runway and a few buildings hidden among the Karst mountains in northern Laos, adjacent to the Plain de Jars (PDJ). He was Raven 47 but worked all over Laos with call sign Raven 70 in LuangPrabang and Raven 30 doing Operation "Junction City Jr." an effort to take Tchepone from the West and cut the Trail, but spent most of his time in MR-ll as Raven 47. Fred's last shoot down (January 11, 1970) resulted in a neck injury which ended his flying career. He was placed on the Permanently Disabled Retired List on 04 February 1972. His official statistics: USAF Log 1,716 Combat Flying hours on 745 Combat Missions in single engine prop aircraft with 4 official "Out-Country" missions during Operation North Wind.
Fred spent years in hospitals, battling his body and the Air Force bureaucracy. Fred was repeatedly told he would never walk again. He was a huge supporter of the Houston Oilers, and then the Houston Texans. Fred did learn to walk again, which he credited largely to Houston Oiler's owner Bud Adams who allowed Fred to be rehabilitated by trainers at the Houston Oilers practice facilities. Fred's involvement with the Ravens was chronicled in a book, The Ravens, by author Christopher Robbins, and also in a documentary by The New York Times featured on the Discovery Channel. Fred received over 48 medals for his service, including the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, 26 Air Medals, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Gold Palm, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star for service in South Viet Nam, 3 Purple Hearts, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit award with Combat V and 1 Oak Leaf Cluster. He is pictured above at age 29 with Major General Paul Stoney pinning the Silver Star on him. Fred is featured in a reference book by Eric R. Caubarreaux, America's Most Decorated (Volume 2), which includes Roy Perez Benavidez, General Omar N. Bradley, George H.W. Bush, JFK, and General Colin Powell. Fred was inducted into the Air Commando Association Hall of Fame in 1997, was a member of the Special Operations Association, the Special Forces Association, and the Air Force Escape & Evasion Society. He was saluted in an article written in the Jewish Herald Voice of Houston for Veteran's Day 2011, and mentioned in the book, The Shooters, by author Web Griffin.
After his retirement from the USAF and his nightmare journey of recovery, Fred joined the Houston Live Stock and Rodeo in 1978 as a Life Member. He served on the Calf Scramble Committee in various leadership positions, including Vice Chairman from 1988 to 1991 and was a long time member of the Delta Alpha Fraternity, an honorary organization of the Calf Scramble Committee. Fred may have been best known for founding the 189 Club in honor of Jim Irby, a Houston police officer (badge # 189) who was active with the Rodeo at the time he was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop. As secretary/Treasurer, Fred championed various Junior Market Auctions, Wine Auctions, and School Art Auctions.
Fred found a new challenge known as the American Legion, specifically China Post No. 1, Shanghai, China, Operating in Exile since 1949 (CH 01). China Post No. 1 consists mostly of members and ex-members of the military who served during the nation's times of war, and most were people who had done jobs that couldn't be talked about except in very strict company. To join CH 01, you pretty well have to know someone who is already in. It is the only post with a secret membership roll and which requires a security check before joining. Some members have previous and sometimes current governmental jobs not always found in the Washington D.C. telephone directory. General Claire Chennault was an early Commander in 1930 while the Post was operating in Shanghai but left China in 1949 when the Communists advanced. After Chennault, the next Commander was C.A.S. Helseth, a marine who had actually served in China, then James C. Bond, ex-Air America, and then Fred who served the last 25 years of his life as Commander of CH 01, leading the Post through 4 more wars and unparalleled growth in membership. He took the title of Commander Emeritus just weeks before he passed.
Fred was a staunch Republican and could hold his own in political arguments. He was proud to be a Mason and a member of the Holland Lodge No. 1, A.F. & A.M. in Houston, Texas. He had a passion for fine cigars, scotch, port, The Capital Grille, and the Colorado Men's Club. He had a gregarious personality, salty language, and legendary stubbornness. He is survived by his older brother, Melvin Platt, M.D. (Jody) of Dallas, and his younger sister, Suzie Kornblit-Rosenberg (Myron) of Sugar Land, as well as nephews Mark Platt (Alice) of Dallas, Todd Kornblit (Jennifer) of Nashville, Tennessee, and nieces Mimi Zimmerman (Rabbi Brian) of Dallas and Kym McMorries (Lee) of Missouri City. His great-nephews are Max Platt and Saul Zimmerman of Dallas, and Maddox McMorries of Enid, Oklahoma, and his great-nieces are Molly Zimmerman and Abby Platt of Dallas, and Morgan and Molly Kornblit of Nashville.
A military funeral is planned for May 18, 2:30 at Houston's National Cemetery located at 10410 Veteran's Memorial Drive, with Rabbi Brian Zimmerman officiating. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Fred's memory should be made to American Legion China Post No. 1, Attention Adjutant, P.O. Box 299, Fate, Texas 75132-0299, or to the charity of your choice
Entrusted to Veterans
Published by Houston Chronicle on May 15, 2016.