PortraitJules Folgate lives his life with no nonsense. Through his life experiences in the military, he learned that he should never sweat the small stuff because in the end, nothing is as bad as it seems.

Today, as a resident of McMinnville, Ore., Folgate believes in supporting and helping his community in any way he can. Folgate volunteers at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum every Wednesday, as he has for the last seven years.

“The aviation museum is a big part of the community,” he said. “And I have made a lot of lifelong friends through volunteering here.”

Folgate takes great pride in his service to the community of McMinnville, just like he takes great pride in everything that he does. Without this sense of pride, he would not be the kind, caring community volunteer and person that he is today.

Folgate was born in Portland, Ore., in 1941. He was raised in Forest Grove, Ore., where he remained until he was 22 years old. Folgate loved his childhood in Forest Grove.

“Growing up in Forest Grove was great because my friends and I were free to roam and adventure wherever we pleased,” he said.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in natural science at Pacific University, Folgate knew he wanted to join the U.S. Navy. In 1963, he enlisted.

Some people enlisted because they had no other options. Some did it because of family traditions. Others were simply drafted. However, Folgate’s reason for joining was none of these. He joined for one simple reason: He had always wanted to fly.

Ever since he was a young man, Folgate knew that he wanted to be a pilot. He also knew that joining the Navy would provide him with a stable job, where he would have the opportunity to do exactly what he had always dreamed of doing. Folgate was on active duty for the Navy for nine and a half years.

Joining the Navy in 1963 was not a popular decision. But Folgate didn’t mind that the war was unpopular among his peers; he was not going to change his mind.

Folgate did most of his training on naval bases in Florida. After becoming a naval officer, he began training on the T-34 aircraft. This training program was rigorous and had a high attrition rate, but Folgate made it.

He then trained on the T-28 aircraft, and again persevered although over 60 percent of his class failed. Ultimately, Folgate ended his training on the Grumman E-1 Tracer, an early warning aircraft that was used in Vietnam.

Folgate finally earned his wings in 1966. He was sent to San Diego, and then deployed to Vietnam in 1967.

Folgate is quite modest when talking about his days of training and service.

“I was just an average student. The courses were very difficult and I just did okay in them,” he said. But if over half of his class failed, Folgate was clearly well above average.

Folgate was one of the five men needed to operate the E-1 Tracer. He was technically a co-pilot and was in charge of the starboard engine. His missions mostly consisted of transmitting radio signals from his base carrier, the USS Hancock, to other U.S. Navy carrier ships.

His crew was usually used at night and never flew over land, because the E-1 was a slow aircraft and could easily be shot down. Every time Folgate and his crew went out on a mission, they were in danger of being attacked. However, Folgate went through his entire nine and a half years without being seriously threatened.

Folgate’s experiences of flying for the Navy exemplified a famous war saying.

“They say flying is 99 percent boredom and 1 percent terror,” he said. “Well, I got my 1 percent terror.”

While he was stationed in San Diego between deployments, Folgate helped younger pilots earn their night carrier landing qualifications. One evening, he was training a newer pilot on night carrier landings. The key when landing on a carrier is to hook onto the wire; without doing so, it is impossible to land a plane on a carrier. This particular pilot was coming into the landing too high.

Folgate and the rest of the crew warned the pilot, but he didn’t listen. After he didn’t adjust, the carrier ship also warned him to abort the landing because he was too high. This pilot decided to go for it anyway. The plane slammed into the carrier deck, missed the wire and bounced in the air.

Folgate’s job was to back up the starboard throttle quadrant. However, when the plane slammed into the carrier, his hand bumped the idle cutoff, resulting in the loss of the starboard engine. The plane then went off the side of the carrier with only one intact engine. Folgate and the rest of the crew flew only 15 feet above the water for 20 miles because they couldn’t get any altitude with only one engine.

After some miracle work from Folgate, he got the engine back up and running, and the plane climbed back to altitude. But when the crew was asked to return to the carrier to try the landing again, Folgate demanded that they return home immediately. He felt he and his crew had earned their pay for that particular night.

The entire situation could have ended in a disaster, but all of Folgate’s training had paid off, and it ultimately saved his life as well as his crew. By the end of his service, Folgate would earn seven air medals.

The most difficult part of Folgate’s service may have been during his return home. When Folgate went off active duty, he remained in the Navy as a part of the Navy Reserve for 17 years. During this time, he also began working for U.S. Bank. But the media and the public in the United States did not support the Vietnam War. Folgate felt that instead of being appreciated for his hard work and bravery, he came home to a place where he was hated and looked at like a criminal. It took him a long time to get over this feeling, but with time and with the love of his wife, Judy, he found it in him to just let it go.

Now, Folgate feels as if the public and the media have realized that they treated him and every other Vietnam veteran poorly. Since this realization, Folgate has seen people trying to make up for treating veterans wrongly.

“For me it is too little, too late,” he said. “But I am a pretty forgiving guy and am willing to just let bygones be bygones.”

Folgate has lived in McMinnville since 1989 with his wife. They have four sons, and all of his boys are married and have stable jobs. They also have nine grandchildren. Folgate plans to stay in McMinnville, where he has found his niche enjoying golf and volunteering at Evergreen with friends.

Folgate’s time in the Navy taught him many things, but most importantly, it showed him how to go with the flow of life. After seeing tragedy like Folgate has seen, daily chores and troubles seem meaningless. Today, Folgate says, his life is good. 

Writing:  Scott Goodman
Photograph:  Amanda Gibbon