“We Fulfilled Our Dreams ! …” *
World War II had just ended in 1945 as I entered my senior year at East Technical High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Up until then, Frank Adorney, my best friend in school, and I fantasized about being naval aviators, recognizing that a military future was waiting for us after graduation. This dream began to fade as the war ended and servicemen returned home. The draft of eighteen-year-olds continued however, and a military future was still on the horizon. But in the early part of 1946, Frank came to my home with a newspaper clipping with details of the Holloway Program. With this renewed excitement, we discussed this opportunity with our parents, and after approval, we were, off to Detroit, Michigan, to take the necessary tests.
On May 4, 1946, after two days of mental and physical exams, I was informed that I was qualified and was accepted into the Holloway Program. Unfortunately, Frank fell just shy of qualifying and with his disappointment, we traveled back to Cleveland. I was then accepted at Ohio University for the fall semester and began the first phase of the Holloway Program in an engineering curriculum. After two years of study, it was off to Pensacola.
Frank joined the regular navy. While playing football at NAS Jacksonville, he was scouted out and sent to the Naval Training Center at Bainbridge, Maryland, a preparatory school for the Naval Academy. He received a fleet appointment to the Academy and after his graduation and commission, he reported to Pensacola and earned his navy wings. NOW WE HAD BOTH FULFILLED OUR DREAMS.
* Flying Midshipmen LOG, winter 2010; © 2010.
“SAVED IN THE NICK OF TIME” *
As a member of the VC-12 Squadron flying AD-4W's, I was assigned with a detachment aboard the USS Saipan (CVL-48) on a Med cruise in the late spring of 1951. It was on a dreary day with low hanging clouds and some turbulence when I was launched on a routine flight. My radar operator was concerned about getting air sick as he did on one previous flight. Being enclosed in the belly of the plane with just a little turbulence can make one queasy. It was about an hour into our flight when things started to happen. An F2H Banshee jet came from behind and flew in close to my wing. I was surprised by the sudden appearance of the plane since I was the only plane launched by the Saipan. I could tell by the markings on the tail that he was not from the Saipan. He had to be from the USS Coral Sea (CVB-43) which also was in the Med.
The pilot gave me a wave and then proceeded to point to his mouth and headset with a thumbs-down signal. I showed him back with ten fingers indicating to switch to the emergency channel. We both switched and I could see his lips moving but there was no communication. He then showed me his plotting board with a thumbs-down, telling me that he was lost. The sea can be an extremely lonely place when you are in this predicament. Following those signals, he gave me the gas signal, with the thumb pointing to the mouth and the little finger pointing upward. He then showed me ten fingers while pointing to his watch. With ten minutes of fuel remaining, no radio and not knowing where you are can be very rattling and unsettling.
I asked the radar crewman for directions to the Coral Sea. He gave me a vector, after which I motioned the Banshee to follow me. I throttled the guppy as fast as she could go. Then I called the Coral Sea and explained the desperate situation and asked them to prepare for an emergency landing. As luck would have it, the Coral Sea was not too far from where this was happening. After flying about five minutes I began to see the carrier on the horizon. As we approached the Coral Sea on the starboard side of the ship, I kissed off to the pilot and he showed me a big kiss under his black mustache and then entered his landing pattern. The carrier was already heading into the wind and they were ready to take on the aircraft. The Banshee came around and got a cut from the LSO, and the pilot made a safe and successful landing with only a little fuel remaining … I circled the carrier and then continued back to my original operation.
This was the most rewarding experience that I had as a naval aviator. After sixty years, I can relive this episode as if it happened yesterday ... knowing that I was able to help a fellow pilot using only hand signals to accomplish a memorable adventure ... saving a pilot and plane from going into the drink. The one thing that I regret, however, is that I never found out who the pilot was. He was very lucky indeed to have found me and to have communicated so well. I would have liked to have met him for a drink and to clink our glasses to a very happy landing.
It has been sixty years, but if anyone who has read this little article and has any knowledge of who the pilot was, I would certainly be most grateful to find out. e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Flying Midshipmen LOG, winter 2011; © 2011.