My last scrape in the F4U occurred on the "Ides of March" (the 15th), 1950, during carrier qualifications on the USS Cabot (CVL-28). The last thing each single engine pilot had to do in order to graduate from Naval flight training and receive his wings as a "designated Naval Aviator" was to make seven successful carrier landings. A flight of students would fly out to the carrier, land and take off seven times in "round robin," and then fly back to Corry Field.
The LSO always kept a notebook on every pilot's landings. Normally, he debriefed pilots afterwards to give them a chance to learn from their mistakes. But in the case of carrier qualifications since you flew back to the shore and then graduated the next day, there \vas no opportunity for that. So I did not know what the LSO had written about my performance. I did know, however, that I had gotten one wave-off. Some time later a friend gave me a photo which had been taken of that wave-off. On the back of that photo was written: "Dick Cantrell March I 5, I950 Advance Carrier Qualification in Gulf of Mexico aboard USS Cabot. Close Wave-off. Note absence of back ground screen and Landing Signal Officer who was probably in mid-air at this moment in attempt to save his life. DNKUA. [In LSO language 'Damned near killed us all!']"
The next day I got my wings and went to Norfolk to await assignment to a squadron. I was assigned to VA-I5, NAS Jacksonville, Florida, where I flew AD-4s. Three months later, in June, I received my commission as an Ensign, USN. The Korean War started that same month. A number of us junior pilots from VA-I5 were transferred to VA-35 on the USS Leyte (CV-32), which had been rushed back from a cruise in the Mediterranean to go through the Panama Canal to Korea.
* The Aviation Midshipmen LOG, winter 2011.