The reason I applied for and got into the V-5 program was a buddy of mine (Leroy Zack Taylor (16-48, I think), in high school heard about it and told me. It seemed like I had wanted to be a Navy Pilot ever since I saw a movie with John Wayne making dive-bombing runs at the Japanese ships during WW 2. Man, did that ever look exciting!
After Leroy talked me into going to college with him at the Municipal University in Wichita, Kansas, he moved to California and went to college out there. There were three other V-5 ers in school in Wichita, one of them didn't pass the physical when we got to Pensacola, one of them was killed in advanced training in an F8F accident, two of us got our wings. The other FMA was Charles I. Hickman 13-48. I have no idea what Hickman's Navy duty was but I have heard that he has passed on.
You may remember the Middie that broke his left arm in Pre-Flight and had it in a cast for 12 weeks during the summer of '48. That was me.
The one outstanding event in Pre-Flight that I remember was during routine squad personal inspection one morning. The Marine Sergeant stopped in front of me: "Mister, did you shave this morning (pause) or last night?? I lied through my teeth and replied "This morning Sergeant." That was the morning we got the lecture "You guys know your engines, aerodynamics, aerology and stuff, but I know shaves and haircuts. I can look at you and tell when you last shaved or got a haircut!" That was the last time, ever, I shaved at night without shaving the next morning.
The hairy ride I remember from basic at Pensacola was after an instrument check ride in the SNJ. The instructor popped the hood and we headed back to the field. He said "I got it." and did a few rolls and such. Then he said "Let's do a snap roll." And proceeded to do one. (Of course they were forbidden for students when solo.) On one of them, he pulled it up a little too steeply and I remember seeing the airspeed indicator going backwards past zero.
Then on the way down we made more than two, maybe three or four, turns before pull out. I could see the Gulf coming up fast and I was SCARED. I put my hands on the canopy emergency release, prepared to jump and said under my breath "You got one more turn." I'd have jumped too but he stopped turning and started to pull out. Just in time.
Do you remember the "gasoline leave" we had in summer of '49?
The hairy experience that I remember most during advanced at Corpus was the time I forgot to put down the divebrakes (the landing gear down, but not locked) in the F4U for a dive bombing run. I made the pull-out at about 450 or 500 feet. During recovery I remember seeing almost 600 [?] knots before I started to grayout. That to me was hairy.
The most fun I had at Corpus was after an instrument flight in the F4U, the instructor chase pilot challenged me on the radio. "See if you can lose me!" After a couple rolls and a loop, he was still behind me. OKAY! I made a Split S, to a loop, to an Immelman, leveled off and he was no where to be seen! The radio said "See you back at the field."
During advanced CarQuaIs in Pensacola, there was an Air Force officer in our ground school classes. On one of the several cross-country flights he took in an SNJ, he didn't follow his flight plan. That event started an investigation and it turned out he wasn't even in the Air Force. He was prosecuted but I heard he didn't serve any time.
'Twas in June '50 that I got my wings. During the 30-day leave before proceeding to San Diego, the Korean conflict began. I was assigned to an ASW squadron, VS-23. Soon as I checked in, somebody threw me a TBM handbook and said you're flying tomorrow. They warned me "It's so heavy on the controls, you'll think somebody forgot to remove the battens.” Truly, it wasn't long 'til you learned to fly with the trim tabs.
Two years in the fleet included six months in Japan. Our squadron made the trip to Japan on a personnel ship taking Marines to Korea. Some of them lined the life rails for a couple days out. It was the first time most of us had crossed the International Date Line. 'Twas an exciting day! I still have my card signed by King Neptune.
'Course the Bad Guys didn't use any submarines, but VS-23 spent a couple weekends chasing whales.
A couple unforgettable things happened to our Carrier [Bairoko, (CVE 114)]. It ran into another ship while docking at Yokosuka [we pronounced it ‘Yokuska’]. The Captain caught hell for that! Later there was an explosion below decks one day that killed 6 of the ships crew. More hell!
It was interesting to be launched from a carrier anchored in the bay at Yokuska. One of our pilots forgot to fasten his plotting board into the instrument panel, it hit him in the chest as soon as the catapult started. Twasn't me.
During the carrier down times, our squadron was based at Atsugi, an old Japanese Airfield west of Yokohama. One snowy day some of the other Ensigns and I explored a few of the underground dugout facilities that were used by the Japanese during WW2.
After leaving active duty in June of ‘52, I went to work in an oil refinery; it wasn't long before that got pretty tiresome. It was on to college at the University of Kansas where I graduated with a BS in Engineering in '56 and a MS in Geotechnical Engineering in "86.
One bright sunshiny spring day between classes, couple of F4Us flew over. The next weekend I was over to Olathe NAAS signing up for the Reserve. Spent three years flying TBMs in VS 883. The last three flights in the Navy were in an F4U, a TBM, and an SNB.
Got married in '55 in Little Rock to Barbara Ann Kahler. Best thing that ever happened to me. A boy, Scott, was born in August ‘57 and a girl, Monette, on April Fools day '59. Scott and his wife Lori live in the Kansas City area and have a daughter 15 years old. Monette and her husband Bob live in San Jose, CA and have a girl 2 years old.
Leonard Treichler (15-48) who passed away last February 27, and I had kept in contact since we were in Pre Flight together. He called me 4 years ago and told me that he just discovered there is a Flying Midshipman Association and they are having a reunion in Virginia Beach. He gave me a 'phone number to call and the rest just followed.
Barb and I went to the 50th Anniversary of Naval Aviation in Pensacola. That was in June of 1961, I have forgotten why we didn't go to the 75th one. I wish we had because in all probability we would have discovered the FMA then instead of 12 years later. I've really enjoyed the reunions and getting reacquainted with Middies 50 years later. By the way, we're looking forward to the 100th Anniversary and hope you are also.
* Wilson, Robert; West Coast Reunion 2002, © 2002.