“Semper Fi … A Great Choice”
When the opportunity came to choose the Marine Corps, I took it, and then I was asked to choose between the East Coast Wing and fly jets, or the West Coast Wing and fly the Corsair and go to Korea. The Korean War was on, and so I was commissioned as 2Lt USMCR, awarded my Wings of Gold and opted to go to war. (It was necessary to resign as Midshipman, and sign a new contract as an Aviation Cadet in order to request a commission in the USMC. This caused a week or more delay for the paperwork.)
At MCAS El Toro, I checked out in the Corsair, and went to Korea in a replacement draft in March 1951. I reported to VMF-312, Checkerboard Squadron, aboard the USS Bataan in the YeI1ow Sea and flew my first 25 missions. We were transferred to K-1 at Pusan and flew off an asphalt runway, then to K-46 on a dirt runway just short of the front lines, and I finished my tour at K-18 on the east coast with a pierced steel planking runway. Flew 105 missions total in the F4U-4 and F4U-4B Corsair.
Transferred to Aircraft Engineering Squadron 12 at MCAS Quantico flying the F8F-2. This was the close air support demonstration squadron for schools at Quantico, and for the quarterly Joint Civilian Orientation Courses. Then I was selected for 1st.Lt, selected to be a regular officer and selected for Test Pilot School at NATC Patuxent River. I completed Class 10 in July 1953. I checked out in jets at TPS and was thrilled that the school had an F-86A so that each of us could dive supersonic. I was greatly disappointed to not stay at NATC, but joined an F9F-4 squadron in Miami which soon moved to MCAS Cherry Point. Selected for Captain. Was sent to NAS Atsugi to join VMF-235 flying the FJ-2 and then the FJ-4. As we gave up the FJ-2s, they were overhauled by a Japanese company named Nippi Aircraft. They built a hangar at Atsugi for the purpose, and I served as the production test pilot for them.
In 1956 I was ordered to the Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake, Ca. to serve as the USMC test pilot on the Sidewinder guided missile. Had a fantastic tour flying most of the operational jets in the USN and USMC including the #10 F8U-l, plus a borrowed F-104A from the USAF. The F-l04 was the only Mach 2 capable airplane in the US inventory. It was rigged for the full pressure suit so I could routinely fly and fire missiles at 60,000 feet and above. Only had one flameout at that altitude and the full pressure suit worked fine. It was my privilege to fire 100 production and experimental missiles during my three and one-half year tour.
Ordered to the Navy Postgraduate School in 1960, graduating in 1963 with a BS and MS in Aeronautical Engineering. Selected for Major. Spent one year on staff duty in Iwakuni [Japan], then one year in an F-4B squadron at El Toro. Ordered to HQMC to a small staff working on JCS papers for the CMC. Selected for LtCol before going to the National War College, graduating in 1969. Ordered to MCAS Chu Lai, RVN for duty as Operations Officer of MAG-13, then CO of VMFA-122, and then moving to Operations Officer of the Marine Air Wing at Danang. Flew 330 missions in the F-4B, mostly while CO.
Returned to HQMC as Officer in Charge of Enlisted Assignments in the Personnel Department. Selected for Colonel. After two years, selected to be Military Secretary for the CMC. Then returned to El Toro to take command of Marine Aircraft Group-II, comprised of three F-4B and F-4J squadrons, one RF-4B and EA-6A squadron, an Air Base Squadron, and a Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron. Retired as Colonel on 1 July 1975 with 4500 hours in 48 different airplane types.
“I HAD NEVER BEEN UP IN AN AIRPLANE”
As an early addict for flying different aircraft it was a ball when joining VRF-32 as Operations Officer. Each aviator had to work toward qualification in at least six aircraft ASAP. Most then averaged about eight. In my case it grew to eleven including: T-28, SNB, AD, S2F, T1, TV, T33, T2, F9F, A4, and F8 Crusader. This also included a variety of models within each category. This made it quite easy for operations in both our squadron and in VRF-31 to schedule me for a variety of deliveries with associated pickups. There are many stories to relate, but only two will follow.
First I went to NAS Lemoore to checkout in the AD. Two chased flights and two solos followed some basic ground school. As you will see not everything was covered. Scheduling from my squadron asked me to deliver an AD to Norfolk. It was rather late in the day so I flew to Luke AFB before nightfall. I was in operations when a lineman came in to see how to close the canopy. Note that after all four previous flights this was never required. I stated I would be right out. As my emergency handbook was no help a call was made to Lemoore. I said I was Sergeant Smith and need the canopy closing method. Armed with the proper info I strutted to the aircraft to show the sergeant how to complete this simple event. Needless to say this story stayed buried from Squadron mates.
A second memorable day started with breakfast at home. I then flew an F8 from San Diego to Norfolk via refueling at NAS Dallas. The return trip that afternoon was in an A4 following the same route. Weather was fairly decent only requiring a jet penetration at Norfolk. Dallas refueling was a snap as they had a special line for speeding up this process. Finally I arrived home in time for dinner quite pleased with accomplishing something few others get the chance to do.