Oral interview recorded by Lou Ives 4-07-88
Class 5-48. Let’s see if anybody’s in the room here … No, they’re not.
O.K., Went down to Pensacola, February, if I remember it correctly, of ’48. Missed my physical in the first weekend, and wound up having to retake the eye exam the following Monday. I think everybody else made midshipman on Friday, and on Monday I was to do it. The doctor said he would give me a chance to “go stare over the seawall, don’t go to the movies” and all that sort of thing, so that I would be able to pass … pass the eye exam. I was a little … little near-sighted from college and building models and all that sort of thing. As I left, there was some unnamed hero—second class corpsman—that said, “Hey fellow, it looks like you really want to do that job. And, what the doctor says is right. Do you want to spend a week staring out over the seawall? But, between times of staring out over the seawall, you ought to take this here piece of paper and read it.”
And it went something like this:
A E L T Y P H E A L T
O H C D L F N T C O C
P A C E D F L H …
well, after over 40 years I don’t remember it all that well. [Note: The transcriber typed the first two lines of letters from memory, and will vouch for their accuracy.]
But that got me through, and I went on, and went through all the various … various problems of Pensacola. CarQualed in a reasonable time. Went on out to … I guess that was ATU-4, which was Corsair attack training, and did that thing, and was designated. I guess that would have been the beginning of November, ’49. And reported to VF-14, Cecil Field, flying F4U-5s. Later on in that month, we went on and did “Portex” 1. I guess at that time VF-11 and -12 were both flying F8s [F8F Bearcat], -13 and -14 were flying F4U-5s, and [VA]-15 was flying ADs.
They sent me on down to All Weather … down at Key West, flying F6F-5Ns. And on one flight down there on Waldo Rick (I was flying wing on Walt), we came on in, broke, and the engine quit. I wound up in the water. Walt and I still talk about that on occasion.
When [I] came back from that, Korea had hit; and we went west on to VF-173, and I guess that was Eddie Barraneau and Jimmy Tyson, Forrest Forsythe—I guess that was it. Charlie Bayles was over in 174, Ike Jones and Bob Norman were already in 173, and we deployed in August and headed on over to the Med. Just prior to deploying, I was flying wing on Forsythe, taking an airplane … taking new F4U-5s down from Quonset and [garbled] to Chinco [NAS Chincoteague, Virginia], and we’re dodging thunderstorms about 1500 feet, and mine quit again, and I wound up in a soybean field. Forrest continued on—and they had to call him back—and we spent a couple of happy evenings at NAS Chincoteague. I remember they had a Marine 1st lieutenant was a salvage officer, and we worked with him a little bit. And a fellow named Dianasoppolis, I think, who had a gorgeous wife, and I think that’s the major thing I remember of that particular incident.
So, anyhow, back we went, and we deployed, and of course, having placed two in the drink within six months, I was fair game; and thanks [to] a couple of fine officers—Ike Peters was the skipper at that time—and they watched me like a hawk. Didn’t let me make a single bad move, I hope. So things worked out fairly well from there on in. Stayed with 173 until January of ’53. I had asked for duty up in the Long Island area, [so] when I stopped off in Washington to talk with Commander Wynell, who was the detailer at the time, I mentioned this [to him].
Lo and behold, I was ordered to BAR [Bureau of Aeronautics Representative] Beth Page [Long Island: Grumman], because one of the reasons was 173 had made the transition from F4U-5s to F9F-4s to F9F-6s, and I wound up at the Bureau of Aeronautics Representative’s office at Beth Page. There was a group of us up there—Johnny Norris was one of them—John came in from VC-4—and there were four F9 pilots, and we started flying everything they had up there, which worked out very nicely. Worked with the BAR office for two years, and I left there in February ’55. Was ordered to CIC school and [then] put the Forrestal [CV-59] in commission and my roommate down there was Bill Warwick . In the meantime, I was keeping in touch with the Grummies, and right after [the Forrestal] commissioning, which was in October of ’55, I got a call at dockside, “Did I want a job flying?” A … for … at that time, it would have been the F9F-6P program. So I said, “Yes,” and went on up there in November of ’55, flying in engineering. To make a short story long, stayed with Grumman as an engineering, then as an experimental, pilot from ’55 to the present date .
I was originally F9s, I did a lot of spin work on the F11—following the famous Corwin Henry [Corky] Meyer. Went on—as I had been an S-2 [S2F Tracker] qualified guy when I was in BAR, along came the Willy Fudd [Grumman WF-2 Tracer], and as I had been a CIC officer off the Forrestal, I wound up sliding over into that Did some Mohawk [Grumman OV-1] work, a little Gulfstream I work, a lot of the Willy Fudd stuff, and when the W2F-1 came along, wound up on it, and then they gave me some Mohawk time, to build up turbo time, and I chased the first flight on the W2F, and I guess I was the third pilot into it, and I have been in and out of it, … well, … for most of my career.
Spent some time down in Stewart, Florida, with the Mohawk Program. I took the Mohawk Program down there in ’69. Was flight test manager down there, and then spent some time with the KA-6D [tanker version of the A-6 Intruder] as the deputy program manager down at Stewart, and then came back to Patuxent in ’73. I had gone through Class 17 at TPS [Test Pilot School] as a civilian—Grumman sent me down there. That was in ’56. Came back up to PAX as the [garbled] trials manager on the F-14, and was there for three years. Basically [a] non-flying job, but used all of my GI bill and picked up all the tickets [FAA categories] that I hadn’t owned before, so when the F-14 program … [garbled] quit at PAX, and it was decided not to go with the F-14B at that time, looked around, and they said, “Hey [do] you want to go back to flying? We got an E2C [Hawkeye] project pilot’s job if you want it.” And I took it and went back up to Long Island in ’75. Have continued on in … basically I’ve been flying E-2 and the C-2 [Greyhound]. I done the first flight on the C-2 back in ’64, and continued on to do the reprocured airplane in ’86.
And that about has the career.
We’ve done a lot of training of (garbled) people: Israelis, Japanese, Singaporians, presently winding up the Egyptians. Continued on in the cockpit, with a crew of about as many as 10 or 11 pilots when we peaked out about a year and a half ago.
Got my 60th birthday down at St, Augustine. Flew off the first rewinged airplane we did out of there. Then I’ll continue to fly … will be able to continue to fly until December 31st of this year , at which point probably will retire.
Still see John Norris around on occasion. He’s Grumman’s West Coast representative. He’s got the Grumman Corporation office in Los Angeles. Keep in touch with as many guys as we can … Jimmy Tyson is [with] Square D [company] in Asheville [NC]. I keep him on the phone right regularly. I’ve kept track of a lot of the guys that are still around.
And that’s about it.
1 A joint Army-Navy-Air Force exercise in the Caribbean.