FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 19th through 23rd, 2017

Friends of FOD

I got a little behind in getting out the last edition, so now it’s all combined into one edition.  Enjoy, comment, write your Congressmen!


Trump Budget Rant

Yesterday, May 22, the White House officially unveiled its 2018 budget.  The Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that the president is making good on his vow to save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, among other things, and said that they are not kicking anyone off who needs the programs.  Yet deep cuts to programs would indicate otherwise.  Trump’s budget would cut Medicaid by a lot, despite the president telling the Daily Signal days before launching his White House bid, “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.”  The administration proposes reducing spending on Medicaid programs by more than $600 billion over the next decade, a massive cut that appears to go on top of $839 billion in Medicaid cuts included in the House health care bill Trump is supporting.  Trump’s budget proposes slashing the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a $31.4 billion change to the program that pays monthly benefits to over 10 million disabled individuals under the retirement age. Barring the kind of hyperbolic growth Trump has promised and economists have disputed, Trump’s budget would do little to combat the national debt. Rather, it would potentially increase it.  For us veterans, the proposed budget decreases cost-of-living adjustments for veterans benefits payouts and eliminating those adjustments for some federal civilian retirees altogether.  The White House plan would extend the practice of rounding down veterans payouts to the nearest whole dollar, trimming a few cents off our checks. Trump’s plan calls for eliminating annual cost-of-living increases Federal Employee Retirement System enrollees completely, and lowering the adjustments for Civil Service Retirement System enrollees by 0.5 percent.  And while those Navy “Crabs” (Side Moving Beach Creatures) or Civil Servants are not always held in the best of regards, this would be represent substantial reductions in payouts for the estimated 70,000 federal retirees each year, along with the hundreds of thousands more already collecting their pensions. CSRS beneficiaries are not eligible for Social Security payments. FERS employees are, but those government pensions still make up a significant portion of their retirement income.  Trump’s budget was declared dead on arrival.  But then again I can think of a Presidential budget that wasn’t considered dead on arrival.

Lawyering Up Begins

NBC, Fox Business and ABC News have reported that President Trump is expected to retain Marc Kasowitz in relation to the Russia investigation. And the Washington Post reported on Monday that Trump was close to choosing outside counsel in the probe.


Wild Disparity in Professional and Unprofessional Intercept Distances

In a recent edition of FOD I noted the Navy identified an intercept of a US Navy P-8A Poseidon by Russian fighters over the Black Sea at a range of ‘twenty feet’ as being “professional” and that twenty feet was way too close to be  called “professional.”  Now the USAF has identified the intercept of an American WC-135 (photo below left, but no credit for the Boomer – maybe it was Friend of FOD Rickey) by Chinese fighters over the East China Sea as being “unprofessional.”  According to Air Force Times, two Su-30 fighters flew alarmingly close to a radiation-sniffing American WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft, Pacific Air Forces said in a statement Thursday. PACAF said the WC-135 was “conducting a routine mission in international airspace … in accordance with international law.”  The statement did not further detail the Chinese fighters’ behavior, but an ABC report said one flew inverted over the Air Force plane and conducted a barrel roll, and both fighters came within 150 feet of the WC-135. These guys need some intel briefing as well, as a barrel roll would not be the maneuver of choice when on the wing of an adversary aircraft.  I’ll go with a canopy roll or an aileron roll perhaps.  The article went on to say, “While we are still investigating the incident, initial reports from the U.S. aircrew characterized the intercept as unprofessional,” the statement said. “The issue is being addressed with China through appropriate diplomatic and military channels.”  In a follow-up email Friday, PACAF spokeswoman Lt. Col. Lori Hodge said that the Air Force considered the encounter unprofessional “due to the maneuvers by the Chinese pilot, as well as the speeds and proximity of both aircraft,” but declined to describe them further. Well at least we’re now exercising our freedom of navigation in the air sense.


Another Black Eye for United Airlines

According to Military Times, after serving 21 months in Afghanistan, a National Guard soldier says United Airlines charged him $200 for an overweight bag that was full of his military gear.  “I was told point blank that I’d have to pay $200 for the overage or find another bag to siphon stuff off with,” 1st Lt. John Rader told the station after flying to his home in Kyle, Texas, just south of Austin. “Well, I didn’t have another bag so I was caught in a bind, do I go home with my stuff or without it?” The heavy items in his bag included his Kevlar vest, boots and two helmets. United Airlines has a policy for active military members, but the policy states that the passenger can only have five bags checked for free if all bags are under 70 pounds. After checking other airlines, Fox 7 Austin found that others allow for the bags to be up to 100 pounds. “I’m not looking for sympathy, but some form of empathy in the situation. There was none of that. It was just cold. I had to either pay or leave the bag.” United Airlines has offered to refund the fee, but Rader said he wants to try to change the policy. “I just want to make sure soldiers are cared for going forward.”


Lindbergh Captures Orteig Prize

The relatively unknown American Charles Lindbergh won the prize in 1927 in his aircraft Spirit of St. Louis.  He went from obscurity as a U.S. Air Mail pilot to instantaneous world fame by making his Orteig Prize–winning nonstop flight from Long IslandNew York, to Paris. He covered the  33 12-hour, 3,600 statute miles alone in a single-engine purpose-built Ryan monoplaneSpirit of St. Louis. This was the first solo transatlantic flight, and the first non-stop flight between North America and mainland Europe. Lindbergh was an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve, and he received the United States’ highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for the feat, despite the fact the MOH is generally reserved for heroism in combat.  Lindberg contracted with the small Ryan Aircraft Company of San Diego agreed to design and build a custom monoplane for $10,580, and on February 25, 1927 a deal was formally closed.  Dubbed the Spirit of St. Louis, the fabric-covered, single-seat, single-engine “Ryan NYP” high-wing monoplane (CAB registration: N-X-211) was designed jointly by Lindbergh and the Ryan’s chief engineer Donald A. Hall.  The Spirit flew for the first time just two months later, and after a series of test flights Lindbergh took off from San Diego on May 10 (covered in FOD May 9 through 10, 2017). He went first to St. Louis, then on to Roosevelt Field on New York’s Long Island.  Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field for Paris in the early morning of Friday, May 20, 1927. Loaded with 450 U.S. gallons (1,704 liters) of fuel‍—‌strained repeatedly to avoid fuel line blockage, and weighing about 2,710 lb ‌and hampered by a muddy, rain-soaked runway, Lindbergh’s monoplane, powered by a J-5C Wright Whirlwind radial engine, gained speed very slowly during its 7:52 am takeoff, but cleared telephone lines at the far end of the field “by about twenty feet with a fair reserve of flying speed.”  Over the next  33 12 hours, he and the Spirit faced many challenges, including skimming over both storm clouds at 10,000 ft and wave tops at as low as 10 ft, fighting icing, flying blind through fog for several hours, and navigating only by the stars (whenever visible), and dead reckoning before landing at Le Bourget Airport at 10:22 pm on Saturday, May 21.  The airfield was not marked on his map and Lindbergh knew only that it was some seven miles northeast of the city; he initially mistook it for some large industrial complex because of the bright lights spreading out in all directions‍—‌in fact the headlights of tens of thousands of spectators’ cars caught in “the largest traffic jam in Paris history” in their attempt to be present for Lindbergh’s landing.  A crowd estimated at 150,000 stormed the field, dragged Lindbergh out of the cockpit, and literally carried him around above their heads for “nearly half an hour”. Some damage was done to the Spirit (especially to the fine linen, silver-painted fabric covering on the fuselage) by souvenir hunters before pilot and plane reached the safety of a nearby hangar with the aid of French military fliers, soldiers, and police.  Lindbergh’s flight was certified by the National Aeronautic Association based on the readings from a sealed barograph placed in the SpiritLindbergh was the first media super hero and he was clearly not ready for the experience.  I have read several accounts of his life over the years and I think A. Scott Berg’s, Lindbergh gives the fairest account of his life.  The Spirit of St. Louis is on display at the National Air and Space Museum (above left).  Lindbergh spent his last years on the Hawaiian island of Maui, away from the crowds who wanted a piece of him, where he died of lymphoma, on August 26, 1974, at age 72. He was buried on the grounds of the Palapala Ho’omau Church in KipahuluMaui. His epitaph, on a simple stone following the words “Charles A. Lindbergh Born Michigan 1902 Died Maui 1974”, quotes Psalms 139:9: “… If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea … C.A.L.  I have visited his grave site a couple of times and it is as he would have wanted it.  I recommend you make the effort to visit his grave on your next Maui trip.



Homestead Act Passes

Together with the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Homestead Act of 1862, symbolically opened public land west of the Mississippi River to settled and cultivated.  The Homestead Acts were several United States federal laws that gave an applicant ownership of land, typically called a “homestead“, at no cost. In all, over many years, more than 270 million acres of public land, or nearly 10% of the total area of the U.S., was given away free to 1.6 million homesteaders; most of the homesteads were west of the Mississippi River.  The “yeoman farmer” ideal of Jeffersonian democracy was still a powerful influence in American politics during the 1840–1850s, with many politicians believing a homestead act would help increase the number of “virtuous yeomen”. The Free Soil Party of 1848–52, and the new Republican Party after 1854, demanded that the new lands opening up in the west be made available to independent farmers, rather than wealthy planters who would develop it with the use of slaves forcing the yeomen farmers onto marginal lands.  Southern Democrats had continually fought (and defeated) previous homestead law proposals, as they feared free land would attract European immigrants and poor Southern whites to the west.  After the South seceded and their delegates left Congress in 1861, the Republicans and other supporters from the upper South passed a homestead act.  The intent of the first Homestead Act, passed in 1862, was to liberalize the homesteading requirements of the Preemption Act of 1841. Its leading advocates were Andrew Johnson, George Henry Evans and Horace Greeley.  The homestead was an area of public land in the West (usually 160 acres or 0.65 km2) granted to any US citizen willing to settle on and farm the land for at least five years. The law (and those following it) required a three-step procedure: file an application, improve the land, and file for deed of title. Any citizen who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government (including freed slaves after the fourteenth amendment) and was at least 21 years old or the head of a household, could file an application to claim a federal land grant. The occupant had to reside on the land for five years, and show evidence of having made improvements.  By 1890, only about three percent of the lands west of the Mississippi had been given away under the act. This measure was far less effective in making vacant land productive than were liberal mining laws and grants to railroads. Nevertheless, it stands as a shining example of legislation that passed in the North while the South had seceded from the Union.



Operation Redwing Cherokee Misses with Atomic Bomb

21 May 1956: The second test of the OPERATION REDWING series was REDWING CHEROKEE.  A B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 4925th Test Group (Atomic), Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico, took off from Eniwetok Island (“Fred Island”), the main island of Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The aircraft commander was Major David M. Critchlow, United States Air Force. Other members of the bomber’s crew were Major Charles T. Smith, pilot; Major Dwight E. Durner, bombardier; Major Floyd A. Amundsen, navigator; Lieutenant William R. Payne, timer; Sergeant Richard N. Bingham, radar technician. Colonel Paul R. Wignaff was an official observer.  The bomber, named Barbara Grace, was a Boeing RB-52B-10-BO Stratofortress, serial number 52-013. In its bomb bay was a TX-15-X1 two-stage radiation implosion thermonuclear bomb, weighing 6,867 pounds (3,114.9 kilograms). The bomb was approximately 136 inches long (3.454 meters), with a diameter of 34.5 inches (0.876 meters). The target was a point on Namu Island, Bikini Atoll, also in the Marshall Islands.  Flying at 50,000 feet (15,240 meters), the aircrew misidentified an observation facility on a different island for their targeting beacon. The bomb missed Namu Island by 4 miles (6.4 kilometers), detonating at 4,350 feet (1,325 meters) over the open ocean to the northeast at 0551 hours, local time (1751 GMT). The explosive force of the TX-15 was rated at 3.8 megatons, but because of the error in targeting, most of the test data was lost.  It proved the old adage that close is good enough for horseshoes and atomic bombs.  How could you miss the target, it has a bulls eye half the size of the island?  This individual airplane has dropped more than a dozen live nuclear bombs during weapons testing. Withdrawn from service in 1963, 52-013 was transferred to the National Atomic Museum (now, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History) at Kirtland in 1971, where it is soon to be restored.  Significant in this test was the fact the bomb was by an aircraft which was the first demonstration of hydrogen bomb delivery system and was a bomb far larger that the one demonstrated earlier by the Soviet Union.  The massive open-air blast in 1956 caused concerns among scientists and environmentalists about the effects of such testing on human and animal life. During the coming years, a growing movement in the United States and elsewhere began to push for a ban on open-air atomic testing. The Limited Test Ban Treaty, signed in 1963 by the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain, prohibited open-air and underwater nuclear testing.


P-51 First Flight

20 May 1941: North American Aviation test pilot Robert Creed Chilton took the first XP-51 for its maiden flight at Mines Field. The XP-51 was the fourth production Mustang Mk.I for the Royal Air Force, registration number AG348 (North American serial number 73-3101). It was reassigned to the U.S. Army Air Force as XP-51 serial number 41-038 and sent to Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, for evaluation. The P-51 Mustang was designed in 1940 by North American Aviation (NAA) in response to a requirement of the British Purchasing Commission. The Purchasing Commission approached North American Aviation to build Curtiss P-40 fighters under license for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Rather than build an old design from another company, North American Aviation proposed the design and production of a more modern fighter. The prototype NA-73X airframe was rolled out on 9 September 1940, 102 days after the contract was signed, and first flew on 26 October. The P-51 Mustang was a solution to the need for an effective bomber escort. It used a common, reliable engine and had internal space for a large fuel load. With external fuel tanks, it could accompany the bombers from England to Germany and back.  However, the Allison engine in the P-51A had a single-stage supercharger that caused power to drop off rapidly above 15,000 ft. This made it unsuitable for combat at the altitudes where USAAF bombers planned to fly. Following the RAF’s initial disappointing experience with the Mustang I (P-51A) Ronald Harker, a test pilot for Rolls-Royce suggested fitting a Merlin 61, as fitted to the Spitfire Mk IX. The Merlin 61 had a two-speed two-stage intercooled supercharger, designed by Stanley Hooker of Rolls-Royce and this gave an increase in horsepower from the Allison’s 1,200 hp (895 kW) to 1,620 hp (1,208 kW) (1,720 hp in War Emergency Power) delivering an increase of top speed from 390 mph (628 kph) to 440 mph (708 kph) as well as raising the service ceiling to almost 42,000 ft (12,800 metres).  From late 1943, P-51Bs and Cs (supplemented by P-51Ds from mid-1944) were used by the USAAF’s Eighth Air Force to escort bombers in raids over Germany, while the RAF’s Second Tactical Air Force and the USAAF’s Ninth Air Force used the Merlin-powered Mustangs as fighter-bombers, roles in which the Mustang helped ensure Allied air superiority in 1944.  Chief Naval Test Pilot and C.O. Captured Enemy Aircraft Flight Capt. Eric BrownCBEDSCAFCRN, tested the Mustang at RAE Farnborough in March 1944, and noted, “The Mustang was a good fighter and the best escort due to its incredible range, make no mistake about it. It was also the best American dogfighter. But the laminar flow wing fitted to the Mustang could be a little tricky. It could not by any means out-turn a Spitfire. No way. It had a good rate-of-roll, better than the Spitfire, so I would say the plusses to the Spitfire and the Mustang just about equate. If I were in a dogfight, I’d prefer to be flying the Spitfire. The problem was I wouldn’t like to be in a dogfight near Berlin, because I could never get home to Britain in a Spitfire!”  The P-51 was also used by Allied air forces in the North African, MediterraneanItalian and Pacific theaters. During World War II, Mustang pilots claimed to have destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft.  At the start of the Korean War, the Mustang was the main fighter of the United Nations until jet fighters, including the F-86, took over this role; the Mustang then became a specialized fighter-bomber. Despite the advent of jet fighters, the Mustang remained in service with some air forces until the early 1980s. After the Korean War, Mustangs became popular civilian warbird and air racing aircraft.  This first XP-51 was extensively tested by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, Langley Field, Hampton, Virginia.  It’s a good museum and worthy of your visit, just to see this, the first of what became an iconic aircraft.


Chuck Berry Records “Maybellene”

John Lennon once famously said that “if you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it “Chuck Berry.”  That’s how foundational Berry’s contributions were to the music that changed America and the world beginning in the mid-1950s. Even more than Elvis Presley, who was an incomparable performer, but of other people’s songs, Chuck Berry created the do-it-yourself template that most rock-and-rollers still seek to follow. If there can be said to be a single day on which his profound influence on the sound and style of rock and roll began, it was on May 21, 1955, when an unknown Chuck Berry paid his first visit to a recording studio and cut the record that would make him famous: “Maybellene.”  It was Berry’s first single and his first hit. Berry was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its opening in 1986; he was cited for having “laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance.”  Berry is included in several of Rolling Stone magazine’s “greatest of all time” lists; he was ranked fifth on its 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll includes three of Berry’s: “Johnny B. Goode”, “Maybellene”, and “Rock and Roll Music.”  Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” is the only rock-and-roll song included on the Voyager Golden Record.


Thousands of Jews Die in Nazi Gas Chambers and IG Farber Establishes Factory

On May 18, 1942, 4,300 Jews are deported from the Polish town of Chelm to the Nazi extermination camp at Sobibór, where all are gassed to death. Sobibór was a Nazi German extermination camp built and operated by the SS near the railway station of Sobibór during World War II.  The camp was part of the secretive Operation Reinhard, which marked the deadliest phase of the Holocaust in German-occupied Poland. The camp was situated near the rural county’s major town of Włodawa (called Wolzek by the Germans), 85 km south of the provincial capital, Brest-on-the-Bug (Brześć nad Bugiem in Polish). Its official German name was SS-Sonderkommando SobibórJews from PolandFranceGermany, the NetherlandsCzechoslovakia and the Soviet Union (including Jewish-Soviet POWs), were transported to Sobibór by rail. Most were suffocated in gas chambers fed by the exhaust of a large petrol engine.  Up to 200,000 people were murdered at Sobibór and possibly more. At the postwar trial against the former SS personnel of Sobibór, held in Hagen two decades into the Cold War, Professor Wolfgang Scheffler estimated the number of murdered Jews totaled a minimum of 250,000.  During the revolt of 14 October 1943, about 600 prisoners tried to escape; about half succeeded in crossing the fence, of whom around 50 evaded capture. The remaining prisoners were executed the very next day.  Shortly after the revolt, the Germans closed the camp, bulldozed the earth, and planted it over with pine trees to conceal its location. Today, the site is occupied by the Sobibór Museum, which displays a pyramid of ashes and crushed bones of the victims, collected from the cremation pits.  On the same day, the German firm IG Farben sets up a factory just outside Auschwitz, in order to take advantage of Jewish slave laborers from the Auschwitz concentration camps.  IG Farben, as well as exploiting Jewish slave labor for its oil and rubber production, also performed drug experiments on inmates. Tens of thousands of prisoners would ultimately die because of brutal work conditions and the savagery of the guards. Several of the firm’s officials would be convicted of “plunder,” “spoliation of property,” “imposing slave labor,” and “inhumane treatment” of civilians and POWs after the war. The company itself came under Allied control. The original goal was to dismantle its industries, which also included the manufacture of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, so as to prevent it from ever posing a threat “to Germany’s neighbors or to world peace.” But as time passed, the resolve weakened, and the Western powers broke the company up into three separate divisions: Hoechst, Bayer, and BASF.  All big German companies today.


All in a Day’s Work for This F-86

21 May 1955: At 05:59:45 Pacific Standard Time (13:59:45 UTC) 1st Lieutenant John M. Conroy, U.S. Air Force, a World War II B-17 pilot and former Prisoner of War, took off from the California Air National Guard Base at the San Fernando Valley Airport (re-named Van Nuys Airport in 1957). His airplane was a specially-prepared North American Aviation F-86A-5-NA Sabre, USAF serial number 49-1046. His Destination? Van Nuys, California—by way of Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York. His plan was to return to the ANG base in “The Valley” before sunset.  He flew this F-86A Sabre from Van Nuys to Floyd Bennett Field, New York, and returned using fuel stops both ways, setting a record of 5058 miles in 11 hours, 26 minutes, 33 seconds (442.0 mph). A decade later in 1965, Conroy and co-pilot Clay Lacy achieved another record-breaking flight in a Learjet. Operation “Sunrise Sunset” completed a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to New York and back, the first time a business jet made a round-trip flight across the U.S. between sunrise and sunset on the same day.  Conroy was an interesting character.  He learned to fly and made his first solo flight in 1940 in Hawaii. He was working at Pearl Harbor as civilian digging underground fuel tanks on Sunday, December 7, 1941. After witnessing the Japanese attack he immediately enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces.  In early 1942, just months after his 21st birthday, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, and as the pilot of a B-17 was in command of a nine-man crew. After training in the U.S., he flew his B-17 across the North Atlantic and as part of the 379th Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force, operating from Kimbolton, England, flew 19 missions over Germany. On his 19th mission, on November 30, 1944, his aircraft was shot down over German farmland. After his crew bailed out, he forced his way out of the nose door, dislocating and fracturing his shoulder and breaking his right arm in the process. He parachuted to earth, landing in a farmer’s field somewhere near Zeitz, was captured, interrogated and interned as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft I, Compound North 3, on the Baltic coast until the end of the war.  Conroy remained on active duty with the USAAF until 1948, serving as a special air mission pilot and as an instructor in a Reserve Training Unit..  Conroy continued to fly with non-scheduled airlines and also joined the California Air National Guard, based at the Van Nuys Air Base.  Following an honorable discharge from the service, he spent 12 years as an airline pilot.  The renowned Pregnant Guppy had a humble beginning on the proverbial cocktail napkin. One evening Conroy, Lee Mansdorf and others were discussing the problems NASA were having transporting the rocket booster stages aboard ships through the Panama Canal and the Gulf of Mexico. Mansdorf had recently purchased several surplus Boeing 377 Stratocruisers but was not really sure what to do with them. Conroy believed that they could take one of the Stratocruisers, enlarge the fuselage big enough to hold a rocket booster and contract with NASA to fly the boosters from California to Cape Canaveral, Florida. Conroy and Mansdorf founded a company, Aero Spacelines, to pursue the project.  Conroy’s drive to build the aircraft was so great, that when financing ran out, he did not: “Conditions reached the point where Conroy no longer owned his house, cars, or furnishings.” By flying the Guppy on borrowed aviation gasoline to the Marshall Space Flight Center, Conroy was able to test fly the aircraft with Wernher von Braun.  On the basis of the test flights, contract negotiations with NASA began in earnest. The “Pregnant Guppy” first flew on September 19, 1962, piloted by Jack Conroy and co-pilot Clay Lacy. When Van Nuys air traffic control realized that Conroy intended to take off, they alerted police and fire departments to be on alert. However the huge aircraft performed flawlessly, the only difference in handling being a slight decrease in speed caused by extra drag of the larger fuselage. Wernher von Braun stated that “The Guppy was the single most important piece of equipment to put a man on the Moon in the decade of the 1960’s.”  Conroy then developed the Super Guppy, which first flew on August 31, 1965, in Van Nuys. Later the Mini Guppy was built in Santa Barbara, California, and was christened “Spirit of Santa Barbara”, on May 24, 1967. Two days after that flight, the Mini Guppy was carrying cargo to the Paris Air Show, where in 1967, Conroy was awarded the “Medal of Paris” for the greatest contribution to aerospace for the prior two-year period for the Guppy aircraft.  Now that F-86 he flew on the record flight remained with the California Air National Guard (CANG), also called the Hollywood Guard.  California Boomerang, North American Aviation F-86A-5-NA Sabre 49-1046, is on display as a “gate guard” at the entrance to the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, adjacent to Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California.  I was at NAS Point Mugu when that move was made and was flying, amongst other aircraft, the F-86 and QF-86 aircraft and was the Maintenance Officer for F-86 and QF-86 aircraft.  The CANG called our F-86 mechanics to ask about mounting the aircraft in the climbing display showed in the photo here.  Our maintenance folks as a gesture of good will to the F-86 community volunteered to help with the hoisting of the aircraft onto its “stick” and passed along that they needed to be careful to ensure the canopy lock mechanism was engaged; otherwise the canopy would slide off the rear of the aircraft.  Our guys were advised they weren’t needed for this evolution.  An hour later, the CANG called again and asked if just perchance we had another F-86 canopy, as theirs was now in pieces on the ground.  We gave them a canopy from a QF-86 that had crashed at NAS Nicholas Island a few years before and installed it for them on the stick.


First Marine Aviator

As a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Alfred A. Cunningham developed an early interest in aeronautics, and he found at his duty station in Philadelphia an equally avid group of civilians and off-duty military men who harbored an interest in flying and in what aircraft could do for the Marine Corps. He rented an airplane and gained permission from the Commandant of the Navy Yard to use an open field at the Philadelphia Navy Yard for test flights. He also joined the Aero Club of Philadelphia, and commenced “selling” Marine Corps aviation to members of the Aero Club, who, through their Washington connections, began to pressure a number of officials, including Major General Commandant William P. Biddle, himself a member of a prominent Philadelphia family.  Cunningham was an avid supporter in the new conceptual Advanced Base Force and though he saw a role for aircraft, requesting assignment to the Navy’s flying school at AnnapolisOn 16 May 1912, Cunningham received orders and stood detached from duty at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, and was ordered to the aviation camp the Navy had set up at United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, to learn to fly. He reported six days later, on 22 May 1912, which is recognized as the birthday of Marine Corps aviation. Actual flight training was given at the Burgess Plant at Marblehead, Massachusetts, because only the builders of planes could fly in those days and after two hours and forty minutes of instruction, Cunningham soloed on 20 August 1912. He flew the Curtiss seaplane and became Naval Aviator No. 5.  By November 1913, the Navy Department had assigned Cunningham to return to the Advanced Base School with the understanding that they would create an aviation section for the force.   Cunningham performed important reconnaissance roles for the force, which was fully functionable by 1914.  Later, he served on a board, headed by Captain Washington I. Chambers, USN, tasked with drawing up a comprehensive plan for the organization of a naval aeronautical service. It was upon the recommendation of that board that the Naval Aeronautical Station at Pensacola, Florida, was established in 1914.  After heading the motor erecting shop at Pensacola, he underwent instruction at the Army Signal Corps Aviation School at San Diego, whence he was assigned to the Commission on Navy Yards and Naval Stations. Cunningham received orders on 26 February 1917, to organize the Aviation Company for the Advanced Base Force, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Designated as the commander of this unit, Cunningham soon emerged as de facto director of Marine Corps aviation. He sought, and got, enthusiastic volunteers to become pilots, and soon embarked on a determined campaign to define a mission for land-based marine air. In addition, he served on a joint Army-Navy board that selected sites for naval air stations in seven naval districts and on the east and gulf coasts.  Detailed to Europe to obtain information on British and French aviation practices, he participated in a variety of missions over German lines. Returning to the United States in January 1918, he presented a plan to use Marine aircraft to operate against submarines off the Belgian coast and against submarine bases at Zeebrugge, Ostend, and Bruges.  The Northern Bombing Group emerged from these plans—four landplane squadrons equipped and trained in five months’ time. On 12 July 1918, 72 planes, 176 officers and 1,030 enlisted men sailed for France on board the transport DeKalb, arriving at Brest on 30 July 1918. The Marines were sent to the fields at Oye, Le Fresne, and St. Pol, France; and at Hoondschoote, Ghietelles, Varsennaire and Knesselaere, Belgium. Despite shortages of planes, spare parts, and tools, (a characteristic the Marine Corps has maintained to this day) the Marines participated in 43 raids with British and French units, as well as 14 independent raids, and shot down eight enemy aircraft. Planes of the group also dropped 52,000 pounds of bombs, and supplied 2,650 pounds of food in five food-dropping missions to encircled French troops. For his service in organizing and training the first Marine aviation force, Cunningham was awarded the Navy Cross.


F4D-1 Skyray Sets Five World Records

And just because I couldn’t pass up another Marine and a Point Mugu story, there’s this interesting bit from history.  On May 22, 1958, Marine Corps Maj. Edward N. LeFaivre, pilots an F4D-1 Skyray at NAMTC Point Mugu, Calif., scoring five world records in speed climbs up to 3,000, 6,000, 9,000, 12,000, and 15,000 meters with marks of 44.392, 66.095, 90.025, 111.224, and 156.233 seconds.  The Skyray was designed exclusively for the high-altitude interception role, with a high rate and angle of climb. It set a new time-to-altitude record, flying from a standing start to 49,221 feet (15,003 m) in 2 minutes and 36 seconds, all while flying at a 70° pitch angle.  As a dedicated interceptor, the F4D was unsuited to the multi-mission capabilities soon in demand, so it had a short career in Navy and Marine Corps service, the last aircraft being withdrawn from service in 1964. Four aircraft were used by NACA (soon to be NASA) until 1969.


Remembering USS Squalus (SS-192)

On 12 May 1939, following a yard overhaul, the USS Squalus began a series of test dives off Portsmouth, New Hampshire. After successfully completing 18 dives, she went down again off the Isles of Shoals on the morning of 23 May at 42°53′N 70°37′W. Failure of the main induction valve caused the flooding of the aft torpedo room, both engine rooms, and the crew’s quarters, drowning 26 men immediately.  Quick action by the crew prevented the other compartments from flooding. Squalus bottomed on the ocean floor in 243 ft of water.  Squalus was initially located by her sister ship, Sculpin. The two submarines were able to communicate using a telephone marker buoy until the cable parted. Divers from the submarine rescue ship Falcon began rescue operations under the direction of the salvage and rescue expert Lieutenant Commander Charles B. “Swede” Momsen, using the new McCann Rescue Chamber. (Momsen went on to develop a device to help trapped submariners escape safely to the surface.  Officially called the Submarine Escape Lung, it consisted of an oblong rubber bag that recycled exhaled air. The press enthusiastically received the device and they dubbed it the “Momsen lung”, a name that stuck.)  (photo left) The Squalus rescue effort has as its Senior Medical Officer for the operations Dr. Charles Wesley Shilling.   Overseen by researcher Albert R. Behnke, the divers used recently developed heliox diving schedules and successfully avoided the cognitive impairment symptoms associated with such deep dives, thereby confirming Behnke’s theory of nitrogen narcosis.  The divers were able to rescue all 33 surviving crew members from the sunken submarine. Four enlisted divers, Chief Machinist’s Mate William Badders, Chief Boatswain’s Mate Orson L. Crandall, Chief Metalsmith James H. McDonald and Chief Torpedoman John Mihalowski, were awarded the Medal of Honor for their work during the rescue and subsequent salvage. (The successful rescue of Squalus survivors is in marked contrast to the loss of Thetis in Liverpool Bay just a week later.)  The navy authorities felt it important to raise her as she incorporated a succession of new design features. With a thorough investigation of why she sank, more confidence could be placed in the new construction, or alteration of existing designs could be undertaken when cheapest and most efficient to do so. Furthermore, given similar previous accidents in Sturgeon and Snapper (indeed, in S-5, as far back as 1920), it was necessary to determine a cause.  The salvage of Squalus was commanded by Rear Admiral Cyrus W. Cole, Commander of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, who supervised salvage officer Lieutenant Floyd A. Tusler from the Construction Corps.  Tusler’s plan was to lift the submarine in three stages to prevent it from rising too quickly, out of control, with one end up, in which case there would be a high likelihood of it sinking again.  For 50 days, divers worked to pass cables underneath the submarine and attach pontoons for buoyancy. On 13 July 1939, the stern was raised successfully, but when the men attempted to free the bow from the hard blue clay, the vessel began to rise far too quickly, slipping its cables. Ascending vertically, the submarine broke the surface, and 30 feet (10 m) of the bow reached into the air for not more than ten seconds before the vessel sank once again all the way to the bottom.  Momsen said of the mishap, “pontoons were smashed, hoses cut and I might add, hearts were broken.”  After 20 more days of preparation, with a radically redesigned pontoon and cable arrangement, the next lift was successful, as were two further operations. Squalus was towed into Portsmouth on 13 September, and decommissioned on 15 November. A total of 628 dives had been made in rescue and salvage operations.  Renamed Sailfish on 9 February 1940, she became the first ship of the U.S. Navy named for the sailfish. After reconditioning, repair, and overhaul, she was recommissioned on 15 May 1940.  She served on twelve successful patrols during WW II and was awarded nine battle stars for service in the Pacific and the Presidential Unit Citation for outstanding performance on her 10th patrol.  On that patrol in December, 1943 Sailfish sank the Japanese carrier Chuyo the first aircraft carrier sunk by an American submarine in the war, and the only major Japanese warship sunk by enemy action in 1943.  In an ironic twist, Chuyo was carrying American prisoners of war from Sculpin, the same boat that had helped locate and rescue Sailfish — then Squalus — over four years before. Twenty of the 21 US crew members from Sculpin were killed. None, however, were of the original rescue crew.  1,250 Japanese were also killed..  Decommissioned on 27 October 1945, she was initially scheduled to be a target ship in the atomic bomb tests or sunk by conventional ordnance. However, she was placed on sale in March 1948 and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 30 April 1948. The hulk was sold for scrapping to Luria Brothers of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 18 June 1948. Her conning tower stands at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery as a memorial to her lost crewmen.  The book, The Terrible Hours: The Man Behind the Greatest Rescue in History, by Peter Maas is a great read and factual depiction of the Squalus story.

3 thoughts on “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 19th through 23rd, 2017”

  1. My goodness Fireball – you more than made up for any “delay” in FOD. Outstanding review of our past and present world.

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