FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 5 through 7, 2017

Good Morning Friends of FOD.  I am trying to evaluate whether the subscription block and the comments sections are actually functional.  If you could/would, please attempt to subscribe if you see the PICK UP FOD block either on the side or at the bottom.  And attempt to leave a comment of some kind. You can also send me a note at in regards to what you’re seeing on your particular device.  And of course I’m always interested in your particular experiences that might be of interest.

Thanks in advance, Fireball



Massacre in Boston in 1770

The Boston Massacre, known as the Incident on King Street by the British, was an incident on March 5, 1770, in which British Army soldiers shot and killed people while under attack by a mob. The event occurred at the Custom House, later know as the Old State House on King Street, now known as State Street (photo left).  The incident was heavily propagandized by leading Patriots, such as Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, to fuel animosity toward the British authorities.  British troops had been stationed in Boston, capital of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, since 1768 in order to protect and support crown-appointed colonial officials attempting to enforce unpopular Parliamentary legislation. Amid ongoing tense relations between the population and the soldiers, a mob formed around a British sentry, who was subjected to verbal abuse and harassment. He was eventually supported by eight additional soldiers, who were subjected to verbal threats and repeatedly hit by clubs, stones and snowballs. They fired into the crowd, without orders, instantly killing three people and wounding others. Two more people died later of wounds sustained in the incident.  The crowd eventually dispersed after Acting Governor Thomas Hutchinson promised an inquiry, but reformed the next day, prompting the withdrawal of the troops to Castle Island. Eight soldiers, one officer, and four civilians were arrested and charged with murder. Defended by lawyer and future American president John Adams, six of the soldiers were acquitted, while the other two were convicted of manslaughter and given reduced sentences. The men found guilty of manslaughter were sentenced to branding on their hand.  It is interesting to note how closely this incident parallels recent acts of protest.



Winston Churchill’s “Sinews of Peace” address of 5 March 1946, at Westminster College, used the term “iron curtain” in the context of Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe:   “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an “Iron Curtain” has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.”  Churchill, who had actively pursued a course of negation with Stalin with regard to who would control vast expanses of countries that had existed prior to WW II was not just realizing  Stalin’s overall goal was to rule as much of Europe as possible.  Churchill had only recently been defeated at the polls for reelection as British Prime Minister.  Much of the Western public still regarded the Soviet Union as a close ally in the context of the recent defeat of Nazi Germany and of Japan. Although not well received at the time, the phrase iron curtain gained popularity as a shorthand reference to the division of Europe as the Cold War strengthened. The Iron Curtain served to keep people in and information out, and people throughout the West eventually came to accept and use the metaphor.  He expressed the Allied Nations’ distrust of the Soviet Union after the World War II. In the same year September, US-Soviet Union cooperation line collapsed due to the disavowal of the Soviet Union’s opinion on the German problem in the Stuttgart Council, and then followed the U.S. President Harry S. Truman’s announcement of enactment of hard anti-Soviet Union, anticommunism line policy. Since then, this phrase became popular and was widely used as anti-Soviet Union propaganda term in the Western countries.


Spitfire’s First Flight

5 March 1936: At 4:35 p.m., Vickers Aviation Ltd. chief test pilot Captain Joseph (“Mutt”) Summers took off on the first flight of the prototype of the legendary Supermarine Spitfire, K5054, at Eastleigh Aerodrome, Southampton, England. Landing after only 8 minutes, he is supposed to have said, “Don’t change a thing!”  The Vickers-Supermarine Type 300 was a private venture, built to meet an Air Ministry requirement for a new single-place, single-engine interceptor for the Royal Air Force. The Spitfire was built in many variants, using several wing configurations, and was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft. It was also the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout WW II. The Spitfire continues to be popular among enthusiasts; about 54 remain airworthy, while many more are static exhibits in aviation museums throughout the world.  During the Battle of Britain, from July to October 1940, the Spitfire was perceived by the public to be the main RAF fighter, though the more numerous Hawker Hurricane shouldered a greater proportion of the burden against the Nazi German air force, the Luftwaffe. Spitfire units, however, had a lower attrition rate and a higher victory-to-loss ratio than those flying Hurricanes because of its higher performance. Spitfires in general were tasked with engaging Luftwaffe fighters (mainly Messerschmitt Bf 109E series aircraft which were a close match for the Spitfire) during the Battle of Britain.  After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire superseded the Hurricane to become the backbone of RAF Fighter Command, and saw action in the EuropeanMediterraneanPacific and the South-East Asian theatres. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire served in several roles, including interceptor, photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber and trainer, and it continued to serve in these roles until the 1950s.

My neighbor in Camarillo and friend of FOD Steve McCartney flies  Spitfire XIVe NH749 of the Commemorative Air Force, based at Camarillo airport, Southern California, seen with period-dressed crew members in 2011.


Remember the Alamo

For all of us who completed some type of flight training in Texas, or had the opportunity to live in Texas,  we know Texas is a different kind of state.  In that light, it’s good to remember the Battle of the Alamo (February 23 – March 6, 1836) was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission 
near San Antonio de Béxar (modern-day San Antonio), Texas,  Several months previous to the Battle of the Alamo, Texians had driven all Mexican troops out of Mexican Texas. About 100 Texians were then garrisoned at the Alamo. The Texian force grew slightly with the arrival of reinforcements led by eventual Alamo co-commanders James Bowie and William B. Travis (right). On February 23, approximately 1,500 Mexicans marched into San Antonio de Béxar as the first step in a campaign to retake Texas. For the next 10 days, the two armies engaged in several skirmishes with minimal casualties. Aware that his garrison could not withstand an attack by such a large force, Travis wrote multiple letters pleading for more men and supplies, but the Texians were reinforced by fewer than 100 men.  During the siege, newly elected delegates from across Texas met at the Convention of 1836. On March 2, the delegates declared independence, forming the Republic of Texas. Four days later, the delegates at the convention received a dispatch Travis had written March 3 warning of his dire situation. Unaware that the Alamo had fallen, Robert Potter called for the convention to adjourn and march immediately to relieve the Alamo. Sam Houston convinced the delegates to remain in Washington-on-the-Brazos to develop a constitution. After being appointed sole commander of all Texian troops, Houston journeyed to Gonzales to take command of the 400 volunteers who were still waiting for Fannin to lead them to the Alamo.  On the afternoon of April 21 the Texian army attacked Santa Anna’s camp near Lynchburg Ferry. The Mexican army was taken by surprise, and the Battle of San Jacinto was essentially over after 18 minutes. During the fighting, many of the Texian soldiers repeatedly cried “Remember the Alamo!” as they slaughtered fleeing Mexican troops. Santa Anna (below) was captured the following day, and reportedly told Houston: “That man may consider himself born to no common destiny who has conquered the Napoleon of the West. And now it remains for him to be generous to the vanquished.”  Houston replied, “You should have remembered that at the Alamo”.  Santa Anna was forced to order his troops out of Texas, ending Mexican control of the province and giving legitimacy to the new republic.


Take two aspirin and call me in the morning

On March 6, 1899, the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin registers Aspirin, the brand name for acetylsalicylic acid, on behalf of the German pharmaceutical company Friedrich Bayer & Co.  Medicines made from willow and other salicylate-rich plants appear in clay tablets from ancient Sumer as well as the Ebers Papyrus from ancient Egypt. classical antiquity and the Middle Ages.  Willow bark extract became recognized for its specific effects on fever, pain and inflammation in the mid-eighteenth century.  By the nineteenth century pharmacists were experimenting with and prescribing a variety of chemicals related to salicylic acid, the active component of willow extract.  In 1853, chemist Charles Frédéric Gerhardt treated acetyl chloride with sodium salicylate to produce acetylsalicylic acid for the first time, in the second half of the nineteenth century, other academic chemists established the compound’s chemical structure and devised more efficient methods of synthesis. In 1897, scientists at the drug and dye firm Bayer began investigating acetylsalicylic acid as a less-irritating replacement for standard common salicylate medicines, and identified a new way to synthesize it.  By 1899, Bayer had dubbed this drug Aspirin and was selling it around the world.  The word Aspirin was Bayer’s brand name, rather than the generic name of the drug; however, Bayer’s rights to the trademark were lost or sold in many countries. Aspirin’s popularity grew over the first half of the twentieth century leading to fierce competition with the proliferation of aspirin brands and products.  Aspirin’s popularity declined after the development of acetaminophen/paracetamol in 1956 and ibuprofen in 1962. In the 1960s and 1970s, John Vane and others discovered the basic mechanism of aspirin’s effects,  while clinical trials and other studies from the 1960s to the 1980s established aspirin’s efficacy as an anti-clotting agent that reduces the risk of clotting diseases.   Aspirin sales revived considerably in the last decades of the twentieth century, and remain strong in the twenty-first with widespread use as a preventive treatment for heart attacks and strokes.


SR-71 sets speed records on her last flight

6 March 1990: On its final flight, Lieutenant Colonel Raymond E. (“Ed”) Yeilding and Lieutenant Colonel Joseph T. (“J.T.”) Vida established four National Aeronautic Association and three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale speed records with a Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird, U.S. Air Force serial number 61-7972.  Departing Air Force Plant 42 (PMD) at Palmdale, California, Yeilding and Vida headed offshore to refuel from a Boeing KC-135Q Stratotanker so that the Blackbird’s fuel tanks would be full before beginning their speed run. 972 entered the “west gate,” a radar reference point over Oxnard on the southern California coast, then headed east to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) at Washington, D.C.  (I was at NAWCWPNS Pt Mugu when we tracked this historic flight).  The transcontinental flight, a distance of 2,404.05 statute miles (3,868.94 kilometers), took 1 hour, 7 minutes, 53.69 seconds, for an average of 2,124.51 miles per hour (3,419.07 kilometers per hour).  The Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” was a long-rangeMach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft that was operated by the USAF.  It was developed as a black project from the Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft in the 1960s by Lockheed and its Skunk Works division. American aerospace engineer Clarence “Kelly” Johnson was responsible for many of the design’s innovative concepts. During aerial reconnaissance missions, the SR-71 operated at high speeds and altitudes to allow it to outrace threats. If a surface-to-air missile launch was detected, the standard evasive action was simply to accelerate and outfly the missile.  The SR-71 was designed with a reduced radar cross-section.  The SR-71 served with the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998. A total of 32 aircraft were built; 12 were lost in accidents and none lost to enemy action.  The SR-71 has been given several nicknames, including Blackbird and HabuIt has held the world record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft since 1976; this record was previously held by the related Lockheed YF-12, mentioned in FOD a few days ago.

This was 61-7972’s final flight. The total time on its airframe was 2,801.1 hours.  61-7972 is on display at the Steven V. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.  Visit it on your next DC trip.


And on March 7, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell receives a patent for his first practical telephone.    Bell’s father, grandfather, and brother had all been associated with work on elocution and speech and both his mother and wife were deaf, profoundly influencing Bell’s life’s work.  His research on hearing and speech further led him to experiment with hearing devices which eventually culminated in the development of the telephone.  Many other inventions marked Bell’s later life, including groundbreaking work in optical telecommunicationshydrofoils, and aeronautics. Although Bell was not one of the 33 founders of the National Geographic Society, he had a strong influence on the magazine while serving as the second president from January 7, 1898, until 1903.

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day January 27-28 2017

Well, we’re in the “Dark Ages.”  Only the Super Bowl to be played next weekend and no baseball games to talk about, although there are some baseball stories out there.  However there is light.  Remember these dates:  February 14th  – Pitchers and Catchers Report for Spring Training; February 17th  – Position Players Report for Spring Training; February 24th  – Catus and Grapefruit League games begin.  And then April 2nd – Baseball season begins.  The Yankees open in Tampa against the Rays.  The Yankee Stadium opener is not until April 10th, also against the Rays.  And May 14th is Derek Jeter Night where his number 2 will officially be retired.  I’m going to that game.  See you there!


January 27 was the day to give some a crap and celebrate Thomas Crapper Day.  He is credited as the inventor of the flush toilet.  Crapper was a shrewd businessman, salesman and self-publicist (he didn’t have a blog however).  He held many patents and helped modernize indoor plumbing and his company Thomas Crapper & Co. Ltd. Is still producing reproductions of his original designs.




On January 27, 1973, the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam and the Viet Cong formally sign the “Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace to Vietnam” in Paris.  The settlement established a cease-fire throughout Vietnam.  Both sides agreed to withdraw forces from Laos and Cambodia.  Most importantly the agreement set a timetable for withdrawal of US forces and advisors within 60 days and in return North Vietnam agreed to release all US and other prisoners of war.   Vice Admiral James Stockdale is shown here climbing down from his A-4 (right) and accepting the Medal of Honor from President Gerald Ford (below).  591 American prisoners of war (POWs) were returned during Operation Homecoming.    The U.S. listed about 1,350 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action and roughly 1,200 Americans reported killed in action and body not recovered. Many of these were Airmen who were shot down over North Vietnam or Laos.

Navy File Photo: Washington, D.C. (March 4, 1976) – President of the United States of America, Gerald R. Ford, (back to camera) presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to Rear Admiral James B. Stockdale, USN, during an awards ceremony in the East Room of the White House. Rear Admiral Stockdale earned the nation’s highest decoration for his leadership as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from 9 Sept. 1965 to 12 Feb. 1973. U.S. Navy Photo by Dave Wilson (RELEASED)

Investigations of these incidents have involved determining whether the men involved survived their shoot down; if they did not survive, then they considered efforts to recover their remains. POW/MIA activists played a role in pushing the U.S. government to improve its efforts in resolving the fates of the missing. Progress in doing so was slow until the mid-1980s, when relations between the U.S. and Vietnam began to improve and more cooperative efforts were undertaken. Normalization of U.S. relations with Vietnam in the mid-1990s was a culmination of this process.  The United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs of 1991–1993 led by Senators John KerryBob Smith, and John McCain. It found “no compelling evidence that proves that any American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia.”


Also on January 27 in 1888, the National Geographic Society was founded in Washington, D.C. to “increase the diffusion of geographic knowledge.”  And of course that makes January 27th, National Geographic Day. The thirty three original founders were a diverse group of explorers, teachers, geographers, cartographers, military officers, lawyers and financiers.  All shared an interest in scientific knowledge and were of the opinion Americans were becoming more interested in the natural world around them.  They drafted a constitution and elected their first president, a lawyer and philanthropist Gardiner Greene Hubbard (pictured left).  Hubbard was not a scientist but represented the Society’s desire to reach out to the layman.  Nine months after its inception, the Society published its first issue of National Geographic magazine. The NGS second president was  Alexander Graham Bell, scientist, inventor (pictured below).  Readership of the magazine did not grow, however, until Gilbert H. Grosvenor took over as editor in 1899. In only a few years, Grosvenor boosted circulation from 1,000 to 2 million by discarding the magazine’s format of short, overly technical articles for articles of general interest accompanied by photographs. National Geographic quickly became known for its stunning and pioneering photography, being the first to print natural-color photos of sky, sea and the North and South Poles.  Today, the Society is one of the world’s largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions and the magazine has a circulation in excess of 9 million.  The NGS periodically awards two awards, The Hubbard Medal and the Alexander Graham Bell Medal.  The Hubbard Medal is awarded by the National Geographic Society for distinction in exploration, discovery, and research. The medal is named for Gardiner Greene Hubbard, the first National Geographic Society president.   The Hubbard Medal has been presented 35 times as of 2010, the most recent award going to Don Walsh (see FOD January 23, 2017).  And of course they have the National Geographic Channel founded in 1997.


27 January 1939: First Lieutenant Benjamin Scovill Kelsey, United States Army Air Corps, made the first flight of the prototype Lockheed XP-38 Lightning, serial number 37-457, at March Field, Riverside County, California.  Certainly one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built. It was designed by an engineering team led by Hall L. Hibbard, which included the legendary Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson.  The XP-38 was a single-place, twin-engine fighter designed for very high speed and long range.  Testing continued with thirteen YP-38A pre-production aircraft and was quickly placed in full production.
The P-38 Lightning was one of the most successful combat aircraft of World War II. By the end of the war, Lockheed had built 10,037 Lightnings.  It was powered by two Allison V-1710-33 liquid-cooled, supercharged SOHC 60° V-12 engines (one left turning and one right turning).  Each weighed 1340 pounds and produced 1040 horsepower at 2800 rpm.  During WW II this engine cost $19,000.


In WW II, the 8th Air Force dispatched 64 B-17 Flying Fortresses from their bases at   High Wycombe, England, on January 27, 1943.   53 reached their targets in Germany and they shot down 22 German planes while losing 3 bombers.  And thus began the sustained long-range bombing effort in what became the first attempt at precision bombing efforts.  The B-17 developed a reputation as an effective bomber, using the then-secret Norden bombsight, known as the “Blue Ox” an optical electro-mechanical gyro-stabilized analog computer dropping more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II.  These were tough aircraft as you can see below.

Boeing B-17F-5-BO (S/N 41-24406) “All American III” of the 97th Bomb Group, 414th Bomb Squadron, in flight after a collision with an Me-109. The aircraft was able to land safely. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Of the 1.5 million tons of bombs dropped on Germany and its occupied territories by U.S. aircraft, 640,000 tons were dropped from B-17s.  B-17s were built at Boeing Plant 2 in Seattle and also by Lockheed Vega, Burbank, CA (B-17G-VE 2250 aircraft) and by Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, CA (B-17G-DL 2395 aircraft).  12,731 aircraft were produced. My Dad, Lloyd R. Hayes served in the 8th Air Force during WW II and later on during the war installed Norden Bombsight Trainers for IBM, including ones at what is now Fairchild AFB, Spokane WA .


And sadly, on 27 January 1967: During a “plugs out” test of the Apollo 1 capsule, two weeks ahead of the scheduled launch of the AS-204 Saturn 1B—the first manned Apollo Program space flight—a fire broke out in the pressurized pure oxygen environment and very quickly involved the entire interior.  The pressure rapidly built to 29 pounds per square inch (200 kPa) and 17 seconds later, at 23:31:19 UTC, the capsule ruptured.  The three astronauts inside, Lieutenant Colonel Virgil I. Grissom, United States Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel Edward H. White II, United States Air Force, and Lieutenant Commander Roger B. Chaffee, United States Navy, were killed.  The NASA accident investigation summary is available at  This post accident investigation led to many improvements in the Apollo program and more control by the astronaut corps over their capsule and other hardware.



Another one of those days when we’ll each recall where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news of January 28, 1986 – the Space Shuttle Challenger is gone.  I was just returning from a great flight in the F-14 with VF-21, against several Top Gun adversaries, when I learned the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger (OV-099) (mission STS-51-L) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members, which included five NASA astronauts and two Payload Specialists. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape CanaveralFlorida, at 11:39 EST (16:39 UTC). Disintegration of the vehicle began after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. The O-ring was not designed to fly under unusually cold conditions as in this launch. Its failure caused a breach in the SRB joint it sealed, (shown right just at launch) allowing pressurized burning gas from within the solid rocket motor to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent SRB aft field joint attachment hardware and external fuel tank.  (Pictured below).  This led to the separation of the right-hand SRB’s aft field joint attachment and the structural failure of the external tank. Aerodynamic forces broke up the orbiter.  Approximately 17 percent of Americans witnessed the launch live because of the presence of Payload Specialist Christa McAuliffe, who would have been the first teacher in space. Media coverage of the accident was extensive: one study reported that 85 percent of Americans surveyed had heard the news within an hour of the accident.  The disaster resulted in a 32-month hiatus in the shuttle program and the formation of the Rogers Commission, a special commission appointed by President Ronald Reagan to investigate the accident. The Rogers Commission found NASA’s organizational culture and decision-making processes had been key contributing factors to the accident, with the agency violating its own safety rules. NASA managers had known since 1977 that contractor Morton Thiokol‘s design of the SRBs contained a potentially catastrophic flaw in the O-rings, but they had failed to address this problem properly. NASA managers also disregarded warnings (an example of “go fever“) from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the low temperatures of that morning, and failed to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors.  The Challenger accident is frequently used as a case study evaluating engineering safety, the ethics of whistle-blowing, communications, group decision-making, and the dangers of groupthink.


And for you Packer fans still hurting from the NFC Championship game, on 28 January 1959, the Green Bay Packers signed Vince Lombardi to a five year contract.  (Lombardi pictured left with Bart Starr, QB for Green Bay).  Lombardi is best known for his coaching accomplishments during the 1960’s when he lead the Packers to three straight and five total NFL Championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.  The NFL’s Super Bowl trophy is named in his honor.  He was the right guard in the Seven Blocks of Granite, at  Fordham University, in 1936 and was later an assistant coach at the US Military Academy.  In fact when Army lost its coach after the 1962 season, President John F. Kennedy, a Navy fan to be sure, asked Lombardi if he would accept a position as Army’s head coach because he wanted to ensure Army had a good coach moving forward – Lombardi declined.