Testimony of Pilot (9): Bob Hoover – the Best There Ever Was

Testimony of Pilot #9

the greatest pilot I ever saw.- Chuck Yeager

Hoover’s “the finest acrobatic pilot we’ve seen in our lifetime”  -Astronaut Wally Schirra

greatest stick-and-rudder man who ever lived – Jimmy Doolittle

Aero Commander

nnnnnn

Cockpit to Cocktail Party: The Bob Hoover Story

From

Interview with Bob Hoover (2002)

By Kathleen Bangs

It was a lucky break. In 2002, across the wide expanse of a Florida trade show conference hall, I recognized an unmistakable aviation icon. A lanky figure, under his signature Panama hat, moving as a swarm of fans buzzed around him. It was Bob Hoover.

A second lucky break, I just happened to have a tape recorder with me. Hoover graciously agreed to sit down for a spontaneous interview, with no particular plan for his recollections, other than to save them for posterity. We lost Hoover in 2016. In celebration of his extraordinary life and contribution to flying, I hope fans both old and new will enjoy reading this never-released interview.

BH: Sheer luck.

I knew you’d say that, but if you had to analyze it. What has given you not only ability, but longevity?

BH: I’ve thought about things. The “what ifs.” I think ahead about what if this goes wrong, what if that goes wrong. I’ve already thought it out, so I know what to do. And I could tell you stories by the hour of situations I’ve walked away from, yet didn’t have to think in the moment about what to do, because I just did what I’d already thought of.

Take the greats like yourself, or Duane Cole, or Art Scholl for instance, another great pilot. Would you say it’s inborn, or can it be learned? Can you take someone up one time and determine if they’re going to be able to ever cut it as an airshow pilot?

BH: Art Scholl was the worst I’d ever seen when he first got into aerobatic flying! He was on the U.S. Aerobatic Team and I was team captain. And before we went over to Moscow, Russia, for the world championships I remember thinking this is ridiculous having him on this team. He’s no more qualified than the man on the moon!

Charlie Hilliard worked out with him for about a month or so. And he dressed him up to the point that he was fairly decent when we got to Russia.

In the aviation of today, who or what do you think is being overlooked or forgotten?

BH: Right now, I can go to an Air Force base, and if someone mentions General Jimmy Doolittle, you can see there are young officers wondering, “Who the heck is that?”

What would you want young people to know about aviation through Bob Hoover’s eyes?

BH: That’s a tough question. I’ve expressed this very few times in my life. I think it’s the way some young people are trying to “find” themselves today. I get so sick of some young fellow 35 years of age, who’s still trying to find himself. I’ve got a driver, because I like to be able to have a drink, and not drink and drive. I always hire a driver. And this fellow is a delightful person, and he’s a bit older, but I can’t motivate him.

But you can’t motivate somebody else. That has to come from within the person, in wanting to achieve, to be successful, in whatever it is. People ask, “Bob, can’t you give me some hints?” and I say get the best education you can, then go in the military and you’ll get the best flying in all the world. And they’ll say, “Well, I can’t pass a physical for that.” I say well alright, then you go get your master’s and a Ph.D. And don’t get it in history. Get it some field that will give you an opportunity to get ahead in life, and then you can make so much money you can buy whatever airplane you want to fly.

I really feel it’s a pity that people can’t find themselves. Hell, I knew where I wanted to go the day I was 16 years of age, and I never lost sight of it. I just kept the blinders on.

I was lucky at 16 to start flying, and it also provided a vector for my life. But if not for my first flight instructor, Lt. Colonel Robert McDaniel, I would have never gone back for a second lesson. Who was the most particular influential flight instructor for you?

BH: I’m a rarity. Nobody could teach me. I got sick every time I got in an airplane because of airsickness, so I kept at it until I could get over it. I was sick, swallowing it over and over, but was so motivated I would not let that stop me. I was determined in my mindset. And I conquered unusual attitudes, one step at a time, until I could handle that without becoming ill.

There was no one I could get aerobatic instruction from, no one knew anything about aerobatics in my town (Nashville, Tennessee). So, I tried things myself. I’d think, I wonder if I could do this, I wonder if I could try that, and then incrementally kept stretching it to not get sick. Even to this day, if you were to ask me to go out and ride with you, offer you some suggestions, and I’m sitting in the back…watch out!

Pilots must always be asking you for flying tips.

BH: I’ve told a lot of people how to do certain things, only to have it come back in my face because he goes out and kills himself. He doesn’t do the things I told him when he asked the questions. The earth’s awful solid and it’s going to be solid forever. So, if you want to do something, you do it up high. And then you learn it, and do it so well, you know you’re safe when you come down low.

In your iconic Shrike Commander airshow performances, how did you keep the G loading low during the routines?

BH: The Shrike had a 4.3 positive G load limit. When Rockwell asked me to fly the Shrike, I thought if I could get my routine down to 2.5 G, I could still hit a gust load and keep it under 4 G, and get this plane the recognition it deserves.

The rule of thumbs, is if you have less weight you can pull a little more G without damaging the structure. The first time I went out to play with it, I did 3.5 G. Then I started working and got it down to 3 G for the first show. We started selling airplanes just like that. We had maybe 100 on the ground, and were building one a month. We sold them all within probably five months of my first demonstration. We had a three-year backlog of orders! And, we kept raising the price, without having to change a thing. The company went from a $13 million a year loss to a very profitable situation.

Were there problems with regular owner-pilots wanting to go up and impress their buddies by pretending they were Bob Hoover?

BH: The biggest fear of my life. And it happened, and they’re not with us anymore. That’s very unfortunate. There’s no way you can keep people from sticking their nose into something they don’t understand. People called me from all over the world asking if I’d tell them what airspeed I enter such-and-such a maneuver at, and I’d say “I’m very sorry, it’s just something you’ll have to figure out for yourself.”

One time I did it—shared every bit of information I had with a fellow—about P–40s. Then I watched him kill himself in one. And I decided I would never do that again.

Do you think when pilots try to mimic you the reason they crash is that they exceed the design limits of the airplane, or because they mess up the maneuver and hit the ground?

BH: Leo Loudenslager (seven-time U.S. aerobatic champion, died in a 1997 motorcycle crash). Leo was as fine a pilot as I’ve ever known. He had a narrator that would dedicate his flight performances to me. Leo came to Reno one year, a teenager really. We talked. I helped motivate him—I advised him to get his ratings first—and he went on and became a world champion. He also asked for advice, even when he was at the top. He solicited my input, asking, “If you have any criticism, I’m open to it, I want to know.”

So, I said, “Leo, I don’t like your routine. The reason being you don’t have a large enough margin for safety. One hiccup, you’re going to hit the ground. And those fans out there you’re doing it for? They’ll forget about you tomorrow. They don’t know how close you’re coming to killing yourself, but I do. Are you here to have fun and entertain people, or kill yourself?”

How do you manage a healthy respect for the ground, or let’s just call it what it is, fear. Do you think the mismanagement of fear causes good pilots to crash?

BH: Absolutely. It’s the reason I’m alive today. I’m just like anybody else. I get scared when I know all hell is breaking loose around me, or I’m on fire, but I have conditioned myself to react with “What are you going to do to get out of this?” That has saved my life a lot of times because I could respond without having to think.

So, you never allow yourself to become a passenger to your own fear?

BH: I keep that glide speed until it stops. I’m on the controls. I don’t give up.

What first got you interested in flying?

BH: My family and other people talking about Charles Lindbergh’s accomplishments. That tweaked my interest because it was such a big thing in history. I built model airplanes and would run outside if I heard an airplane flying over because you didn’t hear very many back then.

When did you meet Lindbergh?

There was a project for an airplane that could fly even further than the SR–71. It was the XB–70 Valkyrie. Lindbergh visualized a supersonic transport. Size-wise, the Valkyrie was being designed as a heavy bomber, but we figured out you could put in 35 first class seats. In talking with Lindbergh, we said it wouldn’t be practical. And we were correct. Boeing wanted to build it initially, and North American bid on it because we were going to build some parts of the structure for Boeing. But Lindbergh was so fascinated by those things.

Did you ever personally get to know the notoriously reclusive Charles Lindbergh?

BH: We became very good friends. He’d come out to visit me under an assumed name. He kept up to date on things. I’d take him to my home, but he didn’t drink. You’d never know it, because he’d sit there at the bar with me and you’d never know he wasn’t having as much fun as you were. Lindbergh was very shy, very introverted. He didn’t want to be known.

I helped bring him back out of obscurity with the help of astronaut Wally Schirra and others, who helped convince him. We wanted to give him an honorary award. I was the president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. It’s a very prestigious organization with members like Neil Armstrong. I got Chuck Yeager into it when he wasn’t qualified. Got him into an experimental airplane so that he would be qualified, as he’d not joined beforehand, and the rule was you couldn’t get in if you weren’t flying something experimental.

Lindbergh told me he wanted to accept the award, but said he wouldn’t allow any photographs, and wouldn’t sign any autographs. He wanted to be taken into the ceremony the back way, with security, because he didn’t want to be bothered with people wanting to talk with him. By this time, we were on a first-name basis and he wanted me to call him Slim, which I did until his later years.

I said, “Slim, no one’s going to recognize you because when the Apollo 11 crew comes back from the moon, they’re going to be given an award on the same stage that I want you to receive your award. Nobody will recognize you anywhere, anytime. When I’m sitting with you now, nobody knows who you are.” I’d bring him into the North American company and nobody knew who he was!

So, Wally Schirra was on my board. He wrote Lindbergh a terrible letter! He said, “Bob has offered you the opportunity of a lifetime. Here’s an opportunity for you to be honored by people who have all risked their life in being a test pilot. This is your last opportunity, you’ll never get another chance. And I should think this is one thing that would be important to you.”

Then, Lindbergh called and asked if I could promise him there would be no photos. I said “I can’t promise you that, but I’ll try to protect you as much as I can.” He said, “Okay, but can you get me in the back door so I won’t have to talk to anybody?” I said, “Slim, you could waltz in through the front door of that Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel and nobody will know who you are! Everybody’s looking for the astronauts!”

Cvo_ByXVUAAs-Jv

I told him: Walk through the front door and I’ll be standing there waiting for you. And I had in my suite Bob Hope, Conrad Hilton and his son Baron, the Apollo 11 crew, and a whole bunch of movie people—the big names!

Quite the cocktail party!

BH: But Lindbergh didn’t want to go in there. He wanted to have me listen to him give his speech. So, I took him into the bedroom which was right off the suite—I had the presidential suite—where all the people were gathered, having cocktails.

What did you think of his speech?

BH: It was the most boring thing I ever heard in my life! When he finished, all I said was, “Boy that was just great, they’re going to love it!” Hell, nobody cared what he said. It was the fact that he, Lindbergh, was there.

How did it go?

BH: Well, he let me take him in to meet the people I just mentioned. Bob Hope had his own personal photographer who tried to take a picture but I ran over and jumped in front of him.

Do you think his behavior was a reaction not so much to his aviator fame, but instead to his terrible personal tragedy?

BH: Oh, it was the kidnapping yes. He told me that’s what the problem was. The last letter I ever got from Lindbergh was him writing to thank me. He wrote, “I think I’m writing you from a house of ill repute in Hong Kong. My reservations got lost and this lady said she’d give me a place to sleep—now I’m scared to go out the door!”

After his death, his wife Anne Morrow informed me I would be receiving the Lindbergh Award. She and her daughter were to make the presentation, so I told them about that letter and sent them a copy. I said I’d like to have Wally Schirra, if appropriate from your viewpoint, read it at the presentation. I told her, “Slim says so many nice things about me that I can’t read the letter, it wouldn’t be appropriate. And it wouldn’t really be appropriate for you to read it, but it would be great for everyone to hear Wally read it.”

Everyone says Wally Schirra has a great sense of humor.

BH: He’s so wonderful in that respect. He read Lindbergh’s letter, and it was fascinating.

You’ve flown so many different planes throughout your career. If you had to pick two or three that were special, you know, like the way a couple of women over a lifetime can capture a man’s heart, which planes would it be? When you look back, which ones did you love?

BH: Did you ever fall in love and not like them (laughter)? Well, the F–86 is the one that stands out the most in my mind, the Sabrejet was it. I was in on the early testing; the spin tests and the dive tests. I’ve done that on a lot of different airplanes but the reason I choose the F–86 is because it was docile. Not in its early days.

mig-hunter-peter-chilelli

It killed a few people, but by the time we got it cleaned up we had a sweetheart—the most docile, nicest handling airplane you’ve ever sat in. The creature comfort was terrible, but the flying qualities were…perfection.

Have you ever had an accident during a show?

BH: Oh yes, sure! In the big Hanover, Germany, show I had to land a Sabreliner on one wheel as I couldn’t get the other one down. There was light rain. After touchdown I couldn’t hold it up on one wheel all the way down the runway. The wing started dragging and we departed the runway. Wiped it out. But I was back in another airplane 30 minutes later!

Do you know some of the early test pilots and NASA astronauts?

BH: All close personal friends of mine. Close to every one of them, flown with all of them.

Frank Borman?

BH: Top-notch dedicated American gentleman.

Neil Armstrong?

BH: Ditto.

Chuck Yeager? RTR7PF71477414981

BH: Well, he’s a real hero in my book. I knew him intimately. In his book, he wrote a lot about us, our togetherness. I was selected to fly the [Bell] X–1 before him! Of all the people I’ve ever known—you could not have done better than Chuck—the best aviator I’ve ever flown with, that’s a true statement. The feelings run deep, so does the admiration. I can assure you the success of that program (the X–1) could not have been any better accomplished than it was with Chuck at the controls. He’s the best aviator I’ve ever flown with. Great friendship, great admiration.

Would you say Chuck Yeager personifies ‘The Right Stuff?’

BH: He sure does, he sure does.

If someday, when you meet our maker, he says, “Bob, we’re going to make an exception. We’re going to let you go back to earth and live for one week.” How would you spend that time?

BH: That’s a very difficult question because when they take me to the undertaker, that poor guy is going to have a hell of a time getting the smile off of my face. I’m 50 lifetimes ahead of any other man who ever lived. I’ve had more fun and met more interesting people than you would ever believe. For many years I wore that business suit while performing. A black tie, a black suit, a white shirt, and people would ask why do you always dress like that?

Because you’re ready for the undertaker?

BH: No, not only the undertaker, but when I get out of the airplane I’m ready for the cocktail party! And then I’m going to save the undertaker all that trouble of trying to take care of me. Isn’t that a good philosophy?

Cockpit to Cocktail Party: The Bob Hoover Story. Could be a damn good book title!

And on that concluding note, a lot of laughter.

In 2002, I’m sure I expressed gratitude to Bob Hoover for taking the time to grant this interview. I’d like to say it again: Thank you Bob, it was a privilege. KB

****************************

mmm

 

kathleen bangs

By age 19, Kathleen Bangs was already a flight instructor for one of the world’s top aviation programs. She has spent a career passionately involved in all facets of aerospace, with a particular dedication to aviation safety.
She’s a rated Airline Transport Pilot and former commercial airline pilot, airline training instructor and check airman, with over 10,000 hours of flight time spent flying aircraft ranging from large wide-body passenger jets to amphibious seaplanes.
Kathleen is an award winning aviation writer and journalist whose work has appeared in leading industry magazines and newspapers. In addition to flying and training pilots, she’s also led a number of creative marketing and public relations programs to support a variety of top aviation industry manufacturers.

Posted in Testimony of Pilot -Series | Comments Off

Testimony of Pilot (8) Neil Armstrong – Research Pilot

Testimony of Pilot# 8

I thought the attractions of being an astronaut were actually, not so much the Moon, but flying in a completely new medium.

Armstrong ETP

The pictures above do not represent the common perspective  of Neil Armstrong the astronaut and first man to step on the moon. Rather using our characterization of harnessing the sky, they and this post provides a testimony of pilot  – Korean War Navy fighter pilot and a NACA/NASA research pilot – related to exploring  the hypersonic flight regime existing above Mach 5 and the study of the possibilities of flying a winged vehicle outside the sensible atmosphere – the region where aerodynamic control surfaces will function. TINS

Trouble At the Edge of Space
from

First Man –
The Life of Neil Armstrong
The Authorized Biography

by James R. Hansen

“. . . I always felt that ‘form follows function,’ that engineering would decide the best way to go. I thought the attractions of being an astronaut were actually, not so much the Moon, but flying in a completely new medium.” This is not to say that Armstrong did not continue to prefer a winged pathway into space, via trans-atmospheric vehicles like the X-15 and X-20 Dyna-Soar. Even after the first suborbital Mercury flights in 1961, Armstrong thought “we were far more involved in spaceflight research than the Mercury people. “I always felt that the risks we had in the space side of the program were probably less than we had back in flying at Edwards or the general flight-test community. The reason is that we were exploring the frontiers, we were out at the edges of the flight envelope all the time, testing limits. That isn’t to say that we didn’t expect risks in the space program. But we felt pretty comfortable because we had so much technical backup and we didn’t go nearly as close to the limits as much as we did back in the old flight-test days.”

A significantly higher rate of fatalities in the world of flight test supports Armstrong’s contention. Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews, People, Testimony of Pilot -Series | Comments Off

Testimony of Pilot (7): Frederick Trapnell – Test Pilot at War

Testimony of Pilot #7

Aeroplane testing . . . demands for satisfactory results the highest training. It occupies no special place by virtue of this—it merely comes into line with the rest of engineering. Now, one can learn to fly in a month . . . but an engineer’s training requires years. It is evidently necessary, therefore, that engineers—men with scientific training and trained to observe accurately, to criticize fairly, to think logically—should become pilots, in order that the development of aeroplanes may proceed at the rate at which it must proceed if we are to hold that place in the air to which we lay claim—the highest. 
CAPTAIN William S. Farren, British Royal Aircraft Factory, 1917

Lead

1) 1933, Trap in F9C Sparrowhawk testing the trapeze recovery system on the airship USS Macon; 2) jet testing; 3) book cover; 4) April 1943, first naval aviator to fly a jet – the Bell P-59A Airacomet at Muroc

Remembering the sky trajectories from Kill Devil Hill to Paris to the Battles of Britain and Midway, to transcontinental airlines and to the edge of the atmosphere and eventually the Moon are the truest “this is no s…t” stories of so many great men and women. They were not only brave risk takers and great “sticks” but extraordinary engineers using aircraft as their data sources and computers in a continual effort to stretch the envelop of flight.

And so (more later) this second chapter takes its characterization as “harnessing the sky.”  Below are excerpts from the book of that title telling the story of the test pilot who led naval aviation out of bi-planes to the airwings that won the war in the Pacific, and along the way became the US Navy’s first jet pilot, then founding the Navy Test Pilot School. With way too many critical stories for a complete picture of Trap, specific focus here is on his crucial role in the design and testing of the F4U Corsair of WWII and Korean War fame. TINS

Making the F4U Corsair a Combat Star
from

Harnessing the Sky:
Frederick “Trap” Trapnell, the U.S. Navy’s Aviation Pioneer, 1923-1952

by Frederic M. Trapnell Jr. and Dana Trapnell Tibbitts

Since when were Navy test pilots redesigning their aircraft? Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews, People, Testimony of Pilot -Series | Tagged , | Comments Off

Testimony of Pilot (6): Charles Lindbergh – THE Flight

Testimony of Pilot #6

An experienced aviator through his own eyes seeing and telling another aviator’s story of a dark and stormy night over the ocean most certainly more than qualifies for a “this is no s…t” testimony. With more night flying and night carrier landings than I ever needed, the selection from Dan Hampton’s THE Flight really strikes home and is spot on for this series.

Header

THE Flight Chapter Six – Excerpts
THE EMPIRE OF THE NIGHT

by Dan Hampton

… THE LAST GATE is closing behind me. I’ve reached the point where real navigation must begin.

… as Slim stares out at the lonely black Atlantic, New York seems another world: chatting with the mechanics in the drafty hangar, eating a hot meal, writing letters. Right now it’s after 8 P.M. back in New York and there are folks dressed for dinner, or off to see a Broadway show, as he had done the night before takeoff. Others would be visiting with family, as he had the prior week. Arriving from Detroit, Lindbergh’s mother, Evangeline, had spent May 14 on Long Island, then left, satisfied that her son knew what he was doing. How strange was the fate that had put him here. Now he was alone in this frail cotton-and-steel cocoon over a dark ocean while millions of others around the world were warm and safe. People were doing all those mundane tasks that constitute most of life, and are so seldom appreciated unless one realizes it can all be lost. In his case, very quickly. Would anyone remember him? His whole life summed up in a few lines of newsprint to be read, then forgotten.

Shifting and stretching, Slim checks the gauges again. Continue reading

Posted in Testimony of Pilot -Series, War and Remembrance | Tagged | Comments Off

Testimony of Pilot: Chapter One – Of Dragons and Ghosts

Testimony of Pilot #5

And like no other sculpture in the history of art,  the dead engine and dead airframe come to life at the touch of a human hand,  and join their life with the pilot’s own. When you believe in something as true as the sky you’re bound to find a few friends.
Richard Bach

dusk-delivery-corsair-ii-peter-chilelli

Corsair II Dusk Delivery by Peter Chilelli

With the four previous articles this concludes the first chapter of a new series for Remembered SkyTestimony of Pilot is intended as anthology of TINS, memorable quotes, and story-telling art.

Dedicated to Max – Navy flyer, Champ, great husband/father/grandfather, unforgettable friend, and
the best story teller ever

Everyone at one time or another stumbles across something or someone that sends their mind cascading back in time to people and events that have shaped their lives. Aviators in particular are notorious for that instantaneous hands in the air “and their I was, flat on my back, running out of airspeed, altitude and gas… but here’s what I did…” – airshow time at the bar. Late 1999 I experienced that moment when daughter Tracey – made in Hong Kong 1972 in the midst of the war over Vietnam – announced she was bringing home for Christmas 1999 an F-14 Tomcat type naval aviator. The result was really my first effort at story telling by actually  writing – The Ghosts of Christmas Past…Fly Navy, the BEST Always Have. Continue reading

Posted in Testimony of Pilot - RS published eralier, Testimony of Pilot -Series, War and Remembrance | Comments Off

Testimony of Pilot: Sightings – American Dragons

Testimony of Pilot #4

Sometimes no matter whether the words of a Hemingway or any author, no matter how skilled, the complete essence of story  just can’t be captured  as well as on the artist canvas. Sometimes the event itself precludes the photograph, or  in combat aviation particularly, I think the dynamics sometimes prevent  complete recall of the pilot in sufficient detail. But with only minor information the imagination and talent of the artist can bring that story to life or indeed stand by itself as the telling. Peter Chilelli used that talent to recreate my memories of that first Alpha Strike and THE SAM near the Than Hoa Bridge in early May 1972.

welcome-to-north-vietnam-peter-chilelli

He has now graciously volunteered use of his art for the Testimony of Pilot seriesWhere story and his art are in sync his work will be a major aspect of this series. Below are several examples of Peter’s aviation art as the story. His work can be found at Fine Art America.

The aviation storytelling of Peter Chilelli

“I am a dragon.  America the beautiful, like you will never know”

Continue reading

Posted in Testimony of Pilot -Series | Tagged | Comments Off

Testimony of Pilot: “I Am a Dragon, America the Beautiful Like You Will Never Know”

Testimony of Pilot#3

From AIRSHIPS; Testimony of Pilot

by Barry Hannah

… Through Lilian I got the word that Quadberry was out of Annapolis and now flying jets off the Bonhomme Richard, an aircraft carrier headed for Vietnam.

1024px-F-8J_of_VF-51_is_launched_from_USS_Bon_Homme_Richard_(CVA-31)_in_1970

 He telegrammed her that he would set down at the Jackson airport at ten o’clock one night. So Lilian and I were out there waiting. It was a familiar place to her. She was a stewardess and her loops were mainly in the South. She wore a beige raincoat, had red sandals on her feet; I was in a black turtleneck and corduroy jacket, feeling significant, so significant I could barely stand it. I’d already made myself the lead writer at Gordon-Marx Advertising in Jackson. I hadn’t seen Lilian in a year. Her eyes were strained, no longer the bright blue things they were when she was a pious beauty. We drank coffee together. I loved her. As far as I knew, she’d been faithful to Quadberry.

He came down in an F-something Navy jet right on the dot of ten. Continue reading

Posted in Memorials, On their Shoulders, Testimony of Pilot -Series | Comments Off

Testimony of Pilot: “I’ll Remember”

Testimony of Pilot #2

by Richard L. Newhafer

I remember the things of the past four years. They are as much a part of me now and forever as my very soul. The years of my life may be many or may be few, but I’ll remember . . .

F6F-5_Hellcat_49_of_VF-6_escort_carrier_USS_Suwanee_CVE-27_April_21_1945

VF-6 Hellcat on the USS Hancock
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant, Junior Grade Richard L. Newhafer  for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron SIX (VF-6), attached to the U.S.S. HANCOCK (CV-19), in a strike against major units of the enemy fleet, including aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers, in Kure Harbor, Japan, on 25 July 1945.

I’ll remember a glistening bar atop the El Cortez in San Diego in September of 1943, cloudy with cigarette smoke and noisy with a hard and forced laughter. I remember the gold wings and battle ribbons on the chests and Bates sitting beside me looking westward out over the sea.

‘Well, Batesy, tomorrow we go. A week from today we’ll be in it. So tonight we either get drunk or go to church. What’ll it be?’ And Bates smiled and ordered a drink for the house. Continue reading

Posted in People, Testimony of Pilot -Series, War and Remembrance | Comments Off

Testimony of Pilot: Of the Telling of TINS and the Avoidance of Lawyers

Testimony of Pilot #1

You love a lot of things if you live around them, but there isn’t any woman and there isn’t any horse, nor any before nor any after, that is as lovely as a great airplane, and men who love them are faithful to them even though they leave them for others. A man has only one virginity to lose in fighters, and if it is a lovely plane he loses it to, there his heart will ever be.
Ernest Hemingway

spitfire_Barry Clark

Spitfire by Barrie Clark

This Ernest Hemingway quote is from an article he wrote for Collier’s when he was their correspondent in London during World War II. Titled “London Fights the Robots”, it’s about the R.A.F. effort to shoot down incoming buzz bombs. – From the book, By-Line: Ernest Hemingway, a compilation of much of his journalism – It can certainly be supposed Hemingway was characterizing one of the most beloved aircraft in history from the Battle of Britain.

With this note Remembered Sky begins a new series Testimony of Pilot. The intent is to provide an anthology of aviation TINS (“this is no shit” as contrasted with “once upon a time”) stories, some by me some by others. Focus is good stories in general rather than digging into Vietnam or WW II or airpower concepts, etc.  As to those by others, a major factor is to prevent some really good TINS from being lost within the vastness of Google or lost forever through the passage of time. Continue reading

Posted in On their Shoulders, People, Testimony of Pilot -Series | Comments Off

1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier; (Part 11+) – “Why Is China’s Navy Studying the Battle of Guadalcanal?”

Blown Slick Series #13 Part 11+

The National Interest magazine recently published Why Is China’s Navy Studying the Battle of Guadalcanal? by Lyle J. Goldstein a research professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the United States Naval War College in Newport, RI. The following provides key excerpts and  points. The original article can be found here.

China’s military has not had much combat experience in recent decades, and this is recognized among Chinese military leaders as a potentially serious problem. The reasons for this scarcity of battlefield know-how are obvious and might even be praise-worthy. It has been nearly four decades since Beijing undertook a significant military campaign, so how would its armed forces have attained this knowledge? 

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has sought to remedy its lack of actual combat experience by the careful study of military history, including the bloody Pacific War … Continue reading

Posted in Analysis, Blown Slick Series, China's Air Power, War and Remembrance | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off