Just a little bit of repeat by way of summary to make sure a point or two gets highlighted:
Twilight Launch by Jim Horsely, VA-115 pilot
On the “day after” – morning of 25 October – USS Midway launched strikes into North Vietnam. For a warship, survival on your “own terms” means carrying out your mission, in this case sending combat sorties over the North.
If Midway/CAG 5 can’t execute, some other ship/airwing must, maybe on a day they were due for a well deserved stand down from the stress and grind of combat. It’s not just the pilots, flight deck crews barely get a break between the 12 hour cycles of launch and recovery. And it’s hot in the Gulf of Tonkin, but add jet blast … Days off are vital. The faith must be kept.
It was a unanimous decision by the Captain and the CO’s to fly the next day. It is my recollection that every squadron CO, including me, flew on the 25th. VA-56 Commanding Officer CDR Lew Chatham.
Schoolboy today sits in San Diego Harbor open to all looking to get a glimpse of the carrier environment. Note the VA-115 Intruder on display. USS Midway has introduced millions to Naval Aviation, refreshed many a memory and brought old friends back together. She is a bright and shiny representation of a highest-reliability organization and singular monument to all who served and continue to serve their country as part of “Fly Navy.”
Pictures below show the emotion of sharing a legal beer in Midway’s watering hole “under the Ramp,” bringing a tear to Manny’s eye, (my bunkroom mate and flight lead on several “intersting” Iron Hand missions) and Skipper Lew (my leader for many an ALPHA Strike and also my first mission into combat) and I with some good single malt the night before at the VA-56 Champ reunion in San Diego in October 2005.
There is one hell of a lot more to Naval Aviation than us college boy, ne’er do well a-holes in speed jeans. If there was such a thing as Midway Magic, it was manifest – using the academic language of research – in the true “actionable understanding” of the carrier environment by Schoolboy’s flight deck personnel that night.
Midway Magic = High Reliability Organization. When it all hit the fan, those young men knew exactly what to do and they saved our asses.