Daily Archives: May 1, 2018

1 May 1965

Lockheed YF-12A 60-6936, flies test mission near Edwards Air Force Base, Califrnia. (U.S. Air Force)
Lockheed YF-12A 60-6936, flies test mission near Edwards Air Force Base, Califrnia. (U.S. Air Force)

1 May 1965: Lockheed YF-12A 60-6936 established five Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Speed: 3,351.507 kilometers per hour (2,070.102 m.p.h.) over a 15/25 Kilometer Straight Course; 2,644.22 kilometers per hour (1,643.04 miles per hour) over a 500 Kilometer Closed Circuit; and 2,718.01 kilometers per hour (1,688.89 miles per hour) over a 1,000 Kilometer Closed Circuit. On the same day, 6936 set an FAI World Record for Altitude in Horizontal Flight of 24,463 meters (80,259 feet).

The World Record-setting flight crews, from left to right, Captain James P. Cooney, Major Walter F. Daniel, Colonel Robert L. Stephens, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Andre and Major Neil T. Warner. (U.S. Air Force)
The World Record-setting flight crews, from left to right, Captain James P. Cooney, Major Walter F. Daniel, Colonel Robert L. Stephens, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Andre and Major Neil T. Warner. (U.S. Air Force)

The YF-12A interceptor prototype was flown by pilots Major Walter F. Daniel and Colonel Robert L. Stephens, with fire control officers Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Andre, Major Neil T. Warner and Captain James P. Cooney. Colonel Stephens and Lieutenant Colonel Andre were awarded the Thompson Trophy for the “J” Division, 1965. Their trophy is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Lockheed YF-12A 60-6936 during speed record trials. The white cross on the aircraft's belly was to assist timers and observers. (U.S. Air Force)
Lockheed YF-12A 60-6936 taking off from Edwards Air Force Base during the speed record trials, 1 May 1965. The white cross on the aircraft’s belly was to assist timers and observers. (U.S. Air Force)

FAI Record File Num #3972 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 1 000 km with 1 000 kg payload
Performance: 2 718.01 km/h
Date: 1965-05-01
Course/Location: Edwards AFB, CA (USA)
Claimant Walter F. Daniel (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed YF-12A (06936)
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney J-58/JTD11D-20A

FAI Record File Num #3973 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 1 000 km with 2 000 kg payload
Performance: 2 718.01 km/h
Date: 1965-05-01
Course/Location: Edwards AFB, CA (USA)
Claimant Walter F. Daniel (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed YF-12A (06936)
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney J-58/JTD11D-20A

FAI Record File Num #8534 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Altitude in horizontal flight
Performance: 24 463 m
Date: 1965-05-01
Course/Location: Edwards AFB, CA (USA)
Claimant R.L. Stephens (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed YF-12A
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney J-58/JTD11D-20A

FAI Record File Num #8855 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 500 km without payload
Performance: 2 644.22 km/h
Date: 1965-05-01
Course/Location: Edwards AFB, CA (USA)
Claimant Walter F. Daniel (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed YF-12A
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney J-58/JTD11D-20A

FAI Record File Num #8926 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 1 000 km without payload
Performance: 2 718.006 km/h
Date: 1965-05-01
Course/Location: Edwards AFB, CA (USA)
Claimant Walter F. Daniel (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed YF-12A
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney J-58/JTD11D-20A

FAI Record File Num #9059 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a straight 15/25 km course
Performance: 3 331.507 km/h
Date: 1965-05-01
Course/Location: Edwards AFB, CA (USA)
Claimant R.L. Stephens (USA)
Aeroplane: Lockheed YF-12A
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney J-58/JTD11D-20A

World Speed Record holders and Thompson Trophy winners, Colonel Robert F. Stephens and Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Andre. (U.S. Air force)
World Speed Record holders and Thompson Trophy winners, Colonel Robert L. Stephens and Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Andre. (U.S. Air Force)

60-6936 was one of three Mach 3 YF-12A interceptors designed and built by Kelly Johnson’s “Skunk Works”. It was developed from the CIA’s Top Secret A-12 Oxcart reconnaissance airplane. The YF-12A was briefly known as the A-11, which was a cover story to hide the existence of the A-12. Only three were built. The Air Force ordered 93 F-12B interceptors into production as a replacement for the Convair F-106A Delta Dart, but for three straight years Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara refused to release the funds that had been appropriated. In 1968, the F-12B project was cancelled.

On 24 June 1971, 60-6936 suffered an in-flight fire while on approach to Edwards Air Force Base. The crew successfully ejected and the airplane crashed a few miles to the north of EDW. It was totally destroyed.

The only surviving example of a YF-12A, 60-6935, is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The 1965 Thompson Trophy on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
The 1965 Thompson Trophy on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 May 1963

Jackie Cochran with the Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter, N104L. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran with the Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter, N104L. (FAI)

1 May 1963: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Cochran, Colonel, U.S. Air Force Reserve, established a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record when she flew this two-place Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter, FAA registration N104L, named Free World Defender, over a 100-kilometer (62.137-mile) closed circuit at an average speed of 1,937.15 kilometers per hour (1,203.69 miles per hour).¹

Jackie Cochran wrote about flying the 100-kilometer course in her autobiography:

“The 100 kilometer closed course was so damn difficult. Imagine an absolutely circular racetrack, about a quarter of a mile wide, on the ground with an inner fence exactly 63 miles long. Now, in your mind’s eye, leave the track and get into the air at 35,000 feet. Fly it without touching the fence in the slightest. It’s tricky because if you get too far away from the inner fence, trying not to touch, you won’t make the speed you need to make the record. And if you get too close, you’ll disqualify yourself.

“Eyes are glued to the instrument panel. Ears can hear the voice of the space-positioning officer. You are dealing in fractions of seconds. And your plane isn’t flying in flat position. It’s tipped over to an 80-degree bank to compensate for the circle. That imaginary inner fence may be to your left, but you don’t head your plane left. That’d lose altitude. Instead, you pull the nose up a bit and because the plane is so banked over, you move closer to the fence. You turn.”

Jackie Cochran: An Autobiography, by Jacqueline Cochran and Maryann Bucknum Brinley, Bantam Books, New York 1987, Page 314.

She had flown this same F-104 to an earlier speed record at Edwards Air Force Base, 12 April 1963.

N104L was retained by Lockheed for use as a customer demonstrator to various foreign governments. In 1965 Lockheed sold N104L to the Dutch Air Force, where it served as D-5702 until 1980. It next went to the Turkish Air Force until it was retired in 1989.

Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter N104L, World Speed Record holder. (Lockheed)
Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter N104L, World Speed Record holder. (Lockheed)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12390

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 May 1960

Francis Gary powers flew this Lockheed U-2, 56-6693, "Article 360" over the Soviet Union, 1 October 1960. Right profile illustration courtesy of Tim Bradley. (© 2016, Tim Bradley)
Francis Gary Powers flew this Lockheed U-2C, 56-6693, “Article 360,” over the Soviet Union, 1 October 1960. Right profile illustration courtesy of Tim Bradley. (© 2016, Tim Bradley)
Article 360, the Central Intelligence Agency's Lockheed U-2C,56-6693, as it appeared when flown by Francis gary Powers, 1 May 1960. (Left profile illustration courtesy of Tim Bradley.( © 2016 Tim Bradley)
Article 360, the Central Intelligence Agency’s Lockheed U-2C, 56-6693, as it appeared 1 May 1960. Left profile illustration courtesy of Tim Bradley. (© 2016 Tim Bradley)

1 May 1960: Near Degtyansk, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, a Central Intelligence Agency/Lockheed U-2C, 56-6693, “Article 360,” flying at approximately 80,000 feet (24,384 meters) on a Top Secret reconnaissance mission, was hit by shrapnel from an exploding Soviet V-750VN (S-75 Desna) surface-to-air missile.

With his airplane damaged and out of control, pilot Francis Gary Powers bailed out and parachuted safely but was immediately captured. A trailing MiG-19 fighter was also shot down by the salvo of anti-aircraft missiles, and its pilot killed.

The trial of Francis Gary Powers, August 1960. Mr. Powers is standing in the prisoner's dock at the right side of the image. (Getty Images/Popperfoto)
The trial of Francis Gary Powers, 17 October 1960. Mr. Powers is standing in the prisoner’s dock at the right side of the image. (Getty Images/Popperfoto)

Gary Powers was interrogated by the KGB (Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti, the Committee for State Security of the Soviet Union, a military intelligence/counterintelligence service) for 62 days. He was held at the notorious Lubyanka Prison in Moscow then prosecuted for espionage. Found guilty, Powers was sentenced to three years imprisonment and seven years of hard labor.

Суд над Ф. Г. Пауэрсом в колонном зале Дома Союзов
Суд над Ф. Г. Пауэрсом в колонном зале Дома Союзов “The trial of F. G. Powers in the column hall of the House of Unions.” (newsko.ru)

After almost two years, he was exchanged for William August Fisher, (AKA Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, Vilyam Genrikhovich Fisher) a long-time Soviet intelligence officer who had been captured in the United States in 1957. [This story was recounted in the Steven Spielberg motion picture, “Bridge of Spies,” which starred Tom Hanks. The film received six Academy Award nominations in 2015.]

Blick am 10.02.1962 uber den Schlagbaum auf Westberliner Seite auf die Glienicker Brucke in Berlin. (Berliner Kurier)
Blick am 10.02.1962 über den Schlagbaum auf Westberliner Seite auf die Glienicker Brücke in Berlin. (Berliner Kurier)

Francis Gary Powers entered the United States Air Force as an aviation cadet in 1950. He graduated from pilot training and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1952. Powers was then assigned to the 468th Strategic Fighter Squadron, 506th Strategic Fighter Wing at Turner Air Force Base, Georgia, where he flew the Republic F-84G Thunderjet fighter bomber. He received special training in the delivery of the Mark 7 variable-yield tactical nuclear bomb.

In 1956, 1st Lieutenant Powers was released from the U.S. Air Force to participate in the Central Intelligence Agency’s Project Aquatone. He was now a civilian government employee, although he was promised that he could return to the Air Force and that he would keep his seniority and would be promoted on schedule.

Lockheed test pilot Francis Gary Powers, wearing a David Clark Co. MC-3 capstan-type partial-pressure suit and ILC Dover MA-2 helmet for protection at high altitude, with a Lockheed U-2F, N800X, at Van Nuys Airport, California. (Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed test pilot Francis Gary Powers, wearing a David Clark Co. MC-3 capstan-type partial-pressure suit and ILC Dover MA-2 helmet for protection at high altitude. The aircraft is a Lockheed U-2F, N800X, at Van Nuys Airport, California. (Lockheed Martin)

After his release from the Soviet Union, Powers was employed as a test pilot for Lockheed, 1962–1970. He then became an airborne traffic and news reporter for several Los Angeles-area radio and television broadcast stations.

Powers was killed in the crash of a Bell 206B JetRanger helicopter at Van Nuys, California, 1 August 1977.

On 24 November 1986, the Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded posthumously to Powers “For Extraordinary Achievement While Participating in Aerial Flight 1 May 1960.”

After reviewing his record at the request of his son, Francis Gary Powers, Jr., on 15 February 2000, the U.S. Air Force retroactively promoted him to the rank of Captain, effective 19 June 1957, and further credited his military service to include 14 May 1956–1 March 1963, the time he was with the CIA. The award of the Prisoner of War Medal was also authorized.

On June 15, 2012, General Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, awarded Captain Francis Gary Powers the Silver Star (posthumous).

Lockheed U-2A 56-6696, sister ship of the reconnaissance aircraft flown by Francis Gary Powers, 1 May 1960. (U.S. Air Force)
Lockheed U-2A 56-6696, sister ship of the reconnaissance aircraft flown by Francis Gary Powers, 1 May 1960. (U.S. Air Force)

Article 360 had been built as a U-2A, the last aircraft of the initial production block. It was delivered to Groom Lake, Nevada, 5 November 1956, and was used for test and development until May 1959, when it was converted to the U-2C configuration.

The Lockheed U-2C was a very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft used by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Air Force. It was 49 feet, 7 inches (15.113 meters) long with a wingspan of 80 feet, 2 inches (24.435 meters) and height of 15 feet, 2 inches (4.623 meters). Its empty weight was 14,250 pounds (6,464 kilograms) and gross weight was 24,150 pounds (10,954 kilograms).

The U-2C was powered by a Pratt & Whitney J75-P-13B turbojet engine rated at 17,000 pounds of thrust (75.62 kilonewtons) at Sea Level. Two-spool axial-flow turbojet with 15-stage compressor (8 low- and 7 high-pressure stages) and 3-stage turbine (1 high- and two low-pressure stages).

The U-2C’s cruise speed was 400 knots (460 miles per hour, 741 kilometers per hour) at 65,000 feet (19,812 meters) and its maximum speed was 0.87 Mach at 62,000 feet (18,898 meters), though the airplane was placarded for 0.80 Mach, maximum. The maximum range was 4,600 nautical miles (8,519 kilometers). It could operate at 76,000 feet (23,165 meters).

SA-2B Guideline anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. (NASM 2006-1301)

The В-750ВН (13Д) Десна (V-750VN 13D Desna) (NATO designation: SA-2B Guideline) is a two-stage ground-controlled anti-aircraft missile. The two-stage rocket is 10.841 meters (35 feet, 6.8 inches) long, and its loaded weight is 2,283 kilograms (5,033 pounds). First built at Plant N41, it became operational in 1959.

The missile could reach an altitude of 30,000 meters (98,425 feet) and had a maximum range of 34 kilometers (21 miles). It carried a 191 kilogram (421 pound) blast fragmentation warhead.

The missile had a Circular Error Probability (CEP) of 65 meters (213 feet), meaning that 50% of the missiles launched could be expected to come within 65 meters of the target. Early warheads produced approximately 8,000 fragments, each with an initial velocity of 2,500 meters per second (5,592 miles per hour). The maximum blast radius against a high altitude target was about 250 meters (820 feet).

The rocket’s first stage had a maximum diameter of  0.654 meter (2 feet, 3.6 inches) and fin span of 2.586 meters (8 feet, 5.8 inches). It was powered by a solid fuel Kartukov PRD-18 engine. The engine burned for 3–5 seconds and produced a maximum 455 kilonewtons (102,288 pounds) of thrust.

The second stage was 8.139 meters (26 feet, 8.4 inches) long with a maximum diameter of 0.500 meters (1 foot, 7.7 inches). The maximum fin span was 1.691 meters (5 feet, 6.6 inches). Its loaded weight was 1,251 kilograms (2,758 pounds). The second stage was powered by a C2.711B1 (S2.711V1) hypergolic liquid-fueled rocket engine which produced 30.4 kilonewtons (6,834 pounds) of thrust.

S-75 Dvina surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile and launcher.
S-75 Dvina/Desna surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile and launcher.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 April–1 May 1947

Flight Lieutenant H.B. Martin DSO, DFC, RAFVR, 23 June 1943. (Australian War Memorial UK0235)
Flight Lieutenant Harold Brownlow Morgan Martin DSO, DFC, RAFVR, 23 June 1943. (Australian War Memorial UK0235)

30 April–1 May 1947: Squadron Leader H.B. “Mick” Martin, D.S.O., D.F.C., pilot, and Squadron Leader Edward Barnes “Ted” Sismore, D.S.O., D.F.C., navigator, departed from Heathrow Airport, London, England, at 20:06 D.B.S.T., 30 April, in a Royal Air Force Transport Command de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito PR.34. They flew to Brooklyn Airport, Capetown, South Africa, arriving at 17:35 D.B.S.T., 1 May.

Martin and Sismore with their DH.98 Mosquito at Capetown, South Africa, 1 May 1947.

The total duration of the 6,717 mile (10,810 kilometer) flight was 21 hours, 31 minutes, 30 seconds. This included a 20 minute refueling stop at El Adem, Libya, and a 25 minute stop at Kisumu, Kenya.

Martin and Sismore cut 23 hours, 36 minutes off of the existing record speed for the route set by Flying Officer A.E. Clouston and Mrs. Betty Kirby-Green with a DH.88 Comet, G-ACSS, 14–16 October 1937. ¹

For their record-breaking ² long-distance flight, Martin and Sismore were awarded the Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.

Flight Lieutenant E.B. Sismore, RAFVR (The Telegraph)
Flight Lieutenant E.B. Sismore, RAFVR, with a DH.98 Mosquito. (The Telegraph)

Their airplane was a de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito PR.34, a very long range, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft. It was the fastest of all Mosquito variants. The identification of their Mosquito is undetermined.

The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was designed and built by the de Havilland Aircraft Company, Limited. It was a twin-engine aircraft constructed primarily of wood. The airplane was flown by a pilot and navigator/bombardier. It was produced in bomber, fighter-bomber, night fighter and photo reconnaissance versions.

The PR.34 was 41 feet, 6 inches (13.649 meters) long, with a wingspan of 54 feet, 2 inches (16.510 meters) and overall height of 15 feet, 3 inches (4.648 meters). Its empty weight was 16,630 pounds (7,543 kilograms) and  it had a gross weight of 25,500 pounds (11,567 kilograms)

The Mosquito PR.34 was powered by two liquid-cooled, fuel injected and supercharged, 27.01 liter (1,648.96 cubic inch) Rolls-Royce Merlin 113/114 single overhead camshaft 60° V-12 engines which produced 1,430 horsepower at 27,250 feet (8,306 meters) with 18 inches of boost (1.24 Bar). These engines used S.U. single-point fuel injection. The Merlins drove three-bladed de Havilland Hydromatic constant-speed, quick-feathering, propellers with a diameter of 12 feet, 0 inches (3.658 meters) through a 0.420:1 gear reduction. The Merlin 113 weighed 1,650 pounds (748.4 kilograms) while the 114 was slightly heavier, at 1,654 pounds (750.2 kilograms). The 114 drove a second supercharger for cabin pressurization.

The PR.24 had bulged bomb bay doors to accommodate an 869 gallon auxiliary fuel tank and could carry a 200-gallon (909 liter) “slipper” tank under each wing. The total fuel capacity  of the London–Capetown Mosquito was was 1,267 Imperial gallons (5,760 liters).

The DH.98 Mosquito PR.24 had a maximum speed of 422 miles per hour (679 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). Its service ceiling was 43,000 feet (13,106 meters) and it had a range of 3,340 miles (5,375 kilometers).

There were 181 PR.24s built, with 50 of those constructed by the Percival Aircraft Company.

Mosquito PR.34 (Imperial War Museum Catalogue number ATP 13464B)
The first Mosquito PR.34, RG176. (Imperial War Museum Catalogue Number ATP 13464B)
AM H.B.M. Martin RAF
AM H.B.M. Martin RAF

(Acting) Squadron Leader Mick Martin (later, Air Marshal Sir Harold Brownlow Morgan Martin, K.C.B., D.S.O. and Bar, D.F.C. and Two Bars, A.F.C., Royal Air Force), was one of the few No. 617 Squadron Avro Lancaster bomber pilots who participated in Operation Chastise, the raid on the Ruhr Valley hydroelectric dams in 1943, to survive the war. (He flew ED909/G, AJ P, “Popsie.” Remarkably, his airplane also survived World War II.) Air Marshal Martin retired from the RAF in 1974. He died 3 November 1988 at the age of 70 years.

(Acting) Squadron Leader Ted Sismore (later, Air Commodore Edward Barnes Sismore, D.S.O., D.F.C. and Two Bars, A.F.C., A.E., O.D. (K.), ³ M.B.I.M.), was known as the best long-range low-level navigator in the Royal Air Force. He was the lead navigator for the attack of Amiens Prison, 18 February 1944, and the raid on the Gestapo headquarters at Copenhagen, Denmark in 1945. Air Commodore Sismore retired from the Royal Air Force, 23 June 1976. He died 22 March 2012 at the age of 90 years.

The Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.
The Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.

¹ FAI Record File Number 13242

² This flight does not appear to be an official Fédération Aéronautique Internationale record.

³ Order of Dannebrog, Degree of Knight, conferred by His Majesty the King of Denmark, 18 March 1949.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 May 1943

Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson presents the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Maynard Harrison Smith, United States Army Air Corps. (U.S. Air Force)

MEDAL OF HONOR

SMITH, MAYNARD H. (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 423d Bombardment Squadron, 306th Bomber Group.

Place and date: Over Europe, 1 May 1943.

Entered service at: Caro, Michigan.

Born: 1911, Caro Michigan.

G.O. No.: 38, 12 July 1943.

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor

Citation: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty. The aircraft of which Sgt. Smith was a gunner was subjected to intense enemy antiaircraft fire and determined fighter airplane attacks while returning from a mission over enemy-occupied continental Europe on 1 May 1943. The airplane was hit several times by antiaircraft fire and cannon shells of the fighter airplanes, 2 of the crew were seriously wounded, the aircraft’s oxygen system shot out, and several vital control cables severed when intense fires were ignited simultaneously in the radio compartment and waist sections. The situation became so acute that 3 of the crew bailed out into the comparative safety of the sea. Sgt. Smith, then on his first combat mission, elected to fight the fire by himself, administered first aid to the wounded tail gunner, manned the waist guns, and fought the intense flames alternately. The escaping oxygen fanned the fire to such intense heat that the ammunition in the radio compartment began to explode, the radio, gun mount, and camera were melted, and the compartment completely gutted. Sgt. Smith threw the exploding ammunition overboard, fought the fire until all the firefighting aids were exhausted, manned the workable guns until the enemy fighters were driven away, further administered first aid to his wounded comrade, and then by wrapping himself in protecting cloth, completely extinguished the fire by hand. This soldier’s gallantry in action, undaunted bravery, and loyalty to his aircraft and fellow crewmembers, without regard for his own personal safety, is an inspiration to the U.S. Armed Forces.”

Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson reads the Citation for the Medal of Honor awarded to Staff Sergeant Maynard Harrison Smith, 306th Bombardment Group (Heavy). (Imperial War Museum, Roger Freeman Collection FRE 4379)

Sergeant Smith was a ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress on his first combat mission. The bomber was so badly damaged that, on landing, the airplane’s structure failed from battle damage and it broke in half. There were over 3,500 bullet and shrapnel holes.

Battle damage to the radio operator's compartment of Boeing B-17F-65-BO 42-29649. The bomber was salvaged 3 May 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
Battle damage to the radio operator’s compartment of Boeing B-17F-65-BO 42-29649. The bomber was salvaged 3 May 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

Maynard Harrison Smith was born at Caro, Michigan, 19 May 1911. He was the second child of Henry Harrison Smith, a lawyer, and Mary Christine Gohs Smith, a school teacher.

Smith worked as a clerk in a government insurance office. He married Miss Arlene E. McCreedy at Ferndale, Michigan, 31 July 1929. They had a daughter, Barbara Lou Smith. They divorced 22 October 1932. He later married his second wife, Helene Gene Gunsell, at Caro, Michigan, 30 March 1941.

Maynard Smith enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, 31 August 1941. He was trained as an aerial gunner, and on completion, was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant. He was assigned as a ball turret gunner in a B-17 combat crew of the 423rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 306th Bombardment Group (Heavy), based at RAF Thurleigh, Bedfordshire, England.

A gunner fires the two Browning .50 caliber machine guns of his electrically-powered Sperry ball turret.

Following the 1 May mission, Staff Sergeant Smith flew only four more combat missions before a medical board diagnosed him with Operational Exhaustion. He was removed from flight status and reverted to his initial rank of private.

While stationed in England, Sergeant Smith met Miss Mary Rayner, a British subject and USO volunteer. They were married in 1944. They would have four children.

Sergeant Smith was released from active duty, 26 May 1945.

Following World War II, Smith worked for the Department of the Treasury. He later founded Police Officers Journal, a magazine oriented toward law enforcement officers.

Based on an examination of certain facts in his life, as well as anecdotes by persons who knew him, it is fair to say the Maynard Smith was a troubled individual. But the extreme courage he displayed on 1 May 1943 cannot be denied.

Maynard Smith died at St. Petersburg, Florida, 11 May 1984 at the age of 72 years. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Staff Sergeant Maynard Harrison Smith, United States Army Air Forces, was the first of only five Air Force enlisted airmen to be awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II. He was also awarded the Air Medal, with one oak leaf cluster (two awards).

This photograph shows SSGT Smith with a Browning .50-caliber machine gun at the left waist position of a B-17 Flying Fortress. (U.S. Air Force)
This photograph shows SSGT Smith with a Browning Machine Gun, Caliber .50, AN-M2, at the left waist position of a B-17 Flying Fortress. (U.S. Air Force) 

Boeing B-17F-65-BO Flying Fortress 42-29649 was delivered to Denver, Colorado, 29 January, 1943. After crossing the North Atlantic Ocean, the new bomber was assigned to the 423rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 306th Bombardment Group (Heavy) at RAF Thurleigh, near Bedford, Bedfordshire, England, 24 March 1943. It was identified by the letters RD-V painted on its fuselage.

On 1 May 1943, 42-29649 was one of 18 B-17s of the 306th Bombardment Group assigned to attack German Kriegsmarine submarine pens at Saint-Nazaire, on the Atlantic coast of France. Another 60 B-17s from three other groups were also part of the mission. Only 12 bombers from the 306th arrived over the target, which was heavily obscured by clouds. Each bomber carried two 2,000-pound (907 kilogram) General Purpose bombs, which were dropped from 25,200 feet (7,681 meters) on a heading of 270°. After a 20-second bomb run, the group released its bombs at 11:26 a.m.

Damage to the left side of 42-29649’s radio compartment. (U.S. Air Force)

Flying away from the target area, the 306th flew over the city of Brest at low altitude. 42-29649 was hit by anti-aircraft fire. The group was then attacked by 15–20 Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters. Two bombers were shot down over the city and a third ditched near the coast. -649 caught fire and three crewmen bailed out over the water and were lost.

Of the 78 B-17s dispatched, 7 were lost. 73 crewmembers were listed as Missing in Action, 18 Wounded in Action and 2 Killed in Action.

On 1 May 1943, 42-29649 was flown by Captain Lewis P. Johnson, Jr., aircraft commander/pilot; 1st Lieutenant Robert McCallum, co-pilot; 1st Lieutenant Stanley N. Kisseberth, navigator; Staff Sergeant J.C. Melaun, nose gunner and bombardier; Technical Sergeant William W. Fahrenhold, flight engineer/top turret gunner; Staff Sergeant Maynard H. Smith, ball turret gunner; Technical Sergeant Henry R. Bean, radio operator; Staff Sergeant Robert V. Folliard, waist gunner; Staff Sergeant Joseph S. Bukacek, waist gunner; Sergeant Roy H. Gibson, tail gunner. Sergeants Bean, Folliard and Bukacek were killed in action.

This Boeing B-17F-55-BO Flying Fortress, 42-29524. also o fthe 423rd Bombardment Squadron, was very similar to teh one on which Sergeant Smith was the ball turret gunner. The squadron identification markings, "RD", are painted on the fuselage. The second letter "D" identifies this particular airplane. (U.S> Air Force)
This Boeing B-17F-55-BO Flying Fortress, 42-29524, Meat Hound, was also of the 423rd Bombardment Squadron, 306th Bombardment Group. 8th Air Force. It is the same type as the B-17F on which Sergeant Smith was the ball turret gunner. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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