22 November 1989: At 7:23:29.986 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (00:23:29.986, 23 November, UTC) Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on its ninth flight, STS-33. This was the thirty-second flight of the Space Shuttle Program, and was a classified military mission.
Discovery carried a five person crew: Mission Commander, Colonel Frederick Drew Gregory, United States Air Force, and Shuttle Pilot, Colonel John Elmer Blaha, U.S.A.F., were both on their second space mission. Mission Specialist Franklin Story Musgrave, M.D., was on his third flight. Mission Specialists Captain Manley Lanier Carter, Jr., M.D., U.S. Navy, and Kathryn Ryan Cordell Thornton, Ph.D., were both on their first.
Discovery initially entered an elliptical orbit, but a series of maneuvering burns were used to lift it into a circular orbit at an altitude of 280 nautical miles (322 statute miles/519 kilometers). The secret payload was launched on Discovery‘s seventh orbit and was propelled upward into a geosynchronous orbit.
After 79 orbits, Discovery landed at Edwards AFB on 27 November at 4:30:15.9 p.m., Pacific Standard Time 00:30:15.9, 28 November, UTC). The total duration of the flight was 5 days, 6 minutes, 46.014 seconds.
Discovery was carried back to KSC aboard a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, 4 December 1989.
22 November 1972: The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers began combat operations in the Vietnam War with ARC LIGHT strikes against enemy troop concentrations and supply lines in June 1966. The B-52s flew so high and fast that they could neither be seen nor heard on the ground. It was more than six years before the first of the eight-engine bombers would be lost to enemy action.
B-52D-65-BO 55-0110, call sign OLIVE 2, was assigned to the 96th Bombardment Wing, Heavy. It flew combat missions from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and the U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, Thailand. On 22 November, -110 was crewed by Captain Norbert J. Ostrozny, aircraft commander; Captain P. A. Foley, co-pilot; Bud Rech, radar navigator; Captain Robert Estes, navigator; Larry Stephens, electronic warfare officer; and Staff Sergeant Ronald W. Sellers, gunner.
Near Vinh, on the central coast of North Vietnam, OLIVE 2 was struck by an exploding S-75 Dvina surface to-air missile (NATO identified the S-75 as the SS-2 Guideline, commonly referred to as a SAM). The S-75 is a Soviet two-stage command-guided surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile. It is 10.60 meters (34 feet, 9.3 inches) long and 0.7 meter (2 feet, 3.6 inches) in diameter. It is liquid-fueled and has a maximum speed of Mach 4 and range of 24 kilometers (15 miles). The missile has a 200 kilogram (441 pound) fragmentation warhead. The loaded weight is 2,300 kilograms (5,071 pounds).
OLIVE 2 was seriously damaged and on fire, and the flight crew turned toward the airfield at U-Tapao.
After crossing the Thailand border, Captain Ostrozny ordered the crew to eject from the stricken bomber. All six crewmen escaped the doomed Stratofortress and were later rescued by a Sikorsky HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giant search-and-rescue helicopter.
55-0110 crashed 15 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. It was the first Stratofortress lost to enemy action in more than six years of combat.
The United States Air Force flew more than 125,000 combat sorties with the B-52 from 1966 to 1973. During that time, the bombers delivered 2,949,615 tons of bombs against enemy targets. A total of 31 B-52s were lost. 73 crewmen were killed in action and 33 captured and held as prisoners of war.
My thanks to Colonel Knox Bishop, U.S. Air Force (Retired), for contributing the additional details.
22 November 1961: In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of Naval Aviation, a number of speed and altitude record attempts were planned, using the U.S. Navy’s new McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II fighter. On the morning of 22 November, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bradford Robinson, Jr., United States Marine Corps, took off from Edwards Air Force Base on Operation Skyburner, an attempt to set a new World Absolute Speed Record. He was flying the second Phantom II built, Bu. No. 142260.
The Phantom carried three external fuel tanks for this flight. It had a 600-gallon (2,271.25 liter) centerline tank and two 370-gallon (1,400.6 liter) wing tanks. Robinson flew southeast toward NAS El Centro, then turned back to the northwest. Over the Salton Sea, he began to accelerate the YF4H-1 to build up speed for the record run over a measured twenty-mile course back at Edwards AFB. The Phantom’s two General Electric J79-GE-3A afterburning turbojets used a tremendous amount of fuel at full throttle and the centerline fuel tank was quickly emptied. Robinson jettisoned the empty tank over the Chocolate Mountain gunnery range. Continuing to accelerate, the two wing tanks were next jettisoned as they ran dry, this time at Bristol Dry Lake.
The Phantom entered the east end of the speed course in full afterburner. Having burned off more than 1,300 gallons of fuel, 142260 was much lighter now, and aerodynamically cleaner after dropping the external tanks. Robinson exited the west end of the 20-mile (32.2 kilometer) course in less than one minute.
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale rules require that a speed record must be made with two passes in opposite directions. The average speed of the two runs is the record speed. The Phantom was flying so fast that it covered another 105 miles (169 kilometers) before it could turn around. During the turn, it was still traveling at 0.9 Mach.
Robinson again put the engines in afterburner as he approached the course from the west. On the second run, the fighter was even lighter and its recorded speed was more than 1,700 miles per hour (2,736 kilometers per hour). The average of the two runs was calculated at 2,585.425 kilometers per hour (1,606.509 miles per hour.) This was the new FAI Absolute World Speed Record.¹
For his accomplishment, Lieutenant Colonel Robinson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Secretary of the Navy John B. Connally. The presentation took place on 25 November 1961 at Newport News, Virginia, during the commissioning of USS Enterprise CVA(N)-65.
In the next few weeks, the same YF4H-1 would establish a world record for sustained altitude—20,252 meters (66,444 feet).² Two years earlier, 6 December 1959, in Operation Top Flight, 142260 had established a world record for absolute altitude when it zoom-climbed to 98,557 feet (30,040 meters).³
Robert Bradford Robinson, Jr., was born at Orange, California, 22 October 1923. He was the second of four children of Robert Bradford Robinson, a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier, and Golda Leutha Nordeen Robinson.
Bob Robinson attended Orange Union High School, graduating in 1941. He participated in all varsity sports, and was selected to attend the Boys’ State leadership program. He earned a bachelor of science degree at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.
Robinson entered the United States Marine Corps on 26 August 1942. He received the wings of a Naval Aviator and was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 1 December 1943.
2nd Lieutenant Robinson married Miss Lavonne Jean David at Nueces, Texas, 23 December 1943. They would later have a son, Robert Bradford Robinson III (and a grandson, Robert Bradford Robinson IV)
During the Battle of Okinawa, Lieutenant Robinson flew the radar-equipped Grumman F6F-3N Hellcat night fighter with VMF(N)-543.
Lieutenant Robinson was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant, 31 March 1945. Following World War II, Lieutenant Robinson was assigned to VMF-311, and became one of the first Naval Aviators to qualify in turbojet-powered aircraft. The squadron initially flew the Lockheed TO-1 Shooting Star (P-80), and later transitioned to the Grumman F9F Panther.
Lieutenant Robinson was promoted to the rank of captain 1 April 1950. VMF-311 was sent to the Korean war zone in November 1950, initially operating from Yokosuka Air Base in Japan. The squadron flew close air support missions in support of the amphibious assault of Inchon, and at the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Captain Robinson returned to night fighter operations when he joined Marine All-Weather Squadron 513 (VMF(N)-513) on 13 January 1951. The unit which was equipped with Grumman F7F-3N Tigercats and Chance Vought F4U-5N Corsairs.
Captain Robinson was promoted to the rank of major, 31 December 1954. He completed the six-month course at the Naval Test Pilot School, NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, graduating in March 1959 (Class 21).
In 1963, Lieutenant Colonel Robinson retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years’ service. He was then employed as a test pilot for the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation at St. Louis, Missouri. He remained with the company for 30 years.
Mrs. Robinson died 7 February 1997, after 53 years of marriage. Bob Robinson later married Mrs. Julian Brady (née Elizabeth Catchings), the widow of a long-time friend.
Robert Bradford Robinson, Jr., died 28 September 2005 at McComb, Mississippi. He was buried at the Hollywood Cemetery in McComb.
22 November 1955: The Soviet Union’s first thermonuclear weapon, RDS-37, was air-dropped at the Semipalatinsk Test Site, approximately 150 kilometers west of the city of Semipalatinsk, Kazakh S.S.R. (now, Kazakhstan). The bomber, a Tupolev Tu-16A, and its crew were under the command of Senior Test Pilot Major Fedor Pavlovich Golovashko.
The RDS-37 was a two-stage radiation-implosion thermonuclear bomb, what was called at the time a “hydrogen bomb.” (RDS stands for Rossiya delaet sama—meaning, in effect, that “Russia does it itself.” This three-letter prefix was applied to atomic tests since the first, RDS-1, 29 August 1949.)
This was the Soviet Union’s twenty-fourth nuclear weapons test, but its first true thermonuclear bomb, and it was the world’s first air-dropped “H bomb.” (The United States’ first air-drop of a thermonuclear weapon, Redwing Cherokee, took place six months later, 20 May 1956. Great Britain’s Grapple I/Short Granite test occurred 15 May 1957.)
Major Golovashko and his crew had made a previous attempt with the RDS-37. Two days earlier, 19 November, the loading of the bomb began at 6:45 a.m. Four hoists were used to lift it into the bomber’s weapons bay. The process took about two hours.
At 9:30 a.m., the Tu-16 took off from Zhana Semey Airport (PLX), about 8 kilometers (5 miles) south of the city of Semipaltinsk. It began climbing to an altitude of 12,000 meters (39,370 feet) as it flew toward the test site. Golovashko’s bomber was escorted by pairs of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 fighters to prevent the theft of the test weapon.
Although the weather had been forecast to be good, it unexpectedly began to deteriorate. The Tu-16 was above a cloud layer with the test area obscured. As the crew prepared to bomb by radar, the radar equipment failed and all attempts to repair it were unsuccessful.
Test conductors were very concerned about landing the Tupolev back at Semipalatinsk with a fully-armed nuclear bomb still on board. There was consideration of dropping the RDS-37 over remote mountains, but there was no certainty of being able to avoid villages or towns, and if the bomb were to only partially detonate there could be widespread contamination by its radioactive fuel.
There was a delay in making a decision and the Tupolev’s fuel was getting low. Finally it was decided to have the bomber return to Semipaltinsk with the bomb. The landing was uneventful and the technicians removed the RDS-37 for servicing before the next test attempt.
It was normal procedure for bomber crews to rotate, but the decision was made to have Major Golovashko’s crew make the second test flight. On 22 November the weapon loading began at 4:50 a.m., with takeoff at 8:34 a.m. Again the Tupolev Tu-16A was escorted by pairs of MiG-17s. Once again, the bomber arrived over the test site at 12,000 meters, flying at 870 kilometers per hour (541 miles per hour).
Soviet nuclear weapons designer Andrei Dmitrievich Sakaharov, whose “other idea”—radiation-implosion—was used in the design of the RDS-37, was at an observation site about 70 kilometers from the test target. He watched the Tu-16 as it flew overhead and described it as, “dazzling white with its sweptback wings and slender fuselage extending far forward, it looked like a sinister predator poised to strike.” He also noted that the color white is “often associated with death.”
After being released from Major Golovashko’s Tupolev, the RDS-37 was retarded by parachute to allow time for the bomber to get away. It detonated at 1,550 meters (5,085 feet) above the ground. The flight crew described seeing a blue-white flash that lasted 10 to 12 seconds. The shock wave of the detonation, spreading at the speed of sound, hit the bomber 3 minutes, 44 seconds after the drop. The Tu-16 experienced accelerations of 2.5Gs, and was lifted to higher altitude. It was not damaged.
5–7 minutes following the detonation the distinctive mushroom cloud had reached to a height of 13–14 kilometers (8–8.7 miles) and its diameter was 25–30 kilometers (15.5–18.6 miles).
The RDS-37 detonated with a reported yield varying between 1.6 and 1.9 megatons (depending on source). The bomb had a designed yield of 3 megatons but this had been intentionally reduced for this test.
The bomb detonated under a temperature inversion layer which reflected a large proportion of the explosive force back to the ground. A small town about 75 kilometers (47 miles) away suffered significant destruction. A small child was killed when a building collapsed. At another location, a soldier in an observation was killed when the trench caved in from the shock. Nearly 50 others were injured. Windows were broken as far as 200 kilometers (124 miles) away.
Several videos of this test are available on YouTube.
The Tu-16 has a normal bomb load of 3,000 kilograms (6,614 pounds), but can carry up to 9,000 kilograms (19,842 pounds). It has seven Afanasev Makarov AM-23 23mm autocannons for defense, mounted in three pairs which are remotely operated by the gunners, and a single gun in the nose. These guns fire at a rate of 900 rounds per minute.
The Tupolev Tu-16 was built in bomber, cruise missile carrier, electronic counter measures, aerial tanker, and electronic and photographic reconnaissance versions, at three factories in the Soviet Union: Kazan Plant N22, Kuibyshev N18 and Voronezh N64. 1,507 Tu-16s were built before production ended in 1961. 453 of these were the Tu-16A nuclear weapons version. Another 120 were built under license in China by Harbin Aircraft. These are designated H-6.
Fedor Pavlovich Golovashko was born at Byokovo, Novosibirsk, 22 June 1923. He was educated through the 9th grade before being drafted into the Soviet Army in 1941. He was trained as a pilot at the Novosibirsk Military Aviation School, graduating in 1943.
He was assigned to a Long Range Aviation regiment (Dalnyaya Aviatsiya) under the command of Alexander Ignatyevich Molodchy, twice a Hero of the Soviet Union.
Golovashko’s final missions of the Great Patriotic War (World War II) were flown against Berlin.
Fedor Golovashko remained in the Air Force following the war and soon was in command of a squadron. He became a test pilot in 1954 and was assigned to the Semipalatinsk Test Site.
Senior Test Pilot Major Fedor Pavlovich Gorovashko was named a Hero of the Soviet Union, 11 September 1956. He reached the rank of Colonel before retiring from the Air Force in 1961. He had been awarded the Order of Lenin, Order of the Red Banner (two awards), Order of the Patriotic War 1st Degree, and the Order of the Red Star (two awards).
After retiring, Colonel Golovashko lived in Odessa. He died there, 19 April 1981.
Major Golovashko’s bomber was a Tupolev Tu-16A (NATO codename “Badger-A”). This was a two-engine turbojet-powered long-range medium bomber. It was normally operated by a flight crew of seven.
Developed from the Tupolev Design Bureau Project 88, the prototype Tu-16 made it’s first flight at Zhukovsky Airfield (Ramenskoye Airport), southeast of Moscow, on 27 April 1952. The test pilot was Nikolai Stepanovich Rybko. This was the Soviet Union’s first swept-wing bomber. It was designated Tu-16 and entered production in 1954.
The Tu-16A was designed specifically to carry nuclear weapons and had a strengthened fuselage and heated bomb bay. The Tupolev Tu-16 is 34.8 meters (114.2 feet) long with a wingspan of 33 meters (108.3 feet) and overall height of 10.36 meters (34 feet). The wings are mounted at mid-fuselage and have a compound sweep. The inner portion has a leading edge sweep of 40.5°, and the outer wing is swept to 35°. t has an empty weight of 37,200 kilograms (82,012 pounds) and maximum takeoff weight of 79,000 kilograms (174,165 pounds).
Power is supplied by two large turbojet engines mounted in the wings at the fuselage, similar to the de Havilland Comet, though they are angled slightly outward to direct the exhaust away from the airplane’s skin panels. The Tu-16A variant is equipped with two Mikulin RD-3M-200 turbojets which produce 21,835 pounds of thrust, each.
The Tu-16A has a maximum speed of 992 kilometers per hour (610 miles per hour) and a service ceiling of 12,800 meters (41,995 feet). Its maximum range is 6,400 kilometers (3,977 miles).
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Major Charles Joseph Loring, Jr. (AFSN: 13008A), United States Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing, Fifth Air Force in aerial combat at Sniper Ridge, North Korea, on 22 November 1952. While leading a flight of four F-80 type aircraft on a close support mission, Major Loring was briefed by a controller to dive-bomb enemy gun positions which were harassing friendly ground troops. After verifying the location of the target, Major Loring rolled into his dive bomb run. Throughout the run, extremely accurate ground fire was directed on his aircraft. Disregarding the accuracy and intensity of the ground fire, Major Loring aggressively continued to press the attack until his aircraft was hit. At approximately 4,000 feet, he deliberately altered his course and aimed his diving aircraft at active gun emplacements concentrated on a ridge northwest of the briefed target, turned his aircraft 45 degrees to the left, pulled up in a deliberate, controlled maneuver, and elected to sacrifice his life by diving his aircraft directly into the midst of the enemy emplacements. His selfless and heroic action completely destroyed the enemy gun emplacement and eliminated a dangerous threat to United Nations ground forces. Major Loring’s noble spirit, superlative courage, and conspicuous self-sacrifice in inflicting maximum damage on the enemy exemplified valor of the highest degree and his actions were in keeping with the finest traditions of the U.S. Air Force.
Action Date: November 22, 1952
Service: Air Force
Company: 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron
Regiment: 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing
Division: 5th Air Force
Charles Joseph Loring, Jr., was born at Portland, Maine, 2 October 1918. He was the first of four children of Charles Joseph Loring, a laborer, and Mary Irene Cronin Loring. Charles Loring, Sr., served in the United States military during World War I.
Charley Loring attended Cheverus High School, a private religious school in Portland, graduating in 1937.
Loring enlisted in the Air Corps, United States Army, at Cumberland, Maine, 16 November 1942. He was trained as a pilot at Greenville, Mississippi, and Napier Field, Alabama. He was commissioned a second lieutenant, Air Reserve, 16 February 1943.
During World War II, Lieutenant Charles J. Loring, Jr., had been a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt fighter pilot assigned to the 22nd Fighter Squadron, 36th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force, in Europe. Loring was promoted to first lieutenant, Army of the United States (A.U.S.), 24 June 1944. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions in support of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
Lieutenant Loring flew 55 combat missions before his P-47D-28-RE, 44-19864, was shot down by ground fire near Hotten, Belgium, on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1944. Captured, Lieutenant Loring was taken to the garrison hospital at Hemer, then transferred to an interrogation center at Frankfurt, Germany. He remained a prisoner of war until Germany surrendered in May 1945.
Loring was promoted to captain, A.U.S., 23 October 1945. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions in support of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. He was also awarded the Air Medal with ten oak leaf clusters, and the Purple Heart.
In 1945, Charles J. Loring, Jr. married Miss Elsie P. Colton of Beverly, Massachusetts, in Boston. They would have two daughters, Aldor Rogers Loring and Charlene Joan Loring.
After World War II came to an end, Captain Loring reverted to the rank of first lieutenant, Air Reserve, 16 February 1946. Loring was appointed first lieutenant, Air Corps, 19 June 1947 with date of rank retroactive to 16 February 1946. In September 1947, the United States Air Force was established as a separate military service, with standing equivalent to the United States Army and United States Navy. Charles Loring was appointed a first lieutenant, United States Air Force, with date of rank again 16 February 1946.
Flying the Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star with the 80th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 8th Fighter Bomber Wing, during the Korean War, Major Loring served as the squadron operations officer. According to his father, Charles J. Loring, Sr., “Charley was a stubborn man. He said he would never be a prisoner again. He was the kind of man who kept his word about everything.”
The Medal of Honor was awarded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 5 May 1953, but this was kept secret by the Air Force “to protect him from enemy reprisal” in the event that Major Loring had not died in the crash of his fighter, but had been captured. The Medal was presented to Mrs. Loring and her two daughters, Aldor and Charlene, by Secretary of the Air Force Harold E. Talbott, during a ceremony held at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., 17 April 1954. Limestone Army Airfield in Maine was renamed Loring Air Force Base, 1 October 1954.
A cenotaph memorializing Major Loring is at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.