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21 November 1947

Corky Meyer in the cockpit of the first Grumman XF9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 122475, during the first flight, 21 November 1947. (U.S. Navy)
Corky Meyer in the cockpit of the first Grumman XF9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 122475, during the first flight, 21 November 1947. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)
Corwin H. ("Corky") Meyer
Corwin Henry Meyer, 1920–2011. (Grumman)

21 November 1947: Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation engineering test pilot Corwin Henry (“Corky”) Meyer took off from the company’s  airfield at Bethpage, Long Island, New York, in the first prototype XF9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 122475. After the preliminary flight evaluation, Meyer landed the new jet fighter on a longer runway at Idlewild Airport. The Bethpage runway was only 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) long. As the first jet aircraft built by Grumman, it wasn’t known if the XF9F-2 could land on that short a runway.

Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine quoted Meyer as saying that the weather was “the foulest of any first flight in my experience.” He described the prototype’s handling qualities: “It handled like a J-3 Cub.” In an article for Flight Journal, Corky Meyer wrote: “I conducted a very satisfactory first flight of the 5,000-pound-thrust Rolls-Royce Nene-powered fighter on November 21, 1947.”

Grumman XF9F-2 prototype, photographed 20 November 1947. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)

The XF9F-2 Panther was the first jet-powered aircraft to be built by Grumman, a major supplier of aircraft for the United States Navy. It was a single-seat, single-engine, day fighter, designed for operation on the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers. It was developed from a proposed four-engine XF9F-1 night fighter. Grumman planned to use the Rolls-Royce RB.41 Nene centrifugal-flow turbojet engine. With 5,000 pounds rated thrust at 12,400 r.p.m., the Nene was more powerful (and more reliable) than any engine manufactured by an American company.

The first prototype Grumman XF9F-2 Panther at Grumman's Plant 4, 1947. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)
The first prototype Grumman XF9F-2 Panther at Grumman’s Plant 4, 1947. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)

Originally it was planned that the Nene would be licensed for production to the Taylor Turbine Corporation as the J42-TT-2. No J42s were ready, so Taylor supplied Grumman with imported Rolls-Royce engines. The Navy had concerns about Taylor’s capability to produce engine in sufficient quantities and arranged for the J42 license to be sold to Pratt & Whitney.

Ensign Neil A. Armstrong, as wingman to Lieutenant (j.g.) Ernie Moore, is flying the second Grumman F9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 125122 (marked S 116), assigned to VF-51, USS Essex (CV-9), 1951. (Naval Aviation Museum)
Ensign Neil A. Armstrong, as wingman to Lieutenant (j.g.) George Russell, is flying the second Grumman F9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 125122 (marked S 116), assigned to VF-51, USS Essex (CV-9), 1951. (John Moore/Naval Museum of Naval Aviation)

The Panther was placed into production as the F9F-2. The F9F-2 was 37 feet, 5-3/8 inches (11.414 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 5⅜ inches (11.719 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.528 meters)—not including wing tanks. Its overall height was 11 feet, 4 inches (3.454 meters). The wings could be hydraulically folded to reduce the span for storage aboard ship. The Panther weighed 9,303 pounds (4,220 kilograms) empty, and had a gross weight of 19,494 pounds (8,842 kilograms.

Grumman F9F-5 Panther, Bu. No. 126034, of VF-781, catches an arresting cable when landing aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), 1952. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F9F-5 Panther, Bu. No. 126034, of VF-781, catches an arresting cable when landing aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), 15 November 1952. (U.S. Navy)

The F9F-2 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney JT6 (J42-P-8) turbojet engine which produced 5,000 pounds of thrust (22.241 kilonewtons) at Sea Level, and 5,750 pounds (25.577 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The J42 was a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Nene. The engine used a single-stage centrifugal-flow compressor, 9 combustion chambers and a single-stage axial-flow turbine. The J42-P-8 weighed 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms).

The Panther had a maximum speed of 575 miles per hour (925 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 44,600 feet (13,594 meters), and the range was 1,353 miles (2,177 kilometers).

The Panther was armed with four M3 20 mm autocannon placed in the nose with 760 rounds of ammunition. It could carry up to 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of bombs or eight 5-inch (12.7 centimeters) rockets on four hardpoints under each wing.

Lt. Royce Williams, USN, points out battle damage to his Grumman F9F-5 Panther, aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), 18 November 1952. (U.S. Navy)
Lt. Royce Williams, USN, points out battle damage to his Grumman F9F-5 Panther, Bu. No. 125459, aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), 18 November 1952. (U.S. Navy via Flight Journal)

It was a very successful air-to-air and air-to-ground fighter during the Korean War. On 18 November 1952, Lieutenant Elmer Royce Williams, USN, flying an F9F-5 Panther, Bu. No. 125459, of VF-781 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CVA-34), shot down four of seven Soviet Air Force MiG 15 fighters which had launched from Vladivostok toward Task Force 77. His Panther sustained significant damage from enemy cannon shells. Though he safely returned to his carrier, the fighter, Number 106, was so badly damaged that it was pushed over the side. Lieutenant Royce was awarded the Silver Star for this action. No other pilot has ever shot down four MiG fighters during a single combat action.

This Grumman F9F-5 Panther aboard the USS Midway Museum, San Diego, California, is painted to represent Royce Williams' fighter. (USS Midway Museum)
This Grumman F9F-5 Panther aboard the USS Midway Museum, San Diego, California, is painted to represent Royce Williams’ fighter. (USS Midway Museum)

The F9F Panther was flown during the Korean War by such famed naval aviators as Ted Williams, and future astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

Grumman built 1,358 F9F-2,-3,-4 and -5 Panthers and another 1,392 swept wing F9F-6, -7 and -8 Cougars. Panthers remained in service with the United States Navy until 1958, and Cougars until 1974.

The combat survivability of Grumman's fighters earne dteh factory the nickname of "The Grumman Iron Works". In this photograph, future NASA astronaut John H. Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, examines some of the 714 holes in his F9F Panther. (U.S. Navy)
The combat survivability of Grumman’s fighters earned the factory the nickname of “The Grumman Iron Works.” In this photograph, future NASA astronaut Major John H. Glenn, U.S. Marine Corps, the first American to orbit the Earth, examines some of the 714 holes in his F9F Panther. (U.S. Navy)

Corwin Henry (“Corky”) Meyer ¹ was born 14 April 1920 at Springfield, Illinois. He was the second of three children of Dr. John Gerhard Meyer, a physician and surgeon, and Betsy Arenia Corwin Meyer.

Corwin H. Meyer, 1938. (Capitoline)

At the age of 17 years, Corky Meyer learned to fly in the Civilian Pilot Training Program. (This was a federal government-funded program which provided 72 hours of ground school and 35–50 hours of flight training, intended to increase the number of pilots available for civilian aviation.)

Meyer attended Springfield High School, in Springfield. He was a member of the Senior Boys’ Council and the National Honor Society. Meyer graduated from high school in May 1938, then entered the University of Illinois. He studied at the at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1942–43.

Meyer was a pilot trainee for Pan American Airways before being employed as an engineering test pilot at the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation at Bethpage, New York.

A flight crew boards a Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber, circa early 1942. (Rudy Arnold Collection, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum NASM-XRA-0780)

Meyer’s first project was testing newly-built TBF Avenger torpedo bombers. Later he was was a project test pilot for the F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat and F7F Tigercat. (Robert Leicester Hall made the first flights of these airplanes, but Corky Meyer was involved in flight testing of each of them early on.)

Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Bu. No. 26108, Long Island, New York, circa 1942. The pilot standing by the airplane may be Corky Meyer. (Rudy Arnold Collection, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum NASM-XRA-0648)

Corwin H. Meyer married Miss Dorothy Marjorie Fyfield, 7 April 1945, at Huntington, New York. They would have a daughter, Sandra Louise Meyer, born in 1950, and two sons, John Fyfield Meyer and Peter Meyer.

Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat, Bu. No. 121718. The pilot may be Corky Meyer. (Grumman)

On 19 May 1952, Corky Meyer took the prototype variable-wing-sweep XF10F-1 Jaguar for its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Grumman XF10F-1 Jaguar, 1952.

From 1952 to 1954, Meyer was head of Grumman’s flight operations at Edwards Air Force Base in California. In 1954, he became the first civilian airplane pilot to qualify for flight operations aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, when he flew an F9F-6 Cougar to USS Lake Champlain (CVA-39). ²

Grumman XF9F-9 prototype, Bu. No. 138604. (Grumman)

Corky Meyer made the first flight of the XF9F-9 prototype, Bu. No. 138604, on 30 July 1954, and was able to approach mach 1 in level flight. The XF9F-9 was a completely redesigned F9F Cougar, which incorporated the “wasp-waist” in its area-ruled fuselage. The following year, this type would be redesignated the F11F Tiger.

In 1967, Meyer was appointed  vice president of Grumman, and in 1968, he was elected to the board of directors of the Grumman Aerospace Corporation. He became the senior  vice president of Grumman Aerospace in 1972. In 1974, Meyer became President of Grumman American Aviation Corp., Savannah, Georgia, a subsidiary which produced light civil airplanes, the Grumman AgCat, and the Gulfstream line of executive jets. Corwin Meyer retired from Grumman in 1978. He later served as chief executive officer of the Enstrom Helicopter Corporation and the Falcon Jet Corporation.

A Grumman C-20B Gulfstream III, 86-0200, in service with the 89th Airlift Wing, U.S. Air Force.
Corwin Henry Meyer

Meyer was an early member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. In 1971, he was awarded SETP’s James H Doolittle Award for excellence in technical management or engineering achievement in aerospace technology. In 1999 the National Aeronautic Association selected him for its Elder Statesman Award.

Meyer was the author of Corky Meyer’s Flight Journal, an autobiography published in 2005, by Specialty Press, North Branch, Minnesota.

Corwin Henry Meyer died in Naples, Florida, 1 June 2011, at the age of 91 years.

¹ Lutheran Church birth and baptismal records give Meyer’s name as “Henry Corwin Meyer.”

² On 3 April 1991, TDiA’s author became the only civilian helicopter pilot (at that time, and who was not a former military pilot) to qualify to fly from U.S. Navy warships at sea. The Deck Landing Qualification (DLQ) flights were evaluated by instructors from Helicopter Antisubmarine (Light) Squadron (HSL-31) aboard USS Kincaide (DDG-965), a Spruance-class guided missile destroyer.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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9 November 1950

Lieutenant Commander William T. Amen, U.S. Navy, of squadron VF-111, is congratulated on his air to air victory after returning to the aircraft carrier USS Phillipine Sea (CV-47). (U.S. Navy)
Lieutenant Commander William T. Amen, U.S. Navy, Commanding Officer of Fighter Squadron VF-111, is congratulated on his air to air victory after returning to the aircraft carrier USS Philippine Sea (CV-47). (U.S. Navy)

9 November 1950: The first jet vs. jet air-to-air victory which can be confirmed from both sides occurred when Lieutenant Commander William T. Amen, United States Navy, flying a Grumman F9F-2B Panther, Bu. No. 127184, shot down a Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 over Korea.

Captain Mikhail Fedorovich Grachev, 139th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment, led a squadron of MiG-15 fighters from their base at Antung, China to intercept U.S. Navy Douglas AD Skyraiders which were attacking bridges across the Yalu River, which marked the border between China and Korea.

Russian technicians service a MiG-15bis of the 351st Fighter Aviation Regiment at Antung Air Base, China, mid-1952. (Unattributed)
Russian technicians service a MiG-15bis of the 351st Fighter Aviation Regiment at Antung Air Base, China, mid-1952. (Unattributed)

An escorting group of Grumman F9F-2B Panther fighters, assigned to Fighter Squadron 111 (VMF-111, “Sundowners”) aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) went after the MiGs as they dove on the Skyraiders. The Soviet flight broke up into single aircraft, or pairs, and did not counterattack with any organization. Visibility was poor, and airplanes would disappear then reappear in the clouds.

Captain Grachev made a quick left turn, then reversed and rolled over into a dive. His two wingmen could not stay with him and visual contact was lost.

Bill Amen saw Grachev’s diving MiG-15 and, following him down, fired his four 20 mm cannon. Amen’s wingman saw the MiG crash into a wooded slope and burn. Grachev did not return from his mission and is presumed to have been killed in the crash.

USS Phillipine Sea (CV-47) with Douglas AD Skyraiders and Grumman F9F Panthers on the flight deck, off the coast of Korea. (U.S. Navy)
USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) with Douglas AD Skyraiders and Grumman F9F Panthers on the flight deck, off the coast of Korea. Philippine Sea was a “long-hull” Essex-class ship, sometimes called the Ticonderoga-class. (U.S. Navy)

The Grumman F9F-2 Panther was a single-seat, single-engine turbojet powered fighter designed for operation from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers. It was 38 feet, 5⅜ inches (11.719 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.528 meters)— not including wing tanks. Its overall height was 11 feet, 4 inches (3.454 meters). The wings could be hydraulically folded to reduce the span for storage aboard ship. The Panther weighed 9,303 pounds (4,220 kilograms) empty, and had a gross weight of 19,494 pounds (8,842 kilograms).

The F9F-2 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT6 (J42-P-8) turbojet engine which produced 5,000 pounds of thrust (22.241 kilonewtons) at Sea Level. The J42 was a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Nene. The engine used a single-stage centrifugal-flow compressor, 9 combustion chambers and a single-stage axial-flow turbine. The engine weighed 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms).

Interestingly, the MiG-15 was powered by an un-licensed, reverse-engineered version of the Nene, the Klimov VK-1.

The Panther had a maximum speed of 575 miles per hour (925 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 44,600 feet (13,594 meters), and the range was 1,353 miles (2,177 kilometers).

The Panther was armed with four M3 20 mm autocannon placed in the nose, with 760 rounds of ammunition. It could carry up to 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of bombs or eight 5-inch (12.7 centimeters) rockets on four hardpoints under each wing.

The XF9F-2 prototype first flew 21 November 1947. 1,382 were produced and remained in service with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps until 1958. A swept wing version, the F9F-6 through F9F-9J Cougar, was also produced.

For his service with VF-111 in combat from 5 August 1950 to 1 February 1951, Lieutenant Commander Amen was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

F9F-2 Bu. No. 127184 was part of a group of 28 Grumman F9F panthers that were sold to the Argentine Navy. It was transferred in April 1963.

A Grumman F9F-2 Panther of Fighter Squadron 111 drops bombs over Korea, circa 1952. It is painted overall Glossy Sea Blue with red accents at the nose and tail. This is similar in appearance to the Panther flown by Lieutenant Commander William T. Amen, 9 November 1950. (U.S. Navy)
A Grumman F9F-2 Panther of Fighter Squadron 111 drops bombs over Korea, circa 1952. It is painted overall Glossy Sea Blue with red accents at the nose and tail. This is similar in appearance to the Panther flown by Lieutenant Commander William T. Amen, 9 November 1950. (U.S. Navy)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 September 1968

Lieutenant Colonel William Atkinson Jones III, United States Air Force.

1 September 1968: Two U.S. Air Force McDonnell F-4D Phantom II fighters were on a pre-dawn strike against the Ho Chi Minh Trail, near the Ban Karai Pass. Both Phantoms, call signs CARTER 01 and CARTER 02, were hit by anti-aircraft gunfire and their crews had to eject. Both pilots from CARTER 01 were quickly picked up, but the aircraft commander of CARTER 02 was hidden by the jungle. The Weapons System Officer was never seen again.

A Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission was immediately sent out to locate and rescue the missing airmen.  Two Sikorsky HH-3 Jolly Green Giant helicopters, the recovery team, were escorted by four Douglas A-1 Skyraiders to help in the search and to suppress any enemy gunfire that was trying to shoot down the rescue helicopters.

The Skyraider was a Korean War era carrier-based attack airplane originally in service with the U.S. Navy. It had been replaced by modern jet aircraft, but the Air Force found that its slow flight and ability to carry a heavy fuel and weapons load were ideal for the CSAR escort mission.

The four Skyraiders were from the 602nd Special Operations Squadron at Nakhom Phanom, Thailand. They operated with the call sign SANDY. Lieutenant Colonel William A. Jones III, the squadron commanding officer, on his 98th combat mission, was the on-scene commander flying SANDY 01, an A-1H, serial number 52-139738.

Lieutenant Colonel William A. Jones III, United States Air Force, in the cockpit of of a Douglas A-1H Skyraider, 1968. (U.S. Air Force)

MEDAL OF HONOR
JONES, WILLIAM A., III

Rank and organization: Colonel, U.S. Air Force, 602d Special Operations Squadron, Nakon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand

Place and date: Near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam, 1 September 1968

Entered service at: Charlottesville, Virginia

Born: 31 May 1922, Norfolk, Virginia

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Col Jones distinguished himself as the pilot of an A-1H Skyraider aircraft near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. On that day, as the on-scene commander in the attempted rescue of a downed U.S. pilot, Col. Jones aircraft was repeatedly hit by heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire. On 1 of his low passes, Col. Jones felt an explosion beneath his aircraft and his cockpit rapidly filled with smoke. With complete disregard of the possibility that his aircraft might still be burning, he unhesitatingly continued his search for the downed pilot. On this pass, he sighted the survivor and a multiple-barrel gun position firing at him from near the top of a karst formation. He could not attack the gun position on that pass for fear he would endanger the downed pilot. Leaving himself exposed to the gun position, Col. Jones attacked the position with cannon and rocket fire on 2 successive passes. On his second pass, the aircraft was hit with multiple rounds of automatic weapons fire. One round impacted the Yankee Extraction System rocket mounted directly behind the headrest, igniting the rocket. His aircraft was observed to burst into flames in the center fuselage section, with flame engulfing the cockpit area. He pulled the extraction handle, jettisoning the canopy. The influx of fresh air made the fire burn with greater intensity for a few moments, but since the rocket motor had already burned, the extraction system did not pull Col. Jones from the aircraft. Despite searing pains from severe burns sustained on his arms, hand, neck, shoulders, and face, Col. Jones pulled his aircraft into a climb and attempted to transmit the location of the downed pilot and the enemy gun position to the other aircraft in the area. His calls were blocked by other aircraft transmissions repeatedly directing him to bail out and within seconds his transmitters were disabled and he could receive only on 1 channel. Completely disregarding his injuries, he elected to fly his crippled aircraft back to his base and pass on essential information for the rescue rather than ball out. Col. Jones successfully landed his heavily damaged aircraft and passed the information to a debriefing officer while on the operating table. As a result of his heroic actions and complete disregard for his personal safety, the downed pilot was rescued later in the day. Col. Jones’ profound concern for his fellow man at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of this country.

Medal of Honor
Lt. William A. Jones, Jr., Signal Corps, U.S. Army, circa 1918. (Elizabeth Hart Jones)

William Atkinson Jones III was born 31 May 1922 at Norfolk, Virginia. He was the son of William Atkinson Jones, Jr., an attorney in general practice, and Elizabeth Goodwin Hart Jones, a school teacher. Mr. Jones had served as a pilot in the Signal Corps, United States Army, during World War I. The Jones family had lived in Warsaw, Virginia, since the 1840s.

When his parents divorced in 1929, Bill and his mother relocated to Charlottesville, Virginia. Jones attended Lane High School in Charlottesville, where he was a member of the literary society, and played on the varsity football and basketball teams.

W. A. Jones III, 1942 (Corks and Curls)

Following his graduation from high school, Jones studied at the University of Virginia, which was also in Charlottesville. He was captain of the university’s fencing team, and a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon (ΣΦΕ) fraternity. Jones graduated in 1942 at the age of 19 years, with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Cadet William A. Jones III, United States Military Academy, circa 1944. (Howitzer)

Already a university graduate, William Atkinson Jones III was appointed a cadet at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. He entered West Point on 1 July 1942, as a member of the Class of 1945. along with academics and military training, Cadet Jones was a member of the Army Fencing Squad.

Bill Jones graduated from West Point with a Bachelor of Science degree. On 5 June 1945, he was commissioned a second lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army.

2nd Lieutenant W. A. Jones III in flight training, 1945. (Elizabeth Hart Jones)

Lieutenant Jones was trained as a pilot at several locations around the United States, including Oklahoma, New York, and Arizona. Lieutenant Jones served as a fighter pilot, stationed in the Philippine Islands, 1946–1948. Returning to the United States, Jones was assigned as a transport pilot based at Biggs Air Force Base, Fort Bliss Texas.

On 20 October 1948, Lieutenant Jones married Miss Lois Marie McGregor at Bisbee, Arizona, her home town. The ceremony was officiated by Reverend John L. Howard. They would have three daughters, Anne, Elizabeth and Mary Lee.

Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcars of the 40th Troop Carrier Squadron, 317th Troop Carrier Wing, Germany, circa early 1950s. The airplane in the foreground is C-119C-17-FA 49-199.  (317th Veterans Group)

In 1952, Jones was assigned as a Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar pilot with the 317th Troop Carrier Wing at Rhein-Main Air Base, Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). He remained in Europe for the next four years.

In 1956 Jones transitioned to bombers, training as an aircraft commander in the Boeing B-47E Stratojet. He was stationed at Lake Charles Air Force Base, Louisiana, and Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire.

Lockheed-Marietta B-47E-50-LM Stratojet 52-3363. (U.S. Air Force)

Jones attended the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama, 1965–1966. He earned a master’s degree in international affairs. His next assignment was as a staff officer at The Pentagon.

In 1968, Major Jones requested a transfer to the Douglas A-1 Skyraider training course at Hurlburt Field, in Florida. On completion, he was assigned as the commanding officer of the 602nd Special Operations Squadron at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Navy Base, Thailand.

Hurlburt Field Skyraider Class 68–07. Major William Atkinson Jones II is in the front row, just to the right of center. Other class members are, front row, left-to-right: Captain Al Hale, Captain George Marrett, Major Jones, and Lieutenant Colonel C. Riner Learnard. Back row: Captain Al Holtz, Colonel Webster, Captain Tom O’Conner, Major Richard Lee Russell, and Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Joseph. The airplane is a Douglas A-1E Skyraider. (The A-1 Skyraider Association)

Lieutenant Colonel Jones was severely burned during the rescue mission of 1 September 1968. He was transported back to the United States for extensive medical treatment at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas.

Bill Jones was promoted to the rank of colonel, 1 November 1969. One 14 November, President Richard M. Nixon approved the award of the Medal of Honor to Colonel Jones.

On 15 November 1969, Colonel Jones was flying his personal airplane, a Piper PA-20 Pacer, N7015K. At 12:55 p.m., he took off from Woodbridge Airport (W22), a small, uncontrolled airport about 12 miles (19 kilometers) southwest of Washington, D.C. The Pacer was a small, 4-place, single-engine light airplane.

Immediately after takeoff, Colonel Jones radioed that he was returning to the airport. The airplane was seen in a left turn with a nose down attitude. It crashed off the airport and caught fire. Colonel Jones suffered third degree burns over his entire body an died immediately.

Woodbridge Airport (W22), looking north, early 1970s. (Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields)

The NTSB accident report listed the Probable Cause as a complete engine failure for unknown causes, followed by a loss of control by the pilot, the cause also undetermined. (Some sources suggest that the Pacer struck wires while returning to the runway.)

At the time of his death, Colonel Jones had flown a total of 7,748 hours.

Colonel Jones was the author of Maxims for Men-at-Arms, published by Dorrance and Co., Philadelphia, 1969.

President Nixon presented the Medal of Honor to Colonel Jones widow in a ceremony at the White House, 6 August 1970. At the award ceremony, Miss Mary Jones, Colonel Jones’ youngest daughter, gave a copy of her father’s book to the president.

Colonel William AtkinsonsJones III, United States Air Force, was buried at St. John’s Episcopal Cemetery in Warsaw, Virginia.

The William A. Jones III Auditorium of Anderson Hall at the  Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, was named in his honor.

In 2011, The William A. Jones III Building at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, (just south east of Washington, D.C.) was also named in honor of Colonel Jones.

The William A Jones III Building. (Coakley & Williams Construction)

The United States Navy and Marine Corps adopted the Douglas Aircraft Company AD-1 Skyraider just after the end of World War II. The U.S. Air Force recognized its value as a close air support attack bomber, but it wasn’t until the early months of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War that a number of Skyraiders were transferred to the U.S.A.F.

This is the Douglas A-1H Skyraider flown by LCOL Jones, 1 September 1968. Though it was extensively damaged by anti-aircraft gunfire and the subsequent fire, 52-139738 was repaired and returned to service. On 22 September 1972, -738 was shot down over Laos. It was the last Skyraider shot down during the Vietnam War.

These aircraft were identified by Department of the Navy, Bureau of Aeronautics serial numbers, commonly referred to as “bureau numbers,” or “bu. no.” Once acquired by the Air Force, the two-digit fiscal year number in which the airplane was contracted was added to the bureau number, resulting in a serial number with a format similar to a standard U.S.A.F. serial number. For example, Lieutenant Colonel Jones’ Skyraider, A-1H 52-139738, was originally U.S. Navy AD-6 Skyraider Bu. No. 139738, authorized in 1952. (The Douglas AD series was redesignated A-1 in 1962.)

Douglas AH-1H Skyraider 52-137593 (U.S. Air Force)
Douglas A-1H Skyraider 52-137593 (U.S. Air Force)

The Douglas AD-6 (A-1H) Skyraider was a single-place, single-engine attack aircraft. A low-wing monoplane with conventional landing gear, it had folding wings for storage aboard aircraft carriers. The A-1H Skyraider was 39 feet, 3 inches (11.963 meters) long with a wingspan of 50 feet, ¼ inch (15.246 meters) and overall height of 15 feet, 8 inches (4.775 meters). The total wing area was 400 square feet (37.16 square meters). Its had an empty weight of 12,072 pounds (5,476 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight was 25,000 pounds (11,340 kilograms).

The A-1H was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, direct-fuel-injected, 3,347.66-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division R-3350-26WA Duplex-Cyclone (Cyclone 18 836C18CA1) engine. This was a twin-row 18-cylinder radial, with a compression ratio of 6.7:1 and water/alcohol injection. This engine had a normal power rating at Sea Level of 2,300 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., and 2,700 horsepower at 2,900 r.p.m. to for take off. 115/145-octane aviation gasoline was required. The engine drove a four-bladed Aeroproducts constant-speed propeller 13 foot, 6 inch (4.115 meters) diameter, through a 0.4375:1 gear reduction. The R-3350-26WA was 4 feet, 7.62 inches (1.413 meters) in diameter and 6 feet, 6.81 inches (2.002 meters) long. It weighs 2,848 pounds (1,292 kilograms), dry.

The A-1H Skyraider had a cruise speed of 164 knots (189 miles per hour/304 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 297 knots (342 miles per hour/550 kilometers per hour) at 15,400 feet (4,694 meters). The A-1H could climb to 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) in 9.5 minutes. The ceiling was 31,900 feet (9,723 meters). Carrying a 2,000 pound (907 kilogram) bomb load, its combat radius was 260 nautical miles (299 statute miles/482 kilometers).

The A-1H was armed with four 20 mm M3 autocannon with 200 rounds of ammunition per gun. The Skyraider could carry a combination of external fuel tanks, gun pods, bombs or rockets on 15 hardpoints.

Douglas built 713 AD-6 Skyraiders at Santa Monica, California.

A Douglas A-1H Skyraider of the 6th Special Operations Squadron dive bombing a target during a close air support mission, Vietnam, 1968. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 August 1944

Robert L. Hall in the cockpit of the prototype Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat. (Northrop Grumman)

21 August 1944:¹ The first of two Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat prototypes, Bu. No. 90460, made its first flight at Bethpage, New York, with Grumman’s Chief Engineer and test pilot Robert Leicester Hall at the controls. The Bearcat was a light-weight high performance interceptor, designed to operate from the U.S. Navy’s smaller aircraft carriers. It used an air-cooled, supercharged, 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter) Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp 2SC13-G (R-2800-22) two-row, 18-cylinder radial engine, an uprated version of the engine used in its predecessor, the Grumman F6F Hellcat.

The R-2800-22 engine was rated at 1,700 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 2,100 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m., for takeoff and Military Power. In order to use the engine’s power more effectively, the prototype Bearcat used a 12-foot, 4-inch (3.759 meter) diameter, four-bladed Aero Products, Inc., propeller, driven through a 0.45:1 gear reduction.

Prototype Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat. (Northrop Grumman)

The Bearcat was 20% lighter than the Hellcat. It was 50 miles per hour faster and had a much higher rate of climb.

For aircraft carrier operations, the new fighter could not sacrifice structural strength. In order to limit the weight, armament was reduced to four .50-caliber machine guns, and fuel capacity was also less than that of the Hellcat, giving it reduced range.

Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat with wings folded. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat with wings folded, 20 March 1945. (Northrop Grumman)

The production F8F-1 Bearcat was 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 35 feet, 6 inches (10.820 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 10 inches (4.216 meters) (to tip of propeller, in three-point position). With its wings folded, the width of the Bearcat was reduced to 23 feet, 9½ inches (7.252 meters).

The Bearcat’s wings are sharply tapered. Their angle of incidence is −1½°, and there is 5° 30′ dihedral. The leading edges are swept aft 5° 5′. The chord decreases from 9 feet, 7.87 inches (2.943 meters) at the root to 4 feet, 3.5 inches (1.308 meters) at a point 6 inches (15.24 centimeters) inboard from the tip. The total wing area is 244 square feet (22.7 square meters).

The fighter’s horizontal stabilizer has a span of 15 feet, 9 inches (4.801 meters) and a total area of 52.2 square feet (4.85 square meters). Its angle of incidence is +½°. The rudder has a height of 6 feet, 1–13/16 inches (1.875 meters). The vertical tail has a total area of 20.8 square feet (1.93 square meters), and is offset 2° left.

The F8F-1’s empty weight was 7,070 pounds (3,207 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 12,947 pounds (5,873 kilograms). The F8F-2’s empty weight increased to 7,650 pounds (3,470 kilograms), and its maximum takeoff weight was 13,460 pounds (6,105 kilograms).

Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat prototype at NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, Hampton, Virginia, 5 February 1945. (NASA)

The production F8F-1 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp 2SC14-G (R-2800-34W) engine which had the same Sea Level power ratings as the R-2800-22. It produced 1,500 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at 18,500 feet (5,639 meters) and had a Military Power rating of 1,700 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. at 16,000 feet (4,877 meters). The gear reduction drive ratio was also 0.45:1. A slightly larger Aero Products propeller with a diameter of 12 feet, 7 inches (5.835 meters) was installed. The R-2800-34W was 6 feet, 2.134 inches (1.883 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.80 inches (1.341 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,358.5 pounds (1,069.8 kilograms).

The F8F-2 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-2800-30W. The Normal Power rating increased to 1,720 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,450 horsepower at 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). Takeoff and Military Power also increased: 2,250 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,600 horsepower at 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). The R-2800-30W also drove an Aero Products propeller. The gear reduction ratio was the same. Its dimensions were slightly different than the -34W: 7 feet, 8.75 inches (2.356 meters) long, and 4 feet, 5.00 inches (1.346 meters) in diameter. The engine’s weight increased to 2,560 pounds (1,161 kilograms).

Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat Bu. No. 90448 in the Full Scale Tunne; at NACA Langley Mermorial Aeronautical Laboratory. (NASA EL-2003-00320)

The Bearcat had a top speed of 336 knots (387 miles per hour/622 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 388 knots (447 miles per hour/719 kilometers per hour) at 28,000 feet (8,534 meters). The airplane had initial rate of climb at Sea Level of 4,465 feet per minute (22.68 meters per second) and it could climb to 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) in 8.4 minutes. Its ceiling was 38,200 feet (11,643 meters).

Fuel capacity is 185 U.S. gallons (700 liters). The fighter’s range could be extended with a jettisonable centerline and two underwing tanks. The Bearcat’s combat radius was 235 nautical miles (270 statute miles/435 kilometers). Its maximum range, with three external tanks (350 gallons/1,325 liters), was 1,595 nautical miles (1,835 statute miles/2,954 kilometers).

The F8F-1 Bearcat was armed with four Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns. Inboard guns were provided with 325 rounds of ammunition, each, while the outboard guns had 200 rounds per gun. The F8F-2 replaced these with four M3 20 mm autocannon. Each inboard cannon had 325 rounds per gun, and the outboard guns had 188 rounds each. The F8F could also be armed with up to three 11.75-inch (29.845 centimeters) Tiny Tim air-to-ground rockets, or four 5-inch (12.7 centimeter) High Velocity Aerial Rockets (HVAR). For bombing missions, the Bearcat could carry one 1,600 pound (726 kilograms) bomb on the centerline and two 1,000 pounders (454 kilograms, each) under the wings.

The first prototype Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat, Bu. No. 90460, crashed into Chesapeake Bay during gunnery tests at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, 18 March 1945. Its pilot was missing, presumably killed. The airplane has recently–probably—been located.²

“Multi-beam echo image of the aircraft at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay believed to be the XF8F-1 Bearcat lost out of NAS Patuxent River March 18, 1945.” (NOAA/Naval Aviation News)

Between 1945 and 1949, Grumman produced 1,265 F8F Bearcats, including a civilian G-58A and a G-58B. A number of American test pilots and astronauts flew the Bearcat in naval service, and several, including Neil Armstong, described it as their all-time favorite airplane.

Grumman F8F bearcat fighters aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Tarawa (CV-40) circa 1948. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F8F Bearcat fighters ready for takeoff aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Tarawa (CV-40) circa 1948. (U.S. Navy)

Robert Leicester Hall was born at Taunton, Massachussetts, 22 August 1905. He was the son of Bicknell Hall, a mechanical engineer, and Estella Beatrice Lane Hall.

Robert L. Hall (Michiganesian of 1927)

Hall attended the University of Michigan, graduating in 1927 with Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering (B.S.M.E.). He was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta (ΦΓΔ) fraternity and the glee club. While at the University, Hall became a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

In 1929 he went to work for the Fairchild Airplane Manufacturing Company at Farmingdale, New York. While there, Hall met his first wife, Eugenie Therese Zeller, a 1928 graduate of Cornell University, and a secretary at the plant. They were married in 1930, and lived in a rented home on St. James Avenue, Chicopee City, Massachusetts. Their son, Robert Jr., was born 5 November 1931. They later divorced.

Granville Brothers Gee Bee Z

Also in 1931, Hall began working for Granville Brothers Aircraft at Springfield, Massachusetts. He designed the Gee Bee Model Z Super Sportster air racer. He left Granville Brothers in 1933 to go to work for the Stinson Aircraft Company in Dayton, Ohio. There he designed the Stinson Reliant.

Stinson Reliant (NASA)

In 1936, Bob Hall became the Chief Engineer for the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, Bethpage, Long Island, New York. He designed the F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercat, and F8F Bearcat fighters, and the TBF Avenger torpedo bomber. As corporate vice president, he supervised the design of the F9F Panther and Cougar jet fighters.

A U.S. Navy Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat in non-specular blue-gray over light-gray scheme in early 1942. (U.S. Navy)
Two Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat fighters, Summer 1943. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F7F-3N Tigercat. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber. (U.S. Navy)
Ensign Neil A. Armstrong, as wingman to Lieutenant (j.g.) Ernie Moore, is flying the second Grumman F9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 125122 (marked S 116), assigned to VF-51, USS Essex (CV-9), 1951. (Naval Aviation Museum)

Hall married his second wife, Rhoda C. Halvorsen, 18 January 1939, at New York City, New York.

Robert Hall retired from Grumman in 1970. Two of his sons, Eric and Ben Hall, founded Hall Spars and Rigging of Bristol, Rhode Island.

Robert Leicester Hall died at Newport, Rhode Island, 25 February 1991 at the age of 85 years.

¹ Some sources give 31 August 1944 as the date of the first flight.

² Naval Aviation News, 31 August 2017:

http://navalaviationnews.navylive.dodlive.mil/2017/08/31/lost-bearcat-found-or-still-missing/

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 June 1951

Grumman F9F-5 Panther Bu. No. 125228 explodes after striking the flight deck of USS Midway (CVB-41), 23 June 1951. (U.S. Navy)

23 June 1951: Operating in the Atlantic Ocean off the Virginia Capes, the United States Navy aircraft carrier USS Midway (CVB-41) was conducting suitability trials of the Grumman F9F-5 Panther. Commander George Chamberlain Duncan, commanding Fighter Squadron 51 (VF-51) was in the cockpit of Bu. No. 125228. Having made a successful landing aboard Midway, Duncan took off to make another approach and landing.

Just short of the flight deck, the Panther dropped below the correct approach. Duncan tried to pull up, but the fighter struck the ramp and broke in half. The aircraft exploded in flames. The forward section slid down the deck. Duncan, though burned, was quickly rescued.

The nose section of Grumman F9F-5 Panther Bu. No. 125228 slides down the flight deck of USS Midway (CVB-41), 23 June 1951. Commander Duncan is still in the cockpit. (U.S. Navy)
Flight deck crew members try to contain the fire after the crash of F9F-5 Panther Bu. No. 125228, while others rescue Commander Duncan from the forward fuselage, aboard USS Midway (CVB-41), 23 June 1951. (U.S. Navy)
The forward fuselage of Grumman F9F-5 Panther Bu. No. 125228 following the crash aboard USS Midway (CVB-41), 23 June 1951. (U.S. Navy)

The Grumman F9F-5 Panther was a single-seat, single-engine turbojet powered fighter designed for operation from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers. It was 38 feet, 10½ inches (11.849 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.528 meters)— not including wing tanks. Its overall height was 12 feet, 4 inches (3.759 meters). The wings could be hydraulically folded to reduce the span for storage aboard ship. The F9F-5 weighed 10,147 pounds (4,603 kilograms) empty, and had a gross weight of 17,766 pounds (8,059 kilograms). The maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) was 18,721 pounds (8,492 kilograms).

The F9F-5 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney JT7 (J48-P-6 or -6A) engine, a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Tay. It was a single-shaft turbojet with a single-stage centrifugal-flow compressor, 9 combustion chambers and a single-stage axial-flow turbine. The J48-P-6 was rated at 6,250 pounds of thrust (27.80 kilonewtons), and 7,000 pounds (31.14 kilonewtons) with water injection.

The  F9F-5 Panther had a cruise speed 481 miles per hour (774 kilometers per hour). Its maximum speed was 604 miles per hour (972 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 42,800 feet (13,045 meters), and the range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The Panther was armed with four M3 20 mm autocannon placed in the nose. It could carry up to 3,465 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of bombs or eight 5-inch (12.7 centimeters) rockets on four hardpoints under each wing.

The XF9F-2 prototype first flew 21 November 1947. 1,382 F9F Panthers were produced and they remained in service with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps until 1958. 619 of these were the F9F-5 variant. A swept wing version, the F9F-6 through F9F-9J Cougar, was also produced.

Captain George Chamberlain Duncan, United States Navy

George Chamberlain Duncan was born at Tacoma, Washington, 11 Feb 1917. He was the first of three children of of George W. Duncan, a mining camp supplier, and Frances Delarsh Chamberlain Duncan. Duncan attended Stadium High School in Tacoma. He played on the football and swim teams. He was also a member of the glee club, and during his senior year, portrayed “Oliver le Dain” in the comic opera, “The Vagabond King.” He was a member of the school’s glider and architecture clubs. Duncan graduated in 1934.

Midshipman George C. Duncan, U.S. Navy

George Duncan entered the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, as a midshipman, 18 July 1935. He graduated 1 June 1939 and was commissioned an Ensign, United States Navy. Ensign Duncan served aboard the Colorado-class battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) from June 1939 to August 1941.

Ensign Duncan married Miss Agnes Wirt Tawresey at Washington, D.C., 30 August 1941. They would have four children, three sons, George, Jr., Richmond, Alfred, and a daughter, Agnes.

Ensign Duncan was next assigned to the Northampton-class heavy cruiser USS Louisville (CA-28), serving aboard in 1942 and 1943.

Duncan was promoted to the rank of lieutenant (junior grade), 1 June 1942. Two weeks later, 15 June 1942, he was promoted to lieutenant (temporary).

Lieutenant Duncan underwent flight training at NAS Pensacola. Following graduation he was assigned to Fighting Squadron Fifteen (VF-15) aboard USS Essex (CV-9). Duncan was promoted to lieutenant commander (temporary) 15 March 1944.

On 13 September 1944, Lieutenant Commander Duncan was engaged in aerial combat over the central Philippine Islands. He was credited with destroying an enemy medium bomber and two fighters, shared credit for a second bomber shot down, and damaged a third fighter. He followed this by strafing an airfield and destroying three aircraft on the ground. For these actions, Duncan was awarded the Silver Star.

During the Battle off Cape Engaño on the morning of 25 October 1944, Lieutenant Commander Duncan led VF-15 in an attack against Imperial Japanese Navy warships in the Sibuyan Sea. He scored a direct hit with a bomb on the light carrier IJN Chitose, which, along with a number of other hits, resulted in its sinking at 0937 hours. Duncan was awarded the Navy Cross.

Japanese aircraft carriers IJN Zuikaku (left) and IJN Zuiho under attack by U.S. Navy aircraft during the Battle off Cape Engaño, 25 October 1944. (U.S. Navy)

Duncan is officially credited with 13½ enemy aircraft destroyed.

In March 1945, Lieutenant Commander Duncan was assigned to the Naval Postgraduate School at Annapolis, Maryland. In 1949, he graduated from the 48-week Test Pilot Division course at NATC Patuxent River. On 1 June 1949, his rank of lieutenant commander became permanent. On the same day, Duncan was promoted to commander. This was also a permanent rank.

Commander Duncan served as the commander of VF-51 aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge (CVA-45) during the Korean War. He later commanded  VF-101, and was Commander Air Group (“CAG”), Carrier Air Group 5 (CVG-5). He was next assigned as the Head, Fighter Design Branch, Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAir), then, Assistant Director, Aircraft Division, Bureau of Weapons (BuWeps). Returning to sea, Commander Duncan was executive officer of the “supercarrier” USS Forrestal (CV-59). Duncan was promoted to the rank of captain, 1 April 1958.

For a Naval Aviator to be given command of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, they generally have to have had command of a “deep-draft” ship. Captain Duncan was given command of the 13,900-ton aircraft stores ship USS Jupiter (AVS-8) from July 1961 to 24 March 1962. Jupiter had a draft of 25 feet, 10 inches (7.874 meters). During this time, Jupiter operated with the 7th Fleet, and was homeported at Yokosuka, Japan.

Captain Duncan assumed command of the Forrestal-class aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-61), 7 May 1962, and remained in that assignment until 20 May 1963.

USS Ranger (CVA-61), 1963. United States Navy)

Captain Duncan retired from the United States Navy in December 1967. During his naval career, he had been awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with one silver star and one gold star (seven awards), and the Bronze Star with Combat “V.”

Following his retirement, Duncan attended George Washington University, Washington, D.C., where he earned a degree in law. He was a practicing attorney in Alexandria, Virginia.

Agnes Duncan died in 1972. In 1974, Captain Duncan married Margaret Handy. She died in 1980.

Captain Duncan suffered a fatal heart attack while in a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, 15 December 1995, at the age of 77 years. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, alongside his first wife.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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