Tag Archives: Chance Vought Aircraft Corporation

17 October 1922

A Vought VE-7SF takes off from USS Langley (CV-1). (National Naval Aviation Museum)
A Vought VE-7 takes off from USS Langley (CV-1). (National Naval Aviation Museum)

17 October 1922: Lieutenant Commander Virgil Childers (“Squash”) Griffin, Jr., United States Navy, made the first takeoff from an aircraft carrier of the U. S. Navy when he flew a Chance Vought Corporation VE-7 fighter from the deck of USS Langley (CV-1) while the ship was anchored in the York River along the west side of Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

A Vought VE-7 taking off from USS Langley, 1922. The second airplane is an Aeromarine. (U.S. Navy)
A Vought VE-7 taking off from USS Langley, 1922. The second airplane is an Aeromarine 39 trainer. (U.S. Navy)

USS Langley was the United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier. The ship was named in honor of an American scientist, Samuel Pierpont Langley. It was a former collier, USS Jupiter (AC-3), which had been converted at the Norfolk Navy Yard, 1921–1922. As an aircraft carrier, Langley had a complement of 468 men, including the air wing. The ship was 542 feet, 2.5 inches (165.27 meters) in length, overall, with a beam of 65 feet, 6 inches (19.96 meters) and draft of 22 feet, 1 inch (6.73 meters). The aircraft carrier had a full load displacement of 15,150 long tons (15,393 Metric tons).

Langley was powered by a General Electric turbo-electric drive, with a total of 6,500 shaft horsepower. She could make 15.5 knots (17.8 miles per hour; 28.7 kilometers per hour). The aircraft carrier had a maximum range of 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers).

USS Langley (CV-1) with Vought VE-7SF fighters on the flight deck, at anchor off Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, 18 March 1926. In the background are a USS Tennessee-class and two USS New Mexico-class battleships. (U.S. Navy)

In addition to her air group of up to 36 airplanes, Langley was defended by four 5-inch/51-caliber guns (127 mm × 6.477 meters). This gun could fire a 50-pound (22.7 kilogram) shell a distance of 15,850 yards (14, 493 meters) when elevated to 20°. Its maximum rate of fire was 9 rounds per minute.

As the more modern aircraft carriers Lexington and Saratoga came in to service, Langley was once again converted, this time to a sea plane tender, and reclassified as AV-3, 21 April 1937.

USS Langley was badly damaged by Japanese dive bombers during the Battle of the Java Sea, 27 February 1942, having been struck by five bombs. The ship was scuttled approximately 75 miles south of Tjilatjap, Java, to prevent capture, when her escorting destroyers fired two torpedoes into her.

USS Langley (CV-1), 1922. (U.S. Navy)
USS Langley (CV-1), 1922. (U.S. Navy)

The Chance Vought VE-7 was originally ordered as a two-place trainer, but its performance and handling qualities were so good that it was widely used as a fighter. The VE-7SF was a single-place, single-engine biplane built for the U.S. Navy.

The VE-7 was 22 feet 5-3/8 inches (6.842 meters) long, with a wingspan of 34 feet, 4 inches (10.465 meters), and height of 8 feet 7½ inches (2.629 meters). The two-bay wings were separated by a vertical gap of 4 feet, 8 inches (1.422 meters) and the leading edge of the  lower wing was staggered 11 inches (27.9 centimeters) behind that of the upper wing. Both wings had 1.25° dihedral. The upper wing had +1.75° incidence, lower wing had +2.25°. The VE-7 had weighed 1,392 pounds (631 kilograms) empty and had gross weight of 1,937 pounds (879 kilograms)

Vought VE-7SF 2-F-16. (Chance Vought)
Vought VE-7SF 2-F-16. (Chance Vought)

The VE-7 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 716.69-cubic-inch-displacement (11.744 liters) Wright-Hispano E3 Alert single-overhead-camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-8 engine, rated at 215 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. The engine drove a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller with a diameter of 8’8″ (2.642 meters). The Wright E3 weighed 465 pounds (211 kilograms).

The VE-7 had a maximum speed of 106  miles per hour (171 kilometers per hour) and service ceiling of 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). Its maximum range was 290 miles (467 kilometers).

The fighter was armed with two Vickers .30-caliber (7.62 mm) machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc.

Chance Vought VE-7, 2-F-16, assigned to Fighter Squadron 2 (VF-2) (Chance Vought)
Chance Vought VE-7SF, 2-F-16, assigned to Fighter Squadron 2 (VF-2) (Chance Vought)

Rear Admiral Jackson R. Tate, U.S. Navy (Retired) described the first takeoff:

“We were operating just north of the Tongue of the Shoe, seaward of the main channel from Norfolk, Va. A trough about 6 feet long, set up on sawhorses was rigged at the aft end of the flight deck. When the tail skid of the VE-7 used in the test was placed in the trough, she was in the flight attitude.

“We had no brakes, so the plane was held down on the deck by a wire with a bomb release at the end. This was attached to a ring in the landing gear. ‘Squash’ Griffin climbed in, turned up the Hispano Suiza engine to its full 180 hp and gave the “go” signal. The bomb release was snapped and the Vought rolled down the deck. Almost before it reached the deck-center elevator it was airborne. Thus, the first takeoff from a U.S. carrier.”

United States Navy aircraft carrier USS. George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) (Mass Coomunications Specialist 3rd Class Tony Curtiss, U.S. Navy)
United States Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77). (Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Tony Curtis, U.S. Navy)

Virgil Childers Griffin, Jr., was born at Montgomery, Alabama, 18 April 1891. He was the first of three children of Virgil Childers Griffin, secretary of the Railroad Commission of Alabama, and Mary Lee Besson Griffin.

Midshipman Virgil C. Griffin, Jr., U.S.N.A.

Griffin was admitted as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, 25 June 1908, a member of the Class of 1912. Four years later he graduated. Virgil C. Griffin, Jr., was commissioned an ensign, United States Navy, 8 June 1912, with a date of precedence 28 April 1908.

On 14 July 1912, Ensign Griffin was assigned to the 16,000 ton battleship, USS South Carolina (BB-26). Griffin was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade), 8 June 1915. He remained aboard South Carolina until June 1916.

Lieutenant (j.g.) Griffin applied for flight trainning, and on completion, was designated Naval Aviator # 41.

The United States entered World War I in April 1917. On 8 June 1917, Lieutenant (j.g.) Griffin was one of one hundred Naval Aviators who “arrived safely in France for any duty that may present itself. . . They are the first of the American fighting forces to reach France.” On 8 June 1918, Griffin was promoted to lieutenant (permanent rank). He was in command of the U.S. Navy sea plane base at Saint-Trojan, in southwestern France. Griffin was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander (temporary), 21 September 1918 (Constructive date of precedence 28 February 1907).

Lieutenant Commander Griffin returned to the United States in 1919. He was assigned to the Department of the Navy, Washington, D.C., first to the Naval Operations Aviation Divivision, and in 1920, Naval Operations Inspection Division. Later in 1920, Griffin was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet Ship Plane Division, Mitchel Field, Mineola, New York.

On 8 December 1920, Lieutenant Commander Griffin married 25-year-old Alabama native Miss Elize Whiting Hall, at Mobile, Alabama.

In 1923, Lieutenant Commander Griffin returned to sea duty aboard USS Langley. he was next stationed at NAS Pensacola, Florida, 1924–1925. He served aboard USS Lexington (CV-2), 1926–1927. In 1929, Griffin returned to Langley, before being assigned Scoutig Squadron TWO (VS-2B) aboard USS Saratoga, flying the Vought O2U-2 Corsair.

On 29 December 1931, Griffin was promoted to commander. He was stationed at NAS Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, in 1932.

Commander Griffin once again returned to Langley, as the aircraft carrier’s executive officer, 1933–1934.

In 1937, Commander Griffin was commanding officer, NAS Anacostia, Washington D.C. He had additional duties in the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics.

In 1938 and 1939, Commander Griffin was chief of staff and aide to the Commander, Carrier Division TWO (ComCarDiv 2), aboard USS Yorktown.

Consolidated PBY-3 of Patrol Wing FIVE, circa 1939. (U.S. Navy)

Later in 1939, Commander Griffin was assigned as commanding officer Patrol Wing FIVE. The wing included patrol squadrons VP-51, VP-52, VP-53 VP-54, and the airplane tenders USS Gannet (AVP-8), USS Thrush (AVP-3), USS Owl (AM-2) and USS Patoka (AV-6).

Griffin was promoted to the rank captain, 1 November 1939. On 1 May 1940, Captain Griffin was placed in command of NAS Isle Grande, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Captain Virgil C. Griffin, Jr., U.S. Navy, with Mrs. Ernest Hemingway (née Martha Ellis Gelhorn), circa 1942. (National Museum of the United States Navy) 80-G-13028a

Captain Virgil Childers Griffin, Jr., retired from the United States Navy, 1 January 1947. He died at San Diego, California, 27 March 1957, at the age of 66 years. He was buried at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 July 1957

Major John H. Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps, with his Vought F8U-1P Crusader, Bu. No. 144608, after his record-setting flight, 16 July 1957. (U. S. Navy)
Major John H. Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps, with his Chance Vought F8U-1P Crusader, Bu. No. 144608, after his record-setting flight, 16 July 1957. (U. S. Navy)

16 July 1957: At 6:04 a.m., Major John Herschel Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps, took off from NAS Los Alamitos, on the coast of southern California, in a single-engine Vought F8U-1P Crusader, Bureau Number 144608. 3 hours, 23 minutes, 8.4 seconds later, he landed at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York. Over the 2,360 mile (3,798 kilometer) route, he averaged 725.25 miles per hour (1,167.18 kilometers per hour). This was the first supersonic transcontinental flight.

The purpose of “Project Bullet” was “. . . to test the sustained capability of the F8U at near maximum power over a long distance.” The Crusader’s average speed was faster than the muzzle velocity of a .45-caliber bullet, hence the project name.

Secretary of the Navy Thomas S. Gates, Jr., presents the Distinguished Flying Cross to Major John H. Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps. (Times Recorder)

Glenn’s aircraft was a photo-reconnaissance variant of the Navy’s F8U-1E carrier-based supersonic fighter. Rather than guns and missiles, it was equipped with six cameras that took panoramic images over the entire route. Though it carried more fuel than the fighter version, the Crusader still required three aerial refuelings to cover the distance. To rendezvous with the North American AJ-1 Savage air tankers, he had to slow and descend by deploying an air brake. After tanking, Glenn accelerated with afterburner and climbed back to 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). As fuel burned off, he gradually rose to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters).

Project Bullet Vought F8U-1P Crusader, Bu. No. 144608. (U.S. Navy)
Major John H. Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps, flying the Project Bullet Chance Vought F8U-1P Crusader, Bu. No. 144608, 16 July 1957. (U.S. Navy)

After the completion of the flight, Pratt & Whitney, the engine manufacturer, tore down the J57-P-4A turbojet for an engineering inspection. As a result, all previous power limitations were lifted.

Bu. No. 144608 continued in active service with the Navy and was flown in combat with VFP-63 during the Vietnam War. On 13 December 1972, while landing aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), the Crusader struck the ramp of the flight deck and damaged its landing gear. It slid across the deck, severed the arresting cables and went over the side. The pilot, Lieutenant T. B. Scott, ejected safely but the record-setting fighter was lost in the South China Sea.

John Glenn was the Navy/Marine Corps project officer for the Crusader. According to information recently discovered by The Museum of Flight, Glenn made his first flight in a Crusader when he flew the prototype XF8U-1, Bu. No. 138899, on 4 May 1956. According to Glenn’s logbook, he made two flights in the prototype on that date, totaling 2 hours of flight time. (Many thanks to Mike Martinez, a docent for the Museum, for providing this information.)

The Vought XF8U-1 has been restored by The Museum of Flight at Paine Field, Stattle, Washington. (The Museum of Flight)
The first of two prototypes, Chance Vought XF8U-1 Crusader, Bu. No. 138899, has been restored by The Museum of Flight at Paine Field, Seattle, Washington. The Crusader’s variable incidence wing is in the raised take-off/landing position. (The Museum of Flight)

Soon after Project Bullet, John H. Glenn was selected for Project Mercury. On the third manned flight of the program, he became the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. He was later elected a United States Senator from his home state of Ohio. At the age of 77, John Glenn flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-95, 29 October–7 November 1998, becoming the oldest person to fly in space.

Project Bullet Chance Vought F8U-1P Crusader, Bu. No. 144608. An AJ-1 Savage tanker is in the background with a hose and drogue deployed for in-flight refueling. The camera ports and revised belly of the unarmed photo-recon fighter are visible in this photograph. (U.S. Navy)

The Chance Vought F8U-1P Crusader is a photographic reconnaissance variant of the F8U-1 air-superiority fighter. It is a single-place, single-engine turbojet-powered airplane designed to operate from the United States Navy’s aircraft carriers. The recon variant is 54 feet, 6.10 inches (16.614 meters) long with a wingspan of 35 feet, 8 inches (10.871 meters) and overall height (three-point position) of 15 feet, 9.1 inches (4.803 meters). With the wings folded for storage, the span is 22 feet, 6 inches (6.858 meters).

The swept wing is placed high on the fuselage and its angle of incidence is adjustable in flight. The wing has a total area of 375 square feet (34.84 square meters) and has a “dog tooth” leading edge, extending 1 foot, 0.7 inches (0.323 meters). The leading edges are swept aft to 47° (42° at ¼-chord), and there is 5° anhedral. The horizontal stabilator is placed lower than the wings. Its leading edge is swept aft to 50° and it has 3° 25′ dihedral.

The F8U-1P has an empty weight of 16,796 pounds (7,618.5 kilograms), and maximum takeoff weight of 27,822 pounds (12,620 kilograms).

The F8U-1P is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney J57-P-4 engine. The J57 was a two-spool, axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7-high-pressure stages) and a 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). Its Normal (continuous) rating is 8,700 pounds of thrust (38.70 kilonewtons) at 5,780 r.p.m. The Military Power rating is 10,200 pounds (45.37 kilonewtons) at 6,100 r.p.m., and it can produce 16,000 pounds (71.17 kilonewtons) at 6,100 r.p.m. with afterburner. The J57-P-4 is 20 feet, 10 inches (6.35 meters) long, 3 feet, 5 inches (1.041 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,860 pounds (2,205 kilograms).

The F8U-1P has a maximum speed of 635 knots (741 miles per hour/1,176 kilometers/hour) at Sea Level, and 855 knots (984 miles per hour/1,583 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). Its service ceiling is 41,600 feet (12,680 meters), and it has a combat ceiling of 51,800 feet (15,789 meters) with afterburner. The airplane’s combat range is 1,740 nautical miles (2,002 statute miles/3,222 kilometers) at 495 knots (570 miles per hour/917 kilometers per hour)and 42,350 feet (12,908 meters).

The F8U-1P carried no armament.

Chance Vought built 1,213 F8U Crusaders. 144 were the F8U-1P photo reconnaissance variant. They were retired from U.S. Navy service in 1982.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 March 1955

John W. Konrad in the cockpit of the prototype Vought XF8U-1 Crusader, Bu. No. 138899. (Vought Heritage)
John W. Konrad in the cockpit of the prototype Vought XF8U-1 Crusader, Bu. No. 138899. (Vought Heritage)

25 March 1955: Chance Vought Aircraft Corporation experimental test pilot John William Konrad took the first prototype XF8U-1 Crusader, Bu. No. 138899, for its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of Southern California.

The new fighter had been transported from the factory at Dallas, Texas, aboard a Douglas C-124C Globemaster II, on 3 March 1955. It was reassembled and all systems were checked. Taxi tests began on 14 March.

During the first flight on 25 March, the Crusader went supersonic in level flight. It was able to maintain supersonic speeds (not only for short periods in a dive) and was the first fighter aircraft to exceed 1,000 miles per hour in level flight (1,609 kilometers per hour).

Chance Vought test pilot John W. Konrad talks with engineers following the first test flight. (Chance Vought Aircraft Corporation photograph via Bill Spidle’s “Voughtworks” http://voughtworks.blogspot.com)

The F8U Crusader has a unique variable-incidence wing which can be raised to increase the angle of attack. This created more lift at low speeds for takeoff and landing aboard aircraft carriers, but allows the fuselage to remain fairly level for better forward visibility.

The test program went so well that the first production airplane, F8U-1 Crusader Bu. No. 140444, made its first flight just over six months after the prototype’s.

Prototype Vought XF8U-1 Crusader during a test flight, 25 March 1955. (Vought)
Prototype Vought XF8U-1 Crusader Bu. No. 138899 during a test flight, 25 March 1955. (Vought Heritage)

The Chance Vought F8U-1 was nearly identical to the prototype XF8U-1. It was a single-place, single-engine swept-wing fighter designed to operate from the United States Navy’s aircraft carriers. The F8U-1 was 54 feet, 2.75 inches (16.529 meters) long with a wingspan of 35 feet, 8 inches (10.871 meters) and height of 15 feet, 9.1 inches (4.803 meters). With wings folded, the airplane’s width was reduced to 22 feet, 6 inches (6.858 meters).

The Crusader’s wing angle of incidence was adjustable in flight. It had a total area of 375 square feet (34.8 square meters). The leading edges were swept aft to 47°, and the outer panels had a 1 foot, 0.7 inch “dog tooth.” The wings had 5° anhedral, while the horizontal stabilator had 5° 25′ dihedral. The stabilator’s leading edges were swept 50°.

Its empty weight was 15,513 pounds (7,037 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 27,500 pounds (12,474 kilograms).

Prototype Chance Vought XF8U-1 Crusader in landing configuration. (Vought Heritage)

Early production aircraft were powered by a Pratt & Whitney J57-P-4 engine. This was a two-spool, axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor and 3-stage turbine. The J57-P-4 had a normal power rating of 8,700 pounds of thrust (38.70 kilonewtons); military power, 10,200 pounds (45.37 kilonewtons), and a maximum rating of 16,000 pounds (71.17 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The engine was 20 feet, 10 inches (6.350 meters) long and 3 feet, 5 inches (1.041 meters) in diameter.

The F8U-1 had a cruising speed of 494 knots (569 miles per hour/915 kilometers per hour). Its maximum speed was 637 knots (733 miles per hour/1,180 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level—0.95 Mach—and 860 knots (990 miles per hour/1,180 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters)—Mach 1.50.  It had a service ceiling of 42,300 feet (12,893 meters) and combat range of 1,280 nautical miles miles (1,473 statute miles/2,371 kilometers).

The F8U Crusader was known as “The Last of the Gunfighters” because it was the last American fighter aircraft to be designed with guns as the primary armament. It carried four Colt Mark 12 20-mm autocannon with 500 rounds of ammunition. It could also carry two AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared-homing air-to-air missiles.

Because of a high accident rate, the Crusader has also been called “The Ensign Killer.”

Vought XF8U-1 Crusader parked on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base. (Vought)
Vought XF8U-1 Crusader Bu. No. 138899 parked on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base. (Vought Heritage)

The Vought F8U Crusader was in production from 1955 through 1964 with a total of 1,261 built in both fighter and photo reconnaissance versions.

Vought XF8U-1 Crusader Bu. No. 138899 parked on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base. (Vought Heritage)

During five years of testing, Bu. No. 138899 made 508 flights. It was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1960. The restored prototype is now at The Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington.

According to information recently discovered by The Museum of Flight, fighter pilot, test pilot and future astronaut John Herschel Glenn, Jr., made his first flight in a Crusader when he flew Bu. No. 138899 on 4 May 1956. According to Glenn’s logbook, he made two flights in the prototype on that date, totaling 2 hours of flight time. Many thanks to Mike Martinez, a docent for the museum for providing this information.

The Vought XF8U-1 has been restored by The Museum of Flight at Paine Field, Stattle, Washington. (The Museum of Flight)
The first of two prototypes, Chance Vought XF8U-1 Crusader, Bu. No. 138899, has been restored by The Museum of Flight at Paine Field, Seattle, Washington. The Crusader’s variable incidence wing is in the raised take-off/landing position. (The Museum of Flight)

John William Konrad was born 25 November 1923 at San Diego, California. He was the second of three children of  William Konrad, a salesman, and Emma Louise Stensrud Konrad.

Konrad became interested in aviation at an early age, learning to fly in a Piper Cub at the age of 15. After graduating from high school, he enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps at San Diego, 26 February 1943. Konrad was 5 feet, 3 inches (1.60 meters) tall and weighed 118 pounds (53.5 kilograms). He trained as a pilot and flew Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers with the 305th Bombardment Group (Heavy), stationed at RAF Chelveston, during World War II. He later flew Douglas C-47 Skytrains during the Berlin Airlift.

Konrad married Miss Harriet Marilyn Hastings at Clearwater, Florida, 11 February 1945. They would have two children.

Following the War, Konrad was selected for the first test pilot training class at Wright Field, then was assigned to Muroc Army Airfield (Edwards Air Force Base) in California, where he graduated from the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School, Class 51-C, 19 May 1952.

Konrad resigned from the Air Force in 1953 and joined the Chance Vought Aircraft Corporation in Dallas, Texas, as a test pilot. In addition the the XF8U-1 Crusader, he also made the first flight of the Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II, and the experimental LTV XC-142 tiltwing V/STOL transport in 1964. He was appointed Director Test Operations in 1965. Konrad retired from Vought in 1988 after 25 years with the company.

After retiring, John Konrad continued to fly a Goodyear FG-1D Corsair with Commemorative Air Force.

John William Konrad, Sr., Captain, United States Air Force, died 20 September 2006 at Dallas, Texas. He is buried at the Dallas–Fort Worth National Cemetery.

John William Konrad. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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6–8 January 1928

President Coolidge awards the Medal of Honor to 1st Lieutenant Christian Frank Schilt, United States Marine Corps, during a ceremony held on the lawn of the White House, Washington, D.C., 9 June 1928. (National Archives and Records Administration)

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in present the Medal of Honor to

FIRST LIEUTENANT CHRISTIAN F. SCHILT

UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

for service as set forth in the following

CITATION:

For extraordinary heroism while serving with Marine Observation Squadron 7/M (VO-7M) in action during the progress of an insurrection at Quilali, Nicaragua, 6, 7, and 8 January 1928, Lieutenant Schilt, then a member of a Marine Expedition which had suffered severe losses in killed and wounded, volunteered under almost impossible conditions to evacuate the wounded by air, and transport a relief commanding officer to assume charge of a very serious situation. First Lieutenant Schilt bravely undertook this dangerous and important task and, by taking off a total of 10 times in the rough, rolling street of a partially burning village, under hostile infantry fire on each occasion, succeeded in accomplishing his mission, thereby actually saving three lives and bringing supplies and aid to others in desperate need.

Medal of Honor, United States Navy and Marine Corps, 1919–1942. This version is called the "Tiffany Cross". (U.S. Navy)
Medal of Honor, United States Navy and Marine Corps, 1919–1942. This version is called the “Tiffany Cross.” (U.S. Navy)

In 1926, civil war broke out in Nicaragua. United States Marines were sent in to establish a protected sector for American citizens who were in the country (this is known as the Second Nicaraguan Campaign). First Lieutenant Schilt, a Naval Aviator since 1919, was assigned to an observation squadron at Managua in November 1927. On 6 January 1928, rebel soldiers ambushed to U.S. Marine patrols at the village of Quilali. The Marines were cut off, unable to be re-supplied or to have the wounded men evacuated. Lieutenant Schilt volunteered to fly into the village and land on a road, carrying supplies and flying the wounded men out. Conditions were difficult, with low clouds, surrounding mountains and hostile gunfire on landing and takeoff.

First Lieutenant Christian F. Schilt, United States Marine Corps, with his Vought O2U-1 Corsair. (U.S. Navy)
First Lieutenant Christian F. Schilt, United States Marine Corps, with his Chance Vought O2U-1 Corsair, Bu. No. A7529. (U.S. Navy)

Over three days, Schilt made ten flights, bringing out 18 wounded Marines and flying in a replacement commander and badly-needed medical supplies. To make a landing strip on the village’s rough, rolling, main street, the Marines on the ground had to burn and level part of the town, and since the plane had no brakes they had to stop it by dragging from its wings as soon as it touched down.

Chance Vought O2U-1 Corsair, Bu. No. A7575

The Chance Vought O2U-1 Corsair was a two-seat, single-engine single-bay biplane used for reconnaissance. It was 24 feet, 8 inches (7.519 meters) long with a wingspan of 34 feet, 6 inches (10.516 meters) and height of 10 feet, ½ inch (3.060 meters). It had an empty weight of 2,342 pounds (1,062.3 kilograms) and gross weight of 3,635 pounds (1,648.8 kilograms).

The 02U-1 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,343.804-cubic-inch-displacement (22.021 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp C (R-1340-88) 9-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. This was a direct drive engine, rated at 450 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m, at Sea Level.

The O2U-1 had a maximum speed of 151 miles per hour (243 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 22,500 feet (6,858 meters) and the maximum range was 880 miles (1,416 kilometers) at cruise speed.

Chance Vought O2U-1 Corsair Bu. No. A 7937 was flown at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory to test engine cowling designs. It was the third from last O2U-1 built.  (NASA)

Armament consisted of two fixed .30-caliber Browning machine guns, and one or two .30-caliber Lewis machine guns on a flexible mount in the aft cockpit.

Vought produced 291 O2U Corsairs between 1926 and 1930.

1st Lieutenant Christian Frank Schilt, United States Marine Corps. (U.S. Navy)

Christian Frank Schilt had a long career in the United States Marine Corps, beginning as an enlisted man with the first American military aviation unit sent overseas during World War I. After becoming a Naval Aviator and commissioned officer, he served for several years in the Carribean and Central American campaigns, before being assigned as chief test pilot at the Naval Aircraft Factory.

Captain Christian Frank Schilt, United States Marine Corps, at Quantico, Virginia, 19 July 1937. (Smithsonian Institution)

During World War II, Schilt served as chief of staff of the 1st Marine Air Wing at Guadalcanal, then commanded Marine Aircraft Group 11, commanding all Marine Corps aviation units during the Guadalcanal and Solomon Islands campaigns. He returned to the United States as commander MCAS Cherry Point.

General Schilt commanded the 9th and 2nd Marine Aviation Wings in the Pacific, and during the Korean War, he commanded the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

He next served as Commanding General, Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, and then as Director of Aviation at Headquarters Marine Corps.

Lieutenant General Schilt retired 1 April 1957 after forty years of service. Because of his distinguished combat career, he was promoted to the rank of General.

General Shilt was awarded the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with Gold Stars (five awards), the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon with Bronze Star (two awards).

General Schilt died 8 January 1987 at the age of 91 years.

Lieutenant General Christian Frank Schilt, United States Marine Corps (19xx–1987)
Lieutenant General Christian Frank Schilt, United States Marine Corps (1895–1987)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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