Tag Archives: United States Marine Corps

5 September 1960

LCOL Thomas H. Miller, USMC with the record setting McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II. (McDonnell)
LCOL Thomas H. Miller, USMC with the record-setting McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II. (McDonnell Aircraft Corporation)

5 September 1960: Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Miller, United States Marine Corps, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 500 Kilometer Closed Course Without Payload with a McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, Bu.No. 145311. The fighter averaged 1,216.78 miles per hour (1,958.2 kilometers per hour)¹ over the triangular course in the California and Nevada desert.

Diagram of course flown by LCOL Thomas H. Miller, USMC, 15 September 1960. (McDonnell)
Diagram of course flown by LCOL Thomas H. Miller, USMC, 15 September 1960. (McDonnell)

Lieutenant Colonel Miller took off from Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of Southern California. The McDonnell F4H-1F carried three external fuel tanks. Miller climbed in full Military Power to 38,000 feet (11,582 meters), then dropped the two wing tanks over the Salton Sea. The Phantom II continued to accelerate with both engines in afterburner while climbing to 48,000 feet (14,630 meters). At Mach 1.6, 30 miles (48.3 kilometers) from the starting gate over Edwards, Miller dropped the empty 600 gallon (2,271 liters) centerline tank. He crossed the gate at 42,200 feet (12,863 meters) at Mach 1.76 and continued to accelerate.

Miller entered the first turn near Lone Pine, California (just east of Mount Whitney) at 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) at Mach 2.04. The second turn was over Beatty, Nevada, the location of a radar and telemetry facility that was operated as part of the NASA High Speed Flight Station’s High Range. The F4H had descended slightly to 49,000 feet (14,935 meters) while accelerating to Mach 2.05.

Colonel Miller was now headed back toward Edwards and the gate on the longest leg of the triangular course. He crossed the finish line at 46,000 feet (14,021 meters) and Mach 2.10.

The total time on the course, gate to gate, was 15 minutes, 19.2 seconds. The Phantoms’ two engines were in afterburner for 25 minutes, 30 seconds. The duration of the flight, from takeoff to landing, was one hour.

When the airplane crossed the gate over Edwards, only 900 pounds (408 kilograms) of fuel remained. Later, Colonel Miller said, “The only way to get on the ground with the engines running was a split-S maneuver with a near-vertical dive, speed brakes out and engines at idle power. This provided positioning for a straight-in approach to the runway at Edwards AFB. Flaps and wheels were lowered at the last minute when I knew I had the runway made, even if the engines quit. Fortunately, they didn’t flame out until I touched down.”

While the FAI credited Tom Miller with a World Record speed of 1,958.2 kilometers per hour (1,216.769 miles per hour) for the 500 kilometer course, a McDonnell Aircraft Corporation publication points out that as the F4H actually flew outside the course lines to make the high-speed turns, it flew 23 miles (37 kilometers) farther than required, and therefore the actual average speed was 1,305 miles per hour (2,100.2 kilometers per hour).

McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 145311. This probably the Phantom flown by Jeff Davis for the 100-kilometer record. (U.S. Navy)
McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 145311. This is the Phantom flown by LCOL Thomas H. Miller for the 500-kilometer world record, 5 September 1960. (U.S. Navy)
LGEN Thomas H. Miller, USMC
LGEN Thomas H. Miller, USMC

Lieutenant General Thomas H. Mitchell flew combat missions in the Pacific with VMO-155, flying the Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, and missions during the Korean War with VMFA-323 (Death Rattlers”), flying the Vought F4U-4 Corsair. During the Vietnam War, he commanded VMFA-513, flying the McDonnell F-4B Phantom II. Promoted to Brigadier General, he was Chief of Staff, III Amphibious Group, then Commander, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. In 1975, he took command of the Fleet Marine Force Pacific. After serving as Deputy Chief of Staff for Aviation, Headquarters, Marine Corps, Miller retired from active duty in 1979.

Lieutenant General Miller died in 2007 at the age of 84 years.

John H. Glenn, Jr., General David M. Shoup, Commandant of the Marine Corps and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Miller Jr., at Marine Corps Headquarters, 15 September 1960. General Shoup holds a scale model of the McDonnell F4H Phantom II. (Photograph Collection (COLL/3948), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections)
John H. Glenn, Jr., General David M. Shoup, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Miller Jr., at Marine Corps Headquarters, 15 September 1960. General Shoup holds a scale model of the McDonnell F4H Phantom II. (Photograph Collection (COLL/3948), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8857

© 2017, 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. (NARA Ref# 80-G-460270)

MEDAL OF HONOR

CHRISTIAN F. SCHILT

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps.
Place and Date of Action: Quilali, Nicaragua, 6, 7 and 8 January 1928.
Entered Service At: Illinois.
Birth Date and Place of Birth: 1 March 1895, Richland County, Ill.
Other Navy Awards: Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with 1 gold star.

Citation:
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 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.

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. (United States Navy Naval History and Heritage Command NH 45855)

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)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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