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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 53, No. 2 - Summer 2008
Table of Contents 

Phifty Years of Phantom II Phighters 

     In the waning days of World War II the air forces of the world stood up and took dramatic notice of the Luftwaffe’s introduction of jet-powered combat aircraft into the aerial combat arena. Most, if not all, of the major American aircraft manufacturers began work on their own jet-powered designs.  Fledgling McDonnell Aircraft Company (McAir), of St. Louis, Missouri, was first to field a jet-powered fighter type for the U.S. Navy. The FH-1 Phantom was the first operational jet aircraft to operate from aircraft carriers. Those 62 Phantoms were followed by 895 McAir F2H Banshees and in turn by 521 McAir F3H Demons.
     During the Demon production run the USN issued in 1952 a requirement for a new supersonic air superiority fighter. McAir responded with a design advance of the F3H Demon. McAir lost that paper competition to the Chance Vought F8U Crusader. Without a stated USN requirement for another combat aircraft McAir took one of the biggest financial gambles in corporate history. Herman D. Barkey, regarded by many as the ‘father’ of the Phantom II, noted in 1972, "We were determined to continue design and production of carrier-based aircraft, ...we canvassed numerous Navy personnel willing to listen and return questionnaires to determine their desires for the next generation carrier-based aircraft."
     Barkey and his team of engineers sat down with the results of their research and the newly released general Navy Specification SD-24G paper, dated September 15, 1953, to begin drawing up the design for what would eventually become the F-4 Phantom II. This was an exciting and challenging time in the aeronautics fields - bigger and better engines; stronger and lighter metals; advancements in understanding aerodynamicsvia better testing equipment and techniques. More than any other fighter type of the era, the work being done by Barkey’s team incorporated all of this new technology and even challenged/pushed the envelope of aerodynamics. These original designs were given progressive designations of the F3H Demon, though the designs were not technically a part of the Demon line. (John Harty, former F-4 Support Program Manager, noted in his paper THE BUSINESS HISTORY OF THE F-4 PROGRAM, A READY REFERENCE (undated), that the original development work was done under the McAir Model 32 designation.)
     On July 23, 1954, the Navy recommended the procurement of two McAir prototype aircraft. In response to a request, McAir submitted in August a formal development proposal. Procurement for two then-designated F3H-G/H aircraft was initiated on September 3 and assigned the Navy Bureau Numbers 142259 and 142260. The Effective Start of Engineering date was October 1, 1954; the date McAir assigned a formal, full-scale development team. McAir changed the Model designator from the Model 32 (Demon) to the stand-alone Model 98, under which all subsequent F-4 models would be developed. 
     An in-house mock-up was constructed. The Navy’s Letter of Intent (worth $38 million) was let for two prototype aircraft . . . 

McDonnell F-110A, BuNo. 149405

Origins of the "Spook"

     As any researcher of the McDonnell Phantom II will tell you, you cannot tell the story of the Phantom II without some mention of the "Spook." This character has become almost as enduring as the Phantom II itself. Spooks image is pervasive throughout the Phantom community appearing at one time or another on almost everything associated with the Phantom. From manuals to aircraft tail feathers, from unit patches to coffee mugs, Spook is there.
     Spook was created in 1962 by MCAIR Technical Artist Anthony "Tony" Wong. "I was a technical illustrator on structural repair and service manuals and handbooks - doing drawings and schematics - and my supervisor asked two of us in Product Support-Technical Illustrations to draw a figure for use on a shoulder patch," Tony said. 
     The result was the creation of what would become the symbolic spirit of the F-4 Phantom II. This then nameless little figure swiftly and silently stole the hearts and imaginations of almost everyone who ever had an association with the aircraft.
     Born splayfooted, the little guy’s original costume consisted of oversized sneakers, a tall, wide-brimmed hat, flowing black cape, and a gown (of sorts) with a bold "II" emblem. Faceless, he only had two large eyes to give him a "mysterious mien." 
     His likeness soon appeared on shoulder patches and in publications, but he was still nameless. The name "Spook" is believed to have emerged as a handle for the character between February and September 1963 with the delivery of 27 Navy F-4Bs to the USAF’s 12th Tactical Fighter Wing at MacDill AFB, Fla. An alternative that has been put forward is the possibility that the 4453rd Combat Crew Training Wing formed in 1964 at MacDill should be given the credit for the naming. Regardless of who named this little caricature "Spook," the name has stuck and another legend was born.
     Tony goes on to explain, "Most shoulder patch figures used in the services at that time were animal types, much like the ones the Walt Disney artists drew for Air Force, Navy and Marine squadrons during World War II. My one and only  . . . . 

A photo-recon version of Spook

Pardo’s Push: A Feat of Incredible Airmanship


On March 10, 1967, two F-4 Phantom IIs of the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand prepared to launch on a mission into North Vietnam. The target for the day was to bomb the steel mill at Thai Nguyen, the only North Vietnamese steel mill capable of producing essential war materials, and defenses were expected to be heavy.
     Armed with six 750-pound bombs, four missiles and an electronic countermeasures (ECM) pod on the right outboard station, the American aircrews were tasked with two objectives. The first was to fly MIGCAP for the primary strike force of F-4s and F-105s. In the absence of enemy MiG activity, the two escort aircraft were to also attack the steel mill.
     Manning the lead aircraft was Capt. Earl Aman and 1st Lt. Robert Houghton, with Capt. Robert Pardo and 1st Lt. Steve Wayne flying on their wing. Both crews had carefully preflighted their planes knowing that the mission was likely to be one of the toughest they had faced. Houghton admitted that this was the first mission where he was worried about getting shot down even before they took off, but that the steel mill was the most important target they had attacked do date.
     During the previous nine days this mission had been postponed due to heavy monsoons and low clouds over the target. In the immediately preceding two days, bad weather had forced the entire strike force to divert to secondary targets of transportation facilities and supply points in Laos and North Vietnam. The weather on this day was clear. 
     The takeoff order finally came and the strike force was airborne. Long before they closed on the main objective, they began to get heavy antiaircraft fire. While still 75 miles from Thai Nguyen, Aman and Houghton’s plane was rocked by an antiaircraft shell that sent flak smashing into the plane, violently shaking it. 
     A hurried check of their gauges and quick discussion of whether or not to proceed with the mission was made. The initial check showed the Phantom appeared flyable. The decision was made to try and complete the mission and they continued on toward the Thai Nguyen steel mill. With no MiG opposition apparent, the aircraft moved to their secondary task  . . . .

Capt Bob Pardo and his WSO, Lt. Steve Wayne

Dan Cherry’s MiG Victory and his F-4D

     As the North Vietnamese offensive continued in the spring of 1972, it became apparent to American Forces that the enemy had to be hit at his supply points. On April 16, 1972, strike forces were sent to bomb uel depots, warehouses, and truck parks in the vicinity of Haiphong and on the outskirts of Hanoi. These were the first American raids into the Hanoi-Haiphong area since President Johnson’s partial bombing halt had been announced on March 31, 1968. As anticipated, the enemy resisted ferociously, firing thousands of rounds of antiaircraft artillery and about 200 surface-to-air missiles. In the air war, MiG-21s met and engaged American strike aircraft. In the pre-dawn darkness of April 16, 1972, four F-4 Phantoms of the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron roared off the runway at Udorn, Thailand, enroute to North Vietnam. The 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing to which the 13th TFS reports, launched a total of 20 Phantoms as part of FREEDOM PORCH BRAVO. Two MiGs were destroyed by a MIGCAP F-4D flight assigned to protect the strike aircraft.
     Capt. Frederick S. Olmsted, Jr., and his WSO, Capt. Stuart W. Maas, were assigned to lead a four-ship MIGCAP that was to render cover for strike forces ingressing and egressing the target area as well as provide the first line of defense for Search and Rescue (SAR) forces orbiting close to the North Vietnam border in northern Laos. Flying aircraft 3 in this flight was Major Edward D. Cherry and Capt. Jeffrey S. Feinstein, with his wing, aircraft 4, flown by Capt. Crane and Capt. Lachman. Major Cherry recounts the events of this mission as follows:

     "Olmsted had made contact with at least two MiGs on his radar and was leading the flight to the MiGs. He obtained visual contact with two MiG-21s and called them to us. The MiG-21s passed overhead and Olmsted started a right turn to engage them. 
     "While in the right turn, our wingman obtained a visual contact with a third MiG-21 and called for us to roll out and turn left. The MiG flew into a cloud layer but we were in hot pursuit. Shortly after breaking through the cloud layer I obtained visual contact with the MiG-21 at 12 o’clock high, in a right, climbing turn. I maneuvered my aircraft into firing position and  . . . .

McDonnell F-4D Phantom II,

Sideshow Curiosities: American Military Glider Experiments of WWII

     The U.S. military began their glider programs with little in-house knowledge of such aircraft, understanding of how best to train glider pilots, or the most effective means of deploying gliders in combat. Once propose-built military gliders became available and tactical training was undertaken, improvements to techniques or hardware were already underway. 
     Most such U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) efforts required engineering flight test and then operational evaluations in a steady stream of work. Development was overseen by the Glider Branch within the Aircraft Laboratory, Experimental Engineering Section, within Materiel Command at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. Maj. (soon Lt. Col.) Fred R. Dent, Jr. led this effort through its formative period. Program management and procurement were handled by associated organizations.
     As the volume of flight testing increased and it became difficult to integrate the operations with powered aircraft activities, the gliders were moved to the newly christened Clinton County Army Air Field (CCAAF) in nearby Wilmington, Ohio. The Glider Experiment and Test Unit, 703rd Test and Experimental Base, was fully functional there in July 1943. The operational trials by Airborne Commandwere mostly performed at Laurinburg-Maxton AAF, N.C. 
     The Navy glider development was overseen by the Bureau of Aircraft (BuAer) but executed by the Naval Aircraft Factory (NAF) at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Most testing was . . . . . 

CG-15A on rigid tow system 
behind a C-47

 Douglas A3D-2 Versions,  Part III.

     Very early in the A3D program, even prior to the first flight of the first XA3D-1, Douglas, El Segundo Division chief engineer Ed Heinemann’s engineers, in keeping within Heinemann’s established philosophy of adapting every Douglas designed airplane to accomplish more than one basic function, began studies of possible modifications to the A3D to determine other possible uses for the A3D. Discussions with the Navy decision-makers regarding variations of the A3D were ongoing and among the first proposed variations from the original bomber theme were development of a kit for rapid (overnight) temporary conversion of a standard bomber configuration airplane to a photographic version, an electronic anti-missile, signal intelligence gathering version, and a trainer, all of which were to eventually become major configurations of the Skywarrior.
     BuNo 130358, one of the first 12 A3D-1s to be built, was selected as the development vehicle for the photographic "rapid conversion" version. Although this A3D-1 was officially accepted by the Navy on June 22, 1954, it didn’t fly until September 13, 1955, the primary reason being that the development of this "overnight" conversion kit took between six and nine months at the main Douglas plant. The airplane was to remain basically a bomber, therefore, the bomb bay doors were retained and the bomb bay was divided into two compartments, the forward portion to receive the conversion kit and the aft portion to remain a bomb bay for transporting and dropping flash bombs and flares.
     In-flight access to the camera compartment in the event of a camera malfunction proved to be a major problem. The cockpit being the only pressurized compartment on the airplane meant that cockpit pressure had to be reduced to equal the ambient pressure prior to openingthe floor level upper-access door. This would allow the third crewmember to crawl through the companionway under the forward fuel tank and into the photo compartment trailing a long, unwieldy oxygen hose connected to his oxygen mask. In addition to these inconveniences, the bomb bay being unpressurized was also not heated. Temperatures dropped as low as 59 degrees below zero at maximum altitude, limiting the time spent in this hostile atmosphere before frost bite took its toll.
     Eventually the design and creation of the "overnight" kit proved to be so difficult and extensive that once the conversion  . . . .

Douglas A3D-2Q, BuNo 146459

Remember When . . . Douglas Cloudster 

     For those of us who recall the period, a boom in general aviation was to take place following World War II. It was anticipated that returning airmen would trade their wartime aircraft, flown in hostile skies, for light planes flown over peaceful American terrain. The return of many veteran pilots, aviators and airmen was to be the catalyst behind the figurative statement "an airplane in every garage," and it gave impetus to artists’ conceptions of smiling families flying to vacation destinations in futuristic light planes. Aviation magazines of the day reinforced this vision by depicting modern-day housing developments with a runway and individual taxiways leading up to each new home.
     Aircraft companies and subcontractors shared this optimism as they converted their wartime facilities into the manufacturing of general-aviation aircraft. Soon their drawing boards were busy as they transitioned from the manufacturing of bomber and pursuit aircraft of war to the postwar pursuit of building light planes. In some cases, and for expediency, their aircraft were prewar or updated designs. Other companies, however, capitalized on wartime knowledge and transferred newly developed technology into modern and innovative aircraft designs.
     New light-plane designs and prototypes from major aircraft manufacturers, including Douglas, Grumman, Lockheed, North American and Republic, entered into development. Additionally, new light planes from many other aircraft companies entered the developmental stage at the end of the war (see listing of aircraft). Concurrently, production was resumed on prewar aircraft, including the ERCo Ercoupe, Globe Swift, and the Luscombe Silvaire.
     However, the aviation boom was not to be. Many war-weary pilots turned their vision from the sky to earthbound goals, including home, automobile, family and peacetime employment. Also, the exigencies and economic conditions at the time helped to fuel the death knell of the aviation boom.

Douglas Cloudster