The Memories Of
Gerald E. Peddicord, Capt. USN (Ret.)
I graduated from the Naval War College, New Port, RI, 11 June 1958 and immediately started various schools at different places on the East Coast to prepare me for the job of Air Officer of the Independence. This included a week’s course in Naval Justice, a week’s course learning arresting gear in New Jersey,
time observing operations on the carrier, Forrestal, operating out of Norfolk, a week’s course on Fleet Air Defense at Dam Neck, VA. It was a busy summer living out of a suitcase and going from BOQ (bachelor’s officers quarters) to BOQ. Ginny, the kids and I left Newport after I got home for a weekend to go to the Norfolk-Washington area for a couple of weeks on 9 August for them to visit relatives and friends while I finished my temporary duty at various places.
..... We returned to Newport 23 August and I reported to the Commandant, Third Naval District, in New York 25 August for duty on board the Independence when it was commissioned. I was to be with the pre-commissioning detail in Brooklyn to prepare for the commissioning of the ship in January 1959. This was the beginning of the most difficult, complicated, frustrating and emotional tour of duty I had in my 33 years in the navy.
..... It was difficult finding a place to live in New York (even without the family). Finally, three of my shipmates and I rented a five room suite in the Albert Hotel at 11th and University Place in New York City. We had to commute from there to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
..... Preparing a huge ship for commissioning is a gargantuan task. The crew has to be trained, the equipment checked out, training organizations established, custodial systems set up, personnel discipline administered. In addition to my regular duties, I was transportation officer for the ship and responsible for operation, maintenance, and upkeep of the utility airplane assigned to the ship. We housed the plane at Floyd Bennett Field (Naval Air Station) near the ocean in Brooklyn.
..... When I was able to take a weekend off, I would go back to Newport to spend it with my family. I would normally take the train to Providence where Ginny would pick me up or I would get a bus from Providence to Newport. If I was lucky, I could get a navy plane ride that was going to Floyd Bennett from Quonset. One time I flew a twin engine SNB from Quonset to Floyd Bennett for the local Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron (FASRON) and had a load of passengers, six people. About fifty miles away, after take off, my starboard (right) engine lost all oil pressure and so I had to shut it down and return to the field. With a full fuel load and passengers with their luggage, it was a touch and go situation. Luckily, I had enough altitude that I could use the altitude and the other engine to maintain sufficient air speed to get back and land safely. I found out later the plane had been through a routine 100-hour inspection and one of the mechanics had failed to tighten a lube-line sufficiently, causing oil failure.
..... Departing home on a Sunday afternoon to return to NY was always a solemn, unhappy moment.
..... On 2 October, I moved into an apartment in the Towers Hotel in Brooklyn with Gordon Brown, our ships operations officer. It was closer to the ship and much nicer than the one in NY.
..... I was appointed to head up a committee to design an insignia for the ship. This turned out to be a tough job to satisfy the Captain and Executive Officer and others. But when we finally finished it on 21 October, I was proud of the design and except for the number of stars it stayed with the ship for its active duty lifetime of 38 years. The original design only had four stars signifying the four Navy ships, named Independence, which preceded ours.
..... On 10 November, we received a new TF-1 twin-engine airplane for the ship, (trading in our SNB). It was a dream of a plane made by Grumman Aircraft Company; it carried about 10-12 passengers. It was equipped to land on carriers. This type was used for years as the Navy’s COD plane. COD stood for Carrier-on-Board Delivery. I made my last carrier landing in it just before I was detached from duty from the Independence in the summer of 1960.
..... I was able to get home for Christmas for a couple of days in Newport and it was a reprieve that may have saved my life. I needed it. This was the same year we got our daughter, Cynthia, her first 26” bike; I believe she stayed on it as long as I can remember - taking after her mother in her youth.
..... The last day of 1958 was again busy and frustrating. I moved out of the Towers Hotel to a stateroom on the ship and after dinner I was so tired and exhausted I was sound asleep when the New Year came in. I should have gone to Times Square to join the thousands of others but it was physically impossible.
..... I started off the New Year, 1959, in grand style by having the Command Duty Watch. This meant I was in charge of the ship on routine matters and was responsible for everything if the Captain left the ship. It was my first such duty in the navy and first in Independence.
..... We had a pre-commissioning detail of 1208 officers and men, who had been in Newport for several months training to be part of the ship’s crew, all came on board for duty on 3 January. They arrived in thirty-five chartered buses and received a police escort through Manhattan on their trip to the ship in Brooklyn.
..... I flew the Captain to Washington on 5 January in our ship’s TF twin-engine aircraft. The weather was cold (15 degrees), windy with strong gusts and a bad crosswind in Anacostia when we landed. The next day, I gathered information from the office of legislative liaison on VIP’s who planned to attend our commissioning ceremony and talked with the Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Gates, then flew back to Floyd Bennett.
..... On January 8, Dave Garroway, host of the NBC “Today” show, held his daily show on board the ship. The New York Times published news on the front page that the ship would be commissioned 10 January and indicated the public was invited to attend. This was a terrible mistake and caused panic on the ship. We could envision thousands of people showing up only to be turned away lending to the possibility of riots! The ceremony was by invitation only. The Times did print a correction the following day, but only in the back pages, so we were still very nervous about it.
..... In any event, the ship was commissioned on Saturday, 10 January 1959. There were about 8,000 people seated on the hanger deck for the event; in addition, my transportation planning for VIP’s paid off as it went quite well. It was a difficult and complicated day exacerbated by extremely cold and windy weather with temperature in the teens.
..... Ginny had come down from Newport on Friday, 9 January and we had planned to go to Broadway to see “My Fair Lady” after the commissioning ceremony on Saturday. I had purchased tickets in November. I was so exhausted after wrapping up the days’ activities, and it was so late, that we just stayed in the hotel room. She went back home to Newport Sunday afternoon. She was a good scout about it and fully understood the problems I had. I felt badly about it but she, like always, was very supportive of me. (I look back at it now and think I could have given it one more effort since Ginny loved musical comedy and our daughter was living it up every night through our “Hi-Fi” at home.)
..... The commissioning was now out of the way, but my problems mounted. In addition to being the Air Officer, (my primary duty), I was the ship’s transportation officer and had to coordinate public tours of the ship, of which there were many.
..... One of the biggest problems, and should not have been, was finding a suitable driver for the Captain. He was assigned an official navy car to use as he desired and he was so ‘nit-picky’ about his driver, I could not satisfy him. On 15 January he became so irritated, I thought he had lost his mind.
..... Below is an example of my activities for a few days in mid-January:
..... Saturday, 17 January. Tours of the ship by 500 American Ordinance Association members, by 250 boy scouts, and 150 lady fashion editors.
..... Sunday, 18 January. Had the Command duty watch, a 24-hour responsibility. More trouble with the CO’s (Captain’s) driver.
..... Tuesday, 20 January. Held special sea detail and general quarter’s drills in the morning. Had to get out special instructions for an open house the ship was having the next Saturday when we had about 8,000 people show up.
..... Sunday, 25 January. Flew our TF to Norfolk to pick up some ship’s personnel and had to fly back at night on instruments.
..... We were getting prepared now to go to sea for the first time for sea trials which would be very significant for discovering and correcting problems with the ship’s equipment. The Captain was becoming increasingly more irritable as the time approached. Clearly, it would be no easy task to back the ship out of the navy yard into the East River and turn her 90 degrees to head down the river and under the Brooklyn Bridge without going aground.
..... I was able to get a train home to Newport, Friday, 30 January arriving home about midnight. It was my first trip home since Christmas and I really enjoyed seeing the family and relaxing. I had to leave again Sunday at noon to get back before 19:30 hours at which time the CO issued orders to have quarters for muster. We were to leave for our sea trials Monday morning and he did not trust the crew to be back on time in the a.m. It was just one of many examples demonstrating his lack of compassion for the crew who ended up disliking him intensely.
..... We did get underway Monday, 2 February, for our sea trials. It took twelve tugboats to back us out of the dock and get us turned downstream. They accompanied us until we reached New York Harbor and were able to take off on our own down the mouth of the Hudson River. My special sea detail job in this maneuver was to transmit orders over a loudspeaker system called the 5MC to the tug captains as directed by the pilot. All major harbors in the world have specially trained people who came on board as pilots and maneuver the ship into or out of a harbor.
..... The Independence was built so the main mast could be raised and lowered to enable the ship to get under the Brooklyn Bridge. Even then, the clearance was only three feet. We had to take into account the height of the tide and the ships position relative to the bridge. It all had to fit together perfectly. In any event, we made it without mishap. It was a picturesque scene gliding silently down the East River in a massive ship on her maiden voyage in full view of the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan.
..... When we got to the open ocean, we exercised our equipment, conducted no-load shots on the four aircraft catapults, operated the jet blast deflectors, fueled and de-fueled an airplane and held full power runs on the main engines. So far, so good. We returned to port (Brooklyn Navy Yard) on Friday, 6 February, and I was able to go home to Newport on a beautiful day, Saturday, and spend the weekend, returning to the ship Sunday. These rare weekends at home revived my morale and spirits so I could put up with more criticism from the Captain during the week. I could take criticism from the Captain if it was warranted and constructive. He reminded me of the proverbial “Captain Quig”. For example, one of our ships’ aircraft crew members accidentally ran a jeep into the wing flap of the airplane causing the flap to have to be replaced, a minor problem, but to McElroy it was a major catastrophe.
..... We left the navy yard again 2 March to conduct acceptance trials and determine problems with equipment so that the shipyard could correct them before we became fully operational. We landed our TF to check out the arresting gear and when we deck launched it, the launching officer launched it off the angle deck instead of the straight deck. That was a serious mistake because the plane had less take-off distance. The pilot managed to keep it airborne despite the short take-off run, but it was a harbinger of fatal mistakes to come. We went back to the navy yard about a week later.
..... We were scheduled to leave in about a month for a shakedown cruise in the Caribbean. The ship was in no way ready for it. We had hassle after hassle with the navy yard people to get them to correct faults in machinery and equipment. As the time approached to leave, the CO became more intense and critical making my job almost intolerable. There was a rumor going around that we might deploy to the Mediterranean Sea before we completed our shakedown cruise because of the tense Berlin airlift situation. We would not be ready.
..... To prepare for our cruise, a group of us from the ship including McElroy, flew to Guantanamo Bay (GITMO), Cuba, to meet with the Group Training Group and Naval Air Station personnel. Our base of operations for the shakedown cruise would be GITMO. I piloted our TF for this flight. We returned to New York 23 March after stopping to refuel at Jacksonville and Norfolk.
..... It was rush, rush, rush, all the time, one emergency after another with equipment, personnel and the CO. Comments from my 30 March journal: “Events have closed in on me so bad I can only hope to retain my health and sense of balance.” Incidentally, this was Ginny and my fifteenth wedding anniversary date and I did not even remember it.
..... I was able to get off to visit the family in Newport 3 April 1959 for the first time in three months.It was a delightful weekend.When one is experiencing a nightmarish situation in life, it is so comforting to know that someone cares about you and will stay with you.
..... We held our last construction conference with navy-yard personnel. I was frantic trying to get them to correct discrepancies. They worked until the last minute before we departed for our shakedown cruise 15 April. We sailed to Norfolk where we loaded ammunition, aviation gasoline, jet fuel, supplies and spare parts. Our crews worked almost 24 hours a day. The air group moved aboard 22 April 1959--a major operation.
..... We departed Norfolk the next day for GITMO and the following day we discovered all of our catapult steam flow control valves were defective. We could not operate without them. I was up all night writing messages to Commander, Naval Air Forces, Atlantic, (COMNAVAIRLANT) and the shipyard in Brooklyn. We sent our ships TF plane off 25 April with a defective valve to Brooklyn to try to get a fix on it.The aircraft fueling crew spilled fuel on the flight deck twice creating a severe fire hazard and the Captain nearly exploded.
..... We entered port in GITMO 28 April and off-loaded the air group to the air station. We departed 1 May to conduct exercises, but could not attempt full air group operations because we could not launch the jets without the catapults so we exercised our propeller AD bomb aircraft that could be deck-launched. Also qualified some of our air department pilots in the TF and launched and recovered our rescue helicopter several times. Although these operations were not difficult, the CO continuously criticized me for small things. He had a direct line from the navigation bridge (Conn), where he was located, to primary fly station, where I was located in the super structure of the ship. That is where I conducted all landing and launching operations, refueling of aircraft and movement of aircraft on the flight deck and hanger deck. He would get me on the line with a buzzer and proceed to degrade my air department people and me. It was a living hell for me and I could hardly do my job for interference from him. I could foresee the end of my naval career, but I was determined not to give up. It was well known in the navy, that air officers on the large aircraft carriers had the highest attrition rate due to “combat fatigue” of any other job in the Navy. When one adds the additional complications of a new and inexperienced crew, it was a nightmare of the first degree.
..... We returned to GITMO 4 May and had a shakedown cruise arrival inspection by the Fleet Training Group preparatory to operating with the full air group on board. We got a good mark.
..... The weather was hot and humid, this being in the tropics. There was nothing for the crew to do on liberty except drink and get into trouble and on 5 May two of my sailors in the Air Department killed another sailor in the ships fire department while they were on liberty. Things could not get much worse.
..... We would go in and out of port almost daily. The Captain canceled all shore leave (liberty) on 6 May because of misbehavior of the crew. We would always get underway from the port about first light and on our way out of port, the air department would be preparing for flight operations by moving planes around to and from the hanger deck to the flight deck by large aircraft elevators. We had four of them. When the elevator moved up or down, we would energize a loud buzzer to warn people that it was about to move so that everyone could clear. During the early morning hours, the sound of the buzzer would carry a significant distance and could be heard in the station officer’s quarters on the base. As a result, it would disturb the sleep of the Commanding Officer of the base and so he complained to McElroy who, in turn, off-loaded on me to keep the buzzer from sounding when leaving port if any of the elevators were used. Of course, this order was violating safety precautions but I had to comply anyway. This really irritated me and if one of the operators did not get the word or forgot to keep the buzzer off, I heard about it over the direct line in short order. Such a juvenile, nit-picky order was unwarranted and caused further deterioration of the morale of my crew. It was a prime example of how not to exhibit leadership qualities. McElroy should have expressed his regret to the CO of the base and stood up for his men. We had more major problems with which to contend.
..... We received all of our repaired flow control valves for the catapults on board 4 May and got them installed in time to conduct full operations on 8 May, a day I shall never forget.
..... We began by catapulting four A4D jet bomber aircraft and then launched our first F8U Crusader fighter plane from the No. 2 catapult (port side forward on the flight deck). LT. “Smitty” Smith was the catapult-launching officer who had been through a special catapult officer-training course at Lakehurst, NJ, to qualify him for the job. When catapulting a plane, the launching officer orders the necessary steam pressure to a deck edge talker who relays the information to a below-deck operator, who sets the steam pressure. Steam pressures are different for different aircraft and is also a function of the weight of the aircraft, the amount of fuel on board the aircraft and the armament load on it. I was a little bit antsy about the launch of the Crusader since it would be the first one for LT. Smith. So I personally proceeded from my pri-fly station down four decks from the island structure to the flight deck to confer with him about the steam pressure to insure it was correct. He showed me the figures in a small notebook he carried and I concurred with what he was going to use.
..... One needs to envision the flight deck operations when launching or landing aircraft from a carrier. The launch of many aircraft must be expeditious and faultless by many people. The ship turns into the wind to get a minimum of 30 knots directly down the deck. The noise from the aircraft makes sound communication impossible. It has to be done by hand signals. Jet blast and prop wash are dangerous. The CO is looking right down the back of every crew member. It is a tense and dangerous environment.
..... When I gave the catapult officers the green light to launch, Lt. Smith ordered the steam pressure setting and gave the signal to launch along with the other three catapults, two on the waste angle deck and two on the bow. When the Crusader launched, it was obvious he did not have sufficient end speed. He did stay airborne for about a mile ahead of the ship, but he was on the backside of the power curve and could not stay airborne so the pilot had to ditch the aircraft in the ocean. The pilot did not escape and went down with the plane.
..... Lt. Smith had two columns of figures in his notebook. One column gave the steam pressure and the other column gave the end speed that that pressure would give the airplane. The end air speed figure was lower than the steam pressure setting. In this case, 110 mph vs. 138 psi. He made a mistake and gave the steam pressure setting as 110 instead of 138. This was fatal to the pilot. I have had nightmares about it for forty two years.
..... Of course, we relieved LT Smith of his duties immediately and, in retrospect, I suppose, I should have been relieved also, although I did every thing humanly possible to prevent such a tragedy.
..... The ship and especially the air department continued to have equipment problems that surfaced as we operated. These problems were the fault of the shipyard in building the ship, but McElroy held me responsible for the problems. It seemed more than I could bear.
..... We finally got a group of specialists from Brooklyn Navy Yard to come to the ship in Cuba to help us correct the problems. They arrived 17 May. In the meantime, we conducted anti-aircraft gunnery practice while at sea.
..... We started air operations again 19 May but could not do much because of very light winds. This really frustrated McElroy and this time for some reason, he took out his frustrations on the ship’s navigator, Commander Haus Cook. Apparently, he blamed him for getting us in an area where winds were calm.
..... On 20 May while working on No. 1 Cat (catapult) located on the forward starboard side of the flight deck, the cat crew accidentally fired the cat (no airplane involved) into the brakes when there was no water in them, causing major damage to the cat. Water cylinders are used to stop the cat suddenly at the end of its run. The absence of No. 1 CAT greatly hampered air ops. It is the one most often used.
..... We continued to have material breakdowns and at times, I thought McElroy would go insane. (He already had me that way.) He had almost driven me to distraction.
..... On 28 May we departed GITMO for Cuidad Trujillo, Dominican Republic, and arrived there 30 May. went ashore and played 27 holes of golf with shipmates and stayed overnight at the El Ambassador Hotel and went to a reception at the American Ambassador’s residence. The next day I played 27 more holes of golf and considered that my relaxed weekend revived me enough to carry on.
..... We departed Cuidad Trujillo 2 June and returned to GITMO to resume our daily grind of air operations and battle problems in and out of port. On 7 June a shipmate and I flew the ships TF to Montego Bay, Jamaica, and back to get in our flight time. Took us five hours.
..... I suffered pangs of extreme anxiety between the flight operation cycles when we had to re-spot the aircraft on deck after an aircraft recovery and be ready to launch the next flight on time. We had to re-fuel and spot aircraft in the correct order for launching. There were four squadrons on board each with different type planes and if a plane had a malfunction or did not check out after the pilot manned the plane, it caused much disruption. During these re-spotting periods, I would always scramble down the four decks to check on the operation.
..... The aircraft handling officer was responsible for the re-spotting and he was inexperienced in aircraft carrier operations and was a very poor leader. This, of course, reflected on me.
..... We practiced a nuclear strike operation and this was a nightmare of the first order. It is too detailed to explain in this treatise. Suffice it to say, there is nothing more complicated and complex and, of course, the Captain was relentless in his criticism and put-downs.
..... On 18 June we were night carrier qualifying some propeller driven AD bombers when a pilot stalled out after a deck launch and went in the ocean. We searched all night but never found the pilot. We never knew why he stalled and could only attribute it to pilot error.
..... The next day was the worst day of my life. I quote from my journal entry that day, 19 June 1959. “This, no doubt, was the most horrible day of my life. We launched an A3D at 1004 hours with insufficient steam pressure and lost two people and the aircraft. This means the end of my naval career, a disgrace and a failure. I feel like a ‘criminal’. It’s simply terrible and actually a kind of premature death for me.”
..... This is what happened. We were launching several A3D twin jet nuclear bombers, from the waste catapults, each were loaded with thirty thousand pounds of fuel and had a gross weight of 80,000 pounds each. LT Comdr. Dick Lewis was the catapult officer who had experience at this job. The last A3D to be launched was lost on the launch because Lewis had ordered steam pressure for only 12,500 pounds of fuel instead of 30,000. I knew the second the plane started down the deck that it would not make it. The plane carried a crew of three. We recovered one of them. Lewis never could adequately explain why he made the fatal error. We were scheduled to have an ORI (Operational Readiness Inspection) in a couple of days. This would, in effect, be our graduating diploma. Many visiting and experienced officers came on board from Norfolk to act as inspectors. It was to be our ultimate test, but morale was so low, I was not sure we could make it.
..... As a result of the catapult errors, I devised a means of communicating between the pilot and the cat launching officer just before a launch to insure the launching officer knew how much fuel was in the plane so he could set the proper steam pressure. This consisted of a deck crewman standing by the launching officer with a 2’ x 2’ blackboard with the amount of fuel written on it in chalk so the pilot could verify it or deny it. This was a crude way to accomplish the mission but it worked, although it slowed up the operation. Time was always critical in meeting a schedule.
..... We had the ORI over a period of several days 24-29 June. We started one day’s exercise at 0330 hours. My air department crew and I stayed up all night preparing for it and after it was all over we received a mark of “good”. I was surprised and immensely relieved.
..... We departed GITMO 26 June to return to Norfolk. Flew the air group to their bases ashore and arrived in Norfolk at 1700 hours, 30 June. I had the Command Duty and endured a mad house with dependents streaming on board upon our arrival.
..... The Captain demanded I “fire” my aircraft handling officer, Joe McFadden, and my assistant air officer.It was painful having to write a letter to ‘BuPers’ to request a relief for them and having to give them an unsatisfactory fitness report.
..... The ship was to be home based in Norfolk so my family would move there. I looked for houses to rent but, as usual I was not successful. I managed to get a navy plane to Quonset 5 July to see my family and drive back to Norfolk with them. They were ready to leave when I got there. Ginny had moved out of our Brenton Village place. We had the movers pick up our household goods. She, Craig (our son) and Cindy were waiting for me on the west side of the Jamestown bridge. All I had to do was get in the car and head for Norfolk. It was a happy reunion and I was never so glad to see anyone in my life. We had to move into a hotel until we could find a place to live.
..... As usual Ginny performed her magic and found us a place to live. We signed a year’s lease on a two-story Williamsburg style house, white with dark green shutters at 5803 Upper Brandon Place, Larchmont in Norfolk. I was so fully occupied on the ship, I could not even help move into the house and when we arrived back in port, Ginny had moved in by herself with help from Craig and Cindy. I was proud of them. I never set foot in the house until 23 July.
..... We were in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard receiving some urgent repairs to the ship when, on 9 July, there was a hurricane brewing to the south of us. The Captain got nervous about it and moved the ship to an anchorage in the harbor, thus interrupting the repairs. During the remainder of the summer, every time there was a hurricane threat, if we were in port, he would restrict liberty for the crew and sometimes go to sea as a precautionary move. Our ship would be the only one in the harbor to do this. It was a blow to the ships morale and he became known as “Captain Tuna, Chicken of the Sea.”
..... We got underway on 15 July to go to sea and conduct CARQUALS (Carrier Qualification landings) for new pilots or any pilots in different type airplanes. We did this most of the summer for squadrons based at bases on the East Coast. If a pilot was having trouble landing and ran short of fuel we would bingo him back to his shore base. Our ship became very expert at making landings and take-offs. 20 July we had 49 touch and go landings and 247 arrested landings.
..... We received word 22 July that McElroy was selected for promotion to Rear Admiral. He did not rate it but his previous political connections in Washington made it possible. At least we would get rid of him from the Independence and hopefully get a new CO who was a bit more of a human being.
..... About this time I began to have headaches and nervous conditions that I never experienced before. I guess the tension was getting to me.
..... We got underway again 3 August to conduct CARQUALS but discovered a problem with the ships No. 2 drive shaft and had to return to port and get divers to go down and inspect it. They found a cross deck pendant wrapped around the shaft and of course, my arresting gear people were blamed for throwing it overboard. The CO went wild and almost drove me insane (once more!!). This guy was a real idiot.
..... We continued to have equipment failures, which hampered CARQUALS and kept the Captain in a continued state of hysteria. On 12 August an A4D crashed into the sea about a half mile astern of the ship on an approach to a landing, but the pilot was able to eject and we rescued him with our helicopter which was always airborne for just such emergencies when we had flight operations.
..... We returned to Norfolk on 14 August. I got home that night but had to return to the ship early the next morning as I had the Command Duty. Unfortunately, the Captain was on board all day. This was a Saturday and my entry in the journal that day follows: “ The CO had to cuss me out a couple of times about insignificant things. He is an insufferable bastard who knew nothing about leadership or being civil.”
..... I got to spend a few precious hours the next day, Sunday, with my family. Ginny and the kids were very tolerant of my problems on the ship and were a continuing source of comfort to me.
..... We left again on 24 August, for more CARQUALS. The first F8U Crusader to attempt to land hit the flight deck ramp, broke off both landing gears, damaged the after end of the fuselage, burst into flames, got airborne and climbed to enough altitude for the pilot to eject and was recovered by our plane guard helo. His left landing gear flew into the port catwalk and killed one of my arresting gear crew members. Such is life and death, on board aircraft carriers. It is a dangerous operation.
..... On 31 August the results of the navy selection board to promote Commanders to Captain were published. Six of my Academy classmates were on the list, but not me. I was not in the zone for selection but still it was a disappointment. The six who were selected were ahead of their time.
..... On 6 September, Sunday, I was able to enjoy a quiet day at home with my family and celebrate Ginny’s 38th birthday. However, it was marred by my thoughts of all the troubles I was having on the ship. Monday was Labor Day holiday except for me when I had to go on board as the Command Duty Officer.
..... We left port again 9 September for more CARQUALS, and on 10 September we had an accident when the hook-release man got his head caught between the hook and the fuselage of an aircraft when he was trying to get the arresting gear wire to release from the landing aircraft. He broke his jaw in two places. After an airplane lands and comes to a stop, and the pilot raises his hook, sometimes it will not release from the wire so the hook-release man knocks the wire off with a hook-release tool.
..... We returned to port 16 September and the Captain (McElroy) went to NAVAIRLANT headquarters to get someone on the staff to accompany us to sea the next week to show us how to operate a flight deck. He said my air department and me would be on trial when we went back to sea. What a true inspiration the Captain was, he really knew how to motivate his crew!!!
..... We left again 21 September and landed our own air group on board to rehearse for an air demonstration for some VIP’s who would be coming on board 24 September. In the meantime, the so-called “expert” from NAVAIRLANT was on board to show us how to conduct flight operations. He had no constructive criticism to make and, in fact, told the Captain things would go better if he would stop heckling me and he was impressed with the air demonstration we put on for the VIP’s. That group included U.S. Senator Bridges and about forty news media members. During that air demonstration we launched 38 aircraft in 22 minutes and after the demonstration, returned them all on board without mishap.
..... We returned to port 25 September and anchored out instead of tying up alongside a pier as was the custom. There was a hurricane “Gracie” to the south and so “Captain Tuna” wanted to be ready to evacuate. He restricted liberty for the crew. In the meantime, the Forrestal, another aircraft carrier, came into port, tied up at a pier and granted liberty to its crew. Then on Sunday, 27 September, we got underway to go to sea, the only ship in port to do so. We stayed at sea dawdling around with no mission except to evade hurricanes. Another one, Hannah”, was threatening, at least “Captain Tuna” thought so. None of them ever became a threat and so we returned to port 3 October. And this date was a memorable one in the history of the Independence and in my tour on board her as the Air Officer.
..... Captain Jim O’Grady relieved McElroy as Commanding Officer of the Independence. It was a routine change of orders. It was the custom in the Navy for the officers and crew of a ship (or any command) to present the outgoing Commanding Officer a gift or at least a farewell party. In the case of McElroy, he let us know ahead of time he did not desire anything upon his relief of the command and we carried out his desires to the letter. We gave him no recognition whatsoever and everyone was glad to see him go. It was sad, but true. He never socialized or fraternized with any of the officers or crew. We did not even know if he had a family. If he did, he never talked about them. He was really a strange individual. I never heard of or saw him again until I saw his obituary in a navy publication a few years ago.
..... The first thing Capt. O’Grady did was to have liberty expire at 0730 if we were scheduled to get underway instead of midnight the night before. This was a good sign.
..... We did leave port again 5 October and rehearsed for another visit of VIP’s. This time it was 80 members of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC), a group of “think tank” people. The flight demonstration, along with a show by the Blue Angels went off without a hitch and we went back to port and off-loaded the JCOC and embarked 240 Armed Forces Staff College students and got underway again to perform a demonstration for them. We got back to port Friday, 9 October and started unloading ammunition in preparation to return to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for post shake-down cruise work on malfunctioning equipment.
..... Mom, Dad, and Aunt Anna arrived from Kansas for a visit, stayed over the weekend and left the following Tuesday, 13 October. It was good to see them as usual.
..... The new Captain and I took the ships TF plane and flew to Washington and New York to get in our proficiency flight time in good weather and it gave me an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with him. He was a dream come true, pleasant personality, compassionate, friendly and a human being. I have never witnessed such a contrast as between him and McElroy.
..... We arrived in New York 17 October and tied-up port side to a pier in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and then moved into dry-dock the following day.
..... We would be there until 14 November. During this Navy Yard period, I was frantically trying to get the yard people to correct all the problems that cropped up since the ship was commissioned. It was a total mess, but I did the best I could.
..... We departed Brooklyn at 0620 21 November to return to Norfolk and I was able to get off the ship Sunday, 22 November, to go to a birthday party for Craig at home. It was his eleventh and Ginny did a great job in preparing for it.
..... There was no let up for me in getting my crew and equipment ready for our next operation after being off for more than a month. We re-loaded ammunition all day and took aviation fuel at night. We still had trouble with the catapults (CATS) and I had to get help from the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. We finally got them repaired and fired several dead load shots to check them out. Got underway again Monday, 30 November for ten days of CARQUAL work but were hampered by bad weather. Had extremely high winds on 3 December and had to take extra precautions to secure our planes on the flight deck and one crew man was blown off the flight deck into the ocean but, luckily, we rescued him with our helo.
..... We entered Mayport, FL, 4 December to on-load aircraft for CARQUALS. Mayport is a seaport close to Jacksonville. We departed there the next day and during landing exercises, an A4D flamed out in the landing pattern. The pilot exited the plane after it hit the water, and although injured, was rescued by our helo.
..... We continued CARQUALS from pre-dawn hours until late at night and finished up after eleven days of hard work. It was a successful operating period. We returned to Norfolk 11 December to start a month of leave and recreation for the crew.
..... On Saturday, 12 December, Ginny and I hosted a cocktail party for fifty guests and it was very successful. As per usual we had Cindy sing and tell her famous “three-footed dog tale”... I had to return to the ship the next day and assume the command duty and so left Ginny and the kids to clean up the “shoestrings” and party rolls...not very great of me but it can be blamed on the “exigencies of the service”.
..... On 15 December, I flew our TF to Washington to pick up some of our ship’s officers from a meeting and after return to Norfolk, took off at 1850 to fly to Kansas. Refueled at Scott AFB in St. Louis and then on to Olathe where my family picked me up and drove to Wamego arriving home the next morning at 0530. Had a good visit with relatives and took off for Norfolk at noon on 17 December.I flew in (IFR) instrument weather nonstop arriving in Norfolk with the red fuel lights on from both tanks indicating low fuel state. The next day I had the command duty again. My rest and relaxation had evaporated. I was supposed to get a week’s leave, but the Executive Officer of the ship called me back to formulate some change of plans since the ship would leave port again a week earlier than expected. I did have a couple of days off for Christmas. On the last day of the year the tension was building up within me over the forthcoming operating period. I was anxious and fearful of accidents and casualties. Spent New Year’s Eve at home with the family and our English bulldog whose registered name was “Sir Humphrey of Newport”. We had acquired him as a puppy while living in Newport.
..... So ended a tumultuous, crazy year of 1959, one of the worst in my life.
..... The first half of the year, 1960, was a continuation of the past except that I had a decent CO (Capt. O’Grady) to work for, which made all the difference. It was a busy time and I’ll hit the highlights: We operated in and out of Norfolk and off the Atlantic coast from Norfolk and, as far South as Miami.
..... We had an unusual amount of visiting VIP’s, ceremonies and groups going out to sea with us to observe carrier operations. I continued to have many, many equipment failures such as catapults, arresting gear and even the “tilly” broke down. The “tilly” was a portable crane we stored on the flight deck for use in moving crashed aircraft from the deck, so we could continue flight operations.
..... On 3 January, I flew our ships TF airplane to Washington with Captain O’Grady as my co-pilot and picked up a navy captain and U. S. Congressman Miller. I had a lot of experience in flying our TF and was pretty good at it and I loved the airplane.
..... We left port (Norfolk) 4 January and our own air group flew out from their home base at NAS Oceana and landed on board. During night operations, the next day an F3H jet broke a nose-wheel off on landing. The wheel ran up the deck and broke a sailor’s leg.
..... During air operations on 7 January a crusader broke a main landing gear due to pilot error and a fire broke out on deck as a result. My fire crew quickly extinguished it and another crusader pilot had an engine failure about fourteen miles from the ship and ejected. Our helo was able to find him and rescued him, and very lucky to do so.
..... Two days later, a large twin-engine A3D nuclear bomber landed at night and broke the arresting pendant. The pilot “bolted” and landed ashore and the cable whipped across the flight deck killing a Chief Petty Officer and injured three others.
..... We flew an air demonstration the next day for VIP’s and had more trouble with the “cats”. The Presidential Scientific Advisory Committee was on board among the VIP’s and I spent two hours making a presentation to them and a tour of the Air Department spaces. This was in addition to another demonstration launch and recovery of forty-three aircraft. Then, conducted night flying until 2200 hours.
..... I went through the same routine 13 January with another group of VIP’s.We then launched the air group to return to their base ashore. My air department men and I were up until 0300 almost completely exhausted.
..... We CARQUALED 15 January for some aircraft from bases near Jacksonville and then entered port at Mayport and left again the next day for more day and night qualifications before entering Norfolk on 19 January. While operating off Mayport, we made about 350 launches and landings in one twenty four hour period, a record for any U.S. Navy carrier.
..... Upon entering port in Norfolk at 0700, we catapulted five jets off to return to their shore base. This was a very unorthodox procedure but it saved having to off-load them by crane, a very time-consuming and laborious operation. McElroy (remember him?) would never have authorized this operation, but it was okay with Capt. O’Grady.... he was a real “OK” guy! We were meeting merchant ships in the channel departing the port and would pass only a few yards abreast. Those merchant sailors probably got a thrill out of watching us.
..... Upon arrival in Norfolk, I received an official letter from “BuPers’ (Navy Bureau of Personnel) in Washington condemning me for the fatal A3D launch 19 June 1959, with insufficient catapult steam pressure. The letter would be placed in my records and would probably prevent my selection to the rank of Captain later in the summer. Selection to this rank was highly competitive and a selection board would jump on a letter like this and throw my name out for consideration. Captain O’Grady advised me to fight it. Hence, I wrote a rebuttal, visited the Navy Judge Advocate General’s office to explain the circumstances and was successful in persuading the Navy to withdraw the letter. Without this effort, it would have been the end of my naval career.
..... Our arresting gear sheaves, forty-four of them, all had to be replaced because of wear and tear from making more than 11,000 arrested landings since the ship was commissioned. The sheaves were the fairleads (pulleys) which guided the steel-cross deck arresting pendants from the arresting gear below the flight deck to the flight deck. The Norfolk Naval Shipyard assisted my crew in the eplacement.
..... After licking our wounds and making repairs, the ship got underway again from Norfolk on 9 February for another extended period of air operations in the Atlantic. We sailed to Miami and anchored out. Sent boats and helos into Miami to pick up a group of executives from the AFL/CIO and put on an air demonstration for them; then returned them to port at the end of the day and proceeded to Mayport. We flew our air group off to prepare for on-loading more CARQUAL groups and NATC (Naval Air Test Center) personnel from Patuxent River, Maryland. We landed the first F4H (Phantom Jet Fighter) to make a carrier landing. It was the latest fighter developed for use by the Navy and Air Force and was operational for many years. The first one to land caught an arresting wire and the tail hook pulled out of the airplane, like a chicken losing its tail feathers, but with the angle deck and power still on, the pilot was able to bingo to an air station ashore and land safely. Obviously, it was back to the drawing board for the designers.
..... After another strenuous and tension-ridden ten days, we returned to Norfolk on 20 February. We were designated to hold change-of-command ceremonies for (CINCLANT), Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic on 29 February. CINCLANT was one of the Unified and Specified Commanders who were responsible to the Joint-Chiefs-of-Staff for their areas of the world. It was a four-star billet, and of course, preparation for the ceremony required much extra work on the part of the ship’s crew. My catapult and arresting gear crews were deeply involved in repairs to the equipment and could ill-afford time for ceremonies.
..... I hardly had any time with my family. They had a life like I was deployed almost all the time over-seas. Craig was taking drum lessons and was in the school band. We had purchased a new bicycle for him on his birthday and he and I would go on long bike rides together occasionally when I had a day off.
..... A yearly administrative inspection was required of the ship. It was a detailed examination of our administrative procedures and required a great amount of preparation by all hands. It was held on 9 March followed by personnel inspection by the Commander, Carrier Division Two, (CCD-2) on 10 March. He and his staff were now embarked in Independence, which made another layer of oversight that the ship and I had to contend with. We received a mark of “Excellent” on our inspection. We had hoped for a mark of “Superior”.
..... On 19 March my family came to the ship and had dinner with me in the wardroom and Craig stayed over night with me.
..... Sunday, 20 March, Dad & Chet (my uncle, Dorothy’s husband) arrived from Kansas on the train to visit and go to sea with me on a VIP cruise on Monday for a few days. I had requested and received permission for them to do so and they joined other members of the so-called Secretary of the Navy’s guests to observe carrier operations. We departed the next day and started air operations as soon as we left port and continued on into the night.
..... The second day out an F8U Crusader hit the ramp on a night landing and broke off his landing gear. The pilot was able to remain airborne and land ashore on a foam runway. I was up for 22 hours this date trying to hold things together.
..... We flew the VIP’s off on Thursday to return to their homes. I was in a dilemma about this. Dad was afraid to fly. He had never been in an airplane in his life. He could stay on board and return to port with us in a couple of days and I did not pressure him to fly off with the rest of the VIP’s, but I guess Chet and the others in the party shamed him into doing so. In any event, his first flight ever in an airplane was from an aircraft carrier out in the Atlantic Ocean!!! To say the least, I was immensely relieved when I got the word they had landed safely at the air station in Norfolk. Dad was 68 years old at the time. It was an event he never forgot!!
..... About this time, I received a letter from “BuPers” advising me that their proposed letter of reprimand to me would be withdrawn and not entered in my record. I viewed it with mixed emotions since I was about ready to resign my commission in the Navy and retire. The struggle was almost too much, but, on the other hand, I was not a quitter and had been successful in fighting the letter. This, of course, did not bring back the lives of the airmen who had perished because of a human error in setting the catapult pressure by the catapult officers. That has haunted me my entire life. I try to explain to myself that as an air officer responsible for controlling all air operations on a carrier I had to share some of the blame; on the other hand, I could not be every place at once.I had to trust that my subordinates would do their jobs as they were trained to do. It remains a dilemma in my mind and I’ve had to live with it.
..... On 28 March we started air ops at 0430 after only two-three hours sleep by most of my crew. They were dead tired. One of them fell from the flight deck onto a gun sponson and received a severe brain concussion and was in critical condition.
..... A Crusader was launched from a waste catapult in darkness and the deck crew had not removed the chain guardrails on the aircraft elevator causing the plane to rip them off. He had to land ashore and did so safely with only minor damage, but caused a great amount of apprehension.
..... The next day, we started flying at 0530 and launched all aircraft to return to their shore bases prior to the ship re-entering port in Norfolk. When one Crusader was launched off the number one cat, there was a cat water brake casualty, which punctured the fuel cell of the plane. The pilot became airborne but had to eject and was rescued by our helo. The catapult suffered major damage. We did enter port on 30 March and I was successful in getting the Norfolk Naval Shipyard to assist me in repairing the catapult.
..... This was also Ginny and my sixteenth wedding anniversary date. I still had enough energy to go to the Naval Operating Base officer’s club for happy hour and dinner with her to celebrate.
..... I received notice that I would be detached from the Independence on or about 30 June to report for duty as the special weapons officer on the staff of Commander Naval Air Force Atlantic (CNAL) based at the Naval Operating Base in Norfolk. This was a routine change of duty orders after having been with Independence for almost two years. I would receive no leave between duty stations, which disappointed me to no end.
..... We got underway from the pier to anchor in the stream and on-load some nuclear weapons on 4 April. The cold war with Russia was extremely tense and our armed forces had to be ready for any eventuality.
..... Ginny and I got annoyed with Cindy for not doing well in school when we knew she was capable of much better. Later, in high school she ended up demonstrating both her talent in terms of singing and drama, as well as making all A’s at San Marcos Academy. We were very proud of her.
..... The ship returned to the pier after loading the weapons and on 10 April, I flew the TF to New York and returned via Washington to pick up Captain O’Grady and others. After getting back to Norfolk, at 2200, I returned home for a bite to eat with Ginny and returned to the ship at 2330 after delivering a kind whipping to my daughter for each of (4) “D”s she received on her report card. We prepared to get underway the following day for more CARQUALS. The first day out we got in 200 landings and the next day 267 before heading south for Mayport to pick up more personnel and airplanes for more CARQUALS. Vice Admiral Rees, CNAL, came on board to observe operations. He would be my new boss when I was detached from Independence on 30 June.
..... We returned to Hampton Roads (Norfolk) on 16 April and anchored out because of a lack of tugs to take us alongside the pier. When we did this, it was always a problem to get liberty parties ashore and back on board again, especially if the seas were rough and high winds prevailed.
..... When I got home, I found that Ginny had purchased a window air conditioner and had the home re-wired. It was our first air conditioner. Quite an event in our lives!!!
..... The ship had continuing problems with the catapult steam topping valves and we had these problems since the beginning. I sent the “BuShip” (Navy’s Bureau of Ships), a strong message protesting the inability to fix the problem.
..... On Friday, 22 April, with a heavy workload facing me, Captain O’Grady wanted me to play golf so, naturally, I dropped everything and joined him and our ship’s doctor, Dr. Nauman and played 18 holes. I enjoyed it very much and we did not record scores!!!
..... The next day, I was so happy to go bike-riding with Craig and (as it turns out) our dog, Humphrey-Humphrey. He had tons of fun tagging along with Craig and me, but unfortunately, because our dog was having too much fun, I crashed and burned on the roadway but survived with no injuries... Meanwhile, Cindy had ridden her bike out to the end of the pier to bring us home baskets of “King Blue Crabs” I got her a crabbing net for Christmas. We tried, but were unable to get rid of all of them! The very next day, I played tennis with Craig, maybe not the first time, but it was the beginning of a lifetime of playing tennis, golf and racket ball or squash rackets with him and I always enjoyed these friendly, but sometimes fiercely fought, contests. That is one of the fondest memories of my life.
..... Haus Cooke, our ship’s navigator, was detached to go to the Mediterranean to serve on the staff of the Commander, Sixth Fleet, and he had a Volkswagen Beetle which he left with me to keep for him for the two years that he expected to be gone. (I still remember how I had to get used to this little black “Bug” and how Craig and Cindy loved riding in the back. hey were so excited!)
..... We got underway again Monday, 25 April to go to sea for more air operations and demonstrations for visiting dignitaries and also a demonstration of refueling and replenishing at sea. Returned to port Wednesday and anchored. Off-loaded 80 VIP’s and on-loaded 35 foreign military officers and 200 Air-War College Students as well as boating about 700 sailors ashore for liberty. No relaxation here!!
..... We left again the next day for the usual demonstrations and returned to port the same day and tied up alongside a pier and disembarked the visitors.
..... Our crash crane (Tilly) diesel motor main bearing burned out and developed a distorted crankshaft. Repair parts were difficult to locate and this caused me extreme worry and anxiety.
..... We left Norfolk again for a Joint Civilian Orientations Cruise and demonstrations on 3 May and flew them ashore, off Onslow Beach, in marine helicopters, which had come out specifically to pick them up. That night, during flight operations, an A4D spun in at about 1500 ft. attitude after being launched from the ship. Evidently, caused by pilot disorientation. He ejected and luckily was rescued by our plane-guarding destroyer.
..... We returned to Norfolk 5 May and departed the next day with 230 Armed Forces Staff College Students on board to witness operations. During night operations, we ran into waves that caused the worst pitching deck I had ever seen. As a result we had to bingo 20 aircraft to the air station at Oceana. We returned to Norfolk 7 May and disembarked the AFSC students and got underway again for the Jacksonville operations area to undergo operational readiness training and participate in an exercise called a STRIKEX. This exercise was the most complicated of all air operations and simulated a nuclear bombing exercise.
..... My people and I were up all night, Sunday, 8 May, preparing for this operation which began Monday. We did surprisingly well on this first day except for one notable exception. At 1619 hours Lt. Comdr. Dick Lewis, our experienced waste catapult launching-officer, launched an A4D single engine jet nuclear bomber with insufficient steam pressure. The plane went into the water immediately because of low air speed. The pilot ejected just before the plane hit the water but his chute did not open and we lost him and the plane. It was another human error causing a fatality and no plausible explanation could ever be found. Lewis had launched hundreds of planes and there was no time factor or urgency in this particular launch that would cause him to become distracted or confused. It had to be some sort of mental block. It was so bad, one would almost suspect a conspiracy of some kind.
..... In any event, we continued the STRIKEX exercise through the next day getting up at 0230 to get prepared. We completed it without further mishap and prepared to return to Hampton Roads. In the meantime, a group of officers was flown aboard in a TF to convene a board of investigation on the A4D casualty. Things were closing in on me. I was in a state of shock and fully expected to be axed out of the Navy.
..... We flew the air group off to the beach and I was able to get in five arrested landings in our TF plane. This would be my last carrier landing in the Navy and we entered port 12 May, unloaded air-group gear, CCD-2 staff gear, ammo, and aviation gas and prepared for a one-day family cruise the next day.
..... We loaded 1200 dependents and civilian friends on 13 May and took them to sea for a one day cruise and flight demonstration. After we returned and disembarked all of the guests, we entered the Navy Yard in Portsmouth to get work done on the cats, arresting gear and other needed repair work.
..... I left in the ship’s plane at 1530 hours on 14 May, and flew to Olathe, KS. and stayed overnight. The next day Mom, Dad and Rob picked me up at Olathe and I visited relatives for a couple of days before I returned to Norfolk. They provided 30 lbs. of good Kansas beef for me to take home.
..... The following week I attended a course in weapons orientation to prepare me for my next tour of duty as special weapons (nuclear) officer on the staff of Comdr. Naval Air Lant (CNAL). And on Friday, we went to a school band concert in which Craig played the bass drum. Very proud of him, we ended up buying him a drum-set and he really excelled especially on the snares!
..... We were trying desperately, on the ship, to get our repair work done before our next operation at sea. We had to shift births at the Navy yard, which interrupted our schedule. The Saratoga, a sister ship carrier, had a collision at sea off Norfolk and needed to tie up at our spot.
..... On 28 May I entered the following in my journal: “We seem to be on the brink of a nuclear war. There was a breakdown at a Russia-U.S. summit meeting. Russia had recently shot down one of our high altitude reconnaissance spy airplanes over her homeland. SAC (Strategic Air Command) went on an air borne alert fully armed with nuclear weapons.” In the world situation, the cold war was tense.
..... I spent as much time as possible in my off-duty hours visiting with Joe Lovington whom I would relieve in a couple of weeks on the CNAL staff. Joe was a longtime friend and very helpful. I had never had any experience with nuclear weapons and it would be a completely new field for me.
..... We left Norfolk again on 9 June, for more air operations, VIP demonstrations and CARQUALS. I got up at 0200 hours on 13 June to prepare for a first launch at 0400 for a STRIKEX-type operation.Had several mishaps. An AD bridal fell off on a cat launch but the aircraft managed to stay on deck. A Crusader wheel broke off on a cat launch and had to land ashore on a foamed runway.An A3D clipped part of the tail off an F3H.Luckily, no one was hurt.
..... We entered port on 15 June and loaded 80 Navy League and Air Force Association VIP’s for demonstrations and returned them the same day. Our operations went exceptionally well. Went back to sea. The next day during night operations, and on a CCA (Carrier Controlled Approach), an F3H when about six miles out simply disappeared. Obviously, the pilot flew into the water or stalled-out. We stayed up all night searching for the pilot, to no avail.
..... We returned to Norfolk again on 18 June and I got off the ship at 1430 hours and went home. Ginny and I went to her high-school class re-union that evening at Ft. Eustes.
..... I got a real jolt on 21 June when I received a letter-of-intent from Admiral Rees (CNAL). It stated he was issuing me a letter of rep for the loss of the pilot and A4D on the catapult launch on 9 May, purportedly because I did not insure proper instruction of catapult launching personnel. It took a stout heart and strong will power for me to carry on. I was convinced my Navy career was over. That night when I got home, I told Ginny about it and took her in my arms and sobbed like a baby. I had worked so hard and long to be a good air officer. Life just did not seem fair. I was deeply saddened because of the loss of life and now this exacerbated it pending disciplinary action. But I was not through and did not give up.
..... The Air Officer could not communicate from his position in the island structure with the flight deck crews and the catapult officers except over a loud speaker system, and that was one way, and could not be heard when planes were running up and ready to launch. The system was at fault from the design stage through production in that there was no communication and a pilot’s life and plane were completely dependent on receiving the proper steam pressure for a safe launch. There was no way to check on the pressure setting by a second person and if the catapult officer made a mistake, it could be fatal. I made an issue of this fact in my rebuttal to Admiral Rees. Stating that accountability was not only on the shoulders of the catapult officer and the air officer, but went all the way to the Chief of Naval Operations through the Commanding Officer of the ship, the Commander of Naval Air Forces, the ship designer at the Bureau of Ships and the Navy Yard that built the ship. As a result of these fatalities on Independence, the system of control and redundancy was improved and I received some comfort that the pilots who lost their lives did not completely die in vain. In any event, I was able to convince Admiral Rees to withdraw his intent to issue a letter of reprimand.
..... Early the next morning, 22 June, at 0600 hours we left port for more air operations. On the following day an A4D flamed out 150 miles from the ship. The pilot ejected and was rescued by a helo from the Essex. (This was the same Essex I did tours on during the Korean War.)
..... Our air-group was scheduled for an important Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) on 25 June. Their mission could be greatly enhanced with a good performance by the ship. I spent all day 24 June on the flight deck with the catapult crews, expediting, directing, and instructing. They were really looking good and very professional in spite of our previous troubles. We made our first launch at 0700 for the air group (ORI). It went to perfection. We performed well on a tight schedule finishing about noon. I was extremely proud of them. This was to be my last day on board Independence before I began work on the staff of CNAL as his special weapons officer.
..... I was detached that afternoon while the ship was still at sea in the Atlantic Ocean. As I was ready to leave in the ship’s TF and be flown ashore, I had the surprise of my life. Unbeknown-to-me, as I stepped out of the island structure onto the flight deck, to proceed aft to board the plane, there, lined up on each side of my path to the plane, were my entire flight deck, catapult, arresting gear, and refueling crews (200+), bidding me farewell in a grand salute. The ships band played stirring music and my flight deck officers stood at the entrance to the plane as side-boys while the air boatswain piped me aboard the plane and the ship’s executive officer, Commander Ralph Elliot, accompanied me down the flight deck to the plane. What an emotional and stirring tribute it was and it lives vividly in my memory. The crew gave me a large photograph of the ship and a bronze replica of the ship’s insignia, which hang on the walls of our home today. A Navy photographer took a picture of my walking down the flight deck between the lanes of crew men and this picture appeared on the front page of the “Navy Times” the following week (Vol. 9 – No. 44; Aug. 13, 1960; Eastern Edition). I was saluting all the grand people who had worked for me (My kids love this photograph).
..... The Independence operated all over the world in its lifetime and was always “Ready on Arrival” in the many political hot spots it visited. It developed a great reputation and was often in the national news media, newspapers and TV. She was de-commissioned at Bremerton Naval Shipyard, Puget Sound in Washington, Sept. 1998, and was the oldest ship on active duty just before de-commissioning.
..... That speaks volumes about her durability and the crews that kept her going.Cozy and I attended the decommissioning ceremony, which was performed on a beautiful day with bands playing, flags flying and the crew all dressed and lining the rail for the occasion.It was all befitting of her proud history and she looked clean and battle-ready on her decommissioning, such that she was puzzled as to why she could not stay on active duty and continue to help defend the liberty we all enjoy in this Great United States of America!!!
..... I was selected for the rank of Captain in the fall of 1960 and continued in the navy until retiring in April 1969. My last duty station was commanding officer of the navy-advanced jet training base in Beeville, Texas.
..... I took a position as manager of a resort and country club called Tanglewood on Lake Texoma, about 80 miles north of Dallas. After ten years, I resigned that position and became a volunteer in many activities in Grayson County, Texas and my hometown of Pottsborro, Texas.
..... During my twenty-three years of volunteer work I received many awards from the state, county and local authorities.
..... I still am doing volunteer work, playing golf and gardening at age 84 and I live with my wife of thirty-three years on Lake Texoma.
Capt. G. E. Peddicord , U. S. Navy (Ret.)
Special Thanks to Capt. G.E. Peddicord for allowing us to use these pages from his memoirs.