Tag Archives: Top Gun

Armistice Veterans Day: Integrity Honor

This is the recording of an F-4 dog-fight practice run in the North Sea when James Charles Evans (12-29-1942 – 4-13-11) had to eject with a damaged plane that was on fire. His son was given this recording by his mom after his dad’s death and he decided to put it up, having gotten a walk through the recording by another pilot, Capt. Daniel.

This caught me off guard, making for some intensely emotional listening, as it brought me back in time to when I was a little kid and my own dad was telling me about the times he had some rough times in his piloting. I don’t have recordings of such conversations myself but I wonder if I could get a hold of them. Anyone know how to go about doing that?

(1) Dad was heading up the Corsair Squadron known as the Checkerboarders, which is still commissioned today. His plane got pretty shot up in a real dog-fight and his engine was on fire, with oil covering the window cap of the plane. I asked him if he had a parachute and he said yes. I asked him if he used it. He asked me why he would jump out of a perfectly good airplane. “What did you do?” I asked. He described the landing amidst cliffs jutting out every couple of hundred yards across a beach in North Korea (you can find this on Google Maps. Going deadly slow, he popped the plane up just before a cliff and came down hard on the beach on the other side before smashing into the next cliff. I said that the prop is too big, and would do the egg-beater thing and the plane would flip. He admitted that that’s what happened. “But how did you get back to safety. The North Koreans would be sending people to capture you.” And then he said something with such matter-of-factness which told me everything I needed to know about him and the Marines and what trust and loyalty that had for each other. Totally inspiring:

“Well… (exasperated sigh at my unknowingness)… My own guys picked me up, of course.”

Absolute trust. I gotta well imagine that the conversation before crashing out was awesome, much like the recording above. I am inspired.

(2) The next downing a plane piloted by dad, also a corsair, was accomplished by a student of his, at what is now Andrews Joint Base just South of Washington DC, where dad was doing the TOP GUN thing before it became a thing, teaching guys how to fly while he also did up his JAG at the-back-in-the-day Georgetown University. The student came out of an overly too quick and wide barrel roll, trying to show off, right on top of my dad’s right wing, actually breaking about a quarter of his wing right off the plane. I asked him if he had a parachute. He indicated he did. I asked if he jumped out of the plane. He asked why he would jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Then he explained that he had hold the stick over with all his might, since if he didn’t, the plane, already flying at an extreme sideways angle, would immediately go into such a violent spin that if he tried to get out he would be instantly smacked into nothing by the then spinning wings. Every resource of the airport emergency services were dispatched, fire engines, ambulances, the lot, but they were amazed to watch this best ever pilot land first on the one wing tip, then the wing tip and it’s accompanying wheel, then both wheels and the back of the plane. I can only imagine the cursing and praising going on at the same time among all at that airport. Oh… And this goes to speak of how much my dad was looked up to by his students. The barrel-roll guy who knocked the wing off his plane asked him if he would be his own Judge Advocate General, but dad told me that he had to tell the guy that it would be a…. wait for it… a conflict of interest!

I wish I could get the recordings from the tower for this one too.

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Filed under George Byers Jr, Military

Top Gun: The Rest of the Story

Live and learn, right? But maybe it’s taken all these years to learn a lesson about military funding. Trump’s got it right. Here’s why:

At the end of any war there is a push by politicians who have no military background to cut military funding down to just about nothing, as if no other war would ever take place.

What happens is that training goes to hell and no one knows how to do anything anymore. No more tactics. No more talent. An entirely vulnerable nation. But it’s like clockwork. Politicians play on the heresy of false optimism, that we’ve saved ourselves because we played out some fearfully effective strikes in the last war, yesterday. So, now it’s all good. We don’t need funding. Let’s spend money on pork projects for my constituents. Then, for just a few individuals, literally, the entire nation is put at risk.

After WW2, and then, “after” the Korean conflict (which Trump will hopefully now bring to an effective and formal close), back in the 1950s, pretty much the entire budget for pilot training was slashed to nothing, that is, just when the first jets were coming out.

My dad, commander of the famed Checkerboard fighter attack squadron out of the Marine Corps Air Station (Merritt Field) of Beaufort, SC, just up from Parris Island, came back from his ten years in the South and then North Pacific Corsair flying (VMFA-312) so as to teach the guys how to fly at Andrews just South of D.C. while he was put through JAG school at Georgetown University. After this, he went to Chicago to continue to teach a new generation of fighter pilots.

But that’s when the funding was cut. He knew how to fly by instinct and could handle the new jets, but his students couldn’t learn the instinct because there was no funding except for just a practice flight here, maybe again later, there. Nothing really. They had to think about flying the planes. Not good enough. They flew the planes literally straight into the ground.

My dad complained ferociously about the need for more funding for more flights. Denied. Again and again. More deaths of the best of the best.

And that was it for him. He wasn’t going to kill off an entire generation of pilots just because some self-congratulatory politicians thought they could please a few pork recipients.

So, dad took a cut in rank, left the Department of the Navy, moved to Minnesota to be a civil lawyer and politician himself, meanwhile joining the National Guard for something like another 20 years. But his heart was still with flying for the USMC. He would often bring me to airfields, and sometimes was able to commandeer a fighter to buzz over the rooftops of our local city where he was mayor. Why? Because his heart was still with the guys who were flying their planes straight into the ground because there was no funding for pilot training in the hippie days of the early-mid 1960s. Guys thought they could fly. They knew nothing. They were taken out with great ease by the enemy. We had now lost everything. Tactics. The whole lot. Gone.

Finally, with enough dead, people woke up. Top Gun school was created. Now, looking back, we all wish the Top Gun of Top Guns would have been heard. But at the time, all that could be heard was the ♬ kaching ♬ of greed. I, for one, am happy for the renewed military spending, and that, finally, finally, we are taking a look at the plight of our pilots.

Here’s dad, George Byers Jr, getting out of one of the planes he so loved to fly:

george-byers-jr-usmc-corsair

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Filed under Military, Politics