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VMF-332 A4 Skyhawk #5 taking off from Bogue Field.

At Bogue Field they installed a portable runway with an aircraft catapult just like the ones on aircraft carriers. This reduced the length of field with the idea that they could put one of these runways just about anywhere. But here they used a jet engine, the same engine used in the F4 Phantom, instead of steam powered turbines used on carriers.

They also had arresting cables to capture the planes when landing.

Interesting stuff.

The first A4 Skyhawk to take off almost tore a hole in his wing fuel pods. The acceleration of the catapult was so great it lifted the nose gear of the A4 three or four feet off the runway almost immediately.

This caused the rear of those fuel pods under the wings to scrap along the runway. Sparks could be seen as the A4 was catapulted down the runway. Another millimeter and the metal would have worn through and that would have been real interesting.

There were two A4s from VMF-332 that landed and took off this day. Aircrafts #5 and #18. Which one was first to take-off I have no idea. does anyone out there know the answer?

I was there as an ISO photographer and I took the only photos of the A4 nose grear lifting off the runway as it started traveling down the runway. They had the A4 return and land at the field and I then took photos of the damaged fuel pods.

Once the safety officer realized who I was he wanted my film. He didn't want anything to get out. He didn't get it. Made him go through the proper channels. I believe I turned over several negatives to the base photo-lab. They were then responsible for the reproduction of the negatives.

By the book Major.

They resumed testing after it was decided to remove the fuel pods from the wings.

I have more photos of the first day of testing at Bogue Field. If you have any information for these photo please let me know. E-mail me at editor@photoessaysit.com

Below from left: Pilot of aircraft #5, Group Commander Col. Le Mar, pilot of aircraft #18.

Sergeant Majors

They had to make many changes over several months before they were ready to give another demonstration. This time in front of military brass from up and down the Atlantic coast.

To get to Bogue Field this time I ended up getting a ride from Cherry Point with three Sergeant Majors. One was the Wing Sergeant Major. Another was with Marine Headquarters. Don't remember where the third was from.

From the way they talked between themselves it became apparent that they had know each other for many years.

They were all WWII and Korean veterns. This is part of the conversation I overheard. I don't remember the exact words but this will give you an idea of what was being talked about.

First Sergeant Major, "Wife saids I have to lose 20 pounds."

Second Sergeant Major, "Have fun. My boss wants me to redecorate my office. Told the wife this and now she's all bent for hell to do it!"

Third Sergeant Major, "At least you two guys don't have three teenage girls at home. What the hell do you do with their boyfriends?"

I'm trying very hard to keep a straight face. I failed.

First Sergeant Major saids, "Just what do you find so funny PFC?"

I gave myself a moment to get my thoughts together and finally said to the three Sergeant Majors, "I'm not laughing at you but at your conservation. Listen to yourselves. You probably lived through Guadacanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Chosen Resevor for gods sake. Me, I'm just tring to survive the ISO office. Don't tell anyone I said this but you guys are the real heros, the real John Waynes. And here you are talking about redecorating the office! Don't you find that a bit humorous?"

By now we had reached our destination. The car stops and the driver gets out to open one of the rear doors for the Sergeant Majors.

I had to add, "Oh, and Sergeant Major, just shoot the boyfriends!"

No one said anything for a moment then they all starting laughing. So three Sergeant Majors get out of the car while having a good belly laugh and come face-to-face with a three-star general.

The general said, "Yes?"

And one of the Sergeant Majors, bless his heart, saids, "Sorry sir. You had to be there."

You can't make this stuff up.

Really happened. Ask the Sergeant Majors. [next]