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The Story of a True Top Gun Pilot
A Top Gun Story
My dad is a true Top Gun pilot.
This is a fact about him that I found out later on in life.
He has the impression that he mentioned it earlier and wasn't keeping it from me, but I distinctly remember seeing the movie Top Gun, and not knowing I was sitting next to one.
That would have made me pretty cool back in school, I thought to myself upon this discovery.
To him, it was a part of what he experienced while serving his country, not something to boast about. (The last part I figured out on my own)
I will never forget my sister's reaction when she found out, that our dad was a true hero to put it mildly.
Top Gun Award 1971
Initial Training of a Future Top Gun Pilot
1. In 1962 I enlisted straight out of school. I took equivalency exams and interviews to apply to Navy Flight Training as a NavCad (Naval Aviation Cadet). The usual prerequisite was having a 4 year college degree, and I went straight from high school.
*This information was offered to me after I asked him about his experience in the Navy, which I learned of after I had turned 30, only because I had never asked. All pictures are of him*
The following numbered points throughout are my dad's exact words, so other than a couple edits, I am leaving them be.
You will see them listed numerically, and that is the completion of what he mentioned, do you notice one point that he left out?
Yes, you guessed it, The Top Gun Award.
A True Top Gun
A Tribute To My Father - My sister made this tribute to my father, which essentially inspired me to make this page.
Birth of a Top Gun Pilot - 2. I was accepted into flight training and commenced PreFlight school in Pensacola in 1963 at the age 19.
Young Start - 3. Soloed in T34 primary trainer in the fall 1963 at age 19.
Age of 20 *That is him in the jet* - 4. Started carrier landings in T28 Trojan in June 1964.
5. Out of 130 students that finished prop basic training, I was one of 2 selected to go to Jet advanced training.
The other was Tony Nargi, who was a Naval Academy graduate. June 1964.
6. Completed jet advanced training and designated US Naval Aviator and commissioned an ensign in April 1965, one month after reaching age 21.
Deployed - 7. Deployed to Vietnam December 1965 aboard USS Ranger with Attack Squadron 55 flying A4 Skyhawk aircraft. Second cruise aboard USS Constellation abo
Three Years Later - 8. This sea tour was completed early 1968 with 230 combat missions and several medals at age 23.
Now an Instructor - 9. Rotated to "shore duty" as an instructor in VT-23, advanced jet training in Kingsville Texas, and at age 23, I had 2 cruises of combat ex
Youngest Most Highly Decorated Lieutenant in the US Navy
10. In 1968, was personally invited to the Navy - Marine Corps Ball in Dallas, TX as the youngest/highest decorated Lieutenant in the Navy.
(Distinguished Flying Cross, several Air Medals and Navy Commendation Medals for combat missions).
The Distinguished Flying Cross
The Distinguished Flying Cross is a medal awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself or herself in support of operations by "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to November 11, 1918."
The decoration may also be given for an act performed prior to that date when the individual has been recommended for, but has not received the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross or Distinguished Service Medal.
Image U.S. Federal Government
Distinguished Flying Cross Number 1
Distinguished Flying Cross number 2 - 11. Second tour to Vietnam with 2 cruises aboard USS Midway, flying in an A7 Corsair aircraft, amassing a total of 374 com
Distinguished Flying Cross Number 3 - His humbly spoken exact words: "The DFC is the third highest Navy award, and I have 3 of them."
Even a Top Gun Can be Shot Down
He still flew some missions afterwards, and here are some other mentions.
12. Shot down over North Vietnam morning of November 11, 1972 at about 2 O'clock in the morning and was rescued by a helicopter. I had been hit about 5 miles inland, but managed to nurse the aircraft long enough that I landed about one and a half miles off the coast.
The rescue is almost a story in itself.
The helicopter had no doppler radar (to enable them to hover over a point during rough night conditions) and the crew was not night qualified.
13. Selected to deliver the first 500 lb Walleye (TV guided bomb) in Vietnam in 1972.
The importance of this was such that BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment) photos were shown to President Nixon within 24 hours, showing the destroyed bridge, and demonstrating the accuracy of the weapon.
14. Honorable discharge July 1973 with a total of about 680 carrier landings (probably 250 at night) about 3,000 jet hours, with a commercial plus instrument pilot rating as well as multi-engine centerline thrust.
Then acquired a CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) rating intending to teach flying. This did not pay much, so I ended up working high-tech telecommunications for the last 25 years.
I Asked What Distinguished Him Out of My Own Curiousity
15. An aspect that is unique about me is the young age that I had performed many of these accomplishments. And not many pilots have the number/type of medals that I have been awarded. The DFC is the third highest Navy award, and I have 3 of them.
He currently enjoys a nice serene life in Florida, on a boat for 8 years as the resident handyman, and now in a nice peaceful house.
*Update, he has since moved the the well known retirement community in Florida called 'The Villages".
I would say he is most deserving of a nice retirement :)
He is holding onto two of life's essentials in this picture taken in his driveway at the time, a boat dock in Miami.
Traffic Jam At The Villages
Carrier Landing - This is what it looks like when landing a jet on a carrier. Pay attention to how small the carrier looks...... I did this 675 times, and at le
October 9, 2012 - Thank You So Much Everyone For So Many Great Comments and the Recognition
I am swamped at work and am going to respond, but wanted to say something.
What an awesome way to start the day!
I have told my dad about this and he really appreciates all the kind words very much, as do I, and my sister who created the video tribute above.
I personally always wanted him to be recognized for these achievements and this means a lot :)
This is also my first purple star and LOTD, and I also let him know that, and felt that this was a perfect place for that to happen.