Losses and Aviation Safety

Check out these photos of an F-8D pilot forced to eject “Feet Wet” after being hit over North Vietnam

The abandoned F-8D Crusader dived for the bottom of South China Sea.

Taken on Oct. 14, 1965 by Lt JG Al Zink, flying in an RF-8A from VFP-63 the pictures in this post show the ejection of Lt. Jack Terhune from his Vought F-8D Crusader (BuNo 147899) belonging to VF-154 Black Knights over the Gulf of Tonkin after being hit by ground fire over North Vietnam.

As explained by Angelo Romano in his book Black Knights Rule! (BKR): A Pictorial History of VBF-718 / VF-68A / VF-837 / VF-154 / VFA-154 – 1946-2013 (US Navy Squadron Histories), The F-8 was hit during a ZUNI rocket strike mission. Terhune was forced to eject and he is seen in his ‘ejection seat with it drogue chute deployed, just after ejecting “feet wet” from his crippled aircraft. Seconds after these shots were taken, Terhune’s main chute opened and he floated safely to the water. Uninjured, he was picked by a rescue helicopter and returned back to USS Coral Sea (CVA-43). The abandoned Crusader is seen diving for the bottom of South China Sea.

Noteworthy five more aircraft were lost by the Black Knights during the Vietnam War Cruise which lasted from Dec. 7, 1964 to Nov. 1 1965. On Mar. 26, 1965 LT C. E. Wangeman Jr ejected from his damaged F-8D (148644/NL4XX) and was recovered uninjured after attacking the Bach Long radar site. Bach Long claimed two more aircraft on Mar. 29. LCDR K. E. Hume (148668/NL408) on one strike, he was hit and ended up with a complete flight control hydraulic failure. In the F-8, you cannot control the airplane without this and the UHT (unit horizontal tail) goes full nose down from airloads. Ken was unable to eject and crashed somewhere in the northern Tonkin Gulf. There was no recovery and he was declared Killed-In-Action (KIA). CDR Donnelly (148642/NL407) ejected and spent 45 hours in the shark-infested waters off Bang Long Island before being rescued. Then LT D. A. Kardell (148673/M413) who, while strafing trucks in North Vietnam, flew into the ground on a strafing run and listed KIA on May. 9.

Photo credit: Lt JG Al Zink / U.S. Navy

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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