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Thread: The battle for Palmdale CA.

  1. #1
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    Default The battle for Palmdale CA.

    Imagine the "greenies" uproar if this happened today.

    The Battle of Palmdale

    This aviation story dates back to 1956 and involves some USAF aviators
    flying F-89D's.

    On the morning of 16 August 1956, Navy personnel at Point Mugu
    prepared an F6F-5K for its final mission. The aircraft had been
    painted overall high-visibility red. Red and yellow camera pods were
    mounted on the wingtips. Radio remote control systems were checked,
    and the Hellcat took off at 11:34 a.m., climbing out over the Pacific
    Ocean. As ground controllers attempted to maneuver the drone toward
    the target area, it became apparent that it was not responding to
    radio commands. They had a runaway.

    Ahead of the unguided drone lay thousands of square miles of ocean
    into which it could crash. Instead, the old Hellcat made a graceful
    climbing turn to the southeast, toward the city of Los Angeles. With
    the threat of a runaway aircraft approaching a major metropolitan
    area, the Navy called for help.

    Five miles north of NAS Point Mugu, two F-89D Scorpion twin-jet
    interceptors of the 437th Fighter Interceptor Squadron were scrambled
    from Oxnard Air Force Base. The crews were ordered to shoot down the
    rogue drone before it could cause any harm. Armed with wingtip-mounted
    rocket pods and no cannon, the Scorpion was typical of the Cold War
    approach to countering the "Red Menace." Each pod contained 52 Mighty
    Mouse 2.75-inch rockets. Salvo-launched, the Mighty Mouse did not have
    to have precision guidance. Large numbers of rockets would be fired
    into approaching Soviet bomber formations to overwhelm them with sheer
    numbers. Today, they would be used against a different kind of red
    menace.

    At Oxnard AFB, 1Lt. Hans Einstein and his radar observer, 1Lt. C. D.
    Murray, leapt into their sleek F-89D. Simultaneously, 1Lt. Richard
    Hurliman and 1Lt. Walter Hale climbed into a second aircraft. The
    interceptors roared south after their target. The hunt was on.

    Einstein and Hurliman caught up with the Hellcat at 30,000 feet,
    northeast of Los Angeles. It turned southwest, crossing over the city,
    then headed northwest. As the Hellcat circled lazily over Santa Paula,
    the interceptor crews waited impatiently. As soon as it passed over an
    unpopulated area, they would fire their rockets.

    The interceptor crews discussed their options. There were two methods
    of attack using the fire control system, from a wings level attitude
    or while in a turn. Since the drone was almost continuously turning,
    they selected the second mode of attack. In repeated attempts, the
    rockets failed to fire during these maneuvers. This was later traced
    to a design fault.

    The drone turned northeast, passing Fillmore and Frazier Park. It
    appeared to be heading toward the sparsely populated western end of
    the Antelope Valley. Suddenly, it turned southeast toward Los Angeles
    again. Time seemed to be running out. Einstein and Hurliman decided to
    abandon the automatic modes, and fire manually. Although the aircraft
    had been delivered with gun sights, they had been removed a month
    earlier. After all, why would a pilot need a gun sight to fire
    unguided rockets with an automatic fire control system?

    The interceptors made their first attack run as the Hellcat crossed
    the mountains near Castaic. Murray and Hale set their intervalometers
    to "ripple fire" the rockets in three salvos. The first crew lined up
    their target and fired, missing their target completely. The second
    interceptor unlea shed a salvo that passed just below the drone.
    Rockets blazed through the sky and then plunged earthward to spark
    brush fires seven miles north of Castaic. They decimated 150 acres
    above the old Ridge Route near Bouquet Canyon.

    A second salvo from the two jets also missed the drone, raining
    rockets near the town of Newhall. One bounced across the ground,
    leaving a string of fires in its wake between the Oak of the Golden
    Dream Park and the Placerita Canyon oilfield. The fires ignited
    several oil sumps and burned 100 acres of brush. For a while the
    blazes raged out of control, threatening the nearby Bermite Powder
    Company explosives plant. The rockets also ignited a fire in the
    vicinity of Soledad Canyon, west of Mt. Gleason, burning over 350
    acres of heavy brush.

    Meanwhile, the errant drone meandered north toward Palmdale. The
    Scorpion crews readjusted their intervalometers and each fired a final
    salvo, expending their remaining rockets. Again, the obsolete,
    unpiloted, unguided, unarmed, propeller-driven drone evaded the
    state-of-the-art jet interceptors. In all, the jet crews fired 208
    rockets without scoring a single hit.

    The afternoon calm was shattered as Mighty Mouse rockets fell on
    downtown Palmdale. Edna Carlson was at home with her six-year-old son
    William when a chunk of shrapnel burst through her front window,
    bounced off the ceiling, pierced a wall, and finally came to rest in a
    pantry cupboard. Another fragment passed through J. R. Hingle's garage
    and home, nearly hitting Mrs. Lilly Willingham as she sat on the
    couch. A Leona Valley teenager, Larry Kempton, was driving west on
    Palmdale Boulevard with his mother in the passenger seat when a rocket
    exploded on the street in front of him. Fragments blew out his left
    front tire, and put numerous holes in the radiator, hood, windshield,
    and even the firewall. Miraculously, no one was injured by any of the
    falling rockets. Explosive Ordn ance Disposal teams later recovered 13
    duds in the vicinity of Palmdale. It took 500 firefighters two days to
    bring the brushfires under control.

    Oblivious to the destruction in its wake, the drone passed over the
    town. Its engine sputtered and died as the fuel supply dwindled. The
    red Hellcat descended in a loose spiral toward an unpopulated patch of
    desert eight miles east of Palmdale Airport. Just before impact, the
    drone sliced through a set of three Southern California Edison power
    lines along an unpaved section of Avenue P. The camera pod on the
    airplane's right wingtip dug into the sand while the Hellcat
    cart-wheeled and disintegrated. There was no fire.

  2. #2
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    flat out neat post sir & thank you again so much for everything you've done for me Red, it is so good to be home.
    be safe, enjoy life, journey well
    da gimp
    OFC, Mo. Chapter

  3. #3
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    Holy crap, what a story or should I say.....clusterf***. By the way I am familiar with every one of those geographic locales mentioned in the story.

  4. #4
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    Glad your home and resting Gimp.

  5. #5
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    I sent that story to the "TCHS E-Mail Tag Team, class of '59" last night with the caveat that I couldn't verify it through the usual sources. I got a reply this morning from the detail oriented opthamologist in Texas. It happened. http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/15628.html
    Great story. Thanks Red! (We grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, east of the affected area.)
    Dean (the other one)
    OFC-Orange Co. Ca Chapter

  6. #6
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    One reason fighters should also have a GUN! Amazingly we had to learn that over and over.
    Dogfighting is obsolete since we got all these fancy rockets! Yeah, suuuure.

  7. #7
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    Great post! Just shows that an old Hellcat could still win a fight without throwing a punch.

    I also had to look up what an F-89D Scorpion looked like and found this neat picture taken over Canada in the late 1950s.

    Last edited by Peconga; 06-13-2013 at 02:32.
    Cheers,
    Peconga in Boise, Idaho

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