30 November 1957 – Capt Benny Lacombe is killed when he unsuccessfully attempts to bail out of Lockheed U-2A, 56-6704, Article 371, 13 miles SE of Laughlin AFB. Ejection seats had not yet been fitted to U-2s at this point. The history of the U-2 program is fraught with fatalities and crashes. “CIA pilots Wilburn S.
Henry Ross Becker
From Intake Issue 38:
After reading other DWI-avoidance efforts back in the ‘60s in England, I thought I’d add mine to a no doubt endless collection of stories of young fighter pilots driving difficult and dangerous English highways after imbibing a bit too much.
My adventure began at Wethersfield on a day when bad weather had us stand down by mid-afternoon on a Friday, so the 55th TFS squadron bar was opened by 3:30 pm.
After a couple of hours of beers and darts, I changed into my civies to go to a house-warming (a beautiful thatch-roofed cottage) party thrown by a newly arrived DODDS schoolteacher, Bob McGuire. I’d been tasked to bring the ice cubes to the party (ice cubes had not yet been discovered by the Brits!), so after swinging by the Club for the ice, my bachelor-pad mate, Hank McCauley, and I departed, headed for the party in my car.
The first community we passed through was the picturesque village of Finchingfield (“the most photographed village in all of England”) which had a 120-degree turn in the road at the village center. Well, you’d think my new Triumph GT6 sports car could have handled that turn but, no, it drifted into the opposite lane resulting in a slow speed, but head-on, collision with an old couple in a Ford sedan. (Funny, I have been telling this story for almost 50 years and have always described the nice people I hit as an “old couple.” My wife just showed me a weathered press clipping and it describes the driver of the other car as a “56- year-old man”! My, how time changes the relativity of things!)
The Bobbies soon arrived and immediately observed all the ice cubes on the road around my sports car! Needless to say, they promptly gave me a breathalyzer test—which I failed. Fortunately, their device was considered only a preliminary test, giving them authority to take me to the local police station to administer an official test. I smoked at least a half a pack of cigarettes during the drive to the police station, which must have worked because I passed the official test!
I was told I wouldn’t be charged with a DWI (whew!) but would be charged with reckless driving, and then, being typically courteous British Bobbies, they offered to drive me to my destination (the party at Bob McGuire’s cottage).
And what a party it was! Chugging contests, carrier landings, all the “normal” goings-on. As was also the norm back then, it was daybreak when Hank and I took a taxi home. But my morning sleep was interrupted by a phone call from my squadron commander telling me to report to the ADO’s office ASAP (obviously my accident was in the morning’s police blotter). I staggered out of bed, had a cold bath (hot water was also a rare commodity in England back then) and drove Hank’s car to Wethersfield.
By the time I got to the base, I thought I was in pretty good shape. But apparently not, because after “reporting” as best I could in front of the Colonel, he said to me, “Christ, Becker, you smell like my Uncle Harry!” A thorough chewing out followed.
The other significant thing that happened that morning was that new Teacher Bob McGuire was evicted from that beautiful thatched-roof party cottage! Ah, the good old days! — Ross Becker, 55 TFS, 67’-’72