5 December 1956 – A Northrop XSM-62 Snark, 53-8172, N-69D test model, fitted with a new 24-hour stellar inertial guidance system, launches from Cape Canaveral Missile Test Annex, Florida. It wanders off-course, ignores destruct command, disappears over Brazil. It is found by a farmer in January 1983. The Day They Lost the Snark By J.
Ronald F. Boyle
Born in Michigan in 1932, I started out with a broken family. My father was awarded custody of me after the divorce. In those days it was the middle of the great depression and I lived with my Aunts, Uncles, and Grandmother until 1938 while my father was out trying to make a living. In 1938 I met my new mother who I knew for the remainder of my life was my mother. Of course, within a matter of a year or two, the world plunged into the worst war of our modern history. My father joined the Navy to fight. He was a Navy Chief and navigator on a destroyer. He was wounded in a naval battle somewhere in the Mediterranean.
Life got back to normal after the war and our family took up farming in Idaho. As I like to put it, God saved me once again when we sold the farm in 1950. As the Korean war broke out, I transferred from “tanks” in the Army National Guard to the air force as private Boyle. Off I went from Idaho to Basic Tng. and on to Alabama for Technical School. Once again, the mighty hand of God saved me. One day our first Sargent appeared with a clipboard and announcement that if anyone wanted to be a pilot they should sign here.
As expected, it was not as simple as it first appeared. After so many people signed up the roster was filled beyond capacity and the needs of the air force took precedent. They had more than enough pilots candidates, so they offered some of us the chance to go to undergraduate navigator training and then to pilot training. It was a chance for a commission and wings, so it was my only choice. As a one-striper with a whopping monthly income of $96.00, I headed off to navigator training.
Fortunately, 15 months after getting my commission and my navigator wings I was given the chance to head to pilot training. My first assignment was to Bainbridge AB, GA, then on to Laughlin AFB, Texas – “Del Rio.” We were the first class to train and graduate at Laughlin. I finally had my pilot wings. My first assignment took me to Ohio and B-47s. We flew a lot of funny missions but as a co-pilot, I had control of 6 F-86’s in close formation.
Next, the family which now included two kids, headed to Waco, Texas for IP training and then on to Webb AFB out in Big Springs, Texas to teach the new kids how to fly Tweets. After almost three years at Webb, I got my assignment in 1967 to F-100 school located in Myrtle Beach, SC. I was finally going to be a fighter pilot.
I survived the survival schools and was assigned to the 90th TFS, the dice men, at Bien Hoa AB, SouthEast Asia in 1968. During that assignment, the 90th TFS was deactivated and I was transferred to Tuy Hoa and the 355th TFS “fighting falcons,” an old fighter squadron which made its bones in 1943-45 flying P47s and P51s out of England and then France.
At Bien Hoa, our Sqdn. had our own club and acquired enough cash from that, that we were able to send our barmaid to France to get her out of Viet Nam and get her an education in France.
I had already been shot up once but managed to bail out over the South China Sea. Then in December 1968 on a gun kill mission, with 500lbs’ers 60-degree dive at 600 MPH, I took a direct hit and it blew the aircraft apart. The ejection system worked and the chute opened and all was going good till I heard a little whistling going by me. The holy bastards were shooting at me with small arms. After I hit the ground, I became the record holder for the 100-yard dash to get a hill between me and the gun so the chopper would not be under fire and would be able to get me picked up.
I do not know who he was now, but there was a Spad directing fire while I was waiting for the chopper to come and extract me. They picked me up and got me back. When we landed at Da Nang, we did the normal celebrating and we did it all over again on arrival back at Tuy Hoa. While that part of the story ended well, and I got back with all my fingers and toes, the second chapter took a turn that wasn’t expected. The following day I went to the flight surgeon and went through the whole drill. When asked if I felt ready to get back to flying, I told him I was ready but I did not want to go right back to Laos as I had been briefed many, many, times if they (the Laotians) knew you had been there before they would shoot you as a spy.
After I told him this, the doctor hit the roof, jumped out of his seat, and in a pejorative tone accused me of being afraid to fly, and grounded me. You have probably met this guy before, the only flight time he got was on a C-130 mail plane between DaNang and Tuy Hoa. I told him to get his flight suit on and we’d go flying right now – he declined of course.
I requested a trip to Clark for a real medical doctor to check me out and it was granted. After the first night at Clark, I woke up and swung my feet out of the bed to go to the head. I looked down and my feet were solid black. After tests and review, the doctors told me that the opening shock from my parachute had been so drastic that it had separated the iron from the blood in my veins and the iron settled in my feet causing the discoloration.
I was taken off of flight status and left to administrative duties. After attempting to get back on flight status without success, I gave an old friend a call and wrangled a transfer back to the US. That urinated on a lot of the brass’ parade as you might imagine.
After getting back to Sacrament CA and my family, I was reassigned to Laredo AFB to finish out my career as a T-38 section commander. So, we taught a bunch of good kids to fly. Some of my students went off to Vietnam to fly F-4s. In 1971 I entered civilian life and flew corporate jets until I was 62 and my boss died of a stroke. I few Learjets, Hawker 800’s and a Falcon 50 and had a rather good life for a poor kid from Idaho that started his career as an airman with one stripe.
My postscript is retirement in Fort Worth, Texas with my wife Susan, two kids, three grandchildren, lots of friends, and 18 holes when the weather is good. All thanks to that co-pilot that helped me when we needed it.
Hallelujah – throw a nickel on the grass and you’ll be saved.