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.
In 1950 Forrest Fenn joined the military. He wanted to be a fighter pilot but wasn’t sure his mediocre academics would land him in pilot training. Pilots were typically the high achievers. “I told myself that if I was going to compete in that environment, I couldn’t do it intellectually, but I could out-hustle all these guys,” says Fenn.
Fenn was born August 22, 1930, in Temple, Texas, and graduated from Temple High School in 1947, after laying over a year to play basketball. He studied at Temple Junior College for a couple of years and joined the Air Force as a private on September 6, 1950. He graduated from Radar Mechanic School at Keesler AFB and was sent to Donaldson AFB in Greenville, SC where he made Buck Sergeant.
Sgt. Fenn then went to pilot training (Class 53G) at Bainbridge Air Base in GA, and Laredo, TX, where he flew the T-6, T-28, and T-33. After attending F-86D training school Fenn was assigned to the 85th FIS at Scott AFB, IL. Within a couple of years, he became aide-de-camp to M/G Frank H. Robinson who commanded the Crew Training AF at Randolph AFB, TX. He became a regular officer, flew the F-86D, F-86F, F-84G, F-89, T-33, F-100C, and graduated from the Army Helicopter School on the H-13G in 9 days. Aides could do that.
In 1957, Fenn was assigned to the 23rd Fighter Day Squadron (which would become the 23rd Fighter Bomber Squadron) at Bitburg, Germany, flying the F-100 C and F models.
In 1960, he returned to Luke to teach Gunnery School flying the F-100 C & F with squadrons 4511th and 4515th. On assignment for the Cuban Crisis, he began serving with the 4517th. Afterward he was off to Reese AFB, TX to teach pilot training flying the T-38.
His tour of duty in Vietnam began in early January 1968, and he tells 2 remarkable stories. “… I was sent to Tuy Hoa, Vietnam, where I ran the command post and flew 328 combat missions in 348 days. I was shot down twice. The first time I took battle damage and “dead-sticked” an F-100D model onto a 5000-foot runway. I took the chain going the wrong way but the aircraft stopped in 340 feet. Who said you need a long runway to stop the Hun?
The second time, I was shot down by ZPUs (towed anti-aircraft gun), ejected at Tchepone, Laos, and was picked up the next day by the famous rescue Jolly Green helicopter, “The Candy Ann”. For more of Fenn’s caterpillar story see: https://supersabresociety.com/caterpillar-club/forrest-fenn-caterpillar-club/
I returned to Reese to teach pilot training in the T-38 but the assignment was changed to the T-37 by the jerk DO. I turned down a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel and retired.” Fenn retired with a cadre of medals for valor, but says the experience still haunts him. “I had this nightmare …where I was told that the government knew exactly how many enemy soldiers I killed, and they were going to tell me,” he said.
His time in the service led him to his life’s ambition. “Because I had a hard tour in Vietnam, I wanted the world to stop and let me out. If I have an advantage over everyone, it’s that I think a lot. I told myself that from now on, I was going to wake up at 7 in the morning, lay in bed till 8, and think.”
This “thinking time” got him motivated. He packed his family into the car and moved to New Mexico, where he built an art foundry and gallery. “Santa Fe was the only place I knew where I could wear Hush Puppies and blue jeans and make a living.”
Fenn bought a Navy T-28C (tail hook) out of mothballs in Tucson and restored it for fun. He also bought Rockwell Commander 112TC and a Piper Malibu for business. He put a turbine engine in the Malibu. When Forrest Fenn stopped flying he had 7,440 hours of time.
‘I sold my business after 17 years and retired to write 11 books on art, archaeology, ethnology, history, a few biographies, and 3 memoirs. At age 87, and 64 years of marriage, I’m resting with the devout understanding that making plans is antagonistic to freedom. Now, between naps, I sit and water my trees.”