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.
William Edward Gabel
“Bill graduated in 1959 from Joliet Catholic High School with a love of chemistry. After earning a Navy scholarship to Notre Dame, it was his chemistry teacher that challenged him academically to pursue acceptance to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs – a relatively new school that received academic accreditation and graduated its first class that same year. Anyone that has met Bill, knows he loves a challenge…so off he went to Colorado.
Bill graduated from the US Air Force Academy along with 498 other cadets in June of 1963 and was immediately sent to Vance AFB in Oklahoma to begin pilot training in the T-37 and T-38. By 1964 he was transferred to Moody AFB in Georgia to continue as an instructor pilot. While at Moody, he lived the life of a confirmed bachelor – fully equipped with an off-base trailer, boat, Corvette, and Porsche. It was here that he unknowingly met his future wife Jean, an Air Force nurse and close friend who shared diet and dating advice…but it wasn’t “yet” their time.
By 1968 Bill left to Myrtle Beach AFB in South Carolina to begin training in the F-100 Super Sabre, the first supersonic fighter that earned a reputation as a lieutenant-killer. About 25% of all F-100’s produced were lost in accidents. In 1969 he left to serve in Vietnam flying the F-100 in combat. After nearly 100 missions/sorties, he ventured to the far side of Tuy Hoa Air Base to inquire about a small group of pilots. He was told they would only disclose their Top-Secret mission after he first volunteer to join. Of course, with any challenge made the challenge was accepted…and Bill joined the Operation Commando Sabre with radio call sign “Misty”. These pilots served as Forward Air Controllers flying up to 550mph at low altitudes while continuously “jinking” (changing direction) to hunt for future targets along the Ho Chi Minh Trail to disrupt the transfer of enemy supplies. About 28% of the only 157 pilots of Misty were shot down during the three years this group was active – which made Misty one of the most dangerous assignments for a pilot in Vietnam. Bill flew another 70 missions/sorties while part of Misty during a four-month span that he later described himself as having “a high guts to brains ratio” before returning home in 1970.” (1)
After retiring from the USAF, Bill became a CPA and owned a tax and consulting firm. (2)