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.
Walter C. Hersman
Brigadier General Walter C. Hersman was assistant deputy director for command support and plans, Defense Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C.
General Hersman was born in 1939, in Charleston, W.Va., and graduated from high school in Spencer, W.Va., in 1957. He earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Rutgers University in 1961 and a master’s degree in business administration from Auburn University in 1972. The general completed Air Force Test Pilot School In 1969, Air Command and Staff College in 1972, and Air War College in 1978.
The general received his commission in June 1961 as a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He then attended undergraduate pilot training at Craig Air Force Base, Ala., and completed F-100 combat crew training at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., in June 1963.
His first operational assignment was with the 55th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Royal Air Force Station Wethersfield, England, flying F-100s. In June 1966 he volunteered for a direct assignment to Southeast Asia and logged more than 300 combat missions flying F-100s with the 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron, Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. In June 1967 he was assigned as an instructor pilot with the 524th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Then he again deployed to Southeast Asia as a member of the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Phu Cat Air Base, Republic of Vietnam.
General Hersman was selected for Air Force Test Pilot School in June 1968. After graduating in June 1969, he was assigned as an experimental test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. During this assignment, he attended Air Command and Staff College.
In June 1974 he began preparation for an air attache assignment in Jordan, studying Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. He served as the U.S. air attache to Jordan from 1975 to 1977.
From August 1977 to June 1978 General Hersman attended Air War College, where he was named a distinguished graduate. He then was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., as chief of the Middle East and Africa Division, Directorate of Plans. From November 1979 to April 1980 he was assigned to a special Iran working group with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In May 1980 he was selected to head the Political-Military Division of the Washington element of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force.
In 1981 General Hersman was assigned to the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hahn Air Base, West Germany, participating in the conversion of the wing from the F-4E to the F-16. While at Hahn, he was the assistant deputy commander for operations, the deputy commander for operations, and the vice wing commander.
In June 1984 he became the vice wing commander of the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Station Bentwaters, England. From July to October 1985, General Hersman was commander of the 601st Tactical Control Wing, Sembach Air Base, West Germany. General Hersman then was assigned as commander of the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing at Torrejon Air Base, Spain. After two years at Torrejon, he was assigned as chief, Operations and Plans Division, Air Directorate, National Guard Bureau, Washington, D.C. He assumed his present position in April 1988.
The general is a command pilot with more than 3,500 hours in more than 25 different aircraft types, including F-100s, F-104s, F-105s, F-4s, A-10s, and F-16s. His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with 16 oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster.
He was promoted to brigadier general July 1, 1988, with same date of rank and retired from the USAF on October 1, 1991.