18 Nov 1960, 1343, the time of the ejection. I was a student in training at Nellis. I was added to the schedule when a four guys came out of a briefing room for an afternoon Dart mission and one of them ran and threw up in the waste paper basket at the duty counter (a bachelor who stayed out all night and came in late). The flight lead, an exchange Canadian with a call sign of “Maple” said to me, get out from behind that counter, you are now number two, same briefing as your flight this morning, suit up, we are heading to the aircraft now, any questions. “None Sir” and I found myself on the left wing of lead taking off on 02 at Nellis (now 03). Carothers used his hands and head alot as an IP, his hands and head were moving all the time it seemed. After we released brakes, and had rolled a couple thousand feet, Nellis tower called, “Maple Lead, Nellis Tower”. Maple responded with “Standby Tower” and we continued, everything still normal with me glued on his left wing. His hand appeared with the palm up moving upwards indicating he was to raise the nose for takeoff and then immediately after that a big head nod for gear.
As the gear came up, Maple said “Nellis Tower, go ahead” and that’s when things got exciting. “Roger Maple lead, be advised your number two man has fire coming out of the left side of his fuselage” and I said, Jesus Christ, that’s me. Maple yawed his aircraft for me to spread it out. I did and looked at the instruments, all appeared normal except one which read “Fire Warning” and at the very least said “wow”. About the same time Maple said, “Jesus Christ, get out of it”, the aircraft had shuddered from an explosion, and was rolling to the right into lead while we at about 200 feet above the runway. I stomped on the left rudder, the aileron did not seem to be responding, the aircraft rolled left slightly and the nose kept coming up, I blew the canopy, by pulling up the ejection levers in this “C” model, (811) with my right hand. I had my left hand on the throttle and still in afterburner and was pushing the throttle through the instrument panel as I tried to get some more altitude.
As we went through about 6-700 feet over the end of the runway, the rudder would not hold a level position and when I could not find the ejection trigger with the left hand, I fired the seat with the right trigger. Lots of noise, reached for the lap belt, it was gone, threw the seat away and then quiet, the helmet rotated 90 degrees in the process, straightened it, canopy okay, seat came by, other bits and pieces, I see the smoke from the aircraft crash between Nellis and Storage site, then hit the ground hard. But okay. Wind was blowing about 25 knots, went for a ride, finally collapsed the chute, disconnected, sat down on the ground, laid back, hit my head on a piece of shale, started bleeding like mad, the chopper arrived, they were sure I was mortally wounded, went to hospital, all okay, flew the next day and then sent on leave for a week.