Strawberry Reynolds – Caterpillar Club

Strawberry ReynoldsFriday the 13th, January, 1961

This day was not an unlucky day for me, because it was the day of my first ejection and I walked away. RAF Lakenheath, England, 494th Red Tails. I had taken off as the wingman on a routine instrument flight and when reaching twenty-four thousand my number 2 hydraulic system started loosing pressure, shortly followed by number 1 loosing pressure. Lead slid back to wing position and told me I had fluid underneath the aircraft. Turning back to the Heath, number 2 fell to 200 psi and 1 went to 400 psi. I activated the RAT and pressure remained the same. I was able to get the aircraft back to one mile out on final when the controls locked up. I made a statement to my leader that the controls had locked and he transmitted twice to eject. I did not hear the second warning; I was already gone. I was at 300 feet and I was tumbling head over heals with the chute not opening up. I remembered from training I was told to stretch out and I did as my feet hit the trees. The chute caught in the trees leaving me standing unscratched.

Major Dave Davidson, 493rd CO, drove his TR7 thru the fence and to the fireball, where he burned off his overcoat looking for me. What a guy. Thanks again.

My second ejection was at Luke AFB when I was in the 4511th Instrument CCTS. I was giving Knobby Walsh a instrument flight check. During the eye-closed level flight turning phase we had an explosion in the front of the aircraft knocking out the canopy. We lost control and ejected just west of the White Tank Mountains. As Knobby was descending in his chute he thought he was blinded, but then realized his helmet was turned around on his head. Knobby then hit a fence, the only fence in the desert. I had cut my foot and was holding my leg when he came over and put his foot above mine and said “Did I Pass?” I said, No, I didn’t like the landing.

Come to find out another Hun had come up from underneath and clipped our nose with his tail cutting about three feet off the nose. The other aircraft landed safely.

~Strawberry Reynolds