Re Frank Clynes--see my webpage, The Man We Left Behind, the story of the Marine photographer who shot(motion picture version)the second Flag Raising On Iwo Jima!
The following by Frank is posted here with his permission.
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email@example.com (Richard Gaines)
Sat, 6 Oct 2001 20:08:41 EDT
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Now they've gone and done it. The USAF has been granted prior approval to shoot down commercial airlines if they suspect they've been taken over by hijackers. George Bush assures the American public that it would only be done under strict guidelines. He's also considering setting up anti-aircraft batteries around major airports. And now he tells us it's safe to fly. That sure takes a load off my mind.
In the 60's Don Brousseau, a friend of mine, owned a photo studio on Union Street in New Bedford and was also a member of the Air Force Reserve. He flew a jet plane called an F-105 which was a double seat Interceptor, out of Otis AFB.
He had to serve one month on active duty every year at the AFB in Pensacola, Fla. One summer while on active duty, the base commander ordered him to take his son up for a joy ride. The young man was attending divinity school, much to his fathers disappointment. The commander thought that exposure to high flight would inspire the kid to follow in his fathers footsteps.
Don didn't like the idea, but had learned early in his career that high ranking officers are always right. Orders are orders. He flew the jet down the coast and out over the Florida Keys.
Then he received a Priority One message that an unidentified plane, probably a MIG jet, was inbound from the direction of Cuba and heading straight for Miami. It was coming in under the radar, was getting damn close and most likely carrying a nuclear weapon. The plane had not responded to several radio calls. Don was the closest Interceptor and the only one who could stop it. His orders were to intercept, identify and shoot down
One moment he was on a joy ride and the next instant, the fate of a nation was in his hands. Don kicked into supersonic speed and headed to the last known position of the '"bogey." The incoming plane was flying at 500 mph and he was going twice that fast in the other direction. To make matters worse, there was a heavy cloud cover. Don had a problem.
If it was indeed a Cuban MIG intent on dropping the A-bomb on Miami, he'd have to fire his rockets long before he could make visual contact. If he held off until he got positive ID, the two planes would pass and he's have to make a wide turn to chase it.
The MIG would kick into supersonic and he wouldn't catch up until it had completed its bombing run. Two million people would die. If he fired and it turned out to be an off-course commercial jetliner, 180 innocent passengers would die. He had one shot at this and the Air Force generals on the ground were convinced it was an enemy plane. What would you do?
Don decided if he had to be the one to pull the trigger, he was going to make damn sure who he was shooting at. The two planes passed each other in a heartbeat, but the markings on the inbound plane were undeniable. Pan American.
The commercial plane was originally bound for the islands but had suffered a major electrical failure because of a thunder storm. It had lost all navigational and radio communication. The pilot had dropped low to get his bearings and return to the US.
Don swung his fighter around and came alongside the commercial jetliner. Inside the cockpit he saw the pilot and copilot give him a salute. He signaled them to follow him to Miami and then he flipped his fighter plane into a double barrel roll. It's the universal fighter pilots maneuver for total victory.
A hundred and eighty people owe their lives to an unsung American hero, who kept his head, when all those around him were losing theirs.
During this crisis, Don had completely forgotten about his passenger. The divinity student had been praying up a storm from the moment Don had stepped on the gas.
The kid had done his part and perhaps had made the difference. He had kept praying right up to the double barrel roll. When Don finally remembered his passenger, he looked back to see how he was doing. This man of God had blown his lunch all over the cockpit. Don ended up cleaning it.
R.W. Gaines GySgt USMC (Ret.)