VC-6 Retrospective 2013 William "Bill" Cornwell, Jr. AT-1 VC-6 Retrospective 2013 William "Bill" Cornwell, Jr. AT-1

William "Bill" Cornwell, Jr. AT-1

[The following pages of memories were collected and collated by Bill Cornwell, proud VC-6 squadron member, beginning with Bill's own beginning]

How I got to VC-6
My 17th. birthday was May 11, 1948. Twenty  six days later June 6, 1948, I graduated from High School. Three years later, (1951) a draft dodger with three years of Electronic and RF (and some other subjects) in my resume, (and with a little added flying time) I enlisted in Uncle Sam's Canoe Club
The Navy Recruiter offered a 90 day course in how to become a Gentleman (if I passed, by Congressional action) at a cost of ten years of my life. The other option was: be assigned to Navel Aviation for four years and be free from being drafted.  So there it was! . . . . . . . A dilemma! . . . . . . . . To be pondered for at least two seconds.
My first experience with the TRUE navy life, was IN Boot Camp. Yeah, I know. What's new? When I said the true navy life, I was referring to what's to take place AFTER Boot Camp.
I was over the legal age for drinking in some quarters of San Diego. When the other Boot Camp crowd discovered I had this endearing quality, I became VERY popular during liberty!  I sort of contributed to the delinquency of some Happy Boot Camp teenagers!  Once more, my handsome, youthful quality shined forth! I fit in with my buddies and I qualified as an adult (after being carded).
My background knowledge was harnessed by the AT "A" School at NAS Memphis (Millington Tennessee) for a year or so, giving me an AT-3. My military duty station was at the Base's radio station WTRI with a morning program 0500 - 0830. This allowed me a quick breakfast before teaching at 0900. BTW, the Navy courses of Electronics taught at Millington, were far superior to anything taught at civilian Universities!  So much for Shore Duty. Time to meet the OTHER NAVY!
I arrived (back) in San Diego around the middle of 1953. Ordered to VC-6 at North Island , a land based (I love it!) squadron of very large aircraft that (could be) operated from a ship at sea, if required!  (I loved it even more.) It wasn't but a very short time after reporting aboard, that I really did fall in love with the whole operation. I won't bore you with shop operational detail, but it was a good feeling position. Shortly after getting in the groove, an AT-1 Cleo (?name) suggested I go for 3rd crewman. Talk about being in heaven!!  Electronics AND flying!
My time in the planes of the Squadron were rather routine; the usual T & G's, bombing the Salton Sea, the InFlightRefuelings (teaching, and for real) over the Sea of Japan, or Fleet Exercises. (I did get some stick time  in the AJ , but I won't tell when, where, or how.)
Operation TEAPOT      (Absolutely:  No Cameras Aboard!)
During Operation Teapot, I do not know how many other plane crews from "6" were actually employed in a test, but ours was!    Once! 
"Mighty Mouse" and his other two Mouseketeers, were to tool along at Angels 38
 (38,000 ft) and  fly through a rising blast cloud.  WHAT DID HE JUST SAY?  Yes, I said fly through the center of that rising cloud at 38,000 ft!
Knowing what we know today about Nuclear activity and its longevity (decay life), and its affects on human tissue, we DID NOT know then!  That was one of the reasons for the tests of TEAPOT.  (The article that fully describes Teapot will be included elsewhere.)
The bomb was a tower shot (60 ft above the land) and ground troops were strategically placed, and the mission a GO. We were at altitude, 15 miles radius (horizontally) from ground zero, and counting down with Ground Control. In the plane, we were dressed as usual for VC-6 flying, but we did wear dosimeters issued by the Squadron. (They DID think of us.) We were warned N OT to look at the blast. When we felt the shock wave go past, we were cleared, to start the insertion when the cloud passed our altitude. Now comes the most   Shocking,   Surprisingly,  Beautiful   part of this story. 
The shock wave bumped us; we didn't turn; we flew as before the blast, but we were looking down at the cloud.  It was rising, but (it seemed) not very fast. BUT  IT  WAS  ALIVE!  I had a ring side seat. Mouse #2 left his, to come to port and see too.
Approaching us from Ground Zero was the usual ball (big) of blast smoke, dirt, whatever makes blasts dark gray. Within the ball were  LIGHTNING  FLASHES (small square patches) that were continually going off all over the ball , and they WERE  ALL  A  DIFFERENT  COLOR!  I felt a little like being hypnotized or mesmerized  by the sight, you could not take your eyes off  it! I have no idea what Ed or Jerry were thinking, but we all agreed ON  THE  SPOT, get the hell out of Dodge, AND RIGHT NOW! 
I don't know what  Lt. Edward A. Decker, Pilot, had to say to the CO of the "6" on the abort,  but I wasn't called as a witness, and the Mouse continued flying. We even got to Japan.   and. . . . .The saga continues . . . . . .
I can't compete with experiences, in the crewman's slot that the rest of you have had, but one really has not faded from memory. Over Japan, a nighttime AJ flight (for whatever reason) witnessed  a problem that terminated the flight, and damn near all of   "The Mouseketeers"  to boot!
The Surprises of Flying
We developed a run-away Horizontal Trim Tab!   All the way to stop, in the UP position!  Now to Mighty Mouse, this is no problem, but to two of us mere mortals, it became Oh Shit Time. We were in a dive (almost an inverted loop) VERY quickly!! When I could, I checked all the Ckt Bkrs below my seat, but all appeared firm in the normal position.
Our driver,  Lt. Edward A. Decker, (Mighty Mouse, Ace Flyer, The Red Baron's nemesis, the Wright Bros mentor etc.,, etc.), saved his ass AND ours, by putting his feet on the dash, hauling back on the yoke into his lap, and (I think) praying out loud. 

Jerry Dorn, Jg. BN, (Mouse #2)  manned the radio to Approach Control, who thoughtfully gave us a straight in, if we got that far. Ed could not use the rudder pedals.  Again, Mighty Mouse "Saved the day"!   Dorn was quite busy in the right seat. I WAS  praying!  He greased it!  What a PILOT!
It was shortly after that, that I left Atsugi for my end of contract (release) celebration. In late August of 55 I became Mr. Cornwell  civilian,... 

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