AN ORDEAL at GROSSE ILE
Among the station keepers at NASGI at the time, the motto was, Good deal: Grosse Ile. After 4 on, 4 off quartermaster watches on a sea-going rescue tug in the Pacific, that motto definitely resonated with me. Besides, tower work was far more interesting even tho it was a left arm rate. My immediate personal goal was to determine whether to make the Navy a career or take advantage of the GI Bill and go to college with the 48 months due me.
The ordeal was on a weekend in the early summer of 1947. John Seth, another Signalman, and I had tower duty. John, who proved to be a short timer, was in the process of being checked out in tower work. I had been checked out and was in the process of changing my rate.
The active runway was 9 and an F6F was being rigged for a tow for a sleeve for gunnery pratice. After cleared for takeoff, the F6F was barely airborne when it began a steep climb, and at about 700 feet I saw it hesitate and I told Seth to hit the siren. Stalled out, the aircraft fell over to the port, plunged,crashed and burst into flames. (The impact was made at one o'clock on the large circular mat in the center of the triangular runways, assuming North is 12 o'clock.) The aviator had not a prayer.
Adding to the tragedy, I later learned that the aviator's wife was on the Station when the crash occurred. Whether she actually saw it, I don't know, hopefully not. For me, it seems but yesterday.-- Bill Easter
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Revised: June 30, 2010