Aviator's Life

Body

Wynn "Captain Hook" Foster

Silver Star
23 JUL 1966


Commander Wynn F. Foster, the Saint's commanding officer, was personally hit by anti-aircraft fire over Vinh, North Vietnam; Commander Foster suffered the loss of his right arm. Using only his left hand, Commander Foster piloted his crippled Skyhawk to sea and ejected, where personnel of the United States Ship Reeves (DLG-24) rescued him. Commander Foster was awarded the Silver Star for his actions.

 


Captain Hook was a major player in the formation and growth of the Skyhawk Association. A "Plank Owner", he contributed in many areas, his most visible contribution being the Skyhawks on Display" page.


 

NOTAM 5-2013 (Wynn Foster)

 

Captain Wynn F. Foster, USN (Ret)

 

Golden Eagle Emeritus

Dear Golden Eagles,

It is my sad duty to report that CAPT Wynn F. Foster, USN (Ret), age 86, made his Last Take-Off on 9 June 2013 in Prescott, AZ. He was predeceased by his wife, Marilyn, on 10 July 2012. His wishes were that his services be conducted at the Chapel at NAS North Island and that his ashes be scattered at sea. Additional details will be provided at a later time.

Everyone knew him as " CAPT Hook " because of the prosthesis he wore in place of his right arm which had been severely injured while flying an A4 during a 1966 strike mission in North Vietnam. That remarkable incident was fully detailed in his autobiography, " Captain Hook: A Pilot's Tragedy and Triumph in the Vietnam War" published in 1992. His words describe the AAA hit he took that shattered his cockpit severing his right arm and further described his heroic and superhuman efforts in maintaining control of his aircraft in spite of his traumatic injury, flying it to an area off the coast of Vietnam to a position overhead a US Navy destroyer, and then initiating ejection to be recovered by that ship's motor whaleboat crew. What he accomplished was the stuff of legend for which he was awarded the Silver Star. VADM Jim Stockdale called him a man with a "tremendous sense of purpose and uncommon tenacity". In fact during an earlier strike mission launched from the deck of the USS Oriskany in 1965, CAPT Foster had been on Admiral Stockdale' s wing when Admiral Stockdale was shot down and captured.

CAPT Wynn Foster was born in 1926 in Minnesota, and after high school, like many his age seeking to serve their country in WWII, he enlisted in the Navy in 1944. With the conclusion of that war he was released from active duty, attended the University of Minnesota, subsequently rejoined the Navy, and entered flight training in 1949 receiving his wings in 1950. He trained in the F9F-2, deployed to Korea and flew 75 combat missions during that conflict. A series of shore and sea duty assignments followed his service in Korea to include a tour with VX-4, tours as a flight instructor, and service as a ship' s company officer aboard USS Forrestal. In 1960 he transitioned to the A4 serving as XO of VA-76 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was in 1966 while embarked on the USS Oriskany and assigned to VA-163 as Commanding Officer that the incident described above occurred. His recovery from his injury took about a year, and after a 2-3 year battle, the Navy granted his request and allowed him to remain on active duty. Thus, he continued to serve his Navy and the Nation at sea and ashore until his retirement in 1972.

After retiring from the Navy, CAPT Foster continued to chronicle historical events important to Naval Aviation to include his second book, " Fire on the Hangar Deck" a retelling of the circumstances of the disastrous fire on board the USS Oriskany. Further, he authored and contributed to several articles published in " Hook" magazine and other aviation related journals. Much of his time in retirement was devoted to support for the Tailhook Association where he provided inspiration to all involved in the resurgence of that important association.

CAPT Wynn F. Foster was a gentleman of the first order, a man who never complained about his fate, a man determined to serve his country as long as he was able, and a man to whom the honorable way was never out of focus. We have lost another member of the Greatest Generation.

He will be missed.

In sadness,

Fred Lewis-Pilot


 

Captain Wynn F. Foster, USN: Dec. 6, 1926 - June 9, 2013


Wynn Franklin Foster, a retired Naval officer who served in three wars, Coronado resident and active community member for 45 years, peacefully passed away on June 9, 2013, in Prescott, Arizona, where he had recently moved to be near family. He was 86.
Born December 6, 1926 in Monticello, Minnesota, the second son and third child of Winifred Swift and Leslie Foster, Wynn Foster had a long and proud military history. After finishing high school in 1945, he enlisted in the Navy and served briefly as an enlisted man and aviation cadet during World War II. After earning a Bachelors degree from the University of Minnesota in 1949, he reentered the Navy, completed flight training and earned his wings as a Naval Aviator on December 15, 1950. Foster flew a total of 238 combat missions, 75 in 1952-53 during the Korean War while deployed on board the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge, and 163 missions from the deck of the carrier USS Oriskany during the Vietnam War in 1965-66.
On July 23, 1966, while commanding officer of Navy Attack Squadron 163, Foster’s A-4 Skyhawk attack jet was struck by enemy anti-aircraft fire during a combat mission over Vietnam. Shrapnel tore through the cockpit of his aircraft, severing his right arm above the elbow. Near fatally injured, bleeding profusely, and close to unconsciousness, he managed to fly his plane with one hand and his knees until he reached the relative safety of the Gulf of Tonkin. Before ejecting from his crippled jet, Foster alerted the nearby Navy guided missile frigate USS Reeves of his location and need for rescue, and the crew pulled him from the sea minutes later. For his action, Foster was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals.
After several months of care at the Navy hospital in Oakland, California, Foster was fitted with a prosthetic artificial arm with a hook-like device in lieu of a hand. He and his family then transferred to the Washington DC area, where he waged a year-long, successful campaign to remain on unrestricted active duty to complete his Navy career. Foster was eventually declared fit for active duty by declaration of the Secretary of the Navy, and his subsequent promotion to the rank of Navy captain earned him the enduring nickname “Captain Hook.” He then served two more tours with the Pacific Fleet, where he was involved in tactical direction of the Navy’s air war over North Vietnam and coordination of readiness training of fleet aircraft carriers.
In addition to the Silver Star and Purple Heart awards, Foster’s military awards included the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, 18 Air Medals, 2 Navy Commendation Medals with Combat Distinguishing Devices, and various other expeditionary, theater, and service medals and citations.
After retiring from active duty in 1972, Captain Hook became involved in numerous public service activities. He managed the Coronado Chamber of Commerce, served as a member of the Coronado Transient Occupancy Tax Commission, and was a Trustee of the Coronado Public Library. In the latter capacity during the 1980s, Foster, a computer enthusiast, was instrumental in the Coronado Library’s modernization and automation of its cataloging and circulation functions.
An avid writer, Foster acted as a volunteer “stringer” for the Coronado Journal for several years during the 1970s and 1980s, and, from 1989 onward was an associate editor of The Hook, a quarterly journal of carrier aviation. In 1992, his service autobiography, Captain Hook, A Pilot’s Tragedy and Triumph in the Vietnam War, which recounted his Navy career, combat service, and fight to remain on active duty was published by the National Institute Press in Annapolis, Maryland. In 2001, the Naval Institute Press published his second book, Fire on the Hangar Deck, a gripping account of the tragic fire that occurred in October 1966 on board the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany, in which many of his fellow pilots and other crew members perished.
Foster served for six years on the board of directors of the Tailhook Association, a fraternal organization of active and retired naval aviators, and as chairman of that board during the last three years of his tenure.
Captain Hook was also a member of the Golden Eagles, an elite group of 200 aviation pioneers “who were respected by their peers as leaders because of their outstanding skills as a pilot, their wide experience, good judgment, personal character, and dedication to flying.” There, he worked along side other noteworthy Golden Eagles such as Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and Admiral James Stockdale, for whom he was wing man on the mission in which he was shot down and captured. The announcement of his passing concluded with “CAPT Wynn F. Foster was a gentleman of the first order, a man who never complained about his fate, a man determined to serve his country as long as he was able, and a man to whom the honorable way was never out of focus. We have lost another member of the Greatest Generation. He will be missed.”
A member of the youth- and community service-oriented Optimist Club of Coronado since 1971, Foster was active in the organization. He served as President of the club and later as lieutenant governor and governor the Optimist California South District. From 1991-93 as the Vice President of the Optimist International organization. Foster spear-headed and organized the Optimist’s Sports Fiesta, which has become a popular annual local event. He was also involved with and guided numerous young men and women through the national Optimist’s annual oratorical competition.
Foster was preceded in death by Marilyn, his wife of 63 years, and is survived and will be missed by his three children: daughter Corinne Walker Gordon (Norman) of Ann Arbor, Michigan; son Wynn Scott Foster of Dewey, Arizona; daughter Amy Beaupre (Russ) of Prescott, Arizona; and two granddaughters, Holly Noelle and Annie Corinne Beaupre.
A memorial service will be held at the Chapel of the North Island Naval Air Station at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 22, 2013. If you wish to attend, please make arrangements to get through base security. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the Tailhook Educational Foundation scholarship fund.

 




Robert Hickerson

Naval Aviator Wings


Naval aviator with 28 years of active service in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Flew the Skyhawk for 26 years (1st flight July 68; last flight April 94).
Flew Charlie, Echo, Foxtrot, Super F, M, T and OA-4M.
Was member of VMA-214, VMA-223, and VMA-324.
Flew with all Marine A-4 squadrons as instructor with MAWTUPAC.
Flew with all reserve A-4 squadrons.
Was first NATOPS Model Manager for A-4M in 1971-1972.
Was Assistant CAG LSO in CVW-21 on Hancock 1972-1973;
flew primarily with VA-55 and qualified as day/night training LSO/Hancock Centurion



Naval Aviator Wings
 
Sailor playing TAPS
 
02 AUG 1995
 

Midshipman-Captain Harry T. Jenkins, Jr., USN

Many of you know this personable giant-Captain Harry Tarleton Jenkins, Jr. USN, (Ret) died in a private plane crash on 2 August 1995, at Prescott, AZ on a return trip to San Diego from the annual Experimental Aircraft Association convention and air show in Oshkosh, WI. He was flying the experimental Long ESE design he built in his garage in Coronado, CA, over an eight-year period. He had flown this plane for nearly five years before this accident. His aircraft crashed during take-off when the engine lost power due to magneto failure. His son, Chris, a passenger, survived the crash.
Standing in the Hall of Fame at the Pensacola National Museum of Naval Aviation, one is reminded that Harry Jenkins was one of the more highly decorated Flying Midshipmen. He had been awarded four Silver Star Medals, the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, four Bronze Star Medals, thirteen Air Medals, two Purple Heart Medals, three Navy Commendation Medals, several foreign decorations and numerous area and campaign ribbons and medals.
“Jenks” loved to fly and was an aviator’s aviator whose flying career began in biplanes, progressed to jets and continued on with light civil aircraft. Quoting Vice Admiral Jim Stockdale, “Harry was a great man to go to sea with. Morale soared around him. High spirited pilots are more effective pilots. And they like to see their boss in the cockpit, where you could always find Harry.” Captain Wynn Foster, TAILHOOK Association Officer, remarked, “Harry loved to bag traps and he had lots of them. But he was scrupulously fair in insisting that the serious fun of flying off and on the carrier deck was equally spread among the pilots of his squadron. His high-time, high-trap record in the Skyhawk resulted from a double tour as XO when he flew with the “Saints”. As squadron skipper, Harry never asked his pilots to fly missions that he wasn’t ready, willing and able to do himself.
He was born in Washington, D.C. 24 July 1927, and was reared, the oldest of three brothers , in rural Maryland. He enlisted in the Navy in May, 1945, age 17, and attended Newberry College and the University of South Caroling in the V-5 Program. By scrunching down during his physical exam, he just mad the maximum height requirement of 6’4”. He completed his requisite two years of college by the end of August,1946, and progressed through Selective flight training to solo in the Stearman “Yellow Peril” then to Pre-flight at Ottumwa, Iowa, where he became an Aviation Midshipman. Designated a Naval Aviator on 19 Aug 1948, he joined the fleet as a Flying Midshipman and was commissioned Ensign in December, 1948.
In the fleet, he began flying the Martin Maulers (AM) aircraft and subsequently flew Douglas Skyraiders (AD), Vought Corsairs (F4U) and Douglas Skyhawks (A-4) in a career that included 17 shipboard deployments and nearly eight years as a Prisoner-of-War in Vietnam.
Harry served as Maintenance Officer of VA-84; Assistant Maintenance Officer, Fleet Air Service Sq 6; CIC Officer in USS Pont Cruz (CVE 119). Composite Sq ELEVEN training was followed by attendance at U.S. Navy PostGraduate School, Monterey, where he earned a BS in Aeronautical Engineering. He served as Project Engineer at Naval Air Turbine Test Station then proceeded through replacement pilot training followed by a tour as Administrative and Operations Officer, Carrier Air Group 16. In October, 1962, he became XO, VA-163 and later assumed command of that Squadron in December, 1964.
While serving as CO of VA-163, Harry was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese and remained a Prisoner-of-War in Hanoi from Nov, 1965 until February, 1973. After repatriation and hospitalization, Captain Jenkins served on the staff of Commander Naval Air Force, Pacific Fleet as staff Operations and Plans officer. He assumed command of USS Denver (LPD 9) in July, 1974, and served as CO until September, 1975. He served as Commander, Amp Sq 5 from Jan, 1976 through Jan, 1978. Six months of that time, he was concurrently Commander, Amp Group Eastern Pacific. He retired from active service in June, 1978, ending a 33 year career.
After transitioning from the roomier cockpits of propeller-driven aircraft to the womb-like cockpit of the A-4 Skyhawk, Harry’s long, lanky frame would not fit easily with the canopy closed until he leaned forward with his head tilted slightly to the side. Nonetheless, he loved the diminutive, agile Skyhawk. He was a tough combat pilot, innovative tactician, and was Wing Commander Stockdale’s favorite strike leader during the early 1965 large-scale hits against North Vietnamese industrial and military sites. Harry’s squadron, the Saints, was credited with growing military effectiveness reported at the time in Newsweek and Stars and Stripes articles. Jenkins led the ‘maximum effort’ strike against the oil storage facility at Nam Dihn, 60 miles southeast of Hanoi, and was key leader in the combined attack on Vihn Airfield.
Harry was shot down on 13 Nov 1965, while on his 155th combat mission over North Vietnam. Hew was placed in an adjoining cell to Stockdale’s (who had been shot down 2 months earlier) at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton”. He, along with Stockdale, were two of the early senior officers to be captured; they were subjected to especially brutal treatment and systematic torture. After a two-month purge by the Hanoi jailers to uncover the prisoner secret and forbidden communications network, Harry was identified as a ring-leader and moved to solitary confinement along with eleven other non-cooperative prisoner-know later as the “Alcatraz Gang”. During his 87 months as a POW, he spent 46 months in solitary confinement. He remarked that he occupied his time mentally reviewing college courses and books. One of his greatest achievements there was the force-feeding of a comatose fellow prisoner and roommate (and also a former Flying Midshipman) Commander Howard Rutledge. He gave from his own meager rations and kept Rutledge alive in order to see repatriation in 1973.
After a fairly brief period of medical rehabilitation, Harry quickly returned to active service.
Margorie, Harry’s wife, reared their children, was the elementary school librarian where the children attended and carried on without knowledge of Harry’s fate for over six years following the shootdown. Finally the North Vietnamese allowed a six-line postcard, dated November 13, to be mailed. It was delivered to Marge by the postal service on Christmas Eve, 1971.
After his Navy career, Harry and Marge retired to Coronado, CA, where they were active in civic and church organizations. He took a second career with Cubic Corporation. He became a tireless lecturer and inspirational speaker, who never accepted payment for his appearances. He was an advocate for POW/MIA concerns and continued to press for a full accounting. His experiences provided guidance for rethinking the armed forces Code of Conduct and for putting into place more realistic and compassionate guidance for military personnel subjected to systematic torture. Still an avid flyer, Harry built the “Long Eze” 940 pound fiberglass plane-NJ163 (N for Navy, J for Jenkins, and 163 for the Saints) his squadron he proudly commanded when he was shot down and taken prisoner. Harry Jenkins is survived by wife Margorie Fowler Jenkins, three children, Chris, Karen and Kirk and eight grandchildren. Harry was not only a giant in an airplane cockpit, he had a giant sense of humor and was everyone’s friend.

The Aviation Midshipmen LOG
Newsletter of the Flying Midshipmen, Summer 2000
Authored by: Ray Weiss
Provided by Margorie Fowler Jenkins
 


Naval Aviator Wings

Captain Otto Krueger
USN (Retired)

 

Captain Otto Ear1 Krueger, USN (Retired), age 84, passed from this life on December 8, 2010 after complications from multiple strokes. He was preceded in death by the love of his life, Johanna Maria. He is survived by his daughter, Kathleen Ann, grandsons Kris and Matt; sister-in-law, Vera Krueger and nephew, Carr C. Krueger. Otto graduated from the Naval Academy in 1949 and began his flight career in 1950 as a designated Naval aviator. His first tour of duty was the Korean War in 1951, flying F9F-2 Panthers. He served four tours in Vietnam where he has the distinction of being the first pilot launched into combat off the first nuclear carrier, the U.S.S. Enterprise. He was a highly decorated Naval officer with honors including three Distinguished Flying Crosses, fourteen Air Medals, a Bronze Star, three Navy Commendations medals and three Navy Unit Commendations. His career was shared every step of the way by his beloved wife as was his passion for skiing. Otto served on the Indianhead Ski Patrol until the time of his death. Otto's love of others was demonstrated as a Hospice Care volunteer where he lovingly cared for patients and regarded the staff as his extended family. His daughter, Kathleen, will miss him greatly as a loving Dad, and she will miss Johanna as a loving mother, who taught her values, the true meaning of family and love.
Skyhawk Association note: Otto served for many years as the "Navy Unit Coordinator" for our organization. His contributions were many, and he was always ready to aid former shipmates in their quest for information about past shipmates.



Ernest E. Laib passed away at his home on August 4, 2005. He is survived by his three children. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on August 31, 2005 at 9:00am with Military Honors. "Grecian Ern" flew A-4 Skyhawks with the VA-36 Roadrunners, and served as the Skyhawk Association Treasurer for eight years.

"Ernie started out as a whitehat near the end of WW II. Turns out we both served on the Ticonderoga at different times but he was a plankowner. I believe he said he reported aboard in early 1945. They set sail for the Pacific and operated in support of the island landings. He was aboard the day they were hit by 2 Kamikazes. He said those are the pictures you usually see on the History channel. One of them hit the bridge and killed the skipper plus most of the folks up there with him. I remember seeing a large bronze plaque on the island in remembrance of this event. Skipper's name was Dixie Lee Ray best I recall. I think Ernie said he had to wait almost 10 years before he was selected for flight training. Eventually, he became skipper of a squadron but I can't recall which aircraft. F-8's ?" Chuck Wolf




From Phil Thompson, Royal Australian Navy Aviator.
I first saw a US carrier (maybe USS Coral Sea) as a young teenager civilian, when she visited Sydney (going home - early Vietnam perhaps?) about 1964-5. I recall some of the aircraft were cocooned on deck (F4 Phantoms) and I remember the size. Geez Louise. It was alongside at our Naval Base Garden Island. The larger carriers stayed in the Harbour itself whenever they visited. I joined the Navy in 1966 and started to fly - beginning of 1968 - with the Royal Australian Air Force as the Fleet Air Arm did not have a Basic Flying Training capacity. So by the beginning of 1969 I was back at NAS Nowra south of Sydney to rejoin the Fleet Air Arm as a jet pilot. We had just received the A-4G the year before (when flying operations with them began) and the pace for old pilots to convert and then to deck qualify - once HMAS Melbourne became available in 1969 - was hectic. I had to wait for conversion to the A-4G until the beginning of 1971.

In the meantime I flew the Navy version of the Vampire dual seat (side-by-side) RAAF jet trainer and the Sea Venom (a larger Naval jet fighter) that was obsolete and no longer carrier enabled. The Venom was a larger version of the Vampire while it had a radar that when operated by the Obsever in the right hand seat allowed interceptions at night particularly.

I was lucky enough to do a ground course (non flying) as a Photo Interpreter (prelude to the A-4G getting a mini pan recon capability) at the USAF school in Denver and then a month at NAS Miramar with VFP-63 from about November 1972 to Feb 73. Everyone offered to let me fly their squadron aircraft but I was strictly forbidden as I had no "insurance" (government to government indemnity) against any USN aircraft loss. So I had to let the Tomcat stay on the ramp. Could not even go up as a passenger.

My point is that the hospitality shown to me by the USN was outstanding, even better than the excellent "care" of the USAF ground schools. I think the USAF really didn't know what to make of me. I always wore a beard (cut short for the oxygen mask) but let it grow longer when I was in ground school in US. So they had no idea who or what I was. It was fun to be in Denver over Xmas in the snow and blizzards - quite a change from usual Australian weather. San Diego was more to my liking.

We disembarked in Hawaii during my cruise at end of 1971 [Oct/Nov]. The photo shows me in front of a repair hangar with 2 junior A-4 pilots from VC-1. At our back on the right (of photo) is an A-4G having the undercarriage repaired. Another pilot (not me) had "lowered" the undercarriage at the end of a practice bomb run at Kahoolawe range (probably by bumping the faulty handle which allowed the gear to lower with catastrophic results). He did an empty drop tank arrested landing back at Barbers Point on a foamed runway. The A-4G was repaired within a week or two and flown back aboard before we departed for home after/during a RIMPAC exercise.

 




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