[Featured image: an F7U-3M “Cutlass” from VFA-83 preparing to take off from the deck of USS Intrepid in 1956 (U.S. Navy photo)]
1942: President Franklin Roosevelt appoints Adm. Ernest J. King, currently serving as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Fleet, to also fill the role of Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). King fills the job vacated by Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, who was relieved after the Pearl Harbor attack.
The Navy’s top admiral previously served as a commander in surface, sub, and flattop fleets – and earned his aviator wings. Not long after becoming CNO, King writes Roosevelt to notify the president that he has reached the mandatory retirement age of 64. Roosevelt responds, “So what, old top?”
That same day, as a PT boat carries Gen. Douglas MacArthur to Mindanao, four American B-17 bombers set out to fly the general back to Australia. Three “Flying Fortresses” turn back due to mechanical problems – one crashed during the return trip – and the plane that lands is determined to be unsuitable for flying back.
1956: Aboard the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid (CVA-11), Attack Squadron 83 (VFA-83) sails to the Mediterranean Sea, marking the first time aircraft armed with air-to-air missiles deploy overseas. The aviators fly the F7U “Cutlass” fighter and carry the AIM-7A “Sparrow” radar-guided missile. Primitive by today’s standards, the Sparrow had a very low kill probability and will not be fired against an enemy aircraft until the Vietnam War.
That same day, the Air Force (officially) deploys its first “Century Series” fighter to Europe. The F-100 “Super Sabre” is the Air Force’s first supersonic Air Force jet, and is destined to serve with the 45th Fighter Day Squadron out of Morocco. Unofficially, the Air Force secretly flew F-100s to West Germany in 1955 for high altitude photo reconnaissance over Eastern Bloc nations during Operation SLICK CHICK.