Aircraft 201 is permanently etched in my memory as on November 22, 1963 about 1930 local (in the Med) I was sitting in the cockpit, port side, amidships on The Shang and Billy Bell came up and hollered up to me that President Kennedy had been assassinated. We immediately went to General Quarters and we had planes on the cats, with nukes and pilots in the cockpits ready to go. We remained in the heightened state for 72 hours.

(Jim “Hoot” Gibson)

This is a VERY unusual photograph as there are not normally photographers in this position during normal flight ops. However, this was not normal. Our intelligence folks had uncovered scuttlebutt that the Russians thought we were venerable during anchor. So... while at anchor in the Bay of Naples, we launched two VF-62 F8E’s. Easy to do on modern carriers of 1,100 feet but “The Shang” was 888 feet in length. Yes, catapults and ejection seats were checked out completely.

Yep, showed those Russkie’s what we could do. I’ll bet they were impressed! We were!


We only have photos of one of the two planes. A fun fact was that we needed every knot of wind down the flight deck to get airborne. The wind changed direction and when we “windmilled” into the wind there was a poor ole Italian fisherman in a rowboat directly in front of the ship. The first plane went right over his head and he wasn’t waiting around for the 2nd. Never seen a rowboat make a wake before but he did!

Anyone remember the names of the pilots?

From the book "Silver Step 210"

by "Diamond" Jim Brady

The ''60s were a time of transition in Naval Aviation as the first truly supersonic operational aircraft entered the fleet. Lt. Rick James had the privilege of flying the Chance Vought F8 Crusader. A miraculous aircraft for the time, it was capable of nearly mach 2 speed and was highly maneuverable. The Crusader was a match for any jet in operation at that time and the men who flew it were a select group of highly professional and courageous individuals. The stories collected here recount the experiences of the men who rose to the challenge of flying the mighty F8 Crusader in defense of our nation-men who deserve to be remembered and honored.

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