Monday, June 4, 2018

Military Monday - Blue Moon Rising

So, I'll begin today's post with a brief anecdote. I enjoy both beer and Credence Clearwater Revival. This afternoon, I was driving home from Boy Scout camp after delivering fly rods, when I finally caught up with Mr Garabaldi on the phone. After discussing the Boy Scouts and M-1 Garands, I mentioned that I needed a beer. He asked if I was near a Class VI. I replied that my garage refrigerator would probably qualify as a Class VI on smaller installations. And that gave me an idea for today's military monday.

Military Operations other Than War have long held interest for me. Probably because that was the name of the game whilst I was in uniform. But it is not a new concept. The Berlin Airlift being a prime example. Speaking of, Operation Prime Chance is another great example. And another was Blue Moon, the Navy and Marine Corps low altitude high speed photographic recon of Cuban in October of 1962.

"Fightin' Photo" of VFP-62 flew RF8U-1P aircraft. Which in pre-MacNamara speak is the RF-8A. And man, could the RF-8A move. The RF-8A, of course being a photorecon version of the vaunted F-8 Crusader, the last of the gunfighters and one of my all time favorite airplanes. As an aside, Jackie and I considered the USS Yorktown as a wedding venue until I casually mentioned how that meant an F-8 could play into the wedding ceremony.

But anyway, so yes, the Air Force had lost a U-2 over Cuba, and it's pilot, Maj R. Anderson, proving that the SA-2 was indeed a threat to the high flying U-2. The Kennedy administration demanded more and better intel, for both their own piece of mind and to sway world opinion. And thus "Fightin' Photo" 62 came to the picture. Staged out of NAS Key West, two ship flights would make the run to Cuba and back. A harrowing flight with no SEAD nor fighter cover. Their job was to take pictures, oh, and try not to cause an international incident doing it. And if there was ever a moment of perfect plane for perfect tasking, aside from SBDs off Midway on 4 June 1942, it was Fightin Photo over Cuba.

The F-8, in all her incarnations, has always captivated me. "Sea Wings" had an episode dedicated to it when I was a kid. The thought of true fighter pilots flying a cannon armed fighter off of the WWII vintage Essex classes had an air of romanticism I can't shake.

And, as with most things, delving into the history of it shows that the Crusader, and the men who flew and crewed her, won their most glory in 90 minutes flights to Cuba and back, with time to hit the clubs for a couple of pre dinner drinks afterwards.

I can't recommend "Blue Moon over Cuba" enough. Written by CAPT Ecker and PH2 Jack, who flew and crewed the Recce Crusaders, it is a fascinating read. Also, it serves as a good primer for the use of military force as an instrument of state outside of war.


  1. The "PRIME CHANCE" citation grabbed me; though the wiki page is in error. SBU-XI participated but the Navy photo attributes the Mk III to that unit. SBU-XI had guys out there but never operated the Mk III; those were assigned to SBU's 12, 13, 20 and 24.
    Boat Guy

    1. Of course you'd know that. Fascinating.

    2. You want some good PRIME CHANCE stuff look at the Warboats page, particularly under SBU-12

  2. Hey Mack;

    LOL I remember that phone call. I remember the F8 Crusader, the Last of the gunfighters. The Navy in their infinate wisdom decided that missiles were the way to go and forsook guns, then later their experiences in Vietnam showed them the error of their ways. You need to go to the Naval Aviation museum down in Pensacola. Well worth the trip and you will let you touch the airplanes :)
    As far as the run into Cuba, they had real brass ones and I will look for that book.

    1. Jackie and I will be on the pan handle for the 4th. Between the beach and fishing and boozing, I kinda want to squeeze that in.


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