The Battle Of Palmdale

Discussion in 'Stories' started by beaupower32, Sep 4, 2009.

  1. beaupower32

    beaupower32 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    1,840
    Likes Received:
    41
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Lancaster, California
    This is the story of one!
    On the morning of 16 August 1956, Navy personnel at Point Mugu prepared an F6F-5K for its final mission. The aircraft had been painted overall high-visibility red. Red and yellow camera pods were mounted on the wingtips. Radio remote control systems were checked, and the Hellcat took off at 11:34 a.m., climbing out over the Pacific Ocean. As ground controllers attempted to maneuver the drone toward the target area, it became apparent that it was not responding to radio commands. They had a runaway.

    Ahead of the unguided drone lay thousands of square miles of ocean into which it could crash. Instead, the old Hellcat made a graceful climbing turn to the southeast, toward the city of Los Angeles. With the threat of a runaway aircraft approaching a major metropolitan area, the Navy called for help.

    Five miles north of NAS Point Mugu, two F-89D Scorpion twin-jet interceptors of the 437th Fighter Interceptor Squadron were scrambled from Oxnard Air Force Base. The crews were ordered to shoot down the rogue drone before it could cause any harm. Armed with wingtip-mounted rocket pods and no cannon, the Scorpion was typical of the Cold War approach to countering the "Red Menace." Each pod contained 52 Mighty Mouse 2.75-inch rockets. Salvo-launched, the Mighty Mouse did not have to have precision guidance. Large numbers of rockets would be fired into approaching Soviet bomber formations to overwhelm them with sheer numbers. Today, they would be used against a different kind of red menace.

    At Oxnard AFB, 1Lt. Hans Einstein and his radar observer, 1Lt. C. D. Murray, leapt into their sleek F-89D. Simultaneously, 1Lt. Richard Hurliman and 1Lt. Walter Hale climbed into a second aircraft. The interceptors roared south after their target. The hunt was on.


    Einstein and Hurliman caught up with the Hellcat at 30,000 feet, northeast of Los Angeles. It turned southwest, crossing over the city, then headed northwest. As the Hellcat circled lazily over Santa Paula, the interceptor crews waited impatiently. As soon as it passed over an unpopulated area, they would fire their rockets.

    The interceptor crews discussed their options. There were two methods of attack using the fire control system, from a wings level attitude or while in a turn. Since the drone was almost continuously turning, they selected the second mode of attack. In repeated attempts, the rockets failed to fire during these maneuvers. This was later traced to a design fault.

    The drone turned northeast, passing Fillmore and Frazier Park. It appeared to be heading toward the sparsely populated western end of the Antelope Valley. Suddenly, it turned southeast toward Los Angeles again. Time seemed to be running out. Einstein and Hurliman decided to abandon the automatic modes, and fire manually. Although the aircraft had been delivered with gun sights, they had been removed a month earlier. After all, why would a pilot need a gun sight to fire unguided rockets with an automatic fire control system?


    The interceptors made their first attack run as the Hellcat crossed the mountains near Castaic. Murray and Hale set their intervalometers to "ripple fire" the rockets in three salvos. The first crew lined up their target and fired, missing their target completely. The second interceptor unleashed a salvo that passed just below the drone. Rockets blazed through the sky and then plunged earthward to spark brush fires seven miles north of Castaic. They decimated 150 acres above the old Ridge Route near Bouquet Canyon.

    A second salvo from the two jets also missed the drone, raining rockets near the town of Newhall. One bounced across the ground, leaving a string of fires in its wake between the Oak of the Golden Dream Park and the Placerita Canyon oilfield. The fires ignited several oil sumps and burned 100 acres of brush. For a while the blazes raged out of control, threatening the nearby Bermite Powder Company explosives plant. The rockets also ignited a fire in the vicinity of Soledad Canyon, west of Mt. Gleason, burning over 350 acres of heavy brush.


    Meanwhile, the errant drone meandered north toward Palmdale. The Scorpion crews readjusted their intervalometers and each fired a final salvo, expending their remaining rockets. Again, the obsolete, unpiloted, unguided, unarmed, propeller-driven drone evaded the state-of-the-art jet interceptors. In all, the jet crews fired 208 rockets without scoring a single hit.

    The afternoon calm was shattered as Mighty Mouse rockets fell on downtown Palmdale. Edna Carlson was at home with her six-year-old son William when a chunk of shrapnel burst through her front window, bounced off the ceiling, pierced a wall, and finally came to rest in a pantry cupboard. Another fragment passed through J. R. Hingle's garage and home, nearly hitting Mrs. Lilly Willingham as she sat on the couch. A Leona Valley teenager, Larry Kempton, was driving west on Palmdale Boulevard with his mother in the passenger seat when a rocket exploded on the street in front of him. Fragments blew out his left front tire, and put numerous holes in the radiator, hood, windshield, and even the firewall. Miraculously, no one was injured by any of the falling rockets. Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams later recovered 13 duds in the vicinity of Palmdale. It took 500 firefighters two days to bring the brushfires under control.

    Oblivious to the destruction in its wake, the drone passed over the town. Its engine sputtered and died as the fuel supply dwindled. The red Hellcat descended in a loose spiral toward an unpopulated patch of desert eight miles east of Palmdale Airport. Just before impact, the drone sliced through a set of three Southern California Edison power lines along an unpaved section of Avenue P. The camera pod on the airplane's right wingtip dug into the sand and the Hellcat cartwheeled and disintegrated. There was no fire.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  2. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2008
    Messages:
    6,592
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    IT
    Location:
    Hurst, Texas
  3. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
    Messages:
    24,064
    Likes Received:
    655
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Korporate Kontrolleur
    Location:
    South Carolina
    :lol: That's awesome!
     
  4. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2008
    Messages:
    15,188
    Likes Received:
    2,029
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Public Safety Automotive Technician
    Location:
    Redding, California
    Home Page:
    Cool story, BP!

    Makes you wonder about those Mighty Mouse rockets, huh?

    Also...too bad about those Hellcats...wonder if any of those F6Fs were seasoned combat gunslingers from the Pacific...
     
  5. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2006
    Messages:
    3,672
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Video and multi-media communications expert
    Location:
    FL
    that is the sh!t i need...... thanks bro!

    .
     
  6. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2005
    Messages:
    12,631
    Likes Received:
    309
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
  7. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2005
    Messages:
    23,199
    Likes Received:
    784
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Aircraft Maintenance Manager/ Flight Instructor
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    I've heard that from some of the older Palmdale residents that were neighbors. I lived just off of Ave. P and know where the crash site is. Imagine if that was to happen today!
     
  8. beaupower32

    beaupower32 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    1,840
    Likes Received:
    41
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Lancaster, California
    I lived not far from that site too, but at the time I didnt know it was there. I wonder if there are some small parts still laying around. Flyboyj did u ever think of going out there and taking a look to see if there was anything there?
     
  9. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2005
    Messages:
    23,199
    Likes Received:
    784
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Aircraft Maintenance Manager/ Flight Instructor
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    I didn't chase that one because of the construction and building close by, I figured I'd never find anything, but did chase some other wrecks to the south of Palmdale up in the Angeles Forest.
     
  10. beaupower32

    beaupower32 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    1,840
    Likes Received:
    41
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Lancaster, California
    Thats cool, im heading back out to palmdale this October, I might have to see whats all out there.
     
  11. B-17engineer

    B-17engineer Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Messages:
    14,953
    Likes Received:
    13
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    model builder
    Location:
    Revis Island.
  12. Aceart

    Aceart New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2014
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    I know this thread is a bit old but the magazine I work for is doing a short bit about this very incident. If someone could help out with hi-res of these images and/or anything from Point Mugu F6F-Ks at the time it's greatly appreciated ($)
    please contact me as soon as possible guy.aceto(at)weiderhistorygroup.com

    Thanks!
     
  13. daveT

    daveT Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2007
    Messages:
    234
    Likes Received:
    11
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Occupation:
    Aviation Archaeologist
    Location:
    Travis AFB California
    Home Page:
Loading...

Share This Page