Sent by my Air Force friend – this had to have been in the late 50s-early 60s.
Lived at Roosey Roads when I was 15. my dad was stationed there with VW-4.Every year the base would host “Operation Spring Board”. an all out Marine Air/Ground exercise. The Grunts would attack Vieques Island by amphibious assault and the supporting air would operate out of Roosey. They brought a lot of “color” to our little island paradise.
One year we had an F4D squadron and F-8 squadron down. As such things happened in those days. There was a lot of back and forth between the squadrons as to the virtues of the particular aircraft each squadron flew.
Finally, the F4D squadron Commander threw down the gauntlet. and said in front of God and everybody at the O’Club. Our bird may be long in tooth. but we can beat your ass to 20,000 feet. any day of the week!
Naturally, the challenge was immediately accepted by the Crusader C.O. Well, word got around about the challenge and it morphed into a bet and a big deal on the base. A Sunday morning was set aside for the big event and if I recall, the stakes were a case of Corona to be provided by each officer from the losing squadron. to the troops of the winning squadron.. I think the Staff NCO’s had to pitch in too?
As things built up. it wasn’t just a big deal. It became a Big F’ing Deal! I’m sure each squadron had their whiz wheels turning and slide rules burning. trying to figure out the best L over D equations. fuel load attitude… and angle of the dangle… to get max performance out of each machine.
The big day finally arrived. Most of us locals went to the top of the mountain where the Armed Forces radio station was located; that allowed us to look down on the runway and scene below. Both sides of the runway where the starting line was located, was lined with Marines from the two squadrons. One Ford and one ‘Sader were towed to the end of the runway and lined up side by side. Each had its’ own start cart. Then another Crusader and Ford taxied by and launched. pretty impressive, but nothing like what was to come.
The reason they launched was to provide visual, on scene confirmation of who beat who to 20K; in case it was close. Guess they didn’t trust each other. Once the two referees were in orbit and on station. word was passed to start engines. From there, everything happened pretty quickly.
A designated “Starter” walked between the two airplanes with a big orange and white checkered flag off the “Follow Me” truck. He goes out in front of them. twirls the flag a couple of times to let the planes turn up the RPM’s and then drops to his knee and stabs the flag to the ground in a classic launch signal. Then…How’d that old song go?… “The Heat is on”!
Instantly, both airplanes shot forward and a second or two later we could hear the retort of the two “Hard Light” burners going off. as we witnessed the flames from the burners in the morning sun. From there it was a tale of two totally different tactics. It seemed as soon as the Ford had flying speed. it just levitated almost 60-70 degrees nose up.. The Crusader accelerated in a low transition to build up speed before rotating, then pulling almost into the vertical!
Gents. It wasn’t even close. by the time the Crusader rotated, the little Skyray was already passing 10K on its way to 20! Never seen anything like it before or since. It was like watching a rocket launch! While the Crusader was accelerating horizontally. the little Ford seemed to be doing the same thing vertically! The whole thing was over in less than a couple of minutes.
As soon as the Ford hit 20K and radioed his altitude. BIG CHEER GOES UP AND I WATCHED THE BURNER FLAMES GO OUT AND THE BAT WING BEAUTY ROLLED ONTO IT’S BACK AND STARTED DOWN HILL IN A MODIFIED SPLIT S. He was back on the ground almost as fast as he took off! He was followed by the Crusader a couple of minutes or so later. It was a hoot!
Everybody was yucking and clapping. cheering the good show. I was looking down as the F4D taxied back to his flight line and shut down. and then I noticed, the F-8 had gotten about half way back to his line and was stopped.
They had to tow him in. the rumor later, was they’d cut the fuel so close, he’d flamed out taxiing back to the line. Anyway. the Marines had a big day.
The losers paid up and the winners gracefully shared their bounty. The rest of us had a great start to our day. and a memory to last forever.