White Shirts

LCDR John A. Williams, USN (Ret.)


In 1959, as an enlisted bombardier/navi
(AQC) in VAH-6, our whole
squadron of 12
A3D-2s was deployed on
USS Ranger. Th
e deck was certainly full.
This was the first WestPac deployment
of the new Fo
rrestal class super carriers.
Our Skywarriors were usually the first
launched and la
st recovered.


The air wing was flying off to shore prior
to the carrier's arrival in Yokosuka
, Ja-
. Just as one of our A3Ds was in ten-
sion and powered up
, the ship ran into a
heavy rain squall and PriFly ordered t
h suspended.


As the rain became heavier the pilot
raised his flaps and was spun off the cat
and directed aft of the island, one of our
parking places
. No sooner was the bird
back there the ship broke into the clear
The air boss said, "Put that Whale back
on the track and let's get rid of him!"

So the Skywarrior returned to the cat,
was hooked up, and the pilot went to 100%
power. He issued a salute and off went
the A
craft dipped so low it left a wake in the
water but
staggered to gain altitude and
headed for the beach.


All hell broke loose in PriFly. The Air
Boss called our skipper
, the catapult of-
icer and our line chief to meet with the
ship's CO on the bridge ASAP. Ranger's

Captain (later admiral) was A.M. Noel
r. He put the cat officer, our pilot
and a few other
s in hack.


The next day of flight operations we
saw white flight deck jerseys all over the
deck during launches. The men wearing
them were from each squadron's Quality
Control branch. Stencilled across the front
of each jer
sey was the word "FLAPS" in
four-inch letters
. These white-shirted sail-
ors w
ere to stand close to the cat officer
on each and every launch. Shortly, the
additon of a black checkerboard pattern
was added to the
shirts. Therefore, I be-
lieve the spring of 1959 saw the birth of
the first white-shirt
ed "safety checkers."


Editors note: LCDR Williams re-
sponded to a query concerning the ori-
gin o
f colored jerseys on the flight deck.
His article focuses on one of the colors.

LCDR Williams served in the Navy for
29 years and rose from Seaman to LCDR.
and plane captain to Maintenance Of-
ficer, among many other accomplish-
ments. He logged over 2,500 flight hours.