- In keeping with the Veteran's Day theme I'm resposting this blog posting I did on another blog in honor of my uncle a couple of years ago on the annivesary of his death.
Fifty years ago today on May 24, 1957 my uncle Hugh Jackson McLaurin took off from McCord AFB in Washington state for a routine training flight in a F-102a. Just a few minutes into the flight the aircraft began to experience power loss. Ejecting from the aircraft was the obvious option; however, at the time he was over a populated section of the base and couldn't be assured that the plane would not crash into a nearby parade ground occupied by a company of US Army soldiers. Rather than risk harm to them he stayed with the plane piloting it to an unpopulated area. By the time he "punched out" there was insufficient altitude for his chute to deploy and he was killed. He was 33.
Soldiers on the parade ground that day requested that they man the honor guard at his funeral. A few months later he was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross for his selfless actions that day.
His fascination with aviation can be traced, according to his brother, to an afternoon in the 1930s. They were working the fields of the family's North Carolina farm when several squadrons of planes from Myrtle Beach AFB flew over while evacuating from the path of a hurricane. After that he knew he wanted to fly and at 19 he joined the Army Air Corps in 1943. He never saw action in WWII but saw plenty in Korea where he was awarded his first DFC for extraordinary skill in bringing home an aircraft significantly disabled in combat.
Aviation was his life, and I recently found out that he published several articles on the topic. One, published in the March, 1951 edition of Flying, entitled 13,100 mph -Strait Up described training in a pressure chamber for high altitude flight.
I never had the pleasure of knowing Uncle Hugh. All this happened three years before my birth, but I was named after him, and this has been a point of pride for me all my life. I'm very proud to be descended from such men, and I can only hope that if faced with a similar decision I'd show as much valor.