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United States Navy
Attack Squadron 216

Douglas A-4C Skyhawk

BuNo. 149494

8th July 1966

USS Hancock - CVA 19

Lt. Paul  Haglund

 

"Everything is going to worms in here." 

 

Gulf of Tonkin

In the early morning of July 8th 1966 USS Hancock, sailing in the Gulf of Tonkin,  turned into the wind to assist the take-off of two A-4 Skyhawks of VA-216 that were to fly an armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. These were to be the final combat launches of the 9 month cruise that had begun on 6th December 1965

It was a black moonless night with clear skies.

25 year old Naval Lt. Paul Haglund sat in the small cockpit of his single A-4 engined and prepared to be catapulted off the carrier to join his Number 2 who had already launched and was circling awaiting him.

It was a typical mission, similar to many he had undertaken before.

Haglund, callsign "Diamondback 1,  felt the immense power of the catapult as it accelerated the Skyhawk from the flight deck. He also felt the aircraft uncharacteristically swerve.

In the short time that this had taken Haglund  had became acutely aware that things were going seriously wrong.

Paul recalls,

"I felt the aircraft swerve slightly and in the 2.5 second acceleration process to about 160 knots the fire light illuminated.  I lost my primary attitude indicator, oxygen system and both hydraulic systems within seconds after I was airborne." 

He describes his decision to abandon the stricken aircraft that was now in a slight climb, wings level attitude and travelling at about 250 knots

"I climbed to approximately 4,000 feet before I ejected.  I could see glowing in my mirrors and was running out of options.  My last communication with the carrier was, "Everything is going to worms in here." 

Upon water entry I released my parachute fittings and after the chute drifted away, I inflated my raft and climbed on board.

Approximately 30 minutes after his ejection Lt. Haglund was rescued from the water by a helicopter from the ship.

Haglund's question to what had gone wrong was answered on his return to the Hancock

"I learned that a bomb had come loose from the aircraft during the catapult launch and bounced repeatedly into the aircraft thus causing the damage and subsequent fire."

EJECTION

 Initially Lt. Haglund had reached for the central alternative handle to activate the Douglas Rapac Ejection Seat. Rather disconcertingly this had jammed. Haglund raised his hands to the black / yellow curtain handle and gave it a determined pull. The ejection process began, the canopy was automatically jettisoned.

Although the whole ejection had taken a few seconds Paul Haglund clearly to this day remembers experiencing the  sensation of "temporal distortion".


"The time between seat separation and parachute opening will forever remain frozen in time as it seemed to take a longer than advertised.  Suspended in space so to speak."

The only injuries that Lt Haglund suffered as a result of the mishap were, in his own words, "

" . . . a head laceration due to the metal rescue seat impacting my head during rescue.  It did not happen during the ejection."

Haglund added
 

"I was the Squadron's fifth ejection within 35 days. The other four were combat related"
[see table below ]

 

Paul Haglund
July 2007

 

             
21st May 1966 A‑4C 148473
NP 690
VA‑216 small arms fire; North Vietnam

LCdr O F Baldwin ejected, recovered

Rapac
17th June 1966 A‑4C 149528
NP 693
VA‑216 AAA; North Vietnam

Lt (jg) Paul E Galanti ejected,  POW

Rapac
4th July 1966 A‑4C 149616
NP 688
VA‑216 AAA; North Vietnam

LCdr O F Baldwin ejected,  recovered

Rapac
7th July 1966 A‑4C 148456
NP 685
VA‑216 AAA; North Vietnam

LCdr W J Isenhour ejected, recovered

Rapac
8th July 1966 A‑4C 149494
NP
VA‑216 Fire following Launch

Lt. Paul Haglund ejected, recovered

Rapac
 

10 February 2002