1958_08_06_USN_Neubig_Phil

United States Marine Corps
(Reserves)
VMA 543

F9F-6 Cougar

BuNo 13004

Wednesday 6th August 1958

USMC Reserve Squadron D
NAS Glenview
1st Lt. Philip H. Neubig

 

"I didn't 'hang' long enough to die"
Wednesday 6th August 1958

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Following several fatal unsuccessful ejection attempts by VMA 543 pilots who had jettisoned their aircraft's canopy the Squadron policy was to eject through the canopy. The rationale being "You'll get banged up but you'll get out." This was never more true than in the case of Marine Reservist Phil Neubig

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Nearly fifty years later Phil Neubig still clearly remembers the events of the morning of Wednesday, 6th August 1958.  Then a 28 year old flight engineer for United Air Lines and an active member United States Marine Corps Reserve, 1st Lieutenant Neubig was on a routine flying mission out of NAS Glenview, Illinois, USA. He was to fly a cross country IFR flight from Glenview to NAS Memphis in Tennessee. Marianne, his wife, was away from their home in Washington Street, Wheaton visiting in Alabama. Neither could have imagined the events that would unfold that day

Shortly after take off the electrical compass in his aircraft, a Grumman F9F-6 Cougar, BuNo 13004, failed and Phil decided to continue the flight using a water compass since the destination could be reached within the parameters of  VFR (Visual Flight Rules)

Despite the weather forecast indicating a clear flight that August day Phil suddenly found conditions changing rapidly. The instrumentation not showing what Phil was experiencing

He recalls, " Flew attitude with Gryro Horizon at 21,000 feet. I looked down to change the radio frequency. When back on instruments the gyro indicated wings level, the needle ball however said left turn and the air speed had dropped to 150 kt. I pushed over to pick up air speed, the air speed now was at "zero" and the warning flag on the gyro had disappeared."

Phil's Cougar's engine had stalled and then entered into a spin. The air speed now picked up and the altitude wound down rapidly. Having dropped 11,000 feet Phil took a final look at the dial showing the speed, he was now at mach.95. He had no option but to eject. At 10,000 feet in definitely unfavourable circumstances he ejected himself through the plexiglas canopy. As he did so things then became a whole lot worse.

Phil again. "I believe that the "D" ring and Mae West toggles caught on fragments of the shattered canopy releasing the parachute and inflating the life vest. So, when I separated from the seat the chute blossomed and the falling seat went through the parachute canopy ripping 10 of the 28 panel - symmetrically - 5 on each side of the chute and several of the shroud lines."

On ejection through the canopy Phil's helmet had split in two and was later found a field along with the seat and wrapped in parachute silk.

At this point other problems arose. "The inflated life vest was pushing the chest strap of the 'chute harness up under my neck."

"I had two painful rope burns on my neck from where the helmet chinstrap had been. I was just about strangled by the chute harness - so much so that the blood vessels in my face had extended."

The damaged parachute meant that Phil's descent was faster than normal and he hit the ground with significant force, " . . . I busted both knees, both arms (these had been broken when he ejected) and had numerous cuts" - however hitting the ground took the strangling pressure of the harness from his neck. Phil says wryly, "I didn't 'hang' long enough to die"

His injuries would put him in the Great Lakes Naval Hospital, Illinois for 8 months.
Phil had remarkably survived a high speed ejection. It is speculated that he may even have ejected at plus mach 1

The farmer who witnessed the events recalled two loud bangs.

Phil's actual memory of the seconds immediately having activated the ejection sequence are clear, "I last remembered hitting the rain, and the slipstream, and thinking I'd better pull the "D-Ring" in case the barometer release failed. This was impossible as both my arms were broken. (In fact he had a broken left arm and a dislocated right shoulder) and I was tumbling. The events of the next 9,500 feet did not register with Phil as he  was knocked unconscious when he 'hit" the violent slipstream.

On the farm in Waterford Wisconsin, Illinois, watching the whole episode unfold, was farmer William Schmidt and his son James, who later described Phil's appearance as he descended through the storm breaking out" of the overcast at 1,100 feet as a 'collapsed balloon'

The unconscious 1st Lt. Neubig momentarily "came to" around 3 - 400 feet from the ground. With his vision impaired by the high speed ejection and descent, his hearing was elevated, "I was swinging in my chute, sounding like creaking rigging on a sail ship." His next recollection was thinking, "I'd better bend my knees so I don't hit stiff legged." He doesn't remember hitting the ground. Hit the ground he did causing major leg injuries.

Realising that he had to act quickly, Farmer William Schmidt, having located Phil, then called the local Fire Department.
From the field Phil was taken to the local hospital in Burlington.

The remains of BuNo 13004 were scattered over the farmland and had dug a 30 foot wide crater.

 

 

 

News Headlines from the Chicago Daily Tribune the following day

The 30 foot crater made by the Cougar


 

In 1959, a year after the mishap Phil returned to the Scmidt's farm. This time by a conventional method and personally thanked the farmer, William Schmidt, (far right) and his son, James, seen here held by the recovered Phil Neubig.

 
 Full Time and Reserve Service wives of flyers live with the realisation and inner dread that one day their loved one may be injured or worse, not return.

Here Phil's Wife, Marianne, gives an honest account of the events on hearing how close she had been to becoming a widow

I received the telephone call from the Marine Corps around 10AM.
I recall being told Phil had an accident but was alive. Being 25 years old at the time I really didn't realize the seriousness of it. Also, I was able to talk briefly with Phil from the ER room at Burlington Wisconsin Hospital.

The doctor also talked with me. I don't recall that but Phil does. Phil also recalls the doctor telling me "He really knows his body, he can tell us what we're doing (setting dislocated shoulder and dislocated right knee and smashed left forearm)."

Many months during his recovery at Great Lakes Naval Hospital I made daily trips to visit Phil including one when he didn't want to wait for the Navy to repair a special wheelchair so he had me bring some boards and tools to repair it ourselves!

At the time of the accident I was in Fairhope, Alabama because of the death of my grandmother and father and luckily not my husband! Two deaths and a near third one within a week - Aug 1, 2 and almost on the 6th, 1958.

And incidentally Phil was flying a cross country in the Cougar to be with me in Fairhope when the accident occurred.  

 

Marianne Neubig

 

      Some extracts and photographs used in this Biography  were  provided thanks to the generosity of Phil & Marianne Neubig

 

 

 

 

6th August 1958
USN
F9F-6
Cougar
BuNo A130009 NAS Glenview, IL At Waterford,WI USA Phil Neubig ejected    
 

Parachute - #68145 type MS3R 

    2 gores torn out - 10 panels blown out at high speed ejection

    parts of the parachute were found attached to the ejection seat - seat went thru the chute when it blossomed

6th August 1958   F9F-8B BuNo 141172 NAATC
Chase Field
       
 
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