Douglas Skyraiders Page

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AD-4NA VF-194 Gary WittersThis page is dedicated to all Skyraider people, and especially my late uncle, Commander Gary M. Witters, USNR, Retired.

As a 20 year old Ensign and the youngest pilot in the squadron, Gary earned the Distinguished Flying Cross while flying with VF-194 on 17 May 1953. To this day, his former squadron mates believe he was the youngest Navy pilot in Korea to earn the DFC.

Gary M. Witters, Korea, 1953, AD-6 Pilot

Gary was born on September 7, 1931, in Charleston, Illinois, into the loving family of J. Anson and Edith Witters. They already had one son, John, and Gary was followed by five more children: Norma (my mother), Bob, Jeanne and Joyce (the twins), and Chuck. After nearly dying of various early childhood diseases, he had an adventurous childhood in small-town central Illinois. Always athletic, he loved airplanes from an early age and built a number of flying models–and experimented with parachuting off the barn with an umbrella substituting for a parachute. Gary showed his leadership abilities even at this early age–he convinced his younger brother Bob to do the jumping!

After a year of college, Gary joined the Navy and earned his Naval Aviator wings at Corpus Christi. He was assigned to VF-194, the Yellow Devils, and participated in the unit’s 1953 Korean combat cruise.

After the war, Gary completed college at the University of Illinois and earned a law degree at the Stetson Law School in Florida. He soon married his hometown girl, Elizabeth Lloyd, who had in the meantime moved to Florida. They had two children, Cathy and Stephen, and four grandchildren: Maxwell, Reid, Harrison, and Jayden. He became a very successful and top rated attorney, spending more than 30 years with and ultimately becoming a senior partner for a major Tampa, Florida, law firm. He remained an active pilot in the Naval Reserve, finally retiring as a Commander. He passed away suddenly on April 21, 1998.

The term "hero" can mean many things, and it’s a term that always accurately fit Gary Maxwell Witters. He was a hero and leader to his brothers and sisters during their childhood. Although he was too small to play sports in high school, he became a starter on several collegiate-level Navy football and basketball teams. Even though he was the youngest pilot in his combat squadron, he looked even younger. Years later, former squadron mates recall he was the best "stick" in the unit, even then a leader among the other junior officers.

When the call came to launch a rescue mission for a downed Navy pilot in the vicinity of Tanchon, North Korea, on May 17, 1953, Gary was scheduled as a backup pilot. When one of the alert aircraft aborted, Gary took off in the squadron jinx (#413) to do his part. Low and slow over the enemy city, his engine was hit by 37mm antiaircraft fire and he barely managed to gain enough altitude to glide toward the sea. Opportunity comes to those willing to grasp it, so Gary pickled his entire bomb load on the railroad marshalling yards as he glided towards the sea, plastering it good! The Navy recognized his heroism by awarding him the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of very few DFCs awarded in the Korean War.

But a man who loves and takes care of his family is also a hero. A man who pursues and captures his dreams is a hero. A man who works to improve his community is a hero. Gary was all of those and more. And my Uncle Gary was always my hero.

One of my earliest memories is of my Uncle Chuck, Gary’s youngest brother, swinging me around in my grandparent’s living room when I was about four years old. My swinging feet knocked the 1/40 Revell AD-6 Skyraider model Gary had built off the fireplace mantle, destroying it. To my four year old mind, it was like I had just shot down my Uncle Gary. Horrors! Later as I child I played with his Korean War flying gear and his example certainly steered me towards my military aviation career.

Goodbye, Gary. You touched us, and we will never forget you. Godspeed.


 

Gary Witters After Water Pickup By HelicopterGary was shot down on his fourth combat mission in AD-4NA #413. It was considered a jinxed aircraft, with frequent maintenance troubles. Another AD numbered "413" was shot down during the squadron’s previous Korean cruise on the USS Valley Forge in 1952, so no one was pleased to fly this particular aircraft (after it was lost, the number "413" was not used again).

Gary’s plane ditched about 100 yards off the enemy coastline, and the bad guys were shooting at him. He made it into his bright yellow life raft and began to paddle out to sea. The cruiser USS Manchester’s helicopter flown by ENS Paul Johnson quickly arrived.

Navy policy required ditched pilots to stay in their rafts during rescue. Unfortunately, every time ENS Johnson attempted to approach, the rotor downwash blew the life raft away. Finally, Gary decided Navy regulations be damned, he was getting into the water! ENS Johnson was immediately able to lower the rescue cable and hoist Gary aboard.


Gary Witters And Paul Johnson (Helicopter Pilot)Upon arrival on the USS Manchester, Gary (who looked about 16 years old) was approached by the Manchester’s captain. Thinking Gary was a young aircrew member, he said,"Son, did the pilot get out too?" Gary’s reply is priceless: "Sir, I AM the goddamned pilot!"

A newspaper reporter on the Manchester wrote that "the fuzzy cheeked youth sitting in sick bay was clear-eyed, his hands steady, and unquivering when he spoke." After a quick whiskey, he flew back to the Boxer and completed his combat tour.



The VF-194 "Yellow Devils" flew AD-4NAs, an AD-4Q, and a couple of AD-4Ls on their second Korean combat deployment in 1953 as part of Air Task Group One (ATG-1) on the USS Boxer. The AD-4NAs were AD-4N night fighters with the radar equipment and ancillary equipment removed to lighten the aircraft for the day attack role (night attack missions on this cruise were flown by the AD-4Ns of VC-35 and F4U-5Ns of VC-3). The AD-4Q also had the electronic countermeasures equipment removed and was used as a straight attack aircraft.

Pilots did not have individual airframes assigned, so everybody in the squadron flew every aircraft. Gary Witters flew both of these aircraft in combat during this cruise. Several other squadron ADs carried nose art as well as the two provided here. The yellow lightning bolts were added during the course of this cruise. You’ll note the white "NAVY" under the left wing was normally as shown on the drawings above; however, the AD-4L (#419) at the right has a much smaller version that fits entirely outboard of the outer bomb pylon.

The usual weapons load (per the preferences of 7th Fleet commander Admiral Jocko Clark) was a 2,000 lb. bomb on the centerline rack and a 1,000 lb. bomb on each inboard wing rack, along with about 550 rounds of 20mm ammunition for the four wing cannons. However, in combat, one aircraft in each section of four planes carried a large air droppable, tin can-shaped, bright yellow survival pack on the left outboard pylon.

Cutting Edge Modelworks used to produce a resin AD-3/4/6/7 backdate set which included the prominent "car doors" of the AD-3N, AD-4N and AD-4NA, and the more streamlined inboard bomb racks of the AD-1 thru AD-4. We also included front fuselage and lower center wing sections without the massive armor plating. The armor was removable, and photos show many of the VF-194 planes had it removed, although some had full armor and some had only the center underwing plates installed (neiither 401 nor 417 had armor plate installed). This set is also useful for modeling later Skyraiders (AD-6 & AD-7) that had their armor removed (common in the late 1950s and early 1960s). A fully detailed resin cockpit for the pre-Vietnam Skyraider (e.g., with a standard metal seat, not the Yankee Extraction System ejection seat) was available in set CEC48102. No more resin sets are available, so check eBay.


VF-194 Officers, USS Boxer, Korea, 1953

VA-194 Pilots, Korean War Cruise, USS Boxer, 1953.
Kneeling, L-R: E. E. "Skip" Purvis; R. E. Wiegand; Gary Witters; Ernie Short; Bob Bristol; Andy Anderson; A. N. Melhuse (CO); Bob Dunckel; J. Arkins; Dewey Farrell; Walt Blattmann (XO); Sam Catterlin; Willy Ryan; E. R. Ripple; Orin A. Peterson. Standing, L-R: J. R. Schmidt; Bob Edington; Bob Dunlap; F. B. Phillips; Bill Oheren; Joe Akagi; Bud Jordan; Tom Smith; Steve DeLancy; unknown; Howard Bentzinger; Stan Broughton; Dick Wiseman; C. H. Russell; Don Lacava; Bill Wilde.


 


FOR PREVIOUS PURCHASERS OF THE CED48095/CED72095 DECAL SETS BELOW:

Oops. I totally forgot there should have been a b/w supplementary instruction sheet included with the decal set you got. Rather than try to mail a paper copy of it to everybody who ever bought this set (1/48 or 1/72), you can easily download a PDF by clicking here. From now on I’ll be sure to include this sheet with every set I ship out.


Still have a few of these Skyraider decal sets:

1/48:

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Skyraider NOSE ART Birds. Glossy Sea Blue Korean War AD-4Nas of VF-194 with NOSE ART (2 aircraft – my uncle flew them both!); orange/white USMC AD-6 from AES-12; AD-6 from VA-85; A-1H from VA-115 wearing experimental green camouflage in combat.

Add to Goodie Bag $23.97



1/72:

asdf Skyraider NOSE ART Birds. Glossy Sea Blue Korean War AD-4Nas of VF-194 with NOSE ART (2 aircraft – my uncle flew them both!); orange/white USMC AD-6 from AES-12; AD-6 from VA-85; A-1H from VA-115 wearing experimental green camouflage in combat.

$12.97
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