October 15th, 2016

Amazing air battle

I had not remembered this story from 1994, although it’s extraordinarily memorable. I came across it on YouTube the other day and was surprised that it’s not better known.

Watch. It’s unbelievable, and yet it happened:

“Fight For Your Life,” indeed.

Perhaps it’s not more well-known because there were no passengers on the airplane.

21 Responses to “Amazing air battle”

  1. Paul R Says:

    Thanks for the tip on this Neo…great story

  2. J.J. Says:

    Damn! My eyes are kind of sweating. Proud of those three stout-hearted men.

  3. F Says:

    Gruesome story. I remembered it only vaguely and couldn’t remember why the attacker did what he did.

  4. neo-neocon Says:


    Gruesome, but what grit they showed!

  5. Oldflyer Says:

    Remember it. FEDEX would let employees ride in the cockpit on a space available basis–they could do that because they did not carry passengers. In the case of passenger flights, only flight crew could ride in the cockpit.

    FEDEX was also good about giving flight crew from other carriers rides. I took advantage a few times when I was commuting.

  6. Webutante Says:

    Vaguely remember when this happened but had no idea of the real-life, amazing drama behind those headlines. This makes ‘Sully’ seem rather tame in comparison.

    Thanks for bringing this to us, Neo. Shouldn’t have watched this right before bedtime….I’m now completely wide-eyed.

  7. F Says:

    Neo: Agree entirely. Thanks for the link.

  8. Exeter mom Says:

    Riveting. Could not stop watching. Thanks so much. You always have such wonderful and eclectic posts, but this one is in a class by itself.

    Thank you.

  9. OM Says:

    They never gave up and never gave in. Courage indeed.

  10. Philip Says:

    I noticed the program mentioned in passing that Calloway was an “expert chess player”. That sometimes means something different to most people than it does to me, but I tried looking in the US Chess Federation’s member listings to see if he was in there and what his rating might be. That could give me an indication of his real skill level.

    There are two Auburn Calloways in the database. One lives in California somewhere, which could perhaps be this fellow, since the Wiki entry to which Neo linked says toward the end that he is in a prison in that state. This Auburn Calloway’s USCF membership is set to expire in early 2017. So if that’s the man, then he’s apparently kept up his USCF membership or had it kept up since his conviction. (The USCF does, if I remember right, have a program related to chess in the prisons, basically a correspondence chess thing, I think.)

    The other Auburn Calloway is or was in Pennsylvania; that person’s membership lapsed in 1999. I think the first of the two is the more likely.

    I wasn’t able to find out anything about his chess rating, unfortunately.

  11. Steve57 Says:

    When I was going through Aviation Officer Candidate School at Pensacola back in 1988 I remember forming up to march back from the swimming pool. The Marine DIs had just put us through the most miserable 24 hours of our lives, hurricaning our spaces in the middle of the night because (if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying) they caught us getting trying get ready for a room, locker, and uniform inspection that meant weekend liberty. The Marine DIs had just put us through the most miserable 24 hours of our lives. We…, angered them (our DI, the anti-Christ, later intimated our crime wasn’t one of commission, but the major sin was getting caught; “I don’t ever want to hear of this again”). The officer candidate who was leading us, he was one of us, just looked at us and said, “Whatever you do, try not to laugh.”

    Naturally we laughed. Revived, I don’t think our feet touched the ground as we marched back to the barracks. The Marines didn’t even screw with us That was the point where the anti-Christ, Gunnery Sergeant [name omitted to protect the innocent], gave us the speech about not wanting to hear about it, or in other words being more skilled at getting away with it. They knew it wouldn’t do any good. AOCS ain’t BUD/S. But it’s not easy. Lots of peeps think they can do it, and they Drop On Request. But we were past the point where anyone who would DOR, had already done so. Barring broken bones or major internal injuries we weren’t going to quit.

    What the hell was this guy thinking? A few whacks on the head and those pilots, who I gather went through the same school I did, are going to give up the plane? Not hardly.

    Ladies, a word to the wise. Never, ever, allow the military to drop standards to plus up the numbers. Your life could depend upon it.

  12. Steve57 Says:

    If fickle memory serves, it was called an RLP inspection. Room, Locker, and Personnel. But it’s been 30 years, so who the hell knows the proper name.

    I remember my DI’s name, though. No one ever forgets that.

  13. expat Says:

    I’d never heard of this. It is amazing and the flight crew members are true heroes. You may have melted a few snowflakes by posting this, Neo. Actually, college applicants should have to view things like this and other stories of real-life struggles in order to be considered for admission.

  14. expat Says:

    Here is a quick dance link for you, Neo (via Debbie’s Links at NRO):


  15. carl in atlanta Says:

    I didn’t remember this story at all.

    Wow, I just spent 46 minutes of billable time at work watching this. I meant to just just glance at it and then come back to it after work but couldn’t stop watching….

    How could all concerned keep functioning ( fighting and flying a large commercial airliner) with these kinds of injuries? How could all four of them even remain conscious?

  16. Steve57 Says:

    How could all concerned keep functioning ( fighting and flying a large commercial airliner) with these kinds of injuries? How could all four of them even remain conscious?

    Co-pilot Tucker and pilot in command Sanders were Navy. I gather from the video, although it’s strongly implied, they were naval aviators. Which means the Marines had a say in it. And the Marines wouldn’t let weakness slip by.

    Not to take anything away from the other services. A good friend (whom I have unfortunately lost track of over the decades) at the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center was prior enlisted in the Army. He was a Green Beret in his former life. He told me about a time he was training in hand-to-hand combat. He got stabbed in the leg. He said it felt like somebody hit him with a baseball bat. He sat down, looking at the knife sticking out of his leg. His officer came by and said, “What are you going to do, son, in real life? Just sit down and die?” My friend thought to himself, “You know what, he’s right.” He stood up and completed the training evolution, knife in thigh and all, before seeking medical attention.

    You can do more than you think you can. And I’m no Green Beret or SEAL. If you are willing. The Navy left it to the Marines to weed out the unwilling when it came to aviation. The will to win, the SEALs say, is more important than the skill to win.



    The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the
    SILVER STAR MEDAL posthumously to


    for service as set forth in the following


    “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Gun Captain of a 5″/38 Mount on the USS Samuel B. ROBERTS, in action against enemy Japanese forces off Samar Island during the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, October 25, 1944. With the power of the rammer lost and mechanical failures in the ammunition hoist, CARR manned his station steadfastly in the face of continuous close-range fire of enemy guns during an attack by a numerically superior Japanese surface force on the Samuel B. Roberts. By his outstanding technical skill and courageous initiative, CARR was instrumental in causing rapid and heavy fire from the gun to inflict damage upon an enemy heavy cruiser. Although mortally wounded by the premature detonation of a powder charge, fired by hand, CARR tried unassisted to load and ram the only projectile available to that mount after order to abandon ship had been given. His aggressive determination of duty reflected the highest credit upon CARR and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”

    For the President,
    /s/ James Forrestal
    Secretary of the Navy”

    Carr was ripped open from crotch to throat. The Sammy B. had suffered sufficient damage that the air injection system, which evacuated the gases from the receiver and bore of the 5″ gun he commanded, was inoperative. So the final round his gun mount would ever fire cooked off before his crew could close the breech block, killing his crew and gutting him like a fish. After his skipper ordered abandon ship he was dragged from his gun mount once. He had fired every round from his handling room save one. After he was dragged out, he crawled back in to attempt to fire the last round. He died at his station.

    I do not recognize this navy that surrenders boats to the Iranians and cries.


  17. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Carr and his crew knew they were going to cook one off. There was no escape after the air system went out.
    There was a story from, iirc, the tanke war in the Persian Gulf.
    A new destroyer, named after the Roberts, instead of child-molesting former city commissioner, hit a mine.
    As it turned out, there was bronze plaque someplace where the personnel were passing on their duties which reviewed the older Roberts’ role in the Battle off Samar. An office noted that guys running past would hesitate in instant to run a finger across the plaque.
    Turenne said the human heart is the starting point in all matters pertaining to war. Napoleon said that, in war, the moral is to the material as three to one.
    Ralph Peters, a frequent Fox commentator on matters military, said, of the capture you mentioned, that he could guarantee the crew were up to date on their diversity and sexual relations classes. So we have that going fo r us.

  18. snopercod Says:

    Man, there was just so much BS in that “reenactment” that I had to shut it off. First of all, if a plane – any plane – drops suddenly off its assigned altitude, ATC is going to query them immediately. Same thing with heading. They do it politely at first. If you’re off your assigned altitude, they’ll give you the altimeter setting meaning “Hey fool, check your altitude.” If you’re off heading, they’ll ask you to confirm that your destination is XXX. (Ask me how I know these things)

  19. Ymarsakar Says:

    snopercod Says:
    October 17th, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    I often have a similar reaction as Snoper here, but to martial arts or military history productions. Or to put it into another parlance, stage fights on Hollywood and various other things people think is real or realistic.

    These days, I just overlook those issues and suspend my disbelief. There’s no particular reason for me to expect producers of media to get the details right. Even if they have expert testimony, authorities, and personal experience with such, unless I’m reenacting and reconstructing the incidents in question, I can make no guarantees that anyone else could pull it off. Besides, most things in sword fights and art of war, is designed to deceive and be invisible. It’s not designed to be seen or marveled out. Got a cross purpose issue. Although these days with first person cams and movies like ‘Henry’, perhaps the times are changing.

    For ATC, I would probably pretend that they were on strike during Reagan’s era or something of that nature.

  20. Steve57 Says:

    Richard Aubrey @ October 17th, 2016, 5:48 pm, you have it broadly correct. The skipper of the OHP Sammy B. that survived the mine in the Gulf was the keynote speaker at one DE413, the ship that went down fighting a battle no one imagined when when she was designed, survivor’s association meeting. To a man, he said, every Sailor who passed that plaque patted it as he went by.

    The Sailors on that fig 7 performed many remarkable feats. The skipper recalled one sailor who kept an emergency pump operating for over 24 hours. I don’t recall the details of the pump or the Sailor’s name off the top of my head. But the pump required careful attention and maintenance to operate as long as it did. You really had to go to a C school to learn how to operate it. This Sailor hadn’t, so later skip asked him about it.

    It turned out the Sailor didn’t know how to swim. And he had looked at the shark and sea snake infested waters of the Gulf and decided, whatever he had to do, he was going to keep the Sammy B. afloat. He did. He learned what he had to learn on the job.

    He was a black man, BTW. I throw that tidbit out as bait for anyone who wants to accuse conservatives of being racists. I don’t care how white the New York Times newsroom is, that Sailor gets my vote and has my confidence every time. Hands down.

    Lost in all this is the namesake of the ship(s). Attention to citation:

    “For extraordinary heroism as member of the crew of a Higgins boat assisting in the rescue of a group of marines surrounded by enemy Japanese forces on a beachhead on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on September 27, 1942. Although he knew that his boat was to be used for the purpose of drawing enemy fire away from other craft evacuating the trapped marines, Roberts, with utter disregard for his own personal safety, volunteered as member of the crew, with his lightly armored boat stationed in an exposed position, he gallantly remained at his post until, at the close of operations, he was wounded by enemy fire. By his great valor and fearless devotion to duty he contributed directly to the success of his mission, saving the lives of many who otherwise might have perished.”

    Rest in peace, Samuel Booker Roberts.

  21. Steve57 Says:

    snopercod @ October 17th, 2016, 8:50 pm, I share your skepticism. I cancelled my cable about five years ago and haven’t looked back. The last person I’m going to depend on to get things right is a journo school grad. But something very much like what is depicted did happen.


    “Cockpit Voice Recorder Database

    …7 April 1994 – Fedex 705”

    I also served in COMCARGRU 3, the reserve carrier group that evaluates the battle readiness of active duty carrier groups per JTFEX and COMPTUEX. You wouldn’t believe the number of former carrier aviators who fly for FEDEX. Or, maybe you would.

    It happened.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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