April 25, 1967, Eagle Six is Ltjg Alan R. Crebo in an A-4C Skyhawk, Navy BUNO 151102.
We all stare at his Skyhawk in awe and wonder as we all join on him. Crebo’s A4 is a sight to behold. He has no rudder. Fully half of the vertical stabilizer is gone. Football and basketball sized holes allow us to see right through the tail pipe in several places. Someone points out that viewed from dead astern, the horizontal stabilizer is twisted about three degrees out of alignment with the trailing edge of the wing. Every access panel in the fuselage has been popped open from the force of the concussion. He is flying with the hydraulic boost package disconnected and has very limited maneuverability, so we all fly on him. Someone in the flight has a hand held 35mm camera and takes multiple shots of the incredible battle damage. Al Crebo was tail end Charlie in the bomb stack.
He reached the top of the pop up and hung at about two hundred twenty knots waiting for sufficient separation from Eagle Five before rolling in. He never saw the SA-2 which delivered a direct hit on his airplane. The force of the hit and explosion rolled Al on his back. He recovered with the nose pointed at the target, so he completed his run.
As he began his pull out, the badly wounded Skyhawk made an uncommanded roll inverted over the target. It was at this point when he made the “Eagle Six hit and losing control” call over the radio. Al reached under the glare shield and yanked the flight control boost disconnect handle, and flew the little A4 upright on manual flight controls. Now, NATOPS states that before disconnecting the hydraulic flight controls, one should be dirty, below two hundred knots, and lined up with the landing runway. The A4-C even had an extendable stick to give the pilot more leverage when flying on cables and pulleys with no power steering. Al was doing about 450 knots when he disconnected and rolled upright. He said he didn’t remember the airplane being hard to fly at all!
Approaching the “Bonnie Dick”, Al decided to see if he could control the airplane well enough to attempt a landing. He extended the landing gear and the nose gear and tail hook came down, but the main mounts remained jammed in the wing due to buckled wing plates. He tried for ten thousand feet to eject, but along side the plane guard D.D. at sixty five hundred feet, the gallant Skyhawk flamed out and gave up the ghost. Al ejected safely and was promptly picked up by the plane guard helo. CDR. The little Skyhawks had got their drivers home.”