the make headed for the Roosevelt Hotel. It had a good bar. Good dance music. Good room prices. Good-looking women.
My preference, however, became a resort town a few miles further south, where I had met the very friendly and beguiling Anne Entrekin. She had short, interesting- looking, curly blonde hair and a dark tan. She also had an old Chevy and a purse full of gas ration coupons.
We had a few casual, easy-going weekends together that summer, before I took off for Chicago. Usually, we would go swimming in the surf, laze around in the dunes under the sun, eat at one of the fish houses, finish the day with Stingers at some local joint that had live music, and spend the night together in the Innlet at Ponte Vedra.
It was a time of brief encounters.
On the choppy waters of Lake Michigan, north of Chicago, the Navy maintained a converted flat-top comparable to the fleet’s 10,000 ton, “jeep” carriers. At that time, in order to gain a U.S. carrier qualification rating, every Navy and Marine Corps pilot who finished carrier training had to make eight successful landings and take-offs on this short deck carrier, the USS Sable, as a part of his “final exam.”
My time came on a gusty, windy day. In a six-plane formation, three and three, we flew out to meet the carrier from our NAS base at Glenview, Illinois. We began our approach at 7,500 feet and spiraled lower into the traffic circle. Even with many weeks of training and practice, I approached the carrier with an outsized feeling of trepidation. My stomach was doing flip-flops.
I concentrated everything I had on altitude, attitude, propeller pitch, throttle setting, landing gear, flaps, tail hook and the rapidly approaching Landing Signal Officer on the right aft corner of the flight deck.
I knew I was correctly lined up. The LSO held his paddles straight out from his shoulders to signify I was “in the groove” and the approach was satisfactory, In the final seconds, as my Avenger came in several feet above the flight deck, the LSO slashed his right paddle across his throat and dropped his left arm to his side. That meant Cut. I immediately chopped back my throttle and held the stick—rock steady. A second later, my plane struck the flight deck. A three point landing. I felt the tail hook grab hold of the cable. My shoulder straps took the