by Phil Janney
`Alley Cat Zero' joined the 62nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron at O'Hare AFB, IL, on a freezing winter morning in 1953. She arrived ingloriously, sputtering and yowling, under the hood of a Pontiac convertible, which was making some terrible noises. The early bird pilot was amazed to find the grimy-white, six-toed stowaway kitten when the hood was opened. How she got there and avoided a gruesome end were never discovered. But her presence was regarded as a sure omen by the men of the Fighting 62nd, whose call sign was "Alley Cat". Promptly dubbed "Alley Cat Zero", the newest member of the squadron was quickly mollified by a warm saucer of milk and assumed her duties as squadron mascot.
Soon she settled into life in the Operations building, even with the early morning scrambles and the roar of jet engines. At the time the 62nd was in the process of changing from F-86As to F-86Ds, so everyone could see both aircraft streaking white trails across the clear blue Illinois sky.
Initiated by enterprising pilots miffed by the on-going hostility displayed by the locals disenchanted with the nearness of the thundering jets, the scrambles were justified as "scheduled flybys for `Alley Cat Zero". Further questioning by the fuming civilians inevitably dead-ended with "Sorry, that's classified!" It wasn't until three months later when some industrious civilian managed to reach higher Headquarters, that the F-86 flybys were discontinued.
Alley Cat Zero, never shy about notoriety, soon made history again when the squadron CO took her up in a F-86D, and calmly broke the sound barrier with her on his lap. The story was leaked to the press with the following results:
1) Puss & Boots cat food company awarded Alley Cat Zero a medal as the `First Supersonic Cat'! 2) The CO was fired! 3) The ASPCA was determined to charge the squadron with cruelty to animals. and 4) Alley Cat Zero thought it was all great fun and had to be prevented from sneaking aboard future outgoing flights.
After a year of faithfully serving as mascot for the 62nd FIS, Alley Cat Zero disappeared as mysteriously as she had arrived. It was the custom in those days to change squadron call signs on a yearly basis. When the `Alley Cat' call sign disappeared from the air waves, so did the little kitten. The pilots, while regretting her loss, seemed to feel that she'd done her duty to the 62nd and moved on to bigger and better things.
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