MEMORIES OF GREAT FIGHTER PILOTS

SAM JOHNSON

by Leo Lacey

As with most great men and women of history, stories abound which shed light on the source of their greatness. With this in mind Sabrejet Classics presents another in a Senes of anecdotes from you, our members. Mr. Leo F. Lacey of Hilo Hawaii, tells the following story. We invite other members to share their memories of the great ones" they have known.

In the summer of 1955, I reported to the Combat Instructor School at Nellis AFB, following my first assignment out of flying school, the 44th Fighter Bomber Squadron at Clark AB, P.I.. Two years flying the F-86 with the 4th Squadron had been very educational. And I thought I was ready for whatever Nellis could throw at me.

The instructors at Nellis were the 'cream of the crop' of F-86 pilots. Most had taught in Korea, and included mom than one 'ace'. But right if, I thought them was something special about my instructor, who was nicknamed "Tex".

One day a few weeks after arriving, I was flying on "Tex's" wing. Our mission was to find and engage a pair of 'enemy' Sabres. When we found them, there was a terrific dogfight, with both element leaden trying to get on the tail of the other one. Me? I was hanging on for dear life. Finally, "Tex" locked into the 6 O'clock position of our adversaries and that was the end of that

No matter what they did, "Tex" stayed in perfect position on their tails. At one point, it seemed to me that we had been going straight up for a very long ti me, and I called to "Tex" that I couldn't keep up with him. About that time, I experienced smoke in the cockpit, probably caused by a hammerhead stall. "Tex" somehow wasn't affected by any of this, and was able to stay with our opponents until the 'fight' was called off.. I guess he was one of the smoothest pilots that I ever flew with.

"Tex" was also a great and outgoing friend, and he taught me a lot. Somehow I lost track of him until I read his story in Sabrejet Classics, vol. 5, no. 2, and learned that he went on to have an extraordinary life and career. He was a Thunderbird pilot (in the F-100), a Vietnam POW, and is a U.S. Representative from, where else, Texas. "Tex" is the Honorable Sam Johnson, (R) Texas, a retired USAF colonel, and a life member of the Sabre Pilots Association. I hope he reads this, because I admire him to this day and wish him well.


No portion of this article may be used or reprinted without permission from the President of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association or the editor of Sabre Jet Classics magazine.


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