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No reconnaissance aircraft in history has operated globally in more hostile airspace or with such complete impunity than the SR-71, the world’s fastest jet-propelled aircraft. The Blackbird’s performance and operational achievements placed it at the pinnacle of aviation technology developments during the Cold War.
This Blackbird accrued about 2,800 hours of flight time during 24 years of active service with the U.S. Air Force. On its last flight, March 6, 1990, Lt. Col. Ed Yielding and Lt. Col. Joseph Vida set a speed record by flying from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging 3,418 kilometers (2,124 miles) per hour. At the flight’s conclusion, they landed at Washington-Dulles International Airport and turned the airplane over to the Smithsonian.
Transferred from the United States Air Force.
Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson
Country of Origin:
United States of America
Overall: 18ft 5 15/16in. x 55ft 7in. x 107ft 5in., 169998.5lb. (5.638m x 16.942m x 32.741m, 77110.8kg)
Other: 18ft 5 15/16in. x 107ft 5in. x 55ft 7in. (5.638m x 32.741m x 16.942m)
Twin-engine, two-seat, supersonic strategic reconnaissance aircraft; airframe constructed largley of titanium and its alloys; vertical tail fins are constructed of a composite (laminated plastic-type material) to reduce radar cross-section; Pratt and Whitney J58 (JT11D-20B) turbojet engines feature large inlet shock cones.
No reconnaissance aircraft in history has operated in more hostile airspace or with such complete impunity than the SR-71 Blackbird. It is the fastest aircraft propelled by air-breathing engines. The Blackbird’s performance and operational achievements placed it at the pinnacle of aviation technology developments during the Cold War. The airplane was conceived when tensions with communist Eastern Europe reached levels approaching a full-blown crisis in the mid-1950s. U.S. military commanders desperately needed accurate assessments of Soviet worldwide military deployments, particularly near the Iron Curtain. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s subsonic U-2 (see NASM collection) reconnaissance aircraft was an able platform but the U. S. Air Force recognized that this relatively slow aircraft was already vulnerable to Soviet interceptors. They also understood that the rapid development of surface-to-air missile systems could put U-2 pilots at grave risk. The danger proved reality when a U-2 was shot down by a surface to air missile over the Soviet Union in 1960.
Lockheed’s first proposal for a new high speed, high altitude, reconnaissance aircraft, to be capable of avoiding interceptors and missiles, centered on a design propelled by liquid hydrogen. This proved to be impracticable because of considerable fuel consumption. Lockheed then reconfigured the design for conventional fuels. This was feasible and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), already flying the Lockheed U-2, issued a production contract for an aircraft designated the A-12. Lockheed’s clandestine ‘Skunk Works’ division (headed by the gifted design engineer Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson) designed the A-12 to cruise at Mach 3.2 and fly well above 18,288 m (60,000 feet). To meet these challenging requirements, Lockheed engineers overcame many daunting technical challenges. Flying more than three times the speed of sound generates 316° C (600° F) temperatures on external aircraft surfaces, which are enough to melt conventional aluminum airframes. The design team chose to make the jet’s external skin of titanium alloy to which shielded the internal aluminum airframe. Two conventional, but very powerful, afterburning turbine engines propelled this remarkable aircraft. These power plants had to operate across a huge speed envelope in flight, from a takeoff speed of 334 kph (207 mph) to more than 3,540 kph (2,200 mph). To prevent supersonic shock waves from moving inside the engine intake causing flameouts, Johnson’s team had to design a complex air intake and bypass system for the engines.
Skunk Works engineers also optimized the A-12 cross-section design to exhibit a low radar profile. Lockheed hoped to achieve this by carefully shaping the airframe to reflect as little transmitted radar energy (radio waves) as possible, and by application of special paint designed to absorb, rather than reflect, those waves. This treatment became one of the first applications of stealth technology, but it never completely met the design goals.
Test pilot Lou Schalk flew the single-seat A-12 on April 24, 1962, after he became airborne accidentally during high-speed taxi trials. The airplane showed great promise but it needed considerable technical refinement before the CIA could fly the first operational sortie on May 31, 1967 – a surveillance flight over North Vietnam. A-12s, flown by CIA pilots, operated as part of the Air Force’s 1129th Special Activities Squadron under the "Oxcart" program. While Lockheed continued to refine the A-12, the U. S. Air Force ordered an interceptor version of the aircraft designated the YF-12A. The Skunk Works, however, proposed a "specific mission" version configured to conduct post-nuclear strike reconnaissance. This system evolved into the USAF’s familiar SR-71.
Lockheed built fifteen A-12s, including a special two-seat trainer version. Two A-12s were modified to carry a special reconnaissance drone, designated D-21. The modified A-12s were redesignated M-21s. These were designed to take off with the D-21 drone, powered by a Marquart ramjet engine mounted on a pylon between the rudders. The M-21 then hauled the drone aloft and launched it at speeds high enough to ignite the drone’s ramjet motor. Lockheed also built three YF-12As but this type never went into production. Two of the YF-12As crashed during testing. Only one survives and is on display at the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio. The aft section of one of the "written off" YF-12As which was later used along with an SR-71A static test airframe to manufacture the sole SR-71C trainer. One SR-71 was lent to NASA and designated YF-12C. Including the SR-71C and two SR-71B pilot trainers, Lockheed constructed thirty-two Blackbirds. The first SR-71 flew on December 22, 1964. Because of extreme operational costs, military strategists decided that the more capable USAF SR-71s should replace the CIA’s A-12s. These were retired in 1968 after only one year of operational missions, mostly over southeast Asia. The Air Force’s 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (part of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing) took over the missions, flying the SR-71 beginning in the spring of 1968.
After the Air Force began to operate the SR-71, it acquired the official name Blackbird– for the special black paint that covered the airplane. This paint was formulated to absorb radar signals, to radiate some of the tremendous airframe heat generated by air friction, and to camouflage the aircraft against the dark sky at high altitudes.
Experience gained from the A-12 program convinced the Air Force that flying the SR-71 safely required two crew members, a pilot and a Reconnaissance Systems Officer (RSO). The RSO operated with the wide array of monitoring and defensive systems installed on the airplane. This equipment included a sophisticated Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) system that could jam most acquisition and targeting radar. In addition to an array of advanced, high-resolution cameras, the aircraft could also carry equipment designed to record the strength, frequency, and wavelength of signals emitted by communications and sensor devices such as radar. The SR-71 was designed to fly deep into hostile territory, avoiding interception with its tremendous speed and high altitude. It could operate safely at a maximum speed of Mach 3.3 at an altitude more than sixteen miles, or 25,908 m (85,000 ft), above the earth. The crew had to wear pressure suits similar to those worn by astronauts. These suits were required to protect the crew in the event of sudden cabin pressure loss while at operating altitudes.
To climb and cruise at supersonic speeds, the Blackbird’s Pratt & Whitney J-58 engines were designed to operate continuously in afterburner. While this would appear to dictate high fuel flows, the Blackbird actually achieved its best "gas mileage," in terms of air nautical miles per pound of fuel burned, during the Mach 3+ cruise. A typical Blackbird reconnaissance flight might require several aerial refueling operations from an airborne tanker. Each time the SR-71 refueled, the crew had to descend to the tanker’s altitude, usually about 6,000 m to 9,000 m (20,000 to 30,000 ft), and slow the airplane to subsonic speeds. As velocity decreased, so did frictional heat. This cooling effect caused the aircraft’s skin panels to shrink considerably, and those covering the fuel tanks contracted so much that fuel leaked, forming a distinctive vapor trail as the tanker topped off the Blackbird. As soon as the tanks were filled, the jet’s crew disconnected from the tanker, relit the afterburners, and again climbed to high altitude.
Air Force pilots flew the SR-71 from Kadena AB, Japan, throughout its operational career but other bases hosted Blackbird operations, too. The 9th SRW occasionally deployed from Beale AFB, California, to other locations to carryout operational missions. Cuban missions were flown directly from Beale. The SR-71 did not begin to operate in Europe until 1974, and then only temporarily. In 1982, when the U.S. Air Force based two aircraft at Royal Air Force Base Mildenhall to fly monitoring mission in Eastern Europe.
When the SR-71 became operational, orbiting reconnaissance satellites had already replaced manned aircraft to gather intelligence from sites deep within Soviet territory. Satellites could not cover every geopolitical hotspot so the Blackbird remained a vital tool for global intelligence gathering. On many occasions, pilots and RSOs flying the SR-71 provided information that proved vital in formulating successful U. S. foreign policy. Blackbird crews provided important intelligence about the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and its aftermath, and pre- and post-strike imagery of the 1986 raid conducted by American air forces on Libya. In 1987, Kadena-based SR-71 crews flew a number of missions over the Persian Gulf, revealing Iranian Silkworm missile batteries that threatened commercial shipping and American escort vessels.
As the performance of space-based surveillance systems grew, along with the effectiveness of ground-based air defense networks, the Air Force started to lose enthusiasm for the expensive program and the 9th SRW ceased SR-71 operations in January 1990. Despite protests by military leaders, Congress revived the program in 1995. Continued wrangling over operating budgets, however, soon led to final termination. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration retained two SR-71As and the one SR-71B for high-speed research projects and flew these airplanes until 1999.
On March 6, 1990, the service career of one Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird ended with a record-setting flight. This special airplane bore Air Force serial number 64-17972. Lt. Col. Ed Yeilding and his RSO, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Vida, flew this aircraft from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging a speed of 3,418 kph (2,124 mph). At the conclusion of the flight, ‘972 landed at Dulles International Airport and taxied into the custody of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. At that time, Lt. Col. Vida had logged 1,392.7 hours of flight time in Blackbirds, more than that of any other crewman.
This particular SR-71 was also flown by Tom Alison, a former National Air and Space Museum’s Chief of Collections Management. Flying with Detachment 1 at Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, Alison logged more than a dozen ‘972 operational sorties. The aircraft spent twenty-four years in active Air Force service and accrued a total of 2,801.1 hours of flight time.
Weight: 170,000 Lbs
Reference and Further Reading:
Crickmore, Paul F. Lockheed SR-71: The Secret Missions Exposed. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 1996.
Francillon, Rene J. Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1987.
Johnson, Clarence L. Kelly: More Than My Share of It All. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985.
Miller, Jay. Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. Leicester, U.K.: Midland Counties Publishing Ltd., 1995.
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird curatorial file, Aeronautics Division, National Air and Space Museum.
In the P-38 Lockheed engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and his team of designers created one of the most successful twin-engine fighters ever flown by any nation. From 1942 to 1945, U. S. Army Air Forces pilots flew P-38s over Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific, and from the frozen Aleutian Islands to the sun-baked deserts of North Africa. Lightning pilots in the Pacific theater downed more Japanese aircraft than pilots flying any other Allied warplane.
Maj. Richard I. Bong, America’s leading fighter ace, flew this P-38J-10-LO on April 16, 1945, at Wright Field, Ohio, to evaluate an experimental method of interconnecting the movement of the throttle and propeller control levers. However, his right engine exploded in flight before he could conduct the experiment.
Transferred from the United States Air Force.
Lockheed Aircraft Company
Country of Origin:
United States of America
Overall: 390 x 1170cm, 6345kg, 1580cm (12ft 9 9/16in. x 38ft 4 5/8in., 13988.2lb., 51ft 10 1/16in.)
Twin-tail boom and twin-engine fighter; tricycle landing gear.
From 1942 to 1945, the thunder of P-38 Lightnings was heard around the world. U. S. Army pilots flew the P-38 over Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific; from the frozen Aleutian Islands to the sun-baked deserts of North Africa. Measured by success in combat, Lockheed engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and a team of designers created the most successful twin-engine fighter ever flown by any nation. In the Pacific Theater, Lightning pilots downed more Japanese aircraft than pilots flying any other Army Air Forces warplane.
Johnson and his team conceived this twin-engine, single-pilot fighter airplane in 1936 and the Army Air Corps authorized the firm to build it in June 1937. Lockheed finished constructing the prototype XP-38 and delivered it to the Air Corps on New Year’s Day, 1939. Air Corps test pilot and P-38 project officer, Lt. Benjamin S. Kelsey, first flew the aircraft on January 27. Losing this prototype in a crash at Mitchel Field, New York, with Kelsey at the controls, did not deter the Air Corps from ordering 13 YP-38s for service testing on April 27. Kelsey survived the crash and remained an important part of the Lightning program. Before the airplane could be declared ready for combat, Lockheed had to block the effects of high-speed aerodynamic compressibility and tail buffeting, and solve other problems discovered during the service tests.
The most vexing difficulty was the loss of control in a dive caused by aerodynamic compressibility. During late spring 1941, Air Corps Major Signa A. Gilke encountered serious trouble while diving his Lightning at high-speed from an altitude of 9,120 m (30,000 ft). When he reached an indicated airspeed of about 515 kph (320 mph), the airplane’s tail began to shake violently and the nose dropped until the dive was almost vertical. Signa recovered and landed safely and the tail buffet problem was soon resolved after Lockheed installed new fillets to improve airflow where the cockpit gondola joined the wing center section. Seventeen months passed before engineers began to determine what caused the Lightning’s nose to drop. They tested a scale model P-38 in the Ames Laboratory wind tunnel operated by the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) and found that shock waves formed when airflow over the wing leading edges reached transonic speeds. The nose drop and loss of control was never fully remedied but Lockheed installed dive recovery flaps under each wing in 1944. These devices slowed the P-38 enough to allow the pilot to maintain control when diving at high-speed.
Just as the development of the North American P-51 Mustang, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, and the Vought F4U Corsair (see NASM collection for these aircraft) pushed the limits of aircraft performance into unexplored territory, so too did P-38 development. The type of aircraft envisioned by the Lockheed design team and Air Corps strategists in 1937 did not appear until June 1944. This protracted shakedown period mirrors the tribulations suffered by Vought in sorting out the many technical problems that kept F4U Corsairs off U. S. Navy carrier decks until the end of 1944.
Lockheed’s efforts to trouble-shoot various problems with the design also delayed high-rate, mass production. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the company had delivered only 69 Lightnings to the Army. Production steadily increased and at its peak in 1944, 22 sub-contractors built various Lightning components and shipped them to Burbank, California, for final assembly. Consolidated-Vultee (Convair) subcontracted to build the wing center section and the firm later became prime manufacturer for 2,000 P-38Ls but that company’s Nashville plant completed only 113 examples of this Lightning model before war’s end. Lockheed and Convair finished 10,038 P-38 aircraft including 500 photo-reconnaissance models. They built more L models, 3,923, than any other version.
To ease control and improve stability, particularly at low speeds, Lockheed equipped all Lightnings, except a batch ordered by Britain, with propellers that counter-rotated. The propeller to the pilot’s left turned counter-clockwise and the propeller to his right turned clockwise, so that one propeller countered the torque and airflow effects generated by the other. The airplane also performed well at high speeds and the definitive P-38L model could make better than 676 kph (420 mph) between 7,600 and 9,120 m (25,000 and 30,000 ft). The design was versatile enough to carry various combinations of bombs, air-to-ground rockets, and external fuel tanks. The multi-engine configuration reduced the Lightning loss-rate to anti-aircraft gunfire during ground attack missions. Single-engine airplanes equipped with power plants cooled by pressurized liquid, such as the North American P-51 Mustang (see NASM collection), were particularly vulnerable. Even a small nick in one coolant line could cause the engine to seize in a matter of minutes.
The first P-38s to reach the Pacific combat theater arrived on April 4, 1942, when a version of the Lightning that carried reconnaissance cameras (designated the F-4), joined the 8th Photographic Squadron based in Australia. This unit launched the first P-38 combat missions over New Guinea and New Britain during April. By May 29, the first 25 P-38s had arrived in Anchorage, Alaska. On August 9, pilots of the 343rd Fighter Group, Eleventh Air Force, flying the P-38E, shot down a pair of Japanese flying boats.
Back in the United States, Army Air Forces leaders tried to control a rumor that Lightnings killed their own pilots. On August 10, 1942, Col. Arthur I. Ennis, Chief of U. S. Army Air Forces Public Relations in Washington, told a fellow officer "… Here’s what the 4th Fighter [training] Command is up against… common rumor out there that the whole West Coast was filled with headless bodies of men who jumped out of P-38s and had their heads cut off by the propellers." Novice Lightning pilots unfamiliar with the correct bailout procedures actually had more to fear from the twin-boom tail, if an emergency dictated taking to the parachute but properly executed, Lightning bailouts were as safe as parachuting from any other high-performance fighter of the day. Misinformation and wild speculation about many new aircraft was rampant during the early War period.
Along with U. S. Navy Grumman F4F Wildcats (see NASM collection) and Curtiss P-40 Warhawks (see NASM collection), Lightnings were the first American fighter airplanes capable of consistently defeating Japanese fighter aircraft. On November 18, men of the 339th Fighter Squadron became the first Lightning pilots to attack Japanese fighters. Flying from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, they claimed three during a mission to escort Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers (see NASM collection).
On April 18, 1943, fourteen P-38 pilots from the 70th and the 339th Fighter Squadrons, 347th Fighter Group, accomplished one of the most important Lightning missions of the war. American ULTRA cryptanalysts had decoded Japanese messages that revealed the timetable for a visit to the front by the commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. This charismatic leader had crafted the plan to attack Pearl Harbor and Allied strategists believed his loss would severely cripple Japanese morale. The P-38 pilots flew 700 km (435 miles) at heights from 3-15 m (10-50 feet) above the ocean to avoid detection. Over the coast of Bougainville, they intercepted a formation of two Mitsubishi G4M BETTY bombers (see NASM collection) carrying the Admiral and his staff, and six Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters (see NASM collection) providing escort. The Lightning pilots downed both bombers but lost Lt. Ray Hine to a Zero.
In Europe, the first Americans to down a Luftwaffe aircraft were Lt. Elza E. Shahan flying a 27th Fighter Squadron P-38E, and Lt. J. K. Shaffer flying a Curtiss P-40 (see NASM collection) in the 33rd Fighter Squadron. The two flyers shared the destruction of a Focke-Wulf Fw 200C-3 Condor maritime strike aircraft over Iceland on August 14, 1942. Later that month, the 1st fighter group accepted Lightnings and began combat operations from bases in England but this unit soon moved to fight in North Africa. More than a year passed before the P-38 reappeared over Western Europe. While the Lightning was absent, U. S. Army Air Forces strategists had relearned a painful lesson: unescorted bombers cannot operate successfully in the face of determined opposition from enemy fighters. When P-38s returned to England, the primary mission had become long-range bomber escort at ranges of about 805 kms (500 miles) and at altitudes above 6,080 m (20,000 ft).
On October 15, 1943, P-38H pilots in the 55th Fighter Group flew their first combat mission over Europe at a time when the need for long-range escorts was acute. Just the day before, German fighter pilots had destroyed 60 of 291 Eighth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortresses (see NASM collection) during a mission to bomb five ball-bearing plants at Schweinfurt, Germany. No air force could sustain a loss-rate of nearly 20 percent for more than a few missions but these targets lay well beyond the range of available escort fighters (Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, see NASM collection). American war planners hoped the long-range capabilities of the P-38 Lightning could halt this deadly trend, but the very high and very cold environment peculiar to the European air war caused severe power plant and cockpit heating difficulties for the Lightning pilots. The long-range escort problem was not completely solved until the North American P-51 Mustang (see NASM collection) began to arrive in large numbers early in 1944.
Poor cockpit heating in the H and J model Lightnings made flying and fighting at altitudes that frequently approached 12,320 m (40,000 ft) nearly impossible. This was a fundamental design flaw that Kelly Johnson and his team never anticipated when they designed the airplane six years earlier. In his seminal work on the Allison V-1710 engine, Daniel Whitney analyzed in detail other factors that made the P-38 a disappointing airplane in combat over Western Europe.
• Many new and inexperienced pilots arrived in England during December 1943, along with the new J model P-38 Lightning.
• J model rated at 1,600 horsepower vs. 1,425 for earlier H model Lightnings. This power setting required better maintenance between flights. It appears this work was not done in many cases.
• During stateside training, Lightning pilots were taught to fly at high rpm settings and low engine manifold pressure during cruise flight. This was very hard on the engines, and not in keeping with technical directives issued by Allison and Lockheed.
• The quality of fuel in England may have been poor, TEL (tetraethyl lead) fuel additive appeared to condense inside engine induction manifolds, causing detonation (destructive explosion of fuel mixture rather than controlled burning).
• Improved turbo supercharger intercoolers appeared on the J model P-38. These devices greatly reduced manifold temperatures but this encouraged TEL condensation in manifolds during cruise flight and increased spark plug fouling.
Using water injection to minimize detonation might have reduced these engine problems. Both the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the North American P-51 Mustang (see NASM collection) were fitted with water injection systems but not the P-38. Lightning pilots continued to fly, despite these handicaps.
During November 1942, two all-Lightning fighter groups, the 1st and the 14th, began operating in North Africa. In the Mediterranean Theater, P-38 pilots flew more sorties than Allied pilots flying any other type of fighter. They claimed 608 enemy a/c destroyed in the air, 123 probably destroyed and 343 damaged, against the loss of 131 Lightnings.
In the war against Japan, the P-38 truly excelled. Combat rarely occurred above 6,080 m (20,000 ft) and the engine and cockpit comfort problems common in Europe never plagued pilots in the Pacific Theater. The Lightning’s excellent range was used to full advantage above the vast expanses of water. In early 1945, Lightning pilots of the 12th Fighter Squadron, 18th Fighter Group, flew a mission that lasted 10 ½ hours and covered more than 3,220 km (2,000 miles). In August, P-38 pilots established the world’s long-distance record for a World War II combat fighter when they flew from the Philippines to the Netherlands East Indies, a distance of 3,703 km (2,300 miles). During early 1944, Lightning pilots in the 475th Fighter Group began the ‘race of aces.’ By March, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas J. Lynch had scored 21 victories before he fell to antiaircraft gunfire while strafing enemy ships. Major Thomas B. McGuire downed 38 Japanese aircraft before he was killed when his P-38 crashed at low altitude in early January 1945. Major Richard I. Bong became America’s highest scoring fighter ace (40 victories) but died in the crash of a Lockheed P-80 (see NASM collection) on August 6, 1945.
Museum records show that Lockheed assigned the construction number 422-2273 to the National Air and Space Museum’s P-38. The Army Air Forces accepted this Lightning as a P-38J-l0-LO on November 6, 1943, and the service identified the airplane with the serial number 42-67762. Recent investigations conducted by a team of specialists at the Paul E. Garber Facility, and Herb Brownstein, a volunteer in the Aeronautics Division at the National Air and Space Museum, have revealed many hitherto unknown aspects to the history of this aircraft.
Brownstein examined NASM files and documents at the National Archives. He discovered that a few days after the Army Air Forces (AAF) accepted this airplane, the Engineering China Division at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, granted Lockheed permission to convert this P-38 into a two-seat trainer. The firm added a seat behind the pilot to accommodate an instructor who would train civilian pilots in instrument flying techniques. Once trained, these test pilots evaluated new Lightnings fresh off the assembly line.
In a teletype sent by the Engineering China Division on March 2, 1944, Brownstein also discovered that this P-38 was released to Colonel Benjamin S. Kelsey from March 3 to April 10, 1944, to conduct special tests. This action was confirmed the following day in a cable from the War Department. This same pilot, then a Lieutenant, flew the XP-38 across the United States in 1939 and survived the crash that destroyed this Lightning at Mitchel Field, New York. In early 1944, Kelsey was assigned to the Eighth Air Force in England and he apparently traveled to the Lockheed factory at Burbank to pick up the P-38. Further information about these tests and Kelsey’s involvement remain an intriguing question.
One of Brownstein’s most important discoveries was a small file rich with information about the NASM Lightning. This file contained a cryptic reference to a "Major Bong" who flew the NASM P-38 on April 16, 1945, at Wright Field. Bong had planned to fly for an hour to evaluate an experimental method of interconnecting the movement of the throttle and propeller control levers. His flight ended after twenty-minutes when "the right engine blew up before I had a chance [to conduct the test]." The curator at the Richard I. Bong Heritage Center confirmed that America’s highest scoring ace made this flight in the NASM P-38 Lightning.
Working in Building 10 at the Paul E. Garber Facility, Rob Mawhinney, Dave Wilson, Wil Lee, Bob Weihrauch, Jim Purton, and Heather Hutton spent several months during the spring and summer of 2001 carefully disassembling, inspecting, and cleaning the NASM Lightning. They found every hardware modification consistent with a model J-25 airplane, not the model J-10 painted in the data block beneath the artifact’s left nose. This fact dovetails perfectly with knowledge uncovered by Brownstein. On April 10, the Engineering China Division again cabled Lockheed asking the company to prepare 42-67762 for transfer to Wright Field "in standard configuration." The standard P-38 configuration at that time was the P-38J-25. The work took several weeks and the fighter does not appear on Wright Field records until May 15, 1944. On June 9, the Flight Test Section at Wright Field released the fighter for flight trials aimed at collecting pilot comments on how the airplane handled.
Wright Field’s Aeromedical Laboratory was the next organization involved with this P-38. That unit installed a kit on July 26 that probably measured the force required to move the control wheel left and right to actuate the power-boosted ailerons installed in all Lightnings beginning with version J-25. From August 12-16, the Power Plant Laboratory carried out tests to measure the hydraulic pump temperatures on this Lightning. Then beginning September 16 and lasting about ten days, the Bombing Branch, Armament Laboratory, tested type R-3 fragmentation bomb racks. The work appears to have ended early in December. On June 20, 1945, the AAF Aircraft Distribution Office asked that the Air Technical Service Command transfer the Lightning from Wright Field to Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, a temporary holding area for Air Force museum aircraft. The P-38 arrived at the Oklahoma City Air Depot on June 27, 1945, and mechanics prepared the fighter for flyable storage.
Airplane Flight Reports for this Lightning also describe the following activities and movements:
6-21-45 Wright Field, Ohio, 5.15 hours of flying.
6-22-45Wright Field, Ohio, .35 minutes of flying by Lt. Col. Wendel [?] J. Kelley and P. Shannon.
6-25-45Altus, Oklahoma, .55 hours flown, pilot P. Shannon.
6-27-45Altus, Oklahoma, #2 engine changed, 1.05 hours flown by Air Corps F/O Ralph F. Coady.
10-5-45 OCATSC-GCAAF (Garden City Army Air Field, Garden City, Kansas), guns removed and ballast added.
10-8-45Adams Field, Little Rock, Arkansas.
5-28-46Freeman Field, Indiana, maintenance check by Air Corps Capt. H. M. Chadhowere [sp]?
7-24-46Freeman Field, Indiana, 1 hour local flight by 1st Lt. Charles C. Heckel.
7-31-46 Freeman Field, Indiana, 4120th AAF Base Unit, ferry flight to Orchard Place [Illinois] by 1st Lt. Charles C. Heckel.
On August 5, 1946, the AAF moved the aircraft to another storage site at the former Consolidated B-24 bomber assembly plant at Park Ridge, Illinois. A short time later, the AAF transferred custody of the Lightning and more than sixty other World War II-era airplanes to the Smithsonian National Air Museum. During the early 1950s, the Air Force moved these airplanes from Park Ridge to the Smithsonian storage site at Suitland, Maryland.
• • •
Quoting from Wikipedia | Lockheed P-38 Lightning:
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a World War II American fighter aircraft built by Lockheed. Developed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. Named "fork-tailed devil" by the Luftwaffe and "two planes, one pilot" by the Japanese, the P-38 was used in a number of roles, including dive bombing, level bombing, ground-attack, photo reconnaissance missions, and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings.
The P-38 was used most successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations as the mount of America’s top aces, Richard Bong (40 victories) and Thomas McGuire (38 victories). In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs toward the end of the war. The P-38 was unusually quiet for a fighter, the exhaust muffled by the turbo-superchargers. It was extremely forgiving, and could be mishandled in many ways, but the rate of roll was too slow for it to excel as a dogfighter. The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in production throughout American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day.
Variants: Lightning in maturity: P-38J
The P-38J was introduced in August 1943. The turbo-supercharger intercooler system on previous variants had been housed in the leading edges of the wings and had proven vulnerable to combat damage and could burst if the wrong series of controls were mistakenly activated. In the P-38J model, the streamlined engine nacelles of previous Lightnings were changed to fit the intercooler radiator between the oil coolers, forming a "chin" that visually distinguished the J model from its predecessors. While the P-38J used the same V-1710-89/91 engines as the H model, the new core-type intercooler more efficiently lowered intake manifold temperatures and permitted a substantial increase in rated power. The leading edge of the outer wing was fitted with 55 gal (208 l) fuel tanks, filling the space formerly occupied by intercooler tunnels, but these were omitted on early P-38J blocks due to limited availability.
The final 210 J models, designated P-38J-25-LO, alleviated the compressibility problem through the addition of a set of electrically-actuated dive recovery flaps just outboard of the engines on the bottom centerline of the wings. With these improvements, a USAAF pilot reported a dive speed of almost 600 mph (970 km/h), although the indicated air speed was later corrected for compressibility error, and the actual dive speed was lower. Lockheed manufactured over 200 retrofit modification kits to be installed on P-38J-10-LO and J-20-LO already in Europe, but the USAAF C-54 carrying them was shot down by an RAF pilot who mistook the Douglas transport for a German Focke-Wulf Condor. Unfortunately the loss of the kits came during Lockheed test pilot Tony LeVier‘s four-month morale-boosting tour of P-38 bases. Flying a new Lightning named "Snafuperman" modified to full P-38J-25-LO specs at Lockheed’s modification center near Belfast, LeVier captured the pilots’ full attention by routinely performing maneuvers during March 1944 that common Eighth Air Force wisdom held to be suicidal. It proved too little too late because the decision had already been made to re-equip with Mustangs.
The P-38J-25-LO production block also introduced hydraulically-boosted ailerons, one of the first times such a system was fitted to a fighter. This significantly improved the Lightning’s rate of roll and reduced control forces for the pilot. This production block and the following P-38L model are considered the definitive Lightnings, and Lockheed ramped up production, working with subcontractors across the country to produce hundreds of Lightnings each month.
Noted P-38 pilots
Richard Bong and Thomas McGuire
The American ace of aces and his closest competitor both flew Lightnings as they tallied 40 and 38 victories respectively. Majors Richard I. "Dick" Bong and Thomas J. "Tommy" McGuire of the USAAF competed for the top position. Both men were awarded the Medal of Honor.
McGuire was killed in air combat in January 1945 over the Philippines, after racking up 38 confirmed kills, making him the second-ranking American ace. Bong was rotated back to the United States as America’s ace of aces, after making 40 kills, becoming a test pilot. He was killed on 6 August 1945, the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, when his P-80 Shooting Star jet fighter flamed out on takeoff.
The famed aviator Charles Lindbergh toured the South Pacific as a civilian contractor for United Aircraft Corporation, comparing and evaluating performance of single- and twin-engined fighters for Vought. He worked to improve range and load limits of the F4U Corsair, flying both routine and combat strafing missions in Corsairs alongside Marine pilots. In Hollandia, he attached himself to the 475th FG flying P-38s so that he could investigate the twin-engine fighter. Though new to the machine, he was instrumental in extending the range of the P-38 through improved throttle settings, or engine-leaning techniques, notably by reducing engine speed to 1,600 rpm, setting the carburetors for auto-lean and flying at 185 mph (298 km/h) indicated airspeed which reduced fuel consumption to 70 gal/h, about 2.6 mpg. This combination of settings had been considered dangerous; it was thought it would upset the fuel mixture and cause an explosion. Everywhere Lindbergh went in the South Pacific, he was accorded the normal preferential treatment of a visiting colonel, though he had resigned his Air Corps Reserve colonel’s commission three years before. While with the 475th, he held training classes and took part in a number of Army Air Corps combat missions. On 28 July 1944, Lindbergh shot down a Mitsubishi Ki-51 "Sonia" flown expertly by the veteran commander of 73rd Independent Flying Chutai, Imperial Japanese Army Captain Saburo Shimada. In an extended, twisting dogfight in which many of the participants ran out of ammunition, Shimada turned his aircraft directly toward Lindbergh who was just approaching the combat area. Lindbergh fired in a defensive reaction brought on by Shimada’s apparent head-on ramming attack. Hit by cannon and machine gun fire, the "Sonia’s" propeller visibly slowed, but Shimada held his course. Lindbergh pulled up at the last moment to avoid collision as the damaged "Sonia" went into a steep dive, hit the ocean and sank. Lindbergh’s wingman, ace Joseph E. "Fishkiller" Miller, Jr., had also scored hits on the "Sonia" after it had begun its fatal dive, but Miller was certain the kill credit was Lindbergh’s. The unofficial kill was not entered in the 475th’s war record. On 12 August 1944 Lindbergh left Hollandia to return to the United States.
The seventh-ranking American ace, Charles H. MacDonald, flew a Lightning against the Japanese, scoring 27 kills in his famous aircraft, the Putt Putt Maru.
Main article: Robin Olds
Robin Olds was the last P-38 ace in the Eighth Air Force and the last in the ETO. Flying a P-38J, he downed five German fighters on two separate missions over France and Germany. He subsequently transitioned to P-51s to make seven more kills. After World War II, he flew F-4 Phantom IIs in Vietnam, ending his career as brigadier general with 16 kills.
A P-38 piloted by Clay Tice was the first American aircraft to land in Japan after VJ-Day, when he and his wingman set down on Nitagahara because his wingman was low on fuel.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Noted aviation pioneer and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry vanished in a F-5B-1-LO, 42-68223, c/n 2734, of Groupe de Chasse II/33, out of Borgo-Porreta, Bastia, Corsica, a reconnaissance variant of the P-38, while on a flight over the Mediterranean, from Corsica to mainland France, on 31 July 1944. His health, both physical and mental (he was said to be intermittently subject to depression), had been deteriorating and there had been talk of taking him off flight status. There have been suggestions (although no proof to date) that this was a suicide rather than an aircraft failure or combat loss. In 2000, a French scuba diver found the wreckage of a Lightning in the Mediterranean off the coast of Marseille, and it was confirmed in April 2004 as Saint-Exupéry’s F-5B. No evidence of air combat was found. In March 2008, a former Luftwaffe pilot, Horst Rippert from Jagdgruppe 200, claimed to have shot down Saint-Exupéry.
The RAF’s legendary photo-recon "ace", Wing Commander Adrian Warburton DSO DFC, was the pilot of a Lockheed P-38 borrowed from the USAAF that took off on 12 April 1944 to photograph targets in Germany. W/C Warburton failed to arrive at the rendezvous point and was never seen again. In 2003, his remains were recovered in Germany from his wrecked USAAF P-38 Lightning.
Image by Runs With Scissors
He was the rage when I went to Truman High School in the Bronx and was friends with many of my friends too. He and I came grew up in the same Bronx neighborhood.
Check out Sunday’s Daily News
Former Met Stanley Jefferson struggles to cope with horror of life as 9/11 cop
BY WAYNE COFFEY, DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Four flights up in Co-Op City, at the end of a hallway in Building 26, the big man sits in a big brown recliner, boxed in by four walls and demons and an emptiness that doesn’t end. If only it did. If only it were finite, measurable, like the outfields of Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium, or the other big-league parks he once called home.
Then Stanley Jefferson might be able to know exactly what he’s dealing with. Then he might be able to go outside, go to work, maybe share the things he still believes he has to give, and begin to pick up the shards of a life that sometimes seems broken beyond recognition.
It is early in a late-winter afternoon. In Florida the Mets and Yankees are playing their first spring-training games, the sense of renewal as palpable as the palm trees. In Building 26 in the Bronx, the feeling is different, and has been ever since Sept. 11, 2001. Stanley Jefferson, former big-league ballplayer and former New York City police officer, and one of the greatest schoolboy players the city has ever produced, has the remote in his hand, and his beloved Yorkshire terrier, Rocky, on his lap. His wife, Christie, is off at her job at a social-services agency in Westchester. The apartment is crammed with a sectional sofa and a desk and exercise machines that sit unused. Against one wall is a big fish tank. All the fish are dead. Against another is a big-screen television, where Jefferson plays his video games, and watches his comedies, laugh tracks sounding as days pass into weeks, and weeks into months.
"Raymond," "Family Guy," "Two and a Half Men," Stanley Jefferson likes them all.
"They keep my spirits up, rather than crying or brooding," he says. A faint smile crosses his broad, goateed face. The spirits do not stay up for long.
Fifteen years after his baseball career ended with a ruptured Achilles, two years after his police career ended when the department declared him unfit for duty, 44-year-old Stanley Jefferson, former shield No. 14299 and former uniform No. 13, wrangles with the NYPD over his disability benefit, and with a much more debilitating enemy: the ravages of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is a condition that the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a division of the U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs, defines as "an anxiety disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a traumatic event." For Jefferson, it has spawned everything from agoraphobia to panic attacks to immobilizing depression to recurring nightmares – one in which he is tormented by a ball of fire reminiscent of the explosion he witnessed when the second plane flew into the second tower a few minutes after 9 a.m. on 9/11, another in which he desperately tries to save a people in peril, but never manages to reach them.
Once, in 1983, Jefferson was a first-round draft choice of the Mets (taken one slot after the Red Sox selected a pitcher named Clemens), a blindingly fast, 5-11, 175-pound center fielder out of Truman High School, and Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach. He still might be the fastest player the organization has ever had. He was clocked running a 4.27 40 on a wet track during his Met tryout, and was timed at 3.0 from home to first in college. He had some 120 steals in his first three minor-league seasons, and hit an inside-the-park grand slam. Now he is 255 pounds and speeding nowhere.
He leaves the apartment about only twice a week, and even then it’s only if he feels safe, if he’s meeting someone close to him, such as Steve Bradstetter, 40, a Long Island businessman who is perhaps his closest friend.
"I have no life," Jefferson says, in a flat, baritone voice. "I’ve screwed up a lot of days." He pauses. He wrings his hands, something he does often. "I always thought this was something that would pass. I thought I could overcome anything, because that’s just my athletic mentality. I’m ashamed because I never thought that something like this could happen to me."
Says Christie, his wife of three years, "This is not the man I married."
* * *
Even by the sculpted body standards of professional sports, Stanley Jefferson’s physique – ropes of lean muscle on top of thick sprinter’s legs – always stood out. When you saw him in motion, it stood out even more. Willie Daniels, 44, a childhood friend of Jefferson’s from Co-Op City, played Little League with him, the two of them coached by Everod Jefferson, Stanley’s father. They went to Truman High together and then to Bethune-Cookman. Daniels still marvels at the time Jefferson beat out a two-hopper to first against the University of Miami. In one college season, Jefferson stole 67 of 68 bases, getting caught only when his spikes got stuck on a wet track.
"I played with Devon White, Shawon Dunston, Walt Weiss, a lot of guys. Stanley is one of the best pure athletes I’ve ever seen," Daniels says.
The Mets did not disagree. Two years after he made his pro debut in the Single-A New York-Penn League and was the league’s rookie of the year, Jefferson was one of the sensations of the club’s training camp. The year was 1986, and seven months before Mookie Wilson and Bill Buckner would become odd baseball bedfellows, Davey Johnson was likening the 23-year-old Jefferson to Chili Davis. Steve Schryver, director of minor-league operations, saw him as a young Bake McBride. Jefferson hit .500 in the spring, and if not for GM Frank Cashen’s reluctance to rush him, he probably would’ve made the team.
"How can you not love his future?" Rusty Staub said then. "You look at his skills and think ‘leadoff man.’ You think about 100 runs a season." Nor was he just a weapon at the top of the order. "If the ball is in the ballpark, Stanley Jefferson will catch it," said Joe McIlvaine, the future GM, envisioning Jefferson spending years alongside Darryl Strawberry.
Jefferson wound up fighting injuries most of the ’86 season in Tidewater, struggling with a chronic wrist problem and a hamstring pull. Still, he got a September call-up, and picked up his first big-league hit off the Padres’ Dave LaPoint. It was supposed to be just the beginning, before the performance of Lenny Dykstra and the lure of a star left fielder induced the Mets to make Jefferson a key part of a winter deal that brought Kevin McReynolds to Flushing. Fourteen games wound up being the entirety of Jefferson’s Met career.
Jefferson showed patches of promise in San Diego, stealing 34 bases in hitting eight homers and seven triples in 116 games, before a late-season slump left him with a .230 average. A natural righty who was converted into a switch-hitter by the Mets after he was drafted, Jefferson struggled from the left side, and wound up having trouble on his natural side, too. He had a run-in with manager Larry Bowa, and soon found himself on a journeyman’s carousel, doing bits of time with the Yankees, Orioles, Indians and Reds before he tore his Achilles tendon while playing winter ball in Puerto Rico after the 1991 season. He says he had tendinitis for years, but played through it. It wouldn’t be the last time Jefferson would ignore pain, try to push through it.
"Physically, athletically, I had all the tools. I didn’t live up to those lofty expectations," Jefferson says.
With baseball behind him, Jefferson went to work as a warehouse manager of a lighting company in Mt. Vernon, then spent a couple of years coaching in the minor leagues with the Mets and an independent team in Butte, Mont. His larger goal, though, was to become a New York City police officer. "I always wanted to be a cop, a detective," Jefferson says. He took the exam, went through a battery of psychological and physical tests and was sworn in on Dec. 8, 1997. "He was the perfect package for what you look for in a police officer," says Eric Josey, one of his instructors in the Police Academy. Jefferson graduated in the spring of 1998, posed for a graduation picture with Mayor Giuliani and Commissioner Safir, then was assigned to the 14th Pct., Midtown South.
"I would always tell him, ‘You got to live your dream twice,’" Willie Daniels says. "Most people don’t even get to live their dream once."
For almost four years, police work was all Jefferson hoped it would be. Another Labor Day came and went. Kids went back to school. It was a dazzlingly beautiful late-summer morning. It was a Tuesday.
* * *
Stanley Jefferson reported for work at 7:05 a.m. on Sept. 11, having flown all night on a red-eye after a family wedding in Seattle. Two hours later, in squad car 1726, he and his partner, Ed Kinloch, were at 6th Ave. and 38th St. They were eating breakfast. Jefferson, his muscled body built up to 210 pounds by regular trips to the gym, was having his usual bowl of oatmeal. A voice on the radio came on. It told of an explosion at the World Trade Center. They started heading downtown before being ordered to stop at Union Square. Jefferson and Kinloch got out of the car. Jefferson looked downtown and got his first glimpse of the remains of the first tower. He saw people jumping. He saw people waving towels, and more smoke than he’d ever seen in his life. He was still trying to fathom it when he watched the second plane rip right through the second tower. There was a ball of fire. It took a second or two for the sound of the horrific explosion to reach 14th St. Jefferson and Kinloch looked at each other.
"Oh, bleep," Kinloch said. "Did you see that?"
"We’ve got a problem here," Jefferson said.
They were told to stay around 14th St. Jefferson and Kinloch did what they could to help and direct people, and comfort them. "There was a lot of crying, a lot of hugging," Jefferson says. "You try to stay focused and do your job and not get caught up in people’s emotions, but it’s hard." A series of bomb threats followed. Jefferson worked until 9 p.m., and was back at Midtown South at 4 a.m., on the 12th. On Thursday and Friday, the 13th and 14th, Jefferson was at Ground Zero, according to his memo book. "World Trade Detail," he wrote. Each day, Jefferson worked a 12-hour shift – from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m., on the pile, on the bucket brigade, putting body parts in bags, the carnage seemingly endless, the beeping of the empty oxygen packs of departed firefighters a shrill symphony that never stopped. The packs and other equipment, most of it with burnt flesh attached, were thrown into a makeshift tent.
"It was the smell of death in there, a smell you never forget," Kinloch says.
Jefferson spent a number of other shifts around Ground Zero in the ensuing weeks, and by the end of the year, began to suffer from coughing spells and nightmares. He didn’t think much of it at first, until his symptoms worsened in the spring of 2002, not long after he was transferred to the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB), a move that he hoped would lead to a rapid promotion to detective. He started to experience periodic panic attacks, in which he would sweat profusely and feel his heart pounding as if it were a jackhammer. He also had trouble sleeping. While preparing reports for his IAB work, Jefferson says he began typing the same paragraph over and over.
"I didn’t know what was happening," he says. He did his best not to think about it, hoping it would go away.
"I was in complete denial," Jefferson says. "I wanted to be a detective, period. I just wanted to fake it until I could make it."
Bradstetter began to wonder what was going on with his friend. He and Jefferson used to play golf all the time, but now Jefferson had no interest in it. He stopped working out, began gaining weight and found it harder and harder to leave the apartment. First, Jefferson would make excuses to Bradstetter. Later he opened up, just a little.
"I don’t know what’s wrong with me," Jefferson told him.
Jefferson’s agoraphobia got progressively worse, and so did the panic attacks. His personal datebook shows 41 sick days in the first few months of 2003. Then, in March, days after he underwent an angiogram to correct a 30% blockage in his heart, Jefferson’s mother died suddenly, and the combination of grief and the ongoing aftershocks of 9/11 sent him spiraling downward.
* * *
To say that Jefferson feels betrayed by the police department he dreamed of being a part of is to grossly understate it. He believes that in his time of greatest need, he was treated with all the sensitivity of a pine-tar rag.
Perhaps the first major issue he had came down on June 23, 2003, just when his problems were deepening. Jefferson had a doctor’s appointment and told his immediate supervisor, Sgt. Michael Dowd, about it when his shift started. A short time before Jefferson had to leave, Dowd requested that he finish up a case he was working on. Jefferson reminded him of his appointment. Dowd insisted that Jefferson do the work, and Jefferson refused to comply. In an incident report to Capt. Michael O’Keefe, Dowd said Jefferson was profane and belligerent, screaming, ‘Who the bleep do you think you are talking to?"
Jefferson, in a counter-complaint, says that Dowd was upset because he wanted to leave to play golf. Jefferson subsequently filed a discrimination lawsuit in federal court, a case that he settled out of court for ,000 last year.
Five days after the dispute with Dowd, Jefferson suffered a panic attack as he drove from Co-Op City to the IAB office on Hudson Street. His vision was blurry, his heart pounding. Sweat was pouring out of him. He pulled over and went to the Lenox Hill Emergency Room. Jefferson’s bouts with panic – and fears he was having a heart attack – had made him such a regular at the ER in Our Lady of Mercy Hospital in Pelham that one technician gently told him he needed to stop coming. Now here he was in an ER again. He was terrified. He privately wondered when his troubles were going to end, and if he were going insane. He says his department superiors continually ignored his pleas – and the counsel of his therapist – to reduce his caseload and shift him from investigative to administrative work, an opinion that is backed up by Sgt. John Paolucci, another IAB officer who supported Jefferson in a letter to the department Medical Board.
"No consideration for his predicament was afforded him," Paolucci wrote, adding that the whole culture of the department tends to make anyone who is incapacitated an outcast. "Most will doubt the veracity of your illness and compassion is out of the question."
Police officials declined to address any specifics relating to Jefferson’s case.
Not even 48 hours after his visit to Lenox Hill, Jefferson, of his own volition, went to the NYPD’s Psychological Evaluation Unit in Queens. He had a two-hour intake meeting with a department therapist, Christie at his side. His two handguns were taken from him that day, and have never been returned, Jefferson being deemed unfit for police work. He was transferred to the VIPER unit – the lowest level of police work, involving the monitoring of surveillance cameras. "It’s the land of broken toys – where they send anyone with charges pending or a problem that makes them unable to work," Jefferson says.
On Nov. 8, 2004, the NYPD moved to place him on Ordinary Disability Retirement (ODR), based on a diagnosis of the department Medical Board of "major depressive disorder." Jefferson later applied for Accidental Disability Retirement (ADR), on the grounds that his condition was triggered by his Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome in the wake of 9/11 – a diagnosis made separately by a social worker and a psychiatrist who have treated Jefferson.
The ODR amounts to ,400 monthly. An ADR – granted to officers mentally or physically incapacitated in the line of duty – would provide Jefferson with just under ,000 monthly, tax-free. The Medical Board and the Pension Board, citing reports by psychiatrists, social workers and an examination of Jefferson, said his mother’s death and his heart problems were major triggers of his condition, and also mentioned the depressed feelings he had when his first wife and two daughters left him, in 1991. The Boards asserted that there was insufficient evidence to support a connection to 9/11 and Jefferson’s problems – a finding upheld in State Supreme Court in Manhattan last October.
Said Carolyn Wolpert, deputy chief of the pensions division of the city law department, "The city is grateful to Stanley Jefferson for his almost eight years of service as a police officer. Due to medical issues, the Police Pension Fund retired Officer Jefferson with ordinary disability benefits . . . The New York County Supreme Court found that there was credible medical evidence to support the determination that the officer’s disability was not caused by his World Trade Center assignment." Jeffrey L. Goldberg, a Lake Success, L.I.-based attorney representing Jefferson, is planning on filing a second application for ADR benefits for Jefferson. Only nine officers who responded to the World Trade Center attacks have been granted accidental disability benefits for psychological reasons, according to a police source. Goldberg believes it is all but a de facto administration policy. "Mayor Bloomberg considers accidental disability retirement a free lunch for a police officer like Stanley Jefferson," Goldberg says. "This is no free lunch. This is the real-life consequence of an officer responding to a tragedy and an emergency. Stanley Jefferson is a hero. He should be aided, not discarded. Hopefully, the city will recognize that and support him as he tries to recover from a terribly serious medical condition."
* * *
Last week was a good one for Stanley Jefferson. He made it to Goldberg’s office, after canceling a series of previous appointments. His daughters, Nicole, 21, and Brittany, 19, came to visit from Virginia. He went for coffee at a bookstore near Co-Op City, and opened up about every aspect of his six-year ordeal: his shame, his vulnerability, his embarrassment over having such a hard time walking out of Building 26, being in the world.
"I know people can’t understand it. I can’t understand," he says. He talks about the medications he takes to ease his anxiety and his depression, and about the drinking binges – Grey Goose and cranberry – he used to go on to escape his pain. "It’s what got me outside," Jefferson says. It also got him into full-blown rages, and a Westchester County treatment center last fall. He didn’t want to talk when he got there, before he began to see that his therapist was right: the silent suffering was nothing but fuel for the demons.
"I can’t let pride get in the way," Jefferson says.
Adds wife Christie, "I keep telling him he’s got to forget all the machismo right now, and realize he’s not the only one who has gone through this in his life, and work on taking care of himself." Steve Bradstetter, Jefferson’s friend, will always be grateful to Jefferson for the way he responded when Bradstetter’s mother died. It was February of 2000, and Jefferson accompanied Bradstetter on a drive to Massachusetts. "It was about the toughest circumstance I’ve ever had to deal with, and he was there for me," Bradstetter says. "He was like, ‘We’ll talk, we’ll laugh, we’ll try to make sense of it all.’"
Stanley Jefferson is a very different person than he was then. He is sad and often distant. When he and Bradstetter arrange to meet at a Dunkin’ Donuts or a diner, Jefferson waits in the car until he sees Bradstetter pull up. Only then does he feel safe enough to get out. Sometimes Bradstetter will see his friend start wringing his hands, see the beads of sweat running down his temple, his leg jiggling as it were stuck in full throttle. Bradstetter doesn’t know what to say. "It’s like his whole body is taken over by whatever issues he’s dealing with." He offers what comfort he can. He knows the real Stanley is still in there.
Tomorrow afternoon, Stanley Jefferson is supposed to go to Dobbs Ferry to meet with Bill Sullivan, the Mercy College baseball coach. Jefferson finished his degree at Mercy while he was on the force. Sullivan has gotten to know him and like him, and would love to have him help out as a volunteer assistant.
"He would be such an asset for our program," Sullivan says.
From his big brown chair on the fourth floor, Jefferson looks out a window, toward his terrace and a barren Co-Op City courtyard. He talks about the things he has to share in the world, how maybe he can work with kids. He says helping out at Mercy would be a great start. Jefferson knows he can’t cure his illness, but he can face it, and battle it. The towers may be down forever, and his days of getting to first in three seconds may be behind him. But who says the rebuilding of a life can’t begin anew? Who says a 44-year-old man can’t get back to first and second and third, and all the way back home, no matter how long it takes?
The big man leans back in his chair.
"I do have optimism," Stanley Jefferson says. "I do believe that I’m strong enough that I will eventually get better. I just have to keep working at it."
Originally published on March 4, 2007