May 1

Blue Angels Skipper, Captain Arthur R. Hawkins, USN (Ret.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 12:01 AM

By

Future Captain Arthur R. Hawkins, USN (Ret.)

Future Captain Arthur R. Hawkins, USN (Ret.)

In this U.S. Naval Institute oral history excerpt, Captain Hawkins speaks about his becoming the first man to perform a through-the-canopy ejection from a jet aircraft on 4 August 1953, when his aircraft, an F9F-6 Cougar of the Blue Angels, encountered trouble at 42,000 feet.

After enlisting in the Naval Reserve in April 1942, Hawkins went through cadet training in Texas prior to being designated a naval aviator and commissioned in January 1943. During World War II, as a fighter pilot in VF-31, he flew in combat from the light carriers USS Cabot (CVL-28) and Belleau Wood (CVL-24). In all, he shot down 14 Japanese aircraft. He became a regular Navy officer in 1946, subsequently serving as a floatplane pilot in the cruiser USS Portsmouth (CL-102). He had two tours with the Blue Angels flight demonstration team, sandwiched around Korean War duty in Fighter Squadron 101, which operated from the carrier USS Princeton (CV-37). As skipper of the Blue Angels in 1953 he made the first through-the-canopy ejection from a jet aircraft, an F9F-6 Cougar. Subsequently, interspersed with tours of shore duty, Captain Hawkins commanded Attack Squadron 46, served as air officer on board the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42), and commanded Air Group One and the oiler USS Caloosahatchee (AO-98). He became a programming specialist during the McNamara years in the Pentagon, and he had a satisfying tour as commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Air Station Atsugi, Japan. He retired in June 1973.

Blue Angels F-9F (F9F-6) Cougar fighter aircraft flying in formation leaving vapor trails over Corpus Christi, Texas.

Blue Angels F9F-6 Cougar fighter aircraft flying in formation leaving vapor trails over Corpus Christi, Texas.

To read more about the Naval Institute Oral History Program, go to https://www.usni.org/heritage/oral-history-catalog.

 

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