Paddles in action on board USS Leyte (CV 32), circa 1952.
The adjective “legendary” generally pops into any conversation about LSOs, and none is more legendary than “Dog” Fannon. This colorful character was the inspiration for “Beer Barrel,” one of the “where do we get such men?” characters in the novel/movie The Bridges at Toko-Ri. Tailhooker John Jenista of Fort Worth, Texas, submits the following Doug Fannon tale, swearing it to be an authentic TINS, “absolutely true, with no exaggeration”:
A TF-1 on approach for a carrier arrested landing.
“USS Yorktown (CVA 10) made her last ‘paddles’ cruise in 1956. A mirror was installed later that year in the San Francisco shipyard. Before that happened, however, a new type of COD aircraft, the Grumman TF-1, came inbound with mail one day. The pilot making the one of the last ‘paddles’ approaches to the ship was none other than Doug Fannon. The COD made a nice pass and shut down while still in the arresting gear. Almost immediately, the door of the TF flew open. An obviously agitated Fannon emerged and strode rapidly back to the LSO platform. There, he grabbed the Yorktown LSO by the front of his flight suit and delivered a legendary message:
‘Listen, Sonny, I saw what you were doing. You were giving me signals when I came aboard. Don’t you ever do that again! Whenever I come out here, you just stand there with a roger signal and watch me in the cockpit. When I nod my head, you give me a cut. Understand?’
“For a long time thereafter, whenever the COD came on board Yorktown, its pass was an automatic OK-3.”
The above story appeared in “From the Catwalk” in the Fall 1991 issue of The Hook.