Suicide by Ejection Seat.

 
Copyright 2014, Doug Robertson, posted on 2014-02-17

I was briefly stationed at Los Alamitos Naval Air Station near Long Beach in Southern California in the early-mid 1950s as an enlisted aviation VA squadron member. Typical of Naval Air Stations built during WWII, its large aircraft hangars were wooden structures with distinctive curved roofs covered with asphalt roofing. The hangar decks were concrete and opposite-end sliding hangar doors had in their upper half many-paned windows for day natural lighting. The hangar's roofs were extensively internally  braced with large horizontal, vertical and angle-bolted wood beams. Bird nests in the overhead were a not-infrequent occurrence, despite nearby jet noise. A second deck at the solid-walled hangar sides had a catwalk leading to some upper offices above the first deck toilets and tool cribs. Extensive hanging lights with circular metal reflectors illuminated the work surfaces for aircraft maintenance and inside aircraft storage. Separate night light switches turned on a few, spaced overhead lights during night hours. A duty watch patrolled the flight line and these hangars, making rounds during night shifts of the four hour long watches.

A young enlisted man not in my squadron nor personally known to me, but also stationed at Los Alamitos NAS at the time received a "Dear John" letter from his girlfriend. In his emotional grief and youthful inexperience, perhaps, he entered one of the aircraft hangars during the night, unseen by the roving night duty watch. He climbed into a jet aircraft parked in the hangar. He then pulled the safety pins from the aircraft's ejection seat and pulled down the face curtain, ejecting him with the seat into the hangar overhead. His lifeless body and the mangled seat was found on the hangar deck the next morning. I have no recollection of which naval aircraft was used for his fateful ejection.  


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