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An Eyewitness Account
by George Bilodeau, PRC, USN (Ret.)
My name is George L. Bilodeau and I served aboard USS Midway (CVB-41) from Sept. 1951- early 1953. I was assigned to V-3 (gasoline) Division. You have some photos of an F9F Panther going through the barricade and slamming into the pack on the bow. I remember that vividly as I was in the catwalk (I was a phone talker connected to the forward gasoline pump room) right at the point of impact.
One photo shows the plane dragging the barricade. There are two men in that photo. One of them is jumping into the catwalk. That was a plane director. The other is in the catwalk. That could very well have been me. I remember I was standing on a gasoline proportioner and when the crash alarm went off I looked up and got a fantastic view of the plane coming straight at me. It didn't take me long to jump into the catwalk and down onto the gallery deck and into my living compartment. All the time I was hollering for an emergency drawback (on the fuel lines).
The crash burned two of our crew badly and they received medical discharges. They were AB2 Bliss who was a Gasoline Checker (he got the total remaining on-board fuel quantity from the pilot) and the other was AB3 Riley. He was a crew leader. The incident happened on the LANFLEX cruise in 1952. The plane had a white band painted (actually whitewashed) around the fuselage and also each wing. Other aircraft participating in the exercise from other ships had different markings.
George Bilodeau sitting on
a gasoline proportioner in 1951.