Updated: January 27, 2017
LCDR John M. McCall was killed in Feb. 1964 when he was putting on a show for a group of VIPs abroad the Saratoga off Mayport Fl. He was flying the shape of a heart with an arrow going through it using those photo flash canisters behind the cockpit, when the plane suddenly went straight into a dive. He punched out about 200 feet above the water, which is too low. His body was not recovered. Also see "faces of VFP-62" and below, a photo of his 200th arrested landing aboard the Saratoga.
Photos (courtesy Chief Scarborough)
- Update April 18, 2010: Chief Scarborough has it about right. I was aboard Sara as a "Spad Driver" with VA-35...observed the accident from the fantail area of the "flight deck...standing next to my Maintenance Officer, a friend and fellow churchgoer with Mac...
Air Wing was doing a "firepower demo" that day. Mac was performing a "photo loop"...tossing flares the whole way. Sky was overcast at about 2500'...Mac began his loop, up into the clouds...short time later, his RF8 descended through the cloud base in a flat inverted spin...damn near directly over our position! I was instantly aware he was not in control of the aircraft...started hauling butt forward toward the island...might give me a little cover. Heard the two "booms"...first the ejection seat fire, then the aircraft impact the sea.
As stated, Mac ejected at about two hundred feet...unfortunately, inverted...fired directly into the water...no chance.
Ron "Banty" Marron
Former LT USN
- Update (11/20/14)I know that every observer that day has his own mental film strip of the
event. I was in the center of the flight deck 'thwart the island. I saw the RF-8 approach the ship, port side, and then pull up into an almost vertical climb. He was discharging flares as he climbed and then disappeared, vertically, into the overcast. About 15-20 seconds later he reappeared directly over the flight deck, inverted with no spin.
He appeared to grow larger as he fell toward us. The flight deck erupted into a scatter of men running. I stood and watched. He had deployed the APU and was trying to restart with evidence of black smoke from the rear. Evidently he recovered a bit of hydraulic pressure as he maneuvered a bit to a position off the ship then nosed straight down. As he approached the water, nose down and cockpit toward the ship, he ejected at what I estimate 100 feet above flight deck level. I observed him and the plane impact the water off the port fantail by only 50 or so yards. He did not clear the seat.
I later heard scuttlebutt that he had obviously, from radio talk, chosen to stay with the plane to
spare the ship. To this day I believe I am here because of the heroic decision of Lcdr. Mac McCall that day.
Walt Wilson ET1 OE Div.
- (2/6/16)As for LCDR McCall, I do have one that our det got together and sprung on him. As you know all dets make up a patch to represent their det. Mr. McCall always said, "If you had a problem, 'Let's play it by ear'." Our patch was a leprechaun with a big ear. That cruise was a bad one for the USS Saratoga.
I was the man in charge of the mech plane captains on the detachment that LCDR McCall was the officer in charge of, aborad the USS SARATOGA.I was a first class mech. LCDR McCALL was the finest officer I ever served under. I feel very sorry for his family when the accident happened on the family day outing. I always thought he must have had a heart attack. He never tried to eject. What a loss. God bless his family.
(1/27/2017) [Webmaster: To see recently posted USS Saratoga CVA-60 detachment photos and stories, Click: Lt. Cdr. Mcall's Detachment Newsletters ]
- (2/14/16)I was stationed on board the Saratoga with det 43; he was my OinC. I remember he spent time with us in the line shack--- just talking to us plane captains. He was an easy man to talk to & he was always interested in what you had to say. He was well liked by all of us enlisted men. I have a picture of him sitting in the cockpit of his a/c after his 200th landing [see photo below].
- (8/21/16 My name is Brian McCall and I am a first cousin of John McCall. Upon his sister Madelyn's death last year, stories of John's military service were relatively unknown in the family.
After his tragic but heroic death, contact with his family faded away. I was only 8 years old when he passed but do remember staying at his house in Jacksonville in early 1961. His daughter Barbara is 3 years younger than me.
I saw on your website that Barbara recently contacted you. Would it be possible to forward her my email address in hopes I can reconnect with her.
John McCall was the best and brightest of our generation of first cousins. I often have wondered what he would accomplished in his lifetime.
Thank you for your website. And thank you to all these veterans who served our country and sacrificed their life and families for it.
Ps: John won the PA state mile track championship setting the state record at that time. He had broken his uncle Tom's, my father's twin brother, state record set 17 years earlier.
- (1/27/16) John Was my Uncle. What I remember was he was a great guy. He also ran on the track team at Penn State. He was a HS Penn Miler champion. My Mom was very proud of her brother.
Michael J. Madigan.
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