Royal Air Force

pril 1st marks the anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. The RAF’s mission is to support the objectives of the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), which are to “provide the capabilities needed: to ensure the security and defence of the United Kingdom and overseas territories, including against terrorism; c to support the Government’s foreign policy objectives particularly in promoting international peace and security” The RAF describe its mission statement as “… to provide An agile, adaptable and capable Air Force that, person for person, is second to none, and that makes a decisive air power contribution in support of the UK Defence Mission”. The mission statement is supported by the RAF’s definition of air power, which guides its strategy. Air power is defined as “the ability to project power from the air and space to influence the behaviour of people or the course of events”

While the British were not the first to make use of heavier-than-air military aircraft, the RAF is the world’s oldest independent air force: that is, the first air force to become independent of army or navy control. It was founded on 1 April 1918, with headquarters located in the former Hotel Cecil, during the First World War, by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). At that time it was the largest air force in the world. After the war, the service was drastically cut and its inter-war years were relatively quiet, with the RAF taking responsibility for the control of Iraq and executing a number of minor actions in other parts of the British Empire. The RAF’s naval aviation branch, the Fleet Air Arm, was founded in 1924 but handed over to Admiralty control on 24 May 1939

Prior to, and During the Second World War The RAF underwent rapid expansion and Under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan of December 1939, the air forces of British Commonwealth countries trained and formed “Article XV squadrons” for service with RAF formations. Many individual personnel from these countries, and exiles from occupied Europe, also served with RAF squadrons. By the end of the war the Royal Canadian Air Force had contributed more than 30 squadrons to serve in RAF formations, similarly, approximately a quarter of Bomber Command’s personnel were Canadian Additionally, the Royal Australian Air Force represented around nine percent of all RAF personnel who served in the European and Mediterranean theatres. The RAF alsdeveloped the doctrine of strategic bombing which led to the construction of long-range bombers and became its main bombing strategy.

During the Battle of Britain in 1940, the RAF (supplemented by 2 Fleet Air Arm Squadrons, Polish, Czecho-Slovak and other multinational pilots and ground personnel) defended the skies over Britain against the numerically superior German Luftwaffe. In what is perhaps the most prolonged and complicated air campaign in history, the Battle of Britain contributed significantly to the delay and subsequent indefinite postponement of Hitler’s plans for an invasion of the United Kingdom (Operation Sealion). In the House of Commons on 20 August, prompted by the ongoing efforts of the RAF, Prime Minister Winston Churchill eloquently made a speech to the nation, where he said “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”.

The largest RAF effort during the war was the strategic bombing campaign against Germany by Bomber Command. While RAF bombing of Germany began almost immediately upon the outbreak of war, under the leadership of Air Chief Marshal Harris, these attacks became increasingly devastating from 1942 onward as new technology and greater numbers of superior aircraft became available. The RAF adopted night-time area bombing on German cities such as Hamburg and Dresden, and developed precision bombing techniques for specific operations, such as the “Dambusters” raid by No. 617 Squadron, or the Amiens prison raid known as Operation Jericho.

Following the Second World War, the RAF underwent significant re-organisation, as technological advances in air warfare saw the arrival of jet fighters and bombers. During the early stages of the Cold War, one of the first major operations undertaken by the Royal Air Force was in 1948 and the Berlin Airlift, codenamed Operation Plainfire. Between 26 June and the lifting of the Russian blockade of the city on 2 May, the RAF provided 17% of the total supplies delivered during the event, using Avro Yorks, Douglas Dakotas flying to Gatow Airport and Short Sunderlands flying to Lake Havel. Before Britain developed its own nuclear weapons the RAF was provided with American nuclear weapons under Project E. However following the development of its own arsenal, the British Government elected on 16 February 1960 to share the country’s nuclear deterrent between the RAF and submarines of the Royal Navy, first deciding on 13 April to concentrate solely on the air force’s V bomber fleet. These were initially armed with nuclear gravity bombs, later being equipped with the Blue Steel missile. Following the development of the Royal Navy’s Polaris submarines, the strategic nuclear deterrent passed to the navy’s submarines on 30 June 1969. With the introduction of Polaris, the RAF’s strategic nuclear role was reduced to a tactical one, using WE.177 gravity bombs. This tactical role was continued by the V bombers into the 1980s and until 1998 by Tornado GR1s.

For much of the Cold War the primary role of the RAF was the defence of Western Europe against potential attack by the Soviet Union, with many squadrons based in West Germany. With the decline of the British Empire, global operations were scaled back, and RAF Far East Air Force was disbanded on 31 October 1971. However The RAF fought in many battles in the Cold War period. In June 1948 the RAF commenced Operation Firedog against Malayan terrorists during the Malayan Emergency Which continued for the next 12 years until 1960 with aircraft flying out of RAF Tengah and RAF Butterworth. The RAF played a minor role in the Korean War, with flying boats taking part. From 1953 to 1956 the RAF Avro Lincoln squadrons carried out anti-Mau Mau operations in Kenya using its base at RAF Eastleigh. The Suez Crisis in 1956 saw a large RAF role, with aircraft operating from RAF Akrotiri and RAF Nicosia on Cyprus and RAF Luqa and RAF Hal Far on Malta as part of Operation Musketeer The Konfrontasi against Indonesia in the early 1960s did see use of RAF aircraft, although thanks to deft diplomacy it never developed into a full-scale war. One of the largest actions undertaken by the RAF during the cold war was the air campaign during the 1982 Falklands War, in which the RAF operated alongside the Fleet Air Arm. During the war, RAF aircraft were deployed in the mid-Atlantic at RAF Ascension Island and a detachment from No. 1 Squadron was deployed with the Royal Navy, operating from the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes. RAF pilots also flew missions using the Royal Navy’s Sea Harriers in the air-to-air combat role and remained in the South Atlantic to provide air defence to the Falkland Islands, based at RAF Mount Pleasant.

Since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the RAF’s focus has returned to delivering expeditionary air power and they have conducted Four major defence reviews: the 1990 Options for Change, the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, the 2003 Delivering Security in a Changing World and the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. All four defence reviews have resulted in steady reductions in manpower and numbers of aircraft, especially combat aircraft such as fast-jets. As part of the latest 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft was cancelled due to over spending and missing deadlines. Other reductions saw total RAF manpower reduced by 5,000 personnel to a trained strength of 33,000 and the early retirement of the Joint Force Harrier aircraft, the Harrier GR7/GR9. Since 1990 the RAF has been involved in several large-scale operations, including: the 1991 Gulf War the 1999 Kosovo War, the 2001 War in Afghanistan, the 2003 invasion and war in Iraq and the 2011 intervention in Libya.

In recent years fighter aircraft on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) have been increasingly required to scramble in response to efforts made by the Russian Air Force to approach British airspace. As of 2014 the RAF’s QRA force had been scrambled almost thirty times in the last three years: eleven times during 2010, ten times during 2011 and eight times during 2012. RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire and RAF Lossiemouth in Moray both provide Quick Reaction Alert, or QRA, and scramble their fighter jets within minutes to meet or intercept aircraft which give cause for concern. Lossiemouth generally covers the northern sector, while Coningsby provides QRA in the south. In 2015, a final stand-down saw the end of more than 70 years of RAF Search and Rescue provision in the UK. The RAF and Royal Navy’s Westland Sea King fleets, after over 30 years of service, were retired. A civilian contractor, Bristow Helicopters, took over responsibility for UK Search and Rescue, under a Private Finance Initiative with newly purchased Sikorsky S-92 and AgustaWestland AW189 aircraft. The new contract means that all UK SAR coverage is now provided by Bristow aircraf

Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history and Today the Royal Air Force maintains an operational fleet of various types of aircraft, described by the RAF as being “leading-edge” in terms of technology. This largely consists of fixed-wing aircraft, including: fighter and strike aircraft, airborne early warning and control aircraft, ISTAR and SIGINT aircraft, aerial refueling aircraft and strategic and tactical transport aircraft. The majority of the RAF’s rotary-wing aircraft form part of the tri-service Joint Helicopter Command in support of ground forces. Most of the RAF’s aircraft and personnel are based in the UK, with many others serving on operations (principally over Iraq and Syria) or at long-established overseas bases (Ascension Island, Cyprus, Gibraltar, and the Falkland Islands). Although the RAF is the principal British air power arm, the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm and the British Army’s Army Air Corps also deliver air power which is integrated into the maritime, littoral and land environments.

Gloster Meteor

The Gloster Meteor jet fighter plane made it’s maiden flight on March 5 1943. It was the first British jet fighter and the Allies’ first operational jet aircraft during the Second World War. The Meteor’s development was heavily reliant on its ground-breaking turbojet engines, pioneered by Sir Frank Whittle and his company, Power Jets Ltd. Development of the aircraft itself began in 1940, although work on the engines had been underway since 1936. The Meteor first flew in 1943 and commenced operations on 27 July 1944 with No. 616 Squadron RAF. Nicknamed the “Meatbox”, the Meteor was not a sophisticated aircraft in terms of its aerodynamics, but proved to be a successful combat fighter. Several major variants of the Meteor incorporated technological advances during the 1940s and 1950s. Thousands of Meteors were built to fly with the RAF and other air forces and remained in use for several decades. The Meteor saw limited action in the Second World War. Meteors of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) provided a significant contribution in the Korean War. Several other operators such as Argentina, Egypt and Israel flew Meteors in later regional conflicts. Specialised variants of the Meteor were developed for use in photo-reconnaissance and as night fighters.

The Meteor was also used for research and development purposes and broke several aviation records. On 7 November 1945, the first official air speed record by a jet aircraft was set by a Meteor F.3 of 606 miles per hour (975 km/h). In 1946, this record was broken when a Meteor F.4 reached a speed of 616 mph (991 km/h). Other performance-related records were broken in categories including flight time endurance, rate of climb, and speed. On 20 September 1945, a heavily modified Meteor I, powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent turbine engines driving propellers, became the first turboprop aircraft to fly. On 10 February 1954, a specially-adapted Meteor F.8, the “Meteor Prone Pilot”, which placed the pilot into a prone position to counteract inertial forces, took its first flight. During the 1950s, the Meteor became increasingly obsolete as more nations introduced jet fighters, with swept wing instead of the Meteor’s conventional straight wing; in RAF service, the Meteor was replaced by newer types such as the Hawker Hunter and Gloster Javelin. As of 2013, two Meteors, WL419 and WA638, remain in active service with the Martin-Baker company as ejection seat testbeds. Two further aircraft in the UK remain airworthy, as does another in Australia.

GlosterMeteor
Goster Meteor

Douglas Bader

World War II Royal Air Force flying ace Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader, CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, DL, FRAeS was born 21 February 1910 in St John’s Wood, London. His first two years were spent with McCann relatives in the Isle of Man while his father, accompanied by Bader’s mother and older brother Frederick worked in India. In 1912 Bader joined his parents in India for a year; however, when his father resigned from his job in 1913 the family moved back to London. and settled in Kew.Bader’s father saw action in the First World War in the Royal Engineers, and was wounded in action in 1917. He remained in France after the war, where, having attained the rank of major, he died in 1922 of complications from those wounds in a hospital in Saint-Omer, the same area where Bader would bail out and be captured in 1941. Bader’s mother remarried shortly thereafter to the Reverend Ernest William Hobbs. Bader was subsequently brought up in the rectory of the village of Sprotborough, near Doncaster, West Riding of Yorkshire. He was first sent as a boarder to Temple Grove School, which gave its boys a Spartan upbringing.

Bader found a new lease of life at St Edward’s School, where he received his secondary education. During his time there, he thrived at sports. Bader played rugby and often enjoyed physical battles with bigger and older opponents. The then Warden (or Headmaster), Henry E. Kendall, tolerated Bader’s aggressive and competitive nature. At one point, he made him a prefect despite what others saw as a strong streak of conceit in the boy. Fellow RAF night fighter and bomber pilots Guy Gibson and Adrian Warburton also attended the school. In later life, Bader was deemed to be so good that he was invited to play a trial (or friendly game) with the Harlequins.

Bader’s sporting interests continued into his military service. He was selected for the Royal Air Force cricket team, to play a first-class match against the Army at the Oval in July 1931. He scored 65 in one innings. In August, he played in a two-day game against the Royal Navy. He played cricket in a German prisoner of war camp after his capture in 1941, despite his later disability. In 1923, Bader, at the age of 13, was introduced to an Avro 504 during a school holiday trip to visit his aunt, Hazel, who was marrying RAF Flight Lieutenant Cyril Burge, adjutant at RAF Cranwell. Although he enjoyed the visit and took an interest in aviation, he showed no signs of becoming a keen pilot. Still very sports minded, an interest which dominated Bader’s formative years, he took less of an interest in his studies. Bader received guidance from Warden Kendall and, with Kendall’s encouragement, he excelled at his studies and was later accepted as a cadet at RAF Cranwell.

Soon afterwards, he was offered a place at Oxford University, but turned it down as he preferred Cambridge University. However His mother refused to allow Bader to attend Cambridge, claiming she could not afford the fees. A master at St. Edwards, a Mr Dingwall, helped pay these fees in part. Due to his new connection with Cyril Burge, Bader learned of the six annual prize cadetships offered by RAF Cranwell each year. Out of hundreds of applicants, he finished fifth. He left St Edward’s in early 1928, aged 18

In 1928, Bader joined the RAF as an officer cadet at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in rural Lincolnshire. He continued to excel at sports, and added hockey and boxing to his repertoire. Motorcycling was tolerated at Cranwell, though cadets usually took part in banned activities such as speeding, pillion racing and buying and racing motorcars. Bader was involved in these activities and was close to expulsion after being caught out too often, in addition to coming in 19th out of 21 in his class examinations; however, his commanding officer (CO), Air Vice-Marshal Frederick Halahan gave him a private warning about his conduct.

On 13 September 1928, Bader took his first flight with his instructor Flying Officer W. J. “Pissy” Pearson in an Avro 504. After just 11 hours and 15 minutes of flight time, he flew his first solo, on 19 February 1929. Bader competed for the “Sword of Honour” award at the end of his two-year course, but lost to Patrick Coote, his nearest rival. Coote went on to become the Wing Commander of Western Wing, British Air Forces Greece and was killed on 13 April 1941 while flying as an observer in a No. 211 Squadron Bristol Blenheim, L4819 flown by Flying Officer R. V. Herbert and was one of six of the squadron’s aircraft shot down over Greece by the Luftwaffe ace Unteroffizier, (later Leutnant) Fritz Gromotko.

On 26 July 1930, Bader was commissioned as a pilot officer into No. 23 Squadron RAF based at Kenley, Surrey. Flying Gloster Gamecocks and Bristol Bulldogs, Bader became a daredevil while training there, often flying illegal and dangerous stunts. While very fast for its time, the Bulldog had directional stability problems at low speeds, which made such stunts exceptionally dangerous. Strict orders were issued forbidding unauthorised aerobatics below 2,000 feet (610 m), which Douglas Bader repeatedly ignored in order to perform aerobatics. No. 23 Squadron had won the Hendon Air Show “pairs” event in 1929 and 1930. In 1931 Bader, teamed with Harry Day, successfully defended the squadron’s title. In 1931, Bader undertook training for the 1932 Hendon Air Show, hoping to win a second consecutive title. Two pilots had been killed attempting aerobatics. The pilots were warned not to practise these manoeuvres under 2,000 feet (610 m) and to keep above 500 feet (150 m) at all times.

Unfortunately on 14 December 1931, while visiting Reading Aero Club, he pushed his luck a bit too far while doing some low-flying aerobatics at Woodley Airfield in a Bulldog Mk. IIA, K1676, of 23 Squadron, and His aircraft crashed when the tip of the left wing touched the ground. Bader was rushed to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, where, in the hands of the prominent surgeon J. Leonard Joyce (1882–1939), both his legs were amputated. In 1932, Bader was transferred to the hospital at RAF Uxbridge and fought hard to regain his former abilities after he was given a new pair of artificial legs. In time, his agonising and determined efforts paid off, and he was able to drive a specially modified car, play golf, and even dance. During his convalescence there, he met and fell in love with Thelma Edwards, a waitress at a tea room called the Pantiles on the A30 London Road in Bagshot, Surrey. In 1932, Air Under-Secretary Philip Sassoon arranged for Bader to take up an Avro 504, which he piloted competently. A subsequent medical examination proved him fit for active service. However in 1933 The RAF reversed the decision and Bader was invalided out of the RAF, took an office job with the Asiatic Petroleum Company (now Shell) and, on 5 October 1933, married Thelma Edwards.

With increasing tensions in Europe between 1937–1939, Bader repeatedly requested that the Air Ministry give him a posting and he was finally invited to a selection board meeting at Adastral House in Kingsway. His flying abilities were vouched for by Air Vice Marshal Halahan, commandant of RAF Cranwell who asked the Central Flying School, Upavon, to assess his capabilities. So Bader reported for flight tests at the Central Flying School on 18 October 1939. Despite reluctance on the part of the establishment to allow him to apply for an A.1.B. (full flying category status), his persistent efforts paid off and Bader regained a medical categorisation for operational flying and was posted to the Central Flying School for a refresher course. Eight years after his accident, Bader flew solo again in an Avro Tutor; once airborne, he could not resist the temptation to turn the biplane upside down at 600 feet (180 m) inside the circuit area. Bader subsequently progressed through the Fairey Battle and Miles Master (the last training stage before flying Spitfires and Hurricanes).

In January 1940, Bader was posted to No. 19 Squadron based at RAF Duxford near Cambridge, where, at 29, he was older than most of his fellow pilots. His commanding officer, was Squadron Leader Geoffrey Stephenson. It was thought that Bader’s success as a fighter pilot was partly because of his having no legs; pilots pulling high “g-forces” in combat turns often “blacked out” as the flow of blood from the brain drained to other parts of the body, usually the legs. As Bader had no legs he could remain conscious longer, and thus had an advantage over more able-bodied opponents. During 1940 Bader practised formation flying, air tactics, and undertook flights over sea convoys. Bader found opposition to his ideas about aerial combat. He favoured using the sun and altitude to ambush the enemy, but the RAF did not share his opinions. Official orders/doctrine dictated that pilots should fly line-astern and attack singly. Despite this being at odds with his preferred tactics, Bader obeyed orders, and his skill saw him rapidly promoted to section leader. Unfortunately Bader crashed a Spitfire on take-off after forgetting to switch the propeller pitch from coarse to fine, and the aircraft careered down the runway at 80 mph, ultimately crashing. Despite a head wound, Bader got into another Spitfire for a second attempt. Leigh-Mallory made Bader a flight commander of No. 222 Squadron RAF advancing from flying officer to flight lieutenant.

Bader had his first taste of combat with No. 222 Squadron RAF, which was based at RAF Duxford commanded by Squadron Leader “Tubby” Mermagen. On 10 May the Wehrmacht invaded Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. The Western Allies had to retreat from Dunkirk during the battle for the port. RAF Squadrons were ordered to provide air supremacy for the Royal Navy during Operation Dynamo. While patrolling the coast near Dunkirk on 1 June 1940 at around 3,000 ft (910 m), Bader engaged a Messerschmitt Bf 109 in front of him, flying in the same direction and at approximately the same speed in aeriel combat. In the next patrol Bader was credited with downing a Heinkel He 111 and a Dornier Do 17, which was attacking Allied shipping.

In 1940 Bader joined 222 Squadron, and was then posted to command No. 242 Squadron RAF which was a Hawker Hurricane unit based at RAF Coltishall, mainly made up of Canadians who had suffered high losses in the Battle of France and had low morale. Despite initial resistance to their new commanding officer, the pilots were soon won over by Bader’s strong personality and perseverance, especially in cutting through red tape to make the squadron operational again. Bader transformed 242 Squadron back into an effective fighting unit. Upon the formation of No. 12 Group RAF, 242 Squadron was assigned to the Group while based at RAF Duxford. No. 242 Squadron only became fully operational in July 1940.

During July 1940 The Luftwaffe tried to achieve air supremacy in order to launch Operation Sea Lion, the codename for an invasion of Britain. Whilst on patrol Bader engaged a Dornier Do 17 on the Norfolk Coast, unfortunately The Dornier, which crashed into the sea off Cromer, was later confirmed by a member of the Royal Observer Corps. On 21 August, a similar engagement took place. This time, a Dornier went into the sea off Great Yarmouth and again the Observer Corps confirmed the claim. There were no survivors. Bader also shot down two Messerschmitt Bf 110s. In 1940, No. 242 Squadron was moved to Duxford again and found itself in the thick of the fighting and Bader brought down two more Messerschmitt BF 110s However Bader’s Hurricane was badly hit by a Bf 109. Later Bader shot down two Bf 109s, a Junkers Ju 88 and a Dornier.Do 17 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his combat leadership. On 15 September, known as the Battle of Britain Day, Bader flew seven combat missions and damaged two Dornier Do 17’s and a Junkers Ju 88. On 27 September He shot down Another Do 17, a Ju 88 and a Messerschmitt Bf 109. On 24 September, Bader was promoted to the war substantive rank of flight lieutenant.

Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Bader joined him as an active exponent of the controversial “Big Wing” theory which provoked much debate in the RAF during the battle. Bader favoured an aggressive policy of assembling large formations of defensive fighters north of London ready to inflict maximum damage on the massed German bomber formations as they flew over South East England instead of the careful “husbanding” tactics being used by Air Vice Marshal Keith Park, the commander of 11 Group. Park was supported by Fighter Command Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the overall commander. As the Battle progressed, Bader often found himself at the head of a composite wing of fighters consisting of up to five squadrons, known as the “Duxford Wing”.

Sir Keith Park, was replaced with Leigh-Mallory in November 1940. After the war, Bader insisted that both he and Leigh-Mallory wanted the Big Wing tactic enacted in 12 Group only as 11 Group, command was located too close to the enemy and they would not have enough time to assemble. Douglas was all for the Big Wings to counter the German formation. While Park always tried to get his squadrons into “Balbos”, Bader countered that seventy packed fighters would have taken too long to climb and could have been easy targets for Messerschmitt BF 109s, but conceded that two or three Balbos from 10 and 12 Groups, gaining height beyond the range of the 109s, may have played a terrific part in the fighting. During the Battle of Britain, Bader used three Hawker Hurricanes. The first was P3061, in which he scored six air victories. The second aircraft was unknown, but Bader did score one victory and two damaged in it on 9 September. The third was V7467. On 12 December 1940, Bader was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his services during the Battle of Britain. His unit, No. 242 Squadron, had claimed 62 aerial victories by which he was an acting squadron leader. In 1941, Bader was promoted to acting wing commander and became one of the first “wing leaders” Stationed at Tangmere with 145, 610 and 616 Squadrons under his command, Bader led his wing of Spitfires on sweeps and “Circus” operations (medium bomber escort) over north-western Europe which were designed to lure out and tie down German Luftwaffe fighter units that might otherwise serve on the Russian front.

One of the wing leader’s “perks” was permission to have his initials marked on his aircraft as personal identification, thus “D-B” was painted on the side of Bader’s Spitfire, giving rise to his radio call-sign “Dogsbody”. During 1941 his wing was re-equipped with Spitfire VBs, which had two Hispano 20 mm cannon and four .303 machine guns. Bader flew a Mk VA equipped with eight .303 machine guns. Bader’s combat missions were mainly fought against Bf 109s over France and the Channel. In May 1941 he shot down a number of Bf 109 ‘s from Jagdgeschwader 26 (Fighter Wing 26), led by German ace Adolf Galland, Who claimed his 68th victory. Bader and Galland met again 94 days later when Bader shot down a Bf 109E off the coast near Desvres. His victory was witnessed by two other pilots who saw a Bf 109 crash and the German pilot bail out. During July Bader also shot down more Bf 109Fs and a number of Bf190 E’s and was awarded the bar to his DSO. Bader wished to continue flying Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Bader’s immediate superior as OC No. 11 Group, Fighter Command, relented allowed Bader to continue frequent missions over France even though his score had reached 20

Between 24 March and 9 August 1941, Bader flew 62 fighter sweeps over France.[On 9 August 1941, Bader was flying a Spitfire Mk VA serial W3185 “D-B” on an offensive patrol over the French coast, looking for Messerschmitt Bf 109s from Abbeville or Wissant without his trusted wingman Alan Smith. Just after Bader’s section of four aircraft crossed the coast, 12 Bf 109s were spotted flying in formation approximately 2,000 to 3,000 feet (600 to 900 metres). Bader dived on them too fast and too steeply to be able to aim and fire his guns, and barely avoided colliding with one of them. He levelled out at 24,000 feet (7,300 metres) to find that he was now alone, separated from his section, when he spotted three pairs of Bf 109s a couple of miles in front of him. He destroyed one of them with a short burst of fire from close range and opened fire on a second Bf 109, when he noticed the two more on his left turning towards him. Bader made a break for it but unfortunately collided with one of the Messerschmitt Bf 109’s so He bailed out, however his prosthetic leg got trapped part way out of the cockpit and still attached to his aircraft, Bader fell for some time before he released his parachute, at which point the leg’s retaining strap snapped under the strain and he was pulled free. A Bf 109 flew by some 50 yards away as he neared the ground at around 4,000 feet (1,200 metres).

It is likely that Bader’s Spitfire W3185 came down at Mont Dupil Farm near the French village of Blaringhem, possibly near Desprez sawmill. A French witness, Jacques Taffin, saw the Spitfire disintegrating as it came down. He thought it had been hit by anti-aircraft fire, but none was active in the area. There were also no Spitfire remains in the area. The lack of any remains was not surprising, owing to the Spitfire breaking up on its descent. Historians have also been misled as to the whereabouts of the Spitfire because of a mistake in the book Reach for the Sky, in which Bader stated his leg had been dug out from the wreckage but was damaged, indicating a definite crash site. Bader’s leg had actually been found in an open field. The quest to find Bader’s Spitfire, W3185, shed light on the demise of another famous wartime ace, Wilhelm Balthasar, Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 2, who was killed in action on 3 July 1941 when his Bf 109F crashed into Ferme Goset, Wittes, France.

The Germans treated Bader with great respect. When he bailed out, Bader’s right prosthetic leg became trapped in the aircraft, and he escaped only when the leg’s retaining straps snapped after he pulled the ripcord on his parachute General Adolf Galland notified the British of his damaged leg and offered them safe passage to drop off a replacement. Hermann Göring himself gave the green light for the operation. The British responded on 19 August 1941 with the “Leg Operation” — an RAF bomber was allowed to drop a new prosthetic leg by parachute to St Omer, a Luftwaffe base in occupied France, as part of Circus 81 involving six Bristol Blenheims and a sizeable fighter escort. However The Germans were less impressed when, task done, the bombers proceeded on to their bombing mission to Gosnay Power Station near Bethune, although bad weather prevented it being attacked. Bader also arranged for Hans-Ulrich Rudel, a fellow amputee, to be fitted with an artificial leg.

Bader escaped from the hospital where he was recovering by tying together sheets. Initially the “rope” did not reach the ground; with the help of another patient, he slid the sheet from under the comatose New Zealand pilot, Bill Russell of No. 485 Squadron, who had had his arm amputated the day before. Russell’s bed was then moved to the window to act as an anchor. A French maid at the St. Omer hospital attempted to get in touch with British agents to enable Douglas to escape to Britain and obtained a letter from a peasant couple (a Mr. and Mrs. Hiecques), who promised to shelter him outside St. Omer until he could be passed further down the line. Until then, their son would wait outside the hospital every night until there was a chance of escape. Eventually, he escaped out of a window. The plan worked initially. Bader completed the long walk to the safe house despite wearing a British uniform. However another woman at the hospital betrayed his whereabouts He hid in the garden when a German staff car arrived at the house, but was found later. Bader denied that the couple had known he was there. They, along with the French woman at the hospital, were sent for forced labour in Germany. The couple survived. After the war, French authorities sentenced the woman informer to 20 years in prison. Over the next few years, Bader made himself a thorn in the side of the Germans. He often practised what the RAF personnel called “goon-baiting” and considered it his duty to cause as much trouble to the enemy as possible and made so many escape attempts that the Germans threatened to take away his legs. In August 1942, Bader escaped with Johnny Palmer and three others from the camp at Stalag Luft III B in Sagan. However, a Luftwaffe officer of Jagdgeschwader 26 was in the area. Keen to meet the Tangmere wing leader, he dropped by to see Bader, but when he knocked on his door, there was no answer. Soon the alarm was raised, and a few days later, Bader was recaptured. He was finally dispatched to the “escape-proof” Colditz Castle Oflag IV-C on 18 August 1942, where he remained until 15 April 1945 when it was liberated by the First United States Army.

After returning to Britain, Bader was given the honour of leading a victory flypast of 300 aircraft over London in June 1945. On 1 July, he was promoted to temporary wing commander. Bader began looking for a post in the RAF. Air Marshal Richard Atcherley, a former Schneider Trophy pilot, was commanding the Central Fighter Establishment at Tangmere. He and Bader had been junior officers at Kenley in 1930, while serving in No. 23 Squadron RAF. Bader was given the post of the Fighter Leader’s School commanding officer. He received a promotion to war substantive wing commander on 1 December and was promoted to temporary group captain.

After the War fighter aircraft’s roles grew significantly and Bader now spent most of his time instructing on ground attack and co-operation with ground forces. Bader did not get on with the newer generation of squadron leaders who considered him to be “out of date”. Air Marshal James Robb offered Bader a role commanding the North Weald sector of No. 11 Group RAF, an organisation steeped in Fighter Command and Battle of Britain history. Bader would have stayed in the RAF has his mentor Leigh-Mallory not been killed in an air crash in November 1944, after which Bader’s enthusiasm waned.

Bader left the RAF permanently in February 1946 with the rank of Group Captain. Bader considered politics, and standing as a Member of Parliament for his home constituency in the House of Commons. He despised how the three main political parties used war veterans for their own political ends. Instead, he resolved to join Royal Dutch Shell became Managing Director of Shell Aircraft until he retired in 1969. During the 1950s, a book and a film, Reach for the Sky, chronicled his life and RAF career to the end of the Second World War he also served as a technical advisor to the film, Battle of Britain. Bader also campaigned for the disabled and in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 1976 was appointed a Knight Bachelor “for services to disabled people” and continued to fly until ill health forced him to stop in 1979. He also read a eulogy at the funeral of Air Chief Marshal Keith Park. Bader died on 5 September 1982, at the age of 72, following a heart attack.

Chuck Yeager

Former United States Air Force officer, flying ace, and record-setting test pilot. Charles Elwood Yeager was born February 13, 1923, in Myra, West Virginia, He had two brothers, Roy and Hal Jr., and two sisters, Doris Ann (accidentally killed at age 2 by 6-year-old Roy playing with a shotgun and Pansy Lee. He graduated from high school in Hamlin, West Virginia, in June 1941. . His first experience with the military was as a teen at the Citizens Military Training Camp at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, Indiana, during the summers of 1939 and 1940. On February 26, 1945, Yeager married Glennis Dickhouse, and the couple had four children.

Yeager’s career began in World War II as a private in the United States Army Air Force. After serving as an aircraft mechanic, in September 1942 he entered enlisted pilot training and upon graduation was promoted to the rank of flight officer (the World War II USAAF equivalent to warrant officer) and became a P-51 fighter pilot. Yeager enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) on September 12, 1941, and became an aircraft mechanic at George Air Force Base, Victorville, California. At enlistment, Yeager was not eligible for flight training because of his age and educational background, but the entry of the U.S. into World War II less than three months later prompted the USAAF to alter its recruiting standards. Having unusually sharp vision (a visual acuity rated 20/10), which once enabled him to shoot a deer at 600 yards (550 m), Yeager displayed natural talent as a pilot and was accepted for flight training. He received his wings and a promotion to flight officer at Luke Field, Arizona, where he graduated from class 43C on March 10, 1943. Assigned to the 357th Fighter Group at Tonopah, Nevada, he initially trained as a fighter pilot, flying Bell P-39 Airacobras (being grounded for seven days for clipping a farmer’s tree during a training flight) and shipped overseas with the group on November 23, 1943.

He was Stationed in the United Kingdom at RAF Leiston, and flew P-51 Mustangs in combat with the 363d Fighter Squadron. He named his aircraft Glamorous Glen after his girlfriend, Glennis Faye Dickhouse, who became his wife in February 1945. Yeager had gained one victory before he was shot down over France in his first aircraft (P-51B-5-NA s/n 43-6763) on March 5, 1944 during his eighth mission. He escaped to Spain on March 30 with the help of the Maquis (French Resistance) and returned to England on May 15, 1944. During his stay with the Maquis, Yeager assisted the guerrillas in duties that did not involve direct combat; he helped construct bombs for the group, a skill that he had learned from his father. He was awarded the Bronze Star for helping a B-24 navigator, “Pat” Patterson, who was shot in the knee during the escape attempt, to cross the Pyrenees. Yeager cut off the tendon by which Patterson’s leg was hanging below the knee, then tied off the leg with a spare shirt made of parachute silk.

Despite a regulation prohibiting “evaders” (escaped pilots) from flying over enemy territory again, the purpose of which was to prevent a second capture from compromising resistance groups, Yeager was reinstated to flying combat. He had joined another evader, fellow P-51 pilot 1st Lt Fred Glover, in speaking directly to the Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, on June 12, 1944. With Glover pleading their case, they argued that because the Allies had invaded France and the Maquis were by then openly fighting the Nazis alongside Allied troops, if Yeager or Glover were shot down again, there was little about those who had previously helped them evade capture that could be revealed to the enemy.

Eisenhower, after gaining permission from the War Department to decide the requests, concurred with Yeager and Glover. Yeager later credited his postwar success in the Air Force to this decision, saying that his test pilot career followed naturally from his having been a decorated combat pilot, along with having been an aircraft mechanic before attending pilot school. In part, because of his maintenance background, he also frequently served as a maintenance officer in his flying units.

Yeager demonstrated outstanding flying skills and combat leadership. On October 12, 1944, he became the first pilot in his group to make “ace in a day,” downing five enemy aircraft in a single mission. Two of these kills were scored without firing a single shot: when he flew into firing position against a Messerschmitt Bf 109, the pilot of the aircraft panicked, breaking to starboard and colliding with his wingman. Yeager said both pilots bailed out. He finished the war with 11.5 official victories, including one of the first air-to-air victories over a jet fighter, a German Messerschmitt Me 262 that he shot down as it was on final approach for landing.

Yeager was commissioned a second lieutenant while at Leiston, and was promoted to captain before the end of his tour. He flew his 61st and final mission on January 15, 1945, and returned to the United States in early February. As an evader, he received his choice of assignments and, because his new wife was pregnant, chose Wright Field to be near his home in West Virginia. His high number of flight hours and maintenance experience qualified him to become a functional test pilot of repaired aircraft, which brought him under the command of Colonel Albert Boyd, head of the Aeronautical Systems Flight Test Division.

After the war, Yeager remained in the Air Force becoming a test pilot at Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base), following graduation from Air Materiel Command Flight Performance School (Class 46C). the USAAF selected Yeager to fly the rocket-powered Bell XS-1 in a NACA program to research high-speed flight. In 1947, he became the first pilot confirmed to have exceeded the speed of sound in level flight. As the first human to officially break the sound barrier, on October 14, 1947, he flew the experimental Bell X-1 at Mach 1 at an altitude of 45,000 ft (13,700 m), for which he won both the Collier and Mackay trophies in 1948. He then went on to break several other speed and altitude records.

Yeager retired from the Air Force at Norton Air Force Base in 1975 after serving over 33 years on active duty, although he continued to occasionally fly for the USAF and NASA as a consulting test pilot at Edwards AFB. Yeager made a cameo appearance in the movie The Right Stuff (1983). He played “Fred,” a bartender at “Pancho’s Place”, His own role was played by Sam Shepherd. During the 1980s, Yeager was connected to General Motors, publicizing AC Delco, the company’s automotive parts division. In 1986 he was invited to drive the Chevrolet Corvette pace car for the 70th running of the Indianapolis 500. In 1988, Yeager was again invited to drive the pace car, this time at the wheel of an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. In 1986, President Reagan appointed Yeager to the Rogers Commission that investigated the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Yeager set several light general aircraft performance records for speed, range, and endurance. Most notable were flights conducted on behalf of Piper Aircraft. On one such flight, Yeager performed an emergency landing as a result of fuel exhaustion. On another, he piloted Piper’s turboprop Cheyenne 400LS to a time-to-height record: FL350 (35,000 feet) in 16 minutes, exceeding the climb performance of a Boeing 737 at gross weight. Yeager also served as a technical adviser for three Electronic Arts flight simulator video games including Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Trainer, Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Trainer 2.0, and Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat. In 2009, Yeager participated in the documentary The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club, a profile of his friend Pancho Barnes.

On October 14, 1997, on the 50th anniversary of his historic flight past Mach 1, he flew a new Glamorous Glennis III, an F-15D Eagle, past Mach 1. The chase plane for the flight was an F-16 Fighting Falcon piloted by Bob Hoover, a longtime test, fighter and aerobatic pilot who had been Yeager’s wingman for the first supersonic flight. This was Yeager’s last official flight with the U.S. Air Force. He also received the Tony Jannus Award for his achievements. On October 14, 2012, on the 65th anniversary of breaking the sound barrier, Yeager repeated the experience in a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle piloted by Captain David Vincent out of Nellis Air Force Base.

Chuck Yeager received many honours during his career. In 1966, Yeager was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame and In 1973, Yeager was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. In December 1975, the U.S. Congress awarded Yeager a silver medal “equivalent to a noncombat Medal of Honor … for contributing immeasurably to aerospace science by risking his life in piloting the X-1 research airplane faster than the speed of sound on October 14, 1947.” President Gerald Ford presented the medal to Yeager in a ceremony at the White House on December 8, 1976. Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia, is also named in his honor. The Interstate 64/Interstate 77 bridge over the Kanawha River in Charleston is also named in his honor. Yeager also has a marker along Corridor G (part of U.S. 119) in his home Lincoln County, West Virginia and part of the highway is named the Yeager Highway. Yeager is an honorary board member of the humanitarian organization Wings of Hope. In 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver announced that Yeager would be one of 13 California Hall of Fame inductees in The California Museum’s yearlong exhibit. Flying Magazine ranked Yeager number 5 on its 2013 list of The 51 Heroes of Aviation; he is the highest-ranked living person on the list. The Civil Air Patrol, the volunteer auxiliary of the USAF, awards the Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager Award to its Senior Members as part of its Aerospace Education program. The General Chuck Yeager Cadet Squadron (SER-FL-237), associated with the Florida Wing, Civil Air Patrol, and based in Brandon, Florida, is also named in his honor.

Orville Wright

American Aviation Pioneer and youngest of The Wright brothers, Orville Wright sadly passed away 30 January 1948. Born 19th August 1871, he along with his elder brother Wilbur, is credited with inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina.The Wright Brothers spent a great deal of time observing birds in flight. They noticed that birds soared into the wind and that the air flowing over the curved surface of their wings created lift. Birds change the shape of their wings to turn and maneuver. They believed that they could use this technique to obtain roll control by warping, or changing the shape, of a portion of the wing.

The Wright Brothers designed their first aircraft: a small, biplane glider flown as a kite to test their solution for controlling the craft by wing warping. Wing warping is a method of arching the wingtips slightly to control the aircraft’s rolling motion and balance.Over the next three years, Wilbur and his brother Orville would design a series of gliders which would be flown in both unmanned (as kites) and piloted flights. They read about the works of Cayley, and Langley, and the hang-gliding flights of Otto Lilienthal. They corresponded with Octave Chanute concerning some of their ideas. They recognized that control of the flying aircraft would be the most crucial and hardest problem to solve. Following a successful glider test, the Wrights built and tested a full-size glider. They selected Kitty Hawk, North Carolina as their test site because of its wind, sand, hilly terrain and remote location

.In 1900, the Wrights successfully tested their new 50-pound biplane glider with its 17-foot wingspan and wing-warping mechanism at Kitty Hawk, in both unmanned and piloted flights. In fact, it was the first piloted glider. Based upon the results, the Wright Brothers planned to refine the controls and landing gear, and build a bigger glider.In 1901, at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, the Wright Brothers flew the largest glider ever flown, with a 22-foot wingspan, a weight of nearly 100 pounds and skids for landing. However, many problems occurred: the wings did not have enough lifting power; forward elevator was not effective in controlling the pitch; and the wing-warping mechanism occasionally caused the airplane to spin out of control. In their disappointment, they predicted that man will probably not fly in their lifetime.In spite of the problems with their last attempts at flight, the Wrights reviewed their test results and determined that the calculations they had used were not reliable. They decided to build a wind tunnel to test a variety of wing shapes and their effect on lift. Based upon these tests, the inventors had a greater understanding of how an airfoil (wing) works and could calculate with greater accuracy how well a particular wing design would fly. They planned to design a new glider with a 32-foot wingspan and a tail to help stabilize it.

During 1902, the brothers flew numerous test glides using their new glider. Their studies showed that a movable tail would help balance the craft and the Wright Brothers connected a movable tail to the wing-warping wires to coordinate turns. With successful glides to verify their wind tunnel tests, the inventors planned to build a powered aircraft. After months of studying how propellers work the Wright Brothers designed a motor and a new aircraft sturdy enough to accommodate the motor’s weight and vibrations. The craft weighed 700 pounds and came to be known as the Flyer.The brothers built a movable track to help launch the Flyer. This downhill track would help the aircraft gain enough airspeed to fly. After two attempts to fly this machine, one of which resulted in a minor crash, Orville Wright took the Flyer for a 12-second, sustained flight on December 17, 1903. This was the first successful, powered, piloted flight in history.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning piston-engined heavy bomber made its maiden flight on 27 January 1939. It was Developed for the United States Army Air Corps designed by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson and Manufactured by the Lockheed Corporation. It had distinctive twin booms and a central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. Allied propaganda claimed it had been nicknamed the fork-tailed devil (German: der Gabelschwanz-Teufel) by the Luftwaffe and “two planes, one pilot” (2飛行機、1パイロット Ni hikōki, ippairotto) by the Japanese. The P-38 was used for interception, dive bombing, level bombing, ground attack, night fighting, photo reconnaissance, radar and visual pathfinding for bombers and evacuation missions, and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings.

The P-38 was used most successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations as the aircraft of America’s top aces, Richard Bong (40 victories), Thomas McGuire (38 victories) and Charles H. MacDonald (27 victories). In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs toward the end of the war.

The P-38 was unusually quiet for a fighter, since the exhaust was muffled by the turbo-superchargers. It was extremely forgiving and could be mishandled in many ways but the rate of roll in the early versions was too low for it to excel as a dogfighter. The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in large-scale production throughout American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day. By the end of the war, orders for 1,887 more were cancelled and by the time the last P-38 came off the production line in 1945, 9,923 aircraft had been delivered to the USAAF. The P-38 was quickly declared obsolete in 1946 and the last USAF flight was in 1948.

This was an extremely complicated aircraft to maintain. The P-38 Lightning has been consistently on the civil registry since 1946 since the first aircraft were released from the military. It does remain a demanding aircraft with numerous crash incidents; several of the surviving planes have been rebuilt many times. A considerable number of late model Lightnings which had been converted by Lockheed to Photo Reconnaissance (F-5) models found a niche with photo mapping companies and until the middle 1960s these aircraft earned their keep through photo mapping assignments around the globe. Additionally, the latest military use of the P-38 was with several South American air forces, the largest of these being Fuerza Aérea Hondureña which operated the Lockheed Lightning until the early 1960s.

There were also a small number of P-38s that were purchased after the war for civilian air racing. It is from these sources that until the early 1980s all the remaining stocks of the P-38 Lightning could be drawn from. In 1948, representatives of the then-new country of South Korea attempted to purchase the brand new P-38L Lightnings stored in the Philippines (approximately 100 aircraft). Instead, the USAF persuaded them to accept AT-6s modified to ground attack role as well as worn out P-51D Mustangs; the brand new P-38s were destroyed. Soon collectors began scouring the world for forgotten aircraft. So far previously-unrestorable wrecked airframes have being recovered from the jungle of New Guinea, the wildness of Alaska and under the ice of Greenland And are now being restored for both static display and airworthy exhibition. So far 26 survive today, 22 of which are located in the United States, and 10 of which are airworthy.

Buzz Aldrin

American astronaut Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. was born January 20, 1930. He was the second person to walk on the Moon. He was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing in history. On July 20, 1969, he set foot on the Moon, following mission commander Neil Armstrong. He is also a retired United States Air Force pilot.

After graduating from Montclair High School in 1946, Aldrin turned down a full scholarship offer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and went to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Buzz Aldrin graduated third in his class at West Point in 1951, with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and served as a jet fighter pilot during the Korean War. He flew 66 combat missions in F-86 Sabres and shot down two Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 aircraft. The June 8, 1953, issue of Life magazine featured gun camera photos taken by Aldrin of one of the Russian pilots ejecting from his damaged aircraft

Subsequent to the war, Aldrin was assigned as an aerial gunnery instructor at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, and next was an aide to the dean of faculty at the United States Air Force Academy, which had recently begun operations in 1955. He flew F-100 Super Sabres as a flight commander at Bitburg Air Base, Germany, in the 22d Fighter Squadron. In 1963 Aldrin earned a doctor of science degree in astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His graduate thesis was “Line-of-sight guidance techniques for manned orbital rendezvous”,[9] the dedication of which read, “In the hopes that this work may in some way contribute to their exploration of space, this is dedicated to the crew members of this country’s present and future manned space programs. If only I could join them in their exciting endeavors!” On completion of his doctorate, he was assigned to the Gemini Target Office of the Air Force Space Systems Division in Los Angeles before his selection as an astronaut. His initial application to join the astronaut corps was rejected on the basis of having never been a test pilot; that prerequisite was lifted when he re-applied and was accepted into the third astronaut class.

Aldrin was selected as part of the third group of NASA astronauts selected in October 1963. Because test pilot experience was no longer a requirement, this was the first selection for which he was eligible. After the deaths of the original Gemini 9 prime crew, Elliot See and Charles Bassett, Aldrin and Jim Lovell were promoted to back-up crew for the mission. The main objective of the revised mission (Gemini 9A) was to rendezvous and dock with a target vehicle, but when this failed, Aldrin improvised an effective exercise for the craft to rendezvous with a coordinate in space. He was confirmed as pilot on Gemini 12, the last Gemini mission and the last chance to prove methods for extra-vehicular activity (EVA). Aldrin set a record for EVA, demonstrating that astronauts could work outside spacecraft.

On July 20, 1969, he became the second astronaut to walk on the Moon, keeping his record total EVA time until that was surpassed on Apollo 14. There has been much speculation about Aldrin’s desire at the time to be the first astronaut to walk on the Moon. According to different NASA accounts, he had originally been proposed as the first to step onto the Moon’s surface, but due to the physical positioning of the astronauts inside the compact lunar landing module, it was easier for the commander, Neil Armstrong, to be the first to exit the spacecraft. Aldrin, a Presbyterian, was the first person to hold a religious ceremony on the Moon.

After landing on the Moon, he radioed Earth: “I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way.” He gave himself Communion on the surface of the Moon, but he kept it secret because of a lawsuit brought by atheist activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair over the reading of Genesis on Apollo 8. Aldrin, a church elder, used a pastor’s home communion kit given to him by Dean Woodruff and reed words used by his pastor at Webster Presbyterian Church. Webster Presbyterian Church, a local congregation in Webster, Texas, (a Houston suburb near the Johnson Space Center) possesses the chalice used for communion on the Moon, and commemorates the event annually on the Sunday closest to July 20.