So long, Whitey

Ohio-born Rear Adm. Edward L. “Whitey” Feightner earned his private pilot license in 1940 just before his 21st birthday and moved to join the Army Air Corps but was told the wait would be upwards of eight months before he could get into a flight program. However, the Navy had no such backlog and an incident gave him some second thoughts about his planned wings of lead.

“I had already signed up for the Army Air Corps, and they had a little wait before we could go in,” Feightner recalled in a VMI interview in 2005. “One day an airplane landed at the airport and a guy walked into the hangar wearing Navy whites, and a yellow convertible comes screeching around the hangar and a blonde jumps out and gives him a big smooch, and off they went.”

Joining the Navy’s Air Cadet program, from which he earned his wings of gold and a butter bar to go along with it, the young F4F Wildcat pilot received orders for his first squadron– the Screaming Eagles of VF-5 aboard USS Yorktown (CV-5)— only to arrive at Pearl just after she had been sent to the bottom at Midway.

Nonetheless, the homeless nugget was soon absorbed into Butch O’Hare’s VF-3, with the famous ace saddling Feightner with his “Whitey” call sign due to the young ensign’s seemingly impervious ability to not tan in the Pacific sun.

Chopping to the Grim Reapers of VF-10 aboard USS Enterprise, Feightner splashed his first confirmed aerial victory, a Val that was attacking Big E at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in August 1942. He would go on to finish the war as an ace, with nine Japanese aircraft to his credit as well as numerous unconfirmed possibles. Most of his kills came in 1944 with Fighting Eight (VF-8) while flying Hellcats from USS Intrepid and USS Bunker Hill.

Grim Reaper pilot Lt. Edward Feightner in the cockpit of his F6F Hellcat, 1944

By 1945, he was an instructor and test pilot, giving a hand in helping to develop just about every classic carrier-borne fighter aircraft for the two next decades to include the Grumman F8F Bearcat, Grumman F7F Tigercat, Vought F7U Cutlass, McDonnell F2H Banshee, Vought F-8 Crusader, North American FJ-4 Fury, McDonald Douglas F4H-1 Phantom II, and others.

Whitey flew them all at one time or another– and had a hand in testing many of them: Vought F7U-1 Cutlass, McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee, Grumman F9F Panther, and Vought F6U-1 Pirate. Jets flying in formation from Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland, circa the 1950s. Original color photo courtesy of the Photographer, Commander Richard Timm, USN Retired. NH 101815-KN

In the meantime, he took breaks from that otherwise boring job to fly with the Blue Angels back when the Blues were in Cutlasses, command the Red Rippers of VF-11 as well as Carrier Air Group 10, and skipper the oiler USS Chikaskia (?!) and the helicopter carrier USS Okinawa (LPH-3).

Finishing his career as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) for Air, he retired in 1974 after 33 years of active duty, contributing his knowledge to the development of the F-14 and F-18 programs.

In short, if a six-foot stack of Tailhook and Proceedings magazines suddenly became sentient, it would be Feightner.

Whitey flew away this week on his final flight to join the assembling legions of the Greatest Generation, aged a ripe 100. Call the ball, sir.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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  1. So long, Whitey | laststandonzombieisland | Dolphin Dave - April 17, 2020

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