My father was recalled into the Air Force in the summer of 1954, as a highly qualified navigator, interrupting his PhD studies in Physics at USC. We were posted to Japan, and in 1956 he was killed on a reconnaissance flight out of Yokota Air Force Base, possibly shot down, on an intelligence-gathering mission, quite probably overflying Soviet air space to "light up" and map Soviet electronic air defense systems. The official records of the mission are still classified, so from government sources we don't know anything certain or reliable: except that it is the only remaining flight lost in that theater of the Cold War which hasn't been accounted for by research among Russian archives, with the co-operation of Russian authorities, or in meetings by American investigators with former Soviet pilots and military personnel. What we know is a triangulation of oral and a growing body of printed sources, his service record, and some official and family correspondence: The golden triangle of archives, publications, and oral history.
Change of scene: We returned to the States on the USNS E.D. Patrick, my father having been declared officially dead. Fifty years later, after my mother died, my little brother sent me some things of my father's which Mom had meant me to have. Among these was a paint-spattered dark blue book with "THE ARMED FORCES OFFICER" in gold lettering centred top on the front cover, and "DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE" centred in smaller letters at the bottom. Inside my father has signed it:
Squadron Officers' Course
The inscription was written with a nibbed fountain pen. The wet blue ink and the metal nib have burred the fabric of the paper, so there is a slight bleed as the pen is lifted for take off - 54-H might be "54-14" or even "54-A". Not many of my father's things have come down to me. This is the only one which shows the physicality of his presence, and his hand in motion. Elsewhere on the page I have written "141": an item number in a personal archiving bout.