Published Authors

Fighter 'Gator

by John E. Norvell

This story is about Lt Colonel John E. Norvell’s quest to fly and David Garbe’s work to restore the shell of F-4D 0720. It first focuses on Norvell’s flight training, selection to be a backseater in the F-4, time in combat in Thailand, and F-4 flying over Alaska, providing “Top Cover for America.” Then, the appendix covers Garbe’s work to find a bird, get the parts, and rebuild the front cockpit area. It is a story of duty and dedication. It covers how the crews trained to fly the Phantom, the specialized survival schools they attended, their entrance in combat, and the toll it took on them.

Lt Colonel John E. Norvell tells the story from the perspective of an F-4 backseater or GIB. It is a story of his comrades and the stress he felt from a year-long separation from his wife. He describes the daily combat and how it affected him. He stresses the professionalism and dedication of the aircrews who flew the hostile skies of South East Asia. When the air war ends, he tells of the boredom and frustrations of warriors without a war.

Then his story moves to Alaska, where he attends arctic survival school and is stationed at remote sites to provide “Top Cover” alert guarding North America against Soviet aircraft incursions. Alaska is a very different type of flying, and it is clear that he enjoys all that Alaska has to offer.

Finally, he discusses the role that his mentor Major Theodore J. Shorack played in his life. Shorack was lost while on a rescue mission over North Vietnam. Norvell considers him to be a personification of the three cardinal principles of the military: Duty, Honor, County. In the end, Norvell looks at the past nearly 50 years and tells what it meant to him to fly and be a military officer.