Shipmates and Memorial. Last updated 03 October, 2021
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     The NAF China Lake & VX-5 Roster includes names that have been submitted by other shipmates and is sketchy at best. You're welcome to e-Mail me with additions, corrections etc.

    Roster entries with a Classmates notation are registered at  Public messages/requests etc. can be posted via the Yellowsheet link at the top of the page. There also is a U.S. Navy e-Mail locator service at

Memorial Memorial


Memorial located adjacent to the China Lake Museum of Armament and Technology.

Naval Construction Training Unit (NCTU) Installation Team.

Unless otherwise noted, the following information is courtesy of the China Lake Museum Foundation. A special thanks to Bertha Ryan for researching and providing the information.

Let us not forget:

    June 20, 1944 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Donald A. Innis, after whom Innis Road at Harvey Field is named, was over the Salton Sea in Southern California on a rocket firing flight when a rocket body exploded prematurely on his starboard wing. His F6F-3 Hellcat fighter (BuNo 40860) which was in a 14-degree dive at the time went into a slow spin and crashed into the sea.

    June 25, 1944 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Douglas J. Walthall and U.S. Navy Aviation Radioman 2nd class Wilson M. Keller of Composite Squadron 82, a torpedo bomber unit attached to the Air Facility temporarily for rocket training, lost their lives when their TBM-1C Torpedo Bomber (BuNo 46185) crashed during a rocket firing test on the B-2 range. A five-inch rocket exploded as it was fired, blowing off eight feet of Lt. Walthall's starboard wing. A board of inquiry found the rocket was improperly assembled and that the propellant had ignited the warhead.

    August 21, 1944 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant John "Jack" Armitage lost his life when his SB2C Helldiver, (BuNo 18248), crashed at NOTS Inyokern. Immediately after he fired an 11.75" Tiny Tim in a 20-degree dive at a range of 1500 yards his plane nosed over, passed through the rocket's blast cone and crashed. The board of inquiry found the firing had forced an outboard elevator tab up, keeping his plane in the dive and that passing through the blast cone had increased the effect. China Lake's Armitage Field is named for Lt. Armitage.

    August 29, 1944 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Robert A. Dibb, after whom Dibb Road on the Station is named, was killed when a five-inch AR rocket with a dummy head, fired for a rocket night calibration, ricocheted 500 feet into the air and took off one wing of his F6F-5 Hellcat (BuNo 58818.)

    January 21, 1948 - U.S. Navy Chief Torpedoman Wilber K. Smith lost his life when an air compressor exploded on "G" Range, Area "R".

    September 06, 1948 - Civil Service physicist H. W. Baldwin lost his life when he jumped from a burning B-29 Superfortress while on leave from NOTS, in transit for assignment to Institute of Nuclear Sciences.

    February 03, 1949 - U.S. Navy Commander A. Minvielle (pilot), U.S. Navy Reserve Lieutenant (junior grade) Charles Matus (co-pilot), Civil Service Dr. J. K. L. McDonald, Civil Service Dr. John McKinley, Civil Service employee Mr. Myron G. Kellogg, Civil Service employee Mr. Rodney Morrin and Civil Service employee Mr. Joseph Vargus lost their lives when their JRB-4 Expeditor (BuNo 90550) crashed in the Sierras. The wreckage was found 21 April 1949 near Owens Peak.

    February 04, 1949 - U.S. Air Force Captain Robert M. Madison lost his life when his airplane crashed into Lake Ponchatrain, New Orleans, Louisiana. Capt. Madison was returning to his home at China Lake when the accident occurred. Capt. Madison came to NOTS in 1946 and was a B-29 pilot assigned to the upper air research project. Robert was survived by his wife and two children, a son age 5 and a daughter age 3. Captain Madison also was the pilot of the China Lake based B-29 that crashed into Lake Mead, NV.

    July 10, 1952 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander John E. Darden lost his life when his F2H-2 Banshee (BuNo 125503) lost a wing in flight and crashed. This was the first flight test death at NAF since 1944.

    October 09, 1952 - U.S. Navy Aviation Boatswains mate Airman Raymond J. Irons lost his life during a catapult gear test.

    February 15, 1956 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant (junior grade) Charles Arthur Duffy lost his life when his F2H-2 Banshee (BuNo 123350) crashed during routine training while simulating an emergency.

    June 20, 1956 - Ralph Boal, civilian, lost his life at the Oakland Naval Hospital from injuries sustained in a May 1956 accident. Ralph was stationed behind a concrete barricade three feet thick, 12 feet high and 24 feet wide which was located 57 feet east of track and 1,800 feet down track from launching point. Primary cause of the accident was improper assembly of motors on the pusher sled permitting two rounds to become detached. Secondary cause appeared to be the failure of Ralph to take position entirely behind the barricade resulting in the loss of his right leg above the knee.

   October 10, 1956 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Bennett W. Hooks, VX-5 Project Officer and pilot, lost his life when his A4D-1 Skyhawk (BuNo 139926) crashed 5 miles south of Inyokern. According to Henry White (VX-5 Feb.1956 - Oct. 1957) it was determined that he was trying to bring his  A4D in on the deserted runway at Inyokern during an in-flight fire. The autopsy indicated he had inhaled the hot flames and probably died before impact. It was also said that the papers for his advancement to LCdr. were on his desk unsigned. The whole Squadron attended the funeral and he was buried at the Military Cemetery in San Diego with full military honors. Bennett was 33 years old and was survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

    June 06, 1957 - Civil Service employee Mr. William Earl Bowles lost his life from multiple injuries received when powder in a screw extruder machine ignited at the China Lake Pilot Plant.

    March 25, 1958 - USMC Private Jerald V. Roberts was killed by the accidental discharge of a .45 caliber automatic pistol Tuesday morning while on Sentry Duty at the South Gate.

    June 24, 1958 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Richard M. Hopfinger lost his life when his FJ-4B Fury (BuNo 139551) crashed during a refueling exercise off the coast of Monterey, CA. Operations were being conducted from the USS Bon Homme Richard.

    April 13, 1960 - Public Works employee Mr. Jesse Ariel Thomas lost his life in a SNORT Track incident.

    September 22, 1960 - U.S. Marine Corps Captain Howard O. Casada Jr. lost his life when his Navy F-104A Starfighter (56-0740) crashed near the junction of Mt. Wilson and Palmdale Roads in the Angeles Natl. Forest during a routine Sidewinder test flight. The cause of the crash was thought to be oxygen depletion at altitude. Howard was 29 years old and was survived by his wife, infant son and his father.

    October 21, 1960 - U.S. Navy Reserve Lieutenant Jan M. Graves lost his life when his F4D-1 Skyray (130745) crashed on runway 21. From an altitude of about 100 feet the Ford seemed to go over in slow motion and then careened down the runway coming to rest just to the right of runway 21, about 6,000 ft from the numbers. The cause was determined to have been a broken wire on the rudder system positioning feed back servo. The servo wire had excess solder 'wicked' up into it which made it stiff and brittle resulting in it breaking due to vibration which caused the rudder to fully deflect just after lift-off. Jan was 36 years old. ~ Related by Lou Spencer, Mike Kott who witnessed the crash and from Bruce Saiger who was on scene moments after the crash.

    December 13, 1960 - Civil Service employees Mr. Robert B. Hughes of Code 3081, Test Department, and Mr. Hubert J. Stanfill of Code 3081, Test Department, lost their lives at San Clemente Island when a rocket motor ignited prematurely.

    April 28, 1961 - U.S. Marine Corps Captain David L. Hess lost his life from injuries sustained on April  7th when his F-104A Starfighter (56-0757) crashed on takeoff from George AFB on a return flight to China Lake. The cause was determined to be a failure of the George AFB flight line personnel to activate all of the circuit breakers which prevented the after burners from firing during the take-off. The afterburner not firing affected the F-104's take-off performance into a quartering headwind. Capt. Hess was survived by his parents.

    September 17, 1962 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Fred J. Wilson lost his life when his F9F-6K Cougar drone (127273) crashed. An eyewitness was T. Herold who recalls that when he and the other F9F Plane Captains heard the returning flight on the radio they went out to watch them land. Wilson was #2 in a three plane Cougar drone formation that was coming out of the north to the south, and broke center field midway between the line shack and the drone hangar. The first one went well, but Lt. Wilson did a sharp bank to the left (almost a 90 degree turn) at about 800' alt. and almost immediately (it was that fast) his uncontrolled F9F plowed into the ground at about 200 knots and at a 90° plus angle. Pure chance that he missed the fuel farm and impacted between it and the gate. A very rusty ten inch water pump pliers was found in the debris field. It cast suspicion on Maintenance, but the rusty condition of the pliers indicated that they may have been missed during pre-flight and somehow locked up the flight controls.

    November 1962 - Civil Service employee Mr. Jonothan E. Rice died of propellant burns suffered in an accident on 20 November.

    March 31, 1964 - U.S. Air Force Major Thomas R. Brock (VX-5 pilot) & passengers AN Hobart C. Hale, AMSAN Edward L. Taylor and AMSAN Clarence E. Yates (all VX-5) lost their lives when the VX-5 UC-45J "Bugsmasher" (BuNo 29581), was blown off course in a storm and hit 3-4 feet from the top of Mt. Lancaster. The flight went missing while returning to NAF China Lake from NAS Lemoore and wasn't found for several weeks.

    May 16, 1964 - U.S. Navy Aviation Electrician 3rd Class (AE-3) Donald R. Baker lost his life in a skydiving accident during a demonstration for Armed Forces Day.

    June 11, 1965 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Douglas S. Mayfield lost his life on when his A-4C Skyhawk (BuNo 148524) was struck by target debris while on a photo mission over "B" Range. Within seconds of the Walleye striking the intended radar trailer target, Lt. Mayfield's Skyhawk was struck in the starboard wing by debris (a wheel) from the target. The Skyhawk pitched slightly nose up and yawed left and almost immediately the starboard wing broke off. The wounded Skyhawk rolled 360 degrees in the direction of the missing wing and impacted the ground. The entire accident took about 4 to 5 seconds from debris becoming visible in the flight path to the ensuing fireball and large scorch mark on the "B" Range desert surface. When the smoke and dust cleared the only recognizable wreckage was the wing that broke off. Doug was 33 years old and was survived by his wife, a son and two daughters.

    July 25, 1966 - John S. Agnew died at the Station Hospital Monday afternoon, July 25, of a cerebral thrombosis following an accident that occurred Friday, July 22, at "C" Range where he was loading inert bombs to be moved to a salvage area.

    March 15, 1967 - U.S. Navy Commander William L. "Mike" Reardon, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Robert R. Kornegay and USN Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class (ADJ-1) Vernon K. Whipkey lost their lives when their A-3B Skywarrior (BuNo 138952) came to earth eight miles short of the runway during a GCA approach to Lockbourne AFB, Columbus, OH. They were on their way to Quonset Point, RI to pick up a weapon that had been brought there a month earlier.

    August 1, 1967 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Tom Ewall (VX-5) and three civilians lost their lives when VX-5 A-7A Corsair II (BuNo 152674), doing passive Shrike runs, collided with the civilian Cessna 210B (N9771X) over Owens Peak.

    December 1, 1967 Mr. Richard L. Kiliz lost his life in an oven incident at Salt Wells.

    March 1970 - Alvin “Mike” Rector, civilian, Code 4543, Pyrotechnics Branch, at CT facility lost his life from injuries sustained in a previous accident while assembling an experimental piece of hardware which ignited directly in front of him causing severe burns over 40% of his body.

    April 2, 1970 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Gerald L. Hall was killed when his TA-4F Skyhawk (BuNo 153503) rolled inverted and crashed west of the runway during a landing at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base in Belton, MO. ADJ-2 Leroy Neville, the backseater, survived after ejecting sideways and hitting the ground after a single swing of his chute. Lt. Hall had a drop tank on the center line and a 'special' camera on 2 or 4.  The blivot was on the opposite hard point (2 or 4) and Lt. Hall was in the 'break' for a 360 overhead when the blivot peeled jamming the flight controls. Gerald was 29 years old and was survived by his wife and two sons.

    December 13, 1972 - Propulsion Development Department Civil Service employees Mr. Walter E. LaDassor (Explosives Branch) and Mr. Richard Plauson (Explosives Branch) lost their lives in an industrial accident involving explosives in a remote area of NWC. Walter was 47 years old and Richard was 36 years old.

    June 25, 1974 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant John P. Esposito lost his life when his A-7E Corsair II (BuNo 158023) crashed while validating a new computerized weapons delivery system. John was 27 years old.

    September 14, 1975 - U.S. Navy Seabee Michael Richard Glodo (Navy Self Help Program Office) lost his life from injuries sustained after his semi trailer left the road while he was transporting a bulldozer back from a job at Junction Ranch. Michael was 22 years old.

    May 21, 1976 - U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Detachment 67 Chief Warrant Officer (CWO-4) Charles D. Alderman, EOD-67 U.S. Navy Electricians Mate 1st Class (EM-1) Ralph E. Laux, Jr. and Civil Service employee Mr. Joseph A. Holman lost their lives in an Fuel-Air Explosive (FAE) accident on one of the Ranges. Charles was 46 years old, Ralph was 38 years old and Joseph was 45 years old.

    January 17, 1977 - Civil Service employee Mr. Larry D. Kreie lost his life when his military jeep overturned on a dry lake. Larry was employed in the Operations Support Group of the Range Department, Range Operation Division and was 20 years old.

    April 05, 1979 - U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Donald Monk and U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Mooring lost their lives when their OV-1D Mohawk (69-17000) crashed while operating out of NWC China Lake. They were conducting a test when their Mohawk went into a high speed stall at low altitude and crashed. Both were from Ft. Rucker, Alabama. Donald was 42 years old and Michael was 31 years old.

    August 13, 1979 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Theodore "Ted" Faller lost his life when his QF-86F Sabre (s/n 55-5073) suffered an engine failure moments after takeoff. Ted managed to bring the stricken aircraft down in a vacant lot 600 yards south of the Ridgecrest Heights Elementary School, later renamed Faller Elementary. His chase plane/wingman was Lt. Rosemary Conatser whom was also flying a QF-86 Sabre and was just getting airborne as Faller began to lose power. She circled overhead for a short time and returned to the NWC line shortly after rescue personal began to arrive on the scene. The first on scene was off-duty NWC Armitage Airfield civilian firefighter Cory Collins. He said that when he got there, Faller was conscious and alert, but couldn't get out of his harness. The gear was still retracted and Cory easily jumped up on the aircraft and attempted to release him as fire was engulfing the plane from the engine moving forward. By then Ridgecrest units and another NWC off-duty firefighter arrived, but weren't equipped to douse aviation fuel fires and by the time someone finally arrived with a knife, the rescuers, mainly civilians, were driven back by the intense heat and several were badly burned. Ted's wife was presented with a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross. Ted Faller was 36 years old. ~ from AMH Jim McCann, VX-5 A-7 PC, Airframes Mech., and Intermediate Hydraulics Tech.

    November 21, 1979 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Peter "Pete" Luem and U.S. Navy Ensign Steven D. Herning lost their lives when their VX-5 TA-7C Corsair II (BuNo 156748, XE-08) crashed while simulating close air support for troops in field training at Ft. Irwin. The chase plane/wingman was VX-5 C.O. Capt. Paul D. Stephenson flying VX-5 A-7E, XE-06, BuNo 160724. According to Capt. Stephenson and the accident investigation team XE-08 was about 100 ft. off the deck at 360 knots. when the plane suffered a catastrophic engine failure and exploded in mid air, so fast that the wing-tips blew off and the plane inverted scattering wreckage and debris over a mile with the engine continuing another several hundred feet beyond the debris field. This incident was significant as it was determined that the combustion wall area of the TF-30A engine had worn thin and suffered complete material failure leading to the explosion. The investigation of this accident prompted the Chief of Naval Operations and Chief of Naval Aviation Safety to "down" all fleet TA-7C's until a Power Plant A/F change could be made... thus the TF-30 "B" model engine was born. Peter was 37 years old  and Steven was 22 years old. ~ from AMH Jim McCann, VX-5, A-7 PC, Airframes Mech, and Intermediate Hydraulics Tech.

    September 30, 1980 - U.S. Navy Commander Dennis E. Becker lost his life in an accident involving a Mitchell Wing B-10 powered Ultralight during a familiarization flight for a technology demonstration and utilization project being conducted for the Navy Science Assistance Program. The crash occurred at Mirror Lake (dry). Dennis was 40 years old.

    March 03, 1981 - Contractor Mr. William O. Brooks lost his life when he was sucked into the intake of a  QF-86F Sabre drone during high power engine turnover. William was operating an electrical cart at the time of the accident.

    17 August 1983 - Civil Service employee Ms. Corrina Peterson lost her life in a flash flood while on travel status.

    October 23, 1983 - U.S. Marine Corps Major Harold Reeves lost his life when he ejected over the Sierras from his OV-10A Bronco (BuNo 155444). Major Reeves and his replacement at VX-5, U.S. Marine Corps Major Timothy Hill, were making a return flight from NAS Lemoore when an aircraft malfunction made it necessary for them to eject. Both Major Reeves, who was pronounced dead on arrival, and Major Hill were flown to the hospital at NAS Lemoore. The later suffered cuts and bruises and was flown back to China Lake on Monday afternoon. Both pilots came down on the side of a snow-covered mountain near Evolution Lake at the 12,500 ft. level. Subsequent investigation found that the speed altitude sensor sensed the 10,000 ft.+ ejection and delayed deployment of the parachutes. However, the aircraft was only 50 ft. above the mountain canyon rim causing Major Reeves to get a partial chute.

July 31, 1986 - Jeffrey Puterbaugh, Sub-Contractor assigned to China Lake, lost his life when he was electrocuted while installing roofing material with a cement pounder on the Earth and Planetary Sciences Building.

    March 28, 1990 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Mark A. Prusinski lost his life when his QF-86F Sabre crashed near Trona, between Ballarat and Wildrose Canyon. Mark was 28 years old.

    May 18, 1992 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant David W. Garnett and U.S. Navy Aviation Electrician Airman (AEAN) Lorenzo Rodriguez lost their lives when their MU2B-36 Solitaire (N742FN) crashed at Edwards Air Force Base where they were going in support of a China Lake project. The seven passengers were seriously injured, but survived.

   February 18, 1998 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Daniel F. Mondon, age 29; U.S. Navy Lieutenant Bruce A. Williams, age 36; U.S. Navy Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class (AET-3) Agustin Benitez-Rodriguez, age 23; U.S. Navy Aviation Metal smith 3rd Class (AMS-3) Michael S. Monaghan, age 21; and U.S. Navy Aviation Machinist Mate Airman (ADAN) Dalyn Wyatt, age 20, lost their lives when their SAR HH-1N Huey (BuNo 158770, #018) crashed in California's Sequoia National Forest. They left Armitage Field at China Lake at about 11 a.m. for a routine search and rescue training mission. The crash was first reported shortly after noon on Feb. 18 by a 911 call from a witness who saw the helicopter as it burst into flames and crash after it hit a power wire. Agustin Benitez-Rodriguez was not originally scheduled to be on that training flight and replaced a member of the aircrew who had been grounded by medical.

    October 19, 1998 - Luftwaffe Captain Bernd Kugler (pilot) and Luftwaffe Captain Andreas Macha (weapons systems operator) lost their lives when their Tornado IDS 43+36 plunged into a ground installation at Sea Site Three on Echo Range. Although the Tornado was assigned to the German Air Force Tactical Training Center at Holloman AFB, the crew came from the Jagdbombergeschwader at Memmingen, Germany. Six persons on the ground were injured or suffered smoke inhalation. The Tornado was on a routine training mission at the time of the crash.

    June 15, 1999 - U.S. Navy Aircraft Survival Equipment Airman (PRAN) Misty D. Warren lost her life parachuting from a civilian aircraft on Navy contract for parachute operations at California City, CA. Misty was 24 years old. Additional information can be found at: MistyDawn.htm

    August 30, 1999 - U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Kevin Leffler lost his life when his AV-8B Harrier (BuNo 162721) crashed during a routine test flight in Saline Valley, Death Valley National Park, CA. Col. Leffler ejected into high winds over Death Valley National Park, dropped into a canyon and died when his head struck a boulder.

    March 28, 2002 - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Jason “Pooh Bear” Bayer and U.S. Navy Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class Charles Clint King Chaco lost their lives when their U.S. Navy HH-1N Huey helicopter (BuNo 158553) crashed at about 1 p.m. near Split Mountain, Lake Isabella, CA (about 150 miles north of Los Angeles). The helicopter took off Thursday morning at about 12:30 p.m. EST from the Naval Weapons Test Squadron in China Lake, CA, and had been expected to return from its routine weapons test mission at 4:30 p.m. Survivors include Lieutenant Commander Ric McCarthy, Lieutenant Sean O'Brien, AT3 Damien Ramey and AT3 Megan McKee. LCdr. Bayer was 36 years old and was a member of the China Lake SAR team and an F/A-18 pilot who loved to fly. He was transferring to Point Mugu and wanted a last flight at China Lake before his traditional "wetting down" ceremony. There was space on the helicopter, so he went along for the ride that turned out to be his last. He leaves his wife Anne and daughter Gabriella. AD2 Chaco was 22 years old and reported to the "Dust Devils" of the Naval Weapons Test Squadron, China Lake in July 1998. He received the Navy Commendation Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Meritorious Unit Commendation. He leaves his wife Maria and unborn son.

    April 20, 2002 - U.S. Navy Commander Michael Norman and U.S. Marine Corps Captain Andrew Muhs (both Pt. Mugu) lost their lives when their QF-4S+ Phantom II (BuNo 155749) crashed during the Pt. Mugu Air show.

    July 18 , 2005 - NAS Lemoore based VFA-122 F/A-18F Super Hornet (BuNo 165670) and VFA-122 Super Hornet F/A-18E (BuNo 165662) collided over China Lake weapons testing ground during a fighter maneuvering training flight. Lieutenant Bruce L. Clark of Orange Park, Fla., 31, died in the accident. Lieutenant Noel Sawatzky and Lieutenant John Bonenfant were recovered by search and rescue crews.

    August 23, 2005 - William Wayne Moss, a civilian forklift driver was killed when a 2000+ lb Celotex bundle fell on him while working in Area R.


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