Robert C. Rubel

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It was my third flight as an operational squadron pilot. Just four days before, I had reported to Attack Squadron 66 (VA-66) on board USS Independence, which was sailing in the eastern Mediterranean. There was no time to get me trained up before I was pressed into service on an operational mission. My A-7 Corsair was loaded with live five-hundred-pound bombs, and the ship was operating in "emission control"-that is, not radiating any electronic signals. This was because the United States had gone to Defense Condition Three, owing to the potential for a showdown with the Soviet Union in the eastern Mediterranean as a result of the Fourth Arab-Israeli War. I was supposed to be flying on the skipper's wing this day, being the new guy, but our rendezvous point was over a hundred miles from Independence. It was a very lonely flight, staying at two hundred feet above the water until I reached what I thought was that point. My relief was almost painful as I spotted the skipper's aircraft. I would not have to decide on my own whether World War III had started.