Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West
On the morning of July 8, 1959 the Commander of VA-155, DeForest Joralmon took off from the USS Hancock (CVA-19) in Douglas A4D-2 Bu No 142817 with one other A4D-2 flown by LTJG J. F. Donahue. Their flight plan was to include a low altitude “Sandblower” (simulated special weapon attack mission) over the Mojave and Colorado deserts en route to El Centro NAF before returning to the USS Hancock. At about 8:30 AM CMDR Joralmon’s “Skyhawk suffered an explosion in the J65 jet engine, he immediately jettisoned his external fuel tanks and the inert practice weapon. CMDR Joralmon then tried to gain as much altitude as possible before ejecting. Sadly, the cannon armed ejection seat did not carry CMDR Joralmon high enough to allow full parachute deployment. His A4D-2 crashed into a ridge in the Stoddard Mountains and exploded scattering wreckage over a wide area.
The official Navy investigation found that mechanical/engine failure was the primary cause of the accident. Most of Bu No 142817’s wreckage was removed by the Navy in 1959, but 1%-2% remains at the crash site today. Later models of the famed “Skyhawk” were equipped with the zero/zero rocket ejection seat that would certainly have saved CMDR Joralmon’s life. In 1962 the A4D series of aircraft were designated A-4, the A4D-2 became the A-4B. The “Skyhawk” went on to serve the Navy and Marines for many decades before their retirement but a few years ago.
I was contacted by “Deke” DeForest Q. Joralmon, Jr. PhD in 2007 regarding his dad’s crash site, and again in 2008 about the possibility of placing a memorial marker at or near the site. Thanks to the cooperation and approval of the Bureau of Land Management this mission was accomplished in December 2008. Deke waited just prior to Christmas to share with his mother what he had accomplished in memory of his distinguished father. Deke has made his family proud and reminded all of us about those who serve in the armed forces to protect us no matter what the risks may be.
Photos courtesy of Deke Joralmon, Chris LeFave, P. J. Macha, and G.P. Macha.