PH2009111210894On Oct. 19, 1962, the Pentagon’s Bureau of Aeronautics contacted Koch while he and Ecker were fishing in Orange Park, Fla. The bureau had a top-security mission in mind. “They called up and said, ‘Can you really take pictures this good?’ ” Ecker recalled. “We said not only ‘yes’ but ‘hell yes.’ ” A few days later, Ecker got his assignment to fly over Cuba. Ecker and the pilot of a plane that flew just off his starboard wing were assigned to photograph a suspected missile site at San Cristobal. After the Havana skyline appeared, Ecker banked to the west, flying right over a fleet of Cuban VFP-62 launchtrawlers.

Despite that warning, the jets proved too fast for Cuban air-defense gunners. The flight time over Cuba totaled only 4 minutes. “You could see the popcorn in your mirrors,” Ecker said, referring to the white puffs of smoke left by anti-aircraft fire. “But we never got hit.” One of the jet’s photos even captured a soldier scrambling from an outhouse. More importantly, the photos also showed soldiers conducting activities around missile bases.

“Then it got kind of hectic,” Ecker recalled. “We were flying right into the granddaddy of all thunderstorms. We’re talking a wall of clouds rising to 50,000, 60,000 feet. “Here I’ve got the pictures, and if the airplane gets busted all to pieces, it wouldn’t do anybody any good,” Ecker said. At the last second, Ecker saw a jet-sized hole open up in the clouds. “It was just a sunspot,” he said. “I said, ‘Burners, now!’ We popped out the top.”

On November 5th, 2009 CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret passed away at the age of 85 near his home in Punta Gorda, Florida.  Born in Omaha, Nebraska, he joined the Navy in October 1942 and completed fight training in April 1944.  From there he was assigned to VF-10, embarked in USS Intrepid (CV-11) and flew combat operations in the Pacific Theater until he left the squadron in November 1945.  A series of assignments at sea and ashore stretched through the following decade until he reported for duty in Research & Development at the Bureau of Aeronautics and Bureau of Naval Weapons from 1958 to 1961. After that he reported to VFP-62 as the Commanding Officer where he played a critical role in leading the first and subsequent low-level reconnaissance missions over Cuba to confirm the presence of medium-range ballistic missiles emplaced by the Soviet Union. He was awarded the DFC and VFP-62, the first peacetime Presidential Unit Citation in a ceremony attended by President Kennedy.

Following VFP-62, Captain Ecker became the Head of Naval Photography and Reconnaissance in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations until he was ordered to the Naval War College in 1966. While at the Naval War College, he received his Master of Science degree and after language training, he reported to the Military Assistance Advisory Group, Denmark, as Chief, Navy Section.

He commanded the Naval Air Technical Training Unit, which included the Naval Schools of Photography, for one year before being ordered to report to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in September 1971. From there, he retired in 1974.

(h/t Msgt Tony Tang USMC Retired for bringing it to my attention)

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Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors