I believe I was in the last Air Force class (55-L) to train in the T6. It had been known by the Navy as the SNJ during World War II. It was also known in the United States as the Texan and in the United Kingdom as the Harvard.
Sometimes we aviation cadets called it the Terrible Texan, but if you could fly it, you could fly anything with wings. It had a Pratt & Whitney “Wasp” 600-horsepower radial engine. The T6 was a classy tail-dragger and sexy-looking, and if I could afford the fuel I’d just love to have one to tool around in.
The plane was very aerodynamic: It could recover itself from most radical maneuvers, including spin. All you had to do was let go of the controls — that is if you had enough altitude.
I served in the Air Force from 1954-56 during the Korean War and in the Air Force Ready Reserves from 1956-62. Originally in the college class of 1954, I returned on the GI Bill and graduated from the University of Maine at Orono in 1957.
I was recruited as a senior by the NSA, which in those days meant “No Such Agency” or “Never Say Anything”; the correct name was the National Security Agency. My recruitment is a rather funny story that has appeared in a CIA newsletter, as well as a UMaine publication.
From 1957 to 1960 I was an operations officer with NSA and was recruited in 1960 by CIA as a clandestine service operative overseas. I am a veteran of the Cold War, and I was in the Air Force Reserve until 1962. I am a veteran of the Vietnam War, although as close as I got to Viet Nam was operations in Laos.
Richard Gay lives in Blue Hill.