At 4:30 on the sunny afternoon of May 7, 1972, Naval Flight Officer Joseph Kernan and pilot Ron Polfar lifted off in an RA-5C Vigilante from the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, stationed off the coast of Vietnam. It was Kernan's 26th reconnaissance mission. The assignment: Take pictures of the target objective between 30 and 60 seconds after the last bomber had dropped its load.
Kernan observed the damage below as the Vigilante flew at 4,500 feet, at a speed of 563 knots (about 647 mph). Suddenly, the plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire—right up the rear end. The nose pitched down. Polfar leveled the wings and turned toward the safety of the water. Just 10 miles from the ship, less than a minute away, the jet began to spiral to Earth. Polfar struggled with the controls as the plane went through 3,200 feet. The altimeter was unwinding but could not keep up with the dive.
Kernan had to bail. He braced himself and pulled the handles on each side of his seat. The cockpit filled with light as the canopy jettisoned. He blacked out from the force of the ejection—23g. At the descent speed of the disabled jet—a mile every five seconds—a delay of one more tick would have meant certain death.
Want to hear more? Joe Kernan will be the keynote speaker at Mickey's men's camp this year. He will discuss both his military service, including his ordeal as a prisoner of war, and his distinguished political career as mayor of South Bend and as lieutenant governor and governor of Indiana.
The featured guest speaker for the women's camp will be Susan Bayh, former Indiana first lady, who will share her experiences not only as the wife of Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh but also as an advocate in the areas of adult literacy, breast cancer and various children's issues.
Professionals and champions at camp will include the Black Widow, repeatedly recognized by Billiards Digest as one of the sport's most powerful figures; Terry McWilliams, a touring bass fisherman who finished fourth in the 2007 Bass Masters Classic; and Hank Johnson, former coach of the U.S. Olympic boxing team.
Two of the sharpest poker players in the game, Jan Fisher and Linda Johnson, will return to teach the art of Texas Hold 'Em. Linda Johnson was the second woman in history to win a gold bracelet at the World Series of Poker and has won more than 100 poker tournaments. She has been dubbed the "first lady of poker."
New to camp, among others, will be internationally acclaimed artist Nancy Noel, photographer Pamela Mougin and the state women's singles table tennis champion, Ping Poulsen. Bob Hammel, Indiana sportswriter hall of famer who has witnessed and can discuss the greatest sporting events in Indiana history—including the Crispus Attucks championship game in 1955, Indiana University's 1968 appearance in the Rose Bowl, the 1972 Munich Olympics starring Mark Spitz, and the NCAA basketball championship games of 1976, 1981 and 1987—will also make his debut appearance at camp this summer.
Other returning favorites include Chuck Bower, ranked 29th all time on the American Backgammon Tour; Dennis Kasle, national bridge expert, who at one time was Indiana's youngest life master; and Nancy Fitzgerald, U.S. Golf Association Senior Women's Amateur Champion and a member of the Indiana Golf Hall of Fame.
Food will be provided by the best restaurants in town, including Sullivan's, Palomino, Mitchell's Fish Market, Outback Steakhouse, Great Cooks & Co., Scholars Inn, Cafe Patachou, Thomas Express and Harry & Izzy's.
Men and women will have an opportunity to choose from among 40 activities listed in camp brochures that will be available in May at mickeyscamp.com or by emailing me at the address below. The camp has sold out each year, always on a first-come, first-served basis. Please join us at scenic Bradford Woods near Mooresville for the women's camp Aug. 17-19 or the men's camp Aug. 19-21 and help donate more than $250,000 to central Indiana charities this summer.
Maurer is a shareholder in IBJ Media Corp., which owns Indianapolis Business Journal. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to email@example.com.