|Birth: ||Dec. 12, 1923|
|Death: ||Apr. 16, 1968|
Thad Neal was my Father's childhood friend and probably his best friend. At the time of his death, he was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force and a commander of a squadren of C-123 cargo planes stationed in Florida. He and his crew were on a training mission getting ready to be deployed to Vietnam when his plane went down. He left behind his wife Elizabeth "Trinka" Seeley Neal, two daughters Cindy and Julie Beth, and two sons Bob and Mark - also his parents Henry Erwin "Pap" Neal, Jr and Adah Swift Coxe "Miss Adah" Neal. Thad was the only child that his parents had together. Henry had been married once before. They refered to him as "Tad" and doted on him.
Thad was somewhat of a daredevil and my father was always telling of his exploits. One of dads favorites was how Thad had gotten in trouble by flying his B-36 turboprop too low over a community by where he was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, Texas. I accidently found confirmation of this event from another source after all these years on an internet site called
Excerts from that site-----
The following is taken from recollections of the surviving members reminising about their adventures in that bygone era when the cold war could have gone hot at any time.
Almost everyone who was a part of the B-36 program has a story to tell that is special to him. Space does not permit recording all of them, and many are not documented, but that does not infer that they did not happen. In this section we present just a few of those stories
BUZZ JOB as told by LTC Frank F. Kleinwechter
Quite often, the B-36 would be called upon to demonstrate how quickly it could get off the ground, especially when loaded with a minimum amount of fuel. On a Sunday afternoon in October 1954 a group of firemen were having a convention in town and were on a tour of the Base. In order for a person to draw his flight pay he was required to fly at least fours a month, and 100 hours each year. Thad Neal's crew was scheduled for a two or three week leave in October, so in order to get in the required flying time this pilot proficiency mission was set up for the crew. I believe it was on a Sunday afternoon.
Before leaving home for the Base that morning, Thad called and told me to have Rin (my wife) standing by with the movie camera. I knew he had visitors and that he wanted them to get a good look at the plane, so I expected that it would be a low flyover but had no idea just how low he planned on making it.
The visiting firemen were on the ramp at the time of our take off so Thad was directed to make a maximum performance takeoff and then come around with the low pass over. With a minimum fuel load the B-36 really got off the ground in a hurry. We taxied onto the runway heading south and set the brakes. Thad called for full power on the six recips and four jet engines. That old bird started to stutter and seemed to skid until the brakes were released. I don't think we used a thousand feet of runway before breaking ground. We leveled off at four thousand and headed to the north end of Eagle Mountain Lake at 4,000' before turning south and heading for the north end of the runway. When over Eagle Mountain Lake the plane turned south. With "six turning and four burning" the plane headed directly for the north end of the runway. In a shallow dive with full power the plane skimmed down the runway at almost no altitude. I don't know how fast we were going but it had to be at least 180 mph. Thad kept right on the deck for the whole length of the runway. I was sitting in the glass nose and had a good view. The operators in the GCA shack along side the runway took a dive for the ground as the plane approached with the props almost ticking the concrete.
Thad had originally planned on flying directly over his house. Between the Base and West Ridglea the ground rises maybe a hundred feet so. Thad could not get a true bead on his house from the low altitude so he flew down the road where Ridgmar Mall sits today. Climbing over the small ridge he soon spotted his house just a wee bit off to the left. Still following the terrain he pushed the nose down a bit again but did not dare to drop the wing in a turn. After crossing he ridge, the land gradually gets lower until it reaches Mary's Creek. We stayed on the deck all the way and then part way down highway 377. Then we climbed back to altitude and my log book show we flew for six hours.
Trinka was in her front yard filming the approach, until frightened, when she dropped the camera. Rin had heard us takeoff so she got our camera and sat on the back porch to wait for the next event. It came so fast and caught her by surprise so that all she could do was step off the porch and shoot between the two houses. She did get a short blip of film as we passed about a block away. She did run out front and got a few feet as we few down the hill to the Creek, then she went in the house and poured herself a stiff drink.
As we flew down the highway I recall seeing cars stop and people head for the ditches. Several years later I was telling this story to some co-workers at General Dynamics and one man told me that he was one of those that had sought shelter in a ditch.
We landed and went home to prepare for our vacation not realizing the furor that was going on in Headquarters. One man had called in demanding that his TV antenna be returned. He claimed that a jet pod had removed it from his roof. One character even claimed that the jet exhaust had set fire to a phone pole. There were claims about cracked plaster and pictures that had fallen from the walls.
There was such a fuss raised that General Jack Ryan the 19thAD CO had to take some action. Early the following morning before we could get away, Thad called and said not to leave. General Ryan wanted to talk with all of us. We met at his office and one by one had to go in to give our version of the whole episode. When it was all over he had to fine Thad. I believe it was for $250.00 and he was taken off the promotion list for a couple of years, but as he left the General's office, General Ryan told Thad that was the best buzz job he had ever heard of. It didn't hurt his career either. He would serve as a Commander at Wichita Falls, and then in the Pentagon before going to Florida. He attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Thad was killed in a crash in the early 1968 while training in C-123's in Florida. The training was preparing him for duty in Viet Nam, defoliation, I think they called it. In the middle of a low altitude turn he lost an engine and went down.
From the same site on their history page 1957 the following
On 21 May 1957, project "LONG RANGE", started on 1 April, was completed, with all of the wing's crews checked out in the new mission.
A wing B-36 was flown to Eglin AFB, Florida, on 24 May for static display.
Then on 27 May, crew S-25, 436th Bomb Squadron, averted disaster when the aircraft nose landing gear failed on take-off. The mission was completed but the gear had to be manually extended and on touchdown the brakes failed, with two propellers failing to reverse. Five tires were blown in the process, before the aircraft stopped near the end of the runway. The crew, commanded by MAJOR THAD M. NEAL, received the 19th Air Division Crew of the Month award, and was nominated for the SAC award.
Arlington National Cemetery
Plot: SECTION 31 SITE 7833
Created by: Wayne Rose
Record added: Oct 15, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 30591097