“After the peak of tensions in the European Theater caused by the built-up of the Berlin Wall, where Fighter-Bomber Wing 32 was deployed to France to fly CAPs with US Forces, we returned to our role as fighter-bombers and departed for a classic Hi-Lo-Hi training mission on this morning of May 8th 1963.
As a 2-ship we took our F-84F’s off runway 21, Lechfeld Airforce Base, Germany, climbed to altitude to enter the low level training area after an hour into the flight. Back at altitude and on the way home, we started descent from 38.000 ft with an -until then- flawless aircraft, when a monstrous banging sound was followed by all the cockpit warning lights the F84 had to offer, including that one with “FIRE” written on it.
My wingman’s screaming radiocall of what he saw from his position was drowned out by that millstone noise from whatever remained to be my engine.
When thrust turned to nil and the aircraft became hard to control, I stopped my attempt to get home and pulled the handle of my Mk5 seat at approximately 1.000 ft AGL, just 12NM on final for RWY 03 of Lechfeld.
The aircraft ploughed into a potato field and the farmer saddled his truck and pulled me off a 15-foot tree and we both walked to the crash site unhurt.
Back at my Squadron 32/2, I called my wife but she wasn’t home, so I picked her up at the hairdressers.
We were a family of 3 that day. The day could have made this a family of 2 if there wasn’t Martin-Baker. Made it a family of 5 in the years thereafter. Made me fly my beloved F104 for 3000 hrs and look back on more than 60 years of aviation and my 5 grandchildren today.”
Maj. (ret.) Karl Stoeber