Terry ‘Top Cat’ Cox

Tie Club # 1552

“My name is Terry Cox, call sign ‘Top Cat’…on the night of May 23, 1968 in the Republic of Vietnam I was flying in the backseat of a Marine F-4B phantom when our plane was hit by Anti-aircraft fire during a night bombing mission. My pilot and I were both forced to eject over the Gulf of Tonkin. Even though we were rescued by a Huey Gunship helicopter within 45 minutes it was not without incident. As the helicopter landed and I was running towards it, we came under heavy enemy gun fire. The door-gunner who came out to help me, bravely gave me cover with his .45 pistol while I jumped into the helicopter. The pilot did a remarkable job of flying us out of there to safety. During the ejection my back was injured, not because of the seat but because I was out of position when I pulled the handle. We had the old Martin-Baker seat that was fired by a solid propellant (shot gun type) and it was important for the body to be aligned properly before pulling the handle, unfortunately mine was not. Two months later our aircraft started being retrofitted with the new rocket propulsion system which allowed some forgiveness in our seat alignment during ejection.

My life was saved that night because one, the Martin-Baker ejection seat worked as advertised and got me and my pilot out of a burning aircraft; two, the parachutes opened properly and got us safely to the ground and finally, three, the bravery of the helicopter crew that put their lives on the line that night to rescue us. Thank you, I will always be in your debt.”

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