Accident McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II 149436,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 254145
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Date:Monday 19 August 1963
Type:Silhouette image of generic F4 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II
Owner/operator:VF-143, US Navy
Registration: 149436
MSN: 153
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:USS Constellation (CVA-64), East China Sea -   Pacific Ocean
Phase: Landing
Departure airport:USS Constellation (CVA-64), East China Sea
Destination airport:USS Constellation (CVA-64), East China Sea
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II Bu No 149436/'NK-302', VF-143, US Navy. Accident 19 August 1963 when landing aboard the USS Constellation (CVA-64) in the East China Sea.

While recovering aircraft, #3 arresting cable snapped, releasing the engaged aircraft, which proceeded forward on the angle deck and crashed into the water along the port side in 540 fathoms. Both crew - Crew Lt Robert J. Craig (pilot, aged 31) and Lt(JG) Ernest A. Polz (RIO) were killed. Three crew members who were on the flight deck were critically injured.

According to 'Shipmate', November 1963 issue (see link #5):

"We have received a letter from Cdr. C. V. Merrell, USN, Commanding Officer of VF-143:

"To the Class of 1956,

"It is with deep regret that I inform you of the death of your classmate, Lt. Robert J. Craig.

"The tragedy occurred as Bob was landing his F-4B aboard the carrier CONSTELLATION on the completion of a normal intercept mission. Upon touchdown and after almost full run out, the purchase cable snapped and the aircraft continued off the angle and into the water. I can only say that being the professional he was. Bob did everything possible to get his airplane airborne in an attempt to save the life of his RIO, Lt. (jg) Ernest A. Polz.

"The squadron has lost an outstanding aviator, a dedicated naval officer and a very close friend to us all. I know that all of you who knew Bob at the Naval Academy will feel this tragic loss also.

"We are making arrangements through the Alumni Association at this time to dedicate a chair in the Memorial Stadium. We all feel that this would be a perfect monument to one who was so much a part of Navy football.

"I might also mention that Elaine is presently residing with their five children at 2382 Blom St. in San Diego."

Commanding Officer"

According to an obituary of the pilot (see link #6): "Robert James Craig, Lt USN, died on 19 August 1963, when the purchase cable snapped at nearly full run-out after touchdown of his F-4B aboard the carrier USS Constellation, after a normal intercept mission. The F-4 went off the angled deck and into the ocean. His body and that of his back seater were not recovered."


1. "3 Hurt, 2 Missing, 1 Dead In Accident", Playground Daily News, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Tuesday, 20 August 1963, Volume 16, Number 271, p. 2
7. (Entry for 18 August 1963)

Revision history:

30-Apr-2021 11:15 ASN archive Added
30-Jan-2022 20:24 fabiop Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Location, Phase, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
03-Feb-2022 18:43 TB Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Other fatalities, Country, Narrative]
17-Jun-2022 23:21 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative, Category]

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