Captain John R. Emerson USN (Ret), age 93, was born March 26, 1922 and passed August 11, 2015 at home in Bend, Oregon. Born in Busby, Alberta, Canada to John Robert MacDonald Ritchie and Jessie Whitson Carmichael (Emerson) (Ritchie) (Urquhart). Mother and sons moved to Oakland, California in 1924, becoming US citizen in 1940. He is survived by Alice, his wife and childhood sweetheart of 70 years to whom he gives much credit for her support and adaptability, and his six children John, Janice, Phillip, Kenneth, Scott. His son Ross preceded him.
He joined the Navy in July 1942 in hopes of becoming a Naval Aviation Pilot. Trained as an aviation machinist mate, southwest pacific bases became his assignment. In 1944, he was offered a temporary officer commission or enlisted flight training. He joined the Navy to fly. One of his first aircraft was a Stearman biplane, wearing a leather helmet and a pigskin jacket, which is still wearable today. In the latter years, when someone asked for a new flight jacket, Capt. Emerson said “Have a seat, let me tell you about my jacket.”
Aviation Pilot First Class Emerson flew with FASRON 119 in Saipan, Marianas Islands taking on the roles of maintenance officer, technical librarian and operations officer. The squadron received a perfect audit for the first time. Assigned to VR-3 (Moffett Field), he made chief in 1951 and was one of the Navy’s first pilots to fly and instruct in the R6D (C-118) aircraft. From 1953-55, he was one of 15 APs to acquire a regular officer commission, completing 2 years of college equivalency in 1 to graduate as a Naval Aviator. In 1962 he received his BS degree and in 1971 two Masters degrees at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif.
20+ aircraft later, became Commanding Officer of VP-4, a Pentagon Navy planner, CinC-PacFlt staff in Hawaii until 1981, his last assignment was as CO of Naval Air Reserve Unit, NAS Whidbey Island, Washington.
With his retirement in Sept 1982, Capt. Emerson brought to a close 40 years of continuous naval service, marking the end of a special breed of Navy flyers – Naval Aviation Pilots (NAPs) whose national association is known as the Silver Eagles. Occasionally someone would look at his original flight jacket and ask “What is an AP1?”. The ex-enlisted pilot would smile and say, “Have a seat, let me tell you all about it.”
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