Growing up in Carpinteria in the 1940s and ‘50s, our recreation took us to the streets and alleys around my family home on 8th Street near the old Main School. We played kick the can, three flies up, hide and seek and all kinds of tag. We kept ourselves busy until dark and shortly thereafter. We gathered at Main School for more intense games like over the line, softball, baseball and every kind of football imaginable. We all had heroes, from local high school athletes to popular college and professional players, to movie stars. But most importantly, we admired local and national military individuals that we read about in the local papers or saw at the Saturday matinee movie newsreels.
Little did we know that later in our lives one of our neighborhood playmates, Phil Schuyler, would go on to be one of those heroes that we admired so much as youngsters. On Nov. 11, we honor our veterans, including Schuyler.
A report in the local Virginia Beach newspaper, Virginian-Pilot, stated:
“Hit three times by anti-aircraft fire, Lt. Cmdr. Philip Schuyler’s A-6 Intruder whistled and bucked as it skimmed over the steamy Vietnamese coast. Schuyler eyed the twisted metal in his left wing, the holes in his canopy, the damage to the cockpit. He pushed on. Diving at 500 knots, he and Marine Capt. Lou Ferracane dropped thousand-pound bombs on a rail repair yard, then felt the Intruder take two more hits. Fire broke out under the right wing.
“The Intruder flew on, bombing a second target, a missile site, and two minutes later took six more hits. One blew Ferracane’s bombardier/navigator console straight out the top of the canopy. Air swooshed from the cockpit. Dirt and dust and debris swirled around them and zipped through the hole. Half of the plane’s hydraulic system failed. Schuyler wrestled with the jet’s controls. Two holes perforated the left wing. Three hits had punched in the armor plating under one engine. A hole the size of a large typewriter gaped over the crew’s heads. The right wing, chewed by at least four holes, was burning as if cut by a torch. Still, the Intruder flew on. `’It was like we had a bull’s-eye painted on it,’ said Schuyler, a Virginia Beach aviator who retired in 1990 after two decades flying the Intruder, but ‘she was flying just fine.’
“He and Ferracane headed back to their carrier, the Coral Sea, confident that they could reach the flattop. Their boss overruled them as they limped over water infested with sharks and sea snakes. ’Big ones,’ Schuyler recalled. So, the two men ejected at 430 knots, were plucked from the Tonkin Gulf 45 minutes later, and reached their ship in time for dinner. Ferracane suffered scratches. Schuyler, later awarded the Silver Star, was unhurt.”
Schuyler served three tours in Vietnam and became one of the most highly decorated Naval Aviators of the Vietnam War. Along with the Silver Star, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (2), Purple Heart, Air Medal (30), Meritorious Service Medal and Naval Commendation Medal (5 with Combat V). He also earned the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm and numerous unit and individual awards. He even received the Martin Baker tie—“Life membership of the Ejection Tie Club is confined solely to those who have emergency ejected from an aircraft using a Martin-Baker ejection seat, which has thereby saved their life.”
Schuyler passed away in August of 2000, leaving behind his wife, Nellie Damron, his high school sweetheart. They both were 1957 graduates of Carpinteria High School. Schuyler also had three children, Kathleen, Guyvanna and Andrew, a sister, Betsy Rowland of Taft, and a brother Lowell of Carpinteria. Schuyler was the son of Dale and Virginia Schuyler and grew up on Walnut Avenue across the street from Main School.
He was our neighborhood playmate—a local hero—brave and courageous.
“But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet not withstanding, go out to meet it.” —Thucydides