PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — A Pearl Harbor veteran racked up his 198th kill when he shot down a friendly F/A-18 Hornet today. Chief Petty Officer John Wilson, who was just a Gunner’s Mate in 1941, downed the jet during a commemorative parade. The F/A-18 was conducting a flyover in support of the parade and flew too low, which spooked Wilson.
“I thought it was them again,” Wilson told investigators. “Those intel 'girls' didn’t warn us back then, and they didn’t warn us now.”
Wilson had manned a machine gun on a patrol craft in Pearl Harbor after the surprise Japanese attack on the Navy's pacific fleet in 1941.
A "girl" is actually 'GRL' — a "general restricted line" officer, the category to which intelligence officers who are not deck qualified generally belong.
Wilson, riding on top of a Humvee at the parade, tracked and engaged the jet with a modern M2A1 .50 caliber machine gun. The new M2A1 model has a safety, which only stopped Wilson, who hadn't handled a .50-cal since Korea, for a second.
“He crushed the safety with a right cross and yelled ‘Goddamn infants! Gotta have a safety? We used a spent shell to keep it from going off. Get your mama's titty out of your suck and take responsibility for your actions!’” before opening fire and destroying the F-18, according to witnesses. The plane spun in, and there were no survivors.
This event is a sobering incident, but also a potent reminder of the heart and training of Pearl Harbor veterans.
"truly, they were the 'greatest generation,'" according to Tom Brokaw, who was covering the parade.
UPDATE: Earlier reports that there were no survivors from the F/A-18 Hornet were incorrect. Both crewmembers safely ejected. The incorrect report was attributed to a public affairs officer who had been watching a M*A*S*H marathon on Hallmark channel.