Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thomas W. Attridge 1923-1997

Born in 1923, and the son of a native-Irish New Jersey pastor, he graduated from the elite Phillips Exeter Academy in 1942 amidst the war clouds of the Second World War. Going into the Navy, the young Ensign married, and was sent to the Pacific, where he flew Hellcats with Air Group 21 (Fighting Squadron 21 - VF-21), aboard the USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24). In June of 1944, the unit was engaged in air support of ground mop-up operations on Guam, followed by initial strikes on Palau and the Philippines. In October, the unit launched strikes on Okinawa, Formosa, Luzon, and Leyte, and participated in the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, striking the northern Japanese force, consisting of four carriers, two battleships, and multiple cruisers and destroyers.
He became a test pilot for Grumman and in 1956 was the centre of a bizarre occurence when he 'shot himself down' when he flew into its own ordnance trajectory during a test firing of its 20 mm cannons. Attridge continued his work with Grumman, returning to flight status less than six months later. Afterwards, he would become the project manager for LEM-3 - the first lunar module rated for human flight. It flew as "Spider" with the crew of Apollo 9. He would also go on to become vice president of Grumman Ecosystems, the company's environmental management and research venture, which resulted in advances that resulted in the digital camera. He passed away in 1997.