The AJ Song

Although I remembered that there was an AJ Song, I had long forgotten most of the lyrics. I had only a vague recollection of the first few and of the last few lines. To my great delight, my colleague and friend from VC-5 and VAH-5 circa 1954-1955, Paul B. Wells sent me the following on 14 May 2004:

The AJ Song
(Sung to the tune of "The Wreck of Old 97")

They were climbing in the groove
Goin' 90 miles an hour,
When their Savage came unglued.

They found them in the cockpit
with their heads in the handbook,
They were drowned in hydrolube.

Well, they got on the 'phone
to the people in Columbus,
to determine the cause of the wreck.

The Columbus people said
that it couldn't be the airframe,
'cause they built it to Navy spec.

Pratt & Whitney said
that it couldn't be the engines,
'cause the damned things ain't failed yet.

So nothing could be fairer
than to call it pilot error,
'cause it couldn't be the foolproof jet.

So that's what they called it
when they reached a verdict,
and they buried them at sea.

And the moral of my story-
in your search for fame and glory,

In his message transmitting the lyrics Paul said he thought that it was written by some of the Bombardier/Navigators in VC-9 circa 1954. In response to my skepticism about that, he replied it might have been written by a group of B/Ns in VC-7 including someone named Simpson, who was from Wyoming. Because I reported to VC-9 as a B/N in October 1953 and because I thought—although I now believe mistakenly—that the song was already current, I believed that the song might be a little earlier than Paul thought. But, in reality, my most vivid recollections of the song are in VC-5 sometime after I transferred to the squadron in November 1954, actually after we had returned to Sanford in February 1955. Paul, who claims he can and will still sing it if you buy the beers, in my recollection was singing it at a squadron party, I think together with his plane commander Gil Blake. I believe that they were part of a group who called themselves "The Wombats."

If it was, in spite of any evidence that I have to the contrary, written by the B/Ns from VC-9, it was written by those more senior than I. Already on board when I arrived were Ernie Carson, Dave Ellis, Herman Ford, Ralph Cox, and Craig Bramley. There was no B/N named Simpson in VC-9 at that time.

In my mind, the scenario is more likely that the song originated in VC-7. Seven moved to NAAS Sanford in early 1955 before we, VC-5, returned from Port Lyautey. There would have been a perfect opportunity after February 1955 for the song to be passed on to VC-5.

In attempting to date it, I would point out that the Hydrolube reference would indicate it was written after February or March of 1951, at which time the switch was made from regular hydraulic fluid to Hydrolube. In addition, the mention of Columbus, unless that was a modification of the original lyrics, would even place it somewhat later. The AJ-1s were all produced in Downey, California. (North American Aviation offices were at Inglewood, California.) It was not until production began on the AJ-2s and the AJ-2Ps that North American Aviation moved production to Columbus, Ohio. Both of these items are consistent with Paul's dating of 1954 for the origin of the song.

How about it? Do you have anything to add? When was it written? By whom?

Return to my US Navy Page back at my old site.

Kenneth Jennings Wooster
27 Abdallah Avenue
Cortland, New York 13045-3302
File created: 15 May 2004.
File modified: 15 May 2004.