USS Navy V-2 Division Amm3C
Seaman Second Class
of F6F Hellcats
"Flyable Dud" #13 "Lucky 13" & #15
Riley Cecil Cannon Age 17...He Tangled With A
Prop And Won
My Father, Riley
Cecil Cannon, also known as R.C. was only 17
years old when he joined the U.S. Navy in 1943.
He was stationed onboard the U.S.S. Lexington
CV-16 aircraft carrier during WWII in the
Pacific Ocean. He was a plane captain, which
meant he was a responsible for launching the
A friend onboard Alvin Fick asked a few of the
crewmen to write a diary so that he could write
a book on the Lexington after the war.
Despite the reasons not to write a diary,
R.C. did keep one. Oct 16 - 18, 1944
While preparing for take off, one wheel of the
plane moved and the other wheel was still
chocked. R.C. was standing under the right wing
when the plane spun around and the propeller hit
him in the right shoulder, cutting clear to his
breast, his elbow was hit and the right
hand was severed across the mid-section.
The hand hung only from a small edge section.
He staggered up, and was hit again in the
right side of his head, cutting through his
skull, and brain, creating a very large hole,
larger than the size of his fist.
A man standing near
the accident saw that he was going to stand up
again and risked his own life to go in and hold
him down and drag him out. R.C. never knew who
it was that pulled him out of harms way.
When his friends inquired if he was going to
live, they were told that he was a dead man.
When my father heard that, he mumbled, "You son
of a bitch, I’m not dead yet !" He was taken
below deck in a bomb elevator and waited about
10 days for transport to a medical ship. His
friends tried to feed him but he was too sick
and couldn't even eat the ice cream they
brought. His friend Melvin Coil took
possession of R.C.'s diary so it wouldn't be
found. He was on the medical ship for
approximately 10 days in route to a Military
Hospital in Hawaii.
The Doctor’s at the
hospital really were not prepared to take care
of such critical injuries and believed that he
was going to die. Doctor (Dr. Brown)
decided to try to save him by removing a muscle
from his thigh and put it into the hole in his
head to protect the open skull and brain. He was
paralyzed on his left side because he lost part
of the brain on the right side. After about two
years and numerous surgeries, in which they put
a metal plate over the skull, and also one in
his hand to hold it together, he regained use of
his left side. He was able to walk and talk
normally again after about 2 years. His hand
only recovered partial use.
He was later
medically discharged and listed as 100%
disabled. He became a journeyman carpenter and
has since retired. He loves car racing and
builds racing engines in his garage. He is a
self-taught machinist, and welder and can build
anything he wants. My Grandfather, John
Cecil Cannon was a genius. R.C.'s brother
Raymond was a genius and self taught scientist
and inventor. My Dad won’t admit it, but
he’s a genius too! My Dad has taught me,
mechanics, carpentry, honesty and compassion.
Approximately 1984 I
contacted R.C.'s friend Melvin Coil and found
that he still had R.C.'s diary in his
possession. He mailed it to me and I
wrapped it up and gave it to him on Christmas.
When he opened it he was confused at first, but
when he touched the cover of the small book,
recognition spread acrossed his face. He
knew he had the diary back!
The crew of the USS
Lexington had a 3-day, 41st-year reunion in
Reno, Nevada in about 1985. He attended and was
hopeful that he might see his special friend,
who he only remembered by the name of Ski. The
reunion was over and he never found his friend.
He was sitting in the lobby sharing a picture
that he had of a Kamikaze plane exploding in a
ball of flames on board a ship during the war.
A man leaned over his shoulder and pointed to
the picture. My father recognized his friends
voice and looked up, and said Ski? Ski
responded, "R.C.?" My dad said, "Yes, it’s me."
Ski said, "Oh my God! Ski's eyes were tearful
and his voice cracked when he tried to
speak. He kept turning away and coming back.
He turned to his wife and said this is R.C. His
wife knew exactly what he meant. He eventually
regained his composure so he could speak. He
finally said. "You don’t understand R.C. I was
standing only a few feet away when you got hit.
Your flesh and brains hit me in the face. You
were going to stand up again and I had to stop
you. I’ve told this story to my family and
friends many times over the years, but I thought
you died!" Ski's real name is Stanley
Believing that his
friend had died, Ski learned 41 years later that
his actions had actually saved his friends life.
I'm sure he went home and enjoyed telling the
rest of the story!
Men of the Blue Ghost
USS Lexington CV-16 1943-1946
Action Starboard-Action Port, USS Lexington
CV-16 Sept. 18, 1942 - Mar. 20, 1945
By Robert Owen Whitman, CRDM
October 18, 1944
This afternoon a plane captain was hit by a whirling prop.
The blade first severed his right arm just below
the elbow. Stunned, the man fell to the
deck in a dazed condition only to raise himself
to be hit a second time. The second blow
tore a large section of his skull off, tearing
clean through the right shoulder down to his
breast. He was immediately rushed to
surgery where he was worked on for eight hours.
He will pull through okay, but it will take
In November of 2000,
R.C. showed a story written by Alvin Fick to me.
He said that Al was the one who had wanted to
write the story of the Lexington. RC was
thrilled to see that his friend was not only
alive and well, but actually was a writer after
all.. He said, you see he really was a writer!
Just like I said! He said Al was so
intelligent and yet so young that he always
wondered where he got his education. He
said that Al and Aram were the only 1st
class officers that would show them how to do
anything. He said no one knew how to do
anything! He always admired Al and Aram
Attarian for showing them what to do and of
course, what not to do.
I contacted Al Fick
by e-mail on the internet and asked if he was
still interested in R .C.'s diary. This is
Your letter via e-mail was more than a surprise.
It astonished me to hear about R.C. after all
these years. Although I did not witness the
accident when R.C. was injured so badly, all of
us in the V-2 Division (air department) knew
about it, and most of us talked to Ski about
what happened. A flood of exhilaration swept
over me to learn that not only had R.C. survived
that calamity, but had gone on to a full and
In spite of urgings
over the years by my son, I never wrote the
book. I did, however go on to a career as a
writer and a magazine editor. The only pieces I
have written about my Navy experiences are "Gone
to Glory" which was reprinted in Sunrise Press,
and "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot." The first
was originally scheduled for publication and
paid for by U.S. Naval Institute for use in
their magazine, Proceedings. The
second appeared in Aviation Quarterly. It
contains many pictures taken aboard the
Lexington. I will be happy to send you
photocopies of both if you will let me know your
You ask if I am
interested in your father's diary. Yes, yes,
more than I can say. If it is convenient, you
could send me a photocopy. Barring that, I would
be very careful of the original if that is the
only alternative, and would return it promptly.
I have been back aboard the ship four times, the
last being for the decommissioning at Pensacola,
Florida. As you can imagine, these were
It was kind of you to
write. I'm grateful. If he is still with us, my
warmest greetings to R.C.
Al mentioned later that he never had any regrets
about not writing the book, until the day the
diary arrived! Maybe someday he will write
After my contact with
Al Fick, he introduced me via internet to many
other Veterans that served on the Lexington.
They started sending me their stories, and I
found them truly amazing, and I asked if they
had a way of putting them on the internet.
They couldn't find anyone that had the time to
create and maintain a web site. They had
all tried various ways, through the Lexington
Museum etc. After they had no luck for a
few months, I decided I should learn to build a
web site so these stories could be shared.
I built a very primitive web site and started
from there. I announced the web site to
the Veterans and told them that this is their
web site, and for them to tell me what they
would like to have on their web site. It
went from there and grew, and grew. It is
with passion that I serve these Veterans,
who served our country and who gave their all to
save our freedom. I am honored that they
would allow me to serve them, and trust me with
My Dad is an extraordinary man, my Hero
and my Friend. He is intelligent, honest,
courageous and stubborn! What can I say?
He is a True Cannon,
and I take after him, but only the stubborn
Pat Cannon Vido