Cascade Warbirds Biography #5
Captain Walter Spangenberg,
US Navy (Ret)
images courtesy of Walt Spangenberg unless otherwise noted

Walt Spangenberg preparing to fly the NAS Whidbey Island Flying Club's T-34B Mentor



Walt learned to fly while in high school at Stevens Airport in Frederick County, Maryland as a Civil Air Patrol Cadet, but took the long way around to earning his Navy Wings.  He spent three years at the Naval Academy and two years as a cruiser deck and engineering officer before entering US Navy flight training. (Image - Walt in the cockpit of a Civil Air Patrol aircraft in 1944. Courtesy of US Library of Congress)




Walt standing on the wing of a North American SNJ in 1950 while at Naval Air Training Coomand at Pensacola, FL

Walt earned his wings of gold in 1950 and was soon off to the carrier-based F4U-4 Corsair squadron VF-783 in 1951 which included a deployment to Korea. 1952 brought an assignment to the re-commisioned Air Group Nine with VF-91 at NAS Alameda flying the F9F-2 Panther which led to another deployment to Korea.

Upon returning from the cruises to Korea, Walt completed aero engineering postgraduate study which was followed by a return to the Pacific Fleet flying the FJ-3 Fury. Following a deployment to the USS Ticonderoga in the Western Pacific, Walt was assigned to VX-4 Test and Evaluation Squadron based at NAS Point Mugu. There he tested the AGM-12 Bullpup air-to-ground missile while flying the FJ-4B Fury and A4D-2 Skyhawk. This work led to Test Pilot School at NAS Patusent River, MD with flying qualities and performance testing in a wide variety of aicraft. These aicraft ranged from the multi-engine Piper Aztec and Grumman Mohawk, to the future front line nucleur-strike capable AJ3 Vigilante and the sub hunting P-3 Orion. A liaison visit to the the Royal Navy test squadron at Boscombe Down in England brought the rare opportunity to test the DeHaviland Sea Vixen and Gannet AEW.3.


Walt as a then LCDR in 1962 with the Naval Air Test Center at NAS Patuxent River, MD

The deck of the USS Constellation in 1967 which included several of the aircraft that Walt flew during his test and operational career.  Image via US National Museum of Naval Aviation

Walt was current in no fewer than eleven naval aircraft when he left the Test Center in 1963. As a result of this breadth of experience, Walt was sent for a year to an aicraft ferry squadron whcih was then desperate for pilots with multiple-currency due to the strict impostion of NATOPS qualifications and currency requirements. This requirement was doen in the interest of safety but tough on the ferry business as it was conducted, like a chess game, from point A to B and then to C and on to D: all in different aircraft! This assignment proved to be a great opportunity to do lots of cross-country flying with stops at many Naval Air Stations and even Air Froce Bases that had been previously unvisited.

A return to the fleet occured in 1964 with assignment as an XO and then CO of the F-4 Phantom squadron VF-143 "Pukin' Dogs" which saw combat deployments aboard the USS Constellation and USS Ranger to Vietnam. It was mostly and air-to-mud game, but there were a few high points, like the Haiphong oil strike in June of 1966

                    VF-143 F-4B Phantom II firing rockets.  Image via US Navy.

Captain Walter Spangenberg in 1973 while at the Naval Air Systems Command in Washington, DC.
After flying missions in his second war, flying was all down hill from Walt's point of view. Two tours in Naval Air Systems Commend project management in Washington were divided by a year at sea as a commanding officer of the amphibious assult ship USS Monticello LSD-35. The Washington assigments were mitigated a bit by proficiency flying in the T-1A SeaStar during the first tour and by towing gliders on weekends at Warrenton, VA. After leaving the armed services, Walt spent his post-Navy activity in the aerospace industry. This work mostly involved flight test engineering but his need to get back to the air was improved a little by evening flying with a co-worker in the Beech Bonanza of which he was a part-owner.
Walt has found retirement in the Northwest to be agreeable with participation in the activities of the Whidbey Island Navy Flying Club (WNFAC) and the Cascade Warbirds Squadron. Many of Walt's award winning articles can be found in the newsletter archives section of this website.
Read about Walt's strike on an SO-4 missile boat during the Vietnam war at
  Images covering Walt's flight training and with the CAP in 1943 and 1944
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