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  Mercury candidate Maj. Robert G. Bell (USAF)

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Author Topic:   Mercury candidate Maj. Robert G. Bell (USAF)
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Posts: 1
From: Kirbyville, TX USA
Registered: Jul 2015

posted 07-21-2015 09:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for wbell55   Click Here to Email wbell55     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would like to find out any information that may be available on Robert G. (Bob) Bell, who was among the 32, then 25, then (I believe, based on what my mother was told) the 16 considered to be the 99.9%ers (but I would like to get confirmation on this).

He was my father, who later flew slot position for the USAF Thunderbirds, flew Johnny Carson in his plane at an actual airshow, then later appeared individually as Johnny's guest on the Tonight Show.

He had quite a resume after graduating from the USNA, but was killed in an "accidental explosion" at Bien Hoa AFB, Viet Nam on 16 May 1965 while on exchange command with the Navy, with the USS Oriskany. There was a issue with his F-8E Crusader while returning from a mission, so he was instructed to land inland at Bien Hoa. The story we were given was that after safely landing and parking at the end of the line of a long row of B-57's, he went to the HQ building, came back to his plane and was about to retrieve something from his plane, when apparently the B-57 next to his plane threw a pin while it was being started, which penetrated his fuselage, and exploded and destroyed his plane and killed him as well.

He was among the younger candidates in the Mercury Program, was at least 5'11, and did not have quite as many flying hours that the final 7 had, but he was an incredible pilot, a perfectionist and certainly one of the most competitive people alive. He stated on more than one occasion to my mother that his ultimate goal was to become Joint Chiefs Chairman!

He was extremely disappointed at not making the final 7, but given his persistence and competitiveness I believe he would have tried again for another chance at space after Viet Nam.

Thank you, — Wes Bell, son of Maj. Bob Bell, USAF


Posts: 1338
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 07-21-2015 12:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember getting Bob Bell's autograph after he and the Thunderbirds gave a show at McConnell AFB in the early '60's! I was about 5 or 6 years old at the time, but treasured that autograph. I believe I still have it. Will have to look...


Posts: 987
From: Staten Island, New York USA
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 07-21-2015 01:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Welcome to cS! You found the best place to contribute and interact with other like-minded space enthusiasts.

Regarding your late father; can I assume you searched the internet and any available books on the subject? If not, the book "Selecting the Mercury Seven: The Search for America's First Astronauts" by Colin Burgess (Springer Praxis, 2011) is recommended.

I also see a mention of your father (and a photo) on the website of a fellow Mercury candidate. He also is mentioned in the Edwards TPS section of his site, with a class photo that includes your father. Hopes this helps.

I can't help but admire the flying career of your father, with his time spent with the Thunderbirds (if he had been chosen as an astronaut, he would have been in select company, as one of only three from the team to make it into space), and training and deploying on the F-8 aboard a Navy carrier. Impressive!


Posts: 1769
From: Sydney, Australia
Registered: Sep 2003

posted 07-21-2015 04:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wes, I am the author of "Selecting the Mercury Seven: The Search for America's First Astronauts," in which I featured the stories of all 32 finalists including your father. Several people who knew your father contributed to his story, with family information coming from your mother, Jackie. I think you would enjoy the book and finding out a lot more about the selection process and your father's part in it. He was taken from us all too soon in that tragic accident.

All times are CT (US)

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