"AVIATION PROJECT" OF THE ORAL HISTORY RESEARCH OFFICE OF COLUMBIA
This week, I read the transcript of "The reminiscences of Col. John Paul
Stapp" (taped May 1960 with interviewer Kenneth Leish) from the Aviation
Project, Columbia University Oral History Collection, pt. 2, no. 178.
It's 29 pages long.
There is NO "Murphy's Law."
Page 28 has this: "Interviewer's note: Colonel Stapp was exhausted
during the interview from lack of sleep, and fell asleep several times while
"The reminiscences of Roscoe Turner" (the first person to fly a Sikorski
plane) doesn't have "Murphy's Law" either, but nevertheless has other useful
aviation terms. They deserve recording:
Q: You also did something called "the swing of death." What was that?
TURNER: Well, that was a man that would walk out on the wings of the
airplane. We had--they called themselves stunt men, they would walk around
on the wings of the airplane, and go down on rope ladders. The first man
ever to do that was a fellow by the name of Lieutenant (Lockleader?) (sic).
He originated the idea when he was in the air service, back in 1918. Those
are the names of people you never heard of now. Then, of course, after him
came along a number of them.
Q: How did it work exactly? Can you describe it?
TURNER: Well, his original stunt was to change from one plane to
another--which was the forerunner of all of the things that we're doing
today. I mean, we're transferring materials and gasoline and fuel from one
plane to another. That was the beginning of it. We showed that these things
could be done, but that was a rather crude way of doing it, transferring
yourself, you see.
Q: You had a flight from Los Angeles to Reno that you called the Alimony
Special. Can you tell me about that?
TURNER: It was an airline. It was the first highspeed airline in the world.
"Murphy's Law" allegedly started at Edward's Air Force Base. In "The
Reminiscences of Maj. Gen. Albert Boyd," page 10, he says, "In January 1950,
we established the flight test center. We named the base for Capt. Glen
Edwards, the pilot who was killed in the experimental B-49. It was then
formally established as the Air Force Flight Test Center. I was the first
Commander, and I remained there until 1952."
Unfortunately, Boyd doesn't give us Murphy, either.
The "Elvis Year" for John Paul Stapp was in June 1954. He was mentioned
in The New York Times, Life, the Science News-Letter, Science Digest, and on
the cover of Collier's weekly.
The 25 June 1954 Collier's cover shows Stapp in his sled, with the
caption "FASTEST MAN on EARTH." The article's caption on page 25 is:
"Twenty-seven times Dr. John P. Stapp has roared down the track aboard his
rocket sled in a ride so dangerous that observers have called him one of the
world's bravest men." The article continues on pages 26, 27, 28, and 29.
Page 28 mentions George Nichols of Northrop. Page 27 mentions the
experimental runs at Edwards Air Force Base, California, from 1947 until
It's a great, in-depth article on Col. John Stapp.
Murphy's Law is never mentioned.