Mutiny at Johnsville Naval Air Station - 1956

Donald E. Cooper, Sr. at 18 Years of Age

 I was usually in the wrong place at the wrong time or right time however you want to look at it. After basic training at Great lakes, I was sent to Johnsville, Pa. which was a secret Navy base for space development. It had the only centrifuge in the world and only monkeys could go in it. They did a lot of the space suit development there to help man with stand the G force of a rocket take off.

They were also developing and testing planes that could land and take off vertically, Prop, remember there were not that many jets at that time. There was only 80 military personnel 40 Marines and 40 Navy, and over 2,000 civilian Engineers. The Marines guarded the gates, and the Navy guarded the hangers and buildings. I was there for 6 months waiting for my school to start in Oklahoma. 

Here is the tale by Donald E. Cooper (E-1) that he wrote about doing duty at NAS Johnsville, PA in 1956:

I was stationed at Johnsville, PA Naval Air Station (NAS) in 1956.  It was great duty as far as that goes.  I was assigned to the armory, responsible for cleaning and fixing guns.  I also got to fly when they tested rockets that required ordinance.  It was nothing important really.  I got to carry the ladder on flights, or remove the ejector shells out of the jet seats after the jets had landed.

When I stood duty, I got to sleep in the armory tucked away in a private room that even had a TV.  So I was happier than a gopher in soft dirt.

The Marines assigned to the NAS reported to a mean officer, Lt. Teague.  The Lt. drank too much and too often – coming in drunk some nights at 2 or 3 a.m. (maybe even later than that!).  Being mean and nasty, the Lt. would get all the Marines out of bed and make them search and destroy the whole airbase.  Definitely no picnic, since they had worked all day.

After months of this routine, one of the sergeants cracked and when the Lt came to the door to order all of the Marines out, the Sergeant shot through the door at the Lt. The Lt came to the Armory and ordered me to issue guns to all the Navy personnel.

I called the Ensign, who was the officer of the day, and asked him if I was allowed to do this. He said no!

Now I thought Lt. Teague was going to shoot me. The Lt ordered the Ensign to lead the Navy troops for an attack on the Marine barracks at NAS.

Don Cooper, PO2 , USN 1956

Being a dutiful officer, The Ensign ordered me to issue guns to the Navy men.  He then called the Marine General to tell him he was following orders but thought it sucked.

Once the Navy men had secured their arms, they marched out of the armory, and were gone maybe 3 minutes. Remember, I did not have to go, as I could not leave my armory post. The Marines quickly took the offensive and fired on the Navy guys.  It took all of about 2 seconds before all the Navy guys were back in the armory. The Big sissies!

I can say that because I didn't have to go out. Teague came back to the Armory and threatened to shoot all the Navy guys. Now, one Marine doesn’t tell 40 Navy guys with guns that he is going to shoot them.

That night, we came close to having our own gunfight at the OK Corral. Within 20 minutes several trucks of Marines from the Philadelphia Navy yard came and Arrested Lt. Teague and the two Sergeants. One of the Sergeants was demoted to private for shooting at the Lt. and Lt Teague, was sent to Fort Leavenworth military prison for starting a mutiny. It was called the Johnsville, Mutiny, and I was there passing out guns, the only one with authority to do so.

End of tale, they later made a movie (made for TV) called the Johnsville Mutiny, I didn't get any credit.

Submitted by Tim O'Neil.

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