As he turned his battered fighter jet back toward the ocean on that day in 1950, he couldn't see much of the aircraft carrier USS Philippine Sea, the ship he would have to land on.
Talked down by his wingman and the ship's landing signal officer, the young VF-112 squadron pilot managed to blindly land on the short deck of the rolling ship.
Mr. Jackson, a man who his son said "made John Wayne look like nothing," died Wednesday - "slipping the surly bonds of Earth," in the phrasing of the famous poem read at his funeral. He was 85.
The Navy aviator, who learned to fly during the tail end of World War II, fought in the sky over Korea and then trained the forces deploying to Vietnam, was buried Friday at the Jacksonville National Cemetery. Mr. Jackson died from complications of old age.
A native of Augusta, Ga., Mr. Jackson retired in Jacksonville but lived his last few years in Flagler Beach. He joined the Navy in 1944, retiring in 1975 as a commander with 31 years of service. He played football in the Holloway Midshipman Cadet Program at the University of North Carolina under the direction of legendary-coach-to-be Bear Bryant, a Navy lieutenant commander.
He went on to earn his wings and later became a test pilot, choosing to test planes like the first one with a hydraulic system rather than joining the Blue Angels.
Mr. Jackson belonged in the air, pushing the performance envelope, recalled his son, Preston Jackson of St. Augustine.
"I was enthralled by all of them and how brave they were," he said, remembering his father's days among the aerial elite. "To me they were all gods."
But Mr. Jackson had a softer side, too, his family said Friday, particularly toward animals. It started when as a child he was given a littermate of the University of Georgia bulldog.
In the last few weeks before Mr. Jackson died, his only complaint was that the stuffed animal they had given him wasn't a real dog, his granddaughter, Nikki Smith, said Friday with a sad smile.
Mr. Jackson is also survived by his wife of 62 years, Grace Jackson, daughter Patti Sinclair of Flagler Beach and brother Warren Jackson of Murrells Inlet, S.C.
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