The man that we all know as Bud Holcombe was born "Alfred Edmund Holcombe" on 25 Oct 1923. Bud's name change came as a surprise to all of us that knew him as Alan Reader Holcombe. I am gathering documents in an attempt to pinpoint the date he changed his name. On 27 Oct 1923, Bud's parents, Wallace Penn Holcombe and Emma Grace Reader, reported to Putnam County officials that their son had been born two days before.1 He had been born at home, in Greencastle, Putnam County, Indiana.
I wrote to the Putnam County Health Department and requested birth records for two separate people, Alfred Edmund Holcombe and Alan Reader Holcombe. A helpful and confused clerk issued a birth certificate for each name and wrote, "In the record book, somebody has marked out Alfred and put in Alan Reader. So, I don't know which record is correct. Could they be twins? If so, they still shouldn't have the same cert. #." The clerk issued two seperate certificates.2
On the 1930 Federal Census, Bud is six-years-old and listed as Alfred R. Holcombe.3
The only scenario that I can work out is this: Bud was named Alfred Edmund Holcombe after his mother's father, Alfred Edmund Reader. He went by that name through most of his childhood and was either called "Al" or "Bud." At some point during adolescence, 1930-1938, he legally changed his name.4 I have no ideas as to why. To avoiding hurting anyone's feelings, he took his mother's maiden name as his new middle name. If he had been called "Al" by a segment of his family, the transition from Alfred to Alan would be seamless.
In 1938, Bud's family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Bud attended Ann Arbor High School and graduated in 1941. He attended college at the University of Michigan where he served as president of the "M" Club, a member of the wrestling team, and a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Michigamua (Now called Order ofAngell). In 1946, he joined the Navy, and served until he was discharged as a lieutenant in 1949. He returned to Ann Arbor and attended college at the University of Michigan majoring in Aeronautical Engineering. On March 13th, 1951 a news article was printed about him (probably in an Ann Arbor paper).
Honored by Mates
Michigan's varsity wrestlers honored a pair of Ann Arborites at their annual meeting last night. The Wolverines elected 167-pounder Bud Holcombe, who lost but one match in his team's unbeaten duel meet season, to succeed 157-pound Bill Stapp as captain. And they named Stapp as the team's most valuable man for 1951. Both Holcombe and Stapp are local products.
The summer of 1952 was full of changes for Bud. In June, he graduated with a B.S.E. On August 17th he reentered the Navy. And on August 23rd, he married Nancy Sue Hilton. Bud and Nancy moved to Patuxent River, Maryland, so that Bud could attend Test Pilot Training School. The Test Pilot Training School in Patuxent River, Md., was on the forefront of aeronautical technology. Alan Shepard had attended the school from 1950 to 1951. John Glenn was there from 1953 to 1956. In the summer of 1955, Bud graduated at the top of his class. He and his wife had just had a son. The following article appeared in an unknown Ann Arbor newspaper on an unknown date.
A.R. Holcombe Tops Pilot Training Class (probably 23 Jul 1955)
A former Ann Arbor township man has been graduated at the top of his class from the Test Pilot Training School, U. S. Naval Air Testing Center, Patuxent River, Md.
He is Alan R. Holcombe, son of Mr. And Mrs. Wallace P. Holcombe of Whitmore Lake Rd.
A graduate of the University, Holcombe served as a Navy pilot from 1946 to 1954. He has since been with North American Aviation, Inc., as an engineering flight test pilot. Holcombe, who now lives with his wife and two children in Ohio, received a plaque for being the outstanding member of the test pilot class, which underwent intense advance training.
After flight school graduation, Bud choose to leave the Navy and work as a test pilot for North American Aviation in Coumbus, Ohio. This company had received several lucrative government contracts and was enjoying economic success. Engineers at North American Aviation were designing rockets and spacecrafts. Because of his groundbreaking work on "deadstick landings," Bud was invited to address NATO representatives. The following article probably appeared in an Ionia newspaper on 11 Feb 1956.
To Address Air Experts In Rome (11 Feb 1956)
Holcombe a test pilot who specialized in 'deadstick' landings will appear before North Atlantic Treaty Organization representatives during a conference to be held in Rome, Italy, from February 20 through February 25.
As a former Navy pilot Holcombe will address the aeronautical assembly at the invitation of its chairman, Dr Theodore von Karman of the United States. The group is made up of research directors from NATO member nations and is known as the Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development. Holcombe will discuss at the Rome meeting 'Deadstick Testing Techniques.' A 'Deadstick' landing is one made when power of the aircraft fails and landing is made without power.
As a member of the United States Naval Air Corps Holcombe originated and operated a testing program of 'deadstick' landings. He became identified with North American Aviation upon leaving the Naval service in October, 1954, and is now testing North American Fj-3 and FJ-4 Fury Jets.
A native of Indiana, Holcombe attended the University of Michigan where he met his wife who was also a student there. He attended the test pilot training school of the Naval Air Station located at Patuxent River, Md., as a contractor pilot and graduated first in his class.
With Mrs. Holcombe he lives at 6174 Sawmill road, Worthington, Ohio, near Columbus. Mr and Mrs Holcombe have one son and are expecting another child within a few weeks. Mrs Hilton is leaving Ionia Saturday by air for Columbus to remain with her daughter during the absence of Mr Holcombe.
Eight months later, on 9 Oct 1956, Bud died instantly when a Fury Jet he was flying crashed. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Bud Holcombe Gave His life Many Times By Harry Franken,
Bud Holcombe, who died in a jet crash Tuesday, risked his life dozens of times so that pilots in trouble might live.
As a Navy test pilot, Mr. Holcombe was assigned to find out why so many jet engine failures resulted in fatalities and then develop emergency procedures that would save planes and pilots.
For each airplane, Mr. Holcombe had to purposely stop the jet engine and land the plane safely. The first such 'dead stick' landing test was conducted by him over Muroc Dry Lake in California.
Later tests were conducted at the Navy flight test center at Patuxent River, Md.
Mr. Holcombe 'wrote the book' on emergency procedures for 10 different types of jet aircraft.
The pilot who took over the project after Mr. Holcombe left the Navy was killed in one of the dead stick landing tests.
Though he never boasted, Mr. Holcombe was proud of the work he had done. He carefully read Naval Aviation Safety Activity bulletins and letters, and noted with pride the many instances where his work was responsible for saving the life of a pilot.
Last winter he went to Rome, Italy to present his findings to the Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development, a group of research directors for North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries.
The emergency techniques he developed have since been incorporated in Air Forces all over the world.
A jet crash took the life of Bud Holcombe, but not before he had done the work that would save lives of countless present and future pilots.
A committee named to investigate the cause of the crash met for three hours Tuesday night. George Gehrkens, chief engineer, Columbus division of North American Aviation, is in charge.
The FJ-4 Fury Jet being tested by Mr. Holcombe crashed in a corn field on the farm of Ernest Lamb eight miles north of Urbana. The crash occurred about 40 minutes after Mr. Holcombe had taken off from Port Columbus.
Alan Reader Holcombe, who would have been 33 Oct. 25, lived at 2701 Minerva Lake rd. and was a graduate of the University of Michigan. (This article concludes with information about survivors and funeral services.)
In 1959, the newly created National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) invited 110 top test pilots to volunteer for the manned space flight program. To have been considered for selection, the candidates had to meet seven criterion; Be less than 40 years old, Be less than 5 feet 11 inches tall, Be in excellent physical condition, Have a bachelor's degree in engineering or equivalent, Be a test-pilot school graduate, Have a minimum of 1,500 hours flying time, Be a qualified jet pilot. I believe that if Bud had lived, he would have met all of these qualifications. Alan Shepard and John Glenn were selected from this pool of candidates.
David Bevier Holcombe
David, Bud's younger brother, was born 5 Aug 1926. At Ann Arbor High school, he was known as Dave. He was on the football and swim teams, and wrestled in the 165 lb. weight class. During his senior year in High school he signed up for the Navy Air Corps. He graduated in 1944 and immediately joined his unit.
1 Jul 1944 - 21 Jun 1945 Navy V-12 Unit, Western Michigan College, Kalamazoo, Michigan
5 Jul 1945 - 25 Jul 1945 NAS Glenview, Illinois
25 Jul 1945 - 8 Dec 1945 Navy Pre-Flight School, Iowa City, Iowa
1 Jan 1946 - 3 Aug 1946 NAS Corpus Christi, Texas
3 Aug 1946 - Jun 1947 NAS Pensacola, Florida
Jun 1947 - Aug 1948 Attack Squadron THREE B
Aug 1948 - Jun 1950 Attack Squadron FORTY-FOUR
Jun 1950 - Jul 1950 NAS Pensacola, Florida
Jul 1950 - Sep 1950 NAS Pensacola, Florida
Sep 1950 - Aug 1951 NAS Whiting Field, Milton, Florida
Aug 1951 - Aug 1952 NAS Pensacola, Florida
Aug 1952 - Sep 1952 Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, NAS, San Diego, California
Sep 1952 - 22 Jan 1954 Composite Squadron THREE
On Sept 5 1953, Dave married Nancy Giltner of San Diego, California. Shortly after he went on cruise to Korea. On a Jan. 22, 1954, Dave's plane disappeared over South Korea. He was presumed dead.
One of Dave's high school friends, Lee Pratt, published the following recollection in The Class of 1944 Alumni Newsletter, Spring/ Summer 2001.
Two weeks after graduation Dave Holcombe, Lee Pratt, and several other men departed for service in the Naval Air Corps V-5 program. Gradually the ranks thinned as classmates transferred to Annapolis, V-12 deck officers program, and some to the fleet. In May of 1946 only two of us were left, Dave and me. It was the end of the war, ground crews were getting out (on points, remember?) and flying was very sporadic. Actually we were moving furniture more then flying. We were given an option: stay in or be released to inactive duty. Dave and I sat down over a couple of beers and talked it over. He was ALL NAVY and stayed in. I got out to attend UM Dental School. Dave continued his training, got his wings and commission, served a tour in the Mediterranean and was assigned to an aircraft carrier in Korean Waters flying night fighters. The day after the Korean Armistice he took of on a routine flight, his radio message came back garbled (loss of oxygen?) and he was listed as missing and presumed dead.
1 Putnam County Health Department, Alfred Holcombe Birth Certificate 27 Oct. 1923. Greencastle Indiana, 6 Jun 2002. book 17, page 5, cert 48.
2 Putnam County Health Department, Alan Reader Holcombe Birth Certificate 27 Oct. 1923. Greencastle Indiana, 6 Jun 2002. book 17, page 5, cert 48.
3 United States. Census Office. 1930 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Decatur, Macon, Illinois, ED 19, National Archives Microfilm Publication, roll T626_538; Page: 20A. Washington, National Archives
4 Ann Arbor Public Library. "Re: Online Reference Question." E-mail to Sara James. 30 Oct. 2003. Bud appeared in the 1939 Ann Arbor High School Yearbook under the name "Alan B. Holcombe."
McPherson, Hannah Elizabeth Weir. The Holcombes, Nation Builders...Their Biographies, Genealogies, and Pedigrees. Washington: unknown, 1947, 1438.- Bud's ancestor's are listed on page 513 of this book.
Seaver, Jesse. The Holcomb(e) Genealogy. Philadelphia, Pa: American Historical-Genealogical Society, 1925.
For Further Research
The Bevier Family in America - Nancy Hilton and Bud Holcombe are included in this database. Bud's siblings and ancestors are also listed.
Page last updated 1/7/2008 11:31 PM