A Moment In Air Force History

This former 86th Fighter Bomber Squadron member made a balloon flight to 96,000 feet on June 2, 1957, in the inaugural Air Force “Project Manhigh” mission.

A. Maj. Gerald D. Wilburn
B. Capt. Joe Kittinger Jr.
C. Maj. Joseph G. Anderson
D. Capt. Iven C. Kincheloe Jr.

Answer: B. Capt. Joe Kittenger Jr.
Project Manhigh began in December 1955 to study the effects of high-altitude flight on humans in small space capsules. After his assignment to Germany, Captain Kittenger went on to complete the highest parachute jump in history on Aug. 16, 1960. He jumped 102,800 feet from the Excelsior III balloon, in the Air Force’s high-altitude flight study. He freefell at speeds up to 614 mph, approaching the speed of sound, while experiencing temperatures as low as -94 degrees Fahrenheit. He freefell for 4.5 minutes before opening his parachute at 18,000 feet. For his work on the project, President Dwight D. Eisenhower awarded Captain Kittinger the C.B Harmon Trophy, and he also received the J.J. Jeffries Award, the Leo Stevens Parachute Medal, and the Wingfoot Lighter-Than-Air Society Achievement Award on Oct. 3, 1960.

(Courtesy of 435th Air Base Wing and 86th Airlift Wing History offices)