Captain Benjamin Cloud was a U.S. Navy pilot who worked in reconnaissance at various stages of his long career, including on the cusp of the Vietnam War. Eventually he would be assigned command of that unit making him one of the first African-American officers to command a squadron. This collection focuses on photos taken by Cloud or his reconnaissance squadrons.
Benjamin Cloud was born November 6, 1931, in San Diego. He grew up predominantly in El Cajon, a small city in San Diego County. After briefly majoring in Civil Engineering at San Diego State, he joined the US Navy and began pilot training in 1952. In 1954, he was assigned to the fighter reconnaissance program VC-61 (later designated as VFP-63), in San Diego, flying Grumman F9F Panthers. The unit was deployed to the Pacific several times. After participating in a Navy special program, Cloud earned a degree in Chinese language and culture and was returned to VC-61 in 1963 at the cusp of the Vietnam War. One of Cloud’s team, Charles Klausmann, was among the first to be wounded when his plane went down during a reconnaissance mission.
After his tour, Cloud was assigned as an aide to President Lyndon Johnson. Upon his return to flight duty Cloud was assigned to NAS Oceana in Virginia in 1966. From there, Cloud was assigned to command VFP-63, making him one of the first African-American officers to command a squadron. In 1972, after completing Navy War College in Rhode Island, Cloud was assigned Executive Officer of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). The fallout from a race riot onboard the carrier slowed Cloud’s career. He was transferred to Prairie View A&M University to run the ROTC program. After stints in Naples, Italy and Washington, D.C., Cloud retired in 1984. He was elected to SDASM board of directors in 1990, served until at least 2003.
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Link to Images on Flickr.