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Kenneth Schechter dies at 83; Navy pilot performed heroic blind landing

December 23, 2013

He left the Navy months later but his final flight became famous. A 1954 film, "Men of the Fighting Lady," dished up the incident with Hollywood license, making jets of the men's prop planes and staging Schechter's landing as a flaming wreck back on his carrier.

The son of European immigrants in the garment trade, Schechter was born in New York City on Jan. 30, 1930, and grew up in Los Angeles.

He attended UCLA for two years before his active duty, later receiving a bachelor's degree from Stanford University. He went on to receive a master's degree from Harvard Business School.

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In his mid-60s, Schechter asked Navy officials what had happened to paperwork that was filed decades earlier to support the issuance of medals.

It was never received, he was told.

"That first letter was heartbreaking," Schechter said in a 1995 Times interview. "It was a cold letter — like, don't bother me."

With aid from then-U.S. Rep. Carlos Moorhead (R-Glendale), Schechter was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on board the aircraft carrier Constellation in San Diego.

Schechter is survived by his wife, Sue, whom he married in 1955; daughter Anne Buckley; sons Rob and Jonathan; and seven grandchildren.

Thayer, who was best man at the Schechters' wedding, died in 1961. Then a lieutenant colonel, he crashed into the Mediterranean while guiding a fellow pilot whose plane's electrical system had failed. Neither man's remains were found.

Thayer received a Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously, in 2009.

-- Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times

steve.chawkins@latimes.com

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