These pictures are from Joe Lee Burns collection. Click on the first photo to enlarge it. See Joe Lee Burn’s bigger version of the Da Nang AB picture of the 35th TFS guys with arrows going from the names to the people in the picture plus a list of guys in the squadron the day the picture was taken who missed the photo op.
You many then click on the >> or << symbols to move forward or backwards in picture viewer.
The following is the text of an email message I received from Dennis VanLiere, the backseater in Veins 2, a two ship flight of 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron F-4s flying a close air support mission in Military Region 1, the northern most sector of South Vietnam:
I was TDY to the 35th TFS from late April 1972 into October 1972, from the 36th TFS. I was a WSO and flew a replacement F-4 in shortly after the squadron arrived in DaNang, and then joined them a couple of weeks later. Along with Gene Doyle, we left a previously perfectly good F-4 in a rice paddy near and around the Qua Viet River on May 25, 1972 as part of Veins flight two ship.
We landed around 8:30 a.m. near some South Vietnamese Marines who were not supposed to be there, walked, then rode out on an APC after talking to the US Marine Captain advisor who had been coordinating with the FAC. He told us he thought he saw a trail of smoke away from the aircraft when he heard the explosion which blew part of a stabilator off. The airplane stopped flying soon after that and we punched out immediately.
The APC took us to a rear area where we talked to a USMC Lt Col, Major and CMSGT who were manning bunker with the first TOW ground missiles being used in the war. They showed us a North Vietnamese Army tank trying to hide under a palm tree while they worked other F-4s on it. We flew out of there with a USMC chopper to Hue. Met the Air Force command team at Big Control and gave them a short debrief. The Colonel there took us on a jeep tour of the city and saw an Army Colonel friend of his warming a chopper up on a pad and asked him to take us to Phu Bai, a few minutes away. He did and took us up to their ready room and showed us some trophies they had gotten from tanks and armored vehicles they had taken out with helicopter missiles.
While there someone came and asked if the Air Force guys wanted a ride back to DaNang, and if so, they needed to get down to the flight line where a USAF chopper was warming up. We made that flight and landed in front of Gun Fighter Village on the flight line at about 4:30 p.m. . . . out of touch with home the whole day. After debriefing, we made a quick stop in the squadron where someone had written on the beer refrigerator Doyle/VanLiere – $16,000,000 at $.25 apiece for beers. If you forgot to sign out to fly, you had to buy throw in $4.00 for 16 beers for the squadron beer supply. I guess losing an F-4 (Unit price of an F-4D was $4Million) was more serious than not signing out.
As I was going back to the quarters, the night crews were just getting ready to go to the squadron. My roommate, Joe Boyle was just coming out as I was coming in. I was muddy and more than a little bedraggled. He said “What happened to you? You look like you got shot down!” As I passed him to go to bed I replied “I did.”
The 35th was a special group, a good bunch of flyers with great leaders who did more than their share of damage to the enemy cause. I was also the squadron intel guy, combing through the daily intel reports for results of our missions.
FYI: I have an audio tape made by John Huwe who was in the back seat of Veins 1 when Veins 2 was shot down. The crew of Veins 2 is heard trying to get a visual on Veins 1 when one of them says something like “Nice secondary.” He saw a big fire ball on the ground and at first thought it was an ammunition supply exploding after being hit by a Mark 82 500 pound bomb. The fireball, however, was the F-4 exploding when it hit the ground. One of the crewmen then sees the two parachutes and then realizes that Veins 2 was shot down.
These pictures were taken by members of the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron while TYD from Kunsan Air Base, Korea, to DaNang Air Base, South Vietnam, and Korat Air Base, Thailand in 1972.
Click on the first photo to enlarge it. You many then click on the >> or << symbols to move forward or backwards in picture viewer.
On January 3, 2012, Nadine S. Pearish wrote the following to friends of her father, James M. Beatty, Jr:
It is with a sadden heart that I am sending you this e-mail. I am writing to inform you of James M. Beatty’s Jr passing today, January 3, 2012. I found your addresses among my father’s belongings and felt that the closeness that was shared in life would be continued in his death. As the tears stream down my face there are many names that I remember from my childhood days and other names that I have heard my father speak fondly of. I know he will be missed by many.”
Joe Lee Burns wrote the following about his good friend and comrade in arms:
’66 - Ubon – Jim Beatty story - Does anybody remember when the Base Commander brought Robert Mitchum into the O’Club bright and early one morning and how we greeted him and what occurred after that? I do. As Mitchum entered the club one of our fearless leaders (I believe it was Bob Ashcraft) shouted out “lets say hello to Robert Mitchum“; to which we all replied (as taught to do by our elders) “hello Arz-hole,” then came the call to say hello to the ‘Arz- hole’ to which we all replied “hello Mitchum“. WE then asked him to please join us at our table which he did, excusing himself from the Base Commander by saying he wanted to get to know us a little better. This occurred at about 0830. From that point on until about 1100, we tried and successfully accomplished getting him thoroughly shiffassedon his favorite drink of gin and tonic. After several unsuccessful attempts by the Base Commander to rescue him, which he declined, we all ended up in front of the club having pictures taken with him. By that time his eyes, which are normally squinted, were barely slits. I remember being amazed as to how well-informed he was and his sincerity in talking to us. . He was a pretty much down to earth guy. Just another day in an otherwise dull combat tour for us!!
’72 DaNang - Capt Jim Beatty gave me my ‘local checkout’ ride (~16 April ’72, I think) – supposed to be a milk-run close air support mission -but, we were diverted into NVN across the DMZ to Route Pack 1 to attack two (2) SAM sites well guarded with AAA!!!! Jim always says he snuffed out his Benson and Hedges cigarette in his palm when they said “the fingers lake area” – it was a known hot spot to avoid if you weren’t going to attack it!! They shot lots of AAA and an SA-2 at us!!! Jim (who was in my back seat) said I passed the ‘check-out’ “because we didn’t die”.
’72 DaNang May – Close Air Support – Troops in Contact with the enemy – (On about our 3rd bomb pass, I was a little too close behind Beatty on his pass, so I moved my aim point to a remaining hutch toward the north end of the line. As I am lining up for my run-in, I check #3 to see if he’s taking any ground fire. What I do see is one of Beatty’s 2 MK82s come off in “slick” configuration, i.e., the fins on one bomb did not open up and cause it to decelerate – it was sailing along pretty close to Jim’s F-4. I called “Beatty, pull up, bomb went slick.” He snatches the jet up and away from the frag pattern (I don’t think there was any damage to the jet).
’72 Korat 20 July - Jim was also my wingman when I ‘accidentally’ got shot down departing North Vietnam.”
Read Joe Lee Burns detailed description of the mission in which he was shot down, ejected and rescued by the Navy in the Gulf of Tonkin called “A Ridge to Far.”
Joe Moran wrote:
“We were in the 35 TFS TDY to Danang from Kunsan. Jim was #3. Rolled up and found 2 MiG 21s 4,000′ directly below him same direction. Barrel rolled back, stoked the AB’s and started across the circle. Claims he did not go supersonic. Unable to get AIM 9Js to growl. Closing fast went to guns. He was in an old E model (no pinkie switch). MiGs broke. He pulled pipper in front for high angle shot. KILL. Over g when he pulled up. Egressed at speed of stink. No truth to the rumor that airplane never flew again. Jim claims low altitude butter fly dart sorties in the FWIC syllabus prepared him for that shot. He always went down and away to get there the quickest (with the greatest angles). This was end of April 1972. First gun kill in an F-4E. Handley’s book claimed he was the first in May. I talked to Phil ’bout that and he concedes Jim was the first but his book was already out and ‘you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube’.“
Here is the obituary of Major James M. Beatty, Jr.
Maj. James M. Beatty Jr. was one of America’s unsung heroes. He flew 229 combat mission, 147 in North Vietnam, and during one of those missions got a confirmed gun kill on a MIG 21. Maj. Beatty earned the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 14 Air Medals among many other awards and decorations during his combat flying. He had 3,250 hours in the F-4 and F-15 aircraft. Maj. Beatty was a recognized expert in aerial combat, and culminated his Air Force career as the Air-To-Air Test Project Manager in the Fighter Weapons test Group, Nellis AFB, Nevada.
After leaving the active Air Force, he continued to serve his country as an F-15 academic and simulator instructor for more than 22 years at Tyndall AFB, Panama City, Fla. His service in the U.S. Air Force and his vast experience was essential in developing future Air Force warriors. As an instructor pilot and simulator instructor, he trained more than 1,000 F-15 pilots and air Battle Managers for the combat air forces during his time at Tyndall. His superior instructional skills enabled the 325th Fighter Wing to meet pilot and air battle manager production goals.
Maj. Beatty was born in Eau Claire, Pa., and had lived in Panama City since 1988. He was a graduate of Grove City College, and served in the USAF from 1963 to 1976.
He is survived by his wife, Mary C. Beatty of Panama City; his children, Natalie L. Hauck and husband, Raymond, of Panama City, Nadie S. Pearish of Panama City, Lisa M. Campbell of Butler, Pa., and John W. Fecich III and wife, Patty, of South Hampton, N.J.; his grandchildren, Alecia N. Mills and husband, Jeremy, Thomas E. Hager III and wife, Julia, Samuel J. Hauck, Jacey L. Hauck, Jolene L. Eiler, Joseph M. Eiler, Troy S. Pearish, Kristopher R. Pearish, Christopher J. Campbell, Jacob F. Campbell and John W. Fecich IV; his great-grandchildren, Serenity A. Murphy, James J. Murphy, Lena M. Mills and Ayden C. Hager; his brother, Dean G. Beatty and wife, Carol, of Eau Claire, Pa.; his sisters, Gail Buzard and husband, Jack, of Eau Claire, Pa., and Faye Herman and husband, Ken, of Pittsburgh, Pa.; and numerous nieces and nephews.
No services will be held locally. Funeral arrangements in Pennsylvania will be handled by H. Jack Buzard Funeral Home, 201 S. Washington St., Eau Claire, PA 16030,
Thirty-eight years ago, I stood on the tarmac of DaNang Air Base, the northern-most fighter base in South Vietnam. DaNang had the unenviable reputation of absorbing frequent rocket attacks, hence the nick-name “rocket city.”
My base of assignment was in South Korea, but the North Vietnamese changed that when they began their Easter 1972 offensive by attacking the South with more than 200 thousand troops. Since the American ground presence had been drastically reduced since 1969 and the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) was quickly overwhelmed, the only way to stop the onslaught was with airpower. My squadron, the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) “Panthers,” was the first (of what turned out to be many) to deploy to augment the fighter units already operating from South Vietnam and Thailand.
Initially I was assigned to the 421st TFS “Black Widows” to help replace their combat losses. I quickly learned that the “widows” were appropriately named – their losses resulted in frequent funerals. They were poorly led – the squadron commander was a glory-seeker. I vowed to get out of that unit as quickly as I could. Three weeks after I arrived, the Panthers were reunited as an integral unit. I had survived my short stint with the Black Widows.
As opposed to the home-based units, my squadron was very well led. For one thing, we had far more experience – eight of our pilots were graduates of the Air Force Fighter Weapons School, the graduate school for fighter pilots. Our commander Lyle “Sky King” Beckers was one of those graduates and very professional. Our operations officer Bill Mickelson was extremely good with people. Together, they made a good team.
The fellow I flew most often with was North Carolina State graduate Charlie Cox. Charlie was my flight commander, had 2,000 hours in the Phantom, and a previous war tour. Charlie was a very demanding pilot who pushed me quite hard. I would follow him into a fiery furnace.
I turned 24 shortly after arriving at DaNang. With my 65 hours of Phantom experience, I was pretty typical of the young lieutenants in my squadron. We had to grow up fast.
Our squadron was assigned to the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing “Gunfighters” and we lived in Gunfighter Village. It was pretty crowded – my room was built for two, but I had three other roommates, two of whom were subsequently shot down (but fortunately rescued). The food was rotten. Our dining options were limited and none of them were good. I got food poisoning more than once.
I said that DaNang was often called rocket city. There was a North Vietnamese artillery battalion within a dozen miles of the base and they would launch an attack at least weekly and always at night. A minor attack would be five 122mm Kutyusha rockets and a heavy attack would be 15, all in the span of five minutes. The Kutyusha was an unguided rocket with a five inch warhead – if it ever hit anything, it would cause significant damage. I only recall one ever hitting Gunfighter Village, exploding just outside the building next to mine. It hurt a couple of fellows pretty bad.
I spent 11 weeks at DaNang before our squadron was sent to another base in Thailand. In that time, DaNang lost 13 Phantoms and many other aircraft as well. We flew a lot – in May, I flew 41 missions. In some cases, we were attacking targets within 15 miles of the base; the enemy was that close. All of my missions were flown against targets in either South or North Vietnam; I never flew a single mission into either Cambodia or Laos.
In mid-June, the 35th packed its bags and headed for Korat Air Base in Thailand. It was a huge change. Korat was a paradise – the food was much better; we didn’t have to worry about getting rocketed at night; our living conditions were improved; and the nearby city of the same name was a mecca of exotic sights and sounds. The missions were quite long (some as long as 5+ hours which is a long time to be strapped into an ejection seat) and frequently hazardous, but coming home made it worthwhile.
I spent four more months flying combat until mid-October when the Panthers returned to our home base of Kunsan, South Korea. By that time I had flown 121 combat missions, 43 of which were over North Vietnam. We had helped to blunt the Easter attack and bring the enemy to the negotiating table. A few months later, an armistice was signed and our POWs began to return home. It was a hard job well done.
These are Richard Keyt’s pictures taken while he was a member of the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron while TYD from Kunsan Air Base, Korea, to Korat Air Base, Thailand in 1972.
Click on the first photo to enlarge it. You many then click on the >> or << symbols to move forward or backwards in picture viewer.
On April 1, 1972, while members of the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Kunsan Air Base, Korea, slept, an early morning phone call summoned USAF Colonel Tyler G. Goodman to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing command post. After communicating with 5th Air Force headquarters in Japan via the secure “walk-talk” teletype system, Colonel Goodman instituted the squadron’s silent recall procedure, which was designed to reduce the chances that nonessential personnel would know of the recall.
Thus began the April Fool’s day deployment of the 35th TFS to Vietnam and Thailand to participate in the “Southeast Asia War Games” and Operation Linebacker I. Later that day, 14 F-Ds departed Kunsan Air Base for Clark Air Base, Philippines. On April 5, 1972, 35th TFS crews began flying combat missions from Ubon Air Base, Thailand. The following day, other 35th TFS crews began flying combat missions from DaNang Air Base, South Vietnam.
Some of the 35th TFS Guys Pose for a Group Photo in front of the Squadron Building Just Prior to Departing Kunsan AB, Korea, for Southeast Asia.
The 35th TFS soon consolidated the squadron and moved all of its men and F-4Ds to Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, where I joined it. During the summer and fall of 1972 as part of Operation Linebacker I, the 35th TFS conducted strike escort missions into Route Pack VI, the most heavily defended area in the history of aerial warfare. Each strike escort mission consisted of four 35th TFS F-4s flying in “fluid four” formation on the perimeter of the strike force (the F-4s carrying bombs) as the strike force ingressed and egressed the target in Route Pack VI. The strike escorts usually flew the F-4E armed with four AIM-9 Sidewinder heat seeking missiles, 3 or 4 AIM-7 Sparrow radar guided missiles and one six barreled 20MM gatling gun. When a strike escort carried only three Sparrows, it was because a single AIM-7 missile was replaced by an ALQ-119 jamming pod that jammed enemy SA-2 Guideline surface to air missile (“SAM”) radars.
The SA-2 SAM was a 32 foot long flying supersonic telephone pole. The radar guided missile could fly Mach 3.5 (three and one half times the speed of sound) and had a range of 25 miles and a maximum altitude of 60,000 feet. It was a formidable weapon and responsible for the loss of many U.S. aircraft over North Vietnam. The missile had a warhead that weighed 195 kg (130 kg of which is high explosive) and could detonate via proximity (when it got as close as it was going to get), contact and command fusing. At the altitudes F-4s flew over North Vietnam, the missile had a kill radius of approximately 65 meters, but anything within 100-120 meters of the detonation would be severely damaged.
The strike escort F-4s were the second line of defense if enemy MiGs got past the MiG CAP (combat air patrol) F-4s. The job of the strike escorts was to engage and destroy MiGs that threatened the strike force. If the MiGs got too close to the F-4 bombers, the bombers would be forced to jettison their bombs and take evasive action to avoid being shot down.
In the hierarchy of flying, the jet fighter is the pinnacle, but aerial combat is the fighter pilot’s ultimate experience. Tom Wolfe said that fighter pilots “have the right stuff” in his best selling book of the same name. Tom also wrote a short story called “Jousting with Sam and Charlie, the Truest Sport.” It is about a Navy F-4 crew that took off from a US aircraft carrier and got shot down by a surface to air missile (a “SAM”). The crew was rescued from the Gulf of Tonkin by a Navy helicopter and ate dinner that night in the officer’s mess / ward room or whatever the Navy guys called it. I believe the short story is in Wolfe’s book called “Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine.” It was first published in a magazine, but I cannot remember which one.
In 1980 I was working on a masters degree in tax law at New York University School of Law. Tom Wolfe gave a talk to the students about his book “The Right Stuff.” I attended and found it very interesting. Tom spoke about a chapter he wrote for the book, but his editor didn’t let him put in the final version because it didn’t have anything to do with the rest of the book. Wolfe spent a lot of time researching “The Right Stuff” by hanging out with fighter pilots on Air Force and Navy bases. The deleted chapter was all about fighter pilots and what it was like to fly fighters in the US military. Tom said that his research showed that most fighter pilots were white Anglo Saxon protestants who were first born sons.
After Tom finished the speech he came into the audience and talked to people and signed autographs. I approached him from behind and waited for a chance to get his attention. I finally called out “Mr. Wolfe,” but he did not turn around. I then said “I am a white Anglo Saxon protestant first born son who flew F-4s in Vietnam.” That got his attention. Tom turned around and we had a lively discussion for an extended period of time about flying fighters. Tom told me that I should read “Jousting with Sam and Charlie, the Truest Sport.”
A few weeks later, I was wasting time in the library. I grabbed a volume of bound magazines off the shelf and thumbed through it. By chance I came across “Jousting with Sam and Charlie, the Truest Sport.” Excellent story. What are the odds of randomly finding the story? I searched for the story on the net tonight, but only found references to it.
But, I digress. This is about the men of the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron who achieved the ultimate fighter pilot dream, to engage and destroy an enemy MiG in aerial combat. The vast majority of military pilots who flew in the Vietnam war were not fighter pilots so they never had a chance to engage a MiG. Most fighter pilots who flew in the Vietnam war never flew into North Vietnam where the MiGs were. Most of the fighter pilots who flew into North Vietnam never engaged a MiG. The fraternity of Vietnam era fighter pilots who actually engaged a MiG in life or death aerial combat is very small and very elite.
Lt. Colonel Ferguson’s F-4D that he flew back to Kunsan AB, Korea, in October 1972 when the 35 TFS RTBd.
Ask Joe Lee Burns or Gary Rettebush Why 8 Air to Air MiG Kills are Listed
Official USAF Records Credit the 35 TFS with 6 MiG Kills
My squadron had a lot of members of the aerial combat fraternity because it was tasked with the strike escort mission in Route Pack VI. The following table lists the members of the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron who were credited with MiG kills during the time we were TDY to Korat Air Base, Thailand, in the summer and fall of 1972. When they made their kills, all of the aircrews were flying the F-4E with the internal 20MM six-barrel gatling gun.
- Capt. James Beatty Jr. & Lt. James Sumner
Call sign: Balter 03
MiG-21 with the 20MM cannon
- Major Gary Retterbush & Lt. Daniel Autrey
Call sign: Finch 03
MiG-21 with the 20MM cannon
- Major Gary Retterbush & Capt. Robert Jasperson
Call sign: Lark 01
MiG-21 with the 20MM cannon
Read Gary Retterbush’s article on his MiG kills called “Gary Retterbush 2 – North Vietnamese Air Force 0.”
*Major Lucas was a 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron pilot.
Dan Autrey was my roommate. Dan and Gary Retterbush were awarded the Silver Star for their kill. Dan made a great tape recording of a mission north of Hanoi during which he and Gary Retterbush had a spoofed SAM launched at them while they were attacked by two MiG-21s from low and behind that each fired two Atoll heat seeking missiles at them. Dan told me after the mission what it felt like when he heard Lt. Col. Beckers in Lark 01 call “Lark 3 break left.” Dan looked to his F-4′s seven o’clock position, saw four supersonic missiles coming at him and said “oh shit, left, left, left.” I have the tape and will soon write a story about that close encounter of the frightening kind.
Fighter Pilot University published an email message written by Joe Lee Burns. Here are some quotes from Joe Lee:
“I loved flying like a mistress. Flying was first priority in my life after family, just below my love for America. I wasn’t ever the “best fighter pilot” in the world, but I was somewhere in the top ten for a while. What I really wanted to be was the best WINGMAN in the AF. I got to be pretty good. I wanted to be trusted, to be counted upon by my fellow pilots in the air.
I mentioned camaraderie. I cannot overstate the bond (facing danger, sharing views of mother earth from above, and sharing the excitement of challenge and success in the air) that is formed between fellow pilots who fly together regularly in training. Multiply by ten when you fly together in combat. And, no, it is seldom verbalized at the time. But you can see it in each other’s eyes every time you meet thereafter.”
The purpose of this page is to assist in finding old friends and squadron mates. The following people are former members of the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron or the 80th Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Kunsan Air Base, Korea, or the 36th Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Osan Air Base, Korea, who were sent TDY to Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam, and/or Korat Royal Air Base, Thailand in 1972, and whose address and contact information are known to Rick Keyt:
- Ed Askins, 35th TFS
- Dan Autrey, 35th TFS
- Chuck Banks, 35th TFS
- Lyle Beckers, 35th TFS
- Joe Boyles, 35th TFS
- Joe Lee Burns, 35th TFS
- Tim “CC” Claiborne, 35th TFS
- Gary Corbett, 35th TFS
- Charlie Cox, 35th TFS
- Dave Eastis, 35th TFS
- Hap Ertlschweiger, 35th TFS
- Chuck Jaglinski, 35th TFS
- Bob Jasperson, 35th TFS
- Rick Keyt, 35th TFS
- Jim “Killer” Killoran, 35th TFS
- George Lippemeier, 80th TFS
- Dave Lowder, 35th TFS
- Doug Malloy, 35th TFS
- Joe Moran, 36th TFS
- Mike Nelson, 35th TFS
- Jack Overstreet, 35th TFS
- Ron Price, 35th TFS
- Jeff O. ‘Pitts’ Pritchard, 35th TFS
- Gary Retterbush, 35th TFS
- Carl Scheidegg, 35th TFS
- Raymond Seymour, 35th TFS
- Biff Strom, 35th TFS
- Charlie Sullivan, 35th TFS
- Jim Sumner, 35th TFS
- Ron Thomas, 35th TFS
- Cliff Young, 35th TFS
- Dennis VanLiere, 36th TFS
- Mickey Wilbur, 35th TFS
If you are a former member of the 35th TFS, 36th TFS or the 80th TFS and want to add your name to the list, or if you want to contact somebody on the list, send an email message to Rick Keyt at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and contact information. I’ll add you to the list if you are a former member. If you are trying to reach somebody on the list, I will forward your email to the person you seek and that person can decide whether to respond to your inquiry.
80th Tactical Fighter Squadron
The 80th TFS Juvats have the Headhunters Association for former and current members of the squadron. The squadron has regular reunions and is looking for lost Vietnam era Juvats to come to reunions. See the Headhunter’s website.
Kunsan SEA 1972 TDYers MIA
If you know how to reach any of our guys that are MIA (missing in America) or if you know of names that should be added to the list below, drop me a line at email@example.com.
- Jack Caputo
- Larry Culler
- Jay Gaspar
- Lloyd Golden
- Ray “Howie” Howington
- John Huwe
- Bill Kyle
- Phil Lehman
- Bill Mikkelson
- Jeff Musfeldt
- Jim Pinckley
- Sol Ratner
- Carl Scheidegg
- Dan Silvas
- Russ Stone
- Jack Storck
- Larry Taylor
- Ray Vogel
- Don Vogt
- Phil Winkler
Deceased Comrades in Arms
35th TFS Predeployment to Southeast Asia 1 Apr 72
35th Tactical Fighter Squadron in front of squadron building Kunsan Air Base, Korea, 1 Apr 72
1st row: Mickey Wilbur, Charlie Sullivan, Ray Seymour, Ed Askins
2nd row standing: Bill Mikkelson, Jack Caputo,
2nd row sitting: Don Vogt, Mike Nelson, Jim Pinckley, Jim Sumner
Back row from the left: Sol Ratner, Gary Retterbush, Charlie Cox, Jeff Pritchard, Dan Silvas, Biff Strom, Ray “Howie” Howington, Jeff Musfeldt, Phil Lehman, Dave Lowder, Phil Winkler, Carl Scheidegg, Jack Storck, Cliff Young
35th TFS at Da Nang AB, South Vietnam, Spring 1972
See Joe Lee Burn’s bigger version of the below picture with arrows going from the names to the people in the picture plus a list of guys in the squadron the day the picture was taken who missed the photo op.
35th Tactical Fighter Squadron, DaNang Air Base, South Vietnam, May 1972
First Row from the left excluding Lt. Biff Strom in the intake: Capt.. John Huwe, Lt. Carl Scheidegg (2nd), Lt. Ray Seymour (3rd), Major Bill Kyle (4th), Capt. Chuck Jablinski (5th), Capt. Bill Tuttle (6th), Capt. Charlie Cox (7th), Major Ernie Leuders (8th), Lt. Boyle( 9th) and Lt. Ray Vogel (far right on the MK 82 bomb)
Front Seat: Lt. Col. Lyle Beckers, Squadron Commander
On the wing from the left: Lt. Ron Price, Lt. Phil Winkler (5th)
First row on the top of the airplane from the left: Lt. Mike Nelson, Lt. Larry Culler (2nd), Lt. Hap Ertlschweiger (3rd, but first guy standing on the wing), Lt. Jay Gaspar (4th standing up), ? (5th and far right standing up)
Back row on the top of the airplane from the left: Lt. Jeff Pritchard, Capt. Bob Jasperson (2nd), Lt. Ed Askins (3rd), Lt. Phil Lehman (4th), Lt. Jim Sumner (5th), Capt. Joe Lee Burns (6th – but digitally added by a certain high tech fighter pilot),
Most Americans do not realize that the men and women who serve in the U.S. military frequently risk their lives as a day to day part of their jobs. Many military jobs are no more dangerous than the jobs of most other Americans. Some military jobs, however, are inherently dangerous and sometimes can be deadly.
For example, when I was flying the F-4 Phantom supersonic fighter (1971 – 1976) I could not purchase commercial life insurance because my job was too risky. I actually saw three fighters (two F-4s and one T-38) crash in peace time during the five years I flew fighters in the United States Air Force. I knew many people who ejected from crippled fighters. When you throw your body at the ground in a 45 degree dive bomb at 450 knots or engage in mock aerial combat with other airplanes at supersonic speeds, things can happen.
Most of us have heard the term “freedom is not free.” When we hear that phrase, we usually think of U.S. military personnel dying for our country in war, but it also applies in peace time and to accidents that occur in war time.
American military personnel die all too frequently so that the American people can enjoy the fruits of freedom. We should always remember our fallen heroes and the words of President Abraham Lincoln in his letter to Mrs. Lydia Bixby who lost five sons in the Civil War. President Lincoln wrote “I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
Lt. Phil Clark (father) & Lt. Terry Clark (son)
Phil Clark was a 1968 Annapolis graduate and Navy fighter pilot whose A-7 fighter bomber was shot down over North Vietnam on December 24, 1972. Phil was first declared missing in action and later reclassified to killed in action. When Phil was shot down, he was married and had a very young son, Terry, and a daughter.
A few years after Phil’s death, Phil’s young wife died and his two young children were raised in Phoenix, Arizona, by their grandparents, Phil and Freda Clark. The elder Phil is a retired USAF Colonel and former bomber pilot. Phil and Freda were best friends for years with my parents. My dad is a retired USAF Major.
Terry Clark graduated from Brophy College Preparatory high school in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1986, and the US Naval Academy in 1990, twenty-two years after his father’s graduation from the academy. Terry followed in his father’s footsteps and became a Navy fighter pilot. I remember Terry and his sister visited my office one day for a legal matter shortly after Terry had received his wings of gold.
On February 18, 1996, Lt. Terry Clark was killed in an F-14 training accident off the coast of San Diego. I’ll never forget Colonel Phil Clark, Sr., telling me how difficult it was for he and Freda to go to Arlington National Cemetery twice, once to bury Phil and again to bury Terry. As a father, I cannot begin to imagine the pain and anguish Phil and Freda must have felt to have raised a son and a grandson to go to the Naval Academy, Navy pilot training and then be killed while flying fighters in defense of the United States. The three generations of Clarks are true American heroes of the highest order. They served our country quietly with dignity, honor and pride.
Captain Thomas A. Amos and Captain Mason I. Burnham
Tom Amos (35th Tactical Fighter Squadron) and Mason Burnham (421st Tactical Fighter Squadron) were killed in action during an F-4D combat mission over Laos on April 20, 1972. They were escorting an AC-130 gunship as it struck targets on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The AC-130s (known as “Spectres”) carried a 20mm six barreled gatling gun and a 105mm Howitzer canon. The Spectres were extremely effective at destroying military targets on the trail.
The job of the F-4 was to drop bombs on any troops that fired anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) at the gunship. The F-4 rolled in to attack a gun on the ground. The crew of the AC-130 saw a fireball on the ground and were not able to contact Tom or his backseater on the radio. The term used by the intelligence personnel to describe the incident was “no chutes, no beepers.”
I will never forget hearing those words from time to time when I was attending intelligence briefings before flying combat missions over Vietnam. The phrase meant there was no word on the fate of a downed aircrewman because when the airplane went down, nobody saw any parachutes or heard any beepers from the emergency radios that all aircrewmen carried. When I flew combat missions over South Vietnam, North Vietnam and Laos in 1972, I actually carried two radios on my person plus a third radio in the survival kit contained in the ejection seat. USAF F-4s had an emergency radio in the survival kit that could be set to automatically transmit the emergency beeper sound on UHF frequency 343.0 (the emergency frequency monitored by USAF airplanes) when the ejection seat fired.
Tom was the only member of the 35th TFS (my squadron) from Kunsan, Air Base, Korea, killed in action when the 35th TFS deployed to DaNang Air Base, South Vietnam, and Korat Air Base, Thailand, in 1972.
See Tom Amos on the Virtual Wall.
Captain Tom Ballard and Lt. Ron Goodwin
Tom Ballard and Ron Goodwin were killed flying an F-4 during a nuclear bomb delivery training mission over Korea on February 16, 1973. They were on a typical F-4 training mission. Tom and Ron were tasked to fly a low level route in their F-4D and deliver their first practice simulated nuclear bomb within 1,500 feet of the target plus or minus two minutes of a designated time over the target (TOT). One of the missions of the F-4 was nuclear bombing so F-4 crews frequently practiced the skills necessary to put a nuclear bomb on target within the designated TOT. In Korea, we usually flew a low level route 500 feet above the ground at 420 knots for about 30 minutes before reaching the target on the bombing range.
The F-4 had two ways to deliver a nuke bomb, the lay down method and the low angle drogue delivery (LADD) method. The lay down method is the simplest method. It involves merely flying straight and level over the target and releasing the nuke bomb at the proper time and place. The bomb falls away from the airplane, the nose of the bomb falls off to reveal a spike and the bomb floats to the ground in a parachute.
The LADD delivery method involves flying towards the target and at a predetermined distance the pilot pulls back on the stick and begins a steep climb approximating 45 degrees. At some point in the climb, the F-4′s Weapons Release Computer System releases the bomb. The nuke bomb then continues in an upward trajectory for a while before falling back to earth. The parachute on the bomb opens and the bomb then begins to float toward the ground.
The purpose of the LADD is to cause an air burst, i.e., a bomb that explodes above the ground, as opposed to a bomb that explodes on the ground. The nuke bomb contained a radar altimeter that detonates the bomb at a designated altitude above the ground. An air burst creates substantially more radioactivity than a ground burst of the same magnitude.
Tom and Ron flew a good low level mission to the Kuni bombing range on the west coast of Korea. When they flew over the target at 1,000 feet, their bomb did not release. The most common reason a bomb did not release was because the pilot failed to properly configure all of the switches necessary for the delivery. We called this a “switchology error,” which meant an error caused by improper setting of weapons switches. In the F-4 it was actually possible to select the switches in such a way that pressing the bomb release button caused the 20mm gatling gun on the centerline of the airplane to be released like a bomb. The powers that be were not happy when a pilot accidentally bombed off a gun that cost several hundred thousand dollars.
Tom began a 360 degree turn to make another bombing run so that he could release his bomb within two minutes of the designated TOT. The accident report speculated that while in the turn at low level (500 – 1,000 feet) the F-4 flew into the water. Tom was probably checking the switches in the cockpit trying to figure out why the bomb did not release and was momentarily distracted, which allowed the airplane hit the water. When you fly at high speeds (500 knots is 845 feet per second), there is not much room for error.
Duty, Honor, Country
Each of the above men exemplifies the concepts of Duty, Honor and Country, the foundations on which the U.S. military is built. I believe that the finest speech ever given is General Douglas MacArthur’s “Duty, Honor, Country” speech that he gave without notes to the West Point corps of cadets on May 12, 1962. In honor and remembrance of the six men named above and all of our fallen heroes of the U.S. military, I will close with excerpts from General MacArthur’s famous speech.
“Duty, Honor, Country — those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you want to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn. . . . I regard [the U.S. soldier] now, as one of the world’s noblest figures; not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. . . . They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light.”
Joe Lee Burns started this collection of memories to capture for his kids and grandkids events of the “REAL” reunion after our POWs came home from captivity in North Vietnam. If you attended the first convention, please tell us what you remember by making a comment at the end of this post.
Joe Lee Burns
The First “Official” Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association Reunion (our POWs were home!!). Anybody else with better memory than mine????
I remember the fancy (for back then) 4 screen slide show with fade in/out sequenced pictures of America (“America the Beautiful” background music??).
Who opened the party?
About 3,000 seated for dinner????
Who was the Master of Ceremonies from the strip downtown?
What was the program flow???
Didn’t the MC (told jokes?) come on as dessert was served??????
Guys kept taking notes up to the MC, welcoming POWs home from the different units.
Was this when deceased insect was declared???? All the guys in Mess Dress and 75% of the ladies in formal dresses went supine in a flash!!!
The MC said “It was the most amazing thing he had seen in 25 years of show business.”
Wayne Newton and Patti Page (?) were very gracious in their comments. Was there a third singer??
Yellow/gold table napkins tied together and hung from the rafters as Patti sang “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree”?????
Was ringing the Rat Freedom Bell the last event of the formal part of the evening????
The First “Official” Red River Valley Association Reunion (our POWs were home!!) 24/25 Aug ’73 at the Las Vegas, NV Convention Center.
Before the activities started for the evening, I had the opportunity to introduce myself as a 8th Wing GIB then and then my wife De Ann to General Robin Olds. He was more impressive than ever – at least, my wife thought so!!!!!
3,000 attendees for the Dining Out in the massive hall room.
Toward the end of the meal service, a 4 screen slide show began with hundreds of scenic pictures of Americana slowly flashed in sequence. Various patriotic songs were played in the background – America the Beautiful was one. Breathtaking.
Different units sent notes to be read by the Master of Ceremonies mostly welcoming their wing/squadron POWs back home from captivity. One Wing had the MC announce “Deceased Insect” and 2500 folks in formal dress go supine immediately!! (For civilians: “A favorite fighter-jock game was called D___ B__. In a bar, when anyone shouted ‘D*e*a*d B*u*g!’ everyone, including generals, had to drop to the floor with hands and feet extended into the air, like a “deceased insect”. Last man down had to buy drinks.”)
One of the entertainers (Patti Page) sang “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree”. Before the song was ended, a couple thousand yellow dinner napkins are spontaneously tied together in about a 100 yard strings and handed from row of tables to row of tables, and eventually the strings are draped from the rafters of the huge hall. (It was the central theme of the popular song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree”, Written by Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown and recorded by Tony Orlando and Dawn among many others, as the sign a released convict (POW) requested from his wife or lover (country), to indicate that she (his family and brothers-in-arms) still wanted him and that he would therefore be welcome to return home (US of A). He would be able to see it from the bus driving by their house, and would stay on the bus in the absence of the ribbon. He (they) turned out to be very welcome: there were a hundred yellow ribbons.)
What a beautifully inspiring night to welcome home our freed brothers.
Neither of these events was scripted – but the emotion of the event, the spontaneous ingenuity of fighter pilots, and the love for our long lost POWs made for an absolutely magical night of revelry.
Ross Truesdale yelled out, “RING THE F_______ BELL!
What I remember from the first “Real Reunion” about the bell was that, when they rang it (for the first time)…..it was underwhelming. No clear-pitched tone….sounded more like…. “bonk!” Guess an ops check before the event would have detracted from the claim of ringing it for the first time at the event.
A bunch of us flew in from Holloman with our wives on a C-118…..had to be at least 60 people. They brought coolers on board and we drank beer and bloody marys enroute to Nellis. The cockpit door was open and if you leaned out in the aisle you could see out the front of the plane. When the pilot turned base to final at Nellis, he badly overshot the runway and the plane erupted into catcalls and general declarations of derision for his half-assed performance. When we shut down on the ramp and opened the door, we were met by some Nellis O-6 who yelled up: “Where are you all from?” and some obviously inebriated passenger yelled back: “From? We’re from the IG and this is a no-notice ORI!” Funny, but this O-6 failed to see the humor and withheld the placement of the stairs at the plane to allow us to reassess our behavior before being allowed to deplane onto his ramp.
One post-reunion vignette I heard about probably needs to be verified, because I was not a witness. As you know, when the dining-out broke up….everyone headed for the strip. They probably had never seen so many people in mess-dress in so many bars and casinos. After the fact, I heard that some unnamed captain had given Robin Olds a ration of sh** in a bar and the two of them distinguished themselves by getting into it with each other and rolling around on the floor of the bar in their mess dress!
The guest speaker who rang the bell for the first time was General Alexander Haig. He didn’t do a very good job and had to have help. Have other stuff if you are interested.
DeAnn Mitchell (Burns)
Besides the lifting of the tied together yellow napkins, I remember most….the vast hallway outside banquet hall where I say men (long lost friends) see each other from afar and rush to meet & hug & cry. Couldn’t watch for long – it felt intrusive.
Joe Lee Burns responds
Me, too. I remember seeing Larry Chesley (POW 433rd ‘66) from my station in the Welcome/Information Booth. I didn’t quite get to him for a hug before I started crying. And seeing Larry made me remember losing Frank Ralston (Lt 433rd MIA/KIA May ’66 – godfather to my son, Patrick) all over again.
Carole Thompson responds
I certainly remember the deceased insect routine. Had on a beautiful blue gown with lots of cleavage. Went to the floor with the rest of the gang. But I didn’t show dress off to the “fullest” until we left that night and I was carrying a large plastic bag filled with ‘POWs Never Have a Nice Day’ buttons which broke while we were crossing Convention Blvd. Bob (Carole’s husband) went to the sidewalk and watched as I picked up buttons and put them in my gathered skirt and shoved in boobs, picked up buttons, pushed in boobs, picked up buttons and shoved in boobs. He thought it was real funny when the cab drivers stopped, not to help, but just to stare. Needless to say I had better boobs back in those days.
The bell ringing and the tying of the Son Tay tennis shoes was done during the business meeting if I remember correctly. Damn, it has been so long ago.
A couple of good guys to get info from would be JD Allen, now our treasurer, Dale Leatham and Don Harten. Think they were all involved in the First Real One.
Patti Page was wonderful. She didn’t even bat an eyelash while the guys covered her in napkins.
Think your numbers of about 3,000 is correct.
We chartered a Braniff airplane from here (San Antonio) and took the former POWs, their wives, all the MIA wives and the local Rats in SA. Plane sat at the airport in Vegas for the weekend waiting to bring us home and still managed to lose Swede Larson’s luggage!
I don’t think Dale worked on the first reunion with us but JD, Sparkie, Jim Stieber, Sam Bakke, Pete Gamage, Boots Boothby, Bob Anderson and myself, among others, DID work on that first reunion.
I was closest to Patti Page when the napkins started coming forward. The look on her face for about 15 milliseconds was sheer terror but she didn’t miss a beat.
Also, I was Decorations Chairman, among other things, on that first reunion. I ORDERED Red, White and Blue napkins and they were laid out (I think) but when Leslie and I walked into the Convention Center and saw those “puke” yellow, standard hotel napkins sitting there, I threw a fit. Too late. I was sitting front row, far right helping Charley Vanda direct the stars onto the stage in the proper order (sat in front of the 57th Wing CC) and it was only when the napkins began their “sea wave” toward us that I began to understand why the yellow napkins instead of my Red, White and Blue. Some POW beat me to the hotel staff!!!
What a reunion. It will be thoroughly covered in one of my books. . . . . .
Carole Thompson responds
Another fun thing that happened on the way to the reunion was the Braniff pilot knew he was flying a bunch of AF/Navy pilots so he got on the mike and told everyone he was going to fly the plane himself for awhile. Have no clue why he told us all that, but he shouldn’t have. As soon as he got the plane level, we all took off like charging bulls to the back of the plane and she nosed up. He neatly trimmed her back level and – you got it – everyone ran to the front of the plane. He got back on the mike and told us he gave up and was putting it on autopilot.
The poor hostesses tried to serve those little bottles of booze from the cart, but couldn’t do it fast enough to suit all of us; so a few of the guys helped by standing up by the cart, looking at the bottles and yelling, “Who wants scotch?”, (or rum or vodka or bourbon, depending on whatever bottle they had in their hand). They then tossed the bottle in the direction of the first “Here!” and proceeded to the next bottle until the cart was empty.
We kept all the empty bottles in the pillow cases and brought them back to Joyce Perrine’s home. (She is a KIA wife now, but was a MIA wife then, who went with us to the reunion.) We refilled the bottles, not always with the right booze, and had an Easter egg hunt in her backyard a few weeks later.
Loved reading what you have compiled. That all brings back great memories.
Would you like me to put something in the “Sweep” about you looking for people’s memories?
Mary Ellen Nabors
I had never heard of Foster Brooks before and was completely taken in by his pretending to be an Admiral (and a very drunk one). I was horrified that his aide and staff and all the officers there would let an admiral embarrass himself and the US Navy. I kept praying for someone to get him off the stage, and finally was so thankful and relieved to realize it was all an act; and then it was very funny.
I was honored to sit beside Lee Ellis, not only because he was one of the POW returning heroes that night, but because our daughter had worn his POW bracelet throughout his captivity.
The first bracelets were made by a Carol Bates, who worked for the Defense POW-Missing Persons Office. The bracelets came in various finishes, and on each bracelet was engraved, at a minimum, the name, rank, service, loss date, and country of loss of a missing man / POW from the Vietnam War. bracelets.)
I remember very clearly an incident while standing in the registration line. I believe Sam Bakke was registering people at the time. A 3 star general in front of me was bitching about the cost (something like $30). A young Captain in line beside him with a few drinks in his belly told the guy registering him “just tell me how many zeros to put after the 3″.
It was a great night. It was topped off by Patti Page and the yellow napkins. We’ll never forget!
The event was held at the Hilton. The first morning at the opening ceremonies everyone was assembled in the main auditorium. Alexander Haig, the ex Army general, Secretary of State, was the distinguished guest. He had the task of ringing the “Freedom Bell” for the first time, signaling that the POW’s were home. He just gave a light tap with the bell. A Captain in the first row, jumped up and shouted “Ring the God Dam Bell.” It shocked Haig, he wasn’t used to fighter pilots shouting at him. But fortunately, he quickly reacted and rang the bell, several times with vigor, much to the delight of the assembly.
At the banquet, that evening Pat Boone was the master of ceremonies. He started singing a song and a Captain in the first row, stood up and signaled Boone to come to him for a message. At first Boone ignored the Captain but finally he stopped singing and moved over to the edge of the stage where the Captain was waiting. The Captain whispered the message to Boone and Boone told the audience he did not know just what the message meant but he was asked to say “anybody that can’t tap dance is a queer.” With that 3,000 people stood up and tap danced; much to the delight of the entire audience.
Then the laughter died down and everyone was again seated. Boone again started to sing. With that the Captain again stood up and immediately Boone stopped singing and immediately walked up to the Captain at the edge of the stage. There was no delay this time. It was quite apparent that Boone was eagerly awaiting his next message. He leaned over and the Captain again gave him a message. Boone once again said that he didn’t know what the message meant but he said “Dead Bug” and with that 3,000 people pushed their chairs back and tumbled to the floor. The laughter lasted for several minutes. Finally, Boone started signing his song again, looking expectantly in the direction of the Captain for another show stopping message to the gaggle. It was a magic night that lasted until the sun came up. We were all very delighted to be there to celebrate the occasion.
Every fighter pilot in the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Army was there, including several Buff crews. It was a hell’va reunion. There were several fighter pilots widows in attendance that reminder all of us how lucky we were to be there to honor our fallen comrades, that were not as lucky as we were . S.H.
The first morning my good friend Robin Olds walked up to me and said “Kittinger, you let your fangs hang out too far.” He was referring to me getting shot down on my 483rd combat mission chasing a MiG over Hanoi. I shot down a MiG on 1 March 1972 and was looking to increase my score. Robin and I had several adult beverages during the two day event. My book ‘Come Up and Get me‘ will be released in May 2010 which has several exciting stories about flying and fighting in the F-4, my career in the Air Force and other assorted adventures. Check 6!
A 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron F-4D killed a MiG. F-4D 65-0608 was the spare on 12 September 72 and filled in as Robin 2 with a flight of 3 F-4Es from the 469th TFS, 388th TFW. It was flown by a crew from the 469th on a strike escort mission defending smart bombers attacking a railroad bridge near Yen Bai Air Base, North Vietnam, 60 miles northwest of Hanoi. The aircraft was credited with a Mig-21 kill. F-4D 65-0608 is now on permanent static display at Duluth, MN, with its Mig-21 kill star on the engine intake.