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BMB Productions and Emmy Award winner producer Michael Lattin made a movie about the 50th anniversary reunion of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association, aka River Rats held in Louisville, KY. Here’s the trailer.
Here’s the River Rats 25th anniversary reunion video:
Lt. Col. Nicole Malachowski was the first woman member of the USAF demonstration team, the Thunderbirds. She is now the squadron commander of an F-15 squadron.
Forty-nine years ago, Streetcar 304 was rescued just southwest of Tchapone. Pete Lappin here, Nail 69 that day. I am looking for any Phantom or Thud drivers who took part in that rescue. After a tour and a half in the F-4 I went to NKP for a tour as a FAC. June 2 1968, I had the privilege of being the FAC that saw the best our Air Force had to offer. Bad weather, rough terrain, and plenty of guns! You silenced the guns and the Sandys and Jolly Greens were able to get him out. I would like to organize a 50th anniversary reunion of that rescue next year and while he doesn’t know it yet the Navy pilot who was rescued that day, KENNY FIELDS, will be there. Please let me know if you are interested.
On December 16, 1972, for the first time in the nine year old Vietnam War the B-52 bombers entered Route Pack VI to drop bombs on North Vietnam. On the first night 129 Buffs launched to attack targets at Kép, Phúc Yên and Hòa Lạc and a warehouse complex at Yên Viên. The second and third waves of B-52s struck targets in Hanoi. Three B-52s were shot down and one crew was rescued.
On the second night 93 B-52s launched to attack targets at the Kinh No Railroad and storage area, the Thái Nguyên thermal power plant, and the Yên Viên complex. No Buffs were lost.
On December 20, 1972, the third night of B-52s flying the same headings at the same altitudes and making the same 140% post bomb release turn North Vietnam shot down 8 B-52s and only two of eight crews were rescued.
This 38 minute movie was made by the son of Brigadier General Glen Sullivan, the commander of the B-52 Unit at Guam. He called SAC headquarters and told his commanders that he would not order his men to fly any missions unless SAC eliminated its copy-cat tactics. The Buff crew members interviewed in the movie explain the stupid tactics ordered by SAC the first three nights of Linebacker II. People interviewed in the movie include Ed Rasimus, BC Connelly, Jeff Duford, Bud Day and Jeremiah Denton.
Air Force historian Earl Tilford wrote the following about the first three nights of Linebacker II,
“Years of dropping bombs on undefended jungle and the routines of planning for nuclear war had fostered a mind-set within the SAC command that nearly led to disaster. . . Poor tactics and a good dose of overconfidence combined to make the first few nights of Linebacker nightmarish for the B-52 crews.”
I love this documentary about heroic men who flew the single seat F-105 Thunderchief, aka the “Thud,” in the air war over North Vietnam in 1966. I first saw the film in the fall of 1970 when I was in Officer Training School (OTS) at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. I was in awe then just as I am now watching these men talk about flying combat missions over the most heavily defended area in the history of aerial warfare.
The Thud drivers in the movie were flying in operation Rolling Thunder. “There is a Way” was filmed at Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, the same base my squadron, the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron, flew from in 1972 during operation Linebacker I. The Thud pilots in “There is a Way” were in the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing.
Legendary American hero 1st Lt. Karl W. Richter explains why he volunteered to fly an additional 100 missions over North Vietnam after flying his first 100 missions. It was standard operating procedure for Thud drivers to be returned to the United States after they completed 100 missions over North Vietnam because the 100 mission quota was so difficult to achieve. When Lt. Richter was flying combat missions 43 percent of F-105 pilots were either killed or declared missing in action before they completed 100 missions over North Vietnam. Lt. Richter was single and did not have any children and he loved flying the Thud so he asked to stay at Korat and fly a second 100 missions over North Vietnam.
Lt. Richter beat the odds and successfully completed his second 100 missions. Unfortunately on July 28, 1967, Karl Richter was killed in action when his airplane was shot down by flak. Richter was rescued by a helicopter, but died on the chopper before it could get him to a hospital. In another article I wrote about Richter I said:
“There is a statue of Karl Richter at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, on which is inscribed, the following words from the prophet Isaiah: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Here am I. Send me.” Lt. Richter gave his life in the service of his country. Karl Richter’s spirit and sacrifice will live on in the annals of the United States Air Force and American history. The December 1992 issue of Air Force Magazine contains an article called “Here Am I. Send Me” about Karl Richter. Read Lt. Col. Hank Brandli’s article called “Karl Richter’s Last Mission” to learn more about this American hero.”
Associated Press: “The last of thousands of F-4 Phantom jets that have been a workhorse for the U.S. military over five decades are being put to pasture to serve as ground targets for strikes by newer aircraft, the Associated Press reports. The U.S. Air Force will hold a ‘final flight’ retirement ceremony today [December 21, 2016] at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where the last F-4s are still flying for the U.S. military. . . . McDonnell Douglas – now part of Boeing Corp. – built more than 5,000 F-4s for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. It first flew in the late 1950s, and production ended in 1985.”
VOANews: “The U.S. Air Force says a shortage of fighter pilots has become so dire that it is struggling to satisfy combat requirements abroad. ‘We have too few squadrons to meet the combatant commanders’ needs,’ Major General Scott Vander Hamm, the general in charge of fixing the fighter pilot crisis, said in an exclusive interview with VOA. The Air Force is currently authorized to have 3,500 fighter pilots, but it is 725 fighter pilots short. And with fewer pilots, the number of fighter pilot squadrons have also dropped, from 134 squadrons in 1986 to 55 in 2016.” See: “Air Force Has Too Few Fighter Squadrons to Meet Commanders’ Needs.”
The first video shows two F-4s making a formation take off then making passes at an air show.
The following videos are from an F-4 pilot’s helmet cam. They give you a feel for how great it is to fly the Phantom.
The F-4 Phantom II’s final flight in US military service at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, is open to the public. The last flying U.S. F-4s are in the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron (Det 1). The squadron announced the F-4 will fly for the last time on December 21, 2016. The public is invited to see this legendary fighter roar into the skies one last time.
Here’s the schedule:
- 8 am – La Luz Gate** opens to attendees (attendees will be directed to designated parking areas and then bused to the event)
- 8 am – Community expo opens to include static aircraft such as the QF-4 and QF-16
- 10 am – F-4 Phantom II takeoff and final flight (tentative)
- 11:30 am-12 pm – F-4 Phantom II retirement ceremony
- 1 pm – Event conclusion
**The La Luz gate is the only gate open for non-DOD cardholders and public access.
Airshow Stuff: “We met up with likely the last ever USAF F-4 pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Ron “Elvis” King of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron, Detachment 1, while he was displaying one of the 21 remaining Phantoms at the Spirit of St. Louis Air Show & STEM Expo on May 14-15 2016. Lt. Col. King was kind enough to talk with AirshowStuff about the status of the target drone program, flying the F-4, and his job overseeing the final days of the famed Phantom.
by Major Bob Hipps (USAF, Ret)
Bob writes about the two days in November 1972 when he and Captain Alexander H. (Sandy) Murchison III flew missions to rescue the two crew members of a downed F-105 Wild Weasel.
“Right around briefing time, we were informed by the command post that a weasel crew had been downed by a SAM the previous evening somewhere north of Vinh and Blue Chip wanted us to head up there and see if they could raise them on the radio. Turned out the crew was nowhere near the position we got from 7th Air Force (7AF). In fact, we didn’t even have a map of the area where we eventually found them. Anyhow, we launched with our wingman and headed north through Laos and hit our first tanker of the day. The weather steadily worsened the further north we flew and we thought there was no way the survivors could be recovered if they hadn’t been captured already.”
October of 2014 World Word II fighter pilot Colonel Clarence “Bud” Anderson spoke at the American Fighter Aces Association about his life and shooting down 16 and one half German airplanes.
On November 14, 2015, retired USAF Brigadier General Steve Ritchie one of the most highly decorated fighter pilots of the Vietnam War spoke at the Museum of Flight.
by Joe Boyles
On occasion, I write an article about my past that is related to the life of military men and women. That’s what this story is about – more than four decades ago on my first operational assignment. I was on a remote tour without my family, half a world away in South Korea. I was only 23 years old and kind of bummed about being away from my young wife and baby daughter.
My assignment would last for 13 months, but (saving grace) I would be allowed to take a 30-day leave during the assignment between the fourth and ninth month. Linda and I carefully planned this before I left her behind in Florida that I would do my best to be home for Christmas.
I left Tampa on March 10, 1972. As I recall, I traveled by commercial air to Minneapolis then Seattle; caught a bus to McChord AFB near Tacoma and boarded a military contract flight through Alaska, to Japan and then into Korea. It was a long, exhausting trip, but … when you’re young, you can put up with almost anything.
I arrived at my new home at Kunsan AB, Korea, and was assigned a room in our squadron dormitory. I immediately went to sleep. It was the weekend, so I had a good opportunity to rest.
So Monday morning, I’m refreshed and make my way down the flightline to the south end of “the Kun” and to the operations building of the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron “Panthers.” I spent the next hour or so walking through the building introducing myself to some fifty aviators who were my new squadron mates. Since I’m the ‘new guy,’ it is incumbent on me to introduce myself.
At some point, I find my way to the office of my Operations (Ops) Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Mickelson. The Ops Officer is the number two fellow in a fighter squadron, backing up the commander. Colonel Mickelson was well liked – the lieutenants referred to him as “Uncle Bill.”
After a couple of minutes of chit-chat, I get to my point: “I’d like to apply for my mid-tour leave.” Uncle Bill gives me a quizzical look and then breaks into a grin: “You’re getting a little ahead of yourself young fella since this is your first day on the job.” “Yes sir,” I reply, “but I want to ask for the date now before others do later.” He repiles, “Okay, I’ll bite: when do you want to go on leave?”
I request to take leave from December 10 to January 9. Now, if you do the arithmetic, you’ll see that my request fit to the back end of the eligibility period. Colonel Mickelson duly noted my legitimate request and booted me out of his office with the admonition, “go to work.”
Now, fast forward seven months or so: it is mid-October 1972. The 35th TFS has been in Southeast Asia nearly the whole time, flying and fighting. Our period of temporary duty is finished and we have arrived back at Kunsan-by-the Sea. I’m now one of the ‘old heads.’ Well over half the squadron has turned over. Colonel Mickelson has moved on; his successor has as well; and my new Ops Officer is John “WC” Keating.
We’re in a squadron meeting and WC says, “A lot of you guys want to go on leave back to the States to see your families over Christmas, and obviously, I can’t let everyone leave during that period, because we have a mission to accomplish here. So those of you who want to do that, come see me today in my office and we’ll get this figured out.”
I’m standing in line outside the Ops Officer’s office and then it is my turn: “Okay Boyles, you want to go on leave over Christmas, right.” “Yes sir, I do.” “Did you ask either Colonel Mickelson or Major Lueders for this before?” Yes sir I did.” “When did you request leave for the Christmas period?” Deep breath: “I asked Colonel Mickelson for Christmas leave on my first day in the squadron, March 13th.”
Needless to say, I had the earliest request for leave of anyone who met with WC that day – and I got it! My foresight and temerity had paid off. In actuality, those of us who had been a Panther for that long got to go on leave over the Christmas period. After all, we were at the end of our eligibility period.
Leave is an important time for military families to reconnect. The separation has led to growing apart; now they must find a way to reunite and become an integral family again. In looking back over a 27-year career, while I missed many birthdays, anniversaries, and other holidays, I was with my family for every Christmas but one. For that, I am grateful.
I’m writing this article for two audiences: my weekly Madison County Carrier readers and a website developed by a lawyer in Phoenix, Rick Keyt. In his website (keytlaw.com), Rick has developed an extensive link, “Flying the F-4 Phantom,” primarily about the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron from 1972-73. One of Rick’s articles is called “GIB LADD” about a crash on takeoff that many of us witnessed, so I’m giving you my perspective from what I recall.
It was late March 1973 and our squadron had returned five months earlier from the war in Southeast Asia to our home base at Kunsan, Korea. We (3rd Tactical Fighter Wing) were receiving an ORI – Operational Readiness Inspection – from our parent command, the Pacific Air Forces. On this morning, we were called on to fly a simulated nuclear mission, a single heavy bomb drop at Kooni Range, about a hundred miles north of Kunsan.
I was flying that morning with Gary “Stump” Corbett, a classmate from USAFA 1970. We were just a couple of lieutenants doing our thing on a brisk winter morning. Our F-4D configuration was three external fuel tanks (for a total fuel load of 21,000 pounds) and a 2100 pound BDU-8 practice bomb on the left inboard station. The jet was pretty close to maximum gross takeoff weight of 58,000 pounds.
As I recall, our call sign was Deben 93. Our mission called for us to takeoff to the south and turn left; fly a 20 minute low level route at 500 feet, 420 knots; accelerate to 500 knots at the initial point (IP) south of the range; and attack the scored offshore target with our BDU-8, delivering the bomb from low level. It was a typical attack profile for our nuclear mission.
So Corbett is taxing our jet and I have my head down in the rear cockpit tuning the radar and checking our timing, mission details, etc. Our UHF radio is tuned to the tower frequency, normal for ground operations.
Somewhere along that taxiway near the north end of the airfield, I hear a call from the tower, “Deben 91, you’re on fire.” Now to be honest, I was so engrossed in my work (don’t forget, this is an ORI) that all I heard or registered was the call sign (Deben) and the word “fire.” This is not comforting when you’re riding in an F-4 filled with jet fuel. I might add that JP-4 was a particularly volatile fuel mixed with naphtha (fortunately no longer in use by Air Force fighters).
So I pull my head out of the cockpit and start looking at instruments, warning lights, and mirrors to see if we are the Deben on fire. Then I hear Stump exclaim over the intercom, “Oh my God; they’re going to crash.” I swiveled my head to about 9 o’clock and see a mushrooming fireball of 21,000 pounds of jet fuel being consumed. The conflagration was off the south end of the runway over water and no chutes (parachutes which would indicate the crew ejected) were visible.
I have been to many aircraft accident sites investigating why jets crash, but this is the first and only one I witnessed as it was taking place. It was both eye-watering and sobering. Neither Corbett nor I were enthusiastic about flying at that point.
We taxied our jet out to the end of the runway, 2 miles from where all the action was. Our takeoff was delayed and we listening on Tower to all the discussion. From my lineup card, I figured out that Deben 91 was being flown by Chuck Banks and Ron Price. Ron and I were supposed to have left that day at the conclusion of our 13 month assignment … but our departure was delayed to fly for the ORI.
At some point, we learned from the radio calls that both Chuck and Ron had successfully (but barely) escaped the burning jet and were in their individual life rafts off the south end of the runway. Whew.
After about 20 minutes of waiting, we were given clearance to takeoff and fly our mission. We blasted off to the south overhead of our squadron buddies and turned left to point the jet toward Kooni to the north. Our TOT (time over target) was blown because of the delay. We threw the low level route away and I gave Stump and straight vector to the IP. I swear, he never pulled the throttles out of military (100 percent) power. We streaked over the Korean countryside low level at more than 600 knots. We actually had to slow down in order to drop the bomb, which is counter-intuitive.
How close was our bomb to the target? I have no idea. A couple of days later, I was on the “freedom bird” departing Korea, returning to my young family and getting ready for another overseas assignment. Price was on the same aircraft home. He was OK. Chuck was a little more banged up than Ron. We deduced their centerline tank leaked, pouring raw jet fuel into the engines through the open aux air doors. After several similar accidents, the emergency procedure for fire on takeoff was amended to include jettisoning the centerline tank.
Even after more than forty years, I’m pretty sure of most of the details. You don’t forget things like that.
Tribunist: “There were a lot of things we couldn’t do in an SR-71, but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet. Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane. Intense, maybe. . . . ‘Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check‘?”
The Aviationist: “During the Vietnam War the main threat to the strike packages was the V-750 (S-75) Dvina, the first effective Soviet surface-to-air missile (SAM). Better known by the NATO designation SA-2 Guideline . . . . To suppress and destroy this threat, the U.S. Air Force countered with the courage and skill of the Wild Weasels, who not only flew some of the most dangerous missions in Southeast Asia but also became pioneers in Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) operations. As we have already explained, the first Wild Weasel sorties were flown in the fall of 1965 and were planned around the “hunter-killer” concept by using two aircraft: one had to locate the enemy SAM batteries while the other had to physically destroy them. The first, tasked to hunt the SAM airplane, was the F-100F while the killer aircraft was the F-105. In January 1966 the two seat F-105F was chosen to replace the F-100F to improve the performance of both members of the team.”