Ejections

The Last Flight of Hobo 28

By Timothy Karpin & James Maroncelli

Ok, this article is not about flying the F-4 in combat, but as a person who sat on nuclear alert at Kunsan Air Base, Korea, in 1972 and 1973 with a nuke bomb on my F-4 I found it very interesting.  Here is the beginning of the article:

“Major Alfred D’Amario thought the worst was over after his violent ejection from the dark and smoky cockpit of his Boeing B-52G Stratofortress. The bomber he had abandoned was diving in flames toward the nearby ice-covered Bylot Sound off Thule Air Force Base in northwestern Greenland. D’Amario knew that the one-point safe bombs would not go “nuclear” in a crash. As he descended, the major sighted an orange fireball eight miles to the west. Suddenly, an intensely bright white light outshone the orange jet fuel blaze as the high explosives in four hydrogen bombs in the bomb bay detonated from the shock of impact. A supersonic blast wave tore outward in all directions into the subfreezing arctic air. In several seconds, D’Amario’s easy downward drift was interrupted. As he recounted in his book Hangar Flying: “I watched it [the bright light] for a few seconds and, suddenly, all Hell broke loose. My parachute and the life raft both took off to my right leaving me what looked like ten or fifteen feet to the left of them. Then, I started swinging back and forth between them.” D’Amario and five of his fellow crewmen made it safely to the ground. One crew member did not. Thus began one of the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command’s worst “Bro­ken Arrow” nuclear incidents of the Cold War.”

2017-10-14T09:44:35+00:00By |0 Comments

F-4 Hit by Flak Lands without Its Backseater

The backseater who ejected from this F-4 is a pilot named Kenny Boone. Kenny was one of my instructor pilots when I went through F-4 replacement training unit (RTU) at Luke AFB, Arizona, 1971 – 1972. Kenny was a pilot flying in the back seat on an orientation mission over the Ho Che Minh trail over Laos on November 18, 1968.  Kenny’s airplane was hit by AAA while bombing the trail.  Ray Battle, the aircraft commander, thought the airplane was going to crash so he told Kenny to eject. The frontseater recovered the airplane and landed it after Kenny departed.

Kenny landed in high trees in Laos. He was 200+ feet above the ground.  Kenny heard the bad guys shooting and and acted as a tree-borne forward air controller.  Kenny decided he would be safer in the trees so he did not use his tree lowering device to let down to the ground. It was getting dark and the search and rescue guys told Kenny they could not rescue him until the morning. Kenny stayed atop the trees in his parachute harness all night. The next morning the Jolly Green helicopter dropped Kenny a tree penetrator and lifted him from the trees to safety.

Kenny is the only instructor pilot I remember from my F-4 RTU.  One day in 1972 Kenny’s brother talked to my class about his experience as a slow forward air controller flying the O-2 Skymaster in southeast Asia.  He had recently finished his FAC tour and returned to the U.S.  I distinctly remember 8 mm movies Kenny’s brother showed us taken during some of his FAC missions. 

What follows is Ray Battle’s comments on the mission:

Kenny Boone and I were flying a fast mover FAC mission along the Ho Chi Min trail in Laos. It was an orientation ride for Kenny as he was newly assigned to my unit. We were at 4,000 feet and Kenny was flying the airplane when I heard an explosion, the aircraft shuddered and the front windscreen was covered in what turned out to be hydraulic fluid.

My sensation was that the aircraft as out of control and I ordered Kenny to eject which he did. Instinctively, I took the stick and throttles in hand and to my amazement, the aircraft as flyable. I called for help for Kenny and headed back for Thailand where we were stationed. I was given the option of ejecting or landing gear up as the landing gear would not come down.

I elected to land gear up and catch the runway wire with my tail hook. I have 150 aircraft carrier landings and thought I could easily make and arrested landing on the runway. I pulled the power off just as I touched down and the aircraft settled onto the wire cutting it.

The aircraft slid down the runway and veered off to the right before fish-hooking to the right and stopping. It caught on fire and I jumped out safely. As you know Kenny was recovered after spending a nervous night hanging in a tree in Laos In retrospect, My ordering Kenny to eject was a mistake which I have always regretted. I felt at the time I was saving his life and I intended to eject after he did. We both survived the incident for which I am grateful.”

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The picture below is B flight of the 311 Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Luke AFB 1972.  I’m in the back row 6th guy from the left.  Kenny is in the front row third from the left.

More About Kenny Boone

After attending Undergraduate Pilot Training at Reese Air Force Base, Lubbock, Texas, F-4 Replacement Training, Air Force Survival Training and Jungle Survival Training, he was assigned to the 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron ‘Night Owls’, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing ‘Wolfpack’, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand in 1968 as a Weapons System Operator (WSO) aka Guy In Back (GIB) flying the F-4D, Phantom II.

On November 18, 1968, just six days after the first Wolf mission was flown out of the 8th TFW, Ubon RTAFB, Major Benjamin Ray Battle (433rd TFS) and 1st. Lt. Robert Kenneth ‘Kenny’ Boone (497th TFS) while flying a 433rd TFS aircraft were hit in Southern Steel Tiger. A 37mm impacted the radome and entire radome was blown off.

Unfortunately Kenny died in 2010.  See Kenny’s memorial web page.

2017-10-04T12:51:50+00:00By |0 Comments

David Johnson Remembers Ejecting from His Stricken F-4

by David Johnson

David Johnson's Profile Photo, No automatic alt text available.On September 8, 1972 at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, I was part of a six F-4 Phantom mission that briefed at 0-dark-30 for a 4 vs. 2 similar Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) flight in the restricted area Southwest of St. Petersburg, Florida. All aircraft were configured “slick” no tanks, no ordinance.

Capt. Paul Poppe was the overall mission commander and the aircraft commander of Where 01.  I, 1st Lt. David Johnson, was assigned as the student WSO in Where 01 in F-4E 66-310.

Upon takeoff, Paul and I noticed uncommanded pitch oscillation and we went through the emergency procedure and both agreed that the most likely cause was runaway stabilator trim. We followed the emergency proeedures, pulled the stabilator trim circuit breaker and engaged the autopilot. We joined up with the other five aircraft, aborted the mission and arranged for an escort back to MacDill. The instructor pilot in the lead of the two ship formation was Major Al Winkelman.  Winkelman’s F-4E with a student pilot in the front seat had a PC-1 failure in their aircraft so we chose to escort each other home. Major Winkelman suggested to us that we should think about getting out of the aircraft.

Descending through 5,000 feet, in accordance with the Emergency Procedures in the checklist, Paul and I initiated a controllability check, to see if the aircraft would be controllable in a landing configuration. I was calling out the checklist items and Paul would then execute the procedure. That’s when our day went from bad to worse.

The first item on the checklist was to disengage the autopilot. As soon as Paul disconnected, the aircraft pitched 90° down and began to accelerate, even with the throttles in idle. Paul said the stick would not move fore and aft and asked me to pull as well. With both of us pulling, and our feet on the dashes we could not pull hard enough to move the stick.

At that point I told Paul adios and I pulled that wonderful Martin-Baker ejection handle between my legs. The ejection initiated perfectly, I had a horizontal ejection over Sarasota Bay and when I regained my eyesight I checked my canopy and looked for Paul.

Paul ejected several seconds later and was in the water near the South end of Longboat Key off Sarasota. I think he had one swing in his parachute before hitting the water.

I feel that I ejected somewhere between 3500 and 3000 feet and could see as I descended that Longboat Key was a mass of Mangroves and I steer my parachute toward the only clearing I could see. I landed safely, grabbed my survival radio and smoke flares and used my helmet as a basket and headed East toward the water.

I was picked up the U.S. Coast Guard.  Paul was picked up by a MacDill rescue helicopter, and flown to the MacDill base hospital. The conclusion of the accident board, after 30 days of dredging for parts, was that the pitch control linkage had become disconnected, that part was found on the last day of dredging and there was no joining pin.

God Bless Martin-Baker for my last 45 years!!

See Richard Keyt’s article called “Thank You Martin Baker.”

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2017-09-27T07:17:23+00:00By |0 Comments

Roger Locher Talks about Getting Shot Down & Evading for 23 Days

On May 10, 1972, USAF Captain Roger Locher and his front seater Major Bob Lodge were shot down over North Vietnam in 1972 shortly after they downed their third MiG-21.  Bob Lodge elected not to eject and went down with the F-4D.  Roger Locher ejected and survived, but knew not to get on the radio because it would tip off the North Vietnamese that he was alive and where he was located.
 
During the intelligence briefing before the mission that day the aircrews were told that their mission over North Vietnam that day would to too far inside of North Vietnam so helicopter rescue would be impossible.  Roger knew his only chance to avoid capture or death was to walk west until he arrived at a location where he could be rescued.
 
Roger spent a record 23 hair-raising days evading capture and walking west before he was rescued and returned to Udorn Air Base, Thailand.  In this video from October of 2015 Roger Locher describes the mission that day, getting shot down, evading and being rescued.
 
2016-11-08T13:03:10+00:00By |0 Comments

The Fireball

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.

2016-04-26T07:19:09+00:00By |0 Comments

The 1972 Christmas Bombing of North Vietnam

Air & Space:  “In December 1972, the B-52 bombers that North Vietnamese missile crews had been waiting for came to Hanoi. Night after night. Over virtually the same track.  I had come to Hanoi to research my second book about the air war over North Vietnam: the story of the December 1972 B-52 bombing of Hanoi, known as Linebacker II. I had arrived with the standard U.S. understanding of the raids. In early December 1972, President Richard Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, faced a political defeat. The North Vietnamese had broken off negotiations in Paris. It was clear that they were waiting for an anti-war U.S. Congress to return in January, cut off funds for the war, and give them a victory.  To force the North Vietnamese to sign the agreement, Nixon decided to bomb Hanoi. After initial heavy U.S. losses, B-52s were able to attack with relative impunity and, after 11 days of raids, the North Vietnamese returned to Paris to sign the agreement they had rejected in December.”

In December 1972, the B-52 bombers that North Vietnamese missile crews had been waiting for came to Hanoi. Night after night. Over virtually the same track

Read more: http://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/the-christmas-bombing-1813815/#PeQL2toXTk2wPmVm.99
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2014-05-10T19:40:24+00:00By |2 Comments

Thank You Martin Baker

The F-4 Phantom is a supersonic jet fighter loved by people like  me who were lucky to have flown it.  It was a great airplane to fly, but it was also a very dangerous machine.  Whenever you throw an airplane at the ground at high dive angles and high descent rates, fly in formation with other fighters or jink back and forth in real or simulated aerial combat, bad things can happen.  It was always a comfort to me knowing that when I flew the Phantom I was sitting on a wonderful life-saving device known as the Martin Baker MK-H7 ejection seat.

The F-4 ejection seat saved many lives.  When activated a rocket motor fired and blasted the seat and its occupant out of the cockpit and away from the speeding F-4.  The Martin Baker seat had a zero zero capability meaning that in theory if a person was sitting in the cockpit while the airplane was parked and stationary on the ground and fired the seat (zero altitude and zero airspeed) the person would be launched 300 feet in the air, the chute would open and the person would safely float back to earth.

Here is some pertinent information about the MK-H7 ejection seat taken from the F-4 owner’s manual aka the TO-1F-4E-1:

The MK-H7 ejection seat system can provide the crew with a safe and efficient escape from the aircraft. The seat is propelled from the aircraft by an ejection gun on the back of the seat which is assisted by a rocket motor on the bottom of the seat. . . . If necessary, ejection can be accomplished at ground level between zero and 550 knots airspeed with wings level and no sink rate providing the crewmember does not exceed a maximum boarding weight of 247 pounds. . . .

During dual automatic ejection initiated from either cockpit, the rear seat fires . . . approximately 0.54 seconds after initiation. Front canopy jettison is initiated after approximately 0.75 seconds and the front sequence actuator will fire the front seat automatically approximately 1.39 seconds after initiation. This ensures adequate clearance between the two ejection seats and the aircraft canopies.

The last paragraph above says that the difference in time from when the back seat fires until the front seat fires is .85 seconds.

One Second – the Difference Between Life and Death

When I was in F-4 RTU (replacement training unit) in 1971 – 1972 at Luke AFB, Arizona, learning how to fly the Phantom there was a tragic F-4 accident on the Gila Bend bombing range.  Two students were in an F-4 doing practice dive bombing (probably 30% dive angle, but it could have been 45%, both of which were common dive angles).  The pilot rolled in to drop his practice bomb, but he was too steep.  Both the flight leader and the range control officer warned the pilot on the radio that he was too steep.

The time between roll in and pull up is between 5 – 10 seconds depending on the dive angle, the roll in altitude and the release altitude of the particular bomb.  There is little margin for error when the airplane is screaming toward the earth at 450 knots in a 30% dive bomb.  At some point in the dive the altitude needed to recover the airplane without hitting the ground becomes more than the airplane’s altitude over the ground.  When that happens the crew will either die or eject with the possibility of death or serious injury.

Either or both the flight leader or the range office recognized the students’ F-4 could not avoid hitting the ground and yelled over the radio for the crew to eject.  It was obvious to those watching the diving airplane that it was going to crash.  I don’t recall who initiated the ejection, but both ejection seats fired.  The backseater lived and the frontseater died when he hit the ground before his parachute opened.  Had the ejection sequence been intiated ONE SECOND EARLIER, the frontseater would have lived.

Flying Fighters Was/Is Dangerous

I knew many guys who flew the Phantom who ejected and lived.  I knew some who died in the F-4.  When I was in flying the F-4 it was not possible to get life insurance other than one $35,000 military life insurance policy.  Commercial life insurance companies did not sell life insurance to fighter pilots because they had too high of a risk of dying.

I saw three fighters crash.  The first crash I witnessed occurred the day I arrived in Korea at Osan Air Base in May or June of 1972 (can’t remember when I actually arrived there).  I was waiting on the flight line for a passenger plane to take me to Kunsan AB, Korea, where my squadron was based.  I noticed several fire engines racing out to the runway.  This was a frequent event because whenever an airplane declared an emergency the fire engines were routinely deployed to the runway in case they were needed.

Since I was bored waiting I decided to watch and see what the emergency was all about.  I could see an F-4 making a landing approach with a lot of black smoke trailing behind it.  As I watched the airplane suddenly plunged to the ground and blew up.  The crew ejected safely.  I found out later that the airplane had an engine fire.  The pilot shut down what he thought was the engine that was on fire, but he actually shut down the good engine.  The accident report said that the maintenance people had mistakenly reversed the fire warning lights.  The pilot’s instruments told him exactly the opposite as far as which engine was on fire.

The second airplane crash I witnessed was an F-4 from my squadron, the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron, during the winter of 1973.  I describe that accident in my story called “The Gibb LADD.”  The third crash I saw was a T-38 trainer that had some problem with its landing gear that resulted in the aircrew ejecting and abandoning the airplane rather than trying to land it.  I never did learn what happened in that crash.

The Martin Baker MK-H7 Ejection Seat

I loved my ejection seat, but it scared the daylights out of me.  People died because of ejection seat accidents.  If the seat fired when it was  not supposed to somebody could die.  There were maintenance men who died while working in the cockpit of the F-4 because they did something that inadvertently caused the seat to fire.

The first thing the F-4 pilot was supposed to do when he got to the F-4 before a flight was a Before Exterior Inspection (Front Cockpit) check. The first three items in the F-4 checklist relate to the ejection seat and are:

1.  Face curtain and seat mounted initiator safety pins – INSTALLED

2.  Canopy interlock cable & interdictor link safety pin assembly – INSTALLED CORRECTLY & ATTACHED TO CANOPY

3.  Lower ejection handle guard – UP

The following is the beginning parts of the Front Cockpit Interior Check checklist that involved the ejection seat:

2.  Leg restraint lines – BUCKLED & SECURED

3.  Harness and personal equipment leads – FASTEN

4.  Ejection seat height – ADJUST

5.  Face curtain & seat mounted initiator safety pins – REMOVED

The ejection seat had 7 safety pins all of which had to be removed for the seat to fire.  When the F-4 was not actually occupied by a crew before, during and after a flight, the ground crew always inserted all seven safety pins into their insertion points in the seat.  All seven pins were tied together with a nylon line.  The purpose of these pins was to prevent the accidental firing of the seat.

When a crew member arrived at the airplane for a flight, the crew chief normally would have already removed six of the seven safety pins and put the six pins and the nylon line that attached the pins into a pouch and laid pouch on the top of the seat.  Before I sat in the ejection seat I always made sure that all six of the pins that were supposed to be removed were in fact removed.  I did not remove the last safety pin (the face curtain  pin) until I was completely strapped into the seat.  To get strapped in I had to do the following:

1.  Connected the two D rings on my parachute harness to the two snap connectors on the seat survival kit to connect the the kit to me. The survival kit had a radio, water, food and other survival items in case of ejection in the boonies.

2.  Connected my lap belt to strap me into the seat.

3.  Connected both of my leg restraints.  Each leg had two garters – one that went around the calf just above the boot and the other that went around the thigh just above the knee. These four garters were connected to two nylon lines that went into the bottom of the ejection seat.  During an ejection the seat pulled the nylon lines tight which caused both legs to be locked close to the seat to prevent the legs from flailing in the wind stream at high speeds, which could severely injure legs.

4.  Connected both parachute risers (lines connected to the parachute) to my parachute harness.  The F-4’s parachute was built into the top of the ejection seat, which required that pilots attach their parachute harness to the parachute risers.  It was very nice not to have to lug a heavy parachute around like the F-105 drivers had to do.

After completing the four steps listed above I pulled the seventh pin out of the face curtain and inserted it in the pouch with the other six pins and counted to make sure all seven pins were in the pouch.  I then stowed the pouch until I landed and replaced the seventh pen into the top of the seat.

The F-4 ejection seat system was designed to prevent the seat from firing if the canopy was attached to the air-frame.  There was a steel cable that had one end permanently attached to the back of the canopy and the other end was attached to a safety pin that went into the banana links on the top of the seat.  The seat would not fire unless that safety pin was removed.  Normally when an ejection was initiated the first thing that happened was the canopy thrusters on the bulkhead just below the canopy pushed up and caused the canopy to begin to open.  As soon at the front of the canopy opened enough to allow the air-stream to go underneath the front of the canopy the massive amount of air caused the canopy to rapidly open and depart the air-frame taking the steel cable and the safety pin with it.

Fortunately I never had to eject from a Phantom.  Nor did I ever come close to ejecting.  I did have one very bad emergency where on landing I was ready to eject if the slightest thing went wrong, but the landing was smooth even though it was 200+ knots without normal brakes and no nose gear steering.  That’s a story for another day.

Watch Phil Describe His Martin Baker MK-H7 Ejection Seat

A Video about the Martin Baker Company & Its Ejection Seats

2017-01-20T19:03:12+00:00By |3 Comments

Roger Locher Describes Shooting Down a MiG, Getting Shot Down by a MiG-19, Ejecting & Evading Capture on the Ground in North Vietnam for 23 Days

USAF F-4 WSO Captain Roger Locher of the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron describes the mission on May 10, 1972, when he and Maj. Robert A. Lodge in Oyster 1 attacked four MiG-21s, shot down one of them with an AIM-7 using a head on attack and were immediately thereafter shot down by a MiG-19 they never saw until it was too late.  The stricken F-4D immediately went out of control and was on fire.  With the airplane in an inverted descent below 9,000 feet Roger said to Bob that he was going to eject.  Major Lodge said “why don’t you eject then.”  Roger ejected, but he never saw Bob’s chute or what happened to him.  Robert Lodge was later declared Killed in Action.

When I was stationed at Kunsan Air Base, Korea, in 1973 I read the Intel debriefing report Roger gave after he returned to Udorn.  I remember Roger said that before their 10 May 72 mission Bob Lodge told Rodger he would never be a prisoner of war and that Roger speculated that Bob decided to stay with the F-4 rather then eject because of his mindset.

In most of the two part 45 minute audio report Roger Locher describes in detail what happened, his escape and evasion plan and how he successfully evaded the North Vietnam for 23 days.  Before his mission the Intel briefing said that if you got shot down east of  a certain distance from Hanoi you would be a POW because the powers that be decided that search and rescue missions too close to Hanoi were too dangerous for the rescue forces.

When Roger made his first radio contact with US forces 22 days after being shot down the USAF tried to rescue him that day, but the ground fire was too heavy.  The next day USAF General Vogt cancelled the bombing mission scheduled for North Vietnam and sent the entire strike force and supporting aircraft (119 total aircraft) to rescue Roger Locher. It was the deepest rescue made inside North Vietnam during the entire war.

I don’t know when Roger made the tape, but it sounds like it may have been made shortly after his rescue to other aircrews at Udorn Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, with the purpose of helping them in case they were shot down.

The audio is in two parts:

To learn more about Roger Locher and his 10 May 72 mission and rescue 23 days later 60 miles northwest of Hanoi five miles south of Yen Bai Airfield, North Vietnam, read his story on Wikipedia.

Read “Valor: A Good Thought to Sleep On” about Roger Locher.

Watch the two videos Sgt. Joey Hill made about Robert Lodge and Roger Locher at ” Sgt. Joey Hill, the Crew Chief of F-4D 650784 & His 2 Fabulous Videos of Robert Lodge & Roger Locher.”  Joey Hill’s two videos contain his personal photos and the audios of the mission tapes Lodge and Locher made of their missions over North Vietnam during which they shot down their first and second MiGs.  Lodge and Locher gave their crew chief, Sgt. Joey Hill, copies of the audio cassette tapes they made of the two missions.

After you listen to Roger describing his 23 day ordeal, you must watch and listen to the video of Brigadier General Steve Ritchie describing hearing Roger’s first radio call for help on day 22 and the incredible rescue mission that successfully returned Roger to his comrades and freedom.  Steve Richie is the only USAF pilot ace of the Vietnam War.  He was in the same squadron and four ship flight of F-4s as Roger Locher and Robert Lodge on May 10, 1972, the day the two o them were shot down too far inside North Vietnam to be rescued.  Over 150 airplanes were dedicated to rescuing Rocher Locher on day 23.

Listen carefully to the end of Ritchie’s speech when he talks about Americans who risk it all to save one man’s life and freedom and compare that to Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s abandonment of the four patriots who died in Benghazi because the U.S. did nothing to save them.  General Ritchie concludes by saying:

We come to fully understand the effort to which we will go, the resources we will commit, the risks that we will take to rescue one crew member, one American, one ally.  Isn’t it a very powerful statement about what kind of people we are?  About the value that we place on life, on freedom and on the individual? . . . The real mission, yours and mine, business, government, civilian, military, is to protect and preserve an environment, a climate, a system, a way of life where people can be free.

This nine minute video by General  Ritchie describes in detail his memories of the day Roger Locher and Bob Lodge were shot down and Roger’s rescue 23 days later.  It is a great speech.  I recommend you watch the entire video.

I also recommend Steve Ritchie’s paper entitled “Leadership that Inspires Excellence,” about Roger Locher, his rescue and leadership.  He wrote the paper when he attended the Air War College.

2017-01-20T19:03:13+00:00By |11 Comments

Veins 2 Shot Down & Crew Rescued 25 May 72

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.

2017-01-20T19:03:13+00:00By |0 Comments

The GIB LADD

One morning during the winter of 1973 I left the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron building located adjacent to the center of the Kunsan AB, Korea, runway.  Four of us were on our way to the south end of the runway to sit on air defense alert.  During my time at the Kune the wing always had two F-4s on air defense alert to intercept any unidentified airplanes that approached the Korean Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).  We had to be airborne within ten minutes from the time the bell rang – literally there was a very loud bell sound that when activated caused us to run to the airplane, do a cartridge start and blast off into the sky and follow the instructions from the air traffic controller who vectored our two F-4Ds to the target.

I will never forget this particular morning because the four of us watched as one of our F-4D models crashed and burned trying to make a heavy weight take off.  The D model had three external tanks with full fuel plus a simulated B-43 nuke bomb (2,060 or 2,120 lbs).  I don’t have the D model weight stats handy, but a block 50 E model with this configuration would have been 57,120 lbs.  That is a heavy takeoff weight!

The airplane didn’t crash entirely because of its weight.  The Phantom crashed primarily because it had an engine fire right after max abort speed and never got enough airspeed to stay in the air.  The Phantom was on fire as it got airborne.  I could see the flames coming out of the airplane as it passed me a few hundred feet off of the ground.  We watched as the airplane disappeared behind a small island at the south end of the Kunsan runway.  The airplane descended behind the small hill on the little island.  We then saw a big orange and black fire ball, but no chutes.  I remember the awful feeling I had at the time watching two of my friends die.  Fortunately both guys ejected safely behind the small hill on the little island, but we could not see their chutes.

Chuck Banks, the pilot, told us later that he realized he was on fire immediately after getting airborne plus the tower told him on the radio.  As Chuck was reaching for the panic button to blow everything off the airplane he was distracted when the Phantom lost all electrical power while just a few hundred feet above the runway.  The loss of power got the crew’s attention.  Instead of pushing the panic button anyway (it had a battery backup) Chuck put the RAT (ram air turbine) out to get electrical power.  He then became distracted by the stalling airplane and never did hit the panic button.  The heavy weight of the airplane and the loss of power caused by the engine fire meant that the airplane did not have much airspeed and was unable to climb.  As the airplane slowed and started to descend because of no power the frontseater gave the eject order.  I recall the backseater telling us later he said “I’m out of here” as he pulled the ejection handle.

The reason the airplane was configured with the tanks and two nuke bombs is because that is how it was configured when the Operational Readiness Inspection team landed at Kunsan.  The airplane and crew were on nuclear alert when the ORI team arrived so during the ORI they were going to be tested by flying a low level mission in the same configuration and dropping their bombs on target +/- two minutes of their TOT.

Joe Boyles says Chuck Banks was the pilot.  Ron Price was the GIB.  I recall us laughing in the squadron building when the crew returned because Ron Price said they busted their ORI check ride because Chuck attempted a GIB Ladd that was 100+ (or however many miles Kunsan was from the bombing range) miles short of the target and he was not within 2 minutes of the TOT.  The low angle drogue delivery (LADD) was one of two bombing profiles USAF F-4s used to drop nuclear bombs.

Click on the title above to see Chuck Banks’ comment to this story.

2017-01-20T19:03:13+00:00By |11 Comments

A Ridge Too Far: Shot Down by AAA & Rescued Off of Haiphong

Background

What can I say?  Happy Hour had been long and exuberant, and now 07:00 hours Saturday April 1, 1972 my squadron, the Black Panthers (35th Tactical Fighter Squadron), and its F-4Ds were on the move from Kunsan airbase Korea to South East Asia (SEA). TDY to Vietnam. (YES! Recall was on APRIL FOOL’S DAY! It was NOT pretty. But, that’s a whole ‘nuther’ story!).  It was just the beginning.  May 1972, hardly unpacked, we left the 366th TFWing at DaNang to join the 388th TFW at the Royal Thai Air Force base at Korat, Thailand.

The 35th was one of the most experienced F-4 squadrons in South East Asia (SEA).  Although we had about 8 1Lt aircraft commanders, we had been training them for 6 months prior to deployment.  The rest of the squadron averaged over 1800 hours of F-4 time and included 8 Fighter Weapons School graduates (Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Lyle Beckers, Major Walt Bohan, and Captains Charlie Cox, Jim Beatty, Joe Moran, George Lippemeier, Will Mincey, and me).

0600 Hours, 20 July 1972

We are being briefed on a mission to Route Package 6;  bombing the underground fuel storage area located about 12 nautical miles southeast of Hanoi.  Our mission is a mini- strike package with 16 of our F-4Ds acting as “iron haulers”.  That is, eight ships ((call signs “Caddy”(1st Striker) and “Buick” (3rd Striker)) each carrying 12 iron bombs (500 pound Mark 82) with delay fuzzes. An additional eight ships ((2nd Striker (“Dodge”) and 4th Striker (“Chevy”)) would be each be carrying 9 incendiary mix CBU 58s.

The ‘plan’ calls for Caddy and Buick flights to break open the earthen revetments with their 500 pounders and Dodge and Chevy flights to ignite the exposed fuel.  Our MIG cover would be provided by eight F-4Es (“Pistol” and “Saber” flights) armed with Sparrow (radar guided) and Sidewinder (heat seeking) missiles, plus the internal 20mm Gatling gun.  Each of the F-4s carried a radar jamming pod.  All the aircraft and spares would be flying out of Korat.  Support missions would include the mix of Wild Weasels, tankers and Command and Control aircraft.

Weather is reported to be scattered clouds in the target area, with a scattered to broken cloud deck to the east along our exit route toward the North Vietnam coast “feet wet”.  Intelligence warns us about a potential ‘new’ Surface-to-Air (SAM) missile site just north of Thud/Phantom ridge, roughly half way between Hanoi and the coast line to the east.

After ‘wheels-up’ the 24 ship strike force and spares are to join up and proceed to `Purple’ Tanker orbit abeam of  the city of Vinh out over the Gulf of Tonkin.  After mid-air refueling we would cross the North Vietnam coast (`feet dry’) North  East of Thanh Hoa.  Our Initiation Point would be Minh Binh and from there to the target.  After the strike we would egress NE then east just North of Thud/Phantom Ridge to feet wet, then South to Purple tankers and RTB (Return To Base – for us, back to Korat).

The Mission Commander, Caddy 1, is Major Walt Bohan and I, Caddy 3, am the Deputy Mission Commander.

The rest of the mission briefing is ‘normal – normal’.  Well, except for this.  Sometime during the mission brief, out of the corner of my eye, I notice that “Roscoe”, the Korat fighter pilot dog-warrior-mascot gets up and leaves the briefing room.  “Aw, heck”, says me.  That’s just a superstition, isn’t it? It probably doesn’t really mean this will be a “tough” mission (i.e., lose an aircraft).  Heck, sometimes a dog just has to take a whiz!

All 24 aircrews and spares ‘step’ at 9:15 for a 10:30 takeoff.

(Now here’s where the hair on the back of your neck should start bristling – as in: “oh oh”, things aren’t going “as briefed”!!  I know MINE did!)

Shortly after engine start Caddy 4 ground aborts Air Refueling Door Failure), dashes to a ground spare, but it ground aborts also.  A ground spare replaces Caddy 4.  (Capt. Jim Beatty in F-4D with 500 pounders, who had attended the Caddy flight briefing.)  Taxi as 4 ship.  At EOR (End Of Runway checkpoint) Caddy 2 ground aborts for a massive hydraulic leak.  Caddy Flight takes off on time as a flight of three with the rest of the strike force in tow.

(Did I ever tell you about Jim Beatty’s ‘world renown’ May ’72 supersonic Mig-21 gun kill while flying an F-4E out of DaNang.  Supersonic?  Yep!  He and his pitter had pretty sore necks as their F-4E went through ‘mach tuck’ and hit jet wash just as the Mig burst into flames!!  Pegged the G meter!!  The jet was down for a few days, too! )

Rendezvous with tankers in Purple orbit uneventful – gas passed in reverse order (i.e. – 4, then 3, then 1) per briefing – except for Caddy 1 who keeps getting disconnected.  He backs out so Caddy 3 and 4 can top off and then tries again. At about this time, an air spare joins Caddy flight. It’s an F-4E with CBUs from the 421st TFS, flown by Captain Sammy Small.  He tops off after Caddy 4.  Caddy 1 can’t get his Flight Control Augmentation System  (CAS) to stay on line, is VERY sensitive in the pitch axis and can’t take any more gas. He aborts, making Caddy 3 the mission commander.

(I’ve never been on a mission with this much ‘trouble’ BEFORE we even get to the target!!) 

Due to armament, flight call signs are rearranged.  Caddy check in is “Caddy 3 check”, “2” (Jim Beatty F-4D with bombs), 4″ (Capt. Sammy Small F-4E with CBUs).

(I am often questioned about proceeding with the mission as a 3 ship.  Best I can remember there was a Wing policy that covered going on a mission with less than the fragged number of aircraft, armament different from fragged, etc.  However, comma, the original Caddy 1 seemed to have been going to target with 3 jets; we had 12 ‘bombers’ and 8 ‘escorts’ right behind us; AND the target dictated delayed fused bombs to expose the POL followed by CBUs to assure the POL caught fire. “That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!”)

After drop-off from tankers, ingress proceeds as briefed: feet dry NE of Thanh Hoa, IP (Initial Point) at Ninh Binh to target.  Slight weaving along route at an altitude of 18,000 to 22,000 feet.

(Another bad sign!  When the flight switches ‘Master Arm On’, one of Caddy 2’s bombs just sorta falls off its rail!  Cripes!  Hope it doesn’t hit those Navy ships!!)

In bound route is eerily quiet.  My ‘pitter’ Lieutenant Mike Nelson and I discuss target area responsibilities again.  There is very little activity on the Radar Homing and Warning System (RHAW); only occasional, short beeps from various enemy radars (Ground Control Intercept (GCI), Fansong SAM (Surface-to Air Missile), and the larger Anti – Aircraft Artillery (AAA) tracking radars).

The ‘new’ Caddy 4, rightfully, since he was not in Caddy’s briefing, asks from which direction was roll in and moves to right combat echelon as we approach the target area.

I can see the target area is almost free of clouds – some scattered ones at 8 to 10,000 feet – a heavier, layered deck appears to cover the egress route.

For an underground fuel storage site, this one is fairly easy to identify from altitude due to good intelligence target photos of the dirt roads.  As Caddy flight approaches the roll in point, a single 85-mm AAA gun starts shooting in the vicinity of the target area – dense black flak balls widely scattered at 15 to 18,000 feet.  It’s 1145 hours.

“Caddy, check switches hot – Caddy has target in sight – Lead’s in.”

Ground level winds in the target area were forecast from the NE and it looks about right to me from the movement of low clouds and smoke from ground fire.  Briefed aim point for Caddy’s bombs and Dodge’s CBUs was the SW half of the target area, so that Buick and Chevy flights could target the NE half of the target area without being hindered by smoke from Caddy and Dodge’s ordinance (and, hopefully, secondary explosions).

Caddy 1 is thundering ‘down the chute’ at 500+ miles per hour in a 60-degree dive.  I stop the wind drift with the ‘pipper’ (aiming device) directly on the target and ‘pickle’ off my deadly weapons at 14,000 feet.  (Funny how the ‘light, sporadic 85 mm flak seems MUCH heavier during the pass!!)  All bombs off, I start a hard 6 ‘G’ pull, jink left, and then jink hard right as we bottom out about 7000 feet. I continue in a hard right turn climbing toward 10,000 feet and heading for the north side of Thud/Phantom Ridge.

Coming off target, Mike and I crane our necks against the G forces scanning the ground and skies for SAMs, AAA and Migs. I notice several 37 or 57 mm AAA guns joining in the defense of the target area – but still only at the ‘moderate’ level.  As I look back over my right shoulder, I see my two wingmen below and inside my turn – no immediate threat to them or us, says my fearless pitter, 1/Lt Mike Nelson.  As the join up to combat spread formation ensues, I get a look at the target area some 10 – 15 miles away.  Black, heavy smoke, with fires visible at the ground, rising to some 18,000 feet as the second wave’s ordinance starts to impact.  (Sierra Hotel!!  We won’t have to come back to bomb THIS fuel dump for a while!!)

(That feeling of knowing that the bombs are on target is wonderful.  The fact is our bombs didn’t always hit the target, or that if they hit the target, the ‘target’ really wasn’t there anymore – i.e., no secondary explosions.  So far on THIS mission, it appeared the mission objective is accomplished and things look pretty good!)

As Caddy 2 and 4 join to combat spread (I’d been turning enough in a high-speed climb to give them cutoff), we see the thickening cloud deck to the East from 5 to 12,000 feet.  This observation, plus the intelligence briefing on a possible new SAM (Surface-to Air Missile) site, makes me decide to drop down and egress at 500 feet Above Ground Level (AGL).

(YES, the thought also crosses my mind that a few MIGs might be lurking at low altitude to snipe at us along our egress route.  Specially since I had just been on our Wing DCO’s wing the day before when he went out north of Thud/Phantom Ridge at low altitude!!  Mike was busy fine tuning the radar in search of low altitude ‘bogies’.)

I hear a little UHF radio chatter as the following flights come off target, rejoin and start their egress.  It sounds like we got lots of bombs on target with good secondary explosions and big fires.  Not much activity on the RHAW scopes, but there is a SAM (Surface-to Air Missile) radar warning call from one of the flights exiting the area above 20,000 feet.  I am maintaining my easterly heading at 500 to 1,000 feet AGL, in a slight weave with my wingmen in Vee formation.  Mike splits his time between the radar scope, visually searching the skies for threats, and checking our geographical egress route.  We are cross checking our location by counting the smaller north – south oriented ridges coming off the main East – West ridge.  I radio the flight for a fuel check.  All 3 of us have good fuel status.

(more…)

2017-01-20T19:03:14+00:00By |8 Comments