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birdguy

There are pilots and there are fighter pilots...

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This afternoon I finished Col Broughton's "Going Downtown".  He was my vice wing commander in Thailand.  The book brought back vivid memories of those days and my association with those pilots...some of whom never returned and others who spent years in the Hanoi Hilton.

I do recall some things that were not in Broughton's book.

When the bombing missions over the north were going hot and heavy and we were suffering many F-105 pilot losses the Air Force was taking transport pilots and putting them into F-105s at Nellis Air Force Base and making fighter pilots of them.  But on some it didn't take.  Two months of training at Nellis and then they were sent to the theater, either Korat AFB or Takhli AFB in Thailand.  The rest of their training would be on the job training over the north.

I heard about one of the trash haulers they tried to make a fighter pilot out of.  He was a major.  When he returned from his first mission he grounded himself.  That was a career buster.  He served out his one year tour behind a desk and was then sent back to the states where he resigned his commission.

But I was present at base ops picking up the frag (the number and type of bombs to be loaded for the following day's afternoon missions).  A Jolly Green landed and discharged one our new pilots who's aircraft had been shot up.  He nursed his aircraft back to Laos where he bailed out and awaited rescue.

This was his first mission.  The three other pilots of his element were waiting for him when he came into the room.  Nobody said a thing.  He asked for a marker and put the first hash mark on his boonie hat.  Then he said, "Thank God I only have 99 more to go."  The entire room cheered him and the three pilots waiting for him literally carried him off to the officer's club where I imagine he didn't have to pay for a drink all evening.  He was a fighter pilot.

Think about it.  They are given specific targets in Hanoi where they have to dodge SAM missiles, radar controlled anti-aircraft guns, and MIGs and at the same time line up with their targets, release their bombs, and continuing avoiding the flack and SAMs and MIGs and head for home.  It takes three air to air re-fuelings to get a fully load Thud out and back.  One shortly after take-off due to using burner to get the heavy bomb loads into the air; another one along the Laos-Vietnam border on the way in; and another over Laos on the way back.

Then there were the Wild Weasels, two place Thuds, that carried a pair of AGM-45 radar seeking missiles.  They went in ahead of the main force and sought out the SAM and anti-aircraft radars and when one of them lit up the back-seater would tell the pilot where to go and they braved the anti-aircraft fire to line up with the radar and launch the missiles.

In a book called The Aviation Art of Keith Ferris edited by Ian Ballantine there is a beautiful two page spread of an F-105 Wild Weasel.  He titled it 'Big Brass Ones'.

One more anecdote before I go.  I was cruising up and down line in my pickup checking on all the bomb loads.  The pilots were pre-flighting their aircraft.  As I passed one of the revetments one of the pilots waved me down and asked if I had a soft drink.  I carried a cooler full of soft drinks for my load crews as I cruised up and down the revetments.  I gave him one.  He was Lt. Shively.  He said, "Thanks Sarge, I'll buy you a beer when I get back."  He never made it back.  He was shot down over Hanoi and spent the rest of the war as a POW at the Hanoi Hilton.  At the time many on us wore aluminum bracelets with the names of service personnel who were fighting that war.  I wore Lt Shively's until I saw him come off that C-141 that brought the POWs home after the war.

Like I said, there are pilots and there are fighter pilots.  I was honored to have served with and supported fighter pilots.

Noel 

Edited by birdguy
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I'm first generation Norwegian American.  You know what they say about Norwegians.  You can always tell a Norwegian, but you can't tell him much.

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8 minutes ago, birdguy said:

I wore Lt Shively's until I saw him come off that C-141 that brought the POWs home after the war.

Did Lt Shively buy you a beer? 😉

Thanks Noel for the anecdotes. They are always fascinating glimpses into what the rear echelon folks were up to.

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Fr. Bill    

AOPA Member: 07141481 AARP Member: 3209010556

Interests: Gauge Programming - 3d Modeling for Milviz

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37 minutes ago, birdguy said:

until I saw him come off that C-141 that brought the POWs home after the war.

Forgive my ignorance, but I'm assuming he was alive and not in a casket with a nameplate? :blush:. I interpreted that sentence both ways... 


Mark Robinson

"What's it doing now?"

Author of FLIGHT: A near-future short story (ebook available on amazon)

I made the baby cry - A2A Simulations L-049 Constellation

Sky Simulations MD-11 V2.2 Pilot. The best "lite" MD-11 money can buy (well, it's not freeware!)

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I have 2 friends here in Horseshoe Bay that were fighter pilots in Nam. One was an Alabama grad the other an LSU grad. Both great men that could give you insights for the Phantom and the F-105. It is amazing how much technical knowledge they have about flying and wonderful stories. There is an air about a fighter pilot that sets them apart from the others. It's an attitude that they all seem to develop.

 

Bil W

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To answer your questions.  Lt Shively never bought me a beer.  He was a POW and he returned alive.  He became a lawyer and practiced in Portland I think.  He died a few years ago.

Had I ever met him after the war I would have reminded him that he owed me a beer.  But we never met.

Noel

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I'm first generation Norwegian American.  You know what they say about Norwegians.  You can always tell a Norwegian, but you can't tell him much.

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Thanks for clarifying, Noel. 🍻 (A toast to you with a virtual beer :wink:)


Mark Robinson

"What's it doing now?"

Author of FLIGHT: A near-future short story (ebook available on amazon)

I made the baby cry - A2A Simulations L-049 Constellation

Sky Simulations MD-11 V2.2 Pilot. The best "lite" MD-11 money can buy (well, it's not freeware!)

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