Flying the F-4 Phantom in Combat

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2012-02-17T07:22:19-07:00By |5 Comments

4 Vietnam Air War MiG Killers Answer Questions

Brigadier General Steve Ritchie (five MiG kills), Colonel Chuck Debellevue (six MiG kills) and Lt. Colonel John Markle (one MiG kill) of the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron out of Udorn Air Base, Thailand, in 1972 and share their experiences flying the F-4 in aerial combat over North Vietnam. Their presentations at the Hill Aerospace Museum as part of the Plane Talks series were recorded in three parts.  The second and third videos are all the men answering questions from the audience.

Part 1 of the Presentation


Part 2 of the Presentation

Part 3 of the Presentation

2020-07-05T10:50:32-07:00By |0 Comments

Oyster 1 Bravo: Evasion and Escape in Vietnam

This is the story of Major Robert Lodge and Captain Roger Locher getting their third MiG kill on May 10, 1972, then getting shot down by a MiG.  Major Lodge refused to eject because he had vowed never to become a prisoner of war. 

Captain Locher ejected and spent the next 22 days walking west in North Vietnam to get to an area where he could be rescued. On June 2, 1972, twenty-three days after he was shot down 119 U.S. aircraft were involved in Locher’s rescue.

Oyster 1, with pilot Maj. Robert Lodge and Weapon Systems Officer (WSO) Capt. Roger Locher, was the lead Phantom in Oyster Flight, a four-aircraft flight that, together with Baltar Flight, was tasked with providing MIGCAP (MiG Combat Air Patrol) air-to-air protection in pre-strike support operations against the Paul Doumer Bridge. Time on Target was scheduled for the eight planes at 9:45 a.m.

For more read “Roger Locher Talks about Getting Shot Down & Evading for 23 Days.”  I urge you to watch General Steve Richie’s video in which he describes the loss of Oyster 1 and rescure of Roger Locher.  Steve said the following about the rescue:

“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.

2020-07-05T10:10:04-07:00By |0 Comments

Into the Mount of the Cat: Lance Sijan’s Heroism

Lance Peter Sijan was a United States Air Force officer and F-4 fighter pilot. On March 4, 1976, he posthumously received the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military award, for his selflessness and courage in the face of lethal danger.

Here is the text of Lance’s Medal of Honor citation:

“While on a flight over North Vietnam, Capt. Sijan ejected from his disabled aircraft and successfully evaded capture for more than 6 weeks. During this time, he was seriously injured and suffered from shock and extreme weight loss due to lack of food. After being captured by North Vietnamese soldiers, Capt. Sijan was taken to a holding point for subsequent transfer to a prisoner of war camp. In his emaciated and crippled condition, he overpowered 1 of his guards and crawled into the jungle, only to be recaptured after several hours. He was then transferred to another prison camp where he was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated at length. During interrogation, he was severely tortured; however, he did not divulge any information to his captors. Capt. Sijan lapsed into delirium and was placed in the care of another prisoner. During his intermittent periods of consciousness until his death, he never complained of his physical condition and, on several occasions, spoke of future escape attempts. Capt. Sijan’s extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at the cost of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.

Lance is the only graduate of the United State Air Force Academy who received the Medal of Honor.

Lance ejected from his stricken F-4 on November 9, 1967 over Laos near the border of North Vietnam.  Wikipedia says:

“During his violent ejection and very rough parachute landing on the karst ridge, Sijan had suffered a fractured skull, a mangled right hand, and a compound fracture of the left leg. He was without food, with very little water, and no survival kit; nevertheless, he evaded enemy forces for 46 days. During this entire period, Sijan was only able to move by sliding on his buttocks and back along the rocky limestone ridge and later along the jungle floor. After managing to move several thousand feet, Sijan crawled onto a truck road along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, where he was finally captured by the North Vietnamese on Christmas Day, 1967. Very emaciated and in poor health, Sijan was imprisoned in an NVA camp. Soon thereafter, he managed to incapacitate a guard and escape into the jungle, but was recaptured several hours later.

Sijan was transported to a holding compound in Vinh, North Vietnam, where he was placed in the care of two other recently captured POWs, Air Force Major Robert R. Craner and Air Force Captain Guy Gruters. Although in terrific pain from his severe wounds and brutal beatings and torture from his captors, Sijan had not disclosed any information other than what the Geneva Convention guidelines allowed (name, date of birth, service, rank, and service number). Suffering terribly from exhaustion, malnutrition, and disease, he was soon transported to Hanoi, under the attentive care of both Craner and Gruters. However, in his weakened state, he contracted pneumonia and died in Hỏa Lò Prison (better known as the “Hanoi Hilton”) on January 22, 1968.

To learn more about this American hero go to read “The Courage of Lance Sijan.”  Better yet, buy one of my favorite books called “Into the Mouth of the Cat: The Story Of Lance Sijan, Hero Of Vietnam,” a book that tells Lance’s story.

Watch this video about Lance:


See also “Unbroken Will: The Story of Lance P. Sijan


2020-05-25T08:56:44-07:00By |0 Comments

Still the Noblest Calling

On May 24, 1996, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed titled “Still the Noblest Calling” written by F-100 fighter pilot JD Wetterling.  This excellent Memorial Day appropriate article starts:

“I visited with three old friends recently at a park in my town. It seems like only yesterday that we were all together, but actually it had been 28 years. There was a crowd at the park that day, and it took us awhile to connect, but with the aid of a computer we made it. I found Lance at Panel 54W, line 037, Lynn over at Panel 51W, line 032, and Vince down at line 103 on Panel 27W. We were gung-ho young fighter pilots in Vietnam, the cream of the crop of the US Air Force pilot training system, and now their names are on that 250-foot-long, half-size model of the Vietnam Memorial that moves around the country. I had intentionally avoided visiting the wall when it came to town in years past, because I did not trust myself to behave in a composed manner, but after nearly three decades it was time to try for some closure on this issue. I told my wife that I preferred to go alone, if that was all right, and, truth be known, I nearly backed out at that.”

2020-05-24T09:33:55-07:00By |0 Comments

Thud Pilot’s Experiences Over North Vietnam in 1965

This is a video of a fabulous and very informative speech made recently by former USAF Captain Gary Barnhill who talks about his USAF career flying the F-84, the F-100 and the F-105.  He flew the Thud over Route Pack VI during operation Rolling Thunder in 1965 in the Vietnam War.  His stories about Thud missions over North Vietnam in 1965 are incredible.

During one mission Gary was on the tanker getting gas when his wingman told him to eject while flying at 400 knots.  Gary ejected one second before his airplane blew up.  It was six seconds from the time Gary was told to eject to when his airplane blew up.

Gary said that when he first started flying north in 1965 North Vietnam did not have any surface to air missiles (SAMS), but the Russians started building SAM sites in 1965.  It took four months for the SAM sites to be operational during which time U.S. leaders prohibited the USAF and the Navy from attacking the under construction SAM sites.

Shortly after the SAM sites became operational President Johnson authorized U.S. air power to attack the SAM sites.  The first attack was unsuccessful.  It involved 24 Thuds, six of which were shot down.  When our guys got to the SAM site they found out all of the missiles had been removed.  Gary said the reason six Thuds were shot down was because the U.S. alerted the North Vietnamese of the attacks so it could defend the targets.

In a TV interview of Secretary of State Dean Rusk he was asked “It has been rumored that the United States provided the North Vietnamese government with the names of the targets that would be bombed the following day.  Is there any truth to that allegation?” Secretary of State Rusk answered:

“Yes.  We didn’t want to harm the Vietnamese people, so we passed the targets to the Swiss embassy in Washington with instructions to pass them to the Vietnamese government.”

Here are some facts he mentions about Thud missions and pilots in 1965:

  • F-105 pilots averaged getting shot down every 33 missions.
  • 50% of pilots shot down were rescued.
  • 158 Thud pilots were killed in action
  • 105 Thud pilots became prisoners of war.

2020-01-07T08:26:02-07:00By |0 Comments

F-4E JV 268 MiG Killer

I just ordered the F-4E model shown below.  Dan Autrey, my roommate at Korat Air Base, Thailand, in 1972, turned me on to it.  Get it at Pete’s Collectibles.  The text of the sales page that mentions Dan and his front seater Gary Retterbush.  We were in the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron TDY from Kunsan Air Base, Korea, as part of Operation Linebacker I.  The text says:

“Air-Commander’s New F-4E Phantom, Paper Tiger, 67-0268, 35th TFS, 388th TFW, USAF, 1972 1/72 Die Cast Model, Limited Edition Worldwide!! Introduced in late 1960 with the U.S. Navy, the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II has been an incredibly versatile and effective aircraft for numerous national militaries around the world. The multipurpose fighter saw extensive combat duty during the Vietnam War, including serving as Major Gary L. Retterbush, the pilot of Finch 3, an F-4E Phantom II. Finch flight was a flight of four Phantoms led by Lt. Col. Lyle Beckers, the squadron commander of the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron. The 35th TFS was permanently based at Kunsan Air Base, Korea, but was on temporary duty (TDY) at Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, to assist in Operation Linebacker I. On September 12, 1972, Major Retterbush and Lt Daniel Autrey took down a MiG-21 using the M61A1 20mm automatic gun. Both were awarded the Silver Star for their kill.”

Read Major Retterbush’s article on his two MiG kills called “Gary Retterbush 2 – North Vietnamese Air Force 0.”

2019-11-11T18:24:07-07:00By |0 Comments

Rolling Thunder Documentary

Wikipedia says:

Operation Rolling Thunder was the title of a gradual and sustained aerial bombardment campaign conducted by the United States (U.S.) 2nd Air Division (later Seventh Air Force), U.S. Navy, and Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) from 2 March 1965 until 2 November 1968, during the Vietnam War.

The four objectives of the operation (which evolved over time) were to boost the sagging morale of the Saigon regime in the Republic of Vietnam; to persuade North Vietnam to cease its support for the communist insurgency in South Vietnam without sending ground forces into communist North Vietnam; to destroy North Vietnam’s transportation system, industrial base, and air defenses; and to halt the flow of men and material into South Vietnam. Attainment of these objectives was made difficult by both the restraints imposed upon the U.S. and its allies by Cold War exigencies, and by the military aid and assistance received by North Vietnam from its communist allies, the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and North Korea.

The operation became the most intense air/ground battle waged during the Cold War period; it was the most difficult such campaign fought by the United States since the aerial bombardment of Germany during World War II.

2019-07-20T09:43:46-07:00By |0 Comments

F-4 in Combat Books

Here are three F-4 in combat in the Vietnam War books you can buy on Amazon:

  • The Vietnam Air War: From The Cockpit Col. Dennis Ridnouer.  The Vietnam War is one of the most misunderstood military conflicts in twentieth-century America. Showcasing seventy-two true stories told by American servicemen who fought from the skies, this unique and historically significant collection is a stunning record of the air war in Southeast Asia during the 1960s and 1970s.  There is no political agenda. There is no partisan opinion. There is no romanticizing. These are simply tales from the thick of an endlessly complex conflict, raw and uncut, told directly by the men who were foisted into its napalm- and sweat-soaked clutches.  Occasionally funny, sometimes tragic, and often harrowing, these true accounts bring new and personal perspectives to one of the most studied and most maligned wars in America’s history, revealing with no Hollywood glamorizing what the war was really like for members of the US Air Force of all ranks and myriad functions who answered the call to fight.  They saw no choice but to follow the orders they were given. And for better or for worse, by the time they returned, each of them would be changed forever.
  • The Vietnam Air War: First Person Col. Dennis Ridnouer.  As Dennis M. (Mike) Ridnouer writes in the foreword of his new oral history, The Vietnam Air War: First Person, over five million missions were flown in the Vietnam War. The many pilots, crew, and support personnel who risked their lives daily don’t deserve to fade into obscurity. Unhappy with the lack of first-person retellings of the war, Ridnouer made it his new mission to preserve these men’s tales of bravery and duty.  The result is more than one hundred stories from the front lines of the war. Air Force Fighter Pilots, Weapon Systems Operators (WSOs), and Electronic Warfare Officers (EWOs), recount their stories of air-to-air engagements, near misses, successes, and failures.  A pilot explains why he buys a drink for every tanker driver he meets. An airman explains what a Thud is. A veteran vividly describes his homecoming.  These stories and others provide a much different account of the war than those found in history books. The pages come alive with perilous missions and skilled maneuvers. Airmen from all walks of life were united during the war, and their tales include stirring accounts of friendship and comradery.
  • Green Ink: Memories of a Fighter Pilot by Rear Admiral H. Denny Wisley.  The biography of a navy fighter pilot who started out from immature, shaky beginnings. He found himself in the navy while growing up during Vietnam. He was the first to shoot down two enemy airplanes and flew 350 combat missions during three deployments aboard USS Kitty Hawk. The ledger he kept will bring you right there with him as he recounts many of those more than exciting missions including being shot down near Hanoi. He flew F4 Phantom to 85,000 feet during operational test flights at the McDonnell-Douglas factor in St Louis. Later at VX-4 in Pt Mugu, California he tested the F 14 Tomcat and flew the MiG 21 from Area 51. He went on to command a Fighter Squadron from USS Midway home-ported in Japan and then went on to be Flight Leader and Commanding Officer of the Blue Angels. He went on to Command the aircraft carrier John F Kennedy.
2019-03-17T07:55:51-07:00By |0 Comments

Major Phil Handley’s Supersonic F-4 Shoots Down a MiG-19

On June 2, 1972, at approximately 1330 hours, Brenda 01, a hard-wing F-4E, tail number 68210, flown by Major Phil Handley shot down a MiG-19 with the 20mm cannon approximately 40 miles northeast of Hanoi. At the time of the kill, the estimated flight parameters were: F-4 mach 1.2+ (800+ kts/hour); MiG-19 0.77 mach (500 kts/hour); altitude above terrain 500 feet; slant range 200-300 feet; and flight path crossing angle 90 degrees. This was the only MiG-19 shot down by an F-4 gun during the Vietnam War and is believed to be the highest speed gun kill in the history of aerial combat.

Read about the MiG kill and listen to a voice recording of the engagement.  Watch the video.


2019-03-16T11:23:29-07:00By |0 Comments

Video: 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron TDY to SEA 1 Apr 72

One of the guys in my F-4 Phantom squadron, the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Kunsan Air Base, Korea, in 1972 made a video about the squadron’s deployment to Southeast Asia.  I was reviewing old compact discs and found the video.  I can’t remember who made it or how long it has been sitting in my closet on the CD. 

After I published this post Ray Seymour sent me the following message:

“Dave Lowder and I supplied the photos and I put it together for the Rats Phoenix convention in May of 2012. That’s when Joe Lee Burns organized a mini reunion of the 35th in memory of Jim Beatty. No credit needed. Be well. On a separate note, Gene Doyle’s son Eric is the commander of the Blue Angels.

2020-05-25T09:09:33-07:00By |2 Comments

Guy Gets Backseat F-16 Ride & Refuels

OK this isn’t an F-4 video, but it’s a great fighter video.  It documents the flight of a civilian who got a two hour ride in the backseat of an Alabama Air National Guard 30 year old F-16 Falcon.  During the flight they refueled from a 50 year old KC-135 Stratofortress.

2019-06-15T05:56:42-07:00By |0 Comments

Navy Red Crown Air Intercept Controller Seeks F-4 Pilots

OSCM Larry “ACE” Nowell, US Navy (Retired) is a retired US Navy Master Chief Petty Office (E-9) who wrote the following:
I served onboard the USS Chicago (CG-11) in 1971 and 1972 in the Tonkin Gulf where I was the Air Intercept Controller Supervisor.  I worked with many Air Force F-4s during air-to-air engagements with enemy Migs, during their airborne emergencies, and I guided some of them to minimum-state emergency inflight-refueling.  During my time on-station I used the call-sign Red Crown.  My personal call sign was ACE and my AICS number was 0012.
Lou Drendel talked about me in his book ‘….AND KILL MIGs’ on page 74, captioned “The Voice of Red Crown”.
In December 1971 I began providing critical information and guidance to air force fighters which were being threatened by enemy Migs in North Vietnam and Laos. I was officially credited for assisting in 9 MIG-kills while controlling the air force fighters.  I was involved in more than 100 live air-to-air engagements. Additionally, I was also given credit for preventing four F-4s from running out of fuel by arranging emergency expeditious rendezvous’ for them with KC-135s when they reached minimum fuel while deep in North Vietnamese airspace.
At one point in 1972 an air force command in Thailand invited me to come over for an interview with the press but my commanding officer would not allow me leave the ship as he believed the trip was too dangerous to make.  I was offered a “box of squadron goodies” by one pilot but I could not give my mailing address to him as we were not on a secure net. I never got a chance to meet or talk to anyone in the air force about the engagements and saves, but I would surely love to.
In late 1972 I was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for my work on USS Chicago as an air-intercept-controller while in the Gulf of Tonkin and in 2005 I was inducted into the US Navy Surface Warfare Hall of Fame for that same work.  I would certainly appreciate it if you would publish this letter or some other suitable notice in your MIG SWEEP as request any of your RRVFPA members who were involved in any of the incidents mentioned herein to contact me. My telephone is 865-898-9273 and my e-mail address is
Very Respectfully,
2017-12-17T08:42:51-07:00By |0 Comments

Story of the 1st MiG Kill of the Vietnam War

The Aviation Geek Club: “The first official American aerial victory of the Vietnam War was scored on Apr. 9, 1965 by Lt. (j.g.) Terrence M. Murphy and his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Ens. Ronald J. Fegan from Fighter Squadron 96 (VF-96), who downed a Chinese MiG-17 while flying from the USS Ranger (CVA-61) in F-4B Phantom II BuNo 151403, callsign ‘Showtime 602.’  The story behind Murphy and Fegan’s victory is quite interesting because several details of their engagement are still classified today.”

2017-12-16T08:31:53-07:00By |0 Comments

Dick Francis Remembers the Hanoi Hilton

by Dick Francis

On 27 June 1972, flying as a USAF F-4 Phantom WSO and dropping chaff, my plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) over Hanoi, North Vietnam. I was immediately captured and imprisoned in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” spending my first month of captivity in solitary confinement in a section of the prison known as “Heartbreak Hotel”. Thereafter, I was moved into a 20×60 foot cell with Dave Grant, Bill Beekman, and more than 400 pumpkins. Pumpkin soup became our staple food source, along with a baguette of French bread.

Sometime in September I was moved to another cell of the same size, joining 24 other prisoners of war. Eventually, with the addition of more recent shoot-downs, the population of our 20×60 foot cell grew to 48 prisoners. The courtyard of the prison was sectioned so that the area outside of each cell was partitioned by bamboo and tar paper, enabling the North Vietnamese prison officials to keep the more recently captured prisoners, FNGs, isolated from those captured years earlier in the war, FOGs (feel free to use your imagination regarding the initials).

Then in October, 1972, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger announced “Peace is at hand”. The North Vietnamese, thinking that the Paris peace talks would lead to a cessation of hostilities, changed their attitude towards the segregation of FNGs and FOGs and their ability to communicate with each other, and removed the bamboo and tar paper fences. During “yard time” in the week or so that followed, I developed a friendship with one of the prisoners shot down earlier in the war, and we shared a great deal of our personal information and military history with each other. One day my new friend asked me, in all sincerity, if I thought he was crazy. When I questioned why he would ask such a thing, he replied that he had been in prison so long (five and a half years) that he no longer had a frame of reference for his sanity. Of course, I responded that he wasn’t crazy; he was as sane as the rest of us (if you don’t count landing jet fighters on an aircraft carrier).

It has always been a source of amusement to me that a naval aviator, future Congressman, U.S. Senator, and presidential candidate would ask me, an Air Force aviator, if I thought he was crazy! I share this story because fifty years ago today, my friend John McCain was shot down on a bombing raid over Hanoi on 25 October 1967. May God continue to bless you, John!

2017-10-25T07:23:16-07:00By |0 Comments

Harlan Elseth’s Video of His 148 Missions in SEA

Then Lt. Harlan Elseth made a great video of pictures he took in 1967 – 1968 when he flew 148 combat missions in the F-4 as a member of the 13th and 555th Tactical Fighter Squadrons during the Vietnam war.  He had 100 missions over North Vietnam and 48 missions over Laos while flying out of Ubon & Udorn Air Bases, Thailand.

2019-06-15T05:42:56-07:00By |0 Comments

Distinguished Wings Over Vietnam

This video made by PBS channel KPBS is about four men who flew aircraft in the VIetnam War.  One man was a helicopter gunship pilot.  Another was a Huey helicopter pilot.  The last two men were fighter pilots – a Navy A-4 pilot and a USAF F-100 pilot.  The intro to the video says:

The honest, personal accounts of four combat pilots during the Vietnam War. From helicopters to jets, these men reveal how they felt risking their lives in a war that was confusing and unpopular, to say the least. They share their missions, the close calls, and how they were treated when they came home. Saving lives by taking lives, changed them forever.”

2017-10-15T08:30:23-07:00By |0 Comments

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.”

2017-10-14T09:44:35-07:00By |0 Comments

A Day in the Life of a FAC

By Shelby G. Spires

During the Vietnam War, Johnston’s  was the job of a jet fighter pilot blended with a forward air controller, or Fast FAC, he marked targets,  controlled air strikes and found targets all from the front seat of an F-4. Finding the cave, marking it and setting loose two Navy aircraft on it is a prime example of what a forward air controller did on a daily basis.  In Southeast Asia, the FAC had two general roles: support troops on the ground who were fighting off enemy soldiers and try to find targets to destroy with air strikes.  The basic concept of Fast FAC was fulfilling the requirement for forward air controllers in a high threat area.:

2017-10-14T09:23:07-07:00By |1 Comment

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.”

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.

2019-06-15T15:04:25-07:00By |0 Comments