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.”
Sgt. Joey Hill was the crew chief of the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron‘s F-4D tail number 650784 on February 21, 1972, when Major Robert Lodge & Capt. Roger Locher got their first of three MiG kills. Watch these two videos Joey made with his pictures and the two mission audio tapes given to him by Roger Locher and Bob Lodge. The audio tapes are the actual cockpit voice recordings of the two missions during which Lodge & Locher shot down their first and second of three MiGs.
They got their third MiG on May 10, 1972, but were immediately shot down by an unseen MiG. Major Lodge elected not to eject because on that day Intel briefed the aircrews that their mission would take them deep into North Vietnam into an area where helicopter rescue was not possible. Major Lodge had told people that he would never become a prisoner of war. Roger Locher ejected safely and escaped and evaded on the ground for 22 days before getting on his radio and calling for help. Roger knew he had to walk west far enough to an area where the helicopters could get to him. For more about Locher’s incredible story in his own words and Brig. Gen. Steve Richie’s story of the rescue read “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.”
On May 11, 1972, General Vogt, Commander of the 7th Air Force, cancelled all strike missions into North Vietnam and dedicated over 150 aircraft and USAF resources to rescuing one American. Although many risked their lives that day the USAF did not suffer a single loss. Contrast the importance the U.S. gave to saving American lives in 1972 to the dishonorable mindset and abandonment of the four Americans who died in the Benghazi, Libya, consulate on September 11, 2012, when President Obama refused the doomed American’s cries for help. General Vogt spared no resource to save Roger Locher, but President Obama chose to ignore Ambassador Steven’s pleas because the President had to go to Las Vegas.
The following video contains the audio of the February 21, 1972, MiG kill mission.
On May 8, 1972, Major Robert Lodge, gave another combat mission audio tape to Sgt. Hill. On this day Bob Lodge and Capt. Locher shot down their second MiG 21 while flying F4_D 650784.
Listen to the actual combat missions to hear Bob and Roger talking intra-cockpit and the radio transmissions made by other aircrews in the strike force and Red Crown, the Navy airborne warning ship in the Gulf of Tonkin.
Here is a translation of some of the jargon used by the aircrews and Red Crown:
Falcon 62 = Lodge & Locher’s call sign on the February 21, 1972 mission.
Oyster 01 = Lodge & Licher’s call sign on the May 8, 1972, mission
triple A or AAA = antiaircraft artillery = guns on the ground shooting at F-4s
mach = airspeed in relation to the speed of sound where mach 1 = the speed of sound, which is 700+ miles per hour depending on the altitude and other factors
beeping noises = various types of radar energy hitting Falcon 62 and picked up and decoded by the radar homing and warning aka RHAW gear
on the nose = at the airplane’s 12 o’clock position
Red Crown = Navy ship in the Gulf of Tonkin that could detect all airplanes airborne over North Vietnam and identify them as friend or foe. Red Crown warned US aircraft of approaching MiGs and vectored US airplanes to MiGs to shoot down the MiGs.
Disco = USAF equivalent of Red Crown, but it was an EC-121 radar airplane airborne over Laos.
Bandit = enemy MiG airplane
Blue Bandit = enemy MiG-21 airplane
Bulls-eye = Hanoi, North Vietnam aka “downtown.”
067/22 = location of a Bandit where the first number “067” is the radial (bearing off of downtown Hanoi and the second number “22” is the number of nautical miles the Bandit is from downtown Hanoi.
Guard = UHF radio frequency 243.0, a radio frequency monitored most of the time by airborne F-4s and used in emergencies such as when somebody got shot down and was calling for help on the personal radio all aircrew men carried.
pecker head = enemy MiG airplane
SAM = surface to air missile, a 32 foot long Soviet made SA-2 radar guided flying telephone pole missile
shit hot = shit hot
overtake = knots at which your airplane is approaching another airplane – two airplanes heading directly at each other at 500 knots each have an overtake of 1,000 knots.
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.
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.
Norman F. Conant, Jr., sent me an email message that contained a Robin Olds story. It is David B. Waldrop’s story of the day over North Vietnam when he and his F-105 Thunderchief shot down two MiGs, one of which was moments away from becoming then Col. Robin Olds’ 5th MiG kill. Here’s Norm’s story:
“About 10 years ago when I was a MD-11 copilot at Delta, I set out on a trip to Tokyo from Atlanta. There were two full crews in the cockpit. The captain I was paired with was a very nice, slender, unassuming guy. We flew the 14 hours in and out of breaks talking about various subjects including both of our backgrounds in fighter aviation. Turns out he was a Thud driver in Vietnam. All four of us were former military with both copilots being current Guard/Reservist and the other captain a Navy pilot in Viet Nam.
Upon reaching the hotel in Tokyo, it was decided that we would adjourn to the crew lounge with the beer vending machine for a cold one. The Navy pilot was anxious to get my captain speaking about the old days for some reason. Finally, Dave Waldrop relented and told us the story about his phone call from then Col. Robin Olds. [Note: This is the way I remember the story. Reality may be nothing close, or maybe a reasonable facsimile thereof. Fortunately for me, I don’t GAS (give a shit).]
Dave said that he was heading North in a large formation of Thuds. They had been told on several missions during that time frame that they were supposed to have F-4’s show up at some point, but it was hit or miss if they did. Just South of Hanoi, he looked over and saw a MiG closing in behind one of the other aircraft in the flight. He shouted in the radio for the Thud to break right for a MiG. This caused the entire alpha strike to break right with many cleaning off the jets. Dave’s gunsight light didn’t work so, just as I had done on occasion years later in my F-4, he had made a grease pencil mark for the estimated mil depression of his planned drop angle and altitude. Not very useful on this occasion.
Instead, he closed on the MiG and filled his wind screen up with MiG before pulling the trigger. The MiG blew up and he was going to fly through the debris causing him to pull up hard and fly into the overcast. The 1Lt was on one hand very exhilarated to have just shot down a MiG, but on the other hand, he was currently upside down in the clouds having to ease his way back into the VMC world with pure chaos below him. He said that he eased his way out of the clouds after what seemed like a long time (may have been seconds) and as he gained visual to the fight. He was still upside down, canopy to canopy with another MiG- only slightly behind the MiG who didn’t see him. He pulled the power back and eased the nose over while righting the ship. Again, he filled the wind screen up with MiG and pulled the trigger. Another MiG blew up in front of him. The fight was over as fast as it started and 1Lt Dave Waldrop flew back to his base in Thailand as fast as he could.
Back at the base, while partying and debriefing, Dave got the message that there was a phone call he had to take. When he got to the phone, a deep gruff voice said, “Waldrop, are you the SOB who got my MiG?” Dave said, “I don’t know what you mean sir?” Then the man introduced himself as Col. Robin Olds and went on to explain that he was arriving at the melee at the same time as the MiG’s and quickly found a MiG to hunt down. As he was about to let an AIM-9 fly, some crazy bastard in a Thud comes out of the clouds upside down right in the same field of view of the sidewinder! Col. Olds congratulated the 1Lt and hung up. Later Col. Olds even had to vouch for the kill when the Air Force didn’t want to credit it to Dave. That MiG would have been Col. Olds 5th kill in Viet Nam making him an ace and the only double ace including WWII and Viet Nam. It also could have been a Thud that was shot down had Olds shot the missile a second or two earlier! Col. Olds never got another chance for that 5th kill.”
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.
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.
A man sent me the following query in an email message:
“Just re-looking at your F-4 specs; realize my Navy Phantom (it was a B with J79-GE-8) was in some ways different; as example I’m sure it was 60 feet in length, rather that the 58 you list in your AF. But it’s weight that confuses me a bit. You list max take-off weight as 55,000. My admittedly lousy memory is that internal tanks were 2,000 gals., the center external was 600 gals and the 2 wing tanks were 370 each; making fuel at 3,300 gals. 23,400 lbs. The 4 Sparrows were 1,000 pounds each and the 4 Sidewinders were 250 each making take-off 61,312 pounds about 6,000 pounds heavier tan you list for max take-off. Are my numbers off? Just wondering what you think?”
3. Block 50 E model GW clean with full internal fuel and Aero-27A rack = 33,000 lbs.
4. Block 50 E model full load of internal + external fuel = 3,402 gallons = 22,113 lbs
5. Block 50 E model GW with full internal fuel, two full wing tanks, one full centerline tank and Aero-27A rack = 55,000 lbs
6. Block 50 E model GW with full internal fuel, two full wing tanks, one full centerline tank, four AIM-7s (435 lbs/missile – in 1972 we only carried 3 AIM-7s and a jamming pod in the 4th station), four AIM-9s (164 lbs/missile), and Aero-27A rack = 57,396 lbs
7. Block 50 E model GW with full internal fuel, two full wing tanks, 12 mark 82 snake eye 500 pound bombs (560 lbs/bomb) (typical close air support load in 1972) = 57,220 lbs
Note the minimum go speed charts (shows max weight = 57,000 lbs) and the max abort speed charts (shows max weight 60,000 lbs). In looking at the inflight checklists for the F-4E that I saved, I note that the checklist did not require us to compute the maximum weight. We had to compute the min go speed and max abort speed.
I found a question in my master question file that asked what is the max recommended takeoff weight. The multiple choice answers are: 62,000, 60,000, 46,000 & 58,000. The question wasn’t answered, but my guess today is 60,000 because that is the heaviest weight contemplated on the max abort speed charts.
If you are into F-4 trivia, answer these questions:
1. How many concentric circles on the trim button?
2. How many steps on the removable ladder?
3. How many safety pins were in the Martin Baker ejection seat?