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.