Fallen Heros

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

There Is a Way

I love this documentary about heroic men who flew the single seat F-105 Thunderchief, aka the “Thud,” in the air war over North Vietnam in 1966.   I first saw the film in the fall of 1970 when I was in Officer Training School (OTS) at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.  I was in awe then just as I am now watching these men talk about flying combat missions over the most heavily defended area in the history of aerial warfare.

The Thud drivers in the movie were flying in operation Rolling Thunder.  “There is a Way” was filmed at Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, the same base my squadron, the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron, flew from in 1972 during operation Linebacker I.  The Thud pilots in “There is a Way” were in the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing.

Legendary American hero 1st Lt. Karl W. Richter explains why he volunteered to fly an additional 100 missions over North Vietnam after flying his first 100 missions.  It was standard operating procedure for Thud drivers to be returned to the United States after they completed 100 missions over North Vietnam because the 100 mission quota was so difficult to achieve.  When Lt. Richter was flying combat missions 43 percent of F-105 pilots were either killed or declared missing in action before they completed 100 missions over North Vietnam.  Lt. Richter was single and did not have any children and he loved flying the Thud so he asked to stay at Korat and fly a second 100 missions over North Vietnam.

Lt. Richter beat the odds and successfully completed his second 100 missions.  Unfortunately on July 28, 1967, Karl Richter was killed in action  when his airplane was shot down by flak.  Richter was rescued by a helicopter, but died on the chopper before it could get him to a hospital.  In another article I wrote about Richter I said:

“There is a statue of Karl Richter at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, on which is inscribed, the following words from the prophet Isaiah:  “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Here am I. Send me.”  Lt. Richter gave his life in the service of his country.  Karl Richter’s spirit and sacrifice will live on in the annals of the United States Air Force and American history.  The December 1992 issue of Air Force Magazine contains an article called “Here Am I.  Send Me” about Karl Richter.  Read Lt. Col. Hank Brandli’s article called “Karl Richter’s Last Mission” to learn more about this American hero.”

2019-06-15T05:50:47-07:00By |0 Comments

Counting the Days

by Dick Francis, 523rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Vietnam Prisoner of War

Following completion of my training as a Weapons Systems Officer in the F-4 Phantom, I was assigned to the 523rd TFS at Clark AB, Philippines. However, as a result of North Vietnam’s invasion of South Vietnam in March of 1972, my squadron had been deployed to the 432nd TRW at Udorn RTAFB, Thailand to participate in the Operation Linebacker airstrikes over North Vietnam. Having arrived in theater only about two weeks earlier, I had flown a couple of lower risk missions into Route Pack 1 (the part of North Vietnam just north of the DMZ) and a few missions into Laos and South Vietnam. However, I kept worrying about how I would hold up once I had to go “downtown” to Hanoi. At that time, Hanoi was the most heavily defended city in the history of aerial warfare. Somewhat nervous about the situation, I wondered if I would survive this temporary duty assignment (TDY) of unknown duration. Normally aircrew members stationed in Southeast Asia (SEA) either flew 100 missions over North Vietnam or served a combat tour of one year, whichever occurred first.

Then one morning my flight was scheduled to fly north so we attended the Wing briefing in the Deputy Commander for Operations (DCO) complex. When the briefing officer pulled the curtain back, the map showed the order of battle for a raid on the Hanoi rail yards. As the briefing progressed a feeling of dread and anxiety began to creep over me. Upon completion of the briefing, I ducked into the men’s room on my way back to the squadron. Taking temporary refuge in a toilet stall just to calm my nerves, I noticed some graffiti on the door that provided some comic relief that helped reduce some of my anxiety.

It said, “I’ve got 364 days left on my tour and it seems like I just got here yesterday.”

Editor’s Note: Captain Francis was shot down by a SAM over Hanoi on 27 June 72. He was captured, spent 274 days in the Hanoi Hilton and Zoo prisons, and was repatriated 28 March 73.  See Gavin Francis’ article in which he remembers his father getting shot down and returning to his family in 1973.  Dick’s frontseater that day, Lt. Col. Farrell Sullivan, the 523rd Tactical Fighter Squadron’s squadron commander, was killed in action by the SAM.

2017-01-20T19:03:11-07:00By |1 Comment

Joe Boyles Remembers Fallen Comrades

Everyone who has been to war has stories they retain for the remainder of their lives.  Some are told; others are just ‘filed away’ in a forgotten part of our mind, maybe to be awakened by a reminder.  Some are tragic; some funny; some ironic.  A friend sent me an e-mail last week with a website called “The Virtual Wall” where more than 58 thousand names of Vietnam casualties are cataloged.  I looked up a couple of names I recall and they reminded me of some “war stories” from long ago.

One name was Captain Tom Amos.  On Saturday, April 1, 1972, the phone rang at an early hour in the upstairs dayroom of the ‘Few Q,’ the modulux dorm that housed the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron Panthers.  Nearly all the Panthers were sound asleep, hung over from a ‘wild and crazy’ party on Friday night.  The fellow who wasn’t hung over was Tom Amos who had just arrived at Kunsan AB, South Korea the day before.

Tom answered the phone and a voice on the other end said, ‘This is the command post.  Wake everyone in your building and have them report to squadron operations in 30 minutes.  This is a silent recall.’

So Tom Amos walks through the building, opening doors (we never locked anything) and informing everyone within earshot of the message.  Now picture this scenario: it’s April Fool’s Day about 5 in the morning; you’re hung over; a stranger just opened your door and said something about a silent recall.  Would you buy this or conclude it was a prank from the neighboring squadron, roll over and go back to sleep?

When no one showed for the recall, the Director of Operations Colonel Tyler G. Goodman stormed into the Few Q and the recall wasn’t silent anymore.  My squadron mates told me (I was off-station in Seoul that weekend and sober as a judge) that his greeting was both loud and traumatic.

The gist of the silent recall was that two days prior, the North Vietnamese had launched their largest ground invasion yet, and the 35th was executing Operation Commando Fly to augment Air Force fighter units in Southeast Asia.  No one I knew of had ever heard of Commando Fly before that morning.

Two weeks or so later, I’m at DaNang Airbase temporarily assigned to the 421st Black Widows along with Tom Amos as fill-ins to replace combat losses.  After a week of hard flying, I’m DNIF (duty not to include flying) for a couple of days and assigned as night duty hog, running the Ops desk at the squadron.  One of my jobs is to check the sign out log which was our method in combat of filing a flight plan.  I notice that Larry “Howdy Doody” Trimble and Mase Burham didn’t sign out when they went to fly.

When Trimble and Burnham return from their mission to sign in, I inform them of their infraction and the penalty – one case of beer for the squadron bar.  This was not a major financial setback since beer cost 10 cents a can in the war zone.  Major whining ensues.  Then Trimble’s light bulb goes off: “Hey Joe, is there any rule that we can’t drink the beer we just bought?”

My cogent reply: “No, but you’ve got two strikes against you.  First, its 7:30 in the morning and second, no way you two are going to down a case of beer.”

Trimble thinks this over for a moment and comes back: “Well, we’re coming off duty so we can start drinking, and three can drink more beer than two.  When’s your shift over?”  “In 30 minutes,” I reply.  “Great says Howdy; Mase and I will get a head start and you can join us when your relief shows up.”

A half hour later, I’m sitting on a bar stool joining my friends for a Budweiser breakfast.  We started strong but gave up after consuming about half the case.  Yawns were followed by heavy slumber.

I realize that these war stories might damage my reputation with my tee-totaling friends.  I would offer in defense that it was a long time ago; I was young; it was war; yada, yada, yada.

Within a week, all three of these fellows were dead.  Larry Trimble’s jet was hit by a SAM over Dong Hoi, North Vietnam.  His backseater was able to eject, survive, captured, and repatriation a year later, but Larry was not so fortunate.  Tom Amos and Mason Burnham were killed during a night bombing mission over Laos.  Their bombs hit the target, followed immediately by a fireball at 12 o’clock.  Our maps for this area were very inaccurate, especially the heights of the surrounding mountains.  Also, it was very easy to become disoriented during night dive-bombing.  It could happen to anyone.

I never had the opportunity to fly with any of these fellows in the short three weeks I knew them.  They were each considered to be excellent aviators.  So there you have a couple of stories from long ago, containing humor, irony and tragedy.  So goes war.

2017-01-20T19:03:11-07:00By |0 Comments

Thud Ridge Author Jack Broughton Slips the Surly Bonds

We lost another Vietnam air war hero. Former USAF Colonel Jack Broughton died on October 24, 2014, at the age of 89. He is the author of two incredible books about flying combat missions in the most heavily defended area in the history of aerial warfare, Route Pack VI, the area around Hanoi, North Vietnam. Colonel Broughton won four Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Silver Stars and the highest Air Force decoration, the presidentially-awarded Air Force Cross

Stars & Stripes: “In his 1988 book, ‘Going Downtown: The War Against Hanoi and Washington,’ Broughton labeled Johnson and McNamara as ‘Washington weenies’ and asserted that pilots and other aviators died because they were prohibited from hitting anti-aircraft emplacements and other “sanctuary” sites in North Vietnam. The U.S. ‘lost a bunch of good people and good machinery all over Southeast Asia with their outhouse mentality on war,’ Broughton wrote. . . . ‘Thud Ridge,’ which does not have the political tone of the other two, is often assigned reading for Air Force pilots in training.”

Read “Testing the Rules of Engagement During the Vietnam War” and Colonel Broughton’s obituary in the New York Times.

Here are links to Col. Broughton’s Vietnam air war books, Thud Ridge and Going Downtown. I read both of them and highly recommend them.

2017-01-20T19:03:11-07:00By |0 Comments

Farewell Sky King

In the military section of the Treasures of Madison County Museum is a group photograph around an F-4D Phantom II. The picture was taken in May 1972 at DaNang Air Base, South Vietnam. About twenty members of the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron “Panthers” are included in the photo including yours truly. In the cockpit of the jet is the squadron commander, Lt. Col. Lyle L. Beckers.

Lyle recently died at the age of 81 in Gainesville, Georgia from the effects of Alzheimer’s. Four decades ago, we knew him by his moniker “Sky King” as a fearless fighter pilot leader. Where did that name come from? Some of you might recall the children’s television adventure Sky King from the 1950s.

I served under a variety of fighter squadron commanders in Korea, Vietnam, England, and Germany as well as a couple stateside. Some were better than others, but as a whole, they were fine leaders and taught me a great deal. Lyle Beckers stands out though. He was a highly experienced fighter pilot in both the F-100 Super Sabre as well as the F-4 Phantom. He was also a graduate of the Fighter Weapons School, literally graduate school for “jet jockeys.”

I arrived at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea in mid-March 1972 for my first duty assignment out of flight training. I spent the next couple of weeks in-processing, and before I knew which way was up, my squadron was sent south to the war in Southeast Asia. What prompted this sudden change of course was the North Vietnamese had launched their Easter Offensive on March 29 with 200 thousand invading troops. The only way to halt this invasion was with air power. We were the first outside unit to respond; many more would follow.

Initially, our people and jets were split between two bases, DaNang in South Vietnam and Ubon in Thailand. We filled in to replace combat losses but before long, the squadron was reunited at DaNang under our own flag. The two lieutenant colonels in the 35th were the commander, Lyle Beckers, and operations officer Bill Mickelson. They were both experienced fighter pilots with previous combat tours and complimented each other well. Beckers was the leader while Mickelson was the ‘people person.’

Lyle Beckers led the toughest missions. In mid-May, Operation Linebacker began and we regularly flew high risk missions into the industrial heartland of North Vietnam. I can never recall a Linebacker mission where Beckers was not the flight lead of our first 4-ship. He led from the front. Frequently, I was on his wing in another jet, usually the number four aircraft. His decision making was precise and flawless.

Do you recall a couple of years ago when some official in the Obama Administration said that the United States was leading the coalition against Libya “from behind?” Lyle Beckers wouldn’t understand that; it wouldn’t compute. A leader is in front and never asks his troops to do anything he isn’t willing to do himself. That was Lyle Beckers’ style of leadership and we all looked up to him.

Most of our missions into North Vietnam were air-to-air missions meaning we were there to protect the strike flights from MiG attacks. On May 23rd, Beckers was leading our squadron when the flight was jumped by MiGs. He used an AIM-7 Sparrow missile to shoot down a MiG-19. The number 3 aircraft shot down a MiG-21 with the 20mm canon. Number 2 registered a probable kill with an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile. Altogether, a very successful mission.

Three months later in September, Beckers registered his second MiG kill, this time against a MiG-21 using an AIM-9 and the gun. MiG kills in the Vietnam War were infrequent and hard to come by. Only a handful of pilots registered more than one kill. Lyle Beckers was one of the few who did.

Colonel Beckers was an imposing fellow, probably taller than 6’1”, and he was possessed with all-American looks. It pains me to think of a strong leader felled by Alzheimer’s, but he is well now and at peace. Let us pray: “Father of all, we pray to you for Lyle, and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

Read “The Tale of Gator 3” about an F-4 mission lead by Colonel Beckers.

2017-01-20T19:03:11-07:00By |2 Comments

RIP Lyle Beckers, Fighter Pilot

Sad news from Jeannie Beckers on September 24, 2014, about the passing of her husband Lyle C. Beckers.  Col. Beckers was the commander of the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron when it went TDY from Kunsan AB, Korea, to Da Nang AB, South Vietnam and Korat AB, Thailand in 1972.  Lyle lead many 35th TFS strike escort missions into Route Pack VI and shot down two MiG-21s.

Jeannie sent a message to family and friends that said:

“It is with a very sad heart I am writing to let you know my precious Lyle passed away this morning at 5:AM EST.    He died peacefully with Lisa, Laurie, Rob and I at his side.  Patti will be here Saturday.  A private Memorial Service will be held in our home Sunday morning.  His final internment will be at a later date in Arlington Cemetery.  He was a brave Warrior to the end.  We shall miss him always.”

Joe Lee Burns sent an email message in which he said:

“Lyle was a hero to me, a role model.  I wanted to be able to fly as good as he could, and he tried to teach me that. I love him and started missing him before now. Godspeed, Sir.  Save me a seat.

I will share one Lyle Story: 81ST TFS out of Hahn AB, W Germany. We were at Wheelus AB, Libya for gunnery camp to escape bad weather in Germany in December (1968). Major Lyle Beckers was flight lead (I think I was Comet . . er . .I mean, #6 – flight lead of the last 4 jets) for the Saturday morning 9 ship departure (one jet was hard broke for parts) to Aviano AB, Italy and then back to Hahn in time for Christmas. Our Callsign was something like “Panther 21” flight.

Lyle briefed the takeoff sequence, rejoin ground track, and final flight check in before departing Wheelus airspace. Flight lead took off single ship from runway 29; flew about 2 miles, made a loose 180 degree turn for rejoin. The rest of the Phantoms took off as 2 ships and rejoined in trail. After another 180 degree turn the fight requested a flyby at 1,000 feet AGL, which was approved. Our formation was a single followed by 4 line-abreast 2 ships.

Abeam the tower, Lyle calls, “Santa Flight Check.”  As briefed, he followed with “Rudolph,” the next two ship responded “Dasher,” then “Dancer,” followed by “Prancer” and “Vixen,” then “Comet” and “Cupid,” and then “Donner” and “Blitzen.”  Tower clicked its microphone switch twice in response (probably because of the laughter in the tower). Before changing to Departure Control frequency, Lyle called, “Wheelus Tower, ‘Santa Flight’ departing your airspace, Merry Christmas, ‘Ho Ho Ho’”.!!!”

Jeannie replied: “Lyle said ‘HO HO HO!’ when he read it….said he was sorry he couldn’t add anything to your remembrance, but he knows you are right!!! Best love, Jeannie Beckers for Lyle.”

The F-4E flown by Lyle Beckers and Lt. Thomas Griffin on September 12, 1972, when Col Beckers got his second MiG-21 is now on static display at Soesterberg Air Base.

Here’s a 1972 group photo of the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron taken at Da Nang with Col. Lyle Beckers, the commander of the 35th TFS, in the front seat.  See the bigger version of this picture with names of the guys.  Note: Joe Lee Burns photoshopped himself into the top row.

2017-01-20T19:03:11-07:00By |2 Comments

Patrick Wynne’s Ring of Remembrance

by Walter J. Boyne
Air Force Magazine
February 2009

After 42 years, this token of Patrick Wynne’s academy days came home at last.  First Lt. Patrick Wynne, a United States Air Force pilot, perished in 1966 in the Vietnam War. He had been flying on Aug. 8 in the backseat of an F-4C during a dangerous raid over North Vietnam. Wynne and the F-4’s pilot, Capt. Lawrence H. Golberg, were shot down north of Hanoi, near China.

Wynne, a 1963 graduate of the Air Force Academy, died wearing his class ring. Though his remains were returned in 1977, his ring was not. It was, in fact, missing and all but forgotten until last year. Then, in an astounding turn of events, it was handed over to a former Secretary of the Air Force—Michael W. Wynne, Patrick’s younger brother.

This is the story of how that ring, having been in China for four decades, found its way back to the Wynne family.

On that fateful day in 1966, 24-year-old Patrick Edward Wynne volunteered to fly one of the most hazardous missions yet assigned to the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, stationed at Ubon RTAB, Thailand.

2012-02-16T19:53:30-07:00By |0 Comments

The Loss of Owl 08 & Capt. James Steadman & Capt. Robert Beutel 26 Nov 71

Owl 08” – The Story of Capt. James Steadman, USAF • Capt. Robert Beutel, USAF, 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron “Nite Owls” – 8th Tactical Fighter Wing • Ubon RTAFB, Thailand, November 26, 1971

by Joseph Mortati
July 1, 2009

The purpose of this document is to provide the next-of-kin of Capt. James Steadman and Capt. Robert Beutel, USAF, MIA (Case 1781) a better understanding of what happened when their loved ones went missing on November 26, 1971. It is the result of over 500 hours of analysis of forensic and historical evidence uncovered by the Department of Defense’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC, formerly Joint Task Force-Full Accounting). It includes declassified documents, interviews with men who flew F-4s out of Ubon, Thailand in 1969-1971, as well as the author’s own flight experience in the F-4.

This document is neither a critique of, nor a commentary on, JPAC’s efforts. It simply attempts to translate a large volume of data into information understandable by someone without a military background. It is current as of the date below and all assumptions, analyses, recommendations, and conclusions are the author’s own and he could be wrong about any or all of them.

Writing this story would not been possible without the help of nearly a dozen people – the Steadman and Beutel Families, civilians, active and retired military, and Air Force Academy graduates – all of whom were gracious enough to give their time to help create this account.

The official Air Force record shows that Owl 08, an F-4D assigned to the 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron – “Nite Owls” – was lost on Friday, November 26, 1971 while on a singleship, night Forward Air Control mission over Laos. The fate of the crew and the location of the aircraft remain a mystery more than thirty-five years after the incident.  Of the basic questions of history – who, what, when, where, why, how? – only the “who” and “when” are known and this document is an attempt to answer the others. To do so, it takes the approach of working from the known to the unknown by presenting the facts of this case, analyzing them, and then attempting to explain what might have happened to Owl 08. Nothing can be certain until JPAC resolves the case but this document is the author’s best guess based on the available information to date.

© 2009 GTG Consulting. This work may be reproduced and redistributed, in whole or in part, without alteration and without prior written permission, provided the copyright holder is acknowledged as the source of the material.

The text above is the introduction to a very detailed 39 page analysis of the night forward air control “Fast FAC” mission flown by Owl 08.  The article has a lot of pictures and information about F-4s and flying them in combat in 1971 over Southeast Asia.

2012-02-13T19:41:10-07:00By |1 Comment

James M. Beatty, Jr. – American Hero & Fighter Pilot

On January 3, 2012, Nadine S. Pearish wrote the following to friends of her father, James M. Beatty, Jr:

It is with a sadden heart that I am sending you this e-mail.  I am writing to inform you of James M. Beatty’s Jr passing today, January 3, 2012.  I found your addresses among my father’s belongings and felt that the closeness that was shared in life would be continued in his death.  As the tears stream down my face there are many names that I remember from my childhood days and other names that I have heard my father speak fondly of.  I know he will be missed by many.”

Joe Lee Burns wrote the following about his good friend and comrade in arms:

’66 –  Ubon – Jim Beatty story  – Does anybody remember when the Base Commander brought Robert Mitchum into the O’Club bright and early one morning and how we greeted him and what occurred after that?  I do.  As Mitchum entered the club one of our fearless leaders (I believe it was Bob Ashcraft) shouted out “lets say hello to Robert Mitchum“; to which we all replied (as taught to do by our elders) “hello Arz-hole,” then came the call to say hello to the ‘Arz- hole’ to which we all replied “hello Mitchum“.  WE then asked him to please join us at our table which he did, excusing himself from the Base Commander by saying he wanted to get to know us a little better. This occurred at about 0830. From that point on until about 1100, we tried and successfully accomplished getting him thoroughly shiffassedon his favorite drink of gin and tonic.  After several unsuccessful attempts by the Base Commander to rescue him, which he declined, we all ended up in front of the club having pictures taken with him. By that time his eyes, which are normally squinted, were barely slits. I remember being amazed as to how well-informed he was and his sincerity in talking to us. . He was a pretty much down to earth guy.  Just another day in an otherwise dull combat tour for us!!

’72 DaNang – Capt Jim Beatty gave me my ‘local checkout’ ride (~16 April ’72, I think) – supposed to be a milk-run close air support mission  –but, we were diverted into NVN across the DMZ to Route Pack 1 to attack two (2) SAM sites well guarded with AAA!!!!  Jim always says he snuffed out his Benson and Hedges cigarette in his palm when they said “the fingers lake area” – it was a known hot spot to avoid if you weren’t going to attack it!!  They shot lots of AAA and an SA-2 at us!!!   Jim (who was in my back seat) said I passed the ‘check-out’ “because we didn’t die.

’72 DaNang May – Close Air Support – Troops in Contact with the enemy – (On about our 3rd bomb pass, I was a little too close behind Beatty on his pass, so I moved my aim point to a remaining hutch toward the north end of the line.  As I am lining up for my run-in, I check #3 to see if he’s taking any ground fire. What I do see is one of Beatty’s 2 MK82s come off in “slick” configuration, i.e., the fins on one bomb did not open up and cause it to decelerate – it was sailing along pretty close to Jim’s F-4.  I called “Beatty, pull up, bomb went slick.”  He snatches the jet up and away from the frag pattern (I don’t think there was any damage to the jet).

’72 Korat 20 July – Jim was also my wingman when I ‘accidentally’ got shot down departing North Vietnam.”

Read Joe Lee Burns detailed description of the mission in which he was shot down, ejected and rescued by the Navy in the Gulf of Tonkin called “A Ridge to Far.”

Joe Moran wrote:

“We were in the 35 TFS TDY to Danang from Kunsan. Jim was #3. Rolled up and found 2 MiG 21s 4,000′ directly below him same direction. Barrel rolled back, stoked the AB’s and started across the circle. Claims he did not go supersonic. Unable to get AIM 9Js to growl. Closing fast went to guns. He was in an old E model (no pinkie switch). MiGs broke. He pulled pipper in front for high angle shot. KILL. Over g when he pulled up. Egressed at speed of stink. No truth to the rumor that airplane never flew again. Jim claims low altitude butter fly dart sorties in the FWIC syllabus prepared him for that shot. He always went down and away to get there the quickest (with the greatest angles). This was end of April 1972. First gun kill in an F-4E. Handley’s book claimed he was the first in May. I talked to Phil ’bout that and he concedes Jim was the first but his book was already out and ‘you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube’.

Here is the obituary of Major James M. Beatty, Jr.

Maj. James M. Beatty Jr. was one of America’s unsung heroes. He flew 229 combat mission, 147 in North Vietnam, and during one of those missions got a confirmed gun kill on a MIG 21. Maj. Beatty earned the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 14 Air Medals among many other awards and decorations during his combat flying. He had 3,250 hours in the F-4 and F-15 aircraft. Maj. Beatty was a recognized expert in aerial combat, and culminated his Air Force career as the Air-To-Air Test Project Manager in the Fighter Weapons test Group, Nellis AFB, Nevada.

After leaving the active Air Force, he continued to serve his country as an F-15 academic and simulator instructor for more than 22 years at Tyndall AFB, Panama City, Fla. His service in the U.S. Air Force and his vast experience was essential in developing future Air Force warriors. As an instructor pilot and simulator instructor, he trained more than 1,000 F-15 pilots and air Battle Managers for the combat air forces during his time at Tyndall. His superior instructional skills enabled the 325th Fighter Wing to meet pilot and air battle manager production goals.

Maj. Beatty was born in Eau Claire, Pa., and had lived in Panama City since 1988. He was a graduate of Grove City College, and served in the USAF from 1963 to 1976.

He is survived by his wife, Mary C. Beatty of Panama City; his children, Natalie L. Hauck and husband, Raymond, of Panama City, Nadie S. Pearish of Panama City, Lisa M. Campbell of Butler, Pa., and John W. Fecich III and wife, Patty, of South Hampton, N.J.; his grandchildren, Alecia N. Mills and husband, Jeremy, Thomas E. Hager III and wife, Julia, Samuel J. Hauck, Jacey L. Hauck, Jolene L. Eiler, Joseph M. Eiler, Troy S. Pearish, Kristopher R. Pearish, Christopher J. Campbell, Jacob F. Campbell and John W. Fecich IV; his great-grandchildren, Serenity A. Murphy, James J. Murphy, Lena M. Mills and Ayden C. Hager; his brother, Dean G. Beatty and wife, Carol, of Eau Claire, Pa.; his sisters, Gail Buzard and husband, Jack, of Eau Claire, Pa., and Faye Herman and husband, Ken, of Pittsburgh, Pa.; and numerous nieces and nephews.

No services will be held locally. Funeral arrangements in Pennsylvania will be handled by H. Jack Buzard Funeral Home, 201 S. Washington St., Eau Claire, PA 16030,

2017-01-20T19:03:13-07:00By |1 Comment

American Heroes

Most Americans do not realize that the men and women who serve in the U.S. military frequently risk their lives as a day to day part of their jobs.  Many military jobs are no more dangerous than the jobs of most other Americans.  Some military jobs, however, are inherently dangerous and sometimes can be deadly.

For example, when I was flying the F-4 Phantom supersonic fighter (1971 – 1976) I could not purchase commercial life insurance because my job was too risky.  I actually saw three fighters (two F-4s and one T-38) crash in peace time during the five years I flew fighters in the United States Air Force.  I knew many people who ejected from crippled fighters.  When you throw your body at the ground in a 45 degree dive bomb at 450 knots or engage in mock aerial combat with other airplanes at supersonic speeds, things can happen.

Most of us have heard the term “freedom is not free.”  When we hear that phrase, we usually think of U.S. military personnel dying for our country in war, but it also applies in peace time and to accidents that occur in war time.

American military personnel die all too frequently so that the American people can enjoy the fruits of freedom.  We should always remember our fallen heroes and the words of President Abraham Lincoln in his letter to Mrs. Lydia Bixby who lost five sons in the Civil War.  President Lincoln wrote “I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

Lt. Phil Clark (father) & Lt. Terry Clark (son)

Phil Clark was a 1968 Annapolis graduate and Navy fighter pilot whose A-7 fighter bomber was shot down over North Vietnam on December 24, 1972.  Phil was first declared missing in action and later reclassified to killed in action.  When Phil was shot down, he was married and had a very young son, Terry, and a daughter.

A few years after Phil’s death, Phil’s young wife died and his two young children were raised in Phoenix, Arizona, by their grandparents, Phil and Freda Clark.  The elder Phil is a retired USAF Colonel and former bomber pilot.  Phil and Freda were best friends for years with my parents.  My dad is a retired USAF Major.

Terry Clark graduated from Brophy College Preparatory high school in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1986, and the US Naval Academy in 1990, twenty-two years after his father’s graduation from the academy.  Terry followed in his father’s footsteps and became a Navy fighter pilot.  I remember Terry and his sister visited my office one day for a legal matter shortly after Terry had received  his wings of gold.

On February 18, 1996, Lt. Terry Clark was killed in an F-14 training accident off the coast of San Diego.  I’ll never forget Colonel Phil Clark, Sr., telling me how difficult it was for he and Freda to go to Arlington National Cemetery twice, once to bury Phil and again to bury Terry.  As a father, I cannot begin to imagine the pain and anguish Phil and Freda must have felt to have raised a son and a grandson to go to the Naval Academy, Navy pilot training and then be killed while flying fighters in defense of the United States.  The three generations of Clarks are true American heroes of the highest order.  They served our country quietly with dignity, honor and pride.

Captain Thomas A. Amos and Captain Mason I. Burnham

Tom Amos (35th Tactical Fighter Squadron) and Mason Burnham (421st Tactical Fighter Squadron) were killed in action during an F-4D combat mission over Laos on April 20, 1972.  They were escorting an AC-130 gunship as it struck targets on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  The AC-130s (known as “Spectres”) carried a 20mm six barreled gatling gun and a 105mm Howitzer canon.  The Spectres were extremely effective at destroying military targets on the trail.

The job of the F-4 was to drop bombs on any troops that fired anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) at the gunship.  The F-4 rolled in to attack a gun on the ground.  The crew of the AC-130 saw a fireball on the ground and were not able to contact Tom or his backseater on the radio.  The term used by the intelligence personnel to describe the incident was “no chutes, no beepers.”

I will never forget hearing those words from time to time when I was attending intelligence briefings before flying combat missions over Vietnam.  The phrase meant there was no word on the fate of a downed aircrewman because when the airplane went down, nobody saw any parachutes or heard any beepers from the emergency radios that all aircrewmen carried.  When I flew combat missions over South Vietnam, North Vietnam and Laos in 1972, I actually carried two radios on my person plus a third radio in the survival kit contained in the ejection seat.  USAF F-4s had an emergency radio in the survival kit that could be set to automatically transmit the emergency beeper sound on UHF frequency 343.0 (the emergency frequency monitored by USAF airplanes) when the ejection seat fired.

Tom was the only member of the 35th TFS (my squadron) from Kunsan, Air Base, Korea, killed in action when the 35th TFS deployed to DaNang Air Base, South Vietnam, and Korat Air Base, Thailand, in 1972.

See Tom Amos on the Virtual Wall.

Captain Tom Ballard and Lt. Ron Goodwin

Tom Ballard and Ron Goodwin were killed flying an F-4 during a nuclear bomb delivery training mission over Korea on February 16, 1973.  They were on a typical F-4 training mission.  Tom and Ron were tasked to fly a low level route in their F-4D and deliver their first practice simulated nuclear bomb within 1,500 feet of the target plus or minus two minutes of a designated time over the target (TOT).  One of the missions of the F-4 was nuclear bombing so F-4 crews frequently practiced the skills necessary to put a nuclear bomb on target within the designated TOT.  In Korea, we usually flew a low level route 500 feet above the ground at 420 knots for about 30 minutes before reaching the target on the bombing range.

The F-4 had two ways to deliver a nuke bomb, the lay down method and the low angle drogue delivery (LADD) method.  The lay down method is the simplest method.  It involves merely flying straight and level over the target and releasing the nuke bomb at the proper time and place.  The bomb falls away from the airplane, the nose of the bomb falls off to reveal a spike and the bomb floats to the ground in a parachute.

The LADD delivery method involves flying towards the target and at a predetermined distance the pilot pulls back on the stick and begins a steep climb approximating 45 degrees.  At some point in the climb, the F-4’s Weapons Release Computer System releases the bomb.  The nuke bomb then continues in an upward trajectory for a while before falling back to earth.  The parachute on the bomb opens and the bomb then begins to float toward the ground.

The purpose of the LADD is to cause an air burst, i.e., a bomb that explodes above the ground, as opposed to a bomb that explodes on the ground.  The nuke bomb contained a radar altimeter that detonates the bomb at a designated altitude above the ground.  An air burst creates substantially more radioactivity than a ground burst of the same magnitude.

Tom and Ron flew a good low level mission to the Kuni bombing range on the west coast of Korea.  When they flew over the target at 1,000 feet, their bomb did not release.  The most common reason a bomb did not release was because the pilot failed to properly configure all of the switches necessary for the delivery.  We called this a “switchology error,” which meant an error caused by improper setting of weapons switches.  In the F-4 it was actually possible to select the switches in such a way that pressing the bomb release button caused the 20mm gatling gun on the centerline of the airplane to be released like a bomb.  The powers that be were not happy when a pilot accidentally bombed off a gun that cost several hundred thousand dollars.

Tom began a 360 degree turn to make another bombing run so that he could release his bomb within two minutes of the designated TOT.  The accident report speculated that while in the turn at low level (500 – 1,000 feet) the F-4 flew into the water.  Tom was probably checking the switches in the cockpit trying to figure out why the bomb did not release and was momentarily distracted, which allowed the airplane hit the water.  When you fly at high speeds (500 knots is 845 feet per second), there is not much room for error.

Duty, Honor, Country

Each of the above men exemplifies the concepts of Duty, Honor and Country, the foundations on which the U.S. military is built.  I believe that the finest speech ever given is General Douglas MacArthur’s “Duty, Honor, Country” speech that he gave without notes to the West Point corps of cadets on May 12, 1962.  In honor and remembrance of the six men named above and all of our fallen heroes of the U.S. military, I will close with excerpts from General MacArthur’s famous speech.

“Duty, Honor, Country — those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you want to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn. . . . I regard

[the U.S. soldier] now, as one of the world’s noblest figures; not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. . . . They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light.”

2017-01-20T19:03:15-07:00By |0 Comments

Memorial Service for Brigadier General Robin Olds

U.S. Air Force Academy, 30 June 2007

For a related story, see “Legendary Fighter Pilot Robin Olds Dies.” See Gary Baker’s wonderful pictorial memorial to General Olds.  Also see a memorial video.

By Dale Boggie

JB Stone played a significant role at Robin’s Memorial Service. He delivered one of the eulogies at the U.S. Air Force Academy Chapel. He told of the first time he meet Col. Olds, who as the new Wing Commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing called a meeting of all the pilots. At the time JB had about 60 or 70 missions North, had an engine shot out from under him and several bullet holes here and there on some pretty hairy missions.

Robin told the pilots, “I’m your new boss. I’ll be flying your wing for a couple of weeks and at the end of that time, I’ll be better than any of you.”

JB muttered under his breath, “We’ll see.”

It came out a little louder than JB intended. Robin heard it and immediately fixed JB with those steely eyes, and repeated his statement forcefully again. And JB said: “Robin did exactly as he had said he would. “ He was a warrior who would fearlessly go where others feared to tread.

And JB was later picked to help Robin plan and execute Operation Bolo, wherein F-4s masqueraded as bomb laden, F-105s to lure MiGs to come up and attack them. Seven MiGs went down in flames. The Military Channel has run the episode several times titled as “Ambush” in the Dogfight series.

Robin’s oldest daughter, Susan lead off the remembrances with stories of being a teenager living at the Academy while Robin was Commandant of Cadets for 3 years. Robin taught her to drive on the Academy grounds and ride horses at the equestrian center. It was okay to date more than one cadet at a time because no one would dare do anything untoward with the Commandant’s daughter.

General Ralph Eberhart was a senior Cadet Wing Commander when Robin took over. He told the famous incident of Robin’s first meeting with the Cadet Corps. Robin had been directed to lose the handlebar mustache – his trademark as leader of the “Wolfpack.” On a given signal at the end of Robin’s speech, 4,000 cadets whipped out and donned black-paper handlebar mustaches and began stomping and shouting, Olds, Olds, OLDS!!! Robin rose to his full height, jaws clenched eyes blazing – then extended his long middle finger and flipped them all a big sweeping bird – with a huge grin on his face.

Brigadier General Bob “Earthquake” Titus spoke of how Robin transformed the 8th Wing into The “Wolfpack.” Where the “Go get them, men” from the previous leadership was replaced by “FOLLOW ME!” Deadwood were sent home, and tactics changed. Base services were available 24/7 to the men he was sending into combat 24/7. No more shutting off the hot water at midnight, or closing the bar.

He told of a pilot, I believe named Conway, who while gleefully celebrating a successful mission proceed to rearrange or destroy some of the O’Club furnishings. He was ordered to report to Col. Olds’ office at 0800 hours. He was there promptly. Robin however was dreading the chewing out he was going to have to administer for something he himself had been guilty of many times. He braced himself, put on his sternest visage and entered his office at 0815 to find Conway standing at attention. Conway saluted smartly and said, “Sir, you’re late.” That cracked Robin up. The damage to the Club got paid somehow and another tale was added to the lore of Robin Olds.

Captain Jack McEncroe, USMC, told of his close friendship with Robin living near in Steamboat Springs. 30 years of watching Robin’s God-Awful backswing on the golf course, 30 years of skiing through the trees in fresh powder up to their knees, 30 years of listening to Robin telling the Cross-Eyed Bull story.

Verne Lundquist, Hall of Fame Sportscaster tried to demonstrate Robin’s backswing, which featured a couple of contorted pauses on the way up, then a mighty downswing. On one occasion the ball carried to the green, bounced a couple of times and went into the cup. “You just got a hole in one! It went into the cup,” shouted Verne. “Well, that’s the point isn’t it,” said Robin.

When Robin was selected for induction into the College football Hall of Fame as an All American on offense and defense at West Point, he asked Verne, “Is this a big deal? Do I have to go?” Verne told him yes. Robin went and made a gracious acceptance speech.

On another occasion he and Robin were being harassed by some obnoxious guy who wanted to pick a fight with Robin. Robin stood up, squared his shoulders and said, “I’ve killed more people than you will ever know, for less reason than you are giving me right now! Now sit down and SHUT UP !

Verne told of another experience with Robin. They were touring Germany and stopped at a tavern where there were some pictures of Luftwaffe aircraft on the wall. When they asked the proprietor about them he said he had been a pilot, but had been shot down. He and Robin started comparing notes on location, time of day cloud formation, tactics, etc., and after several drinks they were convinced that indeed, it was Robin who had shot him down. A few months later, Verne and Robin were watching some of Robin’s gun camera film being shown on TV and Robin suddenly exclaimed, “That’s the GUY!” As Verne said, “If it’s not true, it should be.”

When Robin’s health started failing last February, his daughter Chris quit her job and moved to Steamboat to take care of her Dad. She took Robin on long drives through the mountains with a picnic lunch to share at some scenic spot.

Robin’s grand-daughter Jennifer told of her grandfather helping her as a young child, to set out a bowl of salad to feed Santa’s reindeer. Sure enough, the next morning the salad was gone and reindeer tracks were in the snow all over the porch. A long time later, she came across some wooden reindeer feet that Robin had carved to make those tracks.

Christina said that it was only in his last week or so that Robin started to get really tired. He still would tell those who called that he was just fine, just getting old. She was with him when he drifted off to sleep peacefully and after a few minutes, drew his last breath.

Chris orchestrated every detail of the funeral service, the flyby, the graveside service, of course with help from Robin’s friends and splendid cooperation and coordination from the Academy Staff and the hotel where the reception and following Fighter Pilot Wake was held.

The flyby consisted of aircraft in trail at 30 second intervals. First a T-33, second another T-33, third a P-51 Mustang, fourth a MiG 17, fifth a flight of four F-16 from the Colorado Air National Guard, and sixth a flight of four F-4’s. The F-4’s, one from Tyndall and three from Holloman, are actually drones to be used in weapons testing. But for this occasion, they were flown by pilots and led by Lt. Col. “ET” Murphy of Tyndall. “ET” is also a member of our “Aspenosium” group of active duty and retired fighter pilots who get together for skiing, partying and presentations by those involved in fighter development, weapons, and tactics.

The Missing Man formation was slightly modified for this special event. As the F-4’s approached the cemetery in wingtip formation, “ET” was flying Lead as WOLF ONE

[Robin’s call sign] and initiated a sharp pull-up out of formation so WOLF ONE was heading straight up . . flew vertically into a pin point. It was spectacular and precisely executed, directly over Robin’s gravesite.

One final note reinforces the fact that Christina is without a doubt her father’s daughter. It involved the presentation of the flag to Robin’s survivors : Susan, Chris and Jennifer. The 1st flag was presented to the eldest, Susan. The 2nd to Jennifer, the youngest. The 3rd was destined for Chris. But she chose to direct her flag to be presented to Robin’s comrade-in-arms. Col. J.B. Stone. This unselfish and completely unexpected act, deeply touched JB and all of us who understood the bond between these two men. The kind of thing Robin would’ve done.

2019-05-25T07:24:26-07:00By |0 Comments

Gone but Not Forgotten

by Joe Boyles

Today May 30th, is the date originally intended to be Memorial Day. The idea behind this popular holiday is that we are supposed to remember those servicemen that have died in service to our nation safeguarding the liberties we hold dear. In 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veterans organization, designated this date as “Decoration Day” when the graves of their fallen comrades would be decorated with flowers. Later, the name of the celebration was changed to Memorial Day and when Congress passed the Monday’s Holiday Bill in the early 1970s, the significance of the actual date was lost.

On June 3rd 1970, I was among 745 young men to graduate from the United States Air Force Academy. We had endured four tough years of military training, academics, character building, and athletics to qualify for our degree and a commission as a second lieutenant. We were poised and ready to strike out and conquer the world. Most of us headed off to flight school where we would “slip the surly bonds of earth.”

Within a couple of years, nine of our number had died in the skies over Southeast Asia. They are pictured here as the young men they will forever be — I don’t know that any of them reached their 25th birthday. Let me tell you about my classmates.

Of the nine, I knew “Rocky” Rovito the least. I believe he was a Catholic kid from Pennsylvania. He died in the summer of 1973 (all of the others died in 1972 during the last full year of the war) in a helicopter crash in northwestern Cambodia. The second paragraph of a poem by his name in our 1970 Polaris yearbook is prophetic: “I came to serve my country; to fight the enemy; to die the death – Old soldiers fade.”

Three of the dead were FACs or forward air controllers. They flew light, propeller-driven aircraft to direct fighters in close air support missions. Because their aircraft flew low and slow, they had a dangerous mission. Dick Christy was an Ohio farm boy, excellent athlete and natural leader. If he had survived, his career would have been marked by great distinction. I didn’t know John Haselton very well. He was from Vermont and another excellent athlete. Art Hardy was a married man. I’m not sure if his wife had a baby before Art was lost. My most enduring memory of Hardy was that I was once assigned to guard him in an intramural basketball game – I “held“him to 35 points. He wiped the floor with me. Art planned to become a test pilot — he would have made a good one.

Two of the fellows were in the same fighter squadron flying the A-37 Dragonfly from Bien Hoa. Steve Gravrock was killed in July. He was a quiet, introspective fellow as I recall. Two months earlier, Mike Blassie had been lost. His jet crashed behind enemy lines and his remains were unrecovered … or so we thought. Mike was from St. Louis, a great athlete, and another natural leader. The sky was the limit for this guy.

In a solemn 1984 ceremony, the remains of a Vietnam veteran were interred at Arlington in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. More than a decade later, Mike’s family learned there was a good chance that the remains in that tomb were those of their son and brother. The family waged a long and difficult fight with the Defense Department and Veterans Administration to have the remains exhumed and tested using mitochondrial DNA. When this happened in 1998, the tests proved they belonged to Mike. Today, he is buried in the National Cemetery at Jefferson Barracks near his hometown.

After graduation, I attended navigator training near Sacramento with the last three. Fran Townsend, Bud Hargrove, and Mike Turose were among about seventy students in Class 71-19. We were together in Nav School from August 1970 until May 1971. Fran was a Texan and his graduation assignment was in the reconnaissance version (RF-4C) of the Phantom. He was shot down over Bat Lake, North Vietnam in August 1972. His pilot, Bill Gauntt survived but Fran did not. I do not believe his body has ever been recovered.

Of all these fine fellows, I knew Bud Hargrove and Mike Turose the best. We were among 19 members of D section in Class 71-19. Bud was an easy going fellow from Harlingen, TX and a natural leader. We both took Phantoms for our next assignment and trained together in the first F-4 class at Luke AFB just west of Phoenix. His next assignment was to the famed Triple Nickel (555 TFS) at Udorn, Thailand where he scored two MiG kills before being lost in November returning from a combat mission.

Mike Turose was one of my closest friends at the Academy. He was a fun loving guy from the Cleveland area and smart as a whip. His major was electrical engineering and I swear, he never cracked a book – he aced everything he looked at. He loved muscle cars and baseball. We were both Eagle Scouts and were part of a team that welcomed new Eagles from the Colorado Springs area into the fraternity.

Mike wasn’t married so at Nav School, he was a frequent visitor at our apartment sampling Linda’s cooking. Mike stayed at Mather after Nav School to attend electronic warfare officer training – a natural progression for an electrical engineer. After training in the F-105G Thunderchief, he was off to Korat AB, Thailand. I joined him in June 1972 when my squadron came to Korat, and we resumed our old friendship.

I can still recall the time, place, moment on September 17, 1972 when Mike’s aircraft was reported missing over North Vietnam. Although I had just returned from flying myself, I quickly joined a group planning a rescue mission. The planning hadn’t gone very far when we learned that Navy divers had found the bodies of Turose and Zorn just offshore and confirmed they were dead. Fire from shore batteries prevented the recovery of their bodies. It broke my heart … still does.

These guys are part of my life experience, and I am a better man because I knew them. They are my heroes.

2017-01-20T19:03:28-07:00By |4 Comments
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