Col. Robin Olds, the commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, hosted a Tactics Conference at Ubon Air Force Base, Thailand in November of 1966. It included United States Air Force, Navy and Marine aircrews that were flying combat missions over the “Red River Valley of North Vietnam.” In May of 1967, the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat, RTAFB, Thailand, held the first of 5 practice reunions in Thailand. Others were held at Ubon, in August of 1967, Takhli in November of 1967, Udorn in March of 1968 and Korat in June of 1968.
In 1969, Brig Gen Robin Olds met with Col Scrappy Johnson to discuss the formation of a permanent association for the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association. The association was subsequently incorporated. In 1969, Col Larry Pickett held the first stateside practice reunion at Wichita, KS. It was a great success.
The organization, its purposes and efforts, were directed toward generating awareness of the Prisoners of War (POW), and aircrews Missing in Action/Killed in Action (MIA/KIA) and their families.
The scholarship program is a major priority of this organization. The fund was established at the San Antonio reunion in 1970 as a result of concern for the families of fellow “River Rats” who were POW/MIA/KIA. The hat was passed and three – $1,000 scholarships were awarded.
In August of 1973, after the Prisoners of War had returned home, the first “real” reunion was held in Las Vegas, NV.
On April 30, 1975, the name was amended to “Red River Valley Association, Inc.” On July 22, 1976, the 501(c)(3) status was granted by the IRS.
In 1998 the scholarship program was expanded to include losses due to non-combat operational accidents.
The association now provides scholarships to children of United States military personnel MIA/KIA in armed conflicts from Southeast Asia through the present. Additionally, dependents of aircrew members killed in aircraft accidents now qualify for scholarships.
Since 1970, “The River Rats” have awarded more than 1,090 scholarship grants with a value of over 1.9 million dollars.
The Red River Valley Association continues to have reunions and award scholarships annually.
Membership is open to all U.S. military designated aircrew members (all positions). To apply, go to the Rats membership page. New applicants please complete the form, print, sign, and mail with all required enclosures. Mail the completed and signed application to:
RRVA National Office
P.O. Box 1553
Front Royal, VA 22630-0033
How to Donate Money
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I’m quite sure that the third performer was Lou Rawls.
Capt. Curtis S, Coombs WSO passed suddenly in his sleep Oct. 24, 2013. He flew 52 missions over North Vietnam during Linebacker II. He was attached to the 9th TFS. out of Holloman AFB. He separated honorably from the Air Force in 1979. Claims to fame are: First operationally certified crew member in the Air Force on the maverick missile. He was five minutes away from delivering the first bomb in the next Korean War during the Blood On the DMZ incident. He garnered the reputation for being cool under pressure when a pilot he was crewed with froze while being tracked by enemy radar, Curtis calmly suggested,”Do something, even if it’s wrong.” He was good friends with Air Force legend Doc Pettit and the great John Madden trained him at Edwards before they both deployed to Vietnam. Madden later shot down three migs and drove one into a mountain. A maneuver my dad tried to do to him on Telescope Peak in Death Valley and was subsequently “pinked” for breaking altitude on. Madden said it was a hell of a move otherwise.
Curtis will be missed. His obituary link is: http://www.legacy.com/link.asp?i=ls000167740660 .
I meant to say George. Not Edwards.
It appears that I gave John Madden an extra bonus mig in the above posting. I was going off of memory and didn’t check sources. But with two silver stars, eleven distinguished flying crosses, 21 air medals and two air force commendation medals…..he is STILL the great John Madden.