THE Air Force Association

The Air Force in the Vietnam War 

The Air Force Association

The Air Force Association (AFA) is an independent, nonprofit civilian organization promoting public understanding of aerospace power and the pivotal role it plays in the security of the nation. AFA publishes Air Force Magazine, sponsors national symposia, and disseminates information through outreach programs of its affiliate, the Aerospace Education Foundation. Learn more about AFA by visiting us on the Web at

The Aerospace Education Foundation

The Aerospace Education Foundation (AEF) is dedicated to ensuring America’s aerospace excellence through education, scholarships, grants, awards, and public awareness programs.The Foundation also publishes a series of studies and forums on aerospace and national security.The Eaker Institute is the public policy and research arm of AEF. AEF works through a network of thousands of Air Force Association members and more than 200 chapters to distribute educational material to schools and concerned citizens. An example of this includes “Visions of Exploration,” an AEF/USA Today multi-disciplinary science, math, and social studies program.To find out how you can support aerospace excellence visit us on the Web at www.

© 2004 The Air Force Association
Published 2004 by Aerospace Education Foundation 1501 Lee Highway Arlington VA 22209-1198 Tel: (703) 247-5839 Fax: (703) 247-5853 

Produced by the staff of Air Force Magazine Design by Guy Aceto, Art Director

The Air Force in the Vietnam War
By John T. Correll

By John T. Correll December 2004


o those who fought there, it seems like yesterday, but it was 40 years ago that the US Air Force deployed in fighting strength to Southeast Asia. The Air Force and the Navy flew their initial combat missions in late 1964 and early 1965. The Vietnam War began in earnest in March 1965 with Operation Rolling Thunder, which sent US aircraft on strikes against targets in North Vietnam. Soon, our ground forces were engaged as well. Eight years would pass before US forces withdrew from the war, which had by then claimed 47,378 American lives. It was a war we didn’t win but one in which the US armed forces performed with honor, courage, dedication, and capability. On the 40th anniversary of its beginning, this almanac collects the numbers, the dates, and the key facts of the US Air Force experience in that war. 

Table of Contents

Southeast Asia (Map) US Military Personnel in Southeast Asia

4 5

Lines of Command 7th Air Force and 7th/13th Air Force The Commanders
USAF Order of Battle

6 7 8
A B-52 drops bombs over North Vietnam.

USAF Aircraft in Thailand and South Vietnam USAF Squadrons in Southeast Asia USAF Attack Aircraft Principal USAF Aircraft of the Vietnam War Principal US Navy and Marine Corps Aircraft The MiGs

9 9 10 11 13 13

Notable Air Operations Attack Sorties in Southeast Asia The Route Packs (Map) USAF Sorties in North Vietnam Air Operations in Laos (Map) USAF MiG Victories Bombing Halts and Pauses in Air Operations USAF Bomb Damage Assessment Claims in North Vietnam USAF Operational Linebacker II Sorties USAF Targets in Operation Linebacker II Restricted and Prohibited Zones (Map) Aerial Refueling Tracks (Map) Tankers and Tanker Sorties in Southeast Asia USAF Air Munitions Consumption Designated USAF Campaigns of Vietnam Service
The Enemy

14 14 15 16 16 17 17 18 18 18 19 20 20 21 21

F-4C pilot Capt. Max Cameron (r) and 1st Lt. Robert Evans, his rear seat pilot, shot down a MiG-17 with a Sidewinder.

North Vietnamese Air Force Combat Aircraft Inventory North Vietnamese Anti-Aircraft Artillery North Vietnamese SAM Effectiveness Infiltration from North Vietnam, 1959-67 North Vietnamese Airfields (Map) SAM Coverage (Map)

22 22 22 23 23 24


US Casualties in the Vietnam War USAF Aircraft Losses in Southeast Asia USAF Aircraft Losses by Cause Navy/Marine Corps Victories and Losses South Vietnamese Air Force Aircraft Losses USAF Sortie/Loss Rate in Three Wars
Aces and Heros

25 25 26 26 26 26
Lines of Air Force F-4s sit in their hardened revetments and hangars at a Southeast Asian base.

Vietnam War Aces Air Force Medal of Honor Recipients Sketches of USAF Medal of Honor Recipients
Chronology Perspectives

27 27 28 30

Recommended Reading Words from the War Web Sites Featuring Vietnam War Topics Places Factoids
Pieces of the War

34 34 35 35 35

Air Commandos Tactical Reconnaissance Rescue and Recovery Tactical Airlift Strike Missions Command and Control Forward Air Controllers The Versatile Hercules Phantoms Strategic Airlift Gunships Airmen in Southeast Asia Tankers Heavy Bombers POW and MIA

36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 

Photo via Martin Winter

Casualties and Losses

Southeast Asia China North Vietnam Dien Bien Phu ✪ Hanoi ● Haiphong Laos ● Gulf of Tonkin ● Thanh Hoa Barthelemy Pass ● Vinh ✪ Vientiane ● Udorn Nakhon Phanom ● Khe Sanh Mu Gia Pass Ban Karai Pass DMZ Thailand Da Nang Ho Chi Minh Trail Yankee Station Chu Lai Takhli Korat Ubon Phu Cat Don Muang ✪ Bangkok U Tapao Cambodia Pleiku Qui Nhon Tuy Hoa Nha Trang Cam Ranh Bay Phnom Penh ✪ Phan Rang South Vietnam Bien Hoa Tan Son Nhut Gulf of Siam ✪ Saigon Principal USAF Bases Binh Thuy Dixie Station South China Sea 4 .

631 44. Army. 31 each year. Marine Corps. “Vietnamization” of the war began the next year.489 44.604 20. Except for 1973. Pilots and crew chiefs worked together closely. Department of Defense.422 43.053 28.505 14.908 58. preparing for air operations over Southeast Asia.263 23.776 24. the figures on this chart are as of Dec.587 536. 960 96 962 96 964 96 966 967 968 969 970 97 972 June 97 68 1.791 32.113 33. and Coast Guard.212 1.326 16. The “All Services” totals include Air Force.110 31.126 6.135 319 542 4.913 55.608 14 875 3. A1C Gale Mobley from the Medical Civic Action Program innoculates a Vietnamese child.469 Forward air controllers directed air attacks in Vietnam.630 6.107 34.117 26.858 26.429 4.851 35.4 million troops from all branches of the armed services spent time on duty in Southeast Asia. Sources: MACV.856 35.901 27.086 2.943 9. Security forces maintained a constant vigil against insurgent attacks on USAF bases.791 7.172 49 The American military presence in Southeast Asia peaked in 1968. MACTHAI.353 4.  .395 35.278 485.434 58. some 3.006 2.168 42.219 334.134 475.517 47.916 43.310 184.People US Military Personnel in Southeast Asia South Vietnam Air Force All Services Thailand Air Force All Services 44 57 1.470 36.314 385.164 11.591 156. with the first US troop withdrawals in July 1969. All told. Navy.620 52.

Guam Task Force 77 Air Coordinating Committee 7th/13th AF Deputy Commander Source: Gen. but Pacific Command in Hawaii retained control of the war in North Vietnam. MACV controlled the war in South Vietnam. with Army. Military Assistance Command Vietnam was a subunified command of US Pacific Command. and strategic reconnaissance aircraft.). USAF (Ret. Thailand. Air Power in Three Wars. Aircraft in Thailand were used in North Vietnam and Laos. Momyer. and Air Force elements. Marine Corps. Aircraft based in South Vietnam were used primarily in South Vietnam. via Pacific Air Forces and Pacific Fleet. 6 . William W. but were under the operational control of 7th Air Force in Saigon. Seventh Air Force in Saigon was under operational control of MACV for operations in South Vietnam and Route Pack 1 (the southern part of North Vietnam). tankers. Strategic Air Command retained control of B-52 bombers. 7th/13th Air Force was headed by a general officer who was deputy commander of both 7th and 13th Air Forces. Air Force wings in Thailand were part of 13th Air Force in the Philippines. but 7th Air Force was controlled by PACAF for operations in North Vietnam (Route Packs 5 and 6A).Organization Lines of Command 1966-72 Joint Chiefs of Staff US Pacific Command Strategic Air Command US Pacific Fleet Military Assistance Command Vietnam Air Deputy Pacific Air Forces 7th Fleet US Army Vietnam III Marine Amphibious Force 7th Air Force 7th Air Force 13th Air Force 8th Air Force. At Udorn AB. The commander of 7th Air Force was chairman of a coordinating committee for key operations in North Vietnam.

7th Air Force and 7th/th Air Force July 15. 7th AF. The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia. 1961-1973 (USAF). Hawaii) Air Force Advisory Group (Tan Son Nhut) 6250th Support Sq. (Tan Son Nhut) 7th Air Force (Tan Son Nhut) Deputy Commander 7th/13th Air Force (Det. Udorn) 13th Air Force (Clark AB. 7 . Philippines) 834th Air Division (Tan Son Nhut) 315th Special Ops Wing (Phan Rang) 483rd Tactical Airlift Wing (Cam Ranh Bay) 2nd Aerial Port Group (Tan Son Nhut) 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing (Bien Hoa) 12th Tactical Fighter Wing (Cam Ranh Bay) 14th Special Ops Wing (Nha Trang) 31st Tactical Fighter Wing (Tuy Hoa) 8th Tactical Fighter Wing (Ubon) 355th Tactical Fighter Wing (Takhli) 388th Tactical Fighter Wing (Korat) 432nd Tactical Recon Wing (Udorn) 553rd Tactical Recon Wing (Korat) 631st Combat Support Group (Don Muang) 635th Combat Support Group (U Tapao) 35th Tactical Fighter Wing (Phan Rang) 37th Tactical Fighter Wing (Phu Cat) 366th Tactical Fighter Wing (Da Nang) 460th Tactical Recon Wing (Tan Son Nhut) 377th Combat Support Group (Tan Son Nhut) 504th Tactical Air Support Group (Bien Hoa) 505th Tactical Control Group (Tan Son Nhut) 632nd Combat Support Group (Binh Thuy) 1964th Communications Group (Tan Son Nhut) 633rd Special Ops Wing (Pleiku) 3rd Aerial Rescue & Recovery Group (Tan Son Nhut) 1st Weather Group (Tan Son Nhut) Command Ops control 56th Special Ops Wing (Nakhon Phanom) Task Force Alpha (Nakhon Phanom) Source: Carl Berger. 1. 1969 Pacific Air Forces (Hickam AFB.

1964 July 1. Lucius D. 1966 July 1. John S. Momyer Gen. James D. 1964 July 31. Searles Maj. Joseph J. 1. Bond Jr. 1972 June 30. Gen. 21. 1968 May 31. 1973 *Moore was commander of 2nd Air Division from Jan. 1966. 1. Lucius D.The Commanders US Pacific Command. 1970 Oct. 1972 Aug.S. Weyland Feb. William C. U. 1964 July 1. John Lavelle in 1971. 1970 July 1. 1. 1971 Sept. Maj. 1968 Aug. replacing 2nd Air Division Lt. Honolulu Gen Hunter Harris Jr. Clay Gen. McCain Jr. 1967 July 31. 7 of 13th Air Force. 1969 March 5. in March 1973. Lucius Clay Jr. 1. 1974 PACAF Commander Gen. Adm. Gen. 1966 July 31. DeWitt R. 1. Gen. Frederick C. 30. Andrew J. William Momyer. 1971 Oct. William C. Noel A. Gen. In March 1973. 1963. 1. Brown Gen. Hughes Maj. 1970 June 20. 8 . 1973 Gen. James F. 1962 June 20. Army Gen. Nazzaro Gen. Petit Maj. The commander was a deputy commander of both 7th Air Force and 13th Air Force. Military Assistance Command Vietnam. 31. 1966. Lindley Jr. 1971 Sept. 1970 July 31. 1968 June 1. 12.M. 8. Creighton Abrams (r) pin a fourth star on USAF Gen. 1973 June 30. 1970 Aug. Gen. Lavelle Gen. 7th/13th Air Force reverted to Det. 1. Udorn AB. Gen. 31. 31. 1969 April 15. 6. 1970 June 30. 1964 Feb. 9. Robert L. Joseph H. Ryan Gen. 1971 Sept. Evans Jr. William Momyer. Thailand. Felt Adm. 1968 Sept. Gen. Tan Son Nhut AB. 1964 July 31. John W. 1967 June 1. Gen. to March 31. John D. Gayler July 31. 1. Maj. 1970 Oct. 1971 April 6. Vogt Jr. Jan. Seith Maj. Creighton W. (l) transfers command of 7th Air Force to Gen. 1968 June 29. 1972 April 19. Abrams Gen. Westmoreland Gen. Harry D. Louis T. 7th/th Air Force. Honolulu Adm. Gen. 1968 Aug. Vogt Jr. Gen. 1967 Aug. Paul D. 1972 Sept. 11. Kirkendall Maj. William W. Grant Sharp Adm. John Ryan (l) meets with 7th Air Force chief Lt. John D. Saigon Gen. Moore* Gen. 1. 1967 May 31. 1972 June 30. 6. Gen. 1966 June 1. 1972 March 31. 1966 Aug. 1973 7th Air Force. 1. Gen. 1968 Sept. April 1. 1973 Jan. 1970 March 29. 1971 April 7. William Westmoreland (l) and Army Gen. Charles R. Seventh Air Force left Vietnam and moved its headquarters to Nakhon Phanom AB. 1958 June 30. George S. Vietnam Organized April 1. Thailand Maj. 30. 1976 Pacific Air Forces. John W. 1968 June 29. Aug. 1968 Sept. Clay Jr. Harkins Gen. 1968 July 31.

429 1. the attack force included 65 A-7s and 45 F-111s by late 1972. Additional B-52s were based on Guam.768 1.840 1.132 989 675 79 126 129 108 70 65 12 30 24 18 188 182 218 288 212 216 355 218 — — 10 28 39 44 44 54 53 SAC B-52 bombers were the workhorses of the Vietnam War. September 1973.200 — 1 1 2 2 2 8 14 24 56 125 37 18 274 2 13 5 — 2 6 1 29 8 66 239 85 12 41 104 21 68 . To Hanoi and Back (Smithsonian/USAF).768 — 11 4 — 3 2 1 2 29 142 371 45 8 58 61 30 7 989 9 . Source: Wayne Thompson. In Thailand. Source: USAF Management Summary Southeast Asia.USAF Order of Battle USAF Aircraft in Thailand and South Vietnam All Aircraft F-0 F-4 B-2 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 460 889 1. In 972 Squadrons Aircraft 23 11 7 6 6 3 6 408 204 167 280 101 40 . Tankers Tactical Fighter/Bomber Special Operations Tactical Airlift Tactical Air Control Recon/EW/Drone Support Rescue Total Thailand Total Southeast Asia Figures are as of the end of FY68 and FY72. USAF Squadrons in Southeast Asia In 968 Squadrons Aircraft Vietnam Tactical Fighter/Bomber/Attack Special Operations Tactical Airlift Tactical Air Control Recon/EW Rescue Total Vietnam Thailand Strategic Bombers. the number varying from about 30 in 1965 to about 150 in 1972. The F-105 Thunderchief was a key factor early in the war. Figures are as of June 30 each year.602 1.

1995.  969 June 0 Dec. Lamy.  97 June 0 Dec.  972 June 0 Dec. Perry L. Air War College. 0 .  3 5 47 4 54 4 55 7 3 23 68 4 2 5 55 3 49 2 4 53 9 3 15 66 3 6 9 67 3 34 3 34 6 30 11 77 9 65 47 3 5 57 13 7 42 11 6 47 9 9 48 5 2 4 5 50 22 19 Binh Thuy Cam Ranh Bay Da Nang 2 8 48 2 4 55 2 5 55 2 3 15 Nha Trang Phan Rang 9 75 1 32 13 59 Phu Cat 36 69 18 3 65 18 4 17 3 5 5 4 88 0 5 86 288 86 79 62 9 20 9 10 Pleiku Tan Son Nhut Tuy Hoa Total South Vietnam 88 4 74 428 86 47 Bases in Thailand Korat A-7 F-4 F-105 A-1 A-26 F-105 F-4 F-105 F-111 A-1 AC-130 B-57 F-4 AC-47 AC-119 F-4 20 34 39 17 40 18 54 16 34 70 32 47 27 11 25 5 55 55 54 74 65 2 3 67 3 34 2 4 55 47 1 74 4 72 4 73 2 39 269 724 40 28 709 35 296 7 7 67 3 35 290 640 27 24 429 37 87 66 42 22 287 104 49 428 121 409 429 1 10 9 73 8 10 56 18 10 73 12 100 13 106 32 12 25 7 38 14 19 11 53 30 16 8 96 67 31 24 55 33 12 Nakhon Phanom Takhli Ubon Udorn Total Thailand Grand Total Source: Col.  970 June 0 Dec.USAF Attack Aircraft July 1968-December 1972 Bases in South Vietnam Bien Hoa A-1 AC-47 AC-119 F-100 AC-47 F-4 A-1 AC-47 AC-119 F-4 AC-47 AC-119 AC-47 AC-119 B-57 F-100 AC-47 AC-119 F-4 F-100 A-1 AC-47 AC-119 AC-119 F-100 968 July  Dec.

The Lead Sled. Used in North Vietnam in early part of the war. The Buff. F-0 Thunderchief. C-0 Hercules. later employed for night interdiction in Laos and in other roles. Aging. Clamshell doors opened in the nose so vehicles could be driven on and off. adapted for use by Air Force. reconnaissance. propellerdriven aircraft known as “Old Shaky. Armed variant of the T-37 jet trainer. Originally developed by the Navy. Performed with distinction at Khe Sanh. C-24 Globemaster. In action from 1965 on. A-7D Corsair II F-100 Super Sabre Bombers B-2 Stratofortress. Four-engine turboprop. F-4s accounted for 107 of the 137 MiGs shot down by the Air Force. adopted by the Air Force and deployed to Southeast Asia in 1965. Twice as fast as C-124 and twice the load capability. C-4 Starlifter. Early versions relied on missiles in combat. Began service with Navy. flying Arc Light missions. with more capacity than other airlifters but did not make its appearance in Vietnam until August 1971 in the later phase of the war. it was flown by USAF and the South Vietnamese Air Force. B-7 Canberra. finding and destroying surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites. Previously declared obsolete and scheduled for retirement. Used for air superiority. It was an effective performer. Also used as gunship. having no guns. A-7D Corsair II. USAF’s first supersonic fighter. Huge. Main strategic airlifter in the war. F-4 Phantom. airborne command post. and used in the closing months of the war for tactical bombing and as an escort on gunship missions. C-7 Caribou. USAF’s main tactical airlifter in Southeast Asia. was flown by the “Misty” forward air controllers. Worked smaller and more remote locations. Still in service 40 years later and going strong. F-100F had two cockpits. deployed in Southeast Asia by the Air Force in the late summer of 1972. Photo by Ed Skowron via Warren Thompson A-1H Skyraider C-5A Galaxy C-A Galaxy. and forward air control. Propeller-driven Navy attack bomber. Air Commandos flew the A-1E “Spad” two-seat version. Best fighter of the Vietnam War and most versatile. First deployed in 1965. F-00 Super Sabre. taken over by the Air Force from the Army in 1966. Variant of a British design. landing with supplies that could not be airdropped and evacuating casualties.Principal USAF Aircraft of the Vietnam War Fighter and Attack Aircraft A- Skyraider. later served as light airlifter for US forces as well. Signature airplane of the Rolling Thunder campaign from 1965 to 1968. The Thud. Used extensively on missions over North Vietnam in the early part of the war. Thuds flew 75 percent of the strikes and took more of the losses over North Vietnam than any other type of airplane. and for other missions. B-52D Stratofortress Airlifters and Tankers B-57 Canberra  . C-2 Provider. both in the attack role and as a forward air control aircraft. Light airlifters. dropping bombs. Made daily shuttle A-7 Dragonfly. The F-4E had a 20 mm cannon.” It was the Air Force’s long-range airlifter until the C-141 was fielded. The singleseat A-1H “Sandy” flew escort for rescue operations. First American jet aircraft deployed to Vietnam. F-105Fs flew as Wild Weasel aircraft. but political constraints kept it from being used with full effect against targets in North Vietnam until Operation Linebacker II in December 1972. Supported South Vietnamese ground forces in early 1960s.

It entered service in 2 . C-141 Starlifter HH-3E Jolly Green Giant Southeast Asia in 1967. O-2 Skymaster Gunships AC-47 Spooky. Twin turboprop. AC-0 Spectre. Typically flew missions over North Vietnam without escort. Largest. Four 7. Two variants saw service in Southeast Asia. It had a top speed of 195 mph and could carry up to 24 litter patients. HH-4F Huskie. In addition to its other capabilities. with a top speed of 115 mph. OV-0 Bronco.” Utility helicopter designed for base fire and crash work. It was slow and had a short operating range. took over in the north. making it more likely to survive a hit from ground fire.62 miniguns for defense. The tankers were notorious for violating the rules and crossing “the fence” into North Vietnam to gas up fighters running on fumes. introduced in 1968. and most powerful of the rescue helicopters. Forward Air Controllers O- Bird Dog. AC-9G Shadow and AC-9K Stinger.000 rounds a minute.62 mm minigun. “Pedro. with camouflage but no radomes. In addition to miniguns.62 mm machine guns. “College Eye” EC-121Ds—the ones with radomes above and below the fuselage—flew radar and airborne early warning missions. Stinger added two 20 mm cannon. Forward air control aircraft. Carried smoke rockets but no armament. RF-0. It could be fitted with a pod for a 7. breaking up a Viet Cong attack on an outpost. built for missions deep in North Vietnam. Took over most of the tactical reconnaissance job from 1967 on. Most famous of the rescue and recovery helicopters. Low and slow. considerably sturdier than O-1 and O-2. HH-C Super Jolly. It had two engines to the Bird Dog’s one. The ultimate gunship. taking cargo in and bringing people and casualties out. Reconnaissance and Control RF-4C. a low-level TV sensor. two 20 mm cannons and two 40 mm Bofors guns. Shadow flew close air support and air base defense missions. Shadow had four miniguns instead of three. A little bigger and a little faster than the O-1. enabled by infrared sensors. Made its debut with the Air Commandos in December 1964. O-2 Skymaster. strike flights met the KC-135s to top off their fuel tanks.62 mm miniguns that could pump out 6. KC- tankers. but the RF-101 flew missions in Laos and South Vietnam until 1970. Continued to set the standard for aerial photo reconnaissance through Gulf War I in 1991. Stinger concentrated on trucks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. it mounted three 7. but it accounted for more lives saved than any other rescue helicopter in the war. which had more sophisticated cameras and sensors and which could better cope with the MiG21. RF-4C. It worked at night. On their way into combat. then met them again on the way out for fuel to get home. fastest. EC-121D Super Constellation AC-130A Spectre Rescue Helicopters HH-E Jolly Green Giant. and a “Black Crow” sensor that detected electronic emissions. found and marked targets for strike flights. flew long missions to monitor “Igloo White” intelligence sensors seeded along the Ho Chi Minh between US and Southeast Asia. It had three 7. “Bat Cat” EC-121Rs. It could be refueled in flight and had a range of 736 miles. pressed into service for rescue missions early in the war. USAF’s primary photo reconnaissance aircraft over North Vietnam in the early years of the war. Max speed of 281 mph. EC-2 Super Constellation. The first gunship.

both of the aircraft continued in service for the rest of the war. A-7 Corsair. it did not have folding wings because of its short (27 feet. Especially effective at lower altitudes. It remained in production until 1979 and flew with the air arms of numerous nations. F-4 Phantom. reconnaissance. It has been operational since 1963. All of the Navy and Air Force aces were F-4 pilots. Thirteen of North Vietnam’s 16 fighter aces flew MiG21s. The F-8 was the principal fighter for the Navy and Marine Corps in the early part of the war. A-4 Skyhawk A-6A Intruder F-8 Crusader The MiGs MiG-. It was used mostly for training. It accounted for 18 MiGs shot down in combat and also operated in other roles.000 pounds of ordnance. The “Scooter” flew more bombing missions in Vietnam than any other Navy aircraft. It carried two heat-seeking Atoll missiles (similar to the US AIM-9 Sidewinder) but depended mostly on its three 30 mm guns. 6 inches) wingspan. The A-6 was instantly recognizable by the refueling probe. close air support. which rose like a crank handle in front of the cockpit. The A-7 was modeled on the F-8 Crusader (both were Vought aircraft) but was shorter and had less sweep to the wings. It had a 23 mm cannon but relied mainly on its four Atoll missiles. In 1974. where its 23 mm and 37 mm cannons could be used to advantage in a turning fight. but the North Vietnamese continued to field it in considerable numbers. MiG-2. The F-4 was slightly faster. It carried Sidewinder missiles but relied mainly on its 20 mm cannon. It was the best fighter of the Vietnam War. Unlike most carrier aircraft. The F-4 was also used for interdiction. MiG-21  . a variant of the A-4 replaced the F-4 for the Navy’s Blue Angels aerial demonstration team. The A-7 deployed to Vietnam in 1967. The MiG-15 was obsolete and of limited combat value. seated side by side. and forward air control missions. being the last US fighter designed with guns as the primary weapon. F-8 Crusader. It was also used by the Marine Corps from land bases. including photo reconnaissance. then with the Air Force. It could carry more than 15. Instead. The MiG-21 was especially effective at higher altitudes. The A-7 was also flown by the Air Force late in the war and stayed in service with the Navy until replaced years later by the F/A-18. MiG-9. supposedly to replace the A-4 in the light attack role. A-6 Intruder. The MiG-17 defended North Vietnam’s airfields and patrolled the approach and departure routes used by US aircraft. It was subsonic but had good range and accuracy not available from other aircraft in the theater. The F-4 entered service first with the Navy. It had been designed in the 1950s to be light and agile. Three of North Vietnam’s 16 fighter aces flew MiG-17s. The twin-engine A-6 was an excellent all-weather bomber. but the MiG-21 had better acceleration. MiG-7. North Vietnam’s best fighter and a close match in capability with the American F-4. Chinese variant of the supersonic Soviet fighter of the late 1950s. faster. An updated model of the Soviet jet fighter that confronted—and was bested by—the American F-86 Sabre in the Korean War. It did not appear in Vietnam until after the 1968 bombing halt. It was still in service for Gulf War I in 1991. It was crewed by a pilot and a navigator. Advanced . The single-engine A-4 light attack bomber was the Navy’s primary light attack aircraft at the beginning of the war. and more stable version of the MiG-15.Principal US Navy and Marine Corps Aircraft A-4 Skyhawk.

Support of ground forces in northern Laos.195 510 — — 11.343 19.235 29.560 443 52.825 29.848 10. 1973 Jan. and ambushes. 31.057 40.754 459 — 40.693 116.505 13.064 3.632 48.842 2.2 Source: Department of Defense report.608 28. Campbell.146 28.817 75. 1972 Dec.380 244. 23. 1965 March 2. 1965-Oct.498 2. Air strikes against North Vietnam in reprisal for Viet Cong attacks on US bases. and Dessert. 17-Dec. Interdiction of Ho Chi Minh Trail. and South Vietnamese Air Force 967 968 969 970 97 972 January 97 In North Vietnam USAF USN USMC VNAF In South Vietnam USAF USN USMC VNAF Other SEA Laos.326 — 134. Snack. 1967 Nov.430 31. 1963 Jan. 1965-Aug. 1967 Nov.610 32. 1968 April 3.524 5.690 1.646 21.303 4. 1. 1961-July 28. movements. Strategic Air Command B-52 strikes in Southeast Asia.40 213 72 — — 96. 1968-March 30. Covert bombing of Cambodia.569 45. Cambodia B-2 Total 44.322 23.160 4. Marine Corps. 1. Huge airlift of troops and cargo from Ft. 1962-Jan.2 729 787 44 — 1.249 125.785 26.695 814 70. 7-11.316 42.450 9. 2.124 2.895 24. 15. 18-29.427 64.751 2.672 127 116.250 30.790 12. to Bien Hoa.823 36.890 5. Dinner. Supper.44 699 404 10 — 48. Intensified air strikes in southern Laos.149 1. Massive air strikes on Hanoi and Haiphong. Sustained air campaign over North Vietnam. 21.554 77.482 32.744 49.98 16.686 9. November 1973.967 54.587 8.687 44.568 46. 1969-May 1970 May 10-Oct.. Defoliation of jungle to expose Viet Cong sanctuaries.954 3. Navy. “MiG Sweep” in which seven North Vietnamese aircraft are shot down in 12 minutes.429 5. 7. 41.933 22. Precursor to Rolling Thunder. 1973 June 18. 29.217 144.103 24.274 20. 7. series of missions named Breakfast. 14-April 17.769 2.Operations Notable Air Operations Operation Dates Description Farm Gate Ranch Hand Barrel Roll Flaming Dart Rolling Thunder Steel Tiger Arc Light Bolo Eagle Thrust Commando Hunt The “Menus” Linebacker I Linebacker II Oct.833 48. Resumed bombing of North Vietnam. Attack Sorties in Southeast Asia 966 By US Air Force.120 15. almost four years after end of Rolling Thunder. 1964 Feb. 1965-Feb. 1972 March 18. 1972 Training and support for South Vietnamese Air Force.469 5. 1971 Dec. Lunch. Ky. 4 .

 Photo via Martin Winter . initially assigned to the Navy.The Route Packs Railroad lines Re d 6A Thu China 5 Ri ve r Phuc Yen Thai Nguyen ● Son Tay ● Hanoi idg d R ● ● Kep e 6B ● Haiphong ✪ Gulf of Tonkin Laos 4 ● Thanh Hoa Railroad lines In December 1965. Navy packs were 2. 3. and 6B. was placed under operational control of MACV in April 1966. Route Pack 1. An F-4 was armed with a new weapon that would change warfare—the laser guided bomb. 4. The Air Force route packs were 5 and 6A.” Route Pack 6 was later divided into 6A and 6B. 3 ● Vinh 2 1 An RF-101 took this reconnaissance photo while passing over North Vietnamese AAA batteries. US Pacific Command divided North Vietnam into “route packages. Photo via Martin Winter The F-100 Super Sabre performed close air support.

806 3.949 Total Five gunship sorties (four in 1967. Air Power in Three Wars (USAF).896 2.078 24. Gen.022 11.089 76.364 686 — — — 4. Source: Wayne Thompson.80 5. To Hanoi and Back (Smithsonian/USAF).327 .482 54.849 2.057 213 699 1. USAF (Ret.655 381 9. Sources: Col. Air War College.965 132 4. Pacific Command retained control in the rest of the country.815 2.905 3.419 9. Lamy.599 44.408 — 280 1. SAC B52s also operated extensively in Laos.7 26.440 533 7.658 526 40.).312 41.554 16. The US ambassador to Laos exerted strong influence and constraints on all operations in Laos.096 755 7.015 939 2. 1995.924 28.696 3.195 17. both south and north.910 11.044 1.675 9. employing aircraft based in Thailand and South Vietnam.637 101. Steel Tiger East—also called “Tiger Hound”—was considered an extension of the fight in South Vietnam and was under the operational control of MACV.294 7.320 2. Momyer.674 9. one in 1972) have been added to the “Total” column.617 3.924 4.027 3. Air Operations in Laos “Barrel Roll” in northern Laos and “Steel Tiger” in the south referred both to operations and to geographic designations.714 7. William W.041 5.0 5.122 78. Perry L.USAF Sorties in North Vietnam Attack Fighters 96 966 967 968 969 970 97 972 97 B-2s CAP/ Escort Recce Combat Support Total 11.965 4. Air operations.582 37. were conducted by 7th Air Force. Barrel Roll North North Vietnam Barrel Roll West Barrel Roll East Plain of Jars ✪ Vientiane Steel Tiger East Steel Tiger West Thailand Cambodia 6 .681 8.

Reconnaissance flights continued and attacks on them led to “protective reaction” strikes. 968. 967. 4. Cessation of attacks around Hanoi. Instead.USAF MiG Victories by Aircraft and Weapon Aircraft Weapons/Tactics MiG-7 MiG-9 MiG-2 Total F-4C AIM-7 Sparrow AIM-9 Sidewinder 20 mm gun Maneuvering tactics AIM-4 Falcon AIM-7 Sparrow AIM-9 Sidewinder 20 mm gun Maneuvering tactics AIM-7 Sparrow AIM-9 Sidewinder AIM-9/20 mm gun (combined) 20 mm gun Maneuvering tactics 20 mm gun 20 mm gun AIM-9 Sidewinder AIM-9/20 mm gun (combined) 20 mm gun . . Cease-fire. 29. Nov. 972.000 tons of war materiel south. 968.50 cal. Halt of all bombing of North Vietnam. 96. Ralph Kuster shot down this MiG17 with his F-105’s 20 mm guns. On Jan. 24-Sept. . Cease-fire for Tet religious holiday. Aces & Aerial Victories (USAF). Source: Carl Berger. 967. prior to US disengagement from the war. March . Feb. and other offensive operations against North Vietnam as Paris peace talks approached conclusion. Bombing Halts and Pauses in Air Operations Over North Vietnam May 2-May 8. extended by Lyndon B. The radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow accounted for more of the victories than any other weapon. 8-. 96-Jan. 31. 966. Aug. 24. In addition. there were routine halts of 48 hours at Christmas and New Years. Jan.” Hanoi failed to respond. Jan. Under political pressure. gun 4 12 3 2 4 4 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 22 2 1 2 0 6 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 2 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 10 10 1 0 1 20 3 2 2 8 4 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 68 14 22 4 2 5 26 5 6 2 10 4 1 5 1 1 22 2 1 2 2 7 Maj. 7 Photos via Martin Winter . Unilateral 36-hour cease-fire for Tet. 1966-67 and 1967-68. Jan. Purpose was to test Hanoi’s response and willingness to negotiate. 97. Suspension of mining. Johnson’s “peace initiative. the line was moved south to the 19th parallel. Dec. 28. bombing. . F-4D F-4E F-4D/F-105F F-105D F-105F B-52D Totals The Air Force fighter most successful against the MiGs in aerial combat was the F-4. 968-April 6. Perception was that Hanoi might be willing to negotiate. Christmas cease-fire. North Vietnam took the opportunity to move 25. Halt of bombing north of 20th parallel. 97. North Vietnam and the Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive against bases all over South Vietnam.

196 ‡ 93 152 Destroyed 1.324 cuts Bomb damage assessment is both difficult and imprecise.938 — 96 — 1. Glister/Air University Press). These figures are better taken as a distribution of bombing effort rather than as an exact tally of the damage inflicted. Linebacker II operations against Hanoi and Haiphong in 1972 are associated in popular memory almost exclusively with the B-52s. USAF Operation Linebacker II Sorties Dec.464 cuts 166 ‡ 4. Source: The Air War in Southeast Asia (Herman L.794 1. ‡Targets bombed but not tallied in this period.364 USAF Targets in Operation Linebacker II Target Percent of Sorties Railroad yard 36 Storage facilities 25 Radio/communications 14 Power facilities 12 Airfields 10 SAM sites 2 Bridges 1 Source: The Air War in Southeast Asia (Herman L.305 — 53 ‡ 5. — 19. but other aircraft flew almost half the Air Force sorties. Source: Wayne Thompson.682 ‡ 80 109 Damaged 3. Glister/Air University Press). To Hanoi and Back (USAF).570 — 25 19 1. 8-29 972 Aircraft A-7 F-4 F-111 B-52 Total Sorties 226 274 140 724 1.469 — 59 775 128 1.760 1.207 35 36 ‡ 217 9 40 55 Damaged 869 20 6 32 162 55 20 cuts 36 cuts — 86 369 32 6 ‡ 89 1 5 19 A Linebacker II strike by B-52s in December 1972 decimated this rail yard north of Hanoi.036 89 1.455 — 17 1.USAF Bomb Damage Assessment Claims in North Vietnam March 96-October 968 April 972-January 97 Destroyed Vehicles Tanks Locomotives Rail Rolling Stock Watercraft Bridges Railroads Roads Ferry Slips Oil Tanks Buildings Construction Equipment Aircraft Runways AAA Sites Field Artillery Areas SAM Sites Radar Sites 5. 8 .635 38 1 56 221 250 — — — 2.

was established to prevent violations of the Chinese airspace. about 25 miles wide. Air strikes around Hanoi and Haiphong were tightly constrained. The prohibited zones were 20 miles wide at Hanoi and eight miles wide at Haiphong. Limitations in the restricted zone were severe and changed from week to week. 60 miles wide at Hanoi and 20 miles wide at Haiphong. They were surrounded by restricted zones. Also. Strikes in a prohibited zone required permission—seldom given—from Washington.Restricted and Prohibited Zones China Buffer Zone North Vietnam Hanoi Restricted Zone Prohibited Zone Haiphong Reconnaissance aircraft photographed these merchant vessels in Haiphong harbor. South Vietnam 9 . US aircraft could use it only to maneuver when positioning themselves to attack targets outside the buffer zone. a buffer zone.

1 billion 1. 20 . then met the tankers again on the way out to get enough fuel to make it home.540 14.6 billion 1. William W. Tanker Sorties 9. of tankers 55 75 75 92 94 91 51 172 88 avg. and their primary mission was to support SAC in its nuclear role. Laos. 1965-72 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 Total No.700 79.200 23. and the Gulf of Tonkin.China North Vietnam Laos Aerial Refueling Tracks One of the big operational changes in the Vietnam War was the everyday refueling of combat aircraft.000 28. who pulled frequent temporary deployments to Southeast Asia and an extra workload when they returned home.400 34.4 million 8. Udorn Takhli Korat Ubon Thailand Don Muang Cambodia U Tapao South Vietnam Tankers and Tanker Sorties in Southeast Asia.4 billion 888 million 619 million 1. Airpower in Three Wars (USAF). Momyer.000 19. Aerial refueling more than doubled the range of the combat aircraft.000 32. Fighters on their way into North Vietnam topped up their tanks from KC-135 tankers. The additional requirement in Southeast Asia was a stretch of limited resources. which flew orbits above Thailand.200 18.040 Fuel Offloaded (pounds) 315 million 850 million 1.2 billion The KC-135 tankers in Southeast Asia belonged to Strategic Air Command. The burden fell on the tanker aircrews. Nakhon Phanom Source: Gen.

1961-March 1. Phase II Vietnam Air/Ground Vietnam Air Offensive. 1972-Jan. 31. 1965 March 2. 1.USAF Air Munitions Consumption vs. 1971 May 15-Oct. 1971-March 29.454 6. 1968 Nov. 31-June 28. 1. Phase III Vietnam Air Offensive.613 million tons) Far East (0. 1972 March 30. 2 . 1970 May 1-June 30. 23-June 8.150 0. 1973 The 17 campaigns designated by the Air Force differed in title and dates from those of the other services. 22-July 7. 1968 Jan. 1970 Dec. September 1973. 1. The BUFF at right had the capacity to carry all the bombs pictured. Phase IV Tet 69/Counteroffensive Vietnam Summer/Fall 1969 Vietnam Winter/Spring 1970 Sanctuary Counteroffensive Southwest Monsoon Commando Hunt V Commando Hunt VI Commando Hunt VII Vietnam Cease-Fire Nov. 1970-May 14. World War II and Korean War Millions of Tons World War II Europe (1. 15. airmen prepare bombs for loading aboard a B-52. 1969 June 9-Oct. Streamers.537 million tons) Korean War Vietnam War 2. 1970 July 1-Nov. 30. 31. Source: USAF Management Summary Southeast Asia. 1. 1967 March 9. 1965-Jan. 1969 Feb. 1966-March 8. Designated USAF Campaigns of Vietnam Service Vietnam Advisory Vietnam Defensive Vietnam Air Vietnam Air Offensive Vietnam Air Offensive. Source: Timothy Warnock. 1966 Jan. 1966 June 29. Air Force Combat Medals. 1967-March 31. 22. 30. 1968 April 1-Oct. 1968-Feb. 1969-April 30. and Campaigns (USAF). 1969 Nov. 1971 Nov.166 At left. 31. 28.

Air Power in Three Wars (USAF). North Vietnam’s aircraft losses were promptly replaced.9% 1. Air Power in Three Wars (USAF). but that never happened. The MiG-19.119 6. 1968 Feb.411 1.). of which 4.177 1. 20. William W.802 were 37 mm to 1968.190 1. USAF (Ret.75% 0. A few SA-3s. 1967 Nov.712 910 784 815 815 962 937 7. North Vietnam 85 mm to 100 mm. Source: Gen. Source: Gen. 1968 1. William W. 1967 Jan.8% 1.15% Enemy SAMs were a deadly threat. Momyer. 22 . which were deadly against slow-flying aircraft in South Vietnam. Shown here is the wreckage of a B-52 shot down near Hanoi.795 guns were deployed. supplied by the Chinese.270 1. North Vietnam deployed the Soviet-built SA-2 Guideline SAM in 1965.158 sites.202 322 4.795 Although the SAM and MiG threats got more attention.The Enemy North Vietnamese Air Force Combat Aircraft Inventory MiG-/7 Il-28 MiG-9 MiG-2 Total August December May December April December April December 1964 1964 1965 1965 1966 1966 1967 1967 36 53 56 62 63 50 75 28 80 66 8 6 8 6 6 7 15 16 16 12 33 40 93 39 36 53 64 75 86 72 97 40 206 145 MiG-17s such as these photographed in 1966 were mainstays of the North Vietnamese Air Force. Momyer. 24. Momyer. and sent “Wild Weasel” aircraft to destroy. North Vietnamese AAA Route Pack Number of Guns in Each Route Pack  2 October 1967–March 1968  4  6A 6B Total Oct. as were shoulder-fired SA-7s. USAF (Ret.).545 6. North Vietnamese SAM Effectiveness Missiles Fired Aircraft Lost Effectiveness 1965 1966 1967 1968 1972 194 1.084 2. USAF (Ret.291 5. 57 mm and 993 were had anti-aircraft artillery at 1. did not appear until after the 1968 bombing halt.140 2.7% 2. 10. 29.065 533 514 526 529 340 360 550 525 539 561 418 440 784 707 673 540 615 609 693 686 698 695 695 672 2.457 6. Its effectiveness diminished as US airmen developed defensive tactics. As of March 20. May 1972 October 1972 Source: Gen.137 1. A total of 5.124 1.).104 2.244 11 31 56 3 49 5. Deployment of the Il-28 light bomber in 1965 created concern that it might be used to attack bases in South Vietnam.570 6. 1968 March 20. added electronic countermeasures. deter. Air Power in Three Wars (USAF). 10. about 68 percent of the aircraft losses were to anti-aircraft fire. William W.096 3. and intimidate the SAM batteries. effective at lower altitudes.238 2. were introduced later in the war. 1967 Dec.

582 6.730 89. Hoa Lac Hanoi ✪ Gia Lam Bac Mai Dong Suong Quang Te Quang Lang Bai Thuong Vinh Do Khe Khe Phat Dong Hoi An F-105 belly camera captured the first strike on Bac Mai airfield near Hanoi.that was suitable for jet operations. 2 .857 7. the only there were 17 jet aircraft bases with more under construction.600 82. North Vietnam Yen Bai Phuc Yen Kep Cat Bai Haiphong Kien An North Vietnamese Airfields Jet-capable bases in 97 airfield North Vietnam based all of its MiGs at the end of the war.680 58.424 8.” The actual total was considerably higher.200 25.295 12. 2.900 29.765 infiltrators may have been counted twice. In 1965. By Phuc Yen. This chart shows troop infiltration in the first part of the war. 99-67 1959-60 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 Accepted 4. “Possibles” are additional infiltrators that are believed to have moved south.906 12.800 Possible Total 4.400 A key part of North Vietnam’s strategy was to insert troops and equipment into South Vietnam by way of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.857 7.050 30.700 52.424 33.Infiltration From North Vietnam. Source: Interdiction in Southern Laos (Jacob Van Staaveren/USAF).582 6.295 12. Of the total shown here.906 12. “Accepted” numbers are those that could be “reasonably confirmed.

another Soviet designed missile sits on its launcher in North Vietnam.SAM Coverage North Vietnam deployed SAMs in 1965. At right. An F-105 recorded the above image showing the contrail of a SAM passing close to another F-105 (circled) over North Vietnam. Momyer. Air Power in Three Wars. USAF (Ret. At first. Vinh Source: Gen. the SAMs were clus- North Vietnam Kep Haiphong Hanoi tered around Hanoi. William W. but the coverage was soon extended to military and industrial areas as far south as Vinh. 24 .).

2 150 17 2 6 18 38 21 34 382 198 334 10 10 9 122 82 47 76 33 148 . Japan. 4. Nov. while supporting Arc Light operations.77 41 2 4 — 12 18 32 21 63 45 63 4 4 1 50 22 16 7 6 107 8 191 19 6 6 30 56 53 55 445 243 397 14 14 10 172 104 63 83 39 255 2.Casualties and Losses US Casualties in the Vietnam War Aug.802 4. “Other SEA” includes Laos. and Cambodia. 1962-Oct.332 persons who did not require hospital care. Here. 1973. Guam.392 931 . South Vietnam. 2 . and two at Andersen AFB. Thailand.273 931 1. Source: USAF Operations Report. 1. 30.084 1.0 Totals for “wounds not mortal” do not include 150.631 13. 1973 Combat Losses Aircraft North Vietnam Other SEA Total Combat Losses Operational Losses Total Aircraft Losses A-1 AC-47 AC-119 AC-130 B-52 B-57 C/UC-123 C-130 F-4 F-100 F-105 HH-3 HH-43 HH-53 O-1 O-2 OV-10 RF-4 RF-101 Other Total 18 — — — 18 5 — 2 193 16 282 3 1 1 2 3 — 38 27 16 62 132 17 2 6 — 33 21 32 189 182 52 7 9 8 120 79 47 38 6 132 .799 98.178 51. 31.922 1. 1973 Battle Deaths Other Deaths Wounds Not Mortal Army Navy Marines Air Force Total Source: Department of Defense. USAF Aircraft Losses in Southeast Asia Feb. 30. 1964–Jan. an Air Force flight nurse attends to wounded marines transported from the battlefield.78 7. B-52 losses include two at Kadena AB.2 Many lives were saved by effective aeromedical evacuation.753 842 0. A special operations forces gunner observes an HH-53 used for combat search and rescue missions. 27.741 47.

886 6 USAF Sortie/Loss Rate in Three Wars Sorties Aircraft Losses Loss Rate/ . Navy/Marine Corps Victories/Losses Aircraft Downed in Air to Air Combat Enemy Aircraft by USN/USMC AN-2 MiG-17 MiG-19 MiG-21 USN/USMC Aircraft by Enemy A-1 KA-3B A-4C RA-5C A-6A F-4B/J F-4C/D/G F-8C/D/E Total South Vietnamese Air Force Aircraft Losses Jan.USAF Aircraft Losses by Cause Feb.466 2. In Southeast Asia. 1973 No.44 21 6 45 14 3 1 2 4 — 96 9 26 19 — — 2 24 30 — 0 4 16 22 — 1 — 14 10 — 67 — — 10 1 — — 1 9 — 2 125 77 91 77 76 27 19 25 1 8 457 401 462 326 257 103 132 116 1 2. 31. 1973. 1. 1. 2 39 2 18 Total Source: www.226. Source: John Schlight.948 1. The War in South Vietnam (USAF). 1964-Sept. 1962-Oct.2 Seven of the “other combat” losses shown here are listed in some accounts as aerial combat losses. November 1973.bluejacket.362. 1973 Ground Attack on Air Bases Surfaceto-Air Missiles Fiscal Year 1962-66 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 Total Ground Fire Aerial Combat Other Combat Operational Total 298 276 275 234 177 73 72 38 — .0 0. but sustained less than a tenth as many aircraft losses.257 9.7 2. 1 1 1 1 2 7 0 3 6 A-1 A-37 AC-47 C-7 C/EC-47 C/AC-119 C-123 CH/HH-34 CH-47 F/RF-5 O-1 O-2 T-41 U-6 U-17 UH-1 Total 225 38 9 6 17 8 11 140 10 18 152 2 1 10 39 332 . Source: USAF Operational Summary. which would raise that total to 74.800 710.08 No. 30. 26 .701 22. the Air Force flew twice as many sorties as the Army Air Forces did in World War II.000 Sorties World War II Korean War Vietnam War 2.4 Source: USAF Management Summary.

Thorsness. 24. 9. 1967 N. 24. Cunningham. Sijan. WSO Lt. USN. Feinstein. South Windsor. William A. 1969 April 11. AC John L. 1968 Sept. Bernard F. Sioux City. Vietnam Long Binh. weapons system officer Capt. 27 . Col. Calif. Maj. Ritchie. Date of Action June 29. F-4E (1) 13th TFS F-4J VF-96 F-4J VF-96 Capt. 1967 Feb. Capt. S. S. Mo. William Driscoll. George E. Lt. 1972 Conspicuous gallantry while POW March 10. Ga. Hometown Palestine. pilot Lt. First Lt. At right. Jackson. F-4E (2) 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron F-4D (3). Vietnam Thai Nguyen. Young. 1966 Conspicuous gallantry while POW April 19. Dethlefsen. Steven L. Internet. N. USAF. Warsaw. 1. Anacortes. Jones. Wilbanks. Air Force Medal of Honor Recipients Name Bennett. Sedalia. Leo K. S. Iowa San Bernardino. Capt. Bernard Fisher was the first airman to receive the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War. 26. 1967 Nov. Col. James Fleming (l) and Sgt.Vietnam War Aces Number of Victories Airman 6 Aces and Heroes Aircraft and Unit F-4D (4). 1967 March 10. Tex. Maj. AC William H. Vietnam Kam Duc. Capt. Lt. Vietnam Maj. Jeffrey Feinstein. Ohio Milwaukee Seattle Cornelia. S. Vietnam Khe Sahn. USN. 1968 May 12. Wash. Newnan. Capt. 1966 Nov. WSO     Note: USAF awarded a full credit each to a pilot and his WSO for one enemy aircraft shot down. James P. Joe M. Pitsenbarger. st Lt. John Levitow receive their Medals of Honor from President Nixon. Vietnam A Shau Valley. Charles DeBellevue (far left) and Capt. Lance P. Ga. Fisher. Iowa Greenville. Fleming. Vietnam Duc Co. Sources: USAF. Maj. USAF. S. Gerald O. Charles B. Capt. Maj. Hilliard A. Vietnam Cam My. 1968 Feb. Va. F-4E (2) 555th TFS F-4D (4). Richard S. S. Vietnam Place of Action Quang Tri. Ritchie. N. Richard S. Piqua. Jeffrey S. Merlyn H. Day. Vietnam Dalat. Conn. Capt. Randall H. S. DeBellevue USAF. III Levitow. Vietnam Dong Hoi. pilot Capt. S.

MOH awarded May 14. Jackson put his C-123 into a wrenching. On Feb. 1967. Merlyn H. and one rescue attempt had failed. suppressing a mortar attack on Long Binh Army Base. 1969. Jackson. On May 12. to find a pilot down in North Vietnam. and flew out with 19 bullet holes in his airplane. 26. Dafford W. four F-105 Wild Weasels led a strike force against the heavily defended Thai Nguyen iron works near Hanoi. Jones took heavy battle damage when he attacked guns that were blocking the rescue attempt. A mortar shell riddled the fuselage with shrap- . and brought the stranded airmen out through heavy mortar fire. Bennett. landed amid smoke and explosions. Capt. Despite severe damage to his own aircraft. Fisher ran the gauntlet of enemy artillery that ringed the valley. MOH awarded Aug.500 soldiers from a camp in South Vietnam. Levitow was loadmaster on an AC47. who was subsequently rescued. 1968. “Jump” Myers were flying Air Commando A-1Es in support of Special Forces under attack in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam. 16. Day. Levitow. He tried to signal US aircraft. full-flaps dive. supported by the remaining gunship and flying a helicopter never designed for rescue work. 1967. 8. Fleming. where he continued to offer maximum resistance to his captors until released in 1973. Maj. 1970. Col. The Weasel leader was shot down and a second Weasel departed with battle damage. OV-10 pilot Bennett was supporting a South Vietnamese ground unit when his aircraft was hit by a SAM-7 missile. On Nov. high-speed. James P. MOH awarded Jan. One gunship was shot down. Day was captured and tortured. Unable to eject because his backseater’s parachute was shredded. George E. 6. three combat controllers were left behind as airlifters evacuated 1. Badly injured after his Misty FAC 100-F was shot down over North Vietnam Aug. MOH awarded Jan. recaptured. 1976. Bennett elected to ditch his aircraft in the Tonkin Gulf. Col. 24. Joe M. 26. 1974. 1967.Sketches of USAF Medal of Honor Recipients (Ranks at time of action. 1968. His aircraft was badly shot up. William A. picked up Myers. MOH awarded March 4. Steven L. MOH awarded posthumously. Leading an A-1H Sandy mission on Sept. Lt. Fleming. The enemy was closing in. Fisher and Maj.) Capt. went in through heavy ground fire and brought out the soldiers without a single casualty. 1969. and imprisoned in Hanoi. 1968. 28 st Lt. Lt. The backseater lived. 1972. and Jones was severely burned. Jones. landed. Aug. 19. The aircraft flipped over. MOH awarded Feb. On March 10. Myers was shot down and landed in flames on the airfield. taxied through burning debris. 1970. On March 10. 1966. On June 29. Dethlefsen led the remaining two Weasels in pass after pass to take out the SAMs. Fisher. Unable to use his radio. but Bennett was trapped and sank with the aircraft. 1. the cockpit canopy blown away. but was ambushed. AC John L. nose down in the water. Bernard F. 1968. although he knew no OV-10 pilot had ever survived a ditching. He escaped and reached the Demilitarized Zone. five UH-1 Hueys—three of them transports and two armed as gunships—responded to an emergency call for help from Green Berets in the South Vietnamese highlands. Dethlefsen. 1. Maj. III. he declined to bail out and returned to base where he refused medical care until he reported the exact position of the downed pilot.

Wilbanks. Levitow and another airman dropping magnesium illumination flares from the open cargo door were knocked down. MOH awarded May 14. Sijan was severely injured Nov. a pararescue jumper. he passed up a chance to get out. 9. 24. when his F-4C was blown out of the air on a night mission over Laos. Capt. He was severely wounded. MOH awarded posthumously. crawled to the door. refueled. 29 . Young pulled one survivor from the wreckage and hid him. A live flare fell inside the airplane. Pitsenbarger. He exposed himself to enemy fire at least three times. diverting the attack and drawing the VC fire toward himself. While a POW. Young. Sijan. 1967— with two helicopters already lost in a rescue operation in Laos—Young managed to land. Realizing the enemy intended to use them as bait to draw in another helicopter. 24. 1966. distributing ammunition and pulling soldiers to safer positions before he was killed. he evaded capture for more than six weeks. discovered a Viet Cong battalion waiting in ambush. Despite his injuries and lack of any real food. descended from an HH43 helicopter into the jungle near Bien Hoa to help US soldiers wounded in an intense firefight. 1968. escorted the search for a downed aircrew. and was seconds away from exploding. but was recaptured and tortured. 1968. He dived on them three times. 1973 — after Thorsness. AC William Pitsenbarger. F-105 leader Thorsness destroyed two SAM sites. MOH awarded May 14. he contracted pneumonia and died. returned from almost six years as a POW. April 19. Leo K. 15. As casualties increased. Young led the pursuers on a 17-hour chase through the brush before rescuers got him out. 9. On April 11. MOH awarded posthumously.1970. shooting out his side window with an M-16 rifle. he escaped again. but his HH-3E was shot down on takeoff and burst into flames. Jan. Capt. 1967. but he had more than 40 shrapnel wounds. 1967. and died before the rescue team could get him home. Thorsness. On Feb. Caught. and attacked four MiG-17s. Lance P. March 4. On Nov. 1976. spewing toxic smoke. flying a forward air control mission in support of South Vietnamese Rangers. shot down a MiG17. crashed. Maj. 1967. Levitow lived. shot down on a subsequent mission. MOH awarded posthumously. Hilliard A. Wilbanks in an unarmed O-1. Capt. and tossed it outside. 8. Gerald O. Dec. 2000. He parachuted into trees on a mountain slope. drawing them away from the location of the crew on the ground. MOH awarded Oct. where it exploded. nel. Levitow threw himself on the flare. On one incredible mission.

including the use of armed force. Five B-57s destroyed. Kenneth E. Navy. additional F-100s to Da Nang. Nov. Photo by Shelly Hilliard via Warren Thompson A 1965 Viet Cong attack on a base in South Vietnam. 7 attacks on bases in the south. with his back-seater Capt. 1965. In response to events of Aug. 1965. Feb. both flying F-4C Phantom IIs. US Marines deploy to Da Nang to defend the air base. more than 100 wounded. 7. 4. 4. 2. Ronald C. American forces were at war. the sustained air campaign against North Vietnam. April 3-4. beginning Aug. First Arc Light mission: SAC B-52s. one of the most difficult targets of the war. 1965. begins. June 25. often with a USAF pilot in front. The Tonkin Gulf incident in 1964 was the spark that led to combat operations. March 8. April 3.Chronology USAF and the Vietnam War From the Tonkin Gulf Incident to the Cease-Fire US forces had been engaged in South Vietnam in support and advisory roles since 1961. 5. 1965. but fail to drop a span. and South Vietnamese aircraft strike targets in North Vietnam in retaliation for Feb. March 2. Viet Cong mortar attack on Bien Hoa kills four Americans. A National Security Council interagency working group forwards options—including reprisals in North Vietnam for attacks in the south and increased air activity against North Vietnamese infiltration routes in Laos—to President Lyndon B. Thomas S. and assist allies. Within months. Aug. on Aug. with his back-seater Capt. eight Americans are killed. prevent further aggression. 14. The destroyer USS Maddox is attacked by North Vietnamese patrol boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. 7-11. 1964. Dec. 1964. Arthur C. 6. Anderson. Viet Cong attack air bases in South Vietnam. 1964. are used for the first time in Vietnam. 1968. interdiction of Ho Chi Minh Trail in the Laotian Panhandle. April 5. 1964. Aug. 1964. when 28 aircraft strike Viet Cong targets near Saigon. though claims of an attack were soon disputed. USAF moves into Southeast Asia in force: B-57s from the Philippines to Bien Hoa. Dec. August 1964. 1965. Air Force. and wounds 72. 0 . shoot down two MiG-17s. Clark. 1965. Holcombe. authorizing “all necessary steps. flying from Guam. 1965. Roberts. Feb. They inflict damage. begins. Aug. the first Air Force air-to-air victories of the Vietnam War. 1. At Pleiku. four VNAF A-ls destroyed or damaged. Oct. 1965. 31. Air Force F-105s strike the Thanh Hoa Bridge. 1. Johnson. Thailand. July 10. 15 damaged. 2 and Aug. 1964. 1965. AT-28s were used for close air support in the “advisory” years. 1964. President Johnson orders retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam. June 18. 18 F-105s from Japan to Korat. In Operation Flaming Dart. Commander of Air Force’s 2nd Air Division given additional post as MACV deputy commander for air operations. First US ground forces in Vietnam. Capt. 1965. It will end with the bombing halt. 7. Operation Rolling Thunder. Congress passes Tonkin Gulf Resolution. Maddox and USS Turner Joy report being attacked by several fast North Vietnamese ships far out to sea. South Vietnam. US Air Force flies the first Operation Barrel Roll armed reconnaissance mission in Laos. and Capt. South Vietnam. Surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites first detected in North Vietnam. 5. US loses first aircraft to Soviet-built SAM on July 24. Aug.” to repel attack. Operation Steel Tiger.

1967.  Strategic airlift.000 troops and 4. Air Force F-105s and F-4Cs bomb the Thai Nguyen steel plant in North Vietnam for the first time. 231 C-141 flights airlift 3. Dec. April 1. 3. Air Force and Navy aircraft—F-105s and A-4s—attack the Hanoi and Haiphong POL complex. The MiGs make unsuccessful passes before fleeing to the sanctuary of the Communist capital area. US loses first aircraft. 24. April 26. 1965. They hit a supply route in the Mu Gia Pass.the war over North Vietnam. Phuc Yen. with headquarters at Saigon. March 4. 1967. 1967. Thailand. April 12. F-100F Wild Weasels knock out a North Vietnamese Fan-Song radar at the Yen Bai rail yards north of Hanoi. while the F-105s they were escorting destroy the nearby SA-2 SAM site. Air Force bombs cut it again in October and December. The first B-52 bombing mission is flown from U Tapao AB. In the famous “MiG Sweep” Operation Bolo mission. Aug. This attack marked the first success for the Wild Weasel program. 23. Jan. and Marine strike. was critical to the war effort. US aircraft finally strike MiG airfields at Kep and Hoa Lac—long forbidden as targets—but Phuc Yen and Gia Lam air bases. down seven North Vietnamese MiG-21s over the Red River Valley in North Vietnam. 1965-Jan. US Pacific Command divides North Vietnam into six “route packages.700 tons of cargo from Hawaii to Pleiku. Jan. USAF F-105s knock out the center span (and damage two others) of the mile-long Paul Doumer rail bridge north of Hanoi. 24. April 10. These flights are in addition to the more than 100 overseas missions a month flown by the ANG in augmenting Military Airlift Command’s global airlift mission. For the first time. . In April 1966. Military airlift units of the Air National Guard begin flying some 75 cargo flights a month to Southeast Asia. Oct. A flight of Air Force F-4C Phantoms is attacked by three MiG-17s in the first air-to-air combat of Photo by Tom Germscheid via Warren Thompson An enemy supply truck traveling at night on the Ho Chi Minh Trail missed the right ford for the stream. 1965. 1967. 11. North Vietnam sends MiG-21s up in force Aug. is organized as a subcommand of Pacific Air Forces. Sept. a vital supply route and one of the most heavily defended targets in North Vietnam. 1966. US airplanes attack North Vietnam’s largest air base. Seventh Air Force. Dec. an F-4C. The bridge is closed for two months. 1966. Navy. June 29. 23. for the first time. 10. Route Pack 6 is later divided into 6A (Air Force) and 6B (Navy). 22. to Sovietbuilt SAMs. about 85 miles north of the border. operational control of Route Pack 1 was assigned to MACV. F-111s flew their first combat mission against targets in North Vietnam in March 1968. remain off limits. 1966. 1966. as provided by these C-141s. In Operation Blue Light. F-4s from Ubon. Thailand. 1966.” assigns four of them to the Navy and two to the Air Force. 2. for the first time in a combined Air Force. Dec. closer to Hanoi. 1966. Strategic Air Command B-52 bombers strike targets in North Vietnam for the first time. March 10. 1966. 1967. 1967. 1. 1965.

000 troops and 400 armored vehicles. President Johnson halts all bombing of North Vietnam. South Vietnam. 21. 1968. May 10.. March 30. 31. 1968. Battle of Khe Sanh begins. The bridge is unusable for rail traffic for the rest of the year. and undercut confidence and support for the war by the American public. The halt initially applies above the 20th parallel. 1. the 11-day bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. with his backseater. B-52s. Jan. Bombing of North Vietnam. October 1969. B-52s bomb targets in northern Laos for the first time. In Operation Eagle Thrust. Oct. Previously. April 27. North Vietnamese and Viet Cong attack bases all over South Vietnam. March 18. Capt.118 tons of equipment from Ft. “The Forgotten Americans of the Vietnam War. March 25. 871 conventional sorties resulted in only superficial damage to the bridge. 1972. crossing the DMZ with more than 40. 1969. Nov. DeBellevue. 17-Dec. 1970. 31. Reconnaissance missions continue.” ignites national concern for the prisoners of war and the missing in action. Between March 18. becoming the Air Force’s first ace since the Korean War. Ky. It is reprinted in condensed form as the lead article in the November 1969 issue of Reader’s Digest and is inserted into the Congressional Record six times. this halt merges into a broader bombing halt. C-141s and C-133s airlift 10. closing the bridge to traffic. US and South Vietnam begin unilateral 36hour cease fire for Tet religious holiday. 1970. but is soon moved south to the 19th parallel. F-111s fly their first combat mission against military targets in North Vietnam. 1970. taking out a span. halted since Nov. Richard S. 1972. Aug. 1968.” bomb North Vietnamese and Viet Cong sanctuaries in Cambodia. The invasion is stopped and then turned back by US airpower. Operation Rolling Thunder ends. 29. Fourteen Air Force F-4s. as do “protective reaction” strikes if reconnaissance flights are fired upon. the B-52s fly 4. 18. March 31.308 sorties in Cambodia. US military involvement in Laos is publicly acknowledged for the first time in a statement by President Richard M. 1967. and May 20. 1972. Massive air strikes help persuade North Vietnam to conclude Paris peace negotiations. USAF F-4s close the Doumer Bridge with laser guided bombs (LGBs) and 2. Campbell. with varying loads of 3. Jan. 1972. strike Thanh Hoa Bridge. Charles B. 29. 1972. 2 .355 paratroopers and 5. 1972. Ritchie. Jan. 1968. Air Force Magazine cover story. Dec. Capt. resumes. 1972. 1. President Nixon directs the resumption of full-scale bombing and mining in North Vietnam. USAF F-4s strike Thanh Hoa Bridge with 2. Operation Linebacker I—the sustained bombing of North Vietnam— begins. Base security was critical. to Bien Hoa. 18. 1972.000-pound TV-guided bombs. 1968. There were enemy incursions such as the one that destroyed this F-4. C-130s helped resupply the Marine garrison under siege at Khe Sanh. President Johnson announces a partial halt of bombing missions over North Vietnam and proposes peace talks. Feb. 1968. Nixon. The US begins Operation Linebacker II. 1969. May 13. April 6. March 6. 1968. “Menu” operations begin. Dec. shoots down his fifth MiG21 near Hanoi. 1972. Other prongs of the invasion strike into the Central Highlands and in the provinces north of Saigon. Nov. 1970. operating under “special security and reporting procedures. Air Force airlifters bring in an average of 165 tons of materiel daily during the 77-day siege. North Vietnam launches Easter Offensive. A special task force of Air Force and Army volunteers makes a daring attempt to rescue American servicemen from the Son Tay POW camp about 20 miles west of Hanoi.Nov. 1968. Later in the year.000-pound bombs.000-pound LGBs plus 500-pound gravity bombs. 17. In massive Tet Offensive. May 11. 1. 28.000-pound and 2.

North Vietnam. Operation Homecoming saw the return of 591 US POWs who had been held until war’s end. and. shoots down a MiG-21 after a strike on the Thai Nguyen rail yard. March 29. 1973. Feb. Samuel O. Philippines. to military hospitals in the United States. landing after the A-7s return.Dec. April 17. are processed through Clark AB. Seventh/13th Air Force reverts to Det. 1973. the tail gunner on a Boeing B-52D bomber downs a trailing MiG-21 with a blast of . April 30. A1C Albert E. Aug. Air Force A-7Ds fly last US combat mission of the war. It becomes effective Jan. The Air Force suspends all mining. Cease-fire in Vietnam. and other offensive operations against North Vietnam. and Viet Cong sign cease-fire in Paris. who come from all military services. 27. B-52s make the last bombing missions over Laos. SSgt. they are quickly reunited with their families. 1973. 1972. Laotians sign cease-fire. B-52s fly last Arc Light sortie in Cambodia. 1973. 15.50-caliber machine guns near Hanoi. 1973. Taking off from Guam. also a B-52 gunner. Aug. An EC-121 from Korat. Jan. Six days later. 18. 28 in Vietnam. finally bringing the long conflict in Southeast Asia to an end. Seventh Air Force moves to Nakhon Phanom AB. MACV disestablished. 1973. The United States. A B-52 takes off for a Linebacker II sortie. bombing. 15. attacking targets near Phnom Penh late in the afternoon. which continue into April. 21. Jan. Thailand. 1973. 1975. 12. Guam. but communist cease-fire violations lead to B-52 strikes. Photo via Martin Winter A flight of B-52s drops bombs on targets in North Vietnam.  . Feb. Saigon falls to North Vietnamese forces. Bombing operations are halted. as other BUFFs line the field at Andersen AFB. the return of 591 American POWs from North Vietnam. Turner. Moore. Jan. These were the only aerial gunner victories of the war. from there. begins. 15. 28. earns the distinction of flying the last US mission of the war. 1973. 7 of 13th Air Force. takes on dual role as US Support Activities Group and 7th Air Force. All of the exPOWs. Operation Homecoming. attacking targets south of the Plain of Jars because of communist cease-fire violations. South Vietnam. 1973.

2002. Flak trap. Bernard C. 1976. 1998. Enemy moving on the ground. “Guy in Back. 1965-1966. The USA. 1978. Winchester. Backseater in an F-105G. AC-119 Stinger. Air War Over South Vietnam. 1998.). Adm. Propeller-driven A-1H escort on search and rescue missions. Air Power in Three Wars. 1993.. Thud Ridge. Aircraft were then “fragged” against the targets. Boston Publishing Co. Berger. The World. 1977. Gradual Failure: The Air War Over North Vietnam. 1978. 1966-1973. Gen.asp (Links to more than 50 articles).).S. Forward air controller..Perspectives Recommended Reading “Air Force Magazine PersPectives on Vietnam. Fragmentary order. originally. Bingo. Frag. Air Force History and Museums Program (published simultaneously by Smithsonian Institution Press). The radar for the SA-2 SAM. PJ. Lippincott. and AC-130 Spectre. that portion of the overall 7th Air Force operations order that gave the wing its daily tasking. and Frederick Kiley. Aircraft with side-firing guns. usage was always the abbreviation. et al. To Hanoi and Back: The United States Air Force and North Vietnam. Wayne. sharP. Honor Bound: The History of American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia. River Rats. Phonetic alphabet form of fighter pilot’s favorite expression (“____ hot!” ) for “very good. Historical Office. The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia. Sandy. Jacob. Morrocco. 1988. Bad. Carl. Gomer. ed. home. Spencer C.” Gunship. U. Bear. “guys on motorable enemy routes. 1965-1968. Air University and Office of Air Force History. The War in South Vietnam: The Years of the Offensive. schlight. that sought to draw US aircraft within range of concealed anti-aircraft artillery. Aircraft and crews that found and destroyed SAM sites. US Air Force. Interdiction in Southern Laos. Morrocco.” the backseater in an F-4. 2000. Jack.R. Wiley. USAF (Ret. never the full word) on rescue helicopter. Jacob. Number 0. An ambush. Strategy for Defeat: Vietnam in Retrospect. Stuart I. airmen who flew missions in Route Pack 6. Out of ammunition. AC-47 Spooky.afa. Office of the Secretary of Defense. Pararescue jumper (or parajumper. Rough landing strip in Laos.” www. The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War.. Prados. Air Force History and Museums Program. Air War 1969-1973. Boston Publishing Co. Aces & Aerial Victories: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia 1965-1973. 4 Jolly. Dereliction of Duty. flying a pylon turn above the target and focusing its firepower continuously on the same point. FAC. Hootch. van staaveren. flew clandestine missions in Southeast Asia. 1961-1973. HH-3 Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopter. John. magazine/perspectives/vietnam. Futrell. 19601968. Lima site. ed. John. HarperCollins.” Wild Weasel.1984. The Vietnam Experience: Rain of Fire. thoMPson. William W. The Vietnam Experience: Thunder From Above. tucker. 1961-1973. MoMyer.. US Air Force. 1997. The Blood Road: The Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Vietnam War. Air Force History and Museums Program. 19681975. McMaster. 1999. Just enough fuel left to reach home base or the tanker. van staaveren. rochester. sometimes baited with fraudulent calls for help or dummy missile sites. USN (Ret. Broughton. The Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association. Fan Song. Oxford University Press. John. Living quarters at Southeast Asia bases. 1985.G. Presidio. Air War 1941-1968. . John. the worst.. 2000. Frank. GIB. Center for Air Force History. nalty. CIA proprietary airline. Office of Air Force History. Words From the War Air America. Sierra Hotel. H. R. There were about 400 Lima sites.

airforcehistory. Hanoi Hannah/Tru Huong became a TV personality in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. the air campaign against heavily defended areas cost one pilot in every 40 sorties. Longest bridge in North Vietnam—5. Position in South China Sea. power plant. supposedly North Vietnam’s leading air ace with 13 victories and supposedly shot down by US Navy ace Lt. more than four million Vietnamese—about 10 percent of the population—were killed or wounded in the war. Vietnamese casualties. from which carriers launched sorties over North Vietnam. and July 3. 15 miles northwest of Hanoi. 1965. and 150 feet.htm Air Force Museum www. PDJ. supported by airpower. The names of the Vietnam War dead are inscribed on a black granite wall. Crossroads of the war in northern Laos. Industrial complex 35 miles north of Hanoi. Khe Sanh. strongly wedged between two hills.000 sorties and 50. In actuality.ttu.vietnam. Dragon’s Jaw. The Vietnam Service Medal. 1958. 100 feet. Triple canopy jungle. Guard aircraft and aircrews flew 30. key choke point on the rail line to and from China. Those who received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for Vietnam service between July 1. withstood a 77-day siege in 1968. Between 1959 and 1975. and North Vietnam’s only steel mill. One of the most difficult targets of the war. Pilot losses. Factoids Aces. North Vietnam had After the war. convoys moved through the Mu Gia and Ban Karai Passes and down the other side of the mountains. Dedicated in 1982 in could apply to have it converted to the Vietnam Service Medal. From Vinh. Area between Quang Tri and Hué where shoulder-launched SAM-7 missiles posed great danger to low-flying aircraft. Plaine de Jarres. Hanoi Hannah. whereas the Americans left at the end of their tours. 1973. The US Air Force and Navy together had five aces in the Vietnam War. with treetops basically at three levels: 50 feet. According to the Pentagon Papers. through March Air Rescue and Recovery Service crews saved 4.asp Air Force Historian www. Colonel Toon did not exist. Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Vinh. North Vietnam’s largest air base. Monkey Mountain. Awarded to those serving from July 4. The Demilitarized Zone (in theory.Web Sites Featuring Vietnam War Topics Air Force Association/Air Force Magazine www. anyway).000 combat hours in the Vietnam War. Phuc Yen. Command and control center near Da Nang for operations over North Vietnam. 1965. Line of Hills northwest of One difference was that the North Vietnamese pilots flew in combat year after year.”the big prison in downtown Hanoi where most of the POWs were held. Yankee Station.wpafb. Cunningham in 1972. Her program consisted of American music and communist propaganda. used by F105s to screen themselves from radar. D.532 feet—over Red River at Hanoi. rail yard. The “Hanoi Hilton.hq. Roads and activities in many parts of Southeast Asia were concealed by thick foliage. Jump-off point for the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Air rescue.C. Thai Nguyen. five miles wide. Outpost near the DMZ where US Marines. established between North Vietnam and South Vietnam by the Geneva Conference in 1954. Tru Huong broadcast from North Vietnam in English to American GIs.afa. In the tradition of Axis Sally. Thud Ridge. SAM 7 Alley.120 people in the Vietnam War—2.htm Texas Tech University Virtual Vietnam Archive Places Doumer Colonel Toon. Randall H. east of Da Nang. The powerful 540-foot road and rail bridge over the Song Ma River at Thanh Hoa.780 of them in  . DMZ. or the Plain of Jars. Hoa Lo. Air National Guard. One of the enduring fables of the war was Colonel Toon (or Tomb).

but it could stay in the battle area for much longer than jet aircraft could. The A-1E “Spad” could carry four tons of bombs and had four cannons. Fisher ran the gauntlet of enemy artillery that ringed the valley. Lt. Bernard F. On March 10. and Jones was severely burned. took heavy battle damage when he attacked enemy guns that were blocking the rescue effort. Maximum speed was 325 mph. 1966. Jones was awarded the Medal 6 . who was subsequently rescued. where he refused sedation and medical care until he reported the exact position of the downed pilot. taxied through burning debris. took off through the smoke and automatic weapons fire. Unable to use his radio. right) were flying Air Commando A-1Es on an attack mission in support of Special Forces under attack in the A Shau Valley of South Vietnam. A-1Hs only one. A-1Es had two seats. 1. Myers was shot down and crash-landed in flames on the airfield. picked up Myers. Fisher (left in photo at right) and Maj. It was ideal for close air support missions. the US Air Force reintroduced several types of propeller-driven aircraft. The cockpit canopy was blown away. Col. William A. His aircraft was badly shot up.PIECES OF THE WAR Air Commandos i n the early part of the Vietnam War. Jones III. Dafford Myers (right. Maj. landed. Fisher was awarded the Medal of Honor. and it flew at low altitudes. 1968. On Sept. leading an A-1H mission to find a fighter pilot who had been shot down over North Vietnam. The A-1H “Sandy” version flew escort for rescue operations. Among them was the Douglas A-1 Skyraider. and flew out with 19 bullet holes in his airplane. he declined to bail out and flew back to his base. a Navy attack bomber adapted for use by the South Vietnamese Air Force and by US Air Force for Air Commando squadrons and other units.

where the standard procedure was fast film processing when the airplane landed. which began in February 1965. the RF-101s came in low and fast. They were faster than the MiG-17s. and infrared imaging equipment. most of them to antiaircraft artillery. Thirty-three RF-101s were lost in combat. then dived back down for the getaway. RF-4C cameras had good resolution at high altitudes. including an ejectable film cassette. mapping radar. but none were shot down by MiGs. a better match for the MiGs. and the Voodoos were employed in Laos and South Vietnam until their service in the war ended in 1970. which had flown low-level reconnaissance missions during the Cuban Missile Crisis. To get pictures of the SAM sites. was the workhorse in the early years in Vietnam. The aircraft continued to fly missions over North Vietnam. For dayto-day targeting information and bomb damage assessment. The RF-101 collected the photographic intelligence required for air strikes against North Vietnam. The RF-4C. 7th Air Force relied on its own tactical reconnaissance aircraft. From 1967 on. began flying the missions in the North. but that did not work well in Southeast Asia. The RF-4C set the standard for aerial photo reconnaissance and was 7 . but they had significantly longer noses to house their cameras and electronic equipment. It had a number of innovative features. typically without escort. popped up for the film run. RF-4Cs took over most of the tactical reconnaissance jobs in Southeast Asia. Seventy-six RF-4Cs were lost in combat in Vietnam. The RF-4C packed cameras. Both the RF-101 and the RF-4 were variants of fighters.Tactical Reconnaissance T he SR-71 Blackbird and other strategic reconnaissance platforms flew in Southeast Asia. but not as fast as the MiG-21s. but weather and the triple canopy jungle tended to keep the operations lower to the ground. but the information they collected was geared mostly to the needs of the national intelligence agencies. The RF-101C Voodoo.

The versatile UH-1 Huey was employed by the Army and the Air Force in a number of roles. On April 11. Realizing that he enemy intended to use them as bait to pull in another helicopter. Pitsenbarger was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2000. to help US Army wounded in one of the most intense firefights of the war. flying a helicopter never designed for rescue work. staying on the ground with the wounded soldiers. two helicopters had already been lost trying to rescue wounded soldiers in the Laotian panhandle. 1967. descended from an HH-43 helicopter into the jungle near Bien Hoa. After repeated attempts and supported by the remaining gunship. One of the gunships was shot down by ground fire. For the Air Force. Badly burned himself. Pitsenbarger. South Vietnam. Young managed to land his HH-3E and take the wounded aboard. Lt. Early on. After more than 30 years. A1C William H. Pararescue jumpers. On Nov. The helicopter burst into flames. As casualties increased. He exposed himself to enemy fire at least three times. Capt. distributing ammunition and pulling soldiers to safer positions before he was killed. their most noted role was rescue and recovery of aircrews and others on the ground in hostile territory. Fleming was later awarded the Medal of Honor. 8 . but he was shot down on takeoff. including rescue. Young was awarded the Medal of Honor.Rescue and Recovery H elicopters came into their own during the Vietnam War. 26. It was succeeded by the fabled HH-3E Jolly Green Giant—the name was inspired by its green and brown camouflage—and the HH-53C Super Jolly. (below) a pararescue jumper. a flight of five UH-1 Hueys—three of them transport models and two armed as gunships—were returning to home base when they responded to an emergency call for help from a Green Beret team in the South Vietnamese highlands. On Nov. 1966. James P. he passed up a chance to get out. the HH-43 utility helicopter was used for rescue.” descended from the hovering helicopters to bring out the wounded. 9. Young hid his comrade—who was subsequently rescued—and led his pursuers on a 17-hour chase through the brush before rescuers got him out. went in through extremely heavy ground fire and brought the soldiers out without a single casualty. Gerald O. Fleming. Young pulled one surviving crew member to safety. 1968. known as “PJs.

where they delivered 165 tons of cargo a day to 6. Joe M. but as incoming fire intensified. but failed to explode. which had previously been declared obsolete and scheduled for retirement.m. on May 12. The C-123 “Mule Train” was the lifeline of the Vietnamese ground forces in the early 1960s. He was awarded the Medal of Honor. the 123s supported and sustained them as well. so he put his C-123 into a wrenching high-speed. After 1965. A rocket bounced 10 feet away. the workhorse of the airlift mission was the C-123 Provider. The airmen scrambled aboard and. besieged for 77 days by the North Vietnamese Army. The C-130s airdropped most of the supplies. 9 . Col. By 4 p. which hoped to starve them out. 1968. bringing all hands out safely. Initially. dodging the debris. and he landed amid smoke and explosions. the C-130 Hercules. Tactical airlifters were especially noted for their performance at Khe Sanh. Jackson took off under heavy mortar fire. but three Air Force combat controllers had been left behind.000 feet. which carried triple the payload of the 123.500 soldiers under attack at a camp in South Vietnam. but was unable to rescue the airmen. Jackson and his C-123 crew try? Jackson knew the enemy gunners would be expecting a regular approach. but the C-7 Caribous—which the Air Force took over from the Army in 1966—and the C-123s continued to work the smaller and more remote locations. The rescue was declared over. Air Force airlifters had evacuated 1. it was mostly the C-123s that landed at Khe Sanh with items that could not be airdropped and to evacuate casualties and other personnel. The flaps held. and when Americans began arriving in big numbers.Tactical Airlift T actical airlift was the glue that held the widely dispersed force in Southeast Asia together. dominated the tactical airlift mission. An airplane went in. Would Lt. full-flaps dive from 9.000 US Marines.

On March 10. Capt. he was shot down. It could carry more bombs than a World War II B-17. Thorsness (below with President Nixon) destroyed two SAM sites. the Lead Sled. the Thud—was the signature airplane of the “RollingThunder” campaign against North Vietnam from 1965 to 1968. Evading MiGs and ground fire and despite severe battle damage to his own aircraft. most of them with its 20mm cannon. flew 75 percent of the strikes and took more losses over North Vietnam than any other type of aircraft. escorted searchers to the location of a downed aircrew. On one incredible mission on April 19. refueled. and spent almost six years as a prisoner of war. It was fast when penetrating at low levels. Thorsness would be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on April 19. taken captive. but only 11 days later. four F-105 Wild Weasels preceded a strike force in an attack on the heavily defended Thai Nguyen iron works near Hanoi. two-seat “Wild Weasel” F-105s replaced the F-100s. shot down a MiG-17. Dethlefsen (above. right of President Johnson) led the remaining two Weasels in pass after pass to take out the lethal SAMs. more than half of the Air Force’s F-105s were gone. 1967. Leo K. and attacked and drew away four MiG-17s that were in the vicinity of the downed crew. The F-105 was originally designed to deliver nuclear weapons. Nevertheless. Eventually. F-105 leader Maj. Thuds. the F-105 managed to shoot down 27 North Vietnamese MiGs. Later. 1967. When Rolling Thunder ended. but was not maneuverable at higher altitudes. Merlyn H. Finding and destroying SAMs was one of the most dangerous missions of the war. The Weasel leader was shot down and another Weasel departed with battle damage. operating out of bases in Thailand. Thuds also teamed early in the war with F-100Fs in “Iron Hand” missions to suppress surface-to-air missile sites. 40 Photo via Robert Dorr . Dethlefsen was awarded the Medal of Honor.Strike Missions T he F-105—the Thunderchief.

beginning in the 1940s. On Aug. in service with Air Defense Command in the 1950s as an aerial extension of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line. a College Eye EC-121 had the distinction of flying the last USAF mission of the Vietnam War.Command and Control T he elegant Lockheed Constellation—its profile easily recognizable by its three tail fins—had a distinguished record of airline and military service. orbited the Trail. 15. their powerful radars collecting and reporting data on air activity in North Vietnam. They flew in support of “Igloo White. The EC-121s. 4 . 1973. these EC-121s flew elliptical orbits over the Tonkin Gulf. picking up signals and relaying them to Task Force Alpha at Nakhon Phanom or passing them directly to 7th Air Force in Saigon. Thailand. The intelligence was used to direct gunships and other attack aircraft against the trucks or troops. The EC-121 was a radar-picket variation of the Constellation. in the Vietnam War. Two variants of it flew unusual missions from Korat Air Base.” was President Eisenhower’s personal airplane from 1954 to 1961. an EC121 controlled the intercept of a Mig-21 by a US fighter. A specially built Constellation. which had never been accomplished before in combat. In 1967. on missions that lasted about 10 hours. but it never flew an operational mission without a pilot. “Columbine II. A Pave Eagle U-22 “Mini-Bat” drone was developed as an alternative to the EC-121 as a signal collection platform. In their primary mission. College Eye took on the job of warning airmen if they were too close to Chinese territory. After China complained that US aircraft had violated its borders. The EC-121D flown by the College Eye Task Force had radomes above and below the fuselage and packed six tons of electronic gear.” an operation that seeded the Ho Chi Minh Trail with sensors to detect troop and vehicle traffic. The “Bat Cat” EC-121Rs had camouflage but no radomes.

They carried smoke rockets. however. help had arrived to save the Rangers. Unable to eject because his backseater’s parachute was shredded. shooting out his side window with an M-16 rifle. The backseater lived. 1967. Wilbanks in an unarmed O-1 was flying a forward air control mission in support of South Vietnamese Rangers. introduced in 1968.62mm machine guns. Three times. He was awarded the Medal of Honor. Severely wounded. He succeeded in diverting the attack—and in drawing the VC fire toward himself. the FACs were O-1 Bird Dogs. Hilliard A. which were superseded by F-4 FACs. He spotted a Viet Cong battalion waiting in ambush on a hillside. Meanwhile. O-2 Skymasters were a little bigger and a little faster. In the early days in South Vietnam. Bennett was attacking North Vietnamese regulars who were about to overrun a South Vietnamese ground unit when his aircraft was hit by a SAM-7 missile round. The twin-turboprop OV-10. nose down in the water. Eventually. Capt. but Bennett was trapped in the smashed cockpit and sank with the airplane. and had a maximum speed of 281 mph. 1972. On Feb. mounted four 7. called in attack aircraft. Bennett elected to ditch his aircraft in the Gulf of Tonkin—although he knew that no OV-10 pilot had ever survived a ditching. but Wilbanks died before the rescue helicopter got him back to base. Discovered.Forward Air Controllers F orward air controllers found and marked targets. he crashed nearby. Wilbanks dived on them. OV-10 pilot Capt. but no armament. On June 29. Steven L. “fast FACs” were introduced for operations in North Vietnam and higher threat areas. Wilbanks was awarded the Medal of Honor. marked the position with smoke rockets. 42 . and called in an air strike. The first of them were “Misty” F-100s. The aircraft flipped over. but still had no ordnance. operating low and slow with a top speed of 115 mph. and provided information and direction in the battle area. was considerably sturdier. the Viet Cong attacked immediately. 24.

It was a rugged. It was the airplane that brought them to their upcountry bases to begin their tours and the one that picked them up a year later when it was time to go home. it could take off and land from airstrips that were short and rough. The Air Force’s best gunship was the AC-130. It carried cargo on pallets. which was—what else?—a C-130 operating in yet another role. From 1965 on. paratroopers. The Blind Bats worked with an on-scene Airborne Command and Control Center aircraft. where Air Force airflift sustained the Marine Garrison through a 77-day siege. aircraft flew a pylon turn orbit above. a Hercules fitted out with two 20 mm Gatling guns and two 40 mm Bofors guns whose fire could be precisely focused on a target while the Operation Commando Vault in 1969. too.” worked the Trail. finding targets at night and dropping flares to illuminate them for strike aircraft. known as “Blind Bats. The classic image of C-130s in Vietnam is from Khe Sanh. heavy equipment.The Versatile Hercules I n Vietnam.000 pound explosives out the back to clear landing zones for the Army and the Marines. It was deadly against truck convoys on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. the C-130 was the Air Force’s main tactical airlifter in Southeast Asia. If need be. HC-130 Combat Shadows flew aerial refueling missions for rescue helicopters. the C-130 Hercules proved that there wasn’t much it couldn’t do. four-engine turboprop. Other C-130s. In 4 . rolling huge 15. the C-130s delivered cargo by LAPES (low-altitude parachute extraction system) drop. When landing became difficult because of the hostile fire. Many airmen and soldiers may remember the C-130 best for its regular shuttle circuit of the main bases in Southeast Asia. And that was just the beginning of it. originally designed as an assault transport. with parachutes pulling the cargo out the back door as the airplane made a very low pass above the field. and aeromedical evacuation patients. passengers. C-130s dropped bombs.

two from the Navy—achieved their victories in F-4s. Early versions of the F-4 had no built-in gun and relied on AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles in combat. a “bombing halt” was in effect over North Vietnam. Air Force F-4s shot down a total of 107 MiGs. Pardo had Aman drop his tailhook. (later General) Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. F-4s from Ubon. mostly with missiles. Sparrows accounted for 50 MiGs. 1965-1968. and Col. Capt Earl Aman’s aircraft flamed out. and deployed to Southeast Asia in 1965. Pod-mounted guns were added to C and D model Phantoms in 1967. Phantoms flew air cover for F-105 strike aircraft and also flew strike missions themselves. lured the MiGs to attack and shot down seven of them in a single day. but he decided that he could push Aman home. 44 Photo Daniel Lafferty via Warren Thompson . Operation Bolo. In the Rolling Thunder campaign in North Vietnam. 1967. on Jan. Badly shot up over North Vietnam. flying over the Red River in a manner that resembled F-105s. The Mig Sweep. March 10. 1967. (later Brigadier General) Robin Olds (below James). 2. It was originally developed by the Navy for fleet defense. and easily the most versatile. After 1972. but it proved sufficient to get both airplanes back across the border and within reach of rescue. and the F-4’s job shifted to ground attack in Laos and South Vietnam.. not a perfect tool for one airplane to push another. and Sidewinders for 33. shown above with his F-4. The MiGs could defeat F-105 strike missions if they could get the Thuds to jettison their bombs in order to respond to the MiG attack. Taking part were Col. adopted by the Air Force. All five of the Vietnam War aces—three from the Air Force. and the F-4E had an internal 20 mm cannon. For the next four years. the F-4s resumed their dual role of air superiority and ground attack.Phantoms T he F-4 Phantom was the dominant fighter of the Vietnam War. Capt Bob Pardo’s F-4 had also taken severe battle damage. One of the most famous F-4 missions was Pardo’s Push. was designed to discourage this.

Before additional facilities were built to disperse the arriving flights. In the early part of the war. MAC airlifters evacuated a total of 406. from the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve. and it could carry twice the load. The C-9 joined the aeromedical evacuation mission in Vietnam in 1972. It was twice as fast as the propeller-driven C-124. such as C-97s.022 patients from Southeast Asia. 4 . strategic airlift was especially important because the harbors and roads in South Vietnam were not yet able to handle the volume of cargo that would eventually come in by sealift. but it did not make its first delivery to Vietnam until August 1971 in the later phase of the war. which transported two million tons of materiel and two million passengers between the United States and Southeast Asia. The main strategic airlifter of the war was the C-141 Starlifter. strategic airlift was crucial whenever time was important. MAC also contracted with commercial airlines for most passenger travel into and out of Southeast Asia. The huge C-5 had even more capacity. aging airlifters known as “Old Shaky. On several occasions.832 of them battle casualties. They were augmented by even older airplanes. Throughout the conflict. strategic airlift deployed Army units from bases in the United States to Vietnam. taking cargo in and bringing out people and casualties. MAC allocated 34 squadrons to strategic airlift for Vietnam. Tan Son Nhut in Saigon had the highest traffic density of any airport in the world. Most of them flew C-124s. 168.” with clamshell doors that opened in the nose so vehicles could be driven on and off.Strategic Airlift S trategic airlift in theVietnamWar was provided by the Military Airlift Command. Between 1965 and 1973. which made its first delivery to Vietnam in 1965. The C-141 made daily shuttle flights between the United States and Southeast Asia. In 1965.

It was succeeded by more sophisticated and capable gunships. Shadow gunships had four miniguns instead of three. The AC-130 was the ultimate gunship. The Stingers added two 20 mm cannon. The first gunship was the AC-47. is still in service today.” “Puff. Shadow flew close air support and air base defense missions. the Air Force fielded a new kind of weapon system—the gunship—by mounting ordnance on converted transport aircraft. It was spewing toxic smoke and was seconds from separating explosively and igniting.” It had three 7. 46 AC-47 photo by Bill Mcdonald via Warren Thompson .62 mm miniguns that could pump out 6. and the AC-130 Spectre. called “Spooky. Levitow threw himself on the flare. The AC-130 worked at night. A mortar shell exploded on the gunship’s wing and riddled the fuselage with shrapnel.Gunships i n Vietnam. On the night of Feb. a low-level TV sensor that could be illuminated by a laser not visible to the naked eye. enabled by infrared sensors. and a live flare fell inside the airplane. A1C John L. Levitow had more than 40 shrapnel wounds. 1969. a circular orbit around a point on which the guns were fixed and fired with devastating effect. where it exploded. but he lived and was awarded the Medal of Honor. and a “Black Crow” sensor that detected electronic emissions. Instead of miniguns. Stunned and wounded. Stinger concentrated on trucks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Gunships flew a precise pylon turn. Spectre. 24. crawled to the door. and tossed it outside. Levitow was loadmaster on an AC-47 suppressing a mortar attack on Long Binh Army Base near Saigon. Spectre had two 20 mm cannons and two 40 mm Bofors guns. the AC-119K Stinger.” and “Dra-gonship. the AC-119G Shadow. updated with more firepower and avionics. It was not simply a matter of shooting out the side of an airplane. Levitow and another airman who had been dropping magnesium illumination flares from the open cargo door were knocked down.000 rounds a minute. though.

operating out of prefabricated structures There were a few civil servants and contractor tech reps in theater. bomb loaders. as well as numerous Air Force Reservists and Air National Guardsmen. There were 12 principal US air bases in South Vietnam. The support force included security policemen patrolling the perimeter with sentry dogs. Total Air Force casualties in the Vietnam War included 2. for example.434 Air Force people in South Vietnam and 35. with 58. The Southeast Asia team also drew on people and assets based in such locations as Guam. plus a few that were unique to the war zone. except for aircrews in the Rolling Thunder phase of the war. who rotated back to the states after 100 missions over North Vietnam.791 in Thailand. aerial port managers. Many of them volunteered for another tour in Southeast Asia. seven in Thailand. The larger ones housed the same functions as a base back home. amassing 50.Airmen in southeast asia A large portion of the force—airmen on the ground as well as aircrews—rotated through Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War years. The numbers peaked in 1968.000 sorties in Vietnam. and the Philippines. mechanics. 368 were eventually returned. Of the missing and POWs. Okinawa. communications specialists.589 killed and 568 missing in action and prisoners of war. flew 30. A small presence of assistance and advisory personnel grew sharply after the Air Force moved into Southeast Asia in force in 1964. Taiwan. The standard tour was one year. Medical care ranged from a 200-bed military hospital at Cam Ranh Bay to small dispensaries in remote locations. The Air National Guard.000 combat hours. 47 . intelligence analysts. and administrative and personnel people. RED HORSE engineers. supply troops.

Among them were SAC B-52 bombers. The tankers served a diversity of customers. which could be based a considerable distance from the strike zone. flying orbits above Thailand. How many such “saves” took place is not known.tankers ne of the big operational changes in the Vietnam War was the everyday aerial refueling of combat aircraft. Without refueling. The burden fell on the tanker aircrews. The additional requirement in Southeast Asia was a stretch of limited resources. and other aircraft. In those days. and the Gulf of Tonkin. then met the tankers again on the way out to get enough fuel to make it home. Laos. and their primary mission was to support SAC in its nuclear role. when 172 tankers were assigned to the Vietnam War.” They refueled tactical aircraft flying to the Red River delta. all of the tankers belonged to Strategic Air Command. hundreds of miles from their bases in Thailand. but the tanker crews knew. This more than doubled the range of the combat aircraft. The Young Tigers were noted for violating the rules and crossing “the fence” into North Vietnam to gas up a fighter running on fumes. Oftentimes. the fighters could only spend 20 minutes or so in the target area—less if they used afterburner— before heading back to the tanker. flying 12-hour missions from Guam. which required a unique kind of fuel. and so did the pilots who would not have made it back otherwise. Demand for refueling peaked in 1972. the missions would not have been possible. Even so. . who pulled frequent temporary deployments to Southeast Asia and an extra workload when they returned home. That couldn’t be reported. they cut it close. Fighters on their way into North Vietnam topped up their tanks from KC-135 tankers. 48 The tankers who gassed up the fighters were known as “Young Tigers. such as the SR-71 Blackbird.

It was particularly effective at Khe Sanh in 1968. where it destroyed tons of North Vietnamese supplies and helped break the siege of the Marine outpost there. shot down another MiG-21 after a strike on the Thai Nguyen rail yard.50 caliber machine gun fire. The B-52 was an awesome weapon. 1972. Seventh Air Force in Saigon did not control the B-52s. when they were unleashed on North Vietnam. The Air Force wanted the B-52s to be part of Operation Rolling Thunder in North Vietnam. and brought North Vietnam to peace negotiations. modified to carry a total of 108 500-pound bombs—84 internally and 24 on pylons under the wings. Dec. in 1968. and from Kadena Air Base. Several models of B-52s saw service in Vietnam.Heavy Bombers T he heavy hitter in the Air Force lineup was the B-52. 18. the Ho Chi Minh Trail. downed a MiG-21 near Hanoi with . The biggest mission of the war for the B52s was Operation Linebacker II. Samuel O. B-52s began operating from U-Tapao in Thailand in 1967. tail gunner on a B-52D. On Dec. also a B-52 gunner. but was overruled by the White House because of concern about “widening” the war. 1972. smashed the defenses of Hanoi and Haiphong. SSgt. Okinawa. but political constraints from Washington kept it from being used with full effect against key targets in North Vietnam until 1972. Six days later. Turner. A1C Albert E. which retained control. and around the Demilitarized Zone. 18-29. It was in action from 1965 on. 49 . Notable among them was the B-52D. Moore. They were owned by Strategic Air Command. working against targets in South Vietnam. Bombers based on Guam flew the initial “Arc Light” missions in South Vietnam. during Operation Linebacker II. Not all of the MiGs were shot down by fighter pilots. They flew 724 sorties.

which began Feb 12. 26.” ignited national concern. a total of 771 were known to have been captured by the enemy. though. 1967. he managed to escape again. but was ambushed. recaptured. 0 Capt. On a flight over Laos Nov. He tried to signal US aircraft. George E. He managed to escape. Maj. He was awarded the Medal of Honor. until October 1969. Although severely injured. POWs have always been held in special regard by the Air Force Association. he contracted pneumonia and died. The exPOWs were processed through Clark Air Base in the Philippines and taken to military hospitals in the United States. 1973. from where they were quickly reunited with their families. The POWs and MIAs got little public attention in the United States. but was recaptured and tortured. Badly injured after his Misty FAC F-100F was shot down over North Vietnam Aug.POW and MIA T housandsofAmericansweremissing in action in the Vietnam War. Eventually 658 of the 771 would be returned to the United States. 1967. Sijan ejected from his disabled F-4C. While a POW. and those missing in action and not accounted for are not forgotten. 9. Lance P. Some of the POWs were released before the end of the war. where they were tortured and routinely mistreated. In Operation Homecoming. . he successfully evaded capture for more than six weeks. The majority of those released—325 of them—were Air Force members. Caught. Air Force airlifters brought 591 POWs out of North Vietnam. “Bud” Day was captured and tortured. Of these. The article was reprinted in condensed form by Reader’s Digest and inserted in the Congressional Record six different times. where he continued to offer maximum resistance to his captors until released in 1973. and imprisoned in Hanoi. shot down over North Vietnam and held in the “Hanoi Hilton” and other prisons. Another 113 of them died in captivity. when the cover story in the Air Force Association’s Air Force Magazine. and reach the Demilitarized Zone. Most of them were Air Force and Navy airmen. “The Forgotten Americans of the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Medal of Honor. and 138 were Navy.

he wrote “War Stories at Air and Space—the 1994 article that first brought the Smithsonian’s plans for the Enola Gay to public attention—as well as subsequent reports that figured prominently in the nationwide controversy that ensued. for 18 years. Correll. Air Force Magazine. was editor in chief of the Air Force Association’s monthly journal. In that capacity.The Author John T.  .


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful