Talking Proud Archives --- Military

HH-43 SAR pilot’s diary, 1964-1965, Vietnam

November 16, 2013

SAR Rescue Center, Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN, May-October 1965

Before going on, I want to mention that the USAF reorganized its SAR operations in Indochina starting on June 30, 1965, shortly after Archie left Bien Hoa and Det 4 PARC. The 38th Air Rescue Squadron (ARRS) was activated at Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN and all the PARCs and other units became detachments of the 38th, ultimately operating 14 SAR detachments throughout the RVN and Thailand. The PARC dets were subsumed by the 38th.

In May 1965, Archie was moved to Tan Son Nhut (TSN) which served among other things as a headquarters for the South Vietnamese Air Force, the VNAF, and the USAF’s 2nd Air Division (2nd AD), which later became 7th AF. Most operational activity went out of Bien Hoa while most command activity occurred at Tan Son Nhut (TSN).


The USAF set up its Tactical Air Control System (TACS) and employed the Tactical Air Control Center (TACC) (shown here, probably in later years of war) to lead the Direct Air Support Centers (DASC) at Da Nang AB, Nha Trang AB, Pleiku AB, Bien Hoa AB and Can Tho AB. The DASCs were responsible for the deployment of aircraft in their sector of operations. All of this was tied into a radar network located throughout the region. Then beneath them were the Tactical Air Control Parties (TACP) usually manned by one or more VNAF-USAF people posted with the ground forces.

Thus far for this report I have used mostly formal reports submitted by Archie to his higher headquarters combined with written notes he had. Archie, while working in the SAR Rescue Center, kept notes, sometimes sketchy and filled with acronyms and call signs to capture segments of SAR missions worked from the TACC. I have had to work with just these notes. I have taken a different approach with these notes than I did in the first section while he was with Det 4, PARC. My vision here is that he was working the SAR problem in the TACC and taking very brief notes for himself to keep things straight in his mind while the SAR effort was or was not underway. Usually his notes do not describe a full and complete SAR endeavor, but they do give an insight into the kinds of things that occurred during a SAR, and these are interesting and history worthy. I decided to take the individual sets and try to correlate them with the official record of what happened in order to give more meaning to his notes. If any of you who have participated in any of these can jot down some of your memories, please send them to me at and I will weave your remarks in there. Otherwise, I’m on my own here and will have to do the best I can. There is a pride of authorship, but if I make a mistake, be sure to tell me as I do not like posting bad info.

I confess there is a risk of error here on my part as I do plenty of educated guessing, but I do so based on correlating his notes to events that are on the record. In most cases, I have been surprised to find the probability of a good correlation to be very high. I will tell you when I feel a bit uncomfortable. Once again, those of you who may have participated in any of these events, and wish to add to or correct my renditions, I urge you to do so by e-mail:

Please recall that SAR operations to the extent they were employed in the Indochina War at this time were fairly new to the military services, especially the USAF. The USAF knew how to conduct and was equipped for LBR, but not for longer-range and more complicated SARs under intense hostile fire often involving the choreography of many responding aircraft. You will get a sense for the degree of difficulty our forces encountered in the early years. These notes cover roughly May through October 1965.

When Archie got settled at TSN he sketched out his SAR inventory, which I presume was for the entire war area. He had 3 HH-43s, Det 2 PARC, and, I believe 2 “C/H” at NKP, Thailand, which I will simply believe are cargo/rescue helicopters of some sort. I thought these might be CH-3s but my brief research reflects that the CH-3 did not arrive until July 1965; but perhaps a few snuck in to NKP earlier. He noted he had 2 HH-43Bs at Takhli, Det 1 PARC; two at Ubon, two at Korat, and 4 at Udorn, all in Thailand. He had 3 HH-43Fs at Bien Hoa, Det 4 PARC; and three HH-43Bs at Da Nang, Det 5, PARC. So his total SAR helicopter force was 21 aircraft. His notes reflect four C-54 transports and 3 HU-16 Flying Albatross aircraft as available to him as well, for a total of 28 aircraft. We’ll talk more about those in a moment.

Let me start going through the SAR events Archie observed in the SAR Rescue Center by presenting you his exact notes about a single event, and then follow that with the results of my research and correlation. I will do this just for the first event to show you the translation effort married to research I will try to present throughout the rest of this report. In the future, I will not give you his notes, just the integrated story I have assembled using his notes as the lead.

Archie’s notes:

27 June

C123 SOG
T of crash 2245
5 mi S of Bien Hoa
1058N - 10652S
In charge SOG MACV
Material section has A/C recovery team for assistance
For security go to III Corps
Col Head (possibly Heap) at MACV
3 bodies removed last night
40 Popular Forces and 2 Sgts protecting area
33rd TAC GP Command Post to help recovery

Now the story as I see it.

Capt. Carl E. Jackson, USAF, MACV SOG, C-123, at least 3 KIA, probably more


On June 27, 1965 a C-123 MACV SOG (1131st USAF Special Activities squadron) such as shown here crashed near Xom Long Dinh, Vietnam, near Saigon. MACV SOG was a highly classified multi-service special operations unit named “Studies and Observations Group” set up in 1964. It conducted strategic reconnaissance, covert action, flareship, and psychological warfare among other missions, including night attack and transport. It operated throughout the Indochina theater. You might wish to look up C-123 Duck Hook and you’ll find out more about them.

Capt. Carl E. Jackson, USAF was the pilot and aircraft commander. His co-pilot was a Chinese Nationalist. His loadmaster was SSgt. Billie L. Roth, USAF. There were 14 other Chinese Nationalists on board. Nationalist China had offered military assistance and an advisory group did arrive in the RVN in October 1964. On the surface, they were to provide political warfare advice, agricultural and construction support. The official explanation for this crash was that there was a mid-air explosion, but I understand some in CIA dispute that. A report by POW Net says the family was told the aircraft was at Nha Trang which was warned of an impending attack. Jackson drove to his aircraft and headed for Tan Son Nhut, but was hit by ground fire and crashed. The crash occurred at 2245 hours, 5 miles south of Bien Hoa. Immediately MACV SOG took charge and sent out an aircraft recovery team. Three bodies were removed, but Capt. Jackson’s and SSgt. Roth’s bodies were not recovered. Forty Popular Forces personnel and two sergeants were sent to protect the crash site.

Just a moment on the Nationalist Chinese. In his book
Air Commando: Inside the Air Force Special Operations Command by Phillip D. Chinnery, the author talks about Project Duck Hook. I do not know if this was a Duck Hook mission, though the aircraft shown above is a Duck Hook C-123. In any event, Chinnery wrote:

“Project Duck Hook involved special C-123 training at Hurlburt (AB, Florida) for 38 Nationalist Chinese and 23 South Vietnamese. Ten of the 60 were interpreters. The training emphasized night low-level and bad-weather missions in mountainous terrain, using three serially configured aircraft.”

He goes on to say that the Chinese and Vietnamese crews might be used to fly where it would be embarrassing for the US to fly such as over NVN, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and even southern provinces of China.

So now I will press ahead in presenting the stories I have built around his notes of many other SAR events.

First, I’m a map nut because I like to see where locations are that we talk about.


This map shows the main Royal Thai Air Force (RTAFB) bases we will be talking about.


This map shows a lot of things. The ovals, I believe, are refueling tanker orbits. You can see the DMZ. Steel Tiger and Tiger Hound denote areas of the Laotian Panhandle over which US aircraft flew. Northern Laos was called the Barrel Roll. You can see the location of Hanoi in North Vietnam. You also see North Vietnam divided into sectors, known as Route Packages (RP). This system did not formalize until late 1965 but it gives an idea of how the USAF and Navy divided the country for attacking purposes. The USAF had RP 1 just above the DMZ, and RPs 5 and 6A in northern NVN which included Hanoi. The Navy had RPs 2,3,4, and 6B which were easily available to carrier-based aircraft in the Gulf of Tonkin. RP 6B hosted the Haiphong harbor.


This map shows the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the main logistics lifeline to support NVN and Viet Cong (VC) forces in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Note how it was routed from the NVN through Laos and Cambodia with offshoot runs into the RVN. That was a long and difficult logistics tail, one which the US was able to impede, but never shut down. That would have required ground forces inside Laos and Cambodia to block the trail supported by air. General Westmoreland, USA, commander MACV, wanted to do this but the suits in Washington would not let him. NVN generals say such en effort would have ended the war promptly.


This is a map showing some Lima Sites (LS) in northern Laos. “Lima Site” stood for “Laos Site.” There were almost 200 of them in Laos during the Indochina War. Each one of them was numbered. “LS” was the acronym. A few Lima Sites were rather large, with fairly sophisticated runways, but most were barebones, nothing more than dirt landing patches with some huts or tents, trucks or jeeps, and people, civilian and military, who could move friendly ground forces, equipment and supplies to those fighting against the NVA regulars and Pathet Lao indigenous forces who were fighting against the Royal Lao Government (RLG). In some, perhaps many, cases they also served as sites hosting critical communications and navigation equipments to help facilitate coordination of the air and ground war in Laos and over NVN. They were also used as airstrips from which SAR aircraft could launch to recover aircrews downed mostly over NVN or Laos. Quite often SAR aircraft, helicopters and fighters, usually A-1Es, were deployed at one or more of these so they could get to the downed aircrews fast. The Navy, sitting offshore, also could often get to the aircrews rapidly as well.

It will be a bit of a pain, but you might wish to refer to these maps as we press ahead. I will tell you in advance that during the period we are covering, Vinh, which hosted a large NVNAF air base, and Than Hoa, which hosted a major bridge conduit to the Ho Chi Minh Trail were hit a lot by the men I will talk about. So were transportation links from Hanoi to China.

Capt. Marvin Nelson, USAF, 15th TRS, “Fox 23,” RF-101, June 29, 1965, KIA

On June 29, 1965, Fox 23, a RF-101 “Voodoo” photoreconnaissance aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) flak over North Vietnam and crashed. I believe this aircraft was flown by Capt. Marvin Nelson, 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (TRS). His wingman, Fox 24 reported seeing Fox 23 eject but saw no chute. Brigham, which used the call sign “Compress,” was a TCS Rescue Control at Udorn and took control of the incident. Udorn advised Air America (CIA) to be alert for a rescue. There was a weather problem, visibility 200-400 ft. at Lima Sites 20 (LS-20) and 36 in northeastern Laos. Both sites had limited SAR forces standing alert there for just this kind of thing. Fox 23 was lost near the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Nelson’s body was not recovered. The RF-101 had the speed to outrun MiG fighters, but were susceptible to ground small arms and AAA fire. They were initially designed to be long range bomber escorts. In the Indochina war, she flew mostly low-altitude missions, often “pathfinder” missions for F-100 bombers, providing in-bound weather and visual guidance, and then conducting bomb damage assessment missions. As an aside, the RF-101 was the first USAF combat jet fighter to arrive in Vietnam, October 18, 1961, landing at Tan Son Nhut AB. The Vietnamese invited four aircraft for an air show, which never took place. They were part of Project Pipe Stem. By 1964 they had increased to 10 covering all South Vietnam and under Project Able Mable also flew over Laos. The RF-101s and Naval RF-8s discovered the extent of the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos into the RVN. These findings eventually led to the Rolling Thunder bombing campaign against the NVN.

Capt. Don Ira Williamson, USAF, “Elm 2,” F-105D, 12th TFS, Korat RTAFB, July 7, 1965, KIA or died in captivity


At 0805 on July 7, 1965, Elm 2 was downed during a reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam, by Archie’s notes, fairly close to the South China Sea. I believe this was a F-105D on an armed reconnaissance mission near the NVNAF fighter base at Vinh on the shore of the South China Sea. I also believe it was flown by Capt. Don Ira Williamson, USAF, 12th TFS, Korat RTAFB.


A chute was spotted at 0820 and a C-54 transport such as is shown here was scrambled to provide high cover, an overview and command and control support to SAR forces.


At 0837 four VNAF A-1H fighters were scrambled for rescue Combat Air Patrol (RESCAP). Helicopters were scrambled from NKP at 0843. Lynch Alfa was one of these. But by 0900 no chute was found and no signal from the pilot was heard. At 0930 the helicopters were turned around and brought back to home base.


An aircraft call sign Cotton Picker was scrambled at 0945. I believe this might have been a Marine EF-10B Skynight fighter. At 1010 another helicopter was over the area but could not find the downed pilot or any leads on him. Please allow me to note that the POW Network report on this loss reflects that Williamson was seen to eject and land safely and that radio signals from him were heard. Archie’s notes were real time while POW Network had time to issue a report much later, so there could be a bit of “Fog of War” in Archie’s notes. The NVN issued press reports indicating Williamson was alive. On June 23, 1989, the Vietnamese “discovered” Williamson’s remains and he was returned to his family.

July 27, 1965, a bad day: “Doomsday Missions” for sure, six F-105Ds down


Capt. William J. Barthelmas Jr., USAF, “Pepper 02”, F-105D, 357th TFS, Korat RTAFB, July 27, 1965, KIA
Major Jack G. Farr, USAF, ”Pepper 01,” F-105D, 357th TFS, Korat RTAFB, July 27, 1965, KIA
Capt. Walter Kosko, USAF, “Healy 2”, F-105D, 563rd TFS, Takhli RTAFB, July 27, 1965, KIA
Capt. Kile Dag Berg, USAF, “Hudson 2,” 563rd TFS, Takhli RTAFB, July 27, 1965, POW*
Capt. Robert B. “Percy” Purcell, “Ceader 2,” 12th TFS, Korat RTAFB, July 27, 1965, POW*
Capt. Frank J. Tullo,
“Dogwood 02”, F-105D, 12th TFS, Korat RTAFB, Rescued

* Archie’s notes indicated two call signs, “Hudson 02” and “Ceader 02,” which I believe belong to Berg and Purcell. Since doing this report, Purcell’s daughter has informed me Capt. Purcell’s call sign was definitely Ceader 2. Therefore I have assigned Hudson 2 to Capt Berg.

Pilots tasked to attack areas in and around Hanoi often called them “Doomsday Missions” as they knew someone was going to be shot down. Gary Barnhill, writing,
“SAM Hunter-Killer Missions,” wrote:

“Did guys shy away from these missions? Are you kidding? Your best friend would lie, cheat and screw you to get your slot on a Dooms Day mission.”

You’ll have to bear with me here. It’s July 27, 1965, and Archie’s notes are jam packed with action. He had multiple pages of his “shorthand” notes and as I dug into them, I found the whole thing very complicated. But there is a helluva story here that took me days to reconstruct from multiple sources.

First, I will try to run through Archie’s notes without much interpretation. These notes move at a feverish pace --- it’ll give you a good idea of how the world seemed to be falling apart at once, which is the way war can be. Then, after considerable research and some luck, I think I am able to piece together the story from those notes.

The Notes

For Archie, July 27, 1965 started off badly. He was called to the command post where Capt. Brandon told him no Navy A-1s would be available on this day. No reason given. Archie reported the problem up the chain and the report made it to General George Simler, USAF, director of operations, 7th AF, shown here. Simler instructed the command post to get some A-1s from Bien Hoa. The command post did so and asked that they be re-positioned over to Udorn. Weather was bad so only four Bien Hoa A-1s could make it over to Udorn on the southern route and would not get there until 0730 the next morning so long as they did not have to refuel.


At 0245 Archie was informed by a C-54 that a CH-3C Jolly Green Giant, such as shown here, was refueling at LS-98, Long Tieng, also known as LS-20A. They too had been delayed by weather at NKP.

The CH-3C launched out of LS-98 and moved over to the Lima Site farther to the northeast of Laos, LS-36, also known as
“The Alamo.” I did a story on LS-36. Quite a place. The Jolly made it to LS-36 and was in position at 0409. As an aside, NKP-based Jolly Greens, usually two at a time, stood alert at LS-36 for SAR missions. So some SAR support was in place or getting there.

Archie’s notes start off a bit vague. There was so much activity he was not noting call signs or aircraft identifications. On a later page, he pieced that together a little bit, which was most helpful to me.

At 1525, I believe on July 27, 1965, Archie was notified that there was a downed pilot, southwest of Hanoi and not far from Hanoi. He was said to be in the river. Then at 1530 the word came in a second aircraft was down. A HH-43 Pedro launched from LS-98 at 1532. So we’ve got two aircraft down.

They were next notified there was a mid-air collision about 10 miles southeast of Udorn in Thailand at 1540. One chute was spotted. So it would appear two more aircraft are down, but in Thailand. Nonetheless, that’s four. I should note here that Archie’s notes are very brief on the mid-air. It was almost as though he might have figured it was a local training accident. As you’ll see later, the accident was between two F-105Ds returning from their mission in the North --- he may not have known that, given all the other events of the day.

Then at 1549 Udorn reported that Ceader 2 was down just west of Hanoi, so we have a fifth aircraft down near Hanoi.


Two B-57 Canberra bombers were launched from Da Nang, RVN, such as this one shown at Da Nang in 1965. At 1610 the SAR force informed all hands that men were down “in the ring” and that ground defenses were southeast of the downed crew members. I believe “in the ring” to mean in the middle of enemy forces.

Then, at 1620 Archie noted that another F-105D was down, call sign Dogwood, also up near Hanoi. Archie noted that Dogwood was working with SAR forces on the radio, operating as a kind of controller, which meant he was on the ground and in pretty good shape.

At 1650 the HC-54s controlling the SAR mission were told to stay out of the ring referred to earlier.


A call also went out at this time to see if a HU-16 Albatross was on its way, such as the one shown here.

Well, it looks like the SAR force had a real set of challenges on its plate. Up west of Hanoi, it appears there were four F-105Ds involved, which Archie later identified: Hudson 2, Healy 2, Ceader 2 and Dogwood, all on the ground. Dogwood was still on his radio operating as a voice controller. It looks like no chute was seen for Hudson 2’s loss. Healy 2’s chute was seen in the water, so it looks like he was the one I reported earlier who was in the river.

At 1710, a CH-3C Jolly Green call sign Shed 85 fired up his engines and was aloft by 1714. At 1743 another HH-43 was launched.

At 1845 a report came in that Canister Flight had a good location on Dogwood and that he was okay. Canister also reported that a CH-3C was about to go in after him.

At 1905 Healy 1 who was flight lead said Healy 2 went in to the river and Healy 1 saw a dingy but never saw the pilot. Healy 1 was running out of fuel and had to leave, and on his way out he reported seeing boats within 300 yards of the dingy. After getting refueled and returning to the scene, Healy 1 saw nothing in the area.

Also at 1905 a CH-3C was hovering over Dogwood who was hiding in the woods but could not get at him with the hoist. So he looked for a place to land. At 1915 the SAR force reported picking up Dogwood and all the SAR forces were on their way out.

So, where are we here? We had four F-105Ds down near Hanoi. One of them, Dogwood was picked up and rescued. We also had a mid-air collision in Thailand, tough Archie made no further mention of them. In any event, two more aircraft were down, for a total of six.

Those were the notes. I presented them this way to show you how crazy a day it was and how fast events transpired. I will now tell the sort behind all this --- it took me days to figure it out.

The reconstructed story


This entire suite of events was part of Operation Spring High, which was the first strike against Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites in the NVN. The NVN introduced SAM missiles in the summer of 1965. Up to this point, the NVN felt it could get by with its anti-aircraft artillery (AAA), fighter aircraft and radar network. After all, many of the US air attacks were largely symbolic, so as not to cause undue concern in the USSR and China. Slowly but surely the US ramped up to hit the radar networks and other more important targets.

Then Rolling Thunder began in March 1965. You will recall Rolling Thunder was a gradual and sustained USAF, USN and Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) aerial bombardment campaign conducted against the NVN through November 2, 1968. Soviet leader Alexei Kosygin was visiting Hanoi and the NVN asked for improved air defenses, including SAMs. Kosygin is said to have agreed instantly. This irritated the Chinese, and they made that known to the Soviets.





Finally an agreement was reached for the Soviets to provide SAMs and the MiG-21s while China would provide MiG-17s and MiG-19s. So when Rolling Thunder got in full gear, the USAF and USN faced a whole new air defense system. Taken as a whole, radar networks, communications, AAA, SAMs, and MiGs, the NVN had a formidable air defense system. You will see that all too painfully in the report to follow. That said, analysts seem to agree that the NVN AAA was the biggest threat. The US went after those SAMs often taking away valuable resources from destroying the AAA sites instead. The SAMs would set up shop in many cases to lure US air into AAA or flak traps. The MiGs were good as well, but frankly the US pilots married with their aircraft were better. The US air surveillance warning systems also improved rapidly and US pilots were increasingly given heads up. But those AAAs were tough, especially for fighter bombers that worked their targets at relatively low altitudes. It must also be said that the suits in Washington put far too many restrictions in US bombers and fighters, so many that one would hate to count how many men and aircraft the US lost because of these restrictions.


In any event, U-2s staging from Tan Son Nhut spotted the construction efforts for the SAMs in April 1965. In Saigon, General. William Westmoreland, MACV, and General Joseph H. Moore, Jr., commanding the 2nd Air Division, pressed for authority to attack the sites. The CINCPAC, Admiral Sharp, agreed. President Johnson’s advisors disagreed. SecDef McNamara pointed out if the US attacked SAM sites it would have to attack airfields, and that point had not been reached in his mind. SecState was worried about Chinese air forces entering the picture and he opposed hitting the SAMs and airfields as well. Chinese and Soviet pilots flew combat missions over NVN anyway.

There was much give and take and hemming and hawing over the months ahead in Washington. Then the US lost two F-4 aircraft to SAMs. That was it for Johnson. And so Operation Spring High was approved.


It is my understanding that the photo above shows a typical Soviet SA-2 site in NVN in the early days. As you will see, the USAF decided to approach these sites at low altitude, often at about 500 knots (even though instructions were sometimes given to attack at slower speeds) and 50 ft. above the ground. That made it hard for them to spot these sites, but their configuration was so obvious they did find them. Later on, the NVN figured this out and changed the configuration. However, the mistake the NVN made was they left their radars on, allowing US electronic intercept equipment to lock on to their signals, which enabled analysts to determine where they were in their acquisition and firing sequence. This ultimately enabled engineers to build equipment for the fighters to carry that allowed them to fire their ordnance right down the throats of the signals their equipment was picking up. But that’s all another story --- I digress as usual.

Okay, so let’s dig into Archie’s notes with amplifying information. I have read a report that said six F-105s from Korat and six from Takhli participated in Operation Spring High on July 27, 1965. My count of those lost from Archie’s notes was four, but I think I misinterpreted them. The number lost was six. Three pilots were KIA, two were captured as POWs, and one was rescued. Let’s take them in that order.

Capt. Barthelmas Jr., USAF, “Pepper 02”, F-105D, 357th TFS, Korat RTAFB, July 27, 1965, KIA
Major Jack G. Farr, USAF, ”Pepper 01,” F-105D, 357th TFS, Korat RTAFB, July 27, 1965, KIA

BarthelmusWilliam FarrJack

Capt. William J. Barthelmas, Jr. (left) flying his F-105D out of Korat RTAFB with the 357th TFS was KIA, hit by a SAM some 30 miles from Hanoi. Major Jack G. Farr (right), flying his F-105D out of Korat RTAFB also with the 357th TFS crashed in Thailand, obviously trying to make it home, and was also KIA. They were on their way out after hitting their targets.

I need to stop for a moment on these two. Their story is incredible and tragic.

Farr was Pepper 01 and Barthelmas was Pepper 02. Their target was a SAM site 30 miles west of Hanoi, and Barthelmas, Pepper 02, was apparently hit by a SAM but he was able to make his way back to Thailand. Pepper 01 of course stuck with him. On their way back to Thailand, Pepper 01 inspected Pepper 02 and said, “I can see daylight right through you.” The battle damage was severe. The conjecture is Barthelmas’ hydraulics gave out and his aircraft unexpectedly pitched up. Unbelievably, after everything they had gone through, Pepper 02’s tail slammed into Pepper 01’s cockpit. Bathelmus ejected but his parachute streamed, meaning it did not fully open. He is said to have landed in a rice paddy alive, but with multiple injuries. Tragically, he drowned in the paddy. Also tragically, Farr’s aircraft, Pepper 01 was sufficiently damaged that he crashed about 10 miles south of Ubon RTAFB. He did not eject and was killed. So these are the two Archie said were in a mid-air collision. It’s hard to know what Archie knew at the moment, but they were involved in far more than a simple or accidental mid-air.

Capt. Walter Kosko, USAF, “Healy 2”, F-105D, 563rd TFS, Takhli RTAFB, July 27, 1965, KIA

Capt. Walter Kosko flying a F-105D #624257 for the 563rd TFS out of Takhli targeted a SAM site 30 miles west of Hanoi and reportedly was hit by AAA. So he was the third pilot lost on this day. He landed in a river and drowned. I believe from Archie’s notes his call sign was Healy 02. Kosko was part of a flight of four F-105Ds out of Takhli on a bombing mission over Phu Tho Province, NVN. AAA fire was said to be intense. There was an explosion near Kosko’s aircraft and he reported he was hit and had smoke in his cockpit. He later ejected and flight members saw a fully deployed chute in the water and survival gear, but there was no voice contact and no beeper after ejection. His colleagues on the mission tried to find him even through heavy hostile fire, but to no avail. Later attempts to find his remains revealed that he was down in the Black River. US forces searched the river but could not find him. He was later declared dead-body not recovered.

Capt. Bill “Sparky” Sparks, USAF, comments on these kinds of missions

Capt. Bill “Sparky” Sparks, USAF, writing, “Bad day at Black Rock,” said he flew on these missions with the 563rd from Takhli which employed three flights of four F-105Ds in trail with one minute spacing to hit a SAM site that had fired a few days earlier. Sparks is shown here when he was with the 357th TFS. Korat-based aircraft were in the mix as well, which would probably account for Barthelmas and Farr discussed above. At Takhli, one or more flights were ordered to drop rear-dispensed bomblets, CBU-2 from 50 ft. altitude at 360 knots. He commented, “My Grandmother knew more about targeting than that!” Another flight would follow with napalm also to be dropped from 50 ft. at 360 knots. He added:

“The idiocy of DoD was now apparent to all. If you tell anyone that you are going to hit him, and then give him almost a week’s notice, any half-wit can figure out that the place will be empty and/or well defended. To over-fly an extremely well defended complex at 50 feet and 360 knots is a suicide order. The Japanese had better sense when they sent out their Kamikazes. To exacerbate an already insane order, have all aircraft fly at the same altitude, airspeed and attack from the same direction, with close intervals. I may have been a Slick Wing Captain, but I certainly knew better than that.”

He went on to say that the pilots complained bitterly. They wanted to change the ingress and egress routes, altitudes and increase their drop speed to at least 500 knots. Their superiors called everyone to get the orders changed. All this fell on deaf ears, and they went out as ordered, though with some “GI adjustments.” They came in at 540 knots and soon encountered heavy 37 mm flak. Sparks said it was obvious the enemy knew they were coming. Luckily, they were flying so low the 37 mm were ineffective. However, many were hit by small arms and .50 caliber equivalent automatic weapons.

So that’s a brief recap of the KIAs. Let’s turn to the POWs.

Capt. Kile Dag Berg, “Hudson 2,” USAF, 563rd TFS, Takhli RTAFB, July 27, 1965, POW*
Capt. Robert B. “Percy” Purcell, “Ceader 2,” 12th TFS, Korat RTAFB, July 27, 1965, POW*

BergKile PurcellRobert

The two captured as POWs were Capt. Kile Dag Berg (left), flying his F-105D #610113 for the 563rd TFS at Takhli, and Capt. Robert B. “Percy” Purcell (right shown as lieutenant colonel), flying his F-105D #6224252 for the 12th TFS out of Korat. They were both shot down over NVN, about 40 miles northwest of Hanoi. Both men’s target was the barracks at Can Doi and they both were reportedly hit by AAA. Berg and Purcell were released with the other POWs in February 1973. While Archie did not identify these pilots’ call signs, Purcell’s daughter has contacted me to confirm Purcell’s call sign was “Ceader 2.” Therefore I have decided to assign the call sign “Hudson 2” to Berg.

Returning to Sparks’ memoir, he said he saw Berg get hit with his aircraft on fire from in front of the inlets past the afterburner. Berg’s aircraft slowly pulled up, rolled right and then crashed. Sparks said after the POWs returned, he learned that Berg was hit right after he dropped his napalm. He said Berg ejected at 50 ft. and 540 knots which blew some panels in his chute and without a doubt gave him one helluva jolt as well.

Capt. Frank J. Tullo, “Dogwood 02”, F-105D, 12th TFS, Korat RTAFB, Rescued

Now, finally, to the one pilot who was rescued. Here again, allow me to alert you to the full story on the rescue,
“Tullo and the Giant,” Air & Space Smithsonian, July 1997, by Robert Hanson.

We’ve got one more in the crowd to talk about, call sign Dogwood 02. He was the lucky one of the crew. He was rescued. He was Capt. Frank J. Tullo, flying his F-105D #624407 for the 12th TFS out of Korat, call sign Dogwood 02. Tullo’s group entered the fray after most of the beating took place. Their job was “to clean up.” Tullo said when he arrived over the target area, “To a good Catholic boy, this was a description of hell.” The enemy fire was the worst he had seen, and the burning fires and smoke below was a cauldron. Tullo said they approached at about 200 ft. and 700 knots. Right away he was hit, his fire warning lights blazing.

Dogwood 01, Major Bill Hosmer, shown here, came over to take a look. Hosmer told him to get rid of his tanks and rocket pods to lighten the aircraft. Flames were now trailing about 200 ft. behind him. He was still flying and had control. They were still over Hanoi. Hosmer told him to bail out, but Tullo refused, saying he could still fly.


He wanted to make it to the hills of Thud Ridge where a bailout might result in a rescue. But the aircraft then lost control, and he had to bail out, but again, at the speed he was traveling, he really got whipped around on the way out.

Let me pause for just a moment. Thud Ridge is important. Colonel Jack Broughton, USAF, was a F-105 Thud driver who later wrote a book entitled,
Thud Ridge. The thing to remember from his words that follow is that on most occasions, the F-105s came in low along Thud Ridge to go after the Hanoi area. It was actually named Tam Dao range and served as a waypoint during air attacks in the vicinity of Hanoi and a terrain masking feature for ingressing fighters. Here’s an excerpt from Broughton’s book:

"Alongside Thud Ridge—a north-south mountain range lying between our bases in Thailand and Hanoi—was the MiG fighter base at Phuc Yen. We would fly inbound en route to Hanoi, and I would have, say, five flights of fighters—four aircraft to each flight. And as I would approach Phuc Yen I would watch the MiGs come out and taxi to the end of the runway and run their engines up and get ready for takeoff. Now, I could have dumped my nose right then and got four MiGs on the ground on almost every mission up there. But I couldn’t touch them ... So I would go past the airfield and the MiGs would roll for takeoff and be on the tail of my last flight and in position to shoot down whomever they wanted to."

The Rules of Engagement (ROE) developed by the suits in Washington prevented him from hitting those MiGs.

Back to Tullo. He said from his parachute he could see Hanoi about 25 miles away. Once on the ground, he hid his chute and called on the radio, and made contact. But his partners were running out of fuel and had to leave. After some time on the ground and attempting to climb up a hill, which was what they were taught to do --- make the enemy climb the hill, and if they do, then you are close to the top and can go over the top of the hill and try to hide --- he heard an A-1 Spad call sign Canasta. Archie had Canasta in his notes and wrote that Canasta had a good indication that Dogwood 02 was okay and that a CH-3C Jolly Green was closing in.


Canasta Flight as Archie put it consisted of two Navy A-1Hs, such as the one shown here. Then a couple F-105s came by and he contacted them. The F-105s asked him to pop smoke so they could get his location. Tullo refused, fearing he would give away his location to the enemy, as he knew the enemy was coming to his area.

Some enemy started climbing the hill, Tullo dug in to hide, and the enemy troops moved away and down the hill. The hill strategy seemed to work.


A CH-3C such as shown here flown by Capt. George Martin, USAF was at NKP and was flying to LS-36 to pull SAR alert, call sign Shed 85. His USAF crew consisted of his co-pilot, Lt. Orville Keese, (HM) Sgt. Curtis Pert and PJ Sgt. George Thayer. HM stands for “hoist mechanic” and PJ for pararescueman. Martin was told to divert to get Dogwood 02. He said he had to land at LS-36 to drop off supplies and passengers --- he could not hover the way he needed to for a rescue with such a heavy load. After landing at LS-36, his number two engine warning lights indicated they had overheated, a condition which would normally mean he was grounded. But he was Tullo’s only chance at the moment. He was worried he would not be able to restart his engines, informed the crew he felt they should go get Tullo, the crew agreed, the engine started without a hitch, and off he went. He had little idea of where he was going other than to head for Hanoi.

About 50 miles from Hanoi he was met by Canasta flight, flown by Lt. Commander Ed Greathouse, USN, (shown here on another occasion after taking down a MiG-17 jet with his A-1H prop fighter), and Holt Livesay from Attack Squadron 25 (VA-25) embarked aboard the USS Midway.

It was getting late, dusk was coming. Canasta reported to Tullo he had a chopper and flew directly over Tullo’s position, with Shed 85 right behind him. Tullo expected something like a HH-43 Pedro and had never seen one this big. It turns out this would be the CH-3C Jolly Green’s first rescue. The Jolly crew had a very hard time pulling Tullo up the hoist, which was not yet designed for this kind of work. And, of course, the CH-3C’s engine started to overheat again. But he lifted up, dragging Tullo through bushes etc. up into the air and finally found a spot where he could let him down on the ground. Tullo got out of his harness and the chopper landed about 50 ft away.

Incredibly, now they started receiving hostile fire from the ground. The Jolly had all kinds of problems, an overheated engine, coming darkness, and clouds at altitude. Plus the crew had no maps of the area. The Jolly crew hollered at Tullo to aboard. He did, diving through the door, and off they went. Capt. Martin pointed his chopper in the direction of LS-36 which was surrounded by enemy. LS-36 lit up landing lights by igniting flares in 55 gallon drums, and Martin landed the CH-3C with all hands in one piece.

This was the farthest north a successful rescue had been made. You will recall my earlier recap of how Martin and his crews got to the war flying two loaner CH-3Cs on SAR missions for the first time. Just a few weeks earlier, Capt. Martin and his crews were flying support missions with the CH-3 in Florida! So here they are, now in the Vietnam War, flying a beat-up old CH-3 on a SAR mission, no previous SAR experience, a rigged up wench to pull up the downed aircrew member, and they are penetrating deeply into the NVN and conducting the first CH-3 rescue mission in the war.

Given what he and his crew went through on this day to get Tullo, theirs is an incredible story. What a day.

Sparks said several of the low flying F-105s concluded they were hitting a dummy SAM site, though other reports say the enemy vacated it as he knew the force was coming. Jacob Van Staavern, in his book,
Gradual failure: the air war over North Vietnam, 1965-1966, wrote that the incoming USAF force was after several targets. First, SAM sites 6 and 7, and a barracks suspected of housing SAM air defense personnel at nearby Cam Doi and Phu Nieu. He said that there was a dummy missile site at SAM site 6 set up as a trap, and site 7 was empty.

In his paper
“The ’65 decision, bombing Soviet SAM sites in North Vietnam,” John Prados wrote the following:

“Spring High involved more than a hundred Air Force, Marine, and Navy aircraft. A pair of EC-121 radar planes monitored VPAF (NVNAF) activity, directing the combat air patrol. Ten electronic warfare craft jammed the enemy radars. A dozen Phantoms and eight more F-104 Starfighters flew air cover. There were fifteen KC-135s for aerial refueling, and a search and rescue flight to recover downed aircrews.

“On the cutting edge, 46 F-105s hit SAM sites and nearby barracks presumed to house the defenders with napalm and cluster bombs. Four RF-101s then streaked past to photograph the targets for bomb-damage assessment. Spring High cost half a dozen planes: four F-105s over the targets, plus one more damaged so badly the aircraft lost control making an emergency landing at Udorn, colliding with its escort and destroying both warplanes. All the losses were inflicted by flak, not SAMs. One pilot was rescued. Damage assessment showed that one of the target SAM sites had been a dummy and another was unoccupied. The Soviet Union did not respond openly, but Moscow secretly accelerated its shipment of SAMs to North Vietnam.

“These engagements in the summer of 1965 marked the beginning of a whole new facet of Rolling Thunder. Henceforth the air campaign featured extensive efforts to neutralize VPAF surface-to-air-missile installations. In fact, SAM site attacks were a major element in the next bimonthly plan for the air effort.”

This is what I was alluding to earlier. The US air forces became obsessed with the SAMs, which is understandable, but the AAA is what as most threatening to them.

Capt. Robert Norlan Daughtrey, USAF, F-105D, 12th TFS, Korat RTAFB, August 2, 1965, POW


At 1245 on August 2, 1965 an aircraft was down at the bridge in the city of Than Hoa, NVN, a bridge the US spent a great deal of time, resources and blood trying to destroy. This bridge came to be known as the “Dragon’s Jaw Bridge.” I will address it a bit more later. I saw one rough coordinate in Archie’s notes that places the incident in the area of Than Hoa, NVN, south of Hanoi near the coast of the Gulf of Tonkin. Archie’s notes identify the bridge and he wrote down Than Hoa bridge.

This flight was conducted by Capt. Robert Norlan Daughtrey, USAF, 12th TFS, flying a F-105 #62-4249. He was shot down and bailed out in the area of the bridge. The ejection broke both of his arms. He was unable to move and was captured promptly. Radio Hanoi announced his capture on August 30, 1965. He served four years prison near Hanoi, known as “The Zoo,” and another 3.5 years in the Hanoi Hilton. He said the torture was intense. He was released on February 12, 1973.

Five minutes after the report of the aircraft going down, two Canasta aircraft, call signs Beefeater and Lawcase, reported to be in the area of the Nape Pass. As far as I can tell, aircraft using Canasta call signs were Navy A-1Hs assigned to VA-25, nicknamed “The Fist of the Fleet,” flying from the USS
Coral Sea which was in the Gulf of Tonkin during this period. As I said, Daughtrey’s aircraft was reported down at 1245; at 1250 two Canasta A-1Hs were in the area of the Nape Pass, and at 1255 a CH-3C Jolly Green was launched from LS-36. At 1300 a HU-16 Flying Albratross responding to the SAR was hit by flak. At 1305 two HC-54 SAR control aircraft were inbound. The HU-16 was hit in the aileron and had to leave. Another was launched from Da Nang at 1320.

At 1340, Lt. Col. Edward Krafka, who was commander, 38th ARS, called and asked if the flak could be suppressed to make a pickup. He recommended a major strike as fire was being received by the SAR force from four sites in the area. At 1345 a second CH-3C Jolly was launched. At 1400 the report was that all they had was a beacon from the pilot. Huck 85, which was a CH-3C, the first one there, had to return to home base, called “home plate,” and then reported at 1423 he was running low on fuel (“bingo for fuel”) and would recover at NKP instead of LS-36 because of weather. The SAR force thought they had Daughtrey pretty well located about 2-3 miles south of the bridge on the south shore of the river, but it looks like they could not get to him. At 1430, Archie noted that General Myers, USAF called off the SAR effort due to a lack of a target. I believe this is a reference to Major General Gilbert L. Meyers, at the time the commander, 2nd AD, Saigon.

Major Joseph E. Bower, F-105D, 421st TFS attached to 12th TRS, Korat RTAFB, August 3, 1965, KIA-MIA


On August 3, the next day, the SAR Rescue Center at Tan Son Nhut received a HU-16 Flying Albatross message that said an aircraft had gone down, again near the South China Sea coast of North Vietnam. Archie has two sets of coordinates down, one about half-way between Than Hoa and Vinh, the other about 20 miles southeast of Vinh. However, Archie has drawn a line through this latter position. I have found that Major Joseph E. Bower, flying a F-105D Thud #61-0098 for the 421st TFS was hit during his mission over North Vietnam and reported he was heading to the sea to eject. Shortly thereafter, his aircraft became uncontrollable and he ejected. Observers have said his parachute did not open until just prior to impact with the water, in the Gulf of Tonkin.

An aircraft at the scene said he needed more RESCAP. But the command post said it did not want a USAF CH-3C that was on its way to put a man in the water because the sea state was poor, definitely too poor for an HU-16 to land and pick him up. Two F-105s went to the scene to provide cover, and two more would escort a C-54 and the HU-16. That’s the end of Archie’s notes. Bower was not recovered. He was listed assigned to the 421st TFS, McConnell AFB, Kansas. Aircraft from this squadron had deployed to Kadena AB, Okinawa and rotated in and out of Thailand. In 1966 the squadron was assigned to Korat RTAFB, I believe attached to the 12th TFS.

Pilatus PC-6 Porter, Air America , August 8, 1965, pilot-crew not found in research


On August 8, 1965 an Air America Pilatus PC-6 Turboprop Porter was hit by ground fire over Laos. The example shown here is an Air America Porter in Laos. He wanted to go to LS-86 but it was under attack, so he chose to go LS-121, which was 36 miles west of LS-36. The HC-54 command aircraft requested to launch a CH-3C and asked if medical attention was required. The response was to the affirmative. The HC-54 said the pilot was bleeding badly. However, the HC-54 was told not to land at LS-121 with medical aid, and instead a doctor would be brought to the site by a C7A Caribou. The doctor got there and tended to the wounded pilot. The University of Texas Dallas, Dr. Joe F. Leeker, documented the Air America Porters using official Air America documents, recording individual aircraft histories. His notes confirm a Porter CH-2 #N285L received ground fire in Laos and was in an accident. It was apparently repaired since I see it was flying again in the 1970s.

Major Dean A. Pogreba, USAF, “Hudson 09,” F-105D, 49th TFS, Yokota, Japan, on temporary duty with the 36th TFS Takhli, RTAFB, August 24, 1965, Rescued


At 0705 on August 24, 1965 Hudson 09 called in a “Mayday.” He was about 20 miles west of Than Hoa. Five minutes later the pilot was on the ground and had his beeper signaling to help SAR forces hone in on him. The HC-54 airborne at the time reported marginal contact with the pilot. CH-3C “Alley” had been in the air since 0615 Vietnam time, 0515 Thai-Laos time. At 0735 a HU-16 responding to the call was taking ground fire. At 0745 the controlling authority “Compress” informed all hands that a HH-43 Pedro was ready as a backup. A CH-3C said he would be off the coast and asked for a Sandy A-1E fighter to be scrambled. At 0820 a CH-3C said he could not land at LS-36 for fuel because of weather. A RESCAP arrived on the scene at 0830 and picked up the beeper. At 0840 the CH-3C reported he had to return to NKP for fuel as he was unable to get into LS-36. At 0900 the HC-54 reported being over the scene and said he had a CH-3C west of the downed pilot. The CH-3C, call sign Alley 76, had to land at LS-46, nickname “Shoestring,” at 0905, was on the ground and getting his fuel at 0910, and estimated being airborne again at 0950 and on the target by 1050. Alley 76 reported airborne from LS-46 at 0955. A Sandy A-1E from Udorn RTAFB was airborne and estimated LS-46 at 1000. The Sandy and Alley 76 estimated meeting near the target at 1120. A HH-43 did get airborne at 0954 and headed toward LS-36. At 1050 Alley 76 began his descent toward the target area. He was picking up a strong beeper signal but could not make visual contact. At 1115 Alley 76 reported visual contact and picked up his man at 1119 in good condition. Then, all together they got the hell out of there.


As far as I can tell, this was a rescue by CH-3C #63-09676 using call sign Jolly Green 2 which picked up Major Dean A. Pogreba, USAF, a F-105 pilot. The Jolly crew included Captain Phil Stambaugh, Capt. George Martin, Sgt. Francis Hill, Sgt. James Armenia and PJ Sgt. George Thayer. This is a photo of the rescue crew and Major Pogreba, who I believe is second from the right standing. This particular helicopter would later be named “The Black Mariah.” This was the second Jolly Green rescue of the war.

Commander Fred Franke and Lt. Commander R. B. Doremus, USN, “Sundown,” F-4B, VF-21, USS Midway, August 24, 1965, both POWs

The Navy had a tough day on August 24, 1965 as well. Two aircraft went down according to Archie’s notes, which syncs with what I have found.


Commander Fred Augustus Franke, USN, commander of VF-21 Freelancers embarked on the USS Midway (CVA-41), was flying a F-4B Phantom #152215 NE-21, call sign “Sundown,” and was hit by a SAM SA-2 at about 11,000 ft. near the village of Phu Banh, north of Than Hoa. The photo shows a different Navy F-4B-19-MC Phantom from VF-21 dropping Mk 82 Snakeye bombs over Vietnam in 1966, also from the Midway.

Franke’s mission was to hit the Dragon’s Jaw Bridge at Than Hoa, known to the Vietnamese as Ham Rung, which translates in English to Dragon’s Jaws. I’ve mentioned this bridge before. Let’s spend a moment on it.


The USAF launched the first attempt at the bridge on April 3, 1965, employing 79 fighter bombers. While they hit the bridge over and over, once the smoke cleared, she was still standing with minimal damage. The USAF tried again the next day, on April 5, 1965, employing 48 F-105Ds. The estimate is that 300 bombs hit the bridge and did force the NVN to close it. But they kept on repairing it and she opened again. Then, in September 1965 the job was given to the Navy since by this time in the war, the bridge was in the Navy’s route package along the coast. The Navy flew 873 sorties, lost 95 aircraft, and the bridge remained operational. It was not until May 13, 1972 when 14 USAF F-4s armed with laser guided bombs hit the bridge and destroyed it without losing an aircraft. The NVN kept trying to rebuild it, but the USAF kept coming back and thwarted their efforts. The age of the smart bomb had arrived, late but nonetheless they were here, and the NVN paid a price for it.

Commander Franke was flying with his Naval Flight Officer (NFO), also serving as Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), Lt. Commander R. B. Doremus. They both successfully ejected and were captured in the rice fields almost immediately. Oddly, his wingman reported seeing no chutes, so they were declared killed in action (KIA). However, both were held as a POW for 7.5 years in Hanoi. Franke has commented that there was no chance for a SAR. They were released on February 2, 1973.

Prior to this mission, Doremus, flying as NFO-RIO and his pilot, Lt. J.E. Smith, were credited with two MiG-17 kills on June 17, 1965. They were flying in a pair, with the other F-4B flown by Commander Louis C. Page, USN, VF-21, and his RIO, Lt. Jack E.D. Batson. The two F-4Bs fought it out with four MiG-17s south of Hanoi and shot down two with Sparrow air-to-air missiles. These were the first MiG kills of the war.

Lt. j.g. Richard M. Brunhaver, USN, “Beefeater,” A-4C, VA-22, USS Midway, August 24, 1965, POW



The second loss was of an A-4C Skyhawk assigned to VA-22 also embarked on the USS Midway. She was flown by Lt. (j.g.) Richard M. Brunhaver, USN, call sign “Beefeater.” The A-4C was designed for low speed ground attack. The photo shows a VA-22 A-4C embarked on the USS Midway firing Zuni rockets sometime during the 1960s. Brunhaver was part of a three-ship formation tasked to conduct an armed road reconnaissance mission over NVN. It looks like they were flying southeast of Thanh Hoa. Brunhaver ran a normal low-level bombing attack against a bridge. As he recovered from his attack, his aircraft was seen to be on fire. He was told to eject and the flight lead saw his parachute deploy just as the aircraft was breaking apart. The parachute landed in heavy brush and he managed to turn on his beeper. His two fellow A-4 pilots were low on fuel and had to leave, but they plotted his location and called for helicopter SAR. The search was called off because of darkness but began again the next morning, but to no avail. He was listed as missing in action (MIA) but later a source advised he was in a NVN POW camp. He too was released after 6.5 years on February 12, 1973.

Capt. Wesley D. Scheirman, USAF, “Elm 1,” F-105F, 67th TFS, Korat RTAFB, August 28, 1965, POW


On August 28, 1965, a report was received that a F-105 was down. Archie noted it was “Spruce Bird (105).” He also noted a man was sighted on the ground. I believe this was a F-105F from the 67th TFS at Korat, flown by Capt. Wesley D. Schierman, call sign “Elm 1” or “Elm Lead.” Some sources identified the aircraft as a F-105D but Scheirman, who was captured, would later say his was in a F-105F. He went down about 40 miles north of Hanoi and SAR forces did spot him on the ground. However, he was captured and put in 7.5 years in a NVN POW camp. His target was a set of barracks near Son La about 105 miles from Hanoi. I’m not sure what Archie meant by “Spruce Bird.”


Second AD in Saigon wanted Schierman and his flight to carry eight 500 lb. MK-82 “Snakeye” bombs centerline. The Snakeye was a general purpose bomb designed as a new series of low drag bombs. Note the tail retarding device. This was used for low level attacks in order to be sure the aircraft was gone before the bomb exploded. But Scheirman was skeptical about that kind of load, and studied reports from Nellis AFB and learned the F-105 had never successfully dropped even six of these Snakeyes centerline. He told 2nd AD through his wing operations officer that he would carry only four, and wanted Sidewinder air-to-air missiles outboard for MiG protection. He also complained this was not a good mission. Nonetheless, 2nd AD said the target was very important and had to be flown. It was so important he had no photos of the target, only geographical coordinates!

Saigon approved his load request so he and three other F-105s loaded up. His F-105D had mechanical problems so he was given a F-105F two seater. His Elm Flight refueled in the air, the weather was not very good, so he took his flight into the undercast as they crossed into NVN. The weather broke a bit which was good and he told his flight to break off into two elements. They were paralleling Highway 6 at 400-550 ft. and 420 knots. He checked his coordinates but saw no barracks. But then he found the target off in a different direction from the coordinates. Scheirman had already passed the target so he told his element leader to go ahead and make the run. Something went wrong with the element leader’s bomb drop, which Scheirman realized because of the nature of the explosions. This was no good. After fixing some flight coordination issues, Scheirman took the flight on one more strafing pass over the target. He fired a burst but his gun malfunctioned. Then he was hit in the aft section and his engine shut down.

He tried to establish a glide and informed his flight he was hit and may have to bail out. I’m no flier, but I thought it a bit amusing that he would glide a “Thud.” Pilots would often say it flew like a rock. One commented it would only glide for about 50 ft. The truth is a F-105 pilot, like others, had to adjust his angle of attack to maintain the best angle for glide speed giving the pilot a chance to figure out whether to bail out. The F-105 apparently had a glide ratio of 7, meaning at one mile high he could glide for seven miles. Indeed Scheirman wrote that as soon as he was hit, “I pulled up to establish a glide.” However, he quickly saw he did not have enough altitude to make it out of the valley, so he looked for a place to bail out, and found a hill.

Then one in the flight told him he had a fire out the back. Worried it might ignite his Sidewinders, the fire went out but he was losing speed rapidly, so he said he was getting out. He bailed out and his engine then exploded. He landed near the top of that hill he had seen, climbed to the top, and spoke to his flight circling above. He then discovered he had a very deep cut in his left wrist. He applied a tourniquet, his flight said a helicopter was on its way from Laos. He had his beeper on. The rest of his flight ran low on fuel and had to leave, but another flight was inbound to cover the area. A platoon of enemy had climbed the hill, and after four trips through his area finally found him. One among the enemy heard the beeper, found it, and ordered Scheirman to turn it off, which he did. The C-54 rescue coordinator arrived and a chopper was not far behind. Col. James Risner, leading the incoming flight, was forced to take on a group of enemy guns. The enemy got Scheirman in the dense jungle and off to the Hoa Lo Prison. He was released with the others in February 1973.

He later learned the Snakeye was an unauthorized loading for the F-105. His number four, I assume Elm 4, had his aircraft riddled with holes because the Snakeye was detonating prematurely. He further learned he received compression fractures of two vertebrae from the ejection.

Lt. Edd D. Taylor, USN, USN, A-1H, VA-152, USS Oriskany, August 29, 1965, KIA


On August 29, 1965, Lt. Edd D. Taylor, USN, VA-152 Fighting Aces, launched his A-1H #134619 off the carrier USS Oriskany in search of Capt. Wesley Schierman and his F-105 lost a day earlier, as reported above. Taylor was receiving Scheirman’s beeper signals and flew a tight pattern around the area from which he thought the signals were coming. He was on his third low level pass trying to locate the source of a beeper signal when he was hit by heavy automatic weapons ground fire. An A-1 pilot was in the air and close by and reported seeing Taylor’s aircraft crash into a ridge and burn. In March 2000, remains were found and a skeletal section matched that of a family member of Lt. Taylor. These remains were returned home to his family. Taylor was the first KIA from the Oriskany of the war. Schierman, as noted above, had been captured. As an aside, on August 24, 1965, just a few days before he was lost, Taylor and Lt. j.g. Zambori rescued another pilot near Bong Ho.

Lt. Henry S. McWhorter, USN, “Corktip 919,” RF-8A, VFP-63, USS Oriskany, August 29, 1965, KIA



Lt. Henry S. McWhorter, USN, was flying his RF-8A Vought Crusader Corktip 919 photo reconnaissance aircraft in Nghe An Province, NVN. He was hit by enemy fire about 25 miles northwest of Vinh. Both he and his wingman had encountered heavy AAA at 8,000 ft. They took evasive action. McWhorter’s wingman reported him flying straight and level, but with no canopy or ejection seat. The wingman concluded the AAA hit in a location that fired off the ejection seat and probably killed McWhorter. The wingman reported McWhorter’s lading gear coming down as a result of the damage to the hydraulic systems. The aircraft entered a gentle glide until it hit the ground. Two A-1s were on the scene five minutes after the crash and, according to Archie’s notes, said they saw a chute leaving the aircraft. However, other reports said no chute was sighted. A HU-16 Flying Albatross also responded, but had to abort due to an engine loss. Another one came to the scene, but again, no contact. There was no beeper heard. He was listed as killed/body not recovered as the assessment was there was a slim hope of survival. Remains were found in 1987 and identified as those of Lt. McWhorter. These remains were returned to his family in February 1987.

Capt. James A. Branch and 1st Lt. Eugene M. Jewell, USAF, “Rhino,” F-4C, 15th TFW, Ubon RTAFB, September 4, 1965, MIA


BranchJames JewellEugene

On September 4, 1965 a 15th TFW F-4C call sign Rhino was lost along the coastline area north of Vinh. The crew consisted of Capt. James A. Branch (left) and 1st Lt. Eugene M. Jewell (right). Both are listed as assigned to 6233rd Combat Support Group, Ubon RTAFB. I have not found such a unit, though I have found the 6233rd Air Base Group, which is probably what was meant. Interestingly, I have also found the two men assigned to both the 15th TFW and the 8th TFW. The 15th TFW arrived Ubon June 1965 with two fighter squadrons, the 45th and 47th. Pilots of the 45th TFS were credited with the first air victories of the Vietnam War, shooting down two MiG-17s. The 8th TFW arrived in December 1965, so the two crew members of the Rhino mission must have been assigned to the 15th TFW. It appears both squadrons were there on temporary duty (TDY), so I can also understand how they might be seen as assigned to the Air Base Group. I believe the 15th rotated out when the 8th TFW got there.

All that organizational stuff aside, the crew was tasked to attack a rail bridge in Nghe An Province at a position about halfway between Tho Trang and Phu Dien Chau. They were hit during a low-altitude strafing run, crashed and exploded. The POW Network said no parachutes were sighted. However, Archie’s notes indicate that Dodge Flight thought he saw a chute but that was not verified and there were no beepers or radio calls. Both men were listed as MIA.

Lt. j.g. Edward B. Shaw, USN, “Firewood 203,” A-1H, VA-165, USS Coral Sea, September 5, 1965, KIA



Lt. j.g. Edward B. Shaw, USN, call sign Firewood 203, VA-165 Boomers, flying his A-1H #139693 from the USS Coral Sea was hit by AAA on September 5, 1965 while attacking supply barges on the Song Gia Hoi RIver. The Rolling Thunder operation was well underway over NVN, hitting strategic targets in the North with jet fighter aircraft. Navy A-1Hs were employed mainly to go after enemy facilities and transportation lines, especially water-borne logistics craft, frequently employed in what the Navy called Alpha Strikes, which were large scale attacks employing just about every aircraft in the carrier’s inventory. For Shaw’s mission, several VFA-165 aircraft were conducting armed reconnaissance missions south of Vinh and spotted a number of barges in the mouth of the Song Gia Hoi Rover. They attacked, and Shaw was hit. He was not seen to eject from his aircraft and no one in the area sighted him or heard from him. No further SAR support was requested. Shaw’s remains were not recovered.

On May 17, 1965, Shaw participated in a SAR effort to recover an USAF pilot down in NVN. Shaw located the pilot, rendezvoused with rescue helicopters and provided them protective air cover while guiding them to the scene. He conducted repeated strafing and rocket attacks on enemy forces closing in on the downed pilot while the helicopters were completing their mission.

Lt. James L. Burton, USN, “Elm,” A-4E, VA-164, USS Oriskany, September 6, 1965, Rescued



Lt. James L. Burton, USN, VA-164, flying his A-4E Skyhawk 152042 from the USS Oriskany, was shot down near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam by AAA on September 6, 1965. He was in a two ship formation tasked to attack a primary NVN truck route along Route 1A at Ha Tinh east of Vinh. They both took heavy fire. One landed safely on the Oriskany, but Burton’s aircraft caught fire. I believe he used an Elm call sign. Burton headed out to sea and bailed out just before his aircraft exploded.


It was Burton’s lucky day, as a HU-16 Flying Albatross was in the area and spotted Burton in the water. There was no beeper but there was smoke in the water. He was about 15 miles off the coast. A RESCAP was launched and the area was clear of enemy ships and junks. A HU-16 landed in the water, described as “bumpy,” and the pilot saw Burton’s arms waving. The HU-16 picked him up, such as is shown here in another example. Dong Hoi was located on the coast on the Gulf of Dong Hoi and not far from the DMZ between NVN and RVN. It was a favorite target, especially for B-52s, because of its proximity to the DMZ and location on the Nhat Le River emptying into the South China Sea, a means of moving supplies to the DMZ area.

This was Burton’s second ejection. While still in San Diego on February 27, 1965, he and his A-4 were involved in a mid-air collision with a Marine F-8E Crusader off the Oriskany during an exercise. Burton was rescued by a destroyer and uninjured. Second Lieutenant Glenn R. Hollenback, USMC was also rescued.

Capt. Ricard C. Marshall, USAF, A-1G, 1131st USAF Special Activities Squadron, MACV SOG, and Chief Warrant Officer William J. LaGrand, USA, 197th Aviation Co., 145th Aviation Battalion, September 6, 1965, KIA


At 1345 an A-1G flown by Capt. Richard C. Marshall, USAF, assigned to the 1131st USAF Special Activities Squadron, to wit MACV SOG, crashed near Bien Hoa. Marshall was reported to have crashed in a steep dive. Bien Hoa, of course, was the major combat air base outside Saigon. Nonetheless, the VNAF and MACV advised there was a Viet Cong battalion located in the area where Marshall crashed, and they would not attempt a recovery due to the size of the enemy force. Marshall was listed as died while missing. Chief Warrant Officer William J. LaGrand, 197th Aviation Co., 145th Aviation Battalion was on board the aircraft with Marshall, and was also declared died while missing.

While Bien Hoa was close to Saigon and we are only in 1965, any review of the base’s situation would tell you it was always in danger and endured constant attacks. So the enemy was out there to be sure. I believe the 173rd Airborne Brigade was tasked to defend the base. The US asked for allied help, and the Australians sent the 1st Royal Australian Regiment to the base to work with the Americans on its defense. They arrived in June 1965. The
1 RAR First Battalion Association has written a report on their experience. Here’s an excerpt description of their assessment of the enemy surrounding Bien Hoa:

“Viet Cong military units were either Main Force or Local. The Main Force guerillas were cunning, well disciplined, adequately trained and adept at jungle operations using stealth, rapid movement on foot and deception. They would attack vigorously and bravely when they had the initiative or assessed they would greatly outnumber their opponents … The people of the Bien Hoa province were told the American and Australians were invaders and were in their country to protect the corrupt government in Saigon. The Viet Cong enforced this message with propaganda publications and promises of a prosperous and generous way of life to follow the overthrow of the invaders. The enemy was fighting in his own backyard and used this knowledge to the best advantage.”

Capt. John T. Clark, Jr., USAF, “Dodge 2,” F-105D, 67th TFS, Korat RTAFB, , September 6, 1965, Rescued


Again on September 6, Dodge 2 was reported down 44 miles from Udorn at 0940. Dodge 2 was positioned southeast of Udorn RTAFB. A Pedro HH-43 launched at 0945. At 0948, a nearby aircraft spotted a good chute and saw smoke from the pilot. It appears that the pilot was near or in Lake Pao, a fairly large lake south of Udorn. At 0952 a USAF HU-16 was airborne and at 0955 reported the water as choppy. Archie’s notes listed Capt. John T. Clark, Jr., 67th TFS Fighting Cocks. He also used the call sign Elm which was used by 67th Korat F-105s. I do not know why he wrote that name down. But the 67th consisted of F-105s located at Korat RTAFB, and Archie’s notes said to notify Korat. I assume the pilot was picked up since he was alive and on Thai soil, or in the water. I have confirmed Clark was with the 67th and arrived at Korat on August 25, 1965. Clark flew his F-105 as part of Elm flight on a bombing mission two days later, on September 9, 1965. No rest for the weary.

Lt. j.g. Robert David Rudolph, USN, “Corktip 918,” RF-8, VP-63 Det G, September 8, 1965, KIA

On September 8, two Navy RF-8As off the USS
Oriskany were lost in North Vietnam. At 0800, Corktip 922 was reported overdue. He should have recovered at 0600. Archie noted his last known position as halfway between Ha Tinh and Dong Hoi near the coast. He has no further notes on this loss and I have not found a record of a RF-8 loss during this time period.

A second RF-8, piloted by Lt. j.g. Robert David Rudolph, VP-63 Det G, call sign Corktip 918, went down in his RF-8A 146825 PP-918 at 1118 about 10 miles north of Thanh Hoa. He was flying a photo reconnaissance mission to find SAM sites near Thanh Hoa. He was part of a six plane mission led by Cmdr. James B. Stockdale, commander of CVW-16. They found an 18-truck convoy northeast of Thanh Hoa. Shortly after crossing the coastline Rudolph and his wingman came under heavy 37 mm automatic weapons fire. Rudolph was hit just after crossing the beach. Archie’s notes indicate his wingman saw his canopy go. However, the POW Network report says Rudolph’s aircraft was seen to go inverted into a steep descent. The wingman had to implement immediate evasive maneuvers and did not see an ejection of the aircraft which subsequently hit the ground. The Navy has reported that his aircraft caught fire almost immediately, and rolled into an inverted dive. An immediate SAR could not find the crash site, and there was no beeper. He was listed as killed and his body was not recovered. As an aside, Stockdale flew another mission the next day, was shot down, captured, and served as a POW until February 12, 1973. He retired at the rank of vice admiral. Stockdale was the highest ranking POW in Vietnam, and received the Medal of Honor.

September 20, 1965, a horrid day for US military fliers in the Indochina War

September 20, 1965 was a horrid day for US fliers in the Vietnam War. Archie’s notes simply say eight aircraft were down, including a HH-43 Pedro with Capt. Curtis and Lt. Martin flying.

Major Edgar Lee Hawkins, USAF, “Elm-2,” F-105D, 67th TFS, Korat RTAFB, KIA
Capt. Phillip Eldon Smith, USAF, F-104C, 435th TFS, Da Nang AB, RVN, POW China
Capt. Harvey Quakenbush, USAF, F-104C, 435th TFS, Da Nang AB, RVN, Rescued
Capt. Dale Carlson, USAF, F-104C, 436th TFS, Da Nang AB, RVN, Rescued
Capt. Willis E. Forby, USAF, F-105D, 334th TFS, Takhli RAFB, POW
Capt. Thomas J. Curtis, USAF, “Duchy 41,” HH-43, Detachment 3 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS), NKP RTAFB, POW
1st Lt. Duane W. Martin, USAF, “Duchy 41,” HH-43, Det 3, 38th ARRS, NKP RTAFB, escaped, KIA by a villager during his escape
Capt. Joseph Reynes, USAF, F-100D, 481st TFS Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN, Rescued
Lt. j.g. Jon R. Harris, USN, A-4E, VA-72, USS Independence, September 20, 1965, Rescued

Archie’s reporting of the days’ events was sparse and very brief --- I figured it was simply too much and he too busy to jot down in a diary.

So all together, eight aircraft in one day. I’ll try to do them in the order listed above.

Major Edgar Lee Hawkins, “Elm-2,” F-105D, 67th TFS, Korat RTAFB, September 20, 1965, KIA



On September 20, 1965, Major Edgar Lee Hawkins, 67th TFS, Korat RTAFB, flying an F-105D over the NVN was shot down and lost. During the period August 28 - September 20, 1965, the 67th TFS lost eight F-105Ds to enemy action. Two were rescued, four were captured, held POWs and released in February 1973, and two, Hawkins included, were listed MIA/KIA. Hawkins was lost north northwest of Houaphan in northwestern NVN, close to the Laos border. I have seen a report that said he crashed into a hillside in Laos. I do not believe his body was ever recovered.

Hawkins’ target was a military storage area and bridge about six miles north of the NVN-Laos border. This was a major area of enemy activity moving supplies. Hawkins followed his flight lead in for a rocket attack from 7-8,000 ft. on a 30 degree dive. Hawkins fired his rocket, he then rotated for recovery and approached the mountain on the other side. There was no ejection seen, no beeper, and the weather turned bad by the time the SAR force arrived. The force was not able to conduct a close observation of the crash site and the USAF declared him MIA-KIA.

Capt. Phillip Eldon Smith, USAF, F-104C, 435th TFS, Da Nang AB, RVN, September 20, 1965, POW China



This next loss was rare. Capt. Phillip Eldon “Smitty” Smith, USAF, flying his F-104C Starfighter on a MiG CAP (combat air patrol) for the 436th TFS, Da Nang AB, RVN, escorting an EC-121 radar warning mission over the Gulf of Tonkin was caught in bad weather and lost his bearings. He had reported navigational problems with his equipment. I have also seen a book that says he was escorting Silver Dawn C-130Bs flying electronic reconnaissance missions. Furthermore, I have seen him listed with the 435th TFS but I think the documentation is confusing because the 436th replaced the 435th in October 1965.


He flew eastward and was attacked and shot down by two Chinese MiG-19s over the center of Hainan Island. The Chinese held him captive until March 1973. He was the only USAF pilot known to be held captive by the Chinese. The F-104 was primarily a supersonic low altitude all-weather attack aircraft. So there has been conjecture about why he was over Hainan --- lost perhaps, or on a clandestine mission perhaps, but doubtful. Smith successfully ejected from his crippled aircraft and was captured shortly after reaching the ground. After capture, the communist Chinese transported him to Canton where he underwent intensive interrogation. Later Capt. Smith was transferred to the capital of China, Peking, where he spent the bulk of his captivity in solitary confinement. He was released on March 15, 1973 about a year after President Nixon made his historic trip to China. Smith had flown 80 combat missions out of Da Nang prior to his shoot-down.

In any event two other F-104Cs, 56-0911 and 57-0921 attempted to search for him and collided mid-air as they returned to Da Nang while penetrating foul weather and on a nighttime approach. One pilot was Harvey Quakenbush, the other Dale Carlson.

Harvey Quakenbush, USAF, F-104C, 435th TFS, Da Nang AB, RVN, September 20, 1965, Rescued
Dale Carlson, USAF, F-104C, 43th TFS, Da Nang AB, RVN, September 20, 1965, Rescued

As noted above, two other F-104Cs, 56-0911 and 57-0921 attempted to search for Capt. Smith and collided mid-air as they returned to Da Nang while penetrating foul weather on a nighttime approach. One pilot was Capt. Harvey Quakenbush, the other Capt. Dale Carlson. Both the F-104Cs were day fighters and each had electrical problems and no lights. They lost contact with each other, so the lead lit his afterburners so #2 could identify him. Carlson could not fly night navigation as well as he would have liked because his navigation lights were not working and had not been replaced prior to launch. I believe #2 struck the flight lead anyway. Both pilots ejected safely and were rescued. Quakenbush wold comment later that the maintenance crews knew their lights were not working, but a decision was made not to ground the aircraft for that since they were daylight fighters only. Smith and the other two F-104Cs were from the 436th TFS, 6252nd TFW, Da Nang AB, RVN. I have also seen 435th TFS, but I think that is because in October 1965 the 436th replaced the 435th and there is some confusion in the documentation.


The F-104Cs from Da Nang were used primarily to escort aircraft such as the EC-121. The NVNAF hated to tangle with the F-104C aircraft when it escorted attack missions and generally avoided them. The 104s were simply too fast. Here you see two F-104Cs with an EC-121 Warning Star aircraft.

As an aside, EC-121 escort mission usually involved three flights of four F-104s, and two KC-135 tankers. One sortie would last about 2-5 hours and the operating area was typically 250-300 miles north-northwest of Da Nang. MiG CAP missions over NVN used one to three flights of four F-104s each deployed at various altitudes between the strike area and the Hanoi-Haiphong area.

Capt. Willis E. Forby, USAF, “Essex 04,” F-105D, 334th TFS, Takhli RAFB, September 20, 1965, POW



Essex 04, a F-105D flown by Capt. Willis E. Forby from the 334th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, was hit by a large caliber AAA while on his way to attack a rail bridge near Ha Tinh, about 35 miles south of Vinh. After feeling the jolt, Forby turned his aircraft around, headed toward Laos. His aircraft had caught fire and he ejected a few minutes later, about ten miles east of the Laotian border. His wingman circled above and heard him on the survival radio. Forby dispensed smoke. Regrettably, the enemy had used Forby to set a trap for the SAR forces. Forby said he did not know they were there.



Crown, one of the HC-130P Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Aircraft (ABCCC) always airborne, 24-7, directed two HH-43s to the site. Forby said he was captured by Vietnamese militia and spent 7 years 5 months in the NVN slammer. A NVN soldier captured and taken to the RVN later revealed he had captured Forby. Now let’s turn to Duchy 41, the HH-43 crew that attempted to rescue Forby.

Capt. Thomas J. Curtis, USAF, “Duchy 41,” HH-43, Detachment 1 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS), NKP RTAFB, September 20, 1965, POW
1st Lt. Duane W. Martin, USAF, “Duchy 41,” HH-43, Det 1, 28th ARRS, NKP RTAFB, September 20, 1965, escaped, KIA by a villager during his escape




Capt. Thomas J. Curtis, pilot, shown here, and 1st Lt. Duane W. Martin, co-pilot, launched their HH-43 Duchy 41 62-4510 from NKP RTAFB and were over Ha Tinh Province, NVN which straddled the DMZ, in response to the shoot down of Essex 04. The rest of the crew included SSgt. William A. Robinson, flight engineer; and Airman Arthur N. Black, pararescue. Duchy 41 found Forby and hovered over him. The enemy then sprung the trap, shot up Duchy 41, he was hit badly and crashed into the jungle. The second HH-43 rolled in to try to get Forby. USAF A-1Es came in and strafed the area but the enemy responded by shooting at the second HH-43, which decided he had to get out of there and over to a Lima Site. Crown called in for a massive air attack by a large group of A-1s but they could not find any of the downed crewmen.

It turns out Forby was captured by the North Vietnamese militia, and was turned over to the NVN who sent him to Hanoi. The US was unsure of his fate until the Allies captured a NVA soldier who confirmed they had Forby. He was released on February 12, 1973.

With regard to Duchy 41, Lt. Martin was captured and held by the Pathet Lao, while the remainder of the crew was captured by the NVN-VC and held until release in February 23, 1973. The Pathet Lao held Martin in Laos. At some point, they also captured and brought in the more well-known Navy pilot Lt. Dieter Dengler, USN. Martin escaped along with Dengler. During their escape effort, Martin, stricken with malaria and very weak, decided to go into a village looking for help. He was hacked to death by a villager with a machete. Dengler managed to escape again and was eventually rescued.

So between the HH-43 Duchy 41 and the F-105D Essex 04 shoot-downs, five men were captured with one of those ultimately being murdered.

Capt. Joseph Reynes, F-100D, 481st TFS Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN, September 20, 1965, Rescued


Capt. Joseph Reynes, 481st TFS Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN, was shot down on September 20, 1965 in his F-100D Hun 56-3177 by AAA. The AAA flak caused his engine to seize up following a loss of fuel and oil pressure. He ejected near the Mekong Delta. First Lieutenant Peter Vanderhoef, also a F-100D pilot said to have flown “Pretty Penney,” watched Reynes’ aircraft go down, and described it this way:

“He was dumping JP-4 (fuel) in a sheet about a foot wide from the underside split line of his aircraft, and we decided he had best leave before it lit off. Everything happened in slow motion just like the book said. Joe floated down as I watched his bird fly way out to sea.”

He was rescued and returned to flying duties.

Lt. j.g. Jon R. Harris, USN, A-4E, VA-72, USS Independence, September 20, 1965, Rescued


The final aircraft loss on September 20, 1965 was that of an A-4E Skyhawk II flown by Lt. j.g. Jon R. Harris, VA-72 off the USS Independence, hit by AAA over North Vietnam, about 20 miles east of Hanoi. He was wounded but rescued. He was rescued by a UH-1B which flew him to safety aboard the USS Galveston (CLG-3), a guided missile light cruiser. The book, Navy: An illustrated History: the US Navy from 1775 to the 21st century, said this rescue was the “first recorded rescue … inside North Vietnam.” Harris would later write a book, Wings of the Morning. In it he said he was the junior member of his squadron. He was on what they called an Alpha Strike, which meant major strike, coordinated with aircraft from another carrier. Their mission was to attack a highway and railway bridge leading north out of Hanoi. Harris wrote that they approached Hanoi at 20,000 ft., and then the SAMs came flying. He said, “This was the beginning of the first major guided missile counter-attack in history.” The Air Group Commander ordered them to “hit the deck” and get below radar coverage. So they went down to 500 ft. Harris said he was in “Decoy Flight,” and his flight was ordered to attack. Their instructions were to climb to 12,000 ft., roll in to a 70 degree dive, drop their loads at 7,000 and exit at 4,000 ft. The problem was they were carrying 3,000 lbs. of armament, six 500 lb. bombs, and it was a slow-go to climb to 12,000 ft. He got to his altitude, and made his run on the target, dropped his ordnance, and then turned to make a bee-line to the South China Sea. He and his lead checked each other for damage and all was okay.

They spotted an A-6 Intruder, which was an electronic countermeasures (ECM) aircraft, so they slid under his wings, and figured they were home free. Not so. Harirs got a fire warning light. Then he started to lose hydraulics, concluding the fire had burned through one of the lines. He had trouble operating the rudder pedals, and then his stick froze up. He ejected.

As fate would have it, he landed on his feet, with his parachute lines caught in the tress at just the right height that he landed standing up. After doing his best to escape and evade, he heard an A-1 Skyraider overhead. Harris would later learn the A-1 was circling over his parachute, which he had left behind some time ago, and the A-1 driver told the helicopter not to come in, thinking the pilot was either dead or unconscious. The helicopter was already low on fuel, but decided to come in for one pass anyway before he would have to return to home plate. The helo flew right over Harris, they made contact, the helo, even though short on fuel, had to dump some because it was so hot and humid his bird would have trouble picking up Harris’ weight. The enemy started firing at him, and he was hit in the tail. But then the A-1 swooped in and started his 20 mm cannon fire runs against the enemy. Enemy fire went silent.

The helo drove in and hovered about 40 ft. above Harris, dropped the horse collar, Harris wrapped it around him, and up he went, but not all the way into the helo. The helicopter pilot lurched forward and upward and Harris flew with him about 40 ft. below him holding on to his horse collar.


He was rescued by Lt. Commander Weslie Wetzel and Lt. Kent Vandervelde, with an aircrewman, AD1 Charles Bowman. They had no prior SAR training and no tactics, not even decent charts. Nonetheless, they flew directly to Harris’ location and snatched him up. They employed an UH-2A nicknamed “Angel” from HU-1 Detachment One, Unit Alfa (HU-1 later re-designated helicopter Support Squadron One - HC-1). They were originally on the USS
Midway but were transferred to the USS Galveston. Wetzel was escorted by two VA-25 A-1 Skyraiders from the USS Midway who helped guide them in. They all made the rescue in broad daylight under small arms fire.

In sum, on September 20, 1965 the US lost five fighter aircraft over North Vietnam and one over Hainan, China, two in a crash near Da Nang AB, RVN, one over Hainan Island, China, and one HH-43 SAR helicopter, also over NVN but close to the Laos border, with the possibility it was lost just inside Laos. Eleven crewmen were involved. Six were captured, of which one was captured by the Chinese and one of those captured was murdered by a Laotian villager. Five of the six captives were released after long imprisonments. One was killed in his crash. Four were rescued.

Navy E-1B, VAW-12, USS Independence, September 22, 1965, Rescued


On September 22, 1965, a Navy E-1B Tracer 148918 from VAW-12 off the USS Independence was down on an operational mission but due to non-combat reasons. The crew was rescued. The E-1B was an early warning aircraft which saw extensive service in the early years of the war providing CAP aircraft with target vectors and controlling strikes over NVN and warning those aircraft of MiG action. She was also thought to have a SAR application in coordinating SAR aircraft.

Capt. Jack Gravis and 1st Lt. Wylie E. Nolen, USAF, “Grisley Lead,” F-4C, 47th TFS, Ubon RTAFB, September 24, 1965, Rescued


An USAF F-4C “Grisley lead” 64-0700 flown by Capt. Jack Gravis and 1st Lt. Wylie E. Nolen were hit by AAA while attacking enemy army barracks at the village of Vinh near the South China Sea coast on September 24, 1965. They were from the 47th TFS at Ubon RTAFB. The Panama controller reported two pilots in the water. A HU-16 spotted the two about 5 miles off the coast and picked them both up. The HU-16 was flown by Major D.C. Hollenfeld, who returned them to Da Nang. Capt. Jim Coyne was the wingman and watched the HU-16 come in for the rescue. He said this:


“The Albatross touched down in a shower of white spray and taxied toward the raft. As it approached Wylie, enemy gunners begin to get the range. Artillery shells caused geysers to spew on both sides of the HU-16. My throat was dry as I realized what a sitting duck the flying boat was as it churns slowly through the swells. I saw a geyser erupt directly in front of the HU-16, so close the spray drenched the cockpit windows. Three rescuemen were attempting a pickup in almost suicidal conditions.”

Fortunately, there was an F-4 CAP supporting the HU-16 and it went after the enemy gun emplacements. Capt. Gravis would later say that he could see the F-4s attacking the beach while incoming shells were flying over his head. He said, “The scene looked just like a war movie.” The F-4s suppressed the enemy fire and the HU-16 made his pickup and got out of there safely.

Capt. George R. Hall, USAF, “Dagger 54,” RF-101, 15th TRS, Ubon RTAFB, September 27, 1965, POW


Capt. George R. Hall, USAF, assigned to the 15th TRS, Ubon RTAFB, flying his RF-101 Dagger 54 northeast of Than Hoa close to the South China Sea coast was shot down by ground fire on September 27, 1965. His aircraft was reported on fire. A HU-16 called the Navy for choppers, but there were none in the area. One A-1E Sandy fighter came to the area, checked, and could not find the pilot. It turned out he was captured and served as a POW until his release on February 12, 1973. Hall was due to head back to Okinawa, but he was a seasoned pilot and his commander extended him for one more month. This was to be his final photo mission over bridges near Hanoi. He was hit by ground fire and his aircraft was on fire. Both sides had broken apart. He hit the ejection handle and the next thing he remembers is being on a table in terrible pain surrounded by Vietnamese peasants. He has written a book in which he says:

“I spent seven and one half years in and around Hanoi as a prisoner of war. For seven and one half long, lonely, years, some in isolation, suffering from torture and a variety of illnesses, ‘Home with Honor’ was my hope and my vision, as it was with the 350 plus other American military, mostly pilots, who suffered with me.”

He has said:

“Since my return in 1973 I have suffered post traumatic stress syndrome which has included nightmares, sleep walking, anxiety attacks, restless leg syndrome, heavy thrashing about in bed with near blows to my wife by kicking and hitting out with my arms. I also sometimes scream out during my nightmares.”

Lt. Cmdr. Carl J. Woods, USN, “Milestone 602,” VA-196, USS Bon Homme Richard, September 28, 1965, KIA


Milestone 602, an A-1H 134482 piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Carl J. Woods assigned to VA-196 off the USS Bon Homme Richard was shot down by AAA on September 28, 1965 southeast of Vinh. He was flying armed reconnaissance along a railway line near Qui Vinh, north of the DMZ. He flew his stricken A-1H more than 40 miles to the Gulf of Tonkin and bailed out of his burning aircraft off the coast. His chute did not open. A HU-16 asked for a replacement and said he was going down on the water to get the pilot. Another HU-16 launched shortly thereafter. When the HU-16 landed on the water and got to the pilot, the rescue crew found he had been killed. His remains were recovered by the HU-16.

Archie also noted a F-105D from the 562th TFS crashed about 25 miles from home base, Takhli RTAFB. He had a good chute and was rescued.

Lt. Colonel Melvin J. Killian, USAF, “Mercury Lead,” F-105D, 334th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, September 30, 1965, KIA



On September 30, 1965, Lt. Colonel Melvin J. Killian, USAF, was assigned to and commanded the 334th TFS temporarily assigned to Taklhi RTAFB and was piloting a F-105D and leading a major bombing mission near the Ninh Binh bridges. I believe he was Mercury lead. He was hit by a SAM. He was the first F-105 pilot to be hit by a NVN SAM over the NVN. His aircraft exploded in the air. He was listed as MIA until May 14, 1973 when his status was changed to KIA. His remains were returned to the US on March 20, 1985. He was the only member of the 334th not to return from this assignment. He arrived in the target area ahead of the rest of his flight, wanting to conduct a survey of the area to give directions to the rest of his flight. He came under heavy fire but nonetheless flew over the gun emplacement and gave instructions to his pilots what to go after. His brother, Harold, who retired an USAF colonel, commented to the press after learning Melvin’s remains were to be returned:

'When they last saw him, his head and helmet were lying over against the canopy. He was either dead or unconscious when the airplane hit the ground.''

Capt. Chambless M. Chesnutt and his WSO Capt. Michael Chwan, USAF, “Cobra 4,” F-4C, 47th TFS, Ubon RTAFB, September 20, 1965, both KIA


Also on September 30, 1965, “Cobra 4,” a F-4C flown by Capt. Chambless M. Chesnutt and his WSO Capt. Michael Chwan (shown here) from the 47th TFS at Ubon RTAFB, flying lead went down near Ninh Binh. His wingman, also a F-4C, Cobra 3, said he lost contact with him. Compress Rescue Control at Udorn directed that no RESCAP was needed. There was no beeper and Cobra 3 could not find him. I have seen a report that said Cobra 4 was hit by a SAM over the Ninh Binh Bridge. The remains of both men were found and returned to the US. Cobra Flight was part of the same attack conducted by Colonel Killian just mentioned. Their mission was to hit the road and rail bridge at Ninh Binh.


Capt. Charles J. “Chuck” Scharf, USAF, and his WSO 1st Lt. Martin J. “Marty” Massucci , USAF, “Gator 3,” 43rd TFS, Ubon RTAFB, October 1, 1965, Scharf KIA, Massucci MIA




Capt. Charles J. “Chuck” Scharf, USAF (middle photo), and his WSO 1st Lt Martin J. “Marty” Massucci (bottom photo), call sign Gator 3, flying a F-4C 63-7712 for the 43rd TFS out of Ubon RTAFB, went down at 1355 about 68 miles west-northwest of Hanoi on October 1, 1965. A Sandy A-1E was scrambled. Compress reported a good chute and the pilot on the ground. A Pedro HH-43 estimated LS-36 at 1655 and the Sandy estimated arrival in the area at 1530. Gator 2 said he saw one good chute and reported that Gator 3 had been hit by automatic weapons fire. One of his colleagues reported him on fire and urged him to bail out. A chute was seen leaving the aircraft as it disintegrated. Scharf was part of a four F-4C flight tasked to conduct road reconnaissance and a major enemy concentration on that road, Route 155, about 79 miles west-northwest of Hanoi, only 15 kms from the Chinese border. This highway was the major route used to transport supplies from China to Hanoi, initially to go to the Ban Tain staging area located along he route in Son La Province. The Ban Tain staging area was a suspected truck park near the Black River Valley. One of the four aircraft developed problems shortly after takeoff and had to return to base, leaving three F-4Cs in the flight, and requiring Scharf to take lead.

Gator flight approached the target at low altitude to avoid SAM detection by those SAMs guarding the Ban Tain area. Capt. Marvin C. Quist, pilot; and 1st Lt. Philip M. Ordway, co-pilot; comprised the crew of Gator 4, Gator 3's wingman. Capt. Ralph D. Steele was the pilot of Gator 2. These surviving crews reported their intelligence on the target area was poor. Gator 2 thought he saw the truck park and dropped his bombs on it. Gator 3 and 4 did not drop ordnance. All three aircraft separated after the pop-up maneuver and Scharf reported he was going up the road. Gator 2 misunderstood and flew a direction opposite to that being flown by Scharf. Gator 4 saw Scharf get hit and said, “the flame was small at first and gradually increased for about 15-20 seconds until it trailed the aircraft approximately one plane length.”

Scharf radioed the Mayday distress signals that he was bailing out. He first jettisoned his external stores without telling his backseater. When this is done, there is considerable noise and flashing debris. Massucci apparently thought they were in very bad shape and bailed out.

Gator 4 saw the aircraft crash site on the side of Phu Suong Mountain, spotted a small hole in the foliage with a plume of smoke rising. On debriefing, Gator 4 reported, “In my opinion, there is a strong possibility that the other occupant bailed out prior to aircraft impact. He had sufficient altitude and it is felt he had sufficient time for a successful ejection … the aircraft was in a very steady course toward mountainous terrain. The engines and afterburners appeared to be functioning properly."

Because of sighting the chute and Gator 4’s debrief, there was hope either or both of the men were alive and captured, even though no one could see either of them on the ground and there were no beeper signals. Scharf’s remains were found and returned to the US. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) later found that the chute was that of the F-4C’s drag parachute. Though evidence was found belonging to Massucci, I believe he is carried as MIA.

October 5, 1965, another bad and for me complicated day.

This one took me time to unravel. I found some “fog of war” involved here, I think.

Here’s what I know. Eighteen F-105Ds attacked the bridge at Long Het on October 5, 1965, leaving it unserviceable. Two F-105s were downed and three were damaged. A RF-101C accompanied them, was hit badly by AAA, and was destroyed attempting to land at Da Nang AB, RVN. In a separate mission, eight F-4Cs struck the Long Het ammunition depot, with undetermined results. One F-4C was lost. Also, a Navy F-8E was hit by a SAM and disabled. Furthermore, one F-100 Super Sabre was lost on a bombing mission in the RVN, near Phu Yen. So I can account for six aircraft being lost, with different outcomes for the six pilots, one WSO, which I will discuss.

Lt. j.g. Richard F. Adams, USN, “Chevy Lead,” F-8E, VF-162, USS Oriskany, Rescued
Major James O. Hivner, USAF, “Panther 3,” F-4C, 47th TFS, Ubon RTAFB, POW
1st Lt. Thomas Barrett, USAF, “Panther 3,” F-4C, 47th TFS, Ubon RTAFB, POW
Major Dean A. Pogreba, USAF, “Mercury 01 (Mercury Lead),” F-105D, 49th TFS Yokota, Japan flying for the 36th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, KIA
Capt. Bruce G. Seeber, USAF, “Mercury 02,” F-105D, 49th TFS Yokota, Japan flying for the 36th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, POW
Capt. Robert Pitt, USAF, RF-101C, 15th TRS, Udorn RTAFB, Crash landing survved
First Lt. John C. Hauschildt, USAF, F-100, 481st TFS, Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN, KIA

Military commanders as you might suspect were preoccupied with neutralizing SAM and AAA sites in NVN. At the beginning of 1965 bombing was authorized against the northeast quadrant of NVN which included a large segment of a rail line from Hanoi to China, which were defended heavily by the enemy.

October 5, 1965 turned out to be a big day. I had problems weaving Archie’s notes with research reports about this day. As a result, I have been confronted with different pictures of the number of losses. I am going to present my best assessment of what they were.

Some were reflected in Archie’s notes, some are not. But here we go.

To my knowledge, Archie did not note Hauschildt (F-100) or Pitt (RF-101C), mentioned in the opening list. Furthermore, I have four losses listed by Archie I cannot resolve. One was Honda 4 who reportedly ejected in the same area where Mercury 1, Mercury 2 and Panther 3 ejected, up north of Hanoi. Archie also noted that the command post had advised that Rhino 3 and 4 were missing, and that a F-4C in Leopard flight was unaccounted for. So based on Archie’s notes, I’ve got two losses Archie did not note, Hauschildt and Pitt, and three more he did note that I cannot correlate, Rhino 3, Rhino 4 and Leopard. I have found this very frustrating. Based on my review of losses for the day, I have had to assume Rhino 3 and 4 and Leopard flight all made it to safety. Honda 4 remains a mystery to me because only three aircraft were lost in the area of the Long Het attack which is where he was reported down. For the moment, I will not address any of these four losses further. Anyone who can help me out here, please do ---

But we have to move on with what I have been able to confirm. If you pay attention to Archie’s time-hacks during this day, you’ll see it was busy. It was early in the war. I don’t think the US expected these kinds of losses, so I can see how things can get tense when you have a day like this.

Lt. j.g. Richard F. Adams, USN, “Chevy Lead,” F-8E, VF-162, USS Oriskany, October 5, 1965, Rescued


Archie noted that at 1120, a Navy F-8E 150848 was reported down over the Gulf of Tonkin southeast of Haiphong. Archie’s notes are a little unclear here. First, he identified the call sign as Chevy Lead and identified the aircraft as a F-105. I think this was a mistake, a fog of war kind of thing.

I believe Chevy Lead was a F-8 hit by a missile (other reports say small arms fire) and on fire, having received tail damage. It also appears the location given to Archie out over the Gulf of Tonkin was wrong.


The pilot was Lt. j.g. Richard F. Adams, VF-162 embarked the USS Oriskany. The reason I believe Chevy Lead was Adams and his F-8 is because in his continuous notes of the event, Archie noted at 1212 “Lockett” entered the area as low cover and asked for high cover to watch over him. Four Skyraiders in Lockett flight did respond to Adams. One said he spotted a pilot on a 200 ft. hill. I believe Lockett was an A-1 Skyraider from VA-152 Mavericks, also flying from the Oriskany. (The photos shows USAF A-1E Skyraiders but you get the idea).


Corroborating this, the website of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Six (HS-6), the Raunchy Redskins, reported on Adams. Its report said a Navy SH-3 Sea King flown by Lt. Bill Waechter (shown here), Lt. j.g. Bob Wildman, ADJ2 Harley Olsen and AX1 Michael Brantly penetrated NVN territory to 35 miles northwest of Haiphong to rescue Adams who was located in a high altitude karst mountain area. Archie’s notes do reflect that Navy helicopters were going into the area as of 1215, so all in all I think Archie and I are in synch here.

The HS-6 crew had to fly aggressive evasive maneuvers to make it through the heavy and intense AAA and automatic weapons fire to get through the 70 mile flight to Adams. Adams contacted the crew by survival radio, and noted his difficult position on the hill. The HS-6 crew decided to go in after him, hovered over a gorge and began a very treacherous descent to where they thought Adams was. Adams was under dense foliage but the HS-6 crew picked him up and fought their way out of more enemy fire. They got their man.

At 1225 a Navy A-1 reported being hit and was going down. I’m guessing, but I suspect this was an A-1H or an A-1J from VA-152 embarked the USS
Oriskany. I have read the VA-152 history for this time period and there is no report of losing an A-1 on this date. In any event, Compress Control said the area cited for the A-1 was not suitable for a Jolly Green. To my knowledge, the subject was dropped. The report was either a mistake or he brought his crippled aircraft to safety.

The attacks against Long Het and surrounding targets, NVN

We need to go over a bit of history in this next section of October 5, 1965 attacks in NVN. Today, we always hear, whether it was the war against Iraq or Afghanistan, or even the threatened attacks against Syria, that the air forces, USAF and Navy, have as their first order of business shutting down the enemy’s air defense systems, fighters, AAA and SAMs including any associated radars and command and control (C2) sites. That is because we want air superiority, as unfettered as we can get it, prior to putting in ground forces. That way, we can command the skies and provide the forces on the ground with the best available air support.

This was not the case early on in the Vietnam War, and it would be a bone of contention throughout the war. We are at October 5, 1965. Prior to this, most air sorties were flown against non-SAM targets. Air commanders did not like this at all. At the beginning of 1965, the suits in Washington allowed bombing of the northeast sector of NVN which included Hanoi and rail and other supply lines to China from Hanoi.

I want to insert excerpts from a note written by a friend familiar with the situation during these days. For starters, he recommends we read
Going Downtown, by Jack Broughton, to get a full perspective. But here are few words my friend had to say:

“The main reason NVN air defenses were so effective is because of the
idiots in Washington DC (LBJ and Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense) were trying to run a war they weren’t committed to winning. U.S. fighter jets were prohibited from bombing the two main MiG bases in North Vietnam, Phuc Yen and Kep. I’ve heard stories of large attack groups of fighters going to bomb Hanoi and Haiphong and watching fighters on the ground taking off.......they would have been court martialed if they had dropped their bombs on those airfields. The MiGs that were allowed to takeoff killed a lot of our guys and sent lots more to live in prison as POW’s. Our fighters weren’t allowed to bomb stockpiles of SAMs even though we knew where they were.....they were stockpiled at locations known by the enemy to be ‘off limits’ to our bombing. We let any country deliver war materiel to the North unmolested in Haiphong harbor. We could have easily denied any shipping and a lot of the overland supply from China.......however the brilliant leadership in Washington didn’t want to attack another country’s ship even though they were supplying our enemy.”

Jacob van Staaveren, writing,
“Gradual Failure, the air war over North Vietnam 1965-1966,” notes the situation was no different on October 5, 1965. The most important targets for the first half of October 1965 were the bridges at Long Het, Xom Phuong, and Vu Chua and an ammunition depot near Long Het.


This is not the best map for what I want to show. So you’ll need to imagine. The black line shows Route 1A which, among other things, tied Hanoi to China, a major supply route during the war. I have located Vu Chua. It is on Hwy 1A. Very close by is the Kep Airfield, a major NVN air defense fighter base and Long Het. All of this is just northeast of Hanoi. Hanoi, of course, was protected by heavy air defenses, but so was Kep Airfield and key bridges along Hwy 1A and nearby areas, all located in Lang Son Province.

Okay, back to October 5, 1965. The attacks were launched, most notably against the Kep highway bridge. After attacking the bridge, pilots reported numerous bursts of fire, and felt they had hit some SAMs. They also attacked the Long Het bridge and Long Het ammunition depot.

Life now gets complicated. Within a span of five minutes, 1235-1240, three aircraft were reported down, all three in roughly the same area, a bit to the northeast of Kep Airfield, which was about 40 miles northeast of Hanoi. It was one of the principal air bases for the NVNAF MiGs. These MiGs could challenge American aircraft attempting to interdict an important transportation network including rail lines and roads that connected NVN with China.

Major James O. Hivner, USAF, “Panther 3,” F-4C, 47th TFS, Ubon RTAFB, POW
1st Lt. Thomas Barrett, USAF, “Panther 3,” F-4C, 47th TFS, Ubon RTAFB, POW


At 1235 a report came in saying Panther 4, an F-4C reported ejecting about 5 miles from the city of Kep, in the area described above. Someone on the scene asked for CH-3C Jolly Greens. But at 1300 Compress control said the area was out of Jolly Greene range and therefore they will not respond. Also at 1235 Honda 4 was reported to have ejected, also in this same area. Then at 1240 Panther 3 was reported down here as well, no doubt flying with Panther 4.

HivnerJameswithF4C ThomasBarrett

I believe Panther 3 was a F-4C 63-7563 flown by Major James O. Hivner (left with his F-4C circa 1965) and 1st Lt. Thomas Barrett (right shown as a lieutenant colonel). They went down near a road bridge at Lang Met, forty miles northeast of Hanoi and just nine miles northeast of Kep airfield. They were on a bombing run and apparently were able to drop their bombs before being hit and ejecting from their burning plane. Both men were captured almost immediately. They were assigned to the 43rd TFS, Clark AB, Philippines, but deployed to Ubon RTAFB for 90 days, tasked to support the 47th TFS located there. Both were released in February 1973.

Then, seemingly miraculously, Archie wrote that at 1305 Panther 4 was reported as still airborne. The pilot apparently had not ejected as originally reported. Panther 4 located Panther 3 five miles east of the target. But it was too late. Both men had been captured.

At 1320, the Navy reported it was unable to enter the area with SAR support.

Major Dean A. Pogreba, USAF, “Mercury 01 (Mercury Lead),” F-105D, 49th TFS Yokota, Japan flying for the 36th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, KIA


Okay, back to that five minute span, 1320-1325. At 1235 Mercury flight squawked emergency and said he intended to land at Da Nang, RVN. Mercury flight was a group of five F-105Ds (other documents say four) led by Major Dean Pogreba tasked to attack targets north of Hanoi. His wingman was Capt. Bruce G. Seeber. It turns out these F-105Ds were involved in the same overall operation as were the F-4Cs Panther 3 and 4 mentioned previously.

Then, at 1355 the command post received a report that Mercury Lead was unaccounted for. It is interesting that there are no more references of Mercury Lead in Archie’s note. This struck me as odd because this was one helluva event. I am assuming here again that Archie might have been too busy to take detailed notes about Mercury Lead.

Mercury Lead, or Mercury 01, was a F-105D 62-4295 flown by Major Dean A. Pogreba. Archie identifies him as such in his single entry about the incident. Pogreba was attached to the 49th TFS at Yokota, Japan, and was sent on “temporary” duty to fly combat out of Takhli RTAFB. I should have mentioned earlier that in these early days of the war, the existence of Takhli has hugely hush-hush, even though many in the press knew about it. Furthermore, units and members of units were quietly being transferred back and forth from places like Japan to Thailand to fly combat missions, again, at the time a secret. In those days, permanent stationing of these kinds of fighters at bases in Thailand was politically tricky. For the moment, I will say that Pogreba was listed as KIA. There has been controversy about that which I will discuss a bit later.

I’d like to interject here. Jacob van Staaveren, writing “Gradual Failure, the air war over North Vietnam 1965-1966,” highlighted that these F-105D missions were known as Iron Hand. The suits in Washington had placed all kinds of restrictions on the bombing which I do not care to go into. However, the service chiefs were able to exempt “sorties flown by specialized aircraft earmarked for anti-SAM missiles,” and those were nicknamed Iron Hand by the Pacific Command.

General Hunter Harris, shown here, was the commander-in-chief Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), and “he selected a number of F-105Ds as Iron Hand aircraft.” Furthermore, “if weather or operational problems canceled an anti-SAM mission, they could strike other targets,” to wit things like bridges! This strikes me as “ GI ingenuity” to work around all the restrictions placed on our war fighters. It also demonstrates the huge divide between our top commanders and the suits in Washington.

Pogreba led Mercury Flight of five F-105s (some reports say four) on a bridge strike mission north of Hanoi. Mercury Flight’s mission I believe was to attack Dong Dang, about 40 miles from the Chinese border.


Google maps and other maps for Dong Dang show it residing almost on the Chinese border. This photo, credited to QT Luong for, shows a modern day photo of the border crossing to China at Dong Dang. There was and is a train line from Dong Dang to Hanoi, so no doubt the target was selected to stop the flow of supplies from China to the NVN. That this was the target will become an important point later when I return to the controversy surround Pogreba.

Capt. Bruce G. Seeber, USAF “Mercury 02,” F-105D, 49th TFS Yokota, Japan flying for the 36th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, October 5, 1965, POW

Capt. Bruce G. Seeber was Pogreba’s wingman, flying F-105D 62-4376. POW Network said both Pogreba and Seeber were hit by enemy fire near the borders of Lang Son and Ha Bac provinces, roughly this area. POW Net said both crashed. Seeber was captured close to the target.

Archie’s notes did not record Seeber’s loss, which would have been another “Mercury” F-105 flight. Several reports I read said we lost only one F-105 on this day. That is wrong; we lost the two I have described.


Pogreba and Seeber ejected near Lang Het bridge, about 15 miles north of Bac Giang and on Route 1A north of Hanoi. The 18 F-105Ds reportedly dropped one span of the bridge. This is a bomb damage assessment photo of the collapsed bridge following this attack.

I have read the 6235 Combat Support Group, Takhli RTAFB loss report about this incident, dated September 18, 1975. It maintains that the pilots had intended to make a bee-line to the South China Sea Coast under radio silence. The report also said that while airborne and after his attack run, Pogreba did not complain of any damage to his aircraft. But he was never heard from again and did not show up on the coastline. There has long been speculation that he actually headed north and crashed in China. More on that in a moment,

A memoir filed by W. Howard Plunkett, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.) commented on these F-105s:

“They just disappeared. No one saw them and no one can find them.”

He added that the F-105s were each carrying two 3,000 lb. bombs and were hitting targets near the Chinese border.

The Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA affairs took up Pogreba’s and Seeber’s loss. Its report said Pogreba had completed his bombing run through dense cloud cover, and that he was seen rolling off his target in an area of heavy AAA fire and from which three SAMs were launched. This report goes on to say:

“He (Pogreba) radioed he was departing the area on the prebriefed exit route. The members of the flight also used the prebriefed exit route and maintained radio silence until reaching the coast. Major Pogreba never arrived and was declared missing. Visual and electronic search failed to disclose any evidence of either him or his aircraft.”

Pogreba was declared MIA, fate unknown. As I mentioned, Seeber was captured and later identified as a POW. While my information is that Pogreba was lead, Seeber’s citation for the Silver Star says:

“He (Seeber) led a flight of F-105 Fighter-Bombers against a vital target complex deep within hostile territory. Penetrating perimeter defenses on a high speed low level approach to minimize the effectiveness of anti-aircraft fire, Captain Seeber found the primary target obscured by clouds and rain. Not to be deterred, he selected a target of opportunity and changed his tactics by climbing into the overhanging clouds, thus exposing himself to radar controlled gunfire, to position his flight for a perfect bombing pass on a key roadway.”

I want to highlight a controversy surrounding the fate of Major Dean Pogreba, whose F-105 went down while on a raid near the Chinese border. He has never been found. Returning POWs could not provide any information on him, though one opined that some felt he might have gone down in China. A former POW who is said to have reported this was Leo K. Thorsness who, the F-105F Wild Weasel mission, was shot down by a MiG-21 and captured. He would later receive the Medal of Honor.

Whatever the case, in November 1977 Pogreba was declared KIA, body not recovered.

Then, in 1991, Tom Lacy, Brigadier General, USAF (Ret.) told Pogreba’s next of kin he had spoken with Pogreba and knew where he was. Lacy reportedly said Pogreba was shot down over China, and Lacy had made two failed attempts to rescue him. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Lacy, retired at the time, said he saw Pogreba woking on an opium farm in the NVN. However, a Senate subcommittee questioned Lacy and attached little credibility to his story.

Chinese and NVN radio stations said that on October 5, 1965 four US aircraft intruded into Chinese airspace, US aircraft had been shot down, and pilots had been captured.

Lacy’s rendition is curious. He retired in 1977. While Lacy did fly the F-105 with the 355th TFW and served as a flight commander with the 354th TFS until July 1964, after which he returned to the US. In August 1965, he returned to Vietnam and served as operations staff at Headquarters 7th AF in Saigon through July 1966, after which he went to Pacific Air Forces headquarters in Hawaii. He died on October 15, 2010.

Authors of the book,
Inside Hanoi’s Secretive Archives, found and photographed Pogreba’s identification card and Geneva Convention Card which are on display at the Hanoi Military War museum. The card was said to be in pristine condition.

To my knowledge, nothing more has come of all this.

This next group of notes, I believe, did not involve any losses.

At 1410 Bravo reported being fired at 19 miles north of Buccaneer. Then Archie’s notes read “Lockett 588/585.” On the side of his note pad, Archie wrote Buccaneer 18 108, and DLG King /18108. I assume these are mile and radial readings off of radar stations Buccaneer and DLG King; for example, 18 miles off the 108 radial from the location of the radar site. I think Bravo is a HU-16 and, as noted earlier, Lockett 588 and 585 were probably two Navy A-1 Skyraiders from VA-152 Mavericks, flying from the

Two minutes later, the Command Post at 1412 reported Rhino 3 and 4 were missing.

At 1421, trying to interpret a short note by Archie, it appears that Lion took control of the SAR effort from a command and control standpoint. Lion was a radar and flight following site from Det 3, 621st Tactical Control Squadron, Ubon RTAFB.

Also at 1412, the Command post reported Leopard flight, F-4C, was unaccounted for.

So what do we have here? I don’t know what-who Buccaneer is. I do not know what Lockett 588 and 585 were doing. I can find no evidence Rhino 3 and 4 failed to make it home. I also can find no evidence Leopard flight failed to make it home. Frankly, I have no idea who Rhino 3 and 4 were. I only know Leopard was a F-4C.

I’m exhausted trying to resolve these, so once again, we move on. I feel lousy about this but we have to press ahead.

“Hawk 1,” EB-66, Takhli RTAFB, October 5, 1965, Attacked by MiGs, escaped the MiG attack safely


At 1425 Compress asked for information on Hawk 1; Compress had negative contact since he first refueled. Archie noted Hawk 1 was a Takhli based RB-66 and at 1430 reported him inbound to home plate --- home base and landing. Initially in the war, people in theater confused the RB-66 photo reconnaissance aircraft with the EB-66 ECM aircraft. The RB-66s and EB-66s arrived in theater in May 1965. I understand they started at Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN, but were transferred to Tahkli RTAFB. The EB-66’s job was to escort strike aircraft into NVN and alert them to enemy radars, their locations, and then jam the radars with chaff. This inhibited NVN gunners using radar controlled guns from being effective. At first, the EB-66 did not work well against SAMs, though improvements were made over time.

In any event, an EB-66C out of Takhli participated in the Long Het mission discussed earlier. Five MiGs intercepted him. Two made firing passes, but missed. The EB-66C pilot said he believed the MiGs had Chinese markings, and they flew north after the attack.

So, that’s a summary of what I’ve learned from Archie’s notes about October 5, 1965. But, nothing is easy in life, and I’m not finished.

I have two more losses on October 5, 1965, but cannot match them with Archie’s notes. It is possible that these might be some of those call signs I could not find, but I don’t think so because other parts of Archie’s notes don’t match up with these two losses.

First Lt. John C. Hauschildt, USAF, F-100, 481st TFS, Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN, KIA



First Lt. John C. Hauschildt, USAF, flying an F-100 Super Sabre for the 481st TFS was lost on a bombing mission in the RVN, near Phu Yen, and listed as KIA. Phu Yen is on the South China Sea coast about halfway between Qui Nhon and Nha Trang. So he is in this mix someplace, but I cannot find his call sign. He was on an ordnance run and crashed and exploded. Hostile ground fire was in the area, but the specific cause of accident I believe remains unknown.

Wikipedia reported a story about Hauschildt which adds to the sorrow of our losses in Vietnam. It reads:

“The death … of Hauschildt was part of a larger coincidental tragedy. When four friends who had attended the Air Force Academy together were all assigned to Cannon AFB as pilots, they decided to pool their money and buy a house. Three of the four pilots were assigned to the 481st and the fourth, Lt. Thomas McAtee, was assigned to the 429th Tactical Fighter Squadron. In the space of ten weeks, three of the four friends were killed. On 29 July 1965, Lt. Donald Watson was killed in South Vietnam. On 23 August 1965, Lt. Ralph Ford was killed on a training flight near Nara Visa, New Mexico and on 5 October 1965, Lt. John Hauschildt was killed on a bombing mission in South Vietnam. Lt. McAtee was in Vietnam during this time and had flown 36 combat missions with the 429th TFS. He was shocked to learn of the deaths of his three friends and returned to Clovis, New Mexico in October 1965 to sell the house.”


I have also found an USAF RF-101C Voodoo 56-0178 flown by Robert PItt from the 15th TRS at Udorn RTAFB lost on October 5 to AAA. He crash landed at Da Nang. The aircraft was destroyed but the pilot survived. This photo was sent to me by Bob Pitt; it shows him after completing his 100th mission over NVN and the troops covered him with the usual welcoming debris!

As I mentioned earlier, he accompanied the eighteen F-105Ds attacking the bridge at Long Het. His task was to get bomb damage assessment on the bridge and an ammunition storage area. Two RF-101Cs were on the mission, the other flown by Major Tony Weissgarber. Pitt was flight lead, Weissgarber his wingman. Weissgarber wrote a good article about this mission published on Yahoo back in April 2008, entitled “A combat mission over Vietnam.” I will extract from it but commend it to you. Bob Pitt also wrote an article published by the 24th Flight newsletter of El Paso, Texas. I’ll integrate some of what he said also.

Following launch from Udorn RTAFB, they headed out to the Gulf of Tonkin after which they released their drop tanks and proceeded on a westerly heading to the target area. They flew at low level, one hundred feet altitude, and smoking in at 600 knots (Pitt says 480 knots, but said they did crank it up to 600 knots once they approached Hanoi). Speed was their main defense. Pitt was to take the ammo storage area while Weissgarber took the Long Het bridge.

Both pilots understood enemy would be located on mountains and hills to spot them coming in through the valet about 1,000 ft. below and alert defense forces. Furthermore, they almost always came in 10-15 minutes after the last attack. So they had no element of surprise, just low altitude and speed galore. They encountered intensive ground fire on their way in. Pitt was hit, with flames burning from behind to twice the length of his aircraft. Pitt asked Weissgarber which engine was hit, the response was the left engine, so Pitt shut it down and the fire went out.

Pitt thought about ejecting, but determined he would hit the karsts in the area and decided against it, figuring if his aircraft blows up, it blows up. Pitt did a u-turn and headed out to the Gulf. Pitt said his right overheat light was on, he was losing fuel rapidly, and his left wing seemed to have more surface outboard than it had near the fuselage. That’s where he took his hit --- he later learned he was hit by an 85 mm through the left engine.

Weissgarber had also been hit, but all his instruments said he was okay, so he kept on going in, having decided it was his job to photograph both targets. He got the bridge with cameras on, then headed to the ammo storage area when he came under intensive fire again. He was hit again, but saw no flames and his instruments still said he was okay.

Weissgarber then headed out to the Gulf of Tonkin and started looking for Pitt. Pitt was able to only hold at about 300 knots with one engine. Once he made it to the Gulf, he figured he could not keep flying low because that ate up too much fuel, he worried about climbing out fearing Chinese MiGs would come after him, but decided he had to climb and take his chances.

They met up, Weissgarber looked over Pitt’s aircraft, and saw “Pitt’s left side was gutted from the leading edge of the wing, along the fuselage to the tail section.” To him, the plane did not look flyable, but he told Pitt she looked okay with some burn damage to keep Pitt’s morale up. Weissgarber admitted lying. Pitt was shooting for Da Nang AB, the closest friendly base, but was low on fuel. He wanted to take on fuel, called for a tanker, married up with it, but the hydraulics operating his boom receptacle did not work, so he could not take on fuel. Interestingly, the tanker, a KC-135, was much farther to the north than allowed --- that’s the way it is; you’ve gotta be there for your guys so that rule must have “escape the crews’s minds!” Once Pitt discovered he could not take on fuel, he told the tanker guys to get out of there since they were so far north.

Weissgarber told Pitt to move over and he would take on some fuel, but he was sufficiently battle damaged that much of it simply flowed out of the aircraft. Pitt reported to his wingman that his fuel gauge read empty and asked how much might be still in the lines. Weissgarber told him he didn’t know how much might be left in the lines, but to trim his nose down and punch out when the engine stops.

Pitt lowered his landing gear using the pneumatic system. He would have to do a no-flap landing and should have been at 190 knots, but he maintained 250 knots just in case he had a flame out just before landing. Pitt said if the engine quit above 100 ft, he’d pull up and eject. If he was below 100 ft., well, he’d ride her in. Just as he made it to the Da Nang overrun he was hit by a hard crosswind from the right and was forced to put his right wing very low. He pulled the drag chute in the air to slow down and made a pretty good landing. But he had no nose gear steering and no rudder control, so he could not maintain direction aerodynamically. He could only ride wherever the aircraft took him. The aircraft drifted off the runway and hit a small building, a ground control approach (GCA) shack. Then there was a cloud of dust, he was sliding over the terrain on his aircraft’s belly, with his right wing trying to dig into the mud, which would probably have flipped him over. But he did not flip, he spun around a few times, and his aircraft came to a rest. Pitt managed to get out of the aircraft and get away.

Pitt said among the first things he saw was a fireman in his silver suit staring at him through a window. He told the fireman, “Don’t worry about this thing burning. There’s nothing in it to burn.” And then he remarked the next two people he saw were officers in Class-B uniforms, one the flight surgeon, the other the chaplain!

Pitt’s aircraft was destroyed. Weissgarber flew on to Udorn. When he landed, he saw how much fuel was leaking from the battle damage, and was startled his aircraft did not catch on fire. But it was no longer flyable and never flew again.

Pitt said Weissgarber calls him every October 5th to remind him of the day and congratulate him for his surviving the mission over Hanoi. Weissberger learned about my effort here and called me. We had a great chat and he told me how to contact Pitt. I did that and had another great chat. Men of steel as far as I am concerned.

So that’s October 5, 1965. I would like to comment here that as I researched this day I came across a lot of research about US air forces against the NVN in the early days of the war. I was amazed to see how many aircraft we lost. I guess I fell victim to the idea that we had such a powerful Air Force and Naval Air Force that we would make minced meat out of the enemy. In many respects our pilots did do that, but they incurred far more losses than I would have imagined. There has been a lot of study on this issue which is worth reading.

It turns out the NVN had one of the best air defense systems in the world, Soviet and Chinese supplied, and quite often our air forces’ hands were tied by the suits in Washington from destroying them. The next loss involved Major James Randall. In an article done by Dave Phillips for
The Gazette of Colorado Springs published on July 21, 2013, Randall remarked that when he arrived in August 1965, F-105s were being shot down at a rate of two per week. Phillips also quoted Ed Rasimus, a F-105 pilot, writing in his 2003 book, When Thunder Rolled:

“The losses were appalling. For every five pilots that started the tour, three would not complete it."

Major James E. Randall, USAF, “Triumph 01, F-105D, 562 TFS, Takhli RTAFB, October 5, 1965, Rescued


On October 13, 1965, at 1410, Compress control at Udorn reported Triumph 01, a F-105D down 90 miles north of LS-36, just northwest of Dien Bien Phu, close to the Laotian border. Crown 27, a H-130P airborne SAR controller said he and a USAF Sandy A-1E were going to the border, I assume Laos-NVN border, and hold. At 1420 a Jolly Green CH-3C was airborne and the Sandy A-1E was aloft at 1435. Sandy made radio contact with the pilot at 1455. The Jolly Green estimated arriving at 1525. Jolly made the pickup while taking ground fire. I believe this was a F-105D 61-0180, 562nd TFS, Takhli RTAFB, down near Tuan Gio, NVN not far from Dien Bien Phu. The pilot was Major James E. Randall.

Randall was flight lead for a four ship formation tasked to destroy a bridge in far northwestern NVN not far from Dien Bien Phu. Another 15 F-105s were attacking dams, roads and bridges all over Vietnam. Looking ahead, Randall spotted his bridge. The four Thuds prepared for their attack run, Randall pushed into a steep dive, the others followed and at about 8,000 ft. Randall released his bombs, and then pulled up. Then boom, he felt a jolt. He had been hit by AAA in the rear end. His warning lights were humming. He was losing his hydraulics, and his control system died on him. He was still flying at 600 mph when he ejected. Randall said to himself, “I’m not going home tonight.”

His leg was bleeding, he dumped his parachute and harness and helmet, and limped into the undergrowth. Enemy forces approached as Randall hid as quietly as he could. They moved toward the wreckage, allowing Randall to crawl uphill to a small clearing. He pulled out his radio and called for help. He waited two hours, but he then heard the sounds of freedom associated with the incoming SAR rescue force. A Jolly Green hovered over him, took hostile fire, but managed to get Randall aboard, and out they flew.

RandallJamesLaterLife RandallHelmet

As an interesting aside, in 1990 a Frenchman named Dominque Eluere was shopping in an Army surplus store in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), spotted an American pilot’s helmet, and bought it. The helmet still had the oxygen mask attached and had the marking of “562 Tac Fighter Sq” on one side, and “Jim” on the other. In the middle was a small embossed label saying, “Maj. Randall.” Eluere decided he simply had to return it to Randall and after some exhausting and time consuming research, finally found him after 22 years. Eluere met a Vietnam vet named Gary “Paco” Gregg,” told him about the helmet, asked Gregg for help, and Gregg took on the job. Gregg had fought at Khe Sanh. Gregg finally got the helmet back to Randall --- quite a surprise after all those years.

Randall talks of the ordeal in a very nice interview that can be seen at
The Gazette’s web site, along with Phillips’ article.

Capt. Thomas W. Sima, USAF, “Olds Lead,” F-105D, 36th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, October 15, 1965, POW
Capt. Robert H. Schuler, USAF, “Olds 02,” F-105D, 36th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, October 15, 1965, KIA


In very brief notes, really only there lines, Archie marked down that at 0730 an aircraft was reported down and at 0750 a CH-3C Jolly Green estimated arriving on the scene at 0940. The coordinates noted by Archie match where a F-105D 62-4333, 36th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, went down after being hit by 37 mm AAA. Capt. Thomas W. Sima, USAF was the pilot. He ejected near Moc Chau. Sima too was on temporary duty from Yokota AB, Japan.

Sima and Capt. Robert H. Schuler, USAF launched together in their F-105s from Takhli to attack targets near Ha TIeng, NVN. A total of four F-105Ds left on this mission. Sima ejected safely and was captured and held as a POW in Hanoi. Schuler apparently stayed by his flight lead and orbited above him. I have seen a report that says he was hit by a MiG-17. No trace of Schuler and no word about him from POWs when they were released. Schuler was also on temporary duty from Yokota.

Sima did not like the lay of the land when they reached the target area: too many nearby villages, the clouds were very low, and he worried they could not make a “clean run.” So he broke off the mission and told the others they would go to another target. Shortly thereafter he was hit in the rear of the aircraft, and he lost control of it. He recalled, "My controls went in one particular direction and locked there. I lost complete control of the aircraft. After a few seconds of trying to gain control and realizing I couldn't, I radioed to the rest of the flight that I was hit, had no controls and had to get out immediately. Just before I ejected I heard somebody acknowledge."

He was flying below 1,000 ft. at the time. He commented after squeezing the ejection trigger, "It was an awful jolt … Then I lost my breath because I hit the airstream. . . . I just felt the air blast and being compressed in the seat, like a rocket shooting off." Then the mechanism designed to get him out of his seat did just that: “You're sitting down and all of a sudden it's like someone kicked you in the behind.” Then his parachute opened. He saw his aircraft explode. Then he looked down at the ground:

"I was cursing a lot because people on the ground were shooting at me … (They kept firing) All I had was a little snub-nose .38 and I was not about to declare war on the country with that.” He rushed away and hid in some bushes, but was found. He commented, "They kind of made a little circle around me and poked me with a bayonet," he said.

"I looked up and there they were." He then said to himself, “I’m dead.”

Let me return to Capt. Schuler, later promoted to major posthumous. His remains were found in the late 1990s-early 2000s (I have seen 1995 but am not sure of that) near the crash aircraft site, but it took several years to identify them to Schuler.

Just a moment on how they identified him.

Between 1999 and 2001 the military found many remains and personal effects of US military forces in excavations looking for such things. The technicians had tried for years to identify them. Technicians somehow decided to contact the Schuler family, probably as part of an overall effort to get some identification leads. Schuler’s parents lived in a home in Ashland, NY, not far from Elmira. They did not talk much about their son to neighbors. In 1978 his parents died and the house sat vacant. A neighbor tried to keep vandals away and was in the house several times. He spotted medals and photos. He decided not to touch them. One or two years later he went back inside, saw the medals were gone, and so he grabbed up the photos. This neighbor eventually bought the property for his daughter. But the neighbor contacted another neighbor who was a Vietnam veteran and told him about the photos. That neighbor in turn named the Elmira Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America after Major Schuler.

Then the military finally found and contacted Schuler’s brother, Fred. The military asked if he had anything that could help them identify the remains they had, and he remembered he had his father’s shaving kit, which included a hair brush. The hair from Schuler’s father was enough to make a DNA match. As one of the people involved said, ”It’s really incomprehensible.”

Well, for my purposes this ends my travels through Archie’s notes.

General Mark Welsh, when he commanded USAF Europe,
spoke to the Air Force Academy cadets on November 3, 2011. It is a magnificent speech which I commend to you. It takes almost an hour, but it is an hour well spent. He is now the Chief of Staff, USAF, Uno-Uno. I was looking for a way to close out this very long report gleaned from Archie Taylor’s notes of 1964-1965, so I went back to listen to General Welsh’s talk. I’m gong to close by stealing some of his talk early on and adapting it to what I wish to say here.

There is a place at the Air Force Academy called the Honor Court. Welsh urged the cadets to go there at a time when there is no one else around, perhaps at night.


He talked about standing next to a model aircraft of an old B-17 bomber at the Court, and told them to put their hands on the marble and close their eyes. He said:

“Strange things happen. You’ll hear the bogey calls. Then you’ll hear the bandit calls. You’ll hear the waste gunners testing their guns. You’ll sense the tension as they anticipate the attack. You’ll sense the fear. And you’ll feel the pride.”

He said a few moments later:

“Every once in a while remind yourself of who you are.”

HH-43 SAR pilot’s diary, 1964-1965, Vietnam:

Section One:
Archie Taylor, commander, Det 4, Pacific Air Rescue Center (PARC), October 1964-May 1965

Section Two:
SAR Rescue Center, Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN, May-October 1965