12 January 1973

McDonnell F-4B-28-MC Phantom II Bu. No. 153068. Note the MiG 19 kill mark painted on the intake splitter vane. (U.S. Navy)
McDonnell F-4B-27-MC Phantom II Bu. No. 153045. Note the MiG 17 kill mark painted on the intake splitter vane. (U.S. Navy)

12 January 1973: Lieutenant Victor T. Kovaleski and Lieutenant James R. Wise, of VF-161 Chargers, flying a McDonnell F-4B-27-MC Phantom II, Bu. No. 153045 from the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CVA-41), shot down a Vietnam Peoples Air Force MiG-17 flown by Senior Lieutenant Luu Kim Ngo, near Hải Phòng, using an AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missile. This was the last air combat victory by a U.S. airplane during the Vietnam War.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

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About Bryan Swopes

Bryan R. Swopes grew up in Southern California in the 1950s–60s, near the center of America's aerospace industry. He has had a life-long interest in aviation and space flight. Bryan is a retired commercial helicopter pilot and flight instructor.

7 thoughts on “12 January 1973

  1. Hello, Bryan,

    I am very interested in corresponding with you regarding my forthcoming biography of Major Richard Bong. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Blue skies,
    Bruce Gamble

  2. The Bureau Number on this aircraft, NF-102, is wrong in both the photo caption and in the second paragraph. NF-102 is #153045.

    NF-110 was number 153068, shot down as stated in paragraph one in January 1973.

    This aircraft should have been rolled directly into a museum as soon as they were done taking this photograph. It appears that in the end this aircraft was cut up for scrap metal.

      1. You still do not have this correct.

        NF-102, #153045 is the aircraft that made the final air to air combat victory of the Viet Nam war. Hence my museum comment. NF-102 is re-created on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum.

        This photo had to have been taken on the flight line at NAS Miramar California in March 1973. The U. S. Navy had no sense when it came to preserving its historical artifacts. If it did, we would still have The USS Enterprise, CV-6.

        NF-102 became an F-4N soon after this photo was taken. The U.S. Navy could have done just fine with one less F-4N. As far as I can see, the F-4N rebuild program was a total waste of taxpayer money.

        NF-110, #153068, had a combat victory in May 1972 piloted by the late Bart Bartholomay. NF-110 was hit by ground fire in the summer of 1972, and as I remember was our only aircraft with a big Purple Heart painted on the wind splitter vane. Our maintenance people patched the damage and the aircraft continued in service. I remember standing there on the hanger deck watching the repairs being made.

        One of the officer/pilots, I forget just who, was rolling the bullet around on my desk in my office. It was an inch and a half wide at least, appeared to be made out of steel, and I remember it as being very heavy,

        We never had the opportunity to paint the second Purple Heart on NF-110, #153068.

  3. I will just take a minute to say that Victor Kovaleski was a really nice guy and I’m glad that it was him that got this honor in the history of The Viet Nam War and not certain specific other VF-161 pilots. I remember Victor Kovaleski as being about the only officer/pilot that ever said “Please” and “Thank You” to me when he came into my office. 50 years later I still remember that.

    As an enlisted person, I found these officer/pilots a very hard group of people to love. We called them The Peacocks, but not to their faces. Of the 100 officer/pilots that I had to deal with in my 3 1/2 years in VF-161, I only had any real respect for about 10 of them. On the other end of that scale about 10 of them were openly mean and hostile to the enlisted men. The other 80% were just unfriendly and ignored us.

    Looking back, I find it very strange that I served with these shipmates during a war, but over a prolonged period of time, never spoke one word, or vice versa, to most of the pilot/officers. That was the way the system was set up.

  4. Please correct the spelling of Victor Kovaleski’s name. I did him a real dishonor by not spelling his name right in my post 5 minutes ago.

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