Tag Archives: Vietnam War

2 January 1967

Colonel Robin Olds, United States Air Force
Colonel Robin Olds, United States Air Force, Wing Commander, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing. (U.S. Air Force)
MiG Sweep, by Keith Ferris.
“MiG Sweep,” by Keith Ferris. Colonel Robin Olds uses a Vector Roll to gain firing position on a MiG-21 fighter. “I got on top of him and half upside down, hung there, and waited for him to complete more of his turn. . . .”

2 January 1967: This painting, MiG Sweep, by aviation artist Keith Ferris, depicts “Olds 01” during Operation Bolo. The twin-engine all-weather jet fighter, a McDonnell F-4C -21-MC Phantom II, serial number 63-7680, was flown by Colonel Robin Olds, USAF, with First Lieutenant Charles C. Clifton, USAF, as the Weapons System Operator.

In this painting by Keith Ferris, the Phantom is  shown inverted as Colonel Olds maneuvers to fire an AIM-9B Sidewinder heat-seeking missile at a North Vietnamese MiG 21 over Hanoi. Olds is the only Air Force ace with victories in both World War II and Vietnam.

The area around Hanoi, North Vietnam, was the most heavily defended target area ever encountered by the United States Air Force. A combination of radar-directed anti-aircraft artillery, surface-to-air guided missiles, and fighter interceptors made every mission very dangerous. Republic F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers were taking heavy losses to the Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 21 fighters. When escorting F-4C Phantoms would try to engage the MiGs, they would return to their bases which were safe from attack under the American rules of engagement.

Operation Bolo was a complex plan to lure the ground-controlled MiG 21s into an air battle by having the Phantoms simulate a Thunderchief attack. Colonel Olds led 48 McDonnell F-4Cs of the 8th and 366th Tactical Fighter Wings on the same type of attack that would have been used by the Thunderchiefs, but rather than carrying a full load of bombs, the F-4s were armed with AIM-7E Sparrow radar-guided missiles and AIM-9B Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles. (The F-4C was not armed with a gun.)

A Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21PF at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
An Aero Vodochody-built Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21F-13 with the markings of the Vietnam Peoples’ Air Force at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

As the Mach 2+ MiG 21s started coming up through the clouds, their pilots quickly realized that instead of the vulnerable targets of F-105s on a bomb run, they were faced with air superiority fighters.

In the official after action report, Colonel Olds said,

“At the onset of this battle, the MiGs popped up out of the clouds. Unfortunately, the first one to pop through came up at my 6 o’clock position. I think this was more by chance than by design. As it turned out, within the next few moments, many others popped out of the clouds in varying positions around the clock.

“This one was just lucky. He was called out by the second flight that had entered the area, they were looking down on my flight and saw the MiG-21 appear. I broke left, turning just hard enough to throw off his deflection, waiting for my three and four men to slice in on him. At the same time I saw another MiG pop out of the clouds in a wide turn about my 11 o’clock position, a mile and a half away. I went after him and ignored the one behind me. I fired missiles at him just as he disappeared into the clouds.

“I’d seen another pop out in my 10 o’clock position, going from my right to left; in other words, just about across the circle from me. When the first MiG I fired at disappeared, I slammed full afterburner and pulled in hard to gain position on this second MiG. I pulled the nose up high about 45 degrees, inside his circle. Mind you, he was turning around to the left so I pulled the nose up high and rolled to the right. This is known as a vector roll. I got on top of him and half upside down, hung there, and waited for him to complete more of his turn and I timed it so that as I continued to roll down behind him, I’d be about 20 degrees angle off and about 4,500 to 5,000 feet behind him. That’s exactly what happened. Frankly, I’m not sure he ever saw me. When I got down low and behind, and he was outlined by the sun against a brilliant blue sky, I let him have two Sidewinders, one of which hit and blew his right wing off”

Aces and Aerial Victories: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia 1965–1973, by R. Frank Futrell, William H. Greenhalgh, Carl Grubb, Gerard E. Hasselwander, Robert F. Jakob and Charles A. Ravenstein, Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF, 1976, Chapter II at Page 39.

With another flight crew the Phantom flown by Robin Olds on 2 January 1967, McDonnell F-4C-21-MC 63-7680, shot down a MiG 17 on 13 May 1967. It was itself shot down by antiaircraft fire while attacking a SAM site, 20 November 1967. The Weapons System Officer, 1st Lieutenant James L. Badley, bailed out and was rescued, but the pilot, Captain John M. Martin, was not seen to leave the aircraft and is listed as Missing in Action.

Colonel Robin Olds shot down two MiG-17 fighters with this McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II, 63-7680. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Robin Olds shot down a MiG 21 interceptor with this McDonnell F-4C-21-MC Phantom II, 63-7680, at Ubon RTAFB, sometime between March and November 1967. (Photograph by Frank R. MacSorley, Jr.)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 December 1969

Senior Lieutenant Nguyễn Văn Cốc, at right, with two other pilots. A Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 21PF is in the background. (VPAF)

20 December 1969: Senior Lieutenant Nguyễn Văn Cốc, of the 921st Fighter Regiment, Vietnam Peoples’ Air Force, flying a Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig 21PFL supersonic interceptor, shot down his final enemy aircraft of the Vietnam War, a U.S. Air Force Ryan AQM-34 Firebee reconnaissance drone.

A U.S. Air Force Ryan AQM-34L Firebee drone of the 556th Reconnaissance Squadron, based at Bien Hoa Air Base, circa 1969. This drone flew 68 missions before being shot down over Hanoi. (U.S. Air Force)

Nguyễn Văn Cốc entered the Không quân Nhân dân Việt Nam (Vietnamese People’s Air Force) in 1961. He spent four years in the Soviet Union training as a fighter pilot. He was qualified on both the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 17 and MiG 21.

Nguyễn was credited by the VPAF with nine aerial combat victories. Seven of these were also confirmed by the United States. Between 30 April 1967 and 20 December 1969, he shot down a Convair F-102A Delta Dart, a Republic F-105D Thunderchief, two F-105F Thunderchiefs, a McDonnell F-4B Phantom II, two F-4D Phantoms and the Firebee. (Some sources speculate that this drone was actually a North American Aviation OV-10A Bronco.)

All of Nguyễn’s victories were scored while flying the MiG 21PFL, with R-3S infrared-homing air-to-air missiles.

These MiG 21s are assigned to the 921st Fighter Regiment. The closest, “Red 4326,” is one of the interceptors flown by Nguyễn Văn Cốc. The 13 “kill marks” on its nose represent enemy aircraft shot down by Nguyễn and other pilots who flew the airplane. This airplane is on display at the Hanoi Air Defense Museum (Bảo tàng Phòng không-Không quân). (VPAF)

The R-3S (also known as the K-13, and identified as “AA-2A Atoll” by NATO forces) was reverse-engineered by the Turopov Design Bureau, Tushino, Russia, from a Raytheon AIM-9B Sidewinder which had been captured by the People’s Republic of China during the 1958 Taiwan Straits Crisis. Fired by a Republic of China Air Force F-86 Sabre, the missile hit a People’s Liberation Army Air Force MiG 17, but its warhead did not detonate. The PLAAF turned the Sidewinder over to the Soviet Union.

Nguyễn remained in the VPAF until retiring in 2002 with the rank of chief inspector. He is the highest-scoring fighter pilot of the Vietnam War.

Captain Nguyễn Văn Cốc is congratulated by Hồ Chí Minh, President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 December 1972

TSGT Samuel O. Turner, U.S. Air Force, rests his hand on one of four air-cooled Browning AN-M3 .50-caliber aircraft machine guns of a B-52 tail turret. (“Bulldog Bulletin, Fall 1985”)

18 December 1972: On the first night of  Operation Linebacker II, Staff Sergeant Samuel Olin Turner, United States Air Force, the gunner aboard Boeing B-52D-35-BW Stratofortress 56-676 (call sign “Brown 3”), saw a supersonic Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 21 interceptor approaching the bomber from below and behind, with a second interceptor following at a distance.

As the Mach 2 fighter made a firing pass, Turner directed the four Browning AN-M3 .50-caliber machine guns of the bomber’s tail turret at the enemy fighter and opened fire. In a single 6–8 second burst, he expended 694 rounds of ammunition. He saw “a gigantic explosion to the rear of the aircraft.”

Master Sergeant Louis E. LeBlanc, the gunner on another B-52, “Brown 2,” had also seen the MiG 21 and confirmed Turner’s kill.

Staff Sergeant Turner was the first B-52 gunner to be officially credited with shooting down an enemy fighter, and the first aerial gunner to shoot down an enemy aircraft since the Korean War. He was awarded the Silver Star.

The citation reads,

Silver Star

“Staff Sergent Samuel O. Turner distinguished himself by gallantry in connections with military operations against an opposing armed force as a B-52 Fire Control Operator near Hanoi, North Vietnam, on 18 December 1972. On this mission, Sergeant Turner’s aircraft was attacked by numerous enemy fighters. During these attacks he skillfully operated his gunnery radar equipment to train his guns on the attackers and destroyed one of them. By his courage in the face of hazardous combat conditions and outstanding professional skill, he successfully defended his aircraft and its crew and enabled it to complete its mission and return safely to base. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant Turner has reflected great credit upon himself and to the United States Air Force.”

Staff Sergeant Samuel O. Turner is awarded the Silver Star by General John C. Meyer, Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command, for his actions in combat over Hanoi during Linebacker II. (U.S. Air Force)
The tail gun turret of B-52D 56-676. (U.S. Air Force)
The tail gun turret of Boeing B-52D Stratofortress 56-676. (U.S. Air Force)

Samuel Olin Turner was born at Atlanta, Georgia, 15 August 1942. He was the son of William Edgar Turner and Beatrice Honnicutt Turner. Sam Turner attended Russell High School at East Point, Georgia, then studied at David Lipscomb College, Nashville, Tennessee.

Turner enlisted in the United States Air Force, 13 January 1970, and was trained as a gunner on Boeing B-52s. He served in Southeast Asia for two years. In 1977, Technical Sergeant Turner transitioned to the B-52H Stratofortress, which was equipped with a remotely-operated M61A1 20 mm six-barreled rotary cannon.

The gunner's position in the tail of a Boeing B-52D Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force)
The gunner’s position in the tail of a Boeing B-52D Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force)

Senior Master Sergeant Samuel O. Turner was released from the U.S. Air Force 31 January 1982. In addition to the Silver Star, during his military career Turner had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and a number of Air Medals. He died at Stockbridge, Georgia, 9 April 1985, at the age of 42 years.

The Samuel O. Turner Airman Leadership School at Ellsworth Air Force Base, near Rapid City, South Dakota, is named in his honor.

56-676 was the last Boeing B-52D Stratofortress in service. It is on display at Fairchild Air Force Base, Spokane, Washington.

A Boeing B-52D Stratofortress of the 307th Strategic Wing over Vietnam during Operation Linebacker II, December 1972. (U.S. Air Force)
A Boeing B-52D Stratofortress of the 307th Strategic Wing over Vietnam during Operation Linebacker II, December 1972. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 November 1968

Air Force Cross
Air Force Cross

3478The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Major Leonard A. Gonzales (AFSN: 2227075), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as Aircraft Commander of a UH-1F gunship helicopter of the 20th Special Operations Squadron, Nha Trang Air Base, Vietnam, in action near Duc Co, Republic of Vietnam, on the night of 26 – 27 November 1968. On that date, Major Gonzales went to the aid of a six-man Special Forces Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol that was in danger of being overrun by a large, well-armed hostile force. Major Gonzales made continued minigun and rocket passes at treetop level, even after his wingman had been hit. His aggressive attacks sufficiently quelled the hostile fire to allow a transport helicopter to pick up the beleaguered patrol. Through his superb airmanship, aggressiveness, and extraordinary heroism, Major Gonzales reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Action Date: November 26 – 27, 1968

Service: Air Force

Rank: Major

Company: 20th Special Operations Squadron

Division: Nha Trang Air Base, Vietnam

For a more detailed account, see:

http://www.vhpa.org/KIA/panel/battle/68112600.HTM

Two U.S. Air Force UH-1P Hueys of the 20th Special Operations Squadron, the "Green Hornets." (U.S. Air Force)
Two U.S. Air Force UH-1P Hueys of the 20th Special Operations Squadron, the “Green Hornets.” 65-7929 is closer to camera. The second Huey is 63-13162. Both helicopters are armed with two door-mounted M93 7.65 mm “miniguns” systems: electrically-driven M134 rotary machine guns capable of a 4,000 round-per-minute rate of fire. On each side of 7929 are 7-tube rocket launchers for 2.75-inch (70 mm) FFAR rockets. (Captain Billie Dee Tedford, United States Air Force)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 November 1968

1st Lieutenant James P. Fleming, U.S. Air Force, 1968. (Gallery of History, Inc.)
1st Lieutenant James P. Fleming, U.S. Air Force, 1968. (Gallery of History, Inc.)

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

CAPTAIN

JAMES PHILLIP FLEMING

AIR FORCE

Rank: Captain
Organization: U.S. Air Force
Division: 20th Special Operations Squadron
Born: 12 March 1943, Sedalia, Mo.
Entered Service At: Pullman, Wash.
Place / Date: Near Duc Co, Republic of Vietnam, 26 November 1968

For service as set forth in the following:

CITATION:

Captain James P. Fleming, U.S. Air Force
Captain James P. Fleming, United States Air Force

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Captain [then First Lieutenant] James Phillip Fleming, United States Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 20th Special Operations Squadron, 14th Special Operations Wing, in action near Duc Co, Republic of Vietnam, on 26 November 1968. Captain Fleming distinguished himself as the Aircraft Commander of a UH-1F transport helicopter. Captain Fleming went to the aid of a six-man special forces long range reconnaissance patrol that was in danger of being overrun by a large, heavily armed hostile force. Despite the knowledge that one helicopter had been downed by intense hostile fire, Captain Fleming descended, and balanced his helicopter on a river bank with the tail boom hanging over open water. The patrol could not penetrate to the landing site and he was forced to withdraw. Dangerously low on fuel, Captain Fleming repeated his original landing maneuver. Disregarding his own safety, he remained in this exposed position. Hostile fire crashed through his windscreen as the patrol boarded his helicopter. Captain Fleming made a successful takeoff through a barrage of hostile fire and recovered safely at a forward base. Captain Fleming’s profound concern for his fellowmen, and at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.”

For a more detailed narrative, see:

http://www.vhpa.org/KIA/panel/battle/68112600.HTM

Colonel Fleming had also been awarded the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross and eight Air Medals. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1996 after thirty years of service.

The UH-1F was originally tasked with supporting Stratgic Air Command missile bases. (U.S. Air Force)
The UH-1F was originally tasked with supporting Strategic Air Command ICBM missile bases. This helicopter, 66-1235, c/n 7311, was sent to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, in 1977. It was later registered as a restricted civil aircraft, VH-LIP, used for aerial firefighting by McDermott Aviation, Queensland, Australia,  (U.S. Air Force)

The Bell UH-1F Iroquois (best known as the “Huey”) was was unique to the U.S. Air Force and was initially intended for missile base support. It used the airframe of the UH-1B (Bell Model 204), combined with the 48-foot-diameter main rotor system, transmission and longer tail boom of the UH-1D (Model 205). The Air Force required that it be re-engined to use the General Electric T58-GE-3 turboshaft engine. This was the same engine used in the Sikorsky HH-3E and commonality was desirable, but the T58 was also much more powerful than the Lycoming T53 engine of the UH-1B and UH-1D. The use of the T58 gave the UH-1F/P the distinctive side exhaust exit that identifies it from other Huey variants.

Two U.S. Air Force UH-1P Hueys of the 20th Special Operations Squadron, the "Green Hornets". (U.S. Air Force)
Two U.S. Air Force UH-1P Hueys of the 20th Special Operations Squadron, the “Green Hornets.” 65-7929 is closer to camera. The second Huey is 63-13162. Both helicopters are armed with two door-mounted M93 7.65 mm “miniguns” systems: electrically-driven M134 rotary machine guns capable of a 4,000 round-per-minute rate of fire. On each side of 7929 are 7-tube rocket launchers for 2.75-inch (70 mm) FFAR rockets. (Captain Billie Dee Tedford, United States Air Force)

119 UH-1Fs were built by the Bell Helicopter Co., Fort Worth, Texas. A single-engine, medium-lift helicopter, it is configured to be operated by a pilot and co-pilot and can carry 10 passengers. The first aircraft, originally designated XH-48A, s/n 63-13141, made its first flight 20 February 1964. The first production UH-1F was delivered to the Air Force 23 September 1964. Twenty UH-1Fs were modified to UH-1P as special operations helicopters.

The fuselage of the UH-1F/UH-1P is 44 feet, 7 inches (13.589 meters) long. With blades turning, the overall length of the helicopter is 57 feet, 1 inch (17.399 meters), and it is 14 feet, 11 inches (4.547 meters) high. The main rotor has a diameter of 48 feet, 0 inches (14.630 meters) and turns counter-clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) The tail rotor has a diameter of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters) and is mounted on the left side of the tail boom in a pusher configuration. It turns counter-clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is above the tail rotor’s axis of rotation.)

20th Special Operations Squadron UH-1P Hueys refueling at Dak To. (Don Joyce/VHPAP.org)
20th Special Operations Squadron UH-1P Hueys refueling at Đắk Tô, Central Highlands, Vietnam. (Don Joyce)

The UH-1F has an empty weight of 4,403 pounds (1,997.2 kilograms), and its maximum gross weight is 9,000 pounds (4,082.3 kilograms).

The UH-1F is powered by a single General Electric T58-GE-3 turboshaft engine. The T58 is an axial-flow engine with a 10-stage compressor, single combustion chamber and 3-stage turbine (2 low- and 1 high-pressure stages. The low-pressure turbine drives the compressor, with a maximum speed of 26,300 r.p.m. (N1). The high pressure turbine drives the engine’s output shaft, with a maximum r.p.m. of 19,500 r.p.m. (N2). The T-58-GE-3 is rated at 1,070 shaft horsepower, but is capable of producing 1,325 shaft horsepower. The T58 is 4 feet, 7 inches (1.397 meters) long, 1 foot, 8.2 inches (0.513 meters) in diameter, and weighs 305 pounds (138 kilograms).

The UH-1F/P has a maximum speed of  138 miles per hour (222 kilometers per hour), with a normal cruise speed of 123 miles per hour (198 kilometers per hour). It can lift a 4,000 pound (1,814 kilogram) payload. The helicopter has a service ceiling of 24,830 feet (7,568 meters), can hover out of ground effect (HOGE) at 15,700 feet (4,785 meters) and in ground effect (IGE) at 18,700 feet (5,700 meters). With maximum fuel, its range is 392 miles (631 kilometers).

UH-1F and UN-1P helicopters remained in service with the Air Force until the early 1980s when their mission was taken over by the twin-engine UH-1N (Bell Model 212).

Bell Helicopter Corp. UH-1P Iroquois (converted from UH-1F-BF) serial number 64-15476, marked as 1LT James Fleming’s UH-1P, 64-15492, which he was flying during the action of 26 November 1966. The actual 64-15492 was shot down 13 February 1969. This helicopter is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Bell Helicopter Corp. UH-1P Iroquois (converted from UH-1F-BF) serial number 64-15476, marked as 1LT James Fleming’s UH-1F, 64-15492, which he was flying during the action of 26 November 1968. The “Green Hornet” of the 20th Special Operations Squadron is painted on the helicopter’s tail boom. The actual 64-15492 (c/n 7042) was shot down 13 February 1969. This helicopter is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Coloenel james P. Fleming, U.S. Air Force (Retired) and Mrs. Fleming.
Colonel James P. Fleming, U.S. Air Force (Retired) and Mrs. Fleming. (MSNBC)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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