Warning

 

Close

Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
Member Login
Site Notices
10/20/2017 1:01:18 AM
9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 8/22/2005 10:35:53 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/22/2005 4:13:26 PM EDT by chuckhammer]
Received via e-mail from a family friend who flew USN F-4s in VN and was later an F-14 test pilot and Top Gun grad.




Navy Pilot makes good…

This is a pretty good story passed along from Frank Tullo a retired CAL pilot who was a "Thud" driver during the early days of "Rolling Thunder." Those "Thuds" were some machine. Michael Cooper wrote a great article in the Summer Mig Sweep about a Joint Navy/Air Force Hunter Killer mission to knock out SAM sites near Hanoi on October 31, 1965. I was one of the F-105 Thud pilots on that mission and here's what I remember of that day.

SAM Hunter-Killer Mission By: Gary Barnhill

During an F-105D combat tour out of Takhli, Thailand in 1965, Russian SAM (SA-2 Surface to Air Missiles) begun to appear in North Vietnam. Previously, we had driven over our targets unmolested at 18,000 feet to begin a dive bomb attack. The newly arrived SAM's canceled out our high altitude sanctuary and forced pilots down low, where anti-aircraft fire was intense.

We begged permission to take out the proliferating SAMs before they got to us. Request denied. Prez Lyndon Johnson feared it might hurt the Russians' feelings since they provided the SAMs to North Viet Nam.

One day our base commander, a colonel who did not fly combat missions, bravely announced: "We" are going after the SAM’s. Captain Mike Cooper, showing more guts than tact, called out from the back of the room, "What's this 'we' crap, Colonel, are you going along in the F105F two-seater. Getting shot at everyday tends to loosen up one's military decorum.

Navy LtCmdr Powers landed his A4E at Takhli carrying his own 500 lb bombs. Powers was the XO of the USS Oriskany's VA-164 squadron. The Navy had sent their very best. Powers knew this was a big time White House directed mission, and dangerous.

Takhli scheduled two outstanding Flight Commanders. Mike Cooper would lead a flight of four Thuds from the 334th TFS, with mates: Jim Butler, John Stell and Lee Adams. Gayle Williams would lead four from the 562nd: Gary Barnhill and two others whose names escape me. Each Thud would carry 8x750 lb. bombs. This was in the days before "smart" and "dumb" bombs.

This joint Navy/Air Force mission briefing was more like a focus group. Powers wanted to fly across the target level at 50 feet and skip bomb it. We preferred to dive bomb, using a pop-up from the deck to create a dive bomb run. That made it tougher for the ground gunners to track us. No sweat, since Power's would be first across the target and out of the way, his flat pass would not conflict with our dive-bombing.

These were called "Dooms Day missions", because invariably someone got shot down from the heavy defenses around Hanoi. 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.

Power's plane had a magic black box, well, what passed for magic, circa 1965. Actually it was similar to the old coffee grinder ADF (Direction Finder). A needle would point in the general direction of a SAM site, when and if the SAM was in the SEARCH mode. Operator skill required.

We launched, joined up, refueled and headed North only to find a solid overcast at the let down point. It was a No-Go. Or was it? Power's pulled the Thuds into a tight nine-ship "V" formation and descended into cloud. No one would have criticized him one bit if he canceled for weather and returned to base. He pressed on.

Nearing the target, we finally broke out of cloud and went to the deck. No longer a "formation", now just a gaggle of bomb-laden Thuds strung out in loose single file. At one point, there were hills on both sides and overcast above making a sort of tunnel. I got slung into cloud during a turn and immediately punched the nose down desperately hoping for valley beneath and not hillside. I remember thinking; I'm NOT going to miss this (mission) for anything. I flew so low over a guy driving a farm tractor that he leapt to the ground. He was doin' about two knots, we were doin' 550. When they are shooting at you: Low is good...Fast is good.

My plane was hit by small arms fire causing some yellow caution lights to glow, as we screamed low level towards the target.

The Thud was well built. Once, when all Thuds were grounded do to several inexplicably blowing up, someone suggested giving them to the Army for use as tank crushers. Taxi a Thud over a tank and collapse the gear...crushing the tank. Another joke suggested painting Thuds yellow and using them for ground power units. Rumor was: Republic was going to make the Thud out of cement, but they found out steel was heavier.

We didn't know the SAM's exact location, but hoped the Navy's magic black box could point the way. We were the goats, tethered to lure the lion out into the open for the kill. Until that day, it was a big deal when just one or two SAMs were launched. Now they were firing SAMs like artillery. Fifteen is the number I remember. It's what they mean by: "All Hell's Broken Loose".

Powers calmly transmitted; "I've got 'em on my nose...starting my run". He flew directly over the target at tree top level and was literally disintegrated by withering ground fire.

My turn. I lit the burner and popped up to about 7500 feet, Power's emergency locater beacon screeching in my headset. As the nose came up, I clearly remember saying aloud to myself, "Oh crap, I don't want to do this".

During that brief dive bomb run, which seemed an eternity, there was a sharp knocking sound, like a fist on a door; it was enemy ground fire hitting the plane. I instinctively shouted into my oxygen mask: "Stop It. Stop It".

Years later, a VA shrink would explain that utterance was related to the trauma of a severe belt whipping when I was ten. Got my feet wet in the snow on the way home from school. My Dad held me tightly by the wrist beat my buns and legs with a leather belt. Shrink said I had no evidence at age 10, or on the bomb run that either event was survivable. In both cases, my mind thought I would die. It both cases, I pleaded hopelessly: "Stop It. Stop It".

The anti-aircraft hits caused multiple red and yellow emergency lights to blink incessantly, I transmitted my intention to get to the water off Haiphong before ejecting. Radio chatter was understandably chaotic. Each Thud pilot was individually living his own Hell, jinking violently to get away from the unrelenting ground fire.

Alone and doing 810 knots on the deck (that's right, Buddy, 810 knots) I slowly overtook a Navy F-8 Crusader as if passing a car on the freeway. We exchanged gentle pathetic waves as if to say: "Oh, Hi there, don't know you, but hope you're having a nice day?" I swear it was the most surreal moment of my life.

Still on the deck, but now over the safety of Gulf of Tonkin water, a sort of euphoric invincibility set in. If I ejected over the water, the Navy would surely pick me up.

But the fire warning light had gone out, so I strafed a couple of boats capable of capturing downed pilots. The Vulcan fired six thousand rounds a minute. That's one round of 20 millimeter every 37 inches, literally a stream of lead. It sounded more like a Hoover than a machine gun.

Decided there was no reason to jump out if this bird was still running. Did that last month and it scared the crap out of me. On the radio now, with precious little fuel remaining I was begging for a tanker. Made radio contact with a KC-135 somewhere in cyberspace. Following a terse debate challenging HIS priorities, we got together with barely any fuel reading on my gauge.

Made it back to Takhli. Gear, flap and flight control problems but landed in one piece.

Had hits all over the plane, except the extremely vulnerable underbelly engine area. It required 4,000 man-hours of work just to ferry it somewhere else for repair.

I pleaded with the base commander to award Power's the Air Force Cross. He didn't like the idea. Reminded me that the Navy had their own Navy Cross and handled their own decorations. I pushed my point as if we were equals. Don't you get it; the USS Oriskany lost their top guy while USAF gets a big headline back home. Power's brilliant leadership was why the mission succeeded! Give the NAVY guy the AIR FORCE CROSS! The colonel wasn't a fighter pilot. He didn't get it.

General George Simler flew in from headquarters to have a beer with the guys on the mission. Sitting at the sorry-no-ice-today, O'Club bar, Simler and I were hangar flying like two young cadets. He was that kind of General.

I passionately pitched Simler on awarding the Air Force Cross to Powers. He loved it, instantly. Turned and said dismissively to the Base Commander: "take care of that, Colonel".

Navy LtCmdr Powers received the Air Force Cross. Posthumously.

A DFC awarded that day could have described any of the pilots on the mission: Thunderchiefs...Hunter-Killer mission...against Surface to Air Missiles...deep within hostile territory...low level high speed run...encounter withering ground fire...pressed the attack...dropped bombs in heart of target complex...remarkable mission...overwhelming odds...skill...aggressiveness...

An old man who served in WWII told his grandson, "I was never a hero, but I served with many who were." That's how I feel. The most remarkable characters in my life were the heroes I was honored to fly with in 1965. They didn't all come home. Nam was not a very glamorous or patriotic war, but every fighter pilot I knew put his life on the line as if it were.

Regards, Frank Tullo
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 10:43:38 AM EDT
My grandfather's DFC is probably one of my most prized posessions, despite the fact I never met him.
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 10:57:20 AM EDT

Originally Posted By go3:
My grandfather's DFC is probably one of my most prized posessions, despite the fact I never met him.



Well, they don't hand those out for showing up to work on time, that's for sure.
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 10:57:47 AM EDT
tag for later
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 10:59:15 AM EDT
Wow. Thank you for that isnpiring story.

Justin
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 11:02:42 AM EDT
A friend's Dad was a back-seater on Wild Weasels in SEA.

It took a big man to fly that mission.
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 11:05:11 AM EDT
Great Read..........Thanks
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 11:11:38 AM EDT
Excellent read. Those Thud pilots had one of the most dangerous jobs in the whole war. I forget the exact numbers, but the total amount of F-105's lost vs the number in our inventory was staggering.

It's really a shame we didn't start a Linebacker II type mission in 1965 or 1966. If we had and pressed it home, unrelentlessly, we could have won that war. Heck, the North Vietnamese were in despair during the 1972 raids. But by that time, we were only interested in securing a peace deal and bringing home our POW's, not winning. Yet many say had we continued the bombing a few more days that year, the North Vietnamese would have been forced to surrender, since the B-52 strikes had wiped out their SAM's and they were defenseless.

Had we hit Hanoi and Haiphong early in the war and hit it hard like we did in 1972, things could have been different. Also, the raid into Camobodia and Laos could have made a crucial difference if it had been done in 1965, not 1970.

What a shame. The two most decisive strategies that could have won the war were never employed until the war was clearly already lost.
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 3:09:45 PM EDT
Bumped for the night crew.

Link Posted: 8/22/2005 4:04:21 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/22/2005 4:22:17 PM EDT by AFSOC]
.
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 4:20:47 PM EDT

"We begged permission to take out the proliferating SAMs before they got to us. Request denied. Prez Lyndon Johnson feared it might hurt the Russians' feelings since they provided the SAMs to North Viet Nam."



One of the world's best examples of who not to emulate if you go to war and expect to triumph...
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 4:29:07 PM EDT

Alone and doing 810 knots on the deck (that's right, Buddy, 810 knots)


Dang. The MiGs really liked to pick on the Thuds, but they avoided F-4's whenever possible. So Phantom pilots would go up, fly like Thuds and use Thud squadron names/callsigns......whatever it took to fool the North Vietnamese into sending MiGs up to intercept.
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 4:30:50 PM EDT
Nice story!

When was it written? There are some references and syntax to indicate it was written now and not then.
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 4:37:28 PM EDT

Originally Posted By raven:

Alone and doing 810 knots on the deck (that's right, Buddy, 810 knots)


Dang. The MiGs really liked to pick on the Thuds, but they avoided F-4's whenever possible. So Phantom pilots would go up, fly like Thuds and use Thud squadron names/callsigns......whatever it took to fool the North Vietnamese into sending MiGs up to intercept.



810 knots is over 930 MPH....at tree-top level.
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 4:37:51 PM EDT
For me 'How not to fight a war' is the US Politicians during Vietnam. Reading that stuff at like 10 and 11 I'm going 'You gotta be kidding me.'

I mean just look at Rule No. 12 of the Evil Overlord List

12. One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.


Also, glad to see that he got his recognition. I respect any and all of those who served during peace and war and consider them hero's just for volunteering.
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 4:38:09 PM EDT

Originally Posted By ARDOC:
Nice story!

When was it written? There are some references and syntax to indicate it was written now and not then.



I agree, it seems like it was written well after the fact. Don't know for sure.
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 4:41:53 PM EDT

Originally Posted By chuckhammer:

Originally Posted By raven:

Alone and doing 810 knots on the deck (that's right, Buddy, 810 knots)


Dang. The MiGs really liked to pick on the Thuds, but they avoided F-4's whenever possible. So Phantom pilots would go up, fly like Thuds and use Thud squadron names/callsigns......whatever it took to fool the North Vietnamese into sending MiGs up to intercept.



810 knots is over 930 MPH....at tree-top level.




MMM, 810s knots at mere feet above the ground. Just the thought of that gives me a chubbie.
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 4:52:31 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/22/2005 4:54:22 PM EDT by Charging_Handle]
Going 930 mph on the deck in an F-105 indeed seems possible. They were one of the best jets ever as far as being able to go fast at low level. The Phantom was no slouch either in low level, high speed flying, but the Thud was incredible. I doubt we have anything in inventory now that can boogie at low levels like the 105 could. I know the F-16 won't. Probably the only other plane that could go that fast down low was the F-111, but of course, we no longer have any of those in service.

BTW, I bet he rattled up some old mama san if he flew over any hootches at that speed. The force of that boom likely knocked the thatch roofs off those huts.
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 4:54:00 PM EDT

I was a dependent at Randolph AFB, in the early 70's.
I saw a then Lt. Gen. Simler crash and die in a T-38 Talon, following a change of command ceremony. He had a major in the backseat, and forgot that 150 ft is too low to aileron roll a T-38.
They both died in front of thier wives and children.

One of 3 crashes I saw as a dependent.

DaddyDett
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 4:55:57 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Charging_Handle:
Going 930 mph on the deck in an F-105 indeed seems possible. They were one of the best jets ever as far as being able to go fast at low level. The Phantom was no slouch either in low level, high speed flying, but the Thud was incredible. I doubt we have anything in inventory now that can boogie at low levels like the 105 could. I know the F-16 won't. Probably the only other plane that could go that fast down low was the F-111, but of course, we no longer have any of those in service.

BTW, I bet he rattled up some old mama san if he flew over any hootches at that speed. The force of that boom likely knocked the thatch roofs off those huts.



Actually, the low altitude speed record is STILL held by the F4. From the 60s...
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 6:53:47 PM EDT

Originally Posted By CFII:

Originally Posted By Charging_Handle:
Going 930 mph on the deck in an F-105 indeed seems possible. They were one of the best jets ever as far as being able to go fast at low level. The Phantom was no slouch either in low level, high speed flying, but the Thud was incredible. I doubt we have anything in inventory now that can boogie at low levels like the 105 could. I know the F-16 won't. Probably the only other plane that could go that fast down low was the F-111, but of course, we no longer have any of those in service.

BTW, I bet he rattled up some old mama san if he flew over any hootches at that speed. The force of that boom likely knocked the thatch roofs off those huts.



Actually, the low altitude speed record is STILL held by the F4. From the 60s...



I've always wondered which was the fastest fighter of all time at sea level. Various sources quote the F-14/15/16 as being capable of M 1.3 on the deck.

Any links for this stuff?
Link Posted: 8/22/2005 7:14:23 PM EDT
Tag.
Top Top