Donald G. Jones


 

Preferred Name: Don

Nickname/Call Sign: Misty 35

Date of Birth: September 10, 1926

Highest Military Grade Held: Lieutenant Colonel

Hometown: Union City, MI/Berrien Springs, MI

Biography

In His Words…
My tour as a Misty FAC was the most exhilarating of my 16 thousand hours of service.  Something was always happening that provided excitement. Some of those things were scary, some funny, some were “Oh Shit” things, and all of them included gunfire.  There was gunfire on almost every mission and most of the individual penetrations into North Vietnam or Laos.  As a result, it did not take long to become adept at estimating the bore size of the incoming anti-aircraft artillery (AAA).  Our aggressive and continuous “jink” (rapid maneuvering) saved us from a lot of hits and was designed to discourage the gunners from shooting at us in the first place.
One day, I got tapped by a 37mm gunner that wasn’t discouraged. On January 16, 1968, I was flying with Captain Eben Jones.  I was in the front seat, and Eben was in the back with all the maps and our 35mm camera.  The weather was good, and we had lots of suspicious targets to check out.  Our F-100F was just out of IRAN – “Inspect and Replace As Necessary”, and was a beauty – Number 783. It had a new coat of paint, the engine trimmed nicely, and it flew like a brand-new Hun.  Our mission had progressed nicely, with a single trip to the tanker, and then “it” happened.
My unit had been given a special assignment. We were to respond quickly to check special targets discovered electronically by EC-121s1.  The EC-121s listened to radio devices planted along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and reported movement to a secret location in Thailand.  These locations were then relayed to us by the AirBorne Command and Control Center (ABCCC). The ABCCC gave us the fix, a Delta point and we rushed in at a gallop. Swish! We went over a bombed-out intersection at 450 knots and didn’t really “see” anything.  We decided there might be something we missed and turned around for another pass.   Sure enough, there was a cleverly-camouflaged truck or a truck hulk; we couldn’t tell which for sure.
Naturally, we went back again, this time to take a picture with the 35mm Pentax.   It was easy, fly over the target, roll up on the side, ease off the G’s, and take the picture. I was too close (or Jonesy couldn’t get the camera far enough out in the slipstream), so we went back for still another pass.   This pass was a little better, but by gosh, if we were going to get the goods on the guy, we needed to be a little closer.   By this time, we were nearing bingo fuel, but were determined to take one more pass.  Since we had to go back over the target on the way to the tanker, we made the pass.  Came over the target, rolled up on a wing, and took the photo.
The gunner on the ground must have figured he’d been spotted and fired his 37mm at us.  He knew he’d have to “move the gun” that night but it was too tempting for him to keep silent.   Wham!  I mean WHAM-M-M!!!, there was a muffled explosion and one utility light came on (very brightly, it seemed).  I threw in a jink, while I reached down to the jettison button and cleaned the wing.  We S’d out of the area, getting what altitude we could without sucking up too much fuel, and picked up a heading for Ubon.
The flight to Ubon was uneventful.  We checked to see if either one of us had any injuries and fortunately we had none.   There was damage to the airframe, but Jonesy didn’t fill me in on the extent of the damage to his area and I couldn’t see any in mine.  The utility warning light was bright enough to keep me awake and I was on alert for further trouble. The Hun was flying nicely, except for that one warning light. I don’t remember if I said anything to Eben, but at the time I thought, “Boy, are we lucky that we are over Laos, instead of North Vietnam.” I thought we’d have been picked up in no time.  (Little did I know about the odds of getting out of Laos).
As we approached Ubon, I made sure the tower knew we had battle damage and were at minimum fuel. I had never actually made a no-flap landing so I was reviewing the speeds and procedures.   On the downwind everything looked good and with nothing else going on I said to Eben, “I have half a notion to try the flaps.”
Eben, in an almost disinterested voice, said, “Nah, I wouldn’t bother.” (he could see the gaping hole where the right flap used to be).
The no-flap landing went well, we stopped on the cement, and eased into the de-arming area.   When the canopy went up, I saw the damage, and understood why Eben had said not to bother with the flaps.
Though it may not be recorded anywhere, Eben and I brought back the Number 783 with more missing than any other F-100 battle damage RTB. In fact, the external stores and most of the right flap are still in Laos.

 

  1. EC-121R BatcatDuring the Vietnam War some 30 EC-121s were modified from U.S. Navy WV-2 and WV-3 early warning Constellations for and 25 were deployed to Southeast Asia, at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, as a part of Operation Igloo White. The resulting EC-121R configuration was nicknamed the Batcat. Two Batcats were lost during the war, with the loss of 22 crewmen, one in a takeoff accident during a thunderstorm on 25 April 1969, the other on 6 September 1969, in a landing accident. Four Thai civilians on the ground were also killed in the second crash.Batcat EC-121s were camouflaged in the standard three-color Southeast Asia scheme while the College Eye/Disco early warning aircraft were not. BatCat missions were 18 hours in length, with eight hours on station at one of 11 color-coded orbits used during their five-year history, three of which were over South Vietnam, six over Laos, one over Cambodia, and one over the Gulf of Tonkin. Source:Https://myfighterplanes.tumblr.com/post/83625018531/batcat-ec-121r-batcat-during-the-vietnam

 
The Man…
There are few people with an aviation resume that spans decades and generations, from the giant Flying Fortress to the supersonic F-100 but Don Jones is one of them. Spanning a service history from WWII to the Vietnam War, Colonel Jones amassed over 16,300 flying hours in 65 types of military and civilian aircraft during his flying career.
More importantly he’s known as a man who refused to fail on his missions despite adverse weather conditions, low altitude, ground fire and unprecedented aggressiveness from enemy forces. He always responded with courage, aggressive deterimination, unerring accuracy and calm leadership.
Don’s fortitude is evident in the events leading to his receiving the Silver Star. The commendation was bestowed “for gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-100 Forward Air Controller flying over North Vietnam on 27 December 1967. On that date, Colonel Jones conducted attacks over hostile anti-aircraft sites, diving his aircraft through extremely intense barrages of flak, making accurate marking rounds for attacking fighters. After placing the marking rounds, he continued to use his own aircraft as a decoy to draw flak from the less maneuverable, ordnance laden aircraft. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Colonel jones has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.” (source: Veteran Tributes Https://www.veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=1421)
U.S. Army Reserve 1943-1945
U.S. Army (USAAF) 1945, 1946-1947
U.S. Air Force 1947-1976
World War II 1943-1945
Cold War 1945-1976
Vietnam War 1965-1968

Units Assigned

  • 1948-1950 4th Air Rescue Squadron, March Field, CA
  • 1950-1952 42nd Air Rescue Squadron, Ernest Harmon AB, Newfoundland, Canada
  • 1952-1957 Headquarters Air Rescue Service, Washington DC/Orlando AFB, FL
  • 1957-1958 1st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Spangdahlem AB, West Germany
  • 1958-1960 Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe
  • 1960-1962 961st Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) Squadron, Otis AFB, MA
  • 1962-1965 966th AEW&C Squadron at McCoy AFB, FL
  • 1965-1967 5th Air Force at Fuchu AS, Japan/ 5th Air Force Direct Air Support, South Korea
  • 1967-1968 37th Tactical Fighter Wing, Commander of the Misty FAST FAC’s, Phu Cat AB, South Vietnam
  • 12/1968-12/1969 551st Airborne Early Warning Wing, Otis AFB, MA
  • 1969-1973 4713th Defense Systems Evaluation Squadron at Otis AFB, MA/Westover AFB, MA
  • 1973-1976 Vermont Air National Guard

Awards & Decorations

Silver Star
Distinguished Flying Cross (with Valor Device, 2 Oak Leaf Clusters)
Bronze Star
Air Medal (with 2 Silver Oak Leaf Clusters)
Air Force Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
Outstanding Unit Award (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters)
Combat Readiness Medal
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal (with Star)
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal (with 4 Stars)
Armed Forces Longevity Service Award (with Bronze and Silver Oak Leaf Cluster)
Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
Vietnam Gallantry Cross (with Palm)
Vietnam Campaign Ribbon

Flight Info

L-5 Sentinel
SA-10 Catalina
SB-17 Flying Fortress
C-47 Skytrain
C-82 Packet
L-13’s
SA-10
SB-17
C-82
SA-16
C-121
RC-121 Constellation
RB-57 Canberra
RB-66 Destroyer
F-100
C-121
RC-121
C-47
EB-57

Military Education

  • 1947 Aviation Cadet Training/Radar Technician, Mather Field, CA
  • 1948 Awarded Pilot Wings, Multi-Engine Advanced Training, Barksdale AFB, LA
  • 1967 F-100 Super Sabre Combat Crew Training

Civilian Education

  • 1944 Michigan Tech , Pre-Aviation Cadet College Training

How I Survived Flying in the Good Old Days Kindle Edition

How I Survived Flying in the Good Old Days by [Jones, Donald]

Flying the SB-17 in 1950
This story will tell about a trip I made during my first assignment with Air Rescue Service at March Field, CA.  After two years in California, I was waiting to leave for my new assignment in Newfoundland.  I was a First Lieut. and knew everything now and assigned to take a C-82 to Cleveland to take part in some tests-to-destruction experiments.  These tests were to evaluate fire warning systems and fire extinguishing.  I didn’t know it at the time, that destruction was to be part of aircraft fire tests, but several obsolete aircraft were destroyed in the process as films showed later.  The second part of the trip was to ferry a PBY from Selfridge AFB, Mich [near Detroit] back home to March AFB.  The crew for the trip was another 1st Lieut who recently arrived in the squadron and wasn’t current in anything. He had just been recalled to active duty.  I honestly don’t remember his name, but Lieut Palmer seems familiar.  In this case, the crew chief was our squadron line chief.  The Master Sergeant was a senior and very experienced NCO and would make the mechanical inspection.  He is the one that would decide whether the PBY is suitable to accept.  That sounded simple, and we delivered the C-82 to Cleveland without any excitement, following a nice weather trip from Calif.  Just as planned, the Selfridge squadron arrived promptly at the airfield in Cleveland to take us to Selfridge.  Back in those days, commercial travel was not in many budgets, and our organic planes usually served our travel needs.
When we arrived at Selfridge, the Line Chief in that squadron led us to a PBY.  It is hard to describe this PBY after all these years, but the appearance revealed it needed a paint job and looked rough.  The plane also had some serious mechanical problems that cannot be fixed in a day or two.  Using our parlance, the plane had several red cross conditions.  The red cross did not refer to the medical organization but was used to identify a malfunction as a grounding condition.  The Selfridge squadron had another PBY which they suggested as a replacement, but it was in worse shape.  They did offer us the best of the two originally.  Someone in the past put dots of white anti-corrosion paint on this faded blue airplane. The description we passed on to our squadron and the Headquarters Air Rescue Service was that the plane looked like it was in the tertiary stage of syphilis.  The purpose of the paint was admirable since they wanted no corrosion and they did the first step in the full recovery.  Of course, the airplane had mechanical problems as well.  In truth, the PBY aircraft were to be phased out, and the squadron was transitioning to another type, the new SA-16.  After telephone calls to the squadron in California and their calls to Hq, Air Rescue Service in Washington, DC everyone decided that the two PBYs were not suitable for transfer.
Later, a separate telephone call told us to fly an SB-17 belonging to the Selfridge squadron  to McChord AFB, Wash for delivery to their rescue squadron.  I had about a hundred hours flying the B-17,  but I had never ‘checked out.’  My co-pilot had been checked out in the B-17 at an earlier date [maybe WWII] but had not flown the aircraft recently.  I forget the actual discussion that explained how long it had been since he flew the B-17, but I believed it was in WWII.  This was 1950 before the Korean War, but people were being re-called regularly.  The plan was to give him a checkout flight to make him current, and he was set up with an instructor.  Our line chief was also familiar with the B-17 as our squadron had one at March AFB.  This SB-17was in better shape than the two PBYs, but the Sergeant found enough to require some work.  The next day, after the check-out flight for Lieut. Palmer, the Sergeant gave it a quick check and found one tire too worn to be safe, and he needed a new or better tire.
Of course, it was Saturday, and not many people were around on that day.  Our Sergeant line chief got access to the spare tires possessed by the Selfridge squadron.  He selected one that turned out to be a winter tire in the old style of having springs embedded into the rubber, and after a bit of wear, they stuck out of the tire like miniature needles.  The other tire on the plane had a summer tire.  This mismatch of tires was to be important later…Our Sergeant couldn’t locate a proper aircraft jack to jack up the aircraft wheel to raise the tire from the ground.  He did find what I would describe as a simple but large jack not made for airplanes.  I am wondering if I am going to pay the price if the plane comes off the jack, or the Sergeant will lose his stripes   I am thinking ‘both of us.’  The Sergeant and a helper from the Selfridge squadron did manage to raise the wheel enough to remove the old tire and install the ‘winter’ tire with the sharp needles sticking out of the rubber.  At the time, the mismatch of tires, one regular ‘summer tire, and the less famous ‘winter’ tire was no big deal.  Using the winter tire on an ice-free runway would not be dangerous.  Of course, at the time we didn’t know we would be landing in the rain.  As noted in the photo from the internet, the SB-17 carried a lifeboat that could be parachuted to survivors in the water.  I don’t believe we had a boat attached for this ferry flight.
The next day we departed, with me in the right, or co-pilot seat, and Lieut Palmer as a pilot in command.  We landed in Minneapolis, Minn for fuel after considering the weather at McChord and the distance to probable alternate airfields.  The flight to McChord was routine, giving the pilot in command time to re-learn all of the ins and outs of the B-17.  We entered the weather someplace over North Dakota or Montana, and as we proceeded west, the weather became more intense.  Navigation in the weather back then was never easy because the navigation aids were still using low-frequency radio signals, subject to static interference and reduced distance.  We were picking up ice on the wing and tail leading edges.  The cockpit darkened as we flew into setting sun about the same time.
Yes, we were having trouble finding our way.  I was working the navigation equipment as Lieut. Palmer was busy flying instruments.  One usually reliable radio was the radio that used a loop antenna to seek the correct heading to the radio source.  I was getting readings that were confusing and finally believed the loop was homing on a thunderstorm at or near Mount Rainier instead of the beacon on our course.  I found another navigation aid and gave corrections.  Lieut Palmer was flying night-instruments which made the task more difficult as not everything in the cockpit was lighted.  I was handling the radio communications with the ATC ground people and nearing McChord; I sought their clearance to descend and land.  After getting the clearance to descend, we reduced power, followed by fluxation of the number three engine rpm.  The pilot in command told me to declare an emergency, which I did while trying to convince him not to feather the number three prop.  The engine was working, but the prop was essentially in fixed pitch.  We might need it even if it was disconcerting listening to the wa-wa-wa of the prop out of sync with the other three propellers.  I tried to keep the sound in sync by adjusting the NumberThree throttle.  I believed the No. 3 propeller oil was thick from the cold.  Later this proved correct.  After spending some time in the warmer air the prop rpm returned to normal.
We descended into warmer weather; out of the ice and into the rain, and talking to Approach Control.  Approach Control set us up with a GCA,[Ground Controlled Approach], where they have us on radar and ‘tell us’ the proper heading to fly the pattern, line up with the runway, and direct us down the glide slope.  In those days, the GCA was new and the best radar near the airport, especially with the precision of the approach of the ‘GCA..’  We were still in descent as we flew around the pattern and the airspeed was too fast.  Reducing power didn’t seem to work to slow the speed while descending.  As they turned us onto the center line of the runway, the B-17 was still fast.  I kept reminding the pilot ‘we got to slow down!”  Mind you; this was by yelling over the noise of the engines.’  The GCA radar operator told us we were getting close to the glide slope to the runway, but the runway was unseen due to the rain,  The airspeed was at 140-150mph, instead of the 110-120 for an instrument approach.  I was convinced we would have to go around about halfway down the approach and kept calling ‘slow down!.’  Lieut. Palmer was trying, but the lack of currency in the plane and instruments was too much.
We could see the runway lights about a mile from the runway still struggling to slow under 135mph.  ‘We need full flaps now!’ and he said ‘OK.’ and pulled the power further back.  The extension of the flaps would cause a big attitude change, but we were visual now.  Normally flaps are lowered a notch at a time. We found ourselves crossing the runway end still fast enough to be exciting.  He landed on the main gear and started soft braking.  The pilot called out that one of the tires was skidding and I could feel the slight change in deceleration. When the tail wheel got on the ground, I raised the flaps to put weight on the wheels.  At a point I believed was halfway down the runway we were still fast, and I could see lights from cars on the road beyond the far end of the runway.  I “knew” we were going off the end of the runway, when suddenly, the pilot started to turn left, braking hard with the left brake and simultaneously pushing up the far right throttle [No.4] to assist.  As soon as the plane was off the cement in a turn, he pulled No. 4 throttle back and pushed up the far left engine [No. 1] and started braking with the right brake.  The B-17 was now in the grass turning rapidly to the right, and I could see a fenced-in area in the landing lights.  I “know” we are going to hit it.
We didn’t hit the object, which was a vertical light used by the weathermen to determine the cloud ceiling, called a ceilometer.  A chained link enclosure protected the large light ..  The time passed in a blink, and we were back on the runway again throttles closed and taxiing in the opposite direction of landing!  We were both speechless, although I probably asked the tower for taxi instructions to the Air Rescue Squadron in a squeaky voice.  We taxied with a slight thump-thump caused by flat spots on one tire.  We found the unlit parking area and parked the squadron’s ‘new’ B-17.  The three of us, two pilots and the NCO were still excited and felt giddy about the close call as we walked around the plane looking for damage.  We couldn’t find any damage, but the mud covered the B-17 lower wings and tail.  The left wing tip should have hit the fenced-in light, but there was no evidence of it.
The next morning, Lieut. Palmer and I went to the squadron headquarters to check in and found that our line chief/crew chief had already been there.  We ran into a storm of ‘what the hell did you do? ‘what kind of a landing was that?’ etc’  They were mad that we were the ones that ferried the airplane despite our explanation.  They were very mad about the mud all over the B-17, the torn up turf to the side of the runway [that would be blamed on ‘rescue’], and last, the fact that one tire had more than one flat spot where the tire slid on the runway.  On the other hand, it was something short of a miracle that the B-17 wasn’t resting beyond the end of the runway and across the road.  Finally, without any thank you for your service comments, they accepted the facts as they stood and decided they were going to live by them.
Lieut. Palmer and I got a ride out to the location where we did our ‘turn around’ and wondered how we escaped without damage.  He and I paced the distance from the tire track closest to the fenced in area, and we believed it was the same distance as the wingtip to the wheel.  We missed it by a whisker.  While we walked around the area, there was a crew of men repairing one of the high-intensity lights.  The high-intensity light has a large thick glass cover that protects the bulb. There was a broken section of glass knocked out of the cover caused by the tip of a wheel axle that protrudes from the wheel assembly just barely clipping the glass.  That broken glass was added to the list of troubles that our landing caused.  The light in the photo looks smaller than the light I remember, but it is similar.
As I remember, there were no repercussions over the B-17 delivery and the dirty shape we handed it to the McChord squadron.  It wasn’t an accident or even classified as an incident since the only ‘repairs.’ needed were changing a tire, repairs to the sod, and replacement of the damaged globe on the runway light.  Of course, I suspect they groused over washing the mud from the B-17.  Our squadron sent an aircraft for us and took us home to March AFB.  l could imagine that they might give us a military band send-off, after some celebratory drinks, but we left as we arrived, with little-advanced notice and as quiet as possible.
The magic turn off the runway and back on was the only time I ever had the excitement of riding through that maneuver.  What the pilot did in a panic-induced response, was to use one of the aerial maneuvers used in instrument flight.  The aerial maneuver is called a procedure turn, as a means of reversing course and ending up on the same track.  Nearly all instrument approach procedures include a procedure turn.  Lieut Palmer’s version was a tighter example.
Imagine we are in the example to the right.  At ‘A‘ we are on the runway near the end.  Palmer makes a panic left turn, followed by a rapid right turn.  During an aerial instrument procedure turn, the airspeed would be constant, but we were decelerating rapidly, and our turn would be much smaller and tighter.  On the diagram at the word ‘End’, we are back on the runway breathly heavily.  That ceilometer would be located near the track about halfway between ‘c’ and ’d’.
 
 

Biography

Biography

In His Words…
My tour as a Misty FAC was the most exhilarating of my 16 thousand hours of service.  Something was always happening that provided excitement. Some of those things were scary, some funny, some were “Oh Shit” things, and all of them included gunfire.  There was gunfire on almost every mission and most of the individual penetrations into North Vietnam or Laos.  As a result, it did not take long to become adept at estimating the bore size of the incoming anti-aircraft artillery (AAA).  Our aggressive and continuous “jink” (rapid maneuvering) saved us from a lot of hits and was designed to discourage the gunners from shooting at us in the first place.
One day, I got tapped by a 37mm gunner that wasn’t discouraged. On January 16, 1968, I was flying with Captain Eben Jones.  I was in the front seat, and Eben was in the back with all the maps and our 35mm camera.  The weather was good, and we had lots of suspicious targets to check out.  Our F-100F was just out of IRAN – “Inspect and Replace As Necessary”, and was a beauty – Number 783. It had a new coat of paint, the engine trimmed nicely, and it flew like a brand-new Hun.  Our mission had progressed nicely, with a single trip to the tanker, and then “it” happened.
My unit had been given a special assignment. We were to respond quickly to check special targets discovered electronically by EC-121s1.  The EC-121s listened to radio devices planted along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and reported movement to a secret location in Thailand.  These locations were then relayed to us by the AirBorne Command and Control Center (ABCCC). The ABCCC gave us the fix, a Delta point and we rushed in at a gallop. Swish! We went over a bombed-out intersection at 450 knots and didn’t really “see” anything.  We decided there might be something we missed and turned around for another pass.   Sure enough, there was a cleverly-camouflaged truck or a truck hulk; we couldn’t tell which for sure.
Naturally, we went back again, this time to take a picture with the 35mm Pentax.   It was easy, fly over the target, roll up on the side, ease off the G’s, and take the picture. I was too close (or Jonesy couldn’t get the camera far enough out in the slipstream), so we went back for still another pass.   This pass was a little better, but by gosh, if we were going to get the goods on the guy, we needed to be a little closer.   By this time, we were nearing bingo fuel, but were determined to take one more pass.  Since we had to go back over the target on the way to the tanker, we made the pass.  Came over the target, rolled up on a wing, and took the photo.
The gunner on the ground must have figured he’d been spotted and fired his 37mm at us.  He knew he’d have to “move the gun” that night but it was too tempting for him to keep silent.   Wham!  I mean WHAM-M-M!!!, there was a muffled explosion and one utility light came on (very brightly, it seemed).  I threw in a jink, while I reached down to the jettison button and cleaned the wing.  We S’d out of the area, getting what altitude we could without sucking up too much fuel, and picked up a heading for Ubon.
The flight to Ubon was uneventful.  We checked to see if either one of us had any injuries and fortunately we had none.   There was damage to the airframe, but Jonesy didn’t fill me in on the extent of the damage to his area and I couldn’t see any in mine.  The utility warning light was bright enough to keep me awake and I was on alert for further trouble. The Hun was flying nicely, except for that one warning light. I don’t remember if I said anything to Eben, but at the time I thought, “Boy, are we lucky that we are over Laos, instead of North Vietnam.” I thought we’d have been picked up in no time.  (Little did I know about the odds of getting out of Laos).
As we approached Ubon, I made sure the tower knew we had battle damage and were at minimum fuel. I had never actually made a no-flap landing so I was reviewing the speeds and procedures.   On the downwind everything looked good and with nothing else going on I said to Eben, “I have half a notion to try the flaps.”
Eben, in an almost disinterested voice, said, “Nah, I wouldn’t bother.” (he could see the gaping hole where the right flap used to be).
The no-flap landing went well, we stopped on the cement, and eased into the de-arming area.   When the canopy went up, I saw the damage, and understood why Eben had said not to bother with the flaps.
Though it may not be recorded anywhere, Eben and I brought back the Number 783 with more missing than any other F-100 battle damage RTB. In fact, the external stores and most of the right flap are still in Laos.

 

  1. EC-121R BatcatDuring the Vietnam War some 30 EC-121s were modified from U.S. Navy WV-2 and WV-3 early warning Constellations for and 25 were deployed to Southeast Asia, at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, as a part of Operation Igloo White. The resulting EC-121R configuration was nicknamed the Batcat. Two Batcats were lost during the war, with the loss of 22 crewmen, one in a takeoff accident during a thunderstorm on 25 April 1969, the other on 6 September 1969, in a landing accident. Four Thai civilians on the ground were also killed in the second crash.Batcat EC-121s were camouflaged in the standard three-color Southeast Asia scheme while the College Eye/Disco early warning aircraft were not. BatCat missions were 18 hours in length, with eight hours on station at one of 11 color-coded orbits used during their five-year history, three of which were over South Vietnam, six over Laos, one over Cambodia, and one over the Gulf of Tonkin. Source:Https://myfighterplanes.tumblr.com/post/83625018531/batcat-ec-121r-batcat-during-the-vietnam

 
The Man…
There are few people with an aviation resume that spans decades and generations, from the giant Flying Fortress to the supersonic F-100 but Don Jones is one of them. Spanning a service history from WWII to the Vietnam War, Colonel Jones amassed over 16,300 flying hours in 65 types of military and civilian aircraft during his flying career.
More importantly he’s known as a man who refused to fail on his missions despite adverse weather conditions, low altitude, ground fire and unprecedented aggressiveness from enemy forces. He always responded with courage, aggressive deterimination, unerring accuracy and calm leadership.
Don’s fortitude is evident in the events leading to his receiving the Silver Star. The commendation was bestowed “for gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-100 Forward Air Controller flying over North Vietnam on 27 December 1967. On that date, Colonel Jones conducted attacks over hostile anti-aircraft sites, diving his aircraft through extremely intense barrages of flak, making accurate marking rounds for attacking fighters. After placing the marking rounds, he continued to use his own aircraft as a decoy to draw flak from the less maneuverable, ordnance laden aircraft. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Colonel jones has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.” (source: Veteran Tributes Https://www.veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=1421)
U.S. Army Reserve 1943-1945
U.S. Army (USAAF) 1945, 1946-1947
U.S. Air Force 1947-1976
World War II 1943-1945
Cold War 1945-1976
Vietnam War 1965-1968

Units - Education - Awards - Flight Info

Units Assigned

  • 1948-1950 4th Air Rescue Squadron, March Field, CA
  • 1950-1952 42nd Air Rescue Squadron, Ernest Harmon AB, Newfoundland, Canada
  • 1952-1957 Headquarters Air Rescue Service, Washington DC/Orlando AFB, FL
  • 1957-1958 1st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Spangdahlem AB, West Germany
  • 1958-1960 Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe
  • 1960-1962 961st Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) Squadron, Otis AFB, MA
  • 1962-1965 966th AEW&C Squadron at McCoy AFB, FL
  • 1965-1967 5th Air Force at Fuchu AS, Japan/ 5th Air Force Direct Air Support, South Korea
  • 1967-1968 37th Tactical Fighter Wing, Commander of the Misty FAST FAC’s, Phu Cat AB, South Vietnam
  • 12/1968-12/1969 551st Airborne Early Warning Wing, Otis AFB, MA
  • 1969-1973 4713th Defense Systems Evaluation Squadron at Otis AFB, MA/Westover AFB, MA
  • 1973-1976 Vermont Air National Guard

Awards & Decorations

Silver Star
Distinguished Flying Cross (with Valor Device, 2 Oak Leaf Clusters)
Bronze Star
Air Medal (with 2 Silver Oak Leaf Clusters)
Air Force Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
Outstanding Unit Award (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters)
Combat Readiness Medal
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal (with Star)
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal (with 4 Stars)
Armed Forces Longevity Service Award (with Bronze and Silver Oak Leaf Cluster)
Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
Vietnam Gallantry Cross (with Palm)
Vietnam Campaign Ribbon

Flight Info

L-5 Sentinel
SA-10 Catalina
SB-17 Flying Fortress
C-47 Skytrain
C-82 Packet
L-13’s
SA-10
SB-17
C-82
SA-16
C-121
RC-121 Constellation
RB-57 Canberra
RB-66 Destroyer
F-100
C-121
RC-121
C-47
EB-57

Military Education

  • 1947 Aviation Cadet Training/Radar Technician, Mather Field, CA
  • 1948 Awarded Pilot Wings, Multi-Engine Advanced Training, Barksdale AFB, LA
  • 1967 F-100 Super Sabre Combat Crew Training

Civilian Education

  • 1944 Michigan Tech , Pre-Aviation Cadet College Training
Books by Donald G. Jones

How I Survived Flying in the Good Old Days Kindle Edition

How I Survived Flying in the Good Old Days by [Jones, Donald]

A great SB-17 story by Don Jones

Flying the SB-17 in 1950
This story will tell about a trip I made during my first assignment with Air Rescue Service at March Field, CA.  After two years in California, I was waiting to leave for my new assignment in Newfoundland.  I was a First Lieut. and knew everything now and assigned to take a C-82 to Cleveland to take part in some tests-to-destruction experiments.  These tests were to evaluate fire warning systems and fire extinguishing.  I didn’t know it at the time, that destruction was to be part of aircraft fire tests, but several obsolete aircraft were destroyed in the process as films showed later.  The second part of the trip was to ferry a PBY from Selfridge AFB, Mich [near Detroit] back home to March AFB.  The crew for the trip was another 1st Lieut who recently arrived in the squadron and wasn’t current in anything. He had just been recalled to active duty.  I honestly don’t remember his name, but Lieut Palmer seems familiar.  In this case, the crew chief was our squadron line chief.  The Master Sergeant was a senior and very experienced NCO and would make the mechanical inspection.  He is the one that would decide whether the PBY is suitable to accept.  That sounded simple, and we delivered the C-82 to Cleveland without any excitement, following a nice weather trip from Calif.  Just as planned, the Selfridge squadron arrived promptly at the airfield in Cleveland to take us to Selfridge.  Back in those days, commercial travel was not in many budgets, and our organic planes usually served our travel needs.
When we arrived at Selfridge, the Line Chief in that squadron led us to a PBY.  It is hard to describe this PBY after all these years, but the appearance revealed it needed a paint job and looked rough.  The plane also had some serious mechanical problems that cannot be fixed in a day or two.  Using our parlance, the plane had several red cross conditions.  The red cross did not refer to the medical organization but was used to identify a malfunction as a grounding condition.  The Selfridge squadron had another PBY which they suggested as a replacement, but it was in worse shape.  They did offer us the best of the two originally.  Someone in the past put dots of white anti-corrosion paint on this faded blue airplane. The description we passed on to our squadron and the Headquarters Air Rescue Service was that the plane looked like it was in the tertiary stage of syphilis.  The purpose of the paint was admirable since they wanted no corrosion and they did the first step in the full recovery.  Of course, the airplane had mechanical problems as well.  In truth, the PBY aircraft were to be phased out, and the squadron was transitioning to another type, the new SA-16.  After telephone calls to the squadron in California and their calls to Hq, Air Rescue Service in Washington, DC everyone decided that the two PBYs were not suitable for transfer.
Later, a separate telephone call told us to fly an SB-17 belonging to the Selfridge squadron  to McChord AFB, Wash for delivery to their rescue squadron.  I had about a hundred hours flying the B-17,  but I had never ‘checked out.’  My co-pilot had been checked out in the B-17 at an earlier date [maybe WWII] but had not flown the aircraft recently.  I forget the actual discussion that explained how long it had been since he flew the B-17, but I believed it was in WWII.  This was 1950 before the Korean War, but people were being re-called regularly.  The plan was to give him a checkout flight to make him current, and he was set up with an instructor.  Our line chief was also familiar with the B-17 as our squadron had one at March AFB.  This SB-17was in better shape than the two PBYs, but the Sergeant found enough to require some work.  The next day, after the check-out flight for Lieut. Palmer, the Sergeant gave it a quick check and found one tire too worn to be safe, and he needed a new or better tire.
Of course, it was Saturday, and not many people were around on that day.  Our Sergeant line chief got access to the spare tires possessed by the Selfridge squadron.  He selected one that turned out to be a winter tire in the old style of having springs embedded into the rubber, and after a bit of wear, they stuck out of the tire like miniature needles.  The other tire on the plane had a summer tire.  This mismatch of tires was to be important later…Our Sergeant couldn’t locate a proper aircraft jack to jack up the aircraft wheel to raise the tire from the ground.  He did find what I would describe as a simple but large jack not made for airplanes.  I am wondering if I am going to pay the price if the plane comes off the jack, or the Sergeant will lose his stripes   I am thinking ‘both of us.’  The Sergeant and a helper from the Selfridge squadron did manage to raise the wheel enough to remove the old tire and install the ‘winter’ tire with the sharp needles sticking out of the rubber.  At the time, the mismatch of tires, one regular ‘summer tire, and the less famous ‘winter’ tire was no big deal.  Using the winter tire on an ice-free runway would not be dangerous.  Of course, at the time we didn’t know we would be landing in the rain.  As noted in the photo from the internet, the SB-17 carried a lifeboat that could be parachuted to survivors in the water.  I don’t believe we had a boat attached for this ferry flight.
The next day we departed, with me in the right, or co-pilot seat, and Lieut Palmer as a pilot in command.  We landed in Minneapolis, Minn for fuel after considering the weather at McChord and the distance to probable alternate airfields.  The flight to McChord was routine, giving the pilot in command time to re-learn all of the ins and outs of the B-17.  We entered the weather someplace over North Dakota or Montana, and as we proceeded west, the weather became more intense.  Navigation in the weather back then was never easy because the navigation aids were still using low-frequency radio signals, subject to static interference and reduced distance.  We were picking up ice on the wing and tail leading edges.  The cockpit darkened as we flew into setting sun about the same time.
Yes, we were having trouble finding our way.  I was working the navigation equipment as Lieut. Palmer was busy flying instruments.  One usually reliable radio was the radio that used a loop antenna to seek the correct heading to the radio source.  I was getting readings that were confusing and finally believed the loop was homing on a thunderstorm at or near Mount Rainier instead of the beacon on our course.  I found another navigation aid and gave corrections.  Lieut Palmer was flying night-instruments which made the task more difficult as not everything in the cockpit was lighted.  I was handling the radio communications with the ATC ground people and nearing McChord; I sought their clearance to descend and land.  After getting the clearance to descend, we reduced power, followed by fluxation of the number three engine rpm.  The pilot in command told me to declare an emergency, which I did while trying to convince him not to feather the number three prop.  The engine was working, but the prop was essentially in fixed pitch.  We might need it even if it was disconcerting listening to the wa-wa-wa of the prop out of sync with the other three propellers.  I tried to keep the sound in sync by adjusting the NumberThree throttle.  I believed the No. 3 propeller oil was thick from the cold.  Later this proved correct.  After spending some time in the warmer air the prop rpm returned to normal.
We descended into warmer weather; out of the ice and into the rain, and talking to Approach Control.  Approach Control set us up with a GCA,[Ground Controlled Approach], where they have us on radar and ‘tell us’ the proper heading to fly the pattern, line up with the runway, and direct us down the glide slope.  In those days, the GCA was new and the best radar near the airport, especially with the precision of the approach of the ‘GCA..’  We were still in descent as we flew around the pattern and the airspeed was too fast.  Reducing power didn’t seem to work to slow the speed while descending.  As they turned us onto the center line of the runway, the B-17 was still fast.  I kept reminding the pilot ‘we got to slow down!”  Mind you; this was by yelling over the noise of the engines.’  The GCA radar operator told us we were getting close to the glide slope to the runway, but the runway was unseen due to the rain,  The airspeed was at 140-150mph, instead of the 110-120 for an instrument approach.  I was convinced we would have to go around about halfway down the approach and kept calling ‘slow down!.’  Lieut. Palmer was trying, but the lack of currency in the plane and instruments was too much.
We could see the runway lights about a mile from the runway still struggling to slow under 135mph.  ‘We need full flaps now!’ and he said ‘OK.’ and pulled the power further back.  The extension of the flaps would cause a big attitude change, but we were visual now.  Normally flaps are lowered a notch at a time. We found ourselves crossing the runway end still fast enough to be exciting.  He landed on the main gear and started soft braking.  The pilot called out that one of the tires was skidding and I could feel the slight change in deceleration. When the tail wheel got on the ground, I raised the flaps to put weight on the wheels.  At a point I believed was halfway down the runway we were still fast, and I could see lights from cars on the road beyond the far end of the runway.  I “knew” we were going off the end of the runway, when suddenly, the pilot started to turn left, braking hard with the left brake and simultaneously pushing up the far right throttle [No.4] to assist.  As soon as the plane was off the cement in a turn, he pulled No. 4 throttle back and pushed up the far left engine [No. 1] and started braking with the right brake.  The B-17 was now in the grass turning rapidly to the right, and I could see a fenced-in area in the landing lights.  I “know” we are going to hit it.
We didn’t hit the object, which was a vertical light used by the weathermen to determine the cloud ceiling, called a ceilometer.  A chained link enclosure protected the large light ..  The time passed in a blink, and we were back on the runway again throttles closed and taxiing in the opposite direction of landing!  We were both speechless, although I probably asked the tower for taxi instructions to the Air Rescue Squadron in a squeaky voice.  We taxied with a slight thump-thump caused by flat spots on one tire.  We found the unlit parking area and parked the squadron’s ‘new’ B-17.  The three of us, two pilots and the NCO were still excited and felt giddy about the close call as we walked around the plane looking for damage.  We couldn’t find any damage, but the mud covered the B-17 lower wings and tail.  The left wing tip should have hit the fenced-in light, but there was no evidence of it.
The next morning, Lieut. Palmer and I went to the squadron headquarters to check in and found that our line chief/crew chief had already been there.  We ran into a storm of ‘what the hell did you do? ‘what kind of a landing was that?’ etc’  They were mad that we were the ones that ferried the airplane despite our explanation.  They were very mad about the mud all over the B-17, the torn up turf to the side of the runway [that would be blamed on ‘rescue’], and last, the fact that one tire had more than one flat spot where the tire slid on the runway.  On the other hand, it was something short of a miracle that the B-17 wasn’t resting beyond the end of the runway and across the road.  Finally, without any thank you for your service comments, they accepted the facts as they stood and decided they were going to live by them.
Lieut. Palmer and I got a ride out to the location where we did our ‘turn around’ and wondered how we escaped without damage.  He and I paced the distance from the tire track closest to the fenced in area, and we believed it was the same distance as the wingtip to the wheel.  We missed it by a whisker.  While we walked around the area, there was a crew of men repairing one of the high-intensity lights.  The high-intensity light has a large thick glass cover that protects the bulb. There was a broken section of glass knocked out of the cover caused by the tip of a wheel axle that protrudes from the wheel assembly just barely clipping the glass.  That broken glass was added to the list of troubles that our landing caused.  The light in the photo looks smaller than the light I remember, but it is similar.
As I remember, there were no repercussions over the B-17 delivery and the dirty shape we handed it to the McChord squadron.  It wasn’t an accident or even classified as an incident since the only ‘repairs.’ needed were changing a tire, repairs to the sod, and replacement of the damaged globe on the runway light.  Of course, I suspect they groused over washing the mud from the B-17.  Our squadron sent an aircraft for us and took us home to March AFB.  l could imagine that they might give us a military band send-off, after some celebratory drinks, but we left as we arrived, with little-advanced notice and as quiet as possible.
The magic turn off the runway and back on was the only time I ever had the excitement of riding through that maneuver.  What the pilot did in a panic-induced response, was to use one of the aerial maneuvers used in instrument flight.  The aerial maneuver is called a procedure turn, as a means of reversing course and ending up on the same track.  Nearly all instrument approach procedures include a procedure turn.  Lieut Palmer’s version was a tighter example.
Imagine we are in the example to the right.  At ‘A‘ we are on the runway near the end.  Palmer makes a panic left turn, followed by a rapid right turn.  During an aerial instrument procedure turn, the airspeed would be constant, but we were decelerating rapidly, and our turn would be much smaller and tighter.  On the diagram at the word ‘End’, we are back on the runway breathly heavily.  That ceilometer would be located near the track about halfway between ‘c’ and ’d’.
 
 

Scroll to Top