28 June 1965 – U.S. forces launch the first major offensive in the Vietnam War. “In the first major offensive ordered for U.S. forces, 3,000...Read More
Gerald H. Felix
I missed a single-seat assignment out of UPT and selected a C141; my class standing wasn’t quite good enough. At the time Vietnam Nam was raging, increasing the demand for fighter pilots. When I got the opportunity to volunteer for an F-100 slot, I jumped at the chance.
After training with the 524 Hounds at Cannon AFB, I joined the 531 Ramrods at Bien Hoa, VN. Hal Gabby was my first Flt Cmdr, Peaches Vanek my second, Huey Moreland my flight mate, Joe Ashy my roommate, Tom Hall my command post mate. I flew a lot with Huey in those early days; he taught me well. When these guys got through with me and after a year of combat flying, I was good enough.
I continued through the ranks flying the F100, A-7, and A-10, landing as the 510 Buzzard skipper at Bentwaters. The 510 has a very storied history that extends back to WW2 and continues today with the F16 at Aviano IT. I was privileged to inherit such a fine squadron legacy and advance its winning tradition. It was a dream job and the highlight of my career, and I get to meet young and old Buzzards at yearly reunions.
It’s been a great ride.
Best Flying Story
It was 0300 Jan 31, 1968; and I was at Bien Hoa on the alert pad. The red phone scrambled the Ramrods. We were a two-ship off on our second-night sortie and would be finished our tour upon our return…or so we thought. The Tet Offensive was on.
We saw tracer fire in the vicinity of the arming shack and the weapons crew wasted no time pulling pins and charging guns (brave souls). We hit the runway with burners cooking. We orbited Saigon for an hour watching fireworks and waiting for “target tasking” for napes and “snake eyes”(1), a tasking that was never sent. Battle lines could not be drawn, our FAC support was virtually non-existent.
Bien Hoa Air Base had closed, so we diverted to Phan Rang. Upon landing, we were directed to their alert pad and requested that we gas up and get ready, which we were more than happy to do. Screw crew rest. We scrambled two more times that day, hitting targets around Ban Me Thuot in the central highlands, recovering back at Bien Hoa Air Base in the evening. Four sorties in 24 hours, two different alert pads, might be a record. There was lots of gunfire and rocket activity back home, but I kinda missed Phan Rang.
After spending a restless night in my “hooch(2)”, I cranked up my Honda 90 and headed down perimeter road on the way to the squadron building. Motoring along, I met a tank rumbling up the road and happily gave way. The tank came to a stop, trained its 50 caliber on the ESSO gas station in Bien Hoa village, and blew it away. Close behind were a couple of Army trucks loaded with bodies of very young Vietnamese boys, who were Viet Cong killed in the airbase fighting that raged over the last couple of days and nights.
Tet brought the warfighting much closer to our airbase. We experienced nightly rocket attacks, logging bunker time, or watching evening fireworks from the squadron bar like idiots. I left those rocket attacks and squadron mates behind in May 1968, headed home to rejoin my wife and continued to Wethersfield AB, UK, and a European adventure.
- Snake eyes refer to the high-drag fin system on a bomb such as an MK-82 Snake Eye which was a low drag bomb fitted with a high-drag fin.
- Hooch was Vietnam War slang for a thatched hut or improvised living space (e.g. inside sand-bagged bunker or improved “foxhole”)
- 1964 UPT Reese AFB, TX
- 1965 9 MAS, Dover AFB, DE
- 1967 524th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Cannon AFB NM
- 1967 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron, Bien Hoa VN
- 1968 55th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Wethersfield AB, UK
- 1970 353rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Myrtle Beach AFB, SC, and Korat RTAB
- 1974 VA 174, exchange pilot, NAS Cecil Field, FL
- 1976 Quantico Marine Base, VA
- 1977 HQ TAC Safety, Langley Air Force Base, VA
- 1979 112th Tactical Fighter Group, Pittsburgh, PA
- 1981 92nd TFS, Ops Off, Bentwaters AB, UK
- 1982 Squadron CC, 510 Buzzards, Bentwaters AB, UK
- 1984 HQ USAFE, Asst Ops, Chief Stan Eval
- 1986 363rd Fighter Wing, DO, Shaw AFB SC
- 1987 9th AF DO staff
- 1988 Retired USAF
- 1989 United Airlines
- 2001 Retired UA
Awards & Decorations
Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
Boeing and Airbus heavies
400+ combat sorties
5000+ single-seat fighter hours
Military & Civilian Education
- USAF Academy, CO
- Marine Corps Staff College, Quantico, VA
- MA, Pepperdine University, CA