28 February 1941 – The Republic F-84 Thunderjet was an American turbojet fighter-bomber aircraft. Originating as a 1944 United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) proposal for a “day fighter”, the F-84 first flew in 1946. Although it entered service in 1947, the Thunderjet was plagued by so many structural and engine problems that a 1948
Henry Viccellio, Jr.
Dreams become reality…
My love affair with the Hun (F-100) began in 1955 at Foster Field, Texas. As an Air Force brat in his high school years, I lived on base with other families and three squadrons of F-100Cs, flown by “supermen” who all seemed to be either carefree bachelors or married to Miss America finalists. As the son of an Air Force fighter pilot and Academy aspirant, my destiny was clear. I just HAD to fly the Hun!
Five years later, my dreams became reality. Luke Air Patch was heaven on earth…a new red convertible, numerous opportunities of the female persuasion, 4 a.m. breakfasts leading to daily dawn patrols to Gila Bend and elsewhere, and the Valley of the Sun my personal sandbox. Awesome! With our Instructor Pilots spinning yarns of Itazuke, Lakenheath, Aviano, and Wheelus, qualification in the Hun passed in the blink of an eye. I was ready for Prime Time!
Prime Time turned out to be spelled TAC (Tactical Air Command). As each of my classmates rejoiced in his overseas posting, I buried myself in the Rand McNally, trying to locate someplace called Homestead.
I shouldn’t have worried. The convertible proved just as effective in the environs of South Miami as it had in the sands of Arizona. Sharing a pool-equipped rental with the likes of Frank Gioco and his block-long Cadillac helped the good times roll. With three squadrons of Huns but only two squadrons of pilots, flying time was plentiful, even if half of it was found at Cigli Air Base near Izmir, Turkey.
In just over an all-too-brief year, it seemed I was able to do it all. 3-ship formation takeoffs with live nape (napalm) at Seymour, recovery on the wing in below-minimum weather during east coast storms, unlimited cross-country opportunities, six months flying formation acro on BV Johnson’s wing over Ephesus (Turkey), and, believe it or not, an on-time, OTS shack at Avon during an ORI. Hey, Toto…even better than our dreams!
I’ve got to admit…the fact that this heavenly rendezvous with the Hun came to an abrupt end was my own doing. Convinced that the war in SEA (Southeast Asia) was going to be over before I could get there, I jumped at a chance to fly the A-1 at Bien Hoa in Vietnam and was off to short course training at Hurlburt in a nanosecond. Imagine my chagrin when I stepped off the jet in country, only to be greeted by my former Hun squadron, which had deployed in the interim! Nonetheless, I never regretted my decision…it took me to Nha Trang, then on to Udorn flying the Sandy rescue mission(1). I got to see the war from a vantage point that would never have been mine as a tour of duty Hun driver down south.
What a way to start a career! The Hun represented all that was good, all that was exciting, all that was SPECIAL about being a fighter pilot…and has ever since. I went on to serve for 35 years, operationally flying five different jets. But the “light on the star” and the men with whom I flew in those first two years remain my brightest memories.
Sandy Rescue Missions: A-1 Skyraiders were used by the USAF to perform one of the Skyraider’s most famous roles: the “Sandy” helicopter escort on combat rescues. The designation SANDY originated with an Air Force rescue pilot based in Thailand whose call sign was Sandy, the name of his dog. Over time, Sandy became a generic term for all A-1 Search-AND-destroY rescue flights.