On April 26, 1967, Captain Corwin “Kip” Kippenhan (Misty 13) was on his first mission as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) in the front seat of an F-100F with Major Bud Day in the back. The plane was number 954 and Bud Day knew it had a bad shoulder harness in the rear that no one had been able to repair. It meant that he was in for a rough ride whenever Kip banked or turned.
As Kippenhan and Day were getting into the aircraft, an Air Force corporate jet landed and 3 intelligence officers disembarked. They had brought photographs of SA-2 missile sites just north of the DMZ near Thon Cam Son. The photos showed SAM’s in the launchers. Bud Day recognized the place, the pilots called it “The Fruit Orchard”, it was just west of the Fingers Lake, one of the most dangerous places in the area.
The destruction of the missile site was imperative as several aircraft had been shot down in that area in the past few weeks. Time was of the essence to take it out, the North Vietnamese were very adept at moving missile sites and building dummy sites surrounded by anti-aircraft artillery (AAA). Kip and Bud flew for a couple of hours looking for the SAM site. On what was to be their last pass they came in from the West in hazy weather with 3 miles visibility. Kip was flying 575 mph at 1000 feet.
The enemy was waiting. Fireballs from a 37mm canon came at them, flak was everywhere. Then Bud Day saw the SAM site but before he could call in a strike their F-100D was hit in the rear. The panel lit up like a Christmas tree. Bud Day took over the controls but both pilots knew the plane was going down. Day instituted all the proper emergency maneuvers but the plane was headed nose down to the ground and falling fast. He yelled for them to “Eject” and hit the lever. As Bud was in the backseat, he went first. Kip followed descending rapidly when two panels blew out of his chute. Both pilots were falling at tremendous speed.
On the way down Kip noticed Day about 1/4 mile from him hanging limply in his chute, clearly unconscious.
After landing in enemy territory, Kip spent the night evading the North Vietnamese. He was rescued the next morning by an Air Force helicopter “Jolly Green 28”. Bud Day was captured and spent 2,028 days as a prisoner of war in brutal conditions.
\After his military service, Kipp flew for American Airlines for 30 years. He retired to North Carolina and still loves to fly.