I wanted to fly from the earliest age I can remember. At age 13 I saw the F-100 and knew I wanted to fly that airplane. I started studying how to be an F-100 fighter pilot. At the time, you had to be an Aviation Cadet so I studied everything I could find on the history of the USAF and started applying when I was old enough. I passed the test and was accepted for pilot training but I had to have my teeth fixed and by the time I got back to training the last Pilot Aviation Cadet class had been filled.
I was asked if I wanted to go in the Air Force but I didn’t really know what the Air Force Academy was and I had planned to marry right after graduating from Aviation Cadets so the Air Force Academy wasn’t going to fit my timeline. The only class I could get in was as a Navigator and I flew the back seat of an F-101 Voodoo for four years at Lockbourne AFB, OH. I was finally accepted into pilot training in 1966 at Williams AFB, AZ. because I had the advantage of 1000 hours of flying century series fighters I graduated number two in my class, high enough to get the only F-100 available and fulfilled my life dream.
My first assignment in the F-100 was at Phan Rang AB in Vietnam and I flew with many of our Super Sabre Society members including my roommate Win Reither, Bob Knopka, Jay Closner, and many other 615th fighter pilots.
When I was flying the F-100 most of our missions were Close Air Support in South Vietnam. Unlike most F-100’s ours were modified to carry eight bombs. This modification allowed us to carry 4-500 lb high drag bombs, 2 napalm outboard along with 4 20mm internal cannons. We often would drop one ordnance each pass.
When Flying Close Air Support you’re trying to cover the ground forces from unexpected ambush or attack. Since we would drop our ordnance one bomb at a time and make as many passes as we could. we’d have two F-100’s crisscrossing over the target keeping the friendlies safe and beating up on the enemy. They were gratifying missions getting our guys out of difficult situations and frequently we’d get ground forces on the radio thanking us for our help, often they would be very emotional which was pretty special.
When we’d head further South in Vietnam, we’d pass a Navy/Marine coastal Base, Phan Thiet, about 100 miles south of our home base Phan Rang. If we had extra gas we’d call and ask them if they wanted us to come by for a “fly-by”. We’d use a fake call sign because we didn’t want anyone to know who we were and we’d do a “Buzz Job” at 600 MPH!
The fake call sign is part of a larger story.
We were on alert on New Year’s Eve and we got scrambled off to Four Court for a Close Air Support mission. We hit the target and we’re heading back to base and I call “Fancy Attires” as alpha Fidel 1968 (my fake call sign) and they said okay. My wingman and I would do some high-speed passes down the runway, showing off a little bit, and headed home and back to bed.
We got scrambled first thing the next morning back down to Four Court. I’m getting to be a “short-timer” so I called Phan Thiet tower with the bogus call sign. Next, I would fly down the runway about 500 knots, and about halfway down the deck I pop up 60 degrees nose high, aileron roll, pitched on the downwind, dirtied it up, started final turn pretty tight, lit the burner. As I started cleaning it up, gear first, then the flaps, kept the nose down the runway, accelerating pretty quick, popped the nose up again, got a little clearance, did an aileron roll, and tuned out traffic.
The tower came on the radio and said Alpha Fidel 1969, want to come back and do that again? I told them we didn’t have enough gas. That was probably the craziest thing I ever did in my time in the Air Force.
After my tour in Vietnam, I was disappointed to be sent to a training base in the U.S. instructing in the Cessna T-37. While there I got fired for performing a simple maneuver in a “fighter” fashion and had to prove myself once again to my superiors. Fortunately, the squadron commander asked me to review the squadron so they could prepare for their next inspection and we passed with an “outstanding” so I left my training assignment with the highest grades possible and a recommendation to fly fighters.
My next assignment was in an F-4D at Ubon AB in Thailand at the end of the Vietnam War. I flew escort for fighters on bombing missions in Laos and Vietnam. I flew in Vietnam until the end of the war in 1973. From there I went to George AFB as an F-4 instructor for four years and for two years during that time I was the head of the German “Top Gun” school training the German Air Force’s top pilots.
I was then sent to the Pentagon where I served under Major General Secord and worked in foreign military sales. I was offered an early promotion to Colonel which I turned down because no fighter assignments were in view. General Secord went to bat for me and found an F-15 assignment at Kadena AB in Okinawa where I found myself flying the Air Force’s best fighter jet until I retired two years later.