Michael Patrick Blaisdell
A Lesson from an Airman, 12 May 1967 – Bien Hoa Airbase, RVN by Rip Blaisdell
(from the book “Those Red Tag Bastards, Their Dreams, Their Lives, Their Memories”-Editor Don Shepperd)
After pilot training and fighter upgrade into the F-100 at Luke, I was privileged to join many others in the nuclear business in Europe in 1964. I don’t know how much of a deterrent a wall of lieutenants and captains performing near-simultaneous line-abreast idiot loops along the Iron Curtain with 300+ Kiloton weapons would have been, but it would have been one helluva fireworks display.
Anyway, after two and one-half years at Lakenheath, I got assigned to Bien Hoa to fly with the 531st Ramrods. I reported in January 1967 and began flying the standard ground support missions. I stayed busy as the “Keeper of the Snake,” an 11-foot Vietnamese Python that was the squadron mascot, and writing awards and decs for the Operations Officer, Lt. Col. Bud Bacon. I didn’t think much about being in combat; the bomb dump got blown up occasionally, and we could see lots of tracers on night missions (all of them seemed to be coming at you). But, if you moved the airplane around enough and didn’t do anything dumb, you usually did not get hit. Alert was exciting, especially if there was a good fight going on somewhere. It was not unusual for us to get three sorties between 0600 and noon on a good day on alert. At the time, I flew with a standard-issue .38 revolver. You could take the revolver to your “hootch” with you if you wanted to, but I usually left mine in my vest in life support; just something else to keep up with on the trips back and forth to the squadron.
Being one of the junior pilots in the squadron I got to live in one of the un-airconditioned, metal-roofed, slat-sided barracks with a couple of other pilots and a bunch of Air Force dentists. Our rooms consisted of a bunk with mosquito netting and a little fan inside the netting. The other occupants in the hootch had been there longer, so I got the bunk nearest the screened door. It was hot and muggy; I was not looking forward to summer. We slept in our underwear and enjoyed what scant relief we could get from our little fans. I could reach my foot through the mosquito netting and open the screened door to look outside into the mud ditch that ran between the hootch and the road.
On the night of 12 May 1967, about midnight, I heard what I thought was thunder and opened the door with my foot. I looked down the road and saw that the church, about a block away, was on fire. About that time, the sirens went off. This was the first time the VC had used 120mm rockets in South Vietnam. We knew the North Vietnamese had them but had never seen them near Saigon. They are a LOT bigger than the 82mm mortars we were used to; much longer-ranged and did a lot more damage. We had been briefed to go to the bunkers at the end of the row of hootches when the siren went off. So, wanting to get somewhere fast before the next volley, I put on my flip-flops and ran to the bunker which was right next to our hootch.
When I arrived, a young airman was coming in the other opening on the street side of the bunker. He had a .50 cal., a tripod, a bandolier, and a couple of cans of ammo and was in full combat gear, helmet, flak vest, etc. He had a flashlight in his mouth and looked at me and said, “Which way do you think they will come from….Sir?” My immediate thought was, “Holy Shit – I’m going to die right here in my tightey-whiteys.” I helped him get the gun set up as several others arrived in the bunker. After a few minutes the mortars slacked off and I sneaked back to the hootch to get my flying suit, helmet and boots.
The airman did not say a thing to me about my apparent lack of preparation for an attack and I never saw him again after that night. But his readiness taught me a lesson. After that night I scrounged a 1911 .45 automatic from the Army and I never went anywhere without it. I also put my flying suit, boots, and helmet by my bed.
Rip says his claim to fame is that he’s the F-100 pilot with most single-engine combat missions without being hit by enemy fire; 154 in the F-100, 189 in the O-1, and 155 in the F-105!
- 1962 Graduate, Air Force Academy
- 1964 Air-Ground Operations School, Ramstein, Germany
- 1964-1966 494th Tactical Fighter Squadron (F-100)
- 1966-1967 Lakenheath AB, England (F-100)
- 1/1967-5/1967 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron/3rd Tactical Fighter Wing, Bien Hoa, Vietnam (F-100)
- 6/1967-7/1967 Red Markers, Vietnam (O-1)
- 1968-1969 524th Tactical Fighter Squadron
Awards & Decorations
Military & Civilian Education
- 1962 Air Force Academy
- 1964 Air-Ground Operations School
Rip Blaisdell Interview by Brian Butler