27 September 1968 – Kuldar “Koot” Visnapuu was serving with the 174th TFS Phu Cat “Bats” in Vietnam. Lt. Kuldar Visnapuu’s had just taken off from a base in South Vietnam when his Supersabre was hit by enemy fire. He turned the plane toward the South China Sea and ejected safely, watching as his jet
Robert W. Spielman
Robert Spielman was born with a playful spirit in South Windsor, CT., the son of the late Arthur and Agnes Spielman Sr. He graduated from Ellsworth Memorial High School and Trinity College where he first experienced flying.
His “addiction” to flying was made possible by “borrowing” $7 from his mother’s wallet to fly for an hour at the local airport. Bob went on to proudly serve in the United States Air Force flying F-100 Super Sabres and then his favorite fighter, the F-105 “Thud” Thunderchief in Fukuoka, Japan where he met his lifelong love and future wife of 54 years, Debbie.
His most memorable mission in Vietnam was the bombing of the Doumer Bridge in Hanoi, which earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross.
From Rolling Thunder Remembered: 11 August 1967…Operation Rolling Thunder…New York Times (12 Aug reporting 11 Aug ops)…Page 1: “U.S. Bombs Bridge That Links Hanoi to China and Port of Haiphong”… “United States fighter-bombers cut the rail and highway bridge across the Red River at Hanoi today–an important link to China, the port of Haiphong, and the Hanoi airport…In a special announcement the Air Force fighter-bombers, Thunderchiefs and Phantoms–knocked out a section of the span called the Paul Doumer Bridge with four direct hits. …No planes were lost although the pilots flew through intense anti-aircraft fire and surface-to-air missiles…the bridge is a 19-section steel structure set on piles across a mile-wide river.
An island divides the waterway into two channels of which only the eastern is navigable for deepwater vessels. A section over the eastern channel was knocked out by the bombing…the pilots cut the capital off from China, Haiphong, and the airport at Gia Lam. The Red River bridge was among a number of important targets that were immune to attack up to now. The list still includes the port of Haiphong, three MIG air bases, dikes, dams, and a number of industrial installations.1
Bob also earned the top graduate from the Nellis Air Force Fighter Weapons School.
In April of 2011, the FAA presented Bob with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for 50 years of safe flying. (see video)