02 Apr Rare All-Lieutenant 4-Ship F-100 Out-Country (Laos) Mission From Vietnam
Photo of the First (and perhaps only) All-Lieutenant 4-Ship,
F-100 Out-Country (Laos) Mission in the Vietnam War
(1st Lt’s Bill Lloyd, JD Wetterling, Lacy Veach, and Rick Goddard)
It might stand as a record in the SSS annals from any base in South Vietnam. Here’s all this feeble mind can recall (I fashioned a fictional version of this flight in my novel, Son of Thunder, and the only nonfiction part was that 4 lieutenants flew a 4-ship to Laos from Tuy Hoa.
Lt. Col. Dave Renshaw, 309th Squadron CC, 31st TFW, Tuy Hoa AB, sent the base photographers down to the fuel dump to capture the moment on our return because he believed it was the first time it had ever happened. It would have been between January and April of 1969. We four Sierra Hotel lieutenants took every opportunity to proclaim it, ad nauseam, at Dusty’s Pub. I don’t recall it ever happening again. Of course Dave would have had to approve it—he was an outstanding Squadron Commander. Perhaps he wanted a picture for his scrapbook to memorialize his leadership skills in developing four wet-behind-the-ears lieutenants for a relatively high risk out-country mission in some pretty spendy taxpayer assets.
I think we carried delayed fuse 750’s to crater a river ford whose bridge had been taken out but the truck traffic crossing the river was still quite heavy. The only image in my musty mental archives is the view thru my pipper of the ford a few yards downstream from the old bridge abutment with well-worn ruts leading into the river and out the other side. I recall no AAA harassment on the mission. Guys with better memories or detailed flight logs might know for sure, but Tchepone sticks in my mind as the locale. I recall it was a favorite haunt for us young fighter jocks who wanted to do something besides make toothpicks.
Lacy Veach (USAFA ’66) led it and I was #3. I think Rick was on my wing and Bill was #2. The 31st TFW was flying these missions on The Trail pretty regularly, day and night, in early ’69. We’d hit the tanker over Pleiku and top off on the way over. Lacy and I were roommates and our tours nearly coincided. He volunteered for Misty (still at Phu Cat then) and 1-2 months later he got shot down in Laos. I was coincidentally leading a 2-ship in the area and flew cap for him till the Spads and Jolly Greens arrived and scored another successful recovery. He was hung up in a tree and was able to talk to us on his survival radio—bit of a tremor and an octave or two higher than his usual Dusty’s Pub voice.
A bunny trail addendum that might be of interest to some: Lacy and I didn’t cross paths again till sometime in the early 70’s and he was inverted in a T-38, Thunderbird 5, over Chicago’s lakefront. I was a civilian standing on the beach at the communications jeep with Thunderbird 7, Joe Prater, another Dusty’s denizen, tuned into the pilots’ show freq. As he came by the crowd in his solo inverted pass, Lacy cut loose with a blood curdling Speedy Gonzales a-a-a-a-r-r-r-r-i-i-i-i-b-b-b-b-b-a-a-a-a over the radio. A shame that could not have been put over the loud speaker for all to enjoy.
The last time I saw and heard Lacy, I was in my back yard in Tampa, FL, and he was blasting off into space from Cape Canaveral on a crystal clear Florida day. I had live coverage of the launch on the TV inside the open patio door and I heard Lacy’s voice through the TV as I watched him build a magnificent arching contrail over the eastern horizon. Lacy died of cancer a few years later. It was a most accomplished life cut too short. I knew him well enough to feel confident we’ll meet again one day in the Mansions of the Lord. (Lacey’ bio)
MajGen (ret) Rick Goddard and I stay in touch. I was present at his retirement ceremony at Warner-Robbins after a highly successful AF career, and I intend to be on hand (with grandchildren in tow–I flew that plane, too) at the dedication of his actual F-100 at the GA Air Museum at Warner Robins later this year. I have lost track of Bill Lloyd completely. Last I heard from him he’d retired from United and was touring the country with his wife on a motorcycle.
A final piece of trivia: This photo appeared in the Wall Street Journal in May, 1996 with an op-ed piece I wrote for Memorial Day. Regular readers of the WSJ will know that photographs on that editorial page are as common as Vietnam Air Aces.