Today in History – January 31, 1968 – F-100 pilots Maj Joe Bulger and 1Lt “Fearless” Fred Abrams are given the worst kind of mission

31 January 1968 – On the first full day of the Tet Offensive, Major Joe Bulger (Flight Lead) and 1Lt “Fearless” Fred Abrams were asked to bomb their own base. In the early hours of the day, Vietcong forces had launched an attack on Bien Hoa AB.

“The whole east end was hot,” Abrams said.

Fred Abrams - before
Fearless Fred Abrams

Abrams and Bulger were eager to get in the air, but there was a problem: The VC had already destroyed and burned out a visiting F-4 aircraft on the west end of the runway, littering the strip with shrapnel and debris. And if the Super Sabres kicked up even a single piece of that debris during takeoff, they could be destroyed before they even got off the ground. So they had to wait for hours while the flightline was cleared.

Finally, about 4 p.m., Abrams and Bulger fired up their F-100s and took off through a hail of thick ground gunfire, the likes of which he had never before seen. But that didn’t rattle him.

“You don’t think about it,” he said. “We have an expression called ‘Golden BB’: If they’re gonna hit you, they’re gonna hit you. And if you’re lucky, you make it through and don’t get hit.” (1)

As Fred remembers, “They were shooting at us as we took off to the east over the fighting and we waited quite a while until there was enough separation between the enemy and the 101st airborne folks. When we got back to the squadron we were met by a lot of excited folks who had never seen the F-100 in action (crew chiefs and munitions crews) as we were releasing over the revetments in front of the squadron.

After the Tet Offensive, this is what some of the storage buildings on the base at Bien Hoa looked like. They were hit by enemy 122 mm rockets and mortars during the massive raid… Photo provided by St. Jack Freeman, Weapons Specialist at Bien Hoa in 1968.

I was part of the only USAF jet fighter mission in history to attack his own base. After the day-long battle of Bien Hoa on Jan 31, 1968, I was part of the two-ship that delivered napes and 500# HDs on the east end of Bien Hoa, effectively ending the battle.”

“Fifty years later, almost to the very hour, Abrams and other F-100 pilots gathered at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, to commemorate the battle. The event, organized by the Super Sabre Society, took place in the shadow of an F-100 that was stationed at Bien Hoa ― about 16 miles northeast of the city formerly known as Saigon ― during the Tet Offensive, though not one of the two that flew that day. A painting of the F-100 taking off during the battle by renowned aviation artist Keith Ferris was unveiled during the ceremony and added to the Smithsonian’s F-100 display.” (2)

For more on Fred Abrams go to and to read the whole article and see the video of Fred Abrams from the Air Force Times go to

Sources: Fred Abrams bio and (1 & 2) Air Force Times, February 9, 2018 article by Stephen Losey

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