Today in History – May 9, 1969 – J.V. Williford ejects from F-100D #553522

9 May 1969 – 1LT Williford is flying F-100D #553522 out of Bien Hoa AB with the 90th TFS. Flying over South Vietnam he is hit in the fuselage with 12.7mm AAA and ejects.

“Lots of guys took hits in Vietnam … and a few unlucky ones got shot down.  I was one of the unlucky ones.  Here’s the story. It’s “Mother’s Day” 1969, I’m 11 months into my Vietnam tour, and the sun is just coming up at Bien Hoa. Air Base in South Central Vietnam.  I’m leading a scramble from the alert pad with Lt. Ben Smith as my wingman. We’re defending an Army base camp just 20 miles west.

Our load is napalm, high drags (general-purpose bombs), and 20mm machine gun rounds.  The plan is for restricted run-in headings with multiple passes (perhaps too many?). After expending my nape (napalm) along a tree line, my wingman, Ben, is dropping his 500lb high drag bombs.

Having expended all my ordnance, I can just hang out and watch him, or I can continue to attack the target with my 20 mm. I began strafing behind Ben’s high drag pass at a gunner with a 50 caliber (me vs the 50, not a very good idea).

On about my third pass, the gunner scores a hit. The belly on my jet is ripped open.  I’ve got no hydraulics, no oil, I’m streaming fuel, almost all the warning lights are on and the flight controls are frozen. The plane’s in a slow climb away from the target. I make a Knock it off 1 call and then make calls to the FAC and my wingman. Our attack is terminated and I’m focusing on the emergency at hand. The flight changes to the GUARD channel (standard emergency channel) and I hope rescue plans are being set in motion.

At 10,000 feet with airspeed decreasing below 180 knots (kinda textbook), I figure it’s time to leave the Hun (F-100). Up and away!  The seat explodes upward and I accelerate over the engine in full mil power2 … very loud.  As the aircraft rockets away, it becomes very, very quiet.

I’m alone in the sky and I’ve got to say, floating down from 10,000 feet is quite peaceful.  Just me swinging beneath the silk, coming down at 1,000 feet/minute – about 10 minutes to the ground.

The “cut-four”3 takes a little courage ‘cause why would you ruin a perfectly good chute?  But it stops the oscillations and now I’m descending at about 800 feet/minute – maybe 12 minutes to the ground.  Comfortable ride, quiet, no wind (I’m the wind).  I take a sip of water from my flask and begin looking around, pulling the shroud lines left and right for a better view.

There’s lots of trees but I see a clearing a mile or so in front that looks like a good place to set down. Uh-oh! As I get closer, I realize the clearing is merely a circle where a “daisy-cutter”4 has blown all the leaves off the trees. The trees left standing look like punji sticks in the ground, actually, more like umbrellas with the cloth torn off.  But I’m committed and this is where I’m landing. I go crashing through the upper branches and the parachute gets caught.  I spring upward tumbling through the shroud lines and down again, and up again and down again until the bouncing stops and I’m hanging from a tree … a pretty tall tree.

Colonel Jim Williford is the Executive Secretary of the Super Sabre Society. For the rest of his story go to

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