F-4C, Cam Ranh Bay, S. Vietnam
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In November 1966 dad landed at Cam Ranh Bay in S. Vietnam, with the 559th Tactical Fighter Squadron. When he departed in September of 1967 he had flown 241 missions for 401.6 combat hours, with 69 of those missions over N. Vietnam. I don’t have the clipping, but I remember being at my grandmother’s house in Kentucky and reading the paper when he was interviewed for a story about an especially effective air strike he had participated in.
Those last 5 pictures are dad performing his pre-mission pre-flight check, and a pose for the camera on a different mission.
You’ll notice that several of the aircraft had the straight-edged inner pylon like the Navy Phantoms. Early C-models carried those when they first entered service. You’ll also notice that in the walk-around shots, there are no Sparrows mounted. I remember reading about this (but don’t remember the details), that some of the early USAF birds weren’t cleared for Sparrows. I have dads pilot logs, and there is an entry when he went to the Philippines to be cleared for Sparrows at one point during his tour. I would assume self-defense wasn’t as big an issue for the missions in the south, but it sure must have been an odd feeling flying naked! The gun pod wasn’t much use in air-to-air, as Phantoms couldn’t turn with Mig-17’s and -21’s anyway, and the pod just further degraded maneuverability.
Dad was not really a warrior at heart, and didn’t fit the mold of the “hard-charging, heavy-drinking, kick butt and take names fighter pilot.” (I just finished reading Robin Olds memoirs – quite a contrast…). He was simply born to fly, and figured the Air Force offered the best way to get paid to do what he love to do! He was an outdoors enthusiast and loved the solitude of hunting and fishing, and we grew up camping as a family every chance we got.
But he did his duty, earned the Air Medal with 14 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Meritorious Service Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Distinguished Flying Cross, among many others. He came home safely in the end, for which we were all thankful, as we had family friends who never saw their dads and husbands again.
16 additional images. Click to enlarge.