Bo's Memoir

" If you don't like something, change it.
If you can't change it, change your attitude"

(Updated November 11th, 2019)

I am making progress.  I have completed the Chapters on my Childhood  through high school (still requires editing), my time at Cornell University (1959-1963), flight training (1963-1965), and my USAF Exchange Tour (1968-1970).

I have completed  entering all my combat missions including background information and significant events in the three chapters which involve my Vietnam combat experience; VA-15 summer 1966 (Rolling Thunder), VA-15 summer of 1967 (Rolling Thunder), and VA-82 summer of 1972 (Linebacker One). 

When I flew those missions, my only concerns were to fly the flight schedule and be as effective as a combat pilot as I could. The political aspects of the war were not part of my concerns. However, writing my memoir has involved reading numerous accounts of the air war in Vietnam including research in how the political aspects of the war affected our effectiveness thus changing my Memoir in to part journal, part analysis.

I read numerous books about Rolling Thunder (1965-1967) and Linebacker One and Two (1972).  So far, I have added comments about how political decisions affected our effectiveness during Rolling Thunder in the summers of 1966 and 1967.  My next step is to work on the political aspects of Linebacker One in the Chapter about my third deployment with VA-82 in the summer of1972. I should note that all three of my Vietnam deployments were during the summer monsoon season which featured the best flying weather and consequently the most intense portions of the air war over the north.

I am currently reading "On Yankee Station"  written by an F8 Crusader pilot, Cdr John B. Nichols USN Ret. and naval historian Barrett Tillman in the 1980s to record some of the valuable lessons and insights from the Naval air war over Vietnam.

The version I am reading was republished by the Naval Institute as a paperback in 1987 with a Foreward written by Steven Coontz, the author of "Flight of the Intruder".

I recommend it highly for anyone who flew in the air war "Up North" or is interested in learning the "real truth" about the war.

I used Google and Wikipedia as my first go to sources throughout writing this memoir. But I have refined this initial step by reading numerous books on the air war in North Vietnam. I have named these sources and the names of their books in the text of the memoir.

However, in order to understand the political role that President Lyndon Johnson played in Operation Rolling Thunder (1965-1968) and President Richard Nixon played in Operations Linebacker One and Two (1972), I researched both these men by reading: 

To really understand President Johnson's life and political motivation, it is helpful to read all four volumes of Robert Cato's biography of Lyndon Johnson.

Volume 1. Johnson's early years growing up in the high country of Texas.
Volume 2. Johnson's life as a congressman and his relationship with Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn
Volume 3. Johnson's life as a senator and his relationship with Senator Richard Russell.
Volume 4. Johnson's goal of passing legislation creating the "Great Society" and his difficulty in coming to terms with his role as Commander in Chief for the Vietnam war.

To best understand President Richard Nixon's role as Commander in Chief during the Vietnam war, I chose to review it through the eyes of his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger in his book "The White House Years".

President Nixon understood that the way to limit Russian and Chinese support to North Vietnam was through bilateral negotiations with Russia through things like the SALT talks and through Nixon's eventual expansion of our relations with China through his visit to China in 1972.

 Russia and China recognized that their relationship with the US was more important to them than logistically supporting North Vietnam.

Politics was not a significant factor in my childhood, my time at Cornell, or during the training command when I was in pursuit of my Navy  "wings of gold". There were some political events during those periods in my life where political events were significant. For example; the Cuban missile crisis in October, 1962 and the assassination of John Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22nd, 1963. I will be adding my comments about how these events affected me in the relevant chapters.

I was raised by my parents to be goal oriented and to achieve my goals through hard work. Competition with my peers was not part of the process. I was taught to be helpful to my peers and mentor when appropriate.  Basically, I was taught to treat others as I would like them to treat me (The Golden Rule).

My objective in writing this memoir is to reflect upon my life and lessons learned in the process of living it and to provide a historical record for my Navy shipmates and my children. I am also enjoying the challenge of writing it.  Conducting the research online, through reading relevant books, and providing factual information from my flight log book has required some effort but has been enjoyable. I also have liked the increased communication I am experiencing with my family and Navy friends.

I decided to publish it online as part of my personal website. A good aspect of putting it online is that it is a living document and people who read it can correct any errors in content and make suggestions for any additions they might have.  I'm not asking you to point out misspellings, typos, or grammatical errors. I need to go back to the early chapters and do some editing . I am spell checking and doing some editing as I write now. I want your inputs such as events I have omitted or mistakes in fact that I have made.  I hope you will do so and let me know your recommendations by email at:

As I am writing this in some cases fifty or sixty years after the events occurred.  The dates and places are the best I can remember or document in some way. I am learning that memories that seem clear to me and my friends are not necessarily accurate concerning the place or time that they occurred. 

Also, I will be inserting lessons I have learned along the way and possibly ideas about why I did what I did even when at the time of the event, I had no idea why I was doing it. This is particularly true about how flying combat missions over North Vietnam in the summers of 1967 and 1972 affected my life after that.

I have come to believe that those emotionally strenuous times resulted in my case (and likely for other pilots who experienced the loss of a close friend in combat) resulted in a type of mild but significant variety of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) known as "emotional numbness".  All good carrier pilots have to have the ability to compartmentalize focusing only on the business at hand in order to properly fly the aircraft. This is particularly critical when experiencing  inflight emergencies  as an incorrect action can cause  the loss of the aircraft and  possibly the life of the pilot.  In combat, it also became necessary to put off grieving for someone who has just been lost in order to continue to fly the mission in progress or the next mission after that.  After awhile, you may be unable to outwardly display grief at all.  An advantage of this emotional numbness is that it is easier to concentrate on those things you can control and ignore those that you cannot.

I am dedicating my memoir to Vice Admiral Jerry O. Tuttle US Navy Retired. I worked for Jerry Tuttle in my first squadron, Attack Squadron Fifteen (VA-15 VALions). I flew with him in combat operations in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967 and observed his leadership style over the years. I did my best during my naval career to follow his lead on how to identify and solve problems and run a squadron or ship as a Commanding Officer. Jerry passed away on October 30th, 2018.  VADM Tuttle was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, March 14th after a Catholic Mass was given at the Fort Myer Post Chapel.  A reception followed at the Fort Myer Officer's Club after the burial. Most of the VA-15 (circa 1966/67) pilots, wives, ex-wives, and widows were present. We conducted a squadron reunion at the Warriors Taphouse in Virginia Beach March 15th and 16th to celebrate VADM Tuttle's life.  You can click on my on Dedication for more details.  We are planning another reunion in November, 2019 at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine. Jerry Tuttle's wife Barbara and her son Mark and Mark's wife Karen plan to attend. Unfortunately, we will be toasting another fallen pilot, RADM Bob Cole USN Ret. who died recently after a gallant fight with liver cancer.

There are a lot of people who contributed significantly to my life over the years. I plan to mention them during the writing of my story on how they positively affected my life. I am relying on my sister, Barbara, who recalls more details about our childhood together with our parents than I do.  Jeff Lapic was my best friend during junior high school, Ridgewood High School, during our college years, and during our first few years in the Navy.  Captain Jerry L. "Possum" Terrell USN Ret has been my shipmate and best friend for over fifty years (1965 to present). Possum has been with me at my best and worst times; always positive and supportive.  Most of my fellow pilots in VA-15 (circa 1966/67) were outstanding officers, exceptional combat aviators and loyal shipmates. I continue to stay close to them through squadron reunions.  Captain Pete Schoeffel who was shot down on October 4th, 1967 and spent almost six years as a POW before being released in March, 1973,  has become a close friend.  I enjoy monthly conversations with him while driving to and from monthly Navy luncheons.  One of the junior pilots, Gene Atkinson, and his wife Kay are great friends and my wife Diana and I have enjoyed spending time with them fishing or just hanging out at their home in Harkers Island, NC.  Marianne and Lehman Barnes were colleagues during my educator days and continue to be friends to this day. My wife Diana and I are members of the New Day JAX Church in Jacksonville. We enjoy the fellowship, music, and message we experience with this group.

I have had three wives over the course of my life. All of them have been a significant factor in my life. My first wife Mary (1963-1978), is the mother of my first three daughters; Heather, Laura, and Stacy.  She was married to me during all three of my Vietnam combat tours. She kept the "home fires burning" during my sea duty tours. She has been very helpful in providing facts and photos of our time together while I was in the Navy. My second wife Cathy (1978-2000), is the mother of my fourth and fifth daughters; Jessica and Lindsay.  She divorced me after I retired from the Navy and decided to pursue my second career in education instead of flying for the airlines.  I have been married to my third wife, Diana, for eleven years now (August 2008 to present). Diana and I enjoy our life together.  Diana and I live in Jacksonville Florida with our three Shih Tzu dogs; King Tut, Panda, and Bella and our cats; Gemini (orange tabby) and Ruby (American  Curl).

You can find additional information about me in addition to this memoir on my website at:

Childhood through High School
Cornell University
Navy Flight Training
Maintenance Officer's School
VA-45 and VA-44
NAS Cecil Field, Jacksonville

(February 1965-October 1965)
VA-15 (1965-1966)
First  Vietnam Deployment
USS Intrepid CV-11
Dixie Station/Yankee Station
(109 combat missions)
(June 1966- October 1966)
VA-15 (1967)
Second  Vietnam Deployment
USS Intrepid CV-11
Yankee Station, Tonkin Gulf
(94 combat missions- total 203)
300 Total Intrepid Traps
(November 1966-November 1967)

US Air Force Exchange Tour

AT-33 Instructor/F4 Phantom/
F105 Thunderchief Instructor Pilot

McConnell AFB, Wichita, Kansas
(March 1968-March 1970)

VA-82 A7 Corsair Tour-1971

1971 Mediterrenean Cruise
(July 1971-December 1971)
 USS America CV-66

VA-82 A7 Corsair Tour-1972

Third Vietnam Combat Deployment
Yankee Station, Tonkin Gulf
  (June 1972-December 1972)
(102 combat missions)
USS America CV-66

Royal Air Force Staff College

Bracknell, Barkshire, England

(January 1973-February 1974)

Norfolk, Virginia
(March 1974- February 1976)
A7 Class Desk Officer
Aide and Flag Lieutenant
VA-15 Executive Officer  Commanding Officer
USS America CV-66 Med Deployment
(Dec 1977-April 1979)
Ford Island, Oahu, Hawaii
Air Training Officer
(May 1979-February 1981)
Commanding Officer VA-174
NAS Cecil Field
Jacksonville, Florida
(March 1981-July 1982)
Total USS America Traps-500
Idaho Falls Ship Material Course
(Feb 1983-June 1983)
Executive Officer USS Saratoga (CV-60)
Med Deployment
Commanding Officer USS Austin (LPD-4)
(May 1986-May 1988)
Med Deployment-May 86-Nov 86
Northern Wedding/Med Deployment

Chief of Staff

USS Eisenhower CV-69 Deployment
Operations Officer
COMORANGE- 7th Fleet
Atsugi, Japan
Desert Shield (Aug-Sep 1990)
Retired as Captain US Navy
July 31st, 1991

Total Tactical Jet Hours- 4060
Total CV Landings- 980
Total Combat Missions- 305
(Total 511 combat flight hours)
  Nine Deployments

Terry Parker High School
University of North Florida
Florida Space Research Institute
(September 1991-May 2007)

Blue Ridge Mountains
Bo's Mine Tours

December 2008-December 2016

Website Created by Robert S. "Bo" Smith