Bo's Memoir


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

(Updated December 9th, 2019)

Bo's Memoir Introduction (Blog)

This page was originally intended as an introduction to my Memoir including links to the chapters as they came online. But it is morphing into something more that that.  As I read more books on the Air War over North Vietnam, I am motivated to give my readers (if there are any) a glimpse of significant items that I am adding to my Vietnam chapters along they way. As a result, I am updating this page (blog) at least weekly to put in little "tid bits" that I feel the reader (especially those interested in the Vietnam War chapters) might want to read more about.

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 will be using green text to indicate the political stuff. I will use the navy blue text for the material which is related to items of fact along with combat tactics in the Vietnam chapters. 
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 used Google and Wikipedia as my first go to source throughout writing this memoir. I have refined this initial step by reading numerous books about Rolling Thunder (1965-1967) and Linebacker One and Two (1972). 

I made a major discovery yesterday. Actually, my wife Diana made the discovery!  While cleaning out the garage getting ready to decorate for Christmas, she found a couple of boxes of pictures and documents. Included are photographs from high school, photos from my time in VA-15 flying A4 Skyhawks in Vietnam in 1966/1967 deployment including combat maps and award certificates. There are photos from my F-105 UISAF Exchange tour, my two VA-82 deployments onboard USS America including photos from our 1971 Med cruise and photos and documents from my third Vietnam deployment for Linebacker II. There are pictures and a copy of my article published in the Royal Navy Journal from my Royal Air Force Staff college assignment, my XO/CO tour in VA-15 in 1976-1979, my tour as CO of the A7 RAG, VA-174, some materials from my XO assignment on USS Saratoga, and my tour as CO of the USS Austin LPD-4. I am looking forward to going through these materials over the winter months to use in appropriate chapters in this memoir.
 
Click on Vietnam Bibliography for a current list of the books I have read while writing the chapters in my memoir about the air war over North Vietnam.



"Thud Ridge, Flying the F-105 Thunderchief in Combat Over Vietnam" written by Colonel Jack Broughton


I have just completed reading "Thud Ridge" which was published while I was on my USAF Exchange tour flying the F-105 in 1969.

You should read this book if you want to read a detailed description about what it was like to fly F-105 missions to Hanoi via Thud Ridge during Operation Rolling Thunder. I
t is a detailed narrative report about flying the "Thud" written by the Wing Commander at Takhli Air Base in Thailand.
 

I have completed reading "Alpha Strike Vietnam, The Navy's Air War 1964 to 1973" written by Jeffrey L. Levinson.  It is a collection of chapters based on interviews of twenty two naval aviators who flew during the air war.
 
If you only read one book out of the books listed in my link Vietnam Bibliography, read this one first !

For my VA-15 shipmates, Chapter 11 is about the USS Intrepid's two deployments (1966 and 1967) based on the interview of LCDR Don Felt, Intrepid's Strike Operations Officer.
Jeffrey Levinson called us the "bastard air wing". But, I'll forgive him for that considering he was never onboard to see for himself what we did to contribute to the air war in 1966 and 1967!

  Quote from "Alpha Strike Vietnam"

The "Bastard Air Wing"-  One would think that interviewing Don Felt, the Strike Operations Officer on board the Intrepid during the 1966 workup and Dixie Station deployment would have resulted in a more favorable review of CAG 10's capabilities by Jeffery Levinson. Intrepid's two 16 plane A4B squadrons and two 10 plane Spad squadrons were more capable in the attack role than any of the big deck carriers in 1966.  USS Intrepid and CAG-10 were perfectly designed for the Dixie Station mission and our performance was superior to the Yankee Station carrier air wings that utilized it a training warm up session for the "real thing" up north. Levinson should have contacted a pilot who flew those missions to get the details on what are limitations were and what positive things we brought to the table at Yankee Station.

It's true that when we moved north, we were confined mostly to coastal strikes due to our lack of fighters and other support aircraft. But I would like to call attention to the October 9th three carrier air wing strike on the railroad/highway bridge and related railroad yards at Phu Ly. We went in with one F8C TARCAP section from Oriskany. Our target was the bridge. We hit the target dropping two spans. We had all become excellent bombers during our Dixie Station days. Oriskany and Coral Sea attacked the railroad yards not the bridge. We went in without any ECM gear except the APR-27 for SAM launch warning. All our aircraft returned without any damage.  Two sections of our Spads from VA-176 while flying a RESCAP mission for a downed F4 crew from Coral Sea were jumped by two sections of MIG 17s. Two of the MIGs left the fight damaged; one was shot down and the pilot ejected.

Lcdr Felt left the Intrepid before before we returned for our summer of 1967 deployment. This time the Intrepid had three 14 plane A4C squadrons and one Spad Squadron. VA-34 from Cecil field and VSF-3 from Alameda had some good pilots but lacked much combat experience.  VA-15 returned with a new CO and XO and five new guys (must pumps) with no combat experience. But we returned with four Lieutenant Commander division leaders and 13 junior officer pilots all qualified section leaders all of whom had two line periods on Dixie Station and two line periods on Yankee Station and over 100 total missions each. We were the designated Iron Hand squadron. We had a four plane VF-111 F8C Sundowner Det with four pilots; Lcdr Totter Teague from Orikany's 1966 deployment; two Lieutenants; Joe Satrapa, Tony Nargi, and Ltjg Rick Wenzel. The F8cs were there to fly TARCAP for us on the big strikes and fly escort for our photo F8s from VFP-63 Det 11.  VA-34 was the designated flak suppressor squadron.

We were back on the line that summerin 1967 with Oriskany's "Bloody Sixteen" and the Constellation and her airwing.  Our CAG 10 "Bastard Air Wing" was the only carrier on Yankee Station that could commit 36 A4s to an Alpha Strike.  We were dependent on the other carriers for BARCAP. But, flew our own TARCAP, had EW support from a "Queer Spad" Det and an Airborne Early Warning capability with an E1 AEW Det. We had learned our lessons from our 1966 deployment and came ready to use high altitude enroute tactics with well maintained ALQ 51s, APR 25s and our trusty APR-27 missile warning alert system We had excellent Iron Hand tactics which proved to be very effective. We hit our assigned targets, destroyed some SAM sites and prevented others from engaging the our strike group. We did not loose an Intrepid aircraft to a SAM. VA-15 did loose five aircraft due to ground fire in the target area; two pilots ejected and were rescued wet but uninjured from the warm waters of the Tonkin Gulf, two were KIA, and one became a POW and was returned in March, 1973. The other attack squadrons lost a few aircraft and pilots about what should have been expected on a summer 1967 Vietnam deployment. VF-111 lost one aircraft but the pilot was rescued.

Oriskany and "Bloody Sixteen" -Oriskany had some great results on difficult targets. One of the most famous was a six plane strike strike by VA-163 against the Hanoi Thermal Power Plant on August 21st, 1967. "In order to knock out the power plant, we needed to put four Walleyes on target. Figuring to loose a couple of people in the process {we took} six pilots {A4 Skyhawks)". The VA-163 Commanding Officer, Bryan Compton "lead the strike with future four star Admiral Jim Bussy, Cramer, LCDR Jerry Breast, Vance Schufeldt, and Ltjg Fritz Schroeder. Each of us had a different location on the main generator remembers Bussy. Two of us were hit on the way in to the target area. .... Five Walleyes were fired and five bulls-eyes resulted, three striking the generator Hall and two the boiler house.... Official accounts of the strike report Bussy's aircraft {had} more than 125 holes.... and was on fire. Cramer, who never made it to the target  made it back to the ship on fire and with an assortment of aircraft damage. ("Alpha Strike Vietnam" ,pages 207, 208). "Bryan received a Navy Cross and Bussy was put in for a Silver Star, later upgraded to a Navy Cross. Jerry Breast got a Silver Star".
("Alpha Strike Vietnam" page 210) 

Bloody Sixteen's losses on Oriskany were due to greater exposure to Hanoi area targets but also due to unwise low altitude tactics and many more operational losses than we experienced on Intrepid.  During their deployment, they lost half their aircraft, many other aircraft were severely damaged, and 25% of their pilots were either killed or captured. ("Alpha Strike Vietnam", page 195). One of their A4 squadrons, VA-163 which borne the brunt of the tough missions such as the one on the Hanoi Thermal Power Plant described above with Bryan Compton at the helm, lost or struck (so severely damaged that they were unflyable) 19 aircraft and lost or struck (Struck?, I guess some pilots were grounded for some reason) 11 out of 21 pilots. "At one point, we were down to six airplanes and twelve pilots and we called ourselves Det Charlie". ("Alpha Strike Vietnam", page 199).

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.
"The Passage of Power". President Johnson's goal of passing
"Great Society" legislation 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 May,1972.

 

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 that were significant such as the Cuban missile crisis in October, 1962 and the assassination of John F. 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:

bo_smith@bellsouth.net


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) 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 page for some pictures of the event. We just completed another reunion from November 12th trough the 15th, 2019 at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine. Jerry Tuttle's wife Barbara and her son Mark and Mark's wife Karen's attendance at the reunion was a high point at the reunion.
Unfortunately, we had to toast the passing of another VALion 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:  http://bo-smith.net.



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  the first few drafts of the chapters about my first and second squadrons; VA-15 and VA-82 including my three Vietnam combat deployments.  I will continue to make changes to these chapters as I get inputs from pilots who were in these squadrons with me  and I process the photos and documents we recently discovered in my garage.

I have just started work on the chapter about my tour at the Royal Air Force Staff College in Bracknell, England in 1973-1974.

 Chapters

Childhood through High School
(1941-1959)
Cornell University
(1959-1963)
Navy Flight Training
(1963-1965)
Maintenance Officer's School
Memphis
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 Mediterranean 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)

COMNAVAIRLANT Staff Tour
Norfolk, Virginia
(March 1974- February 1976)
A7 Class Desk Officer
Aide and Flag Lieutenant
VA-15 Executive Officer  Commanding Officer
(1976-1979)
USS America CV-66 Med Deployment
(Dec 1977-April 1979)
COMNAVAIRLANT Battle "E"
COMTHIRDFLEET Staff Tour
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
(1984-1986)
Commanding Officer USS Austin (LPD-4)
(May 1986-May 1988)
Med Deployment-May 86-Nov 86
Northern Wedding/Med Deployment
(1987-1988)

Chief of Staff
COMCRUDESGROUP 12

(1989)
USS Eisenhower CV-69 Deployment
COMFAIRWESTPAC
Operations Officer
COMORANGE- 7th Fleet
Atsugi, Japan
(1990-1991)
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

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



Blue Ridge Mountains
Cabin in Burnsville, NC
December 2008-December 2016
Bo's Mine Tours
(2011-2016)



Website Created by Robert S. "Bo" Smith