Air Force Exchange

March, 1968 - March, 1970

(Updated January 21st, 2023)

Mary, Heather, Laura and I packed up our new 1967 Buick LeSabre and drove from Jacksonville to Wichita, Kansas

We traded in our VW Beetle and bought a 1967 Buick LeSabre with a 450cc Wildcat engine. Ours was maroon with a black top.The first thing I did was to go out to Interstate 10 (which had just opened) and drove it at 110 mph.

We left Jacksonville in late February and drove to Wichita.
I don't remember if we did it in one or two days. I remember that we drove through Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, and a bit of Oklahoma to get there.

McConnell Air Force Base (AFB) was a Strategic Air Command (SAC) Base (Titan ICBMs). The 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing was a tenant command.

We lived in base housing with other officer families.

The base had all the facilities we would need; an exchange, commissary, medical and dental facilities, a gym, a very nice officer's club, swimming pool, tennis courts, even a golf course.

Strategic Air Command (SAC) Titan ICBM Facility Images

McConnell Air Force Base (AFB) was a Strategic Air Command (SAC) Base (Titan ICBMs). SAC teams would leave base housing and stand watch for about three days at the Titan facility and then return for home for about six days.

Titan Missile Site
This one is very close to base housing !
 (just a short drive to the office)

Titan Missile Facility
(sleeping and office spaces, control room,  maintenance spaces,and  the missile)

Titan Missile Control Room

Titan Missile

My orders were to the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) which consisted of  three fighter squadrons; the 461st, 462nd, and 463rd Tactical Fighter Squadrons and the 4519th Combat Crew Training Squadron.  The 4519th CCTS was similar to a a Navy RAG in that it's job was to train pilots new to the F 105 Thunderchief aircraft.

My first step was to report to the 23rd Tactical Wing for duty. When I did, I was sent in the Director of Operations (DO) for the wing. The DO job at the wing is similar to the Chief of Staff in a Navy staff. I was due for a shock when I walked in to the DO's office. He was a Lieutenant Colonel (LtCol). His face was disfigured from what I imagined was from a burning airplane. I found out later, he suffered severe burns in Korea. The DO informed me that I would be assigned to the 4519th CCTS like my Navy Exchange pilot predecessor, Lt Karg (an instructor from the A4 RAG at Cecil). But, I would not be flying the F 105 at least for the time being because there was a good chance that the 23rd TAC Fighter Wing would be switching to the F4 Phantom. He directed me to report to LtCol Schurr, the Commander of the 4519th CCTS.

The 4519th CCTS flew three types of aircraft

The weapons training version of this T-33 Shooting Star
called the AT-33 because it had two 50 cal machine guns and weapons stations capable of carrying MK 76 practice bombs and 2.75 rockets.

The 4519th CCTS also flew a version of the T-39 configured to train F-105 Wild Weasel Electronic Warfare officers.
(F-105 F Wild Weasel aircraft)

The 4519th CCTS flew three versions of the F-105 'Thunderchief' aircraft

The F-105F two seat version
Used for training student pilots and similar to the F0105 Wild Weasel aircraft

The F-105D
Combat configured version

The F-105B
An older version with only a probe refueling capability (no receptacle for boom refueling)

My next step was to check in with LtCol Harry Schurr, the Commander of the 4519th CCTS.

Col Harry Schurr

Paul Doumer Bridge, Hanoi-August 11th, 1967

Air Force Cross

LtCol Harry Schurr was famous in the F-105 community. He was awarded the Air Force Cross as one of the leaders of the successful F-105 strike against the Paul Doumer bridge in Hanoi on August 11th, 1967

Beautiful painting of the Paul Doumer bridge F-105 strike by Keith Ferris

When I checked in to the 4519th CCTS, I was greeted by LtCol Billy Joe Dulin the squadron Director of Operations (DO).  A DO in an Air Force squadron is similar to the XO in a Navy squadron.  Billy Jo was very friendly and was enthusiastic about my coming to the 4519th.  He had been an exchange officer flying the F4 Phantom in a Navy squadron on the USS Forrestal CV-59. He said that I more than met the combat requirement of an F-105 instructor (100 combat missions over North Vietnam) except that I needed 600 hours in the F-105 to be an instructor pilot (Tactical Air Command requirement). He told me to be patient.  When the timing was right, I would begin flying the F-105 and when I met the 600 hour requirement, I would be an instructor pilot.

The AT-33 was used to train Air Force pilots who came from aircraft like the B-52, KC-135, even Air Defense Command F-106 pilots.   These were experienced pilots but did not have any experience in acrobatics, air combat maneuvering, and weapons delivery.  Thet needed this training before entering the F-105 syllabus.  He advised me that flying the AT-33 would give me a good opportunity to learn about the Air Force way of doing things. 

My meeting with LtCol Shurr went very well. He let me know that he knew that I had over 200 total combat missions and that more than 100 of them were over North Vietnam. He also assured me that he wanted me in the F-105 as soon as possible.

Flying the AT-33

March, 1967 Flight Schedule

There was not much in the way of formal classroom work on the AT-33. It was too old of an aircraft to have  Dash 1  Manual (equivalent to our Navy NATOPS Manual). There was a manual describing the systems of the T-33 Shooting Star which I read.  It was pretty straight forward.  My experience in aircraft maintenance came in handy.  Discussions of aircraft systems and emergency procedures were part of the pre flight briefings for all of my flights with the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing.

I flew 29.7 flight hours from March 13th through March 31st. I completed the familiarization phase in three flights and also completed the instrument phase including the instrument check in three flights.  On my second instrument flight, I flew with Major Sam Martin. Sam was a well known pilot in the F-105 community. He had over 2000 hours in the F-100 with deployments in Germany and over 2000 hours in the F-105 and of course including 100 missions over North Vietnam flying from Thailand.  I would learn later that he was known especially for his high level of skill in the strafing pattern with the M-61 20mm gatling gun. It was a privilege to fly with him in the AT-33 and it demonstrated that the 4519th took the AT-33 program seriously if they had one of their best F-105 pilots flying in the AT-33 on occasion. I completed my AT-33 proficiency check on March 24th and flew one formation flight and one weapons flight (to the Salinas Bombing range- 4 MK 76s, 2 2.75 rockets, and 100 rounds of 50 caliber ammo)  before they allowed me to take an AT-33 on an extended cross country flight.

I started my cross country on March 29th by flying from McConnell to Randolf AFB in San Antonio, Texas.  Randolf was a good place to visit as it was where young F-105 students got their training in the T-38.  I flew from Randolf to Cecil Field the same day. The next day (March 30th), I flew from Cecil to Andrews AFB in DC. I spent the night in DC. The next day (March 31st), I flew from Andrews to Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio and then on to McDonnell from there. In total, I flew 9.0 hours including 3.0 hours of instrument time and 3.2 hours of night time.

It turned out that the 4519th would give me lots of flight time so that I could start flying the F- 105 as soon as possible. In fact, they surprised me on March 21st by scheduling me for my first F-105 flight. I flew a F-105F with Major Ritter who was not only an instructor in the 4519th but also worked in the 23rd TFW in the Flight Standardization Department. The flight lasted 1.4 hours with .6 of it as first pilot time.  Major Ritter demonstrated the landing.  The F-105 was a big change in the landing pattern with a final approach speed of close to 200 kts and the instrument system was new to me. It consisted of vertical tapes rather then round gauges. The older F-105B had round gauges.  I'll discuss details of the vertical tapes system later.

April, 1967 Flight Schedule

I took a formal ground school course on Tactical Air Command standards for instructor pilots in April. It was not only helpful for my flying the AT-33 and F-105 as an instructor pilot with the Air Force, but also later in the Navy for all my briefings; both in my fleet squadrons and with the A7 RAG.  The most important lesson I took away from the course was the importance of demonstrating an enthusiastic attitude about the upcoming flight even if it was an instrument flight flying repetitive "S" patterns.

I began the month of April on the 1st with my second F-105F flight again with Major Ritter.  This time, we went to the Salinas Bombing range for a range familiarization flight. I had been to the range on my one AT-33 weapons flight on the morning of March a 29th before leaving on my cross county. But, it wasn't anything like  the speed and momentum of flying the F-105 in the bombing pattern. The flight only lasted one hour.  It was hard work but invigorating.
I now had all of 2.4 hours of F-105 time of the 600 hours required to be an instructor.

After my April 1st F-I05 flight, I flew a cross country flight on April 3rd which consisted of three legs; McConnell to Kirtand AFB, Kirtland to Nellis AFB, and Nellis back to McConnell. I was getting experience in a number of TAC bases. These flights added 5.5 more AT-33 hours in my log book. I started the AT-33 instructor syllabus the next day, April 4th. I flew 16 instructor qualification flights including 2 weapons delivery instructor flights during April. I also flew five additional weapons delivery flights expending 6-8 MK 76s, 2 2.75" rockets, and 100 rounds of 50 cal on every flight.  I thought I was getting pretty good. I would learn that my bombing and rocket CPAs were competitive with the F-105 instructors but I had a lot to learn about strafing technique.  I also flew another cross country; this time from McConnell to Little Rock and back on April 24th.

From April 3rd through April 30th, I flew 29 flights for a total of 34.4 hours of AT-33 time in one month. At the end of the month, I had 62.7 hours in the AT-33.

I was designated as an instructor pilot in the AT-33 on May 1st, 1968.

May, 1967 Flight Schedule

I flew 17 AT-33 flights in May for 26.4 flight hours. Only three of those flights were instructional flights. The others were primarily out and back cross country flights.  I visited a new base, Luke AFB in Phoenix and flew my second flight to Nellis AFB in Las Vegas and went back to Little Rock. I think the objective of May was to build up more AT33 flight time (I finished the month with 89.1 AT-33 hours), get some actual instrument time (on 8 flights) and shoot some actual instrument approaches at several airports (we call them "strange fields") other than McConnell.

My family life at McConnell was excellent. I was able to fit spend some time at home and with Mary and my daughters. We had fenced in back yard. The neighbors next to us had a dog that liked to chase a tennis ball. His name was Bosco because of his light chocolate coat. Bosco stayed in the neighbors yard while I trough the ball to him and he would bring it back to me.  I was also able to play some tennis, do some jogging, and even play around or two at the McConnell golf course.  Luckily, Mary was an avid reader so she had a pastime she enjoyed while I was flying.

Friday nights was mandatory a "Happy Hour" for most of the 23rd TFW pilots. Dress was flight suits. It was a great opportunity for me to meet pilots from the three line F-105 squadrons (The 461st, 462nd, and 463rd TFS). There was quite a lot of interest to talk to the "Navy guy".  By the way, I had a call sign; Sailor. Sailor fit the TAC guidelines (6 letters) and was, of course, appropriate.  I was able to play the "senior naval officer aboard" tradition.  My predecessor, LT Karg did not. LtCol Schurr convinced the Colonel Beal, the TFW Wing Commander that I should have a designated "Senior Naval Officer" parking spot at both the Base Operations Building and at the Officer's Club.

I was awarded my second DFC at a ceremony at McConnell in May, 1968

The F-105 Flyover Incident at the Air Force Academy

On March 31st, 1968, a dedication ceremony was held at the  Air Force Academy to honor graduates who had served in Vietnam.  The entire Cadet Wing was assembled on the grass in front of a beautiful building.  The Superintendent and Commandant of the Cadets of the Air Force Academy were present along with representatives of the Republic Aircraft Company, the manufacturer of the Thunderchief. This group along with a large number of visitors were inside the building observing the ceremony behind a glass wall of the building.

A division of F-105s from the 4519th CCTS from McConnell led by LtCol James "Black Matt" Mathews was scheduled to make a four plane flyover at a thousand feet followed by a single pass of an F-105 flown by Black Matt at 250 feet.

The four plane flyover went as scheduled.

However, Black Matt's single flyover did not.
He was at 250 feet but his airspeed was just over supersonic!

The sonic boom created by the pass knocked down the cadets standing on the grass and shattered the glass window of the building. Luckily, no one was killed but there were numerous people who were injured by the flying glass, some seriously!

An accident team was launched from McConnell that same day. I went with the  team.  We flew in a T-39 from McConnell to Buckley AFB in Denver and from there a short hop to Colorado Springs. The T-39 dropped off the team and then returned to McConnell that same day. They allowed me to fly the aircraft on all three flights (2.6 flight hours, all first pilot time).

Somehow, Black Matt was able to avoid  any punishment  as he claimed the pitot static system must have been in error (perhaps due to the altitude at Colorado Springs). He argued that his indicated airspeed was below supersonic.  Black Matt was a highly decorated Thud combat pilot.

Cannon AFB Temporary Duty, June 4th,1968 to June 19th, 1968

The 4519th CCTS conducted AT-33 training for two Air Force Air National Guard squadrons at Cannon AFB in Clovis, New Mexico during this period.

Cannon AFB is located about 7 miles southwest of Clovis, New Mexico on the eastern edge of New Mexico northwest of Lubbock, Texas

Cannon AFB is currently the home of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC)

The 27th Special Operations Wing at Clovis operates two types of drones and two types of aircraft

The MQ-1 Predator drone

The MQ-9 Reaper drone

The AC-130W Stinger 2 aircraft gun ship

The CV-22 Osprey VSTOL aircraft

In 1968 Cannon AFB was home to the Tactical Air Command's 27th Tactical Fighter Wing
which flew the F111D strike fighter aircraft

The 27th Tactical Fighter Wing

The F-111D

The General Dynamics F-111D Aardvark was a terrain following low altitude strike fighter

There were two Air National Guard units involved in our Cannon training operations; the 104th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS)  from the Maryland Air National Guard and the 139th TFS from the New York Air National Guard. Both squadrons flew the F86H Super Sabre.

104th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard

104th TFS F-86H Sabres in their camo paint scheme as they looked during our training at Cannon AFB

139th TFS from the New York Air National Guard was  a part of the 139th Air Support Wing

139th TFS F86H Sabre aircraft

North American Aircraft Company developed the F86 as both a fighter and fighter bomber.

The F86F had 792 MIG kills with the loss of 78
(10 to 1 kill rate) Sabres during the Korean War.

The F86H was fighter bomber configured with a low altitude bombing site.

Both the 104th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard and 139th TFS from the New York Air National Guard were activated to deploy to Korea to relieve two F-100 squadrons so that they could be redeployed to South Vietnam.  Most of the pilots were airline pilots who knew that their seniority spot would be maintained while on active duty.  So, their attitude was exceptionally positive as they loved the concentrated flying schedule during the training syllabus.

The syllabus consisted of some familiarization flights in the AT-33 both in acrobatic flight and for weapons range familiarization. Once the familiarization phase was complete, they completed the remaining part of the syllabus in their squadron F86H aircraft with AT-33  observer aircraft. The squadrons completed their training from about June 6th through June 19th at Cannon and then deployed to Korea.

We averaged two flights a day so we were very busy.  We all lived in the Bachelor Officer's Quarters (BOQ) and either ate and had some food and beers in the Officer's Club or cooked out in the BOQ  area that had grills available.  One of our AT-33 pilots was of Tex/Mex heritage and made some incredible guacamole to go with our steak, baked potato, and cold beer meals. I also had my first real exposure of authentic Tex/Mex mexican food out in town.  The town of Clovis wasn't much of a town just a lazy desert town between Lubbock and Albuquerque with one Holiday Inn for nightlife.

I flew a total of 33.4 AT-33 hours in that 13 day period. I flew back to McConnell on June 19th and took two weeks of leave.

June 20th to July 2nd Break

I'm not sure what we (Mary, Heather, Laura, Bosco and I did during this period!

July 1st to July 10th, 1968

I flew five At-33 flights from July 3rd through July 10th for a total of 6.7 flight hours. Two of those flights were an out and back cross country to Cannonon AFB in Clovis, New Mexico

July 10th through July 28th

Mary, Heather, Laura, and I took a short vacation to the southwest during this period.  I was due to be in Tuscon Arizona for temporary duty on July 29th. I don't remember any details about this trip but I expect that we drove from Wichita for some sight seeing. 

We drove across the states of Kansas and Colorado and then southwest to the Grand Canyon in north central Arizona. I don't know if we took a different route back to Wichita.

I'm looking for a wonderful picture of my daughters Heather who was 4 1/2 and Laura age 2 1/2 in front of the Grand Canyon.

Heather (front) and Laura with Mary at the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Temporary Duty at Davis Monthan AFB  in Tuscon, New Mexico  July 29th to August 16th
F4C Phantom Checkout

On about August 28th or so, I arrived at Davis Monthan AFB in Tuscon, Arizona. I guess Mary drove back to Wichta with the girls.

Tuscon is in the southeast corner of Arizona

Davis Monthan AFB

Davis Monthan AFB is the location of the "Boneyard" where obsolete aircraft are stored.
Davis Monthan is the home of The Air Force Material Command's 309th Aerospace Maintenance and regeneration group which is responsible for this challenge.

The exceptionally low humidity climate of Tuscon makes it an ideal location to store aircraft either for future resale or for historical purposes

Here, a pile of F84s await their fate!

The Tactical Air Command's 355th Tactical Fighter Wing is currently operating at Davis Monthan AFB

The 355th TFW operates the A-10 Warthog

In 1968, The Tactical Air Command's 4453rd Combat Crew Training Wing was at Davis Monthan

The 4453rd CCTW operated the F4C Phantom

 I was part of a group that was going to get a Cat 4 RTU checkout (40 hour checkout) on the F4C Phantom at the 4453rd CCTW. The members of our group were all F-105 instructors except for me and a Captain who was an F5 pilot who was an AT-33 pilot like me.  The excuse given for the checkout was to get familiar with the F4C Phantom in case the 23rd TFW converted to the F4 from the F-105. We had for ground school for about a week.

The Davis Monthan BOQ
Once again, our home away from home

We usually had our evening meals along with a few beers at the Davis Monthan Officers Club.

Our flying schedule precluded spending much time out in town.  We flew five days a week so the only chances to go into Tucson was on Friday and  Saturday nights. We did so in small groups.  There were some excellent Italian restaurants in Tucson.  A New Jersey crime boss, Sonny Bonana (I think) made his home away from Jersey in Tucson.  He openly called it his home. Ergo, the excellent Italian restaurants.

The the relatively thin air of the 2,389' elevation of Tucson and a runway temperature (>100 degrees) exceeded the safe takeoff of the F4s from about noon until 5:00 or 6:00 pm. So, our first take off times were at sunrise.  That meant that the pre flight briefings had to start about 4:00 am. That meant that we had to be in the sack before 11:00 pm. We had a break between noon and 3:00 pm. We could either get in a nap by the pool or play some golf.  Due to daylight savings time, we had a three hour window to fly again in the late afternoon.

Even though the air temperature exceeded 100  degrees, the humidity was so low (<10%) that you didn't sweat on the golf course, However, you needed to drink a bottle of water every three holes or so to remain hydrated. There was never any one else on the course (Only a crazy man would play out there in July in the afternoon).  The problem was that the concession stands were also closed in the afternoon. So, we were on our own. Each player would have to carry at least a six pack of water with him in the cart.

But the desert courses like this one were beautiful and the weather was always clear with 40 miles plus visibility.

I'd say that we played golf about every other afternoon and spent the other days by the pool.  I played with the same foursome.  One of the guys was Major Scotty Harp.  Scotty was from the wing staff but flew with the 4519th.  Scotty was a SR71 "Blackbird" pilot before flying the F-105. He never discussed any mission specifics with us.  But, he did say that he packed two small suitcases for every flight; one for cold weather, one for warm weather. That way, his wife never knew which hemisphere he would be flying to from their base in Alaska. I often wondered how the Air Force allowed an SR-71 pilot to fly the F-105 over North Vietnam. Another member of our foursome was the wing Safety Officer, Major Nichols. Knowing him at this stage of my flying with the 4519th would be helpful later when I was flying the F-105 full time.  The fourth member of our group changed quite a bit.

One evening, someone stole all our golf clubs, bags, and shoes from the back of a rental van we were using.  Three of us (Scotty, Maj Nichols, and me) had USAA insurance.  We called USAA the day of the theft and explained that we were TDY (Air Force term for temporary duty) at Davis Monthan and needed new clubs etc. ASAP.  USAA sent us each enough money overnight so we could buy new equipment the next day.  I bought a set of McGreggor Jack Nicholas woods  and irons and a golf bag that I still have today.  The other two with USAA insurance had the same happy story.  Our foursome fourth though was not so lucky. He never got a settlement from his insurance company while we were there to cover the cost of new clubs. So, we had to get a new fourth.

There was some spectacular scenery near Tucson we could also visit on weekends.

Mt. Lemmon:

Mt. Lemon is the highest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains in the Colorado National Forest. It's elevation of 9,159' compared to the local Tucson elevation of 2,389' means that the relative relief of the mountain is 6,770'. So, as you drive up the mountain from the desert, you experience several micro climate changes from the dry desert through lush forest and moderate temperatures to cool temps above the tree line at the top.  It's a spectacular drive!
There is a ski resort at the top which gets plenty of snow!

Suguaro Cactus:

The Saguaro National Park is located on both sides east and west of Tucson.

The park is home to the spectacular Saguaro cactus which grows to a height of 66' (20 meters).

The cactus produces a reddish purple eatable fruit.

Now, let's get to flying the Phantom!

I had my first flight in the F4C on July 29th. The F4Cs at Davis Monthan had a stick in the rear cockpit. Their original concept was to have a navigator in the back instead of a radar intercept officer (Navy RIO concept). As a result, we were able to have an instructor in the back during transition phase flights.  On later flights, we would have nobody back there or on occasion, a navigator.  On my first three flights, I had an  4453rd CCTW  instructor in the back. On the first two flights we concentrated on landings. I had no problem as the F4C landed like a Navy carrier aircraft; no excess airspeed controlled by power (a little on the backside of the power curve). The plane had an angle of attack guage where it would be in a Navy aircraft; on the  upper left canopy structure within the line of sight of the fresnel lens.  The third flight was an instrument flight with a TACAN (Tactical Aid to Navigation) approach to touchdown (clear and 40 conditions) and a GCA (Ground Controlled Approach) to final landing. I was cleared to solo  after my third flight on July 31st.

I flew three solo flights; one on August 1st and two on August 2nd.  I had a navigator in the back on my third solo flight. We did some acrobatics and I gave him some stick time.   Then we had a two day break for the weekend.

On Monday, August 5th and Tuesday, August 6th, I had two flights with an instructor where we practiced in flight refueling  with a section of aircraft on a KC-135 tanker. (I'm sure that the tanker serviced many sections of F4s on each flight.) We did our first F4 section takeoff on both these flights and on all future flights.  Section takeoffs were SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for USAF tactical squadrons at the time. On August 6th, we had four plane division (all McConnell 23rd TFW pilots) with two section takeoffs and inflight refueling (9 wet plugs).  On August 7th, I had my instrument check.  On August 8th, I had a night dual flight. The next day, Friday, I had another solo flight with a navigator in the back seat.  We did some acrobatics. Again, I gave the navigator some stick time. Time again for another weekend break.

Monday, August 12th was the first day of our final week of F4 training. I finished up my transition training with two flights on Monday and one flight on Tuesday.  Now it was time for the fun stuff. The remaining three days of the week featured four plane ground attack missions (6 Mk 76s, 3 2.75 rockets, and 300 rounds of 20mm from the MK 81 gattling gun!).  I did well with the bombs and rockets but I was intent on using some of my experience strafing with Air Force skills to do well with the MK 81 (the same gun that is in the F-105).

I was familiar with the standard strafing target at Tactical Air Command targets with my AT-33 missions to the Salinas Bombing range. The target was a white square 20' x 20' plywood target with a 4' round black bulls eye. I had learned in the Navy to begin firing the gun at a prescribed altitude above the ground with a 15 degree dive angle.  In the Air Force, it was all about firing at a 2000' slant range. You did this from a 10 degree to 15 degree dive angle and fire when the 2 mil piper of the gun sight (actually 1.7 mils)  was the same size as the bulls eye. (At 1000', a 2 mil piper would be 2 feet across). In order to do this, the pilot must use smoothly coordinated stick and rudder to control the piper properly making sure that there is only one G on the airplane at the time of firing. Less than one G, the bullets will go long, more than one G, the bullets will fall short.

I did pretty well, I thought with the range calling my hits; out of 300 rounds I had 75 to 100 hits (25% to 33%) on the two flights. That was much better than I had ever done in an A4.  But, I wasn't in the same league as the F-105 instructors. They were all over 50% hits.  Again, I knew that more work would be required to do better when I started strafing with the F-105's MK 81 gattling gun.

The final flight on Friday, August 16th was a 20 plane ground attack tactics flight which was included five flights of four F4s piloted by 23rd TFW pilots on a flight to the range opposed by F4  instructors from the 4453rd CCTW. This was strike bomber F-105 pilots versus F4 fighter pilots.  There was no love lost between these two groups. There was lots of bad blood because of friction caused by the inability of the F4 pilots from Udorn, Thailand to escort the F-105 bombers from Karat and Takli all the way to Hanoi on numerous major Alpha type strikes.  On many occasions, the F-105s were on their own when they crossed the mountains northwest of Hanoi. There were many MIG engagements; sometimes the F-105s were the victors, sometimes not.  There were many F-105 losses over that ridge line due to MIGs and SAMs which became known as "Thud Ridge" because of the numerous F-105 Thuds that crashed there.

The war in the sky that Friday continued into the bar in the Officer's Club that night. Up until then, relations were well controlled while we were undergoing training. Things didn't get violent, just spirited.  Later in my time with the Air Force, I did observe things get out of control.

At a River Rats Convention (a River Rat is any one who flew over the Red River in North Vietnam) that I attended, the F4 River Rats lead by Colonel Robin Olds clashed with F-105 River Rats lead by Colonel Chappy James.

It wasn't pretty!

My River Rats Certificate

I flew a total of 18 F4 flights (32.6 flight hours) in the 15 days of flying.

The Completion of my time as an AT-33 Instructor

We returned to McConnell probably that weekend. My next AT-33 flight was August 22nd about mid week after our return from Tucson. I would fly the AT-33 for the rest of August and the month of September before I would finally start flying the F-105 syllabus on October 4th, 1968.

August-          12 flights (10 instructor flights)   28.6 hours
September-   29 flights (29 instructor flights)   42.9 hours

Total At-33 hours- 210.1 hours (in 7 months)

My time as an F-105 Thunderchief Pilot

I started flying the F-105 seriously in October, 1968. I began with two F-105 indoctrination flights with Major Ritter shortly after reporting to the 4519th CCTS.  I finished flying the AT-33 on August 22nd so that left a couple of weeks to complete ground school before my third flight on October 4th. I flew a combination of regular student training flights integrated with instructional training flights.  I flew as many cross country flights as possible to  to get the required flight time to be an instructor pilot in the F-105. I flew 32.2 hours in October, 19.0 hours in November, 17.1 hours in December, and 8.9 hours through January 9th, 1969; 79.8 total F-105 hours before  I started flying as an instructor pilot well before the 600 hours they told me it would take.  A bit more on that later.

My rapid progress as an instructor pilot in training was due to the support of all the 4519th pilots I flew with from Col Schurr, Billy Joe Dulin, my division leader, Maj Ted Tolman, Maj. Sam Martin, Major George Bogert, Captain J.T. Stadler, Captain Paul Sheehy and many other squadron pilots as well as staff officers who flew with the 4519th including the new 23rd Tac Fighter Wing Commander, Col Jim Hardinger. "The Grrr" was critically important in my early designation as a F-105 instructor. More on that later! 

I was very impressed by the aviation skills, professionalism, and friendly support I received from the 23rd TAC Fighter Wing and 4519 CCTS pilots and supervisors at McConnell. As their primary jobs were as pilots, all of them had exceptional credentials as tactical fighter pilots. Major George Bogert was my closest confidant in the group and he and is wife Joan were close friends with Mary and me. Major J.T. Stadler and Captain Paul Sheehy were both very helpful on numerous occasions. But two of them really stood out. Majors Ted Tolman and Sam Martin had more than 5000 hours of tactical jet time; over 2000 hours each in both the F-100 and F-105. Both had over 100 F-105 missions over North Vietnam about half of them to targets in the Hanoi area.  Both had successful MIG encounters. Both completed their North Vietnam tours without being shot down. Both were exceptional weapons delivery pilots. Sam Martin would regularly get 50% hits with the 200 mm Mk 61 gun against a standard TAC plywood target. And most important, both took a very personal interest in helping me develop into a good F-105 instructor.

USAF F-105 Vietnam Bibliography

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

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.

Col. Broughton specifically mentioned two of my 4519th CCTS F-105 instructors in his book;

Captian Paul Sheehy on page 115
Major Ted Tolman on pages 235 and 236

"The Hunter Killers"

The Extraordinary story of the first Wild Weasels

Dan Hampton

Harper Collins Publishers
New York, NY

October, 1968

October 4th through October 18th- 10 flights (Transition 1 through 10)- 14.6 hours (all first pilot time)
October 21st through October 29th- 9 flights (8 weapons delivery flights (GA)  and 1 Basic Flight Maneuvering-BFM flight)- 12.0 hours (all first pilot time)
October 30th through October 31st- 4 flights (2 GA and 2 GAT)-5.6 hours (all first pilot time)

Total flights- 23      Total hours- 32.2

October Notes- #1- I had 10 Ground Attack Flights where I expended Mk 76 or Mk 106 (simulated Snakeye) practice bombs, two to four 2.75 rockets and 150 rounds of MK 81 20mm rounds.  Again my bomb and rocket hits were excellent but my gunnery was not good enough. My division leader, Ted Tolman and Sam Martin took me aside and gave me advice on how to improve my strafing percentage. Sam Martin routinely had over 100 hits out of 150 rounds. They wanted me over 50%. The secret was being able to have the piper totally under control with stick AND RUDDER which meant the piper steady about 1/2 of a bulls eye upwind (into the crosswind). I eventually succeeded!

Major Ted Tolman- Ted's combat excellence was specifically mentioned by Col. Broughton in "Thud Ridge" pages 235 and 236.

"Ted Tolman had my element {section leader in Navy parlance} when he saw the valley erupt in ground fire he immediately checked on my strafing run and saw my aircraft disappear into the white cloud of flak {37 mm barrage fire} and lurch as it took the hit in the tail. He knew I was in trouble, and he knew that the guns were on me and that he had to get them off me. It was no trick to establish the fact that those gunners were plentiful and accurate, but that did not seem to slow him down. He lit his burner and pulled himself and his wingman over he top sand on to a strafing run from the other side of the valley. He know the only thing that would pull the gunners off me, now that they knew I was wounded, was a big dose of lead in the head, and that is what he gave them. He picked what looked like the centre of the concentration {of AAA guns} and pulled the cannon {M61} trigger and drove right down to the tops of the gun barrels. When the centre section of the guns faltered with the impact of his first rounds, he stirred his control stick around the cockpit and he kicked his rudders, and the nose of the aircraft responded by humping, bumping and swivelling in front of him.  The stream of lead spitting from his Gatling gun followed the nose of the machine and he sprayed ammo all over the area.The impact of the lead and the sound of his Thud screeching across the gun pits had the desired effect, and while the central flak battery went out of business permanently, the rest of the gunners faltered in their concentration on me."

 Ted was famous in the F1-105 community for many accomplishments.  One of the more notorious events was that he dropped cluster  bombs on a Russian ship in Haiphong Harbor in 1967 during the period when he was flying his 100 North Vietnam missions from Thailand.  Ted had recorded the incident with his MK61 gun camera and gave a copy of the gun camera film to one of the officers in the wing who was senior to him.  He survived the incident when there was a subsequent investigation because he had reported the incident properly. He claimed that he had received AAA fire from the ship so had attacked it in accordance with the Rules of Engagement.  He said he know it was a Russian ship at the time.

Ted was my division leader and I flew many flights as his wing man. He was a great tactical jet pilot and was very supportive of me during my time flying the F-105 in the 4519th CCTS.  One of those flights was a Basic Flight Maneuvering (BFM) flight.  BFM flights involved formation acrobatics and  basic air combat maneuvers such as hard break turns and  YoYo type maneuvers.  I flew a  close combat cruise position for these maneuvers.  The section leader of the second section, an F-105 instructor named Captain Paul Sheehy, remarked after the flight that he couldn't believe that I was able to maintain such as good wing position on Ted Tolman's wing during these challenging maneuvers.  My response was that any good Navy carrier light attack A4 pilot with combat experience could fly that position as well as I did. I believed it then and still do today!

Paul Sheehy was also mentioned by Col Broughton in his book "Thud Ridge", page115.

"Paul Sheehy, my number two {Division leader's wingman} guy on my west side and a little high, came into my field of view quite clearly. He really caught my attention, as the first time I saw him after we came off the target there was a SAM bursting directly behind his tailpipe. Fortunately, it was fired at a right angle to him as he passed, a most difficult shot,or he would never have made it. The thing burst just perfectly on his tailpipe and covered about half of his aircraft with that horrible orange ugly ball, and to my surprise he came flying out of the side of the orange ball. Some of his equipment was not working properly, and knowing that the SAMs had his range and elevation, he had no choice but to roll over and hit for the weeds. He had to get down behind the ridge before they trapped him." 

Asymetrical Flap Accidents

The 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing began experiencing F-105 aircraft and pilot losses on take off at McConnell.  The usual scenario was that shortly after take off, the aircraft would suddenly roll beyond 90 degrees angle of bank. The pilot would be unable to eject safely due to the angle of bank at low altitude. Maj. Nichols, the wing Safety Officer, was part of the F4 transition group at Davis Monthan. He was recalled back to McConnell due to this problem. The problem still existed when I started flying the F-105 in October. I don't recall how many aircraft were lost, but TAC (the Tactical Air Command) didn't waste any time taking action. They couldn't ground all the wing aircraft because the production of F-105 pilots was critical to the the Vietnam mission. So, TAC did the next best thing, they fired the wing commander, Col. Bell and replaced him the next day with Col. Jim Hardinger. Literally Col. Bell left the base with his family on one day and Col Hardinger was present the next. His family followed later from Nellis AFB in Las Vegas. Col Hardinger hit the base like a fire storm. He was everywhere.  The joke was that if you ran out of toilet paper in a stall and asked the guy in the adjacent stall for some paper,, Col Hardinger would be the guy that helped you out.

I actually played a roll in identifying the solution to the problem.  I was on a solo flight and was planning to do some practice landings when I experienced a roll to the right (opposite to my turn from the 180 position). I determined the problem to be asymetrical flaps and got the flaps up in time before losing control of the aircraft. I left the landing pattern and returned with a straight in flaps up approach (very fast; 240 kts or so).  The drag chute allowed me to  get stopped on the 12,000 ft runway without overheating the brakes.  The maintenance troops were able to identify the problem in the flaps system and made changes to the other wing aircraft ending the problem.

Col. Hardinger called me in to his office after the incident.  This was the start of a interesting relationship between me and the wing commander.  First, I began playing handball with him on a regular basis.  He became interested in the Navy organizational maintenance system.  It resulted in the 23rd TFW experimenting in a more squadron based maintenance approach with me as a consultant.  Also, I was called in to the base anytime a Navy aircraft was experiencing any type of an emergency during across country stop at McConnell. This didn't happen often, but "The Grrr" had a policy that they would dispatch an Air Force sedan to our base quarters if the incident occurred after working hours to take me to the end of the runway and talk to the pilot.  There was one occasion where I talked an young pilot who had an unsafe landing gear indication in to a successful short field arrested landing. The Grrr had my parking places at base operations and the officer's club repainted in navy blue and gold paint. The parking place signs read, "Senior Naval Officer".  I think he played a role in my being certified as an F-105 instructor pilot sooner than I expected!

Flag Football

Besides flying in the fall, one of my favorite social activities was coed flag football games on Sunday afternoons.  Mary and I had University of Kansas football jerseys that we wore for these games. We met with a regular group which usually included Ted Tolman and his wife Diana, George Bogert and his wife Joan, and Paul Sheehy and his wife.

November, 1968

November was an unusual month. I flew 11 flights (10 in the F-105 and one in a T-33) (17.6 F-105 hours, 1.4 T-33 hours)

November 1st- two flights, my F-105B checkout flight (round guages) and a F-105B GA (weapons flight)

F-105D cockpit

F-105B cockpit
Notice how well organized this late version of the F-105D is with the ADI in the middle betweeen two banks of "tape type guages".
Notice how poorly organized the older F-105B cockpit is with round guages.

November 5th and 8th- two instrument flights in the F-105D
Novmber 13th- out abd back cross country flight to NAS Atlanta
November 20th- cross country from McConnell to Nellis AFB and then on to McClellan AFB to deliver an aircraft to the F-105 rework facility there
November 22nd- flew a F-105B from McClellan to McConnell
November 27th- flew a F-105 F from McClellan to Baukley AFB in Denver
November 27th- flew a T-33 from Baukley in Denver to McConnell

December, 1968

I began the Instructor training syllabus in December.  I flew 12 flights (11 in the F-105 and one in a T-39B) (15.1 F-105 hours, 2.0 co-pilot hours in a T-39B)

December 4th- GAT flight
December 5th- Instructor (IPU) TR-1 flight
December 10th- GA IPU flight
December 12th- GAT IPU flight (Maj Layman)
December 13th- BFM flight (Maj Layman)
December 13th- BFM IPU flight (Maj Ritter, the 23TFW standardization guy I flew my first two F-105 flights with)
December 16th- GA IPU flight (Maj Layman- I guess Maj. Lyman was my 4519th IPU instructor)
Dedcember 16th- GA IPU flight (Maj Paul Craw, the Director of Standardization at the 23rd TFW)- This felt like it was an IPU check flight to me
December 19th- TR-4 IPU flight (Maj. Ritter again)

I flew commercial to Bethpage, Long Island and visited the Republic Aircraft Plant, the makers of the F-105 aircraft

December 23rd- I flew F-105D 0069 from the Republic plant in Bethpage to Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio.  This aircraft had received major damage in a
                            flight over North Vietnam and had been shipped to Bethpage for repairs. The New York State police had to stop traffic on the Long Island
                            Expressway for me to take off. There was a crowd of plant workers present for my takeoff. I think they probably couldn't go on their
                            Christmas holiday until the plane left the plant!

December 24th- I returned from Wright Patterson AFB in a 4519th T-39B that the squadron had sent to get me home for Christmas!

December 30th- Inst 1 IPU flight (Maj Graber)

January, 1969

I passed my IPU Check flight on January 8th, 1969

I achieved two major milestones in my F-105 career in January, 1969.

I passed my IPU Check flight on January 8th, 1969

I flew my first flight as an F-105 instructor on January 10th, 1969

January, 1969 Flights

January 2nd- GAT1 IPU and INST2 IPU flight (Maj Ritter)
Jnuary 2nd- GAT2 IPU flight (Maj Layman)
January 7th- GA IPU flight (Maj Violet)
January 8th- BFM IPU flight
January 8th- IPU Check flight (Maj Violet)

January 9th- F-105B flight

January 10th- my first Instructor flight (TR3)
January 14th Instructor flight

Naval Air Facility (NAF) Olathe Unplanned Fly Off

I'm not sure when this story took place because I can't find it documented in my flight log book.  But, I assure you, it happened. I know it took place in a winter month when I was an F-105 instructor pilot. The weather was cold at McConnell but cloud cover was not a problem. The 23rd TAC Fighhter Wing had between 30 and 40 F-105s in the air.  The 4519th CCTS had about 15 of those conducting student flight syllabus flights. I was flying a single seat F-105  and my student was in a second aircraft. It was a formation syllabus flight, I think.  While we all we in the air, a fog/low cloud layer moved in over McConnell and stayed there.  The Ground Control Approach and ILS systems at the base were down for maintenance for some reason.  So, the only instrument approach available was TACAN. Unfortunately, the base of the clouds were below TACAN minimums.  As a result, all 30-40 aircraft were diverted to NAF Olathe, Kansas to the northeast. It was partly cloudy there so it looked like a good VFR (Visual Flight Rules) divert landing field.  Plus, it was only a two hour drive from McConnell. So maintenance personnel could drive up there to turn the aircraft around to return to McConnell.

Unfortunately, we found out when we arrived at Olathe that it had rained just before we got there and the rain had turned to black ice on the runways and taxiways.  But, fuel was an issue and we were committed to land at Olathe.  It was a real circus!  Flights used a normal VFR pattern for landings. However, it was difficult to keep the aircraft on the runway after landing.  Several aircraft went off both sides of the runway.  But fortunately, they did not obstruct the runway. Aircraft that successfully pulled off the runway had more problems on the taxiway to the ramp.  The taxiway has slight decline entering the ramp area so it was impossible to stop the aircraft. The only way to stop was to run into an object which turned out to be another aircraft.  The ramp area quickly looked like the aircraft had played "bumper cars". Fortunately, the damage dome was repairable.

The maintenance personnel arrived with start cartridges and did temporary repairs so that the aircraft could be flown back to McConnell.  But that took time. So, all the pilots in their flight suits got rooms in local motels to spend the night.  The word quickly spread in Olathe that a bunch of fighter pilots were in the Holiday Inn Bar in flight suits.  Olathe, usually a quiet town, wasn't that night!

All the aircraft were flown back to McConnell the next day!

"Flaming Hooker" Story

I had an unplanned break from flying from January 15th through January 30th- I think this may have been because I burned my hand (especially my right thumb) at the officer's club celebrating my achievement of becoming an F-105 instructor pilot with my squadron mates and some of the 23rd TFW officers. How did you do that you ask?
Drinking "Flaming Hookers" is my answer!

Dave and Jane Thornhill's Wedding
January 4th, 1969

I don't know how I got to NAS Cecil during this period. But, apparently I did to take part in a very important VALion wedding.

From left to right: Lt Bob Board, Dick Nolte, me, Jane and Dave Thornhill, Miller Detrick, Dave Parsons, Midshipman Thornhill (Dave's brother)

There were many other VALions at the wedding who are not in the picture
Dave and Jane recently celebrated their 54th anniversary!
The VALions Circa 1967 still get together at a reunion every few years!

January, 1969

"Flaming Hooker" Story

I had an unplanned break from flying from January 15th through January 30th- I think this may have been because I burned my hand (especially my right thumb) at the officer's club celebrating my achievement of becoming an F-105 instructor pilot with my squadron mates and some of the 23rd TFW officers. How did you do that you ask?
Drinking "Flaming Hookers" is my answer!

January 31st- Instructor Flight
January 31st- Instructor flight
January 31st - Instructor flight

This is my F-105 model

My F-105 flight time  increased significantly now that I was  a designated instructor pilot.

I will try to relate some of the more interesting stories that I can remember over the next year before I returned to my next Navy squadron, the VA-82 Marauders flying the A7E Corsair II.

February, 1969
19 F-105 flights (18 of them as an instructor), 31.7 F-105 flight hours

All the flights were flown at McConnell and all but one were as an instructor pilot.  The students came from many sources, from the AT-33 program, pilots from other tactical aircraft that had not flown their required 100 missions, and students from the T-38 USAF Flight Training Program. 

Many of the new graduates from the T-38 had difficulty learning to land the  F-105.  Even though I was the least experienced F-105 instructor, I was given many of these students to help them to be able to control the F-105 during the landing process. This was primarily due to Maj. Billy Jo Dullin, the Director of Operations (DO) of the 4519th CCTS.  His experience flying the F4B onboard the USS Forrestal made him confident that I could best teach the new students how to handle the F-105 on final approach to touchdown.

The Navy landing technique involved getting the aircraft set up early in the landing approach with respect to flying the optimum angle of attack (AOA) (the best lift over drag relationship for any airspeed). The pilot controlled a constant rate  of descent using power. 

The Air Force approach was to fly at an appropriate airspeed for a specific amount of remaining fuel. (There was an AOA indicator in the cockpit but it was not used by many as a primary landing instrument.) This airspeed was higher than the optimum AOA airspeed so involved excess airspeed on final approach which was bled of during a round off while reducing power.  The pilot had to memorize the proper final approach air speed for each 500 lbs of fuel and then learn to judge the proper round off technique with experience.  This was difficult to teach.  The experienced F-105 instructors were very good at making a perfect round off landing with the proper attitude with the nose wheel off the runway surface and then slowly easing the nose wheel to the surface and then deploying the drag chute. Unfortunately, the young T-38 students would either round off too early and land about halfway down the runway or land with too much airspeed and bounce back into the air.

My teaching technique was to instruct the young pilots to land with a slightly lower airspeed (about 5 knots) using the AOA indicator to set a landing attitude, then hold that AOA with power keeping a constant aircraft attitude.  They could then hold that attitude and ease on a little power just prior to touchdown to decrease the rate of descent. No disappearing down the runway at 50ft with this technique!  The landing observers at the end of the runway were not comfortable with the higher nose up aircraft attitude involved in this technique but quickly learned that these were Navy Lt Smith's students. As the students gained experience, they could add on a few knots and use a mini round off. Eventually, they would achieve an ideal Air Force type F-105 landing.

I found it interesting that when the Air Force F-105 instructors taught the student how to make a formation landing, the the procedure was for the leader to fly a constant attitude approach (reduced airspeed near optimum AOA) with a little added power just prior to landing. The wingman's job was to fly a forward parade wing bearing position (with wingtip clearance) and then to keep the lead pilot's head on the horizon. At touchdown, the wingman would ease the nose down and deploy the drag chute.  As soon as the leader saw the wingman drop rapidly behind, he would deploy his drag chute. Each aircraft would maintain their side of the runway until at taxi speed.

I made many daytime formation landings as both the lead pilot and as the wingman during my time at McConnell.  Just prior to leaving the 4519th CCTS, I made a two plane night instrument proficiency flight with my good friend Maj George Bogert. I asked him if we could do a night formation landing. We briefed the landing an agreed that our rationale for making the night formation landing would be that I had experienced a radio failure.  We flew the flight and returned to McConnell and flew a Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) with me as the wingman down to touch down. George held a steady aircraft airspeed very close to optimum AOA and I flew a forward parade position (tucked in- little if any wing tip clearance). I put George''s helmet on the horizon of the base's lights. George added power as we approached touchdown so we were able to hold our relative positions for about a thousand feet down the runway before I lowered the nose and deployed the drag chute. When I called "good chute", George deployed his. I caught up to him before we turned off the runway and we taxied back to the line as a section.  It was a beautiful thing.  Until, we returned to the line shack and were met by the Col. Schurr, the 4519th CCTS Commander. He had witnessed the landing and wanted an explanation.  George told him that we had briefed the night formation landing as an emergency procedure.  Col Shurr was satisfied and told us it was a beautiful formation landing and taxi back. Word got around the base quickly even to Col Hardinger. But it wasn't Col Hardinger anymore. Grrr had gotten his star and was now a Brigadier General. That's a story for later.

March, 1969
21 F-105 flights (All of them as an instructor), 34.0 F-105 flight hours

All the flights were flown at McConnell and all were as an instructor pilot.  I really enjoyed flying the F 105 and assisting the student pilots in their quest to become qualified in "The Thud".  It was critically important that I do a good job because most of them would go directly from McConnell to a base in Thailand flying combat missions. I can't speak highly enough about my fellow Air Force TAC F-105 instructors. The were all exceptionally friendly, professional and supportive of my efforts to be effective as an F-105 instructor.

Possum Terrell

There was one flight that month that was especially memorable!  On March 29th, I flew an F-105F (two seat version) with my VA-15 friend and mentor, LCDR Possum Terrell in the back seat.  Possum had flown an A7A or B from NAS Cecil the day before and stayed with Mary, Heather, Laura, and me in base housing.  The flight we flew together was a BFM (Basic Flight Maneuvers) syllabus flight. BFM flights were normally two "ship" flights (the USAF referred to planes as ships). On these flights, a student and an instructor in separate " aircraft" practiced the maneuvers which were basic to air to air combat. The student on this flight flew a standard combat configured F-105D and I flew the two seat version so that Possum could experience the flight performance of the "Thud". Flying a supersonic afterburner aircraft was a lot of fun and Possum really enjoyed it. 

But it was the landing pattern which really got his attention.  We returned to McConnell with about 4000#s of fuel and the student landed. Possum and I remained in the pattern for a few approaches.  We had about 3500 #s of fuel on our first approach. With that fuel load, the final approach airspeed would have been about 235 knots; something very new to a Navy pilot.  I think we made a couple of touch and go landings before making our final landing at about 2000#s of fuel and 195kts.

When it was time for Possum to fly his A7 back to Cecil, the base operations folks were not pleased about the amount of hydraulic fluid leaking from his Corsair.  This was not uncommon for the early Navy A7s but not a normal sight on the ramp by the tower. I don't know if we had to use our combined authorities as the senior naval officer present or his special instrument rating, but he  eventually was cleared to depart McConnell.  I don't know how this flight was approved by the Tactical Air Command.  But, I suspect that the 23rd TAC Fighter Wing Commander, Colonel Hartinger was instrumental in getting it approved.

F-105 Division Formation (original paint scheme)

General James V. Hartinger
"From One Stripe to Four Stars"

I''m going to go into a lot of detail about General Hardinger because he was very significant in my experience at McConnell.
During the asymmetrical flap problem time, the Tactical Air Command decided to relieve the current Wing Commander. On a Tuesday, Col Bell was gone and the next day, Col. Jim Hartinger was at McConnell having left his job as F-111 Test Director and his family at Nellis AFB near Las Vegas.
Col Hartinerg's resume up to that point was impressive!

1943- Drafted into the army as an infantryman
 "one stripe"
1949- Graduated from West Point
1952- flew F84 fighters in Korea
1966- Completed F4 training at MacDill AFB- Tampa, Fl
1967- Completed over 100 missions over Vietnam
          flying from Ton Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon
1968- F-111 Test Director Nellis AFB Las Vegas, NV
1968- 23rd Tactical Wing Commander McConnell AFB
Promoted to BGen
1970- Commandant of the Air War College Maxwell AFB
1975- Commander of 9th Air Force, Shaw AFB
Promoted to LtGeneral
1978- Commander of 12th Air Force, Bergstrom AFB, TX
1980 Commander in Chief, North American Aerospace Command
1981- Promoted to General- "Four Stars"
October 9th, 2000- passed away

For some reason, Col Hartinger showed a lot of interest in me.  He monitored my progress as an F-105 instructor pilot in training very closely; even to the extent of flying as an observer in several of my instructor training flights.  Perhaps that was the reason that I was able to be designated as an F-105 instructor with about only 100 hours of F 105 flight time instead of the 600 hour Tactical Air Command requirement.  After, I was designated as an instructor, he continued to fly as a wing observer on a couple of my flights.

He also decided that if any navy or marine corps aircraft were inbound to McConnell with an aircraft problem (emergency), that I would be at the end of the duty runway to provide assistance.  He would send an Air Force blue staff car to where ever I was to rush me to the end of the runway; at home, on the tennis court, on the golf course; where ever!  On one occasion, I told an inbound pilot that I was an LSO to calm him down which helped him make a wheels up field arrested landing.

Col Hartinger and I also enjoyed playing handball and squash together.  On one of the occasions when we were playing handball, he received a call on his radio that he was just promoted to Brigadier General (BGen).  His reaction was to tell me that he had to go to the Officer's Club to buy a round of drinks for whomever was there to celebrate his being promoted. But first he said, he wanted to finish the game. He was very competitive on the handball court.

I would work again with Lt General Hartinger later when he was Commander of the F-16s of 12th Air Force at Bergstrom AFB in Texas. It was in 1979 when I had just completed by tour as Commanding Officer of VA-15 at Cecil and was in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with the Commander Third Fleet Staff.  My job at Thirdfleet was Assistant Air Training Officer.  My job included arranging for service flights for aircraft carrier exercises. Because of my relationship with LTGen Hartinger, I was able to get some F-16 opposition flights.  He also introduced me to the Commander of 15th Air Force who provided B-52 flights on many occasions.  This 15th Air Force relationship proved valuable at the very end of my career 1990 when I was involved with working with B-52s in Desert Shield. But, that is a story for later.

April, 1969 Flight Schedule

23 F-105 flights (All of them as an instructor), 37.0 F-105 flight hours
My first Weapons Detachment at George Air Base, Victorville California
Attended my first River Rats Convention 25-27 April at Nellis AFB and Las Vegas, NV

April 1st through April 14th- 12 instructor flights at McConnell AFB

April 16th- I flew F-105F 8299 from McConnell to George AFB in Victorville, California (2.8 flight hours)

George Air Force Base Weapons Detachments

The F-105 Weapons detachments at George Air Force Base were similar to my navy A4 weapons detachments at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Arizona ans later my A7 Corsair weapons detachments at Yuma and at the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, California.  These detachments were toward the close of the flight syllabus so the student pilots were very proficient in the aircraft and with formation tactics. The syllabus flights featured the most challenging flights in the syllabus and were designed as sort of graduation exercise before the students were assigned to their combat squadrons in the case of the F-105 students or to a fleet squadron in the case of the navy pilots.

The F-105 syllabus at George involved super sonic Air Combat Maneuvering, Air to Air Gunnery firing at a towed DART target, live weapons delivery, and simulated division level tactical strike flights.  Because George was located in a desert area in eastern California, the area was sparsely populated and featured clear weather with superior flight visibility.  This enable the student pilots to explore the entire flight envelope of the F-105, something they were unable to do from McConnell in Kansas. This training was essential to properly prepare the fledgling Thud pilots for their combat squadrons in Thailand.

George Air Force Base is located northwest of Victorville, California
(Just north of Adelanto on the above map)
The green area (mountains) separate the desert on the north side and the fertile valley on the southside (San Bernandino and  Riverside in Ontario County).

At the time, George Air Force Base was the home of the 479th Tactical Fighter Wing which conducted readiness training in the F4D Phantom

The 479th Tactical Fighter Wing training syllabus in the F4D was similar to the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing training in the F-105

George Air Force Base was an active exciting location for a weapons detachment during my time flying the F-105 Thunderchief

The F 105 was designed in the 1950s for tactical nuclear weapons delivery. It was intended to fly at high speed and low altitude to a target defended by SA-2 Guideline surface to air missiles and standard AAA weapons. More advanced surface to air missile systems designed to counter low flying aircraft had not been developed yet.  The SA-2 was optimized to counter high flying bomber type aircraft, not the low flying high speed Thunderchief. 

Flying the F-105 at George was challenging and a lot of fun. It was the chance to fly the aircraft in all parts of it's flight envelope from a roll in with heavy ordnance to bugging out supersonic from an air to air engagement.  The Thunderchief's sleek aerodynamic design along with the high thrust of it's single after burning J 75 engine results in very rapid acceleration under the right conditions. In executing the standard 45 degree bomb run from a 13,000 feet roll in altitude, the pilot has to reduce power with the speed brakes deployed to avoid going supersonic at bomb release at the bomb release altitude at training range. In an air to air engagement, the F 105 can sustain an excellent rate of turn with five G's or so at military power (no after burner). If the pilot needs to escape the engagement or "bug out" , he can accomplish that by reducing the G to one or less and using after burner enabling a super sonic escape.

The targets and operating areas around George AFB provided an outstanding opportunity to to explore the F-105's air to ground and air to air weapons delivery capabilities.  There was a standard Tactical Air Command target range for practice bombing, rocket firing, and strafing.  There were several tactical ranges for live ordnance delivery and tactical strike attacks.  And, there were large air space operating areas for Air Combat Maneuvering and Air to Air Gunnery.


The DART was an airborne radar target.  It could by carried by both the F4 and F-105 aircraft.  A normal flight would consist of the tow aircraft and a flight of four shooters which would track the target and fire using either the airborne radar or manual gun sight.  The DART would rarely last for very few runs as a cluster of uranium depleted rounds from the M 61 gun would usually destroy the target.

My 10 flights during my first George Weapons detachment in April 1969 included seven range flights, two air to air gunnery flights with a DART target (one DART destroyed), and one air to air missile flight where I fired an AIM 9 Sparrow and another air to ground missile flight where I fired an AGM 12 Bullpup (10' hit).

One of the reasons why I didn't have more flights was that I took a break for three days to attend another River Rats Convention in Las Vegas.

I was picked up with a TA 4F from NAS Miramar nearby in San Diego on April 25th and returned to George on April 27th

The objective of the weapons training at George was to fine tune the skills of the student and prepare them for their combat squadron.

I think that not only was that normally achieved but it was also a lot of fun.  The students got to know their instructors better in the less formal atmosphere at George.  Everyone lived in the Bachelor Officers Quarters and normally ate their meals on base.
Flights started at daybreak and lasted until just before dark. But, there was usually a break in the middle of the day when the runway temperature (especially in summer) was too high for a safe take off.
On those days, there was time for relaxing at the base officer' club pool, some tennis or even nine holes of golf at the base golf course.

West Winds Golf Course at George Air Force Base

Off Base Destinations

Victorville was a small town about 10 miles from George.
It was convenient for a good mexican meal.
Victorville was well known at the time as the home of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Apple Valley.

Bernardino and Riverside

The worthwhile liberty could be found by taking Route 15 from Victorville cross the mountains to
San Bernardino or Riverside in Ontario County.

Unfortunately George Air Force Base with It's Exceptional Training Capability has Been Closed

Back to McConnell

May, 1969

I flew 15 F-105 flights in May (24.2 flight hours); all instructor hours. Some range flights, some night time

June, 1969
I flew 15 F-105 flights in June (21.3 flight hours); all instructor hours. Mostly range flights

I did not fly between June 19th and July 22nd

I expect that either Mary, Heather, Laura, and I either took leave and visited our families in Ridgewood and Duxbury 


this is the time that we visited the Grand Canyon

I also played tennis on the McConnell AFB tennis team the summer of 1969.

We played teams from other Tactical Air Command bases both at McConnell and away. I was pretty competitive as a player in those days and played both singles and doubles. It was very interesting playing tennis in Kansas. The wind either blew 20 kts or more either from the north or south.  On one occasion, our match with another team was cancelled because strong winds blew the wind break screens down.

July, 1969
I flew only 10 F-105 flights in July (15.7 flight hours); all instructor hours.
The flights were all instrument or transition flights. I suspect we started a new class of students in July.
August, 1969
I flew 24 F-105 flights in August (38.2 flight hours); all instructor hours. The flights were instrument, transition, and formation flights.

September, 1969
I flew 16 F-105 flights in September (22.6 flight hours); all instructor hours.
The flights through September 16th were instrument round robins, formation, and Basic Flight Maneuvers (BCM) flights.
These were the types of flights normally flown just before the student went on a George Weapons Detachment.

Back to George AFB for My Second Weapons Detachment as an IP
from September 24th through October 9th

I flew 14 instructor pilot flights at George on this detachment. 
All of the flights were either supersonic Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) flights or air to air gunnery flights utilizing the DART target.
I flew mu y first DART tow flight and had one DART destroyed on a firing flight.
On October 9th, I flew an F-105B from George back to McConnell.