Phantoms to WartHogs

Testimony of Pilot # 29

‘Dogfighting makes movies. Close air support wins wars,’

Colonel Steve Ladd (USAF, Ret) recently published From F-4 Phantom to A-10 Warthog; Memoirs of a Cold War Fighter Pilot, and has graciously provided RememberedSky with a key excerpt  particularly pertinent to RS’s major thread of air-ground or attack missions recently catalogued and highlighted in the post Anthology – RememberedSky Vietnam Airwar ’72-73 Stories.

Note that definitive of US Air Force usage, despite half of Steve’s  4000+ hour career in the A-10 attack aircraft, he refers to himself as a fighter pilot, and indeed in both the F-4 and A-10 aircraft his squadrons were Tactical Fighter Squadrons.

The Air Force and the aviation branch of the U.S. Navy have similar roles and missions but have distinct differences, mostly (but not all) of course driven and centered around the aircraft carrier.

Historically, through WWII navy squadron designation indicated their mission – VB, dive bombers, VT-torpedo bombers, VS, scouting and dive bombers, and VF, fighter or air-air. In the 50s the VB/VS/VT consolidated under the nomenclature “VA” for attack, air-ground missions. This remained until the replacement of both F-4s and A-7s by the F/A-18 Hornet with squadron designation becoming “VFA,” strike fighter squadrons, tasked to do both air-air and air-ground. From the Air Corps/Air Force perspective in the 30s the decision was made to not design, purchase, or designate “A” attack a/c. They  did violate their rules with the A-1 Skyraider, A-7D, and the A-10, and thus they had Tactical Air Command fighters and Strategic Air Command bombers (strategic bombing tasking – B-17, B-29, B-52, etc).

And so, considering first the air-ground mission and then differences in the two services, and terminology, Col Ladd’s  career experiences are of great interest  in regard to the  focus of RememberedSky  and so…

OBTW, really well written and highly recommended!!!


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Anthology – RememberedSky Vietnam Air War ’72-’73 Stories

Testimony of Pilot # 28

“Those of us who came home will never forget those who could not ”           Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association

My return to Schoolboy from first combat mission, 28 April, 1972. Photo by Keith ‘Floo’ LaFlair

Rememberedsky was begun so as to tell stories from the ’72-73 Vietnam War beginning with response to the North Vietnamese 30 March Easter Offensive, on into Linebacker I & II operations by the USS Midway Carrier Airwing Five (CAG 5) and inclusive fighter and attack squadrons – VF-151, VF-161, VFP-63, VA-56, VA-93, and VA-115. Perspective was from my A-7B squadron, the VA-56 Champs, and then later from Dave Snako Kelly of the VA-115 A-6 squadron. An additional focal point was from the air-ground attack mission more than the air-air missions of the VF F-4 Phantom fighter squadrons – blowing stuff up, providing close airsupport to ground troops rather than hunting and killing MiGs.

USS Midway (Schoolboy) CAG Five fighter and attack squadrons: VF-151 Switchboxes, VA-56 Champs, VFP-63 Baby Giants, VA-115 A-rabs, VF-161 Rockrivers, VA-93 Ravens.

Most of that writing was done between 2012 and 2013, but stories still arise as by example the Missmus Bismus Christmas stories this last Christmas time of 2020. The expectation is there will be more on occasion, but this post provides a catalog of those stories  and links currently on line. As we go into the 49th anniversary of Linebacker I operations, some readers may find this listing of 43 TINS useful.

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Of tin gods and STEEL MAGNOLIAS

Testimony of Pilot #27

There are much safer and more bountiful ways to proceed successfully through life than jumping into a “tin” fast mover, looking  for fun and adventure playing with the clouds or screaming down some riverbed at 100 feet with your rear end on fire. This is strikingly and soberingly true when you are called to do for real what you’ve been  trained for, war from the air.

This post is for the wives who wait… sometimes in vain… for the return of their tin gods from that charge into the fire.

These women most assuredly were and are Steel Magnolias.

Prelude – A Chapel and a Bridge

11 March 1972, Point Mugu Chapel one really beautiful woman and if I do say so myself, a rather dashing swash buckling Naval Aviator attack pilot type join in marriage. No time for a honeymoon we head back to Lemoore to continue training to go out for carrier qualification in the A-7 including first ever night landings. Little did we know that a month later, I’d be on my way to Yankee Station and the sky’s of North Vietnam on Linebacker missions as the result of the NVN invasion of the South on 30 March – the Easter Offensive. My squadron had a shoot down, POW within a month.
Left crying on the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge as USS Midway sails beneath – one really crappy way for a brand new bride to start a new life. But here we are 49 years later. She’s still beautiful, a great artist, and I can still use my hands –“there I was at 100 ft…” – to tell some TINS ( “this is no s..t” ) flyboy stories.

Here’s to you my love
Words from a recent read: “Burning the days”

Training Unavailable

On the morning of 11 March this year, FaceBook offered up for me one of my“most liked posts of 2016” – the picture above of my wife and I on our wedding day in 1972. The prelude was my posted reply.

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The Flying Circus Toy Shop: Recommendations

The Flying Circus

Hey Mom, when I grow up I wanna be a fighter pilot …………… Son, I’m sorry, but you can’t do both

… of flight jackets, patches, aircraft pictures, models, books, watches, coffee mugs, ‘I luv me walls’ and old toys and … of  history, memories, and of the  friends

The “Remembered Sky” Enterprise [ 😉 ] includes this site, a Facebook page of the same name, a collection of flight jackets, coffee mugs, ball caps, old flight suits, model airplanes, pictures, and the museum-ish office/library/computer center referred to as the Toy shop or Pilot Lounge. I have collected a lot of aviation stuff since obtaining wings of gold in 1969 and some cleaning up and putting some away in boxes is periodically required. Many of my friends relate that their wives have relegated ALL to the garage, but for me I’m lucky to have had my third car garage converted to an office by the previous owner and my wife lets it be mine -all mine!!!

Working Remembered Sky I’ve made lots of new friends, collected a lot of stories to come out in the future and done business with some great folks. My five aviation best are now represented as “highly recommended” (no financial connections other than out of my wallet) on the right side of the web page. You can read about them on their sites, but below are my stories of why  the links are there.

RS Recommended Aviation Business Links Continue reading

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Missmus Bismus #4: Epilogue

Testimony of Pilot# 26

I never would have made it if I could not have laughed. It lifted me momentarily out of this horrible situation, just enough to make it livable. — Viktor Frankl

All I claim to know is that laughter is the most reliable gauge of human nature. — Feodor Dostoyevsky

At the ‘Prom’ – Mike ‘Manny’ Bader, Kent Bader, Ed ‘Boris’ Beakley, Paulette Beakley

The four part Missbus Bismus series is based on memories brought on by the Christmas season and particularly those of 1972 during the Vietnam War. I’ve tried very hard to center the writing on either people or laughter.

As the historical story has been told, the end of the war in Vietnam is considered mainly the result of the Christmas bombing operations of Linebacker II –the eleven days of Christmas.

I’ve used the convention of memories as ornaments and gifts and so I’ll end this “Christmas Stories” series discussing what I choose to refer to as the extended in time gifts of Christmas 1972 – memories beyond price. There are seven story gifts, all but one (the picture above in context) in the link below and summarized here: Continue reading

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Missmus Bismus #3: Shangri-La…found

Testimony of Pilot# 25

The comic and the tragic lie inseparably close, like light and shadow. Socrates

The human race has only one effective weapon, and that is laughter. Mark Twain

  • Shangri-La is a fictional place sought and wished for by many, described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. He describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley amongst high mountains. Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia – a permanently happy land, isolated from the world.

USS Midway and Airwing Five had deployed seven weeks early because of the North Vietnamese 30 March’72 invasion of the South known as the Easter Offensive, We began combat operations on the 28th of April and were now in our seventh line period (of nine eventually).  A little pleasure of “shangri-la” would most certainly be welcome.

But before getting to discussion of finding Shangri-la and  of Bob Hope, Red  Foxx, and all the ladies, plus some serious partying, a little context  is appropriate. Continue reading

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Missmus Bismus #2: The Ornaments

Testimony of Pilot# 24

Missmus Bismus, Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas

USS Midway in San Diego Harbor. Photo by Sandi Whitteker.

Remembered Sky was introduced on September 15th of 2012 and the first post included the introductory piece of Ghosts Of Christmas Past written for Christmas 1999 in relation to the upcoming first meeting over the holidays with “Frenchy”- fellow Naval Aviator and my future son-in-law. Ghosts offered the words of writers like James Michener and Herman Wouk as Christmas “ornaments” collected over a career and love affair with flying and Naval Aviation. Originally sent along the old-boy naval  aviator e-mail chain, it was later published in MIG SWEEP, the magazine of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association (River Rats), and then on Project White Horse 084640 as part of the 100th year anniversary of Naval Aviation.

I like these written ornaments and though I’ve posted them before, it seems a good way to reflect on the intersection of  traditional Christmas elements and those special people and memories that arise out of the military wartime experience.  … Merry Christmas to all and particularly to “these good men” still serving the United States of America.

Here is the link to the original 1999 second part of Ghosts of Christmas Past republished on RemberedSky on Christmas Day 2012:

Christmas ’72 Stories: (1) The “Ornaments” from Ghosts of Christmas Past

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Missmus Bismus #1: The Ghosts of Christmas Past

Testimony of Pilot# 23

“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world—oh, woe is me!—and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!”   Jacob Marley (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)

Missmus Bismus, Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas

The back wall in Boris’s toy shop, the domain of Elvis the Elf, fixer of all model aircraft, hammer in hand

Christmas of course is a time of the birth of a child , of a star, and of ornaments, brightly wrapped presents, eggnog, parties, long established traditions, family and good friends and most certainly of memories.  For some of us, there are those inescapable memories that come like it or not of a war finally unleashed, but with the accompanying stress, fear and inevitable loss. The 1972 eleven days of Christmas included some incredible stupidity, multiple examples of above and beyond bravery, a manifestation of hope long battered for the residents of the Hanoi Hilton, and the portending of their return to freedom.

The intersection of those great Christmas memories and the unbidden wartime memories is the people . For the Christmas of this horrible year, I’ve dusted off some writing that focuses on the friends indelibly linked – “these good men.”

It would most certainly be an unforced error in ignoring ole Marley’s words, no? Continue reading

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Complete Series List: 1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier

Blown Slick Series #13 

1942 – The Year of the Aircraft Carrier

Given the two years plus this series has taken, below is a list/linkage for easy access  for all 30 posts. But first a bit of  site background review ...

Remembered Sky began as a way to tell the stories  of myself and my friends on that ’72-’73 Vietnam war cruise on USS Midway, for Linebacker I and II. A significant catalyst was also my decision in regard to the 100th year anniversary of Naval Aviation to spend some time re-reading my collection of books and articles, discussing the details of that 100 years. This included my continuing fascination with the history of the Battle of Midway which encompasses  the evolution of carrier warfare and the 1930’s Fleet Battle Problems, and then finally re-treading my own years within that  story.

Moving along first, these paths of exploration of naval aviation’s beginnings, and second, the distinct passage for all U.S. airpower that was the air war in Vietnam, and the somewhat different tracks that the Air Force and Navy followed post Vietnam on into Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, I began to sense and then finally acknowledge that  with my own experiences and aeronautical engineering education, I was developing very distinct questions, arguments, opinions, and outright disagreement with certain aspects of the analysis and conclusions about airpower being offered by many of the current crop of well respected academic, historian, and military analysts.

That questioning along with a recent bit of research and analysis I conducted as a paid consultant focusing on potential testing and training scenarios for the F-35, all together convinced me that the next step for Remembered Sky should be a move from air warfare storytelling to air warfare analysis. This then is the back story for discussion of the evolution of fighter, attack, and strike fighter airpower application  – Blown SlickLight Attack Fast Pursuit Airpower Analysis – the series.

Any assessment of future air power must certainly take into account China’s growing defense capability, objectives, and ongoing operations in the South China Sea. This suggested that a  reasonable starting point  would be a review of that first year of WW II in the Pacific, the Japanese island chain or co-prosperity sphere, and the emergence of aircraft carrier warfare. The sub-series posts provide a review of the four major carrier battles throughout 1942. And thus, Blown Slick #13 – 1942 the Year of the Aircraft Carrier.

Tales of the South Pacific

The following is a complete listing with links to each article:

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1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier; Part 30 – Conclusion* or “Tales of the South Pacific”

Blown Slick Series #13 Part 30

Life is rooted in narrative, humans construct their lives and shape their world in terms of these  memories. Storytelling taps into existing knowledge and creates bridges as a means for sharing and interpreting experiences. Facts can be understood as smaller versions of a larger story, and thus storytelling can supplement analytical thinking and demonstrate the potential of human accomplishment.

This is the concluding post for a two year effort focused on carrier aviation in 1942. The final piece borrows the title of James A. Michener’s  Pulitzer Prize winning 1947 book Tales of the South Pacific to emphasize a point.

This effort was never intended as a draft of a book, or as a retelling in shorter form of the battles of 1942 in the Pacific. I’m not an historian, nor author. I am though, a great reader of history and if it concerns combat aviation – particularly Navy – I’m you’re huckleberry! But digging in type reading reveals elements and stories that even interested people may never have realized. And so my offerings. Continue reading

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