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Rolling Thunder Pt.2

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Most butter bars wouldn't get to fly a Thud out of flight school. Then get to go into combat for their 1st assignment. But having a pilots license prior to joining the US Air Force and having excelled in F-105 training I got lucky, very lucky. So I arrived at Korat RTAFB on the 5th of May 1965 and reported to the 357th TFS the "Licking Dragons". My CO (call sign was "Skinny") was a gasped that a 2nd Looie was standing before him. "Jesus, I asked for experienced pilots....not rookies! I hope you can fly as good as your records says." And that was my welcome to the unit. We did training hops for the next 2 weeks, milk runs as they call them. on the 6th of June, I got my first test though. Route Package 4. Although assigned to the US Navy, there was a power plant they wanted taken out as a distraction while the Swabbies attacked a bridge in the area. My CO said i would fly on his wing. He also explained that Route Pack 4 was dangerous and that to date within a 75-square mile vicinity of this target 35 pilots had been shot down. He also said it wasn't as dangerous as Route Pack 6 but we damn well better respect it.


I am going to be honest with you. I couldn't wait to get into combat. This is what I had trained for. But I was scared to death. The last 2 new pilots the unit got, died on their first combat missions. Both by SAM's. I got to my jet, talked to the crew chief and did my walk around. No matter how many times I do this walk around I still can't get over the size of this beast. Skinny said as I climbed into my Thud, "Son, do what I do, listen to the radio, keep your head on a swivel." then walked to his jet. About half way there he stopped, turned and said " and don't die either, or I am going to be pissed." then off he went. I said yes sir saluted him and climbed into the pit. As I closed the canopy I said the great prayer that Astronaut Alan Shepard said prior to him going into space in 1961. "Please, dear God, don't let me f*** up".


Take off was uneventful, the fill up at the tanker was uneventful, the flight to the IP was uneventful. That scared me, it shouldn't of, but it did. As soon as we made our turn at the IP, all hell broke loose. the AAA was incredible. I was getting bounced around a bit from the concussions and the those guys in the F-100's were giving the SAM sites hell. But one site managed to ping me and the lead and he ordered us to break. We broke hard right and kept that SAM away from us, we did that 3 more times. Then it got worse, lead and I got separated, so I hit the deck and went to full burner. That is when I saw it, our target, it was 5 miles off my nose. Call it dumb luck, call karma, call it what you want but through all this jinking I managed to get my self near the target. f*** it I said, my CO and instructors said you had to be aggressive to be a fighter pilot. So I went after the target by myself, I didn't know where anyone was, I couldn't get lead on the radio and we had a mission to get done. I lined up on the target a little better. Checked to make sure all the arming switches were set, I didn't want to make a rookie mistake this late in the ball game. The AAA was as thick as fog. The golden BB is all it would of took. But I didn't think about it too much. One mile from the target, I hope I had the math right in my head or I was going to miss. I counted down to myself and released the pickle button. I could feel myself get lighter as the M117's released, I pulled up hard and broke right. I craned my neck over just in time to see the bombs hit. SHACK!!!!!! My first mission and I got a SHACK! My jubilation was short lived though as a heard a loud bang and my plane shook. I was hit. A 23mm round when right through my right wing. Scared the living hell out of me. But it wasn't too bad. I hit my egress route per the plan. All the way though I stayed on the deck in full burner. Rookie mistake, I ate up a lot of gas out of the route. I got to my assigned altitude when I was out of danger. I was low on gas. My first mission and I am going to have to bail because I didn't watch my fuel. That is when I heard lead call me....


"Hey Rook I saw what you did, that took balls!"


"Thank you sir but I got a big problem." Before I could explain. he cut me off.


"Used up too much gas on the egress did yeah Rook?"


"Yes sir"


"Well lucky for you there's a gas station waiting for us about 20 miles from here. Think you'll make it?"


"Yes sir as long as I can tank up first"


"Don't think that will be a problem."


I tanked up and made it back to base, the whole time getting buffeted by the hole in my wing. Made the ride very interesting and the landing even more so. I taxied to my spot and climbed out of my Thud. The crew chief, TSgt Allen didn't look happy. "God dammit sir, I just got her back on the line and you get a hole in it."


"Sorry chief, those guys didn't seem to like me for some odd reason."


I went to debrief where I met the CO and the other guys from the squadron. I retold them what I did. Some couldn't believe it, some called it luck. I called it luck. Afterwards we all met at the Dragon's Lair for a few beers......my hangover the next day was incredible. 2 days later I get called to the Wing Commanders office. I was like "Alright what did I screw up?" I got to the Wing Kings office and knocked on the door.




I walked smartly to the front of the desk and saluted.


"Sir, LT Slavens reports as ordered."


He returned my salute and I stood there. That's when I noticed my CO in there as well.


"Son I heard you pulled off one hell of a first mission."


"Well ah, yes, I guess you could say that sir. I just got lucky thats all."


"Luck is part of the game son, and aggressive pilots is what I need. You did a hell of a good job LT."


Just then, he came around the desk. I turned towards him. In his hand was a medal. But not just any medal, it was the DFC. I about fell over. He pinned it on me and I saluted. He saluted back and shook my hand.


"Now don't get cocky though LT. You still got 99 hard ones to go, but you are stepping off on the right foot."


"Thank you sir, I have a great teacher." Glancing at my CO as I said that.


On that note the Wing King dismissed me and my CO and we headed back to the squadron.


"Sir I don't know what to say."


"You don't have to say anything, just keep flying, be aggressive, be smart and you will make it out of here. You are the first pilot I have ever seen to get a DFC for a first mission. So that tells me you are doing something right."


"Well sir I will try not to disappoint you."


"I know you wont. Head over to ops, check the flight roster and get some rack time. Because tomorrow we are going to the 6. I normally wouldn't put a rookie in the 6 until a few more missions but with the loss of Hutch and Darkmon, I am going to need you."


"Yes sir, understand."


With that we parted ways. The 6.....man, tomorrow is going to be a long day.

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For some reason the forum won't let me see the pics...grrrrrrrrrrrr.


Same here :blink:

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