Last month, the guest speaker for a local Air Force Association luncheon was retired AF Col James Gilliland. AFN was there to capture the story. (Thanks, SrA A!)
Col Gilliland talked about a couple missions over north Vietnam in his RF-4C. Every airframe had its share of ‘fun’ going north along the various Route Packs, or even going "Downtown" to Hanoi. The RF-4C guys had to go screaming in just over the rooftops to get pictures of targets that had just been hit. Needless to say, once a target has been ‘serviced,’ the enemy in the target area is generally a little bit more on alert than pre-strike, so it’s that much harder to take the air defenses by surprise. It amounts to more people shooting at you more accurately.
And I thought going into harm’s way to get SAM to try shooting at you in the first place was dicey! At least Weasels can shoot back. RF-4Cs only carried cameras.
Col Gilliland also pointed out that while folks like he and I are immensely proud of our fighter heritage, the Air Force became a separate service on a C-54 transport aircraft, apparently the instruments of the National Security Act that handed the Army Air Corps assets over to the Air Force were signed on said transport on 18 Sep 1947. The actual aircraft, according to records, was Sacred Cow itself, President Roosevelt’s own transport. Most of us Airmen know about the role of the C-54 in the Berlin Airlift, but few of us knew the Air Force became a separate service on board that aircraft. I suppose it would have been difficult to hand the documents over from one P-80 to another. Even so, I’ll bet Robin Olds would have found a way.
Interestingly, Col Gilliland jokingly remarked it was a tense time over North Vietnam when Gen Olds was at aerial victory #4, as none of he and his buds wanted to inadvertently fly across that legend’s gunsight and become aerial victory #5; they were more afraid of him than of the NVAF.
A fun side-note: The JASDF pilot in the background on AF.mil and in the video is my buddy "Bell," we went through T-38 training in Texas together. It’s truly a small world! Who’d’ve thought eight years after UPT we’d be flying fighters together at Misawa?