FighterSweep Fans, for our Throwback Thursday this week, we take you inside the cockpit of the mighty McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, as flown by the “Vigilantes” of VF-151. The story occurs in 1972, and you are inside the cockpit with then-Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Art “Kim” Long, a U.S. Navy Radar Intercept Officer. How did they describe combat flying over Vietnam in those days? “Two hours of boredom interrupted by two minutes of sheer terror.”
Setting the stage, the USS Midway had been on station for approximately five months in the area known as “Yankee Station,” off the coast of Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin. For this particular mission, which resulted in the two minutes of sheer terror, “Kim” and his pilot, “Milo,” were tasked with flying into the Iron Triangle, which was the most heavily-defended area in the entire world at the time.
The corners of the Iron Triangle were represented by Hanoi in the northwest, Haiphong to the east on the coast, and Thanh Hoa to the south. Over two thousand American aircraft were lost over North Vietnam. Think about that for just a second. Two. Thousand. Nearly ten percent of them were downed by Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) such as the SA-2 Guideline and SA-3 Goa.
For this day’s mission, most of the Midway’s Carrier Air Wing 5 would be taking part, and carried with it the “Alpha Strike” designation. The target was the shipyard in Haiphong Harbor, and crews were warned to expected extremely heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Triple-A) of the 23, 37, 57, and 85mm variety. No big deal, right? Throw in the Soviet-built SAMs, and it officially became a party.
So take a few minutes and check out this video. It will give you a very unique look at how the U.S. Navy fighter crews evaded multiple SAMs over the Iron Triangle, and how they barely survived their two minutes of terror!
(Featured Photo courtesy of web.fc2.com)