In March 1967, as I finished my first year as a draftee in the Army, I kissed my wife good-bye in Tulsa and flew to San Francisco to go to war. At Travis, we boarded a chartered DC-8 airliner for the flight to Vietnam.
A World War II Fighter Group climbs out through 20,000 feet of thick English overcast without autopilot or radar assistance–a harrowing experience at best. The odds against your missing dinner that evening went up considerably if you happened to be the wingman on a leader whose instrument skills were…questionable.
In the fall of 1962, I was a year out of flight training and attached to Heavy Photographic Squadron Sixty-One (VAP-61) home based at NAS Agana, Guam. It turned out that the only capability in the western Pacific for high altitude mapping belonged to VAP-61 and its Douglas RA-3B Skywarrior.
This Veterans Day we are honoring those who served by sharing the stories of war in the air, as told by the pilots who were there. Over the next few weeks, we’ll publish stories by pilots from World War II, Vietnam and other wars. Some are short, some are long, but all offer a glimpse into the life of a pilot at war.