USA Air Aces og første verdenskrig

USA Air Aces og første verdenskrig


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Pilot

Seire

Eddie Rickenbacker

26

Francis Gillet

20

Wilfred Beaver

19

Howard Kullberg

19

William Lambert

18

Frank Luke

18

August Iaccaci

17

Paul Iaccaci

17

Raoul Lufberry

17

Eugene Coler

16

Oren Rose

16

Elliot Springs

16

Frederick Libby

14

Kenneth Unger

14

G. A. Vaughn

13

David Putham

13

Frank Baylies

12

Louis Bennett

12

Frederick Lord

12

Field Kindley

12

Reed Landis

12

Emile Lussier

12

James Pearson

12

Clive Warman

12


WW1 Flying Aces: The Red Baron and More

Siden den første vellykkede flyvningen med et fly, hadde folk forestilt seg og drømt om at fly skulle brukes til kamp. HG Wells ’s 1908 bok (Krigen i luften var et eksempel. Da første verdenskrig brøt ut, var det bare rundt 1000 fly på alle sider. Fly var veldig grunnleggende. Cockpits var åpne, instrumenter var rudimentære, og det var ingen navigasjonshjelpemidler. Piloter måtte bruke kart, som ikke alltid var pålitelige. Å gå seg vill var vanlig. Noen ganger måtte piloter lande og spørre veibeskrivelse! I begynnelsen av krigen ble fly sett på som nesten utelukkende for rekognosering, og tok jobben tidligere til slutt ble det imidlertid nødvendig for fly å eliminere observasjonsflyene til fienden, så luft-til-luft-kamp (hundekamper) ble vanlig.

Utviklingen av kampfly

Siden den første vellykkede flyvningen med et fly, hadde folk forestilt seg og drømt om at fly skulle brukes til kamp. H. G. Wells (krigen i luften, 1908) var et eksempel.

Fly hadde blitt brukt i mindre kriger som begynte på 1910 -tallet.

Hver stormakt hadde dannet luftgrener fra hæren og/eller marinen. Frankrike hadde den mest utviklede. Storbritannia hadde to: The Royal Flying Corps (en del av hæren) og Royal Naval Air Service (en del av marinen). De ville bli slått sammen til Royal Air Force, den første uavhengige luftfartstjenesten, i 1917. Den tyske tjenesten ble kalt Luftstreitkrafte.

Da krigen brøt ut, var det bare rundt 1000 fly på alle sider.

Fly var veldig grunnleggende. Cockpits var åpne, instrumenter var rudimentære, og det var ingen navigasjonshjelpemidler. Piloter måtte bruke kart, som ikke alltid var pålitelige. Å gå seg vill var vanlig. Noen ganger måtte piloter lande og spørre veibeskrivelse!

I begynnelsen av krigen ble fly sett på som nesten utelukkende for rekognosering, og tok jobben som tidligere var utført av kavaleri. De ble også brukt til å oppdage artilleri og finne avstand. Flygende rekognoseringsoppdrag var imidlertid farlig.

Etter hvert ble det imidlertid nødvendig for fly å eliminere fiendens observasjonsfly, så luft-til-luft-kamp (hundekamper) ble vanlig.

Flyteknologi forbedret seg gjennom krigen, og spesialiserte fly begynte å dukke opp (sjøfly, jagerfly, bombefly). Det var to- og trefly. Populære merker inkluderer Neuport, Sopwith Pup og Sopwith Camel og det tyske Fokker -triplane.

Flyhastigheter økte gjennom krigen, fra omtrent 75 km / t i begynnelsen av krigen til nesten det dobbelte av slutten.

Luftstyrkene økte sterkt i størrelse. I begynnelsen av krigen hadde de britiske lufttjenestene 300 offiserer og rundt 1800 mann. Ved slutten av krigen hadde de 27 000 offiserer og over 300 000 mann. Frankrike hadde mindre enn 140 fly i begynnelsen av krigen, men 4500 ved slutten av krigen (mest av alle makter).

Produksjonen av fly økte også sterkt. Ved krigens slutt bygde Frankrike like mange fly hver dag som det totale antallet de hadde i begynnelsen av krigen.

Flyvåpen ble mer forseggjort. I begynnelsen av krigen skjøt piloter bare på hverandre med pistoler eller andre håndvåpen.

Deretter ble det installert maskingevær, men kulene ville ramme propellen. Metallplater ble installert på propellblad for å avlede kulene. Men kulene ville noen ganger ricochet, og gjentatte treff ville slite av platene.

Dette problemet ble løst av den nederlandske ingeniøren Anthony Fokker, som fant opp et avbryterutstyr som synkroniserte pistolens handling med propellen. Denne oppfinnelsen ga Central Powers luftoverlegenhet ("The Fokker Scourge") en stund, men bare i omtrent et år. Etter omtrent et år hadde de allierte utviklet denne teknologien og den tyske fordelen gikk tapt.

Fighters og Fighter Tactics.

Å fly var ekstremt farlig. En stor andel av pilotene ble drept (for eksempel 50% for britiske piloter). Av de 68 000 flyene som Frankrike produserte under krigen, gikk 52 000 tapt i kamp (77% tap).

Trening for piloter var generelt utilstrekkelig. Piloter gikk i kamp med så lite som 3,5 timers trening.

Lufttaktikk eksisterte praktisk talt ikke i begynnelsen av krigen og måtte gjøres opp underveis. WW1 -piloter la grunnlaget for all fremtidig luftkrigføring.

I august 1916 utviklet det tyske esset Oswald Boelcke (hedret som far til det tyske jagerflyvåpenet, så vel som betraktet som “Father of Air Fighting Tactics ”) sin 8 dikta, som ville ha stor innflytelse.

Prøv å sikre overhånden før du angriper. Hold alltid solen bak deg.

Fortsett alltid med et angrep du har begynt.

Åpne ild bare på nært hold, og deretter bare når motstanderen er helt i sikte.

Prøv alltid å holde øye med motstanderen din og aldri la deg lure av ruser.

I alle typer angrep er det viktig å angripe motstanderen bakfra.

Hvis motstanderen dykker på deg, ikke prøv å omgå angrepet, men fly for å møte det.

Når du er over fiendens linjer, må du alltid huske din egen retrettlinje.

I prinsippet er det bedre å angripe i grupper på fire eller seks. Hvis kamper brytes opp i enkeltkamper, vær oppmerksom på at flere kamerater ikke går etter én motstander.

En av de mest bemerkelsesverdige kamphandlingene under krigen var "Bloody April", under slaget ved Arras. Den britiske RFC mistet 245 fly, med 211 flyvere enten døde eller savnede og 108 ble krigsfanger. RFC mistet omtrent en fjerdedel av styrken. Gjennomsnittlig levetid for en erstatningsflymann var 11 dager. Tyskerne mistet bare 66 fly ... et forhold på nesten 4-1 drap. Til tross for dette var RFC i stand til å gi infanteriet utmerket intelligens. Dette var det største tapet for britene i hele krigen.

Jagerflyger som fikk fem drap ble kalt "ess". Bare omtrent 5% av pilotene oppnådde denne statusen.

De ble sett på som "luftens riddere". De ble sterkt romantisert og elsket. De ble antatt å legemliggjøre ridderlighet og edelhet.

Noen av de mest kjente essene var Edward Mannock og Alfred Ball (britisk), Billy Bishop (kanadisk), Rene Fonck (fransk), Eddie Rickenbacker (amerikansk), Hermann Goering, Ernst Udet og Manfred von Richthofen (tysk). Richthofen hadde 80 drap (de fleste i krigen) og ble kalt "Den røde baronen."

Richthofen var leder for en kampflyskvadron kalt "Flying Circus" som flyttet rundt fra kamp til kamp etter behov.

I april 1918 ble Richthofen skutt ned, enten av en kanadisk pilot eller østerrikske bakketropper som skjøt på fly. Han var bare 26. Australske piloter holdt en begravelse med full militær ære for Richthofen ble holdt av kanadiske

Bombing ble pioner i første verdenskrig. I begynnelsen av krigen droppet bombefly hovedsakelig granater.

Etter hvert som krigen gikk, ble imidlertid størrelsen på bomber stadig større.

Bombing ble brukt både på militære og sivile mål. Tyskerne kastet bomber på belgiske og franske byer, inkludert Paris.

Zeppelins (hydrogenfylte dirigibles) ble også brukt til bombing, først og fremst på britiske mål, som begynte i 1915. Ved krigens slutt kunne de nå en høyde på 27 000 fot. (Merk: Britene brukte blimps og kite ballonger, men bare for observasjon)

Tyskerne hadde bare 11 zeppeliner i begynnelsen av krigen. Men de brukte 123 zeppeliner gjennom hele krigen. Omtrent 80 ble skutt ned eller kollapset på egen hånd.

Zeppelinene gjennomførte mer enn 50 raid på Storbritannia. De forårsaket mye terror og forargelse.

Zeppelin-raid begynte å bli avviklet i 1916, da zeppelins ble erstattet av langdistansebombere. Utviklingen av brannkuler gjorde det lettere å ødelegge zeppeliner.

I 1917 og 1918 bombet tyskerne London (med fly) gjentatte ganger. Omtrent 1400 britiske sivile ble drept i disse bombingene.

Britiske fly tok gjengjeldelse, bombet først zeppelinbaser og kjemiske våpenfabrikker, og deretter langdistansebombing av tyske byer.

Strategiske bombinger var stort sett ineffektive. På grunn av dette, av Verdun, ble langdistanse bombemisjoner faset ut til fordel for operasjoner på fronten.

På begynnelsen av 1910 -tallet tok fly først av og landet fra stasjonære skip. Dette var amerikanske fly og skip

I 1912 tok et britisk fly av fra et skip i bevegelse for første gang. Fem år senere landet den britiske kommandanten Edwin Dunning for første gang på et skip i bevegelse.

Det første luftfartøyet som ble lansert av flyselskapet var Tondern-raidet i juli 1918. Syv Sopwith-kameler som ble lansert fra den konverterte slagkrysseren HMS Furious skadet den tyske flybasen i Tondern, Tyskland og ødela to zeppelin-luftskip.

I 1918 ble HMS Argus verdens første luftfartsselskap som var i stand til å starte og gjenopprette marinefly


Jagerflyger fra første verdenskrig

Det er vanskelig å ikke ha en viss form for respekt for jagerflyger fra første verdenskrig. De som går gjennom kamp blir menn - gamle og kloke før sin tid. Mange av de eldre krigerne var ofte 21, 22, 23 eller 24, ikke så langt utover det som ville ha vært collegeårene deres.

Så mange av disse modige flygerne døde, frosset i tid, foreviget i noen tilfeller, helt glemt med en ubesøkt gravstein i andre. Eller verre, de ender opp med å aldri bli funnet igjen, enten begravet i noen lag med smuss veltet gjentatte ganger av ødeleggelsen av artilleriskjell eller klumpet seg inn i felles graver, og aldri identifisert riktig fordi de ikke kunne være fordi de var for dårlig dekomponert da kroppene deres ble funnet, slik det skjedde med hundretusener av stridende på vestfronten.

Det er vanskelig å tro at disse mennene tok luften. De var i motoriserte kjøretøyer laget av tynne strimler av tre, linduk og wire. På et tidspunkt var gjennomsnittlig tid for dødsulykker for bare normal flyging uten kamp en dødsfall for hver seksti-fem timers flytid.

De hadde heller ikke fallskjerm. Fallskjermene ble ansett som feige av pilotene og deres overordnede. Fallskjerm ble ikke utstedt til amerikanske piloter før i 1919, året etter at krigen var over. Tross alt var tanken at fallskjerm bare ville oppmuntre piloter til å hoppe ut av fly som brant eller på annen måte var sterkt skadet i stedet for å prøve å få flyene tilbake på bakken. Det var først senere i krigen at de maktene som ble innse at gode piloter var vanskeligere å få tak i enn fly. Erfarne var enda vanskeligere. Selve flyet var langt, langt lettere å bytte ut.

Jagerflyger fra første verdenskrig hadde en typisk forventet levetid på flere uker mens de fløy i kamp. Flere uker. Ikke mye i det hele tatt. Når det gjelder flytimer, kunne en kamppilot regne med 40 til 60 timer før han ble drept, i hvert fall i den tidlige delen av krigen. Faktisk, av de originale sju pilotene på Lafayette Escadrille, kom bare en fra krigen verken drept eller såret. Hva kunne ha motivert disse mennene til å melde seg på og presse på for inkludering i luftstyrkene når de allerede visste dette? Visste de om noen som slo oddsen?

Men disse mennene - de grønne pilotene så vel som de store essene, ofrene og de overlevende - var, med noen få unntak, ganske ofte veldig unge menn i kalenderår. Og tollen på kropp og sinn var utrolig.

En av de som overlevde inkluderer den store Roland Garros - stuntflyger før krigen, den første mannen som flyr løkken og oppfinner av jagerflyet levde lenge nok til å skyte ned en håndfull tyske fly, bli tatt til fange i nesten tre år, fly igjen bare for å bli skutt ned oktober 1918, en måned før krigen tok slutt. Han var 29 eller 30.

Georges Guynemers berømte "Vieux Charles" Spad -fly henger i dag i Le Bourget Air Museum. Guynemer, en legende i Frankrike med 53 drap til hans ære, var bare 22 da han ble skutt ned og drept 11. september 1917. Tyskerne fant liket hans senere, fremdeles i setet til Spad, med "en slug gjennom hans hodeskalle." Han hadde allerede krasjet minst tre andre fly. Flyet og kroppen hans ble senere revet i stykker og mistet for alltid. Den franske legenden var at Guynemer rett og slett fløy opp i skyene, for aldri å komme tilbake.

Legion de Honneur -vinner Charles Nungesser var 25 da han ble lokket i en felle og nesten drept. I stedet klarte han å skyte ned to av de tyske flyene før resten fløy avgårde, forferdet over feilen i deres felle. Han overlevde krigen som det tredje høyest rangerte franske esset bak Rene Fonck og Georges Guynemer. Nungesser hadde 45 drap, men fikk i bytte 17 sår og skader, krasjet to fly. Han brakk begge bena og kjeven i prosessen, og mot slutten av krigen gikk han enten med to stokker eller måtte bæres til og fra flyet, selv om han fremdeles fløy kamp.

Tyske Werner Voss var bare 20 da han ble skutt ned og drept av Arthur Rhys-Davids. På den tiden var Voss på egen hånd hund som kjempet mot syv britiske SE-5-er. Tallet hans stod på 48 seire, og han var det fjerde høyest rangerte tyske esset.

Øverst på listen var den berømte Røde Baron - Manfred von Richthofen - 80 drap og av mange ansett som den største piloten under første verdenskrig - var praktisk talt en gammel mann som 25 -åring da han ble drept dagen etter sin 80. seier. Hans 80. seier resulterte ikke i en bokstavelig drap. I stedet ga Richthofen galant en vennlig bølge til den nedlagte flygeren da han svingte ned for å sjekke motstanderen før han fløy av gårde. Både Richthofen og Werner Voss ble skutt ned i det berømte Fokker Dr.1 -flyet. Richthofen hadde blitt tvunget ned en gang før etter å ha blitt alvorlig såret nok til å ha et ti centimeters sår på hodeskallen. Dette såret holdt ham fraværende fra fronten de neste seks ukene.

Columbus, Georgias Eugene Bullard var den første afroamerikanske piloten noensinne. Han ble pilot i Frankrike og fløy til Frankrike i 1916 etter først å ha tjent som infanterist i den franske hæren. Han kjempet på Verdun og andre steder og ble såret i prosessen. Selv om han ikke var like kjent som Tuskegee Airmen eller Benjamin Davis Sr., var han først og fremst en pioner og en usung helt i USA, men han var alltid en helt i Frankrike.

I spissen for Lafayette Escadrille og senere i spissen for 1st Pursuit Group var Raoul Lufbery, en franskfødt amerikaner. Lufbery, med 16 seire til hans ære, som hoppet til døden fra flyet selv om det allerede brant på vei ned for å krasje. Han hoppet omtrent 1000 meter (3300 fot), falt ned i en liten hage, og ifølge den gamle damen i hvis hage han falt, reiste han seg og falt deretter død tilbake.


America's Last Fighter Pilot Ace: Downing Two MIGs in 89 Seconds

"Alle som ikke har frykt er en idiot. Det er bare det at du må få frykten til å fungere for deg. Helvete da noen skjøt på meg, gjorde det meg galere enn helvete, og alt jeg ville gjøre var å skyte tilbake."-Brigadier General Robin Olds, USAF (1922-2007)

Da jeg spurte min jagerpilots venn hvilken jagerfly jeg skulle intervjue for min neste "American Hero Stories" -kolonne, nølte han ikke et øyeblikk. "Steve Ritchie," sa han som om jeg var en ignorant. Steve Ritchie var "The Last Ace". (Flying Ess)

Så slik var det at jeg kom til å spore brigadegeneral (Ret.) Steve Ritchie over landet vårt, da han og kona Mariana flyttet fra Cocoa Beach, Florida til Bellevue, Washington. Det var deres 33. trekk han fortalte meg. Til syvende og sist måtte jeg vente til odysséen var fullført og de hadde minst noen av tingene sine ut av esker.

Etter 10 år med aktiv luftvåpenstjeneste og 25 flere reservetjenester, er generalen komfortabel med sin travle forelesningsplan og familie. I Vietnam resulterte hans 339 oppdrag, 800 kamptimer, til sammen over 4000 timer i luften, i at han mottok nesten hver pris Air Force tilbyr. (For at vi alle virkelig skal forstå hva disse prisene er for og betyr, tenkte jeg at vi burde ta en titt på noen. La meg vise deg nå hva slags medaljer en ekte 'War Hero' mottar.)

Air Force Cross (den høyeste æren i USAF og nest høyeste amerikanske priser etter Congressional Medal of Honor)

Jagerflypersonligheten kan være irriterende, jeg vet. De er vanligvis uber-selvsikre, vilt konkurransedyktige, type A, alfa-egoister. Samtidig er de flotte elever, veldig nysgjerrige på hvordan ting fungerer og ultrasensitive om andre mennesker. De er også morsomme som helvete, og forteller de beste vitsene. I motsetning til de fleste jagerpiloter, langt mindre ess, er Ritchie selvutslettende og ydmyk når de kommer. Da jeg spurte ham om han hadde vunnet bronsestjernen, sa han bare: "Vel, jeg vet ikke. Det kan jeg ha gjort."

Så dette er Steve Ritchie, mannen som vant alle disse prisene mens han fløy tappert i Vietnam.

Slik så han ut i 1972, rundt den tiden han vant tittelen "Ess".


Kaptein Steve Ritchie (foran til høyre) og kaptein Charles "Chuck" DeBellevue rapporterte for arbeid 28.8.72 den dagen Ritchie fikk sin femte MIG- og ess -tittel


Den andre siden av skiltet
Fotokreditt: Allen L. Tucker

Nå er definisjonen av et "ess" noe som kan variere. Skjønt ikke til jagerflyger som Ritchie. Det er ganske mye avgjort med minst fem kampfly som ble senket i krigstid, men der det er en sterk uenighet hvem har rett å bære den betegnelsen. I følge Wikipedia var det fem Vietnam -esser. De skiller imidlertid mellom de faktiske pilot-essene og "ikke-pilot-essene." Flertallet av jetjagerne i Vietnam-tiden var to-seters, og baksetebetjenten ("GIB", fyr bak) var tradisjonelt navigatøren og våpenoffiseren. Så det etterlater to esser fra flysetet, flykjøring og pistolskyting fra krigen: det første Vietnam-esset, marinens Randy "Duke" Cunningham og general Ritchie, det siste esset i Vietnam.

Ritchie flyr sin pålitelige McDonnell Douglas 'F-4D Phantom, og var en svøpe av Vietnams himmel.


Ritchies legendariske F-4 sitter på et æressted ved US Air Force Academy i Colorado Springs, CO


Ritchie's #463 med dragrute åpen


Phantom F-4Ds som flyr over Vietnam

Generelle egenskaper
Mannskap: 2
Lengde: 19,2 m
Vingespenn: 11,7 m
Høyde: 5,0 m
Vingeareal: 530,0 fot² (49,2 m²)
Airfoil: NACA 0006.4-64 root, NACA 0003-64 tip
Tom vekt: 13,757 kg (30,328 lb)
Lastet vekt: 18.825 kg
Maks. Startvekt: 28.030 kg
Kraftverk: 2 × General Electric J79-GE-17A aksialkompressor turbojeter, 11 905 lbf tørrkraft (52,9 kN), 17 845 lbf i etterbrenner (79,4 kN) hver
Nulløft-dragkoeffisient: 0,0224
Dra -område: 11,87 ft² (1,10 m²)
Bildeformat: 2,77
Drivstoffkapasitet: 1.994 US gal (7.549 L) intern, 3.335 US gal (12.627 L) med tre eksterne tanker (370 US gal (1.420 L) tanker på de ytre vingens hardpoints og enten en 600 eller 610 US gal (2.310 eller 2.345 L) ) tank for midtlinjestasjonen).
Maksimal landingsvekt: 36.831 lb (16.706 kg)

Opptreden
Maksimal hastighet: Mach 2,23 (1,472 mph, 2,370 km/t) ved 40,000 ft (12,190 m)
Marsjfart: 506 kn (940 km/t)
Kampradius: 367 nmi (680 km)
Ferje rekkevidde: 1.403 nmi (1.615 mi, 2.600 km) med 3 eksterne drivstofftanker
Servicetak: 18 300 m
Klatrehastighet: 41.300 fot/min (210 m/s)
Vingbelastning: 383 kg/m²
Løft-til-dra: 8,58
Trykk/vekt: 0,86 ved lastet vekt, 0,58 ved MTOW
Startrull: 1.370 m (24.410 kg)
Landingsrulle: 1.120 m ved 16.706 kg
Kilde: Wikipedia


En F-4J "Showtime 100" bevæpnet med AIM-9 Sidewinder og AIM-7 Sparrow-missiler


Disse pilotene har en god sans for humor

Da generalen og jeg først begynte å diskutere hvilke av hans utallige krigshistorier jeg ville hjelpe ham å fortelle her, sa han: "Har du hørt 'Roger Locher -historien?'" Nei, det hadde jeg ikke, men før vi kom for dypt inn i det Jeg spurte: "Hvor mange ganger har den eller andre blitt fortalt den historien?" Generalen svarte: "Omtrent 5000 ganger er det den mest spennende historien."

Nei, nei takk, tenkte jeg. Jeg kan ikke fortelle en historie som har blitt fortalt 5000 ganger nok en gang. "Hva med sekund mest spennende historie? Hva ville det være? "Spurte jeg." Vel, det ville være den gangen jeg skjøt ned to MIG på 89 sekunder. "Nå hadde han skutt ned fem MIG-21 under hele Vietnamkrigen, og han hadde en historie der han skutt ned to MIGs på mindre enn halvannet minutt? "Yessir, det kommer til å gå ganske bra takk."

Før vi går inn på de legendariske hendelsene 8. juli 1972, la meg bare gi deg en følelse av "Roger Locher -historien". Eller faktisk, la meg la general Ritchie fortelle deg historien på denne YouTube -videoen, "The Rescue of Roger Locher" som har over en million visninger:

8. juli 1972, da hadde kaptein Steve Ritchie allerede to bekreftede MIG-21-drap (5/10/72 og 5/31/72), så han var allerede 40% av veien mot sitt "ess-skip" på fem bekreftet drap. På slutten av den dagen ville han være 80% der.

"Alt kom sammen den dagen. 8. juli 1972," begynte Ritchie. "Alt jeg jobbet for, trente for og kjempet for, kom vakkert sammen. Jeg var veldig heldig den dagen."

Ritchie forklarer hvorfor han føler at det bare var heldig. "Sparrow -missilene har en 11% PK (sannsynlighet for å drepe). Det betyr at bruk av disse missilene på den tiden ville treffe et fiendtlig fly bare 11 av 100 ganger."

En jagerflys liv i kamp er ikke din vanlige plan, i hvert fall ikke for en normal person. Her er generalplanen på den viktige dagen, lørdag 8. juli 1972: "Den dagen, akkurat som hver annen dag, sto vi opp rundt 0330 (3:30 am), våknet og traff chow -hallen. Så innen 0500 Vi var i morgenmøte. Vi hadde tre morgenmøter, først var hovedinformasjonen etterfulgt av skvadron -orienteringen og til slutt flybriefing i den rekkefølgen. Etter den intense forberedelsen ble vi båret rundt klokken 8. " Når gikk du vanligvis til sengs? "Vi prøvde å sove innen 2100 (21:00)." Så det var ingen jagerpilot som drakk og karuserte eller sang "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" for damene fredag ​​kveld før. "Jeg ville ikke drikke i det hele tatt før jeg fløy, det var gjennom hele karrieren min," advarte Ritchie strengt. Tross alt var hans og hans medamerikaneres liv på spill.

"Vi hadde hatt en periode med dårlig vær, og jeg hadde ikke flydd på over en uke," fortalte Ritchie. "Jeg liker å fly hver dag. Hvis jeg er for lenge ute, føler jeg meg ikke skarp. Jeg var vant til å fly 12 dager i strekk og deretter ta en dag fri, den gangen. Så jeg var ivrig etter å komme tilbake i luft." På denne dagen, til tross for fri, var Ritchie skarp.

"Nå tok vi av i fire flyvninger med fire fly. Og det var en hovedgruppe på fire som ble kalt" inngangsflukten "og den siste flyvningen var" utreiseflyet ". Jeg var vant til å være den første flyvningen inn," inngangen " "flytur fordi jeg var så erfaren var at flygelederen hadde MIG -drap og likte å være der handlingen var, så jeg var veldig lei meg for å være med på den siste flyturen. Planleggerne arrangerte det hele kvelden før, og de var venner av meg, så Jeg var forbanna over at planleggerne satte meg på tail end charlie. " Ritchie trodde tydeligvis at det ville være en ho-hum-dag på kontoret som den siste oppryddingsdetaljen, luretid. Han kunne ikke ha tatt mer feil.

Da oppdraget begynte, tok Ritchie og DeBellevue luften og møtte umiddelbart et tankskip for å fylle på, da drosjen og startprosessen brenner mye jetbrensel. "Vi dro inn-bundet (mot Hanoi) på en patruljerute."

"Omtrent 30 til 40 minutter ut i flyet fikk vi radiosamtalen fra 'Disco' (kallesignalet for det amerikanske luftbårne radar RC-121-flyet som fløy for å støtte jagerflyet) om at et utgående amerikansk fly hadde blitt truffet av et MIG ' missil og lekkasje av drivstoff og hydraulikk. Dette er en veldig dårlig ting for en pilot. Han hadde brutt seg fra flyet og må ha fått panikk fordi du alltid blir hos flykameratene, uansett. Han var helt alene og hadde blitt truffet og det er da MIG -ene kommer etter deg og skyter deg ned. Da jeg visste at han var en sittende and, snudde jeg umiddelbart nordover for å hjelpe ham. "

"Veldig raskt mottok jeg deretter et nytt varsel fra 'Disco' om at det var to 'Blue Bandits' (MIG-21s) i nærheten av piloten vår i trøbbel omtrent 30 miles sørvest for Hanoi."

Ritchie husket om morgenen: "Jeg hentet de to MIG -ene klokken 10 og de ble etterfulgt av mannen vår og forberedte seg på å skyte ham ned. Lead MIG og jeg passerte omtrent 1000 fot fra hverandre. Jeg kunne se piloten i cockpiten. Jeg tror han hadde på seg en hjelm i skinn.


"First Pass" av Lou Drendel som vakkert dokumenterer det øyeblikket Ritchie passerer ledelsen MIG 8/8/72

"Dette var en hundekamp i lav høyde mellom to MIG-er og våre fire F-4-er. Vanligvis kan MIG-er bli funnet på 15 til 20.000 fot, men vi hadde intelligens og ble informert om at de nå endret strategi og gikk lenger ned."

"Vi hadde også lært at MIGene likte å sette en felle ved å få pilotene våre til å engasjere seg i den første MIG -passeringen, og hvis du svinger for å få den første MIG, er den andre MIG rett bak deg og skyter deg ned. De gjorde det ikke bryr meg om den første MIG og ville faktisk ofre den for å få deg. Vi (USAF) gjorde det aldri. Så jeg lot den første MIG passere og engasjerte den andre som jeg visste skulle komme. "

"Jeg klarte å manøvrere bak MIG #2 og skjøt to Sparrow-missiler mot ham. Det første missilet traff ham midt i flykroppen, brøt MIG i to deler og skapte en stor ildkule. Det var rusk overalt. Den andre Sparrow traff ham også for å gå gjennom ildkulen og ruskene. Jeg måtte ta alvorlige unnvikende tiltak for å unngå å fly inn i ruskene og gikk opp og til venstre i et splitsekund. Det var 47 sekunder i hundekampen, så det skjedde veldig, svært raskt."

Nå var det et lite spørsmål om MIG #1. "Jeg kaller MIG den dagen den" skinnende MIG "fordi de fleste av dem var en slags pistolmetallgrå, men den glimtet. På det tidspunktet var hundekampen i en gigantisk roterende sirkel og MIG #1 ble etter mitt nummer fire , en ung gutt som het Tommy. Det var hans første oppdrag. Han radioiserte at han hadde en MIG på halen, og da jeg oppdaget ham var det MIG #2 som stengte på ham. Jeg skar over sirkelen for å komme til Tommy raskere og mer rettferdig ønsket å få MIG av halen, så jeg skjøt et annet missil mot MIG i et forsøk på å få ham til å slå av ungen. Vel, missilet traff MIG #2 dødssenter også. "

Ritchie hadde radioført i "Splash One" og "Splash Two" (radiosignalene for nedfelte MIG -er) innen 89 sekunder, noe som aldri hadde blitt gjort før. "Mine to MIG -drap den dagen ble umiddelbart bekreftet av radar og intelkilder på bakken."

"Det var imidlertid ingen seiersrunder," sa generalen, "vi hadde nettopp mottatt radiovarsler om at to flere MIG -er hadde blitt vektlagt mot oss. Vi ville ha blitt igjen og fått dem også, men vi var nede i omtrent tre minutter med drivstoff for flytid. Så jeg bestemte meg for å få oss ut av det raskt. "

På denne dagen sprengte Ritchie to MIG-21-er med tre missiler som traff målet. "På det andre drapet prøvde jeg bare å få ham til å snu, så jeg kunne bruke pistolene mine på ham. Sjansene for å skyte tre perfekte missiler er uberegnelige."

Så du at MIG -pilotene kastet ut? "Å nei, disse Sparrow -missilene er 12 fot lange og omtrent 500 pund med et 30 pund stridshode. De beveger seg i 1200 miles i timen over lanseringshastigheten (ca. 1600 mph), så det er ingenting igjen av et fly som blir truffet av en . "


En MIG-21 biter i støvet. Hvis Ritchie hadde truffet denne, ville det ikke vært så mye av flyet igjen.

Var det mye feiring da han kom tilbake til basen? "Å ja, det var en kjempefest på offiserklubben den kvelden. Det var flott." Slo du tilbake noen? Jeg spurte. "Definitivt, det gjorde jeg. Og jeg flyr heller ikke dagen etter," sa generalen glad.
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"Da jeg først kom tilbake til Vietnam for min andre tur," (han meldte seg frivillig) husket Ritchie, "jeg hadde vært instruktør ved FWS (USAF Fighter Weapons School, luftvåpenets ekvivalent til marinens 'Top Gun'). Jeg ble spurt av kommandanten min om hva som var våpenfilosofien min og fortalte ham. Nummer én var våpen-kanoner først, hvis mulig. Nummer to var våre varmesøkende missiler. Og nummer tre var våre radarstyrte missiler. Der jeg var denne store eksperten med all denne kunnskapen, og fortalte min kommandant hvordan det skulle være, og selvfølgelig endte jeg med å skyte ned alle fem MIG -ene med radarmissilene mine. " Ritchie og jeg lo godt av dette.


Ritchie's F-4D Tail Number 67-463 sitter på asfalten ved Udorn RTAFB, Thailand
Fotokreditt: Allen L. Tucker

Da jeg foreslo at Udorn RTAFB (Royal Thai Air Force Base) ikke så ut som det forferdelige stedet å være basert på, ble Ritchie raskt enig: "Nei, det var det ikke, og det thailandske folket er så flott. Når andre gutter ville klage på å være på Udorn, ville jeg fortalt dem: "Jeg vil ikke høre tisene og stønnene dine. Jeg tilbrakte et år på Da Nang flybase, så jeg vil ikke høre det." Da jeg tok en F-4 over til Da Nang første gang, landet jeg i 90 graders varme med 90% luftfuktighet, og så snart kalesjen og hjelmen min var slått av den verste lukten i verden. Det var fra de åpne kloakkrennene som rant gjennom området. Det var det verste jeg noen gang luktet, og det var sånn hele tiden. "

"Det var mer enn 1400 ess i første verdenskrig og andre 43 ess i Korea og to ess i Vietnam," sa Ritchie. Hva var årsaken til den dramatiske reduksjonen i ess til i dag? Hvorfor ikke høyere drap? Jeg spurte han. "Det er teknologien. Vi har stand-off-våpen og all slags utstyr som gjør flyene våre til de mest effektive og dødelige langt lenger unna. Dessuten er det ikke så mange fly på himmelen for kamp lenger. Det pleide å være hundrevis av fly på himmelen under kamp i de to første verdenskrigene, så i Korea var det flere titalls og i Vietnam var det mye mindre. "

For å bevise poenget, fortalte generalen meg om 10. mai 1972, da skvadronen og over 100 amerikanske flyvåpen- og marinefly møtte på en travel himmel mot minst 16 MIG-21-er. Amerikanerne tok ut 13 av dem i løpet av et par timer, og generalen senket sitt første MIG den dagen. "Himmelen vil ikke lenger være like overfylt med jagerfly, hovedsakelig på grunn av teknologien," sa han til meg, "derfor vil du sannsynligvis ikke se flere ess fra Irak, Afghanistan eller fremtidige luftengasjementer." Ritchie påpeker at dette hundekampen har blitt skrevet om i boken, "One Day in A Long War." Denne luftkampen var en av hans historier-opplevelser, egentlig-som utgjør hvem Steve Richie virkelig er.

Etter at Ritchie kom tilbake fra Vietnam i 1972, forlot han aktiv tjeneste i 1974 for å stille til valg for det amerikanske kongresset fra hjemlandet North Carolina. "Jeg løp etter forslag fra senator Barry Goldwater, som fortalte meg at han følte at jeg ville være mer til tjeneste for militæret og landet som medlem av kongressen." Ritchie tapte, tilsynelatende på grunn av Watergate -skandalen og den alvorlige effect it had on Republican candidates, among a number of other reasons. That may have been the first time Ritchie lost at anything big in his life.


"A Hero's Welcome" Ritchie is met and welcomed right after his fifth MIG kill

The General did not rest. At various times in his post-Vietnam career, he was appointed by Ronald Reagan, director of the Office of Child Support Enforcement, reporting to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Ritchie was later assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. For six years he was special assistant to Joseph Coors at the Adolph Coors Brewing Company and later lectured extensively around the country for the Heritage Foundation. In 1999, Ritchie officially retired.

Hitting the road and speaking became the General's passion, Ritchie quickly found that he loved giving talks to all groups of people: community groups, business conferences and most of all, the military. He traveled exhaustively telling his stories of the military life, dogfights, shooting down MIGs and fighting Communism.


The General on the occasion of his last Air Force' career flight

But that wouldn't be his last flight by any stretch of the imagination.


Steve Ritchie flies the F-104 Starfighter at the Winston-Salem Air Show


The General's old friend takes one last flight, returning full circle back to the place Ritchie learned to fly, at the USAF Academy to rest in honor. Pike's Peak in the background greets her. "Isn't she a beauty?" Ritchie asked.

Then, in April 2010, General Ritchie received an interesting letter to say the least. In the course of writing this article, Ritchie kept saying to me, "Have you received the letter I sent yet?" and "You have to read the letter." Well, I began to think, enough with the letter already. But when I read the letter, I realized that it was one of the most important letters I'd ever read. And I cried.

This letter would have an indelible and momentous effect on the General and his life.

The writer wanted the General to come and speak at her daughter's school. "We don't have any money," Mariana told Ritchie, "we can't even pay your expenses."

Of course, the General did go out to Seattle to speak to Mariana's daughter's class. But something special was started with that school address to children . something much more chemical, romantic and enduring.

The letter's sender, Mariana Mickler is now Mrs. Ritchie.

The General and Mariana were married on March 4th, 2011 in the Nellis AFB Chapel on the same day that Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy married 59 years earlier. Mariana's daughter, Jessica was the maid of honor while the General's son, Matt was best man.

The couple honeymooned at The Mission Inn in Riverside, California in the same suite Ronald Reagan and his new wife Nancy did in 1952, the "Reagan Suite" now. Who knew? No less than nine Presidents have been to the inn and that Richard and Pat Nixon were also married there. The next day, the General took his new bride to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for a surprise visit. You can see and feel the thread of mutual adoration between both the General and Mariana and them toward Ronald Reagan, whose memory they both revere.

I asked the General when he knew he was going to marry Mariana. He didn't hesitate for an instant, "As soon as I read the letter," he said firmly, sounding as if he was grinning. And when did you know Mariana? "The first time I was fully aware that Steve was the one was when I received his email at work that he was coming out to Seattle to speak to the class. His email said 'I will come. After that letter, I cannot say no. I will be there and I won't accept anything in return.' I broke out into tears right at work people were asking if I was OK. I knew right then that he was the one. That this was going to be the man that I marry."

As "The Letter" states so resolutely, Mariana unconditionally loved Reagan while growing up behind the Iron Curtain (of shame and despair). And it makes perfect sense that she did and does, because after all, it was Reagan who first had the guts, the steadfastness and caring human vision to state at the Berlin Wall, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

And Reagan did it without Facebook, Twitter or the Internet. "Ronald Reagan was such an important figure to those living under Communism. You can't imagine how important and loved he was. He gave hope and spirit and shined a light on our darkness," Mrs. Ritchie said dramatically. It was readily apparent from the tone and thrust of her voice, that for her, Reagan was a life-saving character.

Mariana told me, "I grew up dreaming of an American fighter pilot who would take me away to America, not a knight on a white horse who would take me on his horse to a castle."


"A Dream Come True for the Little Girl Behind The Iron Curtain"

Growing up in Timișoara, Romania, Mariana spoke to me both sadly and angrily. "Timișoara is the second largest city in Romania and used to be called 'Little Vienna.' But the Communist government became so intrusive they bugged our rooms we had to watch everything we said. It was killing our spirit. My grandfather was a priest and both of my parents were strong anti-Communists. We were harassed all the time. When I asked my father why he, everybody did not fight back against the Communists, he told me, 'They would've killed us.' I said in return, 'OK, then they kill you. It's better than living this way.'" But Mariana would not have to live that way much longer.

Mariana landed at JFK airport in NYC on September 20, 1986. "As soon as I stepped off that plane and got well away from it, that was the first time in my life I felt safe. In all my years in America, I always felt I was an American born in Romania. I never felt like I was from there, from Romania."

"I love this country so much! I would do anything for this country! I'm just so proud that I'm an American now and part of this great, great country," she told me with tears in our eyes.

Though she has been assimilated into American society beautifully loves America more than some of those born here and even speaks with a bit of an American accent, this lady hasn't even begun to forget the Communists and their lethal regime. She never will.

The General and Mariana even have a favorite Reagan quote, his "Rendezvous with Destiny": "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done."


General Ritchie with Mariana in Aviano, Italy with his famed "Triple Nickel" 555th TFS for the 40th anniversary of his fifth MIG kill

General Ritchie travels regularly and extensively give talks, chats and speeches to every military base, community group, school, university, association and business group that invites him. He is indefatigable about his speaking.

And, Mariana accompanies him everywhere, at his side, speaking too. They make a powerful couple with a compelling message. As Ritchie told me, "I talk about fighting Communism in Vietnam and Mariana talks about growing up under that kind of tyranny in Romania." Mariana chimed in, "What I'm trying to do now is give Americans a view of the oppressed . what it's like to be dreaming of freedom . what it's like to be willing to die for just a little liberty, just a little freedom."

Then, General Ritchie gives me the perfect closing quote from him. "When you've lived through 339 combat missions, you're very humble. Especially, when so many died. My best friend died. There were ten of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people working on the ground and in the air. I was fortunate that I had five wins but that never would've happened without all those other people working so hard and risking their lives. My heart is filled with gratitude and so humble." It's seems rare to find a humble fighter pilot.

Well, that's my story about General Steve Ritchie, America's Last Ace. He's certifiably one of America's great heroes. And I hope this story lived up to the quote that began it. To me, Steve Ritchie's story certainly is one of "love and courage." For him, the courage came first and the love followed.

"And I have yet to find one single individual who has attained conspicuous success in bringing down enemy aeroplanes who can be said to be spoiled either by his successes or by the generous congratulations of his comrades. If he were capable of being spoiled he would not have had the character to have won continuous victories, for the smallest amount of vanity is fatal in aeroplane fighting. Self-distrust rather is the quality to which many a pilot owes his protracted existence." --Captain Edward V. 'Eddie' Rickenbacker, USAS (1890-1973)

"Each of us has to earn freedom anew in order to possess it. We do so not just for our own sake, but for the sake of our children, so that they may build a better future that will sustain over the world the responsibilities and blessings of freedom." --Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)


History of the American Fighter Ace: Korean War

Little did the fighter Aces of 1945 realize that some of their number would be in the skies fighting for their lives as soon as 1950. Yet, when North Korea invaded South Korea in June of that year it was time for the pilots of America’s fighter outfits to saddle up again and head for combat.

One of the first to see action was WWII fighter ace James W. Little who shot down a Russian-built La-7 on June 27, 1950. James Jabara shot down his fifth MiG-15 on May 20, 1951 to become America’s first jet Ace. Jabara would return to Korea for a second tour of combat and finished up with a total of 15 victories.

The top-scoring Ace of the Korean War was a former WWII navigator by the name of Joseph McConnell with 16 kills. A number of old pro fighter aces from WWII were in action over Korea and many added to their scores and seven of them became aces in their second war. These “two-war” aces were George A. Davis, Jr., Francis S. Gabreski, Vermont Garrison, James Hagerstrom, Harrison Thyng and William T. Whisner.

The Navy had one Ace to come out of the Korean War – Guy P. Bordelon, who scored five victories flying at night in F4Us. Marine ace John F. Bolt, the only Marine to become an ace in two wars, became a jet ace in F-86s while attached to the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing. Three Air Force pilots and one Marine pilot became Aces in the Korean War by adding World War II victories to those scored in Korea to achieve a total of five.


History of the American Fighter Ace: Vietnam War

The long war in Vietnam presented little opportunity for air-to-air scoring by fighter pilots, much less making a large number of Aces. All fighter operations took place under numerous restrictions and the number of enemy fighters available for encounters was quite limited. This, too, was a new type of operation.

The majority of combats took place at ranges that would have been impossible in earlier wars and the pilot had to rely greatly on his “guy in the back”, or GIB, in the F-4 Phantom.

A number of Air Force pilots did score in the single seat F-105 and F-8s but none became Aces. An Air Force World War II Ace, Robin Olds nearly became an ace of Vietnam, but he had to settle for four confirmed victories. There were only two fighter pilot Aces to emerge from the conflict in Vietnam. The first was Navy F-4 pilot Randall H. “Duke” Cunningham who, with Bill Driscoll as his rear seat man, became an Ace on May 10, 1972. Steve Ritchie, also flying the Phantom, became the one and only Air Force pilot Ace when he scored his fifth victory on August 28, 1972 with his GIB, Charles De Bellevue.

These two Aces brought the roll of America’s air Aces from all wars up to 1,442. While their number is few, these men accounted for a large percentage of the enemy aircraft destroyed by all fighter pilots. For years there have been numerous studies conducted in an attempt to determine what makes a fighter Ace. Many attributes have been named, but to date there seems to be no positive determination as to just what traits or qualities add up to a fighter Ace profile. Three factors must be present, however—flying skill, aggressiveness, and, perhaps most important, an opportunity to engage the enemy.

Perhaps a large percentage of the fighter Aces over the years will fall under the classification mentioned by one old professional fighter pilot and Ace who, himself, holds the Medal of Honor. He stated, “Give me ten young fighter pilots and we’ll take them into combat. Out of the ten one of them is going to be a hunter and not the hunted. This is the pilot that is going to become a fighter Ace if the opportunity presents itself.” And there can be no denying the fighter Ace is a hunter.


Richard "Steve" Ritchie

By Stephen Sherman, Oct. 2002. Updated March 22, 2012.

T he only U.S. Air Force pilot ace of the Vietnam War, Capt. Steve Ritchie destroyed five MiG-21s during Operation Linebacker in 1972. Born June 25, 1942 in Reidsville, NC , he was a star quarterback in high school. At the U. S. Air Force Academy , he continued playing football, as starting halfback for the Falcons in 1962 and 1963.

Graduating from the Academy in 1964, Ritchie finished number one in his pilot training class.

After a stint at Flight Test Operations at Eglin AFB, Florida, he began flying the F-4 Phantom II, in preparation for his first tour in Southeast Asia.

Assigned to the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Danang Air Base, South Vietnam in 1968, Ritchie flew the first "Fast FAC" mission in the F-4 forward air controller program and was instrumental in the spread and success of the program. Returning from Southeast Asia in 1969, he reported to the Air Force Fighter Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, where at 26 years of age, he became one of the youngest instructors in the history of the school.

Ritchie volunteered for a second combat tour in January 1972 and was assigned to the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Udorn, Thailand. Flying an F-4D with the famed 555th ("Triple Nickel") Tactical Fighter Squadron he joined the ranks of the MiG killers when he downed a MiG-21 on 10 May, one of several Air Force aerial victories that day. He scored a second victory on 31 May, another MiG-21. A classic low-altitude dog fight on 8 July tied Robins Olds' five-year-old Southeast Asia record as two more MG-21s fell to his Sparrow missiles. Then, on 28 August, came the mission that propelled Steve Ritchie into the record books. Leading Buick Flight, four F-4D Phantoms performing Air MiG CAP ( Combat Air Patrol) north of Hanoi, it was Ritchie's job to protect the Strike Force coming in from the Southwest to hit the Thai-Nguyen steel plant.

May 10, 1972

This section written by Tom Cooper, Air Combat Information Group website

During the early morning of May 10th 1972 the US readied the first large air strikes against North Vietnam in what became Operation Linebacker II. These attacks caused several large clashes between US aircraft and North Vietnamese interceptors during the Vietnam War. The first strike on that day was launched by aircraft carriers USS Constellation, USS Coral Sea og USS Kitty Hawk against targets in Haiphong area at 08:00 AM. Hardly one hour later no less than 84 Phantoms and five F-105Gs of the USAF, supported by 20 KC-135 tankers and a SAR group of three helicopters, four A-1s and four Phantoms, closed on North Vietnam crossing northern Thailand and Laos. The vanguard of this attack force comprised eight F-4D Phantoms, armed for air-to-air combat, the Oyster and Balter flights, whose main task was to patrol areas around known North Vietnamese airfields and intercept any MiGs which would try to attack the main American formation. The whole operation was closely controlled by an EC-121 radar picket plane, which operated over Laos, and the cruiser USS Chicago, underway in the Gulf of Tonkin and operating under the call-sign Red Crown.

Already during the air refueling over Thailand the cutting edge of the initial fighter sweep had been blunted. Balter 2 had electrical problems, Balter 3 was unable to refuel both had to return to Udorn. Oyster 4, (flown by Lt. Feezel and Capt. Pettit) suffered a radar failure but its crew decided to continue the mission. Balter 1 and 4 joined up as an element and continued northeast, as did the four aircraft of Oyster flight. The fighter sweep had been devised by Major Bob Lodge, Oyster flight leader, an experienced air fighting tactician with two MiG kills to his credit. These two flights of Phantoms were to establish a barrier patrol northwest of Hanoi, Oyster flight at low altitude and Balter flight behind it at 22.000 feet in full view of the enemy. Any MiG moving against Balter flight would fly over the Oyster flight waiting in ambush.

The shadowboxing began at 09:42 AM, when North Vietnamese fighters flew into action. Two minutes later, two MiG-21s of 921 FR took off from Noi Bai, turning toward Tuyen Quang to decoy the Americans. At the same time four J-6s of the 1st Flight (#1 Nguyen Ngoc Tiep, #2 Nguyen Hong Son, #3 Pham Hung Son and #4 Nguyen Duc Tiem) of the 925 FR were scrambled as well. Unknown to either Red Crown or to crews of US fighters, two MiG-21s turned straight toward the Oyster flight, covered by four low flying J-6s.

Immediately Red Crown informed the Oyster flight: „Multiple bandits in your area. I hold a Bandit at three-four-zero at twenty-four. The closest bandit I hold is zero-two-two at sixteen." Running in at 15.000 feet the MiG-21s closed rapidly, joining with four J-6s in the process, and Balter flight edged toward Oyster to provide top cover. Lodge turned his flight to meet the MiGs nearly nose-on, jettisoning their external tanks and arming AIM-7 Sparrows (except Feezel, whose radar failed). The radars were locked on and at 13nm (24km) a warning light in the cockpit of Oyster 1 flashed, indicating that the hostile aircraft were within range. In Oyster 3 Chuck DeBellevue picked up a MiG IFF transmission on his Combat Tree equipment and informed his pilot that he had a positive hostile identification on the planes in front. Clipped instructions in Oyster 1 and 2 followed, as back-seaters locked on their radars and made the final switching for a head-on attack. The allowable steering error on the radar display began to contract and at 8nm (13km) Lodge launched his first Sparrow at the leading MiG element.

Trailing a plume of white smoke, it accelerated out in front and began tracking upwards at a shallow angle, but detonated when its motor burned out. With range now down to 6nm (10km) Major Lodge fired a second Sparrow which launched successfully and tracked upwards at a 20 degree angle. It left a contrail and then came the flash of the detonation. A few seconds later a MiG-21 fell out of sky, trailing fire and missing its left wing. Lt. John Markle in Oyster 2 also fired a pair of Sparrows and his second missile started tracking upwards and slightly to the right. As Markle watched, the big missile pulled lead and flew right into North Vietnamese plane, causing another yellow explosion.

As it seems, the second Sparrow fired by Major Lodge hit the MiG-21 wingman, while the second Sparrow destroyed the J-6 of Nguyen Hong Son, who ejected but later died of his injuries. At about this point, remaining two North Vietnamese flashed over the top of Oyster Flights 1 and 2, the leading MiG-21 narrowly missing collision with Oyster Leader. Major Lodge instinctively pulled hard up to the right in an oblique half loop which brought him right 200ft (60m) behind the MiG. Lodge was now too close for a missile attack, and his Phantom was not equipped with guns. But he eased off his turn and the enemy fighter’s range was opening. The combat was going well for Oyster flight when, suddenly, the tables were turned. Zooming up from below came the J-6s. While pilots of Oyster flight identified only four North Vietnamese fighters, while there were, in fact, six of them. After their #4 was shot down, other J-6s of the 1st Flight of the 925 FR reversed and Pham Hung Son, followed closely by Nguyen Duc Tiem curved behind Lodge’s F-4 as Markle, to the left of his leader and in no position to engage Vietnamese, shouted a warning: „OK, there’s a bandit. you got a bandit in your ten o’clock, Bob, level!"

Major Lodge thought that the MiG-21 in front of him had opened the range sufficiently for a close-in shot, and called: „Oyster One padlocked!" and fired a Sparrow. But, Pham Hung Son fired as well and the shells from his three 30mm guns bridged the gap between him and Lodge’s Phantom. The F-4 was hit and was losing speed, but initially its crew thought they had escaped with minor damage. Both the pilot and the RIO were disappointed at the sight of the lost AIM-7 and the MiG in front of them separating away. Pham Hung Son closed and fired again, and as more shells struck his aircraft, Lodge’s RIO, Captain Roger Locher, realized what happened. The right engine exploded and the Phantom began doing hard yaws to the right. Soon, all the hydraulics were lost.

As Locher prepared to leave the falling Phantom, Captain Steve Ritchie, flying as Oyster 3, had been chasing the remaining J-6 of Nguyen Duc Tiem which continued almost straight ahead. Lacking visual contact and action on radar information, Ritchie pulled up to the right in a 4 to 5G turn. Rolling out at 18.000ft (5.500m) he finally sighted his target almost 10.000 feet (5.500m) away to the left. He pulled to the inside of J-6s turn, locking on his radar as he went. From a range of 6.000ft (1.800m) Ritchie ripple-fired two Sparrows, both of them guided. The first passed close under the target without detonating, but the second scored a direct hit. From the rear seat of Oyster 03, Captain DeBellevue caught a glimpse of a dirty yellow parachute of Nguyen Duc Tiem as they passed the falling J-6.

Flying at 20.000 feet, two Phantoms of Balter flight arrived in time to see the final moments of the fight, as Lodge’s Phantom plunged to the earth like a meteor. Due to smoke nobody saw ejection of Captain Locher. Shaken by the sudden loss of their leader, the survivors of the Oyster flight sped away from the area. The first large clash of 10 May 1972 was over, but others were now to follow.”

Two MiGs

On July 8th, 1972, Captain Steve Ritchie of the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, led a flight of four F-4 Phantoms, call sign "Paula," over the skies of Vietnam. With his Radar Intercept Officer, Capt. Charles DeBellevue, he succeeded in shooting down two MIG-21's during an engagement that lasted only one minute and twenty-nine seconds. The following interview about that mission appeared on The History Channel, “Weapons at War: The Aces:”

“The 8th of July mission was the most intense, the most exciting mission that I ever flew. Everything worked. During that minute and 29 seconds I drew on all my life experiences. Every part of my training and education came together in that moment and it worked. Few people ever experience that moment where everything jells. It's a feeling that is hard to describe.

“When the mission began, one of the earlier MiG CAP flights had been hit by a MiG. He had broken formation and was headed out, bleeding fuel and hydraulics. He was announcing his position, heading, and altitude on the emergency frequency, a very bad idea, because the North Vietnamese monitored the emergency frequency and when they heard a cripple, leaving by himself, they sent MiGs after him. So we headed toward the fellow that was in trouble, when ‘Red Crown’ and ‘Disco’ [RC-121 radar control aircraft] called additional MiG activity. You can imagine the adrenalin was beginning to pump. I headed to low altitude, and got ‘Heads Up’ call, which meant that the MiGs had us in sight and they had been cleared to fire.

“I really began to look around at that point, because we didn't have them in sight. I rolled out on an easterly heading and stayed there about 8 seconds, when I got a call from ‘Disco’, 150 miles away orbiting over Laos, looking at the whole ring of its radar scope. I heard among the static: "Steve, 2 miles north of you." I made an immediate left turn from my east heading to the north, picked up a MiG-21 at 10 o’clock. Now, if I’d stayed on an easterly heading, the MiG would have been right in my rear quarter, and I probably wouldn’t be here to tell the story today.

“Pick it up at 10 o’clock, rolled left, dropped the external fuel tanks with full afterburner. We passed about 1,000 feet from each other. I could see the pilot in the cockpit. It was a bright, spit-polished superb MiG-21, with bright red stars. When I saw the lead MiG, the strong tendency was to immediately turn, to try to get an advantage. I knew there were two, because they had called ‘Two Blue Bandits.’ But I didn’t see #2. So, I waited, I rolled level, pushed the nose over and waited. Sure enough, #2 came along about 8,000 feet away. Immediately when he passe, I made a 135 degree turn, level, 90, 135, flaps, nose down sliding turn about 6.5 g.”

[This last sentence is confused, as it was a TV interview. He used his hands to explain his actions to the TV team, something very typical for fighter pilots. Ritchie meant to say: “I started a turn of 135 degrees, I leveled waiting for the MiG #2, I rolled 90 degrees, re-started the turn of 135 degrees, I engaged flaps and turned with my nose slightly down, etc.”]

“I couldn’t see what was happening back over there. About half of this turn, I began to roll out of the 135 degrees and as I rolled out of 135 degrees I began to look back, thinking that they’re going to be somewhere back around here [indicated a position at 4 o’clock] to my great surprise I saw a MiG up over here [indicated a position at 9 o’clock], in the opposite direction of where I would expect the MiG would be, because instead of turning to the left and going to this side of the circle [indicated a counter-clockwise turn], they turned to the right and went to this side of the circle [indicated a clockwise turn]. So, now I was in a position with my nose down, and the MiG was high, in a right turn. I was in a left turn, so even if I pulled my nose up, I would have had what is called a very hard angle off.”

[At this point Ritchie’s account was interrupted by a graphic and narrator's explanation, saying that Ritchie solved his problem performing a “Barrel-Roll”, and that this maneuver put him behind and below the MiG.]

“The target was high in the blue sky, good for a radar lock-on. The MiG saw us, turned down into us. I squeezed the trigger. The first missile went to the center of the fuselage of the MiG and the second missile went thru the fire ball. I felt a nice jump on the stick a piece of debris shaken up at the leading edge of the left wing.

“The lead MiG, the silver MiG, came all the way around the circle and the other three airplanes of our flight were in trail, and then the shiny MiG came on the position of #4, Tommy Feasel. I cut across the circle and achieved a similar position now on the lead MiG that I had on the wingman before, except the lead MiG was a lot better than the wingman. He saw us, forgot about Tommy Feasel, started a hard turn into us. We got a flat turning here, look like just maneuver the airplane.

“I put him in the gunsight, Chuck [Charles DeBelleuve, his RIO in this mission] told me that he had a lock that’s all I need to know. Missile came off the airplane. It looked like a Sidewinder, it began to snake and did not appear to guide, and I was telling it: ‘the target is over here!’ Suddenly, the missile appeared to do a 90 degree right turn, and it hit the MiG in the fuselage. The missile was pulling about 25 g and was accelerated about twelve hundred miles an hour when it hit, so you can imagine the explosion.”

Ritchie left active service in 1974 and had a distinguished career in the Air Force Reserve before retiring in 1999. With more than 3,000 flight hours, 800 combat hours, and decorations that include four Silver Stars and 10 Distinguished Flying Crosses , Ritchie is a role model and exemplar of what he would call his three Ds -- "duty, desire, and determination."

The second of two books on the Navy's Phantom II MiG killers of the Vietnam War, this book covers the numerous actions fought out over North Vietnam during the Linebacker I and II operations of 1972-73. No fewer than 17 MiGs were downed during this period, five of them by the Navy's only aces of the conflict, Lts Randy Cunningham and Willie Driscoll of VF-96. Drawing on primary sources such as surviving Phantom II aircrew and official navy documentation, the author has assembled the most precise appraisal of fighter operations involving US Navy Phantom II units and those elusive MiGs ever seen in print.


THE FIRST WORLD WAR (1914–1918)

In January 1929, Wop and Vic Horner wrote a dazzling page in Canadian aviation history. They flew an open cockpit Avro Avian for a two day trip with temperatures hovering around -30C, from Edmonton, Alberta, to Fort Vermillion, Alberta, in one of the first mercy flights of Canada&rsquos air age. Their goal: to deliver diphtheria vaccine to combat an outbreak of the deadly disease in Little Red River, about 100 kilometres from Fort Vermillion. The 1,000 kilometre flight became known across Canada as &ldquothe race against death&rdquo.

In 1932, Wop flew the aircraft that guided Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in their hectic chase of Albert Johnson &mdash &ldquoThe Mad Trapper of Rat River&rdquo &mdash in the Yukon.

During the Second World War, Wop was general manager of No. 2 Air Observer School in Edmonton he also created the first para rescue unit, which later evolved into the Royal Canadian Air Force&rsquos modern search and rescue system. Wop was inducted into Canada&rsquos Aviation Hall of Fame in 1974.


AIR ACES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR

All Rights Reserved except for Fair Dealing exceptions otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised.

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Use this image under fair dealing.

All Rights Reserved except for Fair Dealing exceptions otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised.

Accepted Non-commercial Use

Permitted use for these purposes:

If you are interested in the full range of licenses available for this material, please contact one of our collections sales and licensing teams.

Use this image under fair dealing.

All Rights Reserved except for Fair Dealing exceptions otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised.

Accepted Non-commercial Use

Permitted use for these purposes:

If you are interested in the full range of licenses available for this material, please contact one of our collections sales and licensing teams.

Use this image under fair dealing.

All Rights Reserved except for Fair Dealing exceptions otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised.

Accepted Non-commercial Use

Permitted use for these purposes:

If you are interested in the full range of licenses available for this material, please contact one of our collections sales and licensing teams.


Building the U.S. Air Force: The Legacy of World War II Aces

One of my favorite conversations to have with visitors at our museum are those that draw connections across different time periods. It’s easy to forget that many of the same people involved in one era go on to have careers spanning into later periods. As we reflect on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II this year, I wanted to highlight three World War II “ace” pilots (meaning they shot down five or more enemy aircraft) and how they went on to careers that helped to define and shape the future of the U.S. Air Force.

This is not an exhaustive list nor a “top three,” by any means, but rather three examples from among many dozens more that could be mentioned.

Major George Welch

George Welch poses with the XP-86, c. 1947.

On a warm Saturday night in Waikiki, Hawaii, 2nd Lt. George Welch attended a dinner and dance party that turned into an all-night poker game. As Sunday morning dawned and the victors gathered their winnings, the festive mood was shattered by the sound of gunfire. The date: December 7, 1941.

Welch, a recent addition to the 47th Pursuit Squadron, called the airstrip at Haleiwa to have two P-40B Warhawks ready to go. Welch and his friend 2nd Lt. Kenneth Taylor hopped into Taylor’s car and raced to the airfield as Japanese bullets rained down. The two airmen jumped into their airplanes and took off. After damaging two Aichi D3A Val dive bombers, Welch landed to fix a jammed gun and reload. He proceeded to shoot down another Val and a Mitsubishi A6M Zero. With four credited aerial victories, Welch had almost reached ace status before the U.S. had even declared war!

Det er. Ken Taylor (left) and George Welch (right), shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Welch’s achievements did not end on that day of infamy. For a time, Welch held the title of “King of the New Guinea’s Skies,” flying P-39 Airacobras and P-38 Lightnings in the Pacific. After shooting down 16 enemy planes, a case of malaria took him off combat duty .

Welch’s post-war career was both vital to the early U.S. Air Force and tragic. In spring 1944, Welch resigned his commission and became a test pilot for North American Aviation. In October 1947, he was the first to fly the XP-86, the prototype for what became the F-86 Sabre, in which he reached 618 mph in level flight. Seven years later, in October 1954, Welch was test flying an early model of another new fighter, the F-100A Super Sabre. Pulling 7 Gs out of a dive at Mach 1.55 caused a catastrophic failure and the airplane began to disintegrate. Although Welch initially survived the crash, he died en route to a hospital.

The first Sabre prototype, XP-86, which Welch test piloted, c. 1947.

Welch, one of the first air-to-air victors of World War II, also helped usher in a new age of jet combat and supersonic fighters that came to define the U.S. Air Force.

Brigadier General Robin Olds

Maj. Robin Olds, 434th Fighter Squadron commander, in a P-51D.

“By the time I was five, I could name an airplane by the sound of its engine on takeoff or landing,” claimed ace pilot Brig. Gen. Robin Olds. He grew up steeped in air power, as the son of Maj. Gen. Robert Olds, who was a mentor to Gen. Curtis LeMay. Robin entered West Point in 1940 and then flew P-38 Lightnings with the 479th Fighter Group, arriving in Europe less than two weeks before D-Day. Olds made ace in only two engagements, the first on August 14, 1944, when he downed two Fw-190s, then on August 25, when he shot down three Bf 109s. That made him the last P-38 pilot in the 8th Air Force to make ace. His unit transitioned to P-51 Mustangs, in which Olds continued to tear apart German fighters, ultimately ending the war with 12 aerial victories.

Such a record would be notable on its own, but Olds is most famous for his achievements following World War ll. For several years, Olds rotated through various non-combat roles, including flying in a P-80 Shooting Star aerobatics demonstration team, flying Gloster Meteors in an exchange program with the RAF, and holding non-combat command positions in Washington, DC, before eventually getting orders to command the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing and join the Vietnam War in September 1966.

Immediately upon arriving to his new command, he got in a fistfight with two lieutenants at the officers’ club who—in the tradition of the Wing—tried to rip the patches off Olds’ flight suit. Instead of seeing this as a discipline problem, Olds thought it was a sign of healthy morale, saying, “These guys had spirit.” His first act was to show the Wing, nicknamed the “Wolf Pack,” that he was willing to learn and would be flying alongside his men, pushing them. “I’d give the guys in the briefing room the same goading speech, ‘I’m gonna be better than you!’” he recalled. “As soon as they stopped being pissed off, they got into the spirit of the challenge.”

Olds’ deputy commander of operations was a friend he had worked with previously at the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing: Col. Daniel “Chappie” James. Starting as an instructor for the Tuskegee Airmen, James later became the first African American four-star general. Together, the two were known by their joint nickname: “Blackman and Robin.”

Col. Robin Olds (right) with Col. Daniel James (left) in Thailand, c. 1966. James was deputy commander for operations and later vice wing commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing. Together they were nicknamed “Blackman and Robin.”

By the end of the year, Olds was frustrated with the mounting losses to North Vietnamese MiG fighters and designed “Operation Bolo.” The plan revolved around taking the QRC-160 jamming pods typically carried by F-105 Thunderchiefs and instead placing them on F-4 Phantoms. North Vietnamese forces thought the electronic signature was indicative of vulnerable F-105s, but instead it was a trap. A swarm of Phantoms, including James and Olds, went after the surprised MiGs. While James chased one MiG into position for his wingman to shoot it down, Olds also contributed one victory to the total of seven destroyed MiG-21s, nearly half of North Vietnam’s MiG-21 inventory at that time.

Col. Robin Olds with his F-4C Phantom II, c. 1967.

Olds ended his time in Southeast Asia with four aerial victories, making him a triple ace with a career total of 16. He then spent time as the commandant of cadets at the Air Force Academy before retiring in 1973. Although he began his career as a World War II ace, Olds’ later career not only made important contributions to the American effort in the Vietnam War, but became culturally emblematic of the stereotypical fighter pilot in the process.

Colonel James Hagerstrom

On the morning of January 23, 1944, 1st Lt. James Hagerstrom, having only recently recovered from malaria, was leading a flight of P-40 Warhawks on a “maximum effort” bombing mission in the Pacific. Nearing their target of Boram, New Guinea, Hagerstrom saw 10 to 15 Mitsubishi A6M Zeros pouring down on a group of P-38s near him. His group dropped his tanks and dove into what became a massive dogfight. He and his wingman, 2nd Lt. John Bodak, each shot down Zeroes off the other’s tails, as Hagerstrom damaged more Japanese fighters in multiple head-on passes and shot down more that were chasing other P-38s. Hagerstrom expended all his ammunition in the fight, emerging with four victory credits (three Zeroes and one Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien) in addition to damaging others while saving the lives of two P-38 pilots. Combined with the two victories he earned the previous year, he was now an ace.

Lt. Col. James Hagerstrom with his F-86 Sabre in Osan, Korea, c. 1952.

Hagerstrom was discharged after the war and joined the Texas Air National Guard. When the Korean War began in 1950, he was recalled to active duty. Fitting the fighter pilot stereotype, Hagerstrom longed for air-to-air victories. Of the 40 American ace pilots in the Korean War, Hagerstrom was the only one flying in a fighter-bomber unit (the 67th Squadron) as opposed to a dedicated fighter-interceptor squadron. This was due to his reputation for dropping his bombs as fast as possible and heading straight for the North Korea-China border, known as “MiG Alley,” where enemy planes were more likely to be flying. Hagerstrom never missed an opportunity, whether it was by volunteering to fly on Christmas day (when he got his second MiG-15 kill), or when he flew on his last day in Korea. He was literally standing in his dress uniform waiting for his transport home to land when a friend told him a sensitive mission requiring four pilots had come up. Hagerstrom jumped in an F-86 immediately and shot down another MiG, bringing his total to 8.5 credits in Korea.

After Korea, Hagerstrom continued to make important contributions to the Air Force. He set up an evaluation program for the then-new AIM-9 Sidewinder missile, which has since become a mainstay of air combat. After various command and staff positions, Hagerstrom joined the Vietnam War in 1966. Working out of Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, he led a program to adapt the “Starlight Scope” for use on AC-47 gunships, giving them much better visibility for night operations. Hagerstrom spent his time in Southeast Asia helping to run interdiction efforts in Laos against the Ho Chi Minh Trail before his frustration with that conflict prompted him to resign in 1968.


Se videoen: DIRTY SECRETS of VIETNAM: The Aces of Southeast Asia


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