This is my recollection of the events that happened to me (Ford 3, aircraft 660260) on 23 Aug 1967. We were scheduled for a strike force attack on the railroad yards just north of Hanoi. The strike force normally consisted of 24 F-105 Thuds, 24 F-4 Phantoms, and 12 F-135 tankers. The briefing, takeoff all went well and we were on our way to rendezvous with our tankers. We made our join up with the tankers and began our refueling. The normal sequence was Ford flight 1,2,3,4 and then we would sequence again topping off our fuel tanks; however on the first time thru Ford 4 had problems refueling meaning I did not get to top off, shorting me 1500 lbs of fuel (200gals). Everything is timed, if you didn’t get your top off in the allotted time, too bad. It was a beautiful sight to watch, 12 tankers turning left and 48 fighters turning right at the same time.
Our route continued toward the north end of Thud Ridge where we started our turn south toward the target. We were on the outside of the turn flying pod formation when, in an instant, an air to air missile zoomed by my right wing and up the tailpipe of Ford 1, as he called out “Mig 21”. I was immediately in a hard turn, burners lit and bombs dropped, ready for engagement. The Mig was gone. In only a few seconds, Ford 1 and Ford 4 were shot down. I was Ford 3 between them and I thank the Good Lord often. I circled and saw 3 parachutes and then joined up with another F-4 egressing the target. He became the element leader and me the wingman. I informed him of my fuel status, then he informed our controllers of our status and they asked us to plan on being a Mig CAP and circle and a tanker was on the way. At the time, I had enough fuel to make Udorn but I chose to Mig CAP. The tanker did not show up but at the last moment i saw a tanker with 4 Thuds on it. I informed them I was down to 200lbs of fuel and would like to use their tanker. They dropped off and I asked the tanker for a left turn allowing me to get a faster closure rate. The join up was perfect and I made a hook up, followed by a brute force disconnect when my engines quit. The tanker started a glide at 250 kts and so did I. I tried from 28,000 ft to 7,000 ft to hook up but couldn’t do it. Once I initiated the controlled ejection, the sequence from pulling the handles to swinging in a parachute was virtually instantaneous. I was picked up by “jolly green giant” within 10 minutes.
Upon returning to Ubon, I was greeted by Robin Olds and Chappe James and many others. I apologized to Olds for losing the airplane, his comment was “let’s go have a party”——and we did!!!!
The Migs had been practicing this new tactic. Higher headquarters new for 10 days and did not inform the fighter squadrons. High altitude, dive supersonic attack. We always got Mig calls when the Migs were airborne, we did not get any this day. After this we were allowed to bomb Mig airfields.
Lt. Col Charles “Charlie” DeMarque, USAF