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Monday, May 10, 2010

You Can Help Honor America's Vietnam War F-105 Crews - Part 1


The purpose of this website is to help to commemorate the sacrifices made by aviators, ground crews and soldiers, by educating the public. For the past 21 years, the Collings Foundation has been deeply dedicated to honoring America's war veterans and educating younger generations through its unique “Wings of Freedom Tour”. With a goal to honor all veterans  for their service, the “Vietnam Memorial Flight” was established, resulting in the only privately-owned and operated examples of the F-4 Phantom and TA-4 Skyhawk aircraft. These two aircraft offer Vietnam Veterans the opportunity to gather, reflect and share their memories with each other and to show their families the aircraft that they flew, maintained, or saw streaking overhead while helping to protect their brothers on the ground during the difficult conflict.

Accordingly, the Collings Foundation is now seeking to return an example of the legendary Republic F-105 Thunderchief or "Thud" to the skies. In particular, the Thunderchief was one of the most numerous and valuable American aircraft of the air war in Vietnam prior to 1970, when it was finally withdrawn. Capable of speeds approaching Mach 2, the Thunderchief was part of America's famed "Century Series" of jet fighter aircraft, which also included the F-100 Super Sabre, the F-101 Voodoo, and the F-104 Starfighter. While primarily designed for use as a supersonic tactical bomber capable of carrying some 8,000 pounds or more of ordnance, the Thunderchief also carried a six-barrel M61 Vulcan cannon, which was deadly in air-to-air combat when used by such highly seasoned USAF pilots as Col. (later General) Robin Olds.

Used primarily in both single-seat F-105B and two-seat F-105F variants, the "Thud" and its crews were assigned some of the most dangerous missions of the war, including bombing strikes against heavily-defended industrial targets, where they faced literally everything the North Vietnamese could throw against them, including surface-to-air (SAM) missiles, a succession of MiG 17, 19 and 21 fighters, anti-aircraft artillery, and even small-arms fire, which proved deadly and effective. Over half of the F-105 force was lost in combat and so treacherous were these F-105 missions over the Communist-controlled north, that an infamous mountain leading to Hanoi was ominously known as "Thud Ridge". Once shot down, the few survivors were among the men who were held captive for years at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison camp in unimaginably brutal conditions.

In the next post, I will cover how the worthy efforts of the Collings Foundation to commemorate the sacrifices of the Vietnam "Thud" crews have been stymied, and what you (yes, you) can do to lend a hand.

Editor's Note: Parts of this post were edited from a recent Collings Foundation e-Newsletter, with their permission. Special thanks to Hunter Chaney, Director of Marketing, Collings Foundation. Photo credit: Collings Foundation and Mark Goldman.

To view the Collings Foundation website or to contact them for further information about this great and challenging endeavor, please visit http://collingsfoundation.org/enews/enewsletter_105.2010.htm.

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