USA Air Aces e a Primeira Guerra Mundial

USA Air Aces e a Primeira Guerra Mundial

Piloto

Vitórias

Eddie Rickenbacker

26

Francis Gillet

20

Wilfred Beaver

19

Howard Kullberg

19

William Lambert

18

Frank lucas

18

Agosto 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: O Barão Vermelho e mais

Desde o primeiro vôo bem-sucedido de um avião, as pessoas imaginavam e sonhavam com aviões sendo usados ​​para combate. Livro de HG Wells & # 8217s 1908 (A Guerra no Ar era um exemplo. Quando a Primeira Guerra Mundial estourou, havia apenas cerca de 1000 aviões em todos os lados. Os aviões eram muito básicos. Os cockpits estavam abertos, os instrumentos eram rudimentares e não havia auxílios à navegação. Os pilotos precisavam usar mapas, que nem sempre eram confiáveis. Era comum se perder. Às vezes, os pilotos precisavam pousar e pedir direções! No início da guerra, os aviões eram vistos como quase exclusivamente de reconhecimento, assumindo o cargo anteriormente Por fim, porém, tornou-se necessário que os aviões eliminassem os aviões de observação do inimigo, de modo que o combate aéreo (dogfights) tornou-se comum.

O Desenvolvimento de Aeronaves de Combate

Desde o primeiro vôo bem-sucedido de um avião, as pessoas imaginavam e sonhavam com aviões sendo usados ​​para combate. H. G. Wells (The War in the Air, 1908) foi um exemplo.

Os aviões foram usados ​​em guerras menores no início da década de 1910.

Cada Grande Potência formou ramos aéreos do exército e / ou marinha. A França teve o mais desenvolvido. A Grã-Bretanha tinha dois: o Royal Flying Corps (parte do exército) e o Royal Naval Air Service (parte da marinha). Eles seriam integrados à Royal Air Force, o primeiro serviço aéreo independente, em 1917. O serviço alemão era chamado de Luftstreitkrafte.

Quando a guerra estourou, havia apenas cerca de 1000 aviões em todos os lados.

Os aviões eram muito básicos. Os cockpits estavam abertos, os instrumentos rudimentares e não havia ajudas à navegação. Os pilotos tiveram que usar mapas, que nem sempre eram confiáveis. Ficar perdido era comum. Às vezes, os pilotos tinham que pousar e pedir instruções!

No início da guerra, os aviões eram vistos quase que exclusivamente para reconhecimento, assumindo o trabalho antes feito pela cavalaria. Eles também foram usados ​​para localização de artilharia e descoberta de alcance. As missões de reconhecimento voador eram perigosas, no entanto.

Com o tempo, porém, tornou-se necessário que os aviões eliminassem os aviões de observação do inimigo, de modo que o combate ar-ar (dogfights) tornou-se comum.

A tecnologia dos aviões melhorou ao longo da guerra e começaram a surgir aviões especializados (hidroaviões, caças, bombardeiros). Havia biplanos e triplanos. As marcas populares incluem o Neuport, o Sopwith Pup e o Sopwith Camel, e o triplano Fokker alemão.

A velocidade dos aviões aumentou durante a guerra, de cerca de 75 mph no início da guerra para quase o dobro no final.

As forças aéreas aumentaram muito de tamanho. No início da guerra, os serviços aéreos britânicos tinham 300 oficiais e cerca de 1.800 homens. No final da guerra, eles tinham 27.000 oficiais e mais de 300.000 homens. A França tinha menos de 140 aeronaves no início da guerra, mas 4500 no final da guerra (a maioria de todas as potências).

A produção de aviões também aumentou muito. Ao final da guerra, a França estava construindo tantos aviões todos os dias quanto o número total que eles tinham no início da guerra.

O armamento de aeronaves tornou-se mais elaborado. No início da guerra, os pilotos apenas atiravam uns nos outros com pistolas ou outras armas pequenas.

Em seguida, metralhadoras foram instaladas, mas as balas atingiriam a hélice. Placas de metal foram instaladas nas pás da hélice para desviar as balas. Mas as balas às vezes ricocheteavam e os golpes repetidos desgastavam as placas.

Este problema foi resolvido pelo engenheiro holandês Anthony Fokker, que inventou uma engrenagem interruptora que sincronizava a ação da arma com a hélice. Esta invenção deu superioridade aérea às Potências Centrais (“O Flagelo Fokker”) por um tempo, mas apenas por cerca de um ano. Após cerca de um ano, os Aliados desenvolveram esta tecnologia e a vantagem alemã foi perdida.

Lutadores e táticas de lutador.

Voar era extremamente perigoso. Uma grande porcentagem de pilotos foi morta (50% para pilotos britânicos, por exemplo). Das 68.000 aeronaves que a França produziu durante a guerra, 52.000 foram perdidas em combate (taxa de perda de 77%).

O treinamento para pilotos era, em geral, inadequado. Os pilotos entraram em combate com apenas 3,5 horas de treinamento.

As táticas aéreas eram virtualmente inexistentes no início da guerra e tiveram que ser inventadas à medida que avançavam. Os pilotos da 1ª Guerra Mundial lançaram as bases para todas as futuras guerras aéreas.

Em agosto de 1916, o ás alemão Oswald Boelcke (homenageado como o pai da força aérea de caça alemã, bem como considerado o & # 8220Pai das Táticas de Combate Aéreo & # 8221) desenvolveu seu 8 dicta, que seria altamente influente.

Tente garantir a vantagem antes de atacar. Sempre mantenha o sol atrás de você.

Sempre continue com um ataque que você começou.

Abra fogo apenas de perto e apenas quando o oponente estiver bem na sua mira.

Sempre tente ficar de olho no seu oponente e nunca se deixe enganar por ardis.

Em qualquer tipo de ataque, é imprescindível atacar o adversário por trás.

Se o seu oponente mergulhar em você, não tente contornar o ataque, mas voe para enfrentá-lo.

Quando estiver sobre as linhas do inimigo, lembre-se sempre de sua própria linha de retirada.

Em princípio, é melhor atacar em grupos de quatro ou seis. Se as lutas se dividirem em combates únicos, preste atenção para que vários camaradas não vão atrás de um oponente.

Uma das ações lutadoras mais notáveis ​​da guerra foi “Abril Sangrento”, durante a Batalha de Arras. A RFC britânica perdeu 245 aeronaves, com 211 aviadores mortos ou desaparecidos e 108 tornando-se prisioneiros de guerra. O RFC perdeu cerca de um quarto de sua força. A vida média de um aviador substituto era de 11 dias. Os alemães perderam apenas 66 aviões ... uma taxa de abate de quase 4-1. Apesar disso, a RFC foi capaz de fornecer inteligência excelente à infantaria. Esta foi a maior perda percentual para os britânicos em toda a guerra.

Pilotos de caça que obtiveram 5 mortes foram chamados de "ases". Apenas cerca de 5% dos pilotos alcançaram esse status.

Eles eram vistos como "cavaleiros do ar". Eles foram muito romantizados e adorados. Acreditava-se que eles incorporavam cavalheirismo e nobreza.

Alguns dos ases mais conhecidos foram Edward Mannock e Alfred Ball (britânico), Billy Bishop (canadense), Rene Fonck (francês), Eddie Rickenbacker (americano), Hermann Goering, Ernst Udet e Manfred von Richthofen (alemão). Richthofen teve 80 mortes (a maior parte na guerra) e foi chamado de "Barão Vermelho".

Richthofen era o líder de um esquadrão de caças chamado “Circo Voador”, que se movia de batalha em batalha conforme necessário.

Em abril de 1918, Richthofen foi abatido por um piloto canadense ou por tropas terrestres austríacas que disparavam contra aviões. Ele tinha apenas 26 anos. Pilotos australianos realizaram um funeral com todas as honras militares para Richthofen foi realizado por canadenses

O bombardeio foi pioneiro na Primeira Guerra Mundial. No início da guerra, os aviões bombardeiros largaram principalmente granadas.

À medida que a guerra avançava, no entanto, o tamanho das bombas crescia cada vez mais.

O bombardeio foi usado tanto em alvos militares como civis. Os alemães lançaram bombas em cidades belgas e francesas, incluindo Paris.

Os zepelins (dirigíveis cheios de hidrogênio) também foram usados ​​para bombardeios, principalmente contra alvos britânicos, a partir de 1915. Ao final da guerra, eles podiam atingir uma altitude de 27.000 pés. (Nota: os britânicos usaram dirigíveis e balões de pipa, mas apenas para observação)

Os alemães tinham apenas 11 zepelins no início da guerra. Mas eles usaram 123 zepelins durante a guerra. Cerca de 80 foram abatidos ou desabaram por conta própria.

Os zepelins conduziram mais de 50 ataques à Grã-Bretanha. Eles causaram muito terror e indignação.

Os ataques de zepelins começaram a ser eliminados em 1916, quando os zepelins foram substituídos por bombardeiros de longo alcance. O desenvolvimento de balas incendiárias facilitou a destruição dos zepelins.

Em 1917 e 1918, os alemães bombardearam repetidamente Londres (com aviões). Cerca de 1400 civis britânicos foram mortos nesses bombardeios.

Os aviões britânicos retaliaram, primeiro bombardeando bases de zepelins e fábricas de armas químicas e, depois, bombardeando cidades alemãs de longa distância.

Os bombardeios estratégicos foram amplamente ineficazes. Por causa disso, por Verdun, as missões de bombardeio de longo alcance foram eliminadas em favor de operações na frente.

No início da década de 1910, os primeiros aviões decolaram e pousaram de navios estacionários. Estes eram aviões e navios americanos

Em 1912, um avião britânico decolou de um navio em movimento pela primeira vez. Cinco anos depois, o comandante britânico Edwin Dunning pousou em um navio em movimento pela primeira vez.

O primeiro ataque aéreo lançado por porta-aviões foi o ataque Tondern em julho de 1918. Sete camelos Sopwith lançados do cruzador de batalha convertido HMS Furious danificaram a base aérea alemã em Tondern, Alemanha, e destruíram dois dirigíveis zepelim.

Em 1918, o HMS Argus se tornou o primeiro porta-aviões do mundo capaz de lançar e recuperar aeronaves navais


Pilotos de caça da Primeira Guerra Mundial

É difícil não ter um certo tipo de respeito pelos pilotos de caça da Primeira Guerra Mundial. Aqueles que lutam tornam-se homens - velhos e sábios antes do tempo. Muitos dos guerreiros mais velhos tinham frequentemente 21, 22, 23 ou 24 anos, não muito além do que seriam seus anos de faculdade.

Muitos desses bravos aviadores morreram, congelados no tempo, imortalizados em alguns casos, completamente esquecidos com uma lápide não visitada em outros. Ou pior, eles acabam nunca mais sendo encontrados enterrados em algumas camadas de sujeira revolvidas repetidamente pela devastação dos projéteis de artilharia ou amontoados em sepulturas comuns, e nunca devidamente identificados porque não poderiam ser porque estavam muito decompostos quando seus corpos foram encontrados, como aconteceu com centenas de milhares de combatentes na Frente Ocidental.

É difícil acreditar que esses homens estavam decolando. Eles estavam em veículos motorizados feitos de tiras finas de madeira, linho e arame. A certa altura, o tempo médio de fatalidades apenas para voos normais sem combate era de uma fatalidade para cada sessenta e cinco horas de voo.

Eles também não tinham pára-quedas. Os pára-quedas eram considerados covardes pelos pilotos e seus superiores. Paraquedas não foram emitidos para pilotos americanos até 1919, um ano após o fim da guerra. Afinal, o pensamento era que os pára-quedas apenas encorajariam os pilotos a pular de aviões que estavam pegando fogo ou de outra forma fortemente danificados, em vez de tentar colocar os aviões de volta no solo. Foi só mais tarde na guerra que os poderes constituídos perceberam que bons pilotos eram mais difíceis de encontrar do que aviões. Os mais experientes eram ainda mais difíceis. As aeronaves em si eram muito, muito mais fáceis de substituir.

Os pilotos de caça da Primeira Guerra Mundial tinham uma expectativa de vida típica de várias semanas durante o vôo em combate. Várias semanas. Não muito mesmo. Em termos de horas de vôo, um piloto de combate podia contar com 40 a 60 horas antes de ser morto, pelo menos no início da guerra. De fato, dos sete pilotos originais do Lafayette Escadrille, apenas um saiu da guerra sem ser morto nem ferido. O que poderia ter motivado esses homens a se alistarem e a pressionar pela inclusão nas forças aéreas quando eles já sabiam disso? Eles sabiam de alguém que estava superando as probabilidades?

Mas esses homens - tanto os pilotos verdes quanto os grandes ases, as vítimas e os sobreviventes - eram, com poucas exceções, com bastante frequência homens muito jovens em anos civis. E o tributo em seus corpos e mentes era incrível.

Um dos que sobreviveram inclui o grande Roland Garros - piloto de acrobacias antes da guerra, o primeiro homem a fazer um looping e o inventor do avião de combate viveu o suficiente para abater um punhado de aviões alemães, sendo capturado por quase três anos, voar novamente apenas para ser abatido em outubro de 1918, um mês antes do fim da guerra. Ele tinha 29 ou 30 anos.

O famoso avião "Vieux Charles" Spad de Georges Guynemer está pendurado hoje no Museu Aéreo Le Bourget. Guynemer, uma lenda na França com 53 mortes em seu crédito, tinha apenas 22 anos quando foi abatido e morto em 11 de setembro de 1917. Os alemães encontraram seu corpo mais tarde, ainda no assento de seu Spad, com "uma bala em seu crânio." Ele já havia caído pelo menos três outras aeronaves. Seu avião e corpo foram mais tarde despedaçados e perdidos para sempre. A lenda francesa dizia que Guynemer simplesmente voou para as nuvens, para nunca mais voltar.

O vencedor da Legion de Honneur, Charles Nungesser, tinha 25 anos quando foi atraído para uma armadilha e quase morreu. Em vez disso, ele conseguiu derrubar dois aviões alemães antes que o resto voasse, consternado com o fracasso da armadilha. Ele sobreviveu à guerra como o terceiro ás francês com melhor classificação, atrás de Rene Fonck e Georges Guynemer. Nungesser teve 45 mortes, mas em troca recebeu 17 feridas e ferimentos, dois aviões caíram. Ele quebrou as duas pernas e uma mandíbula no processo e, no final da guerra, ele estava andando com duas bengalas ou tendo que ser carregado para dentro e para fora de seu avião, embora ainda estivesse voando em combate.

O alemão Werner Voss tinha apenas 20 anos quando foi abatido e morto por Arthur Rhys-Davids. Na época, Voss lutava sozinho contra sete SE-5s britânicos. Sua contagem foi de 48 vitórias e ele foi o quarto ás alemão com melhor classificação.

No topo da lista estava o famoso Barão Vermelho - Manfred von Richthofen - 80 mata e considerado por muitos o maior piloto da Primeira Guerra Mundial - era praticamente um homem de 25 anos quando foi morto um dia após sua 80ª vitória. Sua 80ª vitória não resultou em uma morte literal. Em vez disso, Richthofen galantemente deu um aceno amigável para o aviador caído quando ele desceu para checar seu oponente antes de voar. Richthofen e Werner Voss foram abatidos no famoso Fokker Dr.1 Triplane. Richthofen havia sido forçado a descer uma vez antes de ser gravemente ferido o suficiente para ter um ferimento de dez centímetros no crânio. Esse ferimento o manteve ausente do front pelas seis semanas seguintes.

Columbus, Eugene Bullard, da Geórgia, foi o primeiro piloto afro-americano de todos os tempos. Ele se tornou piloto na França e voou para a França em 1916, depois de servir pela primeira vez como soldado de infantaria no exército francês. Ele lutou em Verdun e em outros lugares e foi ferido no processo. Embora não seja tão famoso quanto o Tuskegee Airmen ou Benjamin Davis Sênior, ele foi o primeiro e verdadeiramente um pioneiro e um herói desconhecido nos Estados Unidos, mas ele sempre foi um herói na França.

À frente da Lafayette Escadrille e mais tarde à frente do 1º Grupo de Perseguição estava Raoul Lufbery, um americano nascido na França. Lufbery, com 16 vitórias em seu crédito, que saltou para a morte de sua aeronave, mesmo quando ela já estava queimando para cair. Ele saltou cerca de 1.000 metros (3.300) pés, caiu em um pequeno jardim e, de acordo com a velha senhora em cujo jardim ele caiu, levantou-se e caiu morto de volta.


O último piloto de caça da América Ace: derrubando dois MIGs em 89 segundos

"Quem não tem medo é um idiota. É só que você deve fazer o medo trabalhar a seu favor. Inferno, quando alguém atirou em mim, fiquei mais furioso do que o inferno, e tudo que eu queria fazer era atirar de volta."- Brigadeiro General Robin Olds, USAF (1922-2007)

Quando perguntei ao amigo do meu piloto de caça que piloto de caça eu deveria entrevistar para minha próxima coluna "American Hero Stories", ele não hesitou um instante. "Steve Ritchie", disse ele como se eu fosse um ignorante. Steve Ritchie era "o último ás". (Flying Ace)

Foi assim que comecei a rastrear o Brigadeiro-General (aposentado) Steve Ritchie por nosso país, enquanto ele e sua esposa, Mariana, se mudavam de Cocoa Beach, Flórida, para Bellevue, Washington. Foi o 33º movimento deles, ele me disse. No final das contas, eu tive que esperar até que a odisséia deles estivesse completa e eles tivessem pelo menos algumas de suas coisas fora das caixas.

Após 10 anos no serviço ativo da Força Aérea e mais 25 no serviço na reserva, o General está confortável com sua agenda lotada de palestras e família. No Vietnã, suas 339 missões, 800 horas de combate, totalizando mais de 4.000 horas no ar, resultaram no recebimento de quase todos os prêmios que a Força Aérea oferece. (Para que todos nós realmente entendamos o que esses prêmios significam e significam, pensei que deveríamos dar uma olhada em alguns. Deixe-me mostrar a você agora, que tipo de medalhas um verdadeiro 'Herói de Guerra' recebe.)

Cruz da Força Aérea (a maior honraria da USAF e a segunda maior premiação dos Estados Unidos depois da Medalha de Honra do Congresso)

A personalidade do piloto de caça pode ser irritante, eu sei. Eles são geralmente superconfiantes, extremamente competitivos, tipo A, egoístas Alfa. Simultaneamente, eles são ótimos alunos, muito curiosos sobre como as coisas funcionam e ultra-sensíveis em relação às outras pessoas. Eles também são muito engraçados, contando as melhores piadas. Ao contrário da maioria dos pilotos de caça, muito menos ases, Ritchie é modesto e humilde. Quando perguntei se ele havia ganhado a Estrela de Bronze, ele apenas disse: "Bem, não sei. Talvez tenha ganhado."

Então este é Steve Ritchie, o homem que ganhou todos aqueles prêmios enquanto voava bravamente no Vietnã.

Ele era assim em 1972, na época em que ganhou o título de "Ace".


Capitão Steve Ritchie (frente à direita) e Capitão Charles "Chuck" DeBellevue reportando para o trabalho 28/08/72 no dia em que Ritchie obteve seu quinto título MIG e Ace


O outro lado daquele sinal
Crédito da foto: Allen L. Tucker

Agora, a definição de um "Ás" é algo que pode variar. Embora não para pilotos de caça como Ritchie. Está praticamente estabelecido um mínimo de cinco aeronaves de combate abatidas durante o tempo de guerra, mas onde há um forte desacordo é sobre quem tem direito para levar essa designação. De acordo com a Wikipedia, havia cinco ases do Vietnã. Eles fazem uma distinção, entretanto, entre os Ases pilotos reais e os "Ases não pilotos". A maioria dos caças a jato da era do Vietnã eram de dois lugares e o oficial do banco de trás ("GIB", cara de trás) era tradicionalmente o navegador e o oficial de armas. Assim, sobra dois Ases, piloto de avião e atirador no banco da frente daquela guerra: o primeiro Ace do Vietnã, Randy "Duke" Cunningham da Marinha e o General Ritchie, o último Ace do Vietnã.

Voando em seu fiel McDonnell Douglas 'F-4D Phantom, Ritchie foi um flagelo dos céus do Vietnã.


O lendário F-4 de Ritchie ocupa um lugar de honra na Academia da Força Aérea dos EUA em Colorado Springs, CO


# 463 de Ritchie com rampa de arrasto aberta


F-4Ds fantasmas voando sobre o Vietnã

Características gerais
Tripulação: 2
Comprimento: 63 pés 0 pol. (19,2 m)
Envergadura: 38 pés 4,5 pol. (11,7 m)
Altura: 16 pés 6 pol (5,0 m)
Área da asa: 530,0 pés² (49,2 m²)
Aerofólio: raiz NACA 0006.4-64, ponta NACA 0003-64
Peso vazio: 30.328 lb (13.757 kg)
Peso carregado: 41.500 lb (18.825 kg)
Máx. peso de decolagem: 61.795 lb (28.030 kg)
Central de potência: 2 × turbojatos de compressor axial General Electric J79-GE-17A, 11.905 lbf de empuxo seco (52,9 kN), 17.845 lbf no pós-combustor (79,4 kN) cada
Coeficiente de arrasto de levantamento zero: 0,0224
Área de arrasto: 11,87 pés² (1,10 m²)
Proporção: 2,77
Capacidade de combustível: 1.994 US gal (7.549 L) interno, 3.335 US gal (12.627 L) com três tanques externos (370 US gal (1.420 L) nos pontos de proteção da asa externa e 600 ou 610 US gal (2.310 ou 2.345 L) ) tanque para a estação central).
Peso máximo de pouso: 36.831 lb (16.706 kg)

atuação
Velocidade máxima: Mach 2,23 (1.472 mph, 2.370 km / h) a 40.000 pés (12.190 m)
Velocidade de cruzeiro: 506 kn (585 mph, 940 km / h)
Raio de combate: 367 nmi (422 mi, 680 km)
Alcance da balsa: 1.403 nmi (1.615 mi, 2.600 km) com 3 tanques de combustível externos
Teto de serviço: 60.000 pés (18.300 m)
Taxa de subida: 41.300 pés / min (210 m / s)
Carregamento da asa: 78 lb / ft² (383 kg / m²)
Levante para arrastar: 8,58
Empuxo / peso: 0,86 no peso carregado, 0,58 no MTOW
Rolagem de decolagem: 4.490 pés (1.370 m) a 53.814 lb (24.410 kg)
Rolo de pouso: 3.680 pés (1.120 m) a 36.831 lb (16.706 kg)
Fonte: Wikipedia


Um F-4J "Showtime 100" armado com mísseis AIM-9 Sidewinder e AIM-7 Sparrow


Esses pilotos têm um ótimo senso de humor

Quando o General e eu começamos a discutir qual das inúmeras histórias de guerra eu o ajudaria a contar aqui, ele disse: "Você já ouviu a 'história de Roger Locher?'" Não, eu não tinha, mas antes de entrarmos muito fundo nela, Eu perguntei: "Quantas vezes essa história foi contada por você ou por outras pessoas?" O general respondeu: "Cerca de 5.000 vezes é a história mais emocionante."

Nah, não, obrigado, pensei. Não posso contar uma história que foi contada 5.000 vezes mais uma vez. "Que tal o segundo história mais emocionante? O que seria? ", Perguntei." Bem, essa seria a hora em que derrubaria dois MIGs em 89 segundos. "Agora ele havia derrubado cinco MIG-21s durante toda a Guerra do Vietnã e tinha uma história onde ele derrubou dois MIGs em menos de um minuto e meio? "Sim senhor, isso vai servir muito bem, obrigado."

Antes de entrarmos nos eventos lendários de 8 de julho de 1972, deixe-me dar uma ideia da "história de Roger Locher". Ou, na verdade, deixe-me que o General Ritchie conte a história neste vídeo do YouTube, "The Rescue of Roger Locher", que tem mais de um milhão de visualizações:

Em 8 de julho de 1972, o então Capitão Steve Ritchie já tinha duas mortes confirmadas de MIG-21 (5/10/72 e 5/31/72), então ele já estava 40% do caminho em direção ao seu "Ace-ship" de cinco mortes confirmadas. Ao final daquele dia, ele estaria 80% lá.

"Tudo se encaixou naquele dia. 8 de julho de 1972", começou Ritchie. "Tudo pelo que trabalhei, treinei e lutei veio muito bem. Tive muita sorte naquele dia."

Ritchie explica por que ele acha que foi apenas sorte. "Os mísseis Sparrow têm uma taxa de PK (probabilidade de morte) de 11%. Isso significa que usar esses mísseis naquele momento acertaria uma aeronave inimiga apenas 11 em 100 vezes."

A vida de um piloto de caça em combate não é sua rotina, pelo menos não para uma pessoa normal. Aqui está a programação do General naquele dia portentoso, sábado, 8 de julho de 1972: "Naquele dia, como todos os outros dias, levantamos por volta das 3h30 (3h30), acordamos e fomos para o refeitório. Depois, às 5h00 estávamos em nosso briefing matinal. Tivemos três briefings matinais, primeiro foi o briefing principal seguido do briefing do esquadrão e, por último, o briefing de vôo, nessa ordem. Após essa preparação intensa, estávamos no ar por volta das 8h ”. A que horas você costuma ir para a cama? "Tentamos dormir às 21h00." Portanto, não havia nenhum piloto de caça bebendo, farreando ou cantando "Você perdeu esse sentimento amoroso" para as mulheres na noite de sexta-feira anterior. "Eu não queria beber nada antes de voar, durante toda a minha carreira", alertou Ritchie severamente. Afinal, sua vida e a de seus conterrâneos estavam em jogo.

"Tínhamos um período de mau tempo e eu não voava há mais de uma semana", disse-me Ritchie. "Gosto de voar todos os dias. Se fico longe por muito tempo, não me sinto afiado. Estava acostumado a voar 12 dias seguidos e depois tirava um dia de folga, na época. Então, estava ansioso para voltar ao ar." Neste dia, apesar da folga, Ritchie estava afiado.

"Agora decolamos em quatro voos de quatro aviões. E havia um grupo líder de quatro chamados de voo de 'entrada' e o último voo era o voo de 'saída'. Eu estava acostumado a ser o primeiro voo a entrar, o voo de 'entrada' 'voo porque eu era tão experiente era o líder do voo matou MIG e gostou de estar onde estava a ação, então eu estava muito chateado por estar no último voo. Os programadores combinaram tudo na noite anterior e eles eram amigos meus, então Eu estava chateado porque os planejadores me colocaram no final, Charlie. " Ritchie claramente pensou que seria um dia monótono no escritório como o último detalhe de limpeza do vôo, hora da soneca. Ele não poderia estar mais errado.

Quando a missão começou, Ritchie e DeBellevue alçaram voo e imediatamente encontraram um tanque para encher, já que o processo de táxi e decolagem queima muito combustível de aviação. "Nós entramos (em direção a Hanói) em uma rota de patrulha."

“Com cerca de 30 a 40 minutos de voo, recebemos uma chamada de rádio de 'Disco' (o indicativo do radar aerotransportado americano RC-121 que voava apoiando os caças) de que um avião dos EUA que partia havia sido atingido por um MIG ' míssil e estava vazando combustível e sistema hidráulico. Isso é muito ruim para um piloto. Ele escapou do voo e deve ter entrado em pânico porque você sempre fica com seus companheiros de voo, aconteça o que acontecer. Ele estava sozinho e foi atingido e é aí que todos os MIGs vêm atrás de você e atiram em você. Sabendo que ele era um alvo fácil, eu imediatamente virei para o norte para ajudá-lo. "

"Muito rapidamente, recebi outro alerta da 'Disco' de que havia dois 'Bandidos Azuis' (MIG-21s) perto do nosso piloto com problemas, cerca de 30 milhas a sudoeste de Hanói."

Ritchie relembrou aquela manhã: "Peguei os dois MIGs por volta das 10 horas e eles estavam seguindo nosso homem, preparando-se para abatê-lo. O MIG líder e eu passamos cerca de 300 metros um do outro. Pude ver o piloto na cabine. Ele estava usando um capacete de couro, eu acho. "


"First Pass", de Lou Drendel, que documenta lindamente o momento em que Ritchie ultrapassa a liderança do MIG em 08/07/72

"Este foi um duelo de baixa altitude entre dois MIGs e nossos quatro F-4s. Normalmente os MIGs podem ser encontrados a 15 a 20.000 pés, mas tínhamos informações e fomos informados de que agora eles estavam mudando de estratégia e descendo mais."

"Também aprendemos que os MIGs gostavam de armar uma armadilha, fazendo com que nossos pilotos se engajassem na primeira passagem de MIG e se você virar para pegar o primeiro MIG, o segundo MIG está logo atrás de você e o atira. Eles não se importaria com o primeiro MIG e iria sacrificar aquele para pegá-lo. Nós (a USAF) nunca fizemos isso. Então, deixei o primeiro MIG passar e engajei o segundo que eu sabia que estava por vir. "

"Consegui manobrar atrás do MIG # 2 e disparei dois mísseis Sparrow contra ele. O primeiro míssil atingiu-o no centro de sua fuselagem, quebrando o MIG em dois pedaços e criando uma enorme bola de fogo. Havia destroços por toda parte. O segundo Pardalzinho o atingiu também passando pela bola de fogo e destroços. Eu tive que tomar uma ação evasiva severa para evitar voar para os destroços e subi e fui para a esquerda em uma fração de segundo. Foram 47 segundos no início do combate, então aconteceu muito, muito rapidamente."

Agora havia uma pequena questão de MIG # 1. "Eu chamo o MIG daquele dia de 'MIG brilhante' porque a maioria deles era uma espécie de cinza metálico, mas aquele brilhava. Nesse ponto, o dogfight estava em um círculo giratório gigantesco e MIG # 1 estava atrás do meu número quatro , um jovem chamado Tommy. Foi sua primeira missão. Ele comunicou pelo rádio que tinha um MIG atrás de si e quando o vi, havia MIG # 2 se aproximando dele. Atravessei o círculo para chegar a Tommy mais rápido e apenas queria tirar o MIG de sua cauda, ​​então atirei outro míssil no MIG, tentando fazer com que ele desligasse o garoto. Bem, o míssil atingiu o MIG # 2 bem no centro. "

Ritchie havia transmitido "Splash One" e "Splash Two" (os sinais de rádio para MIGs abatidos) pelo rádio em 89 segundos, algo que nunca havia sido feito antes. "Minhas duas mortes no MIG naquele dia foram imediatamente confirmadas por radares e fontes de inteligência no solo."

"No entanto, não houve voltas de vitória", disse o General, "acabamos de receber alertas de rádio de que mais dois MIGs foram vetorados em nossa direção. Teríamos ficado e os pegamos também, mas estávamos com cerca de três minutos de combustível para tempo de vôo. Então eu decidi nos tirar de lá rápido. "

Neste dia, Ritchie explodiu dois MIG-21s com três mísseis acertando seu alvo. "Na segunda morte, eu estava apenas tentando fazer com que ele se virasse, para que eu pudesse usar minhas armas nele. As chances de disparar três mísseis perfeitos são incalculáveis."

Você viu os pilotos MIG ejetados? "Ah, não, esses mísseis Sparrow têm 3,6 metros de comprimento e cerca de 500 libras com uma ogiva de 30 libras. Eles se movem a 1.200 milhas por hora acima da velocidade de lançamento (aproximadamente 1600 mph), então não sobrou nada de um avião que é atingido por um . "


Um MIG-21 morde a poeira. Se Ritchie tivesse atingido este, não sobraria tanto do avião.

Houve muita comemoração em seu retorno à base? "Oh sim, houve uma grande festa no clube do oficial naquela noite. Foi ótimo." Você bateu alguns? Eu perguntei. "Definitivamente, sim. E também não voei no dia seguinte", disse o General com ternura.
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“Quando voltei ao Vietnã para minha segunda viagem”, (ele se ofereceu) Ritchie relembrou, “eu tinha sido um instrutor da FWS (a Escola de Armas de Caça da USAF, o equivalente da Força Aérea ao 'Top Gun' da Marinha). Meu comandante me perguntou qual era a minha filosofia de armas e estava dizendo a ele. O número um eram as armas - as armas primeiro, se possível. O número dois eram os nossos mísseis direcionados ao calor. E o número três eram os nossos mísseis guiados por radar. foi, este grande especialista com todo esse conhecimento, dizendo ao meu comandante como deveria ser e, claro, acabei derrubando todos os cinco MIGs com meus mísseis de radar. " Com isso, Ritchie e eu rimos com vontade.


O F-4D Tail número 67-463 da Ritchie fica na pista de Udorn RTAFB, Tailândia
Crédito da foto: Allen L. Tucker

Quando sugeri que Udorn RTAFB (Base da Força Aérea Real da Tailândia) não parecia um lugar terrível para se basear, Ritchie concordou rapidamente: "Não, não era e o povo tailandês é tão bom. Quando outros caras reclamaram de ser em Udorn, eu dizia a eles: 'Não quero ouvir suas reclamações e reclamações. Passei um ano baseado na Base Aérea de Da Nang, então não quero ouvir'. Quando eu estava trazendo um F-4 para Da Nang pela primeira vez, eu pousei em um calor de 90 graus com 90% de umidade e assim que o velame e meu capacete foram retirados, fui atingido pelo cheiro mais horrível do mundo. Era das calhas de esgoto a céu aberto que percorriam a área. Essa foi a pior coisa que eu já cheirei e era assim o tempo todo. "

"Havia mais de 1.400 ases nas Guerras Mundiais I e II, 43 ases na Coréia e dois ases no Vietnã", disse Ritchie. O que foi responsável pela redução dramática de Ases até hoje? Por que não matar mais alto? Eu perguntei a ele. "É a tecnologia. Temos armas isoladas e todos os tipos de equipamentos que tornam nossos aviões mais eficientes e mortais de muito longe. Além disso, não há mais tantos aviões no céu para o combate. Costumava haver centenas de aeronaves no céu durante a batalha nas duas primeiras guerras mundiais, depois na Coréia foram dezenas e no Vietnã muito menos. "

Para provar seu ponto de vista, o General me contou sobre 10 de maio de 1972, quando seu esquadrão e mais de 100 aeronaves da Força Aérea Americana e da Marinha se enfrentaram em um céu agitado contra pelo menos 16 MIG-21s. Os americanos eliminaram 13 deles em algumas horas e o general derrubou seu primeiro MIG naquele dia. "Os céus não estarão mais tão cheios de caças principalmente por causa da tecnologia", ele me disse, "é por isso que você provavelmente não verá mais ases do Iraque, Afeganistão ou futuros combates aéreos." Ritchie aponta que essa luta de cães foi escrita no livro "One Day in A Long War". Essa batalha aérea foi outra de suas histórias - experiências, na verdade - que mostram quem Steve Richie realmente é.

Após o retorno de Ritchie do Vietnã em 1972, ele deixou o serviço ativo em 1974 para concorrer à cadeira no Congresso dos Estados Unidos vindo de sua Carolina do Norte natal. "Concorri por sugestão do senador Barry Goldwater, que me disse sentir que eu 'prestaria mais serviço aos militares e ao país como membro do Congresso'." Ritchie perdeu, aparentemente por causa do escândalo Watergate e do severo 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 e 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

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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!

Lts. 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.


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