Friday, June 27, 2014

The Friday Flyby - 27 June

Lockheed F-80C Shooting Stars of the 80th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 8th Fighter Bomber Wing
We've met this outfit before, here, back when co-blogger Juvat was a brand new member of the commentariat and well before he had embarked on his blogging career. I suppose before we go much further I should tip you off as to what Juvat has to do with today's episode of the "series within a series", otherwise known as Famous Aviation Units Featured on the Friday Flyby. (Hhmm, that could be acronymized as FAUFFF. Pronounced just as it looks. I know, I know, I left out the "on the." Artistic license and it is my blog.)

Where were we? Oh yeah, what does Juvat have to do with today's FAUFFF? That's an easy one. Let's look at the unit patch of today's unit, the 80th Fighter Squadron.


Before you call the PC police, let me 'splain (well, I'll let Wikipedia do it).
One of the early squadron commanders, Edward "Porky" Cragg named the Squadron "The Headhunters" after the local New Guinean Headhunter tribes who hated the Japanese and helped to rescue downed pilots. He also commissioned a crew chief, M/Sgt. Yale Saffro, who was once offered a job to work for Walt Disney as a cartoonist but turned it down, to design the 80th's patch. (This original patch design can be seen "here", and has been officially sanctioned by the Office of Air Force Heraldry for current uniform wear.)

The squadron saw action against the Japanese in the Pacific including deployments in Australia, New Guinea, the Schouten Islands, Morotai, Leyte, Mindoro, and Japan.
So it's all nice and official and was intended to honor the New Guinean tribes. Not mock them. Sane people don't mock headhunters. No, not the corporate "find you a job" headhunters, these are the "cut your head off" headhunters. I have read (somewhere) that the Japanese were terrified of them. With good reason I am led to understand.

Note the motto on the bottom of the patch Audentes Fortuna Juvat, "Fortune Favors the Bold." Yup, our Juvat was a Juvat. Assigned to the 80th Tactical Fighter Squadron (for such it was called back in the day) when they were flying the mighty F-4D Phantom II thundering monster of a green and brown...

Whazzat?

Oh yes, the story. Juvat was but a nugget back in them thar days and I was a wee Staff Sergeant Weapon Control System radar calibrator kind of a guy. (Nugget is an old Air Force term for an inexperienced aviator. No doubt I have just insulted Juvat and shall hear about it. "Sarge! You got some 'splainin' to do!!!")

So I used to work on the 80th birds and our good man Juvat would fly them.

He would break them. I would fix them. Well, the radar part anyway.

Now the 80th has a long and distinguished history. They fought in the Pacific against the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (uh, that would be "the Japanese Empire" for those of you of a non-historical bent), they fought in Korea and they fought in Vietnam. They have flown many different aircraft and have oft been the stablemates of the 35th Fighter Squadron. Both of those squadrons were at Kunsan when I and Juvat were there and they are still at Kunsan. Though now they fly the lawn dart, er I mean, F-16 Fighting Falcon.

F-16 of the 80th Fighter Squadron

The 80th has had a number of famous pilots. Those F-80s shown above? One of the Headhunters (they didn't become Juvats until 1971, yes, yes, we'll get to that) was a Major Charles J. Loring, Jr. who had flown P-47s in WWII. He had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions in support of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. He flew 55 combat missions before being shot down by ground fire over Belgium on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1944, and made a prisoner of war.

Major Loring

He stayed in the Air Force after WWII and managed to get himself back into the cockpit for Korea. Where he was assigned to the 80th Fighter Bomber Squadron (same unit, different role, different name) and sent to fly missions in Korea.

Major Loring was from Portland, Maine. A fellow New Englander and we are so proud of him. Loring AFB (no longer active) is named for him. Sad to say, that means we know where this story is going.
Late in the morning of November 22, 1952, Loring led a flight of four F-80s on patrol over Kunwha. Upon radioing a forward air controller, he was told a T-6 Texan flying over Sniper Ridge had spotted a concentration of artillery near the ridge which was pinning down UN ground troops on the ridge. He was also told the artillery concentration was surrounded by a heavy presence of anti-aircraft guns. Loring ordered the flight to the location, spotting the artillery concentration.

Immediately after Loring began his dive bombing run, he was spotted by the anti-aircraft batteries. The Chinese crews operating them were highly skilled, and even at a distance, the batteries fired an extremely accurate barrage which struck Loring's aircraft several times on the nose and fuselage. The fire disabled the aircraft. His wingmen, noting the damage, suggested he abort the bombing mission, as the flight was not far behind the lines and Loring's aircraft could have attempted the return trip. Instead, Loring ceased radio contact, and resumed what appeared to be the standard bombing mission. At 4,000 feet (1,200 m), however, Loring accelerated his aircraft at a 40-degree angle in what appeared to be a controlled maneuver, lining up the Chinese batteries. The other pilots reported they watched, stunned, as Loring dove his damaged aircraft into the battery position. Loring was killed instantly in the impact, but his action resulted in the complete destruction of the battery position. - Wikipedia
He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. The citation reads:
Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Air Force, 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing
Place and date: Near Sniper Ridge, North Korea, November 22, 1952 
Entered service at: Portland, Maine. Born: October 2, 1918, Portland, Maine
Citation:
Maj. Loring distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While leading a flight of 4 F-80 type aircraft on a close support mission, Maj. Loring was briefed by a controller to dive-bomb enemy gun positions which were harassing friendly ground troops. After verifying the location of the target, Maj. Loring rolled into his dive bomb run. Throughout the run, extremely accurate ground fire was directed on his aircraft. Disregarding the accuracy and intensity of the ground fire, Maj. Loring aggressively continued to press the attack until his aircraft was hit. At approximately 4,000 feet, he deliberately altered his course and aimed his diving aircraft at active gun emplacements concentrated on a ridge northwest of the briefed target, turned his aircraft 45 degrees to the left, pulled up in a deliberate, controlled maneuver, and elected to sacrifice his life by diving his aircraft directly into the midst of the enemy emplacements. His selfless and heroic action completely destroyed the enemy gun emplacement and eliminated a dangerous threat to United Nations ground forces. Maj. Loring’s noble spirit, superlative courage, and conspicuous self-sacrifice in inflicting maximum damage on the enemy exemplified valor of the highest degree and his actions were in keeping with the finest traditions of the U.S. Air Force. Source
A true American.

Now what about that 1971 thing I mentioned above?
On 15 February 1971, the 80th TFS redeployed from Yokota to Kunsan AB, Korea, while temporarily assigned to Detachment 1, 475th Tactical Fighter Wing to begin the process of inactivation, with its personnel and aircraft transferred to the 35th TFS. Lt Gen Jay T. Robbins, a former 80th FS commander and World War II ace who was Vice Commander of Tactical Air Command, rescinded the inactivation and had the 80th TFS transferred to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing, in Korea. There it was re-staffed with personnel from the 391st Tactical Fighter Squadron, which was inactivated on 28 February. The 391st TFS's insignia had included the motto Audentes Fortuna Juvat, which subsequently became the "Headhunters" motto. On the 391st TFS sleeve patch, the scroll displaying the motto was such that when the patch was ripped off, the word "Juvat" was left in place. The former 391st aircrew did so with the consent of the 80th TFS commander at the time, Lt Col Soloman Harp III, who named himself the first "Juvat". The motto remained unofficial until approved on 9 October 1986. - Wikipedia
 Note those underlined bits. Good story, neh?

Another famous Headhunter was Captain George Welch, he of Pearl Harbor fame whom we met in a Friday Flyby last year.

Now after Pearl Harbor, Captain Welch found himself out there in the Pacific with the 8th Fighter Group, 36th Fighter Squadron. Now the 36th flew the P-39, an aircraft that was little loved by American pilots (though loved by Soviet pilots).

P-39 Airacobra

After Pearl Harbor, Welch returned to the continental U.S. to give war bond speeches until being assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group in New Guinea. Despite his aerial victories on December 7, 1941, Welch was dissatisfied with flying the poorly performing Bell P-39 Airacobra. When asked by a journalist what aspect of the P-39 he liked, then seven-victory ace George Welch said, "Well, it's got 12 hundred pounds of Allison armor plate." This was a reference to the center mounted engine rather than actual armor plating. When Welch inquired as to when his squadron (the 36th FS) would receive P-38s, he was told, "When we run out of P-39s." He repeatedly appealed to be assigned to the 80th Fighter Squadron (which flew the Lockheed P-38 Lightning) until he was granted a transfer. Between June 21 and September 2, 1943, flying a P-38H, Welch shot down nine more Japanese aircraft: two Zeros, three Ki-61 Tonys, three Ki-43 Oscars and one Dinah. Welch flew three combat tours (a total of 348 combat missions with 16 confirmed victories, all achieved in multiples) before malaria retired him from the war. - Wikipedia
LT R L Bob Peters P-38 "Lady Madie" of the 80th Fighter Squadron "Headhunters" - 8th FG

Major George Welch

Welch went on to work as Chief Test Pilot, engineer and instructor with North American Aviation during the Korean War where he reportedly downed several enemy MiG-15 "Fagots" while "supervising" his students. However, Welch's kills were in disobedience of direct orders for him to not engage, and credits for the kills were thus distributed among his students.

After the war, Welch returned to flight testing; this time in the F-100 Super Sabre with Yeager flying the chase plane. Welch became the first man to break the sound barrier in level flight with this type of aircraft on May 25, 1953. However, stability problems were encountered in the flight test program, and on Columbus Day, October 12, 1954, Welch's F-100A-1-NA Super Sabre, 52-5764, disintegrated during a 7g pullout at Mach 1.55. When found, Welch was still in the ejection seat, critically injured, and was aided by NAA test Navion pilots Robert "Bob" Baker and Bud Pogue. Welch was evacuated by helicopter, but was pronounced dead on arrival at the Army hospital. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. - Wikipedia
A terrible end for such an outstanding pilot. Sadly, it happens.

You may have noticed that this Flyby is more about some of the men who flew in the squadron but is a little light on aircraft pictures. Sorry about that Chief...

But some of the stories I've read concerning the 80th I just had to share. But to tide you over for a bit, here's an F-4C Wild Weasel!

F-4C Wild Weasel of the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing
(Another of Juvat's and my old outfits!)

So what's with the Weasel you ask? Well, there were a lot of Weasels in the Juvats. Hhmm, that didn't come out right. Wikipedia, a little help?
In the winter of 1967-1968, now assigned to the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing, the 80th began transition to the F-4C Phantom II. In January 1968 its few available aircrews and aircraft (most of its F-105 assets were in the process of augmenting units in Thailand and the F-4Cs at Yokota were not yet operational) were sent to Korea in reaction to the North Korean seizure of the USS Pueblo. During the summer of 1968 the 80th TFS became the first PACAF squadron to assign a contingent of experienced F-4 aircraft commanders and electronic warfare officers (EWOs) as F-4C Wild Weasel crews. The first fully modified F-4C Wild Weasel aircraft arrived in April 1969.

Between 1968 and 1971 the primary mission of the 80th TFS was to deploy on a rotating basis to Osan AB, Korea, providing a nuclear strike alert posture against targets in the Soviet Union, North Korea, and China, maintaining several aircraft on fifteen-minute alert. It also trained on conventional weapons. In 1970 all PACAF F-4 Wild Weasel crews transferred into the 80th TFS.
Okay, technically speaking all those Weasels were not Juvats. Not yet anyway!

The 80th also flew the Thud for a while.
The squadron transitioned to the F-105 in 1963. Relocating to Yokota AB, Japan on 13 May 1964 (though deployed at Korat RTAFB, Thailand, 30 October-29 December 1964; Takhli RTAFB, Thailand, 27 June-26 August 1965; Osan AB, South Korea, 26 December 1968-20 February 1969, 24 April-27 May 1969, 5 August-10 September 1969, 28 November-27 December 1969, 6 March-10 April 1970, 29 May-20 June 1970, 7 August-4 September 1970, 30 October-28 November 1970, and 23 January-15 February 1971), the 80th was assigned to the 41st Air Division on 18 June 1964 (but attached to 2nd Air Division, 30 October-29 December 1964). Source
F-105 Thunderchief, aka "Thud"

While in Southeast Asia...
In 1962 the 80th began to transition to the F-105 Thunderchief, and in May 1964 moved from Itazuke to Yokota Air Base, Japan, where it was attached to the 41st Air Division. A few months afterwards, the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing moved to the United States, so the "Headhunters" were reassigned to the 41st Air Division. Stationed at Yokota until 1971, the 80th Tactical Fighter Squadron served under several different parent units over the next few years, including the 6441st Tactical Fighter Wing, 41st Air Division, and 347th Tactical Fighter Wing. The squadron performed two combat deployments to Southeast Asia in 1964 and 1965, serving first for two months at Korat Air Base, Thailand and later for two months at Takhli Air Base, Thailand. For these two combat tours the 80th earned the Vietnam Advisory campaign streamer.

These two deployments made up the total of the 80th Tactical Fighter Squadron's involvement in Vietnam. 80th pilots flew against such major targets as the Hai Nguyen steelPlant, storage facilities at Haipong, northeast and northwest rail lines, Phuc Yen, Kep, and the Doumer Bridge. On 23 August 1967, while flying an F-105 Thunderchief (the largest single-engine fighter ever produced) 1Lt Dave Waldrop (temporarily assigned to the 34th TFS at Korat) gunned down a Mig-17 over North Vietnam. While in Vietnam, the 80th accumulated 7,384 combat missions in Southeast Asia, with 2,657 combat missions over North Vietnam. These missions represent 17,104.4 combat hours over Southeast Asia. Members of the 80th were decorated with 7 Silver Stars, 64 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 426 Air Medals while deployed to Vietnam.

Sadly, several "Headhunters" remained in Vietnam after the squadron departed. Of these, Quincy Collins, Murphy Neal Jones and Don Heiliger returned home in 1973, but William V. Frederick and Lynn K. Powell are listed as Killed in Action (KIA).

For its involvement, the squadron earned one Battle Honor, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross (with Palm), and four Air Force Outstanding Unit Citations. During the war, the 80th produced one Ace, Captain Jeff Feinstein, an F-4 WSO with 5 confirmed kills. Source
Now at that web page above, it mentions that the text was provided by a Colonel Jay Riedel. A pilot whom I will always remember as "Jay Bird." Remember this?


Seems that "our" Juvat, is not the only Juvat with some skill with the written word.


Colonel Riedel commanded the 80th, I do believe he was Juvat's commanding officer. (Heh. He commanded Juvat and he commanded all of the Juvats.) Available on Amazon. (No, I'm not pimping Amazon. I'm pimping Col Riedel's book. Which I will be ordering shortly!)

Fighting Falcon of the Juvats takes to the air, loaded for bear!

A proud squadron. A proud history. Truly
Fortune Favors the Bold!

16 comments:

  1. Nice, and not even one word about the Juvat Boys Choir!

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    1. Ah, the Boys' Choir requires a post all its own.

      (And I forgot that while writing this last night.)

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  2. "If you ain't a Juvat, you ain't shit!"

    (Thus, I'm lower than the fecal matter...)

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    1. We maintenance types prefer to stay unaffiliated. Well, except for the BB-stackers (munitions guys for the uninitiated), they like asserting that they ARE fecal matter. I think... (That phrase always confused we avionics types. We liked to think we were above it all.)

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  3. Nice chronology. And now I see another book that I need to buy, thanks.

    BTW, that F-4C's boarding ladder is down. Heh.

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    Replies
    1. I'm just glad you didn't play with the thing in the picture directly above the one with the boarding step button. The best that could've happened was nothing and gotten much worse from there.

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    2. Murph - you and your boarding ladders. (Maybe I should show you how to... No, bad idea.)

      ;-)

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    3. Juvat - Oh my word, don't encourage him!

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  4. Gotta admit, in the competition between the F-105 and F-107, the Thud was the right choice both looks as well as combat capability.

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    Replies
    1. The 107 was a very odd looking aircraft.

      Another odd thing, this is the 2nd time this week I've seen the F-107 mentioned. I have seen it mentioned twice, in 61 years. Both times this week.

      Go figure...

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    2. FYI there is an F-107 (or used to be, I hear its been moved) on static display at Wright-Pat in Columbus. I first viewed it when at AFROTC "summer camp" at Lockbourne AFB, Columbus, in 1965.

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    3. PS: And my first "dollar ride" in a jet-powered USAF-issue ac was in an old T-33 (trainer version of the F-80 for the unitiated--btw are the any such types who visit here?) at Lockbourne.

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    4. I'm not going to cheat and Google it, so I confess my ignorance. Where was Lockbourne? And I've heard of most USAF bases.

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    5. Lockbourne AFB is now Rickenbacker ANGB.

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    6. juvat/

      Circa 65 Lockbourne was a C-130/KC-135 base..

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    7. Ah, the T-33. I had a model of one of those as a kid. Saw one crash in my hometown when I was just a wee lad.

      Both pilots died, a sad event I will remember until the day I die.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)