Monday, May 29, 2017

Never give up, Never Surrender!

Last Friday, Sarge started off the Memorial day weekend with a Friday Flyby (of sorts), that featured the Wild Weasels.  During my flying days, I've flown a lot of missions with Wild Weasels to include a few as the "Killer" part of a "Hunter-Killer" package.  In that role, the Wild Weasel "Hunter" would locate, ID, and surpress a SAM site to allow us to come in and kill as much of the site as possible.  They were always fun missions, mostly because nobody was actually shooting at us.

I've also gotten to meet a lot of Wild Weasel crews, most notably, Ed Rasimus, who had without a doubt the most profound influence on my flying career even if I did meet him when it was half over.  As Sarge frequently says, "he clanked when he walked".  

Finally, save for the effort of one man, I'd have ended my flying career as a Wild Weasel.  I'm thankful for the intervention as flying the Eagle was fabulous.  But, because of that intervention, even if it had been unsuccessful, I'd have stayed in and become a Weasel.  

So, I enjoyed Friday's post and video.  If you haven't been there yet, you should go.  I'll wait right here for you.

Because it is Memorial Day, I thought I'd do another of my "old reliable" posts.  So, let me introduce you to Col Merlyn Hans Dethlefsen.
 Yes, that is the Nation's highest medal around his neck.  "Courage above and beyond the call of Duty" is required to receive it.
Source

Col Dethlefsen joined the Air Force in 1953 through the Aviation Cadet program.  After commissioning, he was trained as a Navigator and served as such on "Old Shakey", the C-124 Globemaster.  He was eventually selected for UPT and graduated in 1960 from Bainbridge Air Force Base.

I'd considered myself pretty well versed on AFB's both present and past, but I couldn't place that one.  Which is unusual as I was stationed about 75 miles from there at Moody.  

Anyhow, our Colonel graduated from there and flew the F-100 for a few years before transitioning to the F-105.  In October of 1966, he deployed to Takli Royal Thai Air Base in Thailand where our story begins.

On March 10, 1967, then Captain Dethlefsen, is roughly 3/4 of the way through his 100 mission tour as a Wild Weasel pilot at Takli.  President Johnson has finally relented and is going to allow the US to attack the Thai Nguyen steel works just north of Hanoi.  At the time, Hanoi was the most heavily defended city on Earth and the steel works was it's most valuable asset (except for the leadership themselves at least in their minds).  

So....It was well defended.
If you look closely at the canopy rails, you'll notice this actually is Capt Dethlefsen's Thud Source



Capt Dethlefsen was flying as Lincoln 03 in a flight of 4 Wild Weasels (2 F-105Fs and 2 F-105Ds a Hunter/Killer package),  As they approach the target area, Lincoln 01 locates an active SAM site and the duel begins.  He fires a Shrike at the site as the SAM site returns fire.  Unfortunately, the Shrike misses and the SAMS shoot down Lincoln 01 (Both crewmen survived but were captured) as well as two F-4 Escorts.  Additionally, Lincoln 02 has been hit by AAA and badly damaged.  He exits the fight and RTBs.   Capt Dethlefsen and his wingman are the only two Weasels left in the target area.  With the strike package approaching, the defense systems are becoming very active, to include at least two MIG-21s.
Source

Capt Dethlefsen continues the attack on the SAM site as the MIGs begin their attack.  He fires a shrike at the SAM site as the MIG's launch ATOLL heat seeking missiles.  Capt Dethlefsen starts a break turn which defeats the ATOLLs, but the MIGs continue their pursuit.  Figuring that they won't follow him down into the very heavy AAA fire, he dives down to low altitude.  In fact, they don't follow him down.

Once clear, Capt Dethlefsen  lights the AB and climbs back up to altitude and resumes his attack on the SAM site.  Unfortunately, the two MIGs had brothers in the vicinity and Lincoln 3 and 4 are attached by another pair of Fishbeds.  Both 105s are hit by 37mm cannon fire, but are still flyable..

This time they evade the MIG by diving down into the thick haze and while doing so, his jet is hit again by AAA.  however, relocating the target SAM site, he attacks it again and destroys it.  

The strikers and escorts are clear of the target area, the SAM site has been destroyed, Mission Completed, right?

Not in this case.

Capt Dethlefsen  realizes that the weather will be good in the target's vicinity for the next several days.  Good enough that he's certain that the target will be attacked many times over that time.  He and his wingman still have ordnance and there are still active SAM sites in the vicinity.

He sets up and attacks a second SAM site with dumb bombs and finishes with multiple strafing passes, thereby destroying it.  During the strafing attack, his aircraft is again hit by AAA.  Finally out of ordnance and heavily damaged, Capt Dethlefsen and his wingman RTB to Takli.

"First in....Last out" indeed!

There were a lot of points in that mission where it would have been smart, even honorable, to withdraw.  At any point after receiving damage that decision would have been warranted.

Once the striking force exited the area?  Absolutely.

Realizing that the "Game ain't over"  and attacking tomorrow's target today?  Good Gravy,  that man didn't clank when he walked, he veritably tolled like Big Ben!

Completing his tour, Colonel Dethlefsen returns to the States and becomes an IP at Vance .


Source


Colonel Dethlefsen received the Medal of Honor from President Johnson in 1968.  His "Bear" (backseater), Capt Kevin Gilroy received the Air Force Cross as did his wingman, Major Ken Bell.


Source
He retired from the Air Force in 1977.


  Unfortunately,  Colonel Dethlefsen passed away from natural causes in 1987 and is buried at Arlington.
Source

Colonel Dethlefsen's Citation:


Maj. Dethlefsen was 1 of a flight of F-105 aircraft engaged in a fire suppression mission designed to destroy a key antiaircraft defensive complex containing surface-to-air missiles (SAM), an exceptionally heavy concentration of antiaircraft artillery, and other automatic weapons. The defensive network was situated to dominate the approach and provide protection to an important North Vietnam industrial center that was scheduled to be attacked by fighter bombers immediately after the strike by Maj. Dethlefsen's flight. In the initial attack on the defensive complex the lead aircraft was crippled, and Maj. Dethlefsen's aircraft was extensively damaged by the intense enemy fire. Realizing that the success of the impending fighter bomber attack on the center now depended on his ability to effectively suppress the defensive fire, Maj. Dethlefsen ignored the enemy's overwhelming firepower and the damage to his aircraft and pressed his attack. Despite a continuing hail of antiaircraft fire, deadly surface-to-air missiles, and counterattacks by MIG interceptors, Maj. Dethlefsen flew repeated close range strikes to silence the enemy defensive positions with bombs and cannon fire. His action in rendering ineffective the defensive SAM and antiaircraft artillery sites enabled the ensuing fighter bombers to strike successfully the important industrial target without loss or damage to their aircraft, thereby appreciably reducing the enemy's ability to provide essential war material. Maj. Dethlefsen's consummate skill and selfless dedication to this significant mission were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

 Rest in Peace, Warrior!

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merlyn_Hans_Dethlefsen
http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/3259/dethlefsen-merlyn-hans.php
http://www.tailsthroughtime.com/2015/05/major-merlyn-dethlefsen-and-medal-of.html
https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/tag/merlyn-hans-dethlefsen/
http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/mhdethle.htm
http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29115
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Museum-Exhibits/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/197449/selfless-determination-at-thai-nguyen-capts-merlyn-dethlefsen-and-mike-gilroy/
http://www.spencerdailyreporter.com/story/2208644.html

 






30 comments:

  1. Thanks for this posting. That man was warrior. Remembering my mother, USN 1943-45, and my father USAAF, 1940-45.

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    1. My pleasure. Interesting service dates for your parents. How did they meet?

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    2. Mom was a Wave in Frisco, Dad was a M/Sgt at a base near there also. They were each with a friend when the 4 met in a supper club. Boom!That was late 44, married early June & each discharged October 45.

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    3. That wouldn't happened to be Hamilton would it? I know someone who was born there 60 some odd years ago next week.

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    4. It looks like Hamilton Field on his discharge paper, October 45 while Mom was discharged late August 45. I came along in 53. He has spent 16 months in Keflavik in 42-43, lots of stories about his time there. Thanks for asking about them.God bless you and yours.

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    5. Small world. I'd say he was busy, and had some interesting stories, at Kef during that time frame. Not many other places to land when you're ferrying airplanes to England for the buildup to invasion. Well, at least that you can take off again from.

      Thanks

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  2. Great post and a great day for a great post. Gives me shivers.

    The date of Col. Dethlefsen's passing stirred a memory. I lived across the street from Hal Buell in the mid-80's and used to shoot the bull with him a bit. He had some great, funny stories about navy flying, and I deduced that he'd flown in WWII, but was far more interested in the fact that he'd been the Skipper of VF-84. Then he wrote and published a book. Some of those old retired dudes were genuine Tigers.

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    1. Thanks,
      I've got to admit, Hal Buell was one of those names that was on the edge of my memory. I knew I knew it, but didn't remember why. Google messed with my mind by pointing me to the head of the Photography Section at AP, but I barrel rolled around that and got through to this story. Another book being delivered.

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    2. That's a great write up. There are so many people who walk the walk their whole life, never worrying much about talking the talk, but leading by example every step of the way. I've been so blessed to meet and know and follow people like that, people who can make the lives of others rich and meaningful simply by their existence. The real treasures in life shine far more brightly than any gem or precious metal.

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    3. I've met a couple also, both of whom I linked to in my post. You're right. They do enrich your life when they enter it.

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  3. Great post Juvat. Another hero who did his duty, then went one step further. And another.

    Tigers indeed.

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    1. Thanks Sarge. I recommend you read (if you haven't already) the last source on my list. It interviews his niece and goddaughter. It added a few facts to the story, but actually brought the Colonel to life for me. And, demonstrated once again something I've started to notice that seems to be common to the folks on that monument at Lackland. Humility. I find that interesting.

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  4. Retired in 77, eh? Probably didn't even make O-6,, let alone have a shot at FLAG Rank. Probably didn't punch enough staff school tickets and not glib enough in slyly tooting his own horn while he threw rivals under the bus. Cynical? Me? Naw..

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    1. Actually, according to the Wikipedia Source, he did make O-6 and commanded a SAC Wing at Dyess before retiring.

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  5. Thankful that such men lived! RIP, Colonel Dethlefsen!

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    1. Exactly. I'm reminded of a quote from "The Bridges at Toko-Ri."

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  6. Thank you juvat for making this fine American known to me. About the humility, it seems to me that that is a common trait among American warriors.

    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. My pleasure, Paul. Yeah, I've got to ponder that a bit. Probably need to talk that one out with some wiser men than me, Shaun and Sarge and see what they have to say.

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  7. Another good one Juvat. I have always marveled at the courage it took by a group of dedicated tri-service aviators to repeatedly ingress via adversary known routes to the most heavily defended aerial target area in the world to only "send a message" with their sacrifices. President Johnson's lack of fortitude in continually sending them in without meaningful targets in hopes of frightening the NV into peace without angering the Chinese while trying to be seen as "strong and brave" as his predecessor was despicable. I hope there is a special place in the afterlife for LBJ and Bobby Strange for their cowardice. I believe that it is much easier to face your enemy when you know that your efforts are meaningful and with purpose. regards, Alemaster

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    1. His ranch is about 15 miles east of here on US290. That's where he's buried. Everytime I drive by I give him a special salute to show him exactly how deep my feelings for him are.

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    2. Yep, I spent a good amount of time up and down U.S. 281. Johnson City was not my favorite place either. regards, Alemaster

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    3. My friends, the Winemakers, have their winery there. Other than that, I'm in agreement.

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  8. A most excellent post Juvat. I had never heard of the good Captain but it sounds like they should have given him a two wheeler to carry his junk!! I have to say that when I consider the pilots and navigators I knew at Phu Cat and Udorn, I could picture some of them doing the same.

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    1. Thanks, yeah, it was interesting as he was one of the few Vietnam era names that I didn't have a clue about and I'm not sure why. If you followed the link to his niece's article, you'd see that he was covered in Air Force Magazine which as a kid I read cover to cover. Still I didn't have any inkling what he'd flown or what he'd done. So, from that point of view, this exercise is successful in achieving my objective.

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  9. Great post, Juvat! Thanks for the inspiring story to close down this Memorial Day. Full of memories of Rufus, Scotty and those who made it through, yet didn't somehow. Alan and Tom, we think of you.

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    1. Thanks, Dave. I've got a mental list of names I refer to regularly also, just because.

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  10. Thanks, they were a special breed of warrior!

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  11. Great post.

    I just got off the phone with my dad, class of '57 at USMA. Thanks for the memories.

    With few exceptions, once their sponsor died in action or went MIA, they fell out of the 'friends' network and were lost to me as they went 'home' and got on with a new life. In my little world, they just vanished from school one day and that was that. Happened all the time.

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    1. Yeah, I hadn't thought of that, but they did. Of course, the same could be said of friends that PCS'd away also. I remember that one of my IPs at F-15 RTU had been a friend of mine when Dad was stationed at Webb. My mental picture of him was as a early teenager, not someone in his 30s as I was. It was an interesting feeling. Something else to cogitate on....

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