Praetorium Honoris


Sunday, March 24, 2019

Who They Are, Part VIII - Two Thud Drivers and a Sandy, Vietnam

We've met these men before, 1Lt Richter (briefly) here, Major Rasimus here, and Colonel Fisher here. Before I begin, let me just say that Major Rasimus, Ras as he was known to his friends, was special. Juvat flew with him, my buddy Murph knew him and went to his funeral, I have visited his grave and paid my respects. (Threw a nickel on the grass I did.)

Ras flew over 250 combat missions in Vietnam, the bulk of them in the F-105D "Thud" but he did another tour in the F-4E Phantom as well. Ras was a published author as well, he wrote of his experiences in Vietnam and he also helped write the memoirs of Brigadier General Robin Olds, Fighter Pilot. (If you have any interest at all in flying fighters and leadership, real leadership, read that book.) Ras was a blogger as well, I found Thunder Tales after his passing. Damn, but that day was dusty.

Around here, Ras is considered family. He's in this video, he's one of the three lieutenants taxiing in after their 100th mission "Up North." (He's the one who launches the champagne cork from the cockpit, calling out "FOD."

Like I said, family.

Now it surprised me that I had mentioned 1Lt Karl Richter in that post linked to earlier, and that's all it was, a mention. While I did put him up there on the masthead, I apparently never got around to posting anything further. Let's rectify that, shall we?

Memorial to 1Lt Richter at Maxwell AFB, AL
Lieutenant Richter quickly became an exceptional fighter pilot, and took on every opportunity to fly. With only two years' Air Force experience and even less in combat, he became an element leader. Once, while on leave, he turned down the possibility of a trip to Bangkok or Hong Kong and went instead to Nakhon Phanom where he flew combat missions in an O-1E Bird Dog.

On September 21, 1966, Richter was flying as Ford 03, an element leader, north of Haiphong on a mission to seek out SAM sites. Preparing to strike a discovered site, he saw two MiG-17s making a pass. After assessing the situation, began closing in on the enemy aircraft. He engaged the MiG with his 20mm cannon and impacted the enemy aircraft.

Just as Richter's gun went empty, the MiG's wing broke off and he saw the MiG pilot eject. In a later comment, Richter noted "...It's strange, but, in a way, I was happy he got a good chute. I guess that's the thought that runs through all our minds. He's a jock like I am, flying for the enemy of course, but he's flying a plane, doing a job he has to do."

At the age of 23, Karl Richter had become the youngest American pilot to shoot down a MiG over Vietnam. Richter went to Saigon to receive the personal congratulations of Lt. Gen. William W. Momyer, Seventh Air Force commander, and again at the personal invitation of Premier Nguyễn Cao Kỳ when he was awarded the Vietnamese Distinguished Service Medal.

As he approached the 100-mission mark, Lieutenant Richter asked permission to fly a second 100 missions, believing his combat experience should be used to advance the war effort. On April 20, 1967, while leading a defense-suppression flight of F-105s, his flight destroyed or pinned down a number of enemy AAA and SAM crews, enabling the strike force to eliminate an important railroad target, in spite of intense enemy fire and weather that hindered navigation. Having already received the Silver Star, was awarded the Air Force Cross for his skill and heroism that day.

At the time of his death, Lt. Karl Richter had flown more missions over North Vietnam than any other airman—198 in all officially credited.
Last Mission -
Flying with a new pilot, Richter spotted a bridge and instructed the trainee to stay above and watch as he rolled his F-105 toward the target. Suddenly, enemy anti-aircraft artillery opened up hitting the plane and forcing him to eject. His parachute disappeared into the fog bank and cloud cover. A nearby rescue helicopter picked up his beeper signal and homed in to get the downed pilot. Severely injured during his descent, most likely from swinging into the side of a sandstone cliff, Richter died en route to a hospital.

Richter is buried at United States Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Source)
An Air Force Cross, the Silver Star, four Distinguished Flying Crosses with "V,"  for valor, and the Bronze Star, also with "V." All by the age of 24.

I note that 1Lt Richter's great nephew followed in his footsteps and became a Naval Aviator, flying the F/A-18 out of NAS Oceana. Later that same great nephew went on to become a Physician's Assistant with the Air Force. A very accomplished young man, did his great uncle proud I think.

Three F-105s take off on a mission to bomb North Vietnam, 1966.
Colonel Fisher was awarded the Medal of Honor during his service in Vietnam -

Medal of Honor Citation 
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On that date, the special forces camp at A Shau was under attack by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army regulars. Hostile troops had positioned themselves between the airstrip and the camp. Other hostile troops had surrounded the camp and were continuously raking it with automatic weapons fire from the surrounding hills. The tops of the 1,500-foot hills were obscured by an 800 foot ceiling, limiting aircraft maneuverability and forcing pilots to operate within range of hostile gun positions, which often were able to fire down on the attacking aircraft. During the battle, Maj. Fisher observed a fellow airman crash land on the battle-torn airstrip. In the belief that the downed pilot was seriously injured and in imminent danger of capture, Maj. Fisher announced his intention to land on the airstrip to effect a rescue. Although aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt, he elected to continue. Directing his own air cover, he landed his aircraft and taxied almost the full length of the runway, which was littered with battle debris and parts of an exploded aircraft. While effecting a successful rescue of the downed pilot, heavy ground fire was observed, with 19 bullets striking his aircraft. In the face of the withering ground fire, he applied power and gained enough speed to lift-off at the overrun of the airstrip. Maj. Fisher's profound concern for his fellow airman, and at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
That's the kind of thing that it seemed that the Sandy's did almost routinely -
Skyraiders were also used by Air Force Special Operations Command for search and rescue air cover. They were also used by the USAF to perform one of the Skyraider's most famous roles — the "Sandy" helicopter escort on combat rescues. On 10 March 1966, USAF Major Bernard F. Fisher flew an A-1E mission and was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing Major "Jump" Myers at A Shau Special Forces Camp. USAF Colonel William A. Jones III piloted an A-1H on 1 September 1968 mission for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. In that mission, despite damage to his aircraft and suffering serious burns, he returned to his base and reported the position of a downed U.S. airman. (Source)
Three brave men, two Thud drivers and a Sandy. Bravo Air Force!


  1. To me, Ed Rasimus was the quintessential fighter pilot. He perfected the one word butt chewing and, along with my Dad, taught me the real meaning of honor. I was fortunate to see him one last time before he passed at a reunion of his Thud Squadron. Bunch of 70+ guys acting like they were still in their 20's in the bar at the O'Club. Miss him....Lots.

  2. Three brave Men indeed. The links gave me the chance to visit the past, thanks Sarge. Sunday is a good day to remember them.....

  3. I wanted to find out when the Navy retired the Spad and ran across this ten minute film.
    And it turns out there's a few still flying, and a number of Skyraiders are in museums.
    Military Times has an article.

    Great post.

    1. I've seen one in Pensacola and one at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach. She's a big aircraft!

    2. That's the same thought we had when looking up at a P-47 in the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, and the Skyraider is bigger!

    3. The Skyraider had the same bomb capacity as one of my favorite aircraft, the B-17.

    4. Retired, and yet to this day the retirement left a huge hole in our air-to-ground attack, along with the retirement of the OV-10s and A-37s.

      As much as I like the A-10, we still need low and slow and loiter, which the Skyraider (and the other two) did quite well.

    5. John - Yes, that one is also HUGE!

    6. Capt O - She was an amazing bomb truck.

    7. Beans - An interesting topic, might jump on that some day.

    8. Beans, I'm not sure I understand your point. The A-10's specs look as good or better than the A-1's. Loiter time isn't specified for either, but can be approximated by dividing Ferry Range by Cruise Speed, so 7.5 or so for the A-10 vs 6.5 or so for the A-1. (Again, given the approximation, not a significant difference either way).
      I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, but would like an example of what the A-10 is lacking with respect to the Spad, Bronco and Dragonfly.

    9. Because Big Air Force is often unwilling to put the A-10 in danger due to either no replacements available or other budgetary stupidity. Info gotten from a FAC as to why Big AF unwilling to provide good air support in the back beyond.

      One of the reasons behind the Light Attack Aircraft was the 'cost advantage' of losing a less expensive plane.

      If I was in charge, there'd be more A-10's being bought, and a follow-up, and the A-10-Light that's been proposed since, well, the A-10 has been in service (like the plane Burt Rutan submitted, and such.)

      I guess I just like a wide spectrum of aircraft.

      I guess I was kinda speaking out of my butt, since one of the design specs of the A-10 was... to do the job of the A-1. Sorry. Sometimes I get a little too worked up at the diminishing of the platforms available.

    10. Seems to me that those who want a more expendable aircraft should be the ones flying it in combat.

      Effing bean counters.

  4. Excellent info on heroic Americans. I like the series..

  5. See, this is why I am glad you continue to blog. I certainly would never see/read about these heroic Americans any place else. Certainly not on any regular news channel. There I just hear about the latest hip-hop/basketball/football star, and the antics of actors and politicians trying to make a name for themselves. None of which I care a rat's patoot about. These gentlemen that you write about found a way to make a difference and enjoyed themselves at the same time. And, managed to help other folks at the same time.

    So, thank you, for helping to make a difference by writing about these fine gentlemen. Family should never be forgotten.

    1. Thanks Suz.

      Some still think to remember those who went before, who paid the price.

  6. Rasimus, yes, would have loved to have met the man. Read his two books, am getting to "Fighter Pilot" soon.

    Richter? Sounds like he had a touch of Luke (yesterday's Luke, not Lucas' Luke) in him. But more controlled. Wouldn't put it past the Viets to build a fake bridge just to lure some passing airman into a flak trap, which it sounds like it was (flak trap that is.)

    Continue on, o noble scribe!

  7. Have read Ed Rasimus' books several times over. He and Karl Richter were classmates in undergraduate pilot training in the F-105 and both served at the same time in the 421st TFS in Thailand during Ed Rasimus' first tour. Karl Richter was shot down on his "official" 198th mission over North Vietnam while flying Ed's former F-105 (The Bat Bird, 62-4334).

    - Victor

  8. I'm not surprised by LT Richter's grand-nephew. Blood lines of warriors are strong. Methinks the Navy Medical recruiting system screwed up and couldn't find a spot for him. I know of several overachievers like him- Aviators becoming Doctors, FBI agents, Congresspersons. Ok, maybe not that last one- HA! The Navy doc who did my PRK eye surgery was a former Tomcat pilot. The Anesthesiologist when I had surgery a couple years ago was a buddy I flew with in the Viking. People like that could probably accomplish any thing they put their minds towards.


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