Thursday, January 16, 2020

Digging Deeper Still...

Remember Us?
On the aircraft in the foreground, the partial BuNo on the vertical stab doesn't match the BuNo underneath the horizontal stab. This came up yesterday and it's bugged me since I wrote that post. So I started digging.


Note the details from that photo above -

The presence of an FAA Registry number led me to believe that the photo was taken after the aircraft had left the naval service. I was correct. (Hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day.) Here are the FAA details on these two aircraft -

You'll note that the Serial Number blocks on the FAA form have numbers which match the BuNo underneath the horizontal stabs on both aircraft. So what's the story with 409?

The simple answer is that people like famous things, things along the lines of "Hey, this aircraft shot down a bunch of enemies" rather than, "This aircraft is the same type as the aircraft that shot down a bunch of enemies." For instance, the Collings Foundation owns and operates an F-4D Phantom which is now painted up with an F-4C tail number, an F-4C in which Robin Olds shot down a MiG-21 in Southeast Asia. The same bird also shot down another MiG-21 and a MiG-17 before being lost to AAA on 20 November 1967.

This same aircraft had earlier been painted up to represent the aircraft flown by Steve Ritchie and Chuck DeBellevue, killers of five MiG-21s in Southeast Asia. The same bird was also used by another aircrew to down a sixth MiG-21. Having six red stars painted on the side of the jet is pretty cool. However, most civilians, when the names Ritchie and DeBellevue are mentioned, would probably say "Who?" Mention Robin Olds though, and they might get it.

So yes, famous is good. More publicity, more money for the owners of the aircraft. (Lest you think I am some sort of Commie, I am all in favor of folks making money. I like making money. So should you.)

So back to 409. The BuNo on the vertical stab, 137543, is famous. That particular bird killed a MiG over Vietnam. Yup, a propeller driven aircraft downed a modern jet fighter.
On 9 October 1966, four VA-176 A-1H Skyraiders from the USS Intrepid were vectored deep into North Vietnam to cover a rescue helicopter trying to reach a downed F-4 Phantom II crew. After pushing through a brief flak barrage, the Spad lead flight pushed further inland where they were set up by four MiG-17s. In the ensuing maneuvers which twisted down to tree top level, the opponents separated and two of the jets were heavily damaged at the hands of the Spad flight leader and his wingman. Seconds later, tail-end element Lt.(jg) Tom Patton in Spad "09" (BuNo 137543) reached the flight and dropped down on the last MiG, skimming just above the jungle. The enemy pilot attempted a climbing turn followed with a reverse turn which negated all of the MiG's speed. Patton skillfully split-Sed into point blank range at six o'clock and closed to within 100 feet of the silver intruder. After gutting his target with the last of his 20mm ammo, Patton even tried for a coup de grace with four of his Zuni rockets, but missed. The riddled MiG rolled over and plunged out of sight through a low hanging cloud. After a quick turn beneath the thin cloud bank, the victorious Navy aviator caught a glimpse of the MiG driver drifting into the jungle beneath his parachute. (Source)
LT (jg) Patton on the left, his section leader (talking with his hands) LT Peter Russell on the right.
So what happened to the real 409? According to Joe Baugher's website -
52-137543 Douglas A-1H Skyraider
Ex USN BuNo 137543 transferred to USAF.  With 1st Special Operations Squadron 56th Special Operations Wing shot down by ground fire Muong Soui, Xiangkhoang Province, Laos Jul 2, 1969.  Pilot KIA.
Again, that mention of the pilot being KIA. So yeah, I went looking. The pilot of 52-137543 when she was lost was Captain John Leroy Flinn, USAF. That's him in the back row, fourth from left.

Back row: Capt Harv Jacobs, Major Lurie J " Pete" Morris, 2ndLt Tom Biele, Capt John Leroy Flinn (KIA 69/07/02), unidentified, unidentified Front row: Capt Joseph S. Pirruccello Jr. (KIA 68/12/08), unknown, Capt Hale, LtCol Sid "Buck" McNeil, Capt Ken Orr, 2nd Lt Clyde William Campbell (KIA 69/03/01)
Another good man lost doing a tough job.

Sometimes I run across things that I need to know more about, so I dig. The Internet is a pretty good resource for all of this digging, but you need more than one source to be sure. Sometimes that extra source isn't there, sometimes it is. Imagine back in the day having to go to some big building (like the National Archives) and actually dig through paper documents or microfiche. Cross-referencing is even harder, nothing to click on in a document to go to another source. Nope, go to the catalog, find the document (or microfiche) and keep digging.

Technology is good.

In other news, The Nuke reminded me of a story from Germany which she says I should relate to y'all. Which I will. You should know however, that there are two versions of this tale, one she calls "the real story" and the other, which is how I remember it. We shall see which one I relate...


  1. And now a word from our sponsor, Mental Wash. Ever hear or read something that just didn't set well? Mental Wash to the rescue!! And now, back to the show.

    In regard to research, there was a family story of a cousin, murdered in west Texas. He was the mayor of a small town, and got gunned down. I'd heard his dad was buried outside Sweetwater, so, one day, we stopped by on the way to visit family. We drove all over the cemetery, until we found my great uncle. I took some pictures of the headstone, and went on.

    A few years later, I had half a day, so I drove into Sweetwater and pulled microfiche until I found the story of my cousin. He and the night watchman had a falling out. The watchman was an older man, and my cousin, the mayor, fired him. The watchman cornered the mayor and shot him in the stomach. It took days for him to die. The watchman went to prison, but was paroled after some time (as I remember). My great uncle basically died of a broken heart in 1940. The news paper stories were heart wrenching.

    I spent well over 2 hours looking for my uncle's headstone years ago, and it took 10 seconds to find it on find a grave.
    I spent 5 hours digging through microfiche to find the story on my cousin. I should see if that's online now, too.

    We hold in our hands access to the sum total of man's knowledge and wisdom, and use it to watch cat videos, or argue with schlubs.... Or sell wienie weeds.

    1. Sorry about that troll, I had to spend a bunch of time tracking all of the miscreant's comments down. He hit every single post over the last week. What an asshole.

      But yes, a lot of information has been put online. There's a lot of sites who want you to pay for the stuff, I stay away from those. But there is a lot of data available. A good resource.

      Very sad story about your cousin.

  2. Hey AFSarge;

    The pilots that flew the "Spad" had huge ones and they clanked when they walked. To go trolling(Pardon the pun) for ground fire to protect the Jolly Green Giants when they swooped in to pick up an aviator or some G.I in the jungle, it takes a special breed. The attrition rate for SPAD pilots was far higher then the regular jet pilots, I do know from stories that I read, that the SPAD pilots never bought their own beer in the clubs. I being an Army guy really likes close air support and that is why the SPAD and the A10 are special airplanes to me because they would back us up in a fight in the dirt.

  3. The Skyraider had such a long and varied service that the most spectacular feats of derring-do were often thought of as routine. It was such a workhorse and so versatile it was tasked with everything from transporting fresh lobsters from Maine for squadron blowout parties all across CONUS to nuking Sebastopol and other Soviet vacation spots should the need arise. I'd hazard a guess that no other type logged as many combat hours post-WWII.

    Of course the Spad was just an airplane. It was the crews who made it work.

    Who could ever forget the May 1, 1951 anti-communist rally held at the confluence of the Han and Pukchong rivers?

    If I had time to be a historian I might spend a lot of it studying this aircraft.

    Another great post. Can't wait to read another zum trinken eingesperrt story!

    1. I keep finding things about the Spad I want to write about, but, lest I annoy the readership (and my daughter), I have other stories to tell.

      The human element is the most important component of any weapon system, we keep forgetting that.

      That was an interesting rally.

  4. Interesting. So we weren't looking at a current (in war, actual) plane at all. Itch has been scratched.

    I wonder if your upcoming story will have a rebuttal from The Nuke as counterpoint to your memory.

    And, trolls again? What the Heck? Oh, well, must be bridges around here.

  5. So, the number mystery is all tallied up and balanced. Thank you.
    But, I am still mystified by the difference between the "vista cruiser" and the bubble versions? I can see it for EW stuff in the fleet, but USAF, not so much with that sort of gear. Did they get the electronics and install extra seats or what?
    John Blackshoe

    1. Though I am "hot to trot" to dig deeper into the Skyraider stuff, and I will, I need to dial it back a bit. The Skyraider is such an awesome aircraft and I am completely enamored of it. But yeah, the vista cruiser aspect intrigues me as does that little door in the fuselage.

      More will come, just not yet...

    2. From what I've read of USAF use in Vietnam, both types were essentially the same when it came to endurance, load, and accurate bombing/strafing. I believe the vista cruisers usually retained the right seat but none of the seats in back, but I'm not certain of this by any means. Another interesting thing about the Spad was getting out in a hurry. Navy A-1H's were fitted at some point with the Stanley Yankee Extraction System. Don't know if USAF H models were also so fitted or if the widebody seats were Yankee seats. All this Skyraider stuff used to common knowledge... (Rumpler stuff too I imagine).

    3. I went ahead and ordered a book on the Skyraider today, I need information on the different variants and Squadron/Signal Publications usually nails that. Expect another Skyraider post in the near future!

    4. If you’re curious, the USAF Museum has a 360 cockpit view of their A-1E, so you can see the space behind the seats. Doesn’t look like room for additional chairs, but cargo space for stuffnthings.

      Link here:

    5. One of my favorite websites. I spent a few minutes in the Spad cockpit the other day. Virtually of course. 😉

  6. Replies
    1. He got blown away early. Had a second one show up later.

      You didn't miss anything, just some disturbed spammer trying to make a buck I suppose.


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