Monday, April 25, 2011

History Resurrected

I arrived at Korat Air Base in Thailand on the 6th of May, 1966. The new signs weren't all up yet. Effective on the first day of that month the temporary nature of the wing at Korat became permanent. What had been the 6234th  Tac Ftr Wg (provisional), was now officially the 388th TFW. The 388th had been around for a long time and is still active today at Hill AFB UT.

We had two squadrons of F-105s in place. Both of them were fairly new in terms of the modern Air Force, but both numbers had previously been active in WW II. We were the 421st Tac Ftr Sqdn known as the "Fighting Cavaliers" with a red patch depicting a plumed cavalier hat with a vertical sword surrounded by seven white stars grouped four, two and one.
 Our sister squadron was the 469th TFS. They were the "Fighting Bulls" with a green patch bearing a black bull snorting red flames. Shortly we would be joined by the 34th TFS "Rams" and then the 13th TFS "Panthers". The Rams were black and the Panthers gold.

History was writ large by those squadrons who carried the brunt of the load of Rolling Thunder to North Vietnam. Losses were huge among the crews, but valor was expected and courage was commonplace.

The 469th became the first squadron in Southeast Asia to convert to the gun-equipped F-4E. The F-105Ds had been lost in large numbers and fewer squadrons could be sustained. The 469th flew the F-4E when I arrived back at Korat in June of 1972. I was privileged to be assigned to the organization and proudly led flights that called for taxi instructions with the slogan from the unit patch, "World's Finest". "Taxi four of the Finest" was a great transmission.

The Bulls killed MiGs and SAM sites. We destroyed trucks and railroad bridges, and the history continued until one afternoon in mid-August the commander called us in and read a classified message to the unit. With Operation Linebacker still raging, the squadron was to be de-activated by 30 September--the end of the fiscal year. All artifacts, memorabilia, files and official records were to be crated up and shipped to the archives in St. Louis. Most of that, I imagine, was lost in the fire that swept through the warehouses fifteen years later. The heroic 469th was simply packed up and disappeared. So much for tradition and heritage.

Then just last week a Facebook friend sent me a message. He's an instructor at USAF pilot training at Sheppard AFB. He mentioned that the 469th TFS has been re-activated and is now training a new generation of fighter pilots in the T-38C at Wichita Falls.


Paul F Austin said...

Did you ever know Bob Kronebusch? As it happens, I worked for him for a number of years at Harris. He was a program manager there after he retired from the Air Force.

Ed Rasimus said...

Doesn't ring any bells.

Dweezil Dwarftosser said...

It's good to see the 469th flying again. (Their APGs always took a lot of ribbing about being the 'back row JV" team . . . :)

But now your glimpse of Korat history has me confused.
During my first assignment to MacDill's 15th TFW RTU, I was in the 43rd TFS (under TAC's experimental 'fighter squadron' concept). We also had the 45th, 46th, and 47th TFS - but no 44th TFS. No one there knew why, or even if a 44th TFS existed in recent times.

A year or so later, I was sent to Korat - and there, among squadron insignias decorating the Airmen's club (or was it the chowhall?) - was a 44th TFS insignia, alongside the rest of the squadrons that had served at Korat.

For me, the mystery was solved - or was it?

P.S. - I just googled it; 44th was deployed to Korat from Kadena numerous times, including April 67 to October 69, when their F-105Fs (with "JE" tails) moved to Takhli. The planes returned to Korat in September of 1970, as Takhli wound down operations - but the unit designation didn't. We knew them as the 6010th WWS at that time; they wore "ZB" tails beyond my trip back to the states in May, 1971.

Paul F Austin said...

Lt Col Robert Kronebusch (I found out after he retired from Harris) flew 142 Weasel missions in SEA and led the Weasel contingent for the Sontay raid. I thought you might have run into him.

Ed Rasimus said...

Dweezil, don't know your Google reference, but there are some errors about the 44th. In March/April of '67, the 421st TFS number was transferred to MacDill where the unit became equipped with F-4D and then deployed to Danang. The in-place F-105 squadron which had been 421st became the 44th. Eventually they repositioned to Takhli.

As F-105F and then G-upgrade proceeded the 6010th became a Weasel squadron (originally the first element of Weasels was attached to the 13TFS starting in summer of '66). Four-digit units are temporary or provisional. Eventually the Korat Weasel squadron became the 17th and the George bunch became the 561st.

The bad-part is that the USAF swaps numbers around like a card game with little concern for the heritage and history of units. We could look to the Army for a better understanding of how to handle that.

Dweezil Dwarftosser said...

I was there for the Son Tay raid: one of only three times I was really impressed in the USAF.
While my only contacts with aircrews were in debriefing (and I knew none of them personally), I can assure you that every F-4E, F-105G, and EB-66 we possessed that day (and the preceding night) was gainfully employed - like I had never seen before. (It's the first time I had seen the flightline completely empty; they all were either on the taxiway, flying to/from NVN and environs, or landing.)

Col. Kronebusch may have been flight lead for the Weasel sortie escorting the Son Tay insertion team - but there were tens of other weasel sorties over the north before, during, and after the actual raid; these others were guarding virtual armadas going north to targets far from Son Tay . . . as a covering diversion.

I didn't get to know him until five years later, but Capt. Ted Lowery was the EWO in a weasel lost to SAM fire during the raid.
He was my OIC in the 1st AMS, during my third trip to MacDill in 1974.

Thanks for the clarification; I do recall the new weasels being called "Det 1, 13 TFS, 18 TFW" for the first two weeks after their arrival in Sept. 1970 - before the 6010th designation was used (making them 'permanent party' in the 388th) at Korat.

I have to agree about the mixmaster approach to units. The second time I was at MacDill, the 15 TFW became the 1st TFW; Three years later, the 1st TFW became the 56th TFW.

The worst, though: Korat was excellent, as was the 36th TFW at Bitburg - but none of them could match the raw _capability_ and professionalism of Hahn's 50th TFW (1978-80).

Today? The 50th exists as a SPace Wing. Some reward for excellence . . .

Kevin said...

My Dad transferred from the 8th at Spangdahlem to the 421st at Korat just before it's conversion to the 44th. He's gone now, but thankfully I've got some of his stuff, including a "Fighting Cavaliers" mug and a "Vampires" patch.
It's great to read about this stuff -- thanks Ed!

Anonymous said...

Ed and "Dweezil Dwarftosser" of the "For WCS troops ONLY !!! - WebRing"....this is a very interesting thread to me for obvious reasons which would be better if I was able to post here the GREAT photos that are in my email...I've not been able to find your email addresses so I'll leave my main address that I use...perhaps you can send me a reply and I'll send them along...

phantom.421366 AT

I was also stationed at MacDill from July 3 1967 to April 3 1969...I was assigned to the 15th AMS/47th TFS

my regards to you both....

Tim White


F-4E PHANTOMS at DaNANG AIR BASE...421st TAC Fighter Squadron...The BLACK WIDOWS
Sunday, August 7, 2011 1:19 PM


below are some of the actual F-4E's I've worked on when I was at DaNang from June 30 1969 to May 1 1970 - previously spending 2 months with the 388th TFW/AMS and assigned to the 469th TFS at Korat Royal Thai Air Base Thailand before voluntarily taking orders to DaNang where I wanted to see real action...which certainly WAS the case - DaNang was the World's most active airfield during my time there....even though these photos were taken in 1972 - I remember at least 3 of these plane's tail numbers as being the VERY planes I worked on in '69 and '70.....

Tim White

3 years on the flightline as a

Weapons Fire Control/RADAR Technician

F-4E Phantoms

366th Tactical Fighter Wing - The GUNFIGHTERS

366th AEMS ..Avionics and Electronics Maintenance Squadron

primary assignment to

421st Tactical Fighter Squadron - The BLACK WIDOWS

DaNang Air Base Viet Nam 1969-1970