USA Air Aces a prvá svetová vojna

USA Air Aces a prvá svetová vojna


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Pilot

Víťazstvá

Eddie Rickenbacker

26

Francis Gillet

20

Wilfred Beaver

19

Howard Kullberg

19

William Lambert

18

Frank Luke

18

August Iaccaci

17

Paul Iaccaci

17

Raoul Lufberry

17

Eugene Coler

16

Oren Rose

16

Elliot Springs

16

Frederick Libby

14

Kenneth Unger

14

G. A. Vaughn

13

David Putham

13

Frank Baylies

12

Louis Bennett

12

Frederick Lord

12

Field Kindley

12

Reed Landis

12

Emile Lussier

12

James Pearson

12

Clive Warman

12


Flying Aces z 1. svetovej vojny: Červený barón a ďalšie

Od prvého úspešného letu lietadla si ľudia predstavovali a snívali o lietadlách, ktoré sa používajú na boj. Kniha HG Wells ’s 1908 (Príkladom bola Vojna vo vzduchu. Keď vypukla prvá svetová vojna, bolo na všetkých stranách iba asi 1000 lietadiel. Lietadlá boli veľmi základné. Kokpity boli otvorené, nástroje boli základné a neexistovali žiadne. navigačné pomôcky. Piloti museli používať mapy, ktoré neboli vždy spoľahlivé. Stratiť sa bolo bežné. Piloti niekedy museli pristáť a opýtať sa na cestu! Na začiatku vojny sa na lietadlá hľadelo takmer výlučne na prieskum, pričom predtým bývali v práci. vykonávané jazdou. Nakoniec však bolo nevyhnutné, aby lietadlá zlikvidovali pozorovacie lietadlá nepriateľa, takže boj vzduch-vzduch (súboje psov) sa stal bežným.

Vývoj bojových lietadiel

Od prvého úspešného letu lietadla si ľudia predstavovali a snívali o lietadlách, ktoré sa používajú na boj. Príkladom bol H. G. Wells (Vojna vo vzduchu, 1908).

Lietadlá boli používané v menších vojnách začínajúcich v 10 -tych rokoch 19. storočia.

Každá veľmoc vytvorila letecké vetvy armády a/alebo námorníctva. Francúzsko malo ten najrozvinutejší. Británia mala dva: Kráľovský lietajúci zbor (časť armády) a Kráľovskú námornú leteckú službu (časť námorníctva). V roku 1917 by boli zlúčené do Kráľovského letectva, prvej nezávislej leteckej služby. Nemecká služba sa volala Luftstreitkrafte.

Keď vypukla vojna, bolo na všetkých stranách len asi 1000 lietadiel.

Lietadlá boli veľmi základné. Kokpity boli otvorené, nástroje boli primitívne a neexistovali žiadne navigačné pomôcky. Piloti museli používať mapy, ktoré neboli vždy spoľahlivé. Stratiť sa bolo bežné. Piloti niekedy museli pristáť a pýtať sa na cestu!

Na začiatku vojny boli lietadlá takmer výlučne určené na prieskum, pričom vykonávali prácu, ktorú predtým vykonávala jazda. Používali sa aj na delostrelecké špinenie a zisťovanie dosahu. Letecké prieskumné misie boli však nebezpečné.

Nakoniec však bolo potrebné, aby lietadlá zlikvidovali pozorovacie lietadlá nepriateľa, takže boj vzduch-vzduch (súboje psov) sa stal bežným.

Technológia lietadiel sa počas vojny zlepšovala a začali vznikať špecializované lietadlá (hydroplány, stíhačky, bombardéry). Boli tam dvojplošníky a trojplošníky. Medzi obľúbené značky patrili Neuport, Sopwith Pup a Sopwith Camel a nemecký trojplošník Fokker.

Rýchlosť lietadla sa počas vojny zvyšovala, z približne 75 mph na začiatku vojny na takmer dvojnásobok na konci.

Vzdušné sily výrazne vzrástli. Na začiatku vojny mala britská letecká doprava 300 dôstojníkov a asi 1800 mužov. Do konca vojny mali 27 000 dôstojníkov a viac ako 300 000 mužov. Francúzsko malo na začiatku vojny necelých 140 lietadiel, ale na konci vojny 4500 (najviac zo všetkých mocností).

Výrazne sa zvýšila aj výroba lietadiel. Na konci vojny Francúzsko stavalo každý deň toľko lietadiel, koľko bol celkový počet, ktorý mali na začiatku vojny.

Letecké zbrane boli komplikovanejšie. Na začiatku vojny na seba piloti len strieľali z pištolí alebo iných ručných zbraní.

Potom boli nainštalované guľomety, ale guľky zasiahli vrtuľu. Na odklonenie striel boli na vrtuľové listy nainštalované kovové platne. Ale guľky sa niekedy odrazili a opakované údery sa z tanierov opotrebovali.

Tento problém vyriešil holandský inžinier Anthony Fokker, ktorý vynašiel prerušovač, ktorý synchronizoval činnosť zbrane s vrtuľou. Tento vynález dal Centrálnym mocnostiam vzdušnú prevahu („The Fokker Scourge“) na chvíľu, ale iba na rok. Asi po roku spojenci vyvinuli túto technológiu a nemecká výhoda sa stratila.

Bojovníci a taktika bojovníka.

Lietanie bolo mimoriadne nebezpečné. Zahynulo veľké percento pilotov (napríklad 50% pre britských pilotov). Zo 68 000 lietadiel, ktoré Francúzsko vyrobilo počas vojny, bolo 52 000 stratených v boji (77% strata).

Výcvik pilotov bol vo všeobecnosti neadekvátny. Piloti išli do boja len s 3,5 hodinovým výcvikom.

Na začiatku vojny letecká taktika prakticky neexistovala a bolo potrebné ju vymýšľať. Piloti 1. svetovej vojny položili základy pre všetky budúce letecké vojny.

V auguste 1916 nemecké eso Oswald Boelcke (ocenený ako otec nemeckého stíhacieho letectva a považovaný za „Otca leteckých bojových taktík“#8221) vyvinulo svoju 8 diktu, ktorá mala veľký vplyv.

Pred útokom sa pokúste zaistiť navrch. Slnko majte vždy za sebou.

Vždy pokračujte v útoku, ktorý ste začali.

Otvárajte paľbu iba z bezprostrednej blízkosti, a potom iba vtedy, keď je súper priamo vo vašich očiach.

Vždy sa snažte mať svojho protivníka na očiach a nenechajte sa oklamať lesťami.

Pri každom type útoku je nevyhnutné zaútočiť na súpera zozadu.

Ak sa váš súper do vás ponorí, nesnažte sa jeho útok obísť, ale lette mu v ústrety.

Keď ste nad nepriateľskými líniami, vždy si pamätajte svoju vlastnú líniu ústupu.

V zásade je lepšie útočiť v štvorčlenných alebo šesťčlenných skupinách. Ak sa súboje rozpadnú na jednotlivé súboje, dávajte pozor, aby niekoľko súdruhov nešlo za jedným súperom.

Jednou z najpozoruhodnejších bojových akcií vojny bol „Krvavý apríl“ počas bitky o Arras. Britský RFC stratil 245 lietadiel, pričom 211 letcov bolo mŕtvych alebo nezvestných a 108 sa stalo zajatcami. RFC stratil zhruba štvrtinu síl. Priemerná životnosť náhradného letca bola 11 dní. Nemci stratili iba 66 lietadiel ... pomer takmer 4: 1. Napriek tomu bol RFC schopný poskytnúť pechote vynikajúcu inteligenciu. To bola najväčšia percentuálna strata pre Britov v celej vojne.

Stíhači, ktorí získali 5 zostrelov, sa nazývali „esá“. Tento status dosiahlo len asi 5% pilotov.

Boli považovaní za „vzdušných rytierov“. Boli veľmi romantizovaní a zbožňovaní. Verilo sa, že stelesňujú rytierstvo a šľachtu.

Medzi najznámejšie esá patrili Edward Mannock a Alfred Ball (Brit), Billy Bishop (Kanaďan), Rene Fonck (Francúz), Eddie Rickenbacker (Američan), Hermann Goering, Ernst Udet a Manfred von Richthofen (Nemec). Richthofen mal 80 zabití (najviac vo vojne) a bol nazývaný „Červený barón“.

Richthofen bol vodcom stíhacej letky s názvom „Lietajúci cirkus“, ktorá sa podľa potreby pohybovala z bitky do bitky.

V apríli 1918 bol Richthofen zostrelený buď kanadským pilotom alebo rakúskymi pozemnými jednotkami, ktoré strieľali do lietadiel. Mal iba 26. Austrálski piloti usporiadali pohreb so všetkými vojenskými poctami, pretože Richthofen uskutočnil Kanaďan

Bombardovanie bolo priekopníkom v prvej svetovej vojne. Na začiatku vojny bombardovacie lietadlá zhodili hlavne granáty.

Ako vojna postupovala, veľkosť bômb sa stále zväčšovala.

Bombardovanie sa používalo na vojenské aj civilné ciele. Nemci zhodili bomby na belgické a francúzske mestá vrátane Paríža.

Zeppelíny (vodíkom plnené vzducholode) sa tiež používali na bombardovanie, predovšetkým na britské ciele, počnúc rokom 1915. Do konca vojny mohli dosiahnuť výšku 27 000 stôp. (Poznámka: Briti používali vzduchové balóny a kite balóny, ale iba na pozorovanie)

Nemci mali na začiatku vojny iba 11 zepelínov. Ale počas celej vojny použili 123 zepelínov. Asi 80 zostrelili alebo sa zrútili sami.

Zeppelíni vykonali viac ako 50 náletov na Veľkú Britániu. Spôsobili veľkú hrôzu a pobúrenie.

Nálety na Zeppelin začali byť postupne vyraďované v roku 1916, keď boli zepelíny nahradené bombardérmi dlhého doletu. Vývoj zápalných striel uľahčil ničenie zepelínov.

V rokoch 1917 a 1918 Nemci opakovane bombardovali Londýn (lietadlami). Pri týchto bombových útokoch zahynulo asi 1400 britských civilistov.

Britské lietadlá vykonali odvetu, pričom najskôr bombardovali základne zeppelínu a továrne na chemické zbrane a potom diaľkové bombardovanie nemeckých miest.

Strategické bombardovanie bolo do značnej miery neúčinné. Z tohto dôvodu boli Verdunom postupne ukončené bombardovacie misie na diaľku v prospech operácií na fronte.

Začiatkom 10 -tych rokov minulého storočia lietadlá prvýkrát vzlietli a pristáli zo stojacich lodí. Išlo o americké lietadlá a lode

V roku 1912 britské lietadlo prvýkrát vzlietlo z pohybujúcej sa lode. O päť rokov neskôr britský veliteľ Edwin Dunning prvýkrát pristál na pohybujúcej sa lodi.

Prvým náletom, ktorý dopravca zahájil, bol nálet Tondernov v júli 1918. Sedem Sopwithských tiav vynesených z prerobeného bojového krížnika HMS Furious poškodilo nemeckú leteckú základňu v nemeckom Tonderne a zničilo dve vzducholode zeppelin.

V roku 1918 sa HMS Argus stal prvým dopravcom na svete, ktorý bol schopný odpaľovať a obnovovať námorné lietadlá.


Stíhací piloti z prvej svetovej vojny

Je ťažké nemať určitý rešpekt voči pilotom stíhačiek z 1. svetovej vojny. Tí, ktorí prechádzajú bojom, sa stanú mužmi - starými a múdrymi pred časom. Mnohí zo starších bojovníkov mali často 21, 22, 23 alebo 24 rokov, nie príliš ďaleko za hranicami ich vysokoškolských rokov.

Mnoho z týchto odvážnych letcov zomrelo, zmrazených v čase, v niektorých prípadoch zvečnených, v iných úplne zabudnutých s nenavštíveným náhrobným kameňom. Alebo ešte horšie, skončia nikdy znova buď zakopaní v niektorých vrstvách špiny, ktoré opakovane strieľala devastácia delostreleckých granátov, alebo zhlukované do spoločných hrobov, a nikdy neboli správne identifikované, pretože nemohli byť, pretože boli príliš zle rozložené, keď ich telá boli nájdené, ako sa to stalo státisícom bojovníkov na západnom fronte.

Je ťažké uveriť, že títo muži vyrážali do vzduchu. Boli v motorových vozidlách vyrobených z tenkých drevených pásov, ľanového plátna a drôtu. V jednom bode bola priemerná doba smrteľných nehôd pri obyčajnom nebojovom lietaní jedna smrteľná nehoda za každých šesťdesiatpäť hodín letu.

Nemali ani padáky. Padáky považovali piloti i ich nadriadení za zbabelé. Padáky boli americkým pilotom vydané až v roku 1919, rok po skončení vojny. Napokon sa uvažovalo tak, že padáky budú skôr povzbudzovať pilotov, aby vyskočili z lietadiel, ktoré horia alebo budú inak vážne poškodené, než aby sa pokúšali dostať lietadlá späť na zem. Až neskôr vo vojne si mocnosti uvedomili, že dostať dobrých pilotov bolo ťažšie ako lietadlá. Skúsení to mali ešte ťažšie. Samotné lietadlo bolo oveľa, oveľa jednoduchšie vymeniť.

Piloti prvej svetovej vojny mali pri lietaní v bojoch typickú dĺžku života niekoľko týždňov. Niekoľko týždňov. Vôbec nie. Pokiaľ ide o letové hodiny, bojový pilot mohol počítať so 40 až 60 hodinami, než bude zabitý, prinajmenšom na začiatku vojny. Vskutku, z pôvodných siedmich pilotov Lafayette Escadrille len jeden vyšiel z vojny ani zabitý, ani zranený. Čo mohlo týchto mužov motivovať, aby sa prihlásili a presadzovali začlenenie do leteckých síl, keď to už vedeli? Vedeli o niekom, kto prekonáva šance?

Ale títo muži - zelení piloti, ako aj veľké esá, obete a pozostalí - boli, až na niekoľko výnimiek, veľmi často veľmi mladí v kalendárnych rokoch. A mýto na ich telách a mysliach bolo neuveriteľné.

K jedným z tých, ktorí prežili, patrí veľký Roland Garros - predvojnový kaskadérsky leták, prvý muž, ktorý letel so slučkou a vynálezca stíhacieho lietadla žil dosť dlho na to, aby zostrelil niekoľko nemeckých lietadiel, pričom ho zajali takmer pre troch. rokov, lietajte znova len na zostrelenie v októbri 1918, mesiac pred koncom vojny. Mal 29 alebo 30 rokov.

V leteckom múzeu Le Bourget dnes visí známe lietadlo Georga Guynemera Spada „Vieux Charles“. Guynemer, legenda vo Francúzsku, ktorá mala na svojom konte 53 zabití, mal iba 22 rokov, keď bol 11. septembra 1917 zostrelený a zabitý. Jeho telo Nemci našli neskôr, ešte v sídle jeho Spadu, „slimákom skrz neho“. lebka. " Už havaroval najmenej tri ďalšie lietadlá. Jeho lietadlo a telo boli neskôr rozdrvené na kúsky a navždy stratené. Francúzska legenda hovorila, že Guynemer jednoducho vyletel do oblakov a už sa nevrátil.

Víťaz légie de Honneur Charles Nungesser mal 25 rokov, keď ho nalákali do pasce a takmer zabili. Namiesto toho sa mu podarilo zostreliť dve nemecké lietadlá, kým ostatné odleteli, zdesené nad zlyhaním ich pasce. Vojnu prežil ako tretie najvyššie postavené francúzske eso za Rene Fonckom a Georgesom Guynemerom. Nungesser mal 45 mŕtvych, ale výmenou za 17 zranení a zranení havaroval v dvoch lietadlách. Pri tom si zlomil obe nohy a čeľusť a ku koncu vojny buď kráčal s dvoma palicami, alebo ho museli prenášať do a z lietadla, aj keď stále bojoval.

Nemec Werner Voss mal iba 20 rokov, keď ho zostrelil a zabil Arthur Rhys-Davids. Voss vtedy jednostranne bojoval so psom so siedmimi britskými SE-5. Jeho bilancia dosiahla 48 víťazstiev a bol štvrtým najvyššie umiestneným nemeckým esom.

Na vrchole zoznamu bol slávny červený barón - Manfred von Richthofen - 80 zabití a mnohými považovaný za najväčšieho pilota 1. svetovej vojny - bol prakticky starým mužom vo veku 25 rokov, keď bol zabitý deň po jeho 80. víťazstve. Jeho 80. víťazstvo nemalo za následok doslova zabitie. Namiesto toho Richthofen galantne poskytol priateľskú vlnu zostrelenému letcovi, keď sa zohol a skontroloval svojho súpera pred odletom. Richthofen aj Werner Voss boli zostrelení v slávnom trojplošníku Fokker Dr.1. Richthofen bol už raz donútený padnúť na zem, potom, čo bol vážne zranený natoľko, že mal na lebke desaťcentimetrové zranenie. Táto rana ho neprítomných na fronte nasledujúcich šesť týždňov.

Eugene Bullard z Columbusu bol prvým afroamerickým pilotom vôbec. Stal sa pilotom vo Francúzsku a odletel do Francúzska v roku 1916 potom, čo najskôr slúžil ako pešiak vo francúzskej armáde. Bojoval pri Verdunu a inde a pritom sa zranil. Aj keď nebol taký slávny ako letci z Tuskegee alebo Benjamin Davis starší, bol prvým a skutočne priekopníkom a nevyspytateľným hrdinom v USA, ale vo Francúzsku bol vždy hrdinom.

Na čele Lafayette Escadrille a neskôr na čele 1. Pursuit Group stál Raoul Lufbery, Američan francúzskeho pôvodu. Lufbery, ktorý má na svojom konte 16 víťazstiev, ktorý zoskočil zo svojho lietadla na smrť, aj keď už horelo na ceste k havárii. Skočil približne 1 000 metrov (3 300) stôp, spadol do malej záhrady a podľa starej dámy, do záhrady ktorej spadol, vstal a potom padol späť mŕtvy.


Americké posledné stíhacie pilotné eso: Zvrhnutie dvoch MIG za 89 sekúnd

"Každý, kto nemá strach, je idiot. Je to tak, že musíte nechať strach, aby za vás pracoval. Do pekla, keď na mňa niekto vystrelil, bolo to pre mňa šialenejšie ako peklo a jediné, čo som chcel urobiť, bolo streliť späť.“-Brigádny generál Robin Olds, USAF (1922-2007)

Keď som sa spýtal priateľa svojho stíhacieho pilota, akého stíhacieho pilota by som mal urobiť rozhovor pre moju ďalšiu rubriku „Príbehy amerických hrdinov“, neváhal ani chvíľu. „Steve Ritchie,“ povedal, akoby som bol ignorant. Steve Ritchie bol „Posledné eso“. (Flying Eso)

Takto to bolo, že som začal sledovať brigádneho generála Steva Ritchieho po celej našej krajine, keď sa so svojou manželkou Marianou presťahoval z Cocoa Beach na Floride do Bellevue vo Washingtone. Bol to ich 33. krok, ktorý mi povedal. Nakoniec som musel počkať, kým sa ich odysea skončí a kým nebudú mať z krabičiek aspoň niektoré svoje veci.

Po 10 rokoch aktívnej služby letectva a 25 ďalších v službe v zálohe sa generálovi páči jeho zaneprázdnený program prednášok a rodina. Vo Vietname mu 339 misií, 800 bojových hodín, celkovo viac ako 4 000 hodín vo vzduchu, vynieslo takmer každé ocenenie, ktoré letectvo ponúka. (Aby sme všetci skutočne porozumeli tomu, čo tieto ceny znamenajú a znamenajú, myslel som si, že by sme sa mali pozrieť na niektoré. Dovoľte mi, aby som vám teraz ukázal, aké medaily skutočný „vojnový hrdina“ dostáva.)

Air Force Cross (najvyššie vyznamenanie USAF a druhé najvyššie ocenenie USA po medaile Kongresu)

Osobnosť stíhacieho pilota môže byť nepríjemná, ja viem. Obvykle sú veľmi sebavedomí, veľmi súťaživí, egoisti typu A a Alfa. Zároveň sa skvele učia, sú veľmi zvedaví na to, ako veci fungujú a sú veľmi citliví na ostatných ľudí. Sú tiež pekelne vtipné a rozprávajú najlepšie vtipy. Na rozdiel od väčšiny stíhacích pilotov, tým menej es, Ritchie je sebestačný a pokorný, keď príde. Keď som sa ho spýtal, či vyhral bronzovú hviezdu, odpovedal len: „No, neviem. Možno áno.“

Toto je Steve Ritchie, muž, ktorý získal všetky tieto ceny, keď statočne lietal vo Vietname.

Takto vyzeral v roku 1972, zhruba v čase, keď získal titul „Eso“.


Kapitán Steve Ritchie (vpravo vpredu) a kapitán Charles „Chuck“ DeBellevue sa hlásia do práce 28. augusta 1972 v deň, keď Ritchie získal piaty titul v kategórii MIG a Ace


Druhá strana toho znaku
Fotografický kredit: Allen L. Tucker

Definícia „esa“ je teraz niečo, čo sa môže líšiť. Aj keď nie pre stíhacích pilotov ako Ritchie. Je to do značnej miery vyriešené minimálne piatimi bojovými lietadlami spadnutými počas vojny, ale tam, kde existujú silné nezhody, dochádza kto má nárok niesť toto označenie. Podľa Wikipédie išlo o päť vietnamských es. Rozlišujú však medzi skutočnými pilotnými esami a „nepilotnými esami“. Väčšina prúdových stíhačiek vo Vietname bola dvojsedadlová a dôstojník na zadnom sedadle („GIB“, chlapík vzadu) bol tradične navigátor a dôstojník pre zbrane. Takže z tejto vojny zostanú dve esá, pilotné lietadlá a strelné zbrane na prvom sedadle: prvé vietnamské eso, námornícky Randy „vojvoda“ Cunningham a generál Ritchie, posledné vietnamské eso.

Ritchie lietal na svojom vernom lietadle F-4D Phantom McDonnell Douglas a bol metlou vietnamského neba.


Ritchieho legendárny letún F-4 sedí na čestnom mieste Akadémie leteckých síl USA v Colorado Springs, CO


Ritchieho #463 s otvoreným vlečným žľabom


Phantom F-4D lietajúci nad Vietnamom

Všeobecné charakteristiky
Posádka: 2
Dĺžka: 19,2 m
Rozpätie: 38,7 palcov (11,7 m)
Výška: 5,0 m
Plocha krídla: 530,0 ft² (49,2 m²)
Profil krídla: koreň NACA 0006,4-64, hrot NACA 0003-64
Prázdna hmotnosť: 13 757 kg
Naložená hmotnosť: 18 825 kg
Max. vzletová hmotnosť: 28 030 kg
Pohonná jednotka: 2 × prúdový axiálny kompresor General Electric J79-GE-17A, suchý ťah 11 905 lbf (52,9 kN), každý 17 845 lbf v prídavnom spaľovaní (79,4 kN)
Koeficient odporu pri nulovom zdvihu: 0,0224
Plocha ťahu: 1,10 m²
Pomer strán: 2,77
Palivová kapacita: 1 994 US gal (7 549 L) interná, 3 335 US gal (12 627 L) s tromi vonkajšími nádržami (370 US gal (1 420 L) nádržami na vonkajších závesných krídlach a buď 600 alebo 610 US gal (2310 alebo 2345 L) ) nádrž pre stredovú stanicu).
Maximálna pristávacia hmotnosť: 36 701 lb (16 706 kg)

Výkon
Maximálna rýchlosť: Mach 2,23 (2 372 km/h) pri 12 190 m
Cestovná rýchlosť: 506 kn (585 mph, 940 km/h)
Bojový rádius: 367 nmi (422 mi, 680 km)
Rozsah trajektov: 1 403 nmi (1 600 m), 3 vonkajšie palivové nádrže
Servisný strop: 18 300 m (60 000 stôp)
Rýchlosť stúpania: 41 300 ft/min (210 m/s)
Plošné zaťaženie: 383 kg/m² (78 lb/ft²)
Potiahnutie zdvihom: 8,58
Ťah/hmotnosť: 0,86 pri naloženej hmotnosti, 0,58 pri MTOW
Vzletový zvitok: 1 370 m 4 490 stôp pri 24 410 kg
Pristávací valec: 1 120 m 3 680 stôp pri 16 706 kg
Zdroj: Wikipedia


F-4J "Showtime 100" vyzbrojený raketami AIM-9 Sidewinder a AIM-7 Sparrow


Títo piloti majú veľký zmysel pre humor

Keď sme s generálom začali diskutovať o tom, ktoré z jeho nespočetných vojnových príbehov by som mu tu pomohol rozpovedať, povedal: „Počuli ste príbeh„ Rogera Lochera? “„ Nie, nie, ale skôr sme sa do toho dostali príliš hlboko, Opýtal som sa: „Koľkokrát ste ten príbeh povedali vy alebo iní?“ Generál odpovedal: „Asi 5 000 krát je to najnapínavejší príbeh.“

Nie, ďakujem, pomyslel som si. Nemôžem rozprávať príbeh, ktorý bol ešte raz povedané 5 000 -krát. „Čo povieš druhý najnapínavejší príbeh? Čo by to bolo? "Spýtal som sa." No, to by bol čas, keď som zostrelil dve MIG-y za 89 sekúnd. "Teraz počas celej vojny vo Vietname zostrelil päť MIG-21 a mal príbeh, kde zostrelil dve MIG -y za menej ako minútu a pol? „Yessir, to bude celkom pekné, vďaka.“

Predtým, ako sa dostaneme k legendárnym udalostiam z 8. júla 1972, dovoľte mi, aby som vám priblížil „príbeh Rogera Lochera“. Alebo mi v skutočnosti dovoľte, aby vám generál Ritchie porozprával príbeh v tomto videu na YouTube „Záchrana Rogera Lochera“, ktoré má viac ako milión zobrazení:

8. júla 1972 mal kapitán Steve Ritchie už dve potvrdené zabitia MIG-21 (5/10/72 a 5/31/72), takže bol už 40% cesty k svojej „esovej lodi“ z piatich potvrdené zabíjačky. Do konca toho dňa by tam bol 80%.

„V ten deň sa všetko spojilo. 8. júla 1972,“ začala Ritchie. "Všetko, pre čo som pracoval, trénoval a bojoval, sa krásne spojilo. V ten deň som mal veľké šťastie."

Ritchie vysvetľuje, prečo má pocit, že to bolo len šťastie. „Rakety Sparrow majú 11% mieru PK (pravdepodobnosť zabitia). To znamená, že vtedy by tieto rakety zasiahli nepriateľské lietadlo iba 11 zo 100 -krát.“

Život bojovníka v boji nie je váš obvyklý rozvrh, aspoň nie pre normálneho človeka. Tu je generálny rozvrh na tento významný deň, sobotu 8. júla 1972: „V ten deň sme, rovnako ako každý iný deň, vstali okolo 03:30 (3:30 hod.), Zobudili sme sa a vyrazili do chow sálu. Potom do 05:00 boli sme na rannom brífingu. Mali sme tri ranné brífingy, po prvom bol hlavný brífing, po ktorom nasledoval briefing letky a nakoniec letový brífing v uvedenom poradí. Po tejto intenzívnej príprave sme boli okolo 8 hodiny ráno vo vzduchu. “ Kedy ste väčšinou išli spať? „Snažili sme sa spať do 2100 (21:00).“ V piatok večer teda neexistoval žiadny pilot stíhačky, ktorý by pil a koledoval alebo spieval dámam „You Have Lost That Loving Feeling“. „Pred lietaním, ktoré bolo počas mojej kariéry, sa mi vôbec nechcelo piť,“ varovala prísne Ritchie. Koniec koncov, išlo o jeho život a život jeho spoluameričanov.

„Mali sme obdobie zlého počasia a ja som neletel viac ako týždeň,“ povedal mi Ritchie. „Rád lietam každý deň. Ak som príliš dlho mimo, necítim sa ostro. Bol som zvyknutý v tom čase lietať 12 dní rovno a potom si vziať jeden deň voľna. Chcel som sa teda dostať späť do vzduch. " V tento deň bola Ritchie napriek voľnu ostrá.

„Teraz sme štartovali na štyroch letoch zo štyroch lietadiel. A existovalo vedúce zoskupenie štyroch nazývané„ vstupný “let a posledný let bol„ výstupný “let. Bol som zvyknutý na to, že som bol prvým letom, „Let, pretože som bol taký skúsený, bol tak, že vedúci letu zabíjal MIG a páčilo sa mu byť tam, kde bola akcia, takže som bol veľmi rozrušený z toho, že som bol na poslednom lete. Plánovači to zariadili celú noc predtým a boli mojimi priateľmi, takže Hnevalo ma, že ma plánovači zaradili za chvost, charlie. “ Ritchie si očividne myslela, že to bude hukot v kancelárii, pretože posledný detail upratovania letu, čas šlofíka. Nemohol sa viac mýliť.

Keď sa misia začala, Ritchie a DeBellevue vyrazili do vzduchu a okamžite sa stretli s tankerom, aby doplnili, pretože proces taxi a štartu spaľuje veľa leteckého paliva. „Zamierili sme dovnútra (smerom do Hanoja) po hliadkovej trase.“

„Asi 30 až 40 minút letu sme dostali rádiový signál z„ Disco “(volací znak amerického lietadlového radaru RC-121, ktoré letelo na podporu stíhačiek), že východné americké lietadlo zasiahlo MIG. raketa a unikalo z nej palivo a hydraulika. To je pre pilota veľmi zlá vec. Odtrhol sa od letu a zrejme spanikáril, pretože vždy zostávate so svojimi spolubojovníkmi, bez ohľadu na to. Bol úplne sám a bol zasiahnutý. a vtedy za vami prídu MIGI a zostrelia vás. Vediac, že ​​je to sediaca kačica, okamžite som sa obrátil na sever, aby som mu pomohol. “

„Veľmi rýchlo som potom dostal od spoločnosti Disco ďalšie upozornenie, že v blízkosti nášho pilota v problémoch asi 30 míľ juhozápadne od Hanoja sú dvaja„ modrí banditi “(MIG-21).

Ritchie si na to ráno spomenul: „Vybral som dve MIGy asi o 10 hodine a oni viedli nášho muža a pripravovali sa na jeho zostrelenie. Vedúci MIG a ja sme prešli asi 1000 stôp od seba. Videl som pilota. v kokpite. Myslím, že mal na sebe koženú prilbu. "


„First Pass“ od Lou Drendela, ktorý krásne dokumentuje okamih, keď Ritchie prejde vedúcim MIG -om 8. 7. 72

"Toto bol súboj v malej výške medzi dvoma MIG a našimi štyrmi F-4. MIGy sa zvyčajne nachádzajú vo vzdialenosti 15 až 20 000 stôp, ale mali sme informácie a boli sme informovaní, že teraz menia stratégiu a idú ďalej."

„Dozvedeli sme sa tiež, že MIG radi nastražili pascu tým, že prinútili našich pilotov zapojiť sa do prvého prechodu MIG a ak sa obrátite, aby ste získali prvý MIG, druhý MIG je hneď za vami a zostrelil vás. záleží mi na prvom MIG a skutočne by som ten jeden obetoval, aby som ťa dostal. My (USAF) sme to nikdy neurobili. Nechal som teda prejsť prvý MIG a zapojil som ten druhý, o ktorom som vedel, že príde. “

„Dokázal som manévrovať za MIG č. 2 a vystrelil na neho dve rakety Sparrow. Prvá raketa ho zasiahla v strede trupu, pričom MIG rozbil na dve časti a vytvoril obrovskú ohnivú guľu. Všade boli trosky. Druhá Vrabec ho zasiahol aj cez ohnivú guľu a úlomky. Musel som urobiť tvrdú vyhýbavú akciu, aby som sa vyhýbal lietaniu do trosiek, a v zlomku sekundy išiel hore a doľava. To bolo 47 sekúnd po súboji, takže sa to veľmi stalo, veľmi rýchlo."

Teraz tu bola malá záležitosť MIG č. 1. „V ten deň nazývam MIG„ lesklý MIG “, pretože väčšina z nich bola akousi zbraňovo-kovovou sivou, ale tá sa leskla. V tom momente sa súboj psov nachádzal v obrovskom rotujúcom kruhu a MIG č. 1 viedol moje číslo štyri. „Malé dieťa s názvom Tommy. Bola to jeho prvá misia. Vyslal rádio, že má na chvoste MIG, a keď som ho zbadal, zavrel sa naň MIG č. 2. Prestrihol som kruh, aby som sa k Tommymu dostal rýchlejšie a spravodlivejšie. chcel som dostať MIG z jeho chvosta, a tak som na MIG vystrelil ďalšiu raketu a snažil som sa ho prinútiť vypnúť dieťa. Raketa tiež zasiahla úvrať MIG č. 2. "

Ritchie vysielal v „Splash One“ a „Splash Two“ (rádiové signály pre zostrelené MIG) do 89 sekúnd, niečo, čo sa nikdy predtým nerobilo. „Moje dve zabitia MIG v ten deň okamžite potvrdili radarové a spravodajské zdroje na zemi.“

„Neboli však žiadne víťazné kolá,“ povedal generál, „práve sme dostali rádiové výstrahy, že k nám boli vektorované ďalšie dve MIGy. Zostali by sme a dostali by sme ich tiež, ale došli nám asi tri minúty paliva na čas letu. Preto som sa rozhodol, že nás odtiaľ rýchlo dostaneme. “

V tento deň Ritchie odpálil dva MIG-21 tromi raketami, ktoré zasiahli ich cieľ. „Pri druhom zabití som sa ho len snažil prinútiť, aby sa otočil, aby som naň mohol použiť svoje zbrane. Šanca na odpálenie troch perfektných rakiet je nevyčísliteľná.“

Videli ste vysunutie pilotov MIG? „Ach nie, tieto rakety Sparrow sú 12 stôp dlhé a asi 500 libier s 30 librovou hlavicou. Pohybujú sa rýchlosťou 1 200 míľ za hodinu nad štartovou rýchlosťou (asi 1 600 míľ za hodinu), takže z lietadla nezostane nič. . "


MIG-21 hryzie prach. Ak by Ritchie zasiahla toto, nezostalo by už toľko lietadla.

Po jeho návrate na základňu sa veľa oslavovalo? „Ach áno, v ten večer sa v dôstojníckom klube konala obrovská párty. Bolo to skvelé.“ Vrátili ste pár späť? Opýtal som sa. „Určite áno. A na druhý deň som tiež neletel,“ povedal generál so záujmom.
_________________________________________________________________

„Keď som sa prvýkrát vrátil do Vietnamu na svoje druhé turné,“ (dobrovoľne) si Ritchie spomenul, „bol som inštruktorom na FWS (USAF Fighter Weapons School, letectvo 'ekvivalentom' Top Gun 'námorníctva). Môj veliaci dôstojník sa ma spýtal, aká je moja filozofia zbraní a čo mu hovorím. Číslo jedna boli zbrane-najskôr zbrane, ak je to možné. Číslo dva boli naše rakety hľadajúce teplo. A číslo tri boli naše rakety vedené radarom. Tam som bol tento veľký odborník so všetkými týmito znalosťami, hovoril môjmu veliacemu dôstojníkovi, ako by to malo byť a samozrejme, nakoniec som zostrelil všetkých päť MIGov pomocou mojich radarových rakiet. “ Pri tomto sme sa s Ritchiem od srdca zasmiali.


Zadné číslo Ritchieho F-4D 67-463 sedí na asfalte v Udorn RTAFB, Thajsko
Fotografický kredit: Allen L. Tucker

Keď som navrhol, aby Udorn RTAFB (Thajská kráľovská letecká základňa) nevyzeral ako to hrozné miesto, kde by mal byť založený, Ritchie rýchlo súhlasil: „Nie, nebolo a thajskí ľudia sú tak skvelí. Keď sa ostatní chlapci budú sťažovať, že sú v Udorne by som im povedal: „Nechcem počuť vaše kurvy a nariekanie. Strávil som rok na leteckej základni Da Nang, takže to nechcem počuť.“ Keď som prvýkrát prinášal F-4 do Da Nangu, pristál som v 90-stupňovej horúčave s 90% vlhkosťou a akonáhle bola vrchlík a moja prilba vypnutá, zasiahla ma tá najstrašnejšia vôňa na svete. Bolo to z otvorených žľabov, ktoré prechádzali oblasťou. To bolo to najhoršie, čo som kedy cítil, a bolo to tak stále. “

"V prvej a druhej svetovej vojne bolo viac ako 1400 es, 43 esov v Kórei a dve esá vo Vietname," uviedla Ritchie. Čo zapríčinilo dramatické zníženie súčasných es? Prečo nie vyššie zabíjanie? Opýtal som sa ho. „Je to technológia. Máme vyčnievajúce zbrane a všetky druhy zariadení, vďaka ktorým sú naše lietadlá najefektívnejšie a najsmrteľnejšie z oveľa väčšej vzdialenosti. Tiež na oblohe už nie je toľko lietadiel na boj. Kedysi ich boli stovky lietadiel na oblohe počas bojov v prvých dvoch svetových vojnách, potom v Kórei to boli desiatky a vo Vietname to bolo oveľa menej. “

Aby dokázal svoje tvrdenie, generál mi povedal o 10. máji 1972, keď sa jeho letka a viac ako 100 lietadiel amerického letectva a námorníctva postavilo na rušnú oblohu proti najmenej 16 MIG-21. Američania z nich do pár hodín vytiahli 13 a generál v ten deň zostrelil svoju prvú MIG. „Nebo už nebude tak preplnený stíhačkami, hlavne kvôli technológiám,“ povedal mi, „preto už pravdepodobne neuvidíš esá z Iraku, Afganistanu ani budúce letecké záväzky.“ Ritchie poukazuje na to, že o tomto psom zápase bolo napísané v knihe „Jeden deň v dlhej vojne“. Táto letecká bitka bola ďalším z jeho príbehov-skutočne zážitkov-, ktoré zahŕňali to, kým Steve Richie skutočne je.

Po Ritchieho návrate z Vietnamu v roku 1972 odišiel v roku 1974 z aktívnej služby do amerického Kongresu zo svojej rodnej Severnej Karolíny. „Rozbehol som sa na návrh senátora Barryho Goldwatera, ktorý mi povedal, že má pocit, že budem ako člen Kongresu viac slúžiť armáde a krajine.“ Ritchie prehral, ​​zdanlivo kvôli škandálu Watergate a vážnemu effect it had on Republican candidates, among a number of other reasons. That may have been the first time Ritchie lost at anything big in his life.


"A Hero's Welcome" Ritchie is met and welcomed right after his fifth MIG kill

The General did not rest. At various times in his post-Vietnam career, he was appointed by Ronald Reagan, director of the Office of Child Support Enforcement, reporting to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Ritchie was later assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. For six years he was special assistant to Joseph Coors at the Adolph Coors Brewing Company and later lectured extensively around the country for the Heritage Foundation. In 1999, Ritchie officially retired.

Hitting the road and speaking became the General's passion, Ritchie quickly found that he loved giving talks to all groups of people: community groups, business conferences and most of all, the military. He traveled exhaustively telling his stories of the military life, dogfights, shooting down MIGs and fighting Communism.


The General on the occasion of his last Air Force' career flight

But that wouldn't be his last flight by any stretch of the imagination.


Steve Ritchie flies the F-104 Starfighter at the Winston-Salem Air Show


The General's old friend takes one last flight, returning full circle back to the place Ritchie learned to fly, at the USAF Academy to rest in honor. Pike's Peak in the background greets her. "Isn't she a beauty?" Ritchie asked.

Then, in April 2010, General Ritchie received an interesting letter to say the least. In the course of writing this article, Ritchie kept saying to me, "Have you received the letter I sent yet?" and "You have to read the letter." Well, I began to think, enough with the letter already. But when I read the letter, I realized that it was one of the most important letters I'd ever read. And I cried.

This letter would have an indelible and momentous effect on the General and his life.

The writer wanted the General to come and speak at her daughter's school. "We don't have any money," Mariana told Ritchie, "we can't even pay your expenses."

Of course, the General did go out to Seattle to speak to Mariana's daughter's class. But something special was started with that school address to children . something much more chemical, romantic and enduring.

The letter's sender, Mariana Mickler is now Mrs. Ritchie.

The General and Mariana were married on March 4th, 2011 in the Nellis AFB Chapel on the same day that Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy married 59 years earlier. Mariana's daughter, Jessica was the maid of honor while the General's son, Matt was best man.

The couple honeymooned at The Mission Inn in Riverside, California in the same suite Ronald Reagan and his new wife Nancy did in 1952, the "Reagan Suite" now. Who knew? No less than nine Presidents have been to the inn and that Richard and Pat Nixon were also married there. The next day, the General took his new bride to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for a surprise visit. You can see and feel the thread of mutual adoration between both the General and Mariana and them toward Ronald Reagan, whose memory they both revere.

I asked the General when he knew he was going to marry Mariana. He didn't hesitate for an instant, "As soon as I read the letter," he said firmly, sounding as if he was grinning. And when did you know Mariana? "The first time I was fully aware that Steve was the one was when I received his email at work that he was coming out to Seattle to speak to the class. His email said 'I will come. After that letter, I cannot say no. I will be there and I won't accept anything in return.' I broke out into tears right at work people were asking if I was OK. I knew right then that he was the one. That this was going to be the man that I marry."

As "The Letter" states so resolutely, Mariana unconditionally loved Reagan while growing up behind the Iron Curtain (of shame and despair). And it makes perfect sense that she did and does, because after all, it was Reagan who first had the guts, the steadfastness and caring human vision to state at the Berlin Wall, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

And Reagan did it without Facebook, Twitter or the Internet. "Ronald Reagan was such an important figure to those living under Communism. You can't imagine how important and loved he was. He gave hope and spirit and shined a light on our darkness," Mrs. Ritchie said dramatically. It was readily apparent from the tone and thrust of her voice, that for her, Reagan was a life-saving character.

Mariana told me, "I grew up dreaming of an American fighter pilot who would take me away to America, not a knight on a white horse who would take me on his horse to a castle."


"A Dream Come True for the Little Girl Behind The Iron Curtain"

Growing up in Timișoara, Romania, Mariana spoke to me both sadly and angrily. "Timișoara is the second largest city in Romania and used to be called 'Little Vienna.' But the Communist government became so intrusive they bugged our rooms we had to watch everything we said. It was killing our spirit. My grandfather was a priest and both of my parents were strong anti-Communists. We were harassed all the time. When I asked my father why he, everybody did not fight back against the Communists, he told me, 'They would've killed us.' I said in return, 'OK, then they kill you. It's better than living this way.'" But Mariana would not have to live that way much longer.

Mariana landed at JFK airport in NYC on September 20, 1986. "As soon as I stepped off that plane and got well away from it, that was the first time in my life I felt safe. In all my years in America, I always felt I was an American born in Romania. I never felt like I was from there, from Romania."

"I love this country so much! I would do anything for this country! I'm just so proud that I'm an American now and part of this great, great country," she told me with tears in our eyes.

Though she has been assimilated into American society beautifully loves America more than some of those born here and even speaks with a bit of an American accent, this lady hasn't even begun to forget the Communists and their lethal regime. She never will.

The General and Mariana even have a favorite Reagan quote, his "Rendezvous with Destiny": "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done."


General Ritchie with Mariana in Aviano, Italy with his famed "Triple Nickel" 555th TFS for the 40th anniversary of his fifth MIG kill

General Ritchie travels regularly and extensively give talks, chats and speeches to every military base, community group, school, university, association and business group that invites him. He is indefatigable about his speaking.

And, Mariana accompanies him everywhere, at his side, speaking too. They make a powerful couple with a compelling message. As Ritchie told me, "I talk about fighting Communism in Vietnam and Mariana talks about growing up under that kind of tyranny in Romania." Mariana chimed in, "What I'm trying to do now is give Americans a view of the oppressed . what it's like to be dreaming of freedom . what it's like to be willing to die for just a little liberty, just a little freedom."

Then, General Ritchie gives me the perfect closing quote from him. "When you've lived through 339 combat missions, you're very humble. Especially, when so many died. My best friend died. There were ten of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people working on the ground and in the air. I was fortunate that I had five wins but that never would've happened without all those other people working so hard and risking their lives. My heart is filled with gratitude and so humble." It's seems rare to find a humble fighter pilot.

Well, that's my story about General Steve Ritchie, America's Last Ace. He's certifiably one of America's great heroes. And I hope this story lived up to the quote that began it. To me, Steve Ritchie's story certainly is one of "love and courage." For him, the courage came first and the love followed.

"And I have yet to find one single individual who has attained conspicuous success in bringing down enemy aeroplanes who can be said to be spoiled either by his successes or by the generous congratulations of his comrades. If he were capable of being spoiled he would not have had the character to have won continuous victories, for the smallest amount of vanity is fatal in aeroplane fighting. Self-distrust rather is the quality to which many a pilot owes his protracted existence." --Captain Edward V. 'Eddie' Rickenbacker, USAS (1890-1973)

"Each of us has to earn freedom anew in order to possess it. We do so not just for our own sake, but for the sake of our children, so that they may build a better future that will sustain over the world the responsibilities and blessings of freedom." --Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)


History of the American Fighter Ace: Korean War

Little did the fighter Aces of 1945 realize that some of their number would be in the skies fighting for their lives as soon as 1950. Yet, when North Korea invaded South Korea in June of that year it was time for the pilots of America’s fighter outfits to saddle up again and head for combat.

One of the first to see action was WWII fighter ace James W. Little who shot down a Russian-built La-7 on June 27, 1950. James Jabara shot down his fifth MiG-15 on May 20, 1951 to become America’s first jet Ace. Jabara would return to Korea for a second tour of combat and finished up with a total of 15 victories.

The top-scoring Ace of the Korean War was a former WWII navigator by the name of Joseph McConnell with 16 kills. A number of old pro fighter aces from WWII were in action over Korea and many added to their scores and seven of them became aces in their second war. These “two-war” aces were George A. Davis, Jr., Francis S. Gabreski, Vermont Garrison, James Hagerstrom, Harrison Thyng and William T. Whisner.

The Navy had one Ace to come out of the Korean War – Guy P. Bordelon, who scored five victories flying at night in F4Us. Marine ace John F. Bolt, the only Marine to become an ace in two wars, became a jet ace in F-86s while attached to the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing. Three Air Force pilots and one Marine pilot became Aces in the Korean War by adding World War II victories to those scored in Korea to achieve a total of five.


History of the American Fighter Ace: Vietnam War

The long war in Vietnam presented little opportunity for air-to-air scoring by fighter pilots, much less making a large number of Aces. All fighter operations took place under numerous restrictions and the number of enemy fighters available for encounters was quite limited. This, too, was a new type of operation.

The majority of combats took place at ranges that would have been impossible in earlier wars and the pilot had to rely greatly on his “guy in the back”, or GIB, in the F-4 Phantom.

A number of Air Force pilots did score in the single seat F-105 and F-8s but none became Aces. An Air Force World War II Ace, Robin Olds nearly became an ace of Vietnam, but he had to settle for four confirmed victories. There were only two fighter pilot Aces to emerge from the conflict in Vietnam. The first was Navy F-4 pilot Randall H. “Duke” Cunningham who, with Bill Driscoll as his rear seat man, became an Ace on May 10, 1972. Steve Ritchie, also flying the Phantom, became the one and only Air Force pilot Ace when he scored his fifth victory on August 28, 1972 with his GIB, Charles De Bellevue.

These two Aces brought the roll of America’s air Aces from all wars up to 1,442. While their number is few, these men accounted for a large percentage of the enemy aircraft destroyed by all fighter pilots. For years there have been numerous studies conducted in an attempt to determine what makes a fighter Ace. Many attributes have been named, but to date there seems to be no positive determination as to just what traits or qualities add up to a fighter Ace profile. Three factors must be present, however—flying skill, aggressiveness, and, perhaps most important, an opportunity to engage the enemy.

Perhaps a large percentage of the fighter Aces over the years will fall under the classification mentioned by one old professional fighter pilot and Ace who, himself, holds the Medal of Honor. He stated, “Give me ten young fighter pilots and we’ll take them into combat. Out of the ten one of them is going to be a hunter and not the hunted. This is the pilot that is going to become a fighter Ace if the opportunity presents itself.” And there can be no denying the fighter Ace is a hunter.


Richard "Steve" Ritchie

By Stephen Sherman, Oct. 2002. Updated March 22, 2012.

T he only U.S. Air Force pilot ace of the Vietnam War, Capt. Steve Ritchie destroyed five MiG-21s during Operation Linebacker in 1972. Born June 25, 1942 in Reidsville, NC , he was a star quarterback in high school. At the U. S. Air Force Academy , he continued playing football, as starting halfback for the Falcons in 1962 and 1963.

Graduating from the Academy in 1964, Ritchie finished number one in his pilot training class.

After a stint at Flight Test Operations at Eglin AFB, Florida, he began flying the F-4 Phantom II, in preparation for his first tour in Southeast Asia.

Assigned to the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Danang Air Base, South Vietnam in 1968, Ritchie flew the first "Fast FAC" mission in the F-4 forward air controller program and was instrumental in the spread and success of the program. Returning from Southeast Asia in 1969, he reported to the Air Force Fighter Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, where at 26 years of age, he became one of the youngest instructors in the history of the school.

Ritchie volunteered for a second combat tour in January 1972 and was assigned to the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Udorn, Thailand. Flying an F-4D with the famed 555th ("Triple Nickel") Tactical Fighter Squadron he joined the ranks of the MiG killers when he downed a MiG-21 on 10 May, one of several Air Force aerial victories that day. He scored a second victory on 31 May, another MiG-21. A classic low-altitude dog fight on 8 July tied Robins Olds' five-year-old Southeast Asia record as two more MG-21s fell to his Sparrow missiles. Then, on 28 August, came the mission that propelled Steve Ritchie into the record books. Leading Buick Flight, four F-4D Phantoms performing Air MiG CAP ( Combat Air Patrol) north of Hanoi, it was Ritchie's job to protect the Strike Force coming in from the Southwest to hit the Thai-Nguyen steel plant.

May 10, 1972

This section written by Tom Cooper, Air Combat Information Group website

During the early morning of May 10th 1972 the US readied the first large air strikes against North Vietnam in what became Operation Linebacker II. These attacks caused several large clashes between US aircraft and North Vietnamese interceptors during the Vietnam War. The first strike on that day was launched by aircraft carriers USS Constellation, USS Coral Sea a USS Kitty Hawk against targets in Haiphong area at 08:00 AM. Hardly one hour later no less than 84 Phantoms and five F-105Gs of the USAF, supported by 20 KC-135 tankers and a SAR group of three helicopters, four A-1s and four Phantoms, closed on North Vietnam crossing northern Thailand and Laos. The vanguard of this attack force comprised eight F-4D Phantoms, armed for air-to-air combat, the Oyster and Balter flights, whose main task was to patrol areas around known North Vietnamese airfields and intercept any MiGs which would try to attack the main American formation. The whole operation was closely controlled by an EC-121 radar picket plane, which operated over Laos, and the cruiser USS Chicago, underway in the Gulf of Tonkin and operating under the call-sign Red Crown.

Already during the air refueling over Thailand the cutting edge of the initial fighter sweep had been blunted. Balter 2 had electrical problems, Balter 3 was unable to refuel both had to return to Udorn. Oyster 4, (flown by Lt. Feezel and Capt. Pettit) suffered a radar failure but its crew decided to continue the mission. Balter 1 and 4 joined up as an element and continued northeast, as did the four aircraft of Oyster flight. The fighter sweep had been devised by Major Bob Lodge, Oyster flight leader, an experienced air fighting tactician with two MiG kills to his credit. These two flights of Phantoms were to establish a barrier patrol northwest of Hanoi, Oyster flight at low altitude and Balter flight behind it at 22.000 feet in full view of the enemy. Any MiG moving against Balter flight would fly over the Oyster flight waiting in ambush.

The shadowboxing began at 09:42 AM, when North Vietnamese fighters flew into action. Two minutes later, two MiG-21s of 921 FR took off from Noi Bai, turning toward Tuyen Quang to decoy the Americans. At the same time four J-6s of the 1st Flight (#1 Nguyen Ngoc Tiep, #2 Nguyen Hong Son, #3 Pham Hung Son and #4 Nguyen Duc Tiem) of the 925 FR were scrambled as well. Unknown to either Red Crown or to crews of US fighters, two MiG-21s turned straight toward the Oyster flight, covered by four low flying J-6s.

Immediately Red Crown informed the Oyster flight: „Multiple bandits in your area. I hold a Bandit at three-four-zero at twenty-four. The closest bandit I hold is zero-two-two at sixteen." Running in at 15.000 feet the MiG-21s closed rapidly, joining with four J-6s in the process, and Balter flight edged toward Oyster to provide top cover. Lodge turned his flight to meet the MiGs nearly nose-on, jettisoning their external tanks and arming AIM-7 Sparrows (except Feezel, whose radar failed). The radars were locked on and at 13nm (24km) a warning light in the cockpit of Oyster 1 flashed, indicating that the hostile aircraft were within range. In Oyster 3 Chuck DeBellevue picked up a MiG IFF transmission on his Combat Tree equipment and informed his pilot that he had a positive hostile identification on the planes in front. Clipped instructions in Oyster 1 and 2 followed, as back-seaters locked on their radars and made the final switching for a head-on attack. The allowable steering error on the radar display began to contract and at 8nm (13km) Lodge launched his first Sparrow at the leading MiG element.

Trailing a plume of white smoke, it accelerated out in front and began tracking upwards at a shallow angle, but detonated when its motor burned out. With range now down to 6nm (10km) Major Lodge fired a second Sparrow which launched successfully and tracked upwards at a 20 degree angle. It left a contrail and then came the flash of the detonation. A few seconds later a MiG-21 fell out of sky, trailing fire and missing its left wing. Lt. John Markle in Oyster 2 also fired a pair of Sparrows and his second missile started tracking upwards and slightly to the right. As Markle watched, the big missile pulled lead and flew right into North Vietnamese plane, causing another yellow explosion.

As it seems, the second Sparrow fired by Major Lodge hit the MiG-21 wingman, while the second Sparrow destroyed the J-6 of Nguyen Hong Son, who ejected but later died of his injuries. At about this point, remaining two North Vietnamese flashed over the top of Oyster Flights 1 and 2, the leading MiG-21 narrowly missing collision with Oyster Leader. Major Lodge instinctively pulled hard up to the right in an oblique half loop which brought him right 200ft (60m) behind the MiG. Lodge was now too close for a missile attack, and his Phantom was not equipped with guns. But he eased off his turn and the enemy fighter’s range was opening. The combat was going well for Oyster flight when, suddenly, the tables were turned. Zooming up from below came the J-6s. While pilots of Oyster flight identified only four North Vietnamese fighters, while there were, in fact, six of them. After their #4 was shot down, other J-6s of the 1st Flight of the 925 FR reversed and Pham Hung Son, followed closely by Nguyen Duc Tiem curved behind Lodge’s F-4 as Markle, to the left of his leader and in no position to engage Vietnamese, shouted a warning: „OK, there’s a bandit. you got a bandit in your ten o’clock, Bob, level!"

Major Lodge thought that the MiG-21 in front of him had opened the range sufficiently for a close-in shot, and called: „Oyster One padlocked!" and fired a Sparrow. But, Pham Hung Son fired as well and the shells from his three 30mm guns bridged the gap between him and Lodge’s Phantom. The F-4 was hit and was losing speed, but initially its crew thought they had escaped with minor damage. Both the pilot and the RIO were disappointed at the sight of the lost AIM-7 and the MiG in front of them separating away. Pham Hung Son closed and fired again, and as more shells struck his aircraft, Lodge’s RIO, Captain Roger Locher, realized what happened. The right engine exploded and the Phantom began doing hard yaws to the right. Soon, all the hydraulics were lost.

As Locher prepared to leave the falling Phantom, Captain Steve Ritchie, flying as Oyster 3, had been chasing the remaining J-6 of Nguyen Duc Tiem which continued almost straight ahead. Lacking visual contact and action on radar information, Ritchie pulled up to the right in a 4 to 5G turn. Rolling out at 18.000ft (5.500m) he finally sighted his target almost 10.000 feet (5.500m) away to the left. He pulled to the inside of J-6s turn, locking on his radar as he went. From a range of 6.000ft (1.800m) Ritchie ripple-fired two Sparrows, both of them guided. The first passed close under the target without detonating, but the second scored a direct hit. From the rear seat of Oyster 03, Captain DeBellevue caught a glimpse of a dirty yellow parachute of Nguyen Duc Tiem as they passed the falling J-6.

Flying at 20.000 feet, two Phantoms of Balter flight arrived in time to see the final moments of the fight, as Lodge’s Phantom plunged to the earth like a meteor. Due to smoke nobody saw ejection of Captain Locher. Shaken by the sudden loss of their leader, the survivors of the Oyster flight sped away from the area. The first large clash of 10 May 1972 was over, but others were now to follow.”

Two MiGs

On July 8th, 1972, Captain Steve Ritchie of the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, led a flight of four F-4 Phantoms, call sign "Paula," over the skies of Vietnam. With his Radar Intercept Officer, Capt. Charles DeBellevue, he succeeded in shooting down two MIG-21's during an engagement that lasted only one minute and twenty-nine seconds. The following interview about that mission appeared on The History Channel, “Weapons at War: The Aces:”

“The 8th of July mission was the most intense, the most exciting mission that I ever flew. Everything worked. During that minute and 29 seconds I drew on all my life experiences. Every part of my training and education came together in that moment and it worked. Few people ever experience that moment where everything jells. It's a feeling that is hard to describe.

“When the mission began, one of the earlier MiG CAP flights had been hit by a MiG. He had broken formation and was headed out, bleeding fuel and hydraulics. He was announcing his position, heading, and altitude on the emergency frequency, a very bad idea, because the North Vietnamese monitored the emergency frequency and when they heard a cripple, leaving by himself, they sent MiGs after him. So we headed toward the fellow that was in trouble, when ‘Red Crown’ and ‘Disco’ [RC-121 radar control aircraft] called additional MiG activity. You can imagine the adrenalin was beginning to pump. I headed to low altitude, and got ‘Heads Up’ call, which meant that the MiGs had us in sight and they had been cleared to fire.

“I really began to look around at that point, because we didn't have them in sight. I rolled out on an easterly heading and stayed there about 8 seconds, when I got a call from ‘Disco’, 150 miles away orbiting over Laos, looking at the whole ring of its radar scope. I heard among the static: "Steve, 2 miles north of you." I made an immediate left turn from my east heading to the north, picked up a MiG-21 at 10 o’clock. Now, if I’d stayed on an easterly heading, the MiG would have been right in my rear quarter, and I probably wouldn’t be here to tell the story today.

“Pick it up at 10 o’clock, rolled left, dropped the external fuel tanks with full afterburner. We passed about 1,000 feet from each other. I could see the pilot in the cockpit. It was a bright, spit-polished superb MiG-21, with bright red stars. When I saw the lead MiG, the strong tendency was to immediately turn, to try to get an advantage. I knew there were two, because they had called ‘Two Blue Bandits.’ But I didn’t see #2. So, I waited, I rolled level, pushed the nose over and waited. Sure enough, #2 came along about 8,000 feet away. Immediately when he passe, I made a 135 degree turn, level, 90, 135, flaps, nose down sliding turn about 6.5 g.”

[This last sentence is confused, as it was a TV interview. He used his hands to explain his actions to the TV team, something very typical for fighter pilots. Ritchie meant to say: “I started a turn of 135 degrees, I leveled waiting for the MiG #2, I rolled 90 degrees, re-started the turn of 135 degrees, I engaged flaps and turned with my nose slightly down, etc.”]

“I couldn’t see what was happening back over there. About half of this turn, I began to roll out of the 135 degrees and as I rolled out of 135 degrees I began to look back, thinking that they’re going to be somewhere back around here [indicated a position at 4 o’clock] to my great surprise I saw a MiG up over here [indicated a position at 9 o’clock], in the opposite direction of where I would expect the MiG would be, because instead of turning to the left and going to this side of the circle [indicated a counter-clockwise turn], they turned to the right and went to this side of the circle [indicated a clockwise turn]. So, now I was in a position with my nose down, and the MiG was high, in a right turn. I was in a left turn, so even if I pulled my nose up, I would have had what is called a very hard angle off.”

[At this point Ritchie’s account was interrupted by a graphic and narrator's explanation, saying that Ritchie solved his problem performing a “Barrel-Roll”, and that this maneuver put him behind and below the MiG.]

“The target was high in the blue sky, good for a radar lock-on. The MiG saw us, turned down into us. I squeezed the trigger. The first missile went to the center of the fuselage of the MiG and the second missile went thru the fire ball. I felt a nice jump on the stick a piece of debris shaken up at the leading edge of the left wing.

“The lead MiG, the silver MiG, came all the way around the circle and the other three airplanes of our flight were in trail, and then the shiny MiG came on the position of #4, Tommy Feasel. I cut across the circle and achieved a similar position now on the lead MiG that I had on the wingman before, except the lead MiG was a lot better than the wingman. He saw us, forgot about Tommy Feasel, started a hard turn into us. We got a flat turning here, look like just maneuver the airplane.

“I put him in the gunsight, Chuck [Charles DeBelleuve, his RIO in this mission] told me that he had a lock that’s all I need to know. Missile came off the airplane. It looked like a Sidewinder, it began to snake and did not appear to guide, and I was telling it: ‘the target is over here!’ Suddenly, the missile appeared to do a 90 degree right turn, and it hit the MiG in the fuselage. The missile was pulling about 25 g and was accelerated about twelve hundred miles an hour when it hit, so you can imagine the explosion.”

Ritchie left active service in 1974 and had a distinguished career in the Air Force Reserve before retiring in 1999. With more than 3,000 flight hours, 800 combat hours, and decorations that include four Silver Stars and 10 Distinguished Flying Crosses , Ritchie is a role model and exemplar of what he would call his three Ds -- "duty, desire, and determination."

The second of two books on the Navy's Phantom II MiG killers of the Vietnam War, this book covers the numerous actions fought out over North Vietnam during the Linebacker I and II operations of 1972-73. No fewer than 17 MiGs were downed during this period, five of them by the Navy's only aces of the conflict, Lts Randy Cunningham and Willie Driscoll of VF-96. Drawing on primary sources such as surviving Phantom II aircrew and official navy documentation, the author has assembled the most precise appraisal of fighter operations involving US Navy Phantom II units and those elusive MiGs ever seen in print.


THE FIRST WORLD WAR (1914–1918)

In January 1929, Wop and Vic Horner wrote a dazzling page in Canadian aviation history. They flew an open cockpit Avro Avian for a two day trip with temperatures hovering around -30C, from Edmonton, Alberta, to Fort Vermillion, Alberta, in one of the first mercy flights of Canada&rsquos air age. Their goal: to deliver diphtheria vaccine to combat an outbreak of the deadly disease in Little Red River, about 100 kilometres from Fort Vermillion. The 1,000 kilometre flight became known across Canada as &ldquothe race against death&rdquo.

In 1932, Wop flew the aircraft that guided Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in their hectic chase of Albert Johnson &mdash &ldquoThe Mad Trapper of Rat River&rdquo &mdash in the Yukon.

During the Second World War, Wop was general manager of No. 2 Air Observer School in Edmonton he also created the first para rescue unit, which later evolved into the Royal Canadian Air Force&rsquos modern search and rescue system. Wop was inducted into Canada&rsquos Aviation Hall of Fame in 1974.


AIR ACES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR

All Rights Reserved except for Fair Dealing exceptions otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised.

Accepted Non-commercial Use

Permitted use for these purposes:

If you are interested in the full range of licenses available for this material, please contact one of our collections sales and licensing teams.

Use this image under fair dealing.

All Rights Reserved except for Fair Dealing exceptions otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised.

Accepted Non-commercial Use

Permitted use for these purposes:

If you are interested in the full range of licenses available for this material, please contact one of our collections sales and licensing teams.

Use this image under fair dealing.

All Rights Reserved except for Fair Dealing exceptions otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised.

Accepted Non-commercial Use

Permitted use for these purposes:

If you are interested in the full range of licenses available for this material, please contact one of our collections sales and licensing teams.

Use this image under fair dealing.

All Rights Reserved except for Fair Dealing exceptions otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised.

Accepted Non-commercial Use

Permitted use for these purposes:

If you are interested in the full range of licenses available for this material, please contact one of our collections sales and licensing teams.


Building the U.S. Air Force: The Legacy of World War II Aces

One of my favorite conversations to have with visitors at our museum are those that draw connections across different time periods. It’s easy to forget that many of the same people involved in one era go on to have careers spanning into later periods. As we reflect on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II this year, I wanted to highlight three World War II “ace” pilots (meaning they shot down five or more enemy aircraft) and how they went on to careers that helped to define and shape the future of the U.S. Air Force.

This is not an exhaustive list nor a “top three,” by any means, but rather three examples from among many dozens more that could be mentioned.

Major George Welch

George Welch poses with the XP-86, c. 1947.

On a warm Saturday night in Waikiki, Hawaii, 2nd Lt. George Welch attended a dinner and dance party that turned into an all-night poker game. As Sunday morning dawned and the victors gathered their winnings, the festive mood was shattered by the sound of gunfire. The date: December 7, 1941.

Welch, a recent addition to the 47th Pursuit Squadron, called the airstrip at Haleiwa to have two P-40B Warhawks ready to go. Welch and his friend 2nd Lt. Kenneth Taylor hopped into Taylor’s car and raced to the airfield as Japanese bullets rained down. The two airmen jumped into their airplanes and took off. After damaging two Aichi D3A Val dive bombers, Welch landed to fix a jammed gun and reload. He proceeded to shoot down another Val and a Mitsubishi A6M Zero. With four credited aerial victories, Welch had almost reached ace status before the U.S. had even declared war!

Lts. Ken Taylor (left) and George Welch (right), shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Welch’s achievements did not end on that day of infamy. For a time, Welch held the title of “King of the New Guinea’s Skies,” flying P-39 Airacobras and P-38 Lightnings in the Pacific. After shooting down 16 enemy planes, a case of malaria took him off combat duty .

Welch’s post-war career was both vital to the early U.S. Air Force and tragic. In spring 1944, Welch resigned his commission and became a test pilot for North American Aviation. In October 1947, he was the first to fly the XP-86, the prototype for what became the F-86 Sabre, in which he reached 618 mph in level flight. Seven years later, in October 1954, Welch was test flying an early model of another new fighter, the F-100A Super Sabre. Pulling 7 Gs out of a dive at Mach 1.55 caused a catastrophic failure and the airplane began to disintegrate. Although Welch initially survived the crash, he died en route to a hospital.

The first Sabre prototype, XP-86, which Welch test piloted, c. 1947.

Welch, one of the first air-to-air victors of World War II, also helped usher in a new age of jet combat and supersonic fighters that came to define the U.S. Air Force.

Brigadier General Robin Olds

Maj. Robin Olds, 434th Fighter Squadron commander, in a P-51D.

“By the time I was five, I could name an airplane by the sound of its engine on takeoff or landing,” claimed ace pilot Brig. Gen. Robin Olds. He grew up steeped in air power, as the son of Maj. Gen. Robert Olds, who was a mentor to Gen. Curtis LeMay. Robin entered West Point in 1940 and then flew P-38 Lightnings with the 479th Fighter Group, arriving in Europe less than two weeks before D-Day. Olds made ace in only two engagements, the first on August 14, 1944, when he downed two Fw-190s, then on August 25, when he shot down three Bf 109s. That made him the last P-38 pilot in the 8th Air Force to make ace. His unit transitioned to P-51 Mustangs, in which Olds continued to tear apart German fighters, ultimately ending the war with 12 aerial victories.

Such a record would be notable on its own, but Olds is most famous for his achievements following World War ll. For several years, Olds rotated through various non-combat roles, including flying in a P-80 Shooting Star aerobatics demonstration team, flying Gloster Meteors in an exchange program with the RAF, and holding non-combat command positions in Washington, DC, before eventually getting orders to command the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing and join the Vietnam War in September 1966.

Immediately upon arriving to his new command, he got in a fistfight with two lieutenants at the officers’ club who—in the tradition of the Wing—tried to rip the patches off Olds’ flight suit. Instead of seeing this as a discipline problem, Olds thought it was a sign of healthy morale, saying, “These guys had spirit.” His first act was to show the Wing, nicknamed the “Wolf Pack,” that he was willing to learn and would be flying alongside his men, pushing them. “I’d give the guys in the briefing room the same goading speech, ‘I’m gonna be better than you!’” he recalled. “As soon as they stopped being pissed off, they got into the spirit of the challenge.”

Olds’ deputy commander of operations was a friend he had worked with previously at the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing: Col. Daniel “Chappie” James. Starting as an instructor for the Tuskegee Airmen, James later became the first African American four-star general. Together, the two were known by their joint nickname: “Blackman and Robin.”

Col. Robin Olds (right) with Col. Daniel James (left) in Thailand, c. 1966. James was deputy commander for operations and later vice wing commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing. Together they were nicknamed “Blackman and Robin.”

By the end of the year, Olds was frustrated with the mounting losses to North Vietnamese MiG fighters and designed “Operation Bolo.” The plan revolved around taking the QRC-160 jamming pods typically carried by F-105 Thunderchiefs and instead placing them on F-4 Phantoms. North Vietnamese forces thought the electronic signature was indicative of vulnerable F-105s, but instead it was a trap. A swarm of Phantoms, including James and Olds, went after the surprised MiGs. While James chased one MiG into position for his wingman to shoot it down, Olds also contributed one victory to the total of seven destroyed MiG-21s, nearly half of North Vietnam’s MiG-21 inventory at that time.

Col. Robin Olds with his F-4C Phantom II, c. 1967.

Olds ended his time in Southeast Asia with four aerial victories, making him a triple ace with a career total of 16. He then spent time as the commandant of cadets at the Air Force Academy before retiring in 1973. Although he began his career as a World War II ace, Olds’ later career not only made important contributions to the American effort in the Vietnam War, but became culturally emblematic of the stereotypical fighter pilot in the process.

Colonel James Hagerstrom

On the morning of January 23, 1944, 1st Lt. James Hagerstrom, having only recently recovered from malaria, was leading a flight of P-40 Warhawks on a “maximum effort” bombing mission in the Pacific. Nearing their target of Boram, New Guinea, Hagerstrom saw 10 to 15 Mitsubishi A6M Zeros pouring down on a group of P-38s near him. His group dropped his tanks and dove into what became a massive dogfight. He and his wingman, 2nd Lt. John Bodak, each shot down Zeroes off the other’s tails, as Hagerstrom damaged more Japanese fighters in multiple head-on passes and shot down more that were chasing other P-38s. Hagerstrom expended all his ammunition in the fight, emerging with four victory credits (three Zeroes and one Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien) in addition to damaging others while saving the lives of two P-38 pilots. Combined with the two victories he earned the previous year, he was now an ace.

Lt. Col. James Hagerstrom with his F-86 Sabre in Osan, Korea, c. 1952.

Hagerstrom was discharged after the war and joined the Texas Air National Guard. When the Korean War began in 1950, he was recalled to active duty. Fitting the fighter pilot stereotype, Hagerstrom longed for air-to-air victories. Of the 40 American ace pilots in the Korean War, Hagerstrom was the only one flying in a fighter-bomber unit (the 67th Squadron) as opposed to a dedicated fighter-interceptor squadron. This was due to his reputation for dropping his bombs as fast as possible and heading straight for the North Korea-China border, known as “MiG Alley,” where enemy planes were more likely to be flying. Hagerstrom never missed an opportunity, whether it was by volunteering to fly on Christmas day (when he got his second MiG-15 kill), or when he flew on his last day in Korea. He was literally standing in his dress uniform waiting for his transport home to land when a friend told him a sensitive mission requiring four pilots had come up. Hagerstrom jumped in an F-86 immediately and shot down another MiG, bringing his total to 8.5 credits in Korea.

After Korea, Hagerstrom continued to make important contributions to the Air Force. He set up an evaluation program for the then-new AIM-9 Sidewinder missile, which has since become a mainstay of air combat. After various command and staff positions, Hagerstrom joined the Vietnam War in 1966. Working out of Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, he led a program to adapt the “Starlight Scope” for use on AC-47 gunships, giving them much better visibility for night operations. Hagerstrom spent his time in Southeast Asia helping to run interdiction efforts in Laos against the Ho Chi Minh Trail before his frustration with that conflict prompted him to resign in 1968.


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