Tag Archives: Col. Bob Pitt

Long Time FASF Member, Col. Bob Pitt, Shares Vietnam Story

           Colonel Bob Pitt

Colonel, Bob Pitt (Left), of El Paso, TX, a former Daedalian Flight 24 Captain, and a long time FASF member, recounted his harrowing experience being wounded, while flying a USAF 101 ‘Voodoo” fighter  (below) over North Vietnam, to the monthly meeting of the group.

Bob was on a mission with a fellow pilot over North Vietnam, when his jet suddenly took a direct hit to one of its two engines from a Viet Cong 85 mm anti-aircraft battery.  He and his wing man had been flying down “on the deck” – and fast – to help avoid SAM (Surface to Air) missile sites.  But, just as they flew out over a large valley, the Vietcong opened up with small arms and anti-aircraft fire.

Some of the explosion’s shrapnel wounded him in his left shoulder.  Without warning, the future Air Force Colonel’s life was precariously hanging in the balance.  The date was exactly 54 years ago this coming Saturday, the 5th of October. It was 1969 at the height of the Viet Nam conflict.

                F-101 McDonnell Supersonic ‘Voodoo’

His fellow team member,  his Operations Officer, Major Tony Weissgarber, continued on to the target after getting the go-ahead from flight leader, Pitt.  In the meantime, Bob had several quick decisions to make:  Should he eject and bail out of his burning fighter right then and there, or try to limp back to the South to the nearest U.S. Air Base?  Could he even make it that far, since his fuel was leaking rapidly from one of his ruptured tanks?  At least he had managed to extinguish the fire from the bad engine.

He quickly decided to head back to the East in order to get out over the ocean, where he hoped the friendly U.S,. Navy was ubiquitously available to rescue a freshly downed flier – just in case.

                Colonel Mario Campos, Flight 24 Captain, Introduces the Lunch’s presenter, Col. Bob Pitt.

Bob Pitt reads from one of the publications that published the story about his harrowing encounter over North Vietnam in 1969.

If he crashed or had to eject over the jungles below, he’d at best have to register at the “Hanoi Hilton,” where he’d heard . . . “the accommodations were much less than satisfactory,” so the ocean it was.  He called for help from the nearest air tanker, but, since they were restricted from flying over North Vietnam, he didn’t have much hope of getting his much needed fuel from his too rapidly diminishing supply.

Luckily, he took no more hits as he wheeled about and headed out to sea.  Once over the water, he was surprised to see a KC-135 Aerial Refueling Tanker headed his way.

Meantime, he was constantly scanning the horizon for any incoming North Vietnamese Russian Migs, to which he’d be a sitting duck, since his Voodoo was already seriously crippled.

He was simply no longer able to defend himself from any air-to-air attackers.  He maneuvered the damaged jet to a close-up refueling position behind the Tanker, but could not raise he refueling probe to connect to the big Boeing tanker’s fuel boom.  He also discovered that his utility hydraulic system was one of the vital systems destroyed by the anti-aircraft strike.  That hydraulic system was needed to work the Voodoo’s refueling probe – and also other important mechanisms on board.

View of the McDonnell RF-101C cockpit that Pitt was flying on this harrowing mission

He banked towards to nearest Air Base, concerned that he’d wasted some of his vital fuel load maneuvering to get re-fueled by the tanker.  He managed to contact DaNang Air Base, whom he advised of his emergency status.

They cleared the field for him in to come on board.  He noticed his fuel indicator read “empty” as he lined up to land.  Bob came in with extra speed, not sure of how much his normal stall speed had been increased by the damage inflicted on the 101.  He touched down perfectly, deployed his Drogue Chute to help him slow down, but suddenly noticed that he had no steering, since the defunct utility hydraulic system also powered his nose-wheel steering.

A stiff cross-wind condition forced his nose to the left, and he helplessly careened off the runway, across the turf, and headed directly towards a base radar (‘GCA’) shack.  He yelled to the tower to have any personnel vacate his new “target” immediately.  The big crash threw him wildly about and stirred up a huge cloud of dust.  As the dust cleared he looked up to see one of the base firemen looking down at him in his silver helmeted fire suit.  “I’m OK,” reported Bob.  There’s no fuel left to burn!

Two days later, patched up from his wound, and ready to fly, he was quickly airborne on his next mission.  For this harrowing experience, Pitt was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), and for his wounds and damaged back (from the crash into the building), the Purple Heart.

Less than a year later, again flying the Voodoo, but this time out of Okinawa island, he lost both his engines shortly after take-off in a giant explosion.  Still low over the Pacific Ocean, he had no choice but to eject.  His chute opened almost simultaneously with his striking the water.  Two lost Voodoo jets, but not their hardy fighter pilot, Bob Pitt.

L to R: Colonels Bob Pitt and Mario Campos take questions after Pitt’s talk.

Black Sheep Squadron Graduates 8 New Viper Pilots at HAFB

8th Fighter Squadron Logo

The 8th Fighter Squadron (Fighting Patch at left) has been with us since November of 1940, when it was first organized at Selfridge Army Air Field, in Michigan. Decommissioned for a while, it is now back in the front lines of our Air Defense against any would be adversaries.  This weekend saw its first graduating class of new F-16 Viper pilots since its arrival last year at Holloman Air Force Base, near Alamagordo, NM.  According to the Squadon’s commander, Lt. Colonel Mark Sletten, each of the evening’s graduates’ training has cost the Air Force about eight (8) million dollars.

The squadron is best known as the Black Sheep Squadron of World War II fame and  for one of its commanding officers, Colonel Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, one of WWII’s top USMC fighter Aces, whose memoirs inspired the 1970s television show “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” later syndicated as Black Sheep Squadron, which dramatized the squadron’s exploits during the war.

Although the original “Black Sheep” group was composed of USMC pilots, their Squadron no longer exists, so it’s been reborne, but this time as a USAF Fighter Squadron, not a USMC outfit. (This clarification the suggestion of Capt. Robbie Ritchie).

“These guys get to be a part of a very special fraternity and we have absolutely trained them up well to go out and be a part of that fraternity, the combat arms we know and love,” said Lt. Col. Mark Sletten, 8th FS commander.    “For them to be a part of the  greatest nation, the  greatest
military, greatest service and of course the greatest platform – the F-16, leaving here tonight as qualified F-16 pilots makes us all proud.”

Getting all of the people shown below properly identified could not have been done without the indispensible assistance of the Daedalian Leadership Awardee, Captain Robbie “Ramm” Ritchie,* who made sure we properly identified all those shown. Prior to this specialized fighter training with the 8th, Captain Ritchie had been an instructor pilot.  The name used for such already experienced new Basic students is FAIP, which stands for: First Assignment Instructor Pilot.   This prior duty assignment helps account for Robbie’s rank of Captain.

Remember: Click on any photo below to show it in hight resolution and full-size.

L to R: Lt. Col. Mark Sletten, Commander of the 8th Fighter Squadron, Colonel Bob Pitt and his wife, Julie.

L to R: Col. Pitt in conversation with Captain Ely Smith, the evening’s Master of Ceremonies

L to R: Roger Nichols, son of the WWII Ace after whom the El Paso Flight is named, Julie and Col. Pitt, and Dr. Bryan Harris, USAF Colonel, Retired.  Col. Harris, now a contractor,  is in charge of all the F-16 Viper Maintenance for the 8th Fighter Squadron

All long-time FASF members, Roger Nichols, immediate past Daedalian Flight 24 Captain, looks over the evening’s coming program with the Pitts

L to R: Julie and Col. Pitt with Roger Nichols

Many families attended the graduation and wives and girlfriends of both the 8th’s staff as well as graduating students, busily used their phones to record the celebration.  Above, to the the right of the Pitts is the wife of flight instructor, Major Jared Aschenbrenner, collecting memories of the event on her phone camera

Colonel Jeff (“Tank”) Patton, FASF Member, and Commander of the 49th Operations Group, poses with Nichols and Pitt.

View of part of the Dining Hall in the Holloman Club, at which the event was held

Colonel Jeff Patton and his wife, Tracy.

Photo on one of the several large projection screens, showing this Viper Fighter Class’ Students on an F-16’s wing

New Fighter Pilot Graduate, Captain Nicholas Atkins, gets the festivities underway

One of the classes’ distinguished graduates, Robert “Ramm” Ritchie, presented the award for the “Most valuable non-commissioned officer” to Master Sergeant Cope on behalf of its recipient, Sergeant Merril

L to R: Captain Ritchie presented the most valuable Flight Instructor award to Major Nathan “Stuka” Lightfoot

L to R: Colonel Bob Pitt describes the history of El Paso’s Flight 24, Order of the Daedalians and its Namesake, General Nick Nichols to the audience as 2nd Lt. Seth Bolon and Colonel Mark “Tyson” Sletten, Squadron Commander, look on.  Lt. Bolon is a member of the new incoming 8th Fighter Squadron class.

L to R: Capt. Ely Smith, MC, 2nd Lt Seth Bolon, look on as Col. Bob Pitt presents the General Nichols Daedalian Leadership Award to Capt. Robbie Ritchie, while Squadron CO., Col. Mark Sletten congratulates him on the achievement. Captain Ritchie will head to Shaw AFB, South Carolina for his next duty assignment.  His classmates are going to all corners of the globe for their new pilot assignments.

Colonel Pitt hands the Daedalian Award to Captain Robert Ritchie, as the 8th’s Commander, Col. Sletten, proudly poses beside the new awardee. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kindra Stewart).  Lt. Bolon in background

L to R: Colonel Miles “Cowboy” Crowell, with River Rat Awardee, Lt. Scott Lafferty, and fellow River Rat member, Colonel Jeff Patton. This award is given to the student of each class with whom his or her fellow pilots would most prefer to fly in combat.

L to R: Lt. Seth Bolon, looks on as Col. Sletten poses with Daedalian Trophy Winner, Capt Ritchie, as they hold his Graduation Certificate, while Captain Ian “Bear” Lee and Captain Allison “Bandit” Romanko, 8th Fighter Squadron Instructors, look on.  Eight Viper pilot students graduated from the 8th FS’ first F-16  B-Course, nearly eighty years since the squadron’s induction on Nov. 20, 1940.

All eight graduates line up on stage for their class graduation portrait. R to L:  Captain Daniel Rule, Captain Robert Ritchie, Captain Reese Black, Captain Bradley Beninati,  1st Lt. Evan Wade, 1st Lt. Scott Lafferty, 1st Lt. Kent Greer, and Captain Nicholas Atkins.

L to R: FASF and Daedalian Members, Ric Lambart, Roger Nichols and Col. Bob Pitt, flank Leadership Trophy winner, Capt. Robbie (“Ramm”) Ritchie

Roger Nichols discusses his father’s and his own USAF career with Leadership Awardee, Capt. “Ramm” Ritchie

Below, is the the class video, 11 minutes long, which shows many clips taken from the months of fllight and fighter training the eight members of this first graduating class of the 8th Fighter Squadron experienced in their work with the Viper Fighter.  Aside from a few inserts of actual wartime footage target anihilation (taken in the mideast), the video content was primarily taken by the students or HAFB Public Affairs videographers during their training activities.  The video gives the viewer and unique insight into the experience these young men went through this past year at Holloman. 

The film uses a number of special effects for the dramatization of some of the student experiences, such as refueling practice and of the TDY (Temporary Duty assignment) to Louisiana’s Bayou country.  The video was produced by class member, Lt. Evan Wade, and also shows, quite graphically, to where each of the graduates will be going for their front line fighter assignment.  This video can be seen best when your monitor is set to full-screen mode. Lt. Wade garners some top-gun kudos for his excellent production.

* Here is part of the official HAFB Public Affairs Office news release concerning Daedalian Award Recipient, Capt Robbie Ritchie:

This class’ recipient of the coveted Daedalian Flight 24 Leadership Award this
year, was Capt. Robert Ritchie. The Captain, one of the 8th Fighter Squadron F-16
Basic-Course graduates, always knew he wanted to be a fighter pilot.

Ritchie’s father is a retired Air Force pilot who flew C-130s and T-38s, before
flying for a commercial airline out of Minnesota.

I was one of those kids that built model aircraft and hung them from the ceiling,”
said Ritchie. “My childhood bedroom was one big aerial battle.”

Ritchie graduated with an undergraduate degree followed by a Masters of Science in
aerospace engineering from the University of Minnesota, before leaving for Officer
Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Of the eight Viper pilots to graduate from Class 18-CBF, Ritchie was one of five who
were First Assignment Instructor Pilots “FAIP” trained on another aircraft before coming
to Holloman.

On behalf of Class 18-CBF, I can honestly say our experience training here on Holloman
Air Force Base has been one of the most professional experiences that we have ever been
involved with,” said Ritchie. “From the jets, to the instructors, to the maintainers,
to the air traffic controllers, how the base is run and everything in-between.”

Roger Nichols Briefs Daedalians on “Linebacker II” in Vietnam

At yesterday’s regular monthly meeting at the El Paso Club in downtown El Paso, Texas, Daedalian Flight 24 (more affectionately known as the General “Nick” Nichol’s Flight – named after Roger’s WWII Ace Dad), listened intently as their immediate past Flight Captain, Roger Nichols, shared a power point – video briefing about the historic American Linebacker II heavy-bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese.

The time was December 1972, when the Nixon Administration’s Henry Kissinger, representing the U.S. interests at the Paris Peace Accords, had just failed to reach a peace agreement with the North Vietamese’s Le Duc Tho in Paris, France.  Kissinger had just over-optimistically announced to the press that “Peace is at hand.”

With the Accords in shambles, the U.S. mounted a massive bombing campaign over the North Vietamese capital of Hanoi.  It was code-named “Linebacker II.”  Fellow Daedalian Fllight and long-standing FASF member, Charlie Overstreet,  had been one of the pilots who took part in that huge aerial assault on North Vietnam,  The majority of Flight 24’s aviators flew during that distant Southeast Asian war.

For those of you who might be interested, here is the short (12:13) segment I of the longer documentary of that “Linebacker II” campaign, which was produced by the son of General Glenn R. Sullivan, who commanded the 17th Air Division out of U-Tapao Air Base in Thailand at the time.  Here is a link to a number of other films made of that same campaign.

The presentation by Roger was both educational, and also nostalgic for those in the Flight who had fought in the skies above Southeast Asia, and who had lost some of their closest friends and fellow aviators in that now historic conflict.  The meeting had an element of sadness, also, because Roger will soon be moving to Oklahoma to be closer to his children and grand-children.  Fortunately, Roger’s many interests in El Paso (where he was born), including the Daedalians, will bring him back on regular visits.

(Click on any photo below to see it in full high-resolution()

             Former USAF aviators (L to R): Pete Brandon, Alan Fisher, Mario Campos, Roger Nichols and Bob Pitt

                              Mrs. Ulla Rice, wife of Colonel Norm Rice, and Col. Bob Pitt

           Roger Nichols (seated) prepares for his presentation with help of Flight Captain, Col. Mario Campos

     Colonel Bob Pitt, Vietnam fighter Pilot, who was wounded over ‘Nam, briefs Daedalians on upcoming events.

             Flight Captain Mario Campos presides over business part of meeting as Roger Nichols looks on.

                                       Pete Brandon (L) and Alan Fisher listen to Colonel Campos.

L to R: Roger Nichols, Mario Campos and AFROTC Cadet Captain, Ammber Valverde (Daedalian Pilot-Training Scholarship Recipient), listen to Alan Fisher (whose finger is seen at lower left)  . . .

L to R seated:  Mario Campos, Ammber Valverde, and Roger Springstead, listen to Roger describe the Vietnam War’s operation Linebacker II.

Roger Nichols holds latest edition of the War Eagles Air Museum Quarterly Magazine, which includes a story by FASF Aviation Scouts and Daedalians Charlie Overstreet, and Virg Hemphill.  The article by Charlie is entitled “Memories of a B-47 Pilot,” while Virg’s story is simply titled “Virgil Hemphill – Fighter Pilot.”  Roger, himself, also has an article in this same edition.  It’s called “Christmas Greetings,” which is about the “Linebacker II” campaign.

MEMBERS PHOTOGRAPHED AT VARIOUS HOLIDAY EVENTS

The following photos were taken at the annual Christmas Luncheon for Daedalian Flight 24 at the El Paso Club,  All members of the Flight are active members of the FASF.  The guest of honor and presenter at the event was Army Aviator, General Laura Yeager (no relation to the famous American Test Pilot, Chuck Yeager!), who briefed the members on her mission at Fort Bliss as Commander of the JOINT TASK FORCE NORTH.  All of the below photos are in high-resolution and can be more fully appreciated by simply clicking on them.

FASF members, Col. Bob Pitt (L) chats with (at center) Aviation Hall of Famer, Bob Dockendorf, at Daedallian holiday event.  AT the podium, at right, in the background is Flight Captain Roger Nichols.

Daedalians and guests prepare for General Yeager’s presentation . . . Her staff is at left: Aide de Camp, Capt. Sperry, and USAF Sergeant Oliver.  The General’s Command is a Joint Command, composed of all the military services.

L to R: Julie and Col. Bob Pitt, Roger Nichols and Bob Dockendorf

L to R at wall: Alma Villezcas, Virg and Jenine Hemphill, Lt. Pfluger, David Ginn, Alan and Melissa Fisher, and forefront, Julie Pitt, District Court Judge Angie Juarez Barilland her husband, Patrick Barill

L to R: Loading up their buffet lunch, Bob Dockendorf, Judy Campos, Alan and Melissa Fisher

Brig. General Laura L Yeager opens her presentation

       General Yeager explains how her Command coordinates with many other Federal Agencies in its mission.

                                                          Col. Bob Pitt and General Yeager

L to R: Outgoing Flight Captain, Roger Nichols, Gen. Yeager, Sgt. Oliver, Capt. Sperry and Col. Pitt

L to R: Gen. Yeager chatting with Cadet Ammber Valverde, the youngest FASF member and UTEP student.

                                              Col. Alan Fisher speaking with Cadet Ammber Valverde

L to R: Ammber Valverde, Gen. Yeager, and Alma Villezcas, FASF Treasurer

The following photos and the video are of the Civil Air Patrol Squadron 24 Christmas party in Las Cruces, NM.

L to R: Michelle Phillips, William Benziger Juanita and Robert Macklin, Alan Fisher, and Walter Dutton, at whose home the event was held.

In front row kneeling or sitting are, L to R:  Alan and Melissa Fisher, Ric Lambart, Walter and Barbara Dutton,  and in the rear: Alma Villezcas, Travis McKenzie, Jim and Luann McConnell, Damien and Carol Blaschka, Robert and Juanita Macklin, William Benziger, Michelle Phillips, and Michael LeGendre.