Tag Archives: FASF

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.

Holloman Air Force Base Wing Meets the FASF and its History

    Col. Patton introduces Ric Lambart

Long discussed and requested, it finally came to pass:  The FASF presented its history, and how that history resulted in the actual creation of Holloman Air Force Base (HAFB), all our other Air Bases, Army Airfields and U.S. Naval Air Stations across the world, and, in fact, left virtually no place on earth unaffected by both the military and civilian aviation era that was born in Columbus, NM in 1916 and 17.

Yours truly had the privilege of presenting the unique First Aero Columbus history of how American Air Power was born during the Punitive Expedition of 1916, and of how American Civil Aviation was contemporaneously also re-born – – – and in the same place.

Thanks to a special invitation of the base’s Operation Group’s Commander, Colonel Jeff “Tank” Patton (left above), an FASF member, his troops had the opportunity to learn many new things about their own, the nation’s, and the Air Force’s actual history.

49th peronnel file into the HAFB Theater to hear more about   their history.  Photo by Col. Patton.  The woman in the center left front row corner is the HAFB Historian, Martha Whipple.

Among the estimated 400 some odd airmen at the Base Theater on Tuesday of this week, only a small handful actually knew of this part of their history, the very history it is the mission of the FASF to help protect and preserve for future generations.

Colonel Patton is the Commander of the 49th Operations Group at Holloman. His Group maintains and manages Air Combat Command’s most complex and diverse airfield and airspace operations, with three live-fire air-to-ground ranges and more than 58 thousand square miles of military operating airspace.  

The Group also supports remotely piloted aircraft (“RPA“), the deadly MQ-9 Reaper,” Air Education and Training Command’s F-16, German Air Force Tornado flight training, Joint test operations, and NASA, while providing combat ready Airmen for worldwide combat commitments.  There are several RPA MQ-9 Reaper photos at the end of this post.

 Here are some photos of this week’s event:

Colonel Patton (R) Discusses the program as Lambart (L) listens.  This photo is courtesy of Lt. Colonel Trevor “Phantom” Merrell, the 49th operation Group’s 9th Attack Squadron Commander.

        Lambart pointing to one of the FASF Power Point Slides during his presentation.  Photo by Col. Tank Patton.

      Lambart during the lecture.  This and the below photo were also taken by Lt. Col. Trevor “Phantom” Merrell.

Col. Patton presents Lambart with the special commemorative “Challenge Coin” of the 49th Operations Group in appreciation to the FASF for its presentation.

       Here are some photos of the MQ-9 Reaper RPA’s and F-16 Vipers used by the 49th:

MQ-9 “Reaper” remotely piloted aircraft are lined up in the 49th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hanger at HAFB. Taken by J. M. Eddins, Jr.

MQ-9   Reaper Firing an air to ground missile.  USAF photo

 

The sun rises over an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. Courtesy of  J.M. Eddins, Jr.

A Reaper crew at their work-station ‘cockpit.  From thousands of feet above the terrain, the Reaper crews can focus in on targets with incredible sharpness, often with enough magnification to read license plates on vehicles.  USAF photo.

F-16 Viper Fighters break formation.

 

Preview (opens in a new tab)

First Aero’s John Read Retires from NM State Parks Dept.

Today, only three days to go before retiring as Manager of New Mexico’s Pancho Villa State Park (PVSP) in Columbus, one of the FASF’s earliest and most active members and enthusiastic supporters, John Read (at left), was honored at a surprise celebration, held at his beloved Park in Columbus, the very spot which once housed U.S. Army troops under General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, during the famous Punitive Expedition of 1916 and 1917.  High resolution still photographs and video follow story down below . . .

Camp Furlong 1916-17 Recreation Hall

 

Today’s celebratory event was actually held in the very same “Recreation Hall” (at right) in which U.S. Army infantry, cavalry, and Signal Corps Aviation troops held their various recreational activities over a century ago.  The Army Fort and Garrison at Columbus became known as “Camp Furlong.”

 

Since arriving in Columbus, Mr. Read has maintained a continuous presence in all FASF activities, often helping the Foundation put on various presentations for the general public, and acting as one of its principle historical consultants.

General “Black Jack” Pershing

He supported and even hosted the very first public event put on by the FASF, when the United States Air Force (USAF) flew its then Deputy Historian, Dr. Roger Miller, out to Columbus to put on the group’s very first public History sell-out extravaganza.

It was New Mexico’s interesting employment opportunities and the excitement of the Southwest that initially drew the Reads from their home in Tampa, Florida to New Mexico. When John arrived at Columbus, in 2008, his first task was to become the Park’s new Heritage Educator.  Prior to his arrival in Columbus, John first worked as a Park Ranger at the Roswell NM State park. 

Although Read’s major during college was in the Sciences, and notwithstanding his years of teaching science in Florida, he nevertheless became a dedicated student of history, in particular the history of those events which surrounded Columbus during those years just prior to our entry into the “War to End All Wars,” better known today as WWI, in Europe.

Aside from his heavy workload at managing the New Mexico PVSP operation, John has still continued his love of Science, foraging into advanced theoretical physics concepts, such as Quantum Mechanics and String Theory, and he has also become in income producing YouTube presenter of New Mexico High Desert Exploration and Aventure Videos.

It was during that Punitive Expedition that the United States first engaged its fledgling, and as yet unproven Army First Aero Squadron, in sustained combat.  And, of course, it was this very history-making development in Columbus, over a century ago, that led to the small Mexican border town’s becoming the “Birthplace of American Air Power,” and the Rebirth Site of American Civil aviation, as well.

However, it was not just this history that captured Mr. Read’s interest, but the entire series of related historic events that arose out the Columbus engagement in that historic Punitive Expedition.

Let’s take a quick glance of some of John’s more notable contributions, which so greatly enhanced the PVSP’s status as a historical site and local landmark for visitors and history buffs:

  • He created 1st website for the Pancho Villa State Park Friends (Volunteer Docent) group
  • Expanded and helped re-organize for more effectiveness, the PVSP Friend’s Group
  • Obtained large donation of new historic Expedition Artifacts for display in the exhibit Hall
  • Got donations of numerous original 13th Cavalry Army Uniforms from the Expedition
  • Acquired large collection of impressively mounted new Photo Plaques re the Raid
  • Promoted + sold many FASF souvenirs to park visitors, to help PVSP Friends’ funding
  • Created and marketed numerous other Expedition and “Raid” gifts for tourists
  • Got for display a valuable US 48 star Flag used by the expedition in Mexico in 1917-17
  • Acquired from Pancho’s grandson (Mex. Atty) for display, aluminum death mask of Villa
  • Put on display an actual artillery shell found in Mexico from the Expedition’s action there
  • Got donation of  Bill Rakocy collection (SW Historian/Artist & Writer) exhibit for display
  • Sold numerous new donors to make exhibit donations to the Park for its prized collection
  • Coordinated historical education “Staff Rides” (Field Trips) for USA Sgt. Majors Academy
  • Regularly coordinated USA Sergeant Majors Academy “Staff Rides” (Field Trips) thru PVSP
  • Did research: why PVSP was named after the Mexican Revolutionary who raided the US*
  • Greatly expanded the Park’s fostering and promoting of large Antique Car Show each year
  • Managed and orchestrated huge “Raid Centenniall” extravaganza in 2016, which featured:
    • A large group of 13th Cavalry Reenactors from all across the United States
    • Had Actress/Singer Helen Patton, Gen. Patton’s granddaughter perform for FASF
    • Had Congressman/FASF member, Steve Pearce  present US Capitol Flag to the FASF
    • Arranged Special FASF Presentation to the overflow crowd of Centennial visitors
    • Otherwise coordinated hundreds of enactors and others for successful Centennia

Here, for your enjoyment, are some of today’s photos . . . click to see full high-resolution view

Some of guests line up to get their event lunch

Guests begin to assemble in the Camp Furlong Recreation Hall to hear John’s retirement ceremony

L to R in foreground: Park volunteers, Dave and Marlene Ferguson, Josephine Gosiak, Shirley and Steve Schou, and with their backs to cameral, PVSP Friends’ VIPs, Jeane and Bud Canfield

L to R facing camera and standing: FASF Aerodrome Editor, July McClure, John Read, and seated, Maria Rangel, FASF member, Ted Williams (turned toward John and a park volunteer) and Bud Canfield, long time FASF Advisor.

L to R: July McClure, John Read, Maria Rangel, Ted Williams, Bud and Jeane Canfield.

L to R above: Guest of honor, John Read and his wife, Elly Read.

New Mexico State Park employees and staff, along with guests, listen to event MC and Park Regional Manager, Evaristo Giron, as he descried John Read’s numerous achievements during his tenure as the PVSP manager.

               John and Elly Read listen to Mr. Evaristo’s praise of John’s many accomplishments as Park Manager.

L to R: Evaristo Giron tells crowd of some more of John’s achievements as John waves one of his thank you cards with its many grateful anc congratulatory signatures.

 FASF ALL! – – – and also PVSP Friends’ Group Officers: July McClure (Treasurer), Elly and John Read, Maria Rangel (Secretary), Todd Montes (President – & US Postmaster for Columbus), Bud and Jeane Canfield, early PVSP Friends’ Group officers and organizers.

Guest of honor, John Read, with his principal long-time support staff Park Rangers:, L to R: Junior Martinez and Martin Nunez.

               John  Read with long-time friend and one of FASF organizers and its Webmaster, Ric Lambart

A happy new retiree and his bride about to savor their hard earned new life without so much daily responsibilities.

                      John Read’s New Mexico State Park’s Recognition for Outstanding Service Commemorative Plaque.

  • CLICK HERE to see John Read’s treatise on the strange story behind park’s Pancho Villa name.

The below video of event is 15:55 in length: