, 2022-12-07 18:44:47,
On an overcast August afternoon in 1967, 1st Lt. David Waldrop was in the cockpit of an F-105D, call sign “Crossbow 3,” as part of a mixed force of 36 F-105s and F-4 Phantoms aiming to strike Yen Vien, the largest rail yard in North Vietnam. It was Waldrop’s 53rd combat mission in the Thunderchief, a nuclear strike aircraft unsuited for dogfighting.
As Waldrop’s flight of four 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron F-105s came off the target after dropping 750-pound M117 bombs on Yen Vien, the young lieutenant and his flight leader saw three North Vietnamese MiG-17s diving on another flight of Thunderchiefs.
“As I rolled to the right, I looked down and saw two MIG-17s. One was on the tail of an F-105 at the time,” Waldrop recalled. He yelled for the 105 to “break right!” as he dove toward the MiG. “I plugged in my afterburner, picked up a little airspeed, and closed in.”
With his throttle full-forward, Waldrop’s massive, powerful F-105 closed in on the smaller MiG at Mach 1.2 (913 mph). Ignoring his marginally useful bombing gunsight, Waldrop simply filled Crossbow 3’s windscreen with the MiG-17. Firing at close range, he saw debris fly off the MiG as he overtook it, going supersonic.
“I shot by them [the MiG and 105] so fast it’d make your head spin,” Waldrop said.
Faced with shattering MiG pieces, Waldrop pulled up hard to avoid them, flying into the overcast sky and rolling inverted. As he dropped the fighter’s nose back out of the clouds, still…
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