It was 4:00 PM, November 7, 1967 when Captain Ken Fisher and I rolled our F-4C Phantom jet into a dive-bomb pass that would forever alter our lives. Swooping downward our bird’s turned-up wingtips, elevated tail, and deafening roar, must have resembled a high-tech version of a pre-historic pterodactyl.
Plunging toward the gunners below at 500 miles an hour, our mission was to deliver death and destruction to the anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) gun emplacements protecting the Quang Khe ferry on the Ho Chi Minh trail of North Vietnam.
Tracers from their guns flashed by our canopy like giant Roman candles. The flak bursting nearby from the altitude sensitive shells threw off puffs of ominous gray and black smoke. Each one of these “ghosts” represented hundreds of invisible shards of shrapnel that the enemy hoped would mortally wound our beautiful beast. It was combat like it has been for thousands of years but updated with the latest technology for greater destruction.
Looking down through the windscreen ahead, we could see the terrain and guns below were getting larger and larger, like the zooming of a telephoto lens as we hurled downward until we were seemingly eyeball-to-eyeball with the enemy. It was a stare-down with each side expecting that some of us would not survive.
But you know the rest of the story and it has a happy ending. As POWs we always remembered our shoot down date and celebrated—not our capture, but our surviving that life-changing event. I hope you will celebrate with me today. This is from the first page of the book, ‘Leading with Honor’ available on our website and online retailers.
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