Thud Pilot...

...a pilot's account of early F-105 Combat in Vietnam, from Fonthill Media

Title: Thud Pilot
Author: Victor Vizcarra

Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-645-0


There were a wide variety of aircraft types used by the USAF and the US Navy over North and South Vietnam during the war in South East Asia and this account of his time flying the F-105 'Thud' in its' early deployment from 1964 through to 1966.  In setting the scene  the author explains how the Thunderchief became known as the 'Thud', and how this Cold War design intended to deliver a nuclear weapon developed into a fighter bomber and was used for a high percentage of the raids over North Vietnam.  He also gives a good clear explanation of the numbered 'Route Packages' that the US used for missions over the North.

From an assignment in Japan with F-105's on Nuclear alert duties he was posted to a base in Thailand in 1964 for early action over Vietnam.  Much of this first tour involved virtually no combat but led to operational experience and a discovery of how a 'Thud' could sustain damage but still get home.  He explains the various armament configurations the Thud would carry, flying in support of the CIA operated Air America.  His first bit of artwork was a sign for Bob Hope and a visiting USO show.

Then there is the first real combat mission over North Vietnam, and learning to cope with anti-aircraft fire and the early use of SA-2 SAMs.  How experience taught them to carry out bomb runs West to East, so if the aircraft was hit, they were going in the direction of the coast where they had a better chance of survival as the US Navy controlled the sea, but if they came down over land, chances of capture were higher, or possibly even being killed by angry civilians who had been on the receiving end of their bombs.  The book also  tells of how they had to cope with the loss of friends, either captured or killed.

The book goes on to talk of air-to-air refuelling and how the Thud was one aircraft with facilities to use either the drogue or probe method.  This also led to the author painting a particular piece of Nose Art, with a nude on the nose of a Thud which they named 'Pussy Galore', after the character in the Bond film 'Goldfinger'.  Originally done on an overall bare metal machine, he later repeated it on a camouflaged Thud as well.  These days it might be considered not 'politically correct', but it was done to focus the attention of the boom operator in the KC-135 tankers.

It was also while flying a Thud that the author was shot down over Vietnam and he describes what happened.  He was lucky enough to be quickly picked up by a US Navy rescue helicopter and flown to a ship offshore.  He returned to duty and continued to fly the Thud in combat.  Though not detailed in this memoire he returned to combat in Vietnam again in 1970, but that time flying the F-100.

I have long had an interest in the history of the Vietnam War and found this a really interesting read.  It also provides a particular look at the operational combat history of the F-105 Thunderchief, plus it is well illustrated with archive photos throughout.

Thanks to Fonthill Media for our review copy.