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Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day 2013 - Remembering Vietnam War Aviators

U.S. air power played a major role in the Vietnam war.  Like previous wars, aviation played a supporting role for the infantrymen on the the ground who actually took and held the real estate needed to win a war.

However, it was air strikes which helped force enemy forces back when they threatened to over run a ground position.  Fighters and bombers also carried out both strategic and tactical attacks against enemy movements and supply depots and helicopters supplied munitions and other supplies as well as reinforcements to troops in the field.

F-4 Phantom Jet on Display at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ
F-4 Phantom Jet flown by Triple ACE and Red River Fighter Pilots Association founder, Col. Robin Olds in Vietnam War (Photo copyright by Chuck Nugent)
As in all wars, prisoners were taken and in the Vietnam War the majority of the American POWs (Prisoners of War) were aviators whose planes were shot down while on missions over North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Just inside the main gate of Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona is a small park dedicated to aviators and the planes they flew during the turbulent last half of the twentieth century.

One section of the park is dedicated to the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association (with the Red River Valley referring to the Hong River that flows through the old North Vietnam from the Chinese border to the Gulf of Tonkin).

The Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association is an organization whose original membership was limited to U.S. aviators who had flown combat missions over Route Pack 6 a combat area over North Vietnam that included the port city of Haiphong and the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.  The air defenses in the Route Pack 6 area were the strongest in the entire combat theater.  Membership has since been opened to anyone who has flown as an aircrew member on any U.S. military aircraft.

Sculpture Honoring Vietnam POWs at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ
Sculpture Honoring Vietnam War POWs at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ  (photo copyright by Chuck Nugent)
Given the the heavy air defenses in the Route Pack 6 area and the thousands of U.S. combat missions flown in that area it is not surprising that many of the Vietnam POWs were aviators who had been shot down on missions over Route Pack 6.

For more information on the park at DMAFB and the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association click here