Monday, August 8, 2011

2011 Air & Space Highlights: MISTY Pilots

AFA’sAir & Space Conference attracts the top echelon of USAF senior leadership, including the commanders of every USAF command, and military dignitaries from air forces worldwide. It brings together Air Force leadership, industry experts, academia and current aerospace specialists from around the world. 

But it also recognizes the airmen of the past who have significantly contributed to the nation, with their dedication, their sacrifice and their service.

In 1967, the primitive nature of Vietnam’s topography made it difficult for aircraft like the F-4 and F-105 to see targets of opportunity, posing a heavy problem for US forces in Vietnam. The Air Force tasked then-Major Bud Day to form a top-secret unit called Commando Sabre—radio call sign"Misty"—that flew risky missions over North Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh Trail in two-man F-100 jet fighters, scouring the terrain for targets. These Misty Pilots – all volunteer – went on to pioneer a new array of tactics to fly fast and low over enemy territory. Of the 157 pilots who flew Misty missions, 34 were shot down (two of them twice), three were captured, and seven declared MIA. Despite overwhelming loss rates and constant danger, Misty crews got into their cockpits and carried out their assigned missions day after day. 

At this year’s Air & Space Conference, a panel of Misty Pilots will speak on their experiences in this historical unit. The panel will include:

Medal of Honor Recipient Colonel George E. “Bud” Day, a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War, who has received over 70 decorations with most being in combat, and is a former prisoner of war. On 26 August 1967, Col. Day was forced to eject from his aircraft over North Vietnam when it was hit by ground fire. His right arm was broken in 3 places, and his left knee was badly sprained. He was immediately captured by hostile forces and taken to a prison camp. Day was able to eventual escape into the jungle and began the trek toward South Vietnam. Though he successfully evaded enemy patrols and reached the Ben Hai River, where he encountered U.S. artillery barrages, he was eventually ambushed and recaptured by the Viet Cong, sustaining gunshot wounds to his left hand and thigh. He was returned to the prison. 

Paul. K. “P.K.” Robinson, who, while assigned as a "Misty FAST-FAG" at Phu Cat AB, completed over 250 combat missions, including 101 missions over North Vietnam. He participated in many of the key battles of the Vietnam War including the Dak To Offensive, the siege at Khe Sahn and the Tet Offensive.

General Ronald R. Fogleman, former chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, Washington, where he served as the senior uniformed Air Force officer responsible for the organization, training and equipage of 750,000 active duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian forces serving in the United States and overseas. In early assignments he instructed student pilots, performed combat duty as a fighter pilot and high-speed forward air controller in Vietnam and Thailand, taught history at the Air Force Academy and conducted flight operations in Europe -- including duty as an F-15 aircraft demonstration pilot for international airshows.

General Merrill A. McPeak was the 14th chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force. As chief, he served as the senior uniformed Air Force officer responsible for a combined force of over 850,000 people serving at approximately 1,300 locations in the United States and overseas. He is a command pilot, having flown more than 6,000 hours, principally in fighter aircraft. He flew two years as a solo pilot for the elite aerial demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, and flew as an attack pilot and high-speed forward air controller in Vietnam.

Major General Donald W. Shepperd (moderator) is a former director of Air National Guard. As director, he was responsible for formulating, developing, and coordinating all programs, policies, and plans affecting the Air Guard members in units throughout the United States, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. After receiving his wings, he was assigned to duty in West Germany and South Vietnam. He is a command pilot, having flown more than 5,000 hours; and flew 247 fighter combat missions in Southeast Asia.

The MISTY Panel will take place Tuesday, September 20, from 10:00am - 10:45am.

Don't forget to check the blog for more highlights of the 2011 Air & Space Conference!

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