The passing of time and the surging interest inthe Vietnam War over the last 5-15years has seen many veterans put their thoughts and memories to paper and some have been lucky to get published.One very prolific and detailed writer is Ed Rasimus, who has been kind enough to share with us his experiences of flying in combat over North Vietnam.
Ed flew 2 tours into North Vietnam assigned to 2 of the most dangerous roles – tactical fighter bombing and Wild weasel operations.
Ed joined the USAF in the early 1960s and graduated and eventually was assigned to the F-105D Thunderchief community. He was deployed to Thailand to fly the F-105 Thunderchief into North Vietnam on strike missions.
Ed became one of a few hundred men over the next few years who would fly into North Vietnam regularly– a very high risk environment – to strike at required targets. The North Vietnamese were building up an extensive AAA, Sam and MiG defence system to harass and destroy the USAF pilots.Ed and his fellow pilots experienced some of the most intense AAA since WW2 it became to be known.
The life of a F-105 pilot was not expected on average to reach 100 mission mark. Some died way before 50 missions other died nearing 100 missions. They were either wounded flying, shot down as a Prisoner of War or sadly killed flying in North Vietnam.
Some made it through their tour tho unscratched.Ed has detailed some of his experiences in late 1990s on a internet forum – on average they lost a pilot a day from their squadron due to combat attrition and POWs.
By the end of his tour the F-105s on the wing’s allocation had been replaced once over due to losses from combat.Ed luckily became a rare person in the F-105 community – he completed a full combat tour. Many of Eds mates didn’t reach such a total.
Ed after returning to US was a changed man, he was lucky to have survived the intense IAD of North Vietnam. He was found to be a interesting person and in demand for a speaker tour to explain what life was like being a fighter pilot over North Vietnam.Over the next few years he was keen to return to combat and was selected for F-4 Phantom pilot training. By 1972 he was prepared to do another tour into North Vietnam.
He was selected along with a Weapon System Operator / backseater in a F-4E Phantom, to fly Hunter Killer missions into North Vietnam.
Their role was to support F-105G Wild Weasel aircraft which attacked SA-2 Guideline SAM sites and wipe out the sites with cluster bombs and Mk82LDGP bombs. Like his flying days in the Thunderchief, Hunter Killer missions in the F-4E Phantom were just as dangerous if not more by 1972, as the NVAFIAD comprised of ground and and air defence was bigger and much more wide spread / more of them.
AAA and SA-2 were deadly and at low altitude Ed and his fellow aircrews may of been at the minimum of the SA-2 SAM envelope but they were now in the envelope and exposed to easy fire from AAA and small arm fire.
Ed luckily again survived his tour flying F-4 Phantoms and returned back to USA after participating in the final USAF air war campaign of the Vietnam War – Linebacker 2 in December 1972. This 11 day war campaign basically forced the North Vietnamese into surrendering / peace table as air power showed them they would be eventually wiped out if they didn’t agree to a cease fire.Shown below is a photo of Ed when he was at Korat in the period after Linebacker 2, late 1972.
He is wearing the typical gear of late Vietnam War operations – CWU-27/P Nomex flight suit, SRU-21/P survival vest – and his vest looks to be rather full, CSU-3/P g suit, flight boots and of interest are the bullets in his upper vest and the velcro patches on his flight suit. He wears a PCU-15/P harness which was specific at that time to the F-4 Phantom. It allowed him to clip himself onto the Martin Baker H7 ejection seat.
He is leaning on a F-4E Phantom II left wing pylon which has a TER bomb rack with 3 Mk 82 LDGP bombs loaded. Behind him on the centreline is a MER rack with further Mk 82 LDGP bombs.
Ed received the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross fives times and numerous Air Medals for his flying over North Vietnam. He flew over 250 missions in his 2 tours.Eds experiences over North Vietnam as an F-105D Thunderchief pilot and as a F-4 Phantom pilot are available to read in 3 very exciting books he has had published.
FIGHTER PILOT – ROBIN OLDS
Ed co-authored with Christina Olds , Robin Olds daughter the book – FIGHTER PILOT – Robin Olds, is a review and details Robin’s life as a USAAF/USAF fighter pilot from 1940-1970s, period covering WW2, Cold War and the Vietnam air war, where Robin became a extremely well liked leader amongst his aircrews / ground crews due to his style and tactics.
Sadly Robin died in 2007 and at this time Christina and her father were sorting through documents for the potential publication of his life story.
This book was in the end completed by Christina with Ed’s assistance , preparing from a massive pile of notes, transcripts, documents and recordings – which Robin and Christina had already organised before Robin died.
His Vietnam air war books are available from many bookshops and online shops if interested in further reading.Ed donated his F-105 era Bush hat to the USAF Museum at Dayton Ohio. His hat (front right ) is displayed alongside other famous hats from other aircrews. The museum has a big display dedicated to Vietnam war aircraft and items.