In this episode I come to you with a heavy heart. Just like when President Johnson would address the nation years ago and say “my fellow Americans, I come to you tonight with a heavy heart because I have to announce we are having to send another 50,000 military people to Vietnam.” What causes this writer to have a heavy heart is a story from Newsline.com titled: US Military Preparing for ‘Final Flight’ of Versatile F-4 Phantoms that was submitted by Ben Capistrano.
In his story Capistrano told about the “final flight” of the venerable old Phantom F-4 fighter/bomber at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. After beginning service with the US Navy in the late 1950’s the last of 5,000 F-4s manufactured by McDonnell Douglas for the Air Force and the Marines are going to either a museum or a shooting gallery as targets for pilot training.
Retired Air Force colonel Craig Schorzman who flew F-4’s in Vietnam said this about the aircraft: “it was hardy and very sturdy. It saved my tail a few times. It was not the best of anything but it could do everything”
This writer remembers the F-4 well. The first day I arrived at Cam Ranh Bay I watched as fully loaded F-4s were taking off loaded for combat. It was amazing to me that an airplane could take off with so much ordnance hooked to its wings and fuselage. Adding to the amazement was the realization those aircraft were heading out to a place where more than likely someone was going to die. The F-4 was a beautiful and useful aircraft.
In addition to dog fighting enemy aircraft and bombing ground targets, F-4s were used for many other things such as reconnaissance and electronic-warfare missions.
It is a shame such an outstanding aircraft will end up as targets on a gunnery range after more than a half century of tremendous service to our country.