In this episode of the podcast “Vietnam Veteran News” the story about a brave US Air Force pilot will be featured. It comes from The Signal of the Santa Clarita Valley titled: Dan W. Petkunas, Vietnam War Fighter Pilot – Valencia Resident and it was submitted by Bill Reynolds. Reynolds describes Dan Petkunas’ story beginning with his 1948 birth in Chicago then his high school graduation at Proviso West High School in June 1966 and college graduation at the University of Illinois at Urbana.
Dan was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant through the ROTC program at Urbana and he immediately entered the Air Force flight training program. The next thing he knew he was an F-4 Phantom II Weapons System Officer assigned to the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai Air Base. Dan flew 222 combat missions during twelve month tour at Udorn. His missions took him from the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam to the regions around Hanoi and he believes they used up seven of his nine lives.
One of his closest calls came on the night of July 30, 1972. He was flying on an escort mission with an F-4 recon team over the city of Hanoi. The length of the mission required air to air refueling out over the South China Sea. While they were in sight of the refueling tanker they ran out of fuel and the pilots had to eject in the dark over the water. After a thirty minute soak time in the Sea he and the other pilot were relieved to see the arrival of a Marine rescue helicopter prior to the appearance of approaching NVA patrol boats.
Dan completed his tour at Udorn, met and married a lovely Thai lady and completed a career as an Air Force pilot. He retired in 2011 from his job as a contract manager. Today Dan enjoys bicycling, the gym, playing poker, and visiting in-laws in Thailand.
In the photo below note the difference in how pilots flying different type of combat aircraft dress for the occasion.