Two recce Voodoos raced toward the heavily defended Than Hoa Bridge -- Five Thuds had already been lost trying to take it out.
As they put the Bay of Tonkin behind them, worsening weather had driven the pair of RF-101s down from 500 to 200 ft. "Then all hell broke loose, the North Vietnamese opening up with all they had as the Voodoos scythed their way through the weeds at more than 500 knots."
Somehow, both Voodoos escaped without damage and returned to base with photos showing the bridge was still intact.
McDonnell Aircraft Corporation had indeed designed a strong, versatile jet, for the Voodoo had been originally conceived 21 years earlier as a SAC multi-role long-range bomber escort fighter.
The long-lived Voodoo was cast in three distinct missions over its operational life. In 1955, the Air Force recognized that the adaptable Voodoo was perfect for tactical recon. Gun and ammunition boxes were removed and a lengthened nose housing cameras installed -- the RF-101 was born.
The same year, the two-seat F-101 bomber interceptor was conceived. By 1957, the ADC and RCAF F-101Bs, armed with 2 Genie air-to-air rockets and 2 Falcon air-to-air mssiles were defending North America. Incredibly, each Genie rocket had a 1.5 kiloton atomic warhead!
Based in Suffolk County, England, beginning in 1957, the F-101, using its great acceleration, speed, and range, was cast in the tactical low-level nuclear bomber role.
Group Captain Nigel J.R. Walpole, RAF, is the author of "Voodoo Warriors." A jet fighter pilot himself, he took part in the 1960 USAF/RAF exchange tour, flying RF-101s out of Shaw Air Force Base.
Mr. Walpole covers lifestyles, personalities, training, innovations, deployments, evolving tactics and important operations, informing and entertaining the reader in an anecdotal style. The book contains a multitude of photographs, flying stories, interesting characters, funny episodes and humorous predicaments.
Flight Lieutenant Walpole successfully completed his first high level photo mission over the Nevada Test Range. After checking his photos, the intelligence staff ordered a round of beers to celebrate the coming end of Walpole's succssful visit. "In fact it ended almost immediately when a senior person from Nellis, invited to view the results of the mission, was aghast to see that it had been flown by a 'foreigner' without the necessary clearances to fly over a most secret area." Flight Lieutenant Walpole was "ordered back to Shaw forthwith..."
On the more serious side, the author relates how many good men were lost flying the Voodoo.
Part One, "Cold War Contingencies," beginning with the 1958 deployment of cold war Voodoos, covers overseas operations in North Africa, Europe, Taiwan, and Japan. These chapters follow the refining of the Voodoos' mission, joint training of crews, and building NATO experience by executing overseas deployments with other air forces.
Later, in Part Two, "Conflict," the battle-ready Voodoo squadrons take part in the tense RF-101 photo reconnaissance operations during the Cuban missile crisis.
The "mother lode" of the book are the eight chapters dedicated to all aspects of the escalating and evolving Voodoo operations in South East Asia during the Vietnam War, including special coverage of the "Hanoi Hilton" prison camp.
In Part Three, "Commitment," the author salutes the valuable support crews of recce squadrons stationed in South East Asia that tirelessly processed the film, and maintained the aircraft.
Mr. Walpole pays tribute to the veteran Voodoo crews by sharing photos of various unit reunions as well as pictures of retired Voodoo aircraft on public display, in Part Four, "Commemoration."