Wild Weasel mission 19 April 1967

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Audio recording and transcript of a Vietnam War F-105 Wild Weasel combat mission.

This is an audio recording and transcript of an F-105 Thunderchief Wild Weasel combat mission flown over Hanoi during the Vietnam War. The audio and the transcript are courtesy of Plumalley, an Electronic Warfare Officer (nicknamed "Bear") who flew such missions from the 2nd seat of Wild Weasel aircraft.

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Each flight of four aircraft was randomly assigned a radio call sign, such Harpoon or Buick. Sometimes flight leaders whose voices are easily recognized would be called by their nicknames.

The recording documents interphone coordination between the pilot and Bear (Electronic Warfare Officer), as well as transmissions from the pilot to the strike force (as advisories, since he is not the mission commander), transmissions on mission primary frequency, transmissions on the international distress frequency GUARD, electronic threat signal intercepts detected by the multiple aircraft systems, and a constant calibration whistle used for later laboratory analysis of these signals. All these signals are simultaneous and combined. Note that time correllation is lost through in-process editing. See Wild Weasel mission transcript for explanation of some of the terminology.

Kingfish flight is protecting strike flights from SAM. Kingfish Two is shot down by AAA. One proceeds to fly to and locate the downed crew and radios their position to Crown, the search & rescue coordinator. Kingfish immediately spots a MiG-17 and shoots it down, only to be immediately attacked by the rest of the Mig flight, which it evades. Kingfish One is now on minimum fuel and must go find a tanker.

Upon return, Kingfish records that Sandy Two (AD-1 Skyraider) has been shot down by the MiGs and that Sandy One is under attack. Panda, a flight of four F-105s lacking all armament except a few rounds of 20 mm cannon ammunition attaks the MiGs to divert them from Sandy One. Panda Lead, Cpt. William E. Eskew, is hit in the process, but survives and downs one MiG-17 with cannon fire. Sandy One survives.

This mission took place on 19 April 1967. Kingfish leader was Maj. Leo K. Thorsness with Capt. Harold Johnson as his "Bear". For their extraordinary heroism, Thorsness was awarded the Medal of Honor, and Johnson received the Air Force Cross [1].

00:00 You got him

(Capt. Harold Johnson, the "Bear", has passed suffient information to his pilot for the pilot, Major Leo Thorsness, to act)

00:06 Valid launch at 5:30

{Telemetry signal combined with high-PRF and main-beam location satisfies the WSO that his flight is targeted by airborne SA-2 Guideline missiles.)

00:09 Keep it down Kingfish, valid launch

(Missile guidance is defeated by terrain masking the aircraft at the cost of placing the flight in severe danger from the invisible 37 mm anti-aircraft artillery (AAA).)

00:15 It's gone; it's gone

(Johnson reports guidance signal telemetry gone (signal no longer received) meaning that the missiles will pass overhead without guidance.

00:24 Overheat light... keep it going toward the hills

(Kingfish Two is hit severely by AAA, and is being coached to fly southwest toward the hills where the ejected crew will not be immediately vulnerable to capture.)

00:30 5:30 The only one I got

(Johnson's priority duty is to continue to warn the flight of SAM threat, now behind them.)

00:51 Heading 210

(210 degrees on the magnetic compass for evasion to Laos; or 100 degrees for evasion to the Tonkin Gulf, if far enough, where US rescue teams may get to Kingfish Two's crew before the enemy.)

01:00 Right over the xxx target

(Still in the threat area of the planned target for the day.)

01:04 Get rid of the xxx tanks

(Use of plural here suggests that two 450 US gallon (1,730 L) (now empty) external fuel tanks are being (reluctantly) jettisoned to reduce weight and drag.)

01:15 OK, give me a short count

(Thorsness asking Kingfish Two to transmit "1,2,3,4,3,2,1" so that the automatic direction finding equipment will steer him to find Two with whom he apparently lost visual contact.)

01:33 WoooWoooWooo

(Emergency locator beepers activated, two of them, indicating that the crew of a two-place F-105 have ejected.)

The audio recording and the mission transcript are continued below:

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Note: This recording is over-printed with a high-pitched (calibration tone) whistle, unavoidable.

00:00 Kingfish Two has ejected; One is on Guard, I'll try to ADF his beeper

(This announcement on "Guard channel" 243 MHz emergency frequency initiates Crown, the HC-130 Search and Rescue coordinator, saying that Kingfish #1 will begin locating the airborne chutes with his Automatic Direction Finding gear.)

00:31 Come up Guard

(To get all responding aircraft on the rescue frequency)

00:57 Give me coordinates

("Where are we now?", given in Global Positioning Coordinates? 20°44' N, 105° 32' E)

01:14 Only one SAM in this area

(Johnson's priority job is to evaluate the SAM threat, plus whatever else he can do for pilot.)

01:31 I have both chutes in sight, in the air

01:45 Three ringer

(Downed airmen location is within the prefered firing range of a SA-2 Guideline missile site – less than 15 miles distance, measured by the number of concentric rings on the radar scope crossed by the strobe reading)

02:12 Chutes still airborne

02:54 That's him at 1:30

(Clock position from nose of aircraft from which a SAM radar signal is detected.)

03:07 Right in the xxx village, it looks like

(This is not an ideal situation to effect a rescue)

03:13 You've got a MiG, low

(Johnson will repeatedly show that he has good eyes.)

03:27 Rattle, rattle, rattle

(Throughout this recording you may hear the "rattle-snake sound" audible indication of a tracking SAM radar.)

03:47 Heavy breathing

(Intense high-G combat turns.)

03:48 I can't get behind him

(Attempting unsuccessfully to gun-track a highly maneuverable MiG-17 with an F-105)

03:58 You got a part of him

(the MiG's wing was shot off)

04:28 I can't see him, but I saw him a while ago

(Jumped by the second MiG-17, the F-105 has opened the range and lost the MiG in low visibility or terrain masking.)

04:51 I'm by myself

(Flight integrity is near-impossible under these circumstances and Kingfish Three & Four have departed the area)

05:35 I've had to jettison my (exteral fuel) tank

(Fuel remains for only a few more minutes of ResCAP)


(30 minutes of the recording has been deleted while Kingfish One flew south, found a tanker, then returned to approach the downed crew.)

06:08 Sandy is approaching the area now (trailing Kingfish One)

("Sandy" is a flight of two Douglas AD-1 Skyraider propeller-driven aircraft whose duty is to locate the downed airmen, call in the rescue helicopter, and suppress enemy troops on the ground during the rescue attempt.)

06:40 Turning my oxygen off

(Reminds us that this operation is a low altitude.)

07:25 Indicating 20 miles out, going to Guard

(Having located the Kingfish Two crew through the automatic navigation system.)

08:18 I see the Sandys off to your left, 5 o'clock high, into the sun, now

08:56 Wooo, Wooo, Wooo

(Beeper answer to inquiry, confirming that Sandy #2 crew hear the CAP call. A later code inquiry will be necessary to ensure that the location is not a ambush run by the enemy.)


(Intermittent (not locked-on-steady) medium tones are the scans of the Firecan gun-laying radars indicating the presence of distant 85 mm (3.4 in) anti-aircraft guns.)

09:26 Sandy One is going down

(In actuality the wingman, Sandy Two, was the aircraft shot down by the MiGs, not One, and was already down. He meant to say, and did routinely say, "Sandy One is HOLDING down" the microphone button so that he would be transmitting a signal on which the F-105s could ADF.)

10:13 Come on in Panda

(Sandy One is turning round and round as close to the trees as possible while four MiG-17s make repeated gunnery passes on him. Panda, a flight of four F-105Ds returning from post-strike refueling, attack the MiGs to get them off of Sandy. Panda Lead is hit by MiG cannon fire but survives. Sandy One also survived.)

10:19 Sandy One is holding down

10:40 Come on in, Panda, I got your MiGs for you, four of them

10:57 Keep turning that thing, they can't get you down there

(Kingfish One is not in this fight but is vitally concerned with the crew of Kingfish Two, his wingman and squadron mates.)

11:27 Turn right, turn right, come on back Panda

(Panda has overflown Sandy's position.)

12:02 They are all over me

(It is exceedingly difficult to avoid the attack of four manuevering Mig-17s at once.)

12:56 You got a Mig on your tail, 105s, three of you, break!

(Panda flight has provided an apparently easier and more lucrative target than Sandy. Sandy's is looking skyward. There is no contest in a turning dog fight between a flight of MiG-17s and and a flight of unarmed F-105s, however all of the Thunderchiefs escape after rescuing Sandy One.)

13:54 Panda Lead has been hit

14:12 You got Udorn in

(Johnson has set the nearest US base in the navagation system because little fuel remains and there is a possibility of not finding a tanker in time.)

14:18 Kingfish One going to channel 12

(Radio channel change indicating the end of his participation and a return south.)

14:53 We (Panda) are out of gas

15:36 1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1, Panda Lead out

("Short count" radio transmission to enable flight to join on the wing of Panda Leader, who has survived a hit.)

15:57 Heading for 97

(The navigational TACAN radio aid channel, south, somewhere in the jungles of Laos.)

16:03 Got a hell of a bundle

(Panda Lead is describing that he believes he took hits from several cannon shells from #2 MiG while he was target tracking the #1 MiG)


See also[edit]


  1. Frisbee, JL. Wild, Wild Weasel.

External links[edit]