Project: Get Out and Walk 



United States Air Force 480th TFS

McDonnell F-4C, Phantom II


22nd November 1966
11:50 a.m. Hanoi time

366th TFW "Gunfighters"
Lt. Joseph "Joe" Crecca

Gordon Scott "Scotty" Wilson KIA


22nd November 1966

Joe Crecca's first and only ejection occurred when he was a 26 year old 1st Lt. in the USAF while flying a combat mission in a McDonnell F-4C, Phantom II. His front seater was Gordon Scott "Scotty" Wilson of Hobart, Indiana. who, almost immediately upon the opening of his chute, was killed in action by a second SAM exploding near-by.

The aircraft, callsign Dogwood2 was flying from Danang Air Base, RVN. when it was hit by a SAM just east of southern tip of Thud Ridge, North Vietnam (N 21-30 / E 105-42).

Joe initiated his Martin-Baker Mk. H5B ejection seat and  ejected at around 14,000 ' MSL, 275 knots estimated with the aircraft 75 degrees nose-up in pitch up, death throe maneuver over an agricultural plain near mountain and in 10,000' solid cloud, clear above and below. 

He experienced temporal distortion as soon as SAM detonated, time slowed instantly.  "Boom! was heard as Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom! lasting several seconds while in reality it was a mere fraction of a second. Unlike many other combat ejectees Joe did not suffer any ejection relation injuries but "Got the crap kicked out of me after landing."

Joe's  account

"I was one of 8 pilots (4 F-4 crews) hand-picked to go against two JCS targets.  The first were the barracks where 10,000 NVA were housed.  Our flight C/S was Dogwood.  We had lots of maintenance problems and launched in the order three, then two, then lead.  Number four did not launch.  We joined up at the tanker.  I refueled the airplane from the back seat.  We were carrying 6-750 lb. M-117 bombs on the centerline, two 370 gallon drop tanks on the outboard wing stations, 4 AIM-9B Sidewinders on the inboard stations and 4 AIM-7, Sparrows on the fuselage stations.  I had to use min burner to stay with the tanker at FL250. . . .

. . . . After refueling Scotty took the airplane and off we went to NVN.  I noted that the leader was cutting the first waypoint and going straight to Point Bravo, the second waypoint on our route.  I advised Scotty and called for "deep six" checks as this reroute was taking us over Yen Bai's SAM array.  Scotty did three checks.  Coming up to Bravo lead turned left instead of right. 

On the radio flight lead asked" Dogwood 2 do you have a good inertial".  I realized this was a dumb question.  So did Scotty because he asked me an intelligent question: "Do you know where we are".  My reply was that I had good VHF-NAV indications and that if he could get us below the undercast I could get us to the target".  Scotty then said over the radio "Yeah, Dogwood 2 has a good inertial."  You F-4 guys out there will know what all this means. 

 Just like that flight lead says "Dogwood 2,  you have the lead".  I remember that the air seemed to flash blue like it was full of electricity at that moment.  So, here we were, two first balloons leading a downtown strike on a Joint Chiefs of Staff designated target.  I never once thought of any glory following a successful attack.  My only focus was on doing the job at hand.  I looked to my left and saw lead too close to us.  I was thinking "How the hell we check each others six if we're so close?"  But I immediately went inside the cockpit and resumed navigating. 


BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!  We got hit by a SAM.  The F-4 rocked to the left and then to the right.  I could see orange flames and black smoke all across the rear of the aircraft.  I looked forward and all I could see were all the "Bad" lights, the red and amber ones.  Both Fire and Overheat lights were illuminated.  Scotty yelled, "Get out!" really loudly.  Boom! He ejected.  I looked at the stick and throttles and thought, "A right turn to heading 225 will get me out of NVN the fastest".  But, survival instincts and training took over.  I pulled the lower handle and ejected.  My eyelids were fluttering at about 120 herz.  "You stupid ass.  You forgot to lower your visor" I thought.  "Where's the D-Ring?"  I couldn't feel it by reaching over to my left shoulder where it should have been.  The there was this metallic ringing sound and Poof.  My chute was open, the seat was gone and I was hanging in my chute right beneath, and I mean right beneath the clouds.  I looked around to get my bearings.  I saw the F-4 in the ground already with black smoke coming up.  I looked in the opposite direction and there was Scotty.  His chute was open but there was something wrong.  His head was on his chest and his arms weren't up in the risers.  Right next to and behind him was the telltale cloud of another SAM burst.  The NVNese (or the Russkies) had fired a second SAM aimed at the 10,000 foot altitude and had detonated it right where Scotty's chute opened.  It was about a ten minute ride down to the ground.  At about 600 feet I turned to Scotty, saluted and said aloud, "Good Bye, Scotty".  I knew he was dead and figured I would be in another minute.



Joe Crecca taken while he was in the 58th TFS/ 33rd TFW at Eglin AFB, FL., flying F-4Es.


As I landed I was captured immediately by about 300 people, mostly peasants and some militia.  They beat the hell out of me then took me to Hanoi where the fun and games began.

One historic note:  Eight years later I ran into the GIB, Don was his name, of the original lead aircraft.  What he witnessed shocked me.  I'd always though I'd ejected in fairly straight and level flight at about 500 knots.  Not so.  From the vantage point of a perfectly flyable airplane this is what was seen.  My airplane was burning and smoking alright but it was also pitching up.  What Don saw was a canopy flying off when the pitch was 60 nose up.  At about 75 he saw a seat come out.  The aircraft continued to pitch up until it was going backwards, completely enveloped in flames and blew up.  They thought that was Scotty getting out and that I was still in the airplane when it exploded.  What really happened is that when we got hit the rest of the flight broke away looking for another SAM, came back up trying to spot us.  But they did it after Scotty had already punched out.  That was me they saw ejecting.  In real time I ejected less than two seconds before the airplane exploded.  I thought about that many times considering that I would have still been in the Phantom when it blew up if either I had tried the stick and throttles to try to make it to Laos OR if I had taken the time to lower my visor.  Canopy  -  Seat  -  Kaboom.  Just like that.

I spent the next 75 months as a POW.  Scotty's remains were returned in April of 1986.  On November 22nd, 1986, I gave a eulogy to Gordon Scott Wilson at the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs.  It was twenty years to the day we'd been shot down.  Scotty rests in peace in the cemetery at the Academy.

Martin-Baker Tie Club

After repatriation I wrote a thank you letter to Sir James Martin.  I thanked him and said "Your product worked exactly as advertised".  He replied by sending me a membership to the Martin-Baker Tie Club, a tie (which I still have) and a brooch (which has been lost).  We exchanged Christmas cards for a few years until he passed away.

      Some extracts used in this Biography  were  provided thanks to the generosity of Charles and Mary Schantag  who also gave permission to include the  following POWNET biography  link               (please use your browser Back Arrow to return to this page)

Lt. Joseph "Joe" Crecca