United States Air Force

90th TFS

 F‑100D

56‑3304
"CB"

14th February 1968

3rd TFW, USAF, Bien Hoa
Captain John K. Lewis

 

Night Ejection

USAF Captain, 31 year old, John Lewis had arrived in Vietnam having  left Panama' and C-47s, then from Luke having trained
on the 100 and was assigned to Bien Hoa.

"Troops in Contact"

The weather on the evening of Wednesday 14th February, Valentine's , 1968 was clear. News of a Viet Cong gun position  located near the village of Can Ke was sent to Bien Hoa. The village lay some 17 miles southeast of Can Tho on the banks of the Mekong.

Captain John Lewis was, as he had been, on so many other nights, on alert to attack such targets along with other F-100s that were also on standby.  His aircraft, callsign "Warhawk" was a North American F-100D Super Sabre, armed and ready if the call came.

He and another F-100 took off and were soon over the target.

"We were scrambled one night for yet another "Troops in Contact" which usually meant someone shot at a FAC and pissed him off. Anyway, we were a flight of 2 dropping on a target located on an island in the Mekong river (IV Corps) SE of Bien Thuy Air Base. "

Captain Lewis  made one successful run against the target but his luck ran out during the second.

John  recalls

The method was to turn off all lights and "Call the Corners" so we could keep track of where the other guy was while we flew a "Traffic Pattern" around the target. I could see the tracers from the  Russian version of a"Quad 50" (four guns mounted together on a platform so they could all shoot at once) when lead made his second pass and had an "eyeball" on the target as I started to turn base. We were dropping  Mk82 High Drags so you could press in close to the target before dropping.

After releasing a Mk82 High Drag bomb on my second pass l started the usual 6 G pullup when I felt a thump. I was  hit in the hydraulic system and lost all hydraulics. Seconds later the stick went limp in my hand. All I had left was throttle and rudder.

The F-100 flight controls were entirely hydraulic except for the rudder which had cables. I managed to  keep the nose up with power and ruddered left to fly back up the river  to Bien Thuy  with plans to eject over the field. . . "

You may remember the movie "The Joe McConnell Story". Allen Ladd played  the role. McConnell, a triple ace in Korea, was testing the new F-86H  that was fitted with the new "artificial feel" system. When it failed,  he was sending 3000 PSI of hydraulic fluid to the controls without any  restrictions. Anyway, the same system was installed in the 100,  hydraulic lines to the ailerons and flying tail.

I managed to complete a left turn back up the river toward Bien Thuy  using rudder and keeping the nose up with throttle.

Plans

First plan was to  lower the tail hook and make a long straight in approach to Bien Thuy  with hopes of snagging the arresting cable.  Never going to happen.

Second plan was to fly over Bien Thuy and eject drifting down on the  field into the arms of friendlies. Wasn't going to happen either.

Things didn't go according to plan and with the aircraft on fire and the rudder cables burned through, John Lewis was left with no control over the aircraft.  He reached for the handles on the side of the North American design ejection seat.

Ejection

As I approached the field the fire that was burning under the belly burned  through the rudder cables. As the 100 started to roll inverted I  ejected.

John's ejection took place near Cau Ke village South Vietnam (Mekong river) IV Corps at 3,000 to 4,000 feet (estimated), with the aircraft speed of 400 Knots (estimated) with the aircraft level or slightly nose low in a 30 to 45 degree left bank. Due to high speed at the time of ejection his helmet faceplate was torn off from full impact of wind blast.
 


After all that training I forgot to pull my legs back and they  were fully extended as I went out. They got beat up quite a bit but,  lucky for me didn't get broken. I've no idea how fast I was going but  was using something just short of burner to keep the nose up. The air  blast ripped off my helmet visor and blackened both eyes. Chute  deployed with a JERK and I found myself swinging under a beautiful  canopy on a cloudless star filled night. The FAC, trying to help, almost ran into me as he circled the area.

 Like many other ejectees he experienced temporal distortion where time appeared to extend.

Actions were governed purely by desire to survive and all efforts were aimed at that goal. Things did seem to be in slow motion even though the time involved was very short.
 
This was my 106 parachute jump. Five jumps were made at Ft. Benning, Georgia at U. S. Army Jump School and 100 more were made during sport parachuting (Skydiving) activities.

 

Rescue

They had already scrambled the HH-43 Huskie  (Detachment 10 of the 38th ARKS) off B T and they landed in an open field across the river, picked me up and brought me back. I was airlifted (In a C-47) back to Bien Hoa in the morning. The FAC relayed the BDA, Quad 50 destroyed, at the cost of an F-100D  that lives to this day at the bottom of the river and about 20 years off my life span.

 

HH-43 Husky (Pedro) that rescued Captain Lewis that night was flown that night by pilots Leslie Johnson and Larry Conove with Crew Chief Gordon Browning

 

This all happened at night which  added to the experience".

My 15 minutes of fame!
 


 

John K. Lewis, Maj., USAF, Ret.
90th Tac Fighter Sq.
Bien Hoa AB, RVN
June 2007

 


 

 

I would like to express my thanks to Major John Lewis, USAF Ret. for providing details of his ejection
 

Hi Mike,
Through the efforts of Ed Cartwright I've been able to locate the names  of the pilots and crew chief on the  that rescued me on 14 Feb 68. I'd like to give them credit for the rescue and wondered if you would be kind enough to update the bio to include their names? I've written to Les and Gordon. Les has already answered. We haven't
made contact with Larry.
You also might be interested in Ed Cartwright's H-43 web site:
http://pedroafrescue.org/
Cheers,
John Lewis