United States Air Force
14th February 1968
|3rd TFW, USAF, Bien Hoa|
|Captain John K. Lewis|
Captain, 31 year old, John Lewis had arrived in Vietnam having left
Panama' and C-47s, then
from Luke having trained
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This all happened at night which added to the experience".
My 15 minutes of fame!
John K. Lewis, Maj., USAF, Ret.