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This segment of “Air Force Now” features the A-1 Skyraider in action inVietnam with the First Special Operations Squadron also known as the “Hobos”. In this instance the Skyraider is seen flying cover for “Jolly Green Giant” rescue helicopters performing search and rescue operations.
As American involvement in the Vietnam War began, the A-1 Skyraider was still the medium attack aircraft in many carrier air wings, although it was planned to be replaced by the A-6A Intruder as part of the general switch to jet aircraft. Skyraiders from Constellation and Ticonderoga participated in the first U.S. Navy strikes against North Vietnam on 5 August 1964 as part of Operation Pierce Arrow in response to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, striking against fuel depots at Vinh, with one Skyraider from Ticonderoga damaged by anti-aircraft fire, and a second from Constellation shot down, killing its pilot.
As they were released from U.S. Navy service, Skyraiders were introduced into the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF). They were also used by the USAF to perform one of the Skyraider’s most famous roles: the “Sandy” helicopter escort on combat rescues. USAF Major Bernard F. Fisher piloted an A-1E on 10 March 1966 mission for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing Major “Jump” Myers at A Shau Special Forces Camp. USAF Colonel William A. Jones, III piloted an A-1H on 1 September 1968 mission for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. In that mission, despite damage to his aircraft and suffering serious burns, he returned to his base and reported the position of a downed U.S. airman.
After November 1972, all A-1s in U.S. service in Southeast Asia were transferred to the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) and their roles taken over by the subsonic LTV A-7 Corsair II. The Skyraider in Vietnam pioneered the concept of tough, survivable aircraft with long loiter times and large ordnance loads. The USAF lost 201 Skyraiders to all causes in Southeast Asia, while the Navy lost 65 to all causes. Of the 266 lost A-1s, five were shot down by surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and three were shot down in air-to-air combat; two by North Vietnamese MiG-17s.
In contrast to the Korean War, fought a decade earlier, the U.S. Air Force used the naval A-1 Skyraider for the first time in Vietnam. As the Vietnam War progressed, USAF A-1s were painted in camouflage, while USN A-1 Skyraiders were gray/white in color; again, in contrast to the Korean War, when A-1s were painted dark blue.
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