F-4B 150421

F-4B 150421, seen visiting Da Nang sometime between September and October 1967 was, sadly one of many Phantoms that did not survive exposure to the perils of combat. The Phantom had joined VF-151 at Miramar in May 1967. While on transfer from VF-121 it had been updated, like many early B-models, with Project Heavy Weight (AFC218 drooped ailerons, slotted stabilators & fixed leading edge flaps) and Project Shoehorn (AN/APR-30) modifications. Its sole exposure to combat was to be a Westpac cruise on USS CORAL SEA (CVA-43) with CVW-15 / VF-151 / NL-106, which commenced July 26, 1967

but, for ‘421’ ended just a few months later during the carrier’s third line period on Yankee Station: On October 27, 1967 'SWITCHBOX 106', being flown by squadron CO CDR Charles ‘Rodgers’ Gillespie and his RIO Lt. JG Richard ‘Champ’ Clark, was tasked on a ROLLING THUNDER 57 MIGCAP mission for an Alpha strike on Phuc Yen airfield in the Route Pack VI area of North Vietnam. As the strike force was approaching the target, they were engaged by SA-2 missiles. CDR Gillespie was able to dodge the first SAM but was hit by an unseen second missile at 14,000 feet of altitude, riddling the entire underside of the aircraft with fragments. With his aircraft on fire and without hydraulic power or internal communications, he managed to use hand signals to direct ejection and left the aircraft before it crashed near Tam Dao Mountain, Vinh Phu province. Due to the location, no rescue could be attempted and CDR Gillespie was soon captured (happily, he was released in March 1973). It is not known if Lt. Clark managed to leave the aircraft, but he was not confirmed as a POW and was officially listed as MIA.

(Via Richard Davies Collection)