F-4E 69-7563 was one of a few Fiscal Year (FY) 69 model aircraft deployed as attrition replacements directly from new production to the 366th TFW at Da Nang, South Vietnam. It deployed to the PACAF region in mid-March 1971, but diverted to Clark AB en route for Depot Team radar system mods and then joined the 4th TFS at Da Nang on April 5, 1971. Breaks from combat duty came in the form of a July 1971 trip back to Clark for COMBAT SAGE missile shoots (an ongoing program to peak up and evaluate the Weapons Control System and crew performance) and a February to March 1972 deployment to the AIR ASIA depot at Tainan for SPEEDLINE maintenance. The Phantom moved with the 366th TFW / 4th TFS to Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, in late June 1972. Unfortunately its stay did not last long: flying as 'BRENDA 01' on an July 8, 1972 LINEBACKER strike escort mission, she was badly damaged by a MiG-21’s Atoll missile hit but made it back to Thailand where the crew (LTC. Robert Edmund Ross & Capt. Stanley Masanori Imaye) both ejected. They were recovered in good condition by a USAF HH-43 rescue helo.
LTC Ross later recounted: We were on the mission doing a combat weave, and when I had called ‘Bingo’ within 20 seconds a MiG-21 was moving in behind my number three man, Captain Rich Hardy. I called: “Tiger three break, you've got a MiG at six o'clock.” He broke to the left but the MiG didn't follow him; he rolled into a gentle right turn and pulled right in in front of me. I was in perfect, perfect missile range. All my life I wanted to shoot a MiG down and I had this guy wired! I fired two heat-seeking missiles and neither one of them guided. I fired two more and neither one of those guided. It wasn't unusual at that time; the missiles were extremely ineffective. I had two radar missiles, I fired them. They wandered off aimlessly. I'd waited all my life for this chance and my missiles didn't work! I had a gun, an internal 20mm cannon and I started closing up to get in gun range to shoot this guy down. My wingman was a rookie, he was on his first or second mission, good guy but he'd been so enthralled with me shooting missiles at this MiG 21 that he ignored his job to keep my six o'clock clear. Instead he's watching the missiles. Somebody warned the MiG that was in front of us, and he suddenly rolled, inverted, and dove into a cloud. About that time a MiG 21 pulled in behind us and my wingman didn't see him. The first thing I knew was he'd put a missile right up my left tail pipe. It blew the whole left horizontal stabilizer off the aircraft. It was on fire, the airplane was bucking almost out of control while I had the stick in the far left corner trying to control it. The MiGs were really after us, and my wingman, although he had screwed up badly, now hung tough and circled to protect me from the MiGs. I could only hold about 220 knots; the aircraft was severely damaged. I was down to about 10,000 feet. He stayed with me, circling, and when a MiG got too close, he fired a missile to scare it away. Fortunately we made it. I flew my severely damaged aircraft all the way out of North Vietnam and Laos, never knowing if it was ever going to hold together. Things were going pretty well and as we got halfway through Laos, we had all kinds of rescue aircraft with us. They said: "Okay guys, you just crossed the friendly line, the bad guys are that way and you're with the good guys now, you can bail out anytime." I thought: "The hell with this - I'm going to see if I can get it into the nearest American base in Thailand." We crossed the Mekong River into Thailand and the airplane quit. I had a big, tall, Japanese kid from Hawaii as my backseater and I said: “Hey Stan, I really don't want to do this again, but we're getting out of this airplane right now." I pulled the ejection handle and we both made it just fine.
F-4E 69-7563 is pictured at Da Nang in the Spring of 1972, resplendent in the markings of the 366th TFW / 4th TFS / LA. Of note is the squadron’s yellow cockpit trim and fin tip. (Rob Porter via Richard Davies Collection)