F-4J 155811 served with VMFA-232 for all of it’s service career, including two combat tours in South East Asia, however, it ultimately achieved unwanted notoriety as the only USMC aircraft lost to a MiG during the whole conflict.
Assigned to the ‘RED DEVILS’ as WT-6 at MCAS El Toro from new production in November 1968 as one of their initial complement of ‘full system’ aircraft (having worked-up with early ‘lead nose’ models without operational radars). The aircraft deployed to SEA on transpac BEGGAR LION, departing MCAS El Toro on March 20, 1969, arriving at Chu Lai AB, Vietnam, ten days later, where the squadron joined MAG-13. The Phantom served the next eight months of combat with only a few minor ‘wounds’ from ground fire and retrograded with the squadron to MAG-15 at Iwakuni Japan, on September 7, 1969. Its time in Japan included a major overhaul PAR deployment to the depot at NAS Atsugi during October 1970, only returning to the squadron in March 1971, filling the WT-10 code / modex slot.
The conflict again caught up with her with the North Vietnamese invasion of the South in March 1972 – airpower was needed again and VMFA-232 duly was tasked to deploy to the region. Phantom 155811 arrived at Da Nang AB on April 6 with MAG-15 / VMFA-232 to start her second tour of duty. After a couple of months, a force realignment resulted in the move of the MAG (and the ‘Red Devils) to a new home at Nam Phong AB, Thailand, effective on June 10, 1972. F-4J 155811 service career ended a few months later when the aircraft was lost in combat on August 26: Flying as ‘MOTION 2’ on a CAO mission on the border of Laos & North Vietnam, she was shot down by an AA-2 ‘ATOLL’ missile fired from NVA MiG-21 (credited to Nguyen Duc Soat of the VPAF’s 927 Fighter Regiment). Both crew (1Lt. Sam Gary Cordova & 1Lt. Darrell L. Borders) ejected but only 1Lt. Borders was recovered by search and rescue forces.
F-4J 155811 seen at NAS Cubi Point during a missile shoot in March 1972, just a few days before deploying to Da Nang to start her second tour.
(Eugene Uhl via Richard Davies Collection)
F-4J 155811 seen undergoing refueling at Chu Lai during her first combat tour in 1969.
(K. R. Anderson via Richard Davies Collection)