Thuds, the Ridge, and 100 Missions North
How the Republic F-105 got good at a mission it was not designed to fly.
- By Carl Posey
- Air & Space magazine, March 2009
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE US AIR FORCE
(Page 3 of 8)
The aircraft acquired the usual derisive nicknames. Where Republic’s P-47 had been the Jug, the F-105 became the Thud. The origin is unclear. Some said “Thud” echoed the sound of an F-105 crashing in the jungle. Some attributed it to Chief Thunderthud on the “Howdy Doody Show.” As with many such sobriquets, Thud quickly became a term of endearment. The -105 might be a bear to maintain, but the pilots loved its power, speed, and resilience. Thuds came home with large bites taken out of them by missiles and flak. The pilots prided themselves on doing the work of a five-man bomber crew at or beyond the speed of sound, 100 feet above the jungle, flak and missiles and MiGs everywhere.
Cooper’s squadron was in Thailand about 30 days before rotating back to Japan, where the pilots resumed their nuclear watches. When they returned to Thailand in the spring of 1965, it was to a second field at Takhli.
“Takhli in October ’65 was not much more than when the Japanese left,” recalls Dick Guild (rhymes with “wild”). The base had been built by the Japanese during World War II. “When I first got there we had a mess hall, officers’ club where you could make sandwiches,” says Guild. “We slept in hootches, eight beds to a side. Common washroom, the sinks filled with crickets. No air conditioning. Mosquito netting. Movies in the mess hall.” He grins. “It reminded me of Terry and the Pirates.”
He prefers the rough Takhli to the comfortable, Americanized base it became, with swimming pools, a new officers’ club, and individual air-conditioned apartments for the pilots. “Living alone and flying combat is really a bad idea,” he says.
by february 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson had approved Operation Rolling Thunder, a bombing campaign by the Air Force and the U.S. Navy intended to crack the North Vietnamese spirit. Because the two services did not play well together, planners divided North Vietnam into six route packages, or PAKs, later splitting the sixth into VI-A and VI-B. PAKs I, V, and VI-A belonged to the Air Force, and II, III, IV, and VI-B were the Navy’s. Da Nang-based Marines would share PAK I with the Air Force.
All seven areas were bad, but VI-A was the worst. Bristling with anti-aircraft defenses, it contained the main rail and road routes to China, which intersected at Hanoi. Pilots called Hanoi “downtown,” where, as the 1964 Petula Clark hit put it, “everything’s waiting for you.”
Superposed upon the PAKs were complicated rules of engagement, which put such targets as power plants and airfields out of bounds. Nothing in a 30-mile
circle around Hanoi or a 10-mile circle around Haiphong could be hit. The ships pouring supplies onto the Haiphong quays were also off limits. And heaven help