When Thunder Rolled

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In Ed Rasimus’ book, “When Thunder Rolled,” he flew many missions over North Vietnam. There were many planes shot down due to poor team work and pilots who would unnecessarily risk the lives of their wingmen looking for thrills. Then there was a big change in the squadron when many of the existing pilots hit their one hundred mission mark to go home and different pilots from Europe with a lot of experience joined the squadron. Ed Rasimus explains the change below:

“We were going to be mission effective. We were going to do the job. We were going to take care of our people. We were going to get to the target and come home in formation, doing the job as briefed and without the ‘every man for himself’ scrambling that had often characterized the Route Pack VI missions. We’d shut up on the radio, using hand and aircraft signals rather than radio calls. When the shooting started, everyone knew it, so why garbage up the airwaves with screaming and yelling that did little but point out the obvious? It would become a cliché, but all a good wingman was supposed to say on the radio was ‘two,’ ‘bandits,’ and ‘bingo.’ Acknowledge Lead’s direction, call out enemy aircraft, and advise when your fuel is low. Loyd jokingly added, ‘If you want to say more, it had better be ‘Mayday!’ and you’d better eject right afterward.’
Tactics were going to change from low-altitude run-ins exposed to every peasant with a rifle to a more tailored approach at medium altitude that would provide improved lookout, easier navigation, better target acquisition, and less exposure to small arms. We’d always be in spread formation, line abreast, and with assigned lookout areas of responsibility. All attack profiles would brief a rejoin maneuver coming off the target, so the flight could get back into a mutually supporting formation as quickly as possible. No one would go anywhere alone. If you didn’t have a partner to form a two-ship element, you would abort.
Mission accomplishment meant bombs on target. It also meant a prudent evaluation of risk to ensure that returns would be commensurate with the investment. Strafing ten-thousand dollar trucks was fun, but it wasn’t worth risking a fifteen-million-dollar airplane. “


  1. Wolf's Avatar
    A group of guys with 50 million dollar plane would be best served to have a leader.
  2. Propnut's Avatar
    Started to read this last night, the opening really is powerful. Puts things into perspective.