It was the gleaming zenith of a powerful supersonic fighter jet in the 1950s. By the time the ’60s rolled around, however, North American’s F-100 Super Sabre had become the Air Force’s favorite dump truck.
“We never thought we’d be doing air-to-ground in a stinking Southeast Asia backwater,” recalled Col. Charles Vasiliadis. “We never thought our ‘silver bullet’ of a fighter would eventually be painted the green-brown color of a Vietnamese swamp.”
Although designed as a supersonic dogfighter, the Hun’s eight-year career as an attack bomber created a legend in the skies over Southeast Asia. By the time the last combat F-100 departed Vietnam in 1971, Super Sabres had flown 360,283 combat sorties, losing 186 F-100s to anti-aircraft fire, none to MiGs, seven during Viet Cong assaults on its air bases, and 45 to operational accidents.
F-100 units deployed to Southeast Asia were a mix of one- and two-seat F-100s, and both types participated in traditional bombing missions. As tactics evolved, the two-seat F-100F pioneered two new missions — surface to air missile (SAM) suppression, known as “Iron Hand,” and high-speed forward air control (FAC), known as “Misty.” Maj. George “Bud” Day was given command of the F-100F Fast FAC detachment, code-named “Commando Sabre,” in June 1967, but his “Misty One” call sign — Mrs. Day’s favorite song — soon epitomized the mission.
Our F-100F, 58-1232, was active with the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron attached to the 405th Fighter Wing, and then the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing, and the 352nd TFS, 35th TFW, at Phan Rang Air Force Base in South Vietnam.
In 1971, the aircraft moved stateside with the Colorado Air National Guard’s 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron. It was transferred to the South Dakota Air National Guard’s 175th TFS until the end of its career. After spending time on display at Grissom Air Force Base in Indiana, it moved to Brooks Air Force Base in Texas in 1987, where it was given a fictitious “Weightless II” paint job to commemorate Brooks’ achievements in astronaut training. Received in poor condition from Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, 85-1232 was restored by Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum’s Shealy Shop.
Please visit “North American F-100F Super Sabre (S/N 58-1232)” blog post for more information on this aircraft.