On Dec. 22, 1965, Capt. Allen Lamb of Lumberton, N.C., led a jet fighter attack to destroy surface-to-air missiles that the North Vietnamese had recently acquired from the Soviet Union.
Lamb piloted his F-100F to the missile site near Hanoi and attacked it with a salvo of rockets and 20 mm fire, destroying a radar van and a missile battery. Four other jet fighters he was leading finished off the site with rockets.
It was the first ever kill by “Wild Weasels,” jet fighters specifically charged with destroying surface-to-air missiles to protect other aircraft delivering bomb loads.
“We took them by surprise and completely destroyed the whole site,” said Lamb, now 84. “It was a piece of cake.”
On Friday, U.S. Air Force F-16 pilots and maintainers of the 55th Fighter Squadron – the modern Wild Weasels – hosted their predecessors from Vietnam at Shaw Air Force Base for the 50th anniversary of that original strike.
The 55th soon will be deployed, likely to the Middle East, to battle the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS. The 77th Fighter Squadron of the 20th Fighter Wing based at Shaw returned from a six month deployment earlier this year.
Vietnam veteran Stan Goldstein of Longwood, Fla., said the pilots chose to call themselves weasels because they are predatory animals that go into their prey’s den.
“We wanted something that was tenacious,” he said.
Thirteen Vietnam-era pilots from around the country attended the reunion. They lunched with pilots, toured munitions at a huge World War II-era hangar, watched an F-16 demonstration flight and reminisced.
The 20th Fighter Wing also rolled the F-16 of commander Col. Stephen Jost with its tail emblazoned with the Wild Weasel patch honoring the 50th anniversary.
Retired Col. David Brog of Silver Spring, Md., said he admired today’s pilots.
“It’s their skill,” he said. “It’s their determination. And those modern weapons. If we had computers and radar, imagine what we could have done. Our radar was, ‘I think it’s over there’.”
Lt. Col. Mike Horlbeck, the 55th Fighter Squadron commander noted that his pilots have the same mission today – attracting surface-to-air missile fire, then destroying the sites.
His pilots wear the same Wild Weasel patch on their flight suits with the same initials YGTBSM. It’s what the first pilots said when they were briefed on their missions: It stands for “You’ve got to be (kidding) me.”
Horlbeck said it was an honor to meet the old warriors.
“Everything about our mission today, they developed over time,” he said.
D-Day 71 years ago
On June 6, 1944, wave upon wave of American, British and Canadian forces landed on the shores of Nazi-occupied France.
▪ The invasion of Normandy included at least 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes, and 150,000 service men.
▪ A total of 4,413 people died that day, with 2,499 Americans and 1,914 from the other Allied nations.
▪ It was a surprise sea and air assault that history has come to call D-Day.