Aero Club members hear about F-105’s role in Vietnam


Gary Vacin

“The F-105 Thunderbird was a triple threat. It could bomb you, strafe you or fall on you.”

That’s how an aircraft historian described the tactical fighter during a presentation to the Sun Lakes Aero Club gathering November 20. Larry Turner, a long-time volunteer at the Pima Air & Space Museum, described the design, development and history of the Republic F-105 Thunderchief, nicknamed the Thud, from its inception in the early 1950s to its final flight in 1984.

Turner zeroed in on the “Thud’s” combat role in Vietnam during the 1965-1968 Rolling Thunder campaign when it carried the brunt of the bombing war into North Vietnam, that included the Hanoi area, the most heavily defended area in the history of warfare. The presentation also included a description of the restrictions placed on the aviators by our government and a typical mission. Turner told his audience the massive bombardment was intended to put military pressure on North Vietnam’s communist leaders and reduce their capacity to wage war against the U.S.-supported government of South Vietnam.

The operation marked the first sustained American assault on North Vietnamese territory and represented a major expansion of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. More than 500 Air Force, 397 Navy and 19 Marine Corps aircraft were lost over or near North Vietnam.

Now in its 22nd year, the Sun Lakes Aero Club sponsors programs the third Monday of each month, November through April, at the Sun Lakes Country Club. The programs are open to all Sun Lakes residents and others interested in aviation.

More information on the club is available from Cannon Hill, 509-539-7857, or Gary Vacin, 298-7017, or at the club’s website,