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(Including VFP-63)
Updated October 23, 2023

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    Updated 3/9/18

    New book on VMCJ-1 (Marines), VFP-62 and VFP-63 Vietnam combat operations.

    Details below.

    VFP-62 made one combat detachment (1966-67) to Vietnam. Its story is told in Chapter 5. VFP-63 sent detachments for the entirety of the war.

    Overview by Kenneth V. Jack, author

    A comprehensive, illustrated history of photo recon
    launched by the U.S. Navy over Vietnam, 1964-72.

      Photo reconnaissance played a significant role during the Cold War, however it remained unknown to the public for many years because its product and methods remained classified for security purposes. While the U-2 gets most of the credit during the Cold War, low-level photo reconnaissance played an equally important role and was essential to target selection and bomb damage assessment during the Vietnam War. Moreover the contribution of naval aviation photo reconnaissance to the bombing effort in Vietnam is largely an untold story. This book highlights the role of the unarmed supersonic RF-8A/G photo-Crusader throughout the war, and also the part played by its F-8 and F-4 escort fighters.

      Veteran and historian Kenneth Jack pieces together the chronological history of photo recon in the Vietnam War between 1964 and 1972, describing all types of missions undertaken, including several Crusader vs. MiG dogfights and multiple RF-8 shootdowns with their associated, dramatic rescues. The narrative focuses on Navy Photo Squadron VFP-63, but also dedicates chapters to VFP-62 and Marine VMCJ-1. Clandestine missions conducted over Laos began 1964, becoming a congressionally authorized war after the Tonkin Gulf incident in August 1964. VFP-63 played a role in that incident and thereafter sent detachments to Navy carriers for the remainder of the war. By war's end, they had lost 30 aircraft with 10 pilots killed, six POWs, and 14 rescued. The historical narrative is brought to life through vivid first-hand details of missions over intensely defended targets in Laos and North Vietnam. While most books on the Vietnam air war focus on fighter and bombing action, this book provides fresh insight into the air war through its focus on photo reconnaissance and coverage of both versions of the Crusader.

  • CLICK HERE to see: : Eyes of the Fleet Over Vietnam Facebook Page

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    To ORDER BOOK: contact Webmaster this page OR

    CLICK to go to: Amazon books' webpage to order.

  • Book Reviews

    RF-8 Crusader Combat Photo Reconnaissance Missions
    By Kenneth V. Jack
    Casemate Publishers, 2021.
    230 pages and more than 180 photos.
    ISBN: 978-1-63624-074-9


      (9/15/23) As a Navy aviation veteran of the Vietnam aircraft carrier years of 1968-75, I have in later years been an avid student of those times which has led me to read multiple books related to the air war over SE Asia.

      There are many excellent reads available, but I found Kenneth Jack's book to be a unique blend of technical data regarding multiple naval aircraft, their missions, and riveting stories. He has succeeded in covering the men that flew and their support teams that played such a vital role in the air war over Vietnam in a way that leaves you in awe of what those men did, while furnishing essential target information and strike assessments at the risk of their very lives!

      What he has done better than any other author that I have read on the air war, is to take you closer to the personal level of aerial combat operations. He leaves you teary eyed, with the details and family consequences of their losses, supported with pictures of the very men and their families that sacrificed everything for our country! In my opinion, it is a book that you will remember long after the last page!

      William M. Bethea MD, LCDR USNR

      Flight Surgeon, CVW-1, USS J.F. KENNEDY CVA-67 1968-75

      Flying over North Vietnam during the U.S. air war was dangerous enough for armed fighters and attack aircraft, but even more so for the Navy and Marine Corps photo-reconnaissance pilots who flew the unarmed RF-8 Crusader through the world's densest anti-aircraft defenses to collect images of potential targets and assess the battle damage after air strikes.

      The author, a former Navy photographer's mate, chronicles the history of the missions flown by three squadrons over Vietnam.

      Each squadron pilot who lost his life on these missions is memorialized in the text. The author, whose photo research was excellent, also covers the camera technology used by the Crusader and the three other Navy and Marine Corps photo-reconnaissance jets used in the war. ---Sea Power--February-March

    More Reviews

    • ". . . Eyes of the Fleet is a great read for those most interested in the men and planes that acquired aerial reconnaissance for U.S. tactical commanders during the Vietnam War."

      (6/26/23) CLICK TO READ ENTIRE REVIEW (pdf file): American Intelligence Journal Review

    • "The author combined imagery and words to give readers a sense of the realism of war. This book is for the patriot in each of us.

      (6/26/23) CLICK TO READ ENTIRE REVIEW (pdf file): Z-TV Book of the Month Review

    • "Jack has created a very detailed account that will be of interest to military and aviation historians. He has ensured that memories of the men lost in Vietnam will continue to be told. . . Besides the pilots that were killed in action, five VFP-63 pilots were shot down and held as prisoners of war in Hanoi. Jack includes a detailed story of LCDR Gordon Paige's shootdown and capture. Paige's story realistically places the reader amid the mission, recreates the feelings of an aviator flying a dangerous mission over North Vietnam, and recounts the tragedy of being shot down and captured. Paige would eventually be released after the 1973 Paris Peace Accords. Eyes of the Fleet Over Vietnam is highly recommended and deserves to be on every "brown shoes" bookshelf.

      Reviewed by Master Chief Mattingly, who retired with over 30 years of service in the Navy. He also served as a Senior Intelligence Officer and Senior Research Analyst in the US Intelligence Community.

      (6/26/23) CLICK TO READ ENTIRE REVIEW (pdf file): Naval Historical Foundation Review

    • "In each chapter,Jack provides historically accurate views of the types of missions flown, the pilots and photo detachments involved and detailed firsthand accounts from the pilots.. I really liked this highly informative and quite-readable book. It uncovers a lesser-known area of operations that centers on heroic men with unarmed aircraft, going in harm's way to enhance the safety and effectiveness of their fellow pilots. It is an exciting, must-read book.

      CLICK TO READ ENTIRE REVIEW (pdf file): Air & Space Power History Review

    • "The book has nearly 170 good-quality photos, many in color. Well documented with notes, Eyes of the Fleet provides not only a close-up look at the RF-8 over Southeast Asia but useful appendices covering the broader aspects of the Vietnam air campaign."

      (6/26/23) CLICK TO READ ENTIRE REVIEW (pdf file): Barrett Tillman - Aviation History Review

    Click to see a 15 minute photo-video of the book's photos: Photo Video ---Turn on speakers.

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VFP-62 Vietnam War Detachment
USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) Cruise Map


    Taken from the Operation Electronics Div TACAN space aboard FDR CVA-42: VFP-62 operations in Vietnam 1966-67. This aircraft was lost with Lt j.g. Norm Bundy on Sept. 6, 1966. See ** for more information.
    Photo Jim Macino ETR2 (click photo to enlarge)

    VFP-62 and the Vietnam War

    VFP-62 made one detatchment aboard the U.S.S. Roosevelt to Vietnam (June 21, 1966 to February 21, 1967). The pilots were John Baals (O-in-C), Norm Green (pilot of the damaged plane below), Ed Andrews. R. W. Deputy, and Norm Bundy (Killed in Action - see "In Memoriam").

    **(11/13/14) [Webmaster: The following from Cdr. Norm Green gives more information on the above photo.] "Close inspection of the photo reveals that the aircraft has flown 25 combat missions when the picture was taken; it was pretty busy since we had only flown missions on about 23 days at that point. Using Russian math and some guesswork I would guess that the picture was taken on perhaps the 4th or the 5th of Sept, I flew that aircraft both Days. At first I thought that it might have been the 6th of Sept, the day Norm Bundy crashed in that aircraft; but I doubt that because of the light ripples in the water. There was no wind on the 6th of Sept, the Gulf of Tonkin was as smooth as glass. I remember that the cat officers could only give us 5-6 knots above stall speed that day. The Rosy had all boilers on line and was pulling her guts out. Amazing, sometimes I struggle to remember my street number but remember things from 48 years ago.

  • Differring from other detachments, they had 2 PI's and 4 aircraft. They operated with 3 aircraft aboard the ship and rotated one through Cubi Point where they had 3 or 4 of the troops based to work on any maintence problems and keep a couple of steps ahead of the corrosion control game.

  • The following are 2 pages from the Viet Nam cruise book on the FDR with Air Wing One "AB". VF-32 was just assigned with that air group to go to Viet Nam and was with the same air group when I was assigned with the squadron."

    Above photos courtesy Ken Walling, webmaster www.vf32.info. "I was going to look on your CMC page, but clicked the Viet Nam site when I noticed a name I recognized, Ed "Hunyak" Andrews. Ed Andrews was our Maintance Officer with the Tomcats and I still have contact with him and we try to go out for dinner if I'm in Virginia Beach area.

    The Crusader at War

    The plane in the following photos was eventually lost off the Kitty Hawk in August of 1980. It was with either VFP-306 or VFP-63.

    click to enlarge

    Air-to-air photo heading back to the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42). According to (then Lt.) Cdr. Norm Green pilot of the RF-8G, with typical fighter pilot humor: "the result of attempting to occupy same space as a well aimed 57mm round." Photo: Norm Green and does not enlarge.

    The story behind the above photo: "One interesting note about the airborne shot of the damage--the picture was shot in 1966 by the RIO in the back seat of my F4B escort, I don't remember who it was. The pilot was Lt Marv Baker of VF-32; I spoke to him at a recent Crusader reunion and he could not remember who the RIO was. We do know that he used a very sophisticated camera known as a Kodak Instamatic; the one with the little drop-in cartridges. I don't think the Roosevelt was able to process the film so he had them developed during our next in-port visit. A few weeks later he gave me a couple of the prints; they were probably about 3" X 4". The prints were eventually lost among hundreds of other 60's era snapshots, survived many moves and years of less than desireable storage conditions in attics, basements and closets. They resurfaced about 4 years ago somewhat the worse from age, well over 40 years after their birth. I scanned them into the computer, did the best I could to clean them up and improve the color and -VOILA- the wonders of science and computers!" Best regards, Norm Green

    click to enlarge

    Damaged wing by North Vietnamese 57mm shell during a reconnaissance run. It is a testament to the ruggedness of the RF-8G Crusader and skill of the pilot (then Lt) Norm Green).
    Click to enlarge -- Photo courtesy: A.W.Scarborough, PHC (Ret)

    click to enlarge

    Photo Courtesy: Jim Macino (former ETR2 USS Franklin D. Roosevelt -- webmaster ussfranklindroosevelt.com)

    Video of the above damaged RF-8G--Courtesy of Larry Blumenthal


    Click to see video: VFP-62 RF-8G battle damage video

  • (10/10/14)

    Surface-to-Air Missile (SA-2) Detonation off wing of VFP-62 RF-8G

    Photo Contribution: Cdr. Norm Green, VFP-62 pilot

    The story behind the photo: The photo is an SA-2 detonation that missed Ensign Ed Andrews [see "In Memoriam"] and me after some hard maneuvering.

    We were running along a karst ridge northwest of Thanh Hoa, ECM [electronic countermeasures] lights up and about 15 miles at our 9:00 o'clock an SA-2 [Russian surface-to-air missile] lifts, climbs to 5K, tilts over and tracks us.

    We push the power up and turn into the SAM. Waiting for the appropriate time to make our break, he transmits-"Uh lead, check our 3 o'clock"; another SA-2 also has us boresighted. Afterburner now, hard right break, go for the deck, we successfully evade both.

    In the excitement, Ed loses me and is gripping the power lever so hard that for the next 30-40 seconds the only thing that can be heard over the radio is his deep, raspy breathing [he jammed the transmit button]; it sounds like he has been hit. But all is well---we were just glad to be still flying---and we make it back to mother Rosie [USS Roosevelt CVA-42].--Cdr. Norm Green

    SYNOPSIS: The Chance Vought F8 "Crusader" saw action early in U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. Its fighter models participated both in the first Gulf of Tonkin reprisal in August 1964 and in the myriad attacks against North Vietnam during Operation Rolling Thunder. The Crusader was used exclusively by the Navy and Marine air wings (although there is one U.S. Air Force pilot reported shot down in an F8) and represented half or more of the carrier fighters in the Gulf of Tonkin during the first four years of the war. The aircraft was credited with nearly 53% of MiG kills in Vietnam.

    The most frequently used fighter versions of the Crusader in Vietnam were the C, D, and E models although the H and J were also used. The Charlie carried only Sidewinders on fuselage racks, and were assigned such missions as CAP (Combat Air Patrol), flying at higher altitudes. The Echo model had a heavier reinforced wing able to carry extra Sidewinders or bombs, and were used to attack ground targets, giving it increased vulnerability. The Echo version launched with less fuel, to accommodate the larger bomb store, and frequently arrived back at ship low on fuel. The RF-8A models were equipped for photo reconnaissance. The RF-G were also photographic versions, but with additional cameras and navigational equipment.--(Contributed by former Navy LT Hank Miller, VA-152 Spad driver USS Oriskany 1966-67-68.)

    The combat attrition rate of the Crusader was comparable to similar fighters.
    • Between 1964 to 1972, eighty-three Crusaders were either lost or destroyed by enemy fire. Another 109 required major rebuilding.

    • 145 Crusader pilots were recovered; 57 were not. Twenty of these pilots were captured and released. The other 43 remained missing at the end of the war.

    • According to Chris Hobson's "Vietnam Air Losses": "Total number of Navy RF-8 (photo Crusader) aircraft lost: 31. Fatalities: 12. POW's: 6. Aircraft lost by year: 1964: 2. 1965: 8. 1966: 7. 1967: 3. 1968: 4. 1969: 2. 1970: 1. 1971: 0. 1972: 4. Marine RF8 loss (1965): 1. --Contributed by Mofak

    • VFP-63 pilot, Scott Ruby, adds: "The so-called official record lists 20 RF-8's as lost to combat. Plaques for 12 RF-8 drivers that did not return are on display at the Miramar golf course. However, that number is in some degree of debate. Another list I had access to lists 32 RF-8's as lost in the conflict."

    • VFP-62's Lt.jg Norm Bundy was lost on Sept. 6, 1966 (More information below and "In Memoriam."

    Capt. Jerry Coffee, Prisoner of War
    (Feb. 3, 1966 to Feb. 12, 1973)

    Cdr. Coffee and his RIO (Lt. Robert Hanson) in a RVAH-13 RA-5C photo Vigilante
    were hit by AAA over North Vietnam

    [(3/5/13) Webmaster's Note: Capt. Jerry Coffee was a Lieutenant when I arrived at VFP-62 in April 1960. On October 23, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he made one of the first six low-level reconnaissance missions over Cuban missile sites. He wrote a story about his mission on October 25, finding the first evidence of tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba (See it on our "Cuban Missile Crisis" page: The Photos That Averted World War III.) For more information on his shoot-down, Click on: Event Report] Click to see a video of: Capt. Coffee's Motivational Speech YouTube video on his motivational speech. He was the featured speaker at a convention I attended in Hawaii years ago it was very inspiring. --Pete Wallace

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    EXTERNAL Links: to Vietnam War Sites for more Information

  • (9/9/14) Vietnam War Casualties on the Vietnam Virtual Wall---Selections can be made state-by-state, photographs, units and more.---Contributed by Greg Engler & Adam Miklovis

    I hope that everyone who receives this appreciates what those who served in Vietnam sacrificed for our country.

    The link provides a virtual wall of all those lost during the Vietnam war with the names, bio's and other information on our lost heroes. Those who remember that timeframe, or perhaps lost friends or family can look them up on this site.

  • Texas Tech Univ's Vietnam Center Best comprehensive online research library of Vietnam material in the world.

  • [Webmaster's Note: This huge website is the creation of Tom Pilsch, former Air Force Forward Air Controller (FAC). You will find an extensive history of the Vietnam War.]
    Click here: Best search list ever compiled about the Vietnam War.

    While surfing the Web today, I came across your great site and especially appreciated your recognition of my Vietnam War Websources* page as "Best search list ever compiled about the Vietnam War." I very much appreciate the honor.

    I really enjoyed your site. I have been a fan of the Crusader since it first flew -- a beautiful airplane -- and your stories and photos were great.

    I have added two links to your site, one on the saga of LT Klusmann and the other to your war stories. In doing this I realized my Air Force bias had unintentionally shown through -- I have little on the page about naval air ops in SEA. I have begun to rectify that. This is embarrassing since one of my all-time favorite war flix is "The Bridges at Toko-Ri" since it first came out!

    To you and all of your members: thank you for your service and for your efforts to preserve the history of what we did in Southeast Asia, and

    Welcome Home!
    Tom Pilsch Trail 32, Hue '68-'69
    [Click to see: Tom's Home Page--What does a FAC protect himself with? That and more.]

  • EXTERNAL Records of Vietnam War Information on the Marine Corps

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