They Flew Into a Fire Storm

With the epoch documentary ” Vietnam” airing on PBS, I’m compelled to honor daring men I served with during that war. During a brief lull in bombing, I photographed these pilots on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, USS Hancock.

They were men of squadron 215 and they flew the Douglas Skyraider, the last of the propeller-driven fighter bombers. So vulnerable were the ” Spads” to antiaircraft fire and surface to air missiles, they were retired from combat in 1967. However, these pilots could provide incredible low level support to Marines and soldiers who were in close contact with enemy troops.

I knew these men because they received their target information in my office, Air Intelligence, often aided by their squadron intelligence officers: ” Kaz” Kazvinski, Mel Peddy and Jack Hannon.  Lt. John Black, in the bottom photo, survived the war. I can’t speak for the other pilots. Some 50 years later, I can say I was honored to know those courageous men who flew ” low and slow” to save American troops on the ground.


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