Vietnam War marks first 51 FIW F-102 deployment
By Airman 1st Class Ashley J. Thum, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 26, 2014
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Nearly 50 years ago, F-102 Delta Daggers from what was then known as the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing, Naha Air Base, Okinawa, were mobilized to bolster the campaign in Vietnam.
Tensions were high in August 1964 after the U.S. Navy was ordered to retaliate against North Vietnam for the attacks on their assets in the Gulf of Tonkin.
The wing had been preparing for an operational readiness inspection, but was called into action for a real-world contingency operation instead.
"The F-102s were deployed to provide air defense coverage for South Vietnam against any possible air raids by North Vietnam," said John A. Okonski, 51st Fighter Wing historian. "This was the first time that the F-102 was deployed for a 'real-world' crisis."
The F-102's supersonic, all-weather capabilities dated back to the Cold War era. The airframe was equipped with electronics and radar designed to locate and engage opposing forces, and its payload could include up to six guided missiles and 24 unguided 2.75-inch rockets.
Twelve of the aircraft were sent to Clark AB, Philippines, and within hours half of them were on their way to Tan Son Nhut AB, Vietnam, with supplies and support personnel not far behind.
Less than a week later, the pilots had already flown more than 22 hours worth of sorties.
"One of our RF-101 (Voodoo) neighbors returned late this afternoon with a .30 caliber hole in the fuselage about 18 inches below his butt," said Lt. Col. Garnet D. Page, 16th Fighter Interceptor Squadron commander. "My troops now believe me when I tell them they are being shot at from takeoff to landing."
From the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron to the 51st Air Police Squadron, each 51st FIW unit contributed to the successful deterrence of North Vietnamese aggression during the August deployment.
"The motivation of our personnel here was nothing short of fantastic, and everyone contributed even beyond the best of their ability," said Maj. John H. Baker, 51st Armament and Electronics Maintenance Squadron maintenance officer. "They were responsible for many standardization firsts at Tan Son Nhut."