On August 28, 1972, the U.S. Air Force gets its first ace (a designation traditionally awarded for five enemy aircraft confirmed shot down) since the Korean War. Captain Richard S. Ritchie, flying with his “backseater” (radar intercept officer), Captain Charles B. DeBellevue, in an F-4 out of Udorn Air Base in Thailand, shoots down his fifth MiG near Hanoi.

Two weeks later, Captain DeBellvue, flying with Captain John A. Madden, Jr., shot down his fifth and sixth MiGs.

Captain John A. Madden Jr. US Air Force

Captain John A. Madden Jr. US Air Force

The U.S. Navy already had two aces, Lieutenants Randall Cunningham and Bill Driscoll.

June 1972 - Lieutenant (JG) William P. Driscoll (right) and Lieutenant Randall H. Cunningham in a ceremony honoring them, the Navy's only Vietnam War air "Aces"

June 1972 – Lieutenant (JG) William P. Driscoll (right) and Lieutenant Randall H. Cunningham in a ceremony honoring them, the Navy’s only Vietnam War air “Aces”

By this time in the war, there was only one U.S. fighter-bomber base left in South Vietnam at Bien Hoa. The rest of the air support was provided by aircraft flying from aircraft carriers or U.S. bases in Thailand.  Also on this date, President Richard M. Nixon announced that the US military draft will end about a year later by July 1973.  The draft ended January 27, 1973.

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4 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    It’s funny, many WW2 vets are remembered for being air aces and so they should but nobody thinks about the men from Vietnam and it could be because it was an unpopular war

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  2. Tony Wilkins says:

    Driscoll and Cunningham’s story was amazing. They shot down three MiGs before being shot down themselves by a surface to air missile all in one day. They had already downed two MiGs previously. Cunningham’s callsign was “Duke” and this was honoured in the movie Top Gun when Maverick’s father was named as “Duke Mitchell” and the description of what happened to Maverick’s father was very similar to what really happened to Cunningham and Driscoll.

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