Completion of 100 combat missions over North Vietnam in the F-104C
at Udorn Royal Thai Air Base on 30 September 1966
Capt Harold Alston, 435th TFS 479th TFW George AFB
|Taxiing into the revetment after the mission|
|The crowd congratulates him for being the first pilot in the USAF to fly 100 combat missions over North Vietnam in the F-104|
|Capt Harold Alston saying thanks to his happy crewchiefs|
LtCol Ed Gaines, Squadron Commander (left) and Capt Mike Korte (center), who flew the squadron 1000th mission the same day, congratulating Capt Harold Alston with a bottle of champagne
|Tony LeVier, Lockheed Test Pilot and the 1st to fly the F-104, presenting him a plaque from Lockheed on June 7, 1968|
is some info about my last combat mission (actually next to last because
I flew a test hop the next day before I left for home).
It was on 30. September 1966. The target was an ammo storage site. My ordinance was finned napalm which allowed delivery from a 30 degree dive bomb profile. I lead a flight of 4 and we also had 2 A1-E aircraft who spotted the target for us. I put both napalms directly on the target. My accuracy even impressed me let alone the others.
On our return to Udorn RTAB, I had my flight in combat formation. The radar site, call sign "Brigham" gave us flight following back to base. At about 50 miles I left their frequency for tower. I had briefed my flight that I would bring them on to initial for a 3 second break, I would "go around" and they would land. I flew a closed pattern for a high speed pass with a victory roll at 100 feet. Unknown to me was that the F-102's were scrambled to escort us back. The 102's joined up with me as I turned final for the high speed pass. At the approach end of the runway, I pulled the nose up slightly and did 2 aileron rolls, then a 3/4 roll to the right with a left break to downwind and my landing.
I was met with a crowd of people, all the pilots, all the maintenance people, the Squadron Commander LtCol Ed Gaines, the "Stars and Stripes" newspaper reporter, and others. Mike Korte had flown the squadron's 1000th combat mission that morning so he was there with LtCol Gaines. They all congratulated me and LtCol Gaines gave me a bottle of champagne. Since I am a non-drinker, I poored some over the head of the crew chief, Staff Sergeant Holiness and gave him the rest of the bottle. It was shared with the assistant crew chief, Airman Goodwin in a champagne glass. Airman Goodwin asked me to autograph the glass with a grease pencil. I wrote: "Harold Alston, 100, 30 Sep 1966".
There were a lot of pictures taken, interviews for the news media. This day made me the "first pilot in the USAF to fly 100 combat missions over North Vietnam in the F-104".
Later Tony LeVier, Lockheed test pilot , and the first to fly the F-104 presented me a plaque that acknowledged my accomplishment. Since we had just moved into a new officer's club at Udorn a few days before, I was the first to throw a "100 mission party" at the new club. It cost me over $100, but I felt it was worth it to have survived. I drank Coke. The next day I left about noon for Bangkok for a couple of nights then was homeward bound to Los Angeles and a reunion with my family at George AFB.
It was a good feeling.
Harold Alston in August 2005
Shoulder patch after missions completed
© Pictures and words by Harold Alston